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KIRKUS V O L . L X X X , N O.

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I SEPTEMBER

2012

REVIEWS

CHILDREN’S & TEEN

The Fitzosbornes at War

by Michelle Cooper An unforgettable conclusion to the Montmaray Journals p.1926

NONFICTION

On Politics

by Alan Ryan An exemplary work of philosophy and history p.1912

FICTION

Molly Ringwald

Exclusive Q&A: The standout '80s star talks about her new book, When It Happens to You p.1844

Also In This Issue

• Tony Danza Would Like to Apologize to Every Teacher He Ever Had p.1890 • The Secrets to Tracey Garvis Graves’ Self-Publishing Success p.1995 • Christmas & Hanukkah Roundup p.1969

Lazarus Is Dead

by Richard Beard A fine, sensitive novel p.1836


Gore Vidal (1925–2012): A Patrician Gadfly Leaves the Stage B Y G RE G O RY MC NA M EE

G o r e Vi d a l , l i k e h i s c o n t e m p o r a r i e s Louis Auchincloss and William F. Buckley, was of an American type that is now almost extinct: the bookish aristocrat, well educated and well traveled, connected to all the right people, capable of summoning up a fragment from Proust or a jotting from the notebooks of Adams and Jefferson in an instant. All three took their duties as spokesmen for that culture seriously, noblesse being obliged to do so. But Vidal’s mission was all the more charged: He was an aristocrat, but he was also committed to democracy. Vidal well knew the dangers of ingrown aristocracy. His own favorite example of imperial decadence may have been the Bush dynasty (especially “the charmingly simian George W. Bush”), but he did not exempt himself from the proceedings. After all, he maintained, he himself had grown up in the House of Atreus, if one with fewer instances of incest and parricide than the original. Vidal, who died on July 31 at the age of 86, judged the modern world through the twin lenses of American history and the classics; it’s no accident that he should have written about that dark figure from our past, Aaron Burr, with the same sense of conspiracy with which he enshrouded his understanding of the assassination of John Kennedy, no accident that he saw shadows of Caligula’s Rome on every street corner in Washington and New York. Michelle Bachmann has said that reading Burr so revolted her that she became a Bible-bearing rightwinger after closing it, but Burr, apart from, well, a little aristocratic incest, was mild compared to some of his other dissections of America’s political past, few of which would have passed the Parson Weems test of patriotic deification. But Vidal was a patriot, an American through and through. He exercised a fierce criticism in his essays and journalism, but also in his fiction; even Myra Breckenridge can be considered a species of that particularly Vidalian genre. A scrapper to the last, Vidal lost a bit of his oomph in his last years. In part that was a function of age and debility, but in part it was because, the last man standing of a fractious and feuding literary generation, he had no one worthy of fighting with. His last public moments were marked by a kind of tired bitterness in which he spoke darkly of decline and fall, of looming fascism, of apocalypse. All those things may yet be in the cards, but we might prefer to remember Vidal, writer, gadfly, and revolutionary patrician, with one of his happier quips, such as this: “There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”

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contents fiction Index to Starred Reviews...................................................p. 1835 REVIEWS........................................................................................p. 1835 Mystery......................................................................................p. 1860

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

Q&A WITH molly ringwald..................................................p. 1844

nonfiction Index to Starred Reviews...................................................p. 1875 REVIEWS........................................................................................p. 1875 Q&A WITH tony danza...........................................................p. 1890

children’s & teen Index to Starred Reviews..................................................p. 1919 REVIEWS...................................................................................... p. 1920 Feature: Seven Impossible Things...................................p. 1935 christmas & hanukkah Roundup................................... p. 1969 interactive e-books............................................................ p. 1982

indie Index to Starred Reviews...................................................p. 1987 REVIEWS........................................................................................p. 1987 Feature: Tracey Garvis Graves........................................p. 1995

A master of the form, Sherman Alexie delivers a sterling collection of short fiction. See our starred review p. 1836.

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on the web w w w. k i r k u s r e v i e w s . c o m / b l o g s Ah, September, most likely the best month of the year in new books. Here’s what’s exclusively online this month at kirkusreviews.com… As co-owner of Micawber’s Books in St. Paul, Minn., editor Hans Weyandt knows

firsthand about the power of selling books to customers. Weyandt puts his sales experience and expansive knowledge of everything books to good use in Read This!: Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores, a finely assembled collection of top-50 lists from independent booksellers nationwide. We talked to Weyandt about his new project, the bookstore customer experience and how shopping offline has evolved in the fast-moving digital age. Marie Laskas has been 500 feet Jeanne down in a coal mine. She’s helped herd cat-

tle in Texas, followed migrant workers during a Maine blueberry harvest and spent time with a long-haul female trucker named Sputter. These are the stories of real, everyday working Americans who labor behindthe-scenes to make what most of us take for granted—the power when you flick a switch, the hamburgers you grilled last weekend, the plane you took on vacation. All these things require—no, depend on—the hard work of dedicated Americans who often labor under the radar, hard hours for even harderearned pay. Laskas, director of the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh, follows these Americans in her latest, Hidden America, which takes a closer, more personal look at what makes these people tick and how much goes into their working lives.

“It’s OK that you love each other,” Paula Danziger, who died in 2004, used to tell her best friends Elizabeth Levy and Bruce Coville. “You just can’t love each other more than you love me.” What she loved most was being with both of them together, Levy says. Now Coville and Levy are continuing the story of Danziger’s character, Amber Brown, in Amber Brown is Tickled Pink—with the blessing of Carrie Danziger, the inspiration for her Aunt Paula’s character, whom the coauthors have known since she was a preteen. Read our online interview with Levy and Coville, who both say it’s as if Danziger was in the room with them. Continue to follow our Indie publishing series featuring some of today’s top self-publishing authors, including Barbra Annino and Tracey Garvis Graves, as well as signed authors like Amy Sohn and Jonathan Evison. Every 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 their books out there. F o r t h e l a t e s t o n n e w r e l e a s e s every day, please go online to Kirkus.com. It’s where our editors and our 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.

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fiction THE TIME KEEPER

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Albom, Mitch Hyperion (240 pp.) $24.99 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-1-4013-2278-6

BLASPHEMY by Sherman Alexie................................................ p. 1836 THE MIDDLESTEINS by Jami Attenberg.................................... p. 1836 LAZARUS IS DEAD by Richard Beard....................................... p. 1836 THE MALICE OF FORTUNE by Michael Ennis.......................... p. 1840 SCHRODER by Amity Gaige....................................................... p. 1842 IN SUNLIGHT AND IN SHADOW by Mark Helprin................ p. 1845 KIND ONE by Laird Hunt........................................................... p. 1846 SWEET TOOTH by Ian McEwan................................................ p. 1850 SUTTON by J.R. Moehringer...................................................... p. 1852 PHANTOM by Jo Nesbø............................................................... p. 1852 NICK & JAKE by Tad Richards and Jonathan Richards ........... p. 1854 SAY YOU’RE SORRY by Michael Robotham............................... p. 1855 DEAD ANYWAY by Chris Knopf................................................ p. 1870

LAZARUS IS DEAD

Beard, Richard Europa Editions (272 pp.) $16.00 paperback Sep. 25, 2012 978-1-6094-5080-9

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Treacly fable by pop inspirationalist Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie, 1997, etc.). Dava Sobel and Longitude be damned, God doesn’t like people who measure things. Six thousand–odd years ago—is the date a nod to Archbishop Ussher and his protocreationism?—a fine young fellow named Dor invents the world’s first clock and is banished to a cave for the affront, since only the deity is supposed to be concerned with such things, it being the days before hourly wage work and lawyers who bill in 15-minute increments. Dor now sits in a cave, “listening to something. Voices. Endless voices.” And what do you suppose those voices want? Yup, time. More of it. Endless time. Or at least a year or two. Writing in his customary staccato (“But Father Time is real. And, in truth, he cannot age.”), Albom gives Dor a chance to redeem himself by instructing two hapless earthlings—a man dying of cancer, a teenage girl in danger of dying by her own hand—in the meaning of life. The Little Prince it ain’t: Albom seems to have taken the template for his novel from a corporate report, each page studded with boldfaced passages that would seem to signal something momentous; a person in a hurry could well read just those boldfaced passages and emerge with a pretty good idea of the storyline, which is plenty predictable in any event. Still, there are a few useful takeaways, among them these: If you’re moribund, a pocket watch will cheer you right up; if you’re worried about the prospect of imminent demise, then remember that, as the old dude who cometh from God’s side sayeth, immortality “is not a gift.” A product less than a book; those with not enough time on their hands might spend what they have more meaningfully elsewhere. (Contact: SallyAnne McCartin)

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“Sterling collection.” from blasphemy

BLASPHEMY New And Selected Stories

THE MIDDLESTEINS

Attenberg, Jami Grand Central Publishing (288 pp.) $24.99 | Oct. 23, 2012 978-1-4555-0721-4

Alexie, Sherman Grove (480 pp.) $27.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-8021-2039-7

Sterling collection of short stories by Alexie (Ten Little Indians, 2003, etc.), a master of the form. The reader can take his or her pick of points where the blasphemy of Alexie’s title occurs in this multifaceted assemblage, for there are several solid candidates. One falls about two-thirds of the way in, when a hard-boiled newspaper editor chews out a young Indian writer who might be Alexie’s semblable. By that young man’s count, the editor had used the word “Jesus” thrice in 15 seconds: “I wasn’t a Christian and didn’t know much about the definition of blasphemy,” Alexie writes, “but it seemed like he’d committed some kind of sin.” In Alexie’s stories, someone is always committing some kind of sin, and often not particularly wittingly. One character, a bad drinker in need of help to bail out some prized pawned regalia, makes about as many errors as it’s possible to make while still remaining a fundamentally decent person; another laments that once you start looking at your loved one as though he or she is a criminal, then the love is out the door. “It’s logical,” notes Alexie, matter-of-factly. Most of Alexie’s characters in these stories—half selected and half new—are Indians, and then most of them Spokanes and other Indians of the Northwest; but within that broad categorization are endless variations and endless possibilities for misinterpretation, as when a Spokane encounters three mysterious Aleuts who sing him all the songs they’re allowed to: “All the others are just for our people,” which is to say, other Aleuts. Small wonder that when they vanish, no one knows where, why, or how. But ethnicity is not as central in some of Alexie’s stories as in others; in one of the most affecting, the misunderstandings and attendant tragedies occur between humans and donkeys. The darkness of that tale is profound, even if it allows Alexie the opportunity to bring in his beloved basketball. Longtime readers will find the collection full of familiar themes and characters, but the newer pieces are full of surprises. Whether recent or from his earliest period, these pieces show Alexie at his best: as an interpreter and observer, always funny if sometimes angry, and someone, as a cop says of one of his characters, who doesn’t “fit the profile of the neighborhood.”

From Attenberg (The Melting Season, 2010, etc.), the deeply satisfying story of a Chicago family coming apart at the seams and weaving together at the same time. Former lawyer Edie Middlestein has always been a large presence, brilliant as a lawyer, loving as a mother, shrewish as a wife. Since early childhood, food has been her private if not secret passion. The novel is organized according to Edie’s fluctuations in weight, and the descriptions of her sensual joy in the gluttony that may be killing her are often mouthwatering. Sixty-ish Edie is obese and ravaged by diabetes. When her pharmacist husband, Richard, leaves her shortly before she’s scheduled for an operation, Edie’s children are outraged. Thirtyone-year-old teacher Robin is a fearful near alcoholic who has avoided intimacy since a disastrous experience in high school. Ironically, her new self-proclaimed hatred of her father opens her to the possibility of a relationship with her geeky neighbor Daniel, a gentle soul with a hidden but strong spine, not unlike Robin’s older brother Benny. Benny is happily married to Rachelle, a woman of fierce protectiveness who initially denies Richard all access to his grandchildren to punish him for his desertion. Is Richard a heartless, selfish man, or is he correct that Edie left him years before he left her? A little of both. All these characters feel more than one emotion at a time, and all are more than they first seem. Edie is an overbearing matriarch in her family, but a lovable saint to the owner of her favorite Chinese restaurant. Richard is a schlemiel, except that he is capable of real love. While the novel focuses intensely on each member of the family, it also offers a panoramic, more broadly humorous, verging-on-caricature view of the Midwestern Jewish suburbia in which the Middlesteins are immersed, from the shopping centers to the synagogues. But as the Middlesteins and their friends move back and forth in time, their lives take on increasing depth individually and together. A sharp-tongued, sweet-natured masterpiece of Jewish family life.

LAZARUS IS DEAD

Beard, Richard Europa Editions (272 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Sep. 25, 2012 978-1-6094-5080-9 In this alternative theological novel Jesus does more than weep...and Lazarus does more than die. Beard engages in much plausible speculation here, for example, that Jesus and Lazarus grew up as best friends and then drifted apart. Lazarus seized an opportunity to become a

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businessman, buying sheep from the local farmers and reselling them at a profit to the temple, for according to strict Jewish practice, many sheep had to be sacrificed. But just about the time his former childhood friend performed his first miracle, Lazarus began to come down with a strange and mysterious illness, one that is more than merely an inconvenience that gets in the way of his sexual relationship with the prostitute Lydia and his engagement to Saloma. Beard invests this illness with a mythic quality by having Lazarus contract all of the seven major diseases of ancient Israel, and his symptoms combine those of smallpox, tuberculosis and dysentery, for his death has to be as certain as his resurrection. At first he calls upon Yanav the Healer, a local dispenser of herbs, but it soon becomes clear that Lazarus’ physical decline is too severe for Yanav to handle. Lazarus’ sister, Mary, then pleads with him to call upon Jesus, whose reputation for performing miracles is growing, but Lazarus is adamant that his former friend not be summoned. The mythic power of the story remains constant, of course, so Lazarus does in fact die, and Jesus does resurrect him, but the Romans, especially in the vicious form of Cassius, immediately begin to persecute Lazarus, feeling his resurrection has reinforced the extraordinary political power of Jesus. Throughout the narrative, Beard schools the reader in literary and artistic treatments of Lazarus to give the story a cultural and intellectual framework. Beard’s take on Lazarus is nothing less than astonishing—and he respects the reader by taking religion and religious questions seriously.

his surroundings, but it doesn’t seem likely; and the doormatlike female characters aren’t much more appealing than the males. Boilard was raised in Massachusetts and now lives in San Francisco, so the book can be read as a poison-pen letter to his former home; it’s compelling in its twisted way.

LOW PRESSURE

Brown, Sandra Grand Central Publishing (480 pp.) $26.99 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-1-4555-0155-7 A bestseller about an old homicide that once dominated the headlines brings a family back together in Brown’s thriller set in Texas, Atlanta and New York. Bellamy Lyston Price returns to Austin to see her dying father and comfort her stepmother, Olivia, in the wake of a media circus brought on by

A RIVER CLOSELY WATCHED

Boilard, Jon MacAdam/Cage (328 pp.) $24.00 | Sep. 21, 2012 978-1-59692-381-2

Boilard’s debut novel is the literary equivalent of punk rock: angry, cathartic and dripping with contempt for its characters. The story is set in western Massachusetts, which Boilard depicts as a backwater where rape, violence, racism and misogyny are the currency. The closest thing to a hero is Bobby DuBois, youngest member of an ill-fated family. Events are set in motion when Bobby’s father, Blackie, an ex-convict with a wide sadistic streak, kidnaps and tortures Raymont, a dimwitted boy who’s been suspected of a sex crime. Bobby takes pity on the boy and sets him free—which he knows will be enough to send Blackie into a murderous rage. Running to the ineffectual police force is not an option—nor apparently is escaping to Boston or one of the nearby college towns, which don’t exist at all in the narrative. So, after wrapping up some business—which includes taking revenge on the thugs who’ve attacked his pregnant girlfriend, Doreen—Bobby heads for the hills in the custody of his uncle Thaddeus. No role model himself, Thaddeus teaches Bobby to have sex with ex-strippers, eat dogs and other random roadkill and finally, to murder those who get in the way. The body count piles up as Blackie gives pursuit, joined by an even scarier excon, Ed. The conclusion offers hope that Bobby will rise above |

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Bellamy’s novel, Low Pressure. The book fictionalizes the murder of Bellamy’s rich, spoiled and beautiful older sister, Susan, who was strangled with a pair of her own panties on a company picnic nearly two decades before. Bellamy wrote the book to exorcise demons that had been tormenting her since she attended the picnic as a child, hoping that it would stir forgotten details of the day her sister was killed. Instead, the book, which shoots to the top of the bestseller list and attracts the attention of a muckraking reporter, brings the real-life cast involved in the homicide and its investigation back together, and Bellamy, along with Dent Carter, her sister’s former boyfriend, are thrown together to find the answers. Along the way, they meet some pretty nasty characters, including the deranged brother of the man who was convicted of killing Susan, a cop whose investigation had more holes than a sieve and a soulless former prosecutor. The novel is fast moving and entertaining, although the occasional foray into soft porn may distract some readers, but there are a few flaws. Brown’s biggest sin is that she makes her bad guys evil all the way through, without any redemption, and that includes much of the Austin Police Department, which she paints as corrupt and inept at best. The unrelenting nastiness takes her characters a little too far over the top to be believable, but she ultimately redeems herself and the book because, unlike many writers of popular thrillers, Brown skillfully combines strong characterization with plots that keep the reader guessing all the way. A good old-fashioned thriller and a winner, even though the bad guys are sometimes just a little too bad for plausibility.

GOD A Story Of Revelation Chopra, Deepak HarperOne (288 pp.) $25.99 | Sep. 25, 2012 978-0-06-202068-0

Billed as a “teaching novel,” this book uses examples from the lives of mystics of diverse traditions to pose questions about the origins, significance and reach of consciousness. Chopra is the founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, Calif. He has written numerous books (Spiritual Solutions, 2012, etc.) and has had several titles on bestseller lists. Here, Chopra profiles 10 historical figures in an effort to better understand God: Job, Socrates, St. Paul, Shankara, Rumi, Julian of Norwich, Giordano Bruno, Anne Hutchinson, Baal Shem Tov and Rabindranath Tagore. Along the way, Chopra offers his reflections, which occasionally drift into homily. The central question Chopra raises in each “Revealing the Vision” section is: “[W]here did consciousness come from?” Not all of the figures profiled are well-known. Hutchinson, for example, was an early, radical Puritan; Bruno, a heretic, was burned at the stake in Rome in 1600. Of particular interest are the humorous, humble Baal Shem, the brilliant, witty Shankara and the visionary Julian, a man Chopra calls “the most touching figure in this book.” This book will appeal to the spiritually minded. 1838

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A FLOATING LIFE

Crawford, Tad Arcade (296 pp.) $19.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-61145-702-5

In Crawford’s world, boundaries, especially those between people, are semipermeable membranes with tenuous connections to reality. At times, Crawford seems to be channeling Kafka or Borges, a feeling reinforced when, at a party his unnamed narrator engages a vaguely familiar woman in conversation. She informs her interlocutor that she’s written a letter to her husband, outlining his deficiencies and the hopelessness of their marriage. The narrator finally figures out whom he’s talking to—his wife. Equally dreamlike sequences emerge from this one. The couple decides to live in separate bedrooms in their apartment, but when this turns out to be unfeasible, the narrator goes to look for a new place to live. The real estate agent he talks to firmly rejects some of the narrator’s choices and eventually tells him he’d be happy in a small efficiency, but the building is being constructed under this apartment, deep in the ground, so in a surreal way, the apartment is actually a penthouse. One of the most important connections the narrator makes is to The Floating World, a weird and elusive shop where one can buy model ships, something the narrator starts to develop an intense interest in. The shop is located in a brownstone with no identifying marks, and its proprietor is a Dutchman who goes by the nautical name of Pecheur. Over time, the narrator and the shopkeeper become quite close, the latter taking on the narrator as an assistant. In addition to the death of Pecheur, the narrator ultimately must also confront his erectile dysfunction as well as the dilemma of waking up in an infirmary where he breastfeeds an infant, rather unusual since the narrator is a man. Odd, offbeat and strangely shimmering.

THE TWELVE

Cronin, Justin Ballantine (640 pp.) $28.00 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-345-50498-2 Cronin continues the post-apocalyptic—or, better, post-viral—saga launched with 2010’s The Passage. The good citizens of Texas might like nothing better than to calve off into a republic and go to war with someone with their very own army and navy, but you wouldn’t want to wish the weird near-future world of Cronin’s latest on anyone, even if it means that Rick Perry is no longer governor. Readers of The Passage will recall that weird things have happened to humankind thanks to—sigh—a sort-of-zombie-inducing virus unleashed by, yes, sort-of-mad-scientists who were trying to |


“Harmless fun.” from the fifty year sword

create supersoldiers out of ordinary GIs. You may be forgiven for thinking of The Dirty Dozen at that point in the plot, but the “virals” in question are far badder than Telly Savalas and John Cassavetes. Enter Amy Harper Bellafonte, known Eastwood-esquely as The Girl from Nowhere, whose job it is to save humankind from its own dark devices. Amy’s chief butt-kicking sidekick is a virally compromised cutie named Alicia Donadio, “scout sniper of the Expeditionary,” who has a weirdly telepathic way of communicating with the baddies. The tale that ensues is pretty generic, in the sense that the zombie/virus/sword-andsorcery genres allow only so much variation from convention; if you’ve seen the old Showtime series Jeremiah, then you’ll have a good chunk of the plot down. Cronin serves up a largely predictable high-concept blend of The Alamo and The Andromeda Strain, but his yarn has many virtues: It’s very well-paced. It’s not very pleasant (“A strong smell of urine tanged in her nostrils, coating the membranes of her mouth and throat”), but it’s very well-written, far more so than most apocalypse novels, and that excuses any number of sins. And it’s always a pleasure to see strong women go storming around as the new sheriffs in town in a world gone bad, even if they’re sometimes compelled to drink blood to get their work done. A viral spaghetti Western; it’s not Sergio Leone—or, for that matter, Michael Crichton—but it’s a satisfying confection.

CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH

Dahl, Victoria Harlequin (384 pp.) $7.99 paperback | Aug. 28, 2012 978-0-373-77688-7

Hot, contemporary “opposites attract” romance hits the emotional high notes as two struggling people find themselves and each other. Grace Barrett is forced by circumstances to accept a short-term home in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where she intends to keep to herself; not hard for the unemployed, purple-haired, prickly makeup artist who’s been exiled from Hollywood and is biding her time in the small town until a new job starts in Vancouver. Or so she thinks. Faced with her red-hot neighbor, Cole Rawlins, a born-and-bred Wyoming cowboy, Grace enters into a scorching-hot affair, determined to keep her emotions strictly off-limits. Cole is anything but the Wild West equivalent of a dumb jock, and he knows he’s playing with fire with his new city-girl neighbor. He’s spent time in Tinsel Town and experienced firsthand its shiny facade and its uglier underbelly. At first wary of Grace’s hard-edged persona, he’s still attracted to her in spite of himself, and he falls into her bed to distract himself as he heals from a potentially life-altering injury. Both Grace and Cole tell themselves—and each other— that it’s all about the sex, but it doesn’t take Cole long to figure out Grace’s diamond-hard exterior is simply a protective shell for a fragile emotional history, and he finds himself intrigued by and protective of the sensitive woman behind the hard-core image. When Grace takes a job with an area photographer that turns |

into an opportunity as a location scout, it opens her future in unexpected ways but sets up a collision of two worlds and confrontations from the past and the present for Grace and Cole. Rising romance star Dahl delivers with this sizzling contemporary romance. (Warning: Steamy situations and straightforward sexual descriptions are well-done and integral to the plot, but some scenes are pretty graphic for a mainstream romance.)

THE FIFTY YEAR SWORD

Danielewski, Mark Z. Pantheon (144 pp.) $26.00 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-307-90772-1

A sometimes arid, sometimes entertaining ghost story for grown-ups by pomo laureate Danielewski (House of Leaves, 2000, etc.). Chintana is in a bad mood. A talented seamstress, she’s just been divorced, “forced/to acknowledge,/ yet again,/to yet/another insitrusive customer,/her husband Pravat’s surprising/departure.” The odd portmanteau “insitrusive,” apparently a blend of “insistent” and “intrusive,” is emblematic; Danielewski likes nothing better than to make up words, with some coinages better than others. (The world flat-out does not need the verb “reconsiderate.”) The odd hiccup-y breaks and caesuras also attest to Danielewski’s method, which is to break what ought to be prose down into a sort-of-poetry—not terribly good poetry, that, and oddly punctuated, but still inhibiting a reader tempted to skim and speed. Chintana is stuck in East Texas, that grim place of horrors, her time spent in a house that has had more than one spectral guest in the past. Here, as with House of Leaves, Danielewski distinguishes speakers with quotation marks of different colors; even there, the jumble of words, matched by fugitive images, lends itself to a certain confusion, the printed effect of listening too closely to the dialogue of Robert Altman’s Popeye. The story, as it is, has its charms, including the implement of the title, a very dangerous weapon that is powerless to produce a visible wound until its recipient turns 50: “Just as/quickly too he slid behind/me and I/felt a sting between/my shoulder blades/and then a fire and a cold and a sudden/something/seep of hurt.” The spectral events and unspectral revelations that follow are sure not to improve Chintana’s mood. After all, she’s already feeling “desacreated.” Like House of Leaves, likely destined to become a cult favorite. Harmless fun for those who aren’t fans already.

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JUSTICE AT CARDWELL RANCH

Daniels, B.J. Harlequin (224 pp.) $5.25 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-373-69644-4

Estranged eldest son returns to his Montana hometown to make amends to his family and solve the mystery of his best friend’s death 20 years ago. The sequel to Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch (2011) finds Jordan Cardwell headed back to Big Sky, Mont., for his high school reunion at the request of Alex Winslow, a classmate who discovers evidence that their close friend, Tanner Cole, was murdered their senior year—rather than having committed suicide, as was ruled at the time. When Jordan tries to meet his old friend after-hours at a park, Alex is shot dead, raising Jordan’s suspicions higher and setting him on a walk down memory lane he could well do without, as well as an investigative path through blackmail, betrayal and murder alongside the beautiful and intriguing Deputy Marshall of Big Sky, Liza Turner. Along the way, he must navigate prickly situations with the family he hasn’t seen in six years, including his brother-in-law, Marshall Hud Savage, who’s not happy about Jordan’s return, much less his growing attachment to Liza, particularly since, as far as Hud is concerned, Jordan is the prime suspect. Unfortunately, despite a compelling premise and a solid framework for enthralling intrigue and a captivating romance, Daniels rarely captures the audience on either front. While there are moments of interest, the book is bogged down too often by clunky plotting, uneven characterization and hit-andmiss dialogue, not to mention a sprawling cast of characters and a dizzying amount of red herrings that make it seem as if the author herself isn’t quite sure what’s happening until the end of the book, when all the mean people get their just deserts and the hero and heroine their happily-ever-after. Die-hard Harlequin Intrigue and Daniels fans may like this book, but readers used to more even-keeled storytelling and heart-stopping turn-the-page mystery/suspense will likely be disappointed.

BLOCK 11

degli Antoni, Piero St. Martin’s (240 pp.) $24.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-250-00102-3 When three prisoners escape from Auschwitz, 10 others are selected for execution. Sturmbannführer Karl Breitner makes a magnanimous gesture. Instead of ordering that the 10 inmates be immediately executed in reprisal for the successful escape, he has them marched to the secluded wash house, barricaded in, and given 1840

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24 hours to decide which one of them shall be shot. Then he returns to his rooms to play chess with his young son, Felix, while the prisoners debate who shall die. Their first choice succumbs to disease before his name can be given to the Kommandant. Their second choice, desperate to save himself from their vote, crashes through the wash-house window and is shot as he is trying to escape, rendering himself ineligible as the group’s choice. They’re replaced by an SS officer condemned for insubordination and the wife of one of the captives, who not only never forgave her husband for thwarting efforts to save their daughter, but also turned to the arms of a colleague who’s also incarcerated. Meanwhile, Breitner’s chess game goes on. To amuse his son, he gives each of the pieces on the game board the name of one of the prisoners. Then he shortens the time the prisoners have to reach a decision. The prisoners continue to argue on their own behalf, until Moishe Sirovich, inmate 76.723, realizes that they must act together to have any chance of survival. The diversion they plan saves some, buries others, relieves the Sturmbannführer of his post, and sends Felix to security in Argentina. Not by any means as emotionally draining as Sophie’s Choice, but highly effective on its own terms.

THE MALICE OF FORTUNE

Ennis, Michael Doubleday (400 pp.) $26.95 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-0-385-53631-8 In this epic novel, Ennis gives ample evidence that political and religious corruption in early-16th-century Italy makes anything vaguely analogous look like Sunnybrook Farm. At the center of this swirling unscrupulousness are several key historical figures, most notably the ruthless Duke Valentino of Romagna; his equally merciless father, Pope Alexander VI; a brilliant military engineer and draftsman named Leonardo da Vinci; and Niccolo Machiavelli, who bases his political theory of power on the machinations of the aforementioned duke. The first narrator in this labyrinthine tale is Damiata, whose son is kidnapped by his grandfather, the pope, in a raw display of power and privilege. (Perhaps it’s not necessary to mention that these are all Borgias, so in Renaissance Italy, raw displays of power are as common as segreto sauce.) Damiata is one of the “cortigiane oneste” or “honest courtesans”—or even more colloquially, a whore with the proverbial heart of gold. If political intrigue is not enough, there have also recently been some serial killings in which the victims were dismembered and decapitated. Enter Leonardo, who plots the found body parts on a map of Imola, the city in which the gruesome murders occurred, and discovers that the points correspond to those consistent with an Archimedean spiral. The narrative switches over to Machiavelli, who reminisces about the events of 1502 in which Italy is in turmoil, owing at least in part to the assassination of Pope Alexander’s |


beloved son, Juan, brother to the duke and lover of Damiata. Enlisting the help of Machiavelli in solving this murder mystery, she and Machiavelli become both lovers and fellow detectives. This is a dense narrative, permeated by the sights, sounds and smells of Renaissance Italy, and one that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, with which it is sure to be compared.

THE ROUND HOUSE

Erdrich, Louise Harper/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $25.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-06-206524-7 Erdrich returns to the North Dakota Ojibwe community she introduced in The Plague of Doves (2008)—akin but at a remove from the community she created in the continuum of books from Love Medicine to The Red Convertible—in this story about the aftermath of a rape. Over a decade has passed. Geraldine and Judge Bazil Coutts, who figured prominently in the earlier book, are spending a peaceful Sunday afternoon at home. While Bazil naps, Geraldine, who manages tribal enrollment, gets a phone call. A little later she tells her 13-year-old son, Joe, she needs to pick up a file in her office and drives away. When she returns hours later, the family’s idyllic life and Joe’s childhood innocence are shattered. She has been attacked and raped before escaping from a man who clearly intended to kill her. She is deeply traumatized and unwilling to identify the assailant, but Bazil and Joe go through Bazil’s case files, looking for suspects, men with a grudge against Bazil, who adjudicates cases under Native American jurisdiction, most of them trivial. Joe watches his parents in crisis and resolves to avenge the crime against his mother. But it is summer, so he also hangs out with his friends, especially charismatic, emotionally precocious Cappy. The novel, told through the eyes of a grown Joe looking back at himself as a boy, combines a coming-of-age story (think Stand By Me) with a crime and vengeance story while exploring Erdrich’s trademark themes: the struggle of Native Americans to maintain their identity; the legacy of the troubled, unequal relationship between Native Americans and European Americans, a relationship full of hatred but also mutual dependence; the role of the Catholic Church within a Native American community that has not entirely given up its own beliefs or spirituality. Favorite Erdrich characters like Nanapush and Father Damien make cameo appearances. This second novel in a planned trilogy lacks the breadth and richness of Erdrich at her best, but middling Erdrich is still pretty great. (Author tour to Boston, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.)

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WINTER OF THE WORLD

Follett, Ken Dutton (960 pp.) $36.00 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-525-95292-3 Series: The Century Trilogy, 2

Follett continues the trilogy begun with Fall of Giants (2010) with a novel that ranges across continents and family trees. It makes sense that Follett would open with an impending clash, since, after all, it’s Germany in 1933, when people are screaming about why the economy is so bad and why there are so many foreigners on the nation’s streets. The clash in question, though, is a squabble between journalist Maud von Ulrich, née Lady Maud Fitzherbert—no thinking of Brigitte Jones here—and hubby Walter, a parliamentarian headed for stormy times. Follett’s big project, it seems, is to reduce the bloody 20th century to a family saga worthy of a James Michener, and, if the writing is

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“Smart, comic, unsettling.” from schroder

less fluent than that master’s, he succeeds. Scrupulous in giving characters major and minor plenty of room to roam on the stage, Follett extends the genealogy of the families introduced in the first volume, taking into account the twists and turns of history: If Grigori Peshkov was a hero of the Bolshevik Revolution, his son Volodya is a dutiful soldier of the Stalin regime— dutiful, but not slavishly loyal. Indeed, most of the progeny here spend at least some of the time correcting the mistakes of their parents’ generation: Carla von Ulrich becomes a homegrown freedom fighter in Germany, which will have cliffhanger-ish implications at the very end of this installment, while Lloyd Williams, son of a parliamentarian across the Channel, struggles against both fascism and communism on the front in the Spanish Civil War. (Lloyd’s a perspicacious chap; after all, even George Orwell needed time and distance from the war to gain that perspective.) Aside from too-frequent, intrusive moments of fourth-wall-breaking didacticism—“Supplying weaponry was the main role played by the British in the French resistance”— Follett’s storytelling is unobtrusive and workmanlike, and he spins a reasonable and readable yarn that embraces dozens of characters and plenty of Big Picture history, with real historical figures bowing in now and then. Will one of them be Checkers, Richard Nixon’s dog, in volume 3? Stay tuned. An entertaining historical soap opera.

LOOKING FOR PRZYBYLSKI

Frederick, K.C. Permanent Press (232 pp.) $28.00 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-57962-273-2

Ziggy Czarnecki, a former numbers runner from Detroit, is on a quest to find Przybylski, a former adversary who he believes may have ratted him out years before. Ziggy’s life is not a happy one, for he’s done time for his crimes and is nostalgic for the “old” Detroit, the one where, during World War II, people worked round-the-clock turning out tanks for a cause everyone believed in. After the war, they were flush with money and willing to leverage it through playing the numbers, and Ziggy was more than happy to help. But now, in the 1970s, Ziggy wants some definitive answers, and he feels Przybylski, a former undertaker, is the one who can provide them. Unfortunately, all Ziggy knows is that Przybylski has fled the city and is living somewhere in southern California, so he undertakes a cross-country trip to catch up with his old nemesis. All he wants is to confront Przybylski and ask him one simple question: “Did you turn me in?” On his cross-country odyssey, Ziggy meets a microcosm of American goofballs, including Lennie, heading to LA to become a standup comedian and using Ziggy as a captive audience for some of his bad jokes, and Sharlene, who packs her own pool cue and is given to double-entendres. Ziggy finally makes it to LA, where at first he stays with Ted, a former priest from his parish in Detroit who’s now having troubles with his girlfriend. Reluctantly, Ziggy also spends some 1842

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time with his son, Charlie, a dentist, and discovers his daughterin-law, Gloria, is having an affair. After all of this rambling about, Ziggy finally locates Przybylski in a nursing home, and though unable to have a conversation because of a stroke, he nevertheless, through a “silent” dialogue, is able to give Ziggy some of the answers he’s seeking. Frederick’s woebegone outsiders are reminiscent of Elmore Leonard’s tough-tender guys and dolls—not a bad literary role model.

SCHRODER

Gaige, Amity Twelve $21.99 | $9.99 e-book | Feb. 1, 2013 978-1-455-51213-3 978-1-455-51214-0 e-book A man’s collapsed marriage and growing madness imperils his young daughter in this bracing third novel by Gaige (The Folded World, 2007, etc.). Narrator Eric Kennedy makes clear early on that he’s done something very wrong: At the behest of his lawyers, he’s writing his ex-wife to explain why he disappeared with their six-year-old daughter, Meadow, for a week. Like many unreliable narrators before him, he’s bathing in narcissism and has a hard time facing facts, but Gaige makes the discovery process at once harrowing and fascinating. Eric escaped from East Germany with his father as a child and changed his name (from Erik Schroder, hence the title). As an adult, he was a caring husband and father, but his erratic behavior (like keeping a dead fox in the backyard as a kind of science project for Meadow) sunk the marriage, and his limited visitation rights prompted him to effectively kidnap Meadow and take her on an extended tour of upstate New York and New England. Abductors are hard to make sympathetic, but Gaige potently renders the embittered fun-house logic of a man who’s lost his bearings. (“There was nothing in our parental agreement that said I couldn’t drive around the outskirts of Albany at high speeds.”) Gaige is interested in what widens and closes the gaps in our personalities between the past and present, madness and sanity, and she expertly works the theme like an accordion player until the climax, when Meadow is truly endangered, and Eric has a moment of clarity. The concluding plot turns are bluntly deus ex machina, and some characters, such as the aging muse for an ’80s pop hit, hit the split personality theme in an obvious way, but overall the storytelling is remarkably poised. Smart, comic, unsettling, yet strangely of a piece—not unlike its disarming lead character.

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LOVE ANTHONY

Genova, Lisa Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $26.00 | Sep. 25, 2012 978-1-4391-6468-6 A story about unconditional love, loss and renewal by bestselling author Genova (Left Neglected, 2011, etc.). Nantucket residents Beth Ellis and Olivia Donatelli have both experienced life-shattering events that have left them raw and wounded and questioning everything that they ever believed to be true. Beth was married to Jimmy for 14 years, and they shared a seemingly normal life with their three daughters, until Jimmy had an affair and moved out. Olivia’s son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at a young age, and she and her husband, David, were just coming to terms with his condition when Anthony suddenly died at age 8. Like many couples, instead of drawing together to face grief, Olivia and David pushed each other away and eventually divorced. As Olivia turns to photography to earn a living and spends her time trying to understand the meaning of Anthony’s short time on earth, Beth picks up a pen and reconnects with a passion she’s long forgotten: writing. Ensconced in a comfortable area of the library, Beth writes a story inspired by a long-ago memory of a child placing stones end to end on the beach. It’s the story of a young autistic boy with humor and intelligence and exuberance for life, who through her, can voice his thoughts and feelings and allow others to see into his world. And as she shares these words with Olivia, they provide the strength and understanding and purpose that both women need to come to terms with the past and move on with their lives. There’s a point in the narrative where one of the characters becomes so engrossed in reading a book that she loses track of time. Readers of Genova’s latest excellent offering might very well find the same happening to them.

LAST TO DIE

Gerritsen, Tess Ballantine (368 pp.) $27.00 | Aug. 28, 2012 978-0-345-51563-6 Three children survive wholesale homicide, and Rizzoli and Isles (Silent Girl, 2011, etc.) have to find out how. The Wards, the Yablonskis and the Clocks—what did they have in common, aside from being virtually wiped out in the same year? Not much, insists Detective Darren Crowe. Moreover, he’s quick to point out, only one of those decimated families merits attention from the Boston PD since the last time he looked, neither New York nor New Hampshire was in its jurisdiction. A fair point, Detective Jane Rizzoli has to acknowledge, much as she dislikes her cocky, ever overconfident |

colleague. And yet, maybe it’s just the fact that in all three cases a lone child is the escapee that niggles so persistently at the mother gene in Jane: two boys and a girl who—she can’t shake the feeling—might once again become targets in whatever unfathomable game seems to be afoot. Meanwhile, medical examiner Maura Isles is on her long-planned visit to Julian Perkins, the brave and resourceful teenager she’d bonded with recently under extreme, near-fatal circumstances, and to whom her attachment has been ongoing. Here, too, the mother gene is in play. The reunion site is a special school named Evensong, designed to serve as a harborage for children traumatized by violence. Tucked away in a remote corner of Maine, surrounded by woods, it’s further protected by a sophisticated security system. Not surprising, really, that Claire Ward, Will Yablonski and Teddy Clock should wind up under its beneficent wing. Nor is it surprising that someone clever, someone with malign intent, should also figure out Evensong’s attraction. Suddenly, even with Rizzoli and Isles on hand, that which made Evensong a haven is reversed into a potential trap. Purplish prose and a wildly baroque ending won’t deter a devoted fan base. (Agent: Margaret Ruley)

THE SECRET BOOK OF FRIDA KAHLO

Haghenbeck, F.G. Atria (368 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Sep. 25, 2012 978-1-4516-3283-5 Magical realism and recipes combine in this fictional biography of the iconic Mexican painter. Actual notebooks discovered after Kahlo’s death have never been published. Mexican novelist Haghenbeck (Bitter Drink, 2012) bases his version of her life on an imagined notebook called The Sacred Herbs Book in which Kahlo ties her favorite recipes to key moments and relationships in her life—the recipes are included in the text, then revised for an appendix directed overtly to book clubs. The novel follows the factual chronology of Kahlo’s life: her childhood polio, the bus accident in which she was severely injured and from which she never fully recovered, her tumultuous two marriages to Diego Rivera, her failure to have children, her many operations, her development as a painter, her early death when she was 47. Kahlo’s paintings are filled with her communistic politics and Mexican nationalism while offering a searing self-portrait of her sensuality and the physical pain she persistently endured while satisfying her huge appetite for life. The brightly colored surreal vision of Kahlo’s art informs both the childlike tone of the prose and the mysticism with which Haghenbeck adoringly surrounds his subject. The Day of the Dead is the novel’s central motif and the inevitability of death its theme. Kahlo, an atheist but highly spiritual, is warned by a “messenger” riding a white horse whenever someone is about to die. She knows her own life will last until her pet rooster dies, because she has made a deal with the ghostly “godmother” who kirkus.com

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h m o l ly r i n gwa l d When it Happens to You

Molly Ringwald HarperCollins It Books (256 pp.) $24.99 Aug. 14, 2012 978-0-06-180946-0

Molly Ringwald, the teen darling of ’80s films such as Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, and who can be seen these days on ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, returns with an engaging collection of eight interconnected short stories in her fiction debut, When It Happens to You. The muse to late director John Hughes, whose films continue to delight and inspire new generations of teens, plumbs the depths of the human condition and turns out an intelligent, nuanced portrait of betrayal. In literary prose, Ringwald skillfully captures the voices of a varied group of Los Angelenos, all of whom are searching for love and happiness with mixed results. The richness of the detail as well as Ringwald’s keen eye for observation will remind readers why America’s been under her spell now for close to three decades. Q: Tell us a bit about your fiction debut, When It Happens to You. A: It’s a novel in stories. It was originally conceived as a collection of stories along the theme of betrayal, but as soon as I started writing, I realized I wanted it to be more connected. One of the major themes is that we’re all connected through betrayal, and how we get through coping with that. And it’s not just about obvious betrayal. It starts out with a marital betrayal, but the story is really bigger than that. We, as humans, are betraying ourselves and each other all the time. We’re all doing it....That’s what makes us human. Q: This is your first book of fiction. You’ve previously authored a memoir, Getting the Pretty Back. How did the two experiences compare? A: My first book was anecdotal, intended to be light and beautiful, almost like an object. In a lot of ways, it connected to my persona as an actress. This book is connected to something deeper. I don’t want to say that my first book was superficial, because it wasn’t. But this is just a different side of me. Q: What’s your writing process like? Have you always written?

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Q: How’d you settle on short stories? A: I’ve always been drawn to them, especially after discovering Raymond Carver as a teenager, one of the masters of short fiction. There was just something I liked about [the format], the immediacy of it. [When writing short fiction, authors have to] create these vivid characters quicker and say more with less. It really appealed to me. But I love novels, too, and my next book will probably be a novel. I also loved reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories as a teenager, and then later on Lorrie Moore. Q: Do you think your career as an actress informs your writing? In what ways? A: I think that they’re connected, in that I tend to approach writing through character. I don’t know if that’s just because I’m an actress, maybe there are other writers who do that as well. But that’s definitely my focus, and my challenge, too. Because I’m so focused on character, I have to keep an eye on my environment; I can’t be too myopic. That’s where my interest lies, why people do the things they do. [As an actress,] my interest is in flawed characters. They’ve always been the most interesting to play. —By Karen Calabria

9 For the full interview, please visit kirkus.com.

p h oto by f e rg us gr ee r

A: I’ve always been writing, ever since I was a little kid, during my teen years and early 20s. I’ve been writing fiction, mostly short stories, all along. But I never felt that I’d written anything I wanted to publish. I felt like I was still working on it, that I hadn’t quite gotten there yet. It’s been a lifelong process. Writing this book, I’d write 500 words or two hours a day, whichever came first. It was really sitting down and making a serious habit of it. I was writing when I could find time, because I’m a mother and a working actress. I’d find myself compromised for

time, so I’d write in between takes [on set], at the park, wherever.


“Elegant, elegiac novel of life in postwar America.” from in sunlight and in shadow

will lead her into death—Kahlo will live when she should have died after the bus accident, but she will sacrifice with great suffering. Her ruminations on the meaning of life and death with various famous lovers, from Georgia O’Keeffe to Leon Trotsky, are full of gravitas but tend to run together after awhile, not unlike the recipes themselves. Despite the repetitiousness and pretentious hyperbola that drags on this novel, Kahlo remains a rich character and inevitably irresistible.

