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Featuring 339 Industry-First Reviews of Fiction, Nonfiction and Children's & Teen

KIRKUS VOL. LXXXI, NO.

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REVIEWS

FICTION

Ten Things I've Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler This soulful debut unpacks a family enigma involving a wandering daughter, a homeless father and their tenuous family ties. p. 9

INDIE

Rachel Van Dyken The author of numerous runaway hits reveals her magic formula. p. 134

Jeannette Walls The best-seller mines her own history for her new novel and unearths striking emotional truths. p. 14

CHILDREN'S & TEEN

Monster on the Hill

by Rob Harrell Brought low by a fit of dyspepsia, Stoker-on-Avon’s resident monster goes questing for a cure in this beguiling graphic novel. p. 93

NONFICTION

Thinking in Numbers by Daniel Tammet A mathematical savant finds the beauty of numbers in unexpected places. p. 69


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Anniversaries: The Little Prince 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

A n t o i n e d e S a i n t - E x u p é r y, novelist and aviator, had a peculiar talent for crashing planes and walking away from the wreckage. He did so in the Sahara on the penultimate day of 1935, trying to set a new speed record for the run from Paris to Saigon. Only a chance encounter with a Bedouin saved him. He did so while flying mail planes in South America. He dodged a few bullets while flying reconnaissance against the advancing Nazis at the beginning of World War II then spent time in the United States before returning to Europe, where his luck finally gave out: An engine failed, or perhaps he was shot down, and he crashed into the Mediterranean. His effects were recovered only in 1998, while his remains were never definitively identified. It was while he was in exile in America that Saint-Exupéry wrote a book that would be published in April 1943, just before he returned to the fighting. It was a curious production that began with an unsurprising image: that of a pilot marooned in the desert, “more isolated than a shipwrecked sailor on a raft in the middle of the ocean.” The pilot has a little food and water enough for a week, and in all events, it’s only the first night of his ordeal when he experiences what he thinks is a hallucination. It turns out to be a goldenhaired boy who wears a Napoleonic greatcoat and carries a sword but who otherwise doesn’t have the bearing of a soldier. Instead, the boy asks our downed pilot to draw him a sheep—a task the pilot doesn’t take long to fulfill, since others in his life had spent their time suppressing his talent for putting pen to paper. It goes on from there, and The Little Prince turns into a pleasant fable about encouragement versus discouragement, about listening patiently to questions that might otherwise turn a grownup into Jack Torrance. Indeed, in one of its aspects, Saint-Exupéry’s book is a manual for how to talk with children, one guaranteed to have a happier outcome than its polar opposite, Terry Zwigoff ’s 2003 film Bad Santa. Like every good children’s book, The Little Prince is an allegory addressed to those grownups. On one page, it pokes holes in the dreams of a capitalist who claims to own the stars simply “because nobody else before me ever thought of owning them”; on another, speaking through the mouth of a fox, Saint-Exupéry, who had seen much of Earth from on high, suggests that we might just want to do a better job of taking care of the planet to which the Little Prince is a casual visitor, if only because “you become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” Whether addressed to young or old, The Little Prince—its ending, like that of its author, tragic or inspirational, depending on your take—remains a classic of world literature, having just turned 70. I’m not alone, I’m sure, in hoping that Saint-Exupéry survived that last crash. If he did, I ask the same favor our narrator does: “Send me word that he has come back.”

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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 Children’s & Teen Editor VICKY SMITH vsmith@kirkus.com Features Editor C laiborne S mith csmith@kirkus.com Mysteries Editor THOMAS LEITCH Contributing Editor G R E G O RY M c N A M E E Senior Indie Editor KAREN SCHECHNER kschechner@kirkus.com Indie Editor RYA N L E A H E Y rleahey@kirkus.com Indie Editor D avid R a p p drapp@kirkus.com Assistant Indie Editor M AT T D O M I N O mdomino@kirkus.com Editorial Assistant 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 Marketing Communications Director SARAH KALINA skalina@kirkus.com Designer ALEX HEAD #

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This Issue’s Contributors

Maude Adjarian • Mark Athitakis • Michael Autrey • Joseph Barbato • Gerald Bartell • Adam benShea • Amy Boaz • Lee E. Cart • Derek Charles Catsam • Sara Catterall • Dave DeChristopher • Kathleen Devereaux • Bobbi Dumas • Daniel Dyer • Lisa Elliott • Megan Fishmann • Julie Foster • Peter Franck • Faith Giordano • Amy Goldschlager • Michael Griffith • Peter Heck • Robert M. Knight • Christina M. Kratzner • Paul Lamey • Louise Leetch • Judith Leitch • Peter Lewis • Elsbeth Lindner • Joe Maniscalco • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee • Carole Moore • Clayton Moore • Liza Nelson • Mike Newirth • John Noffsinger • Mike Oppenheim • Derek Parsons • John Edward Peters • Jim Piechota • Gary Presley • Kristen Bonardi Rapp • Karen Rigby • Bob Sanchez • Sandra Sanchez • Michael Sandlin • Rosanne Simeone • Elaine Sioufi • Arthur Smith • Wendy Smith • Margot E. Spangenberg • Andria Spencer • Matthew Tiffany • Claire Trazenfeld • Steve Weinberg • Carol White • Chris White • Joan Wilentz •

Cover photo by John Taylor


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contents fiction Index to Starred Reviews............................................................5 REVIEWS.................................................................................................5 Jeannette Walls reconsiders her family history........14

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

Mystery.............................................................................................. 31 Science Fiction & Fantasy.......................................................... 37 Romance............................................................................................38

nonfiction Index to Starred Reviews..........................................................39 REVIEWS...............................................................................................39 Andrew Hudgins’ daring new memoir................................54

children’s & teen Index to Starred Reviews..........................................................77 REVIEWS...............................................................................................77 Blue Balliett researches homelessness and finds lyricism.................................................................................94 interactive e-books.................................................................. 124

indie Index to Starred Reviews.........................................................127 REVIEWS..............................................................................................127 Best-seller Rachel Van Dyken on finding a magic formula for success................................................................. 134

The NBA’s all-time leading scorer delivers a snappy middle-grade series opener that’s full of sports action and heart. Read the review on p. 77. |

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on the web Chris Kluwe is a UCLA graduate, kicker for the Minnesota Vikings and now an outspoken indulger of the first amendment. In his debut book Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies, Kluwe comments on everything from time travel and the pope’s twitter account to the more serious issues of gay marriage and gun laws. “I call out hypocrisy. I call out people who are lying - either to themselves or others - because any world that doesn’t have empathy, that’s when you run into problems,” Kluwe said. “If people are unable to put themselves into someone else’s shoes, then you start fostering conflict and discord.” At the heart his many candid analyses, Kluwe says, is his fundamental philosophy: treat other people the way you would like to be treated. Kluwe will talk to Kirkus about his eclectic collection of personal essays, stories, letters and poems in June.

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

Photo Courtesy David Bowman

Check out these highlights from Kirkus’ online coverage at www.kirkus.com 9

Photo Courtesy Caroline Bennett

Emily Brady’s Humboldt: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier is a narrative exploration of an insular community in Northern California, which for nearly 40 years has existed primarily on the cultivation and sale of marijuana. It’s a place where business is done with thick wads of cash, and savings are buried in the backyard. In Humboldt County, marijuana supports everything from fire departments to schools, but it comes with a heavy price. As legalization looms, the community stands at a crossroads, and its inhabitants are deeply divided on the issue—some want to claim their rightful heritage as master growers and have their livelihood legitimized; others want to continue reaping the inflated profits of the black market. Emily Brady spent a year living with the highly secretive residents of Humboldt County to chronicle the story of a small town that became dependent on a forbidden plant and of how everything is changing as marijuana goes mainstream. Brady talks to Kirkus about her book in June.

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For the latest new releases every day, go online to Kirkus.com. It’s where our editors and contributing blog partners bring you the best in science fiction, mysteries and thrillers, literary fiction and nonfiction, teen books and children’s books, Indie publishing and more.

In Max Barry’s Lexicon, students aren’t taught history, geography or mathematics—at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here, the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as “poets”: adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive. Barry’s most ambitious novel yet, Lexicon is a thriller that explores language, power, identity and our capacity to love—whatever the cost. Barry talks to Kirkus about his novel—which earned a Kirkus star— later this month.

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

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fiction ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS A Retelling

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: TEN THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT LOVE by Sarah Butler............... 9

al-Shaykh, Hanan Pantheon (320 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-307-95886-0

SANDRINE’S CASE by Thomas H.Cook.............................................12 UNWRITTEN by Charles Martin.........................................................23 THREE WOMEN IN A MIRROR by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt............27 THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLING by Juan Gabriel Vásquez.........30 THE PEOPLE IN THE TREES by Hanya Yanagihara..........................30 THE REALM OF LAST CHANCES by Steve Yarbrough...................... 31 MIDNIGHT by Kevin Egan...................................................................32 BOX OFFICE POISON by Phillipa Bornikova.................................... 37

MIDNIGHT

Egan, Kevin Forge (320 pp.) $24.99 Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-7653-3526-5

Elegant, pointed retelling of the classic of medieval Arabian literature by Lebanese novelist and journalist al-Shaykh (The Locust and the Bird, 2009, etc.). As Sir Richard Burton well knew, the tales that Scheherazade spun in order to keep from having her sultan husband chop off her head were full of erotic moments, explicit and implicit alike. Denatured into fables for children, the tales of Ali Baba, magical caves, flying carpets and Sindbad the sailor lost any such erotic possibilities, which al-Shaykh very gamely restores with the unmistakable conjuring of “[t]he stick, the thing, the pigeon, the panther, the shish kebab, the cock” and dizzying tales of noblewomen ravished by African slaves—in short, the sort of things that ought to find these once-tame stories a whole new audience. It’s not just the sex, but also the sexual violence and mistrust that run like a swift current below the stories. Says one sorrowful shah to his brother early on, “I caught my wife in the arms of one of the kitchen boys in her quarters before I set out to come to you. My anger took control and I avenged myself by slaying both of them and hurling their bodies in a trench, like two dead cockroaches.” It would take an accomplished psychotherapist and dream interpreter to plumb the depths of what al-Shaykh reveals of the relations, as fraught as any in Faulkner, of cloistered women and fearful men and those ever-watchful black slaves. Yet some of what the Arabian storytellers unleashed on their audiences, if we are to trust these versions, is utterly unveiled, as when a young woman tells her sisters, “I have learned a lesson: there is little that is good in marriage.” Readers of a nostalgic bent will be pleased to discover Sindbad in these pages, though a different one from the Sindbad of their youth—as a storyteller reporting Sindbad’s very own account of his adventures relates, “at times I was so terrified that I nearly shat myself.” A lovely book, and a wonderful revisiting of tales that, told once again, are meant to inspire—well, if not piety, at least more humane behavior toward our fellow adventurers.

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LET THE GAMES BEGIN

Ammaniti, Niccolo Translated by Doust, Kylee Black Cat/Grove (320 pp.) $16.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-8021-2111-0

In contemporary Rome, a satanic caper implodes in this latest from the well-regarded Italian (Me and You, 2012, etc.). When is a satanic sect no longer a sect? When it’s down to three losers and an uncharismatic leader. The Wilde Beasts of Abaddon would accept that harsh judgment. The four Romans are dejected and spiritless. Other disciples have quit. When they sacrificed a student and buried her alive, she dug her way out; then Silvietta became the girlfriend of Murder, another acolyte (Stockholm syndrome?). Their leader, Saverio, blames himself for their troubles. Henpecked by his wife, humiliated by his father-in-law (he manages his furniture store), he needs a release for his submerged hate. Then an opportunity arrives. The celebrity singer Larita, a convert to Christianity from Satanism, is the star attraction at an event where the Beasts will be moonlighting. They’ll behead her with the sword Saverio’s bought on eBay and then kill themselves. Their deliberations need a light touch which Ammaniti doesn’t quite achieve. Nor is it helpful that he develops a parallel storyline about the best-selling novelist Fabrizio Ciba. An unappealing narcissist with writer’s block, Fabrizio reflects Italian publishing’s fierce infighting but adds little to the mix. The storylines converge at a spectacular event organized by Chiatti, a real estate mogul and avatar of relentless vulgarity. He has bought one of Rome’s oldest parks to stage not just Larita’s concert, but three separate hunts (fox, tiger and lion). The Beasts’ silly scheme dissolves in squabbling over the suicide pact and, anyway, is overshadowed by the ruckus of the hunts. Fabrizio and Larita are thrown off an elephant; an art dealer is eaten by crocodiles; and in a surreal twist, defecting Soviet athletes and their subhuman spawn, living in the catacombs since the 1960 Rome Olympics, emerge to wreak havoc. A novel that veers out of control, obliterating its setup and dulling Ammaniti’s admired edge as a satirist.

OMENS

Armstrong, Kelley Dutton (416 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-0-525-95304-3 Series: Cainsville, 1 Fairy magic meets hoary thriller cliché in this work of paranormal suspense by the author of the best-selling Otherworld series (Thirteen, 2012, etc.). Raised by a loving department-store magnate father and a high-strung, self-involved mother, Olivia 6

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Taylor-Jones is utterly overset to discover that she’s adopted, the biological child of the Larsens, a notorious serial-killer couple. The relentless paparazzi drive her from Chicago to Cainsville, an isolated, gargoyle-encrusted town founded (and still inhabited) by fairies and those with a drop of the old blood. As Olivia slowly comes to terms with her hitherto unknown past, and gets a glimmering of her ability to perceive and understand omens, she heeds the plea of her biological mother, Pamela (who claims she’s innocent), to investigate the Larsens’ alleged crimes. Assisting her is icy-eyed, advantage-seeking and, of course, attractive Gabriel Walsh, Pamela’s former attorney. Together, Olivia and Gabriel uncover evidence linking one set of murders to a government conspiracy famously overused in fiction. As the first in a series, the book raises far more questions than it answers, so much so that it feels somewhat unsatisfying. No doubt, Olivia and Gabriel’s relationship will deepen in future installments, but there’s insufficient material for romance-seekers so far. Gabriel’s self-serving attitude perversely gives him some depth, while Olivia seems less a fully rounded character than a set of paranormal romance clichés strung together: strong-willed debutante with hidden depths, skeptic coming to terms with magic, woman infuriated by a man she’s secretly attracted to, etc. Here’s hoping Armstrong will deliver something more substantial in Book 2.

THE GLASS OCEAN

Baker, Lori Penguin Press (352 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 5, 2013 978-1-59420-536-1

Baker’s ambitious debut novel features a Victorian setting, mismatched lovers, dysfunctional families, doomed journeys of discovery, and the art and manufacture of glass. Our narrator and protagonist is Carlotta Dell’oro, a too-tall redhead, a ginger, only daughter of eccentric parents Leopold and Clotilde. The novel concentrates on their story, how they meet in the rooms of Felix Girard, eccentric explorer and collector, father of Clotilde. Leo falls for her, it seems, on sight, but he is diffident; obtuse but obsessive. Leo joins a cast of caricatures aboard the Narcissus for a journey to the Yucatan to study and collect specimens. This is Girard’s journey, and Clotilde comes along. She concertizes on a spinet in her room, the men in her orbit, planets around a vain, blonde sun. Much happens. Clotilde and Leo find themselves together, back in dank, cold Whitby, England, married. At a loose end, low on funds, unable to relate to his narcissistic wife, Leo becomes an apprentice in the glasswork of Thomas Argument. The marriage a failure, the angular Argument becomes the hypotenuse in the Dell’oro love triangle. Leo immerses himself in the intricacies of re-creating ephemeral ocean creatures in glass. There are dazzling passages, and the concrete details of glass manufacture reign in the mannered prose. Is it the setting? Or the fact that every character shades into caricature, even the narrator?


The prose often goes over the top and stays there. Baker has gone all-in to capture Carlotta’s voice. This decision is admirable and risky. It is excessive, expressionistic. One will either love it or tire of it.

A FAMILY AFFAIR

Billingsley, ReShonda Tate Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (336 pp.) $16.00 paper | Jul. 30, 2013 978-1-4516-3969-8 Bernard Wells is an adulterer. Enraged that he fathered their live-in nanny’s child, Adele Wells casts not him but his child and the nanny out of the mansion. She may be ruthless and melodramatic, but Adele can’t stop fate from re-uniting the family.

For the last 17 years, Olivia’s mother, Lorraine, has scrimped, saved and sacrificed to give Olivia the best she can, but poverty has crushed their hopes. Things change quickly, however, when Lorraine finds an acceptance letter to Juilliard hidden beneath Olivia’s mattress. Hours after Lorraine mysteriously rushes out of the house, Olivia discovers her mother has had a heart attack and arrives at the hospital just in time for a deathbed confession: Olivia’s father is alive. He is the very wealthy Bernard Wells, CEO of England Enterprises. Olivia heads to Los Angeles. After all, what’s left for her in Houston? She can’t pay the rent, and the flame she carries for her ex-boyfriend is doused by the discovery that another woman is carrying his child. Confronting Bernard is no simple matter, though. Although he wants to help Olivia, he can’t risk Adele’s discovering that he has re-connected with his daughter. He devises a plan riddled with secrets, lies and money. He arranges for Olivia to work for him as an intern, along with his slacker son, Kendall, promising to back Kendall’s music career if he lasts six months. Sworn to secrecy, Olivia cannot tell Kendall that she is his sister. Meanwhile, Bernard’s mistress is becoming suspicious of the new, pretty intern

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“A soulful why-done-it.” from the light in the ruins

who spends so much time with Bernard. The secrets swell and the payoff checks mount until an accident forces everyone to reveal the truth. Broken hearts and shattered trust follow. Note: an adaptation of Billingsley’s novel Let the Church Say Amen, produced by Queen Latifa, will air on BET in Fall 2013. An overwrought novel from Billingsley (the author’s previous books include Say Amen, Again, NAACP Image Award Winner for Outstanding Fiction) that will nonetheless please fans.

THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS

Bohjalian, Chris Doubleday (320 pp.) $25.95 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-385-53481-9

In post–World War II Tuscany, a serial killer targets the remnants of a noble family. In Bohjalian’s literary thriller, the ruin of the aristocratic Rosati family is triggered by Nazi interest in an Etruscan tomb on their estate, Villa Chimera. The action ricochets between the war years, when the Rosatis—Marchese Antonio, Marchesa Beatrice and their children, Marco, Vittore and Cristina—were unwilling hosts to Nazis and Fascists, and 1955, when Francesca, widow of Marco (her children also perished during the war) is found brutally murdered in a seedy pensione. The murderer’s grisly MO entails extracting the heart of his victim, presumably with a surgical saw. Called in to investigate, Florentine detective Serafina Bettini, scarred by burns sustained while fighting as a partisan against the Germans, is baffled. (Occasional italicized asides in the killer’s first-person voice reveal only that he—or she—has an unspecified grudge against the Rosatis and intends to pick them off one by one.) When Beatrice is murdered in the same manner in a much safer Florence hotel, Serafina divines that the Rosatis are the killer’s targets, but why? Because they allowed Germans to extract artifacts from the tomb and artwork from their mansion during the war, and because Cristina was in love with a German lieutenant, the clan were seen as collaborators by some, but Serafina’s patchy memory eventually discloses that the Rosatis sheltered her and fellow partisans on the estate. Nor did the Rosatis escape wartime suffering: They lost Marco and their grandchildren; and Antonio died a broken man. In 1955, Villa Chimera is still a pile of rubble the family cannot afford to repair, much less inhabit. As Serafina struggles with her own postwar nightmares, she must learn why the killer hates the Rosatis—only then can she identify him before the next Rosati dies. A soulful why-done-it.

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SAVE YOURSELF

Braffet, Kelly Crown (352 pp.) $25.00 paper | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-385-34734-1 Another darkly disturbing novel from Braffet, who specializes in exploring damaged people. Patrick Cusimano and his brother Mike live in the shadow of their father, who hit and killed a child while driving drunk. After Patrick found blood and a child’s baby tooth embedded in the front of his dad’s car, he called the police, but the townsfolk in his Pennsylvania town haven’t forgiven him that he waited 19 hours before doing so. Now, the Cusimano name is inextricably linked to the sadness and horror of their imprisoned father’s deed. Meanwhile, Layla and Verna Elshere have parent problems of their own. Their dad, a “church leader” who reluctantly allowed his teen daughters to attend public school, infamously took on the school board and got a popular teacher fired for instructing students on sex education. Now, his daughters have become pariahs at their high school and are targeted by kids so mean that their behavior is downright sociopathic. To make things worse, the teachers and administration turn a blind eye to the torture of the Elshere girls. Fearing that telling their parents will only make matters worse, the two remain quiet about the physical and psychological attacks and, instead, resort to hanging around with a group of misfit goth kids who drink one another’s blood and plot against the other, more popular kids. When Layla’s path crosses Patrick’s, she only adds to the confusion he feels about his role in life: He lives with a brother he loves and Caro, the daughter of a schizophrenic who is terrified that she, or any children she may have, will end up like her mother. Unable to move forward with his life, Patrick seems doomed to tread water, until a terrible confluence of events erupts, leaving no one untouched. Braffet writes beautifully, but the over-thetop human cruelty and depravity she incorporates in this story are both disturbing and creepy. A horrifying look at damaged people who owe all they are to their awful parents.

THE LONGINGS OF WAYWARD GIRLS

Brown, Karen Washington Square/Pocket (336 pp.) $15.00 paper | Jul. 2, 2013 978-1-4767-2491-1

Brown (Little Sinners, and Other Stories, 2012) expands her repertoire in her first novel, a psychological suspense that grabs readers from the start but loosens its grip a bit before the conclusion. Back in the ’70s, a quiet middle-class neighborhood is rocked by the disappearance of two young girls who vanish five


years apart. Sadie Watkins bears a close resemblance to the first, 9-year-old Laura Loomis, and is grudgingly forced to play with the second, Francie Bingham. Francie, with her awkward appearance, unhappy home life and a desire to be liked, makes an easy target for Sadie and her best friend, Betty. They resent Francie’s intrusion into their games and conversations but soon turn her presence into a source of cruel amusement. More than 20 years later, Sadie’s still living in the same neighborhood and has settled into her own life with a loving husband and two young children. Her past is long buried—or so she thinks— until musician Ray Filley returns to town. As Ray pursues her with single-minded persistence, Sadie’s former actions and feelings haunt her, and she finds herself turning into someone she remembers all too well. Brown effectively ensnares the reader in a tangle of gloom, intrigue and drama where family homes and a peaceful, hidden neighborhood attraction might be mere facades for dark secrets and tortured lives that lie hidden somewhere within. Switching between past and present, Sadie’s life slowly unravels as she’s finally forced to confront past and present actions and determine who she really is and unresolved issues ultimately achieve some semblance of closure. Although the author combines the elements of good suspense writing to achieve an entertaining and nerve-jangling suspense novel, there are a few weaknesses that might bother the reader. The introduction of the pregnant waitress and her husband does little to enhance the suspense and, in fact, detracts from the story. And the ending is a bit too contrived and just doesn’t fulfill the promise of Brown’s earlier narrative. Even with flaws, Brown’s complex and haunting piece is better than average.

known. Meanwhile, in alternating sections, Daniel, a homeless man, scours London for the daughter he fathered during a longago affair but has never met. Daniel’s plight stems both from the disastrous legacy of his gambler father and from an auto accident that bankrupted him. All he knows is that the woman he is searching for might have red hair, like her mother, and is named Alice. Delicately, through the accretion of telling details, the reader learns that Daniel’s Alice and our heroine are one and the same, but Alice thinks her father has just died. When, while helping another destitute man reconnect with his lost child, Daniel happens across Malcolm’s obituary, complete with relatives’ names and the location of memorial services, he realizes his quest may soon be fulfilled if he has the courage to gamble. Improbably but convincingly, his initial diffident overtures to Alice take the form of mini art installations. Spare language and an atmosphere of foreboding will keep readers on tenterhooks. Whimsy and pathos, artfully melded.

TEN THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT LOVE

Butler, Sarah Penguin Press (320 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 15, 2013 978-1-59420-533-0

This soulful debut unpacks a family enigma involving a wandering daughter, a homeless father and their tenuous family ties. The title might promise another light romantic romp about a footloose young woman in her late 20s. However, English newcomer Butler has greater gravitas in mind. The top 10 lists strewn throughout point to increasingly somber subjects: a mother’s early death, infidelity, a father’s death from cancer, and elder sisters who are both fervent and ambivalent in their affection for their much younger sibling, protagonist Alice. Summoned home from Mongolia to the bedside of Malcolm, her dying father, Alice is also forced to revisit London, the site of a traumatic rupture with her Indian lover, Kal, whose family wants to arrange a marriage for him. After Malcolm’s passing, sisters Tilly and Cee hint at what Alice has suspected since her mother’s death when she was 4 years old: She is viewed as an interloper in the only family she has ever |

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“...Clark seduces with her vision...” from the rathbones

IDIOPATHY

Byers, Sam Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (320 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-86547-764-3 A darkly comic novel turns bleaker and sadder as a generation of perennially adolescent Britons struggles to find love, or meaning, or maturity or something. The front page of the debut novel by Byers defines “idiopathy” as “a disease or condition which arises spontaneously or for which the cause is unknown.” It refers most specifically to a crisis which pervades England, initially referred to vaguely and obliquely as “all this terrible cow business” and “whatever was going on with the cattle.” Worse than mad cow disease and capable of crossing species, infecting sheep and even humans, it hovers in the background of the novel, which focuses on the relationship (or lack thereof) among Katherine, Daniel and Nathan, who are stuck in some gaping maw between mindless adolescence (which seems to extend well into the mid-20s) and adult responsibility. On the surface, Katherine is the most interesting and least likable: “The better she was at her job, the more people hated her. By general consensus, Katherine was very good at her job.” She has sex, indiscriminately and without any satisfaction, with some co-workers who hate her less (or at least differently) than the others, and perhaps she does so to fill the void left by her breakup with Daniel, though when the two were lovers they never seemed to like each other much. Observes their friend Nathan, “[o]n a good day, they drew on pooled energy. On a bad day, they battled for dwindling air.” Nathan has recently been released from psychiatric treatment following his attempts to really hurt himself (though not, he insists, to kill himself) after professing his love for and to Katherine. He may well be the sanest of the three. They inevitably reunite, after the reader has spent long stretches inside the consciousness of each, as the gathering unexpectedly encompasses Daniel’s blandly beautiful girlfriend and the man with whom she might be having an affair, in a climax that suggests a younger version of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Throughout, words are platitudes, words are weapons, words are what distinguish this generation from the diseased cattle across the novel’s backdrop. Perhaps. Here’s hoping the promising novelist finds a depth of meaning that eludes his characters.

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THE RATHBONES

Clark, Janice Doubleday (384 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-385-53693-6

Drawing on Edgar Allan Poe, Homer and Herman Melville, an ambitious saga of lineage and whaling in which Mercy and Mordecai Rathbone embark on a circular voyage in pursuit of their identities. Simultaneously mythic, gothic and whimsical, Clark’s debut imagines the North American whaling industry through the lens of an eccentric, male-dominated dynasty springing from Moses Rathbone, discovered at sea in a barrel in 1761. With his combination of maritime skills and instinct, Moses systematically breeds a line of sons who will harvest untold numbers of sperm whales and generate enormous wealth. Wives are stolen and spurned, girl children mysteriously absent. But the arc of the Rathbone supremacy declines, as does the whale population, and by the time Mercy sets off in 1859 with her cousin Mordecai to look for Mercy’s father and her mysterious twin brother, and also escape the man chasing her from Rathbone House, the family’s history has begun to be covered by the sands of time. Clark imagines a rich hinterland to her briny story, yet the episodic foreground is desultory, with the cousins wandering among islands in the Atlantic, responding numbly to dark, sometimes opaque discoveries. Eventually returning to Rathbone House, Mercy excavates the last complicated layer of her family’s bonds and bids several goodbyes and one hello. Chicago-based author Clark seduces with her vision and her prose but disappoints with non-epic storytelling.

EYE FOR AN EYE

Coes, Ben St. Martin’s (448 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-250-00716-2

Special Forces operative Dewey Andreas is out for vengeance after a botched assassination attempt kills the woman he loves in the latest from Coes (The Last Refuge, 2012, etc.). While on vacation with his fiancee, U.S. National Security Advisor Jessica Tanzer, in Argentina, Dewey is targeted by a Chinese hit squad. He escapes the assassin’s bullet only to have it find his wife-to-be instead. In response, Dewey uses his training as a skilled Delta operator to hunt down the man behind the failed hit, China’s minister of state security. The carnage caused by Dewey’s quest for vengeance stretches across Europe and into Asia. Depth is added as the storyline fluctuates between bloody shootouts among multinational paramilitary operators and tense political negotiations with heads of state, covert operations directors and numerous ambassadors. A sense of realism emerges when Dewey’s mission is complicated


by America’s primary lender and source of future financial security, China. The threat of Islamist radicals pales in comparison to the threat of the People’s Bank of China, which is likened to “a poisonous snake” lurking in tall grass as it grows stronger. At a time when America’s exceptionalism is hotly contested, this is a fine example of an exceptional American hero story.

THE HYPOTHETICAL GIRL

Cohen, Elizabeth Other Press (256 pp.) $14.95 paper | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-59051-582-2

Cohen (The Family on Beartown Road, 2003) showcases love in the Internet Age. The 15 stories vary in tone and degree of realism, but all display faith in the “glowing and nuclear power in

the word.” It may impact the characters directly, as when discovery of the name for his condition finally cures the protagonist of “Limerence” of his obsessive brooding over a woman who stops answering his texts after four dates and two bouts of sex. Or the power may be manifested in the way characters use words to misrepresent themselves online; in “People Who Live Far, Far Away,” the Icelandic yak farmer is actually a paralyzed vet in Duluth, the movie actress in fact cares fulltime for her sister with Down syndrome. Or the author may just decide to flat-out dazzle you with words, as in the flashy opening of “Animal Dancing”: “It was the time of year when the helicopter seeds twirled down on the sidewalks like girls showing off at a dance, when the bee balm bushes wore their best purple frocks and the whole world seemed…tricked out for love.” Love may be fleeting, but a well-turned phrase is forever in Cohen’s clever but occasionally shallow collection. It’s not exactly news that people don’t always look like the photos they post online (“Man on a Boat”) or that it’s a bad idea to drunkenly hook up with an ex-boyfriend who tells you he’s doing drugs with a couple of other guys (“Love Quiz”), and

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the author is sometimes too eager to show off her technique. Nonetheless, the subject of looking for love online is still fresh enough, and Cohen is talented enough, to imbue the best stories—“Dog People,” “The Man Who Made Whirlygigs,” “The Opposite of Love”—with a sharp, distinctive quality as they show people tentatively using new tools in the age-old search for connection. Uneven but intriguing work from a writer who should resist her penchant for narrative game-playing.

SANDRINE’S CASE

Cook, Thomas H. Mysterious Press (352 pp.) $24.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-8021-2608-5 A psychological courtroom thriller from Cook (The Crime of Julian Wells, 2012, etc.). Husband and wife Sam and Sandrine Madison are both professors at Coburn College in Georgia, but one evening, Sandrine dies from an overdose of pain medications and liquor. Is it suicide or murder? Sam’s strange behavior leads to his arrest, and his subsequent murder trial forms the structure of the story, told in his own words. The couple had grown apart over the years because Sandrine saw Sam as becoming increasingly indifferent and disconnected from her. Even when he learns Sandrine has Lou Gehrig’s disease and will surely die, he shows little sympathy or emotional support. He holds his town of Coburn in contempt and considers his students ignoramuses unworthy of his erudition. (Do these kids even know that “unique” doesn’t take an adjective?) Sam’s thoughts and speech are full of literary references that further separate him from ordinary people. If he ever gets around to writing the great book he vaguely plans, he won’t write it in his office—he doesn’t have one of those—but in his “scriptorium.” So Sam is an easy man to dislike, both for the townspeople and the reader. Maybe Sandrine committed suicide, as Sam claims. Or maybe he murdered her to escape the increasing burdens of her care, as the prosecutor wants the jury to think. Day by day, the state builds its case while the defense tries to tear it down. Sam’s own memories show Sandrine’s increasing frustration and rage with him, while conversations with the defense attorney reveal more of Sam’s personality than the defense dares allow the jury to know. Defense and prosecution are equally skilled and devoted to winning their cases, so the trial’s outcome—and the truth—are not easy to predict. A marvelous tale of human nature.

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WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD

Crandall, Susan Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 2, 2013 978-1-4767-0772-3 Crandall (Sleep No More, 2010, etc.) delivers big with a coming-of-age story set in Mississippi in 1963 and narrated by a precocious 9-year-old. Due in part to tradition, intimidation and Jim Crow laws, segregation is very much ingrained into the Southern lifestyle in 1963. Few white children question these rules, least of all Starla Caudelle, a spunky young girl who lives with her stern, unbending grandmother in Cayuga Springs, Miss., and spends an inordinate amount of time on restriction for her impulsive actions and sassy mouth. Starla’s dad works on an oil rig in the Gulf; her mother abandoned the family to seek fame and fortune in Nashville when Starla was 3. In her youthful innocence, Starla’s convinced that her mother’s now a big singing star, and she dreams of living with her again one day, a day that seems to be coming more quickly than Starla’s anticipated. Convinced that her latest infraction is about to land her in reform school, Starla decides she has no recourse but to run away from home and head to Nashville to find her mom. Ill prepared for the long, hot walk and with little concept of time and distance, Starla becomes weak and dehydrated as she trudges along the hot, dusty road. She gladly accepts water and a ride from Eula, a black woman driving an old truck, and finds, to her surprise, that she’s not Eula’s only passenger. Inside a basket is a young white baby, an infant supposedly abandoned outside a church, whom Eula calls James. Although Eula doesn’t intend to drive all the way to Nashville, when she shows up at her home with the two white children, a confrontation with her husband forces her into becoming a part of Starla’s journey, and it’s this journey that creates strong bonds between the two: They help each other face fears as they each become stronger individuals. Starla learns firsthand about the abuse and scare tactics used to intimidate blacks and the skewed assumption of many whites that blacks are inferior beings. Assisted by a black schoolteacher who shows Eula and Starla unconditional acceptance and kindness, both ultimately learn that love and kinship transcend blood ties and skin color. Young Starla is an endearing character whose spirited observations propel this nicely crafted story.


SEA CREATURES

Daniel, Susanna Harper/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 30, 2013 978-0-06-221960-2 Daniel’s (Stiltsville, 2011) novel, about a woman coping with her broken family and her husband’s and son’s illnesses, contains an undercurrent that surges in parts but can’t quite manage to maintain its grip on the reader. Georgia Quillian and her husband, Graham, move to Georgia’s hometown in Florida following the disintegration of their professional dreams in Illinois. Georgia’s college-advising business has gone belly up, and an incident attributed to Graham’s sleeping disorder, parasomnia, prevents him from obtaining tenure at Northwestern University. Starting anew, the couple buys an old houseboat and docks it at Georgia’s father and stepmother’s house, while Graham begins his new job working

on a project that studies extreme weather. He spends large amounts of time away from his family, and when he’s home, Graham is remote and unable to engage with Georgia or their young son, Frankie. Frankie is physically capable of speech but rarely makes a sound; he’s diagnosed with selective mutism. When stepmother Lidia tells Georgia about an opening as a personal assistant to a local “hermit,” she accepts the position. Artist Charlie Hicks, who’s many years older than Georgia, has lived for years in a home built on pilings on the water in an area known as Stiltsville, and she goes to his place a few days a week. While Georgia organizes his art, which includes sketches of many sea creatures, she finds peace and tranquility in Charlie’s presence and witnesses positive changes in Frankie as he and Charlie develop a close bond. Georgia recognizes how fractured her marriage is and sadly realizes that she and Frankie are happier when Graham is away on his extended trips. Reading Georgia’s reflections about her life and her marriage sometimes feels like slogging through chest-high water to reach a faraway shore, but even though the movement is slow and the journey takes effort, getting to the other side is worth it—at least for

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Jeannette Walls

The best-selling writer is inspired by the ambiguity of doing “the right thing” in her new novel By Jaime Netzer

Photo Courtesy John Taylor

Jeanette Walls is through with writing. She says so herself, in between laughs: “I’ll never write another book. I’m through, I’m finished—I’ve got nothing left to say.” But in the next breath, she admits something that should provide comfort to any fan distraught at the thought of her absence from the literary world: “I also said that after my last two books, so don’t believe anything I say.” She adds, amid more boisterous laughter, “It’s not that I’m a liar. I’m just wishy-washy.” After both The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses, Walls felt like she’d said everything she had to say—in her words, she was “all wrote out.” But then, she says, “Something starts percolating in your brain, against your will.” After The Glass Castle, her unflinching memoir about growing up poor, often homeless and in the care 14

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of wildly creative but utterly nonconformist parents, it was her mother’s story that continued to tug at Walls. Walls’ mother convinced her, however, that it was her grandmother Lily Casey Smith who had the truly fascinating life—and so Walls told that story, in her grandmother’s voice, based largely on facts but marketed as a “true-life novel.” “In telling Lily’s story, I could also tell my mother’s story, in the same way that The Glass Castle is really not so much about me as it is about my parents,” Walls says. It’s perhaps natural, then, that Walls’ third book, The Silver Star, is more about herself. Her narrator, Jean “Bean” Holladay, shares more than just a name with Walls: She is, Walls says, a very close mirror of herself at that age. “I’ve done well for myself,” Walls says, “but it’s not because I have this astonishing IQ or because I’m very creative, like the other members of my family. And that’s the character of Bean. She’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and she’s not very creative, but she’s a straight thinker and she confronts things and she calls things as she sees them.” In the novel, 12-year-old Bean Holladay and her 15-yearold sister Liz head for small-town Byler, Va., their mother’s hometown, after she leaves them alone in their Southern California home to pursue a dubious career in music. One cross-country journey later, Bean and Liz meet and quickly charm a long-lost uncle, staying with him in the decaying Holladay mansion while their mother sorts out her career—and life. Because money is tight, the sisters hire themselves out to local foreman Jerry Maddox, but Maddox soon shifts from an intimidating figure to a true bully and villain, and after Liz gets caught in his path, Bean vows revenge. The novel started out, Walls says, as nonfiction, but, as with Half Broke Horses, she found herself filling in too many holes to label it as such. And, as a journalist, she sees the line between the two as clear and immovable: “I’m


a little bit of a purist,” she says. “Once you start making stuff up and cobbling things together and writing things that you’re not completely sure of, unless you put in some sort of qualifier, you’ve got to call it fiction.” And though elements of the plot and the setting are drawn from her own life, the book is fiction. “The Silver Star is cobbled together from things I observed or heard,” she says. “I took the things I’ve seen or witnessed or experienced that fascinate me and tried to put them into the shape of a story.” And with fiction, she adds, “You can manipulate things and put them all in order.” As for which elements of the plot are true? “There was a decision that I made as a young adult that I’ve always regretted,” Walls says. “It caused a lot of grief for my family, and it’s because I tried to take on a bully, and I’ve always regretted that. And sitting down and writing The Silver Star helped me figure out that if I hadn’t done anything, it would’ve been worse. In a truly bad situation, there’s usually not a choice between an easy thing and uneasy thing—they’re both going to be tough.” If the ambiguity of “the right thing” was one question spinning in Walls’ head, inspiring this book, another was the difference between creative genius and mental illness. “Part of this comes from being on tour for The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses,” Walls says. “I had so many people ask me, ‘Is your mother mentally ill; is she insane?’ And this whole concept of people who make things up and see the world differently fascinates me, because what is the distinction between creativity and imagination and mental illness and insanity?” So Liz, Bean’s sister, toes the line between being highly creative and being unstable, as does the girls’ mother. Walls thinks the two often go hand in hand: “If you look at the number of people in history who’ve been considered creative geniuses and who’ve been posthumously diagnosed as bipolar, it’s pretty much most of them,” she says. “And I don’t put myself in that category. I tell people I’m incapable of making things up.” Her talents, she says, lie instead with observation. And from that observation, she aims to do what all great writers do—to communicate a universal emotional truth. And that’s what’s important to Walls. “To me, that’s what it’s all about,” she says. “It’s not about awards or getting on the best-seller lists, it’s about hitting this emotional chord with your readers and having them say, ‘Huh,’ and opening an emotional and intellectual and verbal dialogue where people just start sharing things. It’s about storytelling, and if my storytelling, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, elicits storytelling in the readers, then I’m a happy camper.” Walls delights in her books being book club selections and is regularly touched by the letters she receives from

young readers thanking her for sharing her story, because it is similar in some way to theirs. And she’d love the same result from The Silver Star. “It is my fondest hope that The Silver Star elicits similar conversations,” she says. Storytelling and art, for Walls, are not necessarily one and the same. She laughs, recalling a review of The Glass Castle whose critic wrote that the book tells a good story but questioned whether it was art. “I don’t give a rat’s behind whether it’s art or not,” Walls says. “I don’t need to be called creative or a genius—in fact, I would sort of reject that. I don’t care whether I’m a literary darling. What I care about is just sort of making people reconsider what they think they know about themselves and others.” Jaime Netzer lives in Smithville, Texas as the L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Writer-in-Residence. She is at work on her first novel.

The Silver Star Walls, Jeannette Scribner | (288 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-4516-6150-7 |

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“An ambling thriller...” from no regrets, coyote

parts of the story. The latter portion of the book sweeps readers into the mayhem of Hurricane Andrew and a heart-pounding crisis that triggers waves of powerful emotions but, unfortunately, doesn’t sustain them. Once Andrew passes, the narrative slowly dribbles to a wishy-washy conclusion. Ebbs and flows.

NO REGRETS, COYOTE

Dufresne, John Norton (352 pp.) $25.95 | Jul. 15, 2013 978-0-393-07053-8

An ambling thriller about a suspicious murder-suicide that never meets a diversion it doesn’t like. Wittingly or not, Wylie “Coyote” Melville, unofficial Everglades County crime consultant, may suggest a reader’s initial response to this latest from Dufresne when he says, “[a] lack of narrative structure, as you know, will cause anxiety.” Melville’s wide-ranging and loosely structured narrative, which looks like a series launch, won’t exactly cause a reader anxiety. In fact, this appealing raconteur’s keen observations and dry, sometimes mordant sense of humor consistently divert. But that also means a reader can’t always discern what the book wants to be about. Like Coyote, a busy therapist who, because of his attention to detail and behavior (“I read faces and furniture”), can just about divine a culprit, the book wears many hats. Ostensibly, the plot is about a Christmas Eve shootout in which a father takes out his wife, his three children and then himself. Police are quick to rule the tragedy a murder-suicide, but too much about the case nags at Coyote. His ensuing investigation ranges far and wide and takes many side trips. There are, for example, Coyote’s no-nonsense, advice-filled therapy sessions. There are Coyote’s meetings with friend Bay Lettique, a devilish magician who can slice a banana with a card tossed from 10 feet. And there are Coyote’s dinners with his sister and brotherin-law, who suffers gout. Throughout, Coyote’s sharp-eyed narration and quick takes on behavior amuse. “He looked like a Cal or a Kim,” Coyote says of a man in a bar whose “short blond hair was combed forward and rose to a quiff like the Gerber baby’s.” Eventually, Dufresne gathers some nasty police officers, Coyote, Bay and some others and packs them off to Alaska for a solid chase scene and a denouement that, however predictable, is no less potent. A ride on a local that’s more fun than some others on an express.

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L’AMOUR

Duras, Marguerite Translated by Ali, Kazim; Murphy, Libby Open Letter (112 pp.) $12.95 paper | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-934824-79-5 Duras’ novel, published in French in 1971, debuts in its English translation (Emily L., 1987, etc.). The town of S. Thala is a timeless place where sand, light, hot blazes, sirens and a dead dog all seem to hold some strange significance. But what? Duras, whose works were popular in France during the last century, was known for experimenting with different genres—she was particularly associated with the nouveau roman movement in France—and presenting her text in unique forms. A prolific writer, she produced novels, articles, plays and movies before her death in 1996. This particular narrative, written in cinematic form, is illustrative of her passion for the unusual. A sequel to The Ravishing of Lol Stein (first published in 1964), this book revisits the main characters as they fade in and out, and the reader is left to reread passages to discover the identity of the speaker and attempt to discern meaning. As a traveler arrives in S. Thala, he suddenly finds himself confronting his past in surrealistic snatches of dialogue that are simultaneously disturbing, exquisite, calming and perplexing. The traveler evidently was once involved with the woman with whom he interacts—at one point she’s pregnant, and at another, they discuss two children—and she’s sometimes accompanied (and sometimes not) by a man who watches over her. Duras certainly tears down traditional ideas about how to structure novels, but her avant-garde approach may be confusing for some. The novel doesn’t work well as a stand-alone. And reading the prequel is no guarantee that the reader will get it.

IT’S NOT LOVE, IT’S JUST PARIS Engel, Patricia Grove (240 pp.) $25.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-8021-2151-6

A romance in Paris leaves an indelible mark on rich, young, smart-but-shy Lita del Cielo, in a downbeat coming-of-age tale by a noted new writer. At the run-down Parisian mansion known as the House of Stars, Old Europe hosts the gilded youth of the future, wealthy debs who are briefly distracting themselves with foreign studies, sex and shopping. Lita (who arrives the day after Lady Di’s death) is a misfit in this glamorous company—the sincere, unsophisticated daughter of a Colombian orphan who has become the King of Latin Foods and a mother whose generosity to immigrants has earned her the title Our Lady of New Jersey. In her debut novel,


following a well-received volume of stories (Vida, 2010), Engel trades on familiar elements: teenage alienation; old-world decadence; star-crossed lovers. She partners Lita with Cato de Manou, who is not only the son of a poisonously extreme right-wing French politician, but is also suffering from a major illness—pulmonary sarcoidosis. Cato and Lita’s mutual passion, though strong, is tested by Cato’s physical fragility and the disapproval of both families. They break up for a while then reunite. Eventually, Lita must return home. But they will always have Paris. There’s a sense of déjà vu to this sensitive but self-consciously doomy paean to first love.

THE HEIST

Evanovich, Janet; Goldberg, Lee Bantam (320 pp.) $28.00 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-345-54304-2 The chronicler of Stephanie Plum (Notorious Nineteen, 2012, etc.) teams up with screenwriter Goldberg (Mr. Monk Goes to Germany, 2008, etc.) to kick off a lighthearted new series pairing an FBI agent with the con artist who’s been her

chronic prey. When nonpareil scam-meister Nicolas Fox escapes from custody shortly after Special Agent Kate O’Hare finally hauls him off to jail, she begs to be put back on his case. But there’s a great reason she isn’t: The Feds want her to partner with Nick in tracking down playboy investment banker Derek Griffin and retrieving the $500 million of his company’s money he took with him. Kate and Nick assemble a crew as dutifully as the cast

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of Mission: Impossible for the caper, and soon, rock-bottom thespian Boyd Capwell, Texas trucker Wilma Owens and specialeffects tech Chet Kershaw are setting up a sting to trick Neal Burnside, Griffin’s scalawag attorney, into revealing his boss’s whereabouts. Since every other FBI agent in America is hunting for Nick, Kate’s career, maybe even her freedom, depends on shielding him from all her colleagues. So it’s nice for them both when Griffin turns out to be lying low in Indonesia, where pirates roam the seas unchecked and extradition treaties are no more than a pipe dream but at least the landscape is clear of other FBI types. Kate plots to bag Griffin and the loot; Nick dreams of getting into Kate’s pants and taking off with the money himself. The duo is meant to be as adorably romantic as Nick and Nora, but the only elements missing to make their adventure a sitcom are a laugh track and some laughs. Amiable international intrigue that’s less James Bond than Matt Helm.

QUEEN’S GAMBIT

Fremantle, Elizabeth Simon & Schuster (464 pp.) $26.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-4767-0306-0 Once more unto the six wives of Henry VIII, this time for the story of Katherine Parr, the older wife with healing skills who survived the king. Sins, secrets and guilt dominate the landscape of British writer Fremantle’s debut, which offers a lengthy account of the waning days of King Henry. The Katherine Parr she describes is a well-meaning woman in her 30s whose conscience is burdened by helping her second husband, agonized by ill health, to die and by the death of an illegitimate baby whose birth followed her sexual self-sacrifice during an armed uprising, staged to save the virginity of her stepdaughter. Katherine has no ambitions to be queen. Instead, newly widowed, she finds herself powerfully attracted to high-profile courtier Thomas Seymour, but their passionate affair is shattered by the king’s determination to marry Katherine. Life at court is perilous. Katherine is strong when the king favors her but threatened by political factions and unable to conceive the heir that would make her invulnerable: “Her safety hangs on the whims of a volatile old man.” The author depicts a kindly queen driven to desperation by a life of peril and concealment who, even after Henry’s death, enjoys mixed fortunes. With not much plot to drive her narrative, Fremantle’s emphasis is on intrigue, character portraits and the texture of mid-16th-century life. Solid and sympathetic.

THE WHITE PRINCESS

Gregory, Philippa Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (544 pp.) $27.99 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-4516-2609-4 In the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses, the new queen of Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty, struggles with divided loyalties. After he returns from exile to defeat Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth, Lancastrian conqueror Henry Tudor marries Yorkist princess Elizabeth, daughter of Richard’s predecessor, King Edward IV. The marriage, intended to finally reconcile the warring Yorks and Lancasters, does the opposite. Edward’s dowager queen Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen, 2009) and her sworn enemy Margaret Beaufort, Henry’s mother (The Red Queen, 2010) engineer the marriage, each to promote her own agenda. Princess Elizabeth, who had been the lover of Richard III, is horrified to have her distrust of Henry and his mother confirmed by a pre-wedding rape: Henry and Margaret want to make sure she proves fertile before vows are taken. After her marriage, and the “premature” birth of son Arthur, Elizabeth forms an uneasy truce with Henry that will lead, eventually and after the birth of more children (including future king Henry VIII), to an interlude of genuine affection. However, her mother and she remain York sympathizers at heart, particularly after their young cousin Edward Warwick is placed under house arrest in the Tower. This is an ominous reminder of the imprisonment of King Edward and Queen Elizabeth’s two sons, Edward and Richard, in the Tower, from which they later disappeared. Rumors abound: Prince Richard may still be alive and may be coming to England to assert his entitlement to kingship, far superior to Henry’s. Both Elizabeths know more about such claims than they dare let on: Years before, they had substituted a pageboy for Richard when the two princes went into captivity. A ruthless monarch who rules by intimidation, Henry can never escape the nagging fear that a Yorkist heir will unseat him, especially since the Yorks are so much more likable and better looking than the Tudors. As usual, Gregory delivers a spellbinding (and definitely York-biased) exposé.

THE GRAVITY OF BIRDS

Guzeman, Tracy Simon & Schuster (304 pp.) $25.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-4516-8976-1

Guzeman’s debut examines the impact of a dissolute artist’s self-absorption on already fractured families. When Thomas Bayber, scion of a wealthy family he’s disappointed with his painterly ambitions, runs into the 18

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Kessler sisters during a 1963 summer vacation, he unknowingly seals all their fates. Beautiful but resentful Natalie, 17, and budding ornithologist Alice, 14, are both immediately smitten with Thomas, who, while sketching the Kessler family, insouciantly but not unwittingly pits the sisters against one another. The narrative shifts to 2007. Thomas, a world-renowned painter-turned–alcoholic recluse, has summoned to his musty Brooklyn digs the remnants of his entourage: Finch, an aging art history academic, recently widowed, who has been supporting the bankrupt Thomas for years, and Stephen, a marginally autistic, 30-something art appraiser whose career was scuttled by his Tourette’s-like honesty. Unveiling a portrait that is potentially worth millions, Thomas sets Finch and Stephen on a quest: The portrait, based on that long-ago Kessler sketch, is part of a triptych: There are two other panels out there somewhere…but where? In further flashbacks, we learn that Alice has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since 1963; that she had a brief assignation with Thomas that resulted in a pregnancy and the theft of a valuable porcelain grosbeak; and that Natalie, charged with Alice’s care after their parents were killed in a car crash, resorted to some heartless expedients. Among these were spiriting her sister and herself from their childhood Connecticut home to a tiny Tennessee town. The true reasons for this dislocation will emerge as Finch and Stephen, whose feuding phobias make for entertaining road trips, traverse the country in search of clues. The whereabouts of Alice’s lost child (who Natalie said died at birth) is only one of the melodramatic elements that pile up like crash debris as the story lurches to its credulity-straining, redemptive close. At times burdened by overblown prose and the weight of its own ambitions, this novel exhibits, particularly in characterization and dialogue, glimmers of genius. (Agent: Sally Wofford-Girand)

to death. Waterhouse immediately sees the significance of Amber knowing this unreleased detail and has a fellow officer bring her in for questioning. Amber has a strange past of her own: Her best friend, Sharon, was killed in a fire, and she has custody of the woman’s two small daughters, who escaped the blaze. Add to this a peculiar extended family, an odd night that took place in a rented house and another fire, then mix in some bizarre police work, and you’ll get Hannah’s sometimes-confusing, overly complex tale. Part of the problem is that Hannah peoples her story with unlikable characters: The police officers spend most of their time stomping around, name-calling and screaming about office politics and their personal lives. Back and forth shifts in time and the multiple narrators may confound and alienate readers.

KIND OF CRUEL

Hannah, Sophie Putnam (384 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-670-78585-8

British writer Hannah, who specializes in psychological thrillers, continues her series centered around two married police detectives, officers Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer. Amber Hewerdine visits a hypnotherapist seeking help sleeping at night. Although a skeptic, she’s been suffering from insomnia for so long that she’s desperate for a good night’s sleep. While there, the acerbic Amber meets Zailer, a police officer who is halfheartedly trying to quit smoking. Through a confusing series of events, Amber says several odd things to the hypnotherapist, including the words, “Kind, Cruel, Kind of Cruel.” Those words have special significance to both Waterhouse and Zailer since their imprint was found on a pad of paper discovered at the murder scene where Katharine Allen, a primary teacher, was discovered bludgeoned |

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“A fairy tale riddled with minor characters...” from waiting for jules

CHOSE THE WRONG GUY, GAVE HIM THE WRONG FINGER

Harbison, Beth St. Martin’s (384 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-312-59913-3

A runaway bride, competing brothers, a potential gold digger and a 30-day “reinvent yourself ” challenge provide laughs in this latest from Harbison’s good-girls-making-bad-choices arsenal. Long ago, Quinn almost had it all: She was moments away from marrying Burke Morrison, high school’s sexiest nice guy and heir to a dreamy Virginia horse farm where Quinn would happily live. That is, until Burke’s older brother, Frank, knocked on the vestry door and dropped a bomb: Burke had been cheating on Quinn. The wedding was called off. A few days later (in a blur of rage and misery), she and Frank drove to Vegas, where they engaged in some regrettable intimacy. Ten years later, Quinn is still wondering what went wrong. Why did she trust Frank’s story? Why didn’t she talk it over with Burke? Ironically, she designs wedding dresses and comforts nervous brides, but her own romantic life is stuck in the deep freeze. When Morrison matriarch Dottie comes in to have a wedding dress made, Quinn gets plenty of opportunity to resolve her issues. Although Dottie has reached her golden years (she’s Frank and Burke’s grandmother), she still wants a little romance and has found it in Lyle, a much younger furniture salesman she met online. When they marry, Dottie will sell the farm (this is unbearable to Quinn, since she spun her best fantasies there), and soon, Frank and Burke will be in town to help her pack up—that is if they can’t dissuade her from marrying what they suspect is a gold digger. Best friend Glenn sees the strain Quinn is under and so creates daily challenges (drink all day long, try speed dating, wear a side pony) in hopes of raising Quinn’s courage. With Burke and Frank both in town, Quinn can rehash the past in order to create a future. The question is, which brother will be in it? Amiable, though the manic narrative style can be grating.

WAITING FOR JULES

Houston, Tamara N. Atria (400 pp.) $16.00 paper | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-4516-9851-0

A cab ride home from the airport gives Jules Sinclair time to reflect. After an argument filled with accusations and recriminations, will Marcus be home? Or has she lost him forever? Houston’s debut novel gives Jules a long cab ride, indeed, through traffic-clogged arteries from LAX to Beverly Hills. She has time to recall much more than Marcus, the dashingly handsome lover whose secrets she isn’t sure she wants to 20

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keep. She met Marcus while interviewing for a glamorous position as PR director for Carly’s, a dinner club owned by Michael, a former model–turned–genius restaurateur. Marcus bewitches her with his alpha-male arrogance, impeccable taste and seductive talents. But before Marcus, there was Tony, the gorgeously dreadlocked but commitment-phobic man whose infidelity (with one of her best friends) drove her across the Atlantic to spend two years in London licking her wounds. And then there was Keith, advertising executive and consummate lover, whose sexual healing of Jules comes to a screeching halt with the revelation of a rather obvious secret. Commiserating with her heartaches are Blake, whose fierce attitude hides some affairs of her own, and Richard, a sassy gay editor prone to uttering “Ms.Thang” one moment and metrosexual platitudes the next. Jules ought to be fabulous and admirably courageous. After all, she lures her boss out of his office to hear her ideas by making his assistant laugh hysterically. Even better, she met Tony by helplessly chasing him through the streets—he is charmed by her adoration. Yet Jules doesn’t come off the page as charming, just materialistic. A fairy tale riddled with minor characters whose quirks are more intriguing than Jules’ quest for a conventional romance.

THE BLOOD OF GODS A Novel of Rome Iggulden, Conn Delacorte (400 pp.) $27.00 | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-385-34307-7

Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look—and the rest of the players in Iggulden’s (Conqueror, 2011, etc.) spirited novel of ancient Rome are pretty tough, too. It’s the ides of March as the tale opens, and Julius Caesar has just concluded a very bad day. Brutus and Cassius, the self-styled “liberators” of the old Roman republic, have seen to that—and now, as Brutus warns Cassius, “Carry the small men with you and place every step with care, or we will be hunted down.” Indeed, and now it’s up to Caesar’s adopted son Octavian and his perhaps unlikely ally Mark Antony to exact vengeance. Novels about the Second Triumvirate aren’t common, in part, perhaps, since the events of history are plenty dramatic on their own; still, Iggulden does fine work in his deft character studies of the principals and their various motives for alternately stirring up civil war or defending a new empire in the borning: Octavian is proud and a little stiffnecked, blessed with “the power of the name he had been given”; Mark Antony is deliberate and thorough (“Tell me how you see it and I will consider what is best for Rome”); Brutus is tough, Cassius quick-witted, their ally, the senator Suetonius, plaintive: “I saved Rome from an insane tyrant who made a mockery of the Republic, who destroyed centuries of civilization by being too powerful to check or balance.” With such strong and willful people, you just know a clash is inevitable—and the best parts of this good novel are those of fierce battles such as Philippi, in scenes of “oil and splinters and floating bodies.”


Well-paced and well-written; if not quite in the class of Robert Graves and Mary Renault, better than much historical fiction about the ancient world.

TELL ME

Jackson, Lisa Kensington (336 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-7582-5858-8 A tenacious reporter won’t let personal ties to a decades-old case stop her from finding the truth. On the advice of her agent, Savannah Sentinel reporter and author Nikki Gillette is looking for fodder for her latest true-crime novel when she realizes that the perfect subject is about to be released from prison. Savannah’s notorious Blondell O’Henry has been locked up for some 20 years SavingParadise_KirkusReviews_ad.pdf

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for the murder of her oldest daughter and Nikki’s childhood friend, Amity. Now that Blondell’s son Niall has recanted the testimony that put her away all those years ago, it looks as if she’ll be a free woman unless Nikki’s fiance, Detective Pierce Reed, can find a reason to keep her detained. Pierce and Nikki both work to discover what happened years ago at that cabin in the woods, though Pierce bridles at Nikki’s rather unconventional—all right, illegal—research methods. It seems to Nikki that the more she investigates, the more connections she discovers to her own family, beginning with the fact that her Uncle Alex was the original defense attorney on the case. But all of these uncomfortable connections make Nikki still more determined to learn the truth, even if she doesn’t like what that may mean. You’ll need your own detective’s notebook to keep tabs on all the characters and connections on display here. Even so, Jackson (You Don’t Want to Know, 2012, etc.) shows a mastery of the true-crime thriller formula that will please fans. (Agent: Robin Rue)

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HOUSE ODDS

Lawson, Mike Atlantic Monthly (400 pp.) $24.00 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-8021-1995-7 Odds favor a good time for the reader as Joe DeMarco faces his eighth case: a looming insider trading scandal with potentially fatal consequences. Except for a few side trips to Manhattan and Atlantic City, Lawson’s Joe DeMarco stays close to his D.C. base this time as the venerable fixer for Rep. John Mahoney, now House Minority Leader after the 2012 midterm elections notched him down from House Speaker. The SEC has just arrested Mahoney’s daughter, Molly, for insider trading. Molly works for a firm that advises manufacturers on how to improve their products, and it appears that she may have used her firm’s information about a new submarine battery to invest a half million dollars. Mahoney is convinced she doesn’t have that kind of money, and DeMarco suspects that someone set Molly up to embarrass her father. Molly tells DeMarco she overheard a phone conversation in which a colleague, Douglas Campbell, seemed involved in an inside trade. DeMarco soon links Campbell to two other men, who, as college buddies at the University of Virginia, were witness to a suicide that may have been a murder. Meanwhile, in Atlantic City, Ted Allen, honcho at the Atlantic Palace Hotel, and his sniveling accomplice, Greg, wonder how much longer they can cook the books and keep their boss from spotting their major financial fumble. Then, Allen, clearly in league with the mob, approaches Mahoney with the disheartening news that Molly has racked up a considerable gambling debt. Allen offers to forgive her markers if Mahoney backs federal funding for a convention center that will plunk visitors smack in front of his casino. Mahoney’s odds against the house look slim: If he throws in with Allen, he could be exposed for mob connections. If he doesn’t, Molly could face prison, or worse. A tad overlong, but funny lines, fiendishly complicated plotting, and swiftly and sharply etched characters make this installment one of the most enjoyable in the series.

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL

Leotta, Allison Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $25.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-4516-4485-2 Former federal sex-crimes prosecutor Leotta’s third novel propels her protagonist, Anna Curtis, into the dark world of gang violence. Anna Curtis works as a federal prosecutor on the mean streets of Washington, D.C., where just about anything and everything that can happen does. This time around, the plucky, beautiful, blonde 22

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Anna finds herself caught up in a case that leads right back to the vicious Hispanic gang MS-13, or the Mara Salvatrucha, a real-life gang known for its violence and disregard for life and the law. When things go wrong in the bust of a brothel, Anna takes over the prosecution of a gang member caught by police. But even though the case has terrible overtones, Anna is on a personal high because she’s finally agreed to marry the man of her dreams, widower Jack Bailey, head of the homicide division of the federal prosecutor’s office. Along with Jack, Anna inherits Olivia, Jack’s precocious 6-year-old daughter, whose mother, Nina, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty years ago. When Anna’s present case is linked to Nina’s death, Anna pulls the files and finds disturbing information that could lead her to Nina’s as-yet-unidentified killer; but before that can happen, a bombshell is dropped on Anna’s world, and she finds herself being preyed upon by the gang and wondering if her life will ever return to normal. The plot is cohesive, and the details surrounding MS-13 and its particularly virulent brand of violence ring true. Although Anna comes off a bit selfish in her refusal to drop prosecution of the case after being threatened, thus putting Olivia and Jack in danger, too, and an incident of courtroom violence seems far-fetched, the story still works. Leotta shows her strongest suit when she places her action in the courtroom in this pleasing third effort.

THE FIELDS

Maher, Kevin Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown (400 pp.) $26.00 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-316-22356-0 The narrator’s breathless, slang-rich voice distinguishes this “luck of the Irish” coming-of-age story. Debut novelist Maher gives us Jim Finnegan, a fast-talking, high-spirited young man. Jim is the only son in a family of six. He shares a bedroom with his sister Fiona, takes lip from older twin sisters Sarah and Siobhan, an overworked mom and an irritable dad. Jim becomes acquainted with ne’erdo-well Declan Morrissey, aka Mozzo, who is going with the beautiful Saidhbh. He meets trouble in the form of the parish priest, O’Culigeen. Though just a wee lad of 14, and with early ’80s pop music providing the backbeats, Jim is dubbed Finno the madser when he begins a relationship with the older, devout Saidhbh, a great admirer of the dreadful O’Culigeen. The comedy is low and plentiful; the sins various and cringeworthy. But the story, complicated and plotty, isn’t the draw: the language is. “Go on now, ye ride, get them off ye, ye sexy little who-ers!” Or “So soft, and so warm, like a dreamy fivefingered skin-plug into the flex of her soul.” Or “...I add that love is good and God is love and love is sex and sex is love and if love is good and God is good and sex is love than God is sex then sex is good is God.” Unless you fall for Jim’s Irish-English speech, you might not finish this book.


“Buy tissues. Tears will flow.” from unwritten

UNWRITTEN

Martin, Charles Center Street/Hachette (336 pp.) $21.99 | May 7, 2013 978-1-455-50395-7 Katie Quinn learns “[l]ife in the spotlight, on the pedestal, at the top of the world was a lonely, singular, desolate, soul-killing place” in Martin’s (Thunder and Rain, 2012, etc.) latest. Katie’s an actress. Think Streep’s talent and Jolie’s beauty. Katie’s also burdened with near-unbearable pain. A performer able to subsume herself into character, Katie’s being destroyed—too much work, too many demands, too many prescription drugs, too many men too ready to use her. That means three ex-husbands and a biographer, a writer who deceives her and then publishes a lie-filled tabloid-headlining book. Katie has one true friend, Steady, an elderly Catholic priest. After suicide attempts and failed rehab, Katie has offered a troubling confession. Father Steady is apprehensive. He turns to another lost soul for help, a friend he calls Sunday, a man with his own dark secret. Setting his novel in Miami and Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, Martin sends Sunday and Steady to rescue Katie as she attempts to hang herself. They spirit her away to Sunday’s home, a refurbished fishing trawler anchored at the Everglades’ edge. Pampered and spoiled, angry and depressed, Katie’s resentful at first and then intrigued when Sunday offers an escape through the “third door”—a faked death, a path with which he’s familiar. Martin then private-jets the story to France and Château de Langeais, where chameleon Katie is living another life under another identity. There, as Katie grows slowly to trust Sunday, she opens herself emotionally but then collapses and rejects him after revealing her bleakest secret. Her repudiation is the catalyst inspiring Sunday to reveal his own troubled history with success and fame, allowing Katie and Sunday to discover “[a]ll hearts have but one request. To be known.” The novel stumbles over a minor plot hole or two, but there are orphans, pilgrimages to a children’s hospital and other calamities as Martin’s story charges headlong into the sentimental territory—and best-seller terrain—of The Notebook, which doubtless will mean major studio screen treatment. Buy tissues. Tears will flow.

THE DEEP WHATSIS

Mattei, Peter Other Press (256 pp.) $15.95 paper | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-59051-638-6

A hotshot NYC adman-turned–corporate axeman wallows in drugs, drama and a dangerous crush as he watches his shiny hipster life blow apart at the seams. Nominally a satire, filmmaker Mattei’s debut novel’s enormous hurdle is

that its protagonist is such a selfish, disagreeable SOB. Our main man is Eric Nye, the “Chief Idea Officer” at a trendy Manhattan advertising agency whose real charge is to downsize 50 percent of the company. Nye plays his role as the agency’s bigwig with aplomb, but he’s a complete train wreck, doped to the gills with antidepressants and alcohol, with a penchant for pointing out his raging erection and compulsive masturbation. What’s meant to be archetypal is largely passé as Eric visits the conceptual art show called “Show Us Your Tits” and chugs Sancerre between visits to the massage parlor. During one of his drunken escapades, he has a liaison with Sabine, a cute (and very young) intern, who becomes another of Eric’s risky obsessions. When Sabine shows up at work with a black eye, the HR department exiles Eric off to a commercial shoot in Los Angeles. A crippling panic attack in an airplane bathroom is just a precursor to a fullblown meltdown that ends with Nye’s hospitalization. Mattei hints at unreliable narration with a mysterious Wikipedia page recounting Eric’s bad behavior, a psychiatrist who turns out to be unlicensed and clues from a horrible childhood incident that drives Nye’s demons. Unfortunately, Nye’s sneering disdain for the trappings of his own lifestyle and the melodramatic portrayal of his anxiety disorder are off-putting enough that even a final twist can’t salvage the story. Like hair metal, cocaine nights and Miami Vice, this yuppie burnout saga is past its sell-by date.