IN SUNLIGHT AND IN SHADOW

Helprin, Mark Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (720 pp.) $28.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-547-81923-5 Elegant, elegiac novel of life in postwar America, at once realistic and aspirational, by the ever-accomplished Helprin (A Soldier of the Great War, 1991, etc.). Harry Copeland is a sturdy-looking man, so much so that a wise aunt likens him to a young Clark Gable, to which he replies, “For Chrissakes, Elaine, when he was young, without the mustache, Clark Gable looked like a mouse.” There’s nothing mousy about Harry, though he does share Gable’s burden of tragedy. But that is far from his mind when he lays eyes on Catherine Thomas Hale on a New York ferry and is stopped in his tracks. He pursues her, and in time he wins her over, only to find that Catherine harbors many secrets—and that her family harbors more than a few hidden prejudices and is not at all happy when Harry comes a-courting in the place of Catherine’s longtime beau. The lovers’ story is appropriately tangled and star-crossed, for if Catherine has a wagonload of baggage, Harry, a former paratrooper, hasn’t quite forgotten the horrors of the war in Europe. The story crosses continents and is suffused with the California dream, but Helprin is really most at home in New York, which he describes with the affection and beauty that Woody Allen invested in his film Manhattan. There are other celebrations—of love, of books and learning—and other regrets, as when Harry finds himself “plundered by alcohol” and on the verge of doing things he will rue. Helprin charges the story with beautiful passages: “More like gentle lamps than stars, their blinking was not cold and quick like the disinterested stars of winter, but slow and seductive, as if they were speaking in a code that all mankind understood perfectly well even if it did not know that such a language existed.” A fine adult love story—not in the prurient sense, but in the sense of lovers elevated from smittenness to all the grown-up problems that a relationship can bring.

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SALVATION OF A SAINT

Higashino, Keigo Translated by Smith, Alexander O. Minotaur (336 pp.) $24.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-312-60068-6

A Tokyo CEO’s determination to run his marriage as a business is ended by a dose of arsenous acid. Information technology company president Yoshitaka Mashiba knows what he wants, and what he wants is a child. If his wife Ayane, a noted patchwork quilter, can’t give him one after a year of marriage, he’s prepared to divorce her and move on to some likelier candidate. But his plans are thwarted when someone poisons his coffee during a weekend when Ayane is conveniently away in Sapporo. Is the killer Hiromi Wakayama, the apprentice quilter whom Yoshitaka had taken as his mistress? She seems the last person in the world who’d poison her lover, but she was clearly the only person present

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when he died. Detective Kusanagi, of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, searches in vain for other suspects, but the real question this claustrophobic mystery poses isn’t whodunit but how it happened— how and when the poison got into Yoshitaka’s coffee cup without leaving traces anywhere else, not even in Hiromi’s cup. For better or worse, Kusanagi (The Devotion of Suspect X, 2011) finds that every time he and his junior colleagues eliminate each possible way some absent party could have doctored Yoshitaka’s coffee, consulting physicist Manabu Yukawa, aka Detective Galileo, comes up with some alternative scenario that’s even more preposterous. A retro puzzler that recalls Anthony Berkeley’s classic The Poisoned Chocolates Case in its structure: a hyperextended short story whose complications keep unfolding and proliferating till it’s grown to novel length.

MAY WE BE FORGIVEN

Homes, A.M. Viking (496 pp.) $26.95 | Sep. 27, 2012 978-0-670-02548-0

After a grim foray into memoir, Homes (The Mistress’s Daughter, 2007, etc.) returns to fiction with the tale of a beleaguered history professor. A relentless series of shocks rattles hapless narrator Harry Silver. First, his brutal younger brother, odious TV executive George, kills two people in a car crash and is committed to the local hospital’s psych ward. Three nights later, George returns to find Harry in bed with George’s wife, Jane, and smashes her over the head with a lamp. George is whisked off to a mental institution, brain-damaged Jane dies in the hospital, and Harry winds up as reluctant guardian of 12-year-old Nate and 11-year-old Ashley. His wife launches divorce proceedings, he loses his job, and he has a stroke. Even Richard Nixon, longtime subject of Harold’s research, didn’t have many months worse than this. Living in his brother’s Westchester mansion and having sex with women he meets via the Internet, Harry succumbs to despair. He’s adrift in a world “so new, so random and disassociated that it puts us all in danger. We talk online, we ‘friend’ each other….We mistake almost anything for a relationship.” Yet, Harry does build an oddball community with his niece and nephew, the son of the couple George killed, the elderly parents of one of his sex partners, the owners of his favorite Westchester Chinese restaurant and the family that runs a deli across the street from the Manhattan law firm where he’s reading Nixon’s previously unknown fiction—made available to Harry by Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the cousin-in-law of another sex partner. They all come together (except Julie) in the novel’s closing pages, which contrast their peaceful, happy Thanksgiving with the tense holiday a year earlier that foreshadowed Harry’s woes. The formula of shock treatment followed by sentimental affirmation was fresher in Homes’ Music for Torching (1999) and This Book Will Save Your Life (2006), and it’s hard to take seriously social commentary grounded in such bizarre particulars. 1846

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KIND ONE

Hunt, Laird Coffee House (156 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-56689-311-4 The dark, silent, forbidding Ohio River flows like a line of moral demarcation in Hunt’s (The Exquisite, 2006, etc.) latest literary foray. Hunt’s story arises from the rough edges of mid-19th-century civilization, before and after the great Civil War. It follows a young girl, Ginny, in a tragic odyssey from Indiana to Kentucky and home again. Full of pride and promises—“struck it rich as a king in trade and now was going to let the land care for him”—widower Linus Lancaster journeyed north to Indiana to marry a cousin he had long fancied. He assumed her widowed, with rumors of her husband dead in a far-off war. But the husband was only wounded, left with a wooden foot and a cane. The cousin had a daughter, Ginny, and as young girls do, Ginny flirted, and Linus’ attentions turned her way. There is a marriage, and the couple treks into Kentucky, where the boastful talk and sweet promises end, not with a fine home, all columns, gables and a 50-foot porch, but instead, at a rough cabin with extra rooms tacked on, a place where Ginny, only 14, must care for Linus’ daughters, 10 and 12. Opening with a prologue in the form of an extraordinarily beautiful meditation on loss, Hunt’s writing deepens into allegory, symbolism and metaphor, all while spinning forth a dark tale of abuse, incest and corruption reminiscent of Faulkner, a circuitous tale in which pigs continually darken the narrative, right to the point where the brutal Linus is killed with a “pig sticker,” and Ginny becomes captive within a shadowy, ambiguous gothic-tinged maelstrom of revenge. Blood, race and slavery thread through the story, until Ginny returns across the river again to Indiana where she lives out her life as Scary Sue, working as a housekeeper for another widower, turning away more than once from love and reconciliation in pursuit of a redemption only she understands and desires. Profoundly imaginative, strikingly original, deeply moving.

GOLDBERG VARIATIONS

Isaacs, Susan Scribner (352 pp.) $26.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4516-0591-4

An aging entrepreneur invites her three grandchildren, whom she barely knows, for a weekend visit so she can choose which one will take over her company. None of the droll comedic touches Isaacs (As Husbands Go, 2010, etc.) is known for show up in her portrayal of Gloria Goldberg Garrison, who is founder and CEO of Glory, Inc., which sends trucks to smallish cities and towns to do mobile makeovers (a conceit |


that seems old hat given the rising tide of reality TV makeover shows). She started Glory years earlier after leaving her husband, Joe, in New York and moving to New Mexico with her sons, Travis, whom she adored, and Bradley, whom she barely tolerated. Both boys ended up back in New York. Travis has died, leaving behind a Puerto Rican Catholic widow and daughter. Despite Gloria’s continuing disdain, Bradley has become a successful businessman and happily married father of two. Gloria has had almost no contact with Bradley or her grandchildren, now all in their late 20s, for years. But at 79, having permanently alienated her heir apparent and former best friend by refusing to visit his dying partner, Gloria is looking for someone to whom she can pass on the reins. So she plans her weekend competition for the grandkids. But to Gloria’s consternation, all three decline her offer. Bradley’s daughter, Daisy, loves her career as a story editor, while his son, Matt, whose passion is sports, is in a committed relationship in Manhattan. Raquel is less satisfied with either her job as a Legal Aid lawyer or her love life. But initially, she turns down Gloria, too. Who wouldn’t? Gloria is not only unlikable, but unbearably boring. Her endless conversation is pretentious without one twinkle of wit. The grandkids are more likable, but equally dull. Few readers will follow them to the contrived, anticlimactic resolution. A painfully long yawn.

BLACKBERRY WINTER

Jio, Sarah Plume (320 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Sep. 25, 2012 978-0-452-29838-5 Jio’s third book combines flashbacks with a contemporary romance and mystery set against a freak late-spring snowstorm in Seattle. Newspaper reporter Claire Aldridge’s recovery from a personal setback has not gone well. She’s struggling at work, and her marriage to the love of her life, Ethan, is crumbling. As the couple appears to be heading for a breakup, Claire is given an assignment to write a feature story about a sudden snowstorm that blankets Seattle in May 2010. The story’s angle is to compare and contrast it to an identical storm that took place on the same day in 1933. While Claire works to find something interesting about the twin storms, she stumbles across the tale of a woman named Vera Ray, whose 3-year-old son, Daniel, disappeared during that 1933 storm. Vera, a decent and beautiful single mother, works at a ritzy hotel cleaning rooms, while trying to feed and clothe her little boy on pennies a day. Down to her last cent and unable to pay her rent, with no one to watch Daniel while she works, Vera leaves him alone in the apartment, but returns only to find him gone. The only clue to his disappearance is Daniel’s beloved teddy bear, found in the snow outside her apartment building. Kicked out of her apartment, she reports him missing to police, who dismiss the child as a runaway. The parallel stories of Claire, whose husband’s wealthy family owns the paper where they both work, and Vera, |

a down-on-her-luck beauty who stops at nothing while trying to find her child, are told in a compelling, but ultimately implausible method by former journalist Jio, who incorporates an overabundance of coincidence in this tale, all of which serve only to stretch the novel’s believability to the breaking point. Competently written, but the prose runs from saccharin to syrupy. Those willing to overlook a series of implausible coincidences and wade through spoonfuls of sugar to get to the fairy-tale ending will be rewarded. This novel will enchant Jio’s fans and make them clamor for her next offering.

THAT’S NOT A FEELING

Josefson, Dan Soho (368 pp.) $15.95 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-61695-188-7 Most of the goings-on at Roaring Orchards School in upstate New York are not academic but instead personal and chaotic. Josefson uses Benjamin, a new student at the school, as an intermittent narrator, though he also narrates events he couldn’t possibly have witnessed, so while we get his perspective on incidents at the school, we get a broader view as well. With two failed suicide attempts behind him, Benjamin has been placed in school by his parents, who drop him off and disappear—his first hint that life will start to be very different indeed. At Roaring Orchards he meets a plenitude of bent and broken students, most notably Tidbit, a buxom girl who’s attracted to most every drug. The most normative response that students have to the school is running away, and it seems as if they’re always being chased down and brought back against their will. The founder and headmaster of the school is Aubrey, who one day had an epiphany that students engaging in questionable behavior should not be expelled, and he found an eager cadre of parents who bought into this philosophy, for he was able to expand the school impressively after he put this policy into effect. Because it’s a school for “troubled teens,” Aubrey has instituted a number of strategies, many of them involving therapy but most of them questionable—like having students relive birth trauma, for example, or placing them in “alternative” dorms to isolate them for untoward behavior. We eventually find out that Benjamin is narrating these events of his adolescence from an adult perspective, and his visit to Roaring Orchards after Aubrey’s death and the school’s demise is particularly poignant. Josefson writes vigorously and is well attuned to the upheavals experienced by adolescents.

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“Lush with romantic and ghostly threads.” from the shadowy horses

THE SHADOWY HORSES

Kearsley, Susanna Sourcebooks (448 pp.) $16.99 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4022-5870-1

Why is the ghost of a 2nd-century Roman sentinel guarding an archaeological site? And why is he following Verity Grey? First published in 1997, Kearsley’s book still pleases with its deft blending of romance and the Gothic. Archaeologist Verity Grey has made her professional mark and even landed a secure position at the British Museum. But when her charming ex-boyfriend Adrian calls, Verity is easily lured to Scotland with promises of archaeological adventure. From the moment she boards the train, Verity’s world becomes mysteriously ominous. The Gothic atmosphere begins to swirl with the moors, a dark house lit by a single candle, and shadowy horses thundering through the night, wakening our heroine. Once Verily arrives at Peter Quinnell’s home, she meets the rest of the crew. In his 70s, Quinnell is still handsome and brilliant yet discredited by his fellow archaeologists, who lament his mad search for the 2nd-century marching camp known as Legio IX Hispana. Charismatic as ever, Adrian has his eye on every pretty woman, including Peter’s granddaughter Fabia, the photographer who seems to know very little about archaeology. Verity’s own eye is drawn to the darkly handsome, mysterious David Fortune, an archaeologist from the local university. As the team hunts for the remains of the Roman camp, however, someone seems to be intent upon sabotaging the hunt. Indeed, the dig itself seems haunted by a Roman sentinel who speaks only to a young, possibly psychic boy named Robbie. The tension mounts as Verity and David’s romance intensifies and the sentinel demands more from Robbie, warning against dangers and urging caution. But what is the source of the danger? Despite a rather abrupt resolution to the central mystery, Kearsley’s tale is lush with romantic and ghostly threads.

YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE Kiesbye, Stefan Penguin (208 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Sep. 25, 2012 978-0-14-312146-6

Infidelity, bullying, savage beatings, sororicide, curses, murder and the devil himself all come into play in this quietly savage meditation on evil. In an age when “torture porn” still makes regular returns to the multiplex every Halloween, it’s worth being reminded that novelists, especially gifted ones, can make the trespasses we inflict on others just as ghastly as any chain-saw massacre. German-born novelist Kiesbye (Next Door Lived a Girl, 2005) gives it his all in a series of interconnected 1848

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stories that smack of shades of Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. With a title lightly copied from an old Tom Waits growler (“Your house is on fire, children are alone,” from the song “Jockey Full of Bourbon”), the novel opens on a presentday funeral in the frigid community of Hemmersmoor, a seemingly pastoral village in northern Germany. Christian, who fled the village for years, has returned with childhood friends Alex, Martin and Linde to bury their companion, Anke. But it’s soon obvious that all is not what it seems when Linde spits on her friend’s grave and murmurs, “I just hope she can see me from hell.” From this moment, the lives of these little monsters unfold, each chapter read by a different narrator. Christian unveils a horrible confession of a murder committed to gain admission to a carnival tent. Martin tells of a botched festival that ends in the communal murder of a foreigner and her children. Alex dares a classmate to try his luck in the frigid waters of a frozen pond. The narration, as with all the stories, is both clinically dispassionate and chilling. “We threw his shoes and his clothes after him that night, along with the fifty marks. We made a solemn pact to keep quiet forever,” Kiesbye writes. Not always clear, but nearly always startling. A devious intimation of homegrown terrors likely to keep readers awake long after closing time has come and gone.

THE BRIDGE

Kingsbury, Karen Howard Books/Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $19.99 | Oct. 23, 2012 978-1-4516-4701-3 Facebook, Twitter and assorted other modern gadgetry provide a central link in Kingsbury’s latest Christian romance, one in which a dash of old-world paternalism sparks the action. But first there is The Bridge, both place and circumstance. Charlie Barton owns The Bridge, an independent bookstore in Franklin, Tenn. The store and Charlie both work to bridge gaps between people and their dreams. As the story begins, Barton is attempting to cope with damage from the devastating 2010 floods that struck the Nashville area. The Bridge was destroyed. Barton had neither sufficient insurance nor sufficient resources to reopen. The second narrative thread follows the fractured romance between Molly Allen and Ryan Kelly, students of music at Belmont University. Molly was a rich man’s daughter from California, a girl reluctantly set free to test her wings in music, although her controlling father expected her to come home and run the family business and marry the son of a friend. Ryan was a country boy from Mississippi, but one talented enough to work his way eventually onto the country music circuit as a guitarist. Molly’s father learned of the budding romance, lied to Ryan about Molly’s feelings and compelled Ryan to drop out of her life, something Ryan felt obligated to do by personal honor. Now it is seven years down the road, neither Molly nor Ryan have married, and Charlie Barton lies in a coma after an auto accident. The Bridge is scheduled for repossession by the |


building’s owner. Ryan learns of the tragedy and rushes to help. Molly follows the effort through Twitter and soon feels compelled to fly to Franklin to support Charlie. Ryan and Molly meet again, both feeling jilted by that long-ago rejection. But with the characters addressing God personally, praying much, and receiving the right answers, a happy ending is ordained. A sentimental romance with a religious foundation, albeit with no confrontation of difficult metaphysical questions, this is sure to bring believers joy.

LIVE BY NIGHT

Lehane, Dennis Morrow/HarperCollins (416 pp.) $27.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-06-000487-3 The acclaimed mystery writer again tries his hand at historical fiction, combining period detail from the Prohibition era with the depth of character and twists of plot that have won him such a devoted readership. Though this novel serves as a sequel to The Given Day (2008), it can be read independently of Lehane’s previous historical novel and is closer in its page-turning narrative momentum to his more contemporary thrillers such as Mystic River (2001). Its protagonist is Joe Coughlin, the morally conflicted youngest son of a corrupt Boston police official (oldest brother Danny was protagonist of the previous novel and makes a cameo appearance here). One of the more compelling characters ever created by Lehane, Joe is a bright young man raised in an economically privileged Irish household who turned to crime as a teenager because “it was fun and he was good at it.” He’s the product of a loveless marriage, for whom “the hole at the center of his house had been a hole at the center of his parents and one day the hole had found the center of Joe.” Among the ways he tries to fill that hole is through love and loyalty, both of which put him at odds with the prevailing ethos of the gang bosses among whom he finds himself caught in the crossfire. He ultimately builds a bootlegging empire in Tampa, backed by a vicious gang lord whose rival had tried to kill Joe, and he falls in love with a Cuban woman whose penchant for social justice receives a boost from his illegal profits. (“Good deeds, since the dawn of time, had often followed bad money,” writes Lehane.) Neither as epic in scope nor as literarily ambitious as its predecessor, the novel builds to a powerful series of climaxes, following betrayal upon betrayal, which will satisfy Lehane’s fans and deserves to extend his readership as well. Power, lust and moral ambiguity combine for an allAmerican explosion of fictional fireworks. (Author appearances in Boston, New York and Tampa)

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FAMILIAR

Lennon, J. Robert Graywolf (208 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-55597-625-5 Lennon’s (Castle, 2009, etc.) latest literary effort chronicles Elisa Macalaster Brown’s life as it quantum-shifts into a parallel universe. At some random midtrip interval, with Elisa wending her way homeward from her annual pilgrimage to the grave of her son, Silas, dead in an auto accident at age 15, she morphs into a different version of the same person. No longer a spare, contained woman in cutoff jeans driving her familiar Honda Accord, Elisa becomes more voluptuous, more properly dressed, apparently in midtrip in a new car on her way home from a professional conference. And Silas isn’t dead, which she’ll soon learn. But there is this: All

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that has been a barrier to peace and contentment remains. She is still the mother who “has created a family of miserable loners who seem incapable of helping one another.” Silas’ death had forced Elisa to confront love in all its forms and contours, but now she faces a world where all seems nearly identical, except that Silas and his brother, Sam, are grown men estranged from their parents. The book unfolds slowly in first person, present tense, providing the deepening intimacy necessary to examine how Elisa comes to believe she has shifted to an alternate universe. And as the story develops in her new world within her new self, the new Elisa grows “increasingly frightened ... by the possibility that she might now be sent back against her will, in an instant, the same way she got here.” While Silas’ every action reveals him as near sociopathic, it is Derek, Elisa’s husband, who best serves as both foil and catalyst. Approaching the complex internal story without postmodern irony, Lennon has a gift for stretching the borders of character. A surrealistic tale about the enigma to be found in second chances.

A FOOL’S GOLD CHRISTMAS

Mallery, Susan Harlequin (384 pp.) $16.95 | Sep. 25, 2012 978-0-373-77702-0

Mallery’s Christmas romance brings two lonely hearts together in the enchanting, magical community of Fool’s Gold. When dancer Evie Stryker’s three brothers bring her to Fool’s Gold after a career-ending accident, she expects to stay a year at the most before escaping back into the real world. She certainly doesn’t expect to be seduced by the town, her new job as a dance teacher or her sexy neighbor—who also happens to be her eldest brother’s law partner. Dante Jefferson has a reputation as a player, so Evie knows that any relationship will be both short-lived and frowned upon by her family. Still, he’s sexy, sweet and fun, and Evie has her eyes wide open. She’ll be fine, just so long as she doesn’t fall in love. But neither Dante nor Evie is ready for the soul-searing attraction they share or the slow-building connection they feel to the town. Dante has sworn off love forever, but he’s moved by Evie’s obvious strength and resilience, as well as her emotional vulnerability when it comes to her family. Even so, the closer they get, the stronger the urge Dante has to push Evie away. When he realizes that their lighthearted entanglement has led to a fullfledged love affair, Dante bolts. But who can fight the pull of the woman he loves, the magical season he thought he hated or the pretty little town he just can’t get enough of? A sweet, heartwarming Christmas romance with engaging characters, a family-redemption arc and a winning seasonal charm that will delight most genre fans.

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THE OTHER HALF OF ME

McCarthy, Morgan Free Press (336 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Sep. 4, 2012 978-1-4516-6823-0

A beautiful, brooding novel of siblings growing up half-wild in a grand Welsh manor house. Jonathan and his younger sister, Theo, are inseparable, as often happens with lonely, neglected children. They live in the family’s ancestral home, Evendon, and it is a considerable ancestry: greatgrandpa was a renowned archaeological plunderer, glamorous grandmother Eve moved to the States and became a senator before founding a hotel empire. The children count as their caregivers the cook, cleaner and nanny, as their mother, Alicia, is too drunk to talk to them. They wouldn’t be the first wealthy children to be raised by staff, and they make do by living a kind of free, languorous life filled with Theo’s extravagant fantasies and the mysteries of the garden. When Alicia attempts suicide and is sent away, Eve comes home and brings stability to the children. Jonathan comes to idolize Eve, while Theo shrinks away, her odd behavior off-putting to the cultured matriarch. As Jonathan and Theo become teens (over the years Alicia sits near catatonic in the conservatory, Eve is in the office running her empire), they become more dissimilar—ethereal Theo seems to live in a fairy world, whereas Jonathan is doing everything he can to become impressive. Theo and Jonathan live a life typical to their class: a privileged education, debauched parties, easy access to everything bright and beautiful. Jonathan falls in love with Maria, but she stays away, wary of his increasingly callous ambition. While Jonathan begins an architectural firm, Theo founders, dropping out of one college course after another, failing at all of the Eve-arranged internships, becoming increasingly obsessed with their long-lost father. Jonathan assumes Theo is doing too many drugs, but soon the mysteries of Evendon—and the fate of many inconvenient people in Eve’s life—bring tragedy to this haunted family. Darkly lush, filled with an irresistibly sad glamour, this is a memorable debut.

SWEET TOOTH

McEwan, Ian Talese/Doubleday (304 pp.) $26.95 | Nov. 13, 2012 978-0-385-53682-0 A subtly and sweetly subversive novel which seems more characteristic of its author as it becomes increasingly multilayered and labyrinthine in its masterful manipulation of the relationship(s) between fiction and truth. Both the title and the tone make this initially seem to be an uncharacteristically light and playful novel from McEwan |


“Deeply honest, beautiful meditations on love, grief and guilt.” from magnificence

(Atonement, 2002, etc.). Its narrator is a woman recounting her early 20s, some four decades after the fact, when she was recruited by Britain’s MI5 intelligence service to surreptitiously fund a young novelist who has shown some promise. After the two fall in love, inevitably, she must negotiate her divided loyalties, between the agency she serves and the author who has no idea that his work is being funded as an anti-Communist tool in the “soft Cold War.” Beautiful (as she recognizes such a character in a novel must be) and Cambridge-educated, Serena Frome seems perfect for the assignment of soliciting writer Tom Haley because, as one of her superiors puts it, “you love literature, you love your country.” The “Sweet Tooth” operation makes no attempt to control what its authors write and doesn’t reveal to them exactly who is funding them, but provides financial support for writers who have shown some resistance to fashionable radicalism. Though Serena’s reading tends toward “naive realism,” favoring novels where she would be “looking for a version of myself, a heroine I could slip inside as one might a pair of favourite old shoes,” the relationship between Tom’s fiction and his character, as well as the parallels between the creative inventions his job demands and those of hers, illuminate the complexities of life and art for Serena and the reader as well. “In this work the line between what people imagine and what’s actually the case can get very blurred. In fact that line is a big grey space, big enough to get lost in.” The “work” being discussed is undercover intelligence, but it could just as easily be literature. Britain’s foremost living novelist has written a book—often as drily funny as it is thoughtful—that somehow both subverts and fulfills every expectation its protagonist has for fiction.

THE HEART BROKE IN

Meek, James Farrar, Straus and Giroux (416 pp.) $28.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-374-16871-1 Scientists may have some luck in explaining how our bodies function and malfunction, but who can tell the ways of the heart? Some 25 years ago, Capt. Greg Shepherd was captured and shot by Northern Irish guerrillas. His death has infected his children’s hearts like a parasite, leading them into the bleaker frontiers of love. Ritchie Shepherd, an aging rock star, has a good family: a wife, Karin, and two children. Yet Ritchie’s moral compass is contaminated, as his affair with a 15-year-old girl testifies. Ritchie’s sister, Bec, is a researcher in Tanzania, who finds her blood colonized by a new parasite, which may hold the key to a malaria vaccine, and which she names after her father. Her rather accidental fiance, Val, is a powerful yet emotionally unbalanced newspaper editor. Realizing that she does not love Val, Bec tries to right the moral ship by returning her engagement ring, but she unwittingly sets in motion a course of betrayal. Val offers Ritchie a devil’s bargain: He can keep his pedophiliac secret if he exposes something just as damaging about Bec. Struggling to find his |

way out of the moral swamp, Ritchie delves into the past. He begins a documentary on Colum Donobhan, the man who shot his father, a man who may be harboring more secrets about Capt. Shepherd’s death. Grieving that her vaccine for malaria is a failure, Bec returns to London and finds Alex, who has secretly loved her for years. A brilliant cancer researcher, Alex has his own troubles, including his Uncle Harry’s cancer diagnosis. He and Harry have made careers out of explaining how cancer cells behave, but neither of them can predict the consequences of following one’s heart. Richly drawn characters behaving in unexpected ways make Meek’s (We are Now Beginning our Descent, 2008, etc.) latest a gem.

MAGNIFICENCE

Millet, Lydia Norton (256 pp.) $25.95 | Nov. 5, 2012 978-0-393-08170-1

Millet’s conclusion of the trilogy that includes How the Dead Dream (2008) and Ghost Lights (2011) draws a detailed map of the healing process of an adulterous wife who suddenly finds herself a widow. Susan’s husband, Hal, goes to Belize in search of Susan’s employer, T., a real estate tycoon who has gone missing. (Spoiler alert: Readers of the earlier novels who don’t want to know what happens to T. or Hal, stop reading now.) Hal’s quest is successful: T. returns to Los Angeles. But he’s alone, because Hal has been fatally knifed in a mugging. Susan is both grief- and guilt-stricken. She genuinely loved Hal but has been seeking sex with other men ever since a car accident left their daughter, Casey, a paraplegic. She believes Hal went to Belize largely to recover after discovering her infidelity. Millet’s early chapters insightfully delve into Susan’s internal anguish as she tries to come to grips with the seismic change in her life caused by Hal’s death. Her intense maternal love for Casey, who refuses the role of noble victim, is as prickly and complicated as her mourning; her capacity for experiencing extremes of selflessness and selfishness within a heartbeat is refreshingly human and recognizable. Plot machinations get a little creaky, though once Susan sells her house and coincidentally inherits a mansion full of stuffed animals from a great-uncle she barely remembers. Bringing the mansion back to life and figuring out the secret of her uncle’s legacy take over Susan’s life. The deeply honest, beautiful meditations on love, grief and guilt give way to a curlicued comic-romantic mystery complete with a secret basement and assorted eccentrics.

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SUTTON

Moehringer, J.R. Hyperion (352 pp.) $27.99 | Sep. 25, 2012 978-1-4013-2314-1 A “non-fiction novel” that takes us far beyond Willie Sutton’s clever one-liners about banks and deeply into his life. Born in Irish Town in Brooklyn, Willie never quite fit into his own family. His father was a taciturn blacksmith at a time when automobiles were starting to become the rage, and Willie’s brothers had an unaccountable hatred for their younger sibling. Willie was smart and sensitive but came of age during some parlous economic times and considered banks and bankers the symptom of life as a rigged game. Moehringer also depicts Willie as a hopeless romantic who falls deeply in love with Bess Endner, daughter of a rich shipyard owner. After the brief exhilaration of a robbery at the shipyard, abetted by Bess, Willie and his cronies are caught and sentenced to probation, and thus begins a life on the outside of social respectability. By the 1930s, Willie is the most famous bank robber in the country, known in part for his gentility and the way in which he approaches his craft. He’s never loud or violent but instead devoted to artful disguises and making clean and quiet getaways (hence his nickname, the Actor). Not everything works smoothly, of course, for he’s incarcerated for many years, but he ironically becomes something of a folk hero for breaking out of several prisons. His final release, at Christmas in 1969, following a 17-year stretch in the slammer, has him retracing his past in the company of a reporter and photographer. Moehringer cleverly presents the antiphonal voices of Willie in the present (i.e., at the time of his release) and Willie in the past to give a rich accounting of his life, including his love for the works of Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Freud, Jung and Joyce. Whatever else you can say about Willie, in prison he got an excellent education. A captivating and absorbing read.

THE LIFE OF OBJECTS

Moore, Susanna Knopf (256 pp.) $25.00 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-307-26843-3

Moore (The Big Girls, 2007, etc.) focuses a narrow flashlight on World War II, specifically the daily struggles of an aristocratic couple that remains in Germany despite abhorring the Third Reich. In 1938 County Mayo, bookish 18-year-old Beatrice is desperate to escape her humdrum life. So she is thrilled when a visiting German countess, impressed by Beatrice’s lace work, offers to take her to Berlin as a lace maker for the fabulously wealthy Metzenburgs. Countess Inéz is unaware that the German government, angry with Felix Metzenburg for 1852

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refusing an ambassadorship, has requisitioned the Metzenburgs’ elegant home. Soon, they decamp to their rural estate with their fabulous collection of art and objects in tow, along with Beatrice and a couple of their most loyal retainers. For the next seven years, Beatrice bears witness as the Metzenburgs attempt a life of grace despite the war. At first, it is hard to tell whether Felix is a man of scruples or just “exquisite taste” and extremely good manners. But details accrue: his protection of the Jewish intellectual who teaches German to a smitten Beatrice, the odd mix of guests who pass through, the treasures he hides for friends and those he trades for food, the refugees he takes in. By the time conquering Soviets take Felix away for questioning, he has become a saintly figure in Beatrice’s eyes. Meanwhile, Felix’s devoted wife, Dorothea, whose Jewish heritage is an open secret, becomes a tough survivor, as does Beatrice herself. And then there’s Inéz, captivating but elusive. Actually Cuban (and Felix’s former lover), she divorces her German count for an Egyptian prince but continues to flitter in and out of Germany. Maddeningly selfish and superficial but surprisingly generous, she leaves Beatrice wondering, is she WWII-era Eurotrash or a skillful spy? Moore’s subject is rectitude. Even when the subject matter is graphically horrendous, the narration remains as reserved and understated as the Metzenburgs, who prefer not to reveal how deeply they feel, how willingly they sacrifice, how daringly they risk. (Author events in New York and Boston)

PHANTOM

Nesbø, Jo Knopf (384 pp.) $25.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-307-96047-4 The internationally popular detective series by the Norwegian author builds to a blockbuster climax. The Nesbø phenomenon has transcended “next Stieg Larrson” status. In practically every comparison except books sold (and, with millions to date, Nesbø’s catching up), he’s superior to his late Swedish counterpart: more imaginative, better plotting, richer characters, stronger narrative momentum, more psychological and philosophical depth. No, he doesn’t have an androgynously attractive tattooed girl, but he does have Harry Hole: long an Oslo detective who specialized in (increasingly gruesome) serial killers, now a recovering alcoholic involved in some shadowy pursuits in Hong Kong while trying to reclaim his soul. Only the most powerful lure could bring Harry back to the dangers and temptations he faces back home, and that lure is love. Readers of earlier books (and some back story is necessary to feel the full impact of this one) will remember his doomed relationship with Rakel and the way he briefly served as a surrogate father to her son, Oleg. That innocent boy has now become a junkie and an accused murderer in a seemingly open-and-shut case, with Harry the only hope of unraveling a conspiracy that extends from a “phantom” drug lord through the police force to the government. The drug is a synthetic opiate called “violin,” three times |


stronger than heroin, controlled by a monopoly consortium. The murder victim (whose dying voice provides narrative counterpoint) was Oleg’s best friend and stash buddy, and his stepsister is the love of Oleg’s life. As Harry belatedly realizes, “Our brains are always willing to let emotions make decisions. Always ready to find the consoling answers our hearts need.” As all sorts of fatherson implications manifest themselves, the conclusion to one of the most cleanly plotted novels in the series proves devastating for protagonist and reader alike. Hole will soon achieve an even higher stateside profile through the Martin Scorsese film of Nesbø’s novel The Snowman (2011), but those hooked by that novel or earlier ones should make their way here as quickly as they can. Where earlier novels provide a better introduction to Hole, this one best takes the full measure of the man.

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IT’S FINE BY ME

Petterson, Per Translated by Bartlett, Don Graywolf (208 pp.) $22.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-55597-626-2 Coming-of-age in 1960s Norway; the fifth novel from the Norwegian native, best known for Out Stealing Horses (2007). It’s his first day at a new school in Oslo. He’s late. He’s wearing sunglasses. He refuses the headmaster’s order to remove them. He won’t tell his fellow students where he’s from. The message is clear: Don’t bother me. This is Audun Sletten, the 13-year-old narrator, in 1965. Why the hard shell, the truculence? His father is an abusive alcoholic. When he fired a gun through the kitchen window, it was the last straw for his mother, who moved them out. We do return to 1965, but most of the action takes place in 1970. Audun is now a high school senior; he has an early-morning paper route and is always tired in school.

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“Goofy, funny and full of literary in-jokes.” from nick & jake

He is proud of his working-class identity. He is deeply influenced by American culture, loves Jimi Hendrix and Jack London, but is adamant the Americans leave Vietnam. Fiercely self-reliant, he stays clear of organizations after having been expelled from the Boy Scouts. We have met Audun before, in different settings; he’s the alienated young Westerner, and Petterson hasn’t done enough to individuate him. He’s always fighting; he drops out of school to work at a printing press, but gets into fights while still a trainee. One respite from the violence came in 1965, when Audun was sheltered by a farmer and his wife; in the novel’s best scenes, the boy luxuriates in the idyllic calm and the wife’s maternal attention. We could have used more such contrasts with the monotonous flurry of fists and at least the suggestion of a romantic life. As it is, it’s his undercharacterized mother who finds a new partner, in a crowded ending that includes the discovery of a dead body. Will Audun ever break free of his father’s legacy? Petterson leaves that key question hanging and the reader unsatisfied.

NICK & JAKE

Richards, Tad; Richards, Jonathan Arcade (256 pp.) $24.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-61145-723-0 Goofy, funny and full of literary in-jokes. The Nick and Jake of the title are Nick Carraway (from The Great Gatsby) and Jake Barnes (from The Sun Also Rises), who, in 1953, strike up a correspondence and then a friendship. At the beginning of this epistolary novel, Nick has recently left his successful advertising agency in Chicago and idealistically taken a position at the State Department, while Jake is a crusty writer for the Herald Tribune in Paris. After being manhandled at the McCarthy hearings, a disillusioned Nick takes off for Europe, his marriage on the rocks and his relationship with his son, Alden, in shambles. Earlier in his life, Nick had written a novel, Trimalchio in West Egg, about a shady character named James Gatz, to some critical acclaim, and Jake encourages Nick to work on a second book. (In the Richards’ alternative universe Fitzgerald and Hemingway never existed.) The cast of characters here is enormous, and the letters weave the narrative in complicated patterns. We have redbaiter Roy Cohn appear as the nephew of Robert Cohn from Hemingway’s novel. Jake has a running romantic as well as epistolary connection to the recently transgendered Christine Jorgensen, who persuades Jake to undertake the same operation in Denmark. Allen Dulles tries to control political chaos erupting in Iran with the election of Premier Mohammed Mossadegh. Also making an appearance—at least through the correspondence provided by the Richards’ febrile imagination— are George H. W. Bush, Albert Camus, Irving Kristol, spiritual seeker Larry Darrell (from The Razor’s Edge) and Lady Brett Ashley, who goes to India, learns tantric sex and becomes the lover of Nick Carraway’s son, Alden. Although occasionally almost too self-consciously witty, this is a rollicking good read. 1854

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THE GENEVA TRAP

Rimington, Stella Bloomsbury (336 pp.) $26.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-60819-872-6

Someone’s threatening the security of the U.S. drone program, and according to MI5’s best information, it seems to be a combination of—wait for it—the Russians, the North Koreans and the South Koreans. Before she ever applied to the Security Service, Liz Carlyle (Rip Tide, 2011, etc.) heard a lecture by political theorist Alexander Petrov that made a profound impression on her. Now, years after he joined Russian intelligence, he pops up in Geneva with an urgent message he’s only willing to deliver to “Lees Carlisle.” The message is that unauthorized outsiders have managed to breach the encryption codes of Operation Clarity, the U.S.-led program that governs the operation of drone aircraft. Already, unbeknownst to Liz or Petrov, computer jockeys in Nevada have watched in horror as one of their drones in the Mideast suddenly seemed to take on a mind of its own and ignore their commands. Naturally, Henry Pennington, Liz’s sniveling contact at the Clarity Secretariat, refuses to believe that anyone could have infiltrated the agency’s defenses. So Liz, seeking a clue to the real motives and identities of the conspirators, looks to Charlie Fielding, of the Ministry of Defense, and Andy Bokus, the CIA’s Station Chief in London, for help. As if Liz didn’t have enough on her plate already, Cathy Treglown, whose father has been keeping company with Liz’s mother, is being pressed by members of the French commune she just left to cough up a serious donation to their arms-purchasing fund—unless she wants one of their thugs to go after her little boy. Considering the magnitude of the threat and the echoes of From Russia with Love and Diamonds Are Forever (the film, not the book), everything gets wrapped up suspiciously neatly, even though, as Liz sagely remarks, “I wonder if we’ll ever know what this was really all about.”

ISLAND OF BONES

Robertson, Imogen Pamela Dorman/Viking (384 pp.) $26.95 | Oct. 15, 2012 978-0-670-02627-2 A historical fantasy set in England in the last quarter of the 18th century, this novel features the intrepid detective duo: pert widow Mrs. Harriet Westerman and severe Gabriel Crowther. This is Robertson’s third Westerman/Crowther novel, and the second after Anatomy of Murder (2012) to appear in the U.S. this year. Obeying the conventions of the many genres increasingly conditioned by film, each section of the book notes the date, each chapter follows multiple |


stories simultaneously. The action takes place in a single week in the Lake Country in and around the town of Keswick. In the prologue, we read of the suitably melodramatic circumstances in which Gabriel renounced his name and title. Fast-forward 22 years: Crowther receives a letter from his sister, “the Vizegräfin Margret von Bolsenheim, is staying in our former home with her son as guests of the current owner. And they have found a body.” So begins a journey for Crowther into his past, into the origin of his family wealth, and the fate of The Luck, “a jeweled cross” that disappeared in 1715. Westerman, her young son, Stephen, and his tutor, Mr. Quince, travel with Crowther to join his bitter sister and her spoiled son, Felix, to enjoy the Austenesque hospitality of Silverside Hall. After determining the cause of the desiccated corpse’s death, Crowther and Westerman turn their attention to the murder of a visiting Viennese gentleman. We learn that Hurst and his daughter, Sophia, have a claim on the feckless Felix, and suspicion falls on him—naturally. The local “cunning-man,” a sort of white witch named Casper Grace, features prominently. The hooks of the elaborate plot points are checked in color-coded ink: the bad meet bad ends, the good are rewarded, the arrogant are wounded and see with new eyes. A sure hit for the audience of this CSI subgenre, the rest of us need not visit this Island.

SAY YOU’RE SORRY

Robotham, Michael Mulholland Books/Little, Brown (432 pp.) $24.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-316-22124-5 Australia-based writer Robotham’s insightful psychologist Joe O’Loughlin once again tackles a tough case involving crimes that, at first blush, do not seem related. Two young girls from a small English village disappear one night after attending a local funfair. Gorgeous, promiscuous Tash and quiet, athletic Piper had little in common, but became fast friends. Tash was brilliant, but underachieving. Her lower-middle-class family was troubled, and she attended a prestigious private school on scholarship, while Piper’s mismatched former-model mother and wealthy banker father lived in the area’s toniest neighborhood. While their disappearance initially sparked teams of searchers and outrage from the local citizenry, it simmered down once the police become convinced the girls were runaways. Three years later, the girls are still missing. In the meantime, O’Loughlin and his teenage daughter are trying to rebuild their fractured relationship, damaged by his estrangement from his wife. While attending a conference, police seek out the savvy profiler and ask for his help in solving a terrible double murder. As investigators wade through the blood bath of a crime scene, they learn that the home is connected to the girls’ disappearances. In fact, while the couple killed was no relation to Tash, the home in which it occurred was where she’d lived before she vanished. While police puzzle through the homicide, another body is found, but |

this time it’s an unidentified young woman found frozen in the ice of a nearby pond. O’Loughlin wants no part of either case but is soon sucked into helping police while racing against the clock to prevent another tragedy. Robotham’s writing ranges from insightful to superb, and he has no qualms about burdening his hero, O’Loughlin, with not only a broken personal life, but also a broken body courtesy of a case of Parkinson’s, making him not only more human, but more likable. Subtle, smart, compelling and blessed with both an intelligent storyline and top-notch writing, this book will grab readers from page one and not let go until the final sentence.

LIFE AMONG GIANTS

Roorbach, Bill Algonquin $23.95 | Nov. 13, 2012 978-1-616-20076-3

With memories of people tangled “in a hopeless knot,” David “Lizard” Hochmeyer attempts to unravel the Gordian in Roorbach’s (Temple Stream, 2005, etc.) latest novel. The people include his assassinated parents; Emily, his African-American-Korean first love; and Sylphide, prima ballerina and widow. Sylphide’s husband was Dabney Stryker-Stewart, an internationally famous rock star knighted for his work with children trapped in war. Add Kate, Lizard’s talented tennis-playing sister; her lover and professor, Jack Cross, a famed pop-psychologist teaching at Yale; and Don Shula, legendary Miami Dolphins coach. Next come Etienne, chef extraordinaire, tattooed head to toe, and RuAngela, Etienne’s five o’clock—shadowed transvestite lover. That’s a mere sampling of the exotic, eye-catching cast, the best thing about this book. Lizard’s father, always skating the edge of respectability and propriety, is a foot soldier in a Wall Street Gecko-type financial shell game. Lizard’s mother, married beneath her station, drinks martinis and plays country-club tennis, her talent as a tournament ringer for the moneyed set assuring the family access to the right circles. The family resides next door to High Side, palatial home of Sylphide and Dabney, where teenage Kate was caretaker for Dabney’s son and became Dabney’s lover. Then Nick, Lizard’s father, turned state’s evidence and was shot dead, along with his wife, for his trouble. Great setup, sparkling characters, but one-third into the book readers will hunger for less setup and characterization and want the story to get moving. It does, in complex fashion. Kate goes bonkers after her parents’ murders. Emily and Sylphide jump in and out of Lizard’s bed and his charmed life—he’s a backup quarterback for the Dolphins, owner of two successful, trendy restaurants— before things take a turn. Roorbach knows food; readers will want recipes of the fare he describes. The rich-and-famous lifestyle is nicely rendered, too. A narrative threaded through with corruption and an appreciable number of love stories.

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MISTRESS OF MY FATE

Rubenhold, Hallie Grand Central Publishing (432 pp.) $25.99 | Jan. 8, 2013 978-1-4555-1180-8 First of a trilogy about virtue compromised and beauty commodified, set in late-18th-century England. As a child, Henrietta is brought into the London home of Lord and Lady Stavourley, to be raised along with their two sons and daughter, Catherine. Early on, Henrietta resigns herself to her position in the household—that of a poor cousin, who if she is lucky, will be Catherine’s companion after she is married. After Catherine’s coming-out, it is to lovely Henrietta that handsome Lord Allenham directs his attention. However, since Henrietta is penniless, and Lord Allenham’s cashstrapped family estate needs shoring up, he courts Catherine. Catherine’s engagement is announced, but all along Allenham has been secretly corresponding with Henrietta, professing his love. When a scheming housemaid turns the letters over to Catherine, she scratches Henrietta’s face and vows revenge. However, days before the wedding, Catherine dies of a fever. As the Stavourley household mourns, Lord Stavourley reveals the truth: Henrietta is no cousin, but his illegitimate daughter. Since Henrietta is dowryless (a spiteful Lady Stavourley controls the purse strings), her only option is marriage to a clergyman of her father’s choosing. Desperate, Henrietta flees to Allenham’s country estate, where the two consummate their forbidden love. He sets her up in a comfortable cottage, but then, unknown circumstances (which may pertain to his political ambitions) compel him to leave. Fruitlessly searching for Allenham in London, Henrietta learns that her mother was Mrs. Kennedy, a famous courtesan who retired to live with a rich lover, St John. Arriving at St John’s residence, she finds she is too late—Mrs. Kennedy died years before. At first St John seems avuncular, but his lustful intentions are soon apparent. Henrietta succumbs since she can’t face making her living on the streets, particularly since she is newly pregnant with Allenham’s child. Historian Rubenhold has fashioned a page turner rife with choice tidbits about London’s demimonde, however readers, kept on tenterhooks by ever more precarious cliffhangers, may feel cheated by the ending. A tantalizing introduction.