SCISSORS

Michaka, Stéphane Talese/Doubleday (240 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-385-53749-0 Loosely based on the life of Raymond Carver, this book is more than a love triangle—it’s a love polygon?—of a writer, his work, his editor, his significant other and alcohol. Scissors is the nickname of Raymond’s editor, Douglas, a man with such a high opinion of himself that he might be divine. Raymond is married to Marianne. They married young and were parents before they knew it. Burdened with debt, working dead-end jobs, Raymond and his wife sacrifice so Raymond can write, and he does, but he drinks, too. When Raymond’s work finds its way to Douglas’ desk, lives are changed: Douglas’, Raymond’s, Marianne’s and readers’. As Douglas observes, “If Raymond hadn’t existed, I would have invented him.” Raymond is that good and that important to Douglas’ sense of his mission. But Douglas cuts so much from Raymond’s work that it is unrecognizable. As Raymond and Douglas exchange letters and finally meet, as they struggle over Raymond’s work, the novel becomes a slippery study of writing and re-writing. Raymond’s a mess; as he becomes successful, he feels fraudulent. Is the work his or not? Four short stories appear in the novel. Douglas’ savage cutting of the first two is dramatized exquisitely. The book’s weakness is that one of the included stories is too good an imitation of bad writing. |

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Raymond’s life, Douglas’ life and the “lives” of the later stories are inextricably linked in unexpected ways. The book’s debts to its famous subjects are repaid. It is a measure of the book’s success that readers need no knowledge of its famous subjects to appreciate it. Daring and impressive.

LOVE AND HAPPINESS

Niederhoffer, Galt St. Martin’s (288 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 30, 2013 978-0-312-64373-7

From Niederhoffer (The Romantics, 2008, etc.), the romantic escapades and indecision of an independent film producer who feels alienated from her husband and trapped by domesticity. Native New Yorker Jean met Sam, a budding filmmaker from Ohio new to New York City, when they were in their mid-20s and full of bohemian energy and artistic ambition. Now, they are married with two kids, living in a Brooklyn brownstone they can’t afford to renovate, their marriage as stalled as the economy. While Jean’s career as a producer means finding financing for Sam’s latest film, she hates asking people for money; an independent filmmaker herself, Niederhoffer gives a behind-the-scenes look at the business with an insider’s satiric disaffection. While Jean loves her children, she’s not enthralled with the drudgery of motherhood either. As for Sam, he’s a nice guy, but the chemistry has evaporated. Jean escapes reality by writing daily—never-actually-sent emails to her college (Harvard, natch) boyfriend, Doug. Then one day, she actually sends an email asking him to meet for a drink, and he says yes. The rendezvous does not go well. Soon afterward, she travels to Los Angeles to convince a wavering actor to stay committed to Sam’s film. At the hotel bar, she flirts with a man named Benjamin, who leaves without paying for his drink until the maitre d’ calls him (using the phone number Benjamin gave Jean). Jean suspects he’s conned her, but he claims he was merely flustered by her charm. Back in Brooklyn, she obsessively researches Benjamin on the Internet, creating scenarios of him in her head until the real Benjamin slowly reveals himself. Meanwhile, Sam finds the stash of Jean’s unsent emails to Doug, assumes they are carrying on an affair and reacts accordingly. By the time the movie begins shooting, Jean must decide where her rather brittle heart belongs. Whether the reader finds the novel’s tone snarky or witty, Jean tends to self-described “incessant, unbridled thinking” that remains shallow and becomes tedious long before she chooses her man.

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THE WEIGHT OF A HUMAN HEART Stories

O’Neill, Ryan St. Martin’s (240 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-250-02499-2

From Australian author O’Neill, a story collection brimming with imagination. The best of the stories are straightforward, such as “The Cockroach,” which takes place in a Rwandan village and tugs at the heart. The ruling Hutus have condemned the Tutsis as cockroaches to be destroyed. In “Collected Stories,” the narrator’s mother is a racist short story writer appropriately named Hately. The prose in the better stories engenders sympathy or antipathy for the characters. But many of the other stories look like experiments, research into the limits of reader tolerance. Do you really want to read “Figures in a Marriage,” consisting solely of flow charts, pie charts, graphs, doodles, a time line and a mind map? Do you really want to know the length in centimeters of man’s and wife’s tongues and genitalia? “The Footnote,” not surprisingly, has plenty of footnotes. “The Examination” is more interesting than the question-and-answer format suggests, since the test-taker is a Tutsi who writes a heart-rending composition. In “Tyypographyy,” a typewriter always types “y” twice, and an instructor speaks only in numbers: “Beckyy put her hand up. ‘946563291?’ ‘3975316!’ he said.” Yet a few of the experiments are mildly amusing, such as “A Story in Writing,” wherein O’Neill uses one literary device after another—setting, free verse, Homeric simile and many others. The prose—when the author bothers to simply write prose—is very good. But too much of the book looks like a Ph.D. thesis in creative writing, where extra credit goes to the candidate who tries techniques others know better than to try.

HAPPINESS, LIKE WATER

Okparanta, Chinelo Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (208 pp.) $14.95 paper | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-544-00345-3 One of Granta’s New Voices honorees, Okparanta debuts with ten pieces focusing on her native Nigeria. The book opens with “On Ohaeto Street.” A mysterious narrator tells of young Chinwe marrying Eze but finds he treasures possessions more than a wife. “Wahala!” follows: Ezinne seeks help from a dibia, a folk healer, for her inability to conceive, her pain invisible to her husband and misunderstood by her mother. The haunting “Fairness” speaks of color and class, with a young girl, her mother entranced by Glamour and Elle, feeling “something


like envy in me.” Most affecting is “Runs Girl.” A college student, a religious girl, meets a Yahoo Boy, one of the “ones who rolled into town in sleek cars and with pockets full of cash.” Many of Okparanta’s stories unfold amongst the Niger Delta’s guava and plantain trees, where big oil employs and pollutes, amid flatscreens and BMWs and NEPA power failures leaving candles to hold back the night. In “America,” a Port Harcourt teacher discovers her sexuality and then decides to follow her love to America. Later stories plumb the Nigerian-American immigrant experience. A daughter narrates “Shelter,” following along as her Nigerian mother meets rejection at a Boston domestic abuse shelter because of visa issues. In “Tumours and Butterflies,” Uchenna, disowned by her abusive father as she leaves for university, reluctantly comes home to assist her mother. Nigeria, the vibrancy of its heart, the soul of its people, is captured in these stories.

EVERYBODY HAS EVERYTHING

Onstad, Katrina Grand Central Publishing (336 pp.) $14.00 paper | Jun. 25, 2013 978-1-4555-2292-7

Toronto-based journalist Onstad pens a novel that asks if everyone is cut out for parenthood. The book also addresses marital relationships in the modern world, in which both men and women are married to careers that define them. While Ana is rising in her career as a research lawyer in a major firm, her husband, James, a television journalist, has just been laid off and covers his unemployment status by telling people that he is writing a book. Ana and James have put a lot of time and considerable money into fertility treatments and testing without successfully bringing a child into their lives. Things change when they become guardians of 2-year-old Finn. Little Finn’s mother, Sarah, is in a coma after being seriously injured in the car accident that killed Finn’s father. The father’s will specified that his friend James would be his child’s guardian in the event of his death. James takes pleasure in being a loving, attentive father to Finn. Ana, on the other hand, is constantly worried about potential disasters and finds the responsibility overwhelming. Ultimately, she realizes she doesn’t really want to be a mother but also that such a sentiment is not one a woman can easily express. The ending does not resolve all issues raised but does offer hope for a bright future. A fine novel about contemporary parenting and relationships.

LAST CAR OVER THE SAGAMORE BRIDGE

Orner, Peter Little, Brown (208 pp.) $25.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-316-22464-2

Orner packs memorable characters— and occasionally some plot as well—into an exceptionally small space. The stories here range from the ultrashort (a single paragraph) to the merely moderately short (a few pages), and with more than 40 stories coming in at around 200 pages, many of them feel more like snippets or vignettes than fleshed-out narratives. The opening story, “Foley’s Pond,” introduces us to Nate Zamost, who missed a week of school when his sister, 2 1/2, drowned in the pond. On his return, Nate’s friends try to cheer him up, though Nate makes them realize that he’s the one who had taught his sister to crawl under the fence protecting the pond. In “Horace and Josephine,” we meet the quirky title characters, aunt and uncle of the narrator. Josephine’s welcome habit of dispensing $50 bills to her nephews is tempered by the fact that Horace earns his money through a Ponzi scheme, and although both are eventually disgraced, they’re not willing to abandon their personal flamboyance. “The Poet,” the shortest story in the collection, presents a poet who’s recently had a stroke and who’s sadly “trotted...out [as] a novelty act” to stumble through his poems on the podium. “Geraldo, 1986” takes us back to Geraldo Rivera’s infamous, and embarrassing, attempt to pump up the discovery of Al Capone’s “lost vault” at the Lexington Hotel into the new King Tut’s tomb. Throughout the stories, Orner shows himself to be a master of the pithy phrase. A couple moves to South Dakota, for example, leaving the narrator to wonder “what heinous crime they must have committed in some other life to deserve exile in this moonscape among the earnest corn-fed.” Pithy and evocative. (Author tour to New York, Chicago and San Francisco)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE

O’Farrell, Maggie Knopf (304 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-385-34940-6

A sometimes-brooding but always sympathetic novel, by prize-winning British writer O’Farrell, of a family’s struggles to overlook the many reasons why they should avoid each other’s glances and phone calls. Hot town, summer in the city. As anyone who’s seen Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing will recall, all it takes is a little fire, and a city will turn into a frying pan. So it is in the London of 1976: |

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“For ten days now the heat has passed 90ºF. There has been no rain—not for days, not for weeks, not for months.” This does not keep Gretta Riordan, dutiful and uncomplaining, from rising early to bake soda bread. Desiccated Irish transplant Robert Riordan, though, takes a look at his suburban life, wife and family and makes his way to cooler and greener pastures without them. Has the heat addled his brain? Is he doing the only sensible thing possible? When his children converge to suss out what Da has done, they have no answers. Meanwhile, all of them are on the run from themselves: Michael, a schoolteacher, has a wife who’s taken to sheltering herself in the attic, away from her own children. Monica, the favorite (“Not even her subsequent divorce—which caused seismic shockwaves for her parents— was enough to topple her from prime position.”), is on the edge of a scream at any given minute. The baby, Aoife (pronounced “precisely between both ‘Ava’ and ‘Eva’ and ‘Eve,’ passing all three but never colliding with them”) has been off in New York, nursing a very strange secret. In other words, no one’s quite normal, which is exactly as it is with every family on Earth—only, in the case of the Riordans, a little more so. O’Farrell paints a knowing, affectionate, sometimes exasperated portrait of these beleaguered people, who are bound by love, if a sometimeswary love, but torn apart by misunderstanding, just like all the rest of us. A skillfully written novel of manners, with quiet domestic drama spiced with fine comic moments. The payoff is priceless, too.

HERE COMES MRS. KUGELMAN

Pradelski, Minka Translated by Boehm, Philip Metropolitan/Henry Holt (240 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-8050-8212-8 Pradelski debuts with a novel that makes flesh and blood of the Jewish citizens of pre–World War II Bedzin, Silesia The novel opens in the present day as Tsippy Silberberg decides to fly to Tel Aviv to collect an odd inheritance: An aunt has left her silverware stored in a worn suitcase. Tsippy’s life is fractured. A disturbing childhood haunts her, and now she feels compulsion to eat only food in its frozen state. She’s a curious girl, though, and wants to marry. Perhaps, she thinks, there’s a suitable husband to be found in Israel, and so she flies there. Pradelski slowly reveals Tsippy as the narrative unfolds, but the eponymous Bella Kugelman arrives as a powerful, original character, a woman who witnessed all that disappeared beneath Nazi nihilism. As Tsippy arrives at her hotel, she finds Bella waiting, seeking someone to listen to the stories of the past, of the town of Bedzin and its passionate, vibrant people. Says Bella: “Don’t run away. I have to talk to you or else my town will die.” Among those remembered is sly Gonna, escaping to Palestine only days before the Nazi invasion, forever pursued by guilt over all those left behind to die. 26

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There is allegorical treasure to be found in Bella’s remembrance of the people of Bedzin and of life haunted by all that was lost. A melancholy yet life-affirming story from the ashes of the Holocaust.

THE LEMON ORCHARD

Rice, Luanne Pamela Dorman/Viking (304 pp.) $27.95 | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-670-02527-5 Five years after the death of her daughter, Julia comes to Malibu to house-sit and is drawn to the overseer of the orchard property, an illegal immigrant who has his own tragic past. When Julia’s aunt and uncle ask her to stay in their Malibu home while they travel to Ireland for a research project, she welcomes the opportunity. Tucked into the Santa Monica Mountains with its lemon grove and views of the sea, the Malibu property has been a sanctuary for Julia her whole life, so different from her starchy, academic East Coast upbringing. Now it serves as a different kind of refuge—an escape from the memories of her daughter that are so entwined with the New England home she can’t bear to move out of yet can’t seem to move forward in either. Hiking the area woods and through the property, Julia runs into the handsome overseer, Roberto, and finds herself drawn to him in a way she doesn’t understand, until she realizes he has lost a daughter, too, during their arduous and dangerous trek from Mexico into the U.S. As the story unfolds, the arresting tale of Roberto’s loss wakes Julia up from the apathy she’s experienced since Jenny’s death, and, with her background as an anthropologist, she’ll delve into the moving plight of immigrants from Latin America as a whole and Roberto’s heart-wrenching experience in particular, while putting together the pieces of a puzzling mystery that may ultimately tear her from the first person to touch her heart since the day she lost her daughter. Rice here takes her signature themes of family and loss into the difficult and enigmatic landscape of illegal immigration to powerful effect (though readers may question the likelihood of the romantic elements of the storyline). An engaging and texturizing Southern California backdrop also subtly spotlights the struggle of land development and the environment as well as the fairy-tale atmosphere of Hollywood, and the book seamlessly includes details and plot points that both ground and enrich the story through its setting. Lovely and compelling, with quiet yet brave social commentary that enhances the book’s impact.


“...masterfully written.” from three women in a mirror

THREE WOMEN IN A MIRROR

Schmitt, Eric-Emmanuel Translated by Anderson, Alison Europa Editions (400 pp.) $17.00 paper | Jul. 2, 2013 978-1-60945-122-6 Schmitt (Concerto to the Memory of an Angel, 2011, etc.) writes movingly about three women, divided by time and distance, whose lives connect when they attempt to break free of expectations imposed by society. Displaying empathy for women and the constraints they face simply because they’re born in a certain era, the author delivers three fascinating, multilayered stories that merge in an unusual way. Young, pure Anne lives in Bruges at a time when most eligible young men are off fighting in the Crusades. Other girls envy her impending marriage to a handsome young man, but when a mirror splinters on the floor, Anne escapes her aunt’s home and her unwanted engagement and takes refuge in the woods. There, she finds comfort and companionship surrounded by nature. Labeled as a chosen one, Anne eventually travels with a trusted monk to a convent, where the poetry she writes is misinterpreted and her faith is questioned, but she remains resolute in her beliefs. Years later, in early-20th-century Vienna, another young woman seeks answers to her own questions. Hanna is married to a loving nobleman who adores her, but her unhappiness manifests itself in inexplicable actions and compulsive behavior. Seeking understanding of her despair, she turns to psychoanalysis and one of Sigmund Freud’s disciples. In present-day Hollywood, a third young woman buries her pain in sex, drugs and alcohol. Anny is a beautiful, brilliant actress who’s on a self-destructive course as she and the sycophants who surround her pursue the almighty dollar, the ultimate symbol of success in the movie industry. But when she crosses paths with a hospital employee, a character actress and an acting role with substance, Anny’s life begins to take on new meaning. Each woman’s journey is unique and painful, yet enchantingly sweet, as she works toward self-realization and rejects conformity. Schmitt’s three complex stories are beautifully translated and masterfully written.

THE AGE OF ICE

Sidorova, J.M. Scribner (416 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-4516-9271-6

Russian-born professor Sidorova puts her knowledge of her homeland’s history to work in this novel that follows the odd story of a man whose life is synonymous with cold. When Prince Alexander Velitzyn’s father, Mikhail, helped conceive him and his twin brother,

Andrei, in 18th-century Russia, it was out of anything but love: After displeasing the empress, Mikhail and a hunchbacked jester were thrown together to spend the night in a palace made entirely of ice, down to the bed and curtains. Twins Alexander and Andrei were the result of the forced union. Instead of being close, as twins oftentimes are, Andrei seems to take great delight in taunting his brother, while Alexander remains devoted to Andrei. In an epic tale that starts with the boys’ births in 1740 and follows Alexander through his exceedingly long life (the main character and narrator lives into the 21st century), Sidorova explores cold as a narrative theme: Alexander has a peculiar lack of bodily warmth and has a tolerance to ice and snow that’s not shared with the rest of the human race. In this uneven tale, Alexander takes readers through the reigns of Catherine and Peter in his homeland, traverses the coldest places imaginable, spans Europe and ends up in modern-day America. The journey is disconcerting. Although Sidorova ably presents life in 18th-century Russia, her protagonist is difficult to like. The prose often slips back and forth in tenses, and the emphasis on the lead character’s coldness verges on literary nagging. Even more problematic: 18th-century Russian characters speak in modern slang, which the author mixes with the more formal language of the time. Fans of historical fiction with a supernatural component may like this novel, but the climate-immune protagonist and his endless, often nonsensical ramblings will leave more literal-minded readers feeling cold.

BREWSTER

Slouka, Mark Norton (256 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 5, 2013 978-0-393-23975-1 Slouka’s third novel, set mainly in 1968 in hardscrabble Brewster, N.Y., is a departure from his last, the dark and lyrical World War II book The Visible World (2007). Jon Mosher is 16, the son of Jewish émigrés who were remote and taciturn even before Jon’s elder brother died suddenly in childhood. Guilt-stricken and alone, Jon befriends a similarly solitary boy named Ray Cappicciano. Ray, a brawler who often comes to school (or doesn’t) in a battered and bloody state from what he says are semipro boxing matches out of town, lives with his father, a violently drunken ex-cop and ex-soldier with a grisly collection of war trophies, and Ray—the analogy to and symmetry with Jon’s own situation as a sibling is made much of—bears the responsibility for his baby brother, whom he is able to farm out to relatives in New Jersey for a while. Jon takes up distance events in track as an outlet; both boys fall in love with a smart and beautiful girl named Karen, who opts for the rougher-edged, tougher yet more vulnerable Ray but who remains a close friend and confidante of Jon; Jon achieves success as a runner and meanwhile tries to ignore mounting clues about the nature of his friend’s struggles. Against a persuasive |

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backdrop (and soundtrack) of late-1960s America, we see the boys try—with, tragically, only partial success—to plot escape routes. Slouka writes affectingly about small-town life. He’s especially good at conveying what it’s like to live in a loveless, but not malign, household like Jon’s. The book moves at a rapid and accelerating pace, and with ruthless precision, toward a surprising conclusion. But it takes shortcuts, indulging in a kind of sepia hokeyness at times and at others in a darkness that is too schematic and easy, that relies on a villainy that’s not quite believable. Flawed, but unmistakably the work of an accomplished writer.

THE PURCHASE

Spalding, Linda Pantheon (320 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-307-90841-4

A displaced Pennsylvanian acquires a slave, with disastrous consequences, in Spalding’s (Who Named the Knife, 2007, etc.) brooding latest. Daniel Dickinson has been cast out of his rigid community because he retained an unmarried servant girl after his wife’s death in childbirth; it’s typical of Daniel’s right-minded but shortsighted thinking that he feels he can’t return orphaned Ruth Boyd to the almshouse. Instead, he marries her and takes Ruth and his five children to Virginia—an odd choice for an anti-slavery Quaker in the winter of 1798. Attending an auction to buy equipment for his new farm, Daniel feels “his right arm go up as if pulled by a string” to bid on an enslaved boy; he is forced to honor a pledge he can’t afford by hostile Virginians who dislike this outsider. Repaying the balance on his debt for Simus keeps Daniel’s family in straitened circumstances for years. It already simmers with tension: 13-year-old Mary despises her Methodist stepmother, only two years older than she, and Ruth is bewildered by her aloof husband. Matters only get worse after Simus becomes intimate with Bett, “house girl” to the neighboring Fox family. When Bett becomes pregnant—probably by her master, who accuses Simus—the result is a lynching and a baby boy who will provoke deadly conflict between the two clans in the future. Spalding captures the grim particulars of slave life with unflinching yet restrained detail, and she gives each of her flinty characters sharply defined personalities and motivations as the story unfolds over several decades. Betrayal of principles and loved ones is a constant theme, yet there is also redemption: Uneducated, unassertive Ruth finally offers a vision of compassionate religion that stuns her dismissive husband, and Mary’s battered friendship with Bett survives exploitation and flight to end with a moving reunion. Too slow-paced and dark for the casual reader, but a serious, probing look at the interaction of character and environment during a seminal period in American history.

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THE LIFE LIST

Spielman, Lori Nelson Bantam (368 pp.) $15.00 paper | Jul. 30, 2013 978-0-345-54087-4 Devastated by her mother’s death, Brett Bohlinger consumes a bottle of outrageously expensive Champagne and trips down the stairs at the funeral luncheon. Add embarrassed to devastated. Could things get any worse? Of course they can, and they do—at the reading of the will. Instead of inheriting the position of CEO at the family’s cosmetics firm—a position she has been groomed for—she’s given a life list she wrote when she was 14 and an ultimatum: Complete the goals, or lose her inheritance. Luckily, her mother, Elizabeth, has crossed off some of the more whimsical goals, including running with the bulls—too risky! Having a child, buying a horse, building a relationship with her (dead) father, however, all remain. Brad, the handsome attorney charged with making sure Brett achieves her goals, doles out a letter from her mother with each success. Warmly comforting, Elizabeth’s letters uncannily—and quite humorously—predict Brett’s side of the conversations. Brett grudgingly begins by performing at a local comedy club, an experience that proves both humiliating and instructive: Perfection is overrated, and taking risks is exhilarating. Becoming an awesome teacher, however, seems impossible given her utter lack of classroom management skills. Teaching homebound children offers surprising rewards, though. Along Brett’s journey, many of the friends (and family) she thought would support her instead betray her. Luckily, Brett’s new life is populated with quirky, sharply drawn characters, including a pregnant high school student living in a homeless shelter, a psychiatrist with plenty of time to chat about troubled children, and one of her mother’s dearest, most secret companions. A 10-step program for the grief-stricken, Brett’s quest brings her back to love, the best inheritance of all. Spielman’s debut charms as Brett briskly careens from catastrophe to disaster to enlightenment.

JUSTICE FOR SARA Spindler, Erica St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $25.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-250-01252-4

Best-selling author Spindler relies on clichés and red herrings to flesh out this modestly entertaining thriller. Katherine “Kat” McCall, of the oilrich McCall family, has returned to tiny Liberty, La., where she grew up. After her wealthy parents died in a car accident, her older sister, Sara, a teacher, raised her. When the rebellious 17-year-old Kat started hanging with the wrong crowd, Sara attempted to control her


and wound up dead. After Kat was acquitted, she moved to the West Coast and now, a decade later, has returned to Liberty (pop. 750) to open a new business and find out who killed her sister. There’s a problem, though: Not only is someone trying to scare Kat off, but the whole town, including the police chief, thinks she’s the real killer, even though a jury failed to convict her. Now Kat must soldier through intimidation attempts, a ton of suspects and the dark minds of the townspeople who don’t want to believe she could be innocent. Kat meets many people from her past and finds most of them are far more worried about their own stake in this game, but eventually, she starts to realize that seeking out her sister’s killer could be, and is, a deadly pursuit. And, naturally, Kat is beautiful and finds an ally and romantic interest in the police chief ’s son, handsome Luke Tanner. Spindler’s readers will probably overlook some of the sillier details (the townsfolk’s vitriol is melodramatic, and the tiny town seems to have a limitless supply of both police officers and expensive estates). But it’s hard to ignore the predictable by-the-numbers plot and cookie-cutter cast; however, for those who want a basic romance with a little damsel in distress thrown in, this might fit the bill. Thriller connoisseurs won’t find any thrills here. Still, a decent summer read for fans of romance.

THE HOMECOMING

Stroud, Carsten Knopf (432 pp.) $25.00 | Jul. 16, 2013 978-0-307-70096-4

Thriller author Stroud returns to the eerie Southern town of Niceville, where plantation-era ghosts abound, gunplay is routine, and genres tend to morph and merge. For the sprawling second book in his trilogy, Stroud (Niceville, 2012) again strives to find the place where noir, thriller and paranormal fiction intersect. Detective Nick Kavanaugh is investigating a bank robbery that appears to have involved his brother-in-law Byron Dietz, a wife-beating horror who’s implicated in some shady activity with Chinese businessmen. Meanwhile, Nick’s wife, Kate, is caring for Deitz’s shellshocked wife and kids, as well as 10-year-old Rainey Teague, who (as detailed in the first book) has a mystical connection to a family of slavery-era reprobates. Stroud can write knockout violent set pieces: A high-speed police chase gone terribly awry; Dietz’s wild escape from custody thanks to a deer crashing into a transport bus; and a standoff in a Bass Pro Shop stocked with guns and outdoor gear. In these scenes, Stroud masters stark imagery, tough talk and street smarts, even if the cops other than Nick are relatively faceless. Where the book stumbles is in its ungainly effort to weave in plodding bits of horror and Southern history amid the crime story. Scenes involving Rainey Teague largely involve him and extended members of the Kavanaugh clan exploring an old plantation house, where Teague is possessed by “nothing,” a nefarious demon trying to extract

him from adult support. As a vision of evil, a boldfaced voice in a preteen’s head isn’t especially terrifying, and, tucked as this all is in a busy plot thick with characters and historical references, its impact is weakened further still. The most clearly drawn character, in fact, is Deitz, but he’s a hard guy to root for. A third book may resolve the tangled plot, but this one is messy and overwritten.

AFTERSHOCK

Vachss, Andrew Pantheon (368 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-307-90774-5 The creator of Burke, all-purpose noir stylist Vachss (Mortal Lock, 2013, etc.) launches a new series featuring a freelance investigator who could give Dirty Harry a run for his money. Adelbert B. Jackson is a soldier of fortune who got his training with the French Foreign Legion. His wife, Dolly, is a nurse who served with Doctors without Borders. After all the traumatic experiences they’ve lived through, they figure it’s time to settle down in a peaceful Oregon town. Their repose is over, however, the day star athlete MaryLou McCoy walks into her high school and empties her father’s .22 revolver into a group of fellow students, killing Cameron Taft. Although MaryLou doesn’t deny the stories of the eyewitnesses and refuses to say anything in elaboration when the police question her, Dell and Dolly swiftly convince themselves that there’s more to her story. In the first of many highhanded moves, Dell offers Bradley L. Swift, MaryLou’s court-appointed attorney, a $25,000 retainer to defend her, guaranteeing Dell a great deal of control over the case—beginning with a letter that appoints Dell Swift’s official investigator. Meantime, Dolly swings into action networking with MaryLou’s schoolmates and ferreting out leads and contacts. The dirt they dig up on the local justice system, the culture of the school and the Tiger Ko Khai Society, which Cam headed, is utterly unsurprising. And there’s all the posturing and swaggering you’d expect from Vachss, especially when he’s launching a new hero who wants you to know that he’s a lot tougher than you. But the closing courtroom scenes serve as a powerful reminder that the practice of law is at heart a blood sport. Overlong, repetitive and more testosterone-charged than it needs to be. But Vachss’ followers will devour it and will keep watch for Dell and Dolly’s return.

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THE ILLUSION OF SEPARATENESS

Van Booy, Simon Harper/HarperCollins (224 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-06-211224-8 Wartime violence prompts a handful of lives to intersect deeply in Van Booy’s fourth work of fiction (The Secret Lives of People in Love, 2010, etc.). Unlike the author’s previous works, this novel doesn’t emphasize romance, but the author retains an abiding interest in interconnectedness, and his tone remains poetic and optimistic. The story opens in 2010 as Martin, an employee at a retirement home, awaits a Mr. Hugo, who dies upon his arrival. From there, the story branches out, with chapters dedicated to Hugo, who obscured his Nazi past to become a successful filmmaker in England; John, a U.S. World War II bomber pilot who crashes in France in 1944; his blind granddaughter, Amelia, who works at the Museum of Modern Art in the present day; and more. Van Booy’s intention is to show how fleeting moments of generosity can have an impact decades after the fact, and the pay-it-forward philosophy produces some sentimental lines. (“Sébastien is not looking through the window, but through the scrapbook of things that have pierced his heart.”) Even so, Van Booy is skilled at crafting characters in a few strokes, and both John and Hugo are so well-drawn that their intersection becomes appealing and affecting. And the shifts back and forth in time give the story a tension that, once the fullness of the men’s wartime ordeals is revealed, gives his redemption depth. If it seems too on the nose that Amelia helps create an exhibit of American photos lost in Europe during World War II called “The Illusion of Separateness,” the overall sense is that Van Booy is foregrounding a we’re-all-inthis-together theme that many novelists needlessly obscure. This gentle book feels like a retort: Why not just say how much we owe each other? And so Van Booy does.

THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLING

Vásquez, Juan Gabriel Riverhead (272 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-59448-748-4

An odd coincidence leads Antonio Yammara, a law professor and narrator of this novel from Latin American author Vásquez (The Informers, 2009, etc.), deep into the mystery of personality, both his own and especially that of Ricardo Laverde, a casual acquaintance of Yammara before he was gunned down on the streets of Bogotá. The catalyst for memory here is perhaps unique in the history of the novel, for Yammara begins by recounting an 30

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anecdote involving a hippopotamus that had escaped from a zoo established in Colombia’s Magdalena Valley by the drug baron Pablo Escobar. After the hippo is shot, Yammara is taken back 13 years to his acquaintance with Laverde, a pilot involved in drug running. Yammara is a youngish professor of law in Bogotá, and, generally bored, he spends his nights bedding his students and playing billiards. Engaged in the latter activity, Yammara meets Laverde without knowing his background—for example, that Laverde had just been released from a 19-year prison stint for drug activity. A short time later, Yammara is with Laverde when the drug runner is murdered, and Yammara is also hit by a bullet. He is both angered and intrigued by Laverde’s murder and wants to find out the mystery behind his life. His curiosity leads him circuitously to Laverde’s relationship with Elena, his American wife, whose death in a plane accident Laverde was grieving over at the time of his murder. Yammara meets Maya Fritts, Laverde’s daughter by Elena, who fills in some of the gaps in Yammara’s knowledge, and the intimacy that arises from Yammara’s growing knowledge of Laverde’s family leads him and Maya to briefly become lovers. Toward the end of the novel, Yammara comments that Maya wrinkles her brow “like someone who’s on the verge of understanding something,” and this ambiguous borderland where things don’t quite come into coherent focus is where most of the characters remain.

THE PEOPLE IN THE TREES

Yanagihara, Hanya Doubleday (432 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-385-53677-7 An instance of that rare subgenre of literature, the anthropological novel, in which Norton Perina, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, traces the early part of his life, when he helped both discover and destroy a lost tribe. Yanagihara does everything she can to establish verisimilitude in this novel, so much so that the reader will be Googling names of characters to see if they’re “really real.” The movement toward ultrarealism extends to footnotes and an appendix provided by Ronald Kubodera, whose friendship with Perina extends even into the sad period when the Nobel Prize winner was convicted of sexual abuse involving some of the tribal children he brought back with him. Kubodera provides a preface in which he vigorously defends Perina, and then the narrative is turned over to Perina’s memoirs, which take us back to his Midwestern upbringing, his rivalry with his brother Owen, his graduation from Harvard Medical School and almost immediate hire by the anthropologist Paul Tallent. Along with his assistant Esme Duff, Paul takes Perina to U’ivu, a constellation of remote islands in the South Pacific. Perina becomes immediately fascinated with Ivu’ivu, an island that harbors a small tribe, a number of whom are well over 100 years old. Perina traces this


“...deeply intelligent and wildly moving...” from the realm of last chances

longevity to the eating of an opa’ivu’eke, a sacred turtle whose meat is consumed in certain ritualistic practices. Determined to find out the secret of immortality, Perina brings back three Ivu’ivuian “dreamers” with him and smuggles an opa’ivu’eke into his lab at Stanford. Yanagihara presents a cautionary tale about what can happen when Western arrogance meets primeval culture.

THE REALM OF LAST CHANCES

Yarbrough, Steve Knopf (288 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-385-34950-5

Having plumbed the moral complexities of his native Mississippi (Safe From The Neighbors, 2010, etc.), Yarbrough takes a risk in moving his focus to a New England town where a middle-aged married couple has relocated from California. Kristin has a Ph.D. in comparative literature but hasn’t read a serious book in years. Her husband, Cal, who is haunted by his father’s criminality and his own capacity for violence, plays a variety of musical instruments but refuses to call himself a musician. For 15 years, Kristin and Cal have lived together in lukewarm companionability, keeping their secrets from each other, but by 2010, the recession has cost 50-year-old Kristin her administrative job at a prestigious California university and closed down Cal’s high-end construction business. So when a third-tier state college in Massachusetts offers Kristin a job at half her old salary, she and Cal don’t hesitate to move, hoping the change will reactivate their marriage as well as their finances. While Kristin begins work at North Shore State College, Cal starts to renovate the old house they’ve purchased in Montvale, a train ride away from her office. Kristin soon meets a younger, surprisingly literate neighbor, Matt. A Montvale native who works at the counter of a loyal friend’s local deli, Matt lost both his wife and his career after he was caught embezzling from his employer, a Cambridge bookstore, to support his cocaine habit. A broken man, Matt remains dependent on literature; having been dumped by her professorial first husband, Kristin long ago abandoned literature. Their affair is inevitable. Yet Cal’s love for Kristin shows surprising tenacity. There are no villains here, only characters struggling to make sense of their lives and connect, however imperfectly, with others. Even the side plot, about a plagiarism scandal in North Shore State’s history department, slips beyond satirical academia bashing into a complex study of ethical choice. Eschewing flashy verbal fireworks, Yarbrough has written a deeply intelligent and wildly moving story about the many permutations of love, betrayal and redemption. (Author tour to Boston and New England, Jackson, Nashville and Oxford)

SNOW HUNTERS

Yoon, Paul Simon & Schuster (192 pp.) $22.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-4767-1481-3 A North Korean soldier finds unexpected solace following his self-exile to Brazil in this slender, ethereal first novel from Yoon (Once the Shore: Stories, 2009), a recipient of a 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation. The book opens just after the end of the Korean War, as a former war captive named Yohan is offered safe passage to Brazil, a country as strange and vibrant as his own was violent and distant. Yohan’s agreement brings him into a rare apprenticeship under Kiyoshi, an aged Japanese tailor who works with a dignity underpinned by selflessness. In large part, Yoon’s novel is a meditation on the passage of time as much as it is on Yohan’s monklike life as Yoon chronicles the slow transformation of Yohan from a refugee to a treasured and essential part of village life. “How completely time could abandon someone,” Yoon writes. “How far it could leap.” Since the novel’s pace is so still and observant, ordinary moments take on a graceful quality that might have gone unnoticed in less skilled hands: the umbrella offered by a stranger during the rain; the unlikely bond of friendship between Yohan and a rough South Korean sailor; the wordless companionship between Yohan and his mentor. A minimalist, well-crafted story about an austere man predisposed to avoidance who ultimately needs the people who fill up his empty spaces.

m ys t e r y DARK WATERS

Cooper, Susan Rogers Severn House (208 pp.) $28.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-7278-8273-8 A cruise proves to be no dream vacation for an Oklahoma sheriff. After he wins a seven-day cruise to Puerto Rico, Milt Kovak, his wife, Dr. Jean McDonnell, their son Johnny Mac and his best friend Early Rollins set out for Galveston, where they board the ship. Milt’s thoughts of a romantic trip vanish when he realizes that their suite is tiny and open. But he enjoys the food and the whole experience until the children get in trouble: They’re sucked into a group led by dishonest, bullying teen Joshua Weaver, whose idea of fun is pushing the kids to steal things aboard and ashore. When a drunk who’s just |

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made a killing at the casino is attacked and his money stolen, he accuses Johnny, Early and a few of their friends, who found him passed out. Meantime, more trouble is brewing back in Prophesy County. A spouse killer recently released from prison is shot dead, and the list of suspects includes his wife’s entire family. So, naturally, Milt’s deputy makes many calls asking him for advice. Matters worsen considerably back on the ship when Joshua is found strangled, his body hidden in a lifeboat. Then one of the passengers is poisoned in front of Milt and his new shipboard friends. Milt teams up with the head of security, who’s innocent of any experience with murder, to apprehend a determined killer. Despite a few twists, Cooper’s latest is neither as complex nor as interesting as some of her former entries (Husband and Wives, 2012, etc.) featuring the tough but good-hearted Milt.

MURDER AT THE CASTLE

Dams, Jeanne M. Severn House (208 pp.) $28.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-7278-8259-2

A music festival in Wales is both moving and deadly. Retired Chief Constable Alan Nesbitt and his sleuthing American wife, Dorothy Martin, have come to Wales to stay at a lovely B&B with their friends Nigel and Inga Evans. Although Nigel is a computer wonk, his first love is music, and he’s thrilled to have been invited to sing at the festival founded by renowned conductor Sir John Warner. Disaster strikes when one of the festival singers falls, or is pushed, to his death from a canal boat traveling over a high aqueduct. The much-disliked soloist suffers a similar fate when she takes a tumble from a high wall at the ruined castle where the festival is being held. Although the local police dismiss both deaths as unfortunate accidents, Alan and Dorothy share a strong feeling that they were clever murders. Appealing to them for help, Sir John reveals that the dead woman was his first wife, who had been declared legally dead after she apparently perished aboard a sinking ship. When the girlfriend and best friend of the man killed in the canal boat tragedy vanish, Dorothy, Alan and their friends pull out all the stops to discover the truth. Dams, well-known for her classic British cozies (The Corpse of St James’s, 2012, etc.), supplements a solid mystery with current and historic details of the Welsh border area.

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MIDNIGHT

Egan, Kevin Forge (320 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-7653-3526-5 A pair of court employees can hold onto their jobs for another year—if only they can hide the news of their boss’s death for 24 hours. Even though money is tight, employees in the chambers of the New York County Courthouse are still guaranteed their paychecks till the end of the year if the judge they work for dies. When Judge Alvin Canter succumbs to a heart attack on the morning of New Year’s Eve, the timing couldn’t be worse for his secretary, Carol Scilingo, or his law clerk, Tom Carroway, for whom money is especially tight. But if only Judge Canter died on New Year’s Day instead, they’d both be taken care of for another crucial year—time to dig out of their financial holes and maybe come together for keeps as a couple. So Tom’s idea of concealing the judge’s death till the next day seems perfectly logical and even—considering how deserted the courthouse is on the last day of the year—plausible. As soon as you stop to think more than Tom and Carol allow themselves to do, however, you realize what a harebrained scheme it is, full of holes and dependent on good timing, good luck and the good will of a motley cast— from floating court officer Foxx, Carol’s ex-boyfriend, to Court Officers Union president, Bobby Werkman, to collection agent Dominic McGlinchy, an ex-pug who works for the gambler Tom owes eight large—not likely to be brimming with goodwill even during the holiday season. Slowly, methodically, excruciatingly, first-timer Egan shows his heroes’ plan spinning out of control in a classic illustration of the law of unintended consequences. A crystalline noir nightmare built on the premise that yes, things can always, always, always get worse. (Agent: Ben Bova)

POINT DOOM

Fante, Dan Bourbon Street/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $14.99 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-06-222901-4 A one-time private eye is forced to don unofficial gumshoes once more to find out who’s bent on wrecking what’s left of his life and killing one of his rare friends along the way. JD Fiorella’s career as a tough shamus was ended when he killed several bad guys in a hellacious shootout. He was cleared of all charges, but hard drinking put paid to his career, along with any chance of a good night’s sleep. Now he lives in Point Dume with his widowed mother, Nancy, a Malibu astrologer who doesn’t care much for him or his lifestyle, and struggles to survive the days between his AA meetings. Woody O’Rourke, a friend he’s met through AA, puts him onto a job selling used cars at a Toyota


dealership, but it’s a horrible gig—a bullying boss, inflexible rules, the constant threat of getting summarily fired—even before Woody gets himself killed. JD, who discovers the body, spares no detail of the torture his friend must have endured in the hours before he finally died and adds that, for some reason he doesn’t understand himself, he decided to take Woody’s severed penis with him before the cops arrived. Detectives Jim Archer and Taboo Afrika of the Santa Barbara PD are breathing down his neck; his job at Len Sherman Toyota hangs by a thread; his mother wants him out of her house; he can’t help wondering why fellow salesperson Vikki Martin, initially so cold to him, has suddenly turned so friendly; but he’s mainly concerned with tracking down the unknown party who set fire to his mother’s Honda and framed JD for drunk driving. The answers will involve Nazis, incest, and the escalating violence meted out by both JD’s enemies and the hero himself, who’d make a great “before” poster boy for a class in anger management. Fante (Fante: A Family’s Legacy of Writing, Drinking, and Surviving, 2011, etc.) delivers the goods for devotees of torture porn.

BLOOD FROM A STONE

Gordon-Smith, Dolores Severn House (240 pp.) $28.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-7278-8263-9

Ancient sapphires provide the motive for several murders. Society sleuth Jack Haldean’s friend Isabelle Stanton soon rues the good deed she does by helping out a Frenchwoman overwhelmed with caring for her children on a train trip to London. On the way to wash up the little girl, Isabelle encounters a terrified man in the doorway of a compartment. He’s just discovered a headless body hanging out the window and a beautiful sapphire necklace on the floor. Inspector Rackham, who’s sent to investigate, is joined at the station by Jack and by Isabelle’s husband, Arthur. Inspecting the unidentified man’s belongings reveals a picture of Mrs. Frank Leigh, of Breagan Grange, wearing the necklace, which she inherited from a Mrs. Paxton, who’s apparently been recently poisoned by her nephew, Terence Napier, who’d revealed to her that the son she had thought died in the Great War was a deserter living in Paris. Mrs. Paxton is related to Frank Leigh, but the precious stones, which had originally been found in an ancient cave on the Breagan Grange property, have been left not to Frank, but to Evie, his second wife. Certain that his nephew Terence is innocent, Francis Leigh has already hired a private detective but is eager to procure Haldean’s help as well. Both the police and Jack are sure they could solve the case if they could only identify the dead man, but that proves to be much more difficult than they imagined. Gordon-Smith, who specializes in classic British mysteries set between the wars (Trouble Brewing, 2012, etc.), poses a complex mystery designed to keep you and his clever sleuth guessing.

CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE BOHEMIAN HIGHWAY

Gran, Sara Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (288 pp.) $20.00 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-547-42933-5 “The very best detective in the world”— just ask her—solves what she dubs the Case of the Kali Yuga, with digressions to, among a hundred other subjects, the Case of the End of the World. Claire DeWitt isn’t exactly sorry that guitarist Paul Casablancas split up with her and married her friend Lydia Nunez. But she’s not ready for the news that Paul’s been shot dead either. Detective Madeline Huong, of the San Francisco PD, is convinced with some reason that Paul, coming home around midnight, interrupted whoever was in the middle of stealing five of his guitars and was killed for his trouble. If it wasn’t a robber, conventional wisdom says that the murderer was almost certainly the wife. But Claire, no slave to convention, decides she owes Paul’s death a closer look. The trouble is that, both as detective and as narrator, Claire is so unfocused that you’d think she had a bad case of ADHD if it weren’t for all the drugs she’s taking. It’s not just that she keeps interrupting her present-day story for a series of flashbacks to the time 25 years ago when she and her best bud Tracy went looking through darkest Brooklyn for their vanished friend Chloe Roman; almost any encounter with any of the dozens of people she talks to or sleeps with will act on Claire like a shiny object, unleashing dreams and memories and aphorisms from her idol Jacques Silette, the nonpareil detective who couldn’t find his own missing daughter. Gran’s structure is beyond episodic; there’s just one scene after another, some funny, some just snarky, and the plot never thickens. Hip, smart, inventive and thoroughly infuriating. The heroine (Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, 2011) is someone you’ll either love or love to hate.

THE WILD BEASTS OF WUHAN

Hamilton, Ian Picador (351 pp.) $15.00 paper | Jun. 25, 2013 978-1-250-03229-4

A strong heroine is challenged to discover the details of an intercontinental art scheme. Although Hamilton’s star, Ava Lee (The Disciple of Las Vegas, 2013), is technically a forensic accountant, she’s more badass private investigator than desk jockey. An urgent call sends Ava and her esteemed partner, Uncle, to Wuhan, China, to meet with wealthy power broker Wong Changxing, who’s convinced he’s been bilked out of millions in a faux Fauvist art scheme. Although Ava and Uncle are reluctant to take the case, Wong’s second wife, May Ling, presses her to investigate. |

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Agreeing, Ava quickly follows a money trail through Denmark, the Faroe Islands, New York, London and beyond, laboring at every stage to grasp the implications of the complex financial transactions involved. Although her hotels change nightly, the frenetic pace of Ava’s investigation, fueled by an apparently bottomless expense account, is constant. When the truth finally comes out, what restitution means is different for all characters involved, and it’s not clear who will be responsible for meting out justice. Meanwhile, Maria, Ava’s sort-of girlfriend back home in Toronto, is growing increasingly concerned at what Ava’s absence and spotty communication might mean for their future. The fast pace and powerful protagonist add thrills to what might otherwise seem a low-stakes story—though the rampant product placement and morally questionable wrap-up will make this second installment in the series the last for some readers.

THE HANGING

Hammer, Lotte; Hammer, Soren Minotaur (304 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-312-65664-5 Something new is rotten in the state of Denmark in this debut from a sisterand-brother team: five middle-aged men drugged, stripped, mutilated and hanged in a geometrically precise formation. DI Konrad Simonsen, head of Copenhagen’s Homicide Division, is on vacation, but the holiday he’s taking with Anna Mia, the 19-year-old daughter he neglected for many years, ends abruptly with the news of a grisly discovery. Someone has decorated the gym of the Langbæk School in Bagsværd with five corpses dangling from the ceiling. The hands of the victims have been removed and their faces disfigured with a chain saw, presumably to delay their identification. Without knowing who they are, Simonsen obviously has little to go on in solving their murders, and it’s not surprising that his suspicion quickly falls close to home, on Per Clausen, the school’s janitor. Clausen has almost enough history to make up for the blank slates of the victims. He was a brilliant student and a successful physicist until the drowning of his daughter Helene, 17, marked a reversal of his fortunes. Soon after the police question him and receive nothing but evasive responses, he vanishes. Meanwhile, Simonsen is being harassed by pesky reporter Anni Staal; local citizens, when they get wind of the likely motive for the murders, are by no means eager to help catch the killers; and members of the Homicide Squad have their own obligatory problems, especially married gambler Arne Pedersen, who’s begun an affair with the squad’s newest member, Pauline Berg. The case would seem hopeless if the authors didn’t keep cutting away to close-ups of the conspirators responsible for the five victims’ deaths: advertising executive Erik Mørk, farmer Stig Åge Thorsen, nurse Helle Smidt Jørgenson and a wraithlike killer who prefers to be called the Climber. 34

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Middling for the endless recent crop of Scandinavian procedurals apparently designed to inhibit tourism and make you glad you’re staying in the temperate zone.

BAD MONKEY

Hiaasen, Carl Knopf (336 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 12, 2013 978-0-307-27259-1 A severed arm that a visiting angler hooks off Key West kicks off Hiaasen’s 13th criminal comedy. Though he’s anything but eager to follow Monroe County Sheriff Sonny Summers’ bidding and drive the arm to Miami to see if it belonged to some local stiff, the encounter Andrew Yancy has with Miami Assistant Medical Examiner Rosa Campesino, which ends with him taking the arm back home and parking it in his freezer, starts to change his attitude toward the case. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s been suspended from the Sheriff’s Department and banished to the gruesome post of restaurant inspector. But once the arm is identified as that of developer Nicholas Stripling, Yancy, calling himself “Inspector Yancy,” takes it on himself to question Nicky’s wife, Eve, his estranged daughter, Caitlin Cox, Eve’s sworn enemy, and several other concerned parties. When two of these parties are shot to death very shortly after their chats with Yancy, he knows he’s onto something, even though the imperviously obtuse Sonny Summers doesn’t. Leaving behind his “future former girlfriend” Bonnie Witt, who’s just revealed an unexpectedly colorful personal history to him, Yancy takes Rosa along to follow the arm’s trail to Lizard Cay, Bahamas, where more crazies await: a toothless voodoo priestess called the Dragon Queen, her hapless client Neville Stafford, whose troubles bear an uncanny resemblance to Yancy’s own, and his companion Driggs, a monkey reputed to have worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The mind-boggling plot will require yet another Hiaasen hurricane, a house fire, several perp walks for diverse felonies and a healthy dose of cleansing violence to bring down the curtain. Not as funny as Hiaasen’s best (Star Island, 2010, etc.), with a title character more vicious than amusing, but still the gold standard for South Florida criminal farce.

PLAY DEAD

James, Bill Creme de la Crime (208 pp.) $28.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-1-78029-043-0 Harpur and Iles reopen a closed case. When undercover cop Tom Mallen was ambushed and killed while infiltrating Leo Young’s nefarious businesses, Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles and


“...will leave fans breathless...” from fifth grave past the light

Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur were sent to Larkspur to sort matters out. They managed to nab another cop for the deed (Undercover, 2012, etc.), but now the Home Office wants matters revisited to find out who maneuvered him. Iles, still seething over Harpur’s affair with his wife, insists that the pair reconnoiter Mallen’s death scene, a derelict building complex, with Harpur playing dead in the rubble while he, alas, has an emotional breakdown over that tryst. Harpur picks up a discarded ballpoint, stabs him in the cheek with the pen, and the two run off. Word of this episode gets out to a reporter, who unwisely asks questions of the wrong people and is himself stabbed to death. Meanwhile, an eyewitness to the Iles/Harpur situation surfaces. He’s also been privy to a meeting at the site between Mallen’s widow and Young’s wife. When Iles goes off on another rage that the Home Office hears about, it’s up to Harpur to smooth things over. Mrs. Young, who’s never before questioned her husband’s livelihood, now tries to allay her suspicions with a visit to the wife of Mallen’s killer that effectively closes the case with a dying message clue. In their 30th outing, Harpur and Iles are still at odds, still droll and still among the best the British police procedural has to offer.

FIFTH GRAVE PAST THE LIGHT

Jones, Darynda St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-250-01440-5

Charley Davidson, a grim reaper, navigates lost souls, serial killers, murderous husbands and the son of Satan as she solves crimes and ushers spirits into the light. It’s not easy being someone who can see ghosts, especially as a grim reaper, who has the complicated task of helping spirits move into the next spiritual plane. Charley, the daughter and niece of cops, has taken on the additional earthly role of solving crimes as a private investigator and consultant to the Albuquerque police force, often with the secret help of spirit allies. So when more than a few mysteries crop up, both in the real world and the ghostly realm, she’s one busy lady. Surrounded by a close circle of trusted friends on both sides of life, she is suddenly confronted with the possibility of a serial killer who’s been under the radar for decades and may be after her sister. Meanwhile, she must scrutinize an open arson case that points to Reyes Farrow as the culprit, much as she doesn’t want to face the possibility of his guilt. The guy is hotter than Hades, which makes sense, she guesses, since apparently that’s where he comes from. And if all that isn’t enough, she has to figure out who’s trying to kill her, too. Fun times. Good thing she’s perfected the art of gliding through life with a cheeky, wisecracking attitude while doing her best not to show any emotion, no matter how deeply she cares. The fifth installment of Jones’ popular Charley Davidson series is jam-packed with unique supernatural elements, an assortment of fascinating characters and enough going on to keep readers guessing until the very end and beyond, since the last few chapters introduce new series elements that deepen the mystery of Charley and

Reyes’ bond. While the book stands on its own and is accessible without previous books, readers may want to start at the beginning of the series for the best experience. A clever, fast-paced, rollicking paranormal romantic suspense which will leave fans breathless and keep them coming back for more.

DEADLY FORECAST

Laurie, Victoria Obsidian/Berkley (384 pp.) $23.95 | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-451-23993-8 A psychic and FBI consultant must protect her fiance from a dangerous case, even if she gets too wrapped up in it herself. Think your wedding day was fraught? Abby Cooper has a bomb strapped to her chest and two hours to live. As Laurie (Lethal Outlook, 2012, etc.) explains in a series of flashbacks alternating with wedding-day drama, Abby sensed powerful negative forces surrounding her fiance, FBI agent Dutch Rivers, ever since he started working the suicide bombing case of a local hairdresser. Since Abby’s perfectly content to make herself a nuisance in order to keep Dutch safe, she talks Dutch’s boss, Gaston, into signing her up as part of the investigating team. Though Abby’s relieved that now she can keep an eye on Dutch, she can’t figure out the motivation of the bomber, who, whatever Homeland Security might think, appears to have been a young woman with no ties to terrorism. Teaming up with her partner and best friend, Candice, Abby tries to use her psychic abilities to feel out people around the case in the hope of finding some connection. Her terror in thinking that danger is still out there is nothing compared to her terror when faced with the wrath of her sister and wedding planner, Cat, after she misses yet another wedding-focused meeting. When the big day comes, M.J. Holliday and associate Gilley Gillespie must track down the bride, who is MIA, since M.J. knows she’s in grave danger. Though the constant oscillation between past and present is jarring at first, the two narratives fit together like a puzzle, insisting that fans read just one more chapter to see where the next piece will fall into place.

THE SILENCE

Rayne, Sarah Severn House (272 pp.) $29.95 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-7278-8248-6 Beautiful music lulls and lures the unsuspecting listener to the brink of danger and the secret of a century-old crime. Antiques dealer Nell West has been hired to evaluate the contents of her late husband Brad’s childhood home, Stilter |

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House. Besides fueling her professional interest in the remote Derbyshire Peaks home, the assignment also provides an opportunity to give her young daughter, Beth, a clearer picture of her father. Nell scarcely worries about gossip that the house is haunted, though given her recent adventures (The Sin Eater, 2012, etc.), she has reason to. Inside Stilter, Nell faintly hears piano music and assumes that Beth has been playing, but the keyboard is securely locked. Meanwhile, Nell’s lover, Michael Flint, who must wait until the end of term at Oriel College to join her, receives an agitated phone call from elderly Emily West warning that Nell and Beth mustn’t spend the night at Stilter. Even if he took this warning seriously, it wouldn’t matter, since Nell has no phone service there. As she looks through the house, she finds various papers—letters, court statements, diary entries—that offer information about servants abruptly leaving after only one day of work, the eerie music she’d heard and, worst of all, a series of unspeakable crimes against children. Armed with greater understanding, Michael joins his lover at Stilter. But will he be too late to help? Rayne’s third Nell West ghost story perfects the craft of deftly chosen details, simmering suspense and chilling surprises, all woven into a quiet, elegant narrative.

NIGHT FALL

Smith, Frank Severn House (240 pp.) $28.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-7278-8271-4 A new boss provides a unique challenge for DCI Neil Paget (In the Shadow of Evil, 2012, etc.). It isn’t easy for Paget to work for his new detective superintendent. Not only did Amanda Pierce snag the job he expected, but, years back, she was married to Paget’s wife Jill’s brother—a union that led to his brother-in-law’s death and Jill’s subsequent suicide. Now, Pierce and Paget are both in the pressure cooker with a case that seems as unsolvable as it is bizarre. Billy Travis, a meek, middle-aged photographer, has been flung from a bridge to the railway tracks below. His battered corpse is found with the letter “A” carved into its forehead. No one can imagine who might have killed Billy, and no one saw nothing, no how. When the investigation stalls, Pierce asks Paget to back off, leaving the legwork to his sergeants, Molly Forsythe and John Tregalles. Although she’s preoccupied with the uncertainties of her relationship with David Chen, who’s gone back to Hong Kong to care for his teenage daughter Lijuan after his ex-wife’s death in an auto accident, Molly gives the case her all. But connecting the dots between the loner Travis and any other human being seems daunting. Even the appearance of a second body does little to move the case forward, frustrating both sergeants. Paget soon finds himself in the impossible position of not being able to investigate the case himself while having to prove that his history with Amanda isn’t the reason for the deadlock. 36

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The complicated back story takes Paget’s 10th a step beyond a routine procedural.

ALWAYS WATCHING

Stevens, Chevy St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-312-59569-2

A psychiatrist must confront her own past as she tries to help a suicidal young woman. Dr. Nadine Lavoie is no stranger to loss. Her mother was killed in a car crash when she was a teenager. Her husband died of cancer in early-middle age. Her daughter, Lisa, is probably still alive, but Nadine doesn’t know where; the drugaddicted girl fled home at 18 and lives somewhere on the streets of Victoria. When she isn’t wandering the streets in search of Lisa, Nadine works in the adult psychiatric department of St. Adrian’s Hospital. There, she finds Heather Simeon, a young woman brought in by her husband, Daniel, after a near-successful suicide attempt. Heather is despondent after a miscarriage she blames on herself. She and Daniel left the River of Life commune because they disagreed with its child-rearing practices, and Heather is convinced that if only they had stayed, she could have carried her pregnancy to term. Nadine wonders whether she’s the right therapist for Heather. When she was a teenager, her bipolar mother suddenly packed Nadine and her brother into the car, and the three spent the next eight months at the River of Life until her father arrived and brought them home. But Kevin Nasser, a trusted colleague, assures her that her own experience won’t taint her relationship with Heather. So Nadine proceeds, only to find that her own life—especially her relationship with Aaron Quinn, now the leader of River of Life—holds nearly as much trauma as her patient’s. The third from Stevens, a specialist in high-toned psychological thrills (Never Knowing, 2011, etc.), delivers the goods once more.

RIVERWATCHER

Weber, Ronald Skyhorse Publishing (256 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-62087-810-1 The shooting of an inoffensive camper in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula brings a third case to Mercy Virdon, of the Division of Natural Resources, and her swain, sometime journalist Donal Fitzgerald (The Aluminum Hatch, 1998, etc.). All the locals knew Charlie Orr, the 60-something retiree who returned to the Rainbow Run state forest each season to fish, smoke, read and take it slow. And if Charlie lived perhaps


too much within himself to be widely beloved—except maybe by camp hostess Billie Berry—he certainly had no enemies. So why would someone unload both barrels of a shotgun into his tent late one night? Was his death the work of a random thrillkiller, or could Charlie himself have been the intended target after all? Charlie’s widow, Theona, seems equally unmoved by grief or anger, and Graham Underwood, the big-deal executive visiting from Ohio, evidently has nothing on his mind but getting his daughter Gwendolyn some proper fishing lessons. Rumors arise that Charlie’s death may have been linked to pot smoking, or to poaching, or to the library books he was reading, or to the disappearance of Alec Proffit, the camper from Vermont who vanished the night Charlie died. But none of these rumors has much weight behind it, and each does little more than sweep the preceding one away. The motive Fitzgerald eventually uncovers for Charlie’s murder is ingenious and convincing, but the real lure, apart from the hook for readers who are serious anglers, is the unruffled sense of small-town life uncomplicated by any particularly interesting individual characters. Quirky, literate dialogue adorns a civilized entertainment in which very little actually happens.

observer, Qwendar, seems helpful enough. But when handsome actor-turned-director Jeff Montolbano invites Linnet to the set of his latest movie, his lead actress, an Álfar, bursts in and, sporting enough weapons to stock a small arsenal, starts shooting the place up. Why? What’s really going on? Does Linnet have a secret protector or hidden talents? Bornikova accurately depicts Hollywood with warmth and wit, her puzzles will keep readers guessing until the end, and she tops it off with a smart, sassy heroine willing to poke and prod those more powerful than she. Refreshingly different, intriguing and involving: A sequel that’s even better than the splendid opener. (Agent: Kay McCauley)

NEW EARTH

Bova, Ben Tor (384 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 16, 2013 978-0-7653-3018-5 Sequel to Farside (2013), wherein, amid a battle over nanotechnology, a new Earth-like planet was discovered orbiting Sirius. Eighty years ago, Earth dispatched a starship to the planet, which was known to have water and an oxygen atmosphere. Now, a multinational team of scientists led by diplomat Jordan Kell, preserved via cryogenics, awakes and prepares to explore this New Earth. But bad news reaches them first: Earth, battling a renewed bout of climate change and coastal flooding, will send no backup missions; they are not only isolated, but expendable. Major surprises, however, await them. The planet is inhabited—by humans with highly advanced technology who not only speak English, but seem to know all about Earth and its history. Adri, a frail-looking man who claims to be nearly 300 years old, and beautiful Aditi—both names, Jordan discovers, borrowed from Hindu cosmology—make them welcome. But apart from Jordan, the people don’t trust the team; they seem willing enough to answer questions but never volunteer information, and there are too many mysteries. Eventually, the lead dissenter, Harmon Meek, forces Jordan to resign as leader, though Jordan does manage to install his younger brother, Brandon, in his place. Jordan’s happy to go along: He’s in love with Aditi and convinced that the human-aliens have benevolent intentions. But the questions persist. Are they hostile toward Earth? What do they really want? Is New Earth in fact a construct? Bova explores these dilemmas with gentle insistence, and while the answers may verge on the obvious to alert readers, the scientists’ suspicions, mistrust and reluctance to engage with a larger reality holds an unmistakable ring of truth. An unspectacular but absorbing entry in Bova’s Grand Tour series.

science fiction and fantasy BOX OFFICE POISON

Bornikova, Phillipa Tor (320 pp.) $24.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-7653-2683-6

Second in the series (This Case is Gonna Kill Me, 2012) about New York lawyer Linnet Ellery and the vampire law firm she works for, set in a world dominated by the Powers—vampires, werewolves and Álfar (elves)—who revealed themselves less than half a century ago. Last time out, Linnet found herself battling werewolves. This time, exquisitely beautiful Álfar are snaffling all the plum roles in Hollywood, much to the chagrin of human actors, who, naturally, bring a lawsuit against the studios and networks. Since Álfar charm fails to translate to the screen, the humans insist that they’re using magic to get the parts. Nobody in the Screen Actors Guild wants the dispute in the public domain, so Linnet and her vampire boss, David Sullivan, must fly to California and serve as arbitrators. Complications ensue when Human First agitators make themselves annoyingly obtrusive; and an Álfar actor who slaughtered his beloved human wife now claims to have no memory of the event. Still, the old, influential Álfar |

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r om a n c e

HOW TO LOSE A BRIDE IN ONE NIGHT

Jordan, Sophie Morrow/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $7.99 paper | Jul. 30, 2013 978-0-06-203301-7

A WOMAN ENTANGLED

Grant, Cecilia Bantam (336 pp.) $7.99 paper | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-345-53256-5

Beautiful Kate Westbrook is bound and determined to find the perfect mate who will usher her back into her rightful place in the haut ton; she is absolutely not interested in handsome, honorable Nick Blackshear—no matter how much her heart may tell her otherwise. As the daughter of the estranged second son of an earl, Kate wants nothing more than to find her way back into the highest echelons of society, a position out of her reach since her father married her mother, an actress, and was shunned by his family. When a door of opportunity opens a crack, she intends to make the most of it but is stunned when she is continually thrown into contact with Nick Blackshear, a handsome barrister whose suit she shut down firmly but kindly in the past. The more time she spends with him, the more attractive he becomes, which is problematic, given that he can in no way further her social goals. In fact, Nick’s family has a juicy scandal more recent than hers, so she should be spending less rather than more time with him, but she can’t bring herself to deprive herself of his company— a decision that threatens to send them both down the dangerous, irreversible path of passion. For his part, Nick has been in love with Kate since the first time he set eyes on her, and he once thought to spend his life with her, until he received the message loud and clear that he wasn’t good enough. Now, with his family’s scandal hanging over him and negatively impacting his career, he knows he has nothing to offer her. But when circumstances throw them together and attraction flares, he’s too intrigued to walk away. And while their odd dance of attraction and denial is the initial impetus for their covert romance, and their blazing chemistry is extraordinary, ultimately, Kate and Nick must decide to honestly open their hearts to love—for each other, their families and their true selves—before they can ever be whole and happy. An emotionally rich, sensually lush romance.

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On her wedding night, Annalise is nearly murdered and then thrown from the couple’s honeymoon barge into the river; rescued by a war-wounded earl who nurses her back to health, she vows to never be vulnerable again. Annalise should have known better than to believe the Duke of Bloodsworth could love her, despite his pretty promises and charming manner. After years on her own as a penniless orphan, her long-lost father may have found her, dressed her in pretty clothes and set to finding her a blue-blood husband, but she was still crippled, plain and of dubious origin. She should have known the duke couldn’t really want her. But still, to try to murder her, then throw her into the river like garbage is even more inconceivable. When she comes to after days of fever and touch-and-go health, she learns that she’s been rescued by an enigmatic man of few words, Owen, who found her on the riverbank and brought her to a gypsy healer then helped the gypsy nurse her back to health. Mortified by her husband’s absolute rejection and premeditated plans to murder her, she feigns amnesia, which Owen never completely believes. When she has healed enough to leave the gypsy camp, Owen takes her to his London townhouse, where she discovers he’s an earl. She’s attracted to his gruff kindness and his ability to make her feel safe, even though he makes it clear he doesn’t want her around and that bringing her to his home was a mistake. As events unfold, Owen and Annalise will have to be honest with themselves and each other in order to find a healing, sustaining love that can save them from internal and external hazards. Wellwritten and engaging, despite a few too many “come-hitherno-stop-right-there” situations and some repetitive internal character dithering that becomes more irritating as the story moves forward. An emotionally touching story in which two damaged souls heal and find their happy-ever-after in satisfying ways.


nonfiction THE WORKING MEMORY ADVANTAGE Train Your Brain to Function Stronger, Smarter, Faster

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: SOIL AND SACRAMENT by Fred Bahnson........................................ 40

Alloway, Tracy; Alloway, Ross Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-4516-5012-9

CONFRONTING THE CLASSICS by Mary Beard............................. 42 JFK’S LAST HUNDRED DAYS by Thurston Clarke........................... 46 MANSON by Jeff Guinn.......................................................................50

A lucid how-to on ways to strengthen your processing of everyday information. Alloway (Psychology/Univ. of North Florida) and her husband, Ross, are leading researchers in the emerging field of working memory, a cognitive skill that allows the brain to focus on and process information for the task at hand. In this informative book, they describe recent studies, including their own, indicating that working memory is a stronger predictor of success in school and in later life than IQ. “If we want to know how well students will perform in the classroom, we need to look at their working memory,” they write. This explains why high-IQ children do not always excel in school: They may be knowledgeable but unable to use what they know effectively. Working memory allows us to prioritize, focus, make decisions, think quickly, take smarter risks, learn more easily, and stay motivated and positive. With a good working memory as our brain’s conductor, we can exercise our will, delay gratification, and manage time and information. With a poor working memory, we may engage in out-of-control and addictive behaviors. The authors trace the development of working memory in individuals from the womb through old age (the skill peaks in our 30s) and explain its importance to a happy and optimistic life. Much of the book covers ways to improve working memory through exercises that simplify the complexity of incoming data, enhance your ability to work with information and keep your working memory in optimal condition. Perhaps overly upbeat, but it contains useful new insights into thinking well.