BLACK FRIDAYS

Sears, Michael Putnam (352 pp.) $25.95 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-399-15866-7

First-time author Sears does the near impossible in this high-finance thriller: He turns a Wall Street executive who’s just served jail time for fudging figures into a sympathetic character. 1856

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Fresh from two years in jail, disgraced executive Jason Stafford lands a new job in record time: He’s called in to tidy up records that were left in disarray after junior trader Brian Sanders died in an apparent boating accident. It doesn’t take long to figure out that the death wasn’t accidental, especially after Stafford discovers that Sanders was into kinky sex and high-stakes gambling. The trail leads Sanders through the Wall Street world he once frequented and leads to a colorful FBI showdown. A former Paine Webber executive himself, Sears peppers the story with insider details, and his portrayal of Wall Street tensions and rivalries is convincing. The murder plot is turned capably enough, though most avid mystery readers should be able to guess the outcome. But the book’s other story, that of Stafford’s rehabilitation, proves the more compelling one. The character is flawed but appealing (and making him a Deadhead was a nice touch), knowing he created the mess that he’s picking up. That includes a failed marriage to Angie, an alcoholic former model, who’s returned to her home in rural Louisiana and now has a second husband who’s prone to violence. Jason and Angie also have a severely autistic son, and the details of his condition also have the ring of truth. Jason’s attempts to reach his son—and to rescue him from his ex-wife’s new partner—provide the book’s strongest scenes and the key to Jason’s redemption.

THE NATANZ DIRECTIVE

Simmons, Wayne; Graham, Mark Dunne/St. Martin’s (304 pp.) $24.99 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-312-60932-0

In Simmons and Graham’s (The Missing Sixth, 2011, etc.) spy thriller, Jake Conlan is called back undercover. Conlan’s past 50, but he’s no less lethal when set to task by his mentor, the mysterious Mr. Elliot. Word is Iran finally has the bomb and means of delivery, and Jake’s sent to stop The Twelvers, the messianic Shiite group in power, from using it. After a clandestine SR-71 flight to Paris, Jake is first tasked to clean up a minor mess. A drug dealer has his hooks in a weak-kneed U.S. senator serving on an intelligence committee. Jake plugs that leak with a Mauser pistol. Complications arise when it develops that the dealer had connections with Mujahedim-e Kahlq, an Iranian opposition group financing operations with edge-of-legal activities. Post-Paris action moves to Antwerp for a cinematic chase scene, then to Turkey, where a security breach means someone is an Iranian agent. Undercover ops like Jake need a plethora of tech tools to foil the evildoers plus help from a stalwart general back in D.C. Need to HALO jump (high altitude, low opening) into Iran? The U.S. Air Force routes a black-ops-modified C-17 to a remote airstrip in Turkey. Conlan’s primary weapon, however, seems to be his modified iPhone. GPS, encrypted communications, specialized apps— Conlan pulls it out more often than his Walther PPK. Once among the bad guys, Conlan leaves more than one Iranian shot |


or stabbed while he dodges from peril to peril like a frog hopping across burning lily pads. Under the noses of the mullahs, Conlan is aided by Charlie Amadi, who once skated around U.S. law and is now Iran’s premier contraband smuggler. Charlie’s beautiful cohort, Jeri, provides muscle as Conlan infiltrates, spies and iPhones-home vital information from Qom and Natanz. No worries. An hours-away three-pronged nuclear strike on Israel and the West promptly falls victim to assorted fighter-bombers and bunker-busters. Ruthless and remorseless James Bond-ian escapades, sans skirt-chasing intervals, in the name of Western ideals.

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OBJECT LESSONS The Paris Review Presents The Art Of The Short Story

Stein, Lorin; Stein, Sadie--Eds. Picador (368 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 9781-250-00598-4

A compendium of The Paris Review’s short story hits, curated with the ambitious, aspiring writer in mind. This collection showcases a handful of the literary innovations the journal has championed since its founding in 1953: There are gnomic, comic experiments by Donald Barthelme, Jorge Luis Borges and Lydia Davis, and minimalist works by Mary Robison and Raymond Carver. But the magazine’s heart is in domestic realism about the upper-middle class, and a few of the stories collected here are classics of the form. In “Bangkok,” James Salter pits an estranged couple against each

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other, calibrating the dialogue to show how eagerly one wants to wound the other. Evan S. Connell’s “The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge” inhabits the mind of a WASP aristocrat who’s both charming and blinkered to the wider world. And Ethan Canin’s “The Palace Thief ” is a stellar exploration of morality and noblesse oblige, told through a prep school headmaster’s remembrance of a mendacious student. Each story is preceded with a brief appreciation by a well-known admirer—Sam Lipsyte introduces Robison, Dave Eggers introduces Salter, and so on. The introducers were clearly instructed to avoid high-flown encomiums and instead discuss the specifics of why each story is effective, so the book is rich with shoptalk. And though some intros ought to have spoiler alerts, most are engaging in their own right—Jeffrey Eugenides’ discussion of Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash While Hitchhiking” captures that story’s heartbreak and serves as an essay on the virtues of the form itself. As if to comfort readers who came to the book striving for literary fame, the collection closes with Dallas Wiebe’s “Night Flight to Stockholm,” a comic riff on literally giving an arm and a leg to score a Nobel Prize in literature—or just publication in The Paris Review. A smart showcase of a half-century’s worth of pathways in fiction.

12.21

Thomason, Dustin Dial Press (336 pp.) $27.00 | Oct. 30, 2012 978-0-385-34140-0 Thomason (The Rule of Four, 2004) delivers a fast-moving tale that weaves ancient Mayan predictions of the end of the world with modern science. Gabe Stanton lost his wife, Nina, to his obsession with his job. As a physician specializing in prion research, Gabe often finds himself in a lab with few outside contacts except for his co-workers and the occasional exchanges with higher-ups from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But when a man who exhibits the symptoms of prion-based mad cow disease shows up in a Los Angeles hospital, Gabe believes that his biggest fear of a devastating outbreak might be on the horizon and rushes to find the source of the outbreak. Meanwhile, Chel Manu, a Guatemalan-born expert on Mayan culture and epigraphy, or the study of inscriptions, is party to a newly discovered codex. The codex, an ancient manuscript, is believed to have been stolen from the tomb of a Mayan king, and if Chel’s suspicions are correct, it’s the oldest ever located. The find both exults and terrifies her since it’s a stolen antiquity and possessing it could cost her the profession she loves. When Chel is asked to assist Gabe in translating the incoherent dying ramblings of the man thought to have a prion-based disease, she discovers that the road to finding the key to saving millions of lives could lead her back to the place and time of her ancestors. Thomason displays an impressive depth of knowledge of both science and the 1858

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ancient Mayan way of life. Along the way, he skillfully ramps up the action, one notch at a time. A winning book. (Author tour to New York, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Agent: Jennifer Joel)

WICKED PLEASURES

Vincenzi, Penny Overlook (640 pp.) $27.95 | Sep. 27, 2012 978-1-59020-358-3

The marriage of an American banking heiress and a British aristocrat breeds—or not—dire consequences. When Virginia, daughter of New York financier Fred III, ruler of the banking dynasty Praegers, marries a lord whose palatial country house, Hartest, needs a cash infusion, this first appears to be a standard tale of English nobility saved by American wealth, à la Downton Abbey. However, the prologue makes quite clear what the primary throughline of this typically Vincenzi-an doorstop will be: Virginia, Lady Caterham, admits to her shrink that none of her three children know who their real father is, but one thing is for sure, none are the progeny of their presumed sire, Alexander, Earl of Caterham. Why this is so is the primary source of suspense in a book that is, particularly in its exposition-laden first half, quite the arduous slog. Growing up, the three Caterham children are taunted by playmates and schoolmates about how little they resemble one another. When Virginia dies before she can explain, each of the three children, Charlotte, Max (heir to Hartest) and, most reluctantly, the earl’s favorite child, Georgina, embarks on a quest to solve his or her respective paternal enigma. Each divines, with growing horror, that their mother had affairs for the express purpose of procreation—in all likelihood with Alexander’s complicity. An equally fraught subplot involves Virginia’s brother Baby (Fred IV), his opportunistic English mistress, Angie, and the internecine battles at Praegers as the bank enters the treacherous but immensely profitable territory of the Reagan era and beyond. Fred III, as he grows elderly, refuses to relinquish his control of the bank to Baby, and Baby’s son, Freddy, once sole heir to Praegers, is, at Fred III’s decree, now co-heir with cousin Charlotte, whom he’s determined to sandbag. By postponing, for over 300 pages, genuine challenges for her hyperprivileged characters, Vincenzi risks delaying any reason to sympathize with them. A balky lead-up to a breathless close, as sinister secrets belatedly bubble up.

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“A year in the life of a family that suffers a tragic loss.” from those we love most

WILDERNESS

Weller, Lance Bloomsbury (304 pp.) $25.00 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-1-60819-937-2 A wounded Civil War veteran reckons with thieves, racism and the torments of his past. Weller’s debut novel alternates between 1864 and 1899 to follow the life of Abel Truman, who fought for the Confederacy before moving to the Pacific Northwest. Much of the action in the Civil War chapters focuses on the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia, a particularly bloody affair, and Weller relates the action in disarmingly visceral detail, blasted faces, spilled bowels and all. That violence is paralleled by Abel’s own unhappy past, in which his infant daughter and wife died in quick succession. In the 1899 chapters, Abel is living an isolated life with his dog before he falls afoul of a pair of thieves working their way down the Pacific Coast. The alternating chapters essentially make for two redemption stories—the first a chronicle of Abel’s awareness of the folly of racism and the futility of war, the second a tale of human capacity for not just survival, but heroism. Weller relates all this in flagrantly Faulkner-ian language, thick with nature imagery and long sentences that strive to swallow the world whole: “The sun was bright in the leafed trees, upon grass slick with caught rain, and the man-filled road was as protean and indomitable as a river flowing seaward.” Weller’s command of this style is sometimes shaky, at times obscuring plot points or overdramatizing particular moments. And the linguistic finery serves a fairly simplistic fable on kindness and brotherhood. (Abel Truman’s very name hints at how morally uncomplicated the protagonist is.) But Weller’s finer moments are marked by some spectacular sentences: He finds an unlikely beauty in the violence-torn settings, as when a bullet passes a soldier’s neck “like the first quick kiss of a shy girl.” A familiar war story, but told with verve and sturdy, biblical intonations.

THOSE WE LOVE MOST

Woodruff, Lee Voice/Hyperion (320 pp.) $26.99 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-1-4013-4178-7

A year in the life of a family that suffers a tragic loss. Margaret is gardening, while ruefully reflecting on the knowledge that her husband, commercial real estate exec Roger, has been having an affair. Indeed, at that moment, Roger is in Florida, in his mistress Julia’s arms. Margaret and Roger’s daughter, Maura, is walking her three children to school when she receives an intriguing text to which she must respond. In that instant, everything changes: Her oldest son, James, his bike zigzagging in and out of school traffic, is hit |

by a teenage driver, Alex. James lingers for a week and then dies. Roger, whose ardor for Julia has cooled as he faces retirement and old age, must now spend more time at home as Margaret assumes their devastated daughter’s parenting and household duties. Maura’s husband, Pete, who never outgrew his college drinking habits, is struggling to accept his son’s death, but the crisis also brings home the increasing distance between him and Maura. As she gradually fights her way back from despair, Maura must cope with the guilt of knowing that at that crucial second she was distracted, taking her eye off James, she was texting another man. Exacerbating her anguish, Alex has been holding a silent nightly vigil outside her house. Told from Margaret’s, Maura’s and Roger’s vantage points, an accretion of daily details depicts how a typical upper-middle-class family in the Chicago suburbs copes with a major trauma. Woodruff does not explore the edgier areas her subject matter suggests. For the most part, the main characters resist their baser impulses, and the novel is somewhat duller as a result. Earnest and life-affirming, but a bit too tame.

LOVE BOMB

Zeidner, Lisa Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (272 pp.) $26.00 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-0-3741-9271-6 Given the country’s recent spate of shootings and hostage takings, readers may feel a tad squeamish while chuckling at this comedy about a wedding party taken hostage by a masked and heavily armed gunwoman. The Nathanson-Billips nuptials are about to begin in the Haddonfield, N.J., home of bride Tess’ mother. A psychotherapist divorced from Tess’ psychiatrist father, Helen is already anxious about the wedding—rain has forced the garden party inside her cramped house and there are a number of guests who might not want to rub shoulders too closely, including ex-wives and jilted lovers. Then, a woman in a wedding dress and a gas mask arrives with a sawed-off shotgun, lots of ammo and a bomb. At first, the caterers and 55 guests assume she is part of the entertainment since Tess and groom Gabe, a biracial performance artist, like to be unconventional. But soon, the masked intruder has barricaded everyone together into one room, and she makes it obvious that her bullets are real. Still, the tone remains light, a comedy of manners about the unlikely mix locked in together: the five Jewish psychiatrists (including not only Tess’ father, but also Gabe’s Jewish maternal grandfather), Gabe’s macho/military African-American paternal grandfather, Tess’ two stepmothers and their problematic children, the African friends Tess and Gabriel made while working for Doctors Without Borders, Gabe’s actress sister and her more-famousactor date, a catering assistant with a stalker. The novel’s strongest element is the individual hostages’ stories about failed love that emerge, both entertaining and sad. But actually, the hostage taking does not concern anyone in the wedding. In fact, the gunwoman, kirkus.com

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Crystal, has staged the event to get the attention of her former lover, Van, a member of the police SWAT team, whom she has been stalking since he unceremoniously dumped her. Unfortunately, her story is more cartoonish than satirical. Zeidner (Layover, 1999, etc.) is writing about love gone wrong, not terrorism, but conflating the two is tricky business, sometimes affecting and comically disturbing, sometimes just a little creepy.

m ys t e r y DEATH IN THE FLOATING CITY

Alexander, Tasha Minotaur (320 pp.) $24.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-312-66176-2

Lady Emily investigates the murder of a Venetian count, unleashing a veritable Pandora’s boxful of ancient scandals. In this latest addition to Alexander’s Lady Emily Victorian mystery series (A Crimson Warning, 2011, etc.), our heroine, along with her fetching husband of five years, Colin Hargreaves, arrives in Venice to aid her erstwhile rival, Emma, who married Paolo, son and heir of the Barozzi family, only to discover that the fortunes of this hoary branch of Venetian nobility were in serious decline. Now, the patriarch, Conte Barozzi, is dead of stab wounds, Paolo has gone into hiding, and there are no clues to the identity of the murderer, or rather, too many clues. A ruby ring with the initials BB and NV is found clutched in the deceased conte’s hand. With the aid of a bookseller’s scholarly daughter, Donata, Lady Emily tracks down an array of leads. Venice, it seems, does not lack for those who had it in for Conte Barozzi. Among them are Paolo, whose inheritance might have been at stake, a fired Barozzi gardener, and two women whom the conte antagonized, including a medium who delivered an unpleasant message from his late wife. And of course, Vendelinos are always suspect when a Barozzi is murdered—the feud between the two noble Venetian families dates back to the crusades. Interspersed with Emily’s peregrinations of the watery city are short vignettes about the doomed love between Besina Barozzi and Nicolò Vendelino in late-15th-century Venice. Forbidden to marry Nicolò, Besina is forced by her parents into a marriage with a brutal man. Before she ends her days in a convent, a tryst with Nicolò results in a son whose legacy may hold the key to both the Barozzi financial quagmire and the conte’s murder. Just exactly how involves multiple threads as convoluted and murky as Venetian back alleyways, but thanks to authoritative depictions of Venice’s history, atmosphere and culinary delights, the story glides along as smoothly as a gondola. Lady Emily travels well. 1860

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FIELD OF SCHEMES

Billheimer, John Five Star (380 pp.) $25.95 | Sep. 19, 2012 978-1-4328-2617-8

A sportswriter with a gambling problem tries to help a trainer escape indictment for steroid abuse. Dale Loren used to be a major league pitcher. After he blew out his arm, he found work as a trainer for the Meckenburg Mammoths, Cleveland’s AAA team. Accustomed to free access to performance enhancement drugs that are now illegal, the minor leaguers pester Dale for steroids until finally, he mixes a concoction of cold cream, sunblock and lemon juice for hot prospect Sammy Tancredi. Whether it’s the weight training Dale insists on to explain Sammy’s bigger muscles or just a placebo effect, the young player’s hitting explodes, catapulting him into the majors. Once there, he tests positive for steroids and names Dale as his supplier, landing the trainer in the middle of a congressional probe of steroid use in baseball, with a grand jury indictment the next stop. Lloyd Keaton, who’s slammed U.S. Representative Bloodworth in his sports column for his fixation with steroids, sets out to find evidence to exonerate Loren. But after losing a huge bet to Little Bill Ellison’s West Virginia syndicate, Keaton finds himself in the crosshairs. And when Dave Bowers, a bookie who lost even bigger to Little Bill, is pushed down an elevator shaft in his wheelchair, Keaton knows that it’s just a matter of time before the West Virginia boys catch up to him, too. Can he find evidence to clear his pal before the syndicate cleans his clock? Like his Owen Allison series (Stonewall Jackson’s Elbow, 2006, etc.), Billheimer’s new franchise emphasizes local color in small-town America as its heroes prove to be their own worst enemies.

ROBERT B. PARKER’S FOOL ME TWICE

Brandman, Michael Putnam (288 pp.) $25.95 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-0-399-15949-7

Autumn brings a major new headache for Jesse Stone, police chief of that summer hot spot, Paradise, Mass., along with two supporting headaches. One of the cases seems so modest it’s hardly worth mentioning. Busybody spinster Belva Radford and nursery owner Renzo Lazzeri insist they’re being charged more money on their water bill even though their consumption hasn’t changed. But when Jesse mildly confronts meter reader Oscar LaBrea and his diminutive boss, William J. Goodwin, they shut up and lawyer up. The second case is annoying but routine. After spoiled debutante Courtney Cassidy’s texting causes a |


serious auto accident, Jesse keeps citing her for other phoningwhile-driving violations, and her wealthy parents keep shielding her from their consequences—until a judge gives her six months’ community service at the police station. The meatiest case revolves around starlet Marisol Hinton, in town to shoot A Taste of Arsenic, who tells Jesse she’s scared of her druggedup estranged husband, nothingburger actor Ryan Rooney. In between bedtime rounds with the film’s line producer, Frances Greenberg, Jesse persuades Frankie to hire his friend Wilson “Crow” Cromartie as Marisol’s bodyguard. When trouble predictably arrives, Crow plays a refreshingly unexpected role. Though one of the three cases shows Jesse at his most annoyingly sensitive, the other two both reveal welcome and unexpected complications. Not bad for Brandman, who’s only on his second installment of the Paradise franchise (Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues, 2011).

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UNHOLY LIES

Bretting, Sandra Five Star (222 pp.) $25.95 | Oct. 19, 2012 978-1-4328-2597-3 The wages of sin is losing your job when you are a pastor having an affair. Kelsey Garrett is an ambitious young reporter who hopes her stories on the death of a young church worker will propel her to a job with a big-city paper. Currently, she works for the Enterprise Country Caller Gazette, a small paper in a small town in Texas where football rules, but murder attracts everyone’s attention. Beautiful Becca Cooper moved to Enterprise from Oklahoma to escape an abusive husband, and now her body has been found by a local teen near a bayou, and the suspects include her lover, the Rev. Robert Holiday, and his eccentric wife, LilliFay. The soon-to-retire town detective, Sgt. Hines, is willing to talk to Kelsey about the death, and her

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stories attract the attention of a Dallas newspaper. Kelsey can’t stop investigating the crime, even when she gets a threatening phone call. Hines’ nephew, Park Daniels, had briefly dated Becca and is now pursuing Kelsey, who can’t resist the attractions of the handsome pilot. Becca was pregnant, her low selfesteem led her into several affairs, and the unknown father is certainly a suspect along with her ex-husband and a number of jealous church members. If Kelsey can help solve the crime without getting herself killed, she will have a lot of life-changing decisions to make. Bretting’s first in a planned series of Southern mysteries offers up romance, a realistic picture of small-town– Texas life and a mystery with enough suspects to keep it interesting.

THE HOT COUNTRY

Butler, Robert Olen Mysterious Press (336 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-8021-2046-5 Prolific Pulitzer Prize winner Butler (A Small Hotel, 2011, etc.) casts his net in distinctly shallower waters when he follows the adventures of a brash American journalist in 1914 Mexico. Revolution is raging, as usual, when Christopher “Kit” Marlowe Cobb arrives in Mexico to interview Gen. Victoriano Huerta. Preoccupied with the rebels Emiliano Zapata and Venustiano Carranza, el Presidente declines to speak with the press after all. By that time, however, an international incident is brewing between Mexico and the U.S., and Kit figures there’ll be plenty of work of one sort or another for him and his Underwood. So he’s already on the alert when oompah band musician Gerhard Vogel suddenly reveals himself as an American spy who shares Kit’s interest in the question of why the German ship Ypiranga has disgorged sinister “businessman” Friedrich von Mensinger and a number of his countrymen and loosed them on Vera Cruz. Tearing himself from his abortive pursuit of Luisa Morales, who washes his clothes but refuses to provide other services, Kit joins Vogel in his investigation of Mensinger only to find himself working alone when Vogel’s throat is cut. Acting with more decisiveness than prudence, Kit pinches the passport from Vogel’s corpse and prepares to follow Mensinger to Coahuila, where strongman Pancho Villa reigns supreme. There’ll be more subdiplomatic shenanigans, more violence (Kit ends up killing four men), and, yes, more romance before Kit, home again in Chicago, receives a letter from President Wilson that sends him back to Mexico for a coda that seems oddly tacked on. Kit is such an ingratiating narrator that you almost forget how unthrilling his larky debut is. Maybe the planned series can provide him with adventures more worthy of his steel. (Agent: Warren Frazier)

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THE CHOCOLATE MOOSE MOTIVE

Carl, JoAnna Obsidian (240 pp.) $22.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-451-23802-3

A chance encounter in a supermarket involves a member of a Michigan chocolate-making family in murder. Lee McKinney Woodyard’s protective instincts are aroused when she hears someone threatening a young woman in the Warner Pier supermarket. The woman is Sissy Smith, who most area residents think murdered her husband, Buzz. The threatener is Sissy’s father-in-law, Ace, whose military-consulting company (think Blackwater) has recently been investigated by Congress. Ace is trying to get custody of his grandson by fair means or foul. Sympathetic to her new friend, Lee offers Sissy a job as a bookkeeper at the TenHuis Chocolade and becomes embroiled in her problems, which only increase when Sissy discovers the body of Ace’s snoopy housekeeper. This time, the investigation is run by police Chief Hogan Jones, Lee’s uncle by marriage, who’s more open-minded about Sissy’s innocence or guilt than the county sheriff, who thinks Sissy got away with murder despite her excellent alibi. What doubles Ace’s enmity toward Sissy is that she lives with her grandmother, Wildflower, a holdover from a hippie group who lived in the area in the ’60s. Ace, who retired from the army at a high rank, can’t forget Wildflower’s demonstrations against the Vietnam War. As Lee continues to poke her nose where many think it doesn’t belong, she’s stalked and attacked in the woods near Wildflower’s home. But the episode only makes her more determined to discover the truth. The latest in Carl’s long string of chocoholic mysteries (The Chocolate Cupid Killings, 2009, etc.), complete with chocolate trivia and a recipe, keeps you guessing all the way to the end.

SKATING ON THE EDGE

Charbonneau, Joelle Minotaur (304 pp.) $25.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-312-60663-3

A skating rink owner is involved in yet another murder. After her mother died, Rebecca Robbins returned to her hometown hoping for a quick sale of her mother’s beloved roller rink. But fate has conspired to keep her in Indian Falls solving mysteries (Skating Over the Line, 2011, etc.), rescuing her Elvis-impersonator grandfather from scrapes and romancing the local veterinarian. Now, Rebecca volunteers to take a turn in the dunk tank at the town’s Native American Summer Days but has to pull out at the last minute to help grandpa with his band, a job usually done by her con-artist father, who’s |


“An enjoyable but run-of-the-mill military procedural.” from spanish inquisition

back in town after deserting his family years before. Sherlene-nMean, one of the roller derby girls who uses her rink, takes her place. When she’s electrocuted on her first dunk, Rebecca naturally wonders whom the booby trap was meant for. Her misgivings mount after the rink’s disco ball falls and narrowly misses her. Rebecca may not be the most popular woman in town, but she can’t believe anyone actually wants her dead—not even her father, who stands to inherit the rink. Maybe Sherlene, who is actually ex-nun Shirley Cline, was the real target. At least Rebecca is gratified to find that, although the roller derby team has only recently moved in from another town, its members like Rebecca enough to volunteer as her bodyguards while she uses her skills to find a killer who may or may not be after her. Rebecca’s amusing third continues to flesh out its continuing characters while providing an eccentric bunch of murder suspects. (Agent: Stacis Decker)

POSTCARDS FROM THE DEAD

Childs, Laura Berkley Prime Crime (336 pp.) $25.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-425-25275-8 The death of a television reporter provides the newest case for a scrapbooking amateur sleuth. New Orleans entrepreneur Carmela Bertrand, of the French Quarter scrapbooking shop Memory Mine, may be a great designer, but it’s sleuthing that provides the excitement in her life, much to the displeasure of her boyfriend, Detective Edgar Babcock. In the midst of Mardi Gras madness, Carmela’s waiting her turn to be interviewed by Kimber Breeze. When she steps out onto the balcony, she finds Kimber hanging from the railing. Although as usual, Babcock warns her off, Carmela and her fashionista sidekick, Ava, start to investigate, looking for a clue in Kimber’s life that led to her death. She starts to find postcards of cemeteries with cryptic warnings and even has her apartment smoke bombed. Furious, she keeps investigating Kimber’s boyfriend, her boss, the assistant who’s thrilled to take her place, and the subjects of some of the stories Kimber had proposed. Deeply connected to the New Orleans social scene through her wealthy ex-husband, Carmela is invited to all the best parties. She eats and drinks her away around town as she digs for motives. Carmela’s eighth (Skelton Letters, 2011, etc.) delves deeply into the Big Easy’s food, culture and fashion scene. The mystery is upstaged by the appended recipes and scrapbooking tips.

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SPANISH INQUISITION

Darrell, Elizabeth Severn House (208 pp.) $28.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8186-1

A military police officer is the prime suspect in an assault. Despite his reputation as a ladies’ man, Sgt. Phil Piercy was getting nowhere with Cpl. Maria Norton, a fiery beauty who’s playing Carmen in a local operatic society production in which Piercy plays a picador. When a badly beaten Maria staggers into a base police post claiming that Piercy attacked her, he denies the allegations, but the evidence seems to support her claims. Capt. Max Rydal (Scotch Mist, 2011, etc.) has returned early from medical leave just in time to help Sgt. Maj. Tom Black, who’s been running the unit in his absence, in his attempt to establish Piercy’s innocence. The pregnant Maria goes AWOL from the hospital and is seen making desperate attempts to contact someone. Although the arrogant Piercy is well and truly in the frame, neither of his superiors can picture him committing this particular crime. So they look to Maria’s many other admirers for another suspect. Realizing that solid police work is needed to solve this crime, the team gets busy nailing down alibis and finding more witnesses. In the meantime, Max’s early return inspires little warmth from either his commanding officer or his doctor, who’s also his lover. Undeterred, he continues his hunt. An enjoyable but run-of-the-mill military procedural.

KILLING THE EMPERORS

Edwards, Ruth Dudley Poisoned Pen (210 pp.) $24.95 | paper $14.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-59058-638-9 978-1-4642-0049-6 paperback 978-1-59058-639-6 Lg. Prt. A raucous send-up of the art world’s collectors, critics, curators and especially those postmodernists who call them-

selves artists. Lady Jack Troutbeck (Murdering Americans, 2007, etc.), who has spent the past few weeks cavorting with Russian billionaire Oleg Sarkovsky aboard his yacht and at his estates, has finally decided to ditch the ruthless oligarch when she is summarily hijacked and finds herself in a locked room, sans food, sans water and guarded by an Albanian who eventually agrees to bring her vittles provided she stops her off-key singing. She’s escorted into another room decorated with artwork of dung, rotten meat, feeding maggots and so forth, which she’s railed against in the past (she calls London’s Tate Gallery, now displaying much of this sort of tripe, the Tat Gallery). Then, one by one, members of the postmodern and performance claque are led in. A loudspeaker summons her to yet another room, kirkus.com

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where a heavily accented voice tells her that there are games to be played, and she must judge who is worst at them. In the dead of night, each game’s loser is murdered in an homage to a specific postmodernist, and the corpse is displayed at London sites. While this is going on, and Lady Jack is initiating arguments about every facet of art with her co-captives, her chums on the outside are trying to find her. Scotland Yard, stymied by infighting of its own, is late to take up the homage murders. It will take the work of an Inland Revenue functionary to secure Lady Jack’s retrieval. Imagine And Then There Were None written with wicked humor and a major grievance about money, not taste, ruling the art world.

PIERCED

Enger, Thomas Atria (448 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4516-1648-4 Norway’s 123news reporter Henning Juul’s continued search for the man he’s convinced set the fire that killed his son, Jonas, two years ago entangles him in a web of more recent crimes. Once Tore Pulli fixed on rival enforcer Jocke Brolenius as the killer of Tore’s friend, Vidar Fjell, the manager of the Fighting Fit gym, it was only a matter of time before Jocke followed Vidar into the great beyond. Now, Tore is in jail for Jocke’s murder, and he wants to talk to Henning Juul. Not simply to proclaim his innocence—he’s already told that to everyone in Oslo—but to intimate that he’s got new evidence about the fire in Henning’s flat. As the two men play cat and mouse during Henning’s visit to prison, one can’t help thinking of Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. But Enger is already laying the groundwork that will take his story in a dramatically different direction by following TV2 cameraman Thorleif Brenden, who’s suddenly threatened with the deaths of his long-term lover, Elisabeth Haaland, and their two children if he doesn’t do the bidding of an anonymous gangster who looks as if he’s right out of The Sopranos. The eventual collision of these two newsmen is still further complicated by Henning’s reluctant alliance with Iver Gundersen, the 123news reporter who’s now living with Nora Klemetsen, Henning’s ex and Jonas’ mother. The shifting relationships among the nominal heroes leave the obvious suspects—hired killer Ørjan Mjønes and the crew of bodybuilders who hang around the Fighting Fit pumping iron—fighting for attention, and after building to a tense climax, the tale continues with an investigation into still another murder that feels like one too many. Even so, this dark and resourceful tale is a distinct improvement on Enger’s murky debut (Burned, 2011).

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THE LIGHT KEEPER’S LEGACY

Ernst, Kathleen Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (360 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Oct. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-3307-4

A curator is happy to be loaned out to investigate an old lighthouse, until her trip turns from a treat into a nightmare. Chloe Ellefson is not on the best terms with her boss at Old World Wisconsin. So, a trip to an uninhabited island to do research on a lighthouse that’s under restoration sounds like fun despite the misgivings of Roelke McKenna, her police officer boyfriend. Chloe arrives without incident on Rock Island, which has been designated a state park despite the efforts of developers. She meets park manager Garrett Smith. She settles in at Pottawatomie Lighthouse. But her peace is shattered when she goes to the beach and discovers the body of a dead woman. The unknown girl is far from the first victim of the dangerous waters of Lake Michigan. In addition, Chloe quickly learns that there’s always been tension between commercial and sport fishermen and the authorities who must enforce the ever-changing rules. She becomes intrigued with the life and times of Emily Betts, assistant keeper to her husband, William, in the 1870s. Chloe has the unwelcome gift of exceptional sensitivity to things in the past, and she has bad feelings about an area of the island, formerly a fishing village, that an archaeologist is now exploring. The story cuts back and forth between the troubles and privations of the early settlers and the present day, where a murderer lurks. It falls to Chloe to marry past and present and find a killer who can’t stop at just one. Chloe’s third (The Heirloom Murders, 2011, etc.) combines a good mystery with some interesting historical information on a niche subject.

THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT

Fforde, Jasper Viking (384 pp.) $26.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-670-02502-2

The seventh romp through time, space, and literary arcana for beleaguered superheroine Thursday Next (One of Our Thursdays is Missing, 2011, etc.). Thursday’s going through a bad patch. She’s walked with a cane since a botched assassination attempt. She’s lost the chance to head up SO-27, the Special Ops Network, to Phoebe Smalls, and has been made chief librarian at the Wessex All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso’s Drink Not Included Library Service instead. She frets over the kidnapping of her daughter, Jenny, who’s nothing more than a mind worm planted in her memory by her nemesis, Aornis. Her son Friday, who expected to be one of the Chronoguard elite and repeatedly |


rescue civilization, has received a Letter of Destiny telling him that he’ll kill Gavin Watkins and spend the next 40 years in prison. Her genius child Tuesday is having difficulty producing a shield that will annul the asteroid-smiting scheduled to descend on Swindon in a day or so. And every so often, Thursday realizes she isn’t herself anymore, but a Day Player, one of several synthetic replicas of herself let loose by Krantz in violation of the Unlicensed Nonevolutionary Life-Forms on the Mainland Act. Are Goliath, the scourge of the world conglomerate, and Jack Schitt, intent on planetary domination, responsible for any of this? Not the immediate problem, as Thursday must first figure out why racy 13th-century novels of St. Zvlkx are being vandalized, deal with Enid Blyton aficionados who favor the very unpolitically correct versions of her works, and escort the Righteous Man to the smite zone, where his presence will skew the incoming smite further out of town. Looming on the horizon is the dreaded confrontation with the Dark Reading Matter. Literary know-it-alls will cackle over the reappearance of Millon de Floss, the Hay-on-Wye reference, and the notion that books and their upkeep really matter. Those

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less addicted to puns, time warps, and intergalactic humor will reach for the Excedrin.

THE THING ITSELF

Guttridge, Peter Severn House (256 pp.) $28.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8081-9

An ice-cold case heats up. Disgraced former Chief Constable Bob Watts has never given up his hope of solving the 1934 Brighton Trunk Murder. Upon the death of his father, well-known author and former police constable Victor Tempest, Watts finds a treasure trove of new information in his papers. Back in the present, DS Sarah Gilchrist, who’s still living down the trouble she’s been in over the Milldean Massacre that brought Watts down, finds herself in even hotter

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water for giving an illegal weapon to her friend, reporter Kate Simpson, who uses it to a kill a rapist. And Jimmy Tingley, exSAS and friend of Watts, is in Europe on the trail of the Balkan gangsters who’ve been trying to take over the Brighton crime scene (The Last King of Brighton, 2011, etc). The information his father left Watts, which reaches all the way back to his grandfather’s World War I experiences and death, details Tempest’s life as a police constable, a member of Oswald Mosley’s fascist organization, and a friend of both Ian Fleming and a long string of lawbreakers. It’s no secret to Watts that the lives of the constabulary and the criminals of Brighton have long been deeply intertwined, but as he continues to investigate, the information becomes steadily more shocking. Guttridge’s third Brighton thriller is so well-written that it would be well worth your time even if it were not such a darkly brilliant mystery.

THE UNKINDEST CUT

Hammond, Gerald Severn House (192 pp.) $27.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8177-9

The knife-wielding thief who’s added unexpected pizzazz to veterinarian Jane Highsmith’s wedding returns to sow further discord in the Scottish village of Newton Lauder. Even on her way to marry author Roland Fox, Jane can’t say no to a boy whose puppy is mortally wounded. That’s why she’s on hand in her surgery, her borrowed wedding dress already dappled with the puppy’s blood, when a masked figure bursts in and demands money and drugs. Jane is so resourceful and unflappable, and so lucky, that she’s soon on her way, the dress the only real casualty. Moreover, her attempt to inject the robber with a sedative has left him with a microchip embedded in his torso, a development that yields a splendid line of dialogue from Jane to the robber—“If you really want to know, I can even tell you your number”—but offers sadly little help as a clue to his identification. So there’s nothing for DI Ian Fellowes but to examine all the hundreds of photographs wedding guests have snapped with their cellphones to find a dozen forgettable suspects who fit Jane’s description and may have needed money. Meanwhile, Knifeman has already been back at work, robbing a filling station and a jewelry shop, evidently without raising the slightest frisson of fear among the villagers. And no wonder, for no one will die; no one will be seriously injured; and no prizes will be awarded for guessing either the identity of Knifeman or the party who ends up bringing him to book. Fans of Hammond (With My Little Eye, 2011, etc.) will find all the lightweight charm they expect. Those outside the charmed circle need not apply.

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THE SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE

Handler, David Minotaur (272 pp.) $24.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-250-00454-3

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night can keep postmen from their appointed rounds. But how about murder? The tony Connecticut enclave of Dorset has been pummeled by snow, with blizzard number three still on the way. Although the drifts make the village look Christmas-card perfect, merchants are despondent, and stores and streets are empty except for a shoplifter of pricey Ugg boots and a thief who’s taking the Christmas tips— cash and cookie treats meant for the stalwart postal carriers— from residential mailboxes. And now it seems that mail-order drug prescriptions may be missing too. Is a branch of the Castagno crime family to blame? Several competing jurisdictions feel a need to weigh in on the question, seriously complicating things for resident state trooper Des Mitry, who also must sidestep the amateur sleuthing of her interracial lover, movie critic Mitch Berger. Problems escalate when Josie the life coach’s husband, Bryce, perennial black sheep of the Peck family, OD’s and leaves a suicide note, and part-time mail carrier Hank, who is married to Paulette the postmistress and serves as a grudging mentor to her ne’er-do-well son, Casey, dies after affixing a hose to his car’s tailpipe. Another suicide? Not likely, says Des, who ties Josie to both the deceased but makes no further headway until she finds out where Mitch disappeared when he was supposed to be driving a retired postmaster home. Happily, Des is up to the task, locating Mitch before he succumbs to frostbite and identifying the brains behind Hank’s demise as well as the mailbox heists. Fans of Des and Mitch (The Blood Red Indian Summer, 2011, etc.) will giggle as Mitch decorates his Hanukkah bush with her teeny weeny yellow bikini. Others may think it’s all bah, humbug.

TO CATCH A VAMPIRE

Harlow, Jennifer Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (288 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Sep. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-2711-0 Posing as a couple has two special agents all confused, since the most complicated thing they are used to dealing with is their supernatural gifts. Telekinetic Beatrice Alexander never wanted to be a freak, much less a member of F.R.E.A.K.S., the Federal Response to Extra-Sensory and Kindred Supernaturals Squad that the national government has been running almost since it was founded. For the past two months, Bea’s been working with the F.R.E.A.K.S., and so far the only upside is the relationship she’s been working on with |


“Hart brings new life to an aging series.” from rest for the wicked

werewolf Will. Her Operation Lovebirds has taken a hit since Will’s gone off to a camp to get in touch with his inner wolf, and Bea’s hopes to keep a low profile are ruined when she’s given a special assignment with ladies’ man—well, ladies’ vampire— Oliver Montrose. Now Bea’s stuck in a vamp-friendly hotel in Dallas, posing as Oliver’s wife and trying to infiltrate a local cabal of vampires that may be behind several recent missing persons cases. The case heats up fast, as do Oliver’s attentions to Bea. Eventually, “Trixie,” as Oliver insists on calling Bea, isn’t sure if she’s more annoyed by her supposed husband’s relentless flirting with Marianna, the mistress of the hotel, or the fact that she’s bothered by it. Bea only hopes they can solve the case and get out of there before she has time to figure it out. The second in Harlow’s F.R.E.A.K.S. series (Mind Over Monsters, 2011) reads like an homage to Harris’ tales of Sookie Stackhouse, though Bea seems to take herself a little less seriously.

REST FOR THE WICKED

Hart, Ellen Minotaur (336 pp.) $25.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-250-00186-3

Her partner’s enforced stay in the hospital won’t stop a newly minted private eye from investigating the murder of his nephew. Now that she’s officially licensed as a private investigator, Jane Lawless is ready to get down to the business of, well, investigating rather than focusing on managing the club and restaurant she owns. If only her first case didn’t involve her partner, A.J. Nolan, whose government name is “Alfonse Jasper.” Nolan needs help when his nephew, DeAndre Moore, is knifed outside of GaudyLights, Minneapolis’ local strip joint. The bullet lodged for some time in Nolan’s back has begun to migrate at an unfortunate time, leaving him bedridden and unable to investigate. GaudyLights isn’t quite what Jane was expecting. Owner Vince Bessetti tries to convince Jane to buy into the business; friendly law student/ stripper Georgia gets a little too friendly; and the club’s food service is run by Shanice Williams, the cook Jane fired from her own kitchens. The murder appears solved when club dishwasher Elvio Ramos steps forward to take the blame, but a little digging from Jane suggests that there’s more to the story. She relies on the help of bartender Avi Greenberg to flesh out the situation a bit more, but since it’s been some time since Jane had a main squeeze, her mind is soon on Avi’s flesh itself. Jane’s closest companion, theater guru Cordelia Thorn, is in rare form, throwing out sassy one-liners as if she were on the stage rather than in the wings. Giving Jane more spark than readers have seen in a while, Hart (The Lost Women of Lost Lake, 2011, etc.) brings new life to an aging series and hope for future installments.

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WHEN JOHNNY CAME MARCHING HOME

Heffernan, William Akashic (300 pp.) $24.95 | paper $15.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-61775-127-1 978-1-61775-135-6 paperback When Johnny comes marching home from the Civil War, someone murders him. Four boys, friends since the childhood they shared in the tiny Vermont town of Jerusalem’s Landing—Jubal Foster, Abel Johnson, Josiah Flood, and Johnny Harris—suddenly find their backwater lives disrupted. Full to the brim with idealism and innocence, they march off to fight in a good war, the War Between the States, that turns out to be the bloodiest in American history. When the shooting stops at last, one is dead, another has lost an arm, and Johnny comes marching home to Jerusalem’s Landing to find an enemy as implacable as any of the gray-clad warriors he’s been up against for four years. There’s one difference, though: This enemy is successful in his battle with Johnny. As newly appointed deputy constable in Jerusalem’s Landing, one-armed Jubal Foster must solve his old friend’s murder. But things have changed drastically after four years of brutalizing war. Jubal now knows a dark, even monstrous side of his old friend Johnny that makes him almost sympathetic to his killer. Still, Jubal is a man of unassailable integrity. He understands the dictates of the job, and he’ll get the answers, even if he hates what they imply, even if they bring him disturbingly close to the young woman he loves. Heffernan (The Dead Detective, 2010, etc.) swings his vivid tale back and forth between past and present, war and peace— a neat tour de force he pulls off with admirable assurance.

MURDER IN MIND

Heley, Veronica Severn House (240 pp.) $28.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8179-3

Ellie Quicke (Murder My Neighbor, 2011, etc.) takes a break from redecorating to help the family of her daughter’s fiance escape death. Now that her husband Thomas’ family is due to arrive from Canada in a scant two weeks, Ellie dithers over how to house them in the rambling mansion she inherited from her Aunt Drusilla. But her musings over whether to mend or replace the dining room drapes are interrupted by her daughter Diana’s announcement that she’s pregnant with Evan Hooper’s child and plans to wed the real estate mogul as soon as he can shake loose of his third wife, 20-something underwear model Angelika. The divorce has been delayed by the deaths of Fiona, Evan’s daughter by his second wife, in a treadmill accident, and of Evan and Angelika’s toddler Abigail, who was stricken by anaphylaxis after gobbling kirkus.com

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down a peanut-laced treat. Ellie worries that the two are connected, but of course the police pooh-pooh her fears. Even when Evan’s second wife, Fern, dies of an insulin overdose, they insist all three deaths are accidents, leaving Ellie to take matters into her own hands. She swoops Angelika and Evan’s remaining daughter, Freya, into her protective custody and asks former housekeeper Vera to come on board, behavior-disordered son Mikey in tow, to ride herd on the grieving brood. And when the Hoopers’ house burns down, sending a concussed Evan to the hospital, Ellie feels time running out before a killer strikes again. Ellie’s 12th is right on the money, with the heroine giving as good as she gets in her tangles with the boneheaded local constabulary.

OUTRAGE

Indridason, Arnaldur Minotaur (288 pp.) $24.99 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-312-65911-0 Who could have killed the mercurial young man with no enemies...and no friends? An anonymous young man dresses carefully, goes to a Reykjavík bar, and hits on a young woman wearing a “San Francisco” T-shirt who vaguely remembers him. The next morning, a man is found dead in his home, throat slit and wearing a “San Francisco” T-shirt too small for him. With Inspector Erlendur on an unexpected leave of absence, the case falls to Detective Elínborg. The victim is Runólfur, young and single. Near the body is found a condom and, in his jacket pocket, several pills of the date-rape drug Rohypnol. Runólfur seems to know many people casually and no one well. Everyone Elínborg interviews is a possible, though unlikely, suspect. Runólfur’s mother, Kristjana, who lives in a village far from the city, confirms her son’s eagerness to escape the village and live in the city but offers little useful information. The evidence points to Runólfur as a possible serial rapist; the closest thing he has to a friend, the socially awkward young Edvard, may be his accomplice. The case takes a baffling new turn with the discovery that Runólfur himself had ingested a large quantity of Rohypnol shortly before his murder. In the midst of what’s probably the most important case in her career, Elínborg struggles with the work-life balance and the increasing aloofness of her elder son Valthór, who’s addicted to his computer. As if her stress level weren’t high enough, she gets word that Erlendur seems to have vanished. Another deftly modulated murder puzzle from Indridason (Hypothermia, 2010, etc.), with terrific character portraits, many twists and a satisfying “aha!” moment.

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HARDCASTLE’S FRUSTRATION

Ison, Graham Severn House (192 pp.) $27.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8171-7 As the Great War rages on, a corpse dumped in the Thames ends up in the bailiwick of Divisional DI Ernest Hardcastle and his colleagues at the Cannon Row station. Hardcastle can’t help wishing that the late Ronald Parker, shot in the head and tied up in a sack, had floated past Waterloo Pier into someone else’s jurisdiction. There are no obvious suspects or motives, and Hardcastle’s sergeant, Charles Marriott, and his men (Hardcastle’s Obsession, 2011, etc.) have plenty of other business to attend to. But things pick up with the news that Parker’s mistress, Daisy Benson, neglected to tell him that she’s been a widow for a year; that Parker himself, whose wife, Mavis, said he was about to leave for Holland to avoid conscription, had already been notified of his medical exemption from military service; and that Mavis Parker, a dayworker at the Sopwith Aviation paint shop, is quite the queen bee. Dogging the widow’s footsteps, Hardcastle’s coppers link her to Capt. Gilbert Stroud, dodgy corset salesman Lawrence Mortimer and actor Vincent Powers. In the fullness of time, Hardcastle realizes that this quiet wartime murder is politically sensitive—a realization that’s confirmed when he and his ham-handed squad are rebuked by Superintendent Patrick Quinn, who warns them off Special Branch’s patch. Nothing daunted, Hardcastle, passed over for promotion in favor of a younger and less qualified colleague, ends up earning wry congratulations from the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate: “You seem to be making a habit of charging people with murder, Inspector.” A middling procedural that’s also a pleasingly efficient tour of 1918 London.

IN THE SHADOWS OF PARIS

Izner, Claude Minotaur (320 pp.) $25.99 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-0-312-66216-5

The murder of a friend propels a Parisian bookseller once more out of his store and into the streets to investigate. The summer of 1893 is hot and Parisian tempers short. As is their habit, Victor Legris and his assistant, Joseph Pignot, work busily in Legris’ bookshop while discussing various items in the newspapers: today, an odd jewelry store robbery in which only some smoking supplies were taken. Could this theft be related to two more serious crimes that follow, the fatal stabbing of enamellist Léopold Grandjean and the death of bookbinder Pierre Andrésy in a raging fire at his shop? Both |


Victor and Joseph, who knew Andrésy well, are shaken by the killing. So, despite his promise to his fiancee, Tasha, to give up his amateur sleuthing, Victor feels compelled to investigate. In the uproar surrounding Andrésy’s death (political motives are suspected) and Grandjean’s unsolved murder (the police investigation is tracked almost daily in the press), little attention is paid to the discovery of the remains of Guy de la Brosse, founder of the city’s natural history museum, in an abandoned cellar. When Joseph reads a funeral notice for Andrésy in Le Figaro that predates the killing, it’s confirmation of first-degree murder. A Victor Hugo poem is one of several pieces of period art woven into the mystery’s clever solution. Psudonymous Izner’s fifth Legris whodunit (The Assassin in the Marais, 2011, etc.) bubbles charmingly along courtesy of lively banter and larger-than-life Parisian characters.

HIDE & SNOOP

Jaffarian, Sue Ann Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (288 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Sep. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-1889-7

SONORA CROSSING

James, Darrell Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (360 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Sep. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-2370-9 Will reaching over the Mexican border to recover a possibly visionary child bring answers to emotionally damaged female investigator Del Shannon (Nazareth Child, 2011)? Mexican drug lord Santos De La Cal believes that his niece, Aurea Lara, is a modern-day profeta, a prophet who can foretell the future even though she’s only 6 and mute. Convinced that the pictures Aurea draws can help him find safe passage for leaders of his cartel from Mexico to their U.S. contact, he kidnaps Aurea in order to harness her supposed powers. Meanwhile, Randall Willingham, owner of Desert Sands Covert, Tuscon’s own missing persons recovery agency, is concerned about his favorite employee, Del Shannon, who’s

Paralegal Odelia Grey (Twice as Dead, 2011, etc.) lands in hot water when her shaky law firm merges with another struggling firm. When the economy threw a curve at Wallace, Boer, Brown & Yates (known affectionately to its employees as “Woobie”), a merger with Hamlin-Hawke seemed just the ticket to keeping both law firms afloat. Merging staffs means cutting jobs, however, and soon layoffs are the order of the day. After 20 years at Woobie, Odelia sees a target on her back. Her snotty new boss, Erica Mayfield, gives her practically no work, shunting all the billable hours to Mark Baker, the paralegal Erica brought with her from Hamlin. Worse yet, she puts Odelia on Sesame Street duty, leaving her three-year-old niece, Lily Holt, coloring in Odelia’s office day after day. When Lily arrives one day with a suitcase, Odelia puts her foot down, only to find that Erica’s disappeared. Left no choice, Odelia takes the preschooler home, where she charms Odelia’s husband, Greg, her best friend, Zee Washington, and Zee’s lawyer husband, Seth. But a midnight foray to Erica’s house ends when Odelia discovers the dead body of Lily’s mother, Connie, and the paralegal needs legal help herself. Seth gets Odelia out of the slammer, but she realizes it’s only a matter of time before whoever killed Connie comes after her daughter. So she takes time off from her job to track down Connie’s killer, wondering all the while whether she’ll have a job to come back to. Despite Jaffarian’s flirtations with vampires and ghosts, her original series is still her best. Odelia takes no nonsense from anyone and stops at nothing to give the bad guys what they deserve. (Agent: Whitney Lee)

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“Taut, streamlined tale of a man investigating his own murder.” from dead anyway

been depressed by the murder of her former lover, Detective Ed Jeski. When Aurea’s relatives come to the agency beseeching Del’s help to recover their niece, she isn’t sure why they want her in particular until she sees Aurea’s latest work: newsprint cutouts of her face and Ed’s. The hope of getting answers about Ed’s death encourages Del to take the case, which instantly plunges her into the dangerous Mexican drug culture. Deep in enemy territory, Del finds a friend, and maybe more, in Francisco Estrada, leader of the resistance. Since even Nesto Parra, the captain of Federal Police, is owned by Santos and his men, she’ll need all the help she can get to recover Aurea safely. Although Del is a powerful and competent woman, the constant descriptions of her physicality by male characters shadows this Western-meets–mystical mystery. (Author appearance at ALA 2012)

THE DEAD MAN’S WIFE

Jones, Solomon Minotaur (320 pp.) $24.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-250-00644-8

A hot, new drug whose developer has run unauthorized clinical trials provokes another round of anguish, soul-searching and corpses for Philadelphia homicide detective Mike Coletti. Andrea Wilson is determined to give her pro bono client, heroin addict Tim Green, the best possible defense against the charge that he murdered off-duty police officer Jon Harris, whose corpse he robbed to get money for his next fix. She’s absolutely fearless in court against prosecutor Derrick Bell, even though they’re conducting a torrid affair that dishonors both their marriage vows. Derrick’s wife isn’t much of a presence here, but Andrea’s husband, Paul, head of development at Beech Pharmaceuticals, is such a strong presence that Andrea keeps on having vivid experiences of his guiding presence even after she wakes up in a pool of his blood and the cops come after her for murder. The cops in this case are Coletti, whose hopeless love for Andrea led him to take the rap for a shooting she committed 20 years ago. These days, though, no one would waste any time with a perp charged with only a single homicide—not when someone who calls himself Channing is terminating mob boss Salvatore Vetri’s nephew, Vincenzo, the accused Tim Green, several members of Paul Wilson’s research team, and apparently every witness and accomplice who might imperil his pursuit of Mentasil, the wonder drug that’s not ready for FDA approval but is perfectly ready for the black market. As fast and furious as Coletti’s earlier cases (The Gravedigger’s Ball, 2011, etc.), though Channing’s blood-soaked pursuit of Mentasil is less interesting than the effects of the drug itself, and Coletti’s detective and rescue work are less interesting still. (Agent: Jill Marr)

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INVISIBLE MURDER

Kaaberbøl, Lene; Friis, Agnette Translated by Chace, Tara Soho Crime (352 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-61695-170-2 Denmark’s normal cycle of stealing, smuggling, forced prostitution and unauthorized aid to minority populations is disrupted by the exhumation of a truly malign object. Jørgen Skou-Larsen is a retired building inspector concerned about his wife Helle’s thoroughly irresponsible financial behavior. Sándor Horváth is a law student from Budapest obsessed with passing his upcoming oral exam. Søren Kirkegård is a chief inspector in counterterrorism. And Nina Borg, familiar to American readers from The Boy in the Suitcase (2011), is a Red Cross nurse working in the Coal House Camp and secretly moonlighting with the underground Network that does what it can to ease the lives of the Roma who’ve found their way to Denmark. The first hints of trouble come with shocking suddenness: Nina’s fellow Networker, Peter Erhardsen, an engineer with the city of Copenhagen, is taken violently and mysteriously ill with a malady that seems to have swept through the Roma community, and Sándor is arrested by police officers who are clearly convinced that he’s his stepbrother, Tamás Rézmüves. The source of these problems is a sinister prize Tamás and his pal Pitkin have scavenged from an abandoned hospital building back in Hungary and arranged to sell in the global marketplace. Their scheme entangles not only them, but the rest of the cast with international sex traffickers and homegrown terrorists, pits each group of do-gooders against the others, and puts Nina and her family in particular under unimaginable pressure from some uncompromisingly evil malefactors. The pattern behind the calamity becomes clear early on, but the final indications of how the puzzle pieces dovetail will hit most readers as a shocking surprise. More grisly but more routine than Kaaberbøl and Friis’ striking debut, and just as sordid in its revelations about Denmark today and tomorrow.

DEAD ANYWAY

Knopf, Chris Permanent Press (248 pp.) $28.00 | Sep. 15, 2012 978-1-57962-283-1 Nothing in Knopf ’s reflective, quietly loopy Hamptons mysteries starring Sam Acquillo and Jackie Swaitkowski (Ice Cap, 2012, etc.) will have prepared his fans for this taut, streamlined tale of a man investigating his own murder. The hit man who invades the Cathcarts’ upscale home in Stamford, Conn., tells Florencia Cathcart that if she doesn’t |


write down the answers to five questions, he’ll kill her husband. When she complies, he shoots them both anyway. Florencia dies, but Arthur merely hovers in a coma for months. Convinced upon his return to life that his killer’s been monitoring his progress with a view to finishing him off, he persuades his neurologist sister, Evelyn, to have him declared dead. She agrees, although she’s signing on to a long list of potential charges for conspiracy and insurance fraud, and Arthur, once he’s erased from the grid, is free to assume the identity of one Alex Rimes and go after the hit man and his employer. He tires easily, he limps badly, and his vision is poor, but his skills as a freelance researcher turn out to be surprisingly useful, though he can’t imagine why anyone would order the execution of either himself or Florencia, who owned a successful insurance agency. The trail to the killers leads through a wary arrangement with a retired FBI agent, an elaborate precious-metals scam and a society party to die for before Arthur finally confronts his quarry in a sequence that manages both to satisfy readers’ bloodlust and to point toward a sequel. An absorbing update of the classic film, D.O.A., that finds its author so completely in the zone that not a word is wasted, and the story seems to unfold itself without human assistance.

DEATH OF A NEIGHBORHOOD WITCH

Levine, Laura Kensington (304 pp.) $24.00 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-7582-3849-8

If good fences made good neighbors, ad writer Jaine Austen (Pampered to Death, 2011, etc.) would need the Berlin Wall to cope with the nutty crew that surrounds her South Beverly Hills rental. No, she doesn’t want to hand out campaign flyers for Lila Wood, running for town council on an anti-development platform. Nor does she want to referee the constant fights between Helen and Harold Hurlbutt across the street. Or look at pricey condos in realtors Matt and Kevin Moore’s his-and-hers BMWs. (Despite her manly name, Kevin’s a she.) So how does Jaine get roped into planting petunias for crabby old Eleanor Jenkins, whose 15 minutes of fame as Cryptessa Muldoon in the one-season series I Married a Zombie would be long gone if everyone didn’t keep calling her Cryptessa? Probably because a hungry look from Jaine’s cat, Prozac, sends the actress’ beloved parakeet, Van Helsing, to bird heaven, and Jaine’s a pushover for anything that punches her guilt button. She’s also a pushover for Snickers bars, cinnamon raisin bagels and the cleft on the chin of her newest neighbor, literary agent Peter Connor. Jaine’s bud Lance Venable’s gaydar tells him that Lance isn’t a gene-pool candidate, but Jaine thinks Peter may be close to hitting on her. So she rents a cute flapper outfit for Peter’s Halloween party, only to find that Lance has switched it out for an ape suit—the very same costume Emmeline Owens sees on whoever sticks a “No Trespassing” sign through Cryptessa’s tiny heart. Now Jaine |

has two puzzles to ponder: Is Peter available or isn’t he, and who’s trying to frame her for murder? Levine’s latest finds her at her witty and wacky best. (Agent: Evan Marshall)

AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD

Lippman, Laura Morrow/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $26.99 | $12.99 e-book | Aug. 14, 2012 978-0-06-170687-5 978-0-06-220161-4 e-book Lippman (The Most Dangerous Thing, 2011, etc.), who specializes in tales of feckless parents and their luckless kids, puts a madam at the center of her latest dysfunctional family. At first, nothing could be more conventional than the Lewis family saga. Helen’s father, already married with two children to his credit, knocks up her mother, Beth, a 19-year-old carhop. He moves in with Beth but hangs around his ex-wife Barbara enough to give Helen a half sister, Meghan, only six months younger. As Beth and Barbara tussle over worthless Hector, he focuses on tormenting Helen, telling her that she has “a nothing face,” breaking her record albums and forcing her to get a job that interferes with her schoolwork. It’s while waitressing at Il Cielo that she meets Billy, the owner’s stepson, who lures her to Baltimore with promises of marriage. Instead, he turns her out, making her earn money to feed his drug habit by doing lap dances at a local strip club. That’s where she meets Val Deluca, whose red hair matches his fiery temper. Val offers Helen a nice house and a better class of client, all for doing what she’s already doing. He also gives her the chance to be something she’d never dreamed of: a mother. That’s when Helen’s tale goes off the beaten path. Before he learns about Helen’s delicate condition, Val is jailed for murder, and Helen reinvents herself as Heloise Lewis, running the business at a level Val had never achieved. She recruits college girls with delicately worded ads for escorts and serves clients who include state legislators, all while presenting herself as a lobbyist for the Women’s Full Employment Network. But when another suburban madam turns up dead, Heloise realizes that the safe, comfortable life she’s crafted for herself and her beloved son, Scott, in affluent Turner’s Grove is at risk. Like Mary Cassatt, Lippman studies families with a different eye than her male contemporaries, showing the heartbreaking complexity of life with those you love. (Author appearances in Baltimore, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco)

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PRINCESS ELIZABETH’S SPY

MacNeal, Susan Elia Bantam (352 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-553-59362-4

A mathematician born in Britain and raised in America adds spying to her resume. Maggie Hope has left her job as a secretary to Winston Churchill to enter MI5’s school for spies. Although her grades are stellar, she doesn’t do well enough on the physical tests to be sent to France. Instead, MI5 finds a job for her as maths tutor to the Princess Elizabeth so that she can keep an eye on Elizabeth, fondly known as Lilibet, who, as heir to the throne, may be a Nazi target. Maggie arrives at Windsor Castle with a lot on her mind. Her boyfriend has been shot down over Germany, and the father she had long thought dead is working at Bletchley Park—and may be a German spy. Maggie soon becomes a favorite of Lilibet and her younger sister, Margaret, if not their beloved Corgis, and bonds with the large and varied castle staff, both upstairs and downstairs, despite their understandable fears following the recent murder of a friend of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. As she pokes around, Maggie begins to suspect one of the snobbish ladies of Nazi leanings. Taken under the wing of Lord Gregory Strathcliffe, a badly disfigured RAF pilot, Maggie soon discovers several disquieting things after someone else is killed on the castle grounds. It’s good that Maggie is willing to risk her life to protect Lilibet, but will things indeed come to such a pass? Maggie’s second adventure (Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, 2012) is a romantic thriller detailing the life of the royals during the perilous times of World War II. (Author events in New York. Agent: Victoria Skurnick)

KANSAS CITY NOIR

Paul, Steve--Ed. Akashic (240 pp.) $15.95 paperback | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-61775-128-8 The Akashic noir steamroller, now 56 titles strong, pulls up to Kansas City. What about Kansas City says noir? Half of these 14 new stories leave this question a mystery because they reveal so little about the city. Oddly, it’s the shorter stories that are more steeped in local atmosphere. Linda Rodriguez’s retired hero crosses a line to protect his South Troost neighborhood from gangs and lives to regret it. Nancy Pickard shows traumatic childhood memories of the Paseo casting a long shadow over a woman in faraway Detroit. Mitch Brian provides a slight but evocative account of the last night before a movie theater goes dark. Daniel Woodrell traces the murderous arc of a female who tears up the city and feasts on the resulting headlines. Phong Nguyen imagines an episode 1872

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built around a real-life 19th-century political fixer, and Andrés Rodríguez devises a more mysterious end for the famous owner of Milton’s Tap Room. In the most routine of the stories, Nadia Pflaum explains why you can’t get good Kansas City barbecue anymore. The other entries aren’t any less successful, just more indeterminate in their time and place. Matthew Eck’s hero and heroine, children of serial killers, meet at a convention in a town that just happens to be Kansas City. John Lutz spins a tart variation on Thelma and Louise that could have followed any mean streets. Same thing with Kevin Prufer’s tale of a sick cop on the trail of an even sicker killer, or Catherine Browder’s cop accidentally shot during a quarrel with her lesbian live-in. Hardused heroes and heroines seem to live a lifetime in the stories of J. Malcolm Garcia, Grace Suh and Philip Stephens. What these tales lack in geographic specificity they make up in lived experience; each one seems almost novelistic in scope. Half novels-in-waiting, half journalistic anecdotes that are equally likely to appeal to Kansas City boosters and strangers.

A FISTFUL OF COLLARS

Quinn, Spencer Atria (320 pp.) $25.00 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-1-4516-6516-1

The Little Detective Agency can’t afford to turn down a case, because financial problems continue to dog them. Bernie Little may be a clever detective, but he can’t handle money and has a bad habit of destroying Porsches. Chet, a canine school dropout, is a loyal partner who thinks Bernie is the greatest. Luckily, Bernie and Chet are just picking out their latest used Porsche when they’re offered a new job. The mayor’s office of their small California town hires the pair to keep watch over Thad Perry, the star of a locally made movie that the mayor hopes will turn the area into a little Hollywood. Thad has a wildchild reputation, a drug habit and a bodyguard who’s as loyal as Chet but a lot bigger. Before Bernie’s reporter girlfriend, Suzie, moves to Washington, D.C., for a new job, she passes on a rumor that Thad has a history in the area. When people start to die, Bernie starts digging into the past to determine whether Thad is involved in crimes past or present. Dealing with three murders, blackmail, drugs, crooked cops and the need to keep Thad showing up for work every day is more than enough work for the clever pair, but they must end the carnival of crime as well. Chet, who continues as narrator in this exciting fifth installment of the series (The Dog Who Knew Too Much, 2011, etc.), often struggles to understand what the humans are up to but always gets it right in the end. (Author appearances in New England, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Houston, Phoenix and Chicago)

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“A strong mystery.” from death on telegraph hill

ROGUE

Sullivan, Mark Minotaur (384 pp.) $24.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-312-37851-6 Hide the good china: Sullivan (Triple Cross, 2009, etc.) launches a new series with even more helter-skelter action than his stratospheric average. After Robin Monarch quit the CIA when he realized that his mission to tap into an Al-Qaida computer for information about what turned out to be the sinister Green Fields project had been hopelessly corrupted, he went back to his roots. For Robin, orphaned young in Buenos Aires and raised by a community of thieves, that meant stealing stuff. Now, Constantine Belos, a pillar of the Russian Mafia who’s been following Robin’s career, wants him to find and steal a nuclear trigger before Belos’ Mafia rival, Omak, can purchase it from weapons dealer Boris Koporski, who moonlights, or daylights, as the President of Transdniestra. When Robin politely declines Belos’ offer of $5 million for the trigger, Belos detains his girlfriend, London editor Lacey Wentworth, and demands that Robin deliver the device for free within the next two weeks. Stung into action, Robin reassembles the team of forgettable professionals who worked with him on Green Fields and goes hunting for the trigger. But the team’s success in tracking it down is only the prelude to an endless series of bullet-laced confrontations, betrayals and rounds of torture that make it clear that in Robin’s world, even an offer you can’t refuse can always be renegotiated. The corruption, you’ll be happy to know, leads from the Mafia to the very highest levels of the CIA and the U.S. Senate. Makes you wonder. Sullivan, who most recently co-authored Private Games (2012) with James Patterson, has long since mastered the art of purging every bit of scenic or psychological interest from his exercises in can-you-top-this plotting. The closest analogies are summer movies from Entrapment to the Mission: Impossible franchise. (Agent: Meg Ruley)

DEATH ON TELEGRAPH HILL

Tallman, Shirley Minotaur (352 pp.) $24.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-250-01043-8

A San Francisco attorney’s determination to take on unusual cases is driving her parents crazy. In 1882, Oscar Wilde has come to town to read his poems and extol the benefits of the recently created aesthetic movement. After Sarah Woolson and her brother, Samuel, visit the Telegraph Hill home of newspaper publisher Mortimer Remy to hear and meet Wilde, Samuel is shot and badly wounded as they walk back down the Hill. Annoyed by the restrictions put |

upon women, Sarah resolves to investigate the shooting a lazy police officer writes off as an accident. Despite the protests of her parents and Robert Campbell, the attorney in love with her, Sarah returns to the Hill, which is home to a wide assortment of people, from wealthy Mrs. Montgomery to the poor and lazy writer whose wife just died in childbirth. While she’s nosing around, Sarah is shot at herself but luckily escapes with scratches. Meanwhile, she’s become involved in a case for the ASPCA, which is trying to prevent a wealthy Mexican from building a bullring in San Francisco. As both the pressure and the deaths mount, Sarah risks her life to find the answers. Tallman continues to surround her plucky, intelligent heroine (Scandal on Rincon Hill, 2010, etc.) with historical tidbits and a strong mystery.

MIXED SIGNALS

Tesh, Jane Poisoned Pen (250 pp.) $24.95 | paper $14.95 | Lg. Prt. $22.95 Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4642-0061-8 978-1-4642-0063-2 paperback 978-1-4642-0062-5 Lg. Prt. A North Carolina private eye and his psychic pal combine their talents to solve a murder. David Randall, who’s in love with his fellow boarder, Kary, a college student who wants to help with his detective work, awaits his mother’s Christmas visit with mixed feelings because he knows she’ll want to talk about the death of his daughter in a car crash. In the meantime, his landlord, Camden, finds his friend, Jared Hunter, who’s been released from jail after his conviction for his part in a local museum break-in, dead in a pool of blood. Violent flashbacks make Cam feel that he’s connected to the killer. In addition to investigating the murder, David is vexed by a series of robberies that proceed apace despite the appearance of a clumsy superhero who calls himself the Parkland Avenger. Ambitious reporter Brooke Verner of the Parkland Herald, whose editor’s institutionalized son had served time along with Jared, is on the case of the Avenger. Branching out on his own, David discovers that the thieves are using a network of tunnels under the old part of town. As his mother continues her efforts to get David to talk about his sorrows, Kary joins a local superhero group that denies that the Avenger is a member, and Cam continues to have debilitating psychic revelations. Will David solve the murders and robberies in time to provide a merry Christmas? Randall’s second appearance (Stolen Hearts, 2011) combines a solid mystery with a plethora of suspects and quirky regulars.

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WHERE IS THE BABY?

Vale-Allen, Charlotte Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8135-9

Does the dark past of three characters justify their present actions? When Officer Brian Kirlane meets lost child Humaby—an unfortunate contraction of “hump baby” coined by her abductors—he’s immediately charmed by the fact that she’s worked to rescue a baby abducted by the same kidnappers. Crime photographer Connie Miller, brought in to record the evidence, feels the same way. So when Humaby’s parents can’t be located, both Brian and Connie put in with the Department of Children and Families as potential foster families. Unfortunately, the caseworker assigned to Humaby decides the best interests of the girl demand that she live with newly minted child psychiatrist Stefan Lazarus, who’s overwhelmed by his own experience. Years later, Humaby has become Faith, searching for the baby she helped rescue when she was a child, her own place in the world and escape from the Lazarus family. Around the same time, Natalie “Tally,” freed from prison, drives east to nowhere in particular, hoping for a new beginning. In Connecticut, she strikes up a friendship with local Hayward “Hay” Baines, and the two feel an immediate connection that transcends the short time they’ve known each other. When Faith realizes that her story intersects with Hay’s and Tally’s, the three allow their shared past to dictate actions that may jeopardize their futures. Inspired by real events, Vale-Allen (Parting Gifts, 2001, etc.) invents a compelling back story for her characters that makes for a real page turner.

DROP DEAD ON RECALL

Webster Boneham, Sheila Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (408 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Oct. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-3306-7 An Indiana photographer whose life revolves around her dog becomes a reluctant bloodhound. Janet MacPhail and her Australian shepherd, Jay, are competing at an obedience trial near their Fort Wayne home when Abigail Dorn, a respected but not very well-liked woman, collapses and dies. Janet helps out by taking Abigail’s award-winning border collie, Pip, home with her while Greg Dorn waits with his stricken spouse. What at first seems to be an allergic reaction turns out to be a poisoning. The police are initially suspicious of Janet, who has not only Pip, but all of Abigail’s stuff, including some leftover food containers she’s unfortunately run through her dishwasher. But police Detective Jo Stevens, who doesn’t really think Janet is a murderer, relies on 1874

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her to explain the minutiae of dog breeding and showing. Greg emerges as the main suspect, since he may have been having an affair with Suzette Anderson, whose border collie, Fly, is number two behind Pip. Janet must deal with her mother’s descent into dementia and her attraction to Tom Saunders, who’s showing a Labrador retriever named Drake. In between these problems, she digs up dirt on a breeder who may have falsified breeding records and another dog person who’s obsessed with Greg. Even Tom is a suspect because his mother was left out when Abigail’s side of the family inherited a fortune, and he’s a college professor with expertise in poisonous plants. When Janet starts receiving threats and her cat is kidnapped, she redoubles her efforts to find the truth. Boneham’s debut, which supplements its menagerie of human suspects with oodles of information on obedience trials, will delight dog fanciers. (Agent: Josh Getlzer)

DARKNESS RISING

Wiehl, Lis with Nelson, Pete Thomas Nelson (336 pp.) $26.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-5955-4943-3 The demonic evil that first became apparent in St. Adrian’s Academy for Boys spreads further in this sequel to Waking Hours (2011). When a resident of Westchester County’s High Ridge Manor is 102, it’s not exactly surprising to find her dead. But no one can figure out just how archivist and author Abigail Gardener died—not county Medical Examiner Baldev Banerjee, not forensic psychiatrist Danielle Harris, not even Dani’s ex-fiance, neurochemist Quinn McKellen. One thing that seems certain is that Abbie’s passing follows from the murder of Julie Leonard, even though the death of Julie’s presumed killer, sociopathic St. Adrian’s student Amos Kasden, might have seemed to close that case for Detective Philip Casey of the East Salem Police Department. Another thing that seems equally certain is that there’s more than a whiff of sulfur and brimstone around St. Adrian’s. The place so reeks of infernal possession that Dani and her boyfriend, private eye Tommy Gunderson, try to snoop electronically on Dr. Adolf Ghieri, the school’s psychologist. Their failure to bug the sinister Ghieri’s computer kicks off another round of demonic manifestations, fueled this time by a warning angelic messengers deliver separately to Dani and Tommy: “Someone is going to betray you. Someone you trust.” As the intrepid pair, afraid to confide in each other, struggle to discern who the trusted betrayer is, the authors can’t resist spilling the beans to the gentle reader, cutting the mystery without significantly increasing the suspense. Since Wiehl (Eyes of Justice, 2012, etc.) and Nelson’s pulp Armageddon runs into all the usual middle-of-trilogy problems—an ill-defined beginning, a cliffhanger ending and endless, relatively shapeless conflict in between—readers are advised to start with Waking Hours before entering this door to East Salem. |


nonfiction THOMAS ADÈS Full of Noises

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Adés, Thomas and Service, Tom Farrar, Straus and Giroux (240 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-374-27632-4

ISAAC’S ARMY by Matthew Brzezinski..................................... p. 1881 MARBLES by Ellen Forney........................................................... p. 1887 THE LOST BATTLES by Jonathan Jones......................................p. 1899 LEONARDO AND THE LAST SUPPER by Ross King.................p. 1899 CYNDI LAUPER by Cyndi Lauper and Jancee Dunn.................. p. 1903 THE OLD WAYS by Robert Macfarlane.......................................p. 1904 WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS by Daniel Mendelsohn...... p. 1907 YOU SAVED ME, TOO by Susan Kushner Resnick...................... p. 1911 ON POLITICS by Alan Ryan........................................................ p. 1912 TRIUMPHS OF EXPERIENCE by George E. Vaillant.................. p. 1917 CYNDI LAUPER A Memoir

Lauper, Cyndi with Dunn, Jancee Atria (352 pp.) $26.00 Sep. 18, 2012 978-1-4391-4785-6

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Edited transcripts of nine intense interviews with the celebrated British composer. Guardian music critic Service is respectful and generous throughout these conversations, which traverse much of the geography of classical music, then and now. Occasionally, he even accepts a body blow without much complaint. In a discussion about Benjamin Britten, for instance, Adès calls the content of Service’s question “the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard.” The conversations focus often on Adès’ own compositions, especially his opera The Tempest (2004 premiere), based on Shakespeare’s play, and Service elicits from him a number of insights, large and small (he composes on an electric piano with earphones). Their talk also ranges into the past, and we learn that Adès loves Stravinsky and Beethoven, and that he admires Verdi’s “pure animal cunning.” Although there is some music-theorytechie talk here (discussions about stacked fifths and “irrational functional tonality”), most readers will have no trouble following the flow. Adès emerges as highly articulate, rarely wry and often peremptory—the words “I could be wrong” are not in evidence. But he does say many arresting and memorable things— e.g., “Writing music is like trying to capture the face in the fire”; “I think my music ought to affect something in the individual; not something in the shared, lizard part of the brain, as perhaps some stadium music does.” Service manages to get Adès talking rather than debating, but the interviewer does challenge when Adès says something surprising, like calling the finale of Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 “a terrible waste of space.” Some mild friction between two bright men sparks striking observations about music.

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“Skip it and read Life instead.” from mick

ASHOKA The Search for India’s Lost Emperor

Allen, Charles Overlook (480 pp.) $29.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-4683-0071-0

A prolific chronicler of India, Allen (Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling, 2009, etc.) shows just how addictive the country can be. The author’s delight is obvious as he investigates the search for the great Indian leader, Ashoka. This is not so much a biography as a chronicle of that quest, and the details of the search become tedious. India-born and descended from generations serving the British Raj, Allen is well-acquainted with the archaeological sites of the stupas, rock and pillar edicts and Elephant Rocks. Throughout the 19th century, the Asiatic Society of Bengal archived copies of the great edicts Ashoka ordered carved there. These massive tablets pictured his history, explained Buddhism and addressed schisms that occurred during his reign. His revolutionary edicts enabled Ashoka to conquer by Dharma, undermining the authority of the Brahman by calling for religious tolerance and the banning of animal sacrifice. In order to understand the edicts, the first job was to decipher the language as it evolved through a number of influences. Nowhere does Allen address the idea that few might have been able to read any language in the 3rd century B.C. Admittedly, many readers will have limited tolerance for the detailed etymology and philology of the Greek, Pakrit, Sanskrit and Pali names for sites and characters. The author has a wealth of material available in the writings of British, Indian and Chinese who came before, helping him to establish the beginnings of Buddhism and its spread throughout the subcontinent. Allen’s enthusiasm and love for India are obvious; his waxing eloquent over the 23 volumes of Archaeological Survey Reports by Alexander Cunningham indicates a devotion few of us could share. Lovers of intense research will enjoy this book. Readers with no sense of Indian history or geography and little archaeological curiosity will get bored. (25 b/w photos)

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE A Memoir

Anastas, Benjamin Amazon/New Harvest (208 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-547-91399-5 A miasma of misfortune hobbles a successful author’s life and livelihood. There was a time when Anastas (The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor’s Disappearance, 2001, etc.) was riding high on the success of his 1998 novel, An Underachiever’s Diary. But his memoir isn’t about happy days, since things took a nasty turn for the worse. As a broke 41-year-old, he was drowning in debt while sharing his Brooklyn 1876

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apartment with live-in girlfriend Eliza, who, while overwhelmingly sympathetic, found herself running out of patience. The depth of Anastas’ desperation materializes in chapters like “Coinstar,” in which he discusses converting loose change at the local “Bank of Desperate Times” to buy food for his shared-custody son’s visits. Anastas is admirably frank and honest about the depressing details of his floundering literary career and the antagonistic dissolution of his marriage after mutual indiscretions (he had an international fling with another writer; she left him for another man while pregnant with their son). The author affords readers a glimpse into an unconventional childhood watched over by a loose-cannon father and a depressive, therapy-dependent mother, who came out as lesbian when the author was a teenager. However, the headliner here is his more recent conundrum, which he conveys with an exacting eye for detail and a healthy dose of browbeaten exasperation. Eventually circumstances improved, and the author’s many battles have wrung from him both catharsis and poignancy. The raw yet eloquent presentation of a life in crisis mode.

MICK The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger

Andersen, Christopher Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (372 pp.) $27.00 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4516-6144-6 Journalist and best-selling celebrity biographer Andersen (William and Kate: A Royal Love Story, 2010, etc.) brings his taste for the titillating tales of British royalty to this breezy, shamelessly shallow recap of rock god Mick Jagger’s life so far. Not surprisingly, considering Jagger’s well-known lack of interest in his autobiography, the author didn’t spend any time talking to the subject of his book. He lifts all Jagger quotes from other sources, as well as those of Jagger’s band mates, family and closest friends. (Much of Andersen’s description of Jagger’s boyhood hometown seems to have relied heavily on Keith Richards’ memoir, Life.) Andersen tried to make up for this lack of cooperation from the immediate circle by speaking to scores of the star’s past lovers and business associates, including Marianne Faithfull, Bianca Jagger, Andrew Oldham and the late Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records. The author does well enough with the material he had to work with, giving the story all the verve of a 300-page People story. (He was once senior editor at that celebrity-celebrating weekly.) Readers who know nothing about Jagger or the Rolling Stones will get the basic story: the development of Jagger’s iconic androgyny, the drug busts, Altamont, the tax exile, the knighthood, the brotherly love and rivalry between Jagger and Richards, and the women—especially the women. Readers will eventually realize that Jagger’s sex life has been vastly more important to his identity, if not his fame, than his career as an artist. Those who know something about Jagger and care about rock ’n’ roll will learn little from this book. Skip it and read Life instead.

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INTERVENTIONS A Life in War and Peace

Annan, Kofi with Mousavizadeh, Nader Penguin Press (512 pp.) $36.00 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-1-59420-420-3 With the assistance of Oxford Analytica CEO Mousavizadeh (editor: The Black Book of Bosnia: The Consequences of Appeasement, 1996), former United Nations Secretary-General Annan discusses the major benchmarks of his life and career. The author, born in 1934, passes briefly over his education and early career at the World Health Organization and U.N., where he worked until his retirement in 2006, and moves rapidly into his main topic: the transformation of U.N. Peacekeeping Operations since the late 1980s and early ’90s. Since then, the idea that the U.N. Security Council can deploy military force to intervene in conflicts within sovereign nations and to

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protect human rights has become institutionalized. Because the transformation paralleled the progress of his own career, Annan, who was promoted to the directorate of PKO in 1993 and secretary-general in 1997, is uniquely situated to chronicle this time period in the organization, and he identifies three significant dates: 1992, after Desert Storm; 1998, after the Bosnian conflict and the Rwandan genocide; and again in 2005. First, consent of all the parties to a conflict was no longer required; then the need for self-contained fighting forces to drive military outcomes was recognized; and finally, there was the adoption of what its sponsors called “the responsibility to protect.” However, the U.N. has often lacked the means—specifically the “self-contained fighting force”—to accomplish some of its goals, so disagreement has been ongoing between nationalist interests and those who aspire to exercise the powers of a world government. Annan also discusses his roles in the U.N.’s millennial development program and its work on AIDS. An insider’s personal account based on lessons drawn from long experience. Aspects of this book complement Jacques Chirac’s autobiography, My Life in Politics (2012).

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“Action-packed accounts of the missions of one of the world’s most effective and mysterious intelligence services” from mossad

THE HALF-LIFE OF FACTS Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date

Arbesman, Samuel Current (256 pp.) $25.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-59184-472-3

Absorbing and approachable treatise on the nature of facts: what they are, how and why they change and how they sometimes don’t (despite being wrong). Facts matter. But when they change—as they seem today to do with alarming frequency, we begin to lose that control. In his debut, Arbesman, a research fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard, advises us not to worry: While we can’t stop facts from changing, we can recognize that what we know “changes in understandable and systematic ways.” Since it is often surprisingly predictable, we can get a handle on change. “Facts, in the aggregate,” he writes, “have halflives: We can measure the amount of time for half of a subject’s knowledge to be overturned.” With this, he introduces “scientometrics,” the science of science. With scientometrics, we can measure the exponential growth of facts, how long it will take, exponentially, for knowledge in any field to be disproved—say, 45 years for medical knowledge. We can understand predictably how the spread of knowledge (even incorrect knowledge) occurs, and we can understand that those abrupt disconcerting changes that seem to stand the world on its head aren’t really all that surprising. Some readers may lose interest as Arbesman discusses such esoteric topics as logistic curves, linked S-curve theory, semantic and associative data processing and actuarial escape velocity. But like a good college professor, Arbesman’s enthusiasm and humor maintains our interest in subjects many readers may not have encountered before. Does what popular science should do—both engages and entertains.

PRESUMED GUILTY Casey Anthony: The Inside Story

Baez, Jose and Golenbock, Peter BenBella (423 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-193785638-0

A celebrated criminal lawyer’s tell-all memoir about the tumultuous years he spent defending supposed Florida “baby killer” Casey Anthony. Anthony hired Baez in 2008 to defend her against allegations of child neglect of her daughter, Caylee. At the time, Baez, assisted in this memoir by Golenbock (Glory in the Fall: The Greatest Moments in World Series History, 2010, etc.), was just a “rookie lawyer” who had only been admitted to the Florida bar in 2005. What seemed like “just another case” quickly emerged 1878

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as a possible murder trial. Complicating matters was the fact that investigators caught Anthony telling elaborate, and ultimately untrue, stories about her life that made references to a host of imaginary friends and acquaintances. Consequently, on the basis of unsubstantiated evidence Baez believes Orlando police leaked to the media, the legal system sought to convict the young mother “in the court of public opinion.” Using her apparent untrustworthiness as its point of departure, the prosecution proceeded to build a case against Anthony based on appearances rather than truth. It claimed that Anthony had done nothing but party for a month before finally admitting that her daughter was missing; that the smell inside Casey’s car came from human remains rather than the decaying pizza remnants actually found in the vehicle; and that hair discovered in the trunk came from Caylee’s dead body. Sensing that the case was not as simple as the prosecution had made it seem, Baez slowly gained Anthony’s trust and pursued hunches that she was not only innocent, but also the victim of sexual abuse. The author’s determination to complete a case that at times drove him to despair and brought him to the edge of bankruptcy is admirable, but the meticulous detail occasionally verges on excruciating.

MOSSAD The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service

Bar-Zohar, Michael; Mishal, Nissim Ecco/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $27.99 | $14.99 e-book | Nov. 1, 2012 978-0-06-212340-4 978-0-06-212344-2 e-book

Action-packed accounts of the missions of one of the world’s most effective and mysterious intelligence services, Israel’s Mossad. Former Knesset member Bar-Zohar (Shimon Peres, 2007, etc.) and Israeli TV personality and journalist Mishal (Those Were the Years: Israel’s Jubilee, 1997, etc.) spare no detail about the gruesome killings and plots of the Israeli agency. In fact, the authors often boast about the deadliness of Mossad agents, especially former director Meir Dagan. Most of the missions included here feature unexpected twists and nearly unbelievable plotlines that rival a fast-paced thriller. For example, there is the story of Elie Cohen, a Mossad agent who posed as a Syrian expatriate who was homesick in Argentina and wanted to move back to his homeland. He threw parties and mingled with the political inner circle, all while dispatching their secrets to Israel on a daily basis. Another operation involved smuggling the unconscious body of a former Nazi leader out of Argentina by having his double check into a hospital using the target’s name. Though unquestionably exciting, many readers may find the narrative bordering on propaganda, and the last chapter is disappointing. Bar-Zohar and Mishal cobble together facts to make an unconvincing argument about how Israel should receive support to fight against the threat of Iran, cherry-picking facts to

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MY HUSBAND AND MY WIVES A Gay Man’s Odyssey

fit their position. For example, the authors write that former Iranian deputy defense minister Ali-Reza Asgari defected to Israel in 2007, even though the debate continues about whether he actually defected or was kidnapped. Entertaining and somewhat informative, but readers should take it with a grain of salt.

A THOUSAND DEER Four Generations of Hunting and the Hill Country

Bass, Rick Univ. of Texas (198 pp.) $24.95 | Sep. 15, 2012 978-0-292-73795-2

Prolific nature writer Bass (The Black Rhinos of Namibia, 2012, etc.) offers a view of fine country and his family’s past through the scope of a rifle. The author has long been a naturalist and novelist laureate of the Montana mountains, but here he returns home to Texas to ponder the ways of the old folks, four generations of Basses who passed glorious time in the rougher patches of the Hill Country. Life always entails death, of course. That’s the primary lesson of hunting, and of family history too; as Bass writes, “Each generation, I think, learns less and less about death, these days, rather than more—and so here I am, in this room full of old people….I wonder how often they think about it.” The author thinks often about the Hill Country’s abundant population of deer, who by his account, offer themselves up as a “gift of the land” in the old social contract of predator and prey. It’s a subject fraught with the possibility of being misread, given modern sensibilities, but there’s nothing of the yahoo or landrapist in Bass’ approach either to hunting or to writing about it. Along the way, the author writes gracefully of the geology of the region, with its sandstones and feldspars and “nuggets and gravels that we call chat, which is a beautiful pink-rose color,” and of the spirit of the place, whose tongue “is the language of water… cutting down to the heart and soul of the earth, to a thing that lies far below and beyond our memory.” Those outraged at the thought of doing Bambi in may not be won over by the sometimes self-conscious lyricism, but anyone who has spent time in the Hill Country will recognize the author’s authenticity. A minor but pleasing entry in Bass’ body of work.

Beye, Charles Rowan Farrar, Straus and Giroux (272 pp.) $26.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-374-29871-5

A gay man’s reflections on his marriages to two women and one man. Now in his 80s, Beye (Odysseus: A Life, 2004, etc.) is a retired scholar and professor of ancient Greek. This self-described “odyssey” tracks his life by way of his sexuality, resulting in a meditation on the author’s gay identity and his three marriages. Openly homosexual in his teens, Beye describes his early, casual sexual encounters with boys and falling in love for the first time at 17. Subsequently, as an adult who had never slept with a woman, he was introduced to his future wife, Mary, as “the biggest fag in Iowa City.” Three months later, he proposed, and she accepted. Beye doesn’t offer much explanation for this marriage; he claims not to know if he loved her but admits to never having known anyone like Mary. Following her unexpected, sudden death a few years later, he remarried, to a different woman, Penny, with whom he reluctantly had four children. Beye describes their 20-year union as “the deepest, most complicated relationship” of his life. The couple drank heavily and suffered from depression, and neither Penny nor the author remained faithful. Following multiple affairs and their divorce, he fell in love with Richard, who was his partner for 15 years before their 2008 marriage. Some of Beye’s sadder confessions are difficult to stomach, but his unrelenting honesty and sharp intelligence makes for a companionable, if slightly mystifying, memoir. Like an autobiographical Revolutionary Road from a gay husband’s perspective, although this unorthodox story ends on a happier note. (8 b/w illustrations)

STATE OUT OF THE UNION Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream Biggers, Jeff Nation Books/Perseus (288 pp.) $25.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-56858-702-8

Investigation of Arizona politicians who Biggers (Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, 2010, etc.) believes are anti-immigration, partly because of racism and partly because they are beholden to corporate agendas. The author grew up in Arizona, noticing early in life that political and corporate leaders built on the narrative of the Wild West to thumb their noses at government intervention on matters of civil rights. Gov. Janice Brewer is one of many power brokers criticized by Biggers as a fearmonger and liar. Although the author’s language is sometimes intemperate, his extensive |

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evidence gives the book authenticity. Biggers worries that other state legislators and governors will push inhumane and perhaps illegal legislation to drive immigrants back to Mexico. Although most of the book focuses on the past decade, the author is masterful at showing how the past is prologue. At one stage, numerous Arizonans would have rejected statehood because they worried the federal government would force them to combine with New Mexico, a territory populated by Hispanics. As he guides readers through Arizona’s unusual path to settlement and then statehood, Biggers explains how carpetbaggers from the East Coast and other distant locales moved to Arizona to avoid winter weather and the melting-pot populations. As the ambitious carpetbaggers gained political power, often as Republican Party partisans, they sought a punitive rather than empathetic government. Biggers champions activists such as Cesar Chavez, who organized exploited immigrant laborers. A timely book, especially with immigration policy playing a major role in the upcoming presidential campaign. (13 b/w illustrations)

STRONG IN THE RAIN Surviving Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Birmingham, Lucy and McNeill, David Palgrave Macmillan (256 pp.) $27.00 | Oct. 30, 2012 978-0-230-34186-9 Eyewitness accounts of the Japanese tsunami disaster that unfolded on March 11, 2011. Time Tokyo-based reporter Birmingham and Independent and Chronicle of Higher Education Japan correspondent McNeill bring readers directly into the moment in this action-packed account of the earthquake, tsunami and resulting meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant. In this intense narrative, the authors include stories of fishermen who survived by sailing their boats into the oncoming tsunami waves, teachers who raced to get their students to high ground, and plant workers, bound by a sense of duty and honor, who returned to the melting and highly radioactive nuclear facility to help cool overheating fuel rods. The authors also point out some of the major mistakes that cost hundreds of lives: the evacuation centers that were not beyond the reach of the gigantic tsunami, the sea walls that funneled wave action onto unprotected sites and the general air of forgetfulness that pervaded the region even though tsunamis are not uncommon in Japan. “Each generation builds stone monuments at the highest point of the tsunami that struck their homes,” write the authors, “then forgets their lessons; their faded stone lettering a metaphor for collective amnesia.” Unfortunately for thousands, there are no homes left to mark this tsunami event. Most disturbing of all are the accounts of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the range of misinformation that pervaded the media, including inaccurate accounts of the extent of the damage. The authors also include 1880

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moving accounts of survivors honoring the dead despite the lack of vehicles to transport bodies, crematoriums to burn them, or urns to hold the ashes. Harrowing, sensitive stories of heroism during one of the most traumatic natural disasters in Japanese history.