GABRIELE D’ANNUNZIO by Lucy Hughes-Hallett........................... 51 HANDLING THE TRUTH by Beth Kephart.........................................52 A WILD JUSTICE by Evan J. Mandery...............................................56 DREADFUL by David Margolick........................................................56 ROOM 1219 by Greg Merritt................................................................58 ROOSEVELT’S SECOND ACT by Richard Moe..................................59 THE TIME TRAVELER’S GUIDE TO ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND by Ian Mortimer................................................................................... 60 KAFKA by Reiner Stach........................................................................67 THINKING IN NUMBERS by Daniel Tammet.................................... 69 MO’ META BLUES by Ahmir Thompson; Ben Greenman.................. 69 MO’ META BLUES The World According to Questlove

Thompson, Ahmir; Greenman, Ben Grand Central Publishing (288 pp.) $26.00 Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-4555-0135-9

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“A profound, moving treatise on finding God in gardening.” from soil and sacrament

THE NUMBERS GAME Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong

grow food for its North Carolina community. After several years there, the author was exhausted from defending the project to church members who failed to understand that “Anathoth was not just a hunger relief ministry. It was a whole new way to be a church.” So the author, his wife and their children left the farm for their own piece of land; but once there, Bahnson still felt something was missing from his life. “What does it mean to follow God?” he asked. “How should I live my life? And what does all this have to do with the soil, the literal ground of my existence?” To answer these questions, Bahnson immersed himself in the connections between Judeo-Christian faiths and the burgeoning food movement, while also reflecting upon his life in God. Along the way, he visited a Trappist abbey and Pentecostal organic farmers and celebrated Sukkot on a Jewish farm. Whether he is describing making compost (“I became a priest dispensing the elements to a microbial congregation”) or a “devious, childlike” nonagenarian who doled out “the worst titty-twister [he’d] had since fourth grade,” Bahnson’s lively prose is spiritual without ever being preachy or heavy-handed, and the overall effect is akin to reading a Wendell Berry essay, if Berry also had a sense of humor. Bahnson’s story and its message is constantly, deeply thought-provoking, claiming that working the land with others “reveals the joyful messiness of human life where we find others who need us, and whom we need in return. How we hunger is who we are.” A profound, moving treatise on finding God in gardening.

Anderson, Chris; Sally, David Penguin (384 pp.) $16.00 paper | Aug. 1, 2013 978-0-14-312456-6

Using data to better understand (and improve a team’s odds of winning) the Beautiful Game. Analytics, the use of data and statistics, has grown exponentially in the world of sports in recent years. Michael Lewis’ Moneyball revealed how Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane utilized analytics to exploit inefficiencies in the baseball marketplace of players and ideas. Coaches and administrators, as well as fans of other sports, have increasingly tried to apply analytics to the games they love. Anderson (London School of Economics and Cornell Univ.) and Sally (Business/Dartmouth) fit well into that tradition in this fine book about the use of analytics in soccer. Like many within the growing number of books in this genre, the authors, both of whom are academics, former athletes and fans, have the ability to convey complicated ideas and even more complex data and statistics into a readable whole that will appeal to fans who want to better understand the most popular sport in the world. Whether they are trying to ascertain what percentage of possession determines victory, to decide whether it is best to focus on scoring goals or not conceding them, to establish just how much coaches matter to a team’s success or myriad other exercises, they make compelling and occasionally contrarian cases for breaking away from thinking that too often comes down to, “seven words [that] have long dominated soccer: ‘That’s the way it’s always been done.’ ” Anderson and Sally destroy most of the rationales for such thinking in this entertaining, witty and thoughtful book, which should appeal not just to soccer fans, but to readers of Malcolm Gladwell and Freakonomics. Even the most innumerate soccer fan will find in this book justification to add some math to make the world’s game even more beautiful.

COLLISION 2012 Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America

Balz, Dan Viking (400 pp.) $32.95 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-670-02594-7

Well-documented, blow-by-blow account of the recent presidential election in all its benumbing, however significant and transfor-

mative, detail. Washington Post chief correspondent Balz’s book on those fisticuffs is a sequel, he writes, to The Battle for America 2008. The author provides an excellent record of what both candidates’ strategies were, what they needed to deliver to a vastly changing America and how they ultimately fared in the electorate. Balz evidently took copious notes as well as conducted myriad interviews, then and now. The chronicles of his discussions with some of the defeated Republicans, such as Newt Gingrich, are particularly valuable, giving the author a chance to ask: What were they thinking? Indeed, the election’s tone of “nuttiness” was set early on by the protracted process of selecting the Republican front-runner long before President Barack Obama had to get involved; the sideshows concerning Gingrich’s exploding cigars, Tim Pawlenty’s “Obamneycare” and Rick Perry’s “little brain fart” during the Michigan TV debate get the meatiest chapters. The choosing of Romney’s running mate garners a thorough going-over, though there is little on

SOIL AND SACRAMENT Food, Faith and Growing Heaven on Earth

Bahnson, Fred Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $26.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-4516-6330-3

A soul-searching memoir and travelogue about finding God in the food produced by community agriculture. Bahnson (co-author: Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation, 2012) was the founder and director of Anathoth, a rich, verdant acre of land owned by his church and used to 40

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A wide-angle, thorough world survey for students, complete with immensely useful timelines and maps. (22 illustrations; 96 maps)

the vice-presidential debates. Indeed, after rehearsing the dueling conventions’ highlights (the empty chair, Bill Clinton), Romney’s secretive “47 Percent Solution,” Obama’s lackluster showing at the Denver debate and the October Surprise (in the form of Hurricane Sandy), Balz ties up the actual election rather hastily. Still, he brings out the important shifts in the election process: technology as the key player, the campaigns’ all-too-easy use of disguised money, the discrepancy of polls and the rashly high expectations of the Republicans, founded on a willful disregard for reality. Balz’s January 2013 interview with Romney forms a surprisingly touching curtain to the whole spectacle, revealing just how pessimistic the candidate himself was all along. A lively, fair-minded and brisk post-mortem.

TO THE END OF JUNE The Intimate Life of American Foster Care

Beam, Cris Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (336 pp.) $26.00 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-15-101412-5

Journalist Beam examines what is needed to improve the way we care for troubled families and children. The author became a licensed foster parent in 2001 when, as a high school teacher, she found it the only way to provide a home for her 17-year-old transvestite student. Prompted by this experience, she went on to spend

THE HISTORY OF THE RENAISSANCE WORLD From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople Bauer, Susan Wise Norton (768 pp.) $35.00 | Aug. 26, 2013 978-0-393-05976-2

Another expertly clarified primer by Bauer (History/Coll. of William & Mary; The History of the Medieval World, 2010, etc.) organizes by themes the chaos of the medieval world into a semblance of cohesive law, migratory logic and religious fervor that would later explode into the Renaissance. The author has an excellent eye for presenting her subject in bold strokes, memorable themes and without undue clutter. Her work is grounded in the notion of the Renaissance (or, as she posits in the plural: renaissances) as gaining seismic steam in the 12th century, with translation of classic texts by Gerard of Cremona and others. The debate between reason and faith was engaged, proving hugely subversive to central powers. The violent, epic thrusts of peoples also marked the period: The Crusades were launched by the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople; the Muslim kingdoms battled to capture the Spanish peninsula, spreading into Africa and northern India; England and France dissolved into frequent anarchy and civil war, leading to the rise of the Plantagenets; roiling ensued in the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms of Sri Lanka and India; the shoguns ruled in Japan, the Ming in China; great empires like the Incas and later Aztecs rose in South and Central America; and the Mongols galvanized their ferocious military might and set their sights to the west and south. This was the era of Genghis Khan, Frederick Barbarossa, Saladin, Richard the Lionheart, Osman, Robert Bruce and Mansa Musa of Mali, as well as the Magna Carta, Inquisition, the plague and the spread of the Portuguese slave trade into Africa. Already splintered, Byzantium would be eclipsed by the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453, provoking new exoduses of peoples, west and east, “the seeds of new nations; the roots of new wars.” Bauer ably captures it all. |

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“A top-notch introduction to some fairly arcane material, accessible but not patronizing.” from confronting the classics

five years exploring the contradictions within the child welfare system, seeking to find out why the 500,000 kids in American foster care were “twice as likely to develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” as combat veterans. Following the lives of foster children, meeting their natural and foster parents, and interviewing experts, Beam developed a broad overview. Intended to be a temporary arrangement, foster care frequently fails to lead either to resolution of the biological parents’ problems and restoration of the birth family or to the children’s permanent adoption into a new home. The most common causes for failure are birth mothers’ reluctance to sign adoption papers, foster parents’ inability to manage disturbed children and abusive foster homes. Child-protection workers are poorly paid, overworked and undertrained, Beam notes. They can be charged with criminal neglect for not removing endangered children from their homes, but sometimes they remove children unnecessarily (e.g., on suspicion of a parent’s drug use or neglect). Beam attributes some of the unnecessary removal cases to racial bias, and she reports instances of biological parents reappearing on the scene when foster parents were in the process of adopting children and of teenagers, adopted by foster parents, who ran away to their birth parents. Despite such problems, the author is optimistic that progress can be made by addressing the problems of impoverished families and providing “better schools, better libraries, after-school care, neighborhood resources—anything that touches social reform touches foster care too.” An engrossing, well-researched examination of important social issues.

enjoyable erudition: our fascination with Alexander the Great, in a version created by Rome; Cleopatra, more Greek than Egyptian; and Mark Antony, a foolish drunk. Beard also decries the difficulty of translating Thucydides and Tacitus, reveals that most of Cicero’s writing was part of a single legal case and introduces us to Philogelos’ joke book from A.D. 400. (Some things are always funny.) Beard’s reviews confirm her knowledgeable professionalism as she decries the conjectures of biographers who write “careful ancient history,” hedging all their bets with weaselly phrases such as “would have,” “no doubt” and “presumably.” While we’re at it, we learn that the ancients weren’t that great; they just had good spin doctors. Remember, the winner always writes the history. A top-notch introduction to some fairly arcane material, accessible but not patronizing. (17 illustrations)

YOUR FATWA DOES NOT APPLY HERE Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism Bennoune, Karima Norton (384 pp.) $27.95 | Aug. 26, 2013 978-0-393-08158-9

A human rights lawyer scours the global hotspots for stories of Muslim push back to fundamentalism. Fired with a sense of outrage, Bennoune (Law/Univ. of California, Davis) applies the lessons she learned from her professor and activist father, Mahfoud Bennoune—put on the “kill list” by fundamentalist extremists in Algeria in the early 1990s—in meeting the challenge of today’s fundamentalists. Muslim fundamentalism—which the author defines carefully as an extreme-right movement that achieves political aims by manipulating religion, embracing absolutism, limiting women’s rights and other human rights, denouncing secularism and advocating the imposition of narrowly defined Sharia—actually perpetuates much more violence against Muslims than against Westerners. The fallacy entertained by the Western left, such as her former employer she takes to task, Amnesty International, is that some forms of Islamic fundamentalism can be moderate or appear palatable (skillful as such groups are in “double discourse”), such as the freshly washed face of the Islamic Brotherhood. This is mostly due to the fact that the West desperately needs to believe “someone has to control those Muslims.” However, Bennoune is uncompromising in presenting tales from the trenches of the terror imposed by these ideologically driven governments: arts groups for children in Lahore, Pakistan, targeted for bombing since music was declared haram (shameful); cinemas burned in Herat, Afghanistan; women stoned in Nigeria; polygamy encouraged by Hamas and on the rise in Gaza; journalists killed for speaking out from Algeria to Pakistan. Yet the author’s account brings to light the courageous few who do stand up at the peril of losing their lives—e.g., many women

CONFRONTING THE CLASSICS Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations Beard, Mary Liveright/Norton (320 pp.) $28.95 | Sep. 9, 2013 978-0-87140-716-0

This collection by Beard (Classics/ Cambridge Univ.; The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found, 2008, etc.) provides a traditional classical education, and there’s no need to learn a dead language. Not only do the pieces illustrate the author’s extensive knowledge of all things ancient, but they could also serve as a guide to writing highly literate book reviews. Beard’s clear way of explaining times and people we may or may not have heard of makes learning not only fun, but satisfying, and her prose style is easy without being annoyingly breezy. She examines books on the decline of Latin and Greek studies and wonders why we bother reading about their decline when we really don’t care about them anyway. By definition, classics are in decline, she notes, since they’re about the art, culture, history and philosophy of the ancient world; yet, as we see in one excellent section of this book, constantly changing views and new translations keep interest alive. Among the other topics treated with 42

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WHAT DO WOMEN WANT? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire

who have had enlightened fathers who supported their education, like the author. Bennoune, and those she profiles, bravely meets the tide of extremism with a sense of shared community and nonviolent purpose. (20 illustrations)

Bergner, Daniel Ecco/HarperCollins (224 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-06-190608-4

WILSON

Accessible, engaging inquiry into the boundaries of the female libido by New York Times Magazine contributor Bergner (The Other Side of Desire, 2009, etc.). The author’s multifaceted exploration travels across varied terrain, ranging from the varieties of female orgasms and the effect of monogamy on lust to the development of a female desire drug. Bergner combines into a cogent whole vast amounts of information on female sexuality gleaned from interviews, academic papers, scores of books and data gathered from conversations with researchers. He begins with Meredith Chivers, whom Bergner describes as a bold sexologist and a careful statistician whose always-scrupulous work explores women’s primal and essential selves. One of the author’s provocative conclusions, arrived at after years spent talking with Chivers and her subjects, explodes one of society’s ingrained concepts: “Women are supposed to be the standard’s more natural allies, caretakers, defenders, their sexual beings more suited biologically, to faithfulness. We hold tight to the fairy tale.” Bergner devotes a chapter to the varied ways female sexuality has been perceived since classical times, then probes societal and cultural mores that have pegged women as the less lustful gender. Using scientific studies as a scaffolding, he translates data from studies performed on monkeys and rats, explaining how its interpretation over the years has negated information regarding female sexuality. “What science had managed to miss in the monkeys— what it had effectively erased—was female desire,” he writes. In another example of his adroit translation of technical material into entertaining and erudite reading for curious readers, the author distills a highly entertaining chapter on speed dating from a 2009 article titled, “Arbitrary social norms influence sex differences in romantic selectivity.” Stylishly written and cogently organized, making it easy and rewarding for lay readers to understand and appreciate some fairly complex science.

Berg, A. Scott Putnam (800 pp.) $40.00 | Sep. 10, 2013 978-0-399-15921-3 Accomplished biographer Berg (Lindbergh, 1998, etc.) emphasizes the extraordinary talents of this unlikely president in an impressive, nearly hagiographic account. Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), writes the author, was a much more complex figure than he appeared to be; he was a man of astounding depths, conflicting desires and erudition, driven to make history by his passionate ideals. Titling his chapters rather grandiloquently with biblical catchwords usually associated with Christ’s journey (from “Advent” to “Pieta”), Berg brings out an enormously sympathetic side to the Princeton-educated lecturer who was first and foremost a brilliant writer. Wilson took his first postgraduate job teaching women at Bryn Mawr; he was an uxorious husband (twice) and devoted father to three daughters. Indeed, he was wildly in love with his soon-to-be second wife, Edith, just as the first great crisis of his presidency erupted over whether or not to go to war with Germany after the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915. A man of principles who ruled with rhetoric, Wilson took the controversial step of attending in person the Versailles Peace Conference, absenting himself from the United States (and the domestic political fray) for a now-unimaginable six months. A stable Europe could only be built on “a peace of justice,” he insisted; the pride of his life was the establishment of the League of Nations and implementation of his Fourteen Points, while his heartbreak remained the refusal of Congress to enact either. Berg passes more lightly over the Virginia-born Wilson’s less-than-admirable position on African-American civil rights. The author devotes a good portion of the book to the years following Wilson’s 1919 stroke, the severity of which the public did not fathom; it was a well-kept secret that Edith largely ran the White House in the final 18 months of his presidency. Berg portrays Wilson as an utterly new kind of chief executive, in a mold that has yet to be refilled. Readable, authoritative and, most usefully, inspiring.

A STREET CAT NAMED BOB And How He Saved My Life Bowen, James Dunne/St. Martin’s (288 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 30, 2013 978-1-250-02946-1 978-1-250-02947-8 e-book

How a cat helped one man on the road to recovery from drugs. “I was a failed musician and recovering drug addict living a hand-to-mouth |

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“Riveting reading from start to finish.” from etched in sand

existence in sheltered accommodation,” writes London street musician Bowen. “Taking responsibility for myself was hard enough.” So when a mangy, unneutered tomcat with a festering sore on his leg hung around his apartment building several days in a row, it was with some trepidation that the author invited the cat, whom he named Bob, into his home. Little did Bowen know that this simple act of kindness would create such a bond between them. Earning his living as a street musician in London’s Covent Garden, Bowen had to busk on a daily basis to survive. The added responsibility of an injured cat prompted the author to play more frequently and for longer hours; it was only when Bob came with him to Covent Garden that Bowen realized their relationship had deepened into a true friendship. The oddity of seeing a handsome ginger cat curled into a guitar case caused people to stop and chat, take pictures and give more generously than they had in the past. Bowen moved from being a street bum to someone people recognized and wanted to talk to, and Bob was given all sorts of handmade clothes, treats and toys. The author describes delightful moments spent with Bob as well as a harrowing instance when the cat streaked off into the city streets after being threatened by a dog. With confidence gained through his ability to earn money and to tend to Bob’s needs, Bowen was finally able to kick his drug dependency and make amends with his estranged mother. A rich, moving story of the link between a street-wise cat and a man who earns his living on the streets—perfect for cat lovers.

hocus-pocus,” Brennan posits that visions and voices may arise not from the spectral plane, but from historical experimentation with mind-expanding hallucinogens such as peyote, mandrake root and LSD. He logically ponders whether these drugs simply induce artificial delusions or expand the human consciousness sufficiently to receive phantasmal messages. The source for Brennan’s unblinking faith in such a predominantly conjectural subject may lie in late, hair-raising chapters describing his own eerie, nonverbal encounters with spirits and poltergeists in Ireland. Ultimately, his deftly corralled, intriguing research translates into unsettling, if academically written, “proof ” of the existence of spiritual suggestion. Certain hokum for skeptics, but the more open-minded will savor this chillingly convincing testimonial. (36 b/w illustrations)

ETCHED IN SAND A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island Calcaterra, Regina Morrow/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $15.99 paper | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-06-221883-4

A prominent New York attorney’s unsparing account of how she and her four siblings survived extreme abuse and neglect at the hands of their mentally ill mother. Cookie was a woman who “left behind scorched earth” wherever she went. Unstable, promiscuous and violently abusive, she had five children by five different men. Chaos and instability reigned throughout Calcaterra’s childhood. Early on, Cookie left the children with relatives or took them to live with new boyfriends. But as her alcoholism and mental illness worsened, she left them in homeless shelters, trailers, parking lots, run-down apartments or houses and then vanished, often for weeks or months at a time. When Calcaterra was 8, she and her siblings made a pact to stay together, no matter what; it was better than being separated and losing all control over their lives in the impersonal, sometimesfrightening world of foster care. To survive, they stole food and clothes. They lied about their mother’s whereabouts, as well as the burns, bruises and scratches that appeared on their bodies when she was home. Calcaterra emancipated herself at age 14 and reluctantly went to live with foster parents she did not want; they nonetheless helped her succeed. Seeking a way to empower herself so that she could “impact the lives of others,” she attended college and law school, then pursued a career as a New York state public official. Despite her many professional triumphs, she hasn’t overcome her guilt about the fate of her siblings. Calcaterra narrates her story in the present tense, which adds a painful immediacy and urgency to an already gut-wrenching account. Yet never once does she flinch from the terrible truths with which she has lived and so courageously reveals here. Riveting reading from start to finish.

WHISPERERS The Secret History of the Spirit World Brennan, J.H. Overlook (400 pp.) $29.95 | Jun. 13, 2013 978-1-59020-862-5

Prolific Irish author and lecturer Brennan’s (Magic & Mysticism in Tibet, 2010, etc.) lifelong fascination with psychic phenomena fuels this comprehensive analysis of potential supernatural influences on history. The author engagingly embraces the phenomenon of spiritual interaction with the living in a dense exploration of historical figures who he asserts have become influenced by suggestive spirits. In early sections, Brennan examines the spirit beliefs of the Ubaidian people and the Egyptians, who etched spectral “utterances” into pyramid walls. He then moves on to profiles of prominent historical leaders believed to have both directly and indirectly altered history through spiritual intervention. They include Joan of Arc, Nostradamus, Rasputin, 18th-century Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, Napoleon Bonaparte, controversial occultist Alessandro Cagliostro and a loosely formed spirit-human association with Adolf Hitler. Brennan’s sweeping examination also cites modern evidence by incorporating the use of Ouija boards, mesmeric suggestion and conjurations into the mix. An equitable author who recognizes that his assertions, for some, will be construed as “superstitious 44

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CALCUTTA Two Years in the City

SHUT UP, YOU’RE WELCOME Thoughts on Life, Death, and Other Inconveniences

Chaudhuri, Amit Knopf (320 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-307-27024-5

Choi, Annie Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $15.00 paper | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-4516-9839-8

Anglo-Indian novelist and musician Chaudhuri (Contemporary Literature/ Univ. of East Anglia; The Immortals, 2009, etc.) navigates the complicated business of Calcutta’s richly diverse Bengali-Eng-

A saucy, comical retrospective on growing up Korean in the United States. Humorist Choi (Happy Birthday or Whatever, 2007) brings together the kind of letters we all long to write but don’t, as well as irreverent essays that poke fun at a hodgepodge of moments in her life. From questioning whether her father is gay (based on his endless love of musicals) to the frustrating and embarrassing moments when her extended Korean family endlessly question Choi about her rapidly diminishing ability to bear children (based on her age and lack of a husband), the author reveals all. Refreshingly honest, she perhaps offers a few too many intimate details: One essay centers around her inability to find underwear in the United States that will fit her “diminutive, flat Korean ass (like little rice cake)” and reveals that she and her mother wish to be buried with their panties so they “can have them in the afterlife”—it’s that difficult to find the perfect fit. Other subjects for introspection include childhood camping and road trips (carsickness occupied more of her time than viewing the Grand Canyon); learning to drive, which required umpteen hours of reading the manual and having every aspect of the car explained before she was allowed behind the wheel; natural disasters real and imaginary, which she survived by “a miracle or in death or something in between”; and the family’s hexagonal dining table, which fell into disrepair and yet was never thrown away. Whether amused, offended, weary or exasperated, Choi delivers her autobiographical anecdotes with a candid punch and a Korean slant. Will leave readers laughing one moment, bemused the next. (5-10 b/w illustrations)

lish makeup. Nostalgic and probing, the author’s account of his native Bengali city that was never really his own encapsulates countless humming, modern Indian stories. Once the British Empire’s colonial capital, an elegant Victorian, culturally diverse merchant town, Calcutta fell on bad economic times and into Marxist political turbulence from the 1970s onward, provoking the migration of the middle class and creating an enormous discrepancy of wealth. Chaudhuri, though born in Calcutta in 1962, grew up mostly in Bombay, though the author returned to Calcutta intermittently, spending holidays at his uncle’s house (which inspired much of his fiction, he writes), before his parents moved back to Calcutta in 1989. Eventually, Chaudhuri found his voice as an author in a kind of “renaissance” that the city also experienced at about the same time. He continually attempts to find within the Calcutta makeup “concordances” with other places that he has found transformative and lifeaffirming—e.g., the movement from “urban dereliction into something compelling.” Educated in England, well-spoken and a member of the privileged bhadralok (genteel Bengali bourgeois) class, the author can move among castes for keen observations, from befriending the ubiquitous squalid street entrepreneurs on Free School Street to taking high tea with the Ingabanga Mukherjee couple on Lower Circular Road. Names fascinate the author, as they indicate the demise of the Bengali language, and he devotes an entire chapter to the recent mystifying elections. Ever a journalist, novelist and literary critic, he is transported by others’ stories and relays in his prose a vivid sense of time and place. Another illuminating facet to the endlessly compelling story of modern India. (44 maps; 8 pages of photos)

HOW TO WRITE SHORT Word Craft for Fast Times

Clark, Roy Peter Little, Brown (256 pp.) $20.00 | $9.99 e-book | Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-316-20435-4 978-0-316-20434-7 e-book A veteran writing teacher at the Poynter Institute returns with some ideas that writers can learn from the short forms that now proliferate—from tweets to text messages to bathroom scrawls (really). Clark’s (Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces, 2011, etc.) text resembles just about any other in the self-help genre: short, snappy chapters (and sentences and paragraphs), lists (bulleted and otherwise) and |

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“This detailed, mostly worshipful account will not convince everyone, but few will put it down.” from jfk ’s last hundred days

end-of-the-chapter suggestions for additional activities (he calls these “Grace Notes”). The advice he offers is a mixture of the traditional and the novel. He suggests aspiring writers should keep a commonplace book filled with examples of short-and-effective writing gleaned from our contemporary short-form environment. His thesis is patent: If writers desire to write long, they should “begin by writing short.” Clark spends the majority of the book examining various places where short texts occur and explaining how writers can, and should, benefit from them. His sources are in some cases surprising, sometimes not: baseball cards, book blurbs, marginalia, blogs, Zach Galifianakis–like quips, haiku, single-sentence stories, T-shirt slogans and profiles composed for online dating sites. Among the most unusual are text messages sent during a psycho’s armed attack in Norway. Clark offers some more literary examples, as well, ranging from an Updike paragraph to the Gettysburg Address and the writings of Samuel Johnson. The “Grace Note” sections are generally unremarkable, with suggestions ranging from, “Write a brief premise for a movie” to, “Spend time and energy on titles and headlines.” He advises writers to learn different ways to form lists in a text, then closes with some warnings about the power of short writing to harm as well as benefit (Orwell and Huxley appear here). Writers can surely benefit from practicing some of these tiny techniques, but voracious reading, writing, traveling, thinking and feeling can help even more.

successor and unhappy vice president, Lyndon Johnson, universally despised by Kennedy aides as “Uncle Cornpone.” Clarke emphasizes that JFK yearned to withdraw American advisers from Vietnam, which seems true, but since most aides and ultimately Kennedy himself decided that a noncommunist South Vietnam was vital to American security, intervention was inevitable once it became clear that South Vietnam’s army couldn’t defeat the Vietcong. Clarke certainly demonstrates that three often painful years in office had taught Kennedy valuable lessons. No one can say what would have happened if he had lived, but no one will deny that he was a spectacularly appealing character, and Clarke delivers a thoroughly delightful portrait. This detailed, mostly worshipful account will not convince everyone, but few will put it down.

GADDAFI’S HAREM The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya Cojean, Annick Translated by de Jager, Marjolijn Grove (272 pp.) $24.00 | Sep. 3, 2013 978-0-8021-2172-1

Acclaimed Le Monde journalist Cojean (Marc Riboud: 50 Years of Photography, 2004, etc.) investigates Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s extensive system of sexual predation, collecting testimony from many of his victims. At the age of 15, like many other pretty young Libyan and foreign women, “Soraya” (a pseudonym) was selected by members of Gadhafi’s staff at a school ceremony and kidnapped from her home to be violently raped and abused by Gadhafi. She became one of many women kept in damp, windowless basement apartments under his residence to serve as sexual slaves and accessories to his public image. Her story is presented in the first half of this book, as she told it to Cojean. The second half of the book, narrated by the author, illuminates the broader story of Gadhafi’s corrupt, sexualized regime in Libya through interviews with a wide variety of other affected Libyans. Diplomats, international celebrities, heads of state and university students were all targets, pursued with violence or lavish gifts, according to their status. Cojean emphasizes the difficulty of finding subjects who were willing to be identified due to the extreme social pressure in Libya to deny or maintain silence on sexual crimes; thus, many of her sources are anonymous. Soraya’s memory sometimes seems suspiciously detailed, but the substance of her stories is confirmed by named sources. Cojean passionately desires justice for the women and families whose lives were destroyed by Gadhafi’s regime and who continue to suffer under the victim-shaming of mainstream Libyan morality. Many of the events described are painful and shocking, and their presentation resembles court testimony: factual, grim and occasionally stilted. This is very much an exposé, but readers looking for titillation are likely to be disappointed.

JFK’S LAST HUNDRED DAYS The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President Clarke, Thurston Penguin Press (448 pp.) $29.95 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-59420-425-8

Prolific popular historian Clarke (The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days that Inspired America, 2008, etc.) argues that the charismatic president, whose achievements are generally lowrated by scholars, in his final months revealed himself as a great statesman. The book opens on August 7, 1963, when Jackie delivered a premature son whose devastating death brought the couple together. The author spends much time on JFK’s personal life, not avoiding his well-known sexual appetite and often crippling medical problems. On the political front, this period saw the approval of the first nuclear test ban treaty. Kennedy was not so fortunate with his proposals to Congress for a strong civil rights bill and a tax cut to lower the very high rates Americans had been paying since World War II. Both bills stalled: Southern legislators opposed any law advancing civil rights, and Republicans, in those far-off days, considered the tax cut fiscally irresponsible. Their passage required the political skills of JFK’s 46

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THE ART OF INTIMACY The Space Between

An important contribution to the understanding of Gadhafi’s regime and the social and political challenges that confront Libya now.

D’Erasmo, Stacey Graywolf (144 pp.) $12.00 paper | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-55597-647-7

VINNY GORGEOUS The Ugly Rise and Fall of a New York Mobster

The latest in the publisher’s The Art Of... series, compact books exploring the writer’s craft, this one addresses the variety, power and challenges of intimacy. Highly regarded novelist D’Erasmo (Creative Writing/ Columbia Univ.; The Sky Below, 2009, etc.) focuses mainly, though not exclusively, on literary fiction. “Like looking directly at the sun, looking directly at the creation of intimacy in fiction seems like a dangerous business,” she writes. It certainly can be risky in the work of D.H. Lawrence, for example, yet D’Erasmo notes that for Lawrence, “intimacy—usually, though not always, sexual intimacy between men and women—is actually not so much a way in as a way out of the prison house of self, of place, of circumstance and into a larger, even a much larger, consciousness.” She is every bit as interested in nonsexual intimacy: as expressed in the “tentative, subjunctive, speculative” narratives of William Maxwell or in the “complicity” between writer and reader in novels by Italo Calvino and Percival Everett. Those are among the better-known names mentioned here (along with Virginia Woolf and Joan Didion); most readers will not be familiar with a good deal of the fiction D’Erasmo so intimately dissects. Broad-based appeal is not her primary goal; indeed, she is dismissive of “the ubiquitousness, the cheapness even, of intimacy as a modern ideal....A particularly modern, faux-sincere, kitsch intimacy sells everything from afternoon talk shows to pictures on Instagram to Facebook’s endlessly mined personal information, so glittering to retailers.” This instant intimacy scants the complexities investigated in serious fiction, where “[i]ntimacy...can be rendered as a space between that is as close as a breath or as great as a century.” Suggestive rather than definitive, which is only to be expected with such an expansive topic.

DeStefano, Anthony M. Lyons Press (272 pp.) $18.95 paper | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-7627-8541-4

From organized crime specialist DeStefano (Mob Killer, 2011, etc.), a convoluted exploration of the career of Mafioso Vincent Basciano, who is currently serving a life sentence in a Supermax facility. The author opens not with Basciano, but with a minor player in New York’s Bonanno family who was executed for having a big mouth and a brash presence. His death is his connection to the story; it was ordered by none other than Basciano, who later admitted as much to his own boss in prison. The man was wearing a wire, so DeStefano is able to recount their conversation word-for-word, which makes for a dramatic, promising launch to his narrative. However, the author then muddies the waters by adding layer upon layer of mob history, obscuring Basciano’s trajectory. DeStefano gives so much background information about the Mafia in New York that the book becomes a jumble of names and crimes. Thrilling tales are glossed over, offering tantalizing glimpses of dramas that intrigue but take readers’ minds off the purported subject. It’s difficult to see how all these tidbits fit into Basciano’s story, if they belong there at all. Eventually, after nearly 200 pages, the narrative lands squarely back on Basciano, and the pace picks up with his arrest and multiple trials. DeStefano’s prose is clearer in this section, cohesively describing the trials, legal strategies and lawyers, revealing previously unseen aspects of Basciano’s character as he fought to avoid the death penalty. (Convicted of two separate murders in 2007 and 2011, he got off with life imprisonment in both cases.) Unfortunately, these insights come too late in the text and are not fully developed, so Basciano’s legacy in the world of organized crime remains unclear. Enthusiasts likely already know the details of Basciano’s trials, and casual readers will be better served by other, clearer accounts.

FRONT PORCH POLITICS The Forgotten Heyday of American Activism in the 1970s and 1980s

Foley, Michael Stewart Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (432 pp.) $28.00 | Sep. 17, 2013 978-0-8090-5482-4

American citizens weren’t so complacent during the 1970s and ’80s. So argues Foley (American History/Univ. of Sheffield; Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance During the Vietnam War, 2003), who seeks to correct conventional wisdom about the upheaval of the ’60s being followed by exhaustion that led |

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in turn to a surrender to cynical partisan politics. The author explains how he became attuned to “front porch politics,” in which neighbors put aside partisanship to address obvious problems at home, during his childhood, when he observed the local democracy of New Hampshire town meetings, sometimes led by his father. Foley believes such activism helped numerous rural and urban areas solve problems, sometimes with help from elected officials, sometimes in spite of those officials. Going more broad than deep, the author examines communities’ responses to environmental degradation (toxic waste in the air, land and water); nuclear energy plant sitings; racial discrimination; loss of factory jobs and unemployment generally; homelessness; the AIDS epidemic; gender discrimination; and the controversy over abortion rights. Although Foley disputes the traditional narrative about apathy during the ’70s and ’80s, he agrees that front porch politics has declined since the ’90s, replaced mostly by unfocused rage within the citizenry and a somewhat more focused distrust of government at all levels. Grass-roots organizing to address local problems must return across the nation, he suggests, or the American experience will continue to decline for all but the wealthiest citizens. An interesting take on American political life during the past 50 years, persuasively backed by anecdotal evidence and macro-level research. (8 pages of b/w illustrations)

the pros and cons of formally outlawing hate speech altogether in the U.S. and spotlight constructive Internet movements focused on stemming the tide of hate speech online. Most importantly, the authors repeatedly appeal to Internet users to get involved, become informed, and exercise the power of education to combat and defuse inflammatory communications and to promote tolerance both on- and offline. A straightforward, relevant discourse on the pernicious nature of online intimidation.

WEEDS A Farm Daughter’s Lament Funda, Evelyn I. Bison/Univ. of Nebraska (336 pp.) $21.95 paper | Sep. 1, 2013 978-0-8032-4496-2

An only daughter’s eloquent lament for her family’s farm, seasoned with dashes of feminism and naturalism. Funda (American Literature/Utah State Univ.) considers the legacy of being raised during the 1960s in a patriarchal family of Czech immigrants and in a small town in Idaho that expected girls to marry and forsake their agricultural roots. Her debut is not, however, a straightforward narrative of generational change amid hardships; rural life expands here into a canvas for literary as well as personal reflection. Funda ranges over subjects as diverse as seed hybridization, ex-urbanites, early-20th-century Idaho, storytelling, postwar exile and mutable family mythologies. The resounding theme is her search for home. “A weed, by definition, is a plant that isn’t valued where it grows, which, to my mind, always leaves open the possibility—that great dream of the transplanted, the pioneer—of finding a place where you’re allowed to flourish,” she writes in one of several clear, fitting analogies for coming into one’s own. Her understanding of identity was shaped by such writers as Willa Cather, who broadened her perspective on the role of women on farms, and by a later trip to the Czech Republic, where she realized that her agricultural heritage came from her mother and, more poignantly, that she “could have roots in one place and grow in another.” Funda’s mother is the subject of the book’s finest chapter, “Wild Oats,” which reveals a remarkable woman—former dissident, cosmopolitan European, stoic transplant to sagebrush country—and meditates with tender restraint on the aftermath of her death. At times slowed by passages brooding over the landscape, this careful, accretive work is worthy for its testing of loyalty in memory’s kiln. (19 photos; 2 maps)

VIRAL HATE Containing Its Spread on the Internet

Foxman, Abraham H.; Wolf, Christopher Palgrave Macmillan (256 pp.) $27.00 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-230-34217-0

A swift yet thorough examination of hate speech on the Internet. Anti-Defamation League director Foxman (Jews and Money: The Story of a Stereotype, 2010, etc.) and privacy expert Wolf join forces in exploring the increasingly volatile subject of Internet hate speech and cyberbullying, a “serious illness” with lethal ramifications. The authors support this statement in chapters clearly defining various types of noxious online rhetoric and the most recognizable extremist groups spreading it through Internet social portals and artistic media (i.e., music albums and written propaganda frequently aimed at schoolchildren). It’s the viral and populist nature of the Web, the authors write, that enables its users to freely disseminate damaging information on a global scale to wide-eyed readers. Yet this characteristic also hangs the responsibility on these same readers to squash the proliferation of hate speech at its source with counterspeech and by notifying authorities. In a technologically advanced world where words have become weapons, Foxman and Wolf acknowledge the many Americans who believe there is a fine line between “the right to expression and the right to human dignity.” They compare limited American laws surrounding intimidation and the inciting of violent acts with those of certain zero-tolerance European countries, which imprison offenders without question. They also offer intelligent dialogue on 48

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“A thorough disclosure on today’s airlines and the passengers who use them—best read while still on the ground.” from full upright and locked position

FULL UPRIGHT AND LOCKED POSITION Not-So-Comfortable Truths about Air Travel Today

Tracking in detail the wartime biographies of three privates in the infantry—Tennessee farm boy Alfred Whitehead, Brooklyner Steve Weiss and Britisher John Bain—the author constructs a frame for his much broader, and quite provocative, discussion of military personnel policy. Each of his subjects was court martialed and sentenced to long-term incarceration. But each had also fought bravely, and continuously, through a series of campaigns in Africa and Europe, including the Anzio landings, the D-Day invasion and its aftermath, and the assault on Nazi Germany itself. Weiss, for example, won medals for bravery and, when separated from his unit, served with paratroops and the French Resistance. Glass situates the men’s individual pathways within the context of a personnel policy that failed to fully assimilate lessons from World War I, when it was first acknowledged that there were limits to what combat soldiers could endure, both mentally and physically. Nevertheless, WWII military leaders prioritized combat experience, keeping veteran fighters in the field since raw replacement troops were not as effective; this led to increased pressure on long-serving soldiers that sometimes became intolerable. By the summer of 1944, the Allies’ combat units were suffering in excess of 10 percent casualties per month. The command level was divided between supporters of treating desertion as a discipline problem and those who advocated a medical response. Glass shows how deserters established criminal networks in liberated cities like Naples, Marseilles and Paris, diverting military supplies on a significant scale. Using memoirs, correspondence and military records, the author works outward from his three individual protagonists, through their networks of friends and comrades, to their units and larger questions about the war’s conduct. A well-written, fast-moving treatment of an issue still relevant today.

Gerchick, Mark Norton (320 pp.) $24.95 | Jun. 24, 2013 978-0-393-08110-7

An informative, revealing examination of the business of flying. Aviation consultant Gerchick, former chief counsel for the Federal Aviation Administration, pulls no punches in this highly researched exposé on the state of air travel today. He probes behind the scenes to give readers a critical and edifying take on aviation, answering a variety of questions: e.g., Why was free food eliminated from flights? Why were baggage fees adopted? What do pilots really do behind that locked cockpit door when the plane is on autopilot? Gerchick distinguishes what’s not worth worrying about when flying—that the airplane will break or turbulence will cause it to crash, that safety regulations are lax—from what is: The air traffic controller or pilot could indeed be asleep, it’s true that small commuter planes are not as safe as large commercial flights, and birds in the flight path are a perennial problem. He addresses many other issues, as well, explaining the endless fare wars among airlines and the reduction in comfort levels for economy-class passengers, assessing whether the perks of flying first or business class are worth the steep sticker prices. An illuminating and occasionally disgusting chapter on what can make an airline passenger sick will have many readers reaching for the hand sanitizer. Gerchick also discusses frequent flyer miles, why the FAA is so slow to make changes in regulations, and what that confirmation code tells the pilot and flight attendants about who you are. It affects “the way you’re treated and the service you get,” he explains, “advertising to everyone where you stand in the airline’s pecking order.” Frequent fliers and once-a-year vacationers alike will benefit from the insights Gerchick provides on an industry that only gets more congested and expensive as the years progress. A thorough disclosure on today’s airlines and the passengers who use them—best read while still on the ground.

THE BOOK OF IMMORTALITY The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever Gollner, Adam Leith Scribner (400 pp.) $27.00 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-1-4391-0942-7

Former Vice editor Gollner (The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession, 2008) may have felt he would need to achieve immortality in order to write this comprehensive, busy book, which bulges with the results of his reading, interviewing and traveling. By the time his many journeys ended (he notes that he took quite a few he did not write about), the author had settled on the ideas that living forever is/will be impossible and that science is just another name for a belief system. After his introductory comments (that feature the puissance of a particular dream), he examines formal belief systems about immortality— conventional religions and otherwise. He notes the importance of water in many belief systems—“a symbol of all we don’t know.” The most intriguing sections concern Gollner’s connections

THE DESERTERS A Hidden History of World War II Glass, Charles Penguin Press (400 pp.) $27.95 | Jun. 17, 2013 978-1-59420-428-9

Glass (Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under the Nazi Occupation, 2011, etc.) takes on the nearly taboo subject of Allied soldiers who deserted or were said to have displayed cowardice during World War II. |

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“A compulsively readable account of a murderer who continues to fascinate.” from manson

MANSON The Life and Times of Charles Manson

with illusionist David Copperfield, who has claimed to have found a fountain of youth in the Bahamas. The author visited Copperfield’s islands, and much enjoyed the amenities, but was unable to convince the magician to show him the site—ongoing research, said Copperfield. Throughout these sections, the author also summarizes the role of youth-producing waters in mythology and legend. He then turns to scientific research and discovery in human aging and notes that cells simply cannot live forever, so science holds out no realistic ultimate hope for lives much extended. He also examines some Southern California daffy thinking and visits one of the storage sites for frozen corpses. (Yes, the separate head and torso of Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams are waiting for later thawing.) Gollner ends with Buddhism and some words about the “life force.” An entertaining, well-researched account of the quest that brims with our fond hopes, foolishness and even desperation.

Guinn, Jeff Simon & Schuster (512 pp.) $27.50 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-4516-4516-3

Guinn (The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral— and How It Changed the American West, 2011, etc.) paints a striking, full-length portrait of one of American history’s most notorious sociopaths. By 1967, 32-year-old Charles Manson had spent more than half his life in reform schools, jails and prison. Released onto the streets of San Francisco during the Summer of Love, armed with a practiced street rap—a mishmash of Bible verses, Dale Carnegie quotations, Scientology precepts and rock-’n’-roll lyrics—a philosophy of free love and even freer drugs and crude psychological insights gleaned from fellow pimps and con men, the petty hustler attracted a small following among the city’s naïve, confused youth. Moving his “Family” to Los Angeles in pursuit of a music career, Manson tightened his hold on his followers and led them in increasingly bizarre escapades that culminated in several murders, most infamously the Tate-LaBianca killings, designed to kick off “Helter Skelter,” a race war that would end with the Family ruling the world. Guinn takes readers on a head-spinning ride through Manson’s deeply disturbed childhood, his criminal career and his brief tenure as satanic guru to the damaged disciples, mostly women, he held in thrall. Against the backdrop of the roiling ’60s, the author offers inside information on life within the cult, miniportraits of its various members, and stories about the dope dealers, rock musicians, motorcycle gang members, Hollywood glitterati, record-industry honchos and hangers-on who brushed up against the Family. He concludes by effortlessly unpacking the murders, the manhunt and the trial that riveted the nation. Spared the gas chamber by California’s abolition of the death penalty, Manson remains incarcerated. A handful of deluded supporters maintain a Facebook page devoted to proving his innocence and to spreading his environmental rants. A compulsively readable account of a murderer who continues to fascinate. (16-page b/w insert)

THE EXAMINED LIFE How We Lose and Find Ourselves

Grosz, Stephen Norton (240 pp.) $24.95 | May 28, 2013 978-0-393-07954-8

A British psychoanalyst delves into his patients’ stories, opening doors to larger insights. Today’s medical culture emphasizes measurability, accountability and evidence-based practice, a logical approach that favors treatments “proven” effective. The results of psychoanalysis and counseling, however, aren’t always so quantifiable. Understanding of our motivations, misfires and fears may come in fits and starts, and the answers may come as questions, but the insights gained can shift the course of a life. Grosz’s book makes a compelling case for the continued value of this kind of therapy. Each chapter takes the form of a story or vignette about a particular individual or therapeutic issue. A patient referred for suicidal ideation is distant in treatment, and then, one day, his fiancee sends a letter to Grosz stating that he took his own life—but months later, Grosz gets a phone call from the man. Another patient’s personal and professional lives suffer since he’s intensely boring—but if he can identify when he’s boring someone, why is he unwilling to change? Some of the chapters sketch out only general details about a case, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions about the meanings Grosz is trying to convey. Others take a central question, such as, “Why are we so committed to praising our children?” and turn it over and around like a Rubik’s Cube. Grosz has an engaging prose style, neither riddled with professional jargon nor dumbed down to connect with a wider audience. A book that challenges readers’ thinking while also assuming their willingness to put some effort into drawing their own conclusions from the material.

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THE TRAGEDY OF THE TEMPLARS The Rise and Fall of the Crusader States Haag, Michael Harper/HarperCollins (448 pp.) $16.99 paper | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-06-205975-8

A long, complicated history of the Knights Templars in the Middle East. The Middle East has a long history of hatred, war and |


massacres in the name of religion. Haag (The Templars: The History and the Myth, 2009, etc.) lays out 1,000 years of Middle Eastern history before he gets around to the Templars. In the first quarter of the book, the author explores the history of the Abbasid, Umayyad, Arab, Muslim and Turkish wars—many names and places will be unfamiliar to the majority of Western readers. Haag’s scholarship on the subject is obvious, but the main attraction is supposed to be the Knights Templar, a military order formed by French knights in 1120 and blessed by the pope to protect pilgrims from marauders on their trek to Jerusalem. They were primarily monks who lived the monastic life, but they were also well-organized, professional soldiers who did their best to save the mostly inept crusaders. Blessed with large donations, grants of land, and tithes from the church and Europe’s most powerful nobles, the Templars became the wealthiest and most potent financial military organization in the medieval world. With the Knights Hospitaller, who cared for the sick and needy, they held most of the lands and castles in Outremer, the entire eastern edge of the Mediterranean. The Templars were France’s treasurers and Europe’s bankers, as well as large landowners, traders and sailors. Saladin did great damage, as did the Turks, but it was the Mamluks, ferocious slave soldiers originally from the Russian steppes, who destroyed the crusader states and left the Templars to the greed of France’s King Philip IV. A solid picture of the Templars but a difficult read, with enemies coming from all directions. Be prepared to read it twice and take notes.

a photo album: She continually pauses to offer snapshots of her subject’s life, career and enormous sexual appetite. Moreover, she grasps time by the throat, bends it to her purposes, often advancing thematically rather than chronologically. By the end, however, we have learned about her subject’s background, his writing career (some have called him the greatest Italian writer since Dante), his war exploits (he was a fearless pilot in World War I, earning citations for bravery), his choreography with the fascists (he met several times with Mussolini), his profligacy (in every sense) and his astonishing literary productivity. Due to the volume’s design, some will not find it useful as a standard reference book (we must search for dates), but most readers will delight in touring the deep, tangled wood of a most astonishing life with a most engaging and learned guide. (53 illustrations; 1 map)

ROCKS OFF 50 Tracks that Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones

Janovitz, Bill St. Martin’s (416 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-250-02631-6

Expanding from his previous book about a single key album (Exile on Main Street, 2005), Buffalo Tom frontman Janovitz covers the Rolling Stones’ entire

recording career. With all the hoopla surrounding the band’s 50th anniversary and the tour celebrating that milestone, a book about 50 significant Stones recordings could have practically written itself. But it wouldn’t have written itself nearly as well as Janovitz has; close listening and an ear for detail distinguish his analyses. By concentrating on the recordings—and not even albums as a whole, but specific tracks and singles—the author shifts the focus away from the band’s live performances and offstage notoriety, taking the spotlight off Mick Jagger to explore the crucial yet underacknowledged contributions of bassist Bill Wyman. Janovitz also demonstrates just how important Brian Jones was in the development of the band’s music and persona, while underscoring the subsequent virtuosity of Mick Taylor. As a musician, he highlights elements within the arrangements that might escape even a passionate fan. Yet Janovitz too is “an unabashed fan,” and his enthusiasm serves him well—though to describe “Jumping Jack Flash” at this late date as “one of their greatest songs...commanding and ballsy” would seem to belabor the obvious. The author experienced the music of the Stones’ glory days after the fact; when he gets to “Angie,” he notes that it was “the first Rolling Stones single I remember hearing contemporaneously,” which means that he can only imagine the immediacy and context of hearing the band’s musical progression as it unfolded. Nonetheless, his insights are shrewd and should inspire listeners to return to the recordings with fresh ears, recognizing that the Stones are more than Mick and Keith. Even fanatics will learn something here. (20 b/w photos)

GABRIELE D’ANNUNZIO Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War

Hughes-Hallett, Lucy Knopf (608 pp.) $35.00 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-0-307-26393-3

A dexterous delineation of the celebrated Italian writer Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863–1938), who mastered poetry, drama, fiction, nonfiction, women and war but stumbled elsewhere. A journalist, critic, cultural historian and biographer, Hughes-Hallett (Heroes: A History of Hero Worship, 2004, etc.) crafts an appealing combination of genres, blending elements of biography, fiction, and cultural, social and military history to create about as complete an image as possible of this most protean personality. The more we read of this man’s accomplishments, failures, ambitions, weaknesses and obsessions, the more remarkable it is that he can be imprisoned in print. But the author manages to simultaneously incarcerate and liberate him in her pages. She begins with a 1919 military mutiny led by D’Annunzio (she returns to these events 400 pages later for a more thorough treatment): He and his followers took over and occupied the city of Fiume (now the Croatian seaport Rijeka). It didn’t last. At times, the author’s narrative technique resembles |

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“A self-described ‘memoir autodidact’ and distinguished author’s refreshingly idiosyncratic guide to the art of creative nonfiction.” from handling the truth

CARNIVORE A Memoir by One of the Deadliest American Soldiers of All Time

Science writer Johnson (The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, 2008, etc.) has steeped himself in cancer lore, attended conferences and interviewed experts to conclude that the more we learn about the disease, the more complex it gets. Yes, there have been declines in incidence, but new cases will offset those declines simply because people are living longer; cancers essentially reflect the accumulation of DNA hits to a cell as it divides and divides again over time. Johnson’s involvement took off with the discovery of a rare uterine cancer in his wife, Nancy, which, when diagnosed, had metastasized to her groin. The detailed chapters on her surgery and multiple drug and radiation therapies enable Johnson to explain why such triple-prong treatment is standard today and what new drugs are in the pipeline. Nancy’s story may have also inspired his reporting on risk factors and cancer prevention. Here, the facts may shock: Cigarette smoking, ionizing radiation and certain viruses are serious cancer risks, but the contributions of other known carcinogens, environmental pollutants and conjectured microwave transmissions via cellphones are minor or unproven. Furthermore, there is no evidence that eating 5-per-day servings of fruits and vegetables will prevent cancer. Instead, researchers see cancer as an evolutionary process in which increasingly aberrant cell lines may compete or cooperate, stimulate the development of a blood supply and acquire the ability to metastasize. Factors that may encourage this behavior include hormones like estrogen, which stimulates cell division, and changes in metabolism due to obesity; insulin resistance may also play a role. But for the majority of cancers, as was the case with the head and neck cancer that ended the life of Johnson’s younger brother, the cause is unknown, a random event. A thorough and nuanced presentation of the state of the science of cancer research, refreshing in its honest appraisal that the war is far from over.

Johnson, Dillard; Tarr, James Morrow/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $27.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-06-228841-7

Combat tales from a tank commander–turned-sniper during the Iraq War. During Sgt. 1st Class Dillard “Crazy Jay” Johnson’s distinguished, 21-year Army career—four Purple Hearts and numerous medals for valor, including the Silver Star—he did a tour in Bosnia and Iraq, where he saw only a bit of action in Desert Storm. Despite having a child at home afflicted with cerebral palsy, he volunteered to return to Iraq in 2003. Commanding a Bradley Fighting Vehicle christened “Carnivore,” Johnson led the invasion, taking part in the war’s first engagement, cutting a large and bloody swath through the country. After contracting radiation cancer from the depleted uranium rounds fired by his tank and after treatment at Walter Reed (where he was given a 1 in 4 chance to live), he returned to Iraq yet again. This time, with the ground war over, Johnson’s mission focused on the insurgency and killing the guerrillas placing the deadly IEDs. He was credited with 121 confirmed kills with his sniper rifle. With the aid of Tarr, Johnson fills in a complete picture of combat: the sleeplessness, the sandstorms, the constant fear of attack; the chaos that leads to killing cows and sheep accidentally and the absurd necessity of killing a lion on purpose; the difficulty of extracting a hunting knife from the ribs of a stabbed insurgent; the mundane lesson learned from packing soap too close to the coffee; the delicate protocol between a sniper and his spotter; the heartbreak at a fellow soldier’s death; the terror induced by incoming fire and the destruction inflicted by outgoing. Military buffs will appreciate the author’s frequent appraisals and comparisons of various tanks, rifles, knives and other accouterments of battle. Most readers will be impressed with Johnson’s undoubted courage and sacrifice, even as they are put off by his memoir’s tone, which too often uncomfortably erases the line between bluffness and boorishness, pride and braggadocio. An aggressive, unapologetic account of one man’s brutal war.

HANDLING THE TRUTH On the Writing of Memoir

Kephart, Beth Gotham Books (224 pp.) $16.00 paper | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-592-40815-3

A self-described “memoir autodidact” and distinguished author’s refreshingly idiosyncratic guide to the art of creative nonfiction. National Book Award finalist Kephart (Small Damages, 2012, etc.) began her literary career writing “from the margins.” This book, which grew out of creative nonfiction classes she taught at the University of Pennsylvania, is not only about “the making of memoir and its consequences,” but also “its privileges and pleasures.” Though firmly rooted in personal experience, memoir is not an exercise in narcissism. As Kephart shows through examples from writers such as Michael Ondaatje and Annie Dillard, it is a process by which “memoirists open themselves up to self-discovery and…make themselves vulnerable.” Those

THE CANCER CHRONICLES Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery

Johnson, George Knopf (304 pp.) $27.95 | Aug. 30, 2013 978-0-307-59514-0

Not quite “abandon all hope,” but there’s not much to cheer about in this wide-angled survey of where we are in the fight against cancer. 52

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interested in writing creative nonfiction must actively read it so that they can begin to know not only what moves them, but what goals to set for themselves in their own work. In setting out to actually write a memoir, Kephart advises writers to start small, using notes on and photographs of everyday life to start, while mining sensory details, situations and landscapes for meaning and metaphor. Awareness of what is at stake, not just for themselves and those whom they portray, but also for their readers, is also crucial. For Kephart, memoir is an act that brings a single person closer to the “us” of collective human experience. In the process of self-discovery—and like the Penn students from whose work she quotes liberally throughout—memoirists must also learn to ask the right questions about the past and about life itself. Perhaps most importantly of all, though, they must remember the things they love. Only then will they find their own authentic way of writing “toward the truth.” Generous, intelligent and genuinely insightful.

be ashamed of who you are. I’m a nerd who plays football,” he cheerfully advises his kids. The advice is empowering and displays the author’s overarching belief in empathy and reason. An intriguing assortment of work from an athlete with a lot on his mind.

AMERICAN GUN A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms Kyle, Chris with Doyle, William Morrow/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $29.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-06-224271-6

A raucous and duly violent tour of American history through the sights of 10 famous weapons, from the Kentucky long rifle to the M-16. There’s a touch of sadness to the second book by Kyle (American Sniper, 2012), given that Kyle—who co-authored this work with William Doyle—both became famous for his wartime sniper service and was himself gunned down by a PTSD-afflicted veteran he was trying to aid. The tragedy is compounded by the sheer likability of Kyle’s ebullient, if hyperconservative, persona on the page. From his rural Texas upbringing and his experiences in war, Kyle came to believe that “[m]ore than any other nation in history, the United States has been shaped by the gun.” He persuasively suggests that dramatic changes in firearms technology can be viewed as inextricable from the American Revolution, the closing of the Western frontier and, later, to American dominance on the world stage. Thus, he begins each chapter with a representational combat anecdote from the industrial and military narratives leading to each firearm’s development, noting how often bureaucracy stood in the way of technologies that aided soldiers. Kyle is skilled at explaining complex combat scenarios, and he addresses the many strange ironies of American firearms’ history with dry humor—e.g., regarding the “Tommy gun,” which developed unsavory criminal connotations before its vital role in World War II: “[Inventor] Thompson personally didn’t like the association, but few gangsters took the time to ask his opinion.” Kyle’s wry, relaxed tone is complemented by a foreword and afterword by his widow, who recalls a man who “had personality and character to spare.” Will appeal to military buffs, conservative readers and, of course, firearms enthusiasts.

BEAUTIFULLY UNIQUE SPARKLEPONIES On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities Kluwe, Chris Little, Brown (272 pp.) $27.00 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-316-23677-5

NFL punter Kluwe riffs on everything from social justice to dinosaur obsessions in a lively collection of stories, essays, letters and poems. Those who’ve never watched Kluwe attempt to boot his team out of trouble on fourth and long are still probably familiar with his much-talked-about support of same-sex marriage. Marriage equality, however, is just a thin slice of what the avid video gamer, rock-’n’-roll bassist and Kurt Vonnegut devotee has percolating inside his contemplative mind. Much of it, like when he imagines a “sportsball” showdown between the “Lustful Cockmonsters” and the “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies,” has comedic value. Kluwe can’t help but dispatch a few politicians and other assorted close-minded pontificators as “douchebags,” but he spends a lot more time pondering other things, like paradoxical time traveling and mankind’s penchant for selfannihilation. In mixing the profane with the prophetic while using a variety of literary devices, the author succeeds at being both entertaining and enlightening. Haters can forget trying to paint Kluwe as some kind of loudmouth who doesn’t spend enough time thinking about his day job. At least two entries— one painstakingly detailing the intricate process of successfully punting a football downfield while a phalanx of world-class juggernauts hurl their cinder-block bodies at him and another creatively cataloging the variety of painful injuries he has sustained over his long football career—clearly attest to his dedication to gridiron greatness. Football concerns Kluwe, but so do a lot of other things—including being a good parent. “Never |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Andrew Hudgins

The poet and funny guy doesn’t hide behind his own jokes in his daring memoir By Megan Labrise “What’s black and white and red all over?” was his first, told uncharacteristically by his father, an officer in the U.S. Air Force who moved the family to North Carolina and California before settling in Alabama. Hudgins and his brothers were raised strict Southern Baptist. “My family was a pretty unhumorous place. My parents had a secret dead daughter that they didn’t tell us about, and they were grieving about this,” Hudgins acknowledges. “I just knew that they were angry. And so when I found that there were other places where people laughed, and ways that I could laugh myself, I was in love,” he says. He quickly moved on to elephant jokes and knock-knocks, through dead babies and Helen Keller, religious, sexual and racist humor. Grossout jokes (the kind that yield yucks along with yuk-yuks) are among his favorites. Not all jokes are created equal, surely, and some serve to mark history rather than provoke guffaws. “There are clearly people who are going to be put on edge by some jokes, and there are some of them that I found distasteful myself to write in the book—some of the horrifying sexual things that I heard when I was a kid and also thinking my way through the racist jokes, which I imagine are going to be the ones that are going to bother people the most,” says Hudgins. (A chapter entitled “Everybody Out of the Pool,” in particular, reconciles his love and affection for his grandmother with the fact of her deep-seated racism.) “I included [racist jokes] deliberately. I don’t think we can pretend that these things didn’t exist and that people didn’t tell them and laugh at them.” On occasion, Hudgins is willing to push the envelope— like that time his raunchy penguin joke bombed with Condoleezza Rice. “Isn’t it fun to do? You feel like an asshole, but the temptation is really strong. You know it’s

Photo Courtesy Jo McCulty

Andrew Hudgins is a happily married man— so don’t get any ideas—but say you two were to date. You’re wondering if the relationship has any longterm potential. He can judge by one criterion: “If you have to explain that you are still a good person though you’ve told a terrible joke, this isn’t going to work,” Hudgins says. “This isn’t going to have legs.” Hudgins is a man who tells terrible jokes. He also tells fabulous side-splitting jokes. Sometimes they’re the same joke. Hudgins is known as an award-winning poet, but he identifies as a joker. “Though I’ve been a serious poet, a student of poetry, and a teacher of poetry for forty years, I can’t recite from memory ten consecutive lines of William Butler Yeats, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, or even Robert Frost, about whom I’m writing a book. But I can tell you the knock-knock jokes I heard when I was 10, all of them,” Hudgins writes in The Joker: A Memoir. 54

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that real impulse, the thing that you know that you’re not supposed to do, you’re gonna do. The problem, of course, is when you do it when you’re the only person who thinks it’s funny, and then you’re kind of left out there,” he says. Put that way, you realize it must take a similar type of chutzpah to give a poetry reading. Surely poetry and jokes have more in common than meets the ear. They’re both compressed masses of words—though a joke typically hangs on a few key words, and a poem must have precision throughout, says Hudgins. Length can be problematic for both joker and poet; it’s harder to find a reader or listener to follow your shaggy-dog story or epic with enthusiasm. (It’s harder for a poet to write a full-length memoir, too: “If you’re a poet, you can mostly look at the page and you see everything in the poem on that page, so you know what’s there. Over 350 pages…I found it easy to kind of lose track of it,” he says.) And the best examples of both illuminate deep incongruities of the human condition. “Laughter was the one way I could approach the deep, appalled fears that haunted me—a hopeless sense of helplessness, a lifelong dread of death, and—couldn’t she see it?—an apprehensive and growing commitment to love,” writes Hudgins about a romantic flame that was thereafter extinguished, incompatible senses of humor serving as an irreconcilable difference. By narrative’s end, we see his humor entwined with that of his wife and fellow writer, Erin McGraw. Among their inside jokes, courtesy of PBS’s The Furniture Guys: “You two just crack each other up, doncha?” They do, and Hudgins invites The Joker’s readers to join in. “I hope it’s funny,” he says. It is.

Jokes Andrew Hudgins Has Told (For Better or Worse) Q: Where did George Washington keep his armies? A: In his sleevies! Q: Why did Menachem Begin really invade Lebanon? A: He wanted to impress Jodie Foster. Jesus is on the cross. Jesus looks out over the crowd and says, “Peter, come to me.” Peter hears Jesus calling him, so he starts walking through the crowd toward the cross, but the Roman soldiers see him and drive him back with whips. Jesus calls out again, “Peter, come to me. I want you.” Again Peter starts toward the cross, and again the Roman soldiers whip him and beat him and punch him until he gives up. For the third time, Jesus calls out “Peter, come to me. I want you.” On his third attempt, determined to make it to the foot of the cross, Peter launches himself into the crowd. The Romans lash him bloody with their whips. They club him to the ground and kick him. But Peter claws his way to the base of the cross and calls up, “I’m here, Lord.” Jesus says, “Peter, I can see your house from up here.” Q: What’s gray and dangerous? A: An elephant with a machine gun.

Megan Labrise is a freelance writer and columnist based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @mlabrise.

Q: Why’d the elephant paint his toenails red? A: So he could hide in a cherry tree.

The Joker: A Memoir Hudgins, Andrew Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $25.00 Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-4767-1271-0

­—M.L.

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“Outstanding in every respect.” from a wild justice

THE TRUTH IN SMALL DOSES Why We’re Losing the War on Cancer—and How to Win It

A WILD JUSTICE The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America

Leaf, Clifton Simon & Schuster (480 pp.) $27.00 | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-4767-3998-4

Mandery, Evan J. Norton (496 pp.) $29.95 | Aug. 19, 2013 978-0-393-23958-4

We cannot rely on advances in molecular biology to beat the scourge of cancer. So argues journalist Leaf, who got interested in the subject via the impressive success story of the drug Gleevec, which effectively delivers targeted cancer therapy to certain leukemia patients. This was a special circumstance, the author learned after meeting the CEO of Novartis, the company that developed the drug, in 2002; Gleevec represented a radical therapeutic advance, but most cancers are more complex than leukemia. Even though his professional expertise was in finance and business journalism rather than science (he has been executive editor of Fortune and other magazines), Leaf was fascinated by the implications of this story; since then, he has conducted interviews with more than 1,000 people, including oncologists, geneticists, doctors and patients. Over time, he writes, he came to understand that there was no quick fix for cancer. While advances in oncology, especially early diagnosis, have reduced the risk of dying from cancer, the incidence of cancer is increasing as the population ages, imposing a growing social burden. More Americans will die from cancer over the next 15 months than the total of combat fatalities since 1775, writes Leaf, attributing that daunting statistic to a dysfunctional “cancer culture.” He dates the problem to the National Cancer Act, passed in response to President Richard Nixon’s call for a war on cancer. Funding was increased, but rather than establish an institution modeled on NASA, dedicated solely to eradicating cancer, Congress assigned the responsibility to the National Institutes of Health, with a mandate to support university research through competitive public/private partnerships. This system fosters bureaucratic inertia and aversion to risk. While hopeful that future scientific advances will occur, Leaf believes that the system must be revamped now, arguing that free exchange of information and a major upgrade in preventative medicine are the keys to improvement. An important evaluative study meriting serious public discussion.

When the Supreme Court declined to accept the appeal of a 1963 rape case, Justice Arthur Goldberg published an unusual dissent questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty. From this small beginning, Mandery (John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Q: A Novel, 2011, etc.) skillfully traces the building momentum within the country and the court to question the legality of a punishment the Founding Fathers took for granted. Indeed, by 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, the court struck down death penalty statutes so similar to those in 40 other states that executions nationwide came to a halt. Disagreement among Furman’s 5-4 majority—was the death penalty “cruel and unusual” punishment under the Eighth Amendment, or was its arbitrary application a violation under the 14th?—and a forceful dissent hinted at a blueprint for states to rewrite their capital-sentencing schemes. By 1976, 35 had done so. In Gregg v. Georgia and its companion cases, the court approved the revised statutes, opening the door to 1,300 statesponsored executions since. Relying on interviews with law clerks and attorneys, information from economists, criminologists and social scientists, arguments from political and legal scholars, a thorough knowledge of all applicable cases and sure-handed storytelling, Mandery focuses on the strategies of the Legal Defense Fund, the remarkable attorneys who led the charge for abolition, to cover virtually every dimension of the capital punishment debate. The author is especially strong on the individual backgrounds, personalities and judicial philosophies of the justices, the shifting alliances among them and the frustrating contingencies upon which momentous decisions sometimes turn. Even those weary of this topic will be riveted by his insider information about towering figures, lawyers and judges. Outstanding in every respect. (8 pages of photos)

DREADFUL The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns Margolick, David Other Press (320 pp.) $30.00 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-59051-571-6

A revealing biography of the brilliant, arrogant author of The Gallery (1947), a celebrated World War II novel. 56

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John Horne Burns (1916–1953) grew up in a wealthy New England family and attended Harvard, where he began a lifetime of drinking that ended in lonely days as a regular at a hotel bar in Italy, where he died an embittered drunk at age 36. He attended and taught at Loomis, a prep school outside Hartford, Conn. As a student there many years later, Vanity Fair contributor Margolick (Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock, 2011, etc.) became fascinated by the forgotten author whose Lucifer with a Book (1949), a vicious novel about Loomis, was forbidden reading at the school. Years later, Margolick encountered The Gallery, about U.S. soldiers in occupied Naples in 1944–1945, “perhaps America’s first great gay novel.” Even Margolick’s warning that Burns was a difficult man to like does not fully prepare readers for this story of an obnoxious, hypercritical, mean-spirited loner. For all his negativity, however, Burns was able to write his life-embracing The Gallery, a compassionate view of characters passing through a vast arcade, including gays in uniform. Always arrogant, Burns had nonetheless become more open-minded and decent as a result of his wartime experiences that inform the novel. Sensitive, well-researched and drawing nicely on the novelist’s vivid letters, the book covers Burns’ abnormally close relationship with his heiress mother; his years as a student and, later, disgruntled teacher at Loomis; his wartime postings in North Africa and his beloved Italy; and his career as an author, from the ecstatic acclaim for his war novel, to the poor reviews of later works, to his rivalry with Gore Vidal, who called Burns “a gifted man who wrote a book far in excess of his gift.” Not a fun read, but a wonderfully crafted portrait of a tormented homosexual writer.

emergence of new virus-borne diseases arising especially from Asia. The comeback of Dengue fever in the Brownsville/Matamoros area of Texas and the persistence of diseases like fungus-borne Arizona Valley Fever and the rodent-transmitted hantavirus also indicate regression. In Asia, supplies of clean drinking water, sewer and sanitation services, trash removal and electricity supplies are inadequate or not available, situations similar to that in many of the colonias in the border areas of Texas. The modern speed of worldwide transmission compounds the problem. Marsa also examines earlier models of New Deal civil engineering programs in the West and Southwest to control and supply water and power and the Dutch record in successfully organizing the construction of facilities to resist encroachment from the oceans. These complement her concern with the availability of medical and health infrastructures. Another well-written and persuasive wake-up call for serious action to be taken against the consequences of global warming.

FUTURE BRIGHT A Transforming Vision of Human Intelligence Martinez, Michael E. Oxford Univ. (320 pp.) $34.95 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-0-19-978184-3

To the question, “Can intelligence be raised?” a resounding “Yes!” Martinez (1956–2012) spent some 30 years researching intelligence, most recently in the education department at the University of California, Irvine. Before offering his ideas about how intelligence can be modified, he presents some necessary background material: the development of IQ tests, researchers’ understanding of the structure of intelligence and the current state of knowledge about external factors that can affect it, including nutrition, breast-feeding, toxins, home environment and family size. After touching on neuroscientists’ and cognitive scientists’ work on the brain and mind, Martinez looks further into the question of where intelligence comes from. He finds the answer in the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, who asserted that social environment matters supremely. The major components of intelligence, in Martinez’s view, are fluid intelligence (the ability to deal with novel situations) and crystallized intelligence (the ability to master large bodies of information). These two, combined with effective character, are the keys to success in life. The author explores the ways in which these three factors interact synergistically to enhance intelligence and human effectiveness, then he turns to the question of how they can be improved. Martinez directs his strategies for modifying intelligence at individuals, parents, teachers, institutional leaders and world leaders. He offers some general techniques, but it would be a mistake to think of this exploration of intelligence as a handbook; its lessons are more fundamental. Concerned about the future of life on this planet, Martinez sends the message that solving the severe

FEVERED Why a Hotter Planet Will Hurt Our Health—and How We Can Save Ourselves

Marsa, Linda Rodale (256 pp.) $25.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-60529-201-4

Discover contributing editor Marsa (Prescription for Profits: How the Pharmaceutical Industry Bankrolled the Unholy Alliance Between Science and Business, 1997) calls for “swift and decisive action” under American leadership to launch a worldwide “medical Marshall Plan.” The author pulls together evidence to support her proposal to create a medical and public health infrastructure adequate to blunt the impact of global warming. She has consulted in-depth with experts in the areas of epidemiology, public health and disease control from the Centers for Disease Control, the British Medical Association publication The Lancet, and the Emerging Infectious Disease Program organized by Duke University and the National University of Singapore, among others. Marsa pays special attention to the re-emergence of diseases thought to have been eradicated or controlled within the U.S. and the |

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“Purposeful, insightful and tremendously useful, complete with an excellent bibliographic essay.” from a concise history of the arabs

SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW BASEBALL? A Fan’s Guide to the Official Rules

challenges that face us requires “a tremendous reserve of human intelligence, allied with wisdom and goodwill.” Readers willing to wade through the textbook-style prose will be convinced of this subject’s importance. (2 b/w halftones; 8 b/w illustrations)

Meltzer, Peter E. Norton (384 pp.) $16.95 paper | Jun. 10, 2013 978-0-393-34438-7

A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE ARABS

A lively, enlightening trip through the baseball rule book. The baseball rule book is a complicated tome. Even professional umpires often struggle with its minutia, and it seems that on a weekly basis, a controversy over one of the sport’s more arcane rules emerges in the context of a major league baseball game. Meltzer (The Thinker’s Thesaurus: Sophisticated Alternatives to Common Words, 2005, etc.) takes readers on an almost page-by-page journey through the Official Rules of Baseball in a book that will have as its most likely audience serious fans of the national pastime. The author uses a quiz-style format, asking questions about rules based on reallife examples from games and then providing answers and further examples. Oftentimes, the answers create more questions, which Meltzer ably addresses. In effect, he shows that the rules of baseball represent a living, human document. The author addresses not only the rules on the field, which are the domain of the umpires, but also those that govern the scoring of the game. The official scorer in any given contest is responsible for determining the official record of the game; that person’s job is as challenging as that of the umpires. Meltzer writes clearly and chooses his examples well. Most readers will dip into the book occasionally rather than reading it straight through, and many fans will want to keep their dog-eared copy nearby as they watch games. Baseball fans care deeply about tradition, records and history. This book will help them grasp why the rules are so central to the game’s past, present and future. (21 illustrations)

McHugo, John New Press (304 pp.) $26.95 | Sep. 3, 2013 978-1-59558-946-0 978-1-59558-950-7 e-book

A sympathetic, methodical distillation of Arab history that tries to get at the roots of the current East-West dysfunction. British Arabist, lawyer and researcher McHugo refutes Bernard Lewis’ claim of a “clash of civilizations,” bemoaning the notion as emerging from prejudice and misunderstanding of the original meanings of the terms jihad and crusade. As Islam gained followers, creating a large empire, the intermingling of Muslim, Latin and Greek cultures was rich and diverse, not antithetical, he writes; in centers of learning like Baghdad and Cordoba, Arabic scholars worked alongside Christians and Jews to translate and interpret Aristotle and others. McHugo traces several factors that spelled the end of this golden age and led to dire future consequences: Northern Spain and Sicily were reconquered by Christian kingdoms; Turkish tribes gathered strength and numbers as they moved down from the steppes of Central Asia, followed by the Mongol hordes; sites held holy by both Latin Christendom and Islam were looted and destroyed. These traumatic events provoked defensiveness and a turning inward in the Muslims of Greater Syria, where mutually respectful convivencia was supplanted by a restrictive interpretation of Sharia, “the rigid and literalist streak in Islam with which we are so [currently] familiar.” Hence, the West took off, with Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt in 1789 as the beginning of a souring procession of deceptions of and humiliations for the Arabic people. McHugo moves briskly, delving into the political evolution of a remarkable number of Arab states, the growth of nationalism, debates between secularists and Islamists, the ideas of important reformers, the embittering results of the SixDay War and, especially, the coming of the “age of autocrats,” which hardened Western hearts against the Arabs and goaded the rise of Islamism. He closes, however, with expressions of enormous hope for tolerance and reconciliation. The author includes maps and a glossary of Arabic terms. Purposeful, insightful and tremendously useful, complete with an excellent bibliographic essay.

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ROOM 1219 The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and the Scandal that Changed Hollywood Merritt, Greg Chicago Review (440 pp.) $29.95 | Sep. 1, 2013 978-1-61374-792-6

What really happened between Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Virginia Rappe in that San Francisco hotel room on September 5, 1921? A few days after their encounter, Rappe, a movie bit player, died, and enormously successful film comedian Arbuckle was arrested for murder. Later charged with manslaughter, he |


survived two hung juries (one favored acquittal, the other conviction) before a third acquitted him. Merritt (Celluloid Mavericks: A History of American Independent Film, 2000, etc.) displays great compassion for all involved, especially the two principals, both of whom have suffered at the hands of both formal and informal biographers. (Among other things, he traces, and dismisses, the egregious, pervasive story about rape-by-bottle.) Merritt begins with the Labor Day weekend when Arbuckle drove his lavish Pierce-Arrow to San Francisco for a hotel party. Although Prohibition was the law of the land, liquor flowed freely; Arbuckle had a huge stash back in his mansion. The author intercuts the stories of the weekend with the biographies of Arbuckle and Rappe, alternating chapters until he arrives at the trials. He provides necessary cinema history, including the history of film censorship, and ends with his own evaluation of the evidence and his conclusions about what probably occurred—though only Arbuckle and Rappe were present, so certainty is elusive. Merritt charts the sad arc of Arbuckle’s career after his acquittal, emphasizing the loyalty of friends like Buster Keaton, and discusses his subsequent work behind the camera and on the vaudeville stage, where audiences often received him warmly. The author notes that the Arbuckle case was one of the earliest in America’s culture wars. Arbuckle emerges as a sympathetic figure, but many others, including movie moguls, don’t fare as well. The definitive account of one of Hollywood’s most notorious scandals. (15 b/w photos)

was filled with “floor-to-ceiling piles of boxes and bags of paper and knickknacks, things that had been purchased and put down and long forgotten.” Despite all the filth, Miller knew her parents were “doting, fallible people that gave me everything they had, and a whole lot more.” Eventually, Miller was able to place a name on her father’s condition and slowly learned that it was OK to let close friends know about the situations she’d endured. An engrossing, sympathetic exploration of living with hoarder parents.

ROOSEVELT’S SECOND ACT The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War Moe, Richard Oxford Univ. (368 pp.) $29.95 | Sep. 6, 2013 978-0-19-998191-5

Franklin Roosevelt’s tortured decision to run for an unprecedented third term, analyzed in terms of the president’s complicated personality and strategies. A senior staffer in the Carter administration and longtime head of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (1993– 2010), Moe (Changing Places: Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl, 1997, etc.) takes a different approach from the numerous other recent works dealing with the lead-up to the U.S. election of 1940 and war in Europe—e.g., Lynne Olson’s Those Angry Days and Michael Fullilove’s Rendezvous with Destiny. Moe aims to get inside FDR’s head and delineate the president’s decisionmaking process step by step. From “shifting gears” from trying to jump-start the crippled economy in his first term to focusing on German aggression and bolstering England in his second, Roosevelt never let himself be pinned down. He made Sphinxlike pronouncements regarding his post–White House plans as the 1940 Democratic Convention approached; relations with Vice President John Nance Garner had soured, and it seemed he might anoint a successor in either Harry Hopkins or Cordell Hull, both valued subordinates. Yet letters poured in urging FDR to run, political gadflies prodded him, and the increasingly dire international situation cried out for continuity in leadership as France fell and the British were left to stand alone against Germany’s onslaught. In the face of Wendell Willkie’s GOP candidacy, Roosevelt came to accept that no other Democrat could keep the White House, and no other leader could stand up to Hitler as effectively. The secretive president kept his own counsel outside a circle of trusted advisers, however, intensely aware of the tradition that limited a president to two terms. He wanted “the call” to come from “the people through the American method of a free election,” and once he made up his mind to ask for another term, their response was decisive. A carefully focused and researched analysis that adds considerably to the historical record. (28 b/w illustrations)

COMING CLEAN A Memoir

Miller, Kimberly Rae Amazon/New Harvest (272 pp.) $25.00 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-0-544-02583-7 Actress and writer Miller chronicles her father’s obsessive need to collect things. “Every night before I went to sleep… [I asked] for the things I wanted most in life: new dolls, a best friend, and for my house to burn down,” writes the author in this gripping, graphic re-telling of her childhood growing up with a father obsessed with hoarding. A fire would destroy the rats, fleas, piles of junk, newspapers, clothes, cracked picture frames, broken radios and unopened boxes of stuff that filled every square inch of their house. When fire did break out and all was lost, including Miller’s pets, she felt nothing but guilt (her pets weren’t supposed to die), which quickly turned to anger as their new house soon became consumed by her father’s relentless need to collect. She was unable to invite friends over since, within a few years, the new place “started to resemble the remnants at the bottom of a garbage can.” A broken boiler and broken pipes created a soggy mess of the entire house, where only one of three bathrooms worked and, then, only intermittently. “The downstairs had become a relative swamp ground…the inches of trash would squish beneath our feet, creating an unsteady terrain,” writes Miller, and the house |

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“Serious bureaucratic, technological and environmental issues, unpacked with facility, provide digestible food for thought.” from comeback

THE SOCIETY OF TIMID SOULS Or, How to Be Brave

elements of the American economy that he identifies as the driving forces of recovery: hydrocarbons from shale; investment in infrastructure and manufacturing; and health care. Each of these forces has received black eyes and body blows of late, from both the left and right of the political spectrum, but Morris, though not starry-eyed, optimistically assesses all three. He walks readers through the controversial process of extracting oil and gas from shale, providing a highly entertaining minicourse in geology. Fracking has gone badly wrong, he writes, acknowledging spillage, leakage, emissions and compromised aquifers, but there are ways to contain this damage, if not eliminate it, through responsible drilling practices. Our crumbling infrastructure calls out for a Keynesian infusion, Morris writes, but the level of investment relative to GDP “has fallen off dramatically, to the point where it could actually inhibit the industrial recovery.” That recovery must be based on jobs created at home, writes the author, citing a consulting group that estimates “an American company will save only about 10-15 percent of costs by manufacturing a kitchen appliance in China, which is too little to justify the long delivery lead times and other aggravations that come with offshoring.” Health care, long hostage to vested interests, is a huge employer and also makes important contributions to biotech industries and innovation-driven productivity growth. Our taxes, pitifully low by historical standards, could be put to better use than endless warfare, he argues—infrastructure, old-age security and education, for example. Serious bureaucratic, technological and environmental issues, unpacked with facility, provide digestible food for thought.

Morland, Polly Crown (352 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-307-88906-5

A celebration of one of humankind’s rarest and most valuable virtues: bravery. Documentarian Morland interviews a diverse group of brave individuals—soldiers, big wave surfers, civil rights activists, sufferers of terminal diseases and bank robbers make the cut—in an attempt to isolate the origin and meaning of this elusive trait, which she believes is in distressingly short supply in our coddled yet hysterical age. The title refers to a group of musicians struggling with stage fright convened in the early 1940s by Bernard Gabriel, a classical pianist and proto–inspirational speaker. He subjected his charges to aggressive heckling as they practiced in order to inure them to that particular anxiety, freeing them to play in real performance situations with greater confidence. This immersive method is one of many strategies Morland identifies as courage-building. Others include the comprehensive preparation and devotion to a unit that allow soldiers to regularly risk life and limb, the rigorous practice and heightened sense of pride drilled into bullfighters, and spiritual notions of self-actualization and nonconformity that motivate surfers and climbers. Most mysterious of all courage-builders is the innate knowledge of the right thing to do in a crisis, which some people instinctively access and act upon in a mental state that supersedes conscious decision-making. Most of Morland’s subjects are articulate and engaging, and the stories of tragedy and atrocity have obvious emotional impact, but the book’s greatest strength is the author’s brisk, witty voice, which conveys the seriousness of her subject in an agreeably light, humanistic tone. Though the author’s conclusions are not earth shattering, her subject is worthy, and her journey is in turns thought-provoking, amusing and heartbreaking. An entertaining and occasionally inspiring look at a surprisingly slippery subject.

THE TIME TRAVELER’S GUIDE TO ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND

Mortimer, Ian Viking (400 pp.) $27.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-670-02607-4

Having made a splash with The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England (2009), popular British historian Mortimer delivers an equally authoritative, amusing bottoms-up account of life during Queen Elizabeth’s 1558-1603 reign. The average Elizabethan paid little attention to politics but a great deal to domestic technology. Thus, bricks and clear glass became cheaper. Cheap bricks meant cheap chimneys. Without a chimney, smoke can only escape through the roof, making upper stories impossible, so multistory buildings spread throughout Elizabethan towns. Formerly available only to the rich, glass windows began appearing widely. Elizabethan professions could be as professional as today’s but not always: An Elizabethan lawyer would deliver useful legal counsel, but you would be unwise to follow the advice of an Elizabethan physician. Preparing a hot bath was a major undertaking. In any case,

COMEBACK America’s New Economic Boom

Morris, Charles R. PublicAffairs (192 pp.) $12.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-61039-336-2 978-1-61039-227-3 e-book

Morris (The Trillion-Dollar Meltdown, 2008, etc.) presents a persuasive, upbeat forecast of economic growth, starting now, for the United States. The author has a companionable voice, affable and easy, but with words chosen for maximum clarity. He tackles three 60

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COMPELLING PEOPLE The Hidden Qualities that Make Us Influential

bathing was considered a health risk. This did not mean that Elizabethans ignored personal cleanliness, but a time traveler would have noticed the general body odor. However, even Elizabethans disliked the smell of excrement. Privies took care of this in the country; the rich built expensive cesspits and even primitive water closets, but the urban poor had few options, so cities stank. We understand the English of Shakespeare’s time with a modest effort, although many words have changed meaning. Ecstasy meant insanity. Mean meant impoverished (“of mean parentage” didn’t mean child abuse but poverty). “Puke” was a bluish-black color. Readers accustomed to Hollywood’s portrayal of people in earlier times (just like us, except for the funny clothes) are in for a jolt as they encounter plenty of new, often unsettling, occasionally gruesome but always entertaining information.

Neffinger, John; Kohut, Matthew Hudson Street/Penguin (304 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 15, 2013 978-1-59463-101-6

The principals of a communications firm reveal the strategies they use to coach corporate and political clients. Neffinger and Kohut aim to help people become aware of the ways that they communicate nonverbally, through tone of voice and posture, and improve their ability to read the body language of others. There is no inherent contradiction in simultaneously projecting warmth and strength, they argue. Compelling individuals such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama project an air of knowing what they are doing and having other peoples’ best interests at heart; as a result, “we trust them and find them persuasive.” Refreshingly, the authors recognize these as fundamental issues of character and emphatically reject any attempt to fake them. They do not advocate behavior modification and gimmicks to foster self-affirmation. Instead, they look to models such as Martin Luther King to reinforce their message, quoting his 1967 comment: “One of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites…power without love is reckless and abusive...love without power is sentimental and anemic.” By consciously maintaining “a level brow, a focused gaze and a low vocal pitch,” leaning in toward a person or maintaining distance, we give substance to the image we hope to project. That said, the authors warn that nonverbal cues cannot compensate for deceitful aims. On the other hand, adopting good posture and greeting the day with a smile can not only evoke a positive response in others, but also elevate the mood of the smiler. This contention, like others in this well-researched book, is backed up by citations from psychologists and other authorities. An attractive, nuanced addition to the self-help shelf.

THE HAPPY ATHEIST

Myers, PZ Pantheon (176 pp.) $24.00 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-307-37934-4 978-0-307-90745-5 e-book

This series of scattershot attacks on all varieties of religion suggests that it’s as pointless to argue with a true nonbeliever as it is with a true believer. Myers (Biology/Univ. of Minnesota, Morris) is preaching to the choir here, that choir of atheists who have total contempt for “the folly of faith” and who believe that “what religion does is make people believe ludicrously silly things, substitute dogma for reason and thought, and sink into self-destructive obsessions.” Readers need not be believers to find Myers’ position reductive, as it dismisses not only the fundamentalists who are such easy targets for his ridicule, but also fellow scientists who have somehow been able to reconcile their field with their faith. “Science and religion are incompatible in all the ways that count,” he writes. “Science works. Religion doesn’t.” His rigidity permits no tolerance, no sense of wonder at anything that lies beyond human reason, no gray area or shades of interpretation. Even a nondoctrinaire writer on comparative religion such as Karen Armstrong receives rebuke for her “pretentious preciousness” as a former nun who “has rediscovered religion as a nebulous source of vague meaning.” Most of these essays have the length and depth of blog entries, and they mainly seem designed to provoke anyone who isn’t as disdainful as the author. Representative chapter titles include “The Top Ten Reasons Religion Is Like Pornography,” “Afterlife? What Afterlife?” and “The Big Pink Guy in the Sky.” The points Myers makes about religion have been made before, and the humor to which he pays lip service rarely lightens the repetitive load. Unlikely to change a single mind or cause even the slightest shift in perspective.

THE COAT ROUTE Craft, Luxury, and Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat

Noonan, Meg Lukens Spiegel & Grau (272 pp.) $27.00 | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-4000-6993-4

Lush writing and eagle-eyed reportage uncloak the insular world of bespoke fashion. More than distance separates the awe-inspiring highlands of South America, where curious, four-legged creatures known as vicuna placidly graze in between carefully choreographed roundups, and the sober English shopping district of Seville |

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Row, where equally fascinating bipeds known as tailors turn the vicuna wool into unparalleled items of luxury, including a $50,000 overcoat. This is the rarified realm of “bespoke,” or made-to-order, garments. Globe-trekking travel writer Noonan is well-equipped to bridge the chasm and bring back a narrative every bit as finely rendered as the title’s subject. Outfitted with an infectious curiosity and enviable eye for detail, the seasoned correspondent executes a sartorial odyssey that spans a remarkable portion of the planet. The fantastic journey is both fastpaced and rich—from Florentine factories where marvelous mechanisms sprung from the mind of Michelangelo still whirr alongside modern-day computers, to obscure English villages infamous for their oppressive work histories and exquisitely made buttons. The author’s descriptive prose is consistently illuminating and occasionally poetic. “It is impossible to look at the factory grounds and not be struck by how succinctly it telegraphs a twenty-first-century tale: the soulless modernity, the beautiful ruin,” she writes. While delving deep into the unseen universe of complex dyes, magical silkworms and goldlaced textiles, the author also understands that it is the far-flung personalities dedicated to transforming these varied elements into a one-of-a-kind jacket that make this tale of topcoats and tailors so tantalizing. An elegantly engaging book aimed at everyone from the off-the-rack crowd on up.

mix of genuine frustration and occasional weary humor, the author reveals his views on the school’s goal-oriented expectations, which often masked the fact that many students lacked basic skills, and on the unfairness of the teacher-evaluation system, among related topics. Though Mrs. P emerges as a tyrannical personage, most of Owens’ anecdotes, such as those involving fellow teachers, underscore his point: In the wake of No Child Left Behind, education is failing, and the American public cannot ignore some of the fundamental reasons, including wealth disparity. Less a revelatory exploration of policy gone wrong than a heartfelt call to action, Owens’ account of a lower-income school does not tread surprising ground for readers familiar with the topic. Still, he offers a worthy perspective on the need to change the ways in which teachers are viewed and concludes with useful suggestions to get started.

THE DISTRACTION ADDICTION Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim Little, Brown (304 pp.) $28.00 | $14.99 e-book | Aug. 20, 2013 978-0-316-20826-0 978-0-316-20825-3 e-book

CONFESSIONS OF A BAD TEACHER The Shocking Truth from the Front Lines of American Public Education

How to combat the crush of digital information available today. With the invention of personal computers and smartphones, the world of information and updates from friends and family is just a split second away. “People who spend all day with computers used to be called hackers,” writes Stanford and Oxford visiting scholar Pang. “Today, that’s all of us.” This overwhelming volume of information has prompted what many call a “distraction addiction,” where everything feels urgent and in need of your immediate attention; this situation usually results in ineffective multitasking. Pang offers simple techniques to create a more peaceful and productive life. From taking mindful breaths to using meditation, the author focuses on the need to step away from the screen, suggesting walks to recharge an overly tired brain, like Charles Darwin did on his Sandwalk, what he called “his thinking path.” Pang analyzes computer programs that effectively disconnect one from the Internet, forcing users to concentrate on the task at hand rather than clicking at every ping of their inbox. He suggests monitoring email and social media use, writing down the frequency, length of time and physical location where each site is checked, then eliminating those sites that take up time but provide little constructive feedback. For those willing to go one step farther, Pang recommends a digital Sabbath, one day a week when any or all screen-related activities are turned off in order to reclaim face-to-face relationships, start new hobbies and engage in interactions with

Owens, John Sourcebooks (288 pp.) $13.99 paper | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-4022-8100-6

A publishing professional’s account of his detour teaching in a Bronx public high school and of the scapegoating he experienced at the hands of its administrator. Owens, whose 2011 Salon article “Confessions of a Bad Teacher” inspired this book, taught for less than one year at a school he renames Latinate Institute. Spearheaded by “Mrs. P,” an ambitious principal who emphasized data and visionary statements (and who was later discovered to be inflating graduation numbers), the school suffered from an emphasis on “pageantry.” Often blaming staff for situations beyond their control—including students with behavioral problems and disabilities—Mrs. P exemplified (for the author) problems with contemporary school reform, which often insist on teachers bearing responsibility for “classroom management” even when they are plagued with obvious problems, from minimal parental involvement to a lack of administrative support and special education resources. Owens’ optimism toward teaching diminished once he realized he was “at the bottom of an organizational chart that had more arrows than Custer’s last stand.” With a 62

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“A compelling, instructive account regarding education in America, where the arguments have become ‘so nasty, provincial, and redundant that they no longer lead anywhere worth going.’ ” from the smartest kids in the world

THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD And How They Got that Way

the outside world. By following these methods of self-control, readers can better utilize the tools at hand and follow the buzz on the airwaves while still feeling in control of their lives. A well-researched program to help reclaim personal downtime from the inundation of cyberinformation.

Ripley, Amanda Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $28.00 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-1-4516-5442-4

SUITABLE ACCOMMODATIONS An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J.F. Powers, 1942-1963

Chronicle of a journalist’s global travels to visit schools, interviewing educators and talking with students and their families in order to answer the question, “Why were some kids learning so much—and others so very little?” Ripley (The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why, 2008) examines why there is a disparity in performance on tests of mathematical and scientific competence between American students and their global counterparts, even when factors such as poverty and discrimination are taken into account. She explains that America’s poor showing translates into lost jobs for Americans, who cannot compete with foreign labor even in semiskilled jobs. Many of the arguments about American education fail to address the real issues behind the competitive failure of American schools compared to Finnish and South Korean schools (where students are in the top tier on international tests), as well as Poland, where the rate of improvement is remarkable. Ripley builds her narrative around the experience of three American teenagers, each of whom spent a year abroad as exchange students—in Finland, South Korea and Poland, respectively. The author describes a political consensus in each of the three countries that nearly guarantees the creation and maintenance of a highly educated workforce, from top to bottom. The importance of education is a reflection of national consensus on the respect for teachers. A large portion of their education budgets go to teachers’ salaries, and the instructors are chosen from the top third of their graduating classes and must meet high professional standards on a par with engineers. Per capita, America spends more money on education, but the money is allocated differently—e.g., to sports teams and programs that provide students with laptops, iPads and interactive whiteboards. A compelling, instructive account regarding education in America, where the arguments have become “so nasty, provincial, and redundant that they no longer lead anywhere worth going.”

Powers, J.F. Powers, Katherine A.—Ed. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (480 pp.) $30.00 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-0-374-26806-0

His daughter’s selection of correspondence reveals the American Catholic writer as immature, irresponsible and hard to live with. Not that his wife and children got much time with J.F. Powers (1917–1999), who preferred solitude or the company of male friends to family life. He told his wife before they married that he wasn’t the domestic type and she should not look for him to maintain a steady income. Powers always avoided Thanksgiving and Christmas with his wife’s relatives, choosing instead to spend the holidays with old schoolmates or other friends. Many of these were priests, and Powers drew heavily upon their careers and experiences for his first novel, the 1963 National Book Award–winning Morte d’Urban, the story of a priest banished to the backwoods. Catholic writing flourished in the mid20th century, and Powers contributed to the many magazines of the religious left and right. Nonetheless, he was constantly low on money and often took short-term teaching jobs that enabled him to relocate and leave his loved ones behind. At the same time, he was obsessed with the artist’s relationship to his house and fixated on finding just the right place to live. The family moved constantly, three times to Ireland, and Powers insisted on his own space in each building. Even with that, he rented separate quarters so he would have a private place to work and write letters. His correspondence constantly references his work but mostly to say conditions were just too difficult for him to create. This volume would be more interesting if it included letters from others, particularly his long-suffering wife, but perhaps these would have only made it more distasteful by further exposing a character who comes across as completely self-absorbed and selfish. Thoroughly disenchanting: Powers’ admirers would do better to reread his stories or novels.

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DOGTRIPPING 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure

conflicting information she has gathered. “I am a Palestinian-Lebanese-American Christian woman, but I grew up as a Jew in New York City. I began my life, however as a WASP,” she writes. Said comes from a warm, loving home often populated by visiting literary celebrities such as Lillian Hellman and Cornel West, and she is confused by what others say regarding Arab culture. “I resigned myself to believing that everything people said about my culture was true,” she writes, “because it was exhausting and futile to try to convince anyone otherwise.” The author was a high achiever attending Princeton, yet she also battled anorexia. Following a family trip to the Middle East, including her father’s homeland of Palestine, Said learned more about her family history. Her perspective shifted when she realized how little she knew about conditions in the Middle East, especially Gaza. As for many, Said’s life changed following 9/11. To many Americans, the author became part of a group, an Arab-American. Said joined an Arab-American theater group, exploring and enlarging the boundaries of her identity. Following her father’s death, the author spent a summer alone in Lebanon. During her visit, she discovered a compelling connection to the land and people and, ultimately, herself. An enlightening, warm, timely coming-of-age story exploring the author’s search for identity framed within the confounding maze of America’s relationship with the Middle East.

Rosenfelt, David St. Martin’s (288 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-250-01469-6 978-1-250-01470-2 e-book

A mystery novelist’s account of how he became a dog rescuer and moved cross-country with his “very unusual, very large, very hairy family” of eccentric canines. When Rosenfelt (Leader of the Pack, 2012, etc.) met Debbie Myers, the woman who became his second wife, he never imagined that they would go on to become partners in both life and dog rescuing. Myers was already an avid dog lover who lived with a golden retriever named Tara. As Rosenfelt’s relationship with Myers developed, so did his interest in dogs. After Tara died, the two decided to honor her memory by working as dogshelter volunteers and then by starting their own rescue group. As the pair entered into full-blown “dog lunacy,” the number of dogs they rescued reached, at its height, 42. Over the years, they would rescue thousands of animals that otherwise would have been euthanized. But Rosenfelt focuses primarily on the dogs he and Myers adopted. Each of the 25 they took in had a unique personality. Yet amazingly, each was able to find acceptance in the loud, hairy pack they formed. Their most difficult challenge as a “family” didn’t come from illness or death, however. It came instead from the move Rosenfelt and Myers decided to make from California to Maine, the story of which the author interweaves into the narrative of his experiences as a canine foster parent. With the help of nine equally dog-crazy volunteers and “three GPSs to make it foolproof,” they loaded up three RVs with 25 dogs and set out for the East Coast. Their five-day “Woofabago” adventure across America not only restored their faith in humanity, but also reaffirmed the already deep bonds that existed between them and their beloved four-legged friends. A warmhearted winner. (8-page color photo insert)

AMERICAN SAVAGE Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics

Savage, Dan Dutton (320 pp.) $26.95 | May 28, 2013 978-0-525-95410-1

Personal and political essays from the columnist and gay rights advocate. Though Savage may best be known as an advice columnist, he is as opinionated about gun violence, Obamacare and assisted suicide as he is about sex education, same-sex marriage and bisexuality. Despite the wide range of subject matter, his general approach to each topic, which can be boiled down to “the more freedom, the better,” is consistent. This consistency, along with his technique of frequently giving examples from his personal life, prevents the essays from becoming disjointed. Savage is no stranger to controversy, and he recants his previous stance on male bisexuality, sets the record straight on his part in Rick Santorum’s “Google Problem,” and tells readers what happened when he invited Brian Brown, head of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, over for dinner. Though the political essays are incisive, Savage is at his most interesting and provocative when discussing sexuality. He argues that gay people should not race to portray themselves as exclusively wholesome when criticized as sexually depraved, and he writes that rushing to emphasize

LOOKING FOR PALESTINE Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family Said, Najla Riverhead (272 pp.) $27.95 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-59448-708-8

In an illuminating memoir, the daughter of Edward Said, the writer, academic and symbol of Palestinian selfdetermination, explores her complex family history and its role in shaping her identity. The author grappled with her convoluted family tree as a child, but she has grown weary trying to make sense of the 64

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“Whether or not Schwarz’s principles catch on, his clearheaded, moderate analysis and commitment to moral rigor and civic duty are encouraging.” from common credo

A wild ride well worth taking, though readers may want to portage around some of the narrative rapids. (60 b/w halftones)

“PTA meetings and baking cookies” glosses over the fact that “we are different…gay people seem to have a much easier time reconciling love and lust, commitment and desire.” Savage sees comfort and openness with sexuality as something straight people should emulate, not fear, and encourages readers to be open to “monogamish” relationships as a way of saving relationships that might otherwise be destroyed over one incident of infidelity. Some essays are weaker than others: “Sex Dread,” about sex education in America, is underdeveloped, and “The Choicer Challenge” has as much material in the footnotes as in the text, which is distracting. At turns serious and humorous, this multifaceted collection of essays will entertain both longtime Savage fans and new readers.

COMMON CREDO The Path Back to American Success Schwarz, John E. Liveright/Norton (288 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 19, 2013 978-0-87140-339-1

A political science professor reassesses the meaning and role of government in an age of partisanship. There is no question that partisan politics is more volatile than ever, writes Schwarz (Freedom Reclaimed: Rediscovering the American Vision, 2004, etc.), and such a crippling divide is the root of America’s recent economic crisis, among other problems. Moreover, there is an overwhelming sense that the interests of our elected statesmen are being subverted by corporate lobbyists and the constant pressures of an ever-looming election cycle. This is the political climate as Schwarz views it, and such dysfunction inspired him to step back and re-examine how our system of governance has become so paralyzed. The problem, he writes, is that both political parties are equally guilty of abandoning the political philosophy of the Founding Fathers, which he defines as a vision of freedom that is not self-serving but inclusionary, for the benefit of all citizens. Furthermore, Schwarz attacks both Democratic and Republican platforms: Democrats lack a solid, agreed-upon foundation from which to ground their policy, and Republicans reductively pursue small government and free market zealotry. Providing examples of these flawed perspectives—on health care, the economy, the environment and other areas—Schwarz posits his “Common Credo” as a solution. The 10 principles of the credo outline the limits of governmental power in a way that is designed to follow the ideals of the founders by keeping bureaucracy small but supporting those that need it. While the tenets of the credo are mostly self-evident rehashes of early American political philosophy, the author offers sensible expansions and is at his best when taking to task any issue he sees as morally inconsistent or dishonest, regardless of party or ideology. Whether or not Schwarz’s principles catch on, his clearheaded, moderate analysis and commitment to moral rigor and civic duty are encouraging.

OLD MAN RIVER The Mississippi River in North American History Schneider, Paul Henry Holt (416 pp.) $35.00 | Sep. 3, 2013 978-0-8050-9136-6

Another chockablock, environmentally focused, ambitious volume from Schneider (Bonnie and Clyde: The Lives Behind the Legend, 2010, etc.). To keep his portrait of the mighty Mississippi from becoming unnavigable, the author alternates chapters of dense chronological history with tales of canoe meanderings along the river with his son. This personal approach allows the author to skim over the stultifying details of the numerous wars along the river’s shores between white colonizers and Native American inhabitants, as well as most Mississippi-related Civil War battles. Schneider aims to seize the river’s essence: what it meant to the people who lived near it and used it for transportation, livelihood, industry and pleasure. The Mississippi watershed is not the longest river in the U.S. (that distinction goes to the Missouri), but it feeds tributaries to 41 percent of the continental U.S. Moreover, the author delineates fondly, the Mississippi has proved instrumental in prodding the nation to its ultimate destiny. The river was the gateway to new territories in the West; their settlement sparked the debate over slave and free states that was one of the causes of the Civil War. People living alongside the river crafted the nation’s defining cultural forms, including African-American jazz and blues and Mark Twain’s salty prose. Schneider marks the Mississippi’s slow transformation from a watering hole for mastodons and the Native American makers of effigy mounds to a staging ground for the explorations of first the Spanish and then the French, all looking for a way to the Pacific. The murky journey to the present day is not exactly merry, fraught by disasters both natural and man-made, but at least the federal government’s passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972 provided tools for better stewardship in the future—though the 2010 BP spill suggests those tools are laid aside as often as wielded. |

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ARMOR AND BLOOD The Battle of Kursk: The Turning Point of World War II

of fact and fiction. Much of the text satirizes desiccated sociology books, offering archly funny examinations of New York City’s class and economic structures, its absurdly inflated real estate market, the lucrative world of its various vices and other banal facts of life. Unfortunately, the apparently fictional narrative that’s interlaced with these journalistic observations is wearyingly trite and unfocused. Its primary protagonist is John, an office drone at a company suffering through multiple rounds of firings, resignations and layoffs. He goes to parties with his friends, gets high and watches TV. He frets over not making enough money to live comfortably in New York City. He has sex, again and again and again, with boyfriends, hookups, party crashers and club rats, described not only without passion, but with an almost clinical detachment. “Sometimes work was just what you clocked into while you were falling in love,” Sicha writes. “Sometimes sex was just something you did while you weren’t at work. Drugs were something you did sometimes when you couldn’t deal with one of those things, or with yourself.” Sicha seems to be trying to document generational angst as a new product, something that’s been done with every generation since Fitzgerald transcribed the Jazz Age. A certain rhythm to the author’s prose harkens back to the glory days of coffeehouse spoken-word performances; the atmosphere of ruthlessness takes its cues from the Ellis/McInerney school of hipster-urban bards. Either way, it already feels like an artifact. An experiment in genre fusion too clever for its own good.

Showalter, Dennis E. Random House (336 pp.) $28.00 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-1-4000-6677-3

Meticulous account of the July 1943 tank battle between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht, perhaps the largest such battle in history. Showalter (History/Colorado Coll., Hitler’s Panzers: The Lightning Attacks that Revolutionized Warfare, 2009, etc.) goes far toward rescuing the Battle of Kursk from undeserved obscurity. In early 1943, the Germans planned a major campaign to eliminate the Soviet salient around the city of Kursk that had resulted from the Wehrmacht’s retreat after the Battle of Stalingrad. Preparing to attack both sides of the salient, each several hundred miles long, required immense movements of armies, equipment and aircraft; the launch was repeatedly delayed by supply problems, changes, and quarrels between Hitler and his often skeptical generals. Tipped off months in advance of the attack, the Soviets used the time to construct vast defensive works more than 100 miles deep, a maze of minefields, antitank guns, strong points and artillery. German forces attacked, advanced and suffered terrible losses; they inflicted far worse losses on the Soviet defenders but never broke through. Within weeks, Red Army counterattacks recovered the lost ground. Showalter emphasizes that Kursk capped the Red Army’s two years of painful education in tactics, logistics and air-toground cooperation. While it never matched the Wehrmacht’s efficiency (nor did the other Allied armies), it functioned well enough to seize the initiative; the Battle of Kursk was Germany’s last operational offensive in Russia. The author mostly describes large unit actions and command decisions, although an astute introduction and conclusion put it all into perspective. Showalter clearly knows his subject, but the avalanche of battle details, tactics and unit maneuvers will appeal to military buffs more than general readers.

EVERY DAY IS ELECTION DAY A Woman’s Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House Sive, Rebecca Chicago Review (224 pp.) $17.95 paper | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-61374-662-2

An activist and public affairs strategist’s intelligent, no-nonsense guide for women seeking to hold elected office. While feminist movements have helped women make inroads into the halls of power, the world of politics is still dominated by males. In this take-charge guide, Sive offers practical advice to women on organizing successful political campaigns that can help women become anything from PTA presidents to U.S. senators and beyond. Using her own experiences along with stories from political women at the municipal, state and national levels, Sive tackles such issues as branding, image management, networking, fundraising, handling the media and dealing with the challenges of gender. Women must learn to shrug off sexist criticisms (“If being blunt and efficient means being called a bitch, so what?”) but also be ready to “haul out the pink sweater” when necessary. They must also learn to play hardball if they want to win since “softball is only played at campaign photo-ops.” At the same time, women must also know when to put aside differences and negotiate compromises. Failure

VERY RECENT HISTORY An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City Sicha, Choire Harper/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $24.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-06-191430-0

Sex. Bills. Politics. Sex. Friendship. Real Estate. Recession. Sex. Shower, rinse, repeat. Former Gawker, Radar and New York Observer editor Sicha, who now co-owns The Awl website, creates a novelistic tale that the subtitle claims as reportage. It appears to be an odd mixture 66

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“An illuminating book built, like its subject’s life, on small episodes rather than great, dramatic turning points. Essential for students and serious readers of Kafka.” from kafka

KAFKA The Years of Insight

is an inevitable part of the process as well. And to be successful, women candidates need to be able to transform loss into an opportunity for a future win. Above all, women must adopt a nolimits attitude to achieve power. The higher the position they seek, the more likely it is that they will have to make sacrifices, including those affecting the work-life balance. Commitment to a political life is no easy task, as Sive makes abundantly clear. Yet leadership positions for women are now not only possible, but necessary since the laws that benefit women ultimately benefit their families and everyone whose lives they touch. Essential reading for aspiring female policymakers and political leaders.

Stach, Reiner Translated by Frisch, Shelley Princeton Univ. (736 pp.) $35.00 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-691-14751-2

Conclusion of a massive, comprehensive life of the famed Czech/German/ Jewish writer, chockablock with neuroses, failures and moments of brilliance. The editor of Kafka’s collected works in German, Stach (Kafka: The Decisive Years, 2005, etc.) delivers much that is known about the writer: his sexual insecurities; his fraught, near-paralyzing relationship with his father; the terrible fate of his beloved sisters in the Holocaust. We knew from Max Brod, to say nothing of Kafka’s own correspondence, that he could be clinically cold, and clinically odd, as when he wrote to his one-time intended Felice Bauer, “Your last letter said that a picture was enclosed. It was not enclosed. This represents a hardship for me.” Yet there are surprises as well: Who knew, for instance, that Kafka, though gravely ill, was still athletic enough to row a passenger across a swiftly flowing river? Kafka was, of course, ever anonymous in doing so: “It would never have occurred to the man that he might have been rowed by a thirty-seven-year-old with a doctorate in law, who served as head of his department and suffered from tuberculosis.” Stach also reveals Kafka’s efforts to join the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I, thwarted by his employer, and offers a trove of observations on Kafka and the business of writing and publishing, with all the usual complaints about late and underpaid royalties and skewed contracts. Throughout, Stach considers Kafka’s flourishing as a writer, precise but deeply emotional, in a time of works such as The Castle and “The Metamorphosis.” He also sheds light on Kafka’s sometimes-tenuous Zionism, including his concentrated studies of Hebrew and on-and-off plans to relocate to Palestine. An illuminating book built, like its subject’s life, on small episodes rather than great, dramatic turning points. Essential for students and serious readers of Kafka.

CURB SERVICE A Memoir

Sothern, Scot Soft Skull Press (288 pp.) $18.95 paper | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-59376-520-0

A cult photographer’s raw, rugged life in words and images. Sothern, notorious for his colorless, voyeuristic and often brutal images of Los Angeles prostitutes and the homeless, reveals the stories behind his photographs and offers a glimpse into a life of hardships and addictions that thoroughly challenged him. His prone portraitures are the result of years spent propositioning all manner of ladies of the evening, from a Mexican prostitute to a preop transvestite who resembled “Pocahontas,” with “boy parts hanging around, waiting for the guillotine.” The book’s sections, decorated with snapshots from the author’s distinctive photographic oeuvre, skitter from the 1990s back to the ’80s to find Sothern establishing himself as both a commercial photographer and a budding “artist,” while an affinity for ephemeral dalliances with prostitutes and escorts were the true formative experiences that molded his dark alter ego. Brief sketches of his father, a former pro photographer embarking on a fourth marriage, are braided into a whirlwind of booze, dope, blackouts and countless trysts spent photographing the desperate girls whose images front each chapter. Sothern’s grim narrative is hardly a sunny affair; it volleys among chronicles of short, custodial weekends with his son, bouts of acrimonious sparring with his ex-wife, Sylvia, the downtrodden women he captures with his lens, hospitalized illnesses and debt collectors. He daringly invites readers to sit bedside while he spends dingy afternoons in dusty motel rooms with streetwalkers, crack pipes, empty promises and his trusty camera, recording flashes of desperate women addled by drug abuse and hopelessness. Only in the memoir’s final pages does Sothern begin to reap long-overdue recognition for his “tastefully dirty” body of work. A relentlessly gritty, cheerless portrait of a talented niche artisan. (photos)

THE BIG DISCONNECT Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age

Steiner-Adair, Catherine with Barker, Teresa H. Harper/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $26.99 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-06-208242-8

Parents and children may be enjoying “swift and constant access to everything and everyone on the Internet,” but they are losing “a meaningful personal connection with each other in their own homes.” |

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So warns Steiner-Adair (Psychiatry/Harvard Medical School; Full of Ourselves: A Wellness Program to Advance Girl Power, Health, and Leadership, 2005, etc.), who argues that family life has been dangerously eroded as parents have become increasingly addicted to digital devices. Their obsession with online connectivity provides an inappropriate role model for their children and takes a special toll on young children, who need undivided attention. Instead, parents use digital devices to occupy their children; these days, the author notes, some preschoolers are more adept at manipulating digital devices than tying their own shoes. Parental inattention is responsible for increased injuries to children, according to the Centers for Disease Control; 22 percent of adults who send text messages are “so distracted by their devices that they have physically bumped into an object or person.” Steiner-Adair’s primary concern, however, is not the physical but the psychological damage inflicted on children by multitasking parents; in her clinical practice, she finds children “tired of being the ‘call waiting’ in their parents’ lives.” The author also addresses psychological issues that can arise when children are overexposed to the media and to inappropriate content such as the violence and sexual stereotyping in computer games. She is concerned that the current tendency to substitute texting for direct communication may be eroding empathy by creating a rapid-response environment in which sexual flaunting, rumor and gossip flourish. She emphasizes that indirect communication is inherently impoverished, eliminating body language and vocal cues. This makes it even more important for parents to create an emotionally satisfying, sheltering family environment that fosters character development. An important guide to an occasionally overlooked aspect of modern parenting.

gullible, a fool, too trusting,” with the affirmation, “I’m resilient, resourceful, human, sensitive.” A follow-up, five-step exercise elaborates core values and concludes with a spiritual testament. Another exercise includes comparing specifics: “What my partner did: My partner was mean to our pets. What I do: Today I was kind to our pets,” and so on. The second section of the book takes readers beyond verbal affirmations to taking actions that provide a meaningful basis for moving ahead with the healing process, such as treating a family member to dinner, bringing a pet to the vet or visiting an art gallery. Stosny also offers tips on how to use the lists to evaluate a potential lover (e.g., how that person discusses former relationships that didn’t work out). In a valuable final section about the possibility of repairing a relationship after betrayal, the author gives a hypothetical example of a couple that profited from his anger management boot camp. May help sufferers gain insight and move along with life, if they’re not put off by the cloying tone and conventional wisdom.

RIVINGTON WAS OURS Lady Gaga, the Lower East Side, and the Prime of Our Lives

Sullivan, Brendan Jay It Books/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $16.99 paper | Sep. 1, 2013 978-0-06-212558-3

Lady Gaga’s former DJ reveals the highs and lows of his musical career in the mid-2000s, also unveiling an intimate portrait of the pop singer’s rise to fame. From Piano’s to Welcome to the Johnsons to Motor City, New Yorkers will instantly recognize the Lower East Side bar scene in Sullivan’s gossipy tell-all. However, it seems as if the author couldn’t decide on whether this is a memoir about his bartending, dating and DJing experiences, or a name-dropping unauthorized biography of Stefani Germanotta as she evolved from backup go-go dancer to her stage persona, Lady Gaga. Sullivan’s relationship with his friend-turned-boss wavers between respect and adoration (“Above all else she knew that she would tread a thin line between artistic greatness and cheesy pop. It all depended on the people around her”). While he does manage to create a visceral setting of the New York scene where Misshapes and Don Hill parties were all the rage, his use of character nicknames (“The Devil” as a drug dealer; “Angel” for a new girlfriend) seems both unnecessary and confusing. Sullivan’s constant switching between past and present tense may seem like he is trying to convey a conversational tone within an inner monologue, but it reads as sloppy, distracting writing. The last two sections of the book (based in Miami and Los Angeles) are the most interesting: Sullivan goes behind the scenes at Gaga’s Winter Music Conference appearance and the making of her “Just Dance” video. The author claims that he was well-aware that Gaga would ultimately replace him, but readers can’t help but wonder if, beneath the idolatry, there isn’t a little bit of resentment on his end.

LIVING AND LOVING AFTER BETRAYAL How to Heal from Emotional Abuse, Deceit, Infidelity, and Chronic Resentment Stosny, Steven New Harbinger (232 pp.) $16.95 paper | Sep. 1, 2013 978-1-60882-752-7

Psychological exercises to help individuals recover from abusive relationships. Stosny (Love Without Hurt, 2008, etc.) is a consultant on anger management and family violence who conducts workshops worldwide. In this manual, he offers a pathway to recovery based on maxims similar to those found in books such as Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. Stosny cautions that being angry has “potent analgesic and amphetamine components that temporarily numb pain and provide a surge of energy to overcome perceived threat,” which can be addictive. Instead of being reactive, the author counsels allowing “ourselves to be guided by deeper values more than temporary feelings.” All of the exercises are to be done in writing. The first counterpoises a negative, self-critical attitude, such as “I’m 68

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“A thoughtful, incisive analysis of hip-hop—and pop music in general—from one of its foremost contemporary architects.” from mo’ meta blues

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO HEAVEN (Or, How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process)

This love letter to the Lower East Side will make a great stocking stuffer for hard-core Lady Gaga fans and tourists who idolize the Big Apple. Note: not for the bridge-andtunnel crowd.

THINKING IN NUMBERS On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math

Taylor, Corey Da Capo/Perseus (256 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 16, 2013 978-0-306-82164-6

Tammet, Daniel Little, Brown (288 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 30, 2013 978-0-316-18737-4

Slipknot singer sees dead people. Apparently, Taylor (Seven Deadly Sins: Settling the Argument Between Born Bad and Damaged Good, 2011) has backstage passes to the spirit world that not many of us are privileged enough to get: He not only sees ghosts on a regular basis, but he’s also convinced that the same spooks are haunting him everywhere he goes. His first recollection of seeing ghosts was around the age of 9, when he and some friends went on a Goonies-like adventure to a scary-looking old house in his suburb. In that house, he saw his first sinister apparition, which seemed to be an old man who wanted the young whippersnappers out of his house. From then on, according to Taylor, his life has been one big spook-tacular extravaganza filled with supernatural occurrences. (Later in the book, the author does his tedious best to scientifically prove that these spirits can, in fact, walk the terrestrial plane among us.) Taylor recalls stories about seeing a shadow man in a cornfield trying to attack him; he was once pushed down the stairs by a malevolent, otherworldly force; every time he buys a new Munsters-style mansion, it turns out to be haunted by the spirits of dead children. To Taylor’s credit, all these anecdotes about his close encounters with the spirit world are told in exacting detail, and you certainly want to believe him. Unfortunately, insecurity about how his theories and stories will be received comes to the fore in a big way: Taylor alternates between annoying self-deprecation and smug self-congratulation, spending too much time on humorless, expletive-laden rants against those who would dare question his place among the elite few who have regular interface with supernatural beings. Mostly fun campfire ghost stories marred by pseudoscientific babble and a self-conscious rock-star attitude.

A mathematical savant finds the beauty of numbers in unexpected places. Tammet (Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind, 2009, etc.), a man in love with numbers, reveals more about the mysteries of his mind in this delightful, diverse collection of essays. His topics include the concept of zero, the calendar, prime numbers, chess, time and statistics, but happily, readers need have no previous mathematical skills or knowledge. Several of his pieces have an autobiographical component. His essay on infinity shows him as a young boy discovering the infinity of fractions between two points on his walk home from school, and readers learn of his amazing memory in his account of reciting aloud the decimals of pi to 22,514 places at the University of Oxford’s Pi Day. His insights are startling: Tammet sees connections between time tables and proverbs, between prime numbers and haiku, and between rhetoric and math. Trivia fans will find memorable items: His discussion of counting among different cultures reveals that in Icelandic, the word for “four” differs depending on whether one is counting sheep, buses or birthdays, and there is even one astronomer’s formula for calculating the number of planets in the galaxy with communicative life. Far from didactic in tone, Tammet fills his essays with stories of real people, from Omar Khayyam to Stephen Jay Gould, from Archimedes and Pythagoras to Tolstoy and Shakespeare, and from Einstein to the author’s own mother. The author’s fascination with numbers takes him on a wide-ranging tour of history, literature and science, and readers who choose to join him are in for a mind-expanding trip. Great fun and the perfect gift for any math-phobic person, young or old.

MO’ META BLUES The World According to Questlove

Thompson, Ahmir; Greenman, Ben Grand Central Publishing (288 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-4555-0135-9

A thoughtful, incisive analysis of hip-hop—and pop music in general— from one of its foremost contemporary architects. It’s no surprise that this isn’t your standard musical memoir. As drummer and aural conceptualist for the Roots, producer for |

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other artists, Jimmy Fallon bandleader and provocative cultural critic, Thompson, aka Questlove, has pushed the boundaries of convention wherever his creative energies have taken him. Here, he enlists New Yorker editor and novelist Greenman (The Slippage, 2013, etc.), not as a ghostwriter but as a collaborator and occasional interrogator, interweaving the subject/author’s voice with that of Rich Nichols, the Roots’ career strategist and co-manager from the start, in a book that mixes chronological memoir with critical issues not easily resolved—e.g., “What’s black culture? What’s hip-hop? What are the responsibilities of a society and the people in it?” It conjures the life of Questlove from boyhood prodigy to die-hard fan to seminal creative force, through midlife crisis and subsequent renewal, and it captures the revolutionary boyhood excitement of hearing “Rapper’s Delight” shift the axis of the musical world and the giddy weirdness of being invited by Prince to a private, after-hours rollerskating party. The author also discusses being a huge KISS fan, a worshipper of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, “a serious musicpress nerd, the kind of kid who collected back issues of Rolling Stone and memorized all the record ratings” and how he and the Roots have faced the charges of being “not black enough.” The result is a book with as much warmth, heart and humor as introspective intelligence. Fanatics and newcomers to the music will both find plenty of revelation here.

of the men’s friendship, and then into a frank portrait of grief and loss, the bravado and machismo of the early chapters is put through the wringer. The lessons, previewed in chapter titles like “Don’t Back Down,” transcend pep-talk cliché and carry genuine weight. Ashwood’s and Tournour’s stories combine here in a way that lifts the book above others in its genre. A memorable meditation likely to resonate deeply with sports fans everywhere.

FRANCO’S CRYPT Spanish Culture and Memory Since 1936

Treglown, Jeremy Farrar, Straus and Giroux (336 pp.) $30.00 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-374-10842-7

In a studious, occasionally turgid work, accomplished British biographer Treglown (V.S. Pritchett, 2004, etc.) explores the legacy of Francisco Franco

in monument and art. As the Spanish continue to reckon with, reclaim and sift through the buried wreckage—physical and emotional—of the Spanish Civil War, the author, who lives part of the year on a finca and speaks Spanish, was moved to find out more about Franco’s influence on modern culture. The extraordinarily long tenure of the generalissimo means that anyone living in Spain today between the ages of 40 and 75 was born during Franco’s rule; he continues to arouse strong feelings on both sides, by people disgusted by his ruthlessness and repression and by others grateful for what they deem his ability to keep order and build massive public works. Treglown traces some of the efforts by victims’ families to excavate mass graves (the 2007 Law of Historical Memory requires the government to assist victims and “to remove memorials to Franco’s dictatorship”), such as the search for poet Garcia Lorca’s grave, although most victims were not famous and were dumped in mass, unmarked graves. However, monuments to the Falange (fascists) still abound— e.g., the annual celebration at Valle de los Caídos, orchestrated by Franco’s own daughter. While the conventional view among (European) intellectuals is that the true artists fled Spain during the Franco era, many did not, and Treglown delves into the rich, subversive literature and culture of film since the war. This is a tricky, detailed book, maneuvering between public collections and private values, but the author’s deep study of the artists involved is remarkable and inspiring. A dense, comparative tome that should act as a challenge to students of Spanish.

THE HANDOFF A Powerful Memoir of Two Guys, Sports, and Friendship Tournour, John; Eisenstock, Alan Center Street/Hachette (304 pp.) $25.00 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-1-4555-2790-8

Sports talk radio show host Tournour recalls his employer, their friendship and what they learned about life together. For many people, “JT the Brick” is to sports what Edward R. Murrow was to World War II; legions of fans tune in to his radio shows for discussions of all the latest news. After walking away from a safe job in the financial industry, Tournour built a radio career from scratch with help from a Miami program director named Andrew Ashwood, and the two men became friends as well as business partners. Their relationship went through the peaks and valleys that most longtime friends endure, including miscommunications and oversights that led to hurt feelings, as they weathered changes in the business they both attended to with devotion, overcoming the competition over and over again. When Ashwood was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he turned to Tournour for support, and the bond between them took on a new level of strength. “The Handoff ” of the title refers to the lessons—about living, work, mortality—that Tournour gleaned from being at Ashwood’s side throughout his chemotherapy treatments. The book at first seems like another overly self-aggrandizing, look-at-howI-conquered sports memoir, but as it shifts into an exploration 70

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“Smart, sassy and surprisingly wise.” from self -inflicted wounds

SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation

The author charts how a period of unprecedented growth, prosperity and widespread wealth-sharing was derailed under the Reagan administration and continues to careen off the track all these years later. So profound were the changes wrought by privatization and the looting of the public sector that Tyler calls the entire period after 1980 the “Reagan Era”—and he does not mean it as a compliment. According to the author, drawing on thorough economic analysis, “only 5 percent of earners enjoyed income gains exceeding inflation during the Reagan Era, and most of that was concentrated in the earnings of the top 1 percent.” Throughout, Tyler explodes numerous myths, though readers will have to know the depth of those myths in order to appreciate his efforts. He observes, for instance, that von Hayek and Keynes, who should be presumed to be mortal enemies, admired each other greatly (and “both men would have been dismayed by the behavior of Ronald Reagan overtly crafting routine, large structural deficits merely to lower taxes on the wealthy”). Demolishing a libertarian plank, the author argues persuasively that there is no real relationship between the minimum wage and unemployment—no reason, in other words, not to pay American workers a living wage. Yet so American workers are paid, with the result that they are ever poorer— and, Tyler argues, “poverty is understated.” He recommends a radical overhaul of tax and fiscal systems to follow the model of such nations as Switzerland and Australia. Controversial, of course, but well-grounded in data and fact. Anyone with an interest in economic policy ought to have a look.

Tyler, Aisha It Books/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-06-222377-7

An actress and comedian’s episodic ruminations about the painful blunders that helped shape her as a person and a successful stand-up comic. For Tyler, comedians are a breed apart—“lack of shame is our superpower [and] humiliation is fuel for [our] art.” She demonstrates her commitment to her calling by transforming stories drawn from her life into fodder for laughter. The daughter of two African-American vegetarian hippies, Tyler was “seven kinds of weird” from the start. She was also an accident-prone bungler. When she was just 5 years old, she managed to slice herself from “nose to navel” after getting thrown from a rusted hobbyhorse. At 7, she nearly set herself on fire and burned down her apartment after a kitchen experiment in deep-frying went hopelessly awry. Her teenage years were equally rife with embarrassments. Wearing clothes that made her look like “Boyz II Men had gotten in a fight with an angry thrift store,” she managed such ignominious feats as getting followed, and then caught, by her father at an underground San Francisco nightclub, taking the SAT with a massive hangover, and spewing vomit on two boys she liked two separate times. Tyler did her first comedy sketch—which involved her dressing in drag as a drunken frat boy—for classmates at Dartmouth. From that point on, she was “completely in love” with comedy, although she would not pursue it seriously until after she discovered that working for a living “suck[ed] major ass.” Tyler’s work is refreshing not just for its unabashed candor, but also for its humorous insights into the human capacity for screwing up and bouncing back. Things “will go wrong. Terribly, mind-blowingly wrong.” But under no circumstances should it stop someone from pursuing their dreams. Smart, sassy and surprisingly wise.

THE PASSAGE TO EUROPE How a Continent Became a Union

van Middelaar, Luuk Translated by Waters, Liz Yale Univ. (352 pp.) $40.00 | Jul. 30, 2013 978-0-300-18112-8

Authoritative historical overview of the European Union by a policy adviser and speechwriter for the current president of the European Council. Originally published overseas in 2012, this volume won several awards, including the European Book Prize, for its unique approach and relevance for understanding current developments. Dutch political philosopher van Middelaar offers an erudite alternative to the persistent drumbeat about the coming, market-driven disintegration of the European Union. He provides a clear account of the origin of the EU, the political and philosophical issues and conflicts that shaped its evolution, and the turning points in its development. The author develops his views while assessing all three elements in the EU’s political and institutional infrastructure: the inner core of the European Commission in Brussels; the intermediary circle of the European Council, comprised of the heads of state of EU member nations; and the outer circle made up of the nations themselves.

WHAT WENT WRONG How the 1% Hijacked the American Middle Class...and What Other Countries Got Right Tyler, George R. BenBella (384 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-937856-71-7

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The outer circle’s geographic boundaries to the east and southeast remain undetermined; nations such as Ukraine and Turkey are still hoping to qualify. In discussing the birth of the EU, van Middelaar draws comparisons with the creation of the United States. He places its evolution and key turning points in the international context of relations with the U.S. and the impact of the Cold War. He provides an added dimension relevant to current events with his discussion of the effect on Europe’s political institutions of President Richard Nixon’s 1971 decision to take the dollar off the gold standard and the subsequent Middle East War, as well as the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union after 1989. An intriguing presentation of views seldom reported so readably and in such depth, offering a fresh new perspective to American readers.

present tense for extended stretches does not improve the narrative’s coherence. Heavy on style, light on revelation.

PRISONERS OF THE WHITE HOUSE The Isolation of America’s Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership

Walsh, Kenneth T. Paradigm (256 pp.) $27.95 | May 30, 2013 978-1-61205-160-4

A White House correspondent’s study of how presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama have coped with the challenges caused by executive isolation. The Executive Mansion is a space of tremendous power and privilege. But as Walsh (Family of Freedom: Presidents and African Americans in the White House, 2011, etc.) reveals in this account of the American presidency since FDR, it is also a space that keeps the politically entitled at a distance from their fellow Americans. Modern presidents have been all too aware of this phenomenon. Harry Truman called the White House “the great white jail,” and Bill Clinton quipped that it was “the crown jewel in the federal penitentiary system.” Walsh suggests that the problem stems from several factors, not the least of which is that the White House was designed “to serve the material needs and desires of one man.” In the 1990s, the rise of the 24-hour news cycle created a need to maintain appearances in front of the media, and the president’s perceived vulnerability to assassination has made it impossible for the commander in chief to do anything without the presence of armed security personnel. Through interviews with presidential aides and pollsters and trenchant analysis of White House correspondence, Walsh examines how modern presidents have dealt with this isolation. He also looks at the degree to which they succeeded or failed in their attempts to keep up with the American people. Effective presidents like Ronald Reagan, Clinton and Obama paid close attention to polls and sought innovative ways to stay connected to everyday Americans. Others, like Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter, also took great pains to understand public opinion but neglected to heed it. Intelligent and insightful, Walsh’s analysis is a reminder that for American leaders, freedom is not for free. An intriguing look at one of the world’s toughest jobs.

WHAT YOU WANT IS IN THE LIMO On the Road with Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, and the Who in 1973, the Year the Sixties Died and the Modern Rock Star Was Born

Walker, Michael Spiegel & Grau (256 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-0-8129-9288-5

Walker (Laurel Canyon, 2006) argues convincingly that rock experienced significant change in the early 1970s among artists, audience and industry alike. It’s regrettable, then, that some quality writing and incisive analysis is undermined by the author’s peculiar focus on three bands and one year. Readers may well wonder why a book that takes its title from a 1975 David Bowie hit (“Fame”) is instead about Led Zeppelin, the Who and Alice Cooper in 1973. That year, all three launched massive tours the author sees as fraught with epochal impact, the likes of which “the world has not seen since and probably never will again.” Walker has a weakness for such grandiose pronouncements (he also bids us, “Welcome to 1973—the year the sixties die”); fortunately, he’s usually a smart observer and reporter. Because so much has already been written about the other two groups, Alice Cooper initially seems to be the odd band out, but it’s the one to which the author apparently had the most access and certainly does the best job of putting in fresh perspective, as originators of a style of theatrical showmanship that would leave an imprint on rock tours to come. In the early ’70s, peace and love gave way to harder drugs and more outrageous debauchery; the audience got younger, the bands richer and the business more cutthroat. Rock became a different animal, and Walker does an often provocative, neverless-than-serviceable job of showing how and why. He vividly captures the frustrations of the Who, the excesses of Led Zeppelin and the jealousies within Alice Cooper. It should also be noted, however, that he draws heavily on what has long been known and already written, and his odd decision to slip into the 72

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“Twenty years of doodles collected in a coffee-table volume, offering a well from which Willems has indeed drawn more than the importunate pigeon starring in many of his seemingly artless, improbably successful children’s books.” from don’t pigeonhole me!

HUNTING CHE How a U.S. Special Forces Team Helped Capture the World’s Most Famous Revolutionary

ABRAHAM LINCOLN CIVIL WAR STORIES Heartwarming Stories about Our Most Beloved President

Wheeler, Joe Howard Books/Simon & Schuster (240 pp.) $22.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-4767-0286-5

Weiss, Mitch; Maurer, Kevin Berkley Caliber (320 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-425-25746-3

Much like “the day we got Bin Laden,” the devil is in the details in this military procedural about one of the few wins of Cold War–era spycraft. Investigative journalist Weiss (No Way Out, 2012, etc.) and co-author Maurer apply many of the same fast-paced stylistic techniques that made a best-seller of Maurer’s collaboration with Navy SEAL Team 6’s Mark Owen (No Easy Day, 2012). This nonfiction thriller about the manhunt and subsequent execution of radical icon Che Guevara (1928–1967) focuses on his final months fostering a revolution in Bolivia. The authors are fortunate to have an extraordinary cast of characters on which to hang their story. By far the most fascinating is Maj. Ralph “Pappy” Shelton, leader of the Green Berets, whose compassionate ideas about counterinsurgency were decades before their time. He was in country to train the Bolivian army to find, trap and capture Guevara’s small army of soldiers. His right-hand man was Gary Prado Salmon, noble commander of the wildly incompetent Bolivian Rangers recruited for the task. The whole affair was crucial to the successful near-dictatorship of President René Barrientos Ortuno, whose government was stealing millions in U.S. aid. The spooks working behind the scenes were led by two Cuban exiles–turned–CIA agents: Gustavo Villoldo, whose father committed suicide at Castro’s command, and Félix Rodríguez, who successfully infiltrated Cuba in advance of the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. Blatantly pitched to armchair warriors and airport bookstores, the book is indeed exciting to read. Whether readers buy into the romantic revisionism of the cult of Che or take the authors’ position that he was an uncommon thug matters little until the finale. Surprisingly, the coda is more humanizing of its antagonist than readers might expect. A slam-bang military drama whose unambiguous worldview overshadows the larger questions raised by the facts at hand.