AN ETERNITY OF EAGLES The Human History of the Most Fascinating Bird in the World Bodio, Stephen Lyons Press (224 pp.) $26.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-7627-8022-8

A lavishly illustrated natural and social history of the eagle. Bodio, a traveler who writes about hunting and nature, delivers a beautiful follow-up to his book about his travels with the hunters of Mongolia, Eagle Dreams (2003). He provides reproductions of paintings by such artists as John James Audubon, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Emil Doepler and especially the Russian Vadim Gorbatov, whose paintings and color photography of Kazakh and Mongolian eagle-falconers add another dimension to the narrative and complement the author’s own photography. Bodio comprehensively covers the world of eagles, including golden eagles, bald eagles, the endangered Philippine monkey eating eagle and the huge harpies of Africa and South America. He also provides a history of humans’ relations with the bird. Particularly interesting are a petroglyph from Kazakhstan from about 1300-1200 B.C. and a Chinese hunting scene featuring a hare chased by hounds, an eagle and a hunter on horseback, circa A.D. 350-450. Kazakhs hunt wolves and deer and other creatures with eagles from horseback, and Bodio thinks the ancestors of the Kazakhs may have been the first to hunt this way. He provides eyewitness accounts from publications by travelers and discusses how the birds are captured and trained to hunt. The author also includes a chapter on how these noble creatures were, for a long time, treated as vermin, hunted from the ground and air and poisoned. In the United States, these practices have been outlawed and bird numbers are recovering. Sure to appeal to hunters and nature lovers. (100 color photos)

BECOMING SISTER WIVES The Story of an Unconventional Marriage

Brown, Kody; Brown, Meri; Brown, Janelle; Brown, Christine; Brown, Robyn Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (290 pp.) $25.00 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4516-6121-7

A behind-the-scenes look at the life of a celebrity polygamist family. The authors, Kody Brown and his wives (Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn) tell their story

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“A well-told, direct story of endurance and courage in the face of death and destruction on an apocalyptic scale, as moving and powerful as any novel.” from isaac’s army

sequentially, writing alternating chapters in each of the five parts. They begin with Kody’s first (and only legal) marriage to Meri in 1990, and then describe how the couple brought the next two sister wives, Christine and Robyn into their family. This provides the back story to the real-life drama featured on their popular reality TV show, Sister Wives. After the first episodes aired, the family fled from Utah to Las Vegas to avoid threatened legal prosecution for bigamy. The authors explain that they are members of a Mormon sect that subscribes to all the tenets of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints—plus one more: “the principle of celestial plural marriage,” which is sanctified by a church ceremony. Readers hoping to find out more about the Mormon faith in general will be disappointed, and the authors are clear to distinguish their faith from that of the Fundamentalist LDS, which was led by convicted child molester Warren Jeffs. The authors do not explain the specific spiritual issues underlying their decision to embrace polygamy. They write movingly about their decision to reject the secrecy imposed on polygamous families, the new strains of their celebrity situation, the inevitable problems inherent in their marital situation, and the joys of raising 17 children. Sister Wives has finished its fourth season amid rumors of a fifth marriage and lawsuit against Utah by the family. A different take on married life, of broader interest because of the issue of same-sex marriage and Mitt Romney’s membership in the LDS.

THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 Ad

Brown, Peter Princeton Univ. (806 pp.) $39.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-691-15290-5

Render unto Caesar, quoth the New Testament—even when Caesar is the church that Peter built. Brown (Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire, 2002, etc.) may be an emeritus professor of history at Princeton, but his research is resolutely up-to-date. So, too, is his language, as when he writes of a particular trope of the late Roman historian Ammianus, “this was no nostalgia trip on his part,” and when he describes the imposition of the rule of celibacy on the priesthood as “consumer driven.” That last makes particular sense in the context of this sizable book, in which Brown examines the long conflict between Christ-like immiseration and episcopal opulence, a conflict that has its roots in the economic history of the late Roman Empire. In that time, writes the author, there was an uneasy concord between the ruling nobility and the peasantry during a time when barbarian invasions and civil war were the new normal. When the empire dissolved, one way for a wealthy Christian to feel holy was to renounce wealth entirely in the way of the monks; another was to give all his |

money to the rising church, in which the monks took the place of all the poor outside the walls of the cloister. “Gifts to the city gained fame in this world and this world only,” writes Brown. “By contrast, gifts within the churches were thought to join this world to a boundless world beyond the stars.” Brown charts the growth of the church’s “financial muscle,” venturing intriguing asides as he proceeds on such matters as pagan vestiges within the beliefs of the church and lay society alike—the supernatural connection, for instance, of wealth to the turning of the seasons—and the fact that the ranks of the early Christian church were filled not by the meek and the poor, but instead by “moderately well-to-do townfolk.” A hefty yet lucid contribution to the history of early Christianity. (13 color illustrations, 8 halftones; 6 maps)

ISAAC’S ARMY The Jewish Resistance in Occupied Poland Brzezinski, Matthew Random House (496 pp.) $30.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-553-80727-1 978-0-679-64530-6 e-book

The history of Polish Jews who fought Nazi brutality, retold in the stories of some truly remarkable young men and women. Journalist Brzezinski (Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age, 2007, etc.) presents a meticulous, harrowing account of resistance, humanized with personal tales of individual combatants. As he writes, from the day the Germans set foot in the Polish capital, the brutality mounted. The Jewish quarter was walled off, and the inhumanely crowded ghetto was established. Naked bodies were soon found throughout the quarter, which was infected with typhus as well as blackmailers and profiteers. But there were partisans, too. As deportation to death camps increased, there was frantic organizing and smuggling. Travel to the “Aryan” side was forbidden yet accomplished through disguised tunnels. Finally, in the spring of 1943, after 400,000 Jews were dead, the uprising exploded. In the lead-up to the Uprising, the resistance had established lines of communication and financing for a few guns, and leaders stepped up to organize the logistics and tactics. Escape, through fetid sewers or inhospitable forests, was rare. Aided by anti-Semites, the Wehrmacht and the particularly brutal SS were powerful and efficient. However, as recalled by survivors, there was support by some righteous gentiles. In his valuable text, Brzezinski impartially describes the political interplay of factions of resistance fighters, even when the city of Warsaw was utterly destroyed on orders from Berlin. The struggle continued as survivors fought their way to Israel. “In Poland,” writes the author, “Jews now had only a past. The future had been erased.” A well-told, direct story of endurance and courage in the face of death and destruction on an apocalyptic scale, as moving and powerful as any novel.

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4TH AND GOAL One Man’s Quest to Recapture His Dream

Burke, Monte Grand Central Publishing (288 pp.) $26.99 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-1-4555-1404-5

The story of a successful CEO who left his position to pursue a longdeferred dream of becoming a college football coach. In 1983, Joe Moglia was the defensive coordinator for Dartmouth’s football team. He was also a husband and a father of four, and he was faced with a decision: continue slowly climbing the college coaching ladder, not making enough money to support his family, or turn his back on that dream and pursue something more lucrative. A great deal of hard work and chutzpah later, he had secured a comfortable position with Merrill, which he left to take over foundering TD Ameritrade. Moglia turned the company around, making it one of the most stable and respected brokerages in the country. After eight years, and at age 60, he left to pursue coaching. Breaking into college-level coaching at this age proved to be a different challenge, which left him back where he’d started, clawing his way through the ranks of coaching. Burke (Sowbelly: The Obsessive Quest for the World-Record Largemouth Bass, 2006, etc.) does Moglia’s story justice, showing how his strengths in finance helped lift his coaching of a small UFL franchise into financial stability. A winning record for the team, almost essential for Moglia to achieve his college coaching dream, was another matter. The team struggled, and as the focus shifted from a winning record to saving face, Moglia’s perspective on his dream also shifted. Burke’s approach is unique among financial, business and sports books, as it’s not crucial to understand much about football or money to enjoy the book. A winning story for fans of Friday Night Lights and believers in the American dream.

DEFENDING YOUR BRAND How Smart Companies Use Defensive Strategy to Deal with Competitive Attacks

Calkins, Tim Palgrave Macmillan (304 pp.) $30.00 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-230-34034-3

A handbook on the application of defensive strategies to business operations. Calkins (Marketing/Northwestern Univ.; Breakthrough Marketing Plans, 2008, etc.) thinks there is nothing more important for a profitable business than protecting it. This may seem counterintuitive to those who think strategies aimed at securing growth might be the best approach. Against them, the author insists that to succeed, business leaders need accurate 1882

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information about competitors, gaps in the market and their own vulnerabilities. He stresses a financial approach, insisting companies first understand their own finances and then figure out how to estimate the financial positions of their competitors. He shows how a new entrant with a product that takes a small part of an established company’s market share can have a profound effect on the balance sheet over time. The best defense, he writes, is to keep competitors from getting new products off the ground at all. Some of the tactics he discusses—drawn from his knowledge of business practice—may strike some readers as somewhat unethical, and there is no camouflaging the reality that customers are the ones who pay for this additional overhead. No matter who wins the war for market share, customers lose from the lack of transparency and deception over purposes. The book concludes with “A Cautionary Word About Competition Law” written by the author’s brother, which indicates where the lines of criminality are drawn. An eye-opening book, sometimes shocking in its straightforwardness.

WHAT THE (BLEEP) JUST HAPPENED? The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback

Crowley, Monica Broadside Books/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $27.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-06-213115-7

Political smut, slander, fiction, paranoia and conspiracy theories from the last four years are repackaged into this corrosive brew by Fox News contributor and former Nixon foreign policy assistant Crowley (Nixon in Winter: His Final Revelations about Diplomacy, Watergate and Life Out of the Arena, 1998, etc.). Obama’s “unaccountable ‘czars’…could operate with impunity,” writes the author, “do all of [his] dirty work, and, at the end of a typical workday, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel would hand each of them a sweaty wad of untraceable bills.” Throughout the book, this kind of vitriol corrodes any basis for rational discussion. Those who might laugh probably won’t check the author’s accounting of the stimulus program agreed upon by Congress and the executive branch in 2009, which included “$50 to convince Barbara Mikulski to jump off the ferryboat,” and “$500 billion to paint Bill Clinton’s face on the side of the pleasure boat.” What might they think of those who get free Brazilian waxes and rides on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Jet Ski thanks to the American taxpayer? As the book progresses, Crowley continues to blend hate- and anger-driven fiction in a strange never-never land of nonsense, in which no government social program, the author writes, “is about their superficial purpose.” As expected, in this “war for the nation’s future,” Crowley wants to “discard the impulse toward social and economic justice” through the gutting of entitlement programs. If we don’t act now, she writes, “we’ll all speak Arabic,

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THE LAW OF SUPERHEROES

spend Chinese currency, and get abortions at the 7-Eleven.” Most of the book is just a restatement of similar xenophobic, snarkily presented sentiment. More bilious pickings for Fox News junkies; all others should take a pass.

A WORLD WITHOUT CANCER The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention Cuomo, Margaret I. Rodale (304 pp.) $26.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-60961-885-8

Despite recent advances in the understanding of cancer at the molecular level, a radiologist argues that the war on cancer as presently waged is unwinnable. Currently, writes Cuomo, our research system is fraught with duplication of effort, conflict of interest, drive for personal gain and far too little oversight. Although billions of dollars have been spent since 1971, when President Nixon declared war on cancer by signing the National Cancer Act, an estimated 1.6 million new cases will be diagnosed this year and hundreds of thousands will die. The author charges that government and academic research efforts have been fragmented, with little collaboration and too much bureaucracy. Her answer: Make cancer prevention a top priority by establishing a National Cancer Prevention Institute under the National Institutes of Health to coordinate research. Cuomo takes a sharp look at the problems with our present screening methods, the inconsistency in doctors’ recommendations for them, the misleading information they may provide and the harm they can cause. Current treatment options—surgery, radiation and chemotherapy—are not only brutal in their side effects, but enormously expensive, with drugs leading the way in pushing up costs. Further, many expensive drugs, some of which are quite profitable to the doctors who prescribe and provide them, do little to prolong life. The author asks the pharmaceutical industry to redirect its efforts into better tools for preventing cancer through early detection, effective vaccines and new means of protecting the immune system. Cuomo also offers some common-sense advice to individuals on steps to take to lower the risk of cancer—i.e., taking better care of their own health through exercise, diet and avoiding tobacco; teaching their children to do the same; and advocating for a safer environment. A harsh view of current efforts to battle cancer, certain to alarm patients and anger many researchers and clinicians.

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Daily, James; Davidson, Ryan Gotham Books (320 pp.) $26.00 | Oct. 11, 2012 978-1-592-40726-2

The creators of the popular website lawandthemultiverse.com expand the concept into a book-length exploration of tricky legal issues faced by comicbook heroes and villains. Lawyers by trade, Daily and Davidson here analyze the types of issues only hard-core comic-book geeks can appreciate, ranging from the question of mutant civil rights to Superman’s citizenship status. The authors wholeheartedly acknowledge and embrace the ridiculousness of their endeavor, a factor that helps mitigate the frequently dry discussions. They know their audience: comic obsessives who view funny books not as a means of entertainment, but as a way of life, readers who spend hours debating whether Batman could beat Captain America in a fight or speculating on the sex lives—and sexual preferences—of their costume-clad heroes. Chapters on criminal law (can the Joker use insanity as a valid defense?), constitutional law (can the death penalty be applied to someone who’s invulnerable?), criminal procedure (can Spider-Man, as a private citizen unaffiliated with the police, legally arrest and detain someone?) and other creatively conceived issues illuminate the answers to questions few have dared to ask, providing cogent analysis in a way that should be largely understandable to general readers. Unfortunately, the concept is far more engaging than the actual analysis; the book reads like a standard, law-class primer, only all of the examples involve superheroes. It’s funny to think about the IRS hounding Superman every time he squeezes a piece of coal into a diamond, but it’s not all that exciting to delve into a thorough examination of the statutes under which he could actually be prosecuted. Witty on the Web, ponderous on the page.

CÉZANNE A Life

Danchev, Alex Pantheon (608 pp.) $40.00 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-307-37707-4 978-0-307-90779-0 e-book

A formidable biography of the Father of Modern Art bound for the annals of academia. Danchev (International Relations/Univ. of Nottingham; On Art and War and Terror, 2009, etc.) has researched every facet and nuance of Paul Cézanne’s life (1839–1906). His comfortable childhood in Provence, his years in Paris, where he was influenced by the Impressionists, and his dependence on the allowance from his father created the artist some suggested was “not all there.” There is a wealth of information in the

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“Confidence in the future lends appeal to this deeply personal memoir.” from running ransom road

correspondence between the artist and his childhood friend, Émile Zola, in which they parodied Virgil, joked in Latin and discussed Stendhal. Zola knew that Cézanne’s art was a corner of nature seen through his own curious temmpérammennte. The artist didn’t paint things; he painted the effect they had on him. He saw colors as he read a book or looked at a person, understood the inner life of an object and let his brain rework that object, sometimes illuminating it, sometimes distorting it. Danchev rightly subscribes to the theory that understanding the man is important to understanding his work, and he attempts to parse Cézanne’s psyche, digging into the background of nearly every author he discussed in his letters, quoting every writer who based a character on the man. Cézanne’s work will influence artists and confuse patrons for decades to come, especially those who have the patience to study Danchev’s comprehensive, occasionally ponderous tome. A fairly impressive achievement of a Sisyphean task— definitely a book to keep in your library. (32-page color insert; b/w illustrations throughout)

RUNNING RANSOM ROAD Confronting the Past, One Marathon at a Time

Daniloff, Caleb Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (256 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-547-45005-6 Daniloff debuts with his account of using running in his recovery from alcoholism. After nearly 10 years on the wagon, writes the author, “the anxieties and insecurities I’d tried to cover up with booze still remained.” However, he found a “new central pattern to his life” when he took up competitive distance running, and here he chronicles the long slog back, accomplished one step at a time. It started when he found the strength to begin to fight to keep his relationship with his wife and her child, which he did “out of fear. To not be alone.” Running seemed like a metaphor for getting his life under control. There was a buildup, but the training, exercise, diet and health requirements provided the structure he sought. During the course of more than a year in 2009 and 2010, he ran in seven races, five of them marathons. Each one provided a purpose and a kind of exorcism through exercise. In an engaging voice, the author brings the courses alive for readers. He replicates the physical demands of running such courses and the barriers, mental and physical, that need to be broken through to get to the finishing line. He interweaves the story of each race with memories and dialogue from the past, and he is candid about his childhood problems and his competition with his marathon-running father. At the end of the Marine Corps Marathon in 2010, when he realized that he had “no one to answer to any more but me,” Daniloff could move on. Confidence in the future lends appeal to this deeply personal memoir. (7 maps) 1884

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MARRIED AT FOURTEEN A True Story Day, Lucille Lang Heyday (336 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-59714-198-7

The uncompromisingly frank account of a gifted woman’s unlikely journey from teenage mother and juvenile delinquent to award-winning writer and scholar. At age 12, Day had just one goal: to gain her freedom by finding a husband. Certain that she “already knew everything [she’d] ever need to know,” she began her search for a mate and dove “headlong into a turbulent adolescence.” By age 14, Day had not only run afoul of the law as a runaway, but she also wed a boy three years her senior. She soon discovered that early marriage imprisoned rather than liberated, and she filed for divorce at 16. Unwilling to depend on her parents, Day went on welfare. It was only after she started looking for work to support herself and her infant daughter that she realized the importance of getting an education. Returning to school “with all the zeal [she’d] once devoted to collecting records and Revlon lipsticks,” she earned a scholarship to Berkeley. Despite academic successes that included admission into a graduate program in zoology, she continued to get involved in disappointing relationships that left her unfulfilled. Desperately wanting to be “done with the confusion in [her] love life,” Day married a fellow scientist and poet who seemed “good enough” but who blamed her for his own inadequacies and could not remain faithful to her. She then began a long-term affair with a respected writer who reawakened her ideas of true love but insisted on emotional detachment. Day then focuses on stories about her family and the man who unexpectedly brought her the joy she had been seeking. Despite this loss in narrative cohesion, her remarkable story and its happy ending make for memorable reading. An inspiring story about paths, and selves, lost and found. (36 b/w photographs)

SHALL WE PLAY THAT ONE TOGETHER? The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland de Barros, Paul St. Martin’s (496 pp.) $35.00 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-312-55803-1 978-1-250-01901-1 e-book

The story of the distinguished female jazz pianist who devoted herself to her art and won popularity, the respect of her colleagues and just about every honor the profession bestows. There will not be a more richly detailed biography of McPartland (born in 1918 in Slough, England, as Margaret Marian Turner).

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McPartland has led an extraordinarily peripatetic life, and Seattle Times music writer de Barros seems to have been a stowaway in her luggage. He has very few negative observations: She could be crusty (especially later on); she didn’t like to read music; she sometimes had trouble keeping a consistent beat; not all her albums were good. Otherwise, this is a tribute to McPartland’s talent (she learned to play by ear as a girl), her determination to forge a career in jazz, her writing ability (she published in DownBeat and elsewhere) and her ongoing artistic evolution. The author also chronicles the serpentine route of her relationship with her American husband, the late cornetist Jimmy McPartland, whose drinking problems came and went—as did their ability to live together. She played with Jimmy from time to time but also had her own career— and her own love affairs, including a long-term one with legendary drummer Joe Morello. De Barros tells us about her albums (quoting the reviews—even the bad ones) and marvels at McPartland’s versatility and success with Piano Jazz, her NPR show that began in 1978. (The book’s title comes from her customary question to her guest on the show.) The author also charts her fierce devotion to jazz education and, sadly, her physical decline.

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A splendid catalogue of McPartland’s achievements, although readers may stumble in the great tangle of detail. (8-page b/w photo insert)

HOWARD ZINN A Life on the Left Duberman, Martin New Press (352 pp.) $26.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-59558-678-0

A star-struck biography of the prominent historian and activist. Howard Zinn (1992–2010) is best known as the author of the controversial A People’s History of the United States (1979), written to counteract a perceived bias toward the wealthy and privileged in standard history textbooks by highlighting the contributions of those conventionally omitted. Though

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“Frisky, affectionate, lushly illustrated, deeply informed and profoundly respectful.” from the gershwins and me

as unbalanced in one direction as Zinn felt the standard texts were in another, it has been widely influential in affecting the content of a whole generation of textbooks and course syllabi. Zinn presents a challenge for a biographer. During the 1960s, he worked courageously in the civil rights movement and against the Vietnam War; he was closely associated with such prominent figures as Stokely Carmichael, Tom Hayden and Daniel Ellsberg. His emotional life, however, is inaccessible; Zinn disliked discussing emotions and ruthlessly purged his archives of anything touching on feelings or relationships. Apart from an increasing attraction to anarchism, Zinn’s political philosophy never evolved much beyond the conventional socialism he adopted in adolescence. Nor did he move on from the issues of the ’60s to newer causes like women’s and gay rights or globalization. Throughout a long academic career, he confined himself to discussing racial and labor issues and opposing various American military interventions. Consequently, little remains to a biographer but a succession of demonstrations attended, books and articles written, and feuds with two college presidents. By way of context, prize-winning author Duberman (History Emeritus/CUNY Graduate School; A Saving Remnant: The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds, 2011, etc.) includes summaries of contemporaneous American history presented from a tendentious leftist viewpoint. While Duberman may criticize some of Zinn’s writing as simplistic, one-sided or impractical, he clearly has no interest in challenging its fundamental political underpinnings. Recommended for readers already smitten with Zinn. (24 b/w images)

THE GERSHWINS AND ME A Personal History in Twelve Songs Feinstein, Michael with Jackman, Ian Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $45.00 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-4516-4530-9

A multiple Grammy-winning performer of and advocate for American popular song offers the story of his long affection for the work of the Gershwins. Feinstein (Nice Work If You Can Get It: My Life in Rhythm and Rhyme, 1995) begins with a swift account of how he met Ira Gershwin, the lyricist of the celebrated duo, and how he subsequently went to work for him for six years, researching, identifying and cataloging Gershwin materials. The author has hit upon a happy way to organize this dual biography/celebration: He selects a dozen classic Gershwin songs (from “Strike Up the Band” to “Love Is Here to Stay”), which he arranges not chronologically but biographically. This approach effectively illuminates the lives and careers of his principals. As the title indicates, Feinstein is the third subject. Although he tells the Gershwins’ stories, childhood to grave, he also relates his own history with their music and reveals his great respect for their achievements. Although Feinstein knew Ira and writes affectingly about his 1886

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lyrics, his admiration of George—pianist and composer—soars. Repeatedly, he lauds George’s artistry at the keyboard and his enduring compositions. Feinstein also discusses the Gershwins’ love lives, the significant performers of their work (from Fred Astaire to Ethel Merman), their successes and flops, their experiences in Hollywood and the devastation of George’s shocking death at 38 (brain tumor). The author includes stories about his own preferences and performances, tales of his avid collecting, minirants about music education and some shots at others (Virgil Thompson among them). Frisky, affectionate, lushly illustrated, deeply informed and profoundly respectful. (Includes 12-track CD of Feinstein performing Gershwin songs)

EXAM SCHOOLS Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools

Finn Jr., Chester E.; Hockett, Jessica A. Princeton Univ. (240 pp.) $24.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-691-15667-5

A cogent exploration of the struggle to balance equity and excellence in America’s most academically selective public high schools. Finn (Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut, 2009, etc.), former assistant U.S. secretary of education and a current fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, and educational consultant Hockett focus on public, self-contained, college-preparatory high schools that have a competitive admissions process. Within those parameters, the authors found 165 that met their criteria, in 30 states plus the District of Columbia, as the country’s most elite, out of more than 22,000 public high schools in the country. They surveyed these schools on a range of issues including teacher selection and the diversity of the student body. The authors visited 11 of the schools, observing classes and interviewing teachers and students, and they offer detailed profiles of each and examine the qualities (serious and purposeful learning environment, eager and talented pupils) and practices (low teacher turnover, “overwhelming advocacy from the parents of their students”) they have in common. Instead of merely being schools chosen (or not) by parents and children, these public schools can select their students, which raises the incentives to meet their standards. Along with selectivity, Finn and Hockett examine thorny issues such as purposeful diversity and demographics, political support and the emphasis placed on exam scores. One fact of note: “Asian pupils are found in these selection schools at four times their share of the larger high school population.” Throughout the book, the authors return to the question of whether the public-education system has “neglected to raise the ceiling” while struggling to lift the floor, looking closely at how schools can meet the needs of students at vastly different levels. A fact-driven, clear text that will be of interest to educators as well as parents of students at selective public high schools. (6 line illustrations; 21 tables; map)

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“For anyone who loves graphic memoir or has concerns about bipolar swings, creativity and medication, this narrative will prove as engaging and informative as it is inspirational.” from marbles

PALE GIRL SPEAKS A Year Uncovered

Fogelson, Hillary Seal Press (256 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-58005-444-7

A year in the life of an anxiety-ridden melanoma patient. Fogelson was diagnosed with melanoma at age 25, an astonishingly young age to have to cope with such a serious diagnosis. Her youth, combined with the severity of the diagnosis, may serve as an excuse for the attitudes and behaviors Fogelson exhibits in this account of her first year living with cancer. Unfortunately, her personality flaws overshadow her worthwhile public-health message. When she wanted to volunteer for the hospital where she received treatment, she was told she had to go through orientation like all the other volunteers. For voicing this reasonable requirement, in her mind she called the volunteer coordinator “a big fat fucking bitch.” Fogelson has little sense of perspective. Her response to 9/11 was that those who were shocked by the tragedy must be “damn lucky,” because unlike her, they must have never experienced anything bad. She knows that “bad things happen all the time,” evidently unable to comprehend the difference in scale between a personal crisis and a massive public catastrophe. The most unsettling part of the book is the way in which she pokes fun at the overweight, unkempt patient (suffering from mental health problems) who preceded her at the therapist’s office. Fogelson’s vicious mockery may lead readers to wonder if she believes that only wealthy and attractive people deserve compassion. Because of the disease’s genetic component, her father was examined, too, and he received the same diagnosis. The author’s obvious dismay at this development lends her some sympathy, which she squanders by chronicling her bullying of her father into a vaccine trial. Fogelson is not talented enough to turn her experiences into humor; instead, she comes off as irritating and even cruel.

STORIES FROM JONESTOWN

Fondakowski, Leigh Univ. of Minnesota (312 pp.) $27.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-8166-7808-2

A collection of sympathetic interviews with members of the Peoples Temple and others who were connected with the mass suicide/murders of more than 900 people at Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978. Fondakowski, who shaped some 300 hours of taped interviews into the play The People’s Temple, expands the material into this full-length book. The author asked her interviewees to recollect their lives, tell her what they thought about Jim Jones, the charismatic leader of Peoples Temple, and, if they were members, how they were drawn |

to him, what they experienced as members of his church, and what their lives have been like in the aftermath of the tragedy. Their stories show how Jones created a mixed-race church focused at first on issues of racial equality and social justice. At some point, it became a radical cult, with Jones using harsh discipline and physical abuse to control every aspect of the members’ lives. A power in the political world of 1960s San Francisco, Jones seems to have become wildly paranoid in the ’70s, moving his followers out of the United States to the isolation of a South American jungle. Fondakowski also captures the words of politicians, community leaders, other journalists and investigators, but former members’ recollections, which are often contradictory, constitute the bulk of the narrative. Through the probing interviews, the author makes manifest their humanity and suffering, but Jones remains a mystery. We know that his movement failed and that he ordered the deaths of hundreds, but the how and why of the man and his mission remain murky. Hours of taped and edited interviews do not add up to a satisfying book.

MARBLES Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir

Forney, Ellen Illus. by Forney, Ellen Gotham Books (256 pp.) $20.00 paperback | Nov. 6, 2012 978-1-59240-732-3 For anyone who loves graphic memoir or has concerns about bipolar swings, creativity and medication, this narrative will prove as engaging and informative as it is inspirational. Since the connection between artistry and mental instability has been well-documented, plenty of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder share the fears articulated in this unflinchingly honest memoir by Forney (I Love Led Zeppelin, 2006, etc.). “I don’t want balance, I want brilliance!” she exclaims during one of her manic phases. “Meds would bring me down!” Taking pride in her membership in “Club van Gogh (The true artist is a crazy artist),” she subsequently suffered from periods of depression that brought her down far lower than medication even could. “During a manic episode, depression seems entirely impossible,” she writes, but depression often made it impossible for her to imagine feeling so good, or feeling much of anything beyond a benumbed dread. Forney chronicles her years of therapy, her research into the literature of depression and her trial-and-error experiences with medication—and cocktails of medication— searching for the combination where the benefits outweighed the side effects. She directly confronts the challenge facing anyone trying to monitor and assess her own mental state: “How could I keep track of my mind, with my own mind?” Not only does her conversational intimacy draw readers in, but her drawings perfectly capture the exhilarating frenzy of mania and the

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PLUTOCRATS The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else

dark void of depression. “It was a relief to discover that aiming for a balanced life doesn’t mean succumbing to a boring one,” she writes with conviction. Forney’s story should resonate with those grappling with similar issues, while her artistry should appeal to a wide readership.

THE ETYMOLOGICON A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language Forsyth, Mark Berkley (304 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-425-26079-1

Inky Fool blogger Forsyth debuts with a breezy, amusing stroll through the uncommon histories of some common English words. The British author settled on a clever device to arrange his material—the end of each entry provides a link to the beginning of the next. Forsyth is interested (obsessed?) with words— how they began and how they’ve journeyed to where they now are. He shows us the connection between sausage and Botox, how an expression like point-blank wandered into everyday usage from archery, that poppycock has a scatological history, that Thomas Crapper manufactured a popular brand of toilet, and how Thomas Edison was the first to use bug as a term for something causing a device to malfunction. Although he uses an informal, even snarky, Internet-appropriate style (“Protestants and Catholics got into an awful spat,” he writes of the Reformation), Forsyth carries more weight than his style sometimes suggests. He alludes periodically to Homer, Shakespeare and other literary heavyweights. He knows his history and geography; the style may be lighter-than-air, but the cargo is substantial. Some other goodies: The telephone popularized the word hello; Shell Oil was once in the seashell business; the Romans were the first to raise in derision the middle finger; bunk came from Buncombe, N.C.; Starbucks can be traced not just to Moby-Dick but to the Vikings’ word for a Yorkshire stream. Occasionally, the author missteps. He says that Noah Webster was “an immensely boring man,” a conclusion not supported by Joshua Kendall’s gracefully told The Forgotten Founding Father (2011). Snack-food style blends with health-food substance for a most satisfying meal.

Freeland, Chrystia Penguin Press (304 pp.) $27.95 | Oct. 15, 2012 978-1-59420-409-8

Exploration of the increase in global economic inequality. You don’t need a CPA to know which way the wind blows. Unless you’re one of the rich or superrich, the 1 percent or the 1 percent of the 1 percent, then you won’t be comforted to know that it blows against you: The rich are getting richer, and the rest of us…well, not so much. Thus the overarching theme of Thomson Reuters digital editor Freeland’s (Sale of the Century: The Inside Story of the Second Russian Revolution, 2000) latest book, much of which, at least superficially, isn’t really news. Dig deeper, though, and the author offers fresh takes on many key points. Are the rich happy? You’d think that all that money would take some of the burden off, but income inequality is an uncomfortable subject even for them. “That’s because even—or perhaps particularly—in the view of its most ardent supporters,” she writes, “global capitalism wasn’t supposed to work quite this way.” Level playing field? No way: The playing field is landscaped so that money rolls toward those who already have it. Equal opportunity? See the preceding point. Yet, Freeland continues, the switcheroo that robbed the middle class of its gains in the transition to “the America of the 1 Percent” is so new that our ways of talking and thinking about capitalism haven’t caught up to reality, so that “when it comes to income inequality, Americans think they live in Sweden—or in the late 1950s.” Smart, talking-point-friendly and full of magazine-style human-interest anecdotes, Freeland’s account serves up other news, including the grim thought that recovery may never come for those outside the favored zone, as well as some provocative insights on how the superaffluent (don’t say rich, say affluent—it avoids making the rich feel uncomfortable) view the rest of us. Not exactly the Communist Manifesto, but Freeland’s book ought to make news of its own as she makes the rounds—well worth reading.

BEFORE GALILEO The Advancement of Modern Science in Medieval Europe Freely, John Overlook (352 pp.) $28.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-59020-607-2

A history of science in the centuries before Copernicus, Galileo and Newton. After the Visigoth sack of Rome in 410 and the subsequent burning of the great Library of Alexandria, the ancient Greco-Roman world descended into the 1888

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darkness of the early Middle Ages, writes historian Freely (Physics/Bosphorous Univ.; Light From the East: How the Science of Medieval Islam Helped to Shape the Western World, 2011, etc.). Yet fragments of classical learning survived in the keeping of a handful of scholars in monasteries. In time, the monastic movement produced the first European scientists, whose work sparked the emergence of modern science. In this revealing but plodding account, Freely traces the transmission of ancient Greek philosophical and scientific works to the Islamic world, where scholars took the lead in science and passed their knowledge on to Europe. In thumbnail portraits, he describes the work of Ibn Sina, Gerard of Cremona and others who conveyed Arab science to the West. By 1500, Europe, with 80 universities, had undergone “a tremendous intellectual revival.” Freely charts the advance of that revival, with Albertus Magnus becoming the first to use the modern scientific method based on observation and experimentation, and Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon making full use of the experimental method. In an overview of subsequent, increasingly modern science, Freely describes work on the new science of motion by 14th-century Oxford scientists;

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Newton’s successful explanation of the rainbow in 1714; and the astronomical observations and calculations of Copernicus, which marked the onset of the scientific revolution. For specialists and students. (34 b/w illustrations)

FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement Garcia, Matt Univ. of California (394 pp.) $34.95 | Sep. 30, 2012 978-0-520-25930-0

A thorough history of the rise and fall of Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers labor union. Garcia (Transborder Studies and History/Arizona State Univ.; A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h t on y da n z a

I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had:

My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High Tony Danza Crown (272 pp.) $24.00 Sep. 11, 2012 978-0-307-88786-3

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Q: Let’s begin by discussing how this project came about. A: I went to school to be a teacher, and I didn’t do it. I got out of school and thought I was too young to teach anyone anything. I was probably right. In fact, I was definitely right. Life took me a different way. I was a prizefighter and an actor. But as I got closer to age 60—let’s just say, 50 is when you start waking up with injuries, 60 is when you start getting more reflective about life—I was thinking about teaching. It’s something that’s sort of permeated my career. Even Tony Micelli on Who’s the Boss? became a teacher. I made all these plans to do Teach for America, and a friend of mine, a big muckity-muck producer, said, “You know, that would make a great TV show.” We ended up shooting a show that ran for six weeks on A&E, the first semester. As the comedian Lewis Black said, “We have a problem with education in America so we’re going to make Tony Danza an English teacher. He doesn’t even speak English.” The only thing in that was ever present in my mind was that this was the only 10th grade English class these kids were going to get. The show unfortunately didn’t run long, which was OK. That made for a better experience, a better book. But I remember thinking that when the cameras left, “There goes my authority!” This book is my attempt to show that there’s two sides to every story. There’s a lot of factors that we don’t speak about that are undermining education in this country. And that’s some of the stuff in this book. Plus, it’s a look at what it’s really like to be there every day, trying to subjugate your whole being to make these kids understand that this is a great moment in their life.

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Q: How difficult was it to negotiate learning to teach with a camera in the classroom? And how distracting was it for the students? A: I made a deal with myself, I wasn’t going to play to the cameras. The cameramen weren’t allowed to mingle with the kids. I tried to build a little bit of the wall around it and was very effective. We actually caught kids cheating on camera, which tells me that they forgot the cameras were there. The only time I paid attention to them was when I bumped into them. It really depended on me. If I didn’t play to the cameras, the kids didn’t either. Trying to learn to be a teacher on the job— it’s mortifying. One kid told me “You’re wrong.” I loved it. But at the moment, you feel self-conscious, you’re sweating, you don’t know what to say. Try explaining something like irony to someone who’s 15 years old who has no conception of it all. Try concisely, succinctly, make it clear. And they tune out quick. You only get one shot, you’ve got to get it right. Q: What did you find most difficult about teaching? Had you been expecting that? A: The things that teachers have less training for. We don’t teach teachers for what they’re going to face, we teach them how to teach. The kids won’t work for you, unless they think that you care about them. They’ve been inculcated with the same mantra the teacher has—the teacher has to engage the students. They walk in, they’re there, “OK, engage me.” As a result, the teacher shows an inordinate amount of care for the 150 students they’re responsible for. And they unload on you. A lot of these kids have stories you don’t want to hear. You’re sitting there, wondering, “How much do I want to get involved? Where do I start?” You have to be so many things to so many of our kids. Not just a teacher but a brother, a friend, a parent, a counselor, a social worker. We need a massive nationwide campaign—like the ones we’ve got to stop smoking and drunk driving—to educate kids that this little sliver of their lives now is so important. It’s hard cheese, you can’t just slough off and get along and find your way afterwards. It’s not like that anymore. —By Karen Calabria

9 For the full interview, please visit kirkus.com.

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He’s often portrayed as a lovable lunkhead, but Tony Danza’s got a lot going on upstairs. And now the Brooklyn-born actor, singer, dancer, daytime talk show host and prizefighter can add another notch to his belt: English teacher at a struggling inner-city school in Philadelphia. Danza, who graduated college with a degree in history education, took to the classroom with cameras in tow for a year at Philly’s Northeast High. Readers may have caught the juicier parts on A&E’s short-lived reality show, Teach, but Danza was determined to present a full account of his experiences at the head of the class. His passionate, engaging memoir, I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High, recounts it all—warts and tears included—in his self-deprecating, humorous voice. He caught up with us from his new home in New York City and shared his thoughts on the difficulties schools are currently facing and learning to teach with a camera in the classroom.


Great Los Angeles, 1900-1970, 2001) provides an in-depth, scholarly account of the farm labor movement and Chavez, its activist leader. The narrative begins long before the UFW’s 1960s and ’70s heyday, documenting a long list of post–World War II labor abuses—among them, contractors’ manipulative hiring of day laborers by the row worked, rather than on an hourly wage. “The pay is $1.90 a row,” one laborer told a researcher, “but the row may stretch from here to Sacramento.” Such abuses led Chavez to fight back against the growers, whose profits continued to soar while exploited laborers’ wages remained stagnant. In 1962, Chavez formed the National Farm Workers Association (which became the UFW) and was joined soon after by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, creating the first “multiethnic union” consisting of both Mexicans and Filipinos. Their combined forces led farm laborers to many victories— most notably the Delano grape strike—though the union’s power later declined as a result of bickering and infighting. Garcia is at his best when he draws connections between the civil rights movement and the farm workers movement, both of which relied heavily on nonviolent tactics such as boycotts and protest marches to empower change against an established ruling class. Despite the author’s extensive research, the book occasionally gets bogged down by the movement’s policies rather than the people who fought so valiantly to enact them. Meticulous and timely, but the story of the movement falls just short of moving readers’ emotions. (18 b/w photos; map; table)

IN SEARCH OF CLEO How I Found My Pussy and Lost My Mind

Gershon, Gina Gotham Books (176 pp.) $22.50 | Oct. 11, 2012 978-1-592-40766-8

An actress searches for her cat in Los Angeles. After Cleo, Gershon’s beloved cat, was lost by her flaky assistant, she went to extreme lengths to find him. She skulked around West Hollywood in the earlymorning hours with a can of tuna and a knife, meeting a kindly newspaper deliveryman along the way; she consulted Ellen Degeneres’ pet psychic; she got spit on by a Santeria priest during a live chicken sacrifice; and she attended workshops by scam-artist swamis. In the end, none of these desperate, expensive measures were necessary: Cleo was returned by someone who saw one of Gershon’s many “lost cat” posters. When Sonia, the pet psychic, first told her that “two spirits” would help her find Cleo, she immediately interpreted that to mean her uncle Jack and her friend Ted, both of whom had passed away recently. She took this prediction as evidence of the psychic’s reliability, but, later in the book, she wonders if the newspaper deliveryman was one of the spirits. Gershon insists on a sort of magical connection between her and the entire cat species; the stories she uses to support this assertion—e.g., being “invited” by a cat to a private cat party in rural Vermont—strain credulity. |

Gershon thoughtfully weaves the wacky cat-finding stories with stories about her past cats and significant people in her life. Though these anecdotes aren’t always fascinating, they are well-integrated into the story and give the thin premise of this book some needed heft. Well organized but mostly frivolous and at times implausible.

DOUBLE ENTRY How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance

Gleeson-White, Jane Norton (304 pp.) $26.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-393-08896-0

Gleeson-White (Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebration Works, 2007, etc.) finds the origins of doubleentry bookkeeping in Renaissance mathematics and art. The author covers a broad historical sweep, from ancient Mesopotamia and Hammurabi’s Code to the accounting disasters and financial collapses represented by Enron and the Royal Bank of Scotland, whose books were nowhere near adequate representations of the company’s position. But Gleeson-White centers the narrative on the convergence of the modern history of mathematics, great art and artists and business organization. She focuses on a relation of influence between Fibonacci, discoverer of the eponymous series, and Luca Pacioli, geometer, mathematical researcher and collaborator of Leonardo da Vinci. Pacioli was the author of a treatise on double-entry bookkeeping, which was published in his Summa on mathematics in 1494. His system discussed the proper use of three related volumes of records wherein initial entries, journaling and ledger entries were formulated. Profit and loss were calculable in detail by account. Gleeson-White names this Venetian accounting, distinguishing herself from others who attribute the system to Florentines. She presents Pacioli’s system as the basis for manufacturers’ efforts to reconcile the double-entry system, which was based on trade, with industrial manufacturing and the production of new wealth rather than the exchange of existing products. The author maintains that the origins of capitalism are tightly intertwined with the development of double-entry bookkeeping, and that joint-stock companies and dividend payments are spinoffs. A stimulating approach that presents a compelling outline for further detailed review.

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“A bounteous buffet for passengers aboard the cruise ship Modern Art.” from what are you looking at?

MAN UP Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood

Gómez, Carlos Andrés Gotham Books (272 pp.) $26.00 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-592-40778-1

A young Latino man recounts his coming-of-age amid the usual foibles inherent in growing up. In his debut memoir, writer/actor Gómez brings his one-man show to the page, exploring issues of fear, forgiveness, sexuality and what it means to be a man. A self-described “middle-class, racist, lightskinned Latino,” the author often employs race as a lens through which to view his world. After an early childhood spent overseas, Gómez returned to a race-conscious America and became increasingly aware of issues regarding race. “During basketball games, at first I would be treated like everyone else, but when the referee heard someone call me Carlos, he would make tighter calls on me,” he writes. Gómez’s complaints are hardly limited to the basketball court, but soon included the failures of various schools, none of which seemed to give Gómez the support he required. The book becomes far more engaging when the author considers his own role in his life’s choices, reflecting on the hard questions. He concludes that while he was occasionally a victim of the world’s biases, oftentimes he played the part of the perpetrator as well, particularly in regard to his relationships with women. Gómez’s straighttalk approach to his philandering (as well as his obvious regret) becomes the highlight of the book, a strand of narrative that seems to absolve him of past trespasses. A greater trespass, however, is Gómez’s seemingly conscious choice to awkwardly assemble his life story to fit a storyline—a trick he often employed to impress women. “I am a pimp,” Gómez admits, speaking of his past relationships, “one who conveniently coopted this narrative throughout his life, on frequent occasion, and exploited the act of honesty to get what he wanted.” His mea culpa, while appreciated, does little to excuse the memoir its more indulgent and didactic moments. A confidently told but not wholly inspiring memoir.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art Gompertz, Will Dutton (336 pp.) $28.95 | Oct. 25, 2012 978-0-670-92049-5

A BBC arts editor and authority on modern art guides us on an amiable cruise through the archipelago of personalities, works and movements that have comprised the art world since the mid-19th century. 1892

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Gompertz is not so much interested in criticism as in exposition and advocacy. Scarcely a breath of complaint or negative noise issues from his lips throughout this brisk, informed tour, and he rarely stumbles over a fact—though he does identify Poe as a novelist, a description that would have pleased the author of a single novel. Gompertz begins with the question that occurs to many laypeople when they view a modern work: “Is it art?” And his answer, throughout, is a resounding “Yes!” (In his generous definition, it’s art if the artist says it is.) The author frequently begins chapters with little narratives—e.g., Duchamp shopping for a urinal he will later display as Fountain. But there’s not a lot of time for narratives, for the author has many names and movements and works to survey. Soon he is zipping along, whisking us through the impressionists, postimpressionism, cubism, futurism and into the current age, which, he says, has not yet earned any agreed-upon name—though it is, as he notes, an age of a lively market with skyrocketing prices and jet-setting artists. Gompertz scolds the current crop for failing to have a sharper political edge. A few names earn a little more space than others: Cézanne, Picasso, Duchamp, Man Ray, Pollock, de Kooning and Warhol are among those who receive more than a paragraph or so. A bounteous buffet for passengers aboard the cruise ship Modern Art.