More stories may have been told about Abraham Lincoln than any other U.S. president; here’s a representative, somewhat haphazardly chosen batch, showing the popular image of Lincoln as it developed over the years. Wheeler (Christmas In My Heart series) brings together a variety of pieces, mostly from largely forgotten magazines of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The implicit goal of those stories was to present Lincoln as a model for young people, much as the George Washington “cherry tree” story did. Typical are several stories of the president learning of a farm boy in the Union Army sentenced to death for sleeping on duty, often substituting for a wounded comrade. Lincoln, full of compassion for the common people, pardoned the offender, who went on to perform heroically later in the war. It’s a touching tale, undoubtedly a true reflection of Lincoln’s character, and odds are it actually happened a few times. The story also tells us something of how the generations immediately after the war thought of Lincoln—as a wise father figure who never lost the common touch or the ability to laugh at himself. But one good tale of a sleeping sentinel should have sufficed. Other stories make similar points—e.g., Lincoln giving a girl a gold piece for her church’s missionary fund, a young Lincoln driving a coach across rough country while rich lawyers rode in comfort. A few, such as William Agnew Paton’s story of himself as a schoolboy interviewing the president, appear to be factual. Others focus on Lincoln’s family, especially his young son. But Wheeler doesn’t appear to have tried to separate true accounts from fiction, and the stories aren’t, on the whole, particularly well-written. The best entries here are probably the ones written closest to Lincoln’s own time, such as Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” Lincoln completists will want it, but the content and concepts are covered better elsewhere. (38 b/w photos)

DON’T PIGEONHOLE ME!

Willems, Mo Illus. by Willems, Mo Disney Editions/Disney Hyperion (288 pp.) $40.00 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-4231-4436-6 Twenty years of doodles collected in a coffee-table volume, offering a well from which Willems has indeed drawn more than the importunate pigeon starring in many of his seemingly artless, improbably successful children’s books. |

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The earlier issues of annual booklets gather witty but conventional New Yorker–style single-panel vignettes of city life and modern romance, one-liners from the therapist’s couch or general sight gags (“The grim reaper at happy hour”). Later, the content becomes less mannered as it broadens into extended plot lines in early versions of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (2003) and Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (2012), experiments in the effective use of page turns and color, a gallery of “Monsters in Underpants” and wordplay in a monologue delivered by a drunken “Belligerent Bunny” (“Olive hue show mutts!”). Though composed throughout with characteristic minimalism (except for a closing section of strip comics), the cartoon illustrations show a stimulating range of experimentation—from scribbles and jagged semiabstracts to urbane tableaux, smudgy rubber-stamp work and balletic, Jules Feiffer–esque figures in “Float.” Along with a preface explaining the Sketchbooks’ origins, the three-time Caldecott Honor winner and two-time Geisel Medal winner provides introductory remarks on events and influences behind each. Occasional sound-bite commendations from colleagues and friends (Norton Juster: “I wish I couldn’t draw the way Mo can’t draw”) would have been better placed on the flaps or endpapers but do enhance the overall celebratory feeling. Eric Carle provides a foreword. Hilarious to, at worst, mildly amusing glimpses of a comic genius at play. Even the pigeon would agree.

when Cissy died in 1954, drinking ever more heavily and pursuing women ever more recklessly. His behavior, Williams suggests, stemmed from the fear that he would never break free from Marlowe and become the writer he’d hoped to be. There are some minor omissions: A brief afterword lists the films made from Chandler’s works (Williams thinks Robert Altman’s take on The Long Goodbye will endure) but does not mention that Robert B. Parker completed Chandler’s unfinished Poodle Springs (1989) and wrote yet another Marlowe novel (Perchance to Dream, 1991), nor does it note Chandler’s two volumes in the Library of America series. Nonetheless, this is a thorough assessment of a talented, troubled writer whose obsessions fed his work and confounded his life. A cleareyed, compassionate biography. (25 b/w photos)

MATHEW BRADY Portraits of a Nation

Wilson, Robert Bloomsbury (288 pp.) $28.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-62040-203-0

The editor of the American Scholar tracks the career of America’s pioneering photographer. “Brady and the Cooper Institute made me president.” Harmless flattery, perhaps, but Abraham Lincoln’s remark testified to the influence of his 1860 speech in New York City and to the widely distributed photograph taken that day by Mathew Brady (circa 1822–1896). With studios in New York and Washington, D.C., and already famous as a portraitist, Brady’s galleries grew to contain a who’s who of 19th-century distinction: writers like Poe, Cooper, Twain and Whitman; presidents from Quincy Adams to McKinley; statesmen like Clay, Calhoun and Webster; military leaders like John C. Fremont and Winfield Scott; and distinguished visitors like the Prince of Wales. Brady lured the well-heeled and, increasingly, the middle class through his doors to be similarly immortalized by the new technology that he and his assistants mastered and advanced. When the Civil War arrived, Brady and his team of photographers went into the field, and their unprecedented, comprehensive images of camp life, battlegrounds and soldiers documented the national catastrophe for all time. Wilson (The Explorer King: Adventure, Science, and the Great Diamond Hoax—Clarence in the Old West, 2006, etc.) concedes from the beginning that little is known about Brady’s personal life—not even the place or date of his birth—but the author compensates with a thorough tracking and assessment of the professional career, describing for general readers the origins and swift growth of the photographic science, the team of variously skilled workers required to make the earliest images, and the controversies over photo attribution that persist. Wilson paints Brady as the consummate ringmaster, with a Barnum-like talent for selling himself and his product and for gathering and distributing images that made the phrase “photo by Brady” seemingly ubiquitous.

A MYSTERIOUS SOMETHING IN THE LIGHT The Life of Raymond Chandler

Williams, Tom Chicago Review (400 pp.) $29.95 | Sep. 1, 2013 978-1-61374-840-4

The peripatetic, disordered life of the creator of private eye Philip Marlowe. First-time author Williams structures his text fairly conventionally. It begins in 1913, when 25-year-old Chandler arrived in Los Angeles, where he would later set loose Marlowe to roam as a knight errant; then it retreats to Chandler’s birth in Chicago and proceeds steadily forward from there to his death from pneumonia and alcohol-related issues in 1959. Williams spent six years doing in-depth research; among the valuable material on Chandler’s early history is a revealing account of his years in Ireland and England with his mother. This realistic, at times unflattering portrait shows the conflicted Chandler often drinking too much and sometimes seeking sex outside his marriage (wife Cissy was 18 years his senior). Williams, to his credit, neither defends nor excuses Chandler for these failings, nor for the uncomfortable words he wrote about gays, women and African-Americans. Using Chandler’s correspondence and papers, the biographer describes his generally successful career in Hollywood (including a dust-up with Hitchcock) and takes us through the creation and reception of his major stories and novels, from The Big Sleep in 1939 to The Long Goodbye in 1953. He disintegrated 74

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TREASURY’S WAR The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare

A useful introduction to the man who established photographs as both works of art and important historical documents. (16-page color insert; b/w illustrations throughout)

Zarate, Juan PublicAffairs (480 pp.) $29.99 | Sep. 10, 2013 978-1-61039-115-3

TEARDOWN Memoir of a Vanishing City

Young, Gordon Univ. of California (288 pp.) $29.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-520-27052-7

How the United States uses economic embargoes and financial tools as weapons against murderous terrorist groups and “rogue states” such as North

Another entry in the Rust Belt genre. Like Michael Moore, journalist Young (Communications/Santa Clara Univ.) grew up in Flint, Mich., the former epicenter of the auto industry and now widely regarded as one of America’s fastest-dying cities. In this overly detailed debut, he describes revisiting his decaying hometown with the ostensible goal of buying a house and living there. In the grip of nostalgia, much of it engendered by his experiences working on a blog that culls Vehicle City memorabilia (Flint Expatriates), Young offers a scattershot account of Flint’s history, from its swampy backwater beginnings to its eventual apotheosis as “Fabulous Flint,” the middle-class dream city of the 1950s, when General Motors ruled. Having grown up in the downward transitioning city of the ’70s (Flint has lost more than half its residents in the past five decades), the author nonetheless retains fond memories of his altar-boy days and of the genuine friendliness and sense of community in Flint neighborhoods; he finds this quality lacking in San Francisco, where he and his girlfriend have lived since 2003. During several years of research, Young encountered pleasing remnants of the former Flint but far more often found evidence of ceaseless decline, including abandoned buildings and waves of crime and arson. “[E]ven people from Detroit looked down on Flint,” he writes. Urban homesteaders and others gave him hope for the city and his quest to find a new home there. However, his constant indecision over whether he should buy or not—in the face of his own realization that it might be a bad idea—becomes maddening for readers, who know from early on what the author will do. Despite fascinating glimpses of the city’s old bar culture and its present politics, only die-hard Flintoids will stay with this story to the end. Well-written but lacks coherence. (15 b/w photos)

Korea, Iran and Syria. Zarate, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is a former federal prosecutor who joined the U.S. Treasury Department after the 9/11 attacks to figure out ways to constrict the financing of terrorist groups. Relying heavily on anecdotes, acronyms and actual case studies, he provides detailed explanations of secretive operations far less publicized than ground wars and drone strikes. He builds the saga around a small group within the Treasury Department who gather regularly to develop new policies of economic warfare, coordinate those policies with fellow government agencies (such as the State Department), and also negotiate with banks and other private-sector institutions. Although Zarate’s work carries the immediacy associated with the so-called war on terror, he wisely places financial warfare in historical context, going all the way back to 432 B.C., when the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta battled for hegemony by employing economic sanctions as part of their strategies. Moving forward in history, the author notes the economic blockage of the Confederacy by Union forces during the Civil War. Since Zarate worked on economic sanctions during his tenure in the Bush administration, he is able to provide a you-are-there sense that will quite likely draw readers into what otherwise might have been an arcane account. Zarate is a patriot but not a blind patriot. While proud of his work, he is also willing to point out mistakes in the execution of policy and shortcomings in the overall strategy of the U.S. His epilogue sets out “lessons learned” with suggestions for improvement. A bracing account by a knowledgeable authority.

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“A refreshingly different perspective on forging the future of the Internet.” from rewire

BETTING ON FAMINE Why the World Still Goes Hungry

To his credit, the author spends more time writing about “the world we want” and less of “the world we fear,” an invigorating change from the foreboding and anxiety in so many recent tech books. To get to the world we want, we need “to access perspectives from other parts of the world, to listen to opinions that diverge from our preconceptions, and pay attention to the unexpected and unfamiliar.” Zuckerman employs a wide variety of unique anecdotes, touching on everything from Diogenes to Paul Simon’s Graceland to show how more cross-cultural exploration and insights would improve life for everyone. The overall effect sometimes feels a bit like reading a long TED talk, heavy on cool stuff but light on proof. For example, Zuckerman explains that when the remaining members of the band Journey needed a new lead singer to replace Steve Perry, they watched countless YouTube videos of cover bands until they found one of Arnel Pineda singing in a club outside of Manila. Pineda sounded so much like Perry, Journey fans were thrilled, but Pineda’s achievements with Journey also connected the band to millions of Filipinos, thrilled by the success of their fellow countryman. The story is admittedly cool, but Zuckerman’s analysis is glib and brief—“In a world where the Filipino lead singer of an American rock band wows crowds in Chile, it’s the connected who shall inherit”—before he charges on to the next idea. Still, Zuckerman’s prose is readable and occasionally funny—e.g. Diogenes is ancient Greece’s “cross between Woody Allen and Old Dirty Bastard”—and definitely of interest for anyone looking for a distinctive view on the future of technology. A refreshingly different perspective on forging the future of the Internet.

Ziegler, Jean Translated by Caines, Christopher New Press (240 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-59558-849-4 978-1-59558-861-6 e-book

Ziegler (co-author: The Fight for the Right to Food, 2011, etc.), the former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (2000-2008), points to the principles of the Atlantic Charter and Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms as possible solutions to world hunger, malnutrition and starvation. The author shows that the absolute numbers of the world’s hungry have increased even while the proportion of the total population has fallen. He singles out the effect on the world’s food supply of multitrillion-dollar financial bailouts, speculation and the destructive effects of free trade–related dumping of food products into hungry countries. Ziegler details how government-subsidized worldwide production of biofuels contributes to world hunger. This production results in the burning of hundreds of millions of tons of food products annually, which could otherwise be eaten, while depleting groundwater supplies and soils and spreading deforestation. The author insists that biofuel formulation is counterproductive to its stated purpose since it contributes to global warming and increases the release of carbon dioxide. Ziegler traces the idea of a right to food (“certainly the one most constantly violated on our planet”) back to World War II. Freeing populations from want, including hunger, was one of the foundations of the Atlantic Charter, the program to defeat Hitlerism. “Hunger” policy, based on the Hitler regime’s division of occupied Europe’s populations into four categories—well-fed, underfed, hungry and starving—was at the core of Nazism and its program of genocide. Ziegler’s historical perspective adds an important dimension to his argument. For him, food shortages are artificial, the result of human political choices, not the workings of nature. A powerfully written argument for a change of course and priorities.

REWIRE Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection Zuckerman, Ethan Norton (288 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 17, 2013 978-0-393-08283-8

In his debut, Zuckerman (director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media) argues that we must “take control of our technologies and use them to build the world we want rather than the world we fear.” 76

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children’s & teen THE FRIENDSHIP MATCHMAKER GOES UNDERCOVER

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

SASQUATCH IN THE PAINT by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Raymond Obstfeld................................................................................ 77

Abdel-Fattah, Randa Bloomsbury (208 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-8027-3485-3 Series: Friendship Matchmaker, 2

POMELO’S OPPOSITES by Ramona Badescu; illus. by Benjamin Chaud; trans. by Claudia Bedrick........................................................79 BIG BEAR’S BIG BOAT by Eve Bunting; illus. by Nancy Carpenter.82 DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT by Tony Cliff... 84 THE SOUND OF YOUR VOICE, ONLY REALLY FAR AWAY by Frances O’Roark Dowell...................................................................... 86 MOUNTAIN DOG by Margarita Engle; illus. by Olga & Alexey Ivanov............................................................ 88 SALT by Helen Frost............................................................................. 90 WHEN THE STARS THREW DOWN THEIR SPEARS by Kersten Hamilton.............................................................................93 MONSTER ON THE HILL by Rob Harrell...........................................93 WHEN THE BEAT WAS BORN by Laban Carrick Hill; illus. by Theodore Taylor III............................................................... 96 LISTENING FOR LUCCA by Suzanne LaFleur.................................101 THUMPY FEET by Betsy Lewin..........................................................101 LING & TING SHARE A BIRTHDAY by Grace Lin...........................102 ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS by Sarah McCarry............................... 104 THE TAPIR SCIENTIST by Sy Montgomery; photos by Nic Bishop..105

Seventh-grader Lara discovers just how difficult it can be to change established habits. As the former FMM—or friendship matchmaker—of her middle school, Lara was accustomed to managing the social lives of her peers. Now she has vowed to refrain from matchmaking, but Lara still feels compelled to intervene. When a new student’s arrival alters the social balance, Lara clandestinely resumes her role as FMM in order to fulfill an unusual request: seek out a potential friend for Chris, a student known for his malicious, bullying behavior. Abdel-Fattah adeptly addresses the social concerns of early adolescents in this perceptive tale. As Lara attempts to find a match for Chris, the circumstances that influence his negative actions are subtly revealed. When Lara cleverly pairs Chris with Antony, an enthusiastic yet unskilled athlete, the opportunity to be a mentor has a profound effect on Chris and his behavior. In addition to arranging the relationships of others, Lara must also resolve her own friendship insecurities. Amid these familiar friendship concerns, Abdel-Fattah also addresses other complex issues, most notably with the new student’s arrival. Through Majur’s experiences as a refugee adjusting to life in a new country, she examines the effects of war on children and their families. Although she struggles in her efforts to resolve her managing ways, Lara’s genuine kindness and compassion remain evident in this poignant sequel. (Fiction. 10-13)

SASQUATCH IN THE PAINT

WAIT! WAIT! by Hatsue Nakawaki; illus. by Komoko Sakai........... 107 GATED by Amy Christine Parker ......................................................108

Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem; Obstfeld, Raymond Disney Hyperion (266 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 23, 2013 978-1-4231-7870-5 Series: Streetball Crew, 1

BLUFFTON by Matt Phelan...............................................................109 ERUPTION! by Elizabeth Rusch; photos by Tom Uhlman................. 112 HOW I BECAME A GHOST by Tim Tingle.......................................119

A crisp tale of sports, smarts and what it means to be your own man or woman— or boy or girl, if you happen to be 13.

ALICEWINKS by Lewis Carroll; dev. by Walrus & Carpenter Productions..........................................................................................124 |

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It seems to be an embarrassment of riches to be, say, one of the best basketball players in history and also write tightly entertaining novels for kids, but there you have Abdul-Jabbar. Surely Obstfeld added polish and framing, but this obviously is a work of someone intimate with sports and, by extension, how sports can serve as metaphor for a way of being in the world. Here, newly tall eighth-grader Theo Rollins is trying to find his way between the brainiacs and the basketball players. Along the way, he meets Rain—aka Crazy Girl—a sort of “girl with the dragon tattoo” minus the heaviest baggage. Characters, both friend and foe, feel real; there is talk of abandonment as well as serious comments about the skewed vision Americans have of Islam. The deepest running narrative pivots around sports, but the story has much to give. Theo’s cousin’s taxonomy of basketball players is broadly applicable: There are the happy-go-lucky, the self-conscious and “those who never want the game to be over, because each minute is like living on some planet where you got no problems....[They are], for that brief time, in a place where everything they thought or did mattered.” Fearless, caring sports fiction. (Fiction. 8-12)

THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS

Abrams, Amir Dafina/Kensington (364 pp.) $9.95 paper | $8.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-7582-7357-4 978-0-7582-7529-5 e-book Drama reigns supreme in suburban New Jersey. Senior basketballer Antonio “Tone” Lopez can have any girl he wants. They throw themselves at his feet at school and sext him hot messages and pics at night. He can have anyone he wants, and he knows it. And he does. The only one he can’t have is Miesha, the beautiful, stone-cold new girl in town from Brooklyn, who, of course, becomes the object of his affection. Tension sparks the moment she walks into the school. Every other girl is jealous of her beauty, and the drama escalates when Tone shows an interest in her. Threats are made. Punches are thrown. Weaves are torn—and more. Abrams’ latest is good, raunchy fun. There’s little actual profanity spoken by the characters, but the sex trash talk runs rampant. What’s important, however, is that Tone and Miesha aren’t just stereotypes, and Abrams works hard to humanize them with their back stories and dreams. But what teen readers will love the most are the full-on catfights, trash talk and sizzling romance. Good, dirty fun. (Romance. 15 & up)

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Alpine, Rachele Medallion Press (288 pp.) $9.99 paper | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-60542-587-0 In an engrossing, carefully unfolding drama, sophomore Kate Franklin adjusts to a new school, a powerful set of friends and a family that is falling apart. After their mother’s death two years earlier, Kate and Brett’s father threw himself into his work. Now hired to coach the basketball team at an elite prep school, he decrees that his children will transfer to Beacon from their public high school. Kate falls in easily with the popular crowd, helped, perhaps, by their interest in her father’s prestigious position. Despite her enthusiasm about her new friends and boyfriend, Jack, readers can see her discomfort when Jack cheats off her homework or pressures her for sex and when her friends bully and insult her brother. When Brett announces his decision to enlist in the Army, Kate is devastated, but the popular crowd has no patience for her becoming sad and withdrawn. The incidents that lead to Kate’s friends turning on her, including a sexual assault, are realistically and painfully drawn. Chapters begin with poems and essays of varying quality, although as Kate never talks about writing in her narration, the revelation late in the book that these pieces come from her own private blog is somewhat unconvincing. Overall, a sophisticated, evocative portrait of a teen girl finding her place among peers and family. (Fiction. 14-18)

MACADOO OF THE MAURY RIVER

Amateau, Gigi Candlewick (192 pp.) $15.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-7636-3766-8

This slender novel follows the life of a Belgian draft horse from his yearling days in a pasture in Alberta through several owners until he finds his true calling as a therapeutic and vaulting horse at a riding center in Virginia. Depressed and certain that there is no place for draft horses in the world anymore, his sire bites the tip off one of his ears; the resulting defect (inexplicably) sends him to a “kill” auction instead of one for valuable purebreds. A man named John Macadoo saves him from slaughter and takes him to Virginia, where he becomes the companion of a lonely boy. Another forced sale several years later takes him to the Maury River Stables, where he meets a young girl named Claire and an old Appaloosa named Chancey, both characters from the companion book, Chancey of the Maury River (2008). As with the previous book, overly formal and at times overwrought language mars the readability.

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“These illustrations, rich with implicit suggestions, prompt parents to offer explanations or (better yet!) solicit interpretations from their children.” from pomelo’s opposites

Several logical lapses strain credulity here as well—Why would the only two choices for selling the horse be by auction? Why would a physical blemish mean his purebred papers wouldn’t travel with him?—and the beginning seems to promise a much grander future for the equine protagonist than the simple tale that unfolds. Macadoo’s story will please very enthusiastic horse lovers—and only them. (Fiction. 8-12)

SHUTDOWN

Anastasiu, Heather St. Martin’s Griffin (320 pp.) $9.99 paper | Jul. 2, 2013 978-1-250-00301-0 Series: Glitch, 3 Fans of Anastasiu’s science-fiction trilogy who grew to love Zoe in all her telekinetic, girl-power glory, particularly in Override (2013), will likely feel cheated by the final installment. As the Chancellor closes in on the Rez, destroying their base and forcing the surviving resistance fighters to disband and seek refuge on the Surface, Zoe and Adrien’s only hope of outrunning the Regulators and reuniting their misfit band of freedom fighters is to work together. This should be the perfect setup for more of the steamy love scenes and high-stakes action that made the second book in the series such a great read, but fans shouldn’t get their hopes up. Still recovering from his lobotomy, Adrien has no memory of his love for Zoe and spends the better part of the novel recoiling from her touch. Not that this deters Zoe from trying and getting burned time and again. Though her telekinesis allows her to do some pretty cool stunt work when she needs to, Zoe spends far too much time bemoaning the loss of Adrien’s affections. When she isn’t pining about what could have been, she’s a physical wreck, dependent on Aiden to survive. With far too few glimpses of the self-confident freedom fighter readers have come to expect, Zoe goes from girl on fire to girl you want to set on fire. (Dystopian romance. 14 & up)

JOSHUA DREAD The Nameless Hero

Bacon, Lee Illus. by Dorman, Brandon Delacorte (304 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Sep. 24, 2013 978-0-385-74186-6 978-0-375-98722-9 e-book 978-0-375-99028-1 PLB Series: Joshua Dread, 1

When the substitute librarian tries to kill you on the last day of school, it doesn’t bode well for summer break. |

Seven months after narrowly defeating the supervillain Vex (Joshua Dread, 2012), Joshua Dread, secretly superpowered sixth grader (whose parents are the Dread Duo) is looking forward to a quiet summer with his normal best buddy, Milton, and their superstrong friend, Sophie. Their plans are thwarted when Joshua and Sophie receive invitations to Gyfted & Talented, a summer camp for superpowered teens. Unfortunately, Joshua’s parents (the Botanist and Dr. Dread), who have scaled back on villainy since finding out Sophie’s dad is their archnemesis, Captain Justice, think camp sounds like a good idea. Milton forges an invite, and the trio arrives to find it’s a training camp that intends to put together a group of superteens. When they go on their first mission with costumes and new supernames, it’s nearly a disaster. Joshua saves the day and becomes the darling of the media as the titular “Nameless Hero” (long story). When the secrets of Gyfted & Talented start to come out, things really get weird and dangerous. Bacon’s second features more superteen angst, celebrity problems and wry to goofy humor. The battle with the bad guy at the end is a bit of a letdown, but there’s no denying preteens will like this believable superworld that the obvious promise of the third installment will take them back to. A superpowered thumbs up. (Fantasy. 9-12)

POMELO’S OPPOSITES

Badescu, Ramona Illus. by Chaud, Benjamin Translated by Bedrick, Claudia Enchanted Lion Books (120 pp.) $15.95 | Jul. 15, 2013 978-1-59270-132-2 Pomelo, a diminutive, round-eyed, pink elephant child, discovers opposites in his garden world. Sometimes satisfyingly clear and sometimes comically questionable, all 58 of Pomelo’s opposites engage and delight. Are polka-dot mushrooms really the opposite of striped mushrooms? Many pairings challenge young readers with sophisticated humor, hinting at tacit desires and subtle feelings. In one spread, Pomelo appears with a lustrous head of blond hair with “dream” appearing beneath; on the accompanying page, a bald head sits atop his body with “reality” stamped below. Pomelo’s eyes look identically plaintive in both portraits—a perfect punch line. These illustrations, rich with implicit suggestions, prompt parents to offer explanations or (better yet!) solicit interpretations from their children. Some opposites, thankfully, are just downright silly. Watch Pomelo, whose body crosses the book’s gutter, open w-i-d-e for a round, red fruit (“in”) on the left page, and see his tail raised to expel an identically spherical poo (“out”) on the right. The book’s pace quickens as it advances, and more and more quirky, nonsensical, complicated pairings crop up. The speedy delivery of associations starts to feel like an exciting, wild ride. Images, words and meanings volley back and forth, bouncing from page to page and between this clever book and readers’ imaginations. Simple, sunny, silly illustrations brilliantly convey the

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“Baskin...has proven that she can sensitively handle the complex interpersonal relationships of the middle school set.” from runt

complexities and joys one can unearth when tilling a garden of language. (Picture book. 4-6)

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 3 Planet of the Pies

Barrett, Judi Illus. by Monés, Isidre Atheneum (32 pp.) $17.99 | $12.99 e-book | Aug. 27, 2013 978-1-4424-9027-7 978-1-4424-9028-4 e-book More edible precipitation—falling not on the town of Chewandswallow this time, but Mars, and timed to whet appetites for the second iteration of the film version of the franchise. Grandpa falls asleep in his chair following news reports of astronauts greeted by a shower of goo on the red planet and dreams of being there himself, helping the green-skinned residents cope with barrages of falling pies. They’re all the fruit-filled sort in Monés’ illustrations, which are closely modeled on Ron Barrett’s work in the previous two Cloudy episodes and sandwich color views of Martian cities and citizens between earthly scenes in crosshatched black and white. The story goes on a little too long and ends in a muddle—the goo turns out to be ordinary Martian rain, but the pie Grandpa serves to his grandchildren in the final scene comes from an interplanetary shipping carton that is somehow translated into reality from his dream solution of exporting fallen pies to Earth. Nevertheless, the showers of crust and fruit filling look delectable, and the illustrator tucks in plenty of amusing side business and sight gags. An extra helping for those readers who haven’t had their fill of the general premise. (Picture book. 6-8)

RUNT

Baskin, Nora Raleigh Simon & Schuster (208 pp.) $15.99 | $9.99 e-book | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-4424-5807-9 978-1-4424-5809-3 e-book Bullies and the bullied: Could it help if they just better understood each other? Baskin (Anything But Typical, 2009) has proven that she can sensitively handle the complex interpersonal relationships of the middle school set. Here, she takes on a daunting project, presenting a couple of separate bullying incidents from the perspectives of a variety of the players. Elizabeth’s growing up in an impoverished, single-parent home. Her notably lackadaisical mother takes in pets for an inadequate living, but Elizabeth, responsible and sensitive, handles the chores. Maggie—who’s become a middle school diva and turned her back on former best friend Freida—decides (but later regrets) to seek 80

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revenge for a perceived slight in the form of Elizabeth and Freida’s evolving friendship by creating a nasty social media page in Elizabeth’s name. Meanwhile, Matthew punches career bully (and richly deserving) Stewart after the hostile boy urinates on his leg. Does Stewart’s back story—a disabled sister—explain his behavior? Since it, like Maggie’s, is only sketched, not really. More information about the bullies and less about the bystanders would have been welcome. The often blundering attempts of the school administration to intervene are appropriately made light of and the nearly hopeless situations of some victims vividly illustrated, although a few glimmers of hope appear at the conclusion. A thought-provoking and worthy effort on a multifaceted, seemingly all but insurmountable, problem. (Fiction. 9-14)

MY DREAM PLAYGROUND

Becker, Kate M. Illus. by Henry, Jed Candlewick (32 pp.) $15.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-7636-5531-0

An unnamed young girl tells readers how the empty lot down the street from her urban apartment became her dream playground—and the part she played in its unfolding. Becker traces the beginnings of a city playground to a young girl who spends every afternoon drawing pictures of her dream playground. Encouraged by her mother to “Never stop dreaming,” she is unsurprised but thrilled to see a man arrive at the lot with a measuring tape and clipboard—she knows he is there to build her playground. Grabbing her drawings, she approaches him, and so begins a business relationship, with her serving as the project manager. Darell consults her on every aspect of the playground’s design, and after months of planning, the whole community, the young girl included, comes together as volunteers to make the dream playground a reality. Henry’s digital illustrations have the look and feel of watercolors, and the pages of the young girl’s drawings are charmingly childlike in their detail, execution and use of imagination. An author’s note tells of the real-life little girl who inspired this story. For those who want to take a more active role in making their dreams a reality, nonprofit KaBOOM! has a website for communities to plan, fundraise and build their own playgrounds. This book may inspire more than dreams. (Picture book. 4-8)

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TO RUSSIA, WITH LOVE

Béka Illus. by Crip Papercutz (48 pp.) $10.99 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-59707-423-0 Series: Dance Class, 5

Adventures are in store for three friends both in dance class and on a trip to Russia. Julie, Lucie and Alia enjoy going to parties and learning new routines. There’s an African celebration dance that Alia aces, while all three sign up for a swing dance class that has, unusually, “more guys than girls.” Here, Alia dreams of being partnered by the cute boy who is not even the boy of her dreams. Other vignettes feature a school choreographer who cannot find any inspiration and just tells the students to improvise. The high point is a trip to St. Petersburg to dance with Russian students in a performance of The Nutcracker. Some unusual turns, jetés and arabesques revolve around a Russian dancer, now a plump seamstress, who has not performed in 40 years. Throwing her into a role is no doubt meant to be a humorous plot thread, but it is not at all probable and none too kind. Still, this is another enjoyable Dance Class romp, though the cartoon art feels cramped and would benefit considerably from a much larger trim size. The author and illustrator duo introduced the girls in So You Think You Can Hip-Hop (2012). Quick-paced, graphic-novel fun for preteens. (Graphic novel. 8-12)

SMASH Trial By Fire

Bolton, Chris A. Illus. by Bolton, Kyle Candlewick (160 pp.) $18.99 | Sep. 10, 2013 978-0-7636-5596-9

In this webcomic’s print opener, a 9-year-old acquires superpowers but still has issues, such as his fear of heights and the difficulty of sneaking out of the house at night to fight crime. Without acquiring visible muscle, Andrew suddenly finds himself superstrong and supertough after the long career of Defender, the superhero he worships, comes to a sudden end in a mighty explosion. Discovering that ambition and a dorky homemade outfit doth not a superhero make, with some practice, Andrew nonetheless takes up some skills. He learns how to fly without running into things (deservedly acquiring along the way his moniker, “Smash”) and to survive blasts and bullets while nabbing robbers and other malfeasants, costumed or otherwise. Unfortunately, he still has school, a mercurial big brother, parental rules and a bully problem (which he’s savvy enough not to try solving the simplest way). That’s not to mention the Magus, an archvillain out to regain the transferable superpowers he claims the Defender stole from him years ago. |

The Boltons provide easy-to-follow panels filled with action, wide eyes, banter (“Not another step or it’s bye-bye puberty!”), and comically exaggerated differences between the puny (looking!) caped crusader and his much buffer adversaries. Smash battles his way through robots and other minions to a climactic and rousingly destructive, if inconclusive, climax that, natch, paves the way for sequels. Three cheers for the underdog. Maybe in future episodes he’ll acquire better homework habits. (Graphic fantasy. 9-11)

THE MORNING STAR

Bridges, Robin Delacorte (288 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $20.99 PLB Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-385-74026-5 978-0-375-89903-4 e-book 978-0-385-90831-3 PLB Series: Katerina Trilogy, 3 The Katerina Trilogy wraps up with a sometimes-confusing but action-packed

climax. Necromancer Katerina still yearns to attend medical school, but she satisfies her need to learn medicine with the tutelage of a Tibetan physician. She is at least partly motivated by her desire to cure her supernaturally afflicted love interest, the czar’s son, George Alexandrovich. When the czar informs her that he approves of her marriage to George, it seems like a dream come true, until he also tells her that she cannot study medicine. Complex paranormal conflicts, set up in the first two books, now become even more labyrinthine, which may make readers wish they had created a score card while reading the previous two works. The Light and Dark Russian courts are at odds with each other, and an evil, undead pretender to the throne, Konstantin, has occupied the vampiric body of Danilo, a crown prince who attempted to forcibly marry Katerina in The Unfailing Light (2012). He—they?—kidnaps her and takes her to Egypt on a quest for an immensely powerful sword. Bridges has built a believable and flawlessly depicted world that effectively combines historical fact and paranormal fiction in this smart, romantic adventure. Characters remain well-realized, but multiple intrigues already set up in the trilogy make it impossible for this work to stand alone. Recommended for sophisticated readers who enjoy a fully immersive paranormal experience. (Paranormal romance. 11 & up)

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GET INTO ART Animals

Brooks, Susie Illus. by Brooks, Susie Kingfisher (32 pp.) $12.99 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-0-7534-7058-9

Families may want to ride the DIY wave with this attractive British import, which publishes simultaneously with the similarly conceived Get into Art: People (2013). Youngsters are presented with a dozen works of art featuring animals and accompanying art projects of varying degrees of difficulty. The bright primary-colored cover and lively design (featuring a flap in each double-page spread) belie the inherent difficulty of most of these projects. The majority require far more than the usual paper-crayons-paste-scissors level of art supplies. Parents and teachers will need to carefully check the materials list for each project and gauge the child’s skill level to avoid frustration or failure. Some projects are simple and satisfying—like a vibrant cut-paper collage inspired by Matisse’s The Snail. Others are more complex and require adult support. A take on Escher’s Fish (E59) requires “graph paper, thin card stock, glue, ruler, pencil, scissors, tape, white paper, colouring materials (for example markers, oil pastels, watercolor paint, paintbrushes).” Brooks then directs children to create individual fish “outlined in marker, shaded with oil pastel [and] washed over with watercolor paint.” They are to then be pasted down in a carefully matched, tiled design for an Escher-style “Fish Squish.” When enjoyed by adults and kids together, this book will deliver a pleasing, fresh mix of animal-art–inspired projects utilizing varying media and techniques. (table of contents, glossary, art materials checklist, index) (Nonfiction. 7-12)

BIG BEAR’S BIG BOAT

Bunting, Eve Illus. by Carpenter, Nancy Clarion (32 pp.) $12.99 | Sep. 24, 2013 978-0-618-58537-3

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AFTER THE RIVER THE SUN

Calhoun, Dia Atheneum (368 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-4424-3985-6

A boy draws on Arthurian legend to ease his grief in this companion verse novel to Eva of the Farm (2012). Having recently witnessed his parents’ deaths from a drowning accident, Eckhart Lyon is sent to live with his uncle Albert, one of his few living relatives, on a trial basis. A gaming expert, the boy is certain he’ll never enjoy his strange uncle’s rural home without modern technology, but he grows to appreciate helping his uncle rebuild his orchard and hanging out with Eva, from a neighboring property. Despite these brief, comforting moments, he struggles with unrelenting guilt, feelings of cowardice and a desire to make his uncle’s house a real home. Calhoun’s precise verse (“Suddenly the stars beating down / were too bright, / the river too loud”) make Eckhart’s anguish palpable. The boy soon likens himself to Sir Gawain, who proved his worth to his uncle, King Arthur, before becoming a knight. Eckhart’s quest for home and courage is a true test, as his uncle grapples with his own grief and despair and will not commit to Eckhart’s future. A sudden tragedy allows the boy to heed the call of bravery, show his knightly spirit and forge a new family. A quiet testament to readers who relish the beauty of language over action. (Verse novel. 9-12)

MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT

Bunting and Carpenter (Little Bear’s Little Boat, 2003) team again with a story riding on a Thoreauvian sensibility with a Zen serenity. Big Bear has outgrown his boat, so he has given it to Little Bear—who is having a blast with it—and embarked on building a bigger boat. It evolves from looking like a coracle to a whaler—a big rowboat—which is just the ticket, until wellmeaning friends suggest Big Bear add a top deck, and a mast, and a cabin. Big Bear, no great carpenter, creates a shambling ramshackle of a boat—off true in every sense of the words. Big Bear gently tells his friends that the boat is not the one of his dreams. So he simplifies, simplifies, back to the big rowboat, 82

back to something ancient and enduring, something to float on to watch the moon rise and the stars shoot, to take a nap to the lap of the water against the hull. The text has a clarity that could be set to music; Carpenter’s artwork is spare, but its colors couldn’t be more emotive and its poses more natural in their capturing of motion and mood. This story is more than just a tale of sticking to your vision—it’s a small world unto itself. A keeper. (Picture book. 4-8)

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Carlson, Caroline Harper/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $16.99 | $8.99 e-book | Sep. 9, 2013 978-0-06-219434-3 978-0-06-219433-6 e-book Series: Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, 1 A conked-out attacker lying in a pool of…beet juice is as close as this dainty piratical escapade gets to actual gore or violence. Except for providing application forms and refusing to let young Hilary Westfield be the pirate she’s always longed to be, the bureaucratic buccaneers of the series’ title remain in the

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“[Henry’s] final decline into a paranoid, apoplectic tyrant is portrayed in a sequence of quasi-cinematic tableaux that punctuate the 30-year span of his reign and clarify the complex historical narrative.” from viii

wings in this kickoff tale. She must, perforce, accompanied by her brisk governess and trusty talking stone gargoyle, take matters into her own hands. She slips away from Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies to join gentlemanly freelance pirate Jasper Fletcher (“Terror of the Southlands,” as he’s repeatedly dubbed) on a search for a certain fabulous trove of magical gold hidden long ago. Ensuing complications include the horrifying revelation that her own father, a renowned admiral, is scheming to take over the kingdom and banish piracy forever. The tongue-in-cheek tale is punctuated by vigorous but injuryfree melees, plus images of tabloid newspaper pages, advertisements, extracts from the titular league’s “Treasure Hunting for Beginners” manual and “handwritten” correspondence, including breathless exchanges between Hilary and a school friend. The adventure winds its way to a glittering hoard, a fabulous wedding and, best of all, a well-earned league membership card for its plucky protagonist. Even the gargoyle comes away with a pirate hat. A polite chorus of “Aaarrgghh”s all round, please, for this rather twee outing. (Fantasy. 10-13)

BROTHER, BROTHER

Carmichael, Clay Roaring Brook (320 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 30, 2013 978-1-59643-743-2

With his grandmother dead, 17-yearold Billy “Brother” Grace has nothing... except a family mystery. Mem, Brother’s headstrong grandmother, raised him alone. When she dies of breast cancer, he finds a newspaper with a circled photo that looks exactly like him. It’s the son of powerful North Carolina senator Gideon Grayson—could he have a twin he doesn’t know about? Thanks to arrangements made by Mem’s friends, Brother can quit his job at the nursing home and set off in search of family. Unfortunately, his reckless friend Cole has dropped off his 5-year-old little brother, Jack, without knowing that Mem has died. Brother packs up Trooper, his dog, and Jack and heads for Eden, island sanctuary of the Graysons. What Brother finds in this unfamiliar world of privilege is the secret of his ancestry...and of Mem’s life. Carmichael’s sophomore effort lacks the deft, light touch of her debut, Wild Things (2009). The characters are unbelievably good, from perfect Brother to stranger-becomes-girlfriend Kit to Trooper, the psychic dog; the turns of plot, especially at the outset, are unrealistic. Brother’s quest proceeds all too easily, with stranger after stranger going out of their way for him, making his display of control at the close unsatisfying. Though the tale ends with more realism, readers will have to have forgiven a lot of contrivance to get there. A soppy, at times sanctimonious melodrama that still entertains. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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VIII

Castor, H.M. Simon & Schuster (432 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-1-4424-7418-5 British historian Castor chooses a well-rehearsed period of history to reexamine what made the Tudor monarch tick from a new perspective. The tale of Henry VIII’s meteoric rise to supreme power is told in the first person, present tense, providing a credible analysis of Henry’s character as it evolved from innocent child to the charismatic brutal warrior that stares out from Holbein’s portrait. Traumatized by the death of his mother in childbirth and haunted by a recurring vision of a deathly boy, the young Hal fills his life with manly pursuits, fighting, jousting and gambling. When his elder brother, Arthur, unexpectedly dies, Hal realizes that a prophecy has been fulfilled, and he now has a straight line to the throne. However his pleasure at the unexpected succession is shortlived. The difficulties of producing a royal heir, together with the thwarting of his overweening military ambition against the French by Spanish Catherine’s family and his own more cautious advisers cause Henry to become increasingly cynical and desperate. His final decline into a paranoid, apoplectic tyrant is portrayed in a sequence of quasi-cinematic tableaux that punctuate the 30-year span of his reign and clarify the complex historical narrative. The unabashedly modern dialogue is at times jarring, but minor anachronisms are easy to forgive in this ambitious effort. Readers will be caught up by the sweeping tale, which is more successful than many similar attempts at bringing a fascinating historical character and period to life. (Historical fiction. 13 & up)

GREEK MYTHS Stories of Sun, Stone and Sea

Clayton, Sally Pomme Illus. by Ray, Jane Frances Lincoln (78 pp.) $19.99 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-1-84780-227-9

The fabled world of ancient Greece comes alive through these 10 myths that feature some of the most powerful gods, fearless heroes and amazing animals in literature. “The Creation” introduces Titans Kronos and Rhea, who spawned the twelve Olympians, led by Zeus, god of the sky, and the collection plunges along from there. Clayton’s deft storytelling transitions readers easily from story to story, grounding them in a setting of mountainous islands dominated by the hot sun and cool blue sea. Readers meet Pandora, created at Zeus’ behest as a tragically curious beauty bearing gifts for the giant Epimetheus. The competition for the city of Athens between

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“The rich, saturated colors and dashing linework pop off the page, and the author wisely lets his characters’ dynamic body language and expressive faces mostly speak for themselves during the action sequences.” from delilah dirk and the turkish lieutenant

Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Poseidon, god of the sea, is seen as a struggle decided by a democratic vote. The grotesqueness of Medusa is countered by the human bravery of Perseus; the remorse of King Midas redeems him from his greed. The enchanting flying horse, Pegasus, aids Bellerophon in his conquest of the three-headed, fire-breathing chimera. Arachne’s transformation following her challenge of Athena brings the collection to a close. Each adventure or quest is followed by a very brief fact about Greece. Detailed and luminous, often diminutive watercolors and collage art illuminate each story’s theme. A well-crafted, straightforward collection of the myths everyone needs to know. (map, notes, index of gods and heroes, sources) (Mythology. 7-9)

DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT

Cliff, Tony Illus. by Cliff, Tony First Second/Roaring Brook (176 pp.) $15.99 paper | Aug. 27, 2013 978-1-59643-813-2 In Cliff ’s swashbuckling print debut, a tea-loving Turkish janissary must choose his future path after his quiet life is turned upside down by an encounter with a brash adventuress. Selim’s modest career as a soldier in early-19th-century Constantinople comes to an ignominious end after the agha finds fault with his interrogation of their new English-speaking prisoner. Not only does Delilah Dirk escape soon after her interview with Selim, she also helps him avoid execution, leading everyone to assume they are in cahoots. Left with no other options, he flees with Dirk on her flying boat, but it doesn’t take long for Dirk to create more trouble. Eisner-nominated as a webcomic, the graphic novel is glorious in print. The rich, saturated colors and dashing linework pop off the page, and the author wisely lets his characters’ dynamic body language and expressive faces mostly speak for themselves during the action sequences. Dirk’s fearlessness and verve are both appealing and exhausting: Readers will sympathize with Selim’s quandary when he is reluctant to end a peaceful interlude in a friendly village and Dirk is eager to move on. Fast-paced and unabashed fun, this romp will leave readers longing for additional installments. (Graphic adventure. 14 & up)

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EIGHT DOLPHINS OF KATRINA A True Tale of Survival Coleman, Janet Wyman Illus. by Nascimbene, Yan Houghton Mifflin (40 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-547-71923-8

A spark of hope in the wake of a devastating natural disaster. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina sent a 40-foot tidal wave crashing over the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Miss. Most of the animals were relocated before the storm, but eight dolphins were left in a large pool believed to be safe. Unfortunately, when the trainers returned, they found the pool destroyed and the dolphins gone. The waves had pulled the creatures out into the nearby Gulf of Mexico. The dolphins were not used to caring for themselves after living in captivity, so a search party was arranged. Miraculously, all eight dolphins were found—waiting together for their trainers. This survival tale is heartwarming but brief. Halfway through, under the heading “More About Man’s Best Friend,” the tone switches to discuss other astonishing dolphin feats throughout history. Nascimbene’s full-page watercolors—of equally watery images—accompany both sections. The illustrations lack the realistic immediacy and emotional wallop of photographs but are age-appropriate for the text, which focuses solely on the dolphins. The surrounding human suffering from the storm is hinted at but never described. A scrapbook of photos and facts about the Oceanarium tale is appended. During a time of so much destruction, these eight dolphins became a symbol—they banded together and found their way home, just like the human residents of the Gulf Coast. (sources) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

GHOST HAWK

Cooper, Susan McElderry (336 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 5, 2013 978-1-4424-8141-1 A white boy and a Native American youth form an enduring bond in this historical fantasy set in 17th-century Massachusetts. Eleven-year-old Little Hawk survives the Pokanoket tribe’s “proving time” alone in the winter woods for three months only to discover his village devastated by a plague transmitted by encroaching white settlers. Later, Little Hawk’s killed by a paranoid white settler while trying to help the injured father of a white boy named John Wakeley. Upset by the injustice of Little Hawk’s murder, John’s sent by his stern Puritan stepfather on a sevenyear apprenticeship north of Plymouth. Here, John encounters Little Hawk’s ghost, who becomes his confidant and friend. Gradually, John becomes an outspoken advocate for native people, challenging the bigoted, intolerant Puritans and eventually

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joining separatist Roger Williams in Providence Plantation. Narrator Little Hawk describes his brief life as a Pokanoket youth and continues as ghost observer with the story of John Wakeley and the increasing unrest between settlers and local tribes. Cooper’s thorough historical research provides authentic period detail, contrasting the attitudes and lifestyles of settlers and native people. This sensitive portrayal of an unusual friendship poignantly reveals how greed and intolerance led to Native American displacement in colonial Massachusetts. (map, timeline, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

SHIFTY MCGIFTY AND SLIPPERY SAM

Corderoy, Tracey Illus. by Lenton, Steven Nosy Crow (32 pp.) $14.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-7636-6838-9

Some rather slim fun about a couple of dogs making indecently sweet desserts. Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam are two pooches in the robbery biz. But they are a luckless duo, their swag bag empty night after night. They hit on a plan—not a very community-minded one—to rob their neighbors. They’ll throw a party, and when everyone is making merry, Shifty and Sam will sneak out and ransack their homes. Bad dogs! Shifty and Sam also realize that they have to make fixings for the party and fall pretty hard for the art of baking: cupcakes, pies, cakes and doughnuts—“So creamy!” “So dreamy!” “The best buns in town!” gasp their neighbors. When the two dogs make their nefarious move, one of the partygoers overhears their plan and alerts the others, who follow at a distance. Shifty and Sam are thwarted. They are advised to go legit: Open a bakery. No clever turns here, no unexpected much of anything: The two dogs are on the path to rightness since their path to wrongness was a bust. The rhymed text is comfortable and has a certain melody; the artwork of pastel oil and chalk in party colors—pastry’s best friends on the page—is pure confection. The illustrations are delicious, but the tale cuts little new ground. (Picture book. 4-8)

CODE NAME PAULINE Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent

Cornioley, Pearl Witherington Chicago Review (208 pp.) $19.95 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-61374-487-1

French-born British citizen Cornioley tells her story through a series of reminiscences, including her difficult childhood spent in the shadow of World War I, her family’s harrowing escape from Paris as the Germans approached in 1940, her recruitment and training as a special agent, and parachuting into a remote, rural area of occupied France. She assumed the identity of a cosmetics saleswoman to make her way around the country as an SOE courier. Cornioley vividly recounts acts of espionage, sabotage and several dramatic narrow escapes. She became “Pauline” when she was put in command of a 3,500-strong group of French Resistance fighters when the leader of her network was captured by the Gestapo. Each chapter opens with remarks providing context and background on the SOE and the French Resistance. Appendices include an annotated list of key figures and original, unedited interview extracts with Cornioley. A gripping, true story of a courageous secret agent fighting behind enemy lines, as riveting as any work of historical fiction. (photographs, source notes, bibliography) (Memoir. 12-18)

MR. KING’S CASTLE

Côté, Geneviève Illus. by Côté, Geneviève Kids Can (32 pp.) $16.95 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-55453-972-7 Series: Mr. King

In this companion to the similarly eco-themed Mr. King’s Things (2012), a lion-turned–real estate developer recklessly undermines his own foundations. Fixed on expanding his house into a “BIG castle” since he likes “BIG things,” Mr. King chips block-shaped pieces from the surrounding BIG hill to build battlements and colonnades. By the time he’s finished his project, there’s nothing left of the hill beneath but a few tiny green snippets floating in white space. Rather than letting gravity take over or moving her tale in some other, more realistic direction, Côté opts for, in essence, a do-over. Feeling “very small” at seeing the hill’s other animal residents gathered to protest the loss of grass, flowers and habitat, Mr. King joins in to reassemble the cutout pieces back into seamless slopes. There’s even a leftover block suitable for a smaller building project, so everyone gets to come away satisfied. Done in crayon and thin, streaked tissue collage, the brightly lit illustrations feature flat geometric shapes and smiling (before and after, at least), simply drawn cartoon figures. Much lightened by its upbeat resolution, a cautionary but not strident discussion starter about responsible resource allocation. (Picture book. 4- 7)

One of the most celebrated female World War II resistance fighters shares her remarkable, heroic story in this revealing chronicle of her experiences as a special agent for the British Special Operations Executive. |

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HOCUS POCUS TAKES THE TRAIN

Desrosiers, Sylvie Illus. by Simard, Rémy Kids Can (32 pp.) $16.95 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-55453-956-7

Magician’s rabbit meets dropped bunny toy at the railroad station. Can they reach the train before it departs

without them? The tale is propelled by the same high-tension comic suspense and bursts of frantic action that supercharged its predecessor, Hocus Pocus (2011). The ensuing chase through the railroad station pits the lagomorphic laggards against not only physical obstacles that range from a moving forest of passengers’ legs to automatic doors with out-of-reach release buttons, but also the active efforts of the oblivious magician’s snickering dog to derail the rescue at every turn. With only sound effects (“PAF!”; “blblblblblbl!”; “ZIIIP!”) and symbols (a light bulb; a wailing baby) for dialogue, the sequential panels of simply drawn retro-style art depict sudden reverses and quick, clever workarounds. It all rushes breathlessly to a happy conclusion: dog foiled, rabbit back in hat, plush bunny reunited with screaming toddler in the seat across the aisle. Whew! A taut, high-speed escapade even very young viewers can keep up with. (Graphic picture book. 4-6)

MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING A 14 Day Mystery Dionne, Erin Dial (256 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 11, 2013 978-0-8037-3871-3

This fast-paced, National Treasure– style mystery puts an imaginative spin on the real story behind the infamous theft of several masterpieces from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Thirteen-year-old Moxie discovers that her beloved Grumps, now languishing in a home for Alzheimer’s patients, may have been involved in the much-publicized art heist. She knows he had been employed as a fixer for criminal elements in his shady past but does not know any specifics. Extra drama is added in the form of a sinister, even sadistic redheaded woman who acts on behalf of notorious crime boss Sully Cupcakes (yes, really) and who loses no opportunity to threaten Moxie with a fate worse than death if she does not find and return the stolen art within two weeks. This puts Moxie in a serious quandary. She can either go to the police and risk Grumps’ arrest, or she can confess all to her mother and risk being permanently exiled from Boston to New Hampshire at the behest of Mom’s new boyfriend. Either way, Moxie feels compelled to undertake the search for the 86

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missing art, aided by Ollie, her trusty sidekick and a geocaching whiz. With the help of her considerable math smarts and namesake moxie, our heroine manages to protect her family and track down the missing art, with unexpected consequences. Moxie narrates the breathless, action-packed tale in a humorous first person, maintaining the suspense almost to the end. The caper should appeal to readers looking for a lot of action, a few puzzles and not a lot of depth. (Thriller. 10-15)

THE WAFFLER

Donovan, Gail Dial (208 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 15, 2013 978-0-8037-3920-8 Making up his mind has always been hard for Monty to do, but when the principal tags him with the label “waffler,” it becomes a nickname the fourth grader desperately wants to lose. Monty’s unwillingness to call attention to himself will resonate with readers. He knows that objecting to the hated nickname will make it stick, and he fears that if his mother calls the teacher about the Band-Aid “decision-aids” he has to wear, the teacher will be angry. The adults in Monty’s school seem competent but insensitive. When the fourth graders are assigned kindergarten Reading Buddies, three kindergartners are left out, and suddenly, Monty is reading to four of them at recess. Monty’s family life is as complicated as his school life: two parents, two stepparents, two half sisters and two houses. He and his decisive twin sister move back and forth week by week. Because he takes so long to make them, many of Monty’s choices seem desperate, but at least one works out: A pet rat’s long name, a combination of all the names he had been considering, gives him an idea for solving his Reading Buddy problem. Donovan’s third-person narration convincingly captures the interior monologue of a boy who likes to consider the alternatives, and her school and home settings ring true. A solid middle-grade choice—no waffling necessary. (Fiction. 7-10)

THE SOUND OF YOUR VOICE, ONLY REALLY FAR AWAY

Dowell, Frances O’Roark Atheneum (240 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-1-4424-3289-5 Series: Secret Language of Girls, 3 Dowell returns to middle schoolers Kate and Marylin, whose friendship she has sensitively anatomized in The Secret Language of Girls (2004) and The Kind of Friends We Used to Be (2009).

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“Through precise, vivid descriptions, the third-person narrative evokes the contrast between the girls’ cloistered school lives and the hard realities of the outside world.” from the golden day

In this final book in the trilogy, Kate and Marylin have drawn further apart, yet each still sees the other as a touchstone. Student-government member and cheerleader Marylin is finding herself torn between the vicious, queen-bee cheerleaders and sweet student-government president Benjamin Huddle. Meanwhile, budding rocker Kate is concerned that she’s drawing closer to fellow musician Matthew Holler than she’d like. The introduction of boys into the equation strains the friendships each has made with other girls. As in the previous books, Dowell moves the third-person narration back and forth, getting under their skins with honesty and empathy through vivid, often humorous prose. She refuses to oversimplify, allowing readers access to the girls’ homes as well as school, making it clear that their inner lives are as complicated as their readers’. Secondary characters, especially the girls’ parents, are likewise given satisfying emotional complexity. The nominal plot—a contest to fund a student-initiated project—doesn’t provide much action, but it gives Kate and Marylin an opportunity to make some stupid but ultimately epiphanic choices. Dowell and readers leave Kate and Marylin poised between childhood and adulthood—they are not finished, but they are on their way. Another quietly perceptive tour de force. (Fiction. 10-14)

CHARLIE THE RANCH DOG Where’s the Bacon?

Drummond, Ree Illus. by DeGroat, Diane Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-06-221909-1 Series: Charlie the Ranch Dog

Basset hound Charlie learns to share with a visiting yellow Lab named Rowdy in this mildly entertaining early reader. Charlie has previously starred in several picture books about his life on the ranch owned by author Drummond. This offering for beginning readers, the first in a series, uses Drummond’s characters and deGroat’s illustration style from the previous picture books, although the text and illustrations here are done by others (presumably the Amanda Glickman and Rick Whipple “gratefully acknowledge[d]” on the copyright page). The slight plot involves a visit from Rowdy, who is (of course) a boisterous sort whose personality doesn’t mesh well with the laconic basset hound. Rowdy takes over Charlie’s food and bed, invades his “personal space” and cozies up to Charlie’s owner. After Rowdy is banished to an outside doghouse, Charlie takes pity on him and invites him inside to share the sofa for a nap. The illustrations help convey the canine personalities through amusing expressions on the dogs’ faces, and Charlie’s little chipmunk friend is hidden on each spread for young readers to find. Fans of Charlie’s previous picture books will like reading more about his life on the ranch, but others might concur with Rowdy as he naps on the sofa: “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” (Early reader. 5-8)

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THE GOLDEN DAY

Dubosarsky, Ursula Candlewick (160 pp.) $15.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-7636-6723-8

Eleven schoolgirls are haunted by their teacher’s inexplicable disappearance during a field trip in this atmospheric mystery set in Vietnam War–era Sydney. Miss Renshaw’s young students know their teacher is a bit eccentric. They also understand that their class’s frequent poetry-writing excursions to a local garden are actually excuses for their teacher to see Morgan, a charismatic conscientious objector who is one of the gardeners. “It will be our little secret,” Miss Renshaw says of their meetings with Morgan, but that secret becomes a burden when Miss Renshaw and Morgan vanish during an outing. Through precise, vivid descriptions, the third-person narrative evokes the contrast between the girls’ cloistered school lives and the hard realities of the outside world. The students are “eleven schoolgirls in their round hats, with their socks falling down, hand in hand, like a chain of paper dolls”; meanwhile, soldiers are dying in Vietnam, and prisoners are being hanged at home. The mystery is less a whodunit and more a psychological study of the girls—especially anxious Cubby, whose friendship with sensible Icara is sorely tested by the affair—and invites comparisons to cult film classic Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). Read this slender mystery for the meticulous prose and characterization, not for the plot. (Historical mystery. 12-18)

PUSS JEKYLL CAT HYDE

Dunbar, Joyce Illus. by Barton, Jill Frances Lincoln (32 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-1-84780-369-6

This slim British import, which combines beautiful artwork and brief, poetic text, seems more likely to appeal to adult cat lovers than to young listeners, but the dichotomy at its heart may be intriguing to some children, and the lush language pleases the ear and offers plenty to discuss. A placid black-and-white cat gazes out from the front cover. Inside, each double-page spread features a realistic coloredpencil and watercolor portrait of the same cat engaged in typical feline pursuits. When licking a paw clean, she’s a “[f]urry, purry puss.” The turn of the page shows her with a dead mouse clamped between her jaws and offers this description: “Scourge of the mouse /… / All fang and claw.” Dunbar’s verse varies in quality but overall succeeds in capturing the cat’s essential character. Light backgrounds contrast with darker, shadowed ones, while the texture of the paper adds depth and interest to the simply sketched settings. Barton’s illustrations emphasize the

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“Writing in verse with an understated simplicity that quietly packs a punch, Engle compassionately portrays a boy who is struggling to leave his ‘pit-bull life’ behind….” from mountain dog

differences outlined in the text: The cat’s eyes vary from gray, black and white to a vivid, menacing green, and her claws and teeth are prominently featured on the “Cat Hyde” pages, while “Puss Jekyll” is shown in nonthreatening poses. Whether or not young listeners are familiar with the origin of her names, the evocation of the two sides of a familiar and beloved pet will resonate. (Picture book. 4-7)

NIGHTY NIGHT, LITTLE GREEN MONSTER

Emberley, Ed Illus. by Emberley, Ed Little, Brown (32 pp.) $8.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-316-21041-6

A baby sibling for a modern childhood classic. Fans of Emberley’s beloved Go Away, Big Green Monster! (1993) may be understandably wary of this unlikely companion, but it’s hard to resist this baby monster’s toothy grin. In turning the die-cut pages, readers step by step create a Little Green Monster with little yellow eyes, “bluish-greenish” ears and nose, a red mouth with a single pointy fang, one curly purple strand of hair: in all, a “little green happy face.” When the first star of the night appears, readers say goodnight to each element of the face so that, by the end, all that’s left are the stars and a wish for sweet dreams. Even in this gentle, diminutive version, the feeling of empowerment children attained in the original by sending the monster away remains. By making this companion both a bedtime book and a features-recognition game, Emberley creates a title that will work well with a very young audience. Does the original monster need tweaking? Maybe not, but it’s nice to see him have a little companionship. (Picture book. 2-6)

MOMO Or the Curious Story about the Time Thieves and the Child Who Returned the People’s Stolen Time

Ende, Michael Illus. by Dzama, Marcel Translated by Zwirner, Lucas McSweeney’s McMullens (320 pp.) $22.00 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-1-938073-14-4

The 40th-anniversary edition of a beloved German fable carries a pointed message that might already be too late. Momo, a homeless, parentless waif of undetermined age in a nameless European city, is blessed with the gift of listening— “with utmost attention and sympathy”—and adopted by her humble neighbors as a treasured member of their community. Then the sinister gray men arrive, persuading everyone to “save time” by abandoning such idle pleasures as friendship and play. 88

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The townsfolk become obsessed with efficiency and shallow consumption, their lives stripped of dreams, beauty and joy. Targeted by the gray men, Momo escapes to the very heart of time to discover the secrets that will rescue her friends. The heavyhanded moral is impossible to miss, but the tale is saved from being preachy by wittily perceptive social criticism and haunting, surrealistic imagery. Despite some mild profanities, this new translation is more graceful and whimsical than the 1985 edition, though lacking its old-fashioned charm; the dark and dreary pen-and-ink illustrations do not improve on the earlier simple line drawings. Nonetheless, this all-ages delight deserves rescue and is ideal for classroom (or bedtime) read-alouds—especially if the grown-ups pay attention along with the children. (Fantasy. 10 & up)

MOUNTAIN DOG

Engle, Margarita Illus. by Ivanov, Olga; Ivanov, Alexey Henry Holt (224 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-8050-9516-6

An absorbing story of an 11-year-old boy from Los Angeles who, when his mother is incarcerated for organizing pit-bull dogfights, moves in with his forest-ranger great-uncle and his chocolate Lab in their remote cabin high in the Sierra Nevadas. Writing in verse with an understated simplicity that quietly packs a punch, Engle compassionately portrays a boy who is struggling to leave his “pit-bull life” behind—though “the sad / mad / abandoned” memories of visits to his mother in the Valley State Prison for Women make this difficult. Soon after he arrives, Tony’s great-uncle Tío takes him on the first of many wilderness tours in which he learns about thru-hikers on the Pacific Coast Trail, trail angels and trail magic. And Gabe, a skilled search-and-rescue dog, plays a big and joyful role in helping Tony feel a part of things: “Gabe time. Dog time. Dirty, dusty, / rolling around in grass time”; by hiding as a volunteer “victim,” Tony helps SAR dogs practice finding a lost hiker and feels useful. Revealing both Tony’s and Gabe’s points of view in alternating chapters, the author deftly incorporates a fascinating mix of science, nature (cool facts aplenty) and wilderness lore into a highly accessible narrative that makes room for a celebration of language: “Maybe words / are my strength. / I could turn out to be / a superhero / with secret / syllable powers.” The Ivanovs’ black-and-white illustrations nimbly reflect the story’s tone. Poignant and memorable. (author’s note) (Verse fiction. 8-12)

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IKE’S INCREDIBLE INK

focusing instead on the conflict between Nora and Christian. Readers will spot the romance potential immediately, but the story stretches out that prospect for as long as possible. Contestants may lose, but readers won’t. (recipes) (Fiction. 12 & up)

Farley, Brianne Illus. by Farley, Brianne Candlewick (32 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-7636-6296-7

The long and winding—and funny and diverting—road to creative endeavor. Ike wants to write an incredible story, but first he needs… what does he need? “Maybe he needed to find his favorite pen. And have a long chat with his best friend. And a bit of cleaning was also in order.” Also, clearly, he needs to make his own ink! Shadows are “shifty and mysterious” like ink, so Ike nabs a shadow and safeguards it in a bag. The dark side of the moon is black like ink, so Ike matter-of-factly builds a spaceship to go fetch some. “It’s hard to say what Ike found on the dark side of the moon, because he didn’t bring a flashlight. But whatever he found went in that big bag.” Ingredients procured, he bludgeons, steams and mashes them together using flasks and beakers, a mallet and his own feet. Ike’s a quirky character with spindly limbs and a torso shaped—and sometimes spattering—like an ink blot. In digital collage and, natch, ink, Farley balances textured backgrounds and black splashes (the blender scene is spectacular) with a minimalism that emphasizes Ike’s singular project. Whether he needed the ink for itself or needed its creation as story fodder, Ike’s finally ready to sit down and write. A realistically comical look at artistic process disguised as merry procrastination. (Picture book. 4-8)

TASTE TEST

Fiore, Kelly Walker (336 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-0-8027-2838-8 This debut about a reality show for young chefs has enough spice to keep readers feasting all the way through. Nora has been cooking all her life; her dad runs a barbecue restaurant that’s legendary in their part of North Carolina. She loves the reality TV show Taste Test, in which teens vie for a $50,000 scholarship to a famous Paris cooking school, and she enters it as a contestant. As soon as she arrives, sparks fly. Handsome Christian is the privileged son of a famous chef, and his friend Joy hobnobs with celebrities. They treat Nora as a redneck. Nora and Christian turn out to be the major talents among the contestants, but the tension that generates convinces many that they’re hiding a romance. As the contest progresses, someone appears to be sabotaging the show. Amid all the turmoil, can, Nora concentrate on winning, and does she really have a chance? Fiore creates some likable, enjoyable characters, especially in Nora and Christian, and keeps the narrative zooming along with all the urgency of a real reality show. She spends only a few chapters on the actual cooking challenges, |

JUMPED IN

Flores-Scott, Patrick Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (304 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-8050-9514-2

A slacker learns life lessons from a slam-poet classmate in an inspiring if overly optimistic school story. Grunge-rock devotee Sam has been trying to avoid the attention of teachers and other students ever since his mom left town two years earlier. Then the equally quiet Luis Cárdenas arrives in Sam’s English class, and meddlesome Ms. Cassidy seats the two of them together. Rumors fly about Luis: His brother is an infamous gangster, and there is a mean-looking scar on Luis’ neck. Sam doesn’t see Luis’ true colors until Ms. Cassidy announces that the class will have a poetry slam. Luis not only throws himself into creating a poem, he inspires Sam to do the same. The boys’ sudden, unmitigated enthusiasm for a school project may be hard to swallow, but there is something infectiously hopeful in Luis’ devotion to poetry, as well as in the inspiration Sam takes from old footage of Kurt Cobain. When Luis disappears after a gang fight, Sam, once a loner, teams up with classmates, teachers, neighbors and old friends to find out what has happened. Short, punchy sentences, paragraphs and chapters give the novel’s prose a sense of motion, and Luis’ poems, interspersed with the narrative, give readers added insight into Luis’ character. Unabashedly didactic, but moving nonetheless. (Fiction. 12-16)

SPECIAL DEAD

Freivald, Patrick JournalStone (260 pp.) $15.95 paper | Jul. 12, 2013 978-1-936564-80-4 Just because Ani is a zombie doesn’t mean she’s not entitled to a free and appropriate education, right? A little over a year after the Prompocalypse that left 26 dead and 10—eight students and two teacher chaperones— infected with the Chinese weaponized zombie virus that wiped out Los Angeles, the kids are going back to school. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Banerjee and Ani’s mom, Dr. Romero, they’ve been kept successfully undead, and as long as the courts are undecided as to their humanity, their old school has to educate

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them. Kind of. They are segregated in a “Special Dead” classroom, must wear helmets and mouth guards, and are allowed only crayons to write with. A flamethrower-armed guard is on duty at all times to turn any suddenly violent zombie into a heap of ash. Freivald follows up his successful debut, Twice Shy (2012), with an equally enjoyable sequel. He populates the Special Dead classroom with a terrific mix of personalities, including both high achievers and kids in genuine need of special ed. That one of these is Mike, Ani’s crush from the first book whose brain she partially ate, triggering the Prompocalypse, is especially poignant. As in the first book, dark humor balances deftly with out-and-out horror, the mundane realities of undeath providing ample opportunity for both. Another fire-and-brimstone end sets up a third outing; fans will be slavering for it. (Horror. 14 & up)

SALT A Story of Friendship in a Time of War

Frost, Helen Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux (160 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-374-36387-1

Frost explores the wide-ranging impact of wartime aggression through the intimate lens of two 12-year-old boys caught in the crossfire of the War of 1812. Anikwa, a member of the Miami tribe hailing from Kekionga, often spends his days hunting and playing in the forest with James Gray, whose home is in the stockade near Fort Wayne. For centuries, Anikwa’s ancestors have lived in this area, and James’ family has enjoyed amicable relations with the Miami and other Native Americans with whom they exchange goods. While these differing communities have learned from and helped support each other through adverse conditions, British and American claims to the Indiana Territory near Fort Wayne force them to re-examine their relationship. As other tribes and thousands of American soldiers gather to fight to establish the border between Canada and the United States, Anikwa’s grandmother laments, “We can’t stop things from changing. I hope / the children will remember how our life has been,” foreshadowing how the boys’ friendship, which has always been able to bridge cultural and language gaps, will face unprecedented challenges. Frost deftly tells the tale through each boy’s voice, employing distinct verse patterns to distinguish them yet imbuing both characters with the same degree of openness and introspection needed to tackle the hard issues of ethnocentrism and unbridled violence. Sensitive and smart: a poetic vista for historical insight as well as cultural awareness. (Verse novel. 10-14)

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COMMUNITY SOUP

Fullerton, Alma Illus. by Fullerton, Alma Pajama Press (32 pp.) $19.95 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-927485-27-9

Mary’s little lamb becomes a village child’s goats in this quirky, Kenya-set tale of making pumpkin vegetable soup. The story opens with children picking vegetables from a community garden. “But where is Kioni?” Kioni is looking for her goats. Suddenly, the text turns into a familiar rhyme, adapted to reflect its setting in an unnamed Kenyan village. Kioni’s goats “with hair of calico” almost eat the vegetables, but they make a better contribution to the soup instead (never fear: It’s just their milk). Textured collage illustrations combining natural materials and painted images show the busy children, the corn, pumpkin, sweet potato and other vegetables that make up the soup, and Kioni’s calico-haired goats. The simple text is set on harvest-toned pages opposite full-bleed pictures. At one point, two consecutive images carry the action. Two doublepage spreads emphasize highlights: goats in the garden (“GO!”) and, at the end, goats and children each eating their appropriate foods. The story concludes with a recipe. Fullerton, who introduced young readers to rural Uganda in A Good Trade (illustrated by Karen Patkau; 2013), provides a positive picture of community cooperation in another rural setting, identified as Kenya in the publisher’s cataloging. (A portion of the book’s profits will go to Creation of Hope, a project supporting orphans from and around Kikima, Kenya.) For reading aloud or alone, a nourishing choice. (Picture book. 4-7)

IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE

Gansworth, Eric Levine/Scholastic (368 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-0-545-41730-3

It’s 1975. Lewis lives in abject poverty on the reservation. His favorite band, the Beatles, has broken up. He’s the only Indian in the class for smart kids. And he’s in middle school. Times are tough. When George, a military kid, arrives, the two bond over their mutual appreciation of music. Lewis shares select pieces of his life with George. However, he struggles to avoid revealing the true nature of his life on the rez. Things deteriorate for Lewis when he catches the attention of a school bully who makes his life miserable. Forces of nature eventually compel Lewis to face everything: the bully, what he is hiding and his own shame. Lewis’ desire to move between cultures, and his difficulty doing so, will resonate with readers of many backgrounds. The action in this book builds slowly, providing readers with the context to understand the distrust that makes Lewis reluctant to fully commit to a friendship with

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“The gruesome Grimm ending changes, as it does in many children’s versions, though with a twist: Snow White grants mercy to her evil stepmother and recites a verse from the Quran.” from snow white

George. Some readers may not be enthralled by the extensive exposition and sometimes-stilted dialogue, but those who stay with the story to the end will find their hearts touched by Lewis, George and their families. Gansworth’s debut for young people is a worthy exploration of identity and friendship between middle school boys who live in different worlds. (discography) (Historical fiction. 11-14)

LIFE’S A WITCH

Geragotelis, Brittany Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-4424-6655-5 Series: Life’s a Witch, 2 Geragotelis’ Wattpad project–turnedseries continues with another underwhelming entry. In this, the second novel in the Life’s a Witch series, the heroine is the unrelentingly perfect Hadley. She’s beautiful, popular, smart, head cheerleader and queen bee. She’s also a witch, member of the Cleri coven, which dates to the time of the Salem witch trials. Since she cares more about ruling her school than her natural magical power, Hadley doesn’t have much time for magic lessons with the other teenagers in her coven. But then the adults in the coven are killed, gruesomely, by their ancient enemy, Samuel Parris. Hadley will have to harness her power, become a leader and every other cliché you can think of to save the day. But is that possible with the inevitable distracting hot boy, the equally predictable traitor among the teens, and Hadley’s own shallow, vapid personality? Hadley is so self-absorbed and undeveloped a character that it’s difficult for the reader to care about her plight; she name-checks her Jimmy Choo’s even as she sifts through the wreckage that contains the ashy remains of her mother. Geragotelis shows more than tells and liberally sprinkles dei ex machina to make the plot work. There isn’t enough magic in the world to make this a good book. (Paranormal chick lit. 12 & up)

SNOW WHITE An Islamic Tale

Gilani, Fawzia Illus. by Adams, Shireen Islamic Foundation (44 pp.) $14.00 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-86037-526-5 Series: Islamic Fairy Tale , 2

In this version, the heroine is pious as well as pretty. Here the setting is Anatolia (in Turkey), which looks similar to a European landscape. Snow White is not a princess, but she still has a jealous stepmother who sends a huntsman to kill her. Seven female dwarfs, all kind and religious, find the girl on their |

doorstep after the huntsman refuses to do the evil deed. It may sound more or less like the usual story, but the poisoned apple becomes poisoned dates, the fruit that traditionally breaks the Ramadan fast. The poisoned fruit is not dislodged from the girl’s throat when servants stumble, carrying her glass coffin to the prince’s palace (as in Grimm). Nor does the prince kiss Snow White (as in Disney). Here, the prince’s mother and a doctor awaken her with medicine and prayer. The gruesome Grimm ending changes, as it does in many children’s versions, though with a twist: Snow White grants mercy to her evil stepmother and recites a verse from the Quran. Such verses are quoted throughout the text, with references provided. The fullcolor watercolors, with some Anatolian details in clothing and household goods, are attractive, but the faces are sometimes awkward. Snow White (not quite beautiful) and the stepmother don’t always look the same on different pages. Created for religious Muslim children, this may be of interest to institutions or families seeking such materials. (glossary) (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-9)

FLICKER & BURN

Goeglein, T. M. Putnam (384 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-0-399-25721-6 Series: Cold Fury, 2

Sara Jane, high school student and reluctant Mafiosa, continues to explore her psychic powers and search for her kidnapped family in this sequel to Cold Fury (2012). She and her best friend, fat schlub Doug Stuffins, have holed up in the Bird Cage Club, her family’s hideout, where she studies her family’s secret notebook for clues to their hintedat “ultimate power.” When in public, she watches for the mysterious black ice cream trucks, which are driven by grotesque, asexual creatures; they were behind her family’s disappearance and are, terrifyingly, now pursuing her. She juggles her romance with dreamy Max from school with her responsibilities as Outfit counselor at large, which find her using her hereditary “cold fury” gaze to keep the peace. As in the first book, genuinely intriguing details about the Outfit clash with the book’s paranormal elements. Sara Jane’s conveniently discovered psychic ability to generate electricity feels superfluous; the “ice cream creatures” are creepy but so over-the-top they clash with the real-life menace of such figures as Lucky, the Outfit boss (who, brilliantly, achieves catharsis by watching sad Disney movies). Narrator Sara Jane does a lot of telling, not showing, as she makes choices readers will find both inconsistent with her character development and repugnant. The occasional flash of humor or graceful turn of phrase is not enough to save this sophomore outing but holds out hope for future, better integrated tales. (Paranormal thriller. 12 & up)

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“The details included are both revelatory and delivered in a way that maximizes engagement: Space tourists are advised to make sure words on the walls are right side up when orienting themselves in zero gravity.” from how do you burp in space?