ROME’S LAST CITIZEN The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar Goodman, Rob; Soni, Jimmy Dunne/St. Martin’s (368 pp.) $26.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-312-68123-4 978-1-250-01358-3 e-book

Insightful biography of Cato (95 B.C.–46 B.C.), enemy of Julius Caesar. Goodman and Huffington Post managing editor Soni write not from the viewpoint of academic historians, but rather as students of the classics who want to pass on the rich history of Rome from the time of Sulla to the death of Caesar. They carefully cite all the classic works that the non-Latin reading public may have missed. Plutarch’s biography of Cato is the most detailed, but the authors diligently temper his didactic history with facts gleaned from a wealth of sources. Cato devoted his life to stoicism even though his grandfather fought to ban the rigid Hellenic philosophy. During Cato’s time, Rome suffered from homegrown terrorism, a debt crisis, multiple foreign wars and a widening economic gap. He raged against corruption brought on by wealth and empire and desperately fought for limited government. Most particularly, he fought against both Pompey and Caesar in their struggles to control Rome. He disliked Pompey, but his greatest fear, soon to be realized, was the reign of Caesar. Few of Cato’s writings survive, so his legend comes largely from the near-deification by those who began to write about him after his disturbing suicide. Cicero, who both knew and fought with Cato, was the first to laud his political legacy; from there it never stopped. Virgil, Caesar, Seneca and Augustine wrote about Cato. Dante paid him the ultimate compliment

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in making Cato one of only four pagans who escaped hell in the Divine Comedy. Joseph Addison’s Cato, A Tragedy was required reading throughout the 18th century, and George Washington carried it with him and had it staged at Valley Forge. The authors succeed brilliantly in bringing this fascinating statesman to life.

MAKE ’EM LAUGH 35 Years of the Comic Strip, the Greatest Comedy Club of All Time!

Gurian, Jeffrey; Tienken, Richie Skyhorse Publishing (256 pp.) $24.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-62087-074-7

Brief, repetitive interviews with comedians recalling the club that gave them their starts.

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Consider this a vanity project commemorating the 35th year of the Comic Strip in Manhattan (a milestone it passed in 2011), with the club’s owner (Tienken) credited as co-author, leaving the questioning and transcribing to comedy writer Gurian (co-author: Filthy, Funny and Totally Offensive, 2007). Comedians who cut their teeth at the club still feel a great allegiance to it, so the authors have access to some of the biggest names in comedy, including Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Chris Rock and Ray Romano. (Conspicuously absent is Eddie Murphy, though Tienken’s long association as his manager receives frequent mentions.) While the interviews provide a cumulative sense of what it takes to make the leap from comedy clubs to bigger projects, as well as how a comedian might get his foot in the door in the first place (perseverance would seem to be a key, and being very funny helps), there are few laughs along the way and lots of instances of the same old names. Part of the problem is the question-and-answer format, with most of the interviews starting with some version of, “What year did you start performing comedy and what are your earliest memories of The Comic Strip?”—and ending with, “Tell me about Richie Tienken.” Seinfeld says of the club, “They were happy to have us,

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“A must-read for anyone, especially 20- and 30-somethings, itching to understand China today.” from this generation

we were happy to have them, and we were one, big happy family.” George Wallace says Seinfeld is “the nicest guy in the world.” Gilbert Gottfried, the only one who refuses to play it straight (and, thus, the funniest), says, “Seinfeld was the star of The Comic Strip. And it seemed like 99 percent of the comedians who were Comic Strip regulars would talk exactly like him…even the girls.” Among other revelations, the family of Chris Rock knows him as “Chrissy.” Toward the end, there’s also an interview with the club’s landlord, who says that he’s been to “only one” show there: “I have a feeling I must have missed some of the highlights.” For friends and extended family of “the most legendary comic club there ever was.”

VEX, HEX, SMASH, SMOOCH Let Verbs Power Your Writing

Hale, Constance Norton (224 pp.) $26.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-393-08116-9

Self-help for aspiring writers, who need, it seems, to zap the red sauce of their prose with tangier verbs. In a text that looks like many others in the self-help genre (lots of sidebars, multiple appendixes, forests of exclamation points, bushels of bullet points and gee-whiz-this-stuff-is-easy! diction), Hale (Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose, 1999, etc.) offers plenty of advice for would-be writers. Each chapter follows the title’s structure, dealing, in sequence, with things that vex writers, grammar myths the author wishes to discredit, the failings of “writers famous and infamous, hapless and clueless” and, finally, exemplary passages. This soon grows tiresome. However, the author has done considerable homework and is careful to credit her sources and mentors (David Crystal, Steven Pinker and many others). She also assails dragons long-ago slain or grievously wounded—split infinitives, for example, or prepositions at the ends of sentences. Her attacks on the language of politicians (often George W. Bush and Sarah Palin) fail to recognize that everyone makes grammatical mistakes in extemporaneous speech and that speechwriters deserve the credit and the blame for the rest. She calls Ronald Reagan a “rhetorical genius,” though it was more likely Peggy Noonan. The author tries to make it all seem so easy, and she enjoys chiding the strict grammarian types who are more fastidious than she. Hale’s explanations of the differences between affect and effect and lie and lay are generally clear. Bubbling with energy and conviction but less practical than an old-fashioned style manual.

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THIS GENERATION Dispatches from China’s Most Popular Literary Star (and Race Car Driver)

Han Han Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $24.00 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-1-4516-6000-5

China’s bad-boy blogger and autoracing hero Han Han tells it like it is in the People’s Republic, relying on a deep reservoir of wit and wisdom and a wily insistence on justice for all. Scaling the Great Firewall of China may be a tall order, but the 30-year-old Han Han has succeeded remarkably well. In fact, shock and awe will probably be the emotions that first register with readers unfamiliar with or ambivalent about Chinese culture. Yes, someone living inside Communist China is writing these things online—and, yes, has yet to face serious consequences. Prepare for even more enlightenment and entertainment, because the firebrand behind these invaluable posts is more Jon Stewart than John Brown. The sly and often funny dispatches take on Communist Party corruption, inequality, injustice, censorship and more. But the author isn’t shy about taking on some of his other countrymen in the process. “Patriotism can sometimes be a form of self-preservation,” he writes, “but sometimes it is a matter of the tone you set, and the tone we are setting shows we have no class.” Han Han navigates around these and other cultural potholes with the same assuredness he shows on racetracks all over of the world. The finish line here is a relevant view of modern Chinese life, and Han Han’s commentary on events both large and small inside China drives past politics, outruns Sinophobia and brings Chinese society into sharp focus. A must-read for anyone, especially 20- and 30-somethings, itching to understand China today.

BULLY An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents, and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis

Hirsch, Lee ; Lowen, Cynthia with Santorelli, Dina--Eds. Weinstein Books (272 pp.) $15.99 paperback | Sep. 4, 2012 978-1-60286-184-8

The companion to the graphic 2011 documentary Bully, which premiered on the big screen after winning a hard fight for a PG-13 rating. With the assistance of freelance writer Santorelli (Baby Grand, 2012, etc.), editors Hirsch and Lowen dedicate the book to “the thirteen million children who will be bullied in the United States this year, as well as the generations of children who came before them.” Not only is the bullying epidemic blighting the lives of the children who are involved, driving

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some to suicide, but it also leads to school shootings and other violent hate crimes. With the advent of 24/7 social networking, it has become even more invasive in children’s lives—especially because bullies can target their victims anonymously. Several of the young people featured in the film, and their parents, tell their stories, including their reasons for participating and the aftermath. One of the most shocking stories is that of Tyler Long. Taunted for being a “geek and a fag” and ostracized, he hung himself; following the tragedy, the bullies who had tormented him went to school wearing nooses. The school district refused to participate in a community meeting addressed by Long’s parents. The latter half of the book offers tips to parents on how to recognize symptoms that their children may be suffering from bullying—e.g., lack of friends, unwillingness to go to school, returning with lunches uneaten or torn clothing. The authors report that one main challenge children face is the refusal of parents to take them seriously when they try to confide their problems. A valuable resource that will help empower communities to deal with this deadly social plague.

BEYOND GOOD INTENTIONS A Journey into the Realities of International Aid Hogan, Tori Seal Press (280 pp.) $17.00 paperback | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-58005-434-8

In her debut memoir, filmmaker and activist Hogan examines the problems with international aid efforts in Africa. While a 2002 trip to the continent first exposed the author to the imperfect relationship between refugees and international aid, her return trip in 2010 further confirmed that the so-called solution of international aid was actually part of the problem. “Transitioning from a bleeding heart to a critic of the humanitarian regime was not an easy process,” Hogan admits, adding that her criticism will likely do little to make her “a popular person in certain circles.” Despite the criticism, she maintains full pressure on what she views as an inefficient, bureaucratic and occasionally unethical system of outsiders helping refugees in need without ever asking what they actually need. Hogan’s straight talk with the refugees provides some basis for her argument, though many readers will sorely miss the lack of quantitative data. Somewhat awkwardly inserted alongside her critique is the story of her own floundering love, which adds some personal drama but detracts from her intended mission of providing a “wake-up call and a source of inspiration on how we can more effectively change the world.” Nevertheless, Hogan’s experiences sound the call for increased scrutiny on charitable aid, forcing readers to ask the difficult question of whether throwing money at a problem has the power to cleanse first-world guilt. A bold argument based mostly on experiences and observations rather than statistical support. |

HARVEST An Adventure into the Heart of America’s Family Farms

Horan, Richard Perennial/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-06-209031-7

From July to October 2011, Horan (Seeds, 2011, etc.) traveled to 10 owneroperated farms to take part in the harvesting of their crops; this is his flawed but enthusiastic and highly detailed report of that experience. Though he began his travels around the United States expecting the worst, the author found reason for optimism about the future in the farmers he met. In his view, they are a source of pride and democracy, and he genuinely admires their strength of character and work ethic. During his trip, Horan helped harvest wheat in Kansas, cranberries and vegetables in Massachusetts, potatoes in Maine, raspberries and Brussels sprouts in Ohio, blueberries in New York and walnuts and grapes in California. The author provides in-depth descriptions of each farm’s layout and furnishings, the meals he was served, the bed he was given, the hired help and all the family members. Best of all, he describes each crop’s harvesting process. Readers interested in knowing how cranberries are pulled from bogs or what it takes to turn wild rice into an edible grain will find the answers here. Horan’s love for imparting information leads him to include a host of footnotes, only some of which are relevant. By the end, readers, whom he addresses directly from time to time, may know as much about Horan as about harvesting. He reveals himself as a man of firm opinions, and he leaves the readers in no doubt about where he stands on various environmental, economic, social and political issues. Unfortunately, he also has a solid command of clichés. This could have been a fine book if the author’s writing matched his energy. (10 b/w photos)

THIS INDIAN COUNTRY American Indian Activists and the Place They Made Hoxie, Frederick E. Penguin Press (496 pp.) $32.95 | Oct. 29, 2012 978-1-59420-365-7

A noted student of American Indian life profiles activists who sought to lead their people from subjugation to citizenship. Take Sarah Winnemucca, for instance, a 19th-century Paiute teacher and writer who argued that the only way to end the suffering of Native peoples was to give them “a permanent home on [the Indians’] own native soil,” which would make of “the savage (as he is called today)…a thrifty and law-abiding member of

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“An object lesson in misguided tell-all writing.” from what really happened

the community.” Her protests against official corruption and indifference earned her notoriety among sympathetic whites, mostly on the East Coast, but she was attacked as a radical if not a puppet of the military, which was conspiring to wrest control of the Indian agency away from civilian authority. Hoxie’s (History and Law/Univ. of Illinois; Talking Back To Civilization: Indian Voices from the Progressive Era, 2001, etc.) narrative opens in the closing years of the Revolution, when Choctaw leader James McDonald, “the first Indian in the United States to be trained as a lawyer,” foresaw trouble for his people with the collapse of British rule; it closes with another lawyer, Vine Deloria, who made a careful distinction between American Indians and Indian Americans and argued against the social Darwinism hidden within social science: “By expecting that real Indians should conform to a specific list of backward traits and live as ‘folk people,’ anthropologists, and their missionary colleagues, convinced themselves that helping Indians required changing or even eradicating their cultures.” In between, Hoxie considers the work of the Salish scholar D’Arcy McNickle, the carefully litigious Mille Lacs Ojibwe band, the Seneca activist Alice Jemison and other activists who, working with, yes, anthropologists and missionaries and particularly lawyers, helped pave the way for a time in which “ ‘they’ were now ‘our’ neighbors, employers, customers, and fellow citizens.” A capable, engaging work of history, important for students of official relations between the U.S. government and the Native peoples under its rule.

WHITE FEVER A Journey to the Frozen Heart of Siberia

Hugo-Bader, Jacek Translated by Lloyd-Jones, Antonia Counterpoint (336 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-61902-011-5

A writer for the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reports on life at the harrowing margins of contemporary Russian society. The goal—driving solo 13,000 kilometers from Moscow to Vladivostok in a Russian Jeep—sounds like a travel stunt, complete with bandits, militia men, frigid overnights in the cab with the engine running for heat. But Hugo-Bader is a journalist by trade and travelogue is only the pretext for this book, which takes a stark, shocking look at Russia’s lower depths, its homeless people, alcoholics, drug addicts, sex workers and HIV sufferers, among others. Hugo-Bader’s best writing occurs after he finally leaves Moscow and hits the road, passing through offthe-charts places in eastern Russia and especially Siberia. Along the way, he visited with the inventor of the Kalashnikov assault rifle in Izhevsk, capital of the Russian arms industry; explored a still-lethal nuclear weapons test site near the Kazakhstan border; and interviewed shamans and a self-styled reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Most striking is the tale of the Siberian taiga reindeer herders, members of nearly extinct aboriginal tribes who 1896

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have been embarking on self-decimation by alcohol and suicide. Amid the brutality, the author found moments of joy and genuine humanity. “Time and again,” he writes, “after ten or more hours of lonely driving across wild wastelands I felt as if I were part of this machine…it was an uncanny feeling, so in my thoughts I had started to humanize it, talk to it, call it names, pay it compliments, saying it had a lovely voice, for example. Because it did.” No charming folk customs here, just the hard facts of life in the frozen Russian north.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED John Edwards, Our Daughter, and Me Hunter, Rielle BenBella (247 pp.) $24.95 | Jun. 22, 2012 978-193785640-3

The proximate cause of John Edwards’ political unraveling has a few scores to settle. Hunter occupied the center of the oddest sideshow of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign: That summer, reports emerged that she had a child with the North Carolina senator, sparking months of denials (including a campaign staffer’s false claim that he was the father). Hunter’s clumsily written memoir is an extended exercise in blame assignment: Edwards’ friends and campaign aides for being greedy, careerist, and manipulative; Edwards’ wife for being a bully; and Edwards himself for being, as she told him at their first fateful meeting, “so hot!” To avoid furtive trysts as their affair deepened, she was hired to film Edwards’ travels for online “webisodes.” Hunter expresses an almost total disinterest in the politics she covered, and on the road, she rained contempt on nearly everybody surrounding the candidate. (In one instance, she recalls “some poverty woman who was really snotty to me.”) Hunter reserves her deepest fury for Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, who’s portrayed cartoonishly, forever screaming at her cowering husband. That Elizabeth’s outrage might be justified by her husband’s philandering seems to entirely escape Hunter, who rationalizes her status as a mistress by claiming that the Edwards’ marriage was loveless and sexless. (Elizabeth’s death from cancer in 2010 hardly softens her tone.) The flimsy prose, peppered with all-caps exclamations and high school-age sarcasm, grows even more tedious in the later chapters, as the author chronicles legalistic parrying over who paid how much to whom out of which accounts. The mood is lightened by photos of Hunter and Edwards with their daughter, Quinn, but a seething sense of superiority and entitlement persists. An object lesson in misguided tell-all writing: A woman hounded by the media while raising an infant fathered by a cheating man manages to render herself unsympathetic.

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YOUNG HENRY The Rise of Henry VIII Hutchinson, Robert Dunne/St. Martin’s (384 pp.) $27.99 | Oct. 30, 2012 978-1-250-01261-6 978-1-250-01274-6 e-book

Biography of the younger life of the infamous Tudor king. As the second son, Henry did not have a grand household like his brother, but his father, Henry VII, showered honors on him at an early age. Hutchinson (House of Treason: The Rise & Fall of a Tudor Dynasty, 2010, etc.) mentions little about either Henry’s relationship to his older brother or his brother’s death, which led to Henry becoming heir to the throne. Most of the author’s information comes from household accounts, which expose the vast amounts spent by both Henry and his father on pomp, play and show. The Tudors spent lavishly on themselves with

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money taken from their subjects by state blackmail. Henry’s taxes and penalties squeezed his nobles “until their very pips squeaked.” The king did not bother much with statehood, save the occasional beheading of an errant Yorkist or landowner whose estate he coveted. He was known to have state papers read to him at Mass, letting secretaries handle matters, and he was perfectly happy to leave everything to his Lord Chancellor, Wolsey, who took charge as Henry spent his time hunting, jousting and gambling. This is primarily the story of Henry VIII and his remarkable spending habits. His attempt at military genius was a complete failure, the only success being his ostentation at the peace treaty signing on the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Truly, Henry just didn’t seem to care about anything except hawking, jousting, dancing and gaming, although other sources indicate broader interests and vast intelligence. Hutchinson provides insight into Henry’s spoiled life and his self-orbiting attitude, but surely there was more to the young man than this. (Two 8-page color photo inserts)

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PURPOSE An Immigrant’s Story

Jean, Wyclef with Bozza, Anthony It Books/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $26.99 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-06-196686-6

Reflective memoir from a breakout hip-hop star of the 1990s, served with a generous helping of braggadocio. Jean, who co-authored this book with prolific celebrity biographer Bozza (Why AC/DC Matters, 2009, etc.), has been in the public eye recently for his controversial efforts on behalf of his native Haiti, including an abortive run for the presidency. The narrative opens dramatically, with Jean’s initial trip home after the devastating 2010 earthquake (“I had to help any way I could, not as Wyclef Jean, but as a Haitian”). Jean then looks back at his improbable journey from rural childhood to genre-defining triumph with the Fugees. As an adolescent, Jean left Haiti for New Jersey, where his strict father established himself as a fiery Nazarene preacher who regarded hip-hop as “bum music.” Yet Jean’s passion for musical expression developed early; he played in the church band to please his father, while making connections in the rapidly expanding universe of East Coast rap. By his early 20s, he’d joined fellow Haitian Pras Michel and two young women, forming the group that eventually became the Fugees. The author’s greatest strength is his nostalgic discussion of the music scene of the ’90s, when any success seemed possible, and his focus on the nitty-gritty of artistic development, as the Fugees moved from their run-down basement studio to sold-out stadium tours and platinum records. On the whole, though, the narrative is strangely paced: Jean intersperses humorous, self-deprecating anecdotes with repetitive storytelling and frequent assertions of his many accomplishments. The author awkwardly discusses the Fugees’ dissolution at the height of success. Jean acknowledges his long extramarital affair with Lauryn Hill but seems to regard its destructive reverberations (including her virtual disappearance from the music industry) as inevitable, the product of their passion and artistry. Slick, unwieldy overview of Jean’s stardom and humanitarian ambitions. (16-page color photo insert)

THE PARTISAN The Life of William Rehnquist Jenkins, John A. PublicAffairs (336 pp.) $28.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1586488871

A much-awarded legal journalist serves up an investigative biography of the controversial, late chief justice. Famously distrustful of the press, William Rehnquist (1924–2005) divulged little about himself during his three decades on the nation’s 1898

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highest court. CQ Press president and publisher Jenkins (Ladies’ Man: The Life and Trials of Marvin Mitchelson, 1992, etc.) uncovers some nuggets about the private man, some amusing—he loved making small wagers on almost any proposition; he drafted a novel repeatedly rejected by publishers—some startling—during the early 1980s “he was desperately, abusively addicted to prescription pain killers.” The author credits Rehnquist with high intelligence and good humor and persuasively argues that his temperament most closely resembled his ideological counterpart, the iconoclastic William O. Douglas. He uncovers the origins of Rehnquist’s conservatism and explores his law school career, his clerkship under Robert Jackson, his rise in the Goldwater and his tenure in the Mitchell Justice Department under Nixon. But when he turns to Rehnquist’s jurisprudence, Jenkins unrelentingly scorns the man he blames for the court’s current politicization. He flays Rehnquist as an unprincipled conservative who looked first to the desired result and only then to the reasoning, who valued efficiency over justice, who ignored precedent, who favored broad governmental power over civil rights, who lacked any “consistent constitutional theory” save for his own consistently “reactionary ideology.” Many of our laws later conformed to the famously lone dissents of Rehnquist’s early career, but Jenkins attributes this not to the chief ’s leadership, but rather to the court’s changing composition. As with many court commentators, Jenkins equates “maturation” or “growth” with change, almost always a change from right to left. That Rehnquist “could not evolve,” the author takes as a huge black mark against the man who “made it respectable to be an expedient conservative on the Court.” The Rehnquist legacy harshly gaveled down. (8-page b/w photo insert)

LOVE IS THE CURE On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS

John, Elton Little, Brown (256 pp.) $27.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-316-21990-7

The legendary entertainer shares the story of how he created the Elton John AIDS Foun dation, which works to fund initiatives for prevention, outreach and treatment. In 1985, a depressed and drug-addicted John read a magazine article about Ryan White, the teenager who had contracted HIV through a tainted blood transfusion. Inspired by White’s optimism in the face of overwhelming prejudice, John befriended the boy and his family. After White died of AIDS in 1990, John had an epiphany. He checked into rehab, got clean and set out to rectify the mistakes he had made during the 1980s, a decade that had witnessed the emergence of AIDS and the ensuing stigma surrounding it. With the support of fellow AIDS activist and gay rights supporter Elizabeth Taylor, he launched EJAF, first in the United States and then in the U.K. EJAF has not only

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“Art lovers, Renaissance junkies and even travelers will love this book, which brings these two geniuses to vivid life and teaches how easy it is to love art.” from the lost battles

funded programs in the West, but has also partnered with organizations in countries that face particularly daunting challenges such as homelessness (Ukraine), extreme poverty (Haiti) and high incidences of rape (South Africa). John’s commitment to tolerance and compassion shines through this testimonial, even as he relays his anger at governments that have either ignored the AIDS crisis or condemned their HIV-positive constituents. The author saves most of his justifiable ire for Bayer, which sold contaminated blood-clotting drugs overseas to save money, and for the Catholic Church, which continues to censure condom use. Still, many of the stories he recounts are uplifting, including that of Simelela, the first health clinic in South Africa to address the struggles of rape victims, and Project FIRST, the New York City– based program that supports former prisoners with HIV. John even relays a surprisingly heartwarming anecdote about meeting with George W. Bush, whose administration established the largest federally funded disease initiative in history. An impassioned plea for understanding and a good layman’s guide to the current state of the AIDS crisis.

DARWIN Portrait of a Genius

Johnson, Paul Viking (176 pp.) $25.95 | Oct. 15, 2012 978-0-670-02571-8

A provocative short biography of one of the most influential scientists of all time. Historian and prolific biographer Johnson (Socrates: A Man for Our Times, 2011, etc.) begins by noting the importance of heredity in Darwin’s accomplishment. Both his grandfathers and his father, arguably geniuses in their own right, bequeathed to Charles the intellectual tools to pursue science, plus the financial security to do so without the compromises of making a living. In addition to a first-rate education, he received the opportunity to join the HMS Beagle expedition, gathering the material evidence for his theory of evolution. Johnson quickly summarizes the key events of Darwin’s formative days, then devotes the meat of the book to his development of the theory and the publication of The Origin of Species. Darwin’s long delay in publishing his theories may have been based on a fear of religious opposition, but Johnson argues that the opposition was comparatively mild. Unfortunately, writes the author, Darwin’s failure to recognize Gregor Mendel’s work on heredity, published only a few years after Origin, deprived him from recognizing the final element needed to explain how natural selection works. Johnson also points to what he considers two central flaws in Darwin’s work: a too-literal acceptance of Malthus’ theories and insufficient understanding of anthropology. More pernicious, according to Johnson, was Darwin’s insufficient understanding of the non-Western societies he encountered. He too easily swallowed second- and thirdhand accounts that portrayed Maoris and other native peoples as bordering on subhuman. Together, Johnson writes, those elements |

led to social Darwinism, a philosophy that was used to justify the worst atrocities of the modern era, from British colonial oppression to Hitler to Pol Pot. While it may be an unfair accusation, it’s certainly sobering. A probing, well-written overview of Darwin’s impact.

THE LOST BATTLES Leonardo, Michelangelo, and the Artistic Duel that Defined the Renaissance

Jones, Jonathan Knopf (336 pp.) $35.00 | Oct. 25, 2012 978-0-307-59475-4

Guardian art critic Jones rejoices in revealing the talents of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo and the challenge of deciding who was the true master. Competition was fundamental to the culture of brilliance in Renaissance Florence, driving creativity and innovation. The contest between Ghiberti and Brunelleschi to create the bronze doors of the Baptistery is a case in point; the author firmly states that the committee was correct in its choice of Ghiberti, leaving Brunelleschi to his dome. There is a wealth of information about da Vinci and Michelangelo, and Jones skillfully harvests the best, amusing with his delightful asides and enlightening with his erudite opinions. As Giorgio Vasari declared, da Vinci was the first great artist of the period who defined nature, perspective and technical mastery, while Michelangelo was its ultimate genius. The story focuses on two commissions to decorate the Great Council Hall of the Palazzo Vecchio, with each artist painting an opposite wall. Jones deftly analyzes their talents and personalities. The preening da Vinci launched theories and works of art but seemed only to enjoy the journey, as he often failed to complete his works. His interests constantly distracted him from his tasks. Michelangelo, on the other hand, was an emotional, fiery poet constantly seeking a cause for his anger. While da Vinci was a master of dissection and produced brilliant drawings, Michelangelo presented the human body as an idyllic landscape. Even as they appeared to be at odds, each often used ideas from the other, like Leonardo’s bastions of Piombino, which Michelangelo copied for Florence. Art lovers, Renaissance junkies and even travelers will love this book, which brings these two geniuses to vivid life and teaches how easy it is to love art. (46 b/w illustrations and 12 pages in color)

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FEVER SEASON The Story of a Terrifying Epidemic and the People Who Saved a City Keith, Jeanette Bloomsbury (288 pp.) $30.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-60819-222-9

The story of the devastation caused by the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis in 1878, which blighted the city for

a generation. Benefiting from an era when newspapers flourished and everyone wrote letters, Keith (History/Bloomsburg Univ.; Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War, 2003, etc.) mines these rich sources to produce an extremely detailed, predictably macabre account. A regular feature of Southern life, yellow fever epidemics began in spring (when mosquitoes became active) and vanished with the first frost. Until scientists discovered the cause in 1900, doctors blamed poisonous emanations from rotting trash, filth and sewage, all of which Memphis possessed in abundance. Taxing hardworking citizens to provide free government services (e.g., sewers, garbage collection, clean water) provoked as much outrage then as today, and Memphis’ city government remaining stubbornly opposed. Everyone worried when yellow fever reached New Orleans in early summer and proceeded slowly northward. Despite ineffectual quarantine efforts, the first Memphis case appeared in August. Within weeks, 30,000 of the city’s 50,000 citizens fled, most of the rest fell ill, and 5,000 died. Disaster historians work best describing the background and the consequences but struggle to make the events themselves stand out, and Keith is no exception. The middle 150 pages feature the usual relentless parade of gruesome suffering, noble sacrifice and bad behavior (volunteers poured in; most died; Catholic priests remained and died; most Protestant clergy fled). Local heroes organized relief, and the nation responded generously. Keith does not exaggerate its historical significance but delivers an admirable account of a Southern city doing its best to deal with a frightening, incomprehensible epidemic.

THE ONE WORLD SCHOOLHOUSE Education Reimagined

Khan, Salman Twelve (288 pp.) $26.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4555-0838-9

An exciting concept for reforming education. In today’s society, most students learn a variety of subjects primarily by lectures, with the goal of passing certain standardized tests 1900

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before moving on to another series of subjects. Former hedge fund analyst Khan questioned this educational model, believing it did nothing to show true mastery of a topic. Candidly and enthusiastically, he details how he originally started what is now known as the Khan Academy by creating a series of YouTube videos to help his cousin with her understanding of math. Supported by Google and The Gates Foundation, those videos have evolved at the Khan Academy website to cover math, science, history and art, among other subjects. They have been used by millions around the world. Khan believes in using modern technology via individual video learning with assessments based on a solid understanding of a theme. Students spend classroom time among peers and talented teachers, who help them reach certain levels of comprehension before progressing to the next level of learning. The author stresses the concept that all subjects are interrelated and that learning should be self-paced and self-motivated with mixed age groups helping one another. He includes in-depth analysis of the most common educational models (lectures and testing for certain topics) and compares it to his methods. Khan’s excitement is palpable as he imagines future schoolrooms as sources of “true creativity” where “mistakes are allowed, tangents are encouraged, and big thinking is celebrated as a process.” His hope is that modern technology and his videos will allow access to a free education to anyone, young or old, around the world. A fresh, welcome approach to education.

AMERICAN PHOENIX The Remarkable Story of William Skinner, a Man Who Turned Disaster into Destiny Kilborne, Sarah S. Free Press (432 pp.) $27.00 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-4516-7179-7

Biography of William Skinner, “a leading founder of the American silk industry,” from Skinner’s great-great-granddaughter. In her first book for adults, Kilborne (Leaving Vietnam, 1999, etc.) spends particular time on an event that could have destroyed Skinner’s company. Just as he was in the midst of expanding his successful business in Skinnerville, a flood wiped out the entire village. He lost his mill, his home and his money, but managed to come back even stronger, building a better mill and expanding his business more than would have been possible without the flood. Kilborne describes Skinner’s young life and move to America from England in enough detail to give a sense of his character and invest readers in his fate. As the day of the flood approached, Skinner was excited about the future of not just his company, but of the American silk industry as a whole. Kilborne revels in the weeks immediately following the devastating flood, explaining the plights of Skinner and his community. She paints a vivid picture of the seemingly insurmountable hurdles, though she does dwell on these points longer than

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“An absorbing study of a disappearing masterpiece.” from leonardo and the last supper

necessary. Kilborne keeps Skinner’s final decision tantalizingly out of reach, giving readers an accurate sense of the anxiety, confusion and overwhelming curiosity his fellow villagers must have felt while they waited to learn whether he would rebuild again, and where. This knack for making readers feel as though they are contemporaries of the Skinner family will keep the pages turning through the slower sections. A compelling, comprehensive biography of a man who contributed much to American manufacturing—perfect for readers who like to root for the underdog.

LEONARDO AND THE LAST SUPPER

King, Ross Walker (320 pp.) $28.00 | Nov. 1, 2012 978-0-8027-1705-4

An absorbing study of a disappearing masterpiece. King (Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven, 2010, etc.) tells the story of the most famous painting no one has really seen, at least since the 16th century: The Last Supper, the masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci that began deteriorating almost as soon as the paint dried. King places the painting in its political, social and artistic context, describing both the meaning of da Vinci’s work and the violent 15thcentury Italian world that spawned it. Proof that art, like life, sometimes happens when you’re making other plans, da Vinci’s greatest painting came about because his dream project—an enormous horse-and-rider sculpture honoring the father of his patron, Lodovico Sforza—was scuttled when Italy needed the bronze for war. For the next two years, da Vinci painted the scene of Jesus and his disciples on the wall of a monastery. In its masterful use of perspective, complementary color and achievement of lifelike detail, it marked a turning point for Western art. King plumbs the painting’s religious, secular, psychological and political meanings, registered in the facial expressions and hand positions, the significance of the food on the table and, most fascinatingly, the salt spilled by the betraying Judas. (And no, Dan Brown, Mary Magdalene is not in it.) Alas, da Vinci’s ignorance of the fresco technique meant the pigments did not bond to the plaster, and the paint would begin flaking within years. As early as 1582, it was described as being “in a state of total ruin.” Thankfully, King’s book is an impressive work of restoration—the author helps readers see this painting for the first time.

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WE KILLED The Rise of Women in American Comedy

Kohen, Yael Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (336 pp.) $27.00 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-374-28723-8

Marie Claire contributing editor Kohen uses Christopher Hitchens’ infamous 2007 Vanity Fair article “Why Women Aren’t Funny” as her pivot point for exploring the obstacles faced by women in the male-dominated comedy business. The author traces the path of female comedians beginning in the 1950s with Phyllis Diller, “the prototypical female stand-up,” and “the mother of sketch comedy,” Elaine May, through the current lineup of popular female comedians such as Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, Aubrey Plaza and Emily Spivey. Kohen successfully weaves the stories into an

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entertaining timeline illustrating women’s increasing presence in American comedy. Writers, talent agents, club managers and comedians discuss a range of subjects, including the evolution of comedy styles, the role of TV, especially Saturday Night Live, and the different types of venues (including YouTube) and individuals who have helped or hindered women’s rise in the business. Kohen notes that during the 1970s, the hiring of female TV writers led to lively female characters, such as the women of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This shift fostered a period of mentoring of women writers by “the powerful men who spent the decade transforming the sitcom,” including Norman Lear, Garry Marshall and Carl Reiner. Taken together, the interviews provide an inside look into the sometimes-turbulent relationships among the stand-up and sketch comedians, club owners, writers, producers and TV executives. Kohen intersperses illuminating bits of narrative among the oral history accounts, adding context and depth to her subject. “Stand-up is arguably the hardest form of comedy,” she writes. “There are no props, magic tricks, partners or music to fall back on. It’s just the comic, alone in front of the microphone under the spotlight. When they fail, they ‘die,’ when they succeed, they ‘kill.’ ”—as does this book. A fresh topic explored in a unique, satisfying manner.

REEL TERROR The Scary, Bloody, Gory, Hundred-Year History of Classic Horror Films

Konow, David Dunne/St. Martin’s Griffin (624 pp.) $16.99 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-312-66883-9 978-1-250-01359-0 e-book An exhaustive and entertaining filmby-film history of an oft-maligned genre

that refuses to die. Horror films are about as old as the medium itself, and Konow (Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal, 2002) begins with Universal Studio’s horror triumvirate of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney and continues to well-known modern-day horror films like The Ring and the Saw franchise. Along the way, he dissects dozens of great and not-so-great movies, including those by respected directors who entered horror only briefly (Polanski and Rosemary’s Baby, Kubrick and The Shining), by directors who went on to bigger things (Sam Raimi and The Evil Dead, Peter Jackson and Dead Alive), and directors who made horror their genre of choice (George Romero and Dawn of the Dead, John Carpenter and Halloween). For each film, Konow tells the story of how it came into being and why it works. But he is no dry cinephile; rather, he is an informative, knowledgeable fan. So why does a horror film work? We all like to be safely scared, and the right music helps. Would Jaws be Jaws without its trademark music? Obviously, the right makeup and a good story are important. But often, as Konow frequently points out, it’s what’s not there that counts: Rosemary’s baby is never seen; there’s not all that much shown in Psycho’s shower 1902

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scene; there’s no music in the original Dracula, which makes it that much more unsettling. On the other hand, “Friday the 13th delighted in letting the blood and heads fly.” So maybe the rules are there to be broken. It’s such details that make the stories of these films so entertaining. Of course, there will be arguments: Is Se7en really a horror film? Where’s the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Why do those teenagers keep going into that dark room to be scared senseless? A well-told account of the films that have scared the pants off generation after generation. (8-page b/w photo insert)

THE BOOK OF JOB When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person

Kushner, Harold S. Schocken (224 pp.) $24.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-8052-4292-8 978-0-8052-4307-9 e-book

“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.” So begins one of the most vexing portions of the Hebrew Bible. Rabbi Kushner (Conquering Fear, 2009, etc.), who first considered the enigmatic text in the bestselling When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981), revisits the powerful story. Chapter by chapter, with homilies, asides, jokes and bits of his personal history, the author considers the familiar story of the good man, bereft of all that he values because of Satan’s challenge to God. In reviewing the three cycles of the poem in which friends fail to console or comfort Job, great theological debates proliferate. How should an innocent victim conduct himself? Is there really divine punishment and reward? Is there justice in Godly governance? As the dispute with the Almighty escalates, meaning becomes less certain, more inscrutable. Even the identity of a speaker becomes uncertain. Some difficulties with the Book of Job stem simply from its distance from our time, the subject matter or the language. Many words are unique. (Feminists will note that Kushner consistently refers to the Creator with masculine pronouns). The author marshals brief commentary from such authorities as Maimonides, Spinoza, Heschel and MacLeish. Perhaps Kushner, a generation after his most famous book, follows mainstream rabbinic theosophy more than he once did. He offers the belief that, fixed by the Creator, there is free will for humanity; nature, too, follows its own laws fixed by God. Thus, there exists the possibility of change and goodness—and maybe that’s why bad things happen. A current, accessible examination of a difficult and wondrous jewel of world literature.

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“A moving story of an American musical original.” from cyndi lauper

DRIVING THE SAUDIS A Chauffeur’s Tale of the World’s Richest Princesses (and their servants, nannies, and one royal hairdresser) Larson, Jayne Amelia Free Press (224 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-4516-4001-4

The engaging memoir of a struggling Hollywood actress/producer’s experiences working as the chauffeur for the women of the Saudi royal family. Working as a professional limousine driver was the last thing Larson ever thought she would have to do. But with $40,000 in accumulated debts and no steady acting or producing jobs on the horizon, she had no choice. Just as she was “hitting rock bottom,” she was hired to drive the female members of the Saudi royal family and their entourage around Los Angeles. Larson knew that she would have to be “available 24/7, seven days a week, for perhaps as long as seven weeks straight.” She was to “be seen and not heard” and could never contradict the demands made of her, no matter how outrageous. She ferried female royals to and from plastic surgery offices and exclusive Rodeo Drive stores and readily solved such urgent problems as procuring every color she could find of a $500 Chantilly bra for a princess eager to show off her “new boobs.” At the same time, she also caught sometimes poignant glimpses into an adamantly traditional world that devalued women and restricted their freedom. Larson found unexpected allies in the teenage serving girls who waited on the princesses, virtual slaves without access to their own passports. No one, including the author herself, escapes Larson’s witty scrutiny. The Saudi royals may have been blind to ordinary reality, but Larson, who “did it for the money,” was equally blind to the fact that to her employers, she was just a woman and a servant driving other women. Sharp-eyed and humane.

CYNDI LAUPER A Memoir

Lauper, Cyndi with Dunn, Jancee Atria (352 pp.) $26.00 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-1-4391-4785-6 With the assistance of Dunn (Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask, 2009, etc.), Lauper tells her alternately harrowing, hopeful and hilarious life story. The author left her home in Ozone Park, Queens, at age 17 to escape a sexually abusive stepfather and the limitations on life—especially for women—imposed by a hardscrabble working-class neighborhood and male-dominated family culture. “As a kid,” she writes, “I heard a lot of sad stories about women.” What followed was years of marginal existence, odd |

jobs (including a stint as a topless dancer) and very little money. Her life change in 1983, however, with the release of She’s So Unusual, which garnered four top-five hits and made Lauper an instant star. Other hits followed, including the anthemic True Colors (1986). Inevitably, her superstar aura faded, but her eclectic musical output did not. Throughout, she struggled to remain true to her artistic values. In the music industry, she was “surrounded by men,” most of whom were “trying to remake me…and I didn’t want to be remade.” Regardless, Lauper continued to release significant albums, ranging from pop to club music to standards to blues, all of it infused with her own musical vision and a penchant both for remembering the flawed beauty of Ozone Park (“I always felt I could find Shakespeare right in my neighborhood”) and a determined identification with outsiders—especially women and members of the GLBT community. This identification turned into activism as her True Colors Foundation has worked to help and protect GLBT youth and promote tolerance. Though not as literary, Lauper’s story echoes the hopes of a struggling artist portrayed in Patti Smith’s Just Kids. A moving story of an American musical original.

SYRIA The Fall of the House of Assad

Lesch, David W. Yale Univ. (300 pp.) $28.00 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-300-18651-2 Anticipatory account of the demise of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s struggling dictator, and the quake potentials building in the regional political, religious and ethnic fault lines that run through his country. Lesch (Middle East History/Trinity Univ.; The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History, 2007, etc.) first met with Assad in 2004 and has come to know key figures in Syria’s political leadership directly. Assad was not groomed for the position of president—his assassinated brother-in-law was the choice for the top spot—but hopes were high for reform when he took over in 2000. Lesch goes through the process by which Assad became the dictator of the Syrian military state, and Assad’s career provides the frame for the author’s account as he discusses the way power is wielded in Syria, the religious and ethnic composition of the country’s population, and how Assad and his country responded to the Arab Spring. The author provides a timeline and geographic discussion of the ongoing revolt since its beginning and an analysis of the many international interests that have a stake in the conflict. He shows that Assad, like his father, rules over an alliance of minorities. The revolt and its suppression have unleashed historical demons of the sort that came to the surface with the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Because of divisions between external and internal factions and fears of the consequences of domination by the Saudi-backed Salafists, Assad, Lesch argues, has succeeded so far in suppressing the uprising. However, in the meantime, Syria is

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“Macfarlane returns with another masterful, poetic travel narrative.” from the old ways

being transformed into the center of an expanding region-wide religious and ethnic conflict. Personal knowledge and on-the-ground experience inform this behind-the-headlines chronicle of the Syrian conflict.

FRAMED America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance Levinson, Sanford Oxford Univ. (449 pp.) $29.95 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-0-19-989075-0

Constitutional law scholar Levinson (Law/Univ. of Texas; Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (And How We the People Can Correct It), 2006, etc.) studies the many flavors and occasional flaws of the constitutions that vie to hold our allegiances. “There is a connection between the perceived deficiencies of contemporary government and formal constitutions,” Levinson writes, noting, for instance, that few people would observe the slow disintegration of state government and its attendant services in California without referring to the “particularities of its state constitution.” The author proposes that constitutions be considered as “frames,” preambles to them as proposals for means to the ends that the constitutions promise. In that light, given that frames are supposed to be portable and movable, he suggests that both frames and constitutions can be dangerous if they do not adapt to changing times and circumstances. That view, of course, might align the author with the liberal of constitutional thought, one that might propose that in the light of latter-day mass murders on a certain nation’s streets, a little more effort to curb gun possession is in order. But Levinson resists easy categorization, defending the Electoral College here, likening the vice presidency to a duck-billed platypus there, and urging throughout that we all be attentive to “the inherent limits of language.” The author also explains why it is that we should have curbs that prevent Arnold Schwarzenegger from running for president or Bill Clinton from seeking a third term in the White House. “One simply does not understand American constitutionalism,” he writes, “if one knows only about the national Constitution.” An illuminating look at sacred cows and sacred documents.

THE GREAT DESTROYER Barack Obama’s War on the Republic

Limbaugh, David Regnery (400 pp.) $29.95 | Jun. 4, 2012 978-1-59698-777-7

Rush Limbaugh’s brother delivers the obligatory Republican diatribe on the reasons our current president doesn’t deserve another term in office. 1904

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A follow-up to his former “indictment” of President Obama in Crimes Against Liberty (2010), Limbaugh further dissects Obama’s political behavior, his administration’s “federal interventionism and lawlessness” and what he feels is a blatant attack on American values. What emerges after reading the author’s 12 scathing, relentlessly accusatory chapters is that, in Limbaugh’s estimation, Obama is a near-subhuman disgrace to America. The author sets down incriminations through heavyhanded, melodramatic prose, even suggesting the president has irresponsibly blamed former President George W. Bush for the morally lapsed state of the nation, all while single-handedly bringing America “to the brink of financial collapse.” Limbaugh is an entertainment attorney by trade, so the impressive breadth and comprehensive nature of his criticism on issues like Obamacare, energy prices and legislation, governmental spending and the deficit isn’t surprising (many factual statements are admittedly eye-opening). Also unsurprising is his blasting of Obama for his support of gay rights, abortion, failed foreign policy initiatives, the jobs bill and the immigrant-friendly Dream Act. Limbaugh even finds room to chide Michelle Obama, who, in a 2010 NAACP speech, “portrayed America as though it’s still dominated by Jim Crow-style inequality.” The inclusion of nearly 70 pages of supporting notes and documentation lends some credence to Limbaugh’s arguments, but a lack of authorial personality (humor, hopefulness…anything), nor any nods to the good work President Obama has accomplished (or solutions to the problems outlined), turns all the criticism into a dour, antagonistic manifesto. A meticulously catalogued, book-length tantrum discouraging voters from re-electing our 44th President.

THE OLD WAYS A Journey on Foot

Macfarlane, Robert Viking (320 pp.) $26.95 | Oct. 15, 2012 978-0-670-02511-4

Macfarlane (English/Cambridge Univ.; The Wild Places, 2008, etc.) returns with another masterful, poetic travel narrative. The author’s latest, focusing broadly on the concept of walking, forms what he calls “a loose trilogy,” with his two earlier books, Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places, “about landscape and the human heart.” As in his previous books, it seems nearly impossible that a writer could combine so many disparate elements into one sensible narrative. It’s ostensibly a first-person travelogue (of England, Spain, Palestine, Tibet and other locales), combined with biographical sketches (such as that of poet Edward Thomas, who died on a battlefield in France in 1917) and historical anecdotes about a wide variety of subjects (e.g., a set of 5,000-year-old footprints made by a family along the coastline just north of Liverpool). In the hands of a lesser writer, these divergent ideas would almost certainly result in unreadable chaos, but Macfarlane effortlessly weaves them together under

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the overarching theme of “walking as a reconnoitre inwards, and the subtle ways in which we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move.” While this notion may seem abstract, the author’s resonant prose brings it to life—whether he is writing about the mountains of Tibet, where a half-frozen stream is “halted mid-leap in elaborate forms of yearning,” or the mountains of Scotland to which he returned for his grandfather’s funeral, where he found “moonlight shimmering off the pine needles and pooling in the tears of resin wept by the pines.” A breathtaking study of “walking as enabling sight and thought rather than encouraging retreat and escape.”