HOW DO YOU BURP IN SPACE? And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know Goodman, Susan E. Illus. by Slack, Michael Bloomsbury (80 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-59990-068-1

With space tourism close to becoming a reality, Goodman and Slack offer aspiring young intergalactic travelers an entertaining and informative travel guide. The slim handbook gives readers who will be the first generation of true space tourists general advice about how to prepare for the trip, what to pack, what food and accommodations will be like, and recreational opportunities both in Earth’s orbit and on the moon. She also highlights some hazards, such as drinking carbonated drinks: Burping in microgravity brings up more than just CO2. The details included are both revelatory and delivered in a way that maximizes engagement: Space tourists are advised to make sure words on the walls are right side up when orienting themselves in zero gravity. The breezy narrative also incorporates amusing and inspirational comments from astronauts and space scientists. In addition to an abundant collection of space and astronaut photographs are goofy cartoon images complementing Goodman’s light tone. An unfortunate oversight in the suggestions for further reading is the omission of Tanya Lee Stone’s Sibert-winning Almost Astronauts (2009) among other books on space travel. A fizzy look at what space vacationers of the near future can expect. (photographs, glossary, websites, source notes, index [not seen]) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

VIRAL NATION

Grimes, Shaunta Berkley (320 pp.) $9.99 paper | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-425-26513-0 In this disjointed time-travel novel, teens use information from their future selves to lead a rebellion against the corrupt corporation that controls the United States. When a plague decimated the U.S. population, the Waverly-Stead company used time travel to develop a suppressant and subsequently became the de facto replacement government. Sixteen years later, the company drafts Clover—due to her autism—to become a time traveler. In a mission to the future, Clover meets Jude, who gives her a pamphlet with information about a rebellion that she, presentday Jude, and their friends will start in her own time, partly to save her brother, West, from a pre-emptive execution. Sciencefiction enthusiasts will find that the intricacies and implications of gathering information from the future to change actions 92

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in the present are inadequately described. Characters often express their own confusion and get headaches thinking about these topics, then simply move forward without resolution, which frustratingly requires readers to do the same. Character development is spotty and at times over-reliant on repetition. Clover’s autism is repeatedly characterized by nervous handflapping and a reluctance to be embraced, while the eidetic memory that supposedly makes her perfect for time traveling is largely overlooked. Fans of science fiction or dystopian adventures will find that the convoluted plot, one-note characters and inexplicable villains result in a lackluster story. (Dystopian adventure. 12-18)

CINDERELLA A Grimm’s Fairy Tale Grimm, The Brothers Illus. by Haseloff, Ulrike Floris (32 pp.) $17.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-86315-948-0

First published in German in 2011 as Aschenputtel, this is a gentle(ish) version of the oft-told tale, with illustrations evocative of the 18th century. A dying mother tells her daughter that she will look down from heaven upon her, and every day the girl goes to her mother’s grave to weep. Her stepfather remarries, and his new wife’s two daughters scorn the girl and force her to be their servant. When the invitation for the prince’s ball arrives, the stepmother first sets Cinderella an impossible task that friendly birds help her to accomplish. Still denied the ball, Cinderella, weeping, recites a rhyme on her mother’s grave, and a white bird drops down a silver and gold ball gown and silk slippers, one of which she leaves behind in haste and which the prince picks up, triggering the classic search. The first stepsister cannot get her foot in it at all, and the second cuts off a piece of her heel to make it fit. Of course it is Cinderella whom the slipper fits, and “they were happy ever after.” This version neither marries the stepsisters to local nobles nor sends birds to peck out their eyes. The pictures, even to the ship-in-full-sail hairdo on one stepsister, are based on 18th-century patterns and styles, and Cinderella’s dress has a satisfying quantity of gold floral glitter. This Germanic Cinderella is simple, direct and rather sweet. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-8)

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DANGEROUS GIRLS

Haas, Abigail Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (400 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-4424-8659-1 In a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller that is more than it seems, an American teen languishes in an Aruba jail, charged with the brutal murder of her best friend. When Anna Chevalier’s on-the-rise father moves her from her Boston public school to tony Hillcrest Prep, she quickly makes friends with the charismatic Elise, daughter of a powerful Massachusetts politician. They and their posse of rich and beautiful teens party hard and often; the centerpiece of their senior year is their unsupervised trip to Aruba—where Elise’s stabbing death brings their perpetual celebration to a grinding halt. Haas (who writes lighter fare as Abby McDonald) meticulously constructs the legal proceedings, the events leading up to the murder and the development of the girls’ friendship as well as Anna’s romance with golden-boy Tate. Anna relates them concurrently in a taut braid, splicing occasional deposition and TV-newscast transcripts into her present-tense narration. The zealously prosecuted and sensationally publicized trial spotlights the teens’ booze-soaked, sex-filled high life; social media postings and witness accounts put a public face on Anna that her anguished interior monologue contradicts. “Wouldn’t we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?” she reflects. The technique masterfully sustains an ambiguity that fuels tension to the very last page. Occasional geographical errors will pull readers familiar with the Boston area out of the story but only for brief moments. A compulsively readable, hair-raising snapshot of 21stcentury legal spectacle. (Thriller. 14 & up)

WHEN THE STARS THREW DOWN THEIR SPEARS

Hamilton, Kersten Clarion (400 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-547-73964-9 Series: Goblin Wars, 3

This final installment in the Goblin Wars fantasy trilogy is a corker! The quest of the Wylltson family concludes with unrelenting suspense and a neat (but not pat) resolution. The book opens in Teagan’s high school cafeteria, where she declares war on Queen Mab. Protected by the magic of the dying faerie world, Mag Mell, Teagan, Aiden and Finn are on their way to the final confrontation, while their family and friends in Chicago defend our Earth. Depth of characterization is a great strength: Each person’s motivation is clear and brings |

believability to the narrative. Tension builds exponentially with each discovery, near-capture and skirmish. The war between humans and goblins is not pretty: There’s a lot of bloodletting and dying, and not all of it is on the side of the goblins. Hamilton balances this dark content with snappy dialogue and the humorous juxtaposition of the mundane artifacts of the 21st century against the magic of the Sidhe. And although the resolution is ultimately satisfying, some well-loved characters do not survive. The author has her own take on Irish mythology, which she sustains with worldbuilding and the consistent nature of magic in both worlds. This spectacular conclusion will satisfy fans and lead new readers into a complex world with fascinating magic and appealing characters. (Urban fantasy. 14-18)

MONSTER ON THE HILL

Harrell, Rob Illus. by Harrell, Rob Top Shelf Productions (192 pp.) $19.95 paper | Jul. 1, 2013 978-1-60309-075-9

In an alternative 19th-century England, monsters both thrill and protect their towns. In Stoker-on-Avon, the townsfolk have been feeling a bit dismayed; their monster, a horned, winged creature named Rayburn, hasn’t attacked in nearly seven years, and his lack of ambition serves as a constant embarrassment to his village. A disgraced doctor is asked to help “fix” the melancholic monster, and once he accepts, he discovers that a precocious street urchin has stowed along for the ride. The pair and the bummed-out beast set out to visit one of Rayburn’s old creature friends, a savage-looking beast with a heart of gold popularly known as Tentaculor, but affectionately to his friends as Noodles. This leaves Stoker-on-Avon vulnerable and without a monster. Rayburn’s absence is intuited by an abominable being known as the Murk, a mixture of mud, hair, and pure, unrefined evil. Faced with the imminent destruction of his town, Rayburn must overcome his dolorous disposition and rediscover his true terrifying powers. More at-home than anomalous, Harrell’s world is easily accessible, a place where monsters seamlessly blend into 19th-century England. Touching deftly upon well-trod themes and with a deliciously cinematic sense of both framing and pacing, this indie charmer is both quirky and novel; expect it to appeal to fans of Jeff Smith’s Bone series. Just plain monstrous fun. (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Blue Balliett

First comes the prodigious research, then the lyrical result: Hold Fast By Gordon West Langston Hughes, an infamous diamond heist, the Chicago shelter system and a resilient 11-yearold girl with a remarkable name don’t suggest commonalities. If you’re award-winning, best-selling author Blue Balliett (Chasing Vermeer, The Calder Game), you take these unrelated ingredients, let them marinate in years of research and firsthand experience, imbue them with mystery and heart, and serve up Hold Fast. Early Pearl—the aforementioned girl with the remarkable name—is one-fourth of a sweet, young family. What the Pearls lack in material possessions they make up for in love and intellect, fortified by a common goal to own a home complete with lace

Photo Courtesy Bill Klein 94

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curtains and a cat. When the Pearl patriarch, Dash, disappears from his job as a clerk at the Chicago Public Library, a despicable chain reaction lands Early, her mother, Sum, and her younger brother, Jubie, in a homeless shelter. Steadfast in their determination to find Dash and return home, the remaining three Pearls face pessimists who believe Dash left of his own volition and authorities who believe he was dabbling in dark deeds (Dash’s part-time job cataloging rare books seems suspect). Long before his disappearance, Dash instilled in his family a love for the written word; the Pearls are the kind of family to read Treasure Island aloud for evening entertainment. His enthusiasm for the power of words is emulated by Early. And it’s this common denominator—along with tenacity and the family’s rare copy of The First Book of Rhythms by Langston Hughes— that propels Early toward solving the mystery that snatched up her father and shattered her life. For a greater portion of the story, Early and her mother and brother remain in a homeless shelter. From hard plastic mattress covers to the cutting smell of insecticide, the environmental descriptions are documentarylike. This authenticity comes from Balliett’s extensive preliminary investigation. “I’m somebody who does lots of research before I actually write,” Balliett says. She was hesitant to begin writing the book without first sufficiently acquainting herself with the shelter system. “It was definitely my most challenging book to write,” Balliett admits. “There’s no doubt about that because I really wanted to hit it right. I wanted it to be a book for everybody who knew nothing about this world as well as for everybody who is currently within it and to have it be a book that felt OK on all sides.”

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When I remark on Early’s determined strength to emotionally support her mother and brother, all while wrangling the help of otherwise dismissive adults, Balliett says, “Early does something that many kids will do when their parents hit an emergency situation: She stands up, she immediately thinks about how to fix what’s wrong with the family and how to take more responsibility.” Early’s actions feel entirely plausible to the author. “She feels familiar, and she feels like a child who had a very positive start in life, a child who’s been given tools to cope and she puts them to work.” Then she adds, “Kids are naturally problem-solvers, and it’s just that, often, nobody’s listening.” It was through her research that Balliett met a boy named Jayden to whom she dedicates the book. About two-and-a-half years ago, she was invited by Chicago HOPES (an after-school tutoring program for students living in shelters) to visit a shelter. The building proved difficult to find, so she called her contact, who came outside along with a little boy about 6 years old to greet her. It was the little boy, Jayden, who immediately got her attention. “I got closer, he stepped right up to me, didn’t hesitate, and he gave me this quick hug, and he looked up into my face,” Balliett recalls. “So what’s your story?” he asked her. He had “this lovely self-possessed, interested way,” Balliett recalls. “And I just smiled at him. I didn’t have an answer right away. I was thinking ‘What is my story? I don’t know what my story is!’ ” Jayden then surprised Balliett again. “He hurried to reassure me because I didn’t answer him right away. He gave my arm a little pat, and he said, ‘Everybody’s got a story’ just to remind me that I had a voice in me somewhere,” she recalls. “And it was one of those strange moments in life when things just turn a corner. I thought, if this little guy can speak to me from his life in a shelter with so much grace and wisdom and generosity, then I can write this book, and I can find out absolutely everything I need to find out.” Though the shelter system is the primary backdrop for Hold Fast, it doesn’t read as a book with a moralizing agenda. It is first and foremost a great story crafted by a writer who really did find out absolutely everything she needed to discover. Through her credible, touching representation of children in the shelter system, Balliett evokes sympathy for a farfrom-fictionalized epidemic. “Every community has this invisible, oddly neglected group of people who |

are struggling and trying to raise their kids without a home,” Balliett says. “And I’m really hoping that Hold Fast will make this a more public situation that everybody can talk about more easily.” Before our conversation ends, I have to ask Balliett what Langston Hughes might think of being featured so prominently in the book, from the title to excerpts of his work to being the key that helps Early and her family. “I have to say I think he would love what I was trying to do,” says Balliett. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say he would love it; I wouldn’t dare be that confident.” I immediately assure her that being confident in Hughes’ praise after writing such a lyrical, lingering mystery and ingenuous homage to the written word is certainly permissible.

Gordon West is a writer, illustrator and sometime photographer living in Brooklyn. He is admittedly addicted to horror films and French macarons.

Hold Fast Balliett, Blue Scholastic (288 pp.) $17.99 March 1, 2013 978-0-545-29988-6

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“Hill and Taylor have accomplished something special with this picture book, capturing the energy of the early hip-hop movement and presenting it in a manner that is accessible for children.” from when the beat was born

NONI IS NERVOUS

his son’s confirmed genius, his actions lead Gabe to believe that he would prefer a star athlete to a star student. Given its enduring themes, this novel from a small Catholic press has some potential for crossover appeal. (Fiction. 9-12)

Hartt-Sussman, Heather Illus. by Côté, Geneviève Tundra (24 pp.) $17.95 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-77049-323-0

From the creators of Noni Says No (2011) comes a book about getting through the first day of school and facing one’s fears. Noni has a lot to be nervous about, including her nemesis from the previous book, Susie. The challenges of planning what to wear to school, figuring out where to sit and imagining what her teacher will be like have her biting her nails and chattering nervously. Côté’s gentle watercolors capture Noni’s emotional experience, from the cover art that depicts the small figure of Noni surrounded by warning yellow with stoplight red letters looming over her to the image of an underwear-clad Noni among a sea of empty desks leaning menacingly toward her. Softly lavender, monochrome illustrations depict Noni’s previous reasons for being nervous, all made right in her mother’s arms. In the end, it doesn’t take too long for Noni to feel like she fits in. An outgoing girl named Briar takes Noni under her wing. At this point, Noni’s family is a nervous wreck wondering how she’s doing, but it’s a calm, competent Noni that they find at the end of the day. A charming, seemingly simple book that gets right to the heart of the matter. (Picture book. 4­–7)

A.K.A. GENIUS

Haynes, Marilee Pauline Teen (208 pp.) $9.95 paper | Aug. 1, 2013 978-08198-0830-1 Test results may prove that 12-yearold Gabriel Carpenter is St. Jude Middle School’s only resident genius, but Mensa status sure doesn’t seem to make life any easier. Gabe still can’t open his own locker or come up with anything intelligent to say to Becca Piccarelli. He stinks at sports, and to make matters worse, his second-best friend, brainy Maya, will barely speak to him anymore. Things get even more complicated when Gabe and Maya find themselves on the same team in the Middle School Academic Olympics. Though the first-person narration frequently feels forced and the book would have benefitted from a subtler attempt at humor than the clichéd boy-book-fart-jokes Haynes relies on, Gabe is a sympathetic underdog middle-grade readers will likely enjoy rooting for. At its core, this is clearly religious fiction, with references to saints and prayer throughout, but Gabe’s struggle to reconcile his gifts with the traditional social dictates of what’s cool and what’s not transcend affiliation. Arguably the most compelling plotline in the novel centers on Gabe’s struggle to fit in at home: Though his father is admittedly thrilled by 96

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THE GIRL WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE

Henry, April Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (224 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-8050-9541-8 The only thing Katie knows for sure is that someone wants to kill her. “Take her out back and finish her off,” is one of the first things the 16-year-old hears when she comes to in an isolated cabin in the woods of Oregon. Suffering from amnesia, Katie doesn’t recall anything about her life, including where she’s from, who her family is or even the excruciating pain of having two fingernails torn off. But her body remembers enough martial arts to incapacitate her captor and escape. When she tries to contact the authorities, they believe she is an escaped patient from a local mental hospital. Is she an insane murderer, as news reports suggest? With no place to hide and everyone a potential liar (including herself), Katie races across the state, piecing together clues and scraps of memories, to try to figure out who she is in this thriller with nonstop twists and turns. Her only ally is Ty, a former homeless teen she meets at a brief fast-food stop. The possibility of biological warfare amps up the suspense, while short chapters and Katie’s direct, first-person narration make the Hollywood-blockbuster–like story pulsate. Although rushed, the ending stays true to the mood and consistent pacing of Katie’s plight. An adrenaline rush for reluctant readers. (Thriller. 14 & up)

WHEN THE BEAT WAS BORN DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

Hill, Laban Carrick Illus. by Taylor III, Theodore Roaring Brook (32 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-59643-540-7

The origin of one of the most influential cultural movements in recent times—hip-hop—is presented through the story of DJ Kool Herc, the man who “put the hip hip hop, hippity hop into the world’s heartbeat.” Young Clive fell in love with music as a child in Jamaica, watching a popular DJ unpack crates of records to set up for house parties. When he moved to the Bronx, Clive became

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Kool Herc, and when he had the opportunity to throw his own dance parties, he became DJ Kool Herc. Herc’s innovative style as a DJ, stretching the breaks in songs from seconds into minutes, allowed the creativity of others to erupt, such as break dancers, rappers and MCs. Hip-hop was born. Hill and Taylor have accomplished something special with this picture book, capturing the energy of the early hip-hop movement and presenting it in a manner that is accessible for children. The rhythm and balance of text make this an engaging read-aloud for young children, while the subject matter and animated style of the full-page illustrations will appeal to independent readers as well. This effervescent celebration of the roots of hip-hop will make readers feel the beat. (author’s note, timeline, bibliography) (Picture book. 4-9)

THE ARAB WORLD THOUGHT OF IT Inventions, Innovations, and Amazing Facts

Hussain, Saima S. Annick Press (48 pp.) $11.95 paper | $21.95 PLB | Jul. 1, 2013 978-1-55451-476-2 978-1-55451-477-9 PLB

An introduction to the Arab world through the arts and sciences developed in the many countries of the Middle East and North Africa and other regions where Arab culture flourished. One-to-four–page introductions to many topics brim busily with excellent color photographs and provide readers with background information on education, astronomy, weaponry, architecture, food, medical discoveries, arts and crafts, religion, and everyday inventions such as mattresses and hard soap. Arab women get a little specific attention near the end, and the last few pages are devoted to contemporary life, but there is no focus on political issues. This positive celebration of learning, ingenuity and culture seeks to highlight the contributions of Arabs from earlier centuries and to make contemporary connections, occasionally with a little too much emphasis. For example, Ammar al-Mawsili is mentioned as being the inventor of “a special syringe and a hollow needle that he used to suck the cataract out of the eye,” and the author avers that today’s surgeons use similar techniques and equipment. While that may be true, earlier Indian, Greek, Roman and Egyptian developments are omitted, giving readers a simplistic view of the history of ophthalmology. Despite weaknesses, this survey definitely fills a niche. Tidbits of information and crisp, engaging photographs will entice browsers, while students needing information for substantive research projects will need additional resources on many topics. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

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WHAT THE SNAKES WROTE

Hutchins, Hazel Illus. by Holdcroft, Tina Annick Press (32 pp.) $9.95 paper | $21.95 PLB | Jul. 1, 2013 978-1-55451-472-4 978-1-55451-473-1 PLB Garter snakes use spelling skills to enlist lifesaving help. Who knew? As the chickens peck nearby and the cat perches in a window, Rufus the farm dog is startled to see three snakes twisted into shapes that “seemed somehow familiar.” They are forming the word DOG. Another 28 snakes have spelled out, “Help please Snakes in trouble” (they can spell, but punctuation is harder). Uncertain, Rufus sets out on farmyard patrol. He herds four snakes spelling NEED out of the path of a speeding truck just in time and thinks that all is well—until he notices more snakes spelling out more words. This is a job for the farmer, who’s filling a hole. Rufus grabs the shovel and takes off across the field, the farmer in hot pursuit. The snakes have spelled out a new message—“SAVE OUR HOME”—with an arrow pointing the way. The farmer heads to his computer to look up snake facts, then sets to work. With Rufus watching, he redigs the hole, then puts a fence around it. In cold weather, snakes can avoid freezing to death by staying in the hole, he explains. The snakes spell a shoutout for Rufus, who came to their rescue— even though it’s not clear whether Rufus can read. Strictly for reptile fans; Hutchins’ one-note tale and Holdcroft’s illustrations are both rough and unsubtle. Two appended pages of interesting snake facts are the highlights here. (Picture book. 5-8)

THE CAT WITH SEVEN NAMES

Johnston, Tony Illus. by Davenier, Christine Charlesbridge (40 pp.) $16.95 | $9.99 e-book | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-58089-381-7 978-1-60734-602-9 e-book

A friendly cat worms his way into the affections of a number of neighbors, gains new names (and enough extra meals to pack on a few pounds), and eventually brings together residents new and old. Variously christened “Stuart Little,” “Kitty-boy,” “Placido,” “Mooch,” “Dove” and “Mouse,” the round gray cat offers companionship to a lonely librarian, an elderly gentleman, a widowed Hispanic opera lover, a red-haired policewoman with a fondness for fast food, a homeless vet, and a girl and her mom just settling into their new home. A (happy) twist at the end removes the cat from this particular community, but his presence, however temporary, has a lasting impact. Johnston’s text is smooth and conversational, with pleasantly distinct voices for each of the characters, but it may prove overly long for some young listeners. The themes of diversity and connection

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are commendable, but occasionally, they seem to outweigh Johnston’s plump hero. Davenier’s soft ink-and–colored-pencil illustrations, mostly double-page spreads, have the fluidity of watercolors as well as a scratchy, scruffy charm. Repeated patterns and colors create a cohesive feel, as does the appearance of various characters in the background both before and after they have been introduced. Children will likely enjoy this visit to a newly united neighborhood, even if the catalyst for its creation is more device than distinct individual. (Picture book. 6-8)

A TREASURY OF PRAYERS For Now and Always

Joslin, Mary Lion/Trafalgar (224 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-7459-6347-1

A petite trim size and an inviting cover design in soft aqua invite readers in to peruse this wide-ranging compendium of Christian prayers, meditations and Bible verses. The collection is divided into thematic sections that organize over 200 selections for easy access. Many are actual prayers, including original compositions by the author as well as familiar short devotions suitable for younger children and well-known pieces by St. Francis. Many short Bible verses appear, including the expected choices, such as Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer. This British import presents quite a few prayers and some poems from the British Isles, but the collection attempts inclusiveness with a prayer from Japan, a meal blessing from Africa (the specific region or culture is not identified) and two Native American prayers, among others. Some of the prayers, especially the original ones, are really for children, while others, such as two selections by Gerald Manley Hopkins, are for more sophisticated readers. There is an index of first lines but none of authors, which can make finding a particular prayer again a challenge. This thoughtful collection will be useful for Christian families or for teachers in church school classes, best for dipping into over time. (Religion. 9 & up)

BLANKET & BEAR, A REMARKABLE PAIR

Kelly, L.J.R. Illus. by Tanaka, Yoko Putnam (32 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 29, 2013 978-0-399-25681-3

inseparable threesome are separated during an ocean voyage, the boy is bereft. Meanwhile, the blanket and bear set off to find their owner, discovering instead a land where lost objects like them enjoy the island life. In a twist some won’t see coming, the blanket and bear initially reject the lost-toy paradise, only to return to it when it is clear that their human really has outgrown them. It ends, “Now think for a minute / of the toys you once knew. / Are they now on that island, / telling stories of you?” Evidently meaning to soothe fretful children who’ve been separated from their best beloved objects, Kelly’s text, his debut, is quite effective. Tanaka’s artistic style, on the other hand, only really takes off when blanket and bear are on their own, and the humans, painted with heavy-lidded doe eyes, are little more than a distant memory. Only then do the soft acrylics soar, as capable in their depictions of sun-drenched landscapes as they are in those of the threadbare, split seams of a much-loved toy’s backside. Despite the touch-and-go artwork, the book can offer copious comfort to children with the suggestion that their closest childhood friends have found second lives elsewhere. (Picture book. 4-8)

POPPY THE PIRATE DOG

Kessler, Liz Illus. by Phillips, Mike Candlewick (64 pp.) $14.99 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-7636-6569-2

A family takes a seaside vacation with their Dalmatian, Poppy, who knows all about pirates from listening to books read by her young owner, Tim. When the friendly dog chooses a skull-and-crossbones bandanna for herself, the family dubs her Poppy the Pirate Dog. They decide to take Poppy on a different sort of boat ride each day, but the dog has issues with all the boats: too fast, too slippery or too scary (the seals must be sea monsters!). The family keeps trying to find a pirate ship for Poppy, finally finding an old, red tugboat that suits persnickety Poppy perfectly, and they all enjoy a ride together with a pirate flag flying. Poppy is an appealing pooch, but there isn’t much conflict or drama here, nor any pirate talk or swashbuckling adventure. The text is divided into short chapters, with a large font and lots of white space around the text blocks to assist new readers. Illustrations in watercolor and ink provide an amusing personality for Poppy as she resists all the different boat rides and eventually feels like a big, brave dog. An adequate tale with the pull of pirates and pups, but alas, me hearties, no buried treasure here. (Early reader. 6-8)

Where do old toys and blankets go? Their own private island, it seems. In gentle, rhyming verse, a blanket and a bear are presented to a baby boy who takes to them instantly. When the previously 98

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“Not a political book, the emphasis is on the everyday similarities of children’s lives the world over, albeit with a focus on specific cultural traditions, here Theravada Buddhism….” froms i see the sun in myanmar/burma

I SEE THE SUN IN MYANMAR/BURMA

slightly darker skin than “Alex,” who closely resembles his adult namesake) with glossy skin and plastic smiles. A superficial sketch, driven far more by its worthy agenda than by any effort or evident desire to connect with real readers. (Picture book. 7-9)

King, Dedie Illus. by Inglese, Judith Satya House (40 pp.) $12.95 paper | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-935874-20-1

A quietly informative book takes readers through one idealized day in a Burmese village, produced with a text in English and the gracefully written Burmese language. Aye Aye narrates the simple text. The young girl describes her morning routine and then accompanies her nurse mother to the hospital; there is no school today. Her brother goes to fish with his father, demonstrating gender-specific activities. It’s too bad school is not included, as a look at it might have made the text a bit more nuanced. Burma (officially named Myanmar in 1989, hence the two names) was isolated from 1962 until 2010, when its military government began allowing more freedoms. This is explained in an afterword, written for an older audience. A picture of the famous political figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, appears on the Buddhist wall altar and is described only in the afterword. Not a political book, the emphasis is on the everyday similarities of children’s lives the world over, albeit with a focus on specific cultural traditions, here Theravada Buddhism, and the concept of metta, loving-kindness. Detailed collages of paper, woven straw, photographs and other materials highlight the differences between urban and rural life. Interested teachers and parents will want to use this with young children as one way to introduce children to a way of life that has compassion at its heart. (glossary) (Picture book. 5-8)

GO AHEAD AND DREAM

Kingsbury, Karen Illus. by Banning, Greg Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-06-168625-2

An NFL quarterback and the “Queen of Christian Fiction” (so styled by Time magazine) deliver a heaping shovelful of sugary inspiration. Dreaming of becoming, respectively, a football player and a pilot, young classmates Alex and Bobby face obstacles. Alex is small and always is chosen last for playground kickball, and Bobby is a foster child with attendant self-esteem and poverty issues, but they overcome them with hard work and an encouraging jingle from Alex’s singing grandpa: “Go ahead and dream, / However big it seems. / Work hard, believe, / And don’t give up.” The news that grandpa has “gone to heaven” leaves both lads sad, but his memory prompts them to keep each other on the path to success, and by the time they’ve reached adulthood, guess what? Receiving nary a nod in either the blurb or Kingsbury’s afterword, Banning contributes appropriately bland, static scenes featuring realistically painted figures (Bobby has |

LOVE DISGUISED

Klein, Lisa Bloomsbury (320 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-59990-968-4

Innovative and ambitious, this portrait of young Will Shakespeare doesn’t quite succeed. Assisting his improvident father, a Stratford glover, Will dreams of escaping to become an actor. He gets his wish when a midnight rendezvous with one of the Hathaway sisters goes awry, and his father sends him to London to negotiate a debt. Concurrently, left to shift for herself after her father’s death in prison and her mother’s suicide, young Londoner Meg survives by petty crime until she’s offered employment by kindly innkeepers. Will and Meg meet, but Meg is too late to rescue him from thieves who prey on rubes. While Will frets about repairing his fortunes, Meg concocts schemes to make it happen. Soon, Will’s career as playwright and actor takes off, and Meg—thanks to her quick wit and acting chops—serves as his muse. Meg’s an appealing character, but naïve and selfish Will’s hard to like. Labored subplots based on mistaken identity and cross-dressing slow the action considerably. Meant to evoke the Bard of Avon’s comedies, they clash with the vivid portrayal of the harsh Elizabethan world and Meg’s brutal past depicted elsewhere in the novel. What’s hilarious (to some) onstage is problematic in fiction with an otherwise realistic bent. Risk-taking and thought-provoking fiction, best suited to readers who cherish Shakespearean slapstick. (author’s note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

THE SHOW MUST GO ON!

Klise, Kate Illus. by Klise, M. Sarah Algonquin (144 pp.) $15.99 | Sep. 10, 2013 978-1-61620-244-6 Series: Three-Ring Rascals, 1

In this entertaining chapter book, the first in a series, readers meet kind Sir Sidney and the gentle performers and hands in his circus. But Sir Sidney is tired and leaves the circus under the management of new-hire Barnabas Brambles for a week. That Sir Sidney is beloved by all is quickly established, presenting a sharp contrast to the bully Brambles. The scoundrel

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“Bits of Indian culture and Bollywood drama add delicious undertones to this confection, a treat for middle-grade readers.” from the problem with being slightly heroic

immediately comes up with a “to do” list that includes selling the animals and eliminating the mice Bert and Gert. (Gert is almost more distressed by Brambles’ ill-fitting suit and vows to tailor it.) Revealed almost entirely through dialogue, the putupon animals’ solidarity is endearing. The story, like the circus train now driven by the Famous Flying Banana Brothers, takes absurd loops and turns. The art is fully integrated, illustrating the action and supplementing the text with speech bubbles, facsimile letters and posters, Brambles’ profit-and-loss notes, examples of Gert’s invented vocabulary and more. Brambles’ plans go awry, of course, and he gets his comeuppance. With Bert and Gert acting as his conscience, along with a suit from Gert that finally fits and a dose of forgiveness, Brambles makes a turnaround. Sensitive children may doubt Sir Sidney’s wisdom in leaving his animals with an unscrupulous man, and the closing message is a tad didactic, but that doesn’t blunt the fun too much. Most children will agree the book is “smafunderful (smart + fun + wonderful).” (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 7-10)

THE PROBLEM WITH BEING SLIGHTLY HEROIC

Krishnaswami, Uma Illus. by Halpin, Abigail Atheneum (288 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-1-4424-2328-2

Best friends Dini and Maddie and Bollywood movie star Dolly Singh, from Krishnaswami’s The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (2011), return for a breathless dance through Washington, D.C. Dini’s visit from India, where she’s been living, back to Takoma Park, Md., reunites the sixth-graders. They plan to take part in the grand opening of the star’s latest film, part of an Indian festival at the Smithsonian. But this dance doesn’t progress smoothly: The flighty star has lost her passport; she wants an elephant for the festival parade; she needs rose-petal milkshakes and a really nice cake for her party. And there’s more. The caterers have canceled. Maddie hopes her new friend Brenna can be part of their performance. When Mini, a young elephant in the National Zoo, takes off down Connecticut Avenue, the tranquilizing dart meant for her hits Dolly’s husband. Jumping from one scene to another, the fast-paced, present-tense narrative conveys Dini’s jittery jet-lagged feeling as she struggles to choreograph her own steps and to make Dolly happy. Just as the star drops jewelry, the author flings pieces of plot everywhere, but she pulls it all back together in fine Bollywood style. Halpin’s grayscale illustrations (final art not seen) add flavor. Bits of Indian culture and Bollywood drama add delicious undertones to this confection, a treat for middlegrade readers. (Fiction. 9-12)

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FALSE SIGHT

Krokos, Dan Hyperion (336 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-1-4231-4985-9 Memories and bodies hop across dimensions in this sequel to False Memory (2012). Red-eyed Miranda and her fellow Roses, teens with psychic abilities and unknown origins, just lost two of their own in a sudden burst of violence. Now on the hunt for their murderous member, “Sequel,” aka Nina, Miranda stumbles upon an ominous black liquid that links her world to many others. Unfortunately, the black goo provides a passageway for an army of blind monsters to hop from world to world, an army that may be controlled by the people who developed Miranda and the Roses. Miranda sheds some of her kick-ass nature in her second adventure, which is disheartening, as the action is sometimes shelved in favor of romance. However, when Miranda is dueling, wrestling or kicking, she’s in top form, and the adrenaline is palpable. The supporting characters are unremarkable for most of the story, only becoming relevant in the romance subplot and even then remaining bland. The eyeless psychic monsters do make for an effective threat, although the dimension-hopping and heavy-duty cloning-origin story tie confusing knots into an otherwise smooth story. A remix of the first, weighed down with extraneous back story. (Action. 10-14)

LIVES OF THE SCIENTISTS Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought)

Krull, Kathleen Illus. by Hewitt, Kathryn Harcourt (96 pp.) $20.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-15-205909-5 Series: What the Neighbors Thought

Krull profiles 20 scientists—warning away at the outset anyone interested in the actual details of their discoveries because here, she’s all about dishing on their lives and egos instead. Though in other works she focuses on scientific achievements, here Krull caters to readers less interested in Einstein’s explanation of the photoelectric effect than that he had an affair with his cousin or in Newton’s laws of physics than his practice, as warden of the Royal Mint, of attending the hangings of convicted counterfeiters. The author presents a series of quick biographical sketches, most capped with “Extra Credit” comments about each subject’s enduring legacy—or, in the case of Einstein’s brain and Galileo’s fingers, errant body parts. Though all but two are dead (and the exceptions, Jane Goodall and James D. Watson, are no spring chickens), her choices for

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inclusion are reasonably diverse. Ibn Sina, George Washington Carver, and one ancient and one modern scientist of Asian descent expand the Eurocentric roster of usual suspects. Also, six women claim unique or shared entries, and several influential others, such as astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt, earn mentions. Hewitt adds typically funny, bigheaded but recognizable caricature portraits and iconic interior vignettes to lighten the informational load further. Mightily entertaining and if unlikely to broaden a young reader’s knowledge of the history of science, certain to humanize it. (reading list, no source notes or index) (Collective biography. 9-12)

LISTENING FOR LUCCA

LaFleur, Suzanne Wendy Lamb/Random (240 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-385-74299-3 978-0-307-98031-1 e-book 978-0-375-99088-5 PLB Siena’s ability to see glimpses of the past juxtaposed on the present intensifies when she moves to a house in Maine

that is oddly familiar. Her parents are focused on 3-year-old Lucca, who has stopped speaking. Siena feels responsible for Lucca’s silence and spends lots of time playing with him and hoping that he will talk. She also collects all sorts of found items that she deems abandoned. In Maine, she sees and hears members of the family who lived in her house during World War II. When she writes with an old pen found in the house, it produces not her handwriting, but that of Sarah, a girl from the earlier period. Even more astonishing, she seems to actually enter Sarah’s mind, seeing and feeling everything along with her. She also is able to share Sarah’s brother Joshua’s war experiences, which send him home psychologically damaged. Through a compassionate act of courage, Siena’s gift ultimately provides satisfying solutions for Sarah’s family and her own. LaFleur deftly handles the tale’s many layers, never allowing readers to get lost. Events and characters are fully developed and are completely believable, without any sense of contrivance. Tender and brave, Siena is a heroine to be admired. Past meets present and all is well in this lovely and magical tale. (Fantasy. 9-12)

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CONFESSIONS OF A SOCALLED MIDDLE CHILD

Lennon, Maria T. Harper/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-06-212690-0 978-0-06-212692-4 e-book Eager to escape her troubled history, 12-year-old Charlie is ready to start over. Charlie’s decision to lace the school lunch with laxatives in an attempt to frame another student resulted in her expulsion from school and mandatory counseling. Relocation to another school district and a new school year offer Charlie an opportunity to begin again. But Charlie’s recent commitment to reform is challenged when her doctor assigns her the job of seeking out the student most in need of a friend at her new school. Soon, Charlie is caught between her determination to help Marta, a student cruelly picked on by her classmates, and her longing to be accepted. A fierce gymnastics rivalry and Marta’s resistance to Charlie’s overtures of friendship further complicate Charlie’s endeavors. However, Charlie’s attitude changes from exasperation to concern when she uncovers Marta’s tragic secret. Lennon’s tale addresses manifold topics, including the pressures and social issues of middle school, friendship quandaries and bullying. Charlie’s eclectic mix of interests—she’s a computer prodigy with a talent for hacking and an aspiring fashion trendsetter who harbors a keen interest in Harry Houdini—contribute to her distinctive narrative voice. Lennon skillfully delves beyond Charlie’s sass and troubled façade to reveal her insecurities and vulnerability. Readers will admire the unabashedly quirky Charlie as she embarks upon her journey of self-understanding and transformation with verve. (Fiction. 12 & up)

THUMPY FEET

Lewin, Betsy Illus. by Lewin, Betsy Holiday House (40 pp.) $16.95 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-0-8234-2901-1 Anyone who has ever known and loved a cat will be instantly captivated by Lewin’s fun-loving feline creation. Thumpy Feet, a friendly orange cat with big green eyes and a goofy grin, stares out from the front cover and pulls listeners into his simple and simply delightful world. His everyday activities will be familiar to cat owners, but they also closely parallel the pastimes and preoccupations of preschoolers. Basically, there’s food, play, sleep and more play, with a bit of postprandial grooming slipped in. Lewin’s language is rhythmic and imaginative, from her hero’s galumphing approach (“Thumpy thumpy thumpy thump thumpy”) through his appreciative discovery of a full bowl (“MMMMMMmmmmmm Foodie food!”) and

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a sweet “snoozy snooze” to the final “LOOKY LOOK!” that leads him off the page and out of the story, chasing a ball of red yarn. Several words per page appear in varying colors and locations to complement Lewin’s energetic and expressive watercolors. The focus remains on Thumpy Feet throughout—he stretches, pounces and poses in each double-page spread, outlined in black against a white background. The few details—a food bowl, a blue stuffed mouse that serves as both plaything and pillow, and that bouncing ball of yarn—provide context and additional appeal. Chock-full of personality and charm, Thumpy Feet will be warmly welcomed by readers everywhere. (Picture book. 2-6)

LING & TING SHARE A BIRTHDAY

Lin, Grace Illus. by Lin, Grace Little, Brown (48 pp.) $15.00 | Sep. 10, 2013 978-0-316-18405-2

Lin swaps her trademark cupcake for birthday cake in this cheery follow-up to Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same (2010). Sporting the same haircuts they received in the first book, Chinese-American identical twins Ling and Ting return with six short stories that center on preparations for their sixth birthday. “Birthday Shopping” reveals their playful humor as each girl tries to surprise the other by entering different stores. In the toy store, Ting selects a yo-yo that she obviously wants and hopes Ling will share, and in the bookstore, Ling does the same with a book that she hopes to read. Clever readers will notice that the bookstore carries many of Lin’s titles and that Ling’s selection is none other than a miniature-sized version of the original Ling & Ting. The girls’ differing personalities and sisterly affection continue to shine in “Birthday Cakes.” As they make their own birthday cakes (because of course, each girl needs her own), Ling carefully reads the cookbook, while Ting goes about the chore with spontaneity. When only Ling’s cake is edible, she cuts it in half to share with Ting. The stories build on one another, culminating in their birthday wishes coming true. Once again Lin’s richly colored gouache artwork, based on 1950s children’s textbook illustrations, gives reason enough to celebrate. Tw-inspiring fiction for beginning readers. (Early reader. 5-8)

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DESCENDANT

Livingston, Lesley HarperTeen (336 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-06-206310-6 978-0-06-206312-0 e-book Series: Starling, 2 Livingston delivers a significantly stronger story—and heroine—in this sequel to Starling (2012). It opens where the first book ended, with readers learning the Fennrys Wolf has survived various dangers while Mason Starling has been transported to Asgard, home of the Norse gods. Fenn is determined to find Mason and prevent her from taking up the Odin spear, which would transform her into a Valkyrie and set Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse, in motion. Each chapter brings a perspective shift, and readers switch among Fenn, Mason and other characters’ adventures before the two are reunited, just in time. The pair return to our world and two startling discoveries that bring the Greek gods into the mix (the Egyptians are there too) and up the ante significantly. It’s up to Fenn and Mason to make things right, but in doing so, they may just be playing into the hands of prophecy. Despite the serpentine plot, those unfamiliar with the first installment should have a relatively simple time following this action-packed story, and though Fenn still acts as her savior, Mason is noticeably stronger than before, making the climax more believable. Those who’ve been awaiting this sequel should be pleased. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

LENA’S SLEEP SHEEP A Going-to-Bed Book Lobel, Anita Illus. by Lobel, Anita Knopf (24 pp.) $11.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-449-81025-5

When Lena’s parents tuck her into bed, she inadvertently unleashes a bit of ovine chaos by asking them to leave the curtains open so she can see the full moon. Lena loves the moon, and the picture hanging above her bed suggests that she loves sheep, too. When her parents leave her bedroom, she calls for the sheep to come out so she can count them and lull herself to sleep. They are afraid of the moon, though, and think it looks like a monster that is “ready for a sheep snack.” Even though she’s sleepy, Lena is patient and tells the sheep they can disguise themselves in her clothing to trick the moon. Lobel’s soft watercolor-and-gouache paintings take on a frenetic energy in this scene, as the sheep in Lena’s clothing frolicking about seem in desperate need of herding so that they might provide Lena with a restful, orderly parade through her imagination. Then, one sheep notices that clouds

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“The surprise of each metamorphosis and the resourcefulness of the plucky hero will engage young viewers, while beginning readers will find the elegant simplicity of the text rewarding and clever.” from ah ha!

obscure the moon and thinks the monster is gone. Reassured, the sheep line up, and Lena counts them to sleep. The pitchperfect ending finds the moon, not monstrous at all, peeking from behind the clouds to say, “Good night, silly sheep. And good night, lovely Lena.” A lovely “Going-to-Bed Book” indeed. (Picture book. 2-5)

STAR POWER

London, Kelli Dafina/Kensington (288 pp.) $9.95 paper | Jul. 30, 2013 978-0-7582-8699-4 Series: Charly’s Epic Fiascos, 3

come the shadows. This goes on as Yeti discovers a horde of his pals come to visit, until he shoos them to their respective beds and finally gets some shut-eye. This is a gentle and empathetic approach to the bedtime skitters, with a good and clear explanation for something that bedevils most kids when there is just enough light to conjure those creepy shadows. Kirwan’s artwork is not just luscious, but also smart and inviting in style, the matte colors effectively evoking scary shadows as well as laughably nonthreatening friends once the light is on. A well-told tale of nighttime collywobbles, suitable for framing. (Picture book. 3-5)

AH HA!

Teen reality TV star Charly and her co-star Liam head to the tiny town of Tallulahville, Minn., to make over an unwilling nerd but discover the mission is more complex than they’d realized. After a dowdy young fan asks for her autograph, Charly becomes inspired to host a makeover show. She and Liam, with whom she has on-screen and off-screen flirtations, pitch the idea to the producers of their regular show, The Extreme Dream Team, and a month later, they’re off to improve the appearance of one of the Tallulahville mayor’s daughters, Nia. Their mission, however, is covert, as Nia does not wish to be made over, and only in the discussion questions following the text does the book invite readers to consider the ethics of publicly giving a makeover to someone who doesn’t want one. Tallulahville is full of compelling mysteries: What happened to make nerdy Nia and her popular twin sister, Mya, so different? Why are the teens at a party acting so strangely? Who is sending Charly cryptic warnings, and what do they mean? Some of the answers, however, are difficult to swallow, and so are some of the book’s premises. Why, for instance, are Charly’s handlers so absent that she can’t get a ride to visit her local contact? A fast-moving, upbeat mystery for readers willing to ignore major plot holes. (Mystery. 12-16)

YETI, TURN OUT THE LIGHT! Long, Greg ; Edmundson, Chris Illus. by Kirwan, Wednesday Chronicle (36 pp.) $12.99 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-1-4521-1158-2

Mack, Jeff Illus. by Mack, Jeff Chronicle (40 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-1-4521-1265-7 In Good News, Bad News (2012), Mack experimented with minimalism, creating text from the titular phrases alone; here, he challenges himself to dialogue created from just two letters of the alphabet, doubled and continually rearranged. A chase leads to the actions that elicit the exclamatory responses from the protagonist (a frog) and the other creatures. On the front endpaper, the amphibian floats lazily in a pond: “AAHH!” When a child and his pet come along and squeeze the web-footed victim into a jar, the dog thinks: “AH HA!” As the frog escapes and searches for refuge, each page turn reveals that the supposed “resting place” is actually a new threat; the innocent-looking log turns out to be a snapping crocodile, for instance. When the hero ultimately lunges for the safety of the jar, he shouts a triumphant “HA HA!” to the incredulous animals he has outsmarted. The closing endpapers reveal a circular resolution. Mack’s mixed-media scenes are filled with bold diagonal lines that explode with energy and caricatures that leap or stretch across the gutter. The surprise of each metamorphosis and the resourcefulness of the plucky hero will engage young viewers, while beginning readers will find the elegant simplicity of the text rewarding and clever. Speech bubbles change color according to the voice. The ecologically sound and emotionally satisfying ending is sure to please all ages. (Picture book. 2-6)

When a yeti gets a case of the heebiejeebies, then something clearly is amiss. Readers meet Long and Edmundson’s Yeti, a yeti, as the day draws to a close. He heads to his cave, has some spaghetti and meatballs, flosses and hits the sack. But Yeti can’t sleep, as shadows lurk, “dart[ing] frightfully near! // They dance up the wall, / and, my, are they scary! / Oh, what could they be? / Yeti is wary....” Yeti flicks on the light. Three jewel-eyed bunnies stand there. The rabbits join Yeti in bed, off goes the light, and back |

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“So vividly rendered is this network of relationships that when Aurora and Jack decide to walk a path the narrator cannot follow, the devastation is palpable.” from all our pretty songs

TAP THE MAGIC TREE

These are spinoffs from a TV series that is itself a spinoff. Not surprisingly, the dilution of both visual and literary quality goes beyond atrocious. (Picture book. 4-6)

Matheson, Christie Illus. by Matheson, Christie Greenwillow/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $15.99 | Sep. 1, 2013 978-0-06-227445-8 Matheson invites readers to take an apple tree through a seasonal round using taps and page turns in place of touch-screens. “There’s magic in this bare brown tree. / Tap it once. / Turn the page to see.” Making the resemblance to a tablet app even more apparent, the tissue-collage leaves, flowers and fruits that grow, mature and fall in succession on the scaffolding of branches “appear” following cued shakes, pats, blown breaths, claps and gestures as well as simple taps. The tree, suspended in white space on each spread, is all there is to see (until a pair of nesting bluebirds fly in at the end)—so that even very young children will easily follow its changes through spring, summer and winter dormancy to a fresh spring. Like the print version of Hervé Tullet’s Press Here (2011), from which this plainly takes its inspiration, the illusion of interactivity exercises a reader’s imagination in ways that digital media do not. Still, the overall result is more an imitation of an app than a creative use of ink, paper and physical design. A universal theme, developed in an unusually clean, simple presentation…and, at least, with no need for batteries. (Picture book. 3-6)

AFTER THE STORM

McBratney, Sam Candlewick (24 pp.) $9.99 | $3.99 paper | Sep. 24, 2013 978-0-7636-6993-5 978-0-7636-6628-6 paper Series: Guess How Much I Love You The Guess How Much I Love You franchise sets a low bar for its knockoff sequels. Seeing dark clouds gather, Little Nutbrown Hare, Little Field Mouse, Little Grey Squirrel and Little Redwood Fox (who is, evidently, not very hungry) join Big Nutbrown Hare in a cave, then venture out after the storm to splash about and see a rainbow. The soft, intimate texture of the art in the original stories is gone, replaced by hard-edged, less finely drawn details and creatures depicted with generic postures and expressions. The animal figures are mechanically superimposed into the scenes in the manner of an animated cartoon and so float over the background meadows rather than run through them and stand atop rather than in the solid-looking puddles. With similar disregard for production values, in the co-published Snow Magic, Big and Little Nutbrown watch snow fall from a slightly misted moonlit sky, then with Little Field Mouse gambol over the drifts without appearing to touch them. In this second episode, Little Nutbrown’s mild character undergoes a sudden alteration as well: “[He] gave a crafty smile as he kicked his ball with another mighty kick. ‘Race you!’ ” 104

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ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS

McCarry, Sarah St. Martin’s (224 pp.) $18.99 | $9.99 paper | $7.12 e-book Jul. 30, 2013 978-1-250-04088-6 978-1-250-02708-5 paper 978-1-250-02709-2 e-book “Aurora and I live in a world without fathers,” the unnamed narrator explains at the opening of this lush, spooky contemporary fairy tale. Instead, the two girls have a passionate sisterhood, formed in childhood and continued long after their mothers—for reasons the girls don’t yet know—stopped speaking to each other. When the girls meet Jack, a spellbindingly moving guitarist, the narrator is shocked and delighted to find he is as entranced by her as she is by him. The cast is racially diverse (the narrator is one of the few central figures who is white), and the narrator’s relationship with Jack never overshadows her other intimate connections: with her mystically inclined mother, Cass; with Aurora’s mother, Maia, too often high on heroin to be an effective parent; with Raoul, the friend from work who serves as a mentor; and most notably, with Aurora, passionate, outgoing, fragile and often in need of the narrator’s care. So vividly rendered is this network of relationships that when Aurora and Jack decide to walk a path the narrator cannot follow, the devastation is palpable. Despite an occasional lapse (it is unclear whether an amulet Cass gives the narrator for protection is on or off during a few relevant scenes), the characters and landscapes come to life through careful detail and precise, poetic language. Haunting, otherworldly and heartbreaking. (Urban fantasy. 14 & up)

WHO NEEDS MAGIC?

McCullough, Kathy Delacorte (320 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $20.99 PLB Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-385-74014-2 978-0-375-89892-1 e-book 978-0-385-90825-2 PLB Two teen fairy godmothers with drastically different styles duel it out in this mostly clever follow-up to Don’t

Expect Magic (2011). Doubt plagues 15-year-old Delaney from the start of this sequel. She has newly come to terms with the wish-granting magic passed along to her by her father, but months have gone

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by since she granted the wish of her boyfriend, Flynn, and no further wish recipients have materialized. Adding to her woes are a rivalry with Ariella, an f.g. with powers that seem to dwarf her own, and Flynn’s inattentiveness due to his summer job. With so many things going wrong, Delaney retreats to her old ways, hiding her feelings and telling no one about her struggles. While readers will be sympathetic to her plight, it’s likely some will find her angst—“And then the moment’s gone in an instant, cruelly yanked away from me, like always”—a bit self-serving. However, as in the first, Delaney’s tendency toward gloom can also be wickedly funny, such as her thought that her dad’s relentless attempts to win over the son of his new girlfriend are “[s]ort of like a prisoner-of-war interrogation with a domestic twist.” A fun paranormal comedy with an overarching message about being one’s true self and the power of honesty, it will be welcomed by fans of the first. (Paranormal comedy. 12 & up)

ISLAND OF FIRE

McMann, Lisa Aladdin (464 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 3, 2013 978-1-4424-5845-1 Series: Unwanteds, 3

McMann builds her newly minted mage’s self-confidence, firms up some emotional hookups and pitches her burgeoning cast into a series of rescues in this middle volume. The story opens with a crisis carried over from the previous episode and closes with a sudden attack by parties unknown. In between, Alex Stowe solves a riddle left by founding wizard Marcus Today to restore the Unwanteds’ magic school of Artimé, then leads an expedition of magical squirrelicorns, origami dragons and other constructs, along with the giant, flying, stone cheetah Simber, to Warbler Island to rescue imprisoned fellow students Samheed and Lani. Meanwhile, Alex is also bumbling his way through a growing attachment to Sky (who makes his heart “swish”) while his evil Wanted twin, Aaron, is shakily usurping the office of high priest in neighboring Quill. Readers who aren’t fresh on the content of the two preceding volumes will struggle to keep all the characters distinct, but the author chucks in comical byplay and even vomit jokes to keep things from getting too serious, and she breaks the tale into dozens of short chapters to goose up the action. Projected to run through four more volumes, the storyline doesn’t advance much here—but the quick pace, unresolved issues and Hogwarts-ian setting will keep the audience Wanting more. (Fantasy. 10-14)

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INDELIBLE

Metcalf, Dawn Harlequin Teen (382 pp.) $9.99 paper | Jul. 30, 2013 978-0-373-21073-2 Series: The Twixt, 1 “Meet cute” is more like meet violent when Joy Malone gets dragged into supernatural politics and ends up saving the world in this teen paranormal series starter. Her mom has abandoned the family, her brother is off at college, and she has quit the gymnastics team—all Joy has left is school and her best friend, Monica. When Joy goes to dance her angst away at a nightclub with Monica, she sees the inhuman Indelible Ink and his sister, Invisible Inq—and nobody else does. Her magical Sight makes her a danger to the Scribe siblings, but when Ink attempts to blind her, he accidentally marks her as his own. Taken for Ink’s lehman—a human lover or slave—Joy stumbles into a realm with unwritten rules and an odd courtship with Ink. Initially built on lies, their relationship blossoms, with Joy teaching Ink that there is more to life than duty and Ink showing Joy both magic and love. Their sensual (but not graphic) romance and otherworldly adventures transform Joy from a bland protagonist and a burden into a believable if bewildered heroine. Metcalf does not formally label Ink and his ilk as faeries, but her rich physical descriptions create a complex fey world that coexists uneasily with the industrialized human one. An uneven but eventually engaging story of first love, family drama and supernatural violence. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

THE TAPIR SCIENTIST Saving South America’s Largest Mammal

Montgomery, Sy Photos by Bishop, Nic Houghton Mifflin (80 pp.) $18.99 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-0-547-81548-0 Series: Scientists in the Field

The writer-and-photographer team who introduced readers to flightless parrots, snow leopards, tree kangaroos and the Goliath bird-eating tarantula turn their attention to the elusive lowland tapir. Traveling in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands with biologist Patricia “Pati” Medici and her team, Montgomery and Bishop experience long, hot days, cramped conditions, nervous waiting and itchy tick bites while searching for this solitary, nocturnal animal. There is a satisfying natural structure to this tale of science research in the field, as initial difficulties give way to the team’s most productive expedition ever. In less than a week, they see tapirs in the wild, find their tracks, take photographs, locate

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them through radio telemetry, collect “samples of tapir poop, skin, fur, and blood,” and capture and collar two new tapirs, with more to come. This research matters, and the author clearly explains why. Chapters about the team’s day-by-day experiences, written in a lively, first-person voice, include memorable detail; interspersed are sections introducing team members, the ranch where they (and a team investigating giant armadillos) are doing their research, a British teen who helped fund an expedition and record-keeping. Clearly labeled photographs of scientists at work, ranch life, tapirs and other animals of this unfamiliar part of the world add to the book’s appeal. A splendid addition to an exemplary series. (bibliography, websites, index) (Nonfiction. 10-15)

ARRIVAL

Morphew, Chris Kane/Miller (304 pp.) $6.99 paper | Sep. 1, 2013 978-1-61067-091-3 Series: Phoenix Files, 1 Three teenagers in an isolated community have 100 days to figure out how to save the world. There are two kinds of series for children and teens: those in which each book is a complete story with a beginning, middle and end and those that tell a segment of a tale before simply stopping in the middle. The Phoenix Files falls into the second camp, so Morphew’s series opener feels less like a novel and more like the setup for one. Set in Australia, this fast-paced page-turner with a tried-but-true premise begins when Luke and his highpowered, workaholic mother move to Phoenix, a pictureperfect corporate town that turns out to be seriously sinister underneath. It’s completely cut off from the rest of the world, and worse, as the protagonists later discover, they can’t get out. After Luke and Jordan receive mysterious messages via USB memory stick, they team up with computer-whiz classmate Peter and learn that all the world, excluding Phoenix, is scheduled to end in 100 days. As the clock ticks down—the chapter headings cleverly tell readers the number of days left—the so far largely monochromatic heroes must figure out what is going on, who is responsible and how to stop it. Compulsively readable commercial-grade series fiction that provides solid thrills but is unsatisfying as a standalone. (Thriller. 12 & up)

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A YEAR AROUND THE GREAT OAK

Muller, Gerda Illus. by Muller, Gerda Floris (32 pp.) $17.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-86315-946-6

A massive old oak tree becomes the focus of Benjamin and Anna’s seasonal

visits to their cousin. During fall school break, Benjamin and Anna visit their cousin Robin, who lives at the forest’s edge. When Robin takes them to his favorite oak tree—“nearly three hundred years old”—the autumn leaves are yellow, red and brown. They build a den near the oak, watch hawks and squirrels, and gather mushrooms. Returning in winter, Robin and Benjamin ski to the now-bare oak, where birds and animals shelter. In spring, the old oak has new leaves and is surrounded by bluebells, catkins and cuckoos. Near the pond by the oak, the children see a hare, deer, a fox and badgers, and a frightened Benjamin hides in the oak from wild boar. At summer’s end, Benjamin and Anna return, and there’s a birthday party for the old oak. Realistic, delicate paintings use pattern, light and soft colors to track nature’s transformation of the old oak tree during a single year in an innocent style reminiscent of Barbara Cooney. Simplified natural details of individual plants, birds and animals invite close inspection, while holistic scenes of the oak evoke an idyllic seasonal atmosphere. A charming celebration of the changing seasons. (Picture book. 3-7)

THE BUDDHA’S APPRENTICE AT BEDTIME Tales of Compassion and Kindness for You to Read with Your Child – to Delight and Inspire

Nagaraja, Dharmachari Watkins (128 pp.) $16.95 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-78028-514-6

What better way to start off a good night’s sleep than with a nugget of ancient wisdom? Scottish Buddhist monk Nagaraja presents a collection of 18 bedtime stories based on the Jakata Tales, folk tales featuring earlier incarnations of the Buddha. Each urges readers to “[r]elax, close your eyes, and imagine…” a specific scene or animal or person. This standard opening is followed by, “Do you want to know what happened? Then listen closely.” Each of the three-to-five-page tales is capped by a moral tied to a step on the Eightfold Noble Path, Buddha’s directives for overcoming suffering. A girl learns compassion when she’s magically made to feel the pain of a rabbit she’s injured. The tiny denizens of a desert willow learn their talents are important when they fend

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“Sakai’s soft, delicate acrylic-and–oil-pencil illustrations are breathtaking. The butterfly, lizard, pigeons and cats are brilliantly depicted in vivid, accurate detail, while the child is all expressive softness and yearning….” from wait!wait!

off larger animals by working together. The morals are succinct and instructive, but the tales are uneven; a few may inspire more questions about the bizarre actions of the characters than about the intended lessons. Meditation instructions appear at the close, along with a helpful index to issues and values from the tales. Brief explanations of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path and guidance on the book’s use round out the package, which is illustrated with big-eyed, bright, happy-looking animals and people. It fills a niche for Buddhist families, but it’s not really for the uninitiated. (Short stories. 4-8)

WAIT! WAIT!