VENICE A New History

Madden, Thomas F. Viking (480 pp.) $35.00 | Oct. 29, 2012 978-0-670-02542-8 Solid, informative survey, emphasizing La Serenissima’s stature as the world’s longest-lived republic and a great commercial power. “The first Venetians were Romans,” writes Madden (History and Medieval and Renaissance Studies/ St. Louis Univ.; Empires of Trust: How Rome Built—and America Is Building—a New World, 2008, etc.), “proudly refusing to cooperate with a world in collapse.” Fleeing fifth-century barbarian invasions of the Italian mainland, they rowed into a lagoon off the Adriatic Sea where they could fish and trade in peace. Its location made Venice a crucial nexus for commerce between Europe and the East, and its leading families valued political stability and a broad-based ruling class. In the post-Roman world of agrarian feudalism, Venice was an urban commercial republic. Its complicated political system would remain unique to Venice, but its financial innovations, from deposit banking to doubleentry bookkeeping, were the foundation of modern capitalism. Venice stood at the forefront of world commerce until newly aggressive nation-states like England and France established colonial empires that overshadowed its older, merchant-oriented economy beginning in the 16th century. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 didn’t help; Venice had always been a loyal ally of the Byzantine Empire, and the city stood at the front lines for over a century as the Turks repeatedly threatened to invade Europe. Madden admires Venice’s conservative elite and defends it as being no more oppressive than any other pre-Enlightenment state. Once the 1,000-year-old republic was forced to surrender to Napoleon in 1797, Madden loses interest and whips briskly through the next two-plus centuries of decay and tourism. Plenty of books focus on Venice the romantic ruin. This one offers a welcome reminder of its historic role over a millennium in the development of a modern economic system and the maintenance of the global balance of power.

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THE FRACTALIST Memoir of a Scientific Maverick

Mandelbrot, Benoit B. Pantheon (352 pp.) $30.00 | Oct. 30, 2012 978-0-307-37735-7 978-0-307-37860-6 e-book Memoir of a brilliant mathematician who never thought of himself as a mathematician. Part of the reason is that Mandelbrot’s work had wideranging impact; as his best-known book, The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1982) illustrates, his insights apply across many disciplines. That breadth of interest originated in Mandelbrot’s early years, growing up in a Jewish family that managed to dodge the currents of anti-Semitism, moving from Lithuania to Poland to France, where the author spent the World War II years in a provincial town, away from the attention of the occupiers. Early in life, he learned about Johannes Kepler, whose geometric insights changed the nature of astronomy, and Mandelbrot made it one of his goals to achieve a similar breakthrough. After the war, his academic skills got him into the École Polytechnique, an elite training school for military engineers. Then he bounced around from Caltech to the French air force to the University of Paris to the Institute for Advanced Studies. Along the way, he made the acquaintance of an impressive number of scientific giants, acquired a doctorate and a love of music and married Aliette Kagan, with whom he would spend the rest of his life. To this point, his career showed more promise than achievement. Taking a job with IBM, which encouraged basic research with no obvious application to its products, turned out to be his best move. There, he found his interest in “roughness” led to geometric insights that opened doors in a number of fields. The final pages are a summary of accomplishments, publications and recognitions. Interestingly, the narrative deliberately avoids mathematics and therefore gives only the vaguest suggestion of his actual work. That decision undoubtedly makes the book more accessible to general readers, but it also throws the emphasis on the more superficial aspects of his career. Nonetheless, the portraits of his contemporaries and their milieu are worth the read. Charmingly written, but readers interested in the nature of the work that won him his accolades will have to look elsewhere. (8-page color insert; b/w illustrations throughout)

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MY MOTHER WAS NUTS A Memoir

Marshall, Penny Amazon/New Harvest (352 pp.) $26.00 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-547-89262-7

Actress, producer and director Marshall’s frank and funny memoir about the path that led her from an ordinary childhood in New York City to Hollywood stardom. Marshall never planned to get into acting. But her mother, who ran a neighborhood dance and acrobatics school for children in the Bronx, always believed that “every child should know what it feels like to entertain.” So she began teaching her daughter the rudiments of physical movement before she was 1 year old. By the time Marshall was a teenager, she and the other girls her mother taught had performed at churches, charity events and telethons; they had even appeared on the Jackie Gleason Show. Dancing, however, was not Marshall’s passion. A mediocre student with no idea what she would do with her life, she went to the University of New Mexico, a college that “accepted anyone from out of state.” A few years later, Marshall was a divorced UNM dropout who had lost custody of her child, but she had also started to find her niche as an actress through involvement in community theater. She went to Hollywood to join her brother Garry, who was building a career as a comedy writer for TV and got bit parts in such classic TV shows as That Girl and The Odd Couple. She finally came into her own in the mid-1970s as the star of the hit sitcom Laverne & Shirley, and then in the ’80s and early-’90s as the director of the hit films Big and A League of Their Own. Marshall is as candid about her failures (which include a painful second divorce from writer/comedian Rob Reiner) and her weaknesses (like the one she developed for drugs) as she is about her successes. With gratitude for a life lived on her own terms, she writes, “I’ve been given my five minutes…and then some.” Bold and irrepressibly sassy.

MAYO CLINIC BREAST CANCER BOOK

Mayo Clinic Good Books (410 pp.) $22.95 paperback | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-56148-772-1 A medically sound, digestible reference guide to understanding, treating and coping with br east cancer. Esteemed Mayo Clinic oncologists Charles Loprinzi and Lynn Hartmann are the adroit medical duo behind these encyclopedic chapters, which range from the intricate science behind cancer formation to treatments, side effects and the emotional fallout of the breast cancer experience. They begin with the basics, explaining what cancer is (“characterized by the overgrowth of abnormal cells”), the process of how it 1906

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occurs (years can pass before becoming detectable), risk factors (including surprising myths) and progressive drug treatment options that can result in increasingly optimistic remission statistics. The text is further enhanced with color graphics, charts, computer- and microscopically generated imagery, and poignant personal stories from survivors. The authors explore the sensitivity of breast cancer from a medical perspective but also address a woman’s post-diagnosis emotional and physical vulnerability. Loprinzi and Hartmann offer reliable counsel on mammograms, symptoms to be watchful for, cancer prevention, and both medicinal and holistic treatment strategies. For women intimidated by procedures like mammograms, biopsies, radiation and chemotherapy, the authors’ approach is patient and worry-free. The closing chapters include valuable resource references and assistance specifically targeting partners of women with breast cancer. An empowering tool that soothes the sting and shock of a cancer diagnosis with up-to-date information and physician-supported advice.

THE SECRET LIVES OF CODEBREAKERS The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park McKay, Sinclair Plume (352 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-452-29871-2

A detailed, well-researched account of the people who ran the top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, whose work helped the Allies win World War II. President Eisenhower once said that the work of the British codebreakers “shortened the war by two years.” But as Daily Telegraph journalist McKay (Ramble On, 2012, etc) reveals, official recognition has been slow in coming. Some of the participants—e.g., celebrated Cambridge mathematician Alan Turing, would go on to earn notoriety, including official, but always muted, recognition by the British monarchy. Most would go on to lead more or less anonymous lives. McKay notes that a large part of the problem had to do with the fact that, unlike those who had actually fought on the front lines, no one from GC&CS “was allowed to say a single word” about the years they spent deciphering the infamous German Enigma codes. Only after RAF officer and MI6 operative Frederick Winterbotham published a controversial book about the project in 1974, The Ultra Secret, did the veil begin to lift. Rather than attempt to glamorize what the codebreakers did, however, McKay attempts to demystify their world by highlighting the day-to-day realities they faced. With few exceptions, aristocrats mixed with academics, students and factory workers shared the same hardships: small, cramped billets, tasteless food and jobs that were as tedious as they were physically and mentally taxing. Interviews with surviving Bletchley Park veterans offer

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“Incisive, reflective and unfailingly stimulating. It wouldn’t hurt Mendelsohn to occasionally pass up an opportunity to remind readers he’s the smartest guy in the room, but then again, he almost always is.” from waiting for the barbarians

LOVE SONG The Lives of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya

especially good insight into the remarkably vibrant culture and the ways they survived an invisible, hyperconfined existence on the edge of a world at war. A well-deserved, long-overdue celebration of some unsung heroes of WWII.

WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture

Mendelsohn, Daniel New York Review Books (432 pp.) $24.95 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-59017-607-8 978-1-59017-609-2 e-book Another top-notch collection of previously published criticism from Mendelsohn (How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken, 2008, etc.). “There rarely are any real ‘barbarians,’ ” the author writes. “What others might see as declines and falls look, when seen from the bird’s-eye vantage point of history, more like shifts, adaptations, reorganizations.” This long-range perspective distinguishes Mendelsohn’s criticism from that of less erudite and measured peers. The opening section, “Spectacles,” ranges from Avatar to Mad Men with refreshing matter-of-factness, pinpointing the cultural significance of commercial forms of art without over- or understating their merits. Mendelsohn’s analysis of why Julie Taymor was precisely the wrong director for the Broadway musical Spider-Man is particularly sharp. Mendelsohn’s assessments can be negative, even dismissive, but they are not overheated or personally nasty. The near-exception is “Boys Will Be Boys,” a severe going-over of Edmund White’s memoir City Boy (2009), and even that is less a slam than a forthright statement of the differences between two generations of gay writers. Although Mendelsohn mused at length on questions of homosexual identity in The Elusive Embrace (1999), his criticism reveals an openly gay writer comfortably connected to the culture at large. He is equally acute and balanced on the memoir craze, the pleasures of Leo Lerman’s journals and “the fundamental failure of genuine good humor” in Jonathan Franzen’s work. Mendelsohn’s tendency to announce that there is a single key insight that crucially explains a given artist’s work can be irritating, but often his insight is key: Susan Sontag’s affinity with French classicism, for example, or ultra-sophisticate Noël Coward’s grounding in “the stolid values of the decidedly unsophisticated lower-middle-class.” Incisive, reflective and unfailingly stimulating. It wouldn’t hurt Mendelsohn to occasionally pass up an opportunity to remind readers he’s the smartest guy in the room, but then again, he almost always is.

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Mordden, Ethan St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $29.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-312-67657-5 978-1-250-01757-4 e-book

They were some couple: artist and muse, Jewish and Catholic, owlish composer and flighty songbird. She was unfaithful to him, he was only faithful to his music, and neither could live without the other. As Mordden (The Guest List: How Manhattan Defined American Sophistication, 2010) puts it, Kurt Weill (1900–1950) and Lotte Lenya (1898–1981) were “an odd couple, she so outgoing and curious and he so taciturn, as if he already knew everything worth knowing.” They would marry, divorce and remarry, and Lenya slept around as Weill studied his sheet music. (“But, Lenya,” he once told her, “you know you come right after my music!”) They met in Weimar Berlin at its inflationary, artistic, criminal and pre-Nazi peak—“the Wild West without a sheriff ”—which Weill and a smelly, hectoring blowhard named Bertolt Brecht would brutally satirize in The Threepenny Opera. The reaction was mixed: Most people loved it, but the Nazis hated it. The thugs didn’t like his later shows either—one reviewer was shocked at how Weill, “a Jew, makes use of the German opera stage for his anti-German goals.” Weill and Lenya fled to Paris in 1933 (bad idea) and then America. Weill, who “could put on a musical style like socks,” flourished in the melting pot; Lenya, in between air pilots and choir boys, was his constant anchor. With smart, chatty and occasionally hilarious prose (“Richard Rodgers was the only composer with whom Weill was holding a hard-on contest”), Mordden ably captures both artists and their ever-changing geographical and professional locales. The title cheats a little—it’s more about him than her— but this is a lively, baroque account of two very cool cats, these opposites who attracted. (8-page b/w photo insert)

THE DAWN OF INNOVATION The First American Industrial Revolution Morris, Charles R. PublicAffairs (288 pp.) $28.99 | Oct. 23, 2012 978-1-58648-828-4 978-1-61039-049-1 e-book

In this historical overview, Morris (The Sages: Warren Buffett, George Soros, Paul Volcker, and the Maelstrom of Markets, 2009, etc.) asserts that American industry in its early days was far more concerned with growth and large-scale mass production than was Great Britain. “By comparison with eighteenth-century Britons, Americans

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were strivers on steroids,” he writes. To illustrate this point, the author looks at several pioneering British and American inventors and engineers and describes key innovations in a wide range of early American industries, from clock making to furniture making. In one long chapter, Morris examines the manufacturing of guns, a topic to which he returns in another chapter. The author also briefly looks at a few major post–Civil War industrial figures, including Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, both of whom he wrote about at length in The Tycoons (2005). In a closing chapter that feels a bit tacked-on, Morris discusses how the past America-Great Britain rivalry resembles and differs from the current economic relationship between the U.S. and China. The author is at his best when he focuses on the people behind the technology—e.g., Eli Whitney, who became a “talented artisan and entrepreneur,” but was, in his early career, “something of a flimflam man.” While Morris’ research is thorough, his prose is often long-winded. His account of naval warfare during the War of 1812, for example, hardly seems worthy of a 36-page blow-byblow chronicle featuring multiple tables and illustrations. Other sections get bogged down in engineering minutiae; many of the highly detailed diagrams will be of interest to engineers, perhaps, but not to casual readers. An ambitious but overlong historical study.

SEVEN THOUSAND WAYS TO LISTEN Staying Close to What Is Sacred

Nepo, Mark Free Press (320 pp.) $26.00 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-1-4516-7466-8

A meditative approach to silencing the world’s noise. “[H]ow do we lean in and listen to all that is not us,” writes poet and philosopher Nepo (As Far As the Heart Can See: Stories to Illuminate the Soul, 2011, etc.), “to all that is calling, to the particular angel waiting to guide us more thoroughly into who we are born to be?” Through personal examples and extensive “reflective pause” sections, in which the author provides meditation practices, journal exercises, and questions to be shared with friends and loved ones, readers receive tools necessary to slow down and learn to listen in a deep, meaningful way. Listening is more than the act of physically hearing; it is the process of stopping the chatter in the mind, diving deeper into the self so that one may be open and present to the mysterious marvels that surround us at every moment. It is connecting with one’s intuition, with “the Source” (or Creator), and honoring all with love and reverence. Nepo admits that entering the silence requires courage and commitment, but each experience of entering this state brings readers into deep relaxation and the awareness of a connection with the web of life. By being authentic to the calling of one’s soul, one moves closer to a sense of peace, where self-centeredness, disappointment and daily struggles dissolve into humility and wonder. By learning to truly listen, which 1908

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entails hard work and the willingness to change over time, one can develop a meaningful connection with the soul. Not for skeptics of spiritualism or New-Age ideas, but Nepo provides thorough methods for reaching deeper into the inner self.

FIGHTING TO SERVE Behind the Scenes in the War to Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Nicholson, Alexander Chicago Review (288 pp.) $26.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-61374-372-0

In his debut, gay rights activist Nicholson chronicles the successful fight for the repeal of the U.S. military’s controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. DADT was first enacted in 1993 during the Clinton administration as a compromise to allow gays to serve in the military. Gay soldiers were still required to keep their orientation secret, however, and they could still be discharged for that reason alone. As such, DADT effectively kept the long-standing ban in place, and many gay and straight civil libertarians actively campaigned for it to be repealed. Nicholson tells his own story of being outed and ejected from the Army in 2002, which led him to activism. He writes of his feeling that the organizations already fighting for repeal weren’t communicating the message effectively to the general public. “We had the support of Joe Q. San Francisco...but we did not have the support of Betty and Bob Q. Omaha,” he writes. The author concluded that an organization of gay military service members was needed to help make people in Middle America listen. He got in touch with like-minded activists and, in 2005, founded what would become Servicemembers United, the largest organization of gay troops and veterans in the United States. Members met with political and military leaders, including former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and lobbied the Obama administration and Congress. The work of Servicemembers United and other organizations paid off: DADT was repealed and officially ended in September 2011. Nicholson’s narrative can be somewhat repetitive at times, and some of the minutiae of activist organizing may not interest casual readers. Still, he provides a rarely seen look at how activist organizations tirelessly work to build delicate alliances in Washington. An intriguing look at gay activism inside the Beltway. (Book launch event at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22. Author appearances in New York, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Charleston, S.C.)

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“A fittingly exhaustive history of a larger-than-life franchise.” from the dallas cowboys

COMFORTABLY UNAWARE What We Choose to Eat Is Killing Us and Our Planet

Oppenlander, Richard A. Beaufort (200 pp.) $14.95 paperback | $14.99 e-book Oct. 8, 2012 978-0-8253-0686-0 978-0-8253-0622-8 e-book

In his debut, Oppenlander derides our animal-based diets and encourages awareness of food choices as they affect our lives and the planet. Eating meat, fish or dairy products, writes the author, depletes the planet’s resources and is the single most devastating factor that affects global warming and our environment. Oppenlander explores how our appetite for meat and fish affects our land, water, air, pollution, biodiversity, sustainability and personal health, noting that we “collectively raise, feed, water, kill, and eat over 70 billion animals each year for food.” The author uses the concept of global depletion to describe the degradation of our resources on earth, in detriment to our general health. Through well-researched statistics, Oppenlander claims that it is “what we eat and the choices we make in our diet, not the car we drive, that affects our supply of water, land, and air and will affect our success or failure on our planet.” For example, one person can save more water by not eating a pound of beef than by not showering for a full year. Oppenlander discusses the effect of raising livestock on the rain forests, biodiversity, water usage and water pollution, and he examines the issue of overfishing on the world’s oceans, outlining how government subsidies and inaccurate information perpetuate these problems. The author ridicules the locavore movement for its pieties about grass-fed beef, noting that there isn’t enough land on the planet for this practice to be sustainable. To reduce global depletion, Oppenlander suggests education, legislation banning meat consumption and ecotaxes reflecting the true cost of the food we eat. The book is filled with hefty statistics but has little narrative thread to carry readers through. Not a feel-good book, but a stat-packed call to salads.

FEAR Understanding and Accepting the Insecurities of Life

Osho St. Martin’s Griffin (192 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-250-00623-3

An internationally renowned and controversial spiritual leader writes on the physical and spiritual components of fear, but the book suffers from a particularly narrow definition of the term. “Life arises only in risk, in danger,” writes Osho (1931–1990) toward the end of this short book. Given that legitimate risk |

and danger trigger a physiological response honed throughout the existence of the human race, it seems to follow that fear can be, at times, a healthy and life-preserving response. Osho disagrees; he spends much of the book positioning himself in opposition to other thought around the nature of fear and how it is addressed. There is value in his admonitions, insofar as it is possible to fall into a pattern of fear that lacks a rational basis for support. Where the book falls short is in the dogmatic stance to which Osho repeatedly returns. He suggests that he, his followers and his Osho-certified therapists are enlightened, while psychology, human struggle and the notion that “fear” can have positive connotations are rejected as the absurd posturings of children in a sandbox. Instructions to be present-centered and to experiment with meditation are useful, but when Osho suggests that something like a broken leg is not a problem—that the problem lies in the imagination—it does little to inspire confidence that his theories will be particularly applicable to the struggles of everyday life. He repeats this blameful approach throughout the text. Given the author’s prolific output, there is bound to be some overlap in material, but it’s disheartening to find such repetition within one work.

THE DALLAS COWBOYS The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America Patoski, Joe Nick Little, Brown (816 pp.) $29.99 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-316-07755-2

Texas journalist and author Patoski (Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, 2008, etc.) delivers an oversized history of one of sport’s greatest franchises. The Dallas Cowboys’ on-field achievements—five Super Bowl wins, 10 conference championships, 21 division titles and 30 playoff appearances in their 52-year history—have arguably been overshadowed by their impact on professional football and popular culture in general, earning them the nickname “America’s Team.” Patoski’s in-depth study gives readers everything they want to know about “The Boys” and much more, from the field to the front office, the media and, of course, the famous Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. The author also tracks the parallel development of the city of Dallas, with a focus on business and politics. For a book about a football team, there’s surprisingly little football, though the author briefly recaps the triumphs and tragedies of star players like Don Meredith, Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith. Patoski barely mentions the subpar teams of the 1980s, though he does document the most recent edition’s struggles, highlighted by the drama surrounding talented and camera-friendly quarterback Tony Romo. Patoski spends a surprising amount of time discussing the media coverage of the team, but the majority of the narrative belongs to the ownership and front office,

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with the first two-thirds dominated by the man most responsible for the Cowboys’ success and for much of what an NFL franchise looks like today, team president and general manager Tex Schramm. Schramm and legendary coach Tom Landry got pushed out when “reptilian” Arkansas oil-and-gas baron Jerry Jones, a cartoon villain of a franchise owner, purchased the team in 1989, beginning the modern era of the Cowboys and keeping them in the headlines with controversy and equal measures of success and failure on and off the gridiron. A fittingly exhaustive history of a larger-than-life franchise. (16-page color insert)

ANSWERS FOR ARISTOTLE How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life

Pigliucci, Massimo Basic (320 pp.) $27.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-465-02138-3

A look at why both science and philosophy are necessary to “approach the perennial questions concerning how we construct the meaning of our existence.” Pigliucci (Philosophy/CUNY-Lehman Coll.; Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk, 2010, etc.), who holds doctorates in both biology and philosophy, provides an overview of relevant philosophic arguments about virtue, beginning with Aristotle’s thoughts on how to achieve a happy and fruitful life: “doing the right things for the right reason” while rising above “weakness of the will.” Pigliucci compares this with the views of utilitarian philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham and the rulebased prescriptions of Immanuel Kant. He also looks at how neuropsychologists deal with the putative existence of free will by constructing experiments (using fMRI scanning devices) that show brain activations of muscles before a subject is aware of making a conscious decision to act. Warning that experiments often do not simulate realistic situations, he argues that the relationship between science and philosophy is highly complex. We must “let philosophy (informed by science) guide us in principle, and to use science (steered by philosophy) as our best bet for implementing those principles,” he writes. Pigliucci applies Aristotle’s four causes principles to illustrate the nature of religious belief, which “is made possible by the neurobiological characteristics of the human brain that make us prone to superstitious thinking.” A useful introduction to sources on both sides of the science-philosophy divide.

ONE FOR THE BOOKS

Queenan, Joe Viking (256 pp.) $24.95 | Oct. 29, 2012 978-0-670-02582-4

A journalist shares his obsession with books, swinging his machete through the fields of literature. A national columnist and prolific writer, Queenan (Closing Time: A Memoir, 2009) is crazy about books—literally. Even other bibliophiles will likely consider his reading habits to be on the lunatic fringe: “I cannot remember a single time when I was reading fewer than fifteen books…I am talking about books I am actively reading, books that are right there on my nightstand and are not leaving until I’m done with them. Right now, the number is thirty-two.” The author admits that this is “madness.” Such obsession makes him a promiscuous reader, but also a faithful one, devouring everything he can find from an author he discovers, no matter how obscure or prolific. Since he’s sometimes classified as a humorist, and since much of his humor lies in his outrageous assertions, it’s hard to tell how seriously to take his dismissal of Middlemarch, Ulysses and all of Thomas Hardy, though plainly he takes books and reading very seriously indeed. Yet he doesn’t much care for independent bookstores (“often staffed by condescending prigs who do not approve of people like me. The only writers they like are dead or exotic or Paul Auster”), or book critics (“mostly servile muttonheads, lacking the nerve to call out famous authors for their daft plots and slovenly prose), or book clubs (“I would rather have my eyelids gnawed on by famished gerbils than join a book club”). Queenan also resists the temptation of most book lovers to buy a lot of books, since he figures he won’t live long enough to read (or re-read) the ones he’s vowed to finish before he dies. Most will agree that “reading is intensely personal,” and the author splatters his personality over every page. An amusing homage to reading that contains something to offend even (especially?) the most ardent book lover.

BEWARE OF LIMBO DANCERS A Correspondent’s Adventures with the New York Times Reed, Roy Univ. of Arkansas (257 pp.) $34.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-55728-988-9 978-1-61075-502-3 e-book

A journalist’s memoir focusing on his writing about the civil rights movement during the 1960s and ’70s. Retired New York Times reporter Reed (Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal, 1997, etc.), born in 1930, recounts his journey through a range of controversial stories. 1910

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“A poignant, memorable story of friendship and of a period in time that should never be forgotten.” from you saved me, too

He briefly discusses his Arkansas childhood, his education at the University of Missouri Journalism School and his journey from small-town reporting to the Times. Although he thought he understood the Southern mentality on race, Reed learned that the relatively mild racism of his childhood did not compare to the more virulent brand in the Deep South, including Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Rather than letting his personal beliefs guide his reporting, Reed disciplined himself to get along with everybody as much as possible; publishing an important, clear story trumped individual glory for journalistic scoops. In addition to reporting about race in the South, Reed served as a London correspondent for the Times, as well as a Washington, D.C., correspondent—a position that often seemed more disorienting than an overseas posting. During the full term of Lyndon Johnson, Reed covered White House politics intensely. When Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s vice president, tried to replace his boss in the White House, Reed wrote about the 1968 presidential campaign almost every day. When Republican Richard Nixon prevailed, the author had to become accustomed to dealing professionally with a president quite different from the Democratic candidate. A compelling tour of a journalist’s life from an intelligent, charming guide. (15 images)

BEYOND OUTRAGE What Has Gone Wrong with Our Economy and Our Democracy, and How to Fix It

Reich, Robert B. Illus. by Reich, Robert B. Vintage (160 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Sep. 4, 2012 978-0-345-80437-2

Reich (Public Policy/Univ. of California, Berkeley; Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, 2011, etc.) spells out what he thinks citizens need to do to ensure Washington acts on behalf of the public good, not special interests. Bill Clinton’s former labor secretary reports that, due to the emails he receives, he is well aware of the electorate’s mood. He believes citizens must band together “without scapegoating or cynicism” on the basis of “moral clarity and undeniable facts” if they want to succeed. Reich writes that the basic bargain— “that employers paid their workers enough to buy what employers were selling”—underlying America’s post–World War II prosperity has been violated, with the result of increasing inequality and poverty. This reversal reflects a deliberate choice, which Reich attributes to “regressives,” embodied by such officials as Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. They want to “return America to the 1920s—before Social Security, unemployment insurance, labor laws, the minimum wage,” etc. Still others, writes the author, want to go back even further, promoting a political revival of 19th-century social Darwinism to justify shameless inequality and survival of the fittest. For Reich, the Republican Party, which disavowed social |

Darwinism in the 1950s, is marching backward, but the author writes that the Democrats’ “stunning failure” to offer an alternative has helped regressives gain political traction. The author outlines a series of organizing initiatives intended to broaden citizen involvement at all levels of government and provides a handy list of the “Ten Biggest Lies” the regressives are using to fuel their campaign. Short and lively, this is a timely contribution to making the ongoing discussion more productive.

YOU SAVED ME, TOO What a Holocaust Survivor Taught Me About Living, Dying, Fighting, Loving, and Swearing in Yiddish

Resnick, Susan Kushner Skirt! Books/Globe Pequot (240 pp.) $24.95 | Oct. 6, 2012 978-0-7627-8038-9

Stirring story of the tender and unusual friendship between a Holocaust survivor and a woman 40 years his junior. Resnick (Creative Nonfiction/Brown Univ., Goodbye Wives and Daughters, 2010, etc.) expertly interweaves both sides of her 15-year friendship with Holocaust survivor Aron Lieb. She intersperses bits and pieces of Aron’s life in the camps with her feelings about Judaism, her family life and her steadfast belief that the world should do right by her friend, a man who had suffered more than enough. Told in a nonsensational manner, the narrative provides readers with insights into the daily life of a Jew in the concentration camps: the lack of food and clothing, the brutality and illogical tortures, the endless work and the overwhelming determination to survive. Throughout the book, Resnick refers to Aron as “you,” and the back-and-forth conversations between the two companions continue as swirled snippets of memories of “your” somewhat normal life after the war. “Who will remember once your tattoo is gone?” writes the author. “When you die…that symbol will be buried with you. The numbers will decompose. You will come unmarked…then the forgetting will truly commence.” Nightmares and anxiety attacks prevailed as Aron grew older, and he continued to struggle with the heart-rending grief of losing most of his family in the camps. Resnick and her family became the family Aron lost, and the author was single-minded in her efforts to provide a respectful death for her friend. Resnick’s compassionate prose captures the voice and soul of Aron, ensuring that his memories will continue long after the number “141324” has disappeared. A poignant, memorable story of friendship and of a period in time that should never be forgotten.

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THE WINNER EFFECT The Neuroscience of Success and Failure Robertson, Ian H. Dunne/St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $25.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-250-00167-2 978-1-250-01364-4 e-book

Robertson (Psychology/Trinity College Dublin; Opening the Mind’s Eye: How Images and Language Teach Us to See, 2003, etc.) looks at how success and power affect human behavior. The author broadly explores the psychological and neurochemical factors behind the human drive for success and how people’s behavior can change once they achieve it. “Why do we want to win so badly, and what makes a winner?” he writes. Robertson examines these questions from several different angles, citing numerous studies. In one section, he writes about children of successful people that were troubled failures, and how some may have been rendered psychologically unmotivated due to unreachable expectations. (The author oddly portrays oil-fortune heir Balthazar Getty as an unsuccessful actor, neglecting to mention Getty’s recent stint as a cast member on the ABC show Brothers & Sisters, among other achievements.) In other sections, Robertson examines how some world leaders’ behavior might be explainable, in part, due to the effects of testosterone on their brains, and of how Oscar winners live longer, on average, than Oscar nominees. While the author makes some interesting points, he does so while hyperactively throwing anecdotes at readers—in one six-page span, he writes about African cichlid fish, a study of London financial traders, the 1994 World Cup final and a 1995 Mike Tyson boxing match— making his arguments seem less well-reasoned than scattershot. His prose style can be clunky, as well, and his habit of repeatedly urging readers to take multiple-question quizzes gives the book the feel of a self-help manual at times. An unfocused analysis of what lies behind the desire to win.

UNSTOPPABLE From Underdog to Undefeated: How I Became a Champion

Robles, Anthony with Murphy, Austin Gotham Books (272 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-592-40777-4 An absorbing account of achievement by a one-legged college athlete who beat the odds and won the 2010-2011 NCAA individual wrestling championship. In 2012, Robles, who is now an inspirational speaker, was awarded the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. The author attributes much of his success to the encouragement he received from his 1912

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mother, who was 16 and unmarried when he was born with one leg. “There is nothing wrong with you,” she told him constantly, a sentiment that has stuck with him. With assistance from Murphy (co-author: The Happiness of Pursuit: A Father’s Courage, a Son’s Love and Life’s Steepest Climb, 2011, etc.), Robles describes his determination in the face of defeat, beginning in elementary school when he stood up to bullies. He played flag football but gravitated to wrestling where he could use his overall body strength more effectively. In middle school, he joined the wrestling team, and a supportive coach helped him develop an individual wrestling style (dropping “down low on the mat” where, he explains, he “was much more dangerous”). Despite his disability, with the help of crutches, he was able to keep up with the rigorously brutal training regimen that was required. Wrestling is a vigorous sport, requiring the exertion of almost every muscle in the body, and it demands mental as well as physical discipline in order to successfully counter an opponent’s moves. Robles also describes his experiences with the politics of college athletics. An inspiring, eye-opening introduction to a sport not to be confused with commercial wrestling.

ON POLITICS A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present Ryan, Alan Liveright/Norton (1,120 pp.) $75.00 | Oct. 22, 2012 978-0-87140-465-7

An ambitious survey not of politics itself, but of the way Westerners have thought about politics for 2,500 years. Ryan (Politics/Princeton Univ.; John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism, 1997, etc.) has written a massive book, one “a long time in the making.” That’s understandable, for he has a tremendous amount of ground to cover. He does so with the admirable breadth of Will and Ariel Durant or Frederick Copleston, but with much greater powers of concision and a gift for finding essences without resorting to essentialism. Thus, he writes, one critical difference between Athenian and Roman conceptions of freedom is that the former “practiced a form of unfiltered direct democracy that the Romans thought a recipe for chaos; the Romans gave ordinary free and male persons a role in politics, but a carefully structured and controlled one.” That distinction comes into play more than 900 pages later, when Ryan wrestles with what kind of a system most Western countries, and preeminently the United States, have today. “Liberal democracies,” he writes, are really “nontyrannical and liberal popular mixed republics,” though, as he cautions, “nobody is going to call them this.” In between, Ryan visits thinkers from Socrates and Plato to Aristotle, excusing Plato from charges of protofascism and marveling at Aquinas’ powers of distinction in determining whether it is fitting for a bishop to go to war. If all Western philosophy is a footnote to Plato, then Ryan’s text is a delightful assemblage of enlightening subnotes: Who among

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us remembers that Machiavelli’s The Prince was on the Catholic Church’s forbidden index until just recently, and “that anyone wishing to read it for the purposes of refutation had to ask permission of the pope”? That Edmund Burke was a boring public speaker, but “(mostly) wrote like an angel”? Or that Karl Marx’s notion of class struggle remains an elusive work in progress? Provocative, illuminating and entertaining—an exemplary work of philosophy and history whose author’s deep learning is lightly worn. (2-volume boxed hardcover. Author tour to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.)

A PATRIOT’S HISTORY OF THE MODERN WORLD From America’s Exceptional Ascent to the Atomic Bomb: 1898-1945 Schweikart, Larry; Dougherty, Dave Sentinel (400 pp.) $29.95 | Oct. 11, 2012 978-1-59523-089-8

Schweikart (History/Univ. of Dayton; What Would the Founders Say?: A Patriot’s Answers to America’s Most Pressing Problems, 2011, etc.) and Dougherty (co-author: The Patriot’s History Reader: Essential Documents for Every American, 2011) pen a conservative paean to American exceptionalism. In 2004, Schweikart published A Patriot’s History of the United States (co-authored with Michael Allen) as a conservative response to Howard Zinn’s bestselling A People’s History of the United States. This similarly titled book has a narrower focus, filtering a halfcentury of American history—from 1898 to 1945—through a right-wing lens. The authors focus on American involvement in both World Wars and how American virtues, particularly freemarket capitalism, helped to win them. An overarching theme is the idea of American exceptionalism, that the United States is a “shining city upon a hill” above all others. The book is aimed at a hard-core Republican audience, so while it is extensively sourced and footnoted, it is steeped in conservative dogma. The authors label progressivism as “one of the most destructive forces since slavery” and Woodrow Wilson as a “self-appointed messiah,” and the phrase “economic justice” appears only in ironic quotation marks. The authors even paint Warren G. Harding, consistently ranked by many historians as one of the worst presidents in American history, as a thoughtful and capable leader. They also discount criticism of Japanese-American internment during World War II, implying that it was justified by FBI-gathered evidence—though they grudgingly note that “Japanese-Americans’ life in the camps was no picnic.” A predictable right-wing slant on American history.

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DON’T BUY IT The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy Shenker-Osorio, Anat PublicAffairs (240 pp.) $24.99 | Sep. 25, 2012 978-1-61039-177-1

In her debut, communications consultant Shenker-Osorio gives progressives marching orders on how to talk about dollars and cents. “When we take a ‘tax the rich’ messaging approach to trying to rectify our deep and damaging inequality,” writes ShenkerOsorio, “we succeed at one thing for certain. We get people to hate paying taxes even more.” There are innumerable reasons for that psychological data point, including the juvenile magical-thinking belief that we’re certain to be rich one day, but the fact remains, people don’t like to hear about coughing up more money. So how to get them to ponder the possibility? Not through means the Democrats have already tried, for while Democrats are excellent at conjuring up complex solutions to complex problems, Republicans are masters at sloganizing their way to simplicity. One thing that remains to be done, writes the author, is generating appropriate and memorable sound bites— but, more important, another is “to sing our fight songs and never mind about pissing off those who disagree with us.” President Obama may take a mild-mannered approach that seems to hold the thought of offending anyone as a cardinal sin, but it’s gloves-off time. Beyond this big-picture reformation, ShenkerOsorio looks closely at the language of the first question on people’s minds these days, namely the economy, and in this conservative presupposition reigns: “The genius...of conservatives,” she writes, “is in not just trumpeting their version of events. They also embed the key ideas that (1) government activity is the problem and (2) economic fluctuations of this magnitude are normal and expected.” The recent cataclysm is anything but “normal and expected,” but so much of the language of the economy, she notes, is based on metaphors that suggest it’s a living, breathing thing, and progressives fail to make the case that it’s an artificial construct, subject to rules and regulations. A persuasive case for retooling how activists think and talk about matters of the wallet.

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“Some pieces rebel better than others, but there’s ample inspiration for comic and serious fiction authors alike.” from fakes

FAKES An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, FauxLectures, Quasi-Letters, “Found” Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts

INVENTING ELSA MAXWELL How an Irrepressible Nobody Conquered High Society, Hollywood, the Press, and the World

Shields, David; Vollmer, Matthew--Eds. Norton (400 pp.) $18.95 paperback | Oct. 15, 2012 978-0-393-34195-9

A compendium of fictional satires, parodies and other attempts to transform commonplace forms into literary art. In his Reality Hunger (2010), co-editor Shields agitated for new forms of fiction that eschew standard-issue realism and integrate more of life as it’s truly lived. The 40 pieces collected here, most published in the past two decades, represent one subgenre of experimentation, showcasing tweaks of everyday documents like interviews, how-to guides, academic papers and more. Many are comic pieces that shed light on the restrictiveness of the form being mocked. Jack Pendarvis’ “Our Spring Catalog,” for instance, pokes fun at the hollow enthusiasm of book publishers’ promotional blurbs, while George Saunders’ “I CAN SPEAK!” ventriloquizes the soothing tone of customerservice letters—the story becomes more brilliantly absurd as the corporate functionary defends a contraption that purports to translate toddler-speak into English. This isn’t strictly an assortment of send-ups, however. Daniel Orozco’s “Officers Weep” uses the format of the police blotter to shift from justthe-facts crime listings to a glimpse into the force’s existential musings. Charles Yu’s “Problems for Self-Study” cleverly employs the language of story problems to illuminate a couple’s connection and separation, while Charles McLeod’s heartbreaking “National Treasures” encapsulates the narrator’s hard-knock life in the form of an auction catalog. There are some ringers here—Lorrie Moore’s “How to Become a Writer” doesn’t truly tweak how-to language—while social-media riffs like Kari Anne Roy’s “Chaucer Tweets the South by Southwest Festival” show that the form is still evolving as fodder for effective fiction. But in the aggregate, these stories suggest a few future directions for storytelling, and Shields and Vollmer (English/Virginia Tech; Future Missionaries of America, 2009) convincingly press the necessity of the task—these pieces represent “our oft-repressed language staging a rebellion.” Other noteworthy contributors include Amy Hempel, Lydia Davis, Jonathan Safran Foer, Paul Theroux and Rick Moody. Some pieces rebel better than others, but there’s ample inspiration for comic and serious fiction authors alike.

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Staggs, Sam St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $27.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0312699444 978-1-250-01775-8 e-book

Movie biographer Staggs’ (Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life, 2009, etc.) lively account of how a jowly plain Jane from Iowa became the 20th century’s most celebrated “party giver for the rich, the royal, [and] the famous.” Elsa Maxwell (1883–1963) was once “as famous a name as Martha Stewart or Joan Rivers today.” Born into an uppermiddle-class milieu she would later disavow, her social-climbing sensibilities emerged early on. The author traces the origins of Maxwell’s desire to be surrounded by the beautiful people of the world to the fact that her family was never asked to attend the high-society functions that had so captivated their daughter. Her life became an exercise in making up for this affront by giving parties “to which no rich people would be invited,” but would still be the talk of the town. Gifted with a silver tongue, musical talent and a knack for being at the right place at the right time, Maxwell began her career by befriending a dazzling array of actors and entertainers, including such luminaries as Enrico Caruso, Cole Porter and Nöel Coward. These individuals in turn helped launch her into circles frequented by socialites, heiresses, politicians and European royalty. By the early 1920s, Maxwell had fulfilled her dream and become a muchin-demand international hostess whose parties were more like “impromptu carnival events” than simple social gatherings. Her peripatetic life eventually took her to Hollywood where, from the mid-1930s on, she wrote screenplays, appeared in several movies and had her own on-again/off-again radio show. What makes Maxwell so compelling a figure isn’t just the improbable nature of her achievements, but her personal complexities, which Staggs discusses in depth. A closeted lesbian, she condemned homosexuality despite an almost 50-year partnership with another woman and an unrequited passion for opera legend Maria Callas. An animated and intelligent biography. (Two 16-page b/w photo inserts)

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“A thorough, lovingly researched paean to a father and a way of life.” from the entertainer

A GIFT OF HOPE Helping the Homeless

Steel, Danielle Delacorte (144 pp.) $20.00 | Nov. 1, 2012 978-0-345-53136-0

Mega-selling novelist Steel (Friends Forever, 2012, etc.) reveals a hidden chapter from her life: the time she spent assisting the homeless on the streets of San Francisco. Overwhelmed by grief after her oldest son committed suicide, the author prayed for “something to make me hold on.” Within minutes, she heard a voice in her head: “It came to me simply: Help the homeless.” Steel admits to being frightened initially, but the first time she distributed supplies to those in need (accompanied by an employee who agreed to join her), she felt uplifted by their response. The people she met were deeply grateful and undemanding, and she felt a deep connection to them. Although she thought this would be a one-time experience, she returned on a monthly basis over a period of 11 years. She assembled a small team of helpers, all the while protecting her anonymity in order to avoid the celebrity scene. Concerned for their safety in potentially dangerous neighborhoods, she recruited four off-duty policemen as helpers, but in fact, they were never threatened. Steel offers inspiring stories of the people she encountered: a mother in a wheelchair with her daughter, who was receiving chemotherapy, who shunned the shelters because they found conditions inside more dangerous than those on the street; street people whose meager belongings and makeshift shelters were treated as trash by the city sanitation department; and many more. Their outreach group would call out the street salute, “Yo,” to announce their presence, and they became known as “Yo! Angel.” With poverty programs shutting down, while at the same time, more people are homeless, Steel has felt the need to drop her anonymity and go public. A simple but moving call for action.

REARVIEW MIRROR A Memoir

Stewart, Alana Vanguard/Perseus (288 pp.) $25.99 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-59315-707-4 Stewart reflects on her modeling and acting careers and her marriages to actor George Hamilton and rock star Rod Stewart. Stewart (My Life with Farrah, 2009) grew up in Texas in the 1950s, the daughter of a single mother whose decades-long drug addiction eventually led to her death. Stewart’s father left when she was only 1 year old, and she never heard from him again. Describing the effect of her father’s absence, she writes, “[t]his has certainly been the pattern for most of life—looking for that ‘powerful daddy’ that would love |

me and make me feel safe yet choosing men who couldn’t possibly fill those shoes.” Her beloved grandmother, whom she calls “Mama,” was her primary caretaker. Following her high school graduation, Stewart got engaged to her first boyfriend, started working as a flight attendant, broke off her engagement, and was the victim of a home invasion and rape. Shortly thereafter, she moved to New York, where her “glamorous years” began. Her striking beauty garnered her immediate success as a model, as well as enormous male attention. The author devotes a good portion of the book to her paramours and her volatile marriages to Hamilton and Stewart, both of whom were already famous. She lists famous friends, such as Elton John, and her book contains photographs with her husbands and various celebrities. In addition to Rod Stewart’s infidelity, she writes of raising her three children—a son with Hamilton and a boy and a girl with Stewart—mostly on her own and of her ongoing financial problems. She details her sons’ battles with drugs and the terrible guilt she carries for her perceived failings as a parent. Her recollections are surprisingly detailed—a result, she explains, of the many journals she’s kept throughout her life. Stewart’s gritty story will appeal to readers interested in her ex-husbands and her own rags-to-riches tale, rife with kiss-and-tell vignettes and the personal insights she’s gleaned as an adult. (4-color photograph inserts)

THE ENTERTAINER Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century Talbot, Margaret Riverhead (432 pp.) $28.95 | Nov. 8, 2012 978-1-59448-706-4

New Yorker staff writer Talbot debuts with an affectionate biography of her father, stage, screen and TV actor Lyle Talbot (1902–1996). Mingling memoir and relevant social and cultural history, the author shows how her father’s career in many ways paralleled the changes in the 20th-century entertainment industry. Born in Brainard, Neb., Lyle Talbot was raised by his grandmother in a rooming house/hotel catering to traveling salesmen. Stage-struck, the talented young man began as a magician’s assistant, then joined traveling troupes of actors who played in the opera houses of the Midwest. In 1932, he was off to Hollywood, where he soon became a contract player, then a budding star who socialized with many notables of the era (the Mae West stories are amusing), hung out at San Simeon with Hearst and other stars, married several times (none of the early marriages lasted long) and battled alcoholism. Author Talbot pauses continually to fill us in on such things as the history of gangster films, the rise of the talkies, Hollywood scandals, Hollywood actors on Broadway and wartime moviemaking. She also—perhaps excessively so—summarizes some films her father appeared in, a decision that manifests her great affection rather than her sense of narrative balance. When TV began to emerge, Lyle Talbot was right there, appearing on

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“A skillful probing of the often-discordant relationship between the president and the Supreme Court.” from the oath

THE GOOD POPE The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church—the Story of John XXIII and Vatican II

numerous shows, including a gig with Ozzie and Harriet. Talbot also includes an interesting section about fan clubs (her father had one) and about her father’s late, stable marriage to a far younger woman (it produced the author and her siblings). A thorough, lovingly researched paean to a father and a way of life. (45 b/w photographs)

IN THE PLEASURE GROOVE Love, Death, and Duran Duran

Taylor, John with Sykes, Tom Dutton (304 pp.) $27.95 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-525-95800-0

Capably written if predictable rock memoir by bassist Taylor of the 1980s supergroup Duran Duran. Writing of 1981, Taylor recalls thinking, “We have become idols, icons. Subjects of worship.” Right he was, as Duran Duran became arguably the biggest pop group of the early ’80s, selling million of records worldwide and dominating the then-new medium of music video. All of this was both enchanting and overwhelming for Taylor, a young lad raised in the Birmingham (England) suburb of—oddly enough given Duran Duran’s taste for glamour—Hollywood. With the assistance of Sykes (co-author: Blow by Blow: The Story of Isabella Blow, 2010), Taylor is at his best when describing his workingclass roots and his close, only-child relationship with his parents. Eventually, Taylor was “drawn inexorably toward pop music and the culture around it.” He chronicles the forming of the band, their rise from obscurity to superstardom, the inevitable rifts that had the band forming and reforming, and their inexorable fall from chart-topping grace as pop-music tastes moved on. Yet even at the height of Duran Duran’s popularity, Taylor was plagued by powerful self-doubts and unhappiness. “I was struck by the idea that ten thousand people wanted to have a relationship with me and I could barely have a relationship with myself,” he writes. Addictions—to alcohol, drugs, sex, fame—filled the void. In the late 1990s, Taylor entered rehab and has been, not without struggle, clean and sober ever since. He claims that Duran Duran remains a relevant band: “The music never sounded better.” The book is a familiar tale of rock ’n’ roll, sin and redemption, but Taylor’s capable voice make this a more nuanced and intriguing memoir than might be expected.