Nakawaki, Hatsue Illus. by Sakai, Komako Translated by Kaneko, Yuki Enchanted Lion Books (24 pp.) $14.95 | Jul. 22, 2013 978-1-59270-138-4 A small child is wonder-struck by every creature she encounters. She wants nothing more than to examine and touch and follow each of them. But a butterfly flutters off into the air, a lizard wiggles away between the rocks, pigeons fly out of reach, and the family cats scat as she nears. As each disappears from view, the little one calls, “Wait! Wait!” Finally, Daddy scoops her up and lovingly guides her as they go off on an adventure of their own. Nakawaki, with the help of translator Kaneko, offers these moments of wonderment and exploration in lovely, spare text, with each word carefully chosen to capture the swift, fluid movements of the creatures and the determination of the curious baby. Sakai’s soft, delicate acrylic-and–oilpencil illustrations are breathtaking. The butterfly, lizard, pigeons and cats are brilliantly depicted in vivid, accurate detail, while the child is all expressive softness and yearning as she encounters each new experience. Each double-page spread is a sea of white, with a single large-print sentence and a lightly drawn hint of setting, allowing the characters and action to hold center stage. Parents and their little ones will snuggle together to read this joyous evocation of the newness and wonder of the world over and over again. Tender and wistful and glorious. (Picture book. 1-5)

THE SUPER DUPER POWER PRINCESS HEROES How It All Began

Nambiar, Sanjay Illus. by Nambiar, Sanjay Umiya Publishing (32 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-0-9838243-9-8

This attempt at girl power goes very wrong. When three little girls—Oceana, Kinney and Sammie— find a shiny silver bag in the woods and open it, a puff of smoke |

escapes and coalesces into the Fairy Teacher Mother Superstar Queen (whose name is Betty). Betty explains that because they have gentle hearts, the girls have been chosen to receive special tiaras that confer on them magic powers, transforming them into Super Duper Power Princess Heroes. Betty also takes the time to explain some rules: The girls must use their powers to help others, they must work together, and they must remain humble. The excited trio soon spots a prince with his leg stuck under a tree. They manage to both rescue him and correct some of his outdated assumptions. Oceana tells him like it is: “[W]e have way more important things to do than marrying you, like saving the world.” Nambiar’s evident desire to create empowered girl characters and turn the traditional rescue story on its head is worthwhile, but it is that agenda that awkwardly takes center stage here. Minus that, readers are left with a haphazard storyline, prose that tries too hard to be cool and fresh, and unappealing illustrations with an amateur, mangalike feel. This well-intentioned offering is ultimately too poorly executed to successfully convey its message of female empowerment. (Picture book. 4-8)

SKIN

Napoli, Donna Jo Skyscape (352 pp.) $16.99 | $7.99 e-book | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-4778-1721-6 978-1-4778-6721-1 e-book Sixteen-year-old Sep (short for Giuseppina) wakes up on the first day of school to find that her lips are completely white. With some lipstick on, she hopes for a miracle to restore her natural lip color. Her doctor confirms the beginnings of the skin condition vitiligo. Horrified by her blotchy body, Sep is unable to tell her friends, even as she draws the flirtatious attention of Joshua, captain of the football team. Napoli, known for her retellings of legends that explore female power and budding sexuality (Hush, 2007; Bound, 2004; etc.), develops those themes here in a contemporary setting. Sep is intelligent, old-fashioned and cautious, but she begins to change. She finds herself soliciting advice from the wiser, slightly older girl at the makeup counter. She talks to her mother in a way she never has before, telling her “I’m a fucking train wreck.” Within a few weeks, Sep goes from sweet 16 and never-been-kissed to straddling Joshua’s face in order to find out what sexual pleasure is. Rather than re-telling a specific, identifiable folktale, Napoli looks at the sexual transformation wrought by adolescence using Sep’s skin as a focus, awkwardly braiding in folkloric tropes—the makeup-counter girl as witch stand-in, for instance. Though the end refutes happily-ever-after in a satisfying way, the sketchy plot, heavy on dialogue, is unconvincing. Like Sep’s decisions, this story feels rushed. (Fiction. 14-17)

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“Parker doesn’t pull punches, indicating a level of brutality that will appropriately disturb even as it successfully conveys Lyla’s complete entrapment in the Community.” from gated

NATIVE AMERICANS A Visual Exploration

Paleja, S.N. Annick Press (48 pp.) $21.95 PLB | Jul. 1, 2013 978-1-55451-485-4

Facts about native peoples in the United States and Canada presented in infographic form make up the substance of this visually interesting but problematic title. Organized loosely into sections covering origins, society, foods and culture, this slim volume attempts to provide a visual snapshot of the many indigenous peoples of these two countries. Each double-page spread answers a question—“Where did they live?” “How did they eat?” “What do they believe?”— with a short paragraph and one or many graphics accompanied by further text. There are maps, graphs, word clouds, timelines and numbers galore. Some images are suitable for younger readers: “What can you make with a bison?” is a clear depiction of how that animal served as a “walking department store.” Others, such as a map combining symbols and colors for typical communities, social structures and kinship systems, require considerable visual literacy. The combination of generalities— “Generosity is an important aspect of Native American spirituality”—and statistics that vary from source to source makes the information that is so graphically presented suspect. A selected bibliography suggests the actor-turned-author consulted sources ranging from encyclopedias to websites from a variety of organizations. Occasional obvious errors (humans don’t walk at 10 mph) stand out. Educators may find this an instructive reminder that big pictures often don’t reveal much. (index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

GATED

Parker, Amy Christine Random House (352 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $20.99 PLB Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-449-81597-7 978-0-449-81599-1 e-book 978-0-449-81598-4 PLB

adolescents into marriages (Will is Lyla’s Intended) and insisting that everyone in the Community learn to shoot to kill, as he’s sure Outsiders will eventually attack them. Parker convincingly portrays the dynamics of a cult from the inside out, contriving events that will allow Lyla to learn the truth about Pioneer and nicely fitting Lyla’s rebellion against the Community into her natural adolescent rebellion. But if Lyla tries to warn the Community, will anyone believe her, or will she be trapped forever in the silo? Parker doesn’t pull punches, indicating a level of brutality that will appropriately disturb even as it successfully conveys Lyla’s complete entrapment in the Community. Compelling and not that distant from real-world cults that have ended in tragedy. (Fiction. 14 & up)

THE ROAD TO HER

Payne, K.E. Bold Strokes Books (264 pp.) $11.95 paper | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-60282-887-2 In a cliché-ridden lesbian romance, two young British actresses develop an off-screen relationship. Holly Croft, now 20, has played a role in the evening soap opera Portobello Road since age 12. Now, Holly’s character, Jasmine, is—in the book’s British parlance—at university, and the show’s producers have decided to introduce Jasmine to Casey, a female love interest. It’s a well-known trope for two characters destined for romance to first get along poorly, but the dialogue and description in the first argument between Holly and her new co-star Elise are so awkwardly constructed that Elise’s brusqueness and Holly’s resulting anger both feel forced. Once the pair become romantically involved, their expressions of mutual adoration are similarly ineffective, and some of their interactions (Elise tells Holly, “You’re kinda sweet when you’re angry”; Holly insists Elise liked an unwanted kiss) come across as profoundly disrespectful. While there may be some truth to Elise’s fear that being out as a lesbian would jeopardize her career, the public universally seems to adore the Jasmine-Casey relationship, and the book never adequately discusses that contrast. There are too few lesbian love stories written for teens; it’s a shame this one is so lackluster. (Romance. 12-18)

This absorbing examination of a cult focuses on a teenage girl who begins to doubt their leader. Lyla’s little sister was kidnapped in New York City 12 years ago, just before 9/11. Her inconsolable parents fell prey to a charismatic man calling himself Pioneer, who promised to keep them safe in the coming apocalypse thanks to knowledge received from aliens. They now live with about 20 other families in a walled-in agricultural community that hides a secret: They have dug a five-story-deep silo into the ground in which they intend to live for five years before the aliens come to rescue them. Pioneer controls his people closely, assigning the 108

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FEAR THE BARFITRON

to pair this useful title with A Walk on the Tundra, by Rebecca Hainnu and Anna Ziegler, illustrated by Qin Leng (2011) from the same Inuit publisher. A brief but informative look at an extraordinary ecosystem. (Nonfiction. 8-14)

Payne, M.D. Illus. by Dockery, Amanda Grosset & Dunlap (192 pp.) $5.99 paper | Aug. 15, 2013 978-0-448-46226-4 Series: Monster Juice, 1

A blatant bid for the Goosebumps audience, with added gushes of vomit. Nerdy middle schooler Chris discovers that the old-age home at which he volunteers is populated by decrepit, bingo-loving vampires, werewolves and other monsters. As if that’s not terrifying enough, the home is attacked by an army of cat-sized “sussuroblats,” cockroaches with sharp teeth in drooling human mouths. The plot makes a convenient framework on which to hang tantalizing references to grease, farts, school-lunch items like “Salisbury Snake” and suchlike. They escalate into actual juicy burps, funky smells, cascades of phlegmy goo in decorator hues and encounters with the odd slimy tentacle or crunchy spider before the main attraction begins: hurling, and lots of it. As it turns out, learning that the butyric acid in vomit is death to sussuroblats, Chris and his buddies need only manage to lead them all into the local amusement park’s dizzying Gravitron and have them spew all over each other to dissolve the threat. Easy peasy. Buckets full of gross, but are readers guano scoop up an entire series? Snot likely. (Gross-out horror. 10-12)

AVATI Discovering Arctic Ecology

Pelletier, Mia Illus. by Otterstätter, Sara Inhabit Media (48 pp.) $14.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-1-9270-9513-3

An ecologist who lives and works in Earth’s far, far north describes the changing seasons in the part of the world the Inuit call Nunavut—“our land.” Weaving together information about the land and water, plants and animals, Pelletier provides a clear depiction of an Arctic environment. Unlike some introductions to this part of the world, this account presents a full web of life. Her food chain begins with the tiny algae underneath the sea ice. From diatoms and amphipods to the fish, birds, insects and mammals that inhabit the land and the sea edges of this environment (avati in Inuit), she connects them to one another, to the plants of the brief summer and to the changing stages of ice. She doesn’t hesitate to introduce new vocabulary (defined in a concluding glossary), Inuit words (defined in context) and onomatopoetic sounds. What appear to be pencil-and-watercolor illustrations extend far across the gutters. Appropriately matched with the text, set in a column on the right-hand side of each spread, they reward careful inspection. Teachers and librarians may want |

KING OF THE ZOO

Perl, Erica S. Illus. by Urbanovic, Jackie Orchard (40 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-0-545-46182-5 In this shallow story, Carlos the chameleon is sure that he is the king of the zoo—and he always will be as long as someone believes in him. In an opening spread featuring a game-board–like trail on which each of eight animal pens bear signs with crowns, an omniscient narrator asks “[W]ho’s king of the zoo?” Carlos, at the beginning of the trail, believes he is until he ventures into the zoo and sees the crown outside the kangaroos’ enclosure. His eyes bulge, and, echoing Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe (1997), he becomes hopping mad. When he finds a crown at the monkeys’ tree, he scratches his head; at the elephants’, he stomps his foot and so on. Angry and bewildered, Carlos shouts at each animal (in big type in speech bubbles), staking his claim. His obnoxious behavior is somewhat alleviated by the bright cartoon-style art, which depicts the animals looking on, perplexed, as Carlos exhausts himself. In a forced interlude, the chameleon experiences a range of clichéd emotions, turning green with envy and going yellow with fear—ruminations that only scratch the surface. The superficiality is reinforced by the conclusion. Carlos recovers when a visitor arrives at his window and claims, “He’s my favorite.” The stated lesson: He only needed one person to know “he ruled.” Unfortunately, this mishmash of a tale ultimately disappoints. (Picture book. 3-6)

BLUFFTON My Summers with Buster

Phelan, Matt Illus. by Phelan, Matt Candlewick (240 pp.) $22.99 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-0-7636-5079-7

In this winsome, sparely spun graphic novel by Phelan (The Storm in the Barn, 2011), Henry Harrison gets a tantalizing taste of the outside world when a young Buster Keaton and more vacationing vaudevillians tumble into his small Michigan town. The scene opens on a tranquil Muskegon street, with a glimpse of the suspender-sporting Henry sweeping up his dad’s hardware store. Strolling men in bowler hats, long-skirted

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women and a June 1908 calendar offer the initial whiff of an era long gone. Nothing like an elephant to shake things up! When the show people come to town one summer, nearby Bluffton springs to life, as does Henry’s yearslong infatuation with Buster Keaton, who, wincingly, was then best known as the tossed-around but indestructible “Human Mop.” Frame by frame, in pencil and watercolor, the artist captures the joys of lakeside summers of fishing, baseball and harmless pranks, all the while skillfully communicating the emotional intensity of youth. Despite the painful sense of longing the worldly Buster stirs up in Henry, a 1927 epilogue of sorts assures readers that Henry finds his own path in life…and his own special brand of show biz. An author’s note explains that the Actors’ Colony at Bluffton really did exist, from 1908 to 1938. Thrilling—a spirited, poignant coming-of-age vignette and an intriguing window into a little-known chapter in vaudeville history. (art not seen in full color) (author’s note) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

THE HAUNTING OF GABRIEL ASHE

Poblocki, Dan Scholastic (288 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-0-545-40270-5

Gabe Ashe deals with friendship drama while a supernatural mystery closes in on him. After a fire destroys his home, Gabe and his family move into his grandmother’s mansion in a small Massachusetts town. Gabe quickly befriends his neighbor, Seth Hopper, and the two play a dark fantasy game in the woods between their houses. Wraithen (Seth’s character) and Meatpie (Gabe) are Robber Princes of allied kingdoms, endlessly pursuing a baby-eating, “mutated humanoid-beast” called the Hunter in lush fantasy interludes. When not playing Prince Meatpie, Gabe desperately avoids his social label from his old school—dorkface. As the other kids extend invitations to Gabe under the condition that Seth not be included, he fears Seth’s obsession with the game has designated Seth the school dork. Gabe’s resulting internal conflict about friendship, realistically executed, is ably characterized through action and decisions. Seth, possessive of Gabe’s friendship, is openly hostile toward the other boys verbally and with immature pranks. But some of those pranks might not be Seth’s responsibility—a mysterious figure terrorizes Gabe’s house and follows kids from school. The strange happenings fit the modus operandi of Seth’s monster-foe, the Hunter. Gabe must solve the increasingly intensifying mystery before someone gets hurt—or worse. While he occasionally gives too much away, Poblocki (The Ghost of Graylock, 2012, etc.) creates danger by not pulling punches. An atmospheric, creepy ghost story best read at night. (Horror. 10-15)

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THE TWICE LOST

Porter, Sarah Harcourt (480 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-547-48252-1 Series: Lost Voices, 3

The final installment of the Lost Voices trilogy continues to drown readers with sluggish details. Porter juggles several storylines that ultimately converge in a conclusion that may dissatisfy many romantics. Luce, on her own now, discovers off San Francisco other outcast mermaids who also broke the mermaid code of honor. Abandoned by both humans from their former lives and their mermaid tribes, these renegade mermaids consider themselves “twice lost” and form the Twice Lost Army with Luce as their general. As they gain strength in numbers, the mermaids wage war against the United States. In the process, they realize that humans are worth saving and begin to hope to bring peace between humans and themselves. Other storylines involve the return of Luce’s father after being lost at sea for two years and Dorian’s change of heart about finding Luce, helping her cause and, he hopes, rekindling their love. The author attempts to set up suspense through U.S. Secretary of Defense Moreland and his diabolical plan to destroy the country by manipulating Luce’s erstwhile mermaid rival, Anais. The impetus for this stereotyped villain’s motive is unclear, and the results become increasingly predictable. In the end, it’s really about teen girls just trying to get along and face growing up in a sometimes-hostile world but with the extra burden of being mermaids—making it altogether too similar to so much that’s already on the market. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK

Quick, Matthew Little, Brown (288 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-316-22133-7

A teen boy with a World War II pistol in hand is bent on murder and suicide. Leonard Peacock has big plans for his birthday: He’s cut his longish hair down to the scalp, wrapped some goingaway presents for his friends and tucked his grandfather’s souvenir Nazi-issue P-38 pistol into his backpack. He’s off to school, but he plans to make some pit stops along the way to see his friends, including his elderly, Bogart-obsessed neighbor. After he gives his gifts away, he’ll murder Asher Beal, another boy at school. Then he’ll off himself. To say Quick’s latest is dark would be an understatement: Leonard is dealing with some serious issues and comes across as a resolutely heartless killer in the first few pages. As the novel progresses and readers learn more,

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“While recent literature for teens teems with vengeful or romantically inclined angels, this Australian import offers a refreshing view of the seraphim.” from angel creek

however, his human side and heart rise to the surface and tug at readers’ heartstrings. The work has its quirks. Footnotes run amok, often telling more story than the actual narrative, and some are so long that readers might forget what’s happening in the story as they read the footnote. Some readers will eat this up, but others will find it endlessly distracting. Other structural oddities include letters written by Leonard to himself from the future; they seem to make no sense at first, but readers find out later that his teacher recommended he write them to cope with his depression. Despite these eccentricities, the novel presents a host of compelling, well-drawn, realistic characters—all of whom want Leonard to make it through the day safe and sound. An artful, hopeful exploration of a teen boy in intense need. (Fiction. 14 & up)

WHO FLUNG DUNG?

Redlich, Ben Illus. by Redlich, Ben Sky Pony Press (28 pp.) $16.95 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-62087-543-8

and lonely after her family’s recent move, Jelly faces the first year of high school knowing no one. She wanders down to the creek behind her house with her cousins, Gino and much younger Pik, where they discover a small, waterlogged angel with a broken wing. Rippin’s vision of an angel is of a near-feral, childlike creature. The angel determinedly attaches itself to Jelly, ignoring the now-jealous Gino. She and Gino hide it in a metal shed, a poor choice in the summer heat. Then, as the angel suffers from its captivity, things begin to go badly all around them, starting with their grandmother’s nearly lethal heart ailment and including bullies and a younger cousin’s serious illness. Gino connects the dots before Jelly, but both come to realize they don’t really understand angels and the potential dangers they might present. A neighborhood boy provides needed insight and the promise of a friend for Jelly. Characters are believably portrayed, the shredded remains of childhood innocence slowly giving way to the worldly skepticism of adolescence. An intriguing and singular depiction of angels neatly wrapped up in a brief, captivating coming-of-age tale. (Fantasy. 10-14)

LITTLE BROTHER OF WAR

Redlich dumps off a single-joke solo debut in which the simian victim of a fecal prank goes around repeating the titular enquiry over and over. And over. Suddenly acquiring a cap of crap, Furley the monkey springs up to accost a succession of larger animals. All offer threatening and woodenly phrased denials along the lines of Elephant’s “I’d sooner trample you to dust that do such a filthy thing!” and Python’s “Even if I could, I wouldn’t do such a sorry thing! I’d sooner squeeze you tight and swallow you whole!” Ultimately, the text devolves into simple repetitions of Furley’s accusing question, until at last, his brother Charlie drops in to gloat and (predictably) receives an airmailed anointment of his own: “SHOOP!” The illustrations keep this funny longer than the language and storyline do with an exaggerated size differential that places most of the other animals’ bodies well beyond the edges of the page and a very small tailless ape (not a monkey, despite the text) who displays caricatured outrage and bare butt cheeks colored a bright, garish pink. A heaping flop, even for children who fall on this sort of humor and devour it with relish. (Picture book. 6-8)

ANGEL CREEK

Rippin, Sally Text (140 pp.) $9.99 paper | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-921758-05-8 What do we really know about angels? While recent literature for teens teems with vengeful or romantically inclined angels, this Australian import offers a refreshing view of the seraphim. Frustrated |

Robinson, Gary 7th Generation (120 pp.) $9.95 paper | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-939053-02-2 Series: PathFinders

A traditional game provides a way for a Mississippi Choctaw teen to step out of the shadows of his sports-hero older brother and dad. It’s been a year since the death of big brother Jack in Iraq, and Randy is entering Choctaw Central High under heavy pressure from his angry, grieving father to follow family tradition by signing up for football, baseball or some other “American” sport. But Randy has neither interest in nor aptitude for athletics…until he picks up a pair of playing sticks (kapoca) at a community center and discovers that he’s such a natural at the lacrosselike Choctaw game of toli that soon he’s invited by the coach to join an adult team playing in the World Series of Stickball at the upcoming Choctaw Fair. Tellingly, not only is that sport not played at Choctaw Central, but Randy’s father rejects his son’s choice, insisting that those outdated traditional pursuits have no place in the modern world. Though there is some feeling here for the game’s rough play, Robinson, himself of Cherokee and Choctaw descent, focuses more on the clash of values than on-field sports action. Ultimately, the author injects his protagonist with jolts of self-confidence as well as real interest in his culture on the way to bringing both Randy’s school and his father around to a more inclusive attitude. This worthy tale is definitely agenda-driven, but the cultural and historical information is laid onto the story with a light hand. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-13)

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“[Rusch’s] descriptions, as well as Uhlman’s before-and-after photos will leave readers with vivid impressions of the massive destruction that lava bombs, pyroclastic flows and heavy rains of ash can, do and inevitably will wreak.” from eruption!

ASYLUM

Roux, Madeleine Harper/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-06-222096-7 Roux’s first teen novel uses horror staples—spooky corridors, tight-lipped townspeople and convenient coincidences—to predictable but page-turning effect. New Hampshire College Prep is a haven for gifted students: a place where kids actually want to do their homework. Its Brookline dorm is also a former psychiatric hospital whose past remains prominent not only in town, but in its own abandoned wings. Dan, anxious and awkward, is fascinated by its most infamous inpatient: a serial killer dubbed the Sculptor. His classmates have their own troubles; Abby struggles with family tensions, and Jordan’s parents reject his sexuality. When they find old patient records and receive ghostly emails, they begin an investigation that ends in murder. The mock photo illustrations are eerie and occasionally disturbing, depicting the callous treatment methods of Brookline’s time. A hollow-eyed, scarred child begs for her own story, as do notes from a surgeon convinced he can eradicate insanity. In contrast, the teens’ back stories are more plot devices and heavy foreshadowing than character development, but their friendship is convincingly volatile. Real and ghostly elements mix clumsily and muddle the ending somewhat, but the pictures linger—a tighter focus on the photos’ subjects could have made a truly haunting story. Fans of “found footage” horror will enjoy this familiar but visually creepy take on the haunted-institution setting. (Suspense. 14-18)

CONFESSIONS OF AN ALMOST-GIRLFRIEND

Rozett, Louise Harlequin Teen (288 pp.) $9.99 paper | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-373-21065-7 Series: Confessions, 2

Rose Zarelli 2.0 is centered and in control, or at least that is the plan. Sophomore year finds 15-year-old Rose slogging through familiar territory (Confessions of an Angry Girl, 2012). Drunken parties, secret make-out sessions and screaming matches with her mother are only some of Rose’s extracurricular activities. Despite her determination not to obsess about bad-boy Jamie Forta, Rose quickly assumes the role of his pining, not-quite girlfriend. Everyone around her, however, seems to be moving forward. Robert has a girlfriend. Tracy has ditched cheerleading to become a fashionista. Even quiet Stephanie is cast in the school musical. But when her mother starts dating, and her brother, Peter, is kicked 112

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out of college for using drugs, Rose’s new persona shatters, forcing her to find her own voice, literally. The inclusion of issues such as homophobia, domestic violence and the reality of hate crimes fails to elevate this beyond barely camouflaged pulp. Rose’s determination to change is undermined by her complete lack of self-discipline. Her failure to move past old patterns is only marginally mitigated by her newfound passion for singing. While this new obsession is promising, it is not enough to rescue this sequel. Depressingly familiar. (Fiction. 14 & up)

ERUPTION! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives Rusch, Elizabeth Photos by Uhlman, Tom Houghton Mifflin (80 pp.) $18.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-547-50350-9 Series: Scientists in the Field

Rusch (Mighty Mars Rovers, 2012) cranks up the pressure as she portrays scientists whose work requires getting entirely too close to active or soon-to-be-active volcanoes. This entry in the Scientists in the Field series is highlighted by dramatic accounts of three massive modern eruptions: Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz in 1985, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines (1991) and Mount Merapi (2010) in Indonesia. Rusch follows members of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, the “first and only international volcano crisis team,” to those and other sites, providing plenty of maps, subterranean diagrams and photos of team members working both in labs and on site with local scientists for visual aids. She explains how volcanologists have learned to identify and evaluate the often ambiguous warning signs of impending disaster in time to make informed decisions about when and how far to evacuate nearby residents (not to mention themselves). Her descriptions, as well as Uhlman’s before-and-after photos will leave readers with vivid impressions of the massive destruction that lava bombs, pyroclastic flows and heavy rains of ash can, do and inevitably will wreak. High-stakes science, portrayed in one of the scarier entries in this bar-setting series. (glossary, notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

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STEELHEART

Sanderson, Brandon Delacorte (400 pp.) $18.99 | $9.99 e-book | $22.99 PLB Sep. 24, 2013 978-0-385-74356-3 978-0-449-81839-8 e-book 978-0-375-99121-9 PLB Series: Steelheart, 1 A straight-up Marvel Comics–style action drama featuring a small band of human assassins taking on costumed, superpowered supervillains with melodramatic monikers. It’s certainly a tried-and-true formula. Twelve years ago, a mysterious Calamity began turning random ordinary humans into evil Epics gifted with various combinations of superpowers (and also, always, some Achilles heel). Now, 18-year-old David Charleston manages at last to make contact with a cell of Epickilling Reckoners led by legendary mastermind Jon Phaedrus. Then it’s on to a nonstop thrill ride that begins with the killing of David’s father 10 years before and roars through car and motorcycle chases, secret missions, huge explosions and hails of gunfire with high-tech weaponry to a climactic battle with Epic Steelheart. He’s bulletproof, shoots energy balls, has transformed the entire Chicago area into solid steel with a wave of his hand and wears a stylish silver cape. Shockingly, the book closes with the stunning revelation than not all Epics are evil through and through. As further sign that Sanderson (Rithmatist, 2013, etc.) isn’t taking any of this too seriously, the cast of Epics includes not only the likes of Steelheart, Faultline and Deathpoint, but Pink Pinkness and El Brass Bullish Dude, and some of their powers are equally silly. Stay tuned for sequels. There’s violence and gore in profusion, cool gear, hot wheels, awesome feats, inner conflicts on both sides—all that’s missing are the pictures. (Fantasy. 11-14)

IMPRISONED The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II

Sandler, Martin W. Walker (176 pp.) $22.99 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-8027-2277-5

Historian Sandler presents a cogent survey of Executive Order 9066 and its aftermath. The order authorized the U.S. military to relocate over 100,000 Japanese-Americans––many were U.S. citizens––from their homes in Washington, Oregon and California to detention camps. Everything was left behind. Neither the temporary holding centers nor the 10 internment camps were ready to house, feed and care for the evacuees. Whole families were housed in one small room, with meals in mess halls and humiliatingly public sanitary facilities. A few government officials |

did object to the order, questioning its constitutionality. Still, as the book’s subtitle conveys, the disgrace and shame of the U.S. government’s treatment of these innocent people remains a smear on the nation. Sandler opens with a history of the Japanese in the U.S. before moving on to a discussion of the people, camps, conditions, Japanese-Americans in U.S. military service and their lives after internment. (Irony of irony, it was the most decorated unit in U.S. Army history—the Japanese-American 442nd––that liberated Dachau.) Many, many photographs add to general knowledge, although captions lack dates—a nicety that would set a time frame. It is a good summary of a bad time, perhaps leading readers to question whether such events can reoccur in theirs. (places to visit, sources, further reading including websites, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

OTHER WORLDS

Scieszka, Jon--Ed. Illus. by Ruth, Greg Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $16.99 | $6.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Sep. 17, 2013 978-0-06-196380-3 978-0-06-196379-7 paper 978-0-06-22391209 e-book Series: Guys Read, 4 The fourth Guys Read collection presents an all-star lineup with nine new stories and one oldie-but-goody. It is anchored by Ray Bradbury’s 1946 “Frost and Fire,” about colonists stranded for generations on a planet so harsh that the average life span is less than two weeks. Otherwise, the new science-fiction and fantasy tales range from three far-from-similar stories about unsuccessful alien invasions of Earth to Tom Angleberger’s tale of smart clothes in rebellion, an eerie ghost story from Kenneth Oppel and, just to push the “guy” envelope, a “girl in armor” episode from Shannon Hale. Rick Riordan takes the prize for best opener: “I know what you’re going to ask. ‘Percy Jackson, why are you hanging from a Times Square billboard without your pants on, about to fall to your death?’ ” Happily, the other entries are well-enough supplied with effective hooks, provocative themes, and hilarious or disquieting twists to keep readers of diverse ages, sexes and species engaged. The perennially tantalizing “What if…” gets an aboveaverage workout here. (author bios; not seen) (Short stories. 10-13)

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BULLY

abandon, and the smiles remain even as, weary and nodding off in the wee hours, all make their way to bed. Just the ticket for young punkers who sneer at counting, say, sheep. (Picture book. 3-5)

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro Illus. by Seeger, Laura Vaccaro Roaring Brook (40 pp.) $15.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-59643-630-5 Characteristically impeccable design distinguishes Seeger’s latest, even as pacing risks its overall success. The cover’s bold, red background emphasizes a brown bull’s surly expression—he’s seeing red emotionally as surely as readers see it behind him. But then, the frontispiece shows him looking downright cowed as a large, gray bull shouts, “GO AWAY!” Clearly pained, the brown bull roundly rejects a group of animals that invites him to play. Wordplay makes his cruel remarks pack a wallop: “CHICKEN!” he shouts at a hen; “SLOW POKE!” at a turtle; “PIG!” at, well, a pig. A bee and skunk feel his ire, too. Then, a goat evoking the bravery of the Billy Goats Gruff facing down the troll retorts, “BULLY!” “Bully?” the brown bull asks in a picture employing an effective direct gaze at readers. On the next spread, the bull is depicted multiple times, sent into a physical tailspin representing his emotional upheaval. He apologizes on the antepenultimate page, and then, over just two spreads, he invites the animals to play, and they accept. This resolution arrives a bit too quickly, and questions linger about the gray bull, bee, skunk and the heroic goat. Perhaps, then, this book is best a conversation starter about bullying rather than a fully developed story or commentary on this pressing social issue. (Picture book. 5-8)

HAPPY PUNKS 1 2 3 A Counting Story Seven, John Illus. by Christy, Jana Manic D Press (32 pp.) $15.95 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-933149-67-7

A round dozen punk rockers assemble with friends for a dance party. Count along, and check out the stylish ’dos and duds! Promoting numeracy and joie de vivre in equal measure, “John & Jana” one by one gather up Noriko, Kevin, Viv and other delighted friends—all sporting outlandishly shaped and colored hair over a wild array of fashions new and old. They hang out together, play music (“They love to be very loud”), make some posters, down a few pizzas, then at last get up on stage to “stomp / and bounce / and yell and make noise” with their friends. Painted in a flat, postmodern Maira Kalman style, the illustrations feature an unusually diverse urban cast that includes the occasional robot or green-skinned monster along with a street giraffe and other atypical residents. Aside from one discreet heart, there are no tattoos or piercings to be seen, and the text and typography are too staid to capture the music’s volume. Still, the dancers and musicians fling their limbs with evocative 114

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HOOKED When Addiction Hits Home

Shantz-Hilkes, Chloe—Ed. Annick Press (128 pp.) $21.95 | $12.95 paper | Jul. 1, 2013 978-1-55451-475-5 978-1-55451-474-8 paper

A collection of personal accounts from young people whose family members have struggled with a variety of addictions. Each chapter of this slim volume is a short, accessible personal narrative written from the point of view of someone who lived with addiction as a child. The stories are diverse, not only in the kinds of addictions represented (alcohol, gambling, various drugs), but also in the feelings and identities of the writers. The events and emotions in each chapter are straightforwardly told, with demarcated sections, such as “My mom, the middlewoman” and “How I coped.” Short contextualizing interpolations (“Many addicts try to blame others—most often family members—for their behavior”) are interspersed with the narratives in an easily distinguishable typeface. Peculiarly, the chapters are written in first person, but there are no biographies or other indications as to who the writers are outside the stories they tell. Aside from a brief foreword, an introductory personal account by children’s author Robert Munsch, and a few pages of questions and answers with a professor of social work, little attempt is made at tying together the collection. The accounts are varied and honest enough that readers with addiction in their own families will likely find plenty to relate to, but a bit more context would have been helpful. (list of resources) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

PINOCULA

Skye, Obert Illus. by Skye, Obert Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (256 pp.) $12.99 | Sep. 24, 2013 978-0-8050-9689-7 Series: Creature from My Closet, 3 Occasional yuks and hints of an overarching plotline at the end aren’t enough to keep this phoned-in entry in a Wimpy Kid knockoff series above ground. Following misadventures with Wonkenstein (2011) and Potterwookiee (2012), Rob takes the third literary-mashup action figure to emerge from his closet in stride. This is particularly easy, as, aside from one school visit, the hybrid marionette/

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“The slapstick and goofy situations…in Slavin’s second full-color graphic adventure will entertain even if several jokes are well above the reading level.” from big top otto

vampire is a reclusive wood biter who prefers to hide out in an empty house and turns more puppetlike with every compulsive fib. Meanwhile, Rob comments at length on the foibles of his weird family and friends just as he did in previous episodes and joins a book club that improbably reads Pinocchio aloud in just one session (he gets through Dracula with similar alacrity). Thanks to a mouth with a mind of its own, he also invites heartthrob neighbor Janae and 10 other schoolmates to ride to the upcoming middle school dance in a nonexistent limo. Delivered in journal entries with dialogue and punch lines mouthed by the line-drawn cartoon figures on every page, Rob’s narrative ambles its way past a parental save (his dad unexpectedly drives up in a rented limo) to an abject general apology. Refreshed by a short burial in the park, Pinocula then returns to the magic closet, leaving behind his bat/cricket sidekick as a memento. Neither Rob’s guilt pangs nor Pinocula’s near reversion to wood add much force to the superficial anti-lying message, and the premise, third time through, has gone as stale as the jokes. (Fantasy. 9-11)

ELECOPTER

Slack, Michael Illus. by Slack, Michael Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (32 pp.) $15.99 | Sep. 3, 2013 978-0-8050-9304-9 Who keeps the savanna and its animals safe? Elecopter! “She scans the savannah / from high above. // Patrolling the sky, / it’s a labor of love.” A chubby blue elephant with landing skids for feet and propellers on top and tail, Elecopter saves baby birds from electrical storms. She rescues a lion (blinded by an out-of-control mane) from walking off a cliff (and then gives him a mane cut with his rotors). She even helps giraffes with loose teeth. When she sees a billowing cloud of smoke and a fire in the distance, she snags her ladder and her rope and speeds off to help. “She scoops up cheetah / alone and marooned. // Then lowers a ladder / to the stranded baboons.” She saves those in danger and then puts out the fire with her hose nose. “Working for peanuts, / she’s quite the contraption. / A helicopter elephant / always ready for action.” Slack’s follow-up to Monkey Truck (2011) moves from the jungle to the savanna for more animal/ machine mashup mayhem. The digitally painted illustrations are bright and zippy. Elecopter’s the only character who’s part machine, and her helpfulness will inspire. Less of a laugh riot than Slack’s previous solo effort, this will nonetheless please children by offering animals, vehicles and heroics all in one. “Go, Elecopter! Go!” (Picture book. 2-5)

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Slavin, Bill Illus. by Slavin, Bill Kids Can (88 pp.) $16.95 | $7.95 paper | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-55453-806-5 978-1-55453-807-2 paper Series: Elephants Never Forget, 2 Otto the peanut-allergic elephant cracks another case. Still looking for his missing childhood friend, Georgie the chimp, and fresh from helping the big city cops bust a gang of hoodlums, Otto and his sidekick, Crackers the parrot, make their way across the country. This time, they’re following circus Punkratz & Pinky, which, if the posters are to be believed, may be where Georgie ended up after being abducted by the man with the wooden nose. Leaving a trail of inadvertent destruction (thanks to Otto’s explosive allergic sneezes), they catch up to the circus only to find it’s a front for exotic-animal smugglers...and Georgie has moved on. Can the bumbling duo save their new animal friends? The slapstick and goofy situations (Otto dresses as a clown; is mistaken for a football mascot; drives a peanut-shaped car) in Slavin’s second full-color graphic adventure will entertain even if several jokes are well above the reading level. It’s also a bit disturbing that animals wearing clothes and speaking are still treated like animals (and hunted for sport) by humans; but the old-timey feel should win fans and please those already established. Nonthreatening, nonstop mayhem…next stop: Tinseltown! (Graphic adventure. 8-11)

THE FURY

Smith, Alexander Gordon Farrar, Straus and Giroux (592 pp.) $18.99 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-0-374-32495-7 A devourer from beyond threatens all teens hold dear. Cal, Daisy and Brick have just been attacked, spit upon and bitten by both people who care about them and complete strangers—and it’s not stopping. As the violence escalates, they learn that teens around the world are being inexplicably targeted by their friends, families and strangers. Taking refuge at an abandoned amusement park, the teens try to provide a safe haven for other victims of this strange fury. However, when a dark void begins destroying parts of London and one of the teens changes into a supernatural being, the refugees realize that the source of their problems may not be an earthly one. Smith crafted a sinister world with a diabolical villain, emotional tension and a touch of the supernatural in the prison-break series Escape from Furnace. He’s attempted to do the same thing with a heftier dose of the supernatural in this doorstopper but with much less success. The narrative is

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“The mood of Leningrad through Laura’s eyes shifts throughout the novel, the city described in a simple, often elegant style.” from the boy on the bridge

fractured, shared among a host of storytellers, none of whom is particularly engaging. Daisy and Cal share the reversed-fortunes-of-popularity trope, while Brick’s unloved-ginger story is a peculiarly British idiom. Ultimately, the supernatural elements feel like MacGuffins, there to propel meandering action toward meaningless resolution. Better consigned to the void than the shelf. (Thriller. 12 & up)

THE BOY ON THE BRIDGE

Standiford, Natalie Scholastic (256 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Aug. 1, 2013 978-0-545-33481-5 978-0-545-53907-4 e-book A young woman studying abroad in Leningrad in the early 1980s falls for a young man she meets there in this uniquely suspenseful romance. Nineteen-year-old university student Laura is warned repeatedly about young Soviets so desperate to escape to the United States that they’ll do anything—even con American students into marrying them. However, when Laura meets Alyosha, she is electrified. He is the exact opposite of the sarcastic and emotionally distant guy who’s been messing with her head back home. Alyosha earnestly quotes poetry and brings flowers, and soon she’s convinced herself that their relationship is an exception to the rule. While many will need to spend some time familiarizing themselves with an era unfamiliar to contemporary teens, Standiford balances just the right elements to make this story work. Readers will see that Laura’s insecurities, which will endear some to her and likely frustrate others, play into her willingness to believe Alyosha is her true love, but there is such a surplus of mystery created around his background and circumstances that anything seems possible. The mood of Leningrad through Laura’s eyes shifts throughout the novel, the city described in a simple, often elegant style. An unlikely love story set in an unusual time and place; there are no happy endings or easy resolutions here. (Romance. 14 & up)

THE UPRISING

Stasse, Lisa M. Simon & Schuster (400 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-4424-3268-0 The second installment of the nearfuture dystopia series begun in The Forsaken (2012) revisits familiar narrative territory, exhibiting the opener’s strengths and weaknesses. Alenna and Liam have escaped “the wheel,” an island prison camp for teens resistant to the 116

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mind-control drugs through which the totalitarian United Northern Alliance rules North America. Now safe in a secret Australian hideout where rebel scientists, including Alenna’s mother, plot the UNA’s overthrow, the two encounter “drones,” other wheel refugees. Alenna and Liam are wary of them, last seen engaging in an orgy of violence, and the feeling is mutual. But these ex-drones have come to their senses—or have they? Betrayed to the UNA, the rebels flee to another refuge in Antarctica, from which they soon depart. When the plot shifts to the wheel, the story feels like a retread of the first book—the same brutally primitive environment laced with deadly weapons, inhabited by mindless drones led by a masked, charismatic leader. The author’s gift for creating vivid action scenes and shaping rubber science into believable form keeps readers engaged, but in quieter moments, the flat characters, contradictions and absurd time frame are impossible to ignore. The weak worldbuilding strains credulity, but the nifty technology and exciting battle scenes should engage fans of the genre. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

GOLEMITO

Stavans, Ilan Illus. by Villegas, Teresa NewSouth (32 pp.) $16.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-1-58838-292-4 Stavans presents the story of Sammy and Ilan, two Jewish boys living in Southern California, who combine their individual strengths to face bullying. Sammy and Ilan are friends who complement each other. Sammy’s strengths are in math and science; Ilan excels at languages, including Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Sammy faces trouble from bullies at school and looks toward the story of the golem from Jewish folklore for inspiration. He uses clay from the Dead Sea to create his own golem, but his is an Aztec warrior. The warrior does offer protection, but, just as in the Jewish tale, it grows too powerful, and Sammy must find a way to bring Golemito back under control. Originally published in Cricket, the story transitions well into a picture book for older children. Heavy, dark illustrations create a serious tone, appropriate for the age of the intended audience. However, while some readers may enjoy the rare fusion of Jewish and Aztec mythology and culture, others may be uncomfortable with the portrayal of the Aztec warrior/Golemito as a savage and a possession. Readers may also be left wondering how Sammy will face his continued troubles with bullies once Golemito is gone. This competent picture book addresses the problem of bullying and offers an original, if not completely successful, blend of Jewish and Aztec culture and folklore. (Picture book. 7-11)

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MILLIE TO THE RESCUE

chapters. And once in a while, it becomes a jarring, violent story about gang warfare. But no one who reads those sections of the book will ever join a gang. Some readers will get whiplash, but any time they’re not enjoying the book, all they need to do is flip a few pages. (Fiction. 10-14)

Steffensmeier, Alexander Illus. by Steffensmeier, Alexander Walker (40 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-8027-3402-0

Cats get stuck in trees all the time, but how does a whole farm end up there? It’s déjà moo. Millie the cow may have used her hiding abilities for not-sohonorable purposes in Millie Waits for the Mail (2007). However, instead of hiding and scaring the mail carrier, now she loves to play hide-and-seek with her barnyard pals. But when the chickens, pigs and goats take all the good hiding places, she needs to find the best one. So she scampers up a tree. This seems to be perfect—no one can find her—except climbing up is a lot easier than climbing down. Millie is stuck! After a number of failed solutions that include a catapult and a ladder, suddenly all the animals and the farmer are up in the tree with Millie. (Well, not the chickens. They are down below, munching on popcorn, enjoying the shenanigans.) Luckily, the promise of cake lures the mail carrier to the farm, and he comes up with a foolproof rescue plan. Now, if only they could figure out how to rescue the cake too....Steffensmeier brilliantly infuses illustrations with humorous details, this time with even more opportunity, given the expansive view from the treetop. While difficult not to compare to Oliver Jeffers’ Stuck (2011), this crazy cast of characters certainly holds its own. (Picture book. 4-7)

TRASH CAN DAYS A Middle School Saga Steinkellner, Teddy Disney Hyperion (352 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-1-4231-6632-0

Good news for readers with short attention spans: Picking up this novel is like reading several books at once. It begins as a realistic story about middle school. The problem is that it’s exactly like middle school. It’s full of pointless gossip, casual bigotry, and romances that stop and start without a second thought. Anyone who’s spent time in an actual middle school may slam the covers shut. Fortunately, 11 pages into the book, Dorothy Wu shows up. Dorothy indulges huge crushes on video game characters. She uses the expression “Holy Table,” because she doesn’t want to glorify “cows” or “smokes” or “molys.” The other characters are never quite as appealing, but as the story progresses, their personalities start to change. The school’s gossip blogger, for example, develops a social conscience. For most of its second half, the book is everything a middle school novel should be: funny, dramatic and quite moving. Then it changes again, turning awkwardly sentimental in the last several |

FRIGHT NIGHT

Stilton, Geronimo Illus. by Stilton, Geronimo Scholastic (128 pp.) $6.99 paper | Aug. 1, 2013 978-0-545-39349-2 Series: Creepella von Cacklefur, 5 Geronimo Stilton and Creepella von Cacklefur team up to solve a mystery at a scary-poetry contest. During one of Geronimo’s visits to Mysterious Valley, he is drafted as one of the judges for the Fright Night poetry contest. One of the finalists is Creepella’s father, Boris von Cacklefur. This is poet Boris’ first time competing in a poetry contest since Chester Cheater stole Boris’ entry for a fourth-grade contest. In fact, Boris would not be competing at all had his family not entered him without his knowledge. The contest’s first rounds weed out competitors: There’s an impromptu Rotten Rap, spooky Mind-Bending Riddles and a one-word prompt for a one-minute–poem-composition event called Terror Time. The wordplay and rhymes may not be high art, but they will entertain their target audience. After the three rounds, Boris progresses to the final round against six-time winner, the Fright Night Idol, Brad Balladeer. The interchangeable Rattenbaum triplets support Brad. During the intermission before the final round, Geronimo spies Brad and the triplets acting suspiciously right before Boris goes missing. Creepella and Geronimo, convinced it isn’t stage fright, meander after clues to successfully solve the obvious mystery. While this story isn’t the strongest of Stilton spinoffs, the familiarity of the characters, art and design will appeal to readers. (maps) (Fiction. 6-10)

THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE

Stroud, Jonathan Disney Hyperion (384 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 17, 2013 978-1-4231-6491-3 Series: Lockwood & Co., 1

Three young ghost trappers take on deadly wraiths and solve an old murder case in the bargain to kick off Stroud’s new post-Bartimaeus series. Narrator Lucy Carlyle hopes to put her unusual sensitivity to supernatural sounds to good use by joining Lockwood & Co.—one of several firms that have

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risen to cope with the serious ghost Problem that has afflicted England in recent years. As its third member, she teams with glib, ambitious Anthony Lockwood and slovenly-but-capable scholar George Cubbins to entrap malign spirits for hire. The work is fraught with peril, not only because a ghost’s merest touch is generally fatal, but also, as it turns out, as none of the three is particularly good at careful planning and preparation. All are, however, resourceful and quick on their feet, which stands them in good stead when they inadvertently set fire to a house while discovering a murder victim’s desiccated corpse. It comes in handy again when they later rashly agree to clear Combe Carey Hall, renowned for centuries of sudden deaths and regarded as one of England’s most haunted manors. Despite being well-stocked with scream-worthy ghastlies, this lively opener makes a light alternative for readers who find the likes of Joseph Delaney’s Last Apprentice series too grim and creepy for comfort. A heartily satisfying string of entertaining near-catastrophes, replete with narrow squeaks and spectral howls. (Ghost adventure. 11-13)

OZZIE AND THE ART CONTEST

Sullivan, Dana Illus. by Sullivan, Dana Sleeping Bear Press (32 pp.) $15.99 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-1-58536-820-4

Ozzie enters the art contest at school only to be disappointed at the results. When Ozzie’s teacher, Miss Cattywhompus, announces the upcoming art contest to her class, Ozzie is especially excited. (Though most elementary teachers would not host an art contest, it does serve to get the plot going.) Ozzie loves to draw (and skateboard and fold paper), and he knows he will draw the best goat. On the day of the big announcement, he is sad to see his pictures on the bottom row with the other honorablemention pictures. His blue mood is reflected in his demeanor. His teacher tries to cheer him up, but nothing works until she points out that his misreading of the instructions is the real reason he didn’t win. The lessons could not be more obvious: Read the directions carefully and enjoy the process, even if you do not win. The cartoon style, in ink and watercolor on broad expanses of white, is the right choice for this light tale. The messy typeface might challenge new readers, though. Youngsters will feel in on the joke when they notice that all the winning pictures are of boats, and all the also-rans are of something else. Once the story’s lesson is revealed, there is little reason to read this one again. (Picture book. 3-7)

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INK

Sun, Amanda Illus. by Siu, Ross Harlequin Teen (384 pp.) $9.99 paper | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-373-21071-8 Series: Paper Gods, 1 An American girl falls in love with a being from Japanese mythology. Orphaned Katie Greene’s custodial grandfather is battling cancer, so she’s sent to live with her aunt, Diane, in Japan. At school there, Katie witnesses the handsome kendo star, Yuu Tomohiro, coldly dumping his girlfriend—and more importantly, Katie glimpses a drawing he did moving by itself. Tomohiro’s a familiar romantic hero, broody and mysterious while hiding a good heart under a rough exterior, as does his best friend, who immediately dislikes Katie and who has connections to the Yakuza, or Japanese organized crime. The boys’ friendship is surprisingly well-developed, especially considering Katie’s bland relationships. Katie focuses on following Tomohiro and delving into his mysteries—the dark rumors about his past and why his drawings move. She breaks through his tough exterior and learns he’s a Kami, a Shinto god, and that he has trouble controlling his drawings, which not only come to life on the paper, but can leap off of it as well. He has even more trouble when Katie is near, causing danger for them both from multiple sources. The text is peppered with Japanese words and phrases (defined in a glossary), the effective setting echoing Katie’s immersion into Japanese culture. Interior spotlight art illustrates Tomohiro’s drawings and features a couple of small flip animations. The ending leaves many mysteries unanswered, predictably setting up a sequel. For readers wanting a multicultural version of a familiar romantic storyline. (Paranormal romance. 12-17)

SHADOWS OF GLASS

Tayler, Kassy St. Martin’s Griffin (320 pp.) $9.99 paper | Jul. 23, 2013 978-0-312-64176-4 What ought to be a tense story of discovery after escaping a post-apocalyptic steampunk hellscape is overwhelmed by a bland, unremarkable love triangle. At the end of Ashes of Twilight (2012), Wren led her fellow coal-mining villagers out of the dome that’s imprisoned them for generations. The outside world is not blazing afire, as their rulers have assured them ever since the comet that sent their people into the domes generations ago, during the Victoria era. Though the sun burns their pale skin, and the fresh air (ridiculously) kills many of the escapees, Wren is determined never to go back. Though the events of the first book ended Wren’s previous wearisome love triangle, never fear: A new charismatic young man appears,

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“Storyteller Tingle’s tale unfolds in Isaac’s conversational voice; readers ‘hear’ his story with comforting clarity and are plunged into the Choctaw belief system, so they can begin to understand it from the inside out.” from how i became a ghost

along with some other outlandish adventurers, to add ponderous romantic tension. Wren’s ogling of all the boys—“[t]he smooth breadth of their chests, the work of the muscles in the back, the dips and curves in the stomachs and hips”—is endless. She’s not even distracted by the nigh-feral attackers outside the dome: stinky, toothless and speaking in a laughable hillbilly dialect (in coastal Wales, these ruffians deliver such gems as “I’m ah-tellin-ya”). A jumble of characters and stereotypes does not constitute worldbuilding. Skip. (Steampunk. 14-16)

THE SAINTS

Thomas, Lex Egmont USA (416 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Jul. 10, 2013 978-1-60684-336-9 978-1-60684-337-6 e-book Series: Quarantine, 2 A slapdash continuation of the story of a high school in quarantine that started in The Loners (2012). The infected, gun-wielding kids who broke into McKinley High keep the door open long enough for most of the Loners clique to escape before outside adults re-seal it, restarting the familiar plot. Now Lucy and Will struggle at the bottom of the social heat, and a group of parents has taken over responsibility for the school, food drops and “graduation.” Besides the disbanding of the Loners, the other clique shake-up is Varsity’s ouster of dictatorial Sam. Vulnerable Will stumbles into a party thrown by the heretofore-ignored newly trapped kids, nicknamed Saints after their school mascot, and joins. Soon Will and the Saints’ unbalanced leader control the parents through extortion and throw wild parties featuring entrances on motorcycles and the riding of a live, wild hog (a transparent, clumsy link to Lord of the Flies); despite the flash, it’s a slowpaced, tensionless storyline. Meanwhile, Lucy joins the Sluts, who welcome her with sexual bullying during “Naked Week,” a hazing ritual introduced through writing on par with bad porn. This book never lets plausibility get in the way of objectification—one character plans a grandiose gentlemen’s club in the war-torn high school, and female sexuality is constantly bartered. Near the end, Thomas (Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies’ collective pen name) finally remembers the first novel’s only successful element: Gore. Implausible, poorly written trash that, most damningly, bores. (Science fiction. 16-18)

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DANNY BLACKGOAT, NAVAJO PRISONER

Tingle, Tim 7th Generation (160 pp.) $9.95 paper | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-939053-03-9 Series: PathFinders

The 1863 forced displacement of thousands of Navajo known as the Long Walk serves as milieu for this tale of a teenage survivor. Ripped abruptly by U.S. troops from his peaceful life in Canyon de Chelly, Danny endures verbal abuse, severe physical hardship, brutal beatings and even murder attempts on the trail with his Navajo neighbors. This continues after as well, at a Texas labor camp for Confederate Army prisoners. He never loses his spirit though and, with help from sympathetic whites, manages to escape at last—by sharing a coffin for a night and a day with a corpse. The nearly all-English dialogue makes it seem as if Danny understands more of what’s going on than he should, since he doesn’t speak that language. Nevertheless, Tingle, a Choctaw storyteller, spins a good yarn and, along with other respectful references to Navajo culture, ingeniously leverages its particular aversion to mention of or contact with the dead to magnify the terror of Danny’s climactic challenge. Not an angry indictment, despite plenty of explicit brutality and prejudice, but a positive tribute to the fortitude of Danny and his Navajo community. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 10-13)

HOW I BECAME A GHOST

Tingle, Tim The RoadRunner Press (160 pp.) $18.95 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-937054-53-3 Series: How I Became a Ghost, 1 A 10-year-old Choctaw boy recounts the beginnings of the forced resettlement of his people from their Mississippi-area homelands in 1830. He begins his story with a compelling hook: “Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before. I am a ghost. I am not a ghost when this book begins, so you have to pay very close attention.” Readers meet Isaac, his family and their dog, Jumper, on the day that Treaty Talk changes everything. Even as the Choctaw prepare to leave their homes, Isaac begins to have unsettling visions: Some elders are engulfed in flames, and others are covered in oozing pustules. As Isaac and his family set out on the Choctaw Trail of Tears, these visions begin to come true, as some are burned to death by the Nahullos and others perish due to smallpox-infested blankets distributed on the trail. But the Choctaw barrier between life and death is a fluid one, and ghosts follow Isaac, providing reassurance and advice

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“Goofy humor—complete with a recurring supernatural chorus of Michael Jackson songs, an angel with an algebra quiz and the lifesaving antics of babysitter’s nightmare David Lipski—is suitably slapstick.” from my totally awkward supernatural crush

that allow him to help his family and others as well as to prepare for his own impending death. Storyteller Tingle’s tale unfolds in Isaac’s conversational voice; readers “hear” his story with comforting clarity and are plunged into the Choctaw belief system, so they can begin to understand it from the inside out. The beginning of a trilogy, this tale is valuable for both its recounting of a historical tragedy and its immersive Choctaw perspective. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

THE VERY INAPPROPRIATE WORD

Tobin, Jim Illus. by Coverly, Dave Henry Holt (40 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-8050-9474-9

Michael’s love of words is celebrated in speech bubbles and comedic

situations. Michael notices words everywhere, from signs on the highway to commercials on the television. At school, his teacher, Mrs. Dixon, gives the class a new spelling word every day. He saves his words in a box under his bed. Everything is fine until one day, on the school bus, he hears a new word that is “very inappropriate.” Though he knows the word is bad, there is something Michael likes about the word, and he continues to share it. Soon, all the kids at school are using it. When wise Mrs. Dixon gets wind of the situation, she comes up with her own way to replace this word with something more appropriate. It’s nice to see a boy (and a boy of color, no less) be so interested in words. Comic-book elements work well with Coverly’s droll cartoon style, especially the frequent use of shaped speech bubbles, which give his word collection delightful physicality. Michael’s eyes bulge and his ears flap, making him easy to find on the energetic pages. (His father’s eyes bulge too, but in a distracting way that makes it look like he has an extra eye, something children are sure to notice.) Teachers will enjoy this amusing celebration of vocabulary and will find many ways to spur their students’ imaginations into creating speech bubbles of their own. Young word lovers will have lots to peruse here. (Picture book. 4-9)

MY TOTALLY AWKWARD SUPERNATURAL CRUSH

Toffler-Corrie, Laura Roaring Brook (352 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-59643-733-3

Celestial monkeyshines and mortifying teen hookups take center stage, with any epic good-vs.-evil battles merely MacGuffins. 120

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Unpopular Jenna, forced to wear appalling rhinestone-andpolyester clothes from the Bulk Emporium, thinks no boy will ever like her. But after she dreams of a boy with feathery wings, her luck may have changed. At her pitiful 14th birthday dinner, the gorgeous waiter (name tag: “Cowpoke Luke”) looks just like the guy from her dream. Miracle of miracles, Luke finds Jenna equally appealing. Unfortunately, they’re plagued both by Luke’s ancient nemesis, Adam, and by their community-theater production of Fiddler on the Roof. Luke, Jenna and Adam are all involved in the accidentally farcical performance, battling out a theoretically epic fray around costume changes and musical numbers. Goofy humor—complete with a recurring supernatural chorus of Michael Jackson songs, an angel with an algebra quiz and the lifesaving antics of babysitter’s nightmare David Lipski—is suitably slapstick. (Unfortunately, it sometimes degenerates into petty stereotypes, as when Luke’s appearance is attractive to “the soprano and alto girls, not to mention a few of the high-tenor boys.”) Though the premise is romance and the exclamationmark–laden prose is touched by horror tropes, frothy comedy is the name of the game. (Fantasy. 11-13)

TIME TRAPPED

Ungar, Richard Putnam (320 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 26, 2013 978-0-399-25486-4 Series: Time Snatchers, 2 Ungar doesn’t do much to move the plot along but does lighten the tone and trot in some promising new characters for this follow-up to Time Snatchers (2012). Caleb finds himself once again in the clutches of Uncle, a mad, Fagin-esque type in 2061 who snatches waifs from the timestream and trains them to steal important artifacts from various historical eras. Memories magically restored, Caleb is charged with training a team of young new recruits. As team members include strong-minded, street-wise con artist Razor and 10-year-old autistic tech whiz Dmitri, it’s much like herding cats—particularly as missions to snatch Newton’s apple, the first glass of Coca-Cola and other treasures are set up to fail by Caleb’s rival Frank, who schemes to wrest control of the organization from its bizarrely obsessive founder. Eventually Caleb and his hot fellow agent Abbie lead a rescue that leaves him, Abbie and Razor at least temporarily at peace and in safety and returns the other recruits to their original locales aboard a time-traveling subway car. Running gags and missions that devolve into comical chaos are pluses, but both Caleb and the story are left more or less where they began, and frequent allusions to the opener will cause new readers to flounder. Caleb’s wooden, present-tense narration doesn’t help matters. For fans of the first book only. (Science fiction. 11-13)

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ALPHABET TRUCKS

Vamos, Samantha R. Illus. by O’Rourke, Ryan Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $14.95 | $9.99 e-book | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-58089-428-9 978-1-60734-600-5 e-book Another new alphabet book—and focused on trucks? Yep. So put on your hard hats and get ready to roll with these 26 hardworking trucks featured in rhyming verse. Trucks are magnets for little boys, and this convoy will both delight and introduce them to unusual ones. The alphabetic lineup has some obvious ones, like D for dump truck and P for pickup truck, but most of the vehicles will be new to fans, and many have surprising jobs. C is for cargo, G is for grapple, K is for knuckle-boom, L is for lowboy, O is for ore, Q is for quint (a truck with hose, tank, ladders and pump), V is for vacuum and X is for X-ray truck. Oils and acrylics illustrate the rhymes with graphic simplicity, incorporating multiple letters into the scenes: I is for ice cream truck, and the cones are “I” shapes. The letters are paired two to a spread across the gutter, interacting with each other: The snowplow truck and tow truck form a snowy scene. Gear up, as this is bound to be a hit. From apple truck to zipper truck, “Day and night. / just watch and see. / Trucks work hard / from A to Z.” Vroom, vroom! (Picture book. 3-6)

DIGGER, DOZER, DUMPER

Vestergaard, Hope Illus. by Slonim, David Candlewick (32 pp.) $15.99 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-7636-5078-0

Rhyming poems introduce children to anthropomorphized trucks of all sorts, as well as the jobs that they do. Adorable multiethnic children are the drivers of these 16 trucks—from construction equipment to city trucks, rescue vehicles and a semi—easily standing in for readers, a point made very clear on the final spread. Varying rhyme schemes and poem lengths help keep readers’ attention. For the most part, the rhymes and rhythms work, as in this, from “Cement Mixer”: “No time to wait; / he can’t sit still. / He has to beg your pardon. / For if he dawdles on the way, / his slushy load will harden.” Slonim’s trucks each sport an expressive pair of eyes, but the anthropomorphism stops there, at least in the pictures—Vestergaard sometimes takes it too far, as in “Bulldozer”: “He’s not a bully, either, / although he’s big and tough. / He waits his turn, plays well with friends, / and pushes just enough.” A few trucks’ jobs get short shrift, to mixed effect: “Skid-Steer Loader” focuses on how this truck moves without the typical steering wheel, but “Semi” runs with a royalty analogy and fails to truly impart any knowledge. The acrylic-and-charcoal |

artwork, set against white backgrounds, keeps the focus on the trucks and the jobs they are doing. While there are many rhyming truck books out there, this stands out for being a collection of poems. (Picture book/ poetry. 3-6)

THE STORY OF KING LION

von Olfers, Sibylle Illus. by von Olfers, Sibylle Floris (24 pp.) $17.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-86315-949-7

A 1912 German classic is reprinted in English for the first time in its 101-year-old history. The King of the Beasts declares that whosoever prepares for him the best dish will help him rule over the other animals in the future. In response to this challenge, each animal cooks or prepares the foods that please it best, thinking the lion will have similar tastes. From the donkey comes a prickly thistle salad, from the hedgehog come sausages made of snails, and so on. Only the clever wolf thinks to bring a single slaughtered lamb, a move that instantly makes him the lion’s co-ruler. Compared in her day to Kate Greenaway and Elsa Beskow, von Olfers’ simple watercolors feel more akin to Beatrix Potter thanks in part to her renderings of realistic animals performing various anthropomorphic actions. The translation does a sturdy and serviceable, if not particularly brilliant job. For example, it rhymes “the praise of the King” with “squibble-squabbling.” Once children familiarize themselves with the early-20th-century design (copious white space right at the start), they may take to the story’s plot. However, it is more likely that this will be far more beloved to collectors and historians than actual kids. Fun as a novelty piece, but unlikely to engage too many 21st-century readers. (Picture book. 4-8)

YOSEMITE’S SONGSTER One Coyote’s Story

Wadsworth, Ginger Illus. by San Souci, Daniel Yosemite Conservancy (32 pp.) $15.95 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-1-930238-34-3

A tender story of separation and return celebrates Yosemite National Park and its coyotes. After a frightening avalanche separates a coyote pair one spring morning, the female heads home to spend a lonely 36 hours without her mate before they are finally reunited. Wadsworth’s lyrical text provides a word-picture of the park’s cabins and campgrounds, its sights and sounds, and the coyote’s daily routine. She checks the trash cans, hunts for mice and squirrels, rests and waits. Finally, when she howls in the evening, her mate returns her call. The text respects these animals’ wildness, with no attribution of human characteristics (although readers

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and listeners will surely imagine their emotions). A concluding author’s note explains more about coyotes in the park and around the country. San Souci’s painterly watercolors are set in frames opposite the text except at the beginning and end, where the pair enter and leave their story in full-bleed images. He includes other creatures mentioned: a great horned owl, a pair of skunks and, of course, the human visitors. And he shows some of Yosemite’s famed natural splendors: Mirror Lake, the Merced River, Half Dome and El Capitan. Published by the park’s conservancy, this satisfying story will make an appealing souvenir and can also serve as an introduction to a common but not well-loved species. (Picture book. 4-8)

EARTHFALL

Walden, Mark Simon & Schuster (272 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Aug. 27, 2013 978-1-4424-9415-2 978-1-4424-9417-6 e-book One boy discovers his crucial role in the resistance against the aliens who enslaved humanity through mind control. It’s been 18 months since alien ships appeared on Earth and emitted a control signal that wiped humans’ minds clean and turned them into slave labor. Sam, immune to the signal, fears he is the last free human and struggles to dodge the invaders, whose alien physiology is a “seamless hybridization of the organic and the mechanical.” A bad encounter with one leaves him with a dangerously infected wound, forcing him to risk leaving his hiding place during daylight for medicine—a near-hopeless mission. He’s rescued, however, by a member of the kid-populated resistance he didn’t know existed and quickly trains into one of their best Ops Team commandos. Through a series of dangerous missions—shootouts and explosions ahoy!—the resistance learns about the invaders and how to fight them, but it’s really after things turn for the worse late in the story that most of the exposition happens in one giant, 20-page infodump. Morally ambiguous decisions of the ends-justify-the-means nature add color to a straightforward heroic-rebellion plot. The prose leans toward the verbose, at its worst in stilted, padded dialogue. Walden writes more naturally in the exciting action scenes that effectively drive the plot to its sequel-promising conclusion. For fans of action above all else. (Science fiction. 8-13)

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RUBY’S BABY BROTHER

White, Kathryn Illus. by Latimer, Miriam Barefoot (32 pp.) $16.99 | $7.99 paper | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-84686-864-1 978-1-84686-950-1 paper In White and Latimer’s third story about Ruby, following Ruby’s School Walk (2010) and Ruby’s Sleepover (2012), baby brother Leon is arriving home, and Ruby is nervous. She doesn’t even want to meet this smelly, noisy thing that will steal her toys, does she? “I hear a strange gurgle and hiccupy noise. / I don’t want to see him. I hate little boys!” Ruby conjures up ways to be rid of the new intruder, imagining turning him into a bat and blasting him into space with a rocket. Yet the moment Leon clutches her finger, the passion she poured into her fears switches to the opposite—grand make-believe stories with a new sidekick. White once again captures Ruby’s creative energy in rhythmic couplets, while Latimer’s double-page illustrations, done in acrylic paints and watercolor, reveal both the actual and imagined adventures. Although the premise is not original, readers will be captivated by this bighearted girl and all the smaller details Latimer includes, such as a recurring firefly, Ruby’s stuffed cat, the childlike art displayed on Ruby’s walls and the stick figures on the endpapers. This book was thoughtfully made and ends with Ruby lovingly holding Leon in her arms, full of big-sister pride. Even though shelves are crowded with new-sibling books, this one is a strong addition. It is the first in the series to be available in a Spanish edition, El hermanito de Ruby. (Picture book. 3-7)

HENRI’S SCISSORS

Winter, Jeanette Illus. by Winter, Jeanette Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (40 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-1-4424-6484-1 In her extensive picture-book–biography oeuvre, Winter has proven to be particularly attuned to selecting the just-right elements of her subjects’ complex lives while making them both accessible to and readily understood by young children. Here she limns the major biographical details of Matisse’s long life: A French law student recovering and on bed rest after an appendectomy is given a paint set; he discovers his true calling, abandons the law, moves to Paris and embarks on a long career as a member of the Fauvist movement. Many years later, once again bedridden and frail, he begins the final and perhaps most enduring stage of his work. Winter both describes and employs Matisse’s signature, late-career technique of brilliantly colored, hand-painted, cut-paper compositions. She enlivens the simple text with liberal yet judicious quotes from Matisse’s

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“The artwork deftly and colorfully borrows from conventions of animation to provide two-page scenes that carry readers on each word journey….” from boy meets dog

letters and comments from contemporaries. This is a beautifully designed book that will certainly connect with readers, although the closing spreads may be too poetically obscure for the intended school-age audience. Winter writes that at Matisse’s death, “the rainbow of shapes cradled the old artist and carried him into the heavens.” The book’s final question, “Are some of the stars we see at night coming to us from Henri’s scissors?” seems forced. This soaringly sentimental resolution notwithstanding, the book is a charming introduction to a widely reproduced, child-friendly artist, one that children will assuredly encounter and affirmingly embrace. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

BOY MEETS DOG A Word Game Adventure

Wyatt, Valerie Illus. by Whamond, Dave Kids Can (32 pp.) $16.95 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-55453-824-9

Wyatt introduces kids to word ladders, in which a starting word leads step by step, by the substitution of one letter at a time, to a final word. Lewis Carroll, who came up with lots of good word games, invented one called “doublets,” in which you took a word and changed one letter at a time to arrive at another word, often an opposite; for instance, push to pull: push, hush, husk, hulk, hull, pull. Easy peasy. Rain to snow, in eight moves. It’s a bit like chess, and it can be just as exasperating and invigorating. OK, here you go: rain, raid, said, slid, slip, ship, shop, show, snow. But you knew that, right? Almost any introduction to this word game is worth the entrance fee, and this one passes the mark easily. The artwork deftly and colorfully borrows from conventions of animation to provide two-page scenes that carry readers on each word journey, and there is a little narrative twist at the end, about whether or not a character is real or just a toy (boy into toy), which forces readers to stake a grasp on reality as they twist and turn these words into those words. A note at the end should set readers, both adults and kids, on their way to making their own word ladders. Now: good to book. Just three rungs up (good, goon, boon, book) and well-worth the climb. (Picture book. 4-8)

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MY BLUE IS HAPPY

Young, Jessica Illus. by Chien, Catia Candlewick (32 pp.) $15.99 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-7636-5125-1

A little girl’s contrarian views about the emotional significance of various colors permit her to explore her individuality among family and friends. “ ‘Yellow is cheery,’ says my mom. / ‘Like the summer sun.’ / But my yellow is worried / Like a wilting flower / And a butterfly caught in a net.” Her best friend loves pink: “It’s pretty, like a ballerina’s tutu.” Pink can be annoying, however, like a bug bite and gum on a shoe. Chien’s acrylic double-page spread shows four pink-clad dancers in a studio, with our narrator troubled both by flying pests and, yes, gum stretching from her slipper’s sole. Young’s plainly delivered, poetic text achieves a subtly conspiratorial tone, as the little girl establishes the specialness of brown chocolate syrup and gray’s “curled-up kitten” coziness. Some of the metaphorical musings seem too adult for a child narrator and might elude young children, especially since Chien illustrates some and ignores others. (That captured butterfly, for example, never appears, and a prowling orange tiger seems to confront the narrator directly.) Her rich but controlled palette and simply drawn faces evoke a bit of Brian Karas’ work. An uneven but interesting meditation on the resonance of color, for classroom or family sharing. (Picture book. 4-7)

SLEEPING BEAUTY’S DAUGHTERS

Zahler, Diane Harper/HarperCollins (224 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-0-06-200496-3 Two sisters quest to break a spell, even as one of them succumbs to the same curse that kept their mother asleep for 100 years. Demure Princess Aurora and reckless Princess Luna are shocked to discover that their fragile mother is the Sleeping Beauty of fairy-tale fame. They are even more surprised to learn the reason for their sheltered upbringing is that 11-year-old Aurora has also been sentenced to sleep 100 years by the same vengeful fairy who cursed their mother. The girls hope they’ll have time to undo the spell, but Aurora pricks her finger and is soon fighting the pull of enchanted slumber. Thus the sisters embark on a choppily paced sea journey to find the long-lost fairy godmother they hope can lift the curse. Along the way, they make new friends, encounter a disembodied spirit, man-eating beasts and a sea monster, among other dangers. Aurora narrates the story—even through her inevitable sleep—and though the conclusion seems sudden and a bit too easy, Aurora’s and Luna’s growth is satisfying and real. The problems—including awkward references to stories from

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“This sumptuous iBook presents a straightforward telling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, accompanied by artwork that will send readers down the rabbit hole of delight.” from alicewinks

THE TROUBLE WITH MUM

our world—distract, but fantasy readers should be willing to overlook the flaws for the satisfaction of reading a story about girls with agency who, though aided by others, find the solutions to their own problems. A refreshing fairy tale that breaks the passive-heroine mold. (Fantasy. 9-13)

interactive e-books ALICEWINKS Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 150th Anniversary Animated Edition

Carroll, Lewis Walrus & Carpenter Productions LLC $9.99 | Apr. 18, 2013 1.0; Apr. 18, 2013 This sumptuous iBook presents a straightforward telling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, accompanied by artwork that will send readers down the rabbit hole of delight. It has been 150 years since Carroll trooped Alice before readers. In that time, there have been illustrations aplenty to go with the text, though arguably, John Tenniel caught the greatest fancy. There’s no Tenniel here, but a parade of gently animated artwork that delivers one pleasure after another. They appear in the form of short videos that convey the story read aloud, and in so many styles readers may wonder if the book couldn’t accommodate something by, say, Warhol, too. It is as though Carroll gave a great, inclusive, Whitman-esque hug to interpretation. Millicent Sowerby gets spooky; Arthur Rackham is all caricature and cream; Margaret Tarrant shimmers on the surface, like sunlight on a lake; Mabel Lucie Attwell is as Deco as a Tiffany lamp; Alice Woodward is mischievous; Gwynedd M. Hudson has the delicacy of a Fabergé egg; George Soper draws dreamscapes. Some of the animations of the old artwork can be a bit creepy—as the White Rabbit appears on the scene, for instance, he hops through four distinct illustrations, changing style with each—but then, so is the story. Chapter by chapter, videos precede sequences of still plates, which themselves precede the printed text. The nice, rich rumble of the narrator is counterpointed with voices of a young girl and strange creatures, all well-characterized. A stellar—indeed, archival—addition to any library. (Enhanced e-book/fantasy. 6 & up)

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Cole, Babette Illus. by Cole, Babette Inky Sprat Ltd. $3.99 | Feb. 26, 2013 1.1; Feb. 26, 2013

An early work from the inveterate prankster Cole goes digital with the addition of extra reading options and a short introductory video. As pleasantly silly now as it was when it first appeared in 1983 (1984 in the United States), the tale features a young narrator who can’t have friends over. Why? It seems that her mom is shunned by all the other parents—perhaps because, as her tall, conical hat with the turquoise dragon and like peculiar decorations signals, she’s a witch. Who makes exploding, vermin-filled cupcakes, turns some of the aforementioned parents into toads and, as a sliding inset reveals, keeps Dad in a jar to cure him of “going to the pub.” Who also saves the school from burning down, so by the end, the ice is broken. In droll contrast to the innocuous text, the cartoon illustrations teem with an array of spells, large monsters and small hairy creatures being enjoyed by laughing children as grown-ups look on in dismay. The page layouts remains approximately the same as in the print edition, but they have been multiplied into three iterations laid end to end: one for silent reading; one read aloud in a properly dry tone by the author; and one in which she appears, but not holding a copy of the book, in a small but expandable window for a series of “live” video clips. Both the audio and the video must be manually triggered on each page. The lack of continuous play makes the video version superfluous, but the episode will still draw snorts and chortles aplenty from young audiences. (Enhanced e-book/picture book. 6-8)

THE BINGO SONG Kid’s Academy Kid’s Academy $3.99 | Apr. 12, 2013 1.0.0; Apr. 12, 2013

This utilitarian effort will appeal to fans of the song, but flawed recording features and minimal interactivity keep it from rising above the average mark. This app isn’t going to win any awards for innovation or originality, but it’s still got some appeal. As might be expected, the song is front and center. A purple-clad blonde lass seamlessly performs the tune, inserting the claps in perfect syncopation (a good rhythm exercise for little hands and minds). The length of the “story” corresponds to the number of verses it takes to get to the part where the entire spelling of Bingo’s name-o is clapped. Scenery changes with each verse, and each screen offers a few token, underwhelming animations. Bingo, a charmingly cute sheepdog type, occasionally responds to taps

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by jumping or barking. The “extras” are where this app falls apart. The karaoke option offers excellent accompaniment and well-highlighted words, but the record feature is superconfusing. With no written or spoken instructions, it is up to readers to figure out when recording starts or how to re-record. The farm-animal trivia cards each pose three questions, with the option to read and answer each question or tap to hear each question and then record an answer. It’s unclear what benefit playback in this feature offers. The main offering in this app is cute, and the audio provides a dimension that traditional books cannot. But it’s underwhelming, especially for the price. (iPad song app. 1-5)

THE GENTLE FALCON Lewis, Hilda Crushed Lime Media $3.99 | Apr. 4, 2013 1.7; Apr. 4, 2013

Recipient of a starred Kirkus review in 1957, this fictionalized twin portrait of teenage Richard II and his child bride, Isabelle of Valois, still shines—more so for at least some of the historical matter added to this digital edition. In the course of an extended, high-friction romance with a noble younger son who throws in his lot with the usurping future King Henry IV, lady-in-waiting Isabella Clinton witnesses or reports on tumultuous events both in England and at the French royal court during and after Richard’s truncated reign. Some “enhancements” don’t enhance much, among them (dispensable) family trees and a background essay drawn from Wikipedia, plus distracting bolded words in the narrative (“I must be schooled in the courtesies of my breeding”) linked to a glossary. But several dozen inserted, mostly color, illustrations ranging from old prints and manuscript illuminations to modern photos of artifacts do extend the original edition’s rough line drawings to offer evocative (if not always exactly period) glimpses of the era’s figures, fashions and frivolities. Uneven in value the new tweaks may be, but they do add luster to a tale that well merits a new generation of readers. (new list of recommended websites and videos added to the old bibliography) (Enhanced e-book/historical fiction. 12-14)

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ON BEYOND BUGS All About Insects Oceanhouse Media Oceanhouse Media $3.99 | Apr. 29, 2013 1.09; Apr. 29, 2013

A tap-happy reader’s dream guide to common insects—presented by Thing 1 and Thing 2 with the Cat in the Hat as impresario. The index and reading list of the 1999 print edition have been dropped, but the rhymed text and Seuss-style pictures remain—and there’s lots going on. Touching well-nigh all of the figures, features, objects, items of clothing, trees or flowers whenever they appear on any screen results in both visual and voiced labels. Along with lots of tiny bugs that fly and hover on their own, many of the larger figures will also trail a moving fingertip. Likewise, tapping any word triggers a pronunciation, even with the “Read It Myself ” option selected; tapping bolded words brings up a definition to boot. The six-legged cast includes black ants, caterpillars and butterflies, crickets, flies, mosquitoes, ladybugs, praying mantises, grasshoppers and other widely distributed insect types, with cameos from spiders and other predators. Terms like “thorax” and “pollination” kick up the level of detail in discussions of insect behavior, defenses and diversity. Though the overstimulated narrator, a lad in the illustrations who is loudly identified as “Dick!” whenever he’s tapped, and a text that, on some screens, appears piecemeal may distract less-focused students, this introduction to the insect realm is as functional as it is fun. A solid once-over, with systematic digital enhancements that will draw a buzz from newly independent readers. (iPad informational app. 5-8)

WHAT DO I SAY?

Opposite Inc Opposite, Inc. $2.99 | Apr. 5, 2013 1.0; Apr. 5, 2013

This audio–Mad Libs app featuring a shape-shifting alien on a visit to Earth is gimmicky but well-executed enough to overcome a scattershot story. Before readers are introduced to an orange space creature named Dax, a menu of 10 items is presented. They must perform such feats as howling like a wolf, growling like a tiger and saying, “Thank you.” The audio is then baked into the fairly haphazard story of Dax, an alien shaped like a mushroom and colored with big, square pixels. Dax, who can imitate billions of voices, rockets to Earth, lands in the ocean and begins making as many friends as possible. He uses the audio recordings to communicate with Earth-dwelling animals as his body shifts shape. The audio is as low-key or exciting as readers care to make it, and the trick adds a lively layer to what’s otherwise a competent but ho-hum story. Dax realizes he has no real voice

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of his own (should he blame the app?), then goes on a journey of self-discovery to meet more animals and to find his own identity. The alien is cheerful enough, and the app’s soothing colors, smooth art and animation complement the audio well. It’s not narrative magic, but it’s a pleasant trip. Dax’s own story voice in the end may not be too remarkable, but with an assist from readers, it can at least sound much more exciting. (iPad storybook app. 3-8)

RAMAYANA As Told by Hanuman

Rao, Gitanjali Amar Chitra Katha Pvt. Ltd. $1.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 1.0; Apr. 2, 2013 Has anything been added to the classic Hindu epic of kidnapping, rescue and true love in this latest incarnation? The Ramayana has been retold for thousands of years through oral storytelling, dance, shadow-puppet plays, theater, films, picture books and graphic novels. The beautiful Sita is stolen by the 10-headed demon Ravan, and Ram, her husband, must try to rescue her. The Monkey God, Hanuman, and his many followers aid him. In this app, two contemporary children listen to Hanuman narrate the story and occasionally appear in the story, which is viewable with and without narration. The narrator is difficult to understand at first, but as the story continues, the Indian-accented voice draws listeners into the complex tale. The children don monkey masks, and one of the few interactive actions allows users to pull the masks away from their faces, triggering a sound effect. Some pages, particularly some of the battle scenes, feature animation, though there are no add-on activities to enhance the story. There is a button that enables readers to return to any page. The illustrations are attractive, but the stylized characters are static. A few pages are very dark, obscuring the action. In the rush to digital storytelling, traditional tales are being used as sources, but without creative injections of technology, the medium doesn’t enhance the message: Skip it. (iPad storybook. 5-9)

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D Interactive Pop-Up Book StoryToys StoryToys $4.99 | Apr. 25, 2013 1.0.3; May 9, 2013

Swiveling, aesthetically saccharine 3-D pop-up scenes built around a diverse suite of drag-and-tap challenges will engage young readers far more than the classic story’s cursory rendition. The app opens with a prince’s punishment for rudeness to a scruffy visitor: “Oh no! The witch has trapped the prince inside a giant rock. Tap it to help him escape! ‘Aaaargh! She’s turned me into a horrible Beast!’ ” Once he’s been turned into a comically furry, rotund monster, the familiar story plays out. He showers Belle (the “most beautiful of all,” but “bold and adventurous too”) and her dog Max with gifts before regaining his looks and marriageability by her kiss. The happy couple (plus dog) make up a final tableau that wriggles and emits bursts of floating pink hearts with every tap. Before that, dexterous viewers can save Belle’s father from a wolf and guide him through a snowy maze to a rosebush, sort falling leaves by color, assemble luscious desserts, beat Beast at increasingly quick games of pingpong and like diversions. An index icon on every screen allows quick skipping to any of the nine pop-up spreads (interspersed pages of text are not indexed). Readers can select silent, audio or autoplay options from a “Parent Center” hidden behind an easily foiled trick access. Perfunctory of storyline and unsubtle of decoration, but with a rich and smoothly responsive array of animations, dissolves, transitions, sound effects and interactive activities. (iPad storybook app. 5-9)

This Issue’s Contributors # Alison Anholt-White • Kim Becnel • Elizabeth Bird • Marcie Bovetz • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley • Louise Brueggemann • Timothy Capehart • Ann Childs • Julie Cummins • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Dave DeChristopher • Elise DeGuiseppi • Lisa Dennis • Brooke Faulkner • Laurie Flynn • Omar Gallaga • Barbara A. Genco • Judith Gire • Ruth I. Gordon • Melinda Greenblatt • Heather L. Hepler • Megan Honig • Julie Hubble • Shelley Huntington • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Laura Jenkins • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • Joy Kim • K. Lesley Knieriem • Megan Dowd Lambert • Angela Leeper • Peter Lewis • Ellen Loughran • Wendy Lukehart • Joan Malewitz • Hillias J. Martin • Jeanne McDermott • Shelly McNerney • Daniel Meyer • R. Moore • John Edward Peters • Susan Pine • Melissa Rabey • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Amy Robinson • Erika Rohrbach • Leslie L. Rounds • Ann Marie Sammataro • Mindy Schanback • Katie Scherrer • Stephanie Seales • Chris Shoemaker • Paula Singer • Robin Smith • Karin Snelson • Rita Soltan • Edward T. Sullivan • Jennifer Sweeney • Monica Wyatt

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indie BETWEEN US ONLY! Short Takes - Two!

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Al Suleimany, Majid CreateSpace (626 pp.) $28.00 paper | $12.00 e-book Feb. 28, 2013 978-1-4823-2360-3

Theory of Remainders by Scott Dominic Carpenter...............128 The Arsonist’s Last Words by Alison R. Lockwood.............. 136

THE ARSONIST’S LAST WORDS

Lockwood, Alison R. Mansfield House Books (308 pp.) $13.95 paper $3.99 e-book Sep. 7, 2012 978-0-9855358-0-3

Al Suleimany (Being the Safe Driver!, 2013, etc.) collects his wide-ranging columns from the Oman Daily Observer (an English daily) into one volume. Subject matter here ranges from Omani politics to social ills, workplace life and religious reflections. Of the book’s purpose, Al Suleimany writes: “It is hoped that people will buy this book for the greater cause of people talking and communicating to each other—and in building tolerance, patience, understanding, love, togetherness and oneness in humanity—as the main theme and focus of this book—and in spreading these universal messages to mankind.” He treats each disparate topic with the same sensibility, keeping his stated purpose at the forefront. With a tone by turns admonishing and casual, he manages to make moral pronouncements without coming across as condescending or pedantic. Many of his moral concerns center on matters of etiquette, both in the workplace and at home. He writes, “As a human resources professional and consultant, even I have found dealing with family members as the most hard, complex and difficult in comparisons! [sic] Jobs are definitely much easier!” His opinions are informed by his religion; for instance, in a discussion of debt, he reminds his readers that the Surah II Al Baqarah reads, “If the debtor is in a difficulty, grant him time till it is easy for him to repay.” The profusion of articles is arranged alphabetically by topic, with a table of contents. Despite the status as a collection, the work is more or less disjointed; often, it’s not immediately clear what topic a particular piece seeks to discuss. What redeems the disorder, however, is the force of Al Suleimany’s personality, which comes through in every article, no matter the topic. A well-rounded perspective of Omani life.

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“Fully realized characters, a remarkable fluency of language, wit, and an extensive comprehension of French culture and history make this literary novel a stellar achievement.” from theory of remainders

THEORY OF REMAINDERS

WHAT’S UP WITH CATALONIA? The Causes Which Impel Them to the Separation

Carpenter, Scott Dominic Winter Goose Publishing (284 pp.) $27.99 | May 22, 2013 978-0-9889049-0-3 Carpenter’s (This Jealous Earth, 2012) suspenseful debut novel weaves together the consequences of a horrific trauma and the thirst for both vengeance and acceptance with explorations of the human mind, family dynamics and the complexities of language. A psychiatrist seems well-positioned to process the psychic damage of past events, but Dr. Philip Adler, 52, remains devastated 15 years after the violent death of his only child. As a result, his marriage has imploded, he has developed substance abuse problems, and he has run from the Normandy town where he and his family lived. Adler is a broken, lonely man trying to show strength to others through his clinical practice, but he’s unable to reconcile the events of the past. Although Édouard Morin, a mentally ill local youth, confessed to the crime and has been institutionalized and everyone involved, including Adler’s exwife and her new family, wants very much to forget the episode, the body of teenage Sophie Adler has never been found. When the death of Adler’s mother-in-law impels him to finally return to Yvetot, France, he realizes that he must reach closure before he can try to build a new life. Of the many ways a novelist could approach the search for a missing body, Carpenter opts for a most complex and ingenious one—through a detailed analysis of the language used by the brilliant, psychotic Morin during his brief, ill-advised interviews with Adler. This taut, high-stakes plotline is very effective, but the novel contains much more than this. Although Adler is a former resident and fluent in French, he is an interloper in the close-knit community. He is an American; he lacks understanding of the intricacies of French culture; and he is a constant reminder of the town’s inability to keep one of their own safe. As he stirs up unpleasant memories, the town mobilizes against him. The author’s ability to satirize the French people’s distaste for outsiders and their inflexibility brings mordant humor to the grim proceedings. Fully realized characters, a remarkable fluency of language, wit, and an extensive comprehension of French culture and history make this literary novel a stellar achievement.

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Castro, Liz­—Ed. Catalonia Press (224 pp.) $12.00 paper | $3.99 e-book Feb. 19, 2013 978-1-61150-032-5

A substantial collection of scholarly articles exploring, and defending, the prospects for Catalonia’s independence

from Spain. Castro’s debut effort, as editor of an anthology of 35 articles both investigating and advocating for Catalan independence, is politically timely. This last September 11, Catalonia’s National Day, a colossal gathering of 1.5 million protesters filled the streets of Barcelona demanding independence from Spain. That’s a historically impressive turnout but even more astounding when one considers that it’s one-fifth of Catalonia’s population. The essays are largely written by professional academics, though a few are written by European diplomats. Most are very brief, some only a few pages long, and none exceeds 10 pages. Thematically, this is a broad and diverse assemblage of treatments evaluating the possible economic, political, cultural and educational ramifications of Catalonia’s secession from Spain. Acknowledging that Catalan cultural identity is closely tied to its unique language, the book has five articles devoted to Catalan linguistic heritage. A sense of cultural defense enlivens the collection, as Catalan president Artur Mas avers in his introduction to the volume: “We find that we contribute a huge amount, too much even, and though we help as much as we can, we are neither understood nor respected for who we are.” Along these lines, many of the articles take up the cause of Catalan sovereignty as a matter of national self-determination. Other contributors interpret independence as a political issue or, as Josep M. Muñoz puts it, they are animated by “motives” that are “more democratic than nationalist.” The essays amassed are lively, lucid and provocatively puckish, as well as edifying. While some intellectual diversity is gained by including contributions from outside Catalonia (there are articles cataloging the view from Scotland, Brussels and the U.S.), the book would have benefited from at least one or two pieces making the case against independence. This omission makes the work as a whole more activist than strictly philosophical. Also, the rhetoric hurled against the purportedly despotic Spain sometimes verges on hyperventilated; Elisenda Paluzie accuses the nation of “domination” and “treachery.” Still, this collection is packed with a college course’s worth of interesting information. For either those well-versed in the case of Catalan independence or for the uninitiated, an estimable addition to an increasingly tempestuous debate.


THE NECESSITY OF FINANCE An Overview of the Science of Management of Wealth for an Individual, a Group, or an Organization Criniti IV, Anthony M. Criniti Publishing (218 pp.) $19.95 paper | $9.99 e-book Feb. 10, 2013 978-0-9884595-0-2

A basic text about financial concepts that strives to elevate finance to the status of a science. Ever since the 2008 recession, the financial world has achieved prominence, if not notoriety. Many casual observers have become more aware of the general financial health of the country, but they may be largely ignorant of relevant financial concepts. Criniti, a professor of finance, investor and former financial consultant, offers a primer written with uncluttered clarity which explains in simple language the difference between finance and economics. He also defines terms such as “financial manager,” “financier,” “financial statements,” “financial planning,” and “risk and return.” For example, investing, writes Criniti, “is the act of currently owning any asset, tangible or intangible, that is not associated with playing any perceived ongoing game of chance and is intended to maximize wealth based on acceptable levels of time and risk.” The author also addresses aspects of finance that other authors tend to overlook; for instance, Criniti points to “a high correlation between finance and health.” Referring to America’s health insurance challenge, he writes that “under the current American healthcare system, the wealthier you are the healthier you could be.” In another chapter, “Finance and the Environment,” Criniti postulates that “[e]nvironmental goals can only be accomplished when more wealth is directed toward them.” Throughout the book, Criniti lobbies for finance to be accepted as a full-fledged science, separate and apart from economics. He even wonders, “Where is the real Nobel Prize in finance? It doesn’t exist unless you call it financial economics.” A well-crafted work for general readers that could serve as a basic textbook on the fundamentals of finance.

LEAPING OFF INTO SPACE A Travel Guide to Risk and the Imagination

DeRuiter, Janice L.; Shoemaker, Helen J. Winding Stream Press (132 pp.) $9.25 paper | $7.99 e-book Mar. 24, 2013 978-0-615-73326-5 In their debut collaboration, DeRuiter and Shoemaker demonstrate how the basic tools of poetry can develop elementary school students’ imaginations and strengthen their character.

Using lesson plans and anecdotes, DeRuiter explains how, in her poetry writing workshops, she goes beyond metaphors and similes—what she likes to call “word pictures.” For example, she uses the work of poet Pablo Neruda to help make students aware of the geography around and within them and the work of Wallace Stevens to illustrate taking risks using perception. Through Japanese renga poetry, DeRuiter found that haiku carry a subtle power for students who need help with their writing skills. She also uses Jungian archetypes, painter Edward Hopper’s lonely landscapes and the concept of the “connectedness” of “the Native American thought world” as jumping-off points in her work with children. Shoemaker’s specialty lies in clinical psychology, and she offers thoughts on DeRuiter’s experiences and ideas “from a developmental perspective.” Subscribing to developmental psychologist Erik Erikson’s theory of “four crises” of child development, Shoemaker stresses the importance of children mastering skills such as writing in order to become competent, self-aware adults. At the end of each chapter, the authors suggest journaling assignments and encourage readers to use silence to awaken the subconscious. Abandon comfort zones, say the authors, and embrace the riskiest route when the “crossroads of the imagination” appear; the road least desired may be difficult, but it ends up being the most liberating. The book’s second half provides practical applications for teachers looking to incorporate the authors’ training into their curriculum. While not groundbreaking, the authors’ well-planned itinerary does contain fresh and practical ideas. By simplifying the “luggage” for the creative journey to two pieces—“a mind open to wonder and a journal”—the authors show how people may explore and better understand concepts such as empathy and symbolism. By seeking to ban conventional and restrictive thinking, DeRuiter and Shoemaker may help young writers find their own unique voices. A comprehensive, accessible guidebook for educators— or anyone looking to open up their creative instincts.

THE RICH CATERER’S BIBLE Part 1: The Testament of Cuisine Dombeck, Jeff; Bast, Karen CreateSpace (184 pp.) $14.95 paper | Apr. 21, 2013 978-1-4792-9450-3

Blessed are the bean counters, sayeth this savvy guide to the commercial food biz. Dombeck, a professional caterer, offers something less than a soup-to-nuts encyclopedic treatise on many aspects of catering. Vital topics like sanitary regulations aren’t covered here, and he tells readers who don’t know how to cook to go learn and then come back. But what he does focus on, in straightforward, digestible prose, is the art of wringing a healthy profit out of prepping and presenting good food through a sharp-eyed focus on the bottom line. He starts with the basics of crafting a concept that will appeal to customers—market research can be as simple as asking people |

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“As the novel explores Jim’s and his parents’ and children’s generations, the different roles and dynamics are brought to life through the prism of suffering.” from the kind of september

what they like to eat and finding out what other local caterers are doing—and hammering out a menu segmented into cheaper and fancier dishes. The bulk of the book takes up money matters: Readers learn how to calculate the cost of ingredients, with allowances for food lost to trimming and shrinkage in cooking; how to price dishes (four times the price of the ingredients is a rule of thumb—unless you can get away with more!); and how to comparison shop among wholesale food vendors and exploit bargains that crop up. Also important, Dombeck continues, is estimating how much food guests will eat so that you neither run out nor throw out. The subtle psychology of portion control is covered in intriguing depth—smaller plates and food pieces yield bigger profits by preventing guests from overloading at the buffet. “Catering is not rocket science,” Dombeck allows, but it does require some math; fortunately, he and co-author Bast present it in clear, easy-to-follow lessons with plenty of examples and sample spreadsheets that make analyzing financial data simple. Their combination of common-sense principles and insider tips—if you give your business a hard-to-pronounce name, he says, potential customers will go elsewhere to avoid pronouncing it—will point neophytes in the right direction. A useful hands-on primer.

THE KIND OF SEPTEMBER A Race Against Time and Alzheimer’s Donohue, William CreateSpace (278 pp.) $13.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Jan. 28, 2013 978-1-4782-1404-5

A vivid, touching account of Alzheimer’s ravaging a bright, capable man. What happens when someone shifts from being a caregiver to needing care himself or herself? In his debut novel, Donohue masterfully examines this delicate, complicated transition, featuring Jim Johnson, a dean of students who, at only 50, discovers he has Alzheimer’s. As the father of three children, one of whom has Down syndrome, Jim had always been the one administering care and attention at work and at home. As his descent into helplessness begins, he reflects back to his own parents, whose feebleness he could not understand or tolerate. Struggling for control while he still can, Jim fights desperately to maintain his dignity as well as his memories. Much falls on the shoulders of his wife, Deanna, who, as a trained nurse, is more than equipped to handle the medical issues, but as his loving wife, she now balances what is essentially single-parenthood with caring for her husband as if he’s another child. Jim’s family rallies around him, eager to cherish the disappearing moments of the man they know and the wisdom he has to impart. Together, they face the uncertain future. Told with honesty and sensitivity, this tale of demise takes on the deep, complex issues related to the emotions behind a devastating diagnosis. As the novel explores Jim’s and his parents’ and children’s generations, the different roles and dynamics 130

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are brought to life through the prism of suffering. Yet this isn’t merely a story of disease; it’s one of hope amid resignation, triumph despite inevitable defeat. A beautifully told story of how a family finds strength when their bedrock weakens.

CHILDREN OF EARTH

Donovan, Lorinda Amazon Digital Services (528 pp.) $1.99 e-book | Feb. 10, 2013 In this sci-fi adventure novel, an interplanetary probe heading for Pluto reveals that part of the solar system is missing. In Donovan’s debut, a provincial president of the United States relegates space exploration to the back burner when he orders draconian budget cuts to NASA. Fortunately, Jake Conrad, who heads up the New Horizons project, is allowed to see his mission through to fruition—an interplanetary probe two years out from a rendezvous with Pluto. Good thing, too, as Conrad’s team discovers an incredible anomaly in the Kuiper Belt on the outskirts of the solar system: The dwarf planet Eris and its satellite, Dysnomia, seem to be gone. The team soon discovers that the two planets have joined together to form an alien spacecraft, which aims to harvest the entire solar system, including Earth. The novel follows a diverse group of nine people as they’re brought together in an effort to save mankind. Donovan introduces each in his or her own chapter, creating sympathetic, three-dimensional characters without bogging down the narrative. Each is dissatisfied with their present-day life and yearning for more, and the New Horizons discovery provides each with their life’s calling. Along the way, three of the protagonists—Kate Runningfox, an intern for the Kuiper Belt Research Team; Mike Spence, a former Shuttle Commander, and Cecilia Behl, a microbiologist— ultimately help the aliens’ highly advanced artificial intelligence communicate with the people of Earth. Donovan’s prose is crisp, and the novel’s pacing is sharp, but there are a few occasions where the narrative stumbles. For example, some of her characters’ disdain for religion makes for some forced-sounding dialogue (“That’s what’s so great about this country. You have the freedom to handle this however you want. But what you don’t have is the right to force your views on me!”). At one point, an antimatter explosion creates a mile-wide crater in Texas, and the government explains it away as a uranium “accident”; and, somehow, it only lasts a month in the news cycle. However, the overall story is so intriguing that readers are likely to shrug off any incredulity. A fast-paced, thoughtful adventure likely to please sci-fi fans.


FROM RUM TO ROOTS Francis, Lloyd G. Manuscript Jul. 4, 2013

Two Jamaican immigrants find love and success together in America selling a popular tonic, but the pain they left on the island still impedes their happiness. Linton McMann, the illegitimate son of a plantation owner and rum distiller, has grown up with his oppressive father refusing to acknowledge him publicly. Daisy Wellstead has no shortage of family in Kingston but just as much misfortune. After being raped, she finds herself traumatized and in an imperfect marriage with two children and an uncaring husband. As revolution brews on the island, individual tragedies force both to flee to America, where, by chance, they meet. Once married, Linton and Daisy start a profitable business selling a Jamaican tonic called roots, allowing them to finally live comfortably in their new life together. Yet both remain deeply unhappy, still haunted by what they left behind. Separated into two books, Francis’ debut opens strongly; its first half demonstrates a remarkable gift for ambiance and imagery. The novel captures Jamaica in the 1930s, as well as the island’s political and meteorological climate, while also painting a picture of New York. The skillful depiction of the tragic and violent is noteworthy—it’s always powerful and succinct but never exploitative. Daisy’s victimization and Linton’s tragic parentage evoke the same tone as a Greek tragedy. These themes and the impressive atmosphere aren’t as present in the more heavy-handed second half, which tracks a more introspective Daisy and Linton. Despite this incongruity, the novel’s two books complement each other, and they share the same brisk pacing. The lively dialogue makes ample use of Jamaican patois, along with slang and colloquialisms; such linguistic flourishes improve this moving portrayal of a troubled couple. Simplistic execution belies an emotionally charged narrative shaped by the main characters’ pasts and by Jamaican history.

A COMMONSENSE GUIDE TO FIXING AMERICA Gallea, Jason C. Self (152 pp.) $7.95 e-book | Jan. 4, 2013 978-0-615-69122-0

A look at America’s economic problems, with proposals on how to fix them. Gallea’s short work tackles a lot. It begins with a review of the economic recessions that have occurred in America since independence as well as recessionary factors—the banking system, government action, oil, war, foreign events, etc. The author then walks the reader through a quick yet dense analysis of each category, giving his suggestions as to what needs to be

done in that category to foster sustainable economic prosperity. For banking, he focuses on “limiting excess greed” by curbing speculation. For the government, he advocates having an independent, Fed-like body to manage tax receipts—“no elected officials whatsoever! They should be appointed industry leaders.” Politicians must fully disclose all of their funding sources. Social Security, Medicare and education are also examined, and Gallea offers ways to improve their functions and efficiency. To reduce debt, he advocates both cutting expenses and raising taxes. He would impose taxes in which the consumer pays for the social costs he or she creates, such as “sin taxes,” not just on things like alcohol, but also for fast food, which he links to obesity—a major health problem. Additionally, while he favors domestic production of oil and natural gas, he wants to support alternative energy research through a gas consumption tax. These basic principles—pay for the costs you incur, ratify the mechanisms that prevent our economic systems from running efficiently—are the book’s strengths. The digital format draws readers in by supplying hyperlinks to vote for or against the author’s suggestions. While some of the suggestions, such as curtailing Medicare for obese people, may be impractical, others, such as a gas tax, make sense. Oddly, though he highlights the need to cut defense spending, he uses less than a page to discuss what to do about it. This topic calls for the same sort of analysis he performs elsewhere. Though there’s ample room for disagreement, this useful book will appeal to anyone looking for a practical grasp on economic issues and possible avenues for solutions. Thought-provoking and focused on real solutions, not rhetoric.

GRAY MANEUVERS

Grove, Dale A. CreateSpace (612 pp.) $15.33 paper | $2.00 e-book | May 9, 2012 978-1-4662-7000-8 A brain surgeon performs operations that allow him to control minds in this chilling sci-fi debut. World War III brought devastation to the United States. New York, bombed by Middle Eastern forces, still bleeds deadly radiation. New Washington, the rebuilt capital, is home to an organization called Central Perception, led by Dr. Benjamin Minder. It maintains national security not for a president but for a ruling cabal of corporate taskmasters. The organization’s chief battle is against the domestic terrorists of the Neural Network. Enter Dr. John Cosgrove, a surgeon who specialized in the now-illegal “gray” procedures performed during the war; his skillful hands can plumb the frontal cortex, inserting technology that results in various shades of obedience. After capturing an agent of the Neural Network, Central Perception hires Cosgrove to help “cleanse” the man— that is, surgically interrogate him and record his memories onto disks. Once the man’s memories have been recorded, however, |

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“Haakenson...has a keen ear for the cadences of teenagers, as well as a grasp of pacing and description that will keep the young-adult reader riveted.” from walking in shadows

a shootout between hospital staff and Central Perception security suggests that things aren’t what they seem. Later, Cosgrove visits Maine, and the Neural Network forces his car off the road with a fallen tree. He enters another vehicle at gunpoint, finding himself face to face with terrorists—his girlfriend Judy among them. Debut author Grove delivers this surprise, and many others, with seasoned panache. Scenes in which Cosgrove slowly loses his vision (only to comically regain it) are superbly engaging. But this novel’s strongest trait is the sweeping, elaborately detailed world of espionage spun from the Gray Technology. Agents get programmed and counterprogrammed, and payoff frequently comes in explosive though carefully planned action sequences. As needed, Grove offers absorbing medical explanations—“The removal of emotional decision making was important in creating a calmer individual….Rewiring portions of the cerebral cortex and internal body chemistry alterations made this possible”—that are sometimes tempered by painful woodenness: “Clothes were removed from their hangers and placed on Cosgrove’s body in the appropriate places.” Still, for a thriller this long, Grove ably juggles heroes, villains and side characters, giving all ample room to develop. A winding narrative propelled by stark visuals and enjoyably crass action-film motifs.

WALKING IN SHADOWS The Shadow Walker Haakenson, Brad Remora House (292 pp.) $10.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Oct. 20, 2012 978-0-9884998-0-5

A high school student discovers his troubling magical powers in this fantasy/ young-adult adventure. Jordan McKee is trying his best to have a normal high school life. After a blinding light awakened him, he’s been experiencing the same things that got his Aunt Karen institutionalized. At first, Jordan tries to hide his new condition, but when he starts wearing sunglasses all day and avoiding invisible shrubbery on the running track, his friends, family and teachers demand to know what’s going on—if only Jordan knew. Walking in the woods, Jordan stumbles upon an old, smelly man peering over what looks like a complex pattern on the forest floor. This pattern turns out to be a sigil, a mode of communication with the shadow worlds that run parallel to our daily existence. Alwyn, the old man from the woods—who insists on being called “Sir” and can deliver a swift backhand if contradicted or interrupted—explains to Jordan that they are both Watchers, a secret society of seers who are sworn to protect the universe from “the one who would come after” the initial prophecy. The Watchers also claim to control the government, law enforcement and other authorities. As Jordan learns about the Watchers under Alwyn’s tutelage, he becomes more alienated from his friends Billy and franki (always lowercase), as well as from his parents. But telling anyone about the Watchers 132

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comes with serious, and perhaps even fatal, consequences. Delving deeper into Watcher history, Jordan begins to understand that his position in the shadow worlds will determine the fate of humanity—and the course of his own life. Debut author Haakenson, who has imagined an entire series around the Watchers, has a keen ear for the cadences of teenagers, as well as a grasp of pacing and description that will keep the young-adult reader riveted. A detailed, imaginative YA fantasy with humor and pathos.

THE PRODIGAL

Hurley, Michael CreateSpace (358 pp.) $14.99 paper | $2.99 e-book May 28, 2013 978-1-4826942-7-7 A disgraced lawyer finds friends and purpose on the island of Ocracoke in North Carolina when he gets the chance to help refurbish and race a mysterious schooner. Aidan Sharpe was a shining star and partner in his Raleigh law firm until, trying to cover for a fellow attorney, he makes a serious error in judgment that costs him his law license. Aidan’s mentor advises him to visit an old Navy buddy, Father Marcus, on Ocracoke. The pitch is: “He enjoys the company of washed up, self-loathing bastards like yourself. He could also use someone’s help around the rectory.” Marcus cares deeply for his parishioners, but he isn’t perfect himself, leading the island’s AA meetings while enjoying nightly visits to bottles of leftover Communion wine he’s buried around the beach. Aidan soon acquires more friends, including Molly McGregor, a towboat operator, and an enemy, Rowdy Ponteau, a rich-kid deadbeat who attacked Molly in a local bar. At sea, the group finds a strange schooner more than a century old. A plan develops to repair the Prodigal and race her against Ponteau’s crew. Hurley (Once Upon a Gypsy Moon, 2013, etc.) writes an intriguing, well-plotted and multilayered novel whose heroes are interestingly flawed. In various ways, they struggle with faith, whether in God or other human beings. The supernatural elements—a religious relic, a gypsy woman out of legend—are thoughtfully handled. Hurley writes beautifully, especially in depicting nautical and island life: “The shakeshingle cottages in the village were gnarled and weathered, and each year their frames bent lower to the mossy earth, like old washerwomen….The island itself seemed slump-shouldered and in need of a haircut and a hot bath.” In a few instances, Hurley overdoes the sweetness (real alcoholism is a serious disease, not a lovable weakness), but in most cases, he balances affection with tough-mindedness. The work satisfyingly explores several themes: mystery, genuine teamwork, adventure and love. Stirring, romantic and evocative of the sea’s magic.


THE THREE LEGGED TABLE

THE JOURNEY TO I DO A Psychic’s Guide to Finding the Right Relationship

James, Brian CreateSpace (80 pp.) $5.99 paper | Dec. 26, 2012 978-1-4791-5661-0

James uses experiences gleaned from the health care industry to reveal every employee’s importance in organizational efforts to provide top-quality customer service and ramp up overall effectiveness. In the author’s analogy, a table that rests on the floor represents the physical facilities of an organization. The tabletop is the organization’s customers and clients. This book focuses on the table’s legs, which symbolize an organization’s managers and administrators, its key professionals and knowledge workers, and its frontline service staff—all interdependent, with different responsibilities but similar opportunities to deliver the best possible customer experience. Though James bases his book on his experiences in the health care industry, he draws clear lessons and guidelines readers can apply elsewhere. Other books on the topic, such as Customer Service for Dummies (2006), the Customer Service Training 101 series and Indispensable: How to Become the Company Your Customers Can’t Live Without (2005), focus on the nuts and bolts of positive interactions with customers. James advocates a more strategic, systematic approach. He argues for the importance of establishing and maintaining good relationships within the organization, likening small conflicts to paper cuts that cumulatively weaken an organization’s effectiveness. Corporate culture, its values and visions, also come under his discerning eye. The culture permeates and conditions every employee’s perception of what’s going on, positive or negative, within the organization, how fairly policies are enforced, and especially how thoroughly one is appreciated and respected. According to James, customers sense both the organization’s culture and its impact on employees, and this greatly influences their feelings of confidence and trust. Perhaps most importantly, James discusses the importance of nurturing leadership at all levels of the organization as “an ongoing process” and arranging opportunities “allowing every team member to advance and show their skills.” The book concludes with James’ proposal for “Ten Commandments of the Work Environment,” highlighted by the dictum that “finding the best answer often requires everyone being involved.” Short and sweet, this book provides uncommon insights and practical advice for helping organizations nurture their employees while delivering the best possible customer experience.

Kincross, Ellany T. CreateSpace (184 pp.) $12.95 paper | Feb. 20, 2013 978-1-4812-2689-9

Kincross, a third-generation psychic, tackles the murky and often disappointing task of finding love in this self-help guide. Divided into three sections, Kincross’ debut offers insight into the illusions that can trip up someone searching for a mate. It also recommends inner improvements everyone should make to prepare him- or herself for love as well as strategies to find not only a relationship, but the right one. Kincross debunks many of the romantic myths perpetuated by Hollywood, specifically the 2001 movie Serendipity, a film that plays upon the desire for “signs” and cosmic indicators that two people are meant to be. Kincross calls into question the whole idea of two people being made for each other and destined to be together, citing this misconception as one of the main reasons why dating can be so difficult and disappointing. In general, Kincross objects to the overly romanticized concept of a soul mate, or at least the determined pursuit of finding one. Anyone can be a soul mate, Kincross argues, as she offers tips and guidance on making a relationship work with whomever one feels a connection. The onus, she says, is on the reader to make love happen. In addition to presenting a paradigm shift when it comes to finding love, Kincross compels her reader to delve inward and make strides in self-discovery by engaging in regular journal writing. Though material within sections can be scattered, she ends her chapters with provocative, well-targeted questions that will help readers focus and achieve an appropriate level of honesty to aid in determining what kind of spouse he or she truly needs. Written in a friendly, approachable and easy-to-read style, this guide is filled with spiritual thoughts as well as practical guidance from a narrator who comes across as a longtime friend and sage adviser. A good investment for anyone wondering how to find meaningful, long-lasting love.

BLACK FLAGGED

Konkoly, Steven CreateSpace (310 pp.) $14.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Nov. 3, 2011 978-1-4664-1760-1 Daniel Petrovich, a former operative in the Department of Defense’s topsecret Black Flag program, is recalled to duty in this launch of a new thriller series. Brandishing an ax and soon to butcher the wheelchair-bound brother of a Serbian crime boss, Marko Resja—aka Daniel Petrovich, a deep-cover American operative working under the direction of Gen. Terrence Sanderson—muses |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Rachel Van Dyken

The best-selling Indie writer shares her magic formula (hint: It’s knowing that there isn’t one) By Rachel Van Dyken

I wish I could say there was some sort of magic formula for authors: That if you just used a specific type of ad and marketed yourself enough, you would make it and hit every best-seller list in the known world and retire in Hawaii. I mean, every author’s dream is to do what they love—wake up and write. That’s it. If your passion truly is writing, then your only goals in life are to write, try not to forget to feed your family, clean your house and then write some more. The goal: becoming a full-time author and not worrying about carrying five jobs at one time. With that type of mentality, we see authors wracking their brains, trying to figure out how to hit best-seller lists, how to truly make it. I’m not an expert. And I can say firsthand that there isn’t a certain ad that’s going to catapult you 134

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into the Amazon or Barnes & Noble top 100 bestsellers. I will give some advice to those whose goal isn’t to have just one book on the best-seller list, but whose goal is to build a following and loyal fan base. You see, I think most authors worry too much about marketing and ads and not enough about the readers. After all, it’s a readers’ market. Don’t get me wrong, doing blog tours and ads— those are amazing tools for authors, and the Internet has totally opened up an incredible world for us as authors, but...there’s more to it then plastering over Facebook “Buy my book.” 1. Word of Mouth: You seriously can’t buy this type of publicity. When readers get excited, they tell other readers, they tell their friends. Word of mouth works in a way that ads can’t even touch. When my best friend tells me that I have to “buy this book,” it’s an automatic purchase. After all, we have similar tastes. If she likes it, I know I’m going to like it. 2. Social Media: You have to talk to your readers. That’s it. I truly think that the best authors out there are first readers and secondly authors. You need to connect with them on a personal level. That doesn’t mean you have to download every type of social media out there. Pick one, whether it be Facebook or Twitter, and connect with your readers. 3. Advance Reader Copies and Free Stuff: Give your book away. I know this seems counterproductive, but your book is your product. You want people to become addicted to your product. If they aren’t exposed to it, they won’t become addicted. Find blogs and other review sites that are willing to do a review in exchange for an ARC


(make sure you state that it’s an ARC in the review as well). This again gains you exposure but also gains you more fans. Another thing lots of authors do is make their books cheap. Start a project that will be strictly for gaining a fan base. Set the price at 99 cents and see what happens. Again, it’s not about instant fame; it’s about building your brand and getting fans for your product. I really don’t have all the answers. I’ve spent way too many nights crying myself to sleep over bad reviews or wracking my brain trying to figure out why my ad isn’t working. The truth of the matter is, in the end, you can only control one thing: your book. Write something you’re proud of, thank God that you’re able to do something you love, and send it out into the world with the certainty that at least one person is going to be affected by the words you write. And if it’s just one person, in the end, that’s enough because your goal as an author isn’t to change the world with one story, but with each word you type. Rachel Van Dyken is the No. 1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today best-selling author of Regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing, you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor. She keeps her home in Idaho with her husband and their snoring boxer, Sir Winston Churchill. She loves to hear from readers! You can follow her writing journey at www.rachelvandyken.com.

THE BET Van Dyken, Rachel CreateSpace (240 pp.) $8.99 paper $0.99 e-book Mar. 28, 2013 978-1-4839187-7-8

The Bet is Rachel Van Dyken’s latest novel to hit the New York Times bestseller list, but below is an excerpt from the prolific author’s new fantasy novel Divine Uprising, released on June 8. Michael rose to his full height of ten feet and walked around the desk to face us. His movements were fluid and musical. It was rumored the angels could always hear the music from the heavenly throne. Every word spoken and every movement made was in perfect cadence with the heavenly song, the song of Eden. Michael had the usual sword belted at his waist. His long silver hair was tied at the nape of his neck with a golden strap. I never ceased to be amazed at how beautiful angels were. Sometimes I wonder if it makes Adonis jealous that there are some creatures more attractive than him. Michael wasn’t perfect, though; he had several battle scars along his arms, though they were what some people might call markings. Tiny golden flecks that represented different battles fought and won. To the naked human eye they were invisible — to us they weren’t. I liked to think it made Phantoms nervous when they laid eyes on an angel like Michael, one so magnificent. His eyes glowed, changing colors, only reflecting what he saw. When it was dark, they turned pitch-black; when he was facing light, they glowed. If he was facing me, which he was right then, they turned violet to match mine. It was kind of wonderful. “We are ready,” I said, once Michael was standing a foot in front of me. “You hesitated today,” he said, putting his hand on my head like I was two feet tall— which I kind of felt like, considering he was so huge, his hand literally cupped my head like a baseball. Adonis stepped forward. “It was my fault. I was cocky, irresponsible. It won’t happen again.”

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“The reader becomes a proactive participant in the investigation, poring over the dark mystery’s disjointed evidence.” from the arsonist’s last words

that this assassination will soon set him free. Six years later, Petrovich, happily married to Jessica and working at a semiconductor company in Maine, receives a call for “Marko”—and a new mission from Sanderson. Petrovich resists until the name Zorana Zekulic is mentioned, then he executes the directive to kill a nearby Muslim businessman. Petrovich’s hit is one of eight coordinated assassinations that together take down an FBI operation tracking al-Qaida funding. The FBI and CIA soon connect the killings to Sanderson, uncovering the now-retired general’s rogue and apparently reactivated Black Flag program. CIA assistant director Karl Berg deploys his own covert team to grab Petrovich, since, as Marko, his beheading of a CIA agent is among his crimes. Obeying yet always distrusting Sanderson, Petrovich flees Maine to meet up with his former boss, hoping all the while he’ll be able to contact and start a new life with Jessica. U.S. Naval Academy graduate Konkoly (The Jakarta Pandemic, 2010) has crafted a well-paced thriller that sets his new series in motion, providing entertaining plot twists, nifty evasion techniques and a healthy dose of cynicism about government agencies. The array of secondary characters can get a bit dizzying at times, making the cheat-sheet list the author provides particularly helpful. Prime mover Sanderson’s motivations remain somewhat murky, but perhaps more will be revealed in future installments. Hero Petrovich also has plenty of potential, with more to explore regarding his existential qualities (reminiscent of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne), his rather unexpressed romantic yearnings and his shockingly unapologetic execution of extremely violent acts. A promising start to a complex new black-ops thriller series.

THE ARSONIST’S LAST WORDS

Lockwood, Alison R. Mansfield House Books (308 pp.) $13.95 paper | $3.99 e-book | Sep. 7, 2012 978-0-9855358-0-3 An elegiac novel that deftly combines elements of investigative journalism and crime fiction. This debut effort follows the morally wrenching aftermath of a major urban catastrophe in a way that’s eerily evocative of the 9/11 attacks. A massive fire consumes the Parramore Plaza in Orlando, Fla., killing 115 people and emotionally scarring untold more. Marko Abissi, a recently fired janitor, immediately falls under suspicion, as he all too perfectly fits the profile of an arsonist: He has a history of violence and a personal life crumbling into disarray. There are also rumors that he has ties to the Middle East. Juni Bruner, a grizzled veteran reporter, tirelessly investigates every lead, desperately trying to make sense of the despairingly senseless. The book’s startlingly innovative structure powerfully captures the city’s madness in response to the disaster. Instead of a traditional novel told from a single perspective, the book is more like a heap of archival documents—including newspaper articles, personal correspondence, transcripts of telephone conversations and even a worker’s compensation report. The reader becomes a proactive participant in the investigation, poring over 136

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the dark mystery’s disjointed evidence. From the outset, the novel reveals that Bruner won a Pulitzer Prize for her ace reportage and that she ultimately took her own life, leaving only a 200-page manuscript as a clue to her inconsolable sadness. Her spiraling descent mirrors the city’s frenzied chaos, its people numbed by depression and enlivened by the urgency to assign blame. Although the climax is fairly predictable early on, it’s still a poignant conclusion to a stirring tale. It’s a testament to the author’s skill that the narrative remains a seamless whole, even as it unfolds in fractured parts. A moving parable about the wounding effects of human tragedy and the collateral damage of the search for moral truth.

WALK IN TWO WORLDS Miller, S.B. CreateSpace (324 pp.) $12.99 paper | $7.99 e-book Feb. 15, 2013 978-1-4802-8081-6

Miller’s historical fiction debut tackles America’s growth during the 18th and 19th centuries as told by Native Americans, the settlers who laid claim to the land and those caught in between. History is a funny thing. As the saying goes, it’s often written by the winners, with little discussion of the peoples and customs crushed in the name of “progress.” Most accounts of the United States’ expansion prove no exception, focusing on the birth of a nation rather than the costs to its native population. In his novel, Miller attempts to present a more balanced view, giving both “red” and “white” characters the chance to speak their piece. Caught in the middle is Stephen Ruddell—a child of the frontier and decidedly pro-American, until he’s kidnapped by the Shawnee at the age of 12. Befriended by his captor, the historically famous warrior Tecumseh, and adopted by the tribe’s chief, Stephen (renamed Sinnatha) soon embraces his new life. He spends more than 15 years with his adopted family, battling encroaching white settlers in order to preserve native lands. But the white men keep coming and spilling blood. To stem the violence, Sinnatha and Tecumseh’s leader, along with many others, sign the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. As part of the agreement, all white “captives” are returned to their families. Sinnatha once again becomes Stephen; stuck between two worlds, he’s fully embraced by neither. Miller jumps back and forth between the past and present-day 1845, using Stephen—now a grizzled old man telling his tale to a historian—to effectively detail Native American life and the ways it was destroyed. He also underscores how differently the warring factions viewed and treated one another. Wishing only to maintain their traditional ways, the Native Americans rarely underestimated their enemies and usually treated their prisoners as equals. The same cannot be said of the population that took the land by force. As Tecumseh says, “Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth?” An engaging, mildly disturbing account of how this country came to be.


PASSOVER PROMISES

Perkins, Susan A. AuthorHouse (168 pp.) $21.00 | $11.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Dec. 13, 2011 978-1-4678-7410-6 In the second installment of her Promises series, Perkins (Promises, 2010) relates the story of Christ’s death and resurrection from multiple perspectives. Onnua and Eunice are childhood friends who are committed to their faith, although they live very different lives. As the story begins, both have met Jesus Christ, but afterward their stories differ. Onnua is the wife of Zaccheus, the tax collector who was so eager to view Jesus that he climbed a tree to see him as he walked past. Eunice is the wife of Amos, the son of a Pharisee and nephew of Caiaphas, high priest of the Temple. Onnua and Zaccheus grow closer and spiritually stronger after they meet Jesus, but Eunice’s interest in Jesus puts further strain on her difficult marriage. Eunice and her extended family prepare to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, but she and her children—especially her eldest son, Bartemaus—are horrified when they discover the Pharisees’ plot against Jesus and even more appalled at Amos and Caiaphas after Jesus’ trial and execution. The event threatens to break their family apart, but the promise of Jesus’ resurrection may help Eunice and Bartemaus find the spiritual fulfillment they lack. Biblical retellings are relatively common, particularly those depicting the trial, execution and resurrection of Christ. However, this book is unique in the many different perspectives it uses to tell its story. Bartemaus has the strongest presence, but readers also witness responses from many other characters, including Eunice, Onnua, Zaccheus, Pontius Pilate and his wife, and Judas’ mother. Moreover, characters with fairly minor biblical roles, particularly Zaccheus, are fleshed out into threedimensional figures who are simultaneously familiar and new. As with any series’ middle book, readers would benefit from reading the entire set. However, Perkins has a talent for summary and provides the reader with just enough background from the first book so that this installment will make sense on its own. A fresh, engaging look at an oft-told biblical story.

MY FIVE STONES A Memoir

Pohl, Susan Darin Susan Darin Pohl (222 pp.) $8.95 paper | $2.99 e-book | Apr. 22, 2013 978-0-615-72428-7 California management consultant and minister Susan Daris Pohl writes her first book, a spiritual memoir. Pohl grew up in a Southern Baptist community in Michigan where she witnessed tent revivals, parishioners talking in tongues and

the ecstatic Brother Dew grabbing a deadly snake from a box. Revealing her story in flashforwards and flashbacks, Pohl has traveled an unusual road that has taken her from the corporate offices of Apple, where she worked in the early days of the company, to the Upaya Zen Center, where she meditated with Zen teacher Joan Hallifax, and then on to divinity studies and her work as a chaplain intern at FCI Dublin, a federal women’s prison. Throughout her life’s wanderings, she has been plagued by metaphysical questions: “Why was I here? Is there really an entity that we refer to as God? How much of religion is a myth…?” One of the most emotionally involving parts of this autobiography shows Pohl’s encounter with a magnetic but doomed adolescent girl, a cancer patient to whom she became a surrogate mother. At the crucial juncture when the author first meets the magical yet ill-fated Marisa, a critical text error takes away from the moment: “I saw a young girl who stuck her head around the door…and so began one of the s of my life.” Glitches aside, Pohl’s engaging memoir makes the reader grapple with age-old questions. The author’s clear, caring writing about her experiences with female convicts reveals their humanity. The sinuous, irritating former heroin addict Eileen continually reminded Pohl of her cruel and insane mother, and she evoked in the author the sense of inadequacy that had once cast a shadow across the author’s life. Pohl overcame her aversion, though, and saw how Eileen and her mother both ultimately elicited profound compassion. Faith, courage, kindness, service and love—these are the five stones that stand for the values upon which Pohl has based her life. A spiritual journey told by a thoughtful, questioning author who has experienced worldly success.

MEMPHIS INSTRUMENTS OF PEACE How Volunteers and Visionaries Challenged Racism, Reactionary Politicians and the Catholic Hierarchy Shafer, Anne Whalen; Patrick, Sheila Anne Shafer (262 pp.) $14.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Feb. 21, 2013 978-0-615-68845-9

A woman’s powerful account of her determination to bring justice to the world. Shafer’s debut memoir details the social causes she took up as a young woman in the South—civil rights, religious freedom and equality for women. Her efforts were inspired and guided by God, who spoke to her on five specific occasions. The first occurred when she was a senior in high school, already determined to dedicate her life to God as a nun, despite her priest’s discouragement. God intervened, telling her, “You will help reform the Church from outside the walls.” God continued to contact her, always with a message about helping others and achieving more love among mankind. Eager to realize her |

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“This thought-provoking journey may lead readers to explore not only their religious beliefs, but also their thoughts on the lasting power of love.” from love reincarnated

destiny, Shafer became active in Memphis politics in the 1950s after influential former mayor E. H. Crump died, leaving a political machine struggling to survive without its leader. Shafer reminisces about the decade that followed Crump’s death, calling the ’60s a time when “Grace from heaven came down like a beautiful light snow, telling us a new day had dawned.” Indeed, the decade ushered in opportunities for Shafer to seize, as she doggedly fought for African-Americans to have the right to live in whichever neighborhood they pleased and for schools to be open to both races. Shafer’s determination and influence led to many positive changes throughout the South, mostly resulting in segregation decreasing in various parts of Memphis. Her bravery and forward-thinking, as well as her connection to God, motivated her to improve the lives of those around her. Written with candor and wit, this memoir is both politically informative and spiritually uplifting. Though the content can be dense, it’s also richly explored and well-paced, with Shafer tracing the rise of her political involvement while citing fascinating and occasionally humorous moments along the way. Her inspiring story serves as a powerful reminder that one person can truly make a difference. An insider’s look at the political changes that shook the South.

LOVE REINCARNATED Sreedharan, C. CreateSpace (120 pp.) $8.99 paper | Mar. 14, 2013 978-1-4827-1936-9

Sreedharan’s unconventional debut love story is food for the inquisitive soul. Sri Hari lives in his family home in the small town of Chennai, India. At the urging of a neighbor and friend, Sri Hari acquires a large house, called Krishna Vihar, just across the road. Though Sri Hari has no real desire to own this home, his loyalty to his friend compels him to purchase the property in the hope that he can rent it out to reliable tenants. The arrival of Ravi, Shanti and their teenage daughter, Devi, answers this wish. The family seeks spiritual assistance and divine intervention for Devi at the nearby Krishna Temple, as she’s become afflicted with an unknown condition that has caused her to become disinterested in life. As the family settles in across the street, Devi soon shows signs of getting better. Shanti praises Lord Krishna, believing the prayers and devotions must be working, as “there is an enormous improvement in [Devi’s] attitude and she is no more that introvert girl.” Devi becomes particularly attached to Sri Hari and seeks his company continuously. Sri Hari views her as he would a beloved granddaughter, but Devi has fallen deeply in love with him, even though he’s several decades her senior. Sri Hari and Shanti seek professional help for the girl as they try to understand her infatuation. It soon seems likely that Sri Hari’s past life may be part of Devi’s present troubles; at the center of the story is the idea of reincarnation, the Hindu belief that 138

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“our souls discard our bodies when we die like we change our old dresses for the new ones.” Sreedharan presents an intriguing mystery and an unexpected love story as he explores concepts of passion, spirituality and astrology. Although the prose is occasionally stilted, with some grammatical slip-ups, Sri Hari’s voice comes through clearly, particularly when he opens up about his past and reflects on his emotions. In one particularly poignant section, Sri Hari mourns a lost love, finding that “time may heal the wound, but the loss cannot be compensated.” Although the author presents a story of atypical, largely unrequited love, romance devotees may still appreciate its concept of unending, spiritual adoration. Overall, this thought-provoking journey may lead readers to explore not only their religious beliefs, but also their thoughts on the lasting power of love. A short, intriguing novel of reincarnation.

THE CURIOUS SOLITUDE OF ANISE

Swanson, Thea Dorsett, McClaughlin & Whitney (148 pp.) $7.99 paper | $6.99 e-book | Feb. 27, 2013 978-0-615-77787-0 In Swanson’s debut novel, food provides more than physical sustenance for an introverted baker. When readers first meet Anise Kaufmann, squatting in an abandoned restaurant in Buffalo, N.Y., with a cat named Mandy, she’s talking to her dead mother, Laura, and preparing a béchamel sauce with items from the neighborhood food bank. As she and Mandy partake of their unlit, gourmet meal, she re-examines her 47 years upon the Earth and how she’s kept her distance from other people—except to serve them delectable goods. Her “childhood light had gone out” after her mother drowned, but Laura’s Better Homes and Gardens cookbook eventually changed Anise’s life, awakening her appreciation for food and connecting her to Laura’s spirit. (“She visits me when I cook,” Anise confessed to her best friend in high school.) Anise eventually stumbled upon a stack of love letters among Laura’s things—not written by Anise’s father. Feeling confused and betrayed, she attended a cooking institute, hoping to find her own recipe for happiness; she got a dream job in a New York City bakery, which stole her ideas. One day, she came home to find her apartment in flames. After returning to Buffalo, through the redemption of fresh bread and her mother’s cookbook, she opened a humble, thriving bakery—until the tragic arrival of Pete, an Iraqi War veteran. “Humans act strange if left alone too

This Issue’s Contributors # Rachel Abramowitz • James Burbank • Stephanie Cerra • Simon Creek • Steve Donoghue • Tom Eubanks • David Grogan • Justin Hickey • Ivan Kenneally • Caitlynn Lowe • Robert Moskowitz • Randall Nichols • Timothy Niedermann • Margueya Novick • Judy Quinn • Nomi Schwartz • Lucy Silberman • Barry Silverstein • Emily Thompson


long,” according to the novel’s omniscient narrator—a binding philosophy for Swanson’s powerful life study, as Anise encounters several odd, lonely characters on her numerous roads to salvation. Throughout the author’s taut, sometimes-raw narrative, Anise’s distrust borders on misanthropy and makes her less than sympathetic, but it strengthens the author’s message. Cast out into the cold streets, a pleasant surprise awaits Anise—but it may come a little too late to clear the wisps of melancholy that overwhelm Swanson’s tale. A concise, cautionary tale about a woman exchanging pain for trust.

GABRIEL’S MOUNTAIN

Taddeo, Mickaël FriesenPress (312 pp.) $37.99 | $24.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Feb. 6, 2013 978-1-77097-909-3 In Taddeo’s (The Supermarket, 1996) novel, a Montreal homeless man is more than he seems. Amid the hustle and bustle of a slightly futuristic Montreal (there are hover cars, homes wired for surveillance and rumors of robots with cloned human skin), barely anyone notices a homeless man named Gabriel Norson, an amiable soul among the city’s homeless. He’s befriended by spirited teenager Tammy, whose friendship began as rebellion against her parents but soon blossomed into genuine feeling, and by easygoing, open-minded bank worker John. Gabriel leads a nondescript life, but lately, he’s tormented by bad dreams and quasi-mystical visions that seem to stem from the blank stretches he’s always had in the memories of his life. At one point, he finds himself in a hidden cavern populated by mystical children who hint that he’s the inheritor of a great destiny involving spiritual truths long hidden by the Catholic Church and the powers of the world. “The cycle of nature is spun like a wonderful web from which no one escapes,” one of the children tells him. “It sounds more terrible than it is.” Gradually, Gabriel begins to suspect that the crux of his recent afflictions is the time he spent working on his Ph.D. at Berkeley, where he vaguely remembers being hooked up to wires and monitors by people who were studying him for unknown reasons. In a parallel narrative skillfully deployed, readers learn that Gabriel is being hunted by a covert National Security splinter group headed by wunderkind Steve Hamilton, “a tall, broad-shouldered hero of almost comicbook stature.” Hamilton and his team pursue Gabriel because he’s actually a time-traveling fugitive unwittingly bearing knowledge of lost Messianic writings that, if revealed to the world, could cause global upheavals. Much of this is familiar Da Vinci Code territory, but Taddeo presents it all with strong storytelling instincts and expert juggling of the many subplots. While some of those subplots are a little too outlandish for any but hard-core fans of the genre, the narrative more than compensates with its sure-handed conviction. A fast-paced, thought-provoking spiritual thriller.

K i rk us M e di a L L C # President M A RC W I N K E L M A N Chief Operating Officer M E G L A B O R D E KU E H N Chief Financial Officer J ames H ull SVP, Marketing M ike H ejny SVP, Online Paul H offman # Copyright 2013 by Kirkus Media LLC. KIRKUS REVIEWS (ISSN 1948-7428) is published semimonthly by Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Road, Austin, TX 78744. Subscription prices are: Digital & Print Subscription (U.S.) - 12 Months ($199.00) Digital & Print Subscription (International) - 12 Months ($229.00) Digital Only Subscription - 12 Months ($169.00) Single copy: $25.00. All other rates on request. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Kirkus Reviews, PO Box 3601, Northbrook, IL 60065-3601. Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, TX 78710 and at additional mailing offices.

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June 15, 2013: Volume LXXXI, No 12