Tobin, Greg HarperOne (288 pp.) $26.99 | Sep. 25, 2012 978-0-06-208943-4

A sincere, adoring look at the life and legacy of the humanist pope who helped modernize the Catholic Church with the convening of Vatican II. Although he served only briefly, from 1958 to 1963, Pope John XXIII, born a Bergamo peasant farmer’s son named Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, pushed back against the ultraconservative wing dominating the papacy since Pius X’s turn-of-the-century reign. In this accessible biography, Tobin (Holy Holidays!: The Catholic Origins of Celebration, 2011, etc.) marks the 50th anniversary of the convening of the Second Vatican Council in October 1962 and John’s likely canonization in 2013. At times, the author sounds a little awestruck in describing Roncalli’s many diplomatic talents. Born in 1881 and ordained a deacon in 1903, he was formed by his early apprenticeship under Bishop Radini-Tedeschi of Bergamo, who employed a circle of liberal clergy advocating “the idea of Christ as an instrument of social change.” Under his tutelage, Roncalli became an activist and world traveler, tiptoeing around Pius X’s thundering denunciation of modernism; Roncalli was appointed by the more liberal Benedict XV for missionary work, then by Pius XI and Pius XII for diplomatic missions in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and postwar France. Revered for his work with refugees and ability to bring factions together, and well-liked by the other cardinals, Roncalli was nevertheless elected as a “transitional figure” to the papacy on October 28, 1958. Immediately, John began planning the first ecumenical council of the Church in 90 years, in the hope of embracing new currents of reform and renewal, especially as played out by the Cold War. The role of priests, evangelizing, use of the vernacular in Mass and changes in the liturgy, among others, were all reconsidered in the spirit of aggiornamento (“bringing up to date”). An upbeat survey of a decent, likable modern leader.

THE OATH The Obama White House And The Supreme Court Toobin, Jeffrey Doubleday (336 pp.) $28.95 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-385-52720-0

A skillful probing of the often-discordant relationship between the president and the Supreme Court. Having previously examined the intricate machinations of the Supreme Court, CNN and New 1916

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Yorker legal analyst Toobin (The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, 2008) again turns his scrupulous eye to the Court’s current and future impact on the Obama administration. The author lays the groundwork for his examination by citing Chief Justice John Roberts’ awkward 2009 fumbling of the presidential oath of office (later re-administered, to Obama’s annoyance) and proceeds to retrace Court history and the persistent political distance separating the presidential seat and the justices. Setting a congenial yet authoritative tone, Toobin notes that Obama and Roberts also share similarities as academic overachievers who attended Harvard Law School and officiated the student-produced Harvard Law Review. Their differences, writes the author, are rooted in the application of the Constitution: Obama believes in traditional values and stability, while Roberts is eager for the Supreme Court to usher in new changes and an evolving understanding of the Constitution’s core signification. Toobin deftly tracks Roberts’ political history and examines issues that best tested the Court’s decisiveness—e.g., abortion, gun control, radical protests and health care. A consummate profiler, Toobin nimbly features key Supreme Court justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and “intellectual pathbreaker” Clarence Thomas. Culled primarily from interviews with unnamed justices and their respective law clerks, Toobin offers a well-balanced, literate and interpretative survey of the multifaceted intercourse between the conservative Supreme Court and our liberal president. Shrewd and elucidating.

TRIUMPHS OF EXPERIENCE The Men of the Harvard Grant Study

Vaillant, George E. Belknap/Harvard Univ. (290 pp.) $27.95 | Oct. 30, 2012 978-0-674-05982-5 978-0-674-06742-4 e-book A fascinating account of the 268 individuals selected for the Harvard Study of Adult Development (the “Grant Study”), which “began in 1938 as an attempt to transcend medicine’s usual preoccupation with pathology and learn something instead about optimum health and potential and the conditions that promote them.” Vaillant (Psychiatry/Harvard Medical School: Spiritual Evolution: A Scientific Defense of Faith, 2008, etc.) has done a wonderful job summarizing the study, discussing its major findings, and communicating his enthusiasm for every aspect of the project, which became his life’s work starting in 1966. The study has been investigating what makes a successful and healthy life. Initially, this meant looking for potential officer material for the military. Vaillant established what he called “the Decathlon of Flourishing—a set of ten accomplishments in late life that covered many different facets of success.” With humor and intriguing insights, the author shows how progress in health |

studies and the passage of time contributed to the constant “back and forth between nature and nurture.” During Vaillant’s tenure, human maturation and resilience became the focus, and now biology is reasserting itself in the form of DNA studies and fMRI imaging, the seeds for future research. The author considers the study’s greatest contributions to be a demonstration that human growth continues long after adolescence, the world’s longest and most thorough study of alcoholism, and its identification and charting of involuntary coping mechanisms. Inspiring when reporting these successes, his personal approach to discovery repeatedly draws readers in as he leads up to the account of his realization that the true value of a human life can only be fully understood in terms of the cumulative record of the entire life span. Joyful reading about a groundbreaking study and its participants.

THE GREAT RAILROAD REVOLUTION The History of Trains in America

Wolmar, Christian PublicAffairs (448 pp.) $29.99 | Sep. 25, 2012 978-1-61039-179-5

Popular historian Wolmar (Engines of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost on the Railways, 2010) charts the sometimes haphazard, sometimes avaricious, sometimes puzzling history of America’s railroads. “I realize that it is somewhat cheeky of me, a Brit, to try to write a concise history of American railroads,” he writes early on. Cheeky, perhaps, but as he also writes, an outsider’s perspective on what has been seen as a consummately American adventure can be helpful—particularly since world history isn’t without comparable ventures, such as the building of railroads across Siberia and Africa. Yet, as Wolmar rightly notes, the railroads played a key role in uniting the United States, even if one of the signal moments of railroad history wasn’t quite all it was cracked up to be. That is, the building of the transcontinental line, as commemorated by the driving of a golden spike in Utah in 1869, was a symbolic gesture of sorts; it wasn’t until a bridge was built over the Missouri River three years later that a person could truly travel across the continent without leaving the rails. Further, “there never has been a single railroad company stretching from East Coast to West.” All of this does nothing to diminish the accomplishment of introducing the new technology of the railroad and extending it over thousands of miles in the space of just three decades, work carried out by millions of man-hours of hard labor but planned out and capitalized on by men whose names are bywords today, such as Carnegie, Mellon and Stanford. Wolmar acknowledges the “corruption, cheating, purloining of government funds, reckless building practices, and astonishing greed” that went into the making of the transcontinental system, but his purpose is less political than historian Richard White’s sweeping condemnation of the robber

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barons of yore in Railroaded (2012). Wolmar, it seems, has no purpose other than crafting a critical but admiring study of a triumph of engineering, and in this he has succeeded. A solid and, yes, concise look at the railroad’s past, with a rousing call at the end for a new and improved rail system to carry the nation forward. (16-page b/w photo insert)

WILD COMPANY The Untold Story of Banana Republic Ziegler, Patricia; Ziegler, Mel Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-4516-8348-6

The warmly inspiring account of how a journalist and an artist stumbled into business and founded Banana Republic, one of the most successful clothing chains in retail history. In 1978, tired of working dead-end jobs, Mel and Patricia Ziegler decided to take the $1,500 they had between them and create “a lifetime free of never having to work for anyone other than [themselves] again.” With no previous business experience to guide them, they began with the idea to sell safari-style clothing purchased from military-surplus warehouses. And so they embarked on their retail adventure, relying on luck, resourcefulness and their respective skills as a storyteller and a visual artist. They created a mail-order catalog that broke all the rules of direct marketing, bluffed their way into getting the merchandise they couldn’t pay for and started their first shop in an almost invisible location “on the dark side of a side street two long blocks from the edge of the retail center of Mill Valley.” Thanks to unexpected media exposure, however, their tiny store was soon filled with customers looking for distinctive quality clothing that conveyed “character, charisma, and class.” By 1982, Banana Republic had grown large enough that it attracted the attention of Gap founder Don Fisher, who bought the company but kept the Zieglers in charge. The company continued to break sales records, but as it did, Fisher’s desire to make Banana Republic into a money-making mega-chain devoid of its trademark playfulness and individuality eventually forced the Zieglers to walk away. Told as a dual-voiced narrative that alternates between Mel’s and Patricia’s points of view and illustrated throughout with sketches and images featured in the early catalogs, the story offers refreshing insight into the possibilities of achieving success and maintaining personal integrity in a hyperformulaic world. An unabashedly free-spirited celebration of the power of outside-the-box thinking. (50 b/w photos)

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children’s & teen These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

SARAH GIVES THANKS by Mike Allegra; illus. by David Gardner................................................................p. 1920

WAZZYJUMP by Michael Moniz................................................. p. 1950 THE GIANT AND HOW HE HUMBUGGED AMERICA by Jim Murphy............................................................................. p. 1951

THE BEAR IN THE BOOK by Kate Banks; illus. by Georg Hallensleben.......................................................... p. 1921

KEEPING SAFE THE STARS by Sheila O’Connor.......................p. 1953

THE ALIEN HUNTER’S HANDBOOK by Mark Brake; illus. by Colin Jack and Geraint Ford...........................................p. 1922

THE DOGS OF WINTER by Bobbie Pyron................................... p. 1956

SUMMER AND BIRD by Katherine Catmull..............................p. 1924

THIS IS NOT FORGIVENESS by Celia Rees................................ p. 1957

THE CRIMSON CROWN by Cinda Williams Chima.................p. 1924

PASSENGER by Andrew Smith...................................................p. 1962

THE FITZOSBORNES AT WAR by Michelle Cooper...................p. 1926

“WHO COULD THAT BE AT THIS HOUR?” by Lemony Snicket; illus. by Seth.................................................p. 1962

MY NAME IS PARVANA by Deborah Ellis.................................. p. 1930

DEAR DAISY DUNNINGTON by Mathilde Stein; illus. by Chuck Groenink.............................................................. p. 1963

THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley........................................ p. 1930

THE FIRE CHRONICLE by John Stephens................................... p. 1963

PINNED by Sharon G. Flake........................................................ p. 1931

DRAWING FROM THE CITY by Tejubehan; trans. by V. Geetha and Gita Wolf................................................p. 1964

BOOT & SHOE by Marla Frazee.................................................. p. 1932 WHAT’S THE TIME, MR. WOLF? by Debi Gliori...................... p. 1934 ALL YOU NEVER WANTED by Adele Griffin............................. p. 1936

THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE by Catherynne M. Valente; illus. by Ana Juan.......................................................................... p. 1965

HAVE A NICE DAY by Julie Halpern...........................................p. 1937

A FEW BITES by Cybèle Young.....................................................p. 1969

ZOMBIE MAKERS by Rebecca L. Johnson...................................p. 1940

SANTA FROM CINCINNATI by Judi Barrett; illus. by Kevin Hawkes................................................................. p. 1970

ASK THE PASSENGERS by A.S. King........................................p. 1942

JUST RIGHT FOR CHRISTMAS by Birdie Black; illus. by Rosalind Beardshaw........................................................ p. 1971

THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Claire Legrand........................................................................ p. 1944

WHO BUILT THE STABLE? by Ashley Bryan.............................. p. 1972

STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY by Grace Lin................................p. 1945

THE SANTA TRAP by Jonathan Emmett; illus. by Poly Bernatene................................................................. p. 1973

SLEEP LIKE A TIGER by Mary Logue.........................................p. 1946 TOO TALL HOUSES by Gianna Marino...................................... p. 1947

CHRISTMAS WOMBAT by Jackie French; illus. by Bruce Whatley................................................................. p. 1974

SQUEAK, RUMBLE, WHOMP! WHOMP! WHOMP! by Wynton Marsalis; illus. by Paul Rogers...................................p. 1948

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CHRISTMASTIME by Alison Jay.................................................. p. 1975

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CREWEL

her, teaching her “to sing and fly.” At the end, “the night sits on my bed, with heaps of dreams in her hands,” cradling the tiny child, bed and all. The mother/storyteller/night image is lovely in pictures, but some of the language is ungraceful or obscure: “I’m always the main character,” or “in search of a mirage....” While the dreamlike nature of the images is fairly accessible, children (and adults) may find themselves stopped cold by nonrhythmic sentence structure. (Picture book. 5-8)

Albin, Gennifer Farrar, Straus and Giroux (368 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-374-31641-9 Too many slubs in the fabric of this dystopian romance land it in the “irregular” bin. In Arras, men control everything except reality, which is continually woven and re-woven by Spinsters, all women. They labor at the behest of the patriarchal Guild to maintain a post-apocalyptic utopia. Despite being rigorously coached by her parents to fail her aptitude test, 16-year-old Adelice shows her incredible talent at weaving and is wrested violently from her home to labor in the Coventry for the rest of her life. There, she draws the attention of two handsome young men with electricblue (or cobalt blue, or sometimes just bright blue) eyes, the oily and evil power-hungry ambassador of the Guild, various catty Spinsters and the Creweler, the most powerful Spinster of them all, who extracts the material that forms the reality of Arras from the ruined Earth. Adelice narrates in the genre’s now–de rigueur present tense, whipsawing readers through her guilt, grief, fear, revulsion and lust as she learns the power structures of the Coventry and plots to escape. A genuinely cool premise is undermined by inconsistent worldbuilding, fuzzy physics, pedestrian language, characters who never move beyond stereotype and subplots that go nowhere (including a well-meaning but awkwardly grafted-in gay rights thread). These last may reemerge in the sequel that will follow one of the slowest cliffhangers in recent memory. It’s clear that Adelice cares deeply about her fate; it’s debatable whether readers will. (Dystopian romance. 12-16)

SARAH GIVES THANKS How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday

Allegra, Mike Illus. by Gardner, David Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-8075-7239-9

The inspiring story of an early-19thcentury woman who supported her family, made a name for herself and gave us all an opportunity to give thanks each November. Allegra’s debut opens with Gardner’s watercolor-and-pencil illustration of a family of six gathered around a turkey-laden table, hands joined, faces reflecting their sorrow: They had just buried their father, yet their mother, Sarah Josepha Hale, insisted on giving thanks for their blessings. Amusing and perfectly chosen anecdotes highlight the qualities that made Hale such a success—curiosity, thirst for knowledge and determination. Her husband, David, encouraged her writing, which would become the family’s means of support after his death in 1822. The writer of the first anti-slavery novel as well as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” she became a household name as “editress” of two ladies’ magazines. Hale used the magazines to encourage women to think. Soon, she became someone whose opinions were taken seriously by her readership, including those about celebrating Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Four presidents refused her yearly requests, but Abraham Lincoln and a country embroiled in a Civil War needed to take a day to count blessings, and so Thanksgiving was made official. Gardner nicely combines vignettes and double-page spreads, his colors reflecting mood, while lots of period (and humorous) details will bring readers back for another perusal. Readers will look forward to more from this talented author, who has penned a perfectly paced, rousing biography. (author’s note, selected sources) (Picture books/biography. 5-10)

A NIGHT TIME STORY

Aliaga, Roberto Illus. by Wimmer, Sonja Cuento de Luz (24 pp.) $14.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-84-15-24198-0

A winner of the Lazarillo Award, the prize in Spain for children’s literature, Aliaga weaves a tale translated into English with mixed results. Wimmer’s pictures are surreal and dreamlike: colors soft and deep; pigs with wings and pirates piloting tea cups and beds that turn into camels. Figures are stretched and elongated and change their shapes like Alice with the mushroom. The redhaired, golden-eyed child says, “Every night before I go to sleep, she sits down on my bed with heaps of stories in her hands.” “She” is a figure with endless tendrils of black hair and bright blue eyes. When the girl is on a Ferris wheel in a sweet story, she rises up in a starlit cloak to hand the child some cotton candy. For a magical story, the child’s bed is in a tree, and disembodied hands hold 1920

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“…this picture book is simply spectacular.” from the bear in the book

THE BEAR IN THE BOOK

Though infinitely readable from the first page onward, this is one tale that never quite finds its footing. Art not seen. (Fiction. 9-12)

Banks, Kate Illus. by Hallensleben, Georg Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux (40 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-374-30591-8

THE STORIES OF THE MONA LISA An Imaginary Museum Tale About the History of Modern Art

Banks and Hallensleben are together again (What’s Coming for Christmas? 2009, etc.) with a heartwarming tale that compares one bear’s hibernation to one little boy’s bedtime-reading rituals. With a dreamlike quality appropriate to a nightly bedtime story, this captures the feel of falling asleep. Cuddled up against his mama, the boy turns the pages, comments on the colors, asks questions and talks to the bear that is the subject of the book. He hushes the bear, touches his paw, notices the changes in the bear’s environment and identifies with the sleeping bear. Hallensleben’s paintings, filled with thick brush strokes, abstract backdrops and cold colors for the outside scenes and rich oranges and reds for the mama and son, lull readers along with the boy into that relaxed time between waking and sleeping. “The boy held the book. He listened to the sound the pages made when he turned them back and forth.” And, just as the bear’s springtime world is turning green and yellow, the little boy slips into the blue world of his own short, one-night hibernation. A tribute to the power of books to connect and the love that parents everywhere show when they share books with children at the end of the day, this picture book is simply spectacular. (Picture book. 3-7)

Barsony, Pietr Translated by Oseman, Joanna Illus. by Barsony, Pietr Sky Pony Press (64 pp.) $19.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-62087-228-4

As the book begins, a little girl asks: “Dad, will you tell me a story?” The story her painter father tells is a history of art with the Mona Lisa as its central character.

IRON HEARTED VIOLET

Barnhill, Kelly Little, Brown (432 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-316-05673-1

Although she uses the standard set of ingredients (spunky princess, stable boy, two-dimensional villain, dragon, small helpful magical creatures, etc.), Barnhill’s latest never quite lives up to its potential. Violet is not an attractive princess in the least, but that’s A-OK with her parents, her people and her best friend, Demetrius the stable boy. Violet’s fine with it too, until she and Demetrius stumble across a hidden room in her castle containing a terrifying painting and a malignant book. When Violet mistakenly releases an evil god of hidden legend in an attempt to become beautiful, she must sacrifice everything in order to rectify her mistake. Alas, it takes at least 90 pages to begin to feel any kind of proper sympathy for Violet since a key spell causes her to become unpleasant and obsessive early on. Though a prominent theme is of the power of storytelling, it is unclear what Barnhill is trying to say about it. On the face of it, it appears that she’s saying that some stories, even dangerous ones, need to be told. Yet as the tale continues and characters rail against storytelling, the opposite seems to be true, and the lesson— surely unintended—is that all stories are lies and falsehoods. |

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“There is just a whole lot here on biology both terrestrial and astral, in language that is upbeat and concise and with artwork that is good fun.” from the alien hunter’s handbook

THE ALIEN HUNTER’S HANDBOOK How to Look for Extra-Terrestrial Life

French artist Barsony here creates a charming, involving parent-child conversation around the iconic Leonardo da Vinci painting. Happily, he also succeeds in creating an unusually compelling personal response to the major Western movements of the last 150 years and their significant artists. He takes daughter and readers both on a journey of discovery through an imaginary museum, which is filled with a wide and amazingly diverse collection of paintings, but curiously, each painting is of only the Mona Lisa. These careful and astonishingly fresh paintings, rendered by Barsony himself, are so compelling because they are his own responses to and interpretations of Leonardo’s masterpiece as filtered through the vision of other artists and movements. In fact, each one of these “new” Mona Lisas (paired with an accessible and wonderfully informed text) masterfully reflects the techniques, subjects and sensibilities of major European and American art movements and artists, including such painters as Monet, Turner, Manet, Cézanne, Picasso, Dix, Kandinsky, Bacon, Pollock, De Kooning, Warhol, Haring, Basquiat, Richter and more. Art lovers of all ages—grown-ups, students and children alike—will be engaged and captivated by this exciting and visually arresting entree into fine art. (Nonfiction. 10 & up)

Brake, Mark Illus. by Jack, Colin; Ford, Geraint Kingfisher (112 pp.) $10.99 paperback | Oct. 30, 2012 978-0-7534-6885-2 A surprisingly thorough and accessible journey into the possibilities of life outside of planet Earth. It must be a marketing strategy, for both the title and the cover of Brake’s book lead one to think this will be a jokesterish foray into intergalactic bioweirdness. And the design—with its hot colors and snippets of text housed in tons of boxes and drawings of aliens with eyes on stalks or eyes like licorice Necco wafers—suggests whimsy or frivolity. But no, this is actually a fairly serious grounding in just what we understand it means to be alive—“life,” after all, hasn’t exactly been nailed down—and what that means when contemplating life in the great beyond. The information comes in bite-sized nuggets that can’t go very deep, but it is arresting and runs between biology and astronomy. Each two-page topic tackles the importance of microbeasts or thoughts on the evolution of language or the composition of planets—some made of diamonds, others gas or rock or fire or ocean. There is a bit on the role of wobbly stars and the critical juncture of the Goldilocks Zone and the promising environment of red dwarfs. There is just a whole lot here on biology both terrestrial and astral, in language that is upbeat and concise and with artwork that is good fun. Sharp extraterrestrial inquiry—and a lesson in not judging a book by its cover. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

HOW DOES SLEEP COME?

Blackmore, Jeanne C. Illus. by Sayles, Elizabeth Sourcebooks (32 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-402-27105-2

A sleepy-bye story that doesn’t work on any number of levels, despite Jacob’s starry blanket and sweet-faced mama. If this is meant to be read to a child going to sleep, the sheer number of words strung together without pauses or commas might make one breathless. Jacob asks the question of the title, and his mama answers, “Sleep comes quietly. Like a snowfall that blankets a meadow on a dark starry night and lays down a soft white canvas for rabbits to leave footprints.” Each one of these overly descriptive sentences is followed by a single line about Jacob snuggling under his covers, yawning or curling up. Readers proceed from the rabbit in the snow to fog in the harbor, summer clouds to a kitten by the fireplace to a butterfly. The rapid change of seasons might signal a universal nighttime, but it is confounded by Jacob’s dream, in which cloud, snow, butterfly and cat come together in the deep blue sky. The pictures are soft, gentle and peaceful, just as the text describes sleep, with their primary hue a blue richly evocative of a country sky. They cannot mitigate the breathless delivery of the text, however. Any number of sleepy bedtime tales are sleepier and bedtimier than this. (Picture book. 4-7)

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SECOND CHANCE

Brewer, Heather Dial (288 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-8037-3760-0 Series: The Slayer Chronicles, 2 After his failed freelance slaying mission in Bathory (First Kill, 2011), Joss is under the watchful eye of the Slayer Society as he leads the hunt for a serial killer in Manhattan. Hitting the vampire underworld of New York, Joss sets out on what he thinks is the right trail when he initially targets Em, the oldest vampire in existence. After some misdirection, Joss finally tracks down and stakes the vampire responsible for the serial killings—but the murders don’t stop. Searching for the other killers, the slayer team starts rebelling against the strict authority structure of the Slayer Society and takes a new approach to hunting their prey. Still very much working within “companion” mode, Brewer skillfully inserts references to the Vladimir Tod |

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series without making the story inaccessible to new readers from a plot standpoint. Tiresome characters compete with the action a bit too much throughout the narrative, with Joss’ Uncle Abraham and his monologues about trust and betrayal particularly difficult to take. However, Joss is well-done when he’s not dreaming, and fellow slayers Morgan and Ash are both welcome presences. Solid staking action keeps the pages turning, at least when Joss isn’t dwelling in guilt over his sister’s death. Fans will enjoy slaking their thirst for more vampire adventures here. (Horror. 12-16)

night, he delivers a mysterious map, a guide to the “Beyond” and the way to find the Sword of Five Kingdoms, which has been missing for 1,000 years. When its hilt has been reunited with five special stones, the rightful bearer of the sword can put an end to the reign of the evil ruler Keegan. Umbrey the pirate leads Tom through a window to a new world, where Tom meets up with a twin brother he never knew he had and with Mudge and Willa. Together they form a band of travelers on a quest to find the sword, with many a sword fight, swamp dog and dragon along the way. Freely borrowing from Treasure Island, Arthurian tales, The Lord of the Rings and other classic adventure and fantasy tales, Burgess reworks common themes of old maps, powerful wizards, evil rulers, dragons, a hidden sword and a boy king to fashion the first offering from a publisher out to create works that will appeal especially to boys. Fantasy-loving boys (and girls) will be enthralled by this slim, action-packed tale—and the sequels likely to follow. (Fantasy. 9-13)

DEVIL’S PASS

Brouwer, Sigmund Orca (256 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Oct. 10, 2012 978-1-55469-938-4 Series: Seven (The Series) Seventeen-year-old Jim Webb must travel the Canol Trail in Canada’s Northwest Territories to fulfill a specific request made in the unusual will of David McLean, his beloved grandfather. Webb may be the only hiker ever to travel Canada’s Far North with a Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar strapped across his back, but it means the world to him, his father’s last gift to him before dying of cancer. Webb’s stepfather has tormented him and made life at home untenable, but evil is also afoot in Yellowknife in the form of psychopathic Brent Melrose. After facing Brent, walking 110 kilometers through a “bear-filled, wolf-infested, roadless wilderness” won’t seem so bad. But it is bad, and Webb begins to see the wisdom in his grandfather’s favorite Nietzsche quotation: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Brouwer weaves twin narratives to good effect, a present-tense story of Webb’s attempt to solve his grandfather’s mystery at Mile 112, and flashbacks that inform readers as to why Webb is on the journey in the first place. Part of a seven-novel series with simultaneous release dates, this volume is especially targeted at boys looking for action and suspense. A likable guitar-playing protagonist is a bonus. Unlike Webb, readers can face grizzly bears, wolves and psychopaths in the cozy confines of a good book. (Adventure. 10-14)

NIGHT OF THE WHITE DEER

Bushnell, Jack Illus. by Co, Miguel Tanglewood Press (32 pp.) $16.95 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-933718-80-4

Some say the white deer’s a star, and others say she’s made of spilled milk. Could she be real? A modern farm boy sees a white deer in their field. His brother says it’s only legend, but the boy sees the deer again. This time he walks into the fields and leaps into the Aurora-lit sky with his mysterious white companion. The boy feels the magic of the flight, and they encounter deer of several species and widely varying colors at play in the fields of night. The boy contemplates a trip through the solar system, but his deer takes him home. When the boy tells his family of his journey, his brother’s certain it was a dream. Left alone with his father, the boy learns his dad had a similar adventure as a child…and Dad wants to go along should the white deer return. Bushnell’s fourth is an original tale told as a quasi-folk tale. Unlike traditional tales though, no mystery of nature is explained, caution offered or quest fulfilled. A traditional-feeling tale from no tradition and with no specific moral is rather like a chicken without bones. That said, it’s a pleasant-enough fable, and newcomer Co’s bright and burnished illustrations enhance both magical and natural aspects, bringing to mind the works of David Diaz. A slight magical tale whose illustrations can’t quite compensate for the weak story. (Picture book. 3-6)

THE MAPMAKER’S SONS

Burgess, V.L. Move Books (176 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-9854810-0-1 978-0-9854810-1-8 e-book Thirteen-year-old Tom Hawkins must find the most powerful weapon ever created and save the world. When a pirate with a wooden peg leg arrives at Thomas’ school one stormy |

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“The author balances this meticulous, symbol-rich narrative with a light, storyteller’s voice, posing questions that readers must answer for themselves.” from summer and bird

SUMMER AND BIRD

palatable way but also take some liberties with the original legend. A rousing and breathtaking climax supports the tied-up threads of the ending. Nonstop action and likable teen characters will attract fans of fantasy quests such as the Percy Jackson books and the saga of Nicholas Flamel. There are hints that Ash may have unfinished business with India and its gods—let’s hope so. (Fantasy. 11-14)

Catmull, Katherine Dutton (384 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-525-95346-3

A haunting fable inflected with mythological and fairy-tale motifs finds two sisters abandoned by their parents in conflict with each other. Summer, 12, and Bird, 9, live an idyllic life with their ornithologist father, their mother and their cat. When they wake one morning to find parents and cat gone, there is just an enigmatic “picture letter” from their mother left behind. Into the woods they go to find them, their fright exacerbating the resentments that normally exist between sisters. Bird finds the way into Down, a place of magic, and Summer follows, but soon they are tragically separated, and each must blunder along on her own. Their mother, it turns out, is queen of the birds, in human form since their father stole her swan robe. The evil Puppeteer craves her power, to have bird language and wings, and she cozens Bird into her service, White Witch–like. The girls’ physical journeys are metaphors for their emotional ones, the helpers and adversaries they meet as strange and as complicated as their psyches. The author balances this meticulous, symbol-rich narrative with a light, storyteller’s voice, posing questions that readers must answer for themselves. At its heart, it is a story of love and imperfection, and of the necessity of embracing both. “The way a story is told has power,” the narrator asserts; Catmull’s languorously beautiful telling is puissant indeed. (Fantasy. 10-14)

THE CRIMSON CROWN

Chima, Cinda Williams Hyperion (608 pp.) $18.99 | Oct. 23, 2012 978-1-4231-4433-5 Series: Seven Realms, 4

Torture and treasure, treason and trust, and the triumph of true love: All come to fruition in the stirring conclusion to this epic fantasy series. Raisa ana’Marianna has claimed the Gray Wolf throne, but her grip is tenuous: Every faction—clans, wizards, army, flatlanders—both within and without the Fells hates all the others, and each pushes Raisa to accept its preferred candidate for consort. Meanwhile, Han Alister has taken his seat on the Wizard Council at the queen’s command, but every other member secretly wants to use him or kill him. Furthermore, there are the mysterious murders of wizards, marked with Han’s old streetlord sign; all this disarray signals a weakness that encourages invading armies from the South. Together, Han and Raisa seek the long-lost Armory of the Gifted Kings as the only way to avoid reenacting a 1,000-year-old tragedy; but to wield such a weapon may well trigger an even greater catastrophe. Chima manages to resolve this impossibly tangled skein of politics, intrigue, history, prejudice and passion with style and grace. Grim scenes of shocking violence alternate with moments of tenderness and humor, and the high body count is balanced by the almost fairy-tale–romantic conclusion. While some of the depth and complexities of the supporting characters—along with the nuanced subtleties of their conflicting worldviews—are sacrificed to help demonize (or valorize) their respective positions, nothing can overshadow the cathartic satisfaction for those caught up in this sweeping saga. Simply brilliant. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

THE SAVAGE FORTRESS

Chadda, Sarwat Levine/Scholastic (304 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-545-38516-9 978-0-545-46996-8 e-book This fantasy riffs on events from the Ramayana—the takeoff point for a knock-down, drag-out adventure that draws a 13-year-old into the unfinished business of the Indian gods. A Londoner visiting his uncle and aunt in India, Ash Mistry’s first mistake is picking up an ancient gold arrowhead that involves him and his younger sister Lucky in business left from India’s legendary past; his second mistake is refusing to surrender the ancient weapon to the (very obvious) villain, Alexander Savage, and his rakshashas (demons). As is often true in fantasy quests, characters appear and disappear after helping or hindering the hero. The narrative arc is carried forward at first by the direct unfolding of Ash’s discovery and Savage’s hunt for the arrowhead. In addition, there are flashbacks that key readers in to Rama’s story. These provide vital information in a highly 1924

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SECONDS AWAY

Coben, Harlan Putnam (320 pp.) $18.99 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-399-25651-6 Series: Mickey Bolitar, 2 High school sleuth Mickey Bolitar continues to find trouble...or maybe it finds him (Shelter, 2011). In a spooky house, Mickey squares off with a gnarled crone he knows only as |

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BETA

the Bat Lady. She freaks him out by telling him that his father is not dead, and Mickey responds with a revelation of his own: that the paramedic who whisked his father away on the day of his death is a notorious Nazi war criminal. As implausible as this sounds, the Bat Lady’s violent reaction seems a validation of his claim. This troubling issue is shoved onto a back burner with the news that Mickey’s friend Rachel was shot by an intruder, who also killed her mother. The mutual attraction of Mickey and Rachel is a thorn in the side of her boyfriend, basketball star Troy Taylor, who also happens to be threatened by Mickey’s mad court skills. Since Troy’s dad is the police chief, Mickey finds himself treated like a suspect. He and outcast pals Ema and Spoon try to unravel both mysteries, too busy to even note the arrival of movie star Angelica Wyatt, who’s managed by Mickey’s Uncle Myron, with whom he lives (and around whom Coben has spun a successful series for adults). Coben deftly weaves these multiple plot threads into a compelling whole. An involving thriller that moves like lightning. (Mystery. 11-16)

Cohn, Rachel Disney Hyperion (336 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-4231-5719-9 When humans live in paradise, the servants must be manufactured—but are they still people? Elysia is born fully formed, a gorgeous, fuchsia-eyed 16-year-old cloned from a dead human progenitor, her First. On Demesne, an idyllic island, the humans are socialites and surfers, with emotionless clones to serve their every whim. Elysia doesn’t feel emotionless, but then, she is a Beta, one of the first of an experimental new line of teenage clones; maybe she’s defective. Bought to be a companion to the wife of the island’s governor, Elysia finds dark undercurrents among the theoretically perfectly happy humans, but she’s too self-centered to care all that much. Instead, she’s more concerned with the dreamy

It’s 1909, Minnesota . . . early one morning a prostitute is found in the snow . . . Frozen is a suspenseful story, set at the dawn of Prohibition, of a young girl left behind, struggling to speak for herself— no matter the risks—from critically acclaimed and awardwinning author Mary Casanova. “Mary Casanova knows the lakes and woods of northern Minnesota as few other writers do, and she brings them to life along with an intriguing mystery set in that region’s dark past.” —Marion Dane Bauer, author of On My Honor $16.95 | hardcover | 256 pages

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA PRESS

www.upress.umn.edu Available at better bookstores or to order call 800-621-2736

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human boy she’s somehow falling for, as well as the memories of her First she knows she’s not supposed to have. Elysia’s robotic nature is inconsistent: She sometimes uses metaphors only to misunderstand similar terminology with humorous literalness soon thereafter. Her teenage idiom could be attributed to programmed adolescence, but it works less well for the adult clone who declares “Bummer!” in a training video or the bored human socialite who whines “Bo-o-o-ring!” The childish language and narrative outlook result in a disturbing if effective dissonance with eventual sexual violence. Though neither the villains nor the heroes make particularly sensible choices, the cliffhanger ending will still lure some into the promised sequel. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

First published in Italian in the late 19th century, this childhood classic has had numerous interpretations. Today, however, most American children who know the story at all will know it from the 1939 Disney cartoon, which distorts its plot and mood and makes Pinocchio far more appealing than the original. Translator Brock gives readers Collodi’s Pinocchio: a lazy troublemaker, self-centered and distractible, who remains a wooden puppet right up until the end of his adventures. In the first 30 pages, short-tempered Geppetto has had two scratching-and-biting fights, the Talking Cricket has been smashed dead with a hammer, and Pinocchio has burned off his own feet. The violence may well not faze today’s video game– hardened readers, who will appreciate the sprightly translation. Testa’s pen, ink and watercolor illustrations appear opposite the text, filling the oversized pages. More cheerful in palette and tone than that of Roberto Innocenti’s versions (1988; 2005), this cartoonlike art lightens the overall effect. Chapter headings, repurposed as a table of contents for an unillustrated version of this translation published in 2008, have vanished, but the narrative is otherwise complete. Parents and libraries should welcome this edition, appealing and accessible for 21st-century children. (Fantasy. 8-14)

Z.APOCALYPSE

Cole, Steve Philomel (240 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 11, 2012 978-0-399-25255-6 Series: Hunting Trilogy, 3

THE FITZOSBORNES AT WAR

Adam Adlar is back, working with his scientist dad to save the world from the deviant dreams of Geneflow, a high-tech organization that wants to remake the world, even if it means starting World War III. This adventure starts when Adam is kidnapped right off the streets of Washington, D.C. The city is being attacked by practically invisible, flying dinosaur replicas, and Adam, along with everyone else, is defenseless against them. Saved at the last second by a reluctant pterosaur, he’s taken to a secret research facility. There he meets Zoe, a girl who can communicate with the pterosaur, Keera, who doesn’t like what she’s being made to do. When Adam’s old friend Zed the Z-Rex shows up, they form a team that is ready to go to the ends of the earth to put an end to Geneflow once and for all. From D.C. to the outer reaches of Siberia, the action just keeps coming. While it’s never really clear why Geneflow wants to do its dastardly business, the premise alone is enough of a threat to make the rest of the plot reasonable, while the thought of transcontinental flights with Keera and Zed are the things juvenile dreams are made of. If a little illogical and unsubtle, this trilogy closer nonetheless delivers what’s most important: thrills. (Science fiction. 10-14)

Cooper, Michelle Knopf (560 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $20.99 Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-375-87050-7 978-0-307-97404-4 e-book 978-0-375-97050-4 PLB Series: The Montmaray Journals, 3 War has been declared, and the young, royal, exiled FitzOsbornes are immediately in the thick of things as Cooper’s Montmaray Journals trilogy comes to its conclusion. Their island kingdom of Montmaray was captured by the Nazis several years earlier, and they have been living in London ever since. Teenagers at the start of the war, they are flung headlong into adulthood; Simon and King Toby are in the Royal Air Force, Princess Veronica does something secret in the Foreign Office, and Princess Sophie works in the Food Ministry, where she churns out information regarding rationing. It is her voice, as true and clear as ever in her long-running journal, that paints a detailed and nuanced portrait of life in the madness of war, with its deprivations, bombings and disruptions; devastating damage to life, property and spirit; constant fear, heartbreaking loss and brief moments of giddy laughter. The family is foremost in the narrative, but the wider cast of characters includes Churchill, the Kennedys and several other historical figures. Seamlessly weaving fiction with fact, Cooper makes it all personal. Modern readers, whether or not they know more than a few basic facts about that era, will be completely caught up in Sophie’s nightmare and will gain an understanding that only the best historical fiction can provide. (Readers are advised not to peek at the family tree, as it contains spoilers.) Absorbing, compelling and unforgettable. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

PINOCCHIO

Collodi, Carlo Translated by Brock, Geoffrey Illus. by Testa, Fulvio New York Review Books (184 pp.) $24.95 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-1-59017-588-0 An old favorite—the adventures of a wooden puppet whose good heart earns him the right to be a real boy—in a newly illustrated edition of a relatively new translation. 1926

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“An imaginative, convincing dystopian world dominates this intriguing debut…” from breathe

THE ODYSSEY

she builds her desperate world. She tells the story through chapters alternating among the three protagonists, each written in the now-standard first-person present. Although the villains remain stereotypical, the sympathetic characters stand out well, especially the crazy drifter, old Maude Blue, who knows a thing or two about surviving outside the dome. The well-realized, ruined world takes center stage throughout, however, as the author leaves room for just a bit of hope and a possible sequel. A solid post-apocalyptic tale. (Dystopian romance. 12 & up)

Cross, Gillian Illus. by Packer, Neil Candlewick (178 pp.) $19.99 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-0-7636-4791-9 An anemic retelling of the epic is paired to crabbed, ugly illustrations. Breaking for occasional glimpses back to Penelope’s plight in Ithaca, Cross relates Odysseus’ travels in a linear narrative that begins with his departure for Troy but skips quickly over the war’s events to get to the sack of the city of the Cicones and events following. Along with being careless about continuity (Odysseus’ men are “mad with thirst” on one page and a few pages later swilling wine that they had all the time, for instance), the reteller’s language is inconsistent in tone. It is sprinkled with the requisite Homeric references to the “winedark sea” and Dawn’s rosy fingers but also breaks occasionally into a modern-sounding idiom: “ ‘What’s going on?’ Athene said, looking around at the rowdy suitors.” Packer decorates nearly every spread with either lacy figures silhouetted in black or gold or coarsely brushed paintings depicting crouching, contorted humans, gods and monsters with, generally, chalky skin, snaggled teeth, beer bellies or other disfigurements. The overall effect is grim, mannered and remote. Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean (Odysseus, 2004), this version makes bland reading, and the contorted art is, at best a poor match. (afterword, maps) (Illustrated classic. 11-13)

POLTERGEEKS

Cummings, Sean Strange Chemistry (320 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-908844-101 An eager teen witch discovers the supernatural world is more dangerous than she ever imagined. Fifteen-year-old Julie and her best friend Marcus aren’t the most popular kids at their Calgary, Alberta, high school. He’s a skinny brainiac, and she’s a witch (though, of course, only Marcus knows that). When an elderly neighbor is sent flying out her front door by a poltergeist, Julie’s ready to investigate, but her overprotective mother (also a witch) urges caution. The attacks continue, and suddenly Julie’s mother is incapacitated. With the help of skeptical Marcus and an immortal spirit who claims to be her “tutelary,” Julie must use her powers to delve into her family’s past and find the ancient spirit she’s sure is responsible for her mother’s condition and the increasingly violent supernatural incidents around town. Canadian author Cummings’ first for teens features some fizzy magic and an interesting supernatural world, but discerning readers will likely find the characters shallow and their motivations simplistic. Worldbuilding is problematic as well: If witches have always existed, it strains credulity that devastation of the magnitude described could be explained away over the centuries. A sequel is all but guaranteed; perhaps it will be an improvement. Passable escapist reading for witchcraft fans in search of something light. (Urban fantasy. 12-16)

BREATHE

Crossan, Sarah Greenwillow/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-06-211869-1 978-0-06-211871-4 e-book An imaginative, convincing dystopian world dominates this intriguing debut, in which the population lives in domed cities after most of the oxygen has escaped the atmosphere. Further difficulties continue in the totalitarian city under the dome, where the Premium class gets most of the money and oxygen to spare, while the working-class Auxiliaries must conserve their oxygen or pay a fine. Brilliant Bea, an Auxiliary, hopes to win a spot in an advanced school, but she learns that the authorities have rigged the game. Her Premium boyfriend, Quinn, wins a spot despite an obviously inferior performance. Nevertheless, Quinn arranges for them to take a trip outside the city, wearing oxygen tanks, where they meet and befriend Alina, an escaping rebel. Not only the oxygen-depleted world, but also the power-hungry authorities threaten Alina, Quinn and Bea at every turn. Crossen keeps the pace at a steady clip as |

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NEXT STOP—ZANZIBAR ROAD! Daly, Niki Illus. by Daly, Niki Clarion (40 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-547-68852-7

Mama Jumbo is a pachyderm inhabitant of Zanzibar Road, in an imaginary country that may or may not be South Africa. Wearing her “Flippy-floppy, flappy-slippy, this-way-thatway pompom” hat, she leaves Little Chico (her chicken child) at |

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“There is an elemental rhythm to the story, and the artwork is striking, the colors a mottle of landscape greens and browns, picked out by vivid wildflowers.” from the herd boy

SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI

home with bow-tie–wearing lion Bro Vusi and goes to market in a brightly painted taxi van. She sees all her animal friends selling and buying produce, beads, mirrors, sunglasses, clothing, pottery and crafts, a mixture of traditional southern African and modern Western goods. Mama Jumbo trades for some fruitprinted cloth and a mirror so that she can place her hat just so. When the taxi’s tire blows out, she fixes it with bubble gum and pumps it up with her trunk. At home, she makes a “tutti-frutti” shirt for Little Chico. The five short chapters bring back the characters from Welcome to Zanzibar Road (2006), and while there are no really dramatic moments, the very human animals are unfailingly polite, gently humorous and generous. The fun here is in the language and the details in the watercolor, pen and digital media illustrations, such as the expressive faces, the dog riding on a bicycle piled high with television sets and the mbiras (gourd thumb pianos) in the musical instruments stall. Comfortingly familiar and intriguingly different at the same time, this trip to the market and back again will carry readers to a place filled with joie de vivre. (Picture book. 4-7)

Demi Illus. by Demi Wisdom Tales (56 pp.) $19.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-937786-04-5

Saint Francis of Assisi’s life and legends are recounted in too many words and gorgeously illustrated in Demi’s signature lapidary style. Demi includes every single story and legend about Francis: his misspent youth, his conversion to poverty, his preaching to the birds, his receiving of the stigmata (the wounds of Christ on the Cross). The narrative opens with his Canticle of the Sun and closes with St Francis’ Blessing and his Praises to God Most High. The text in between is too wordy for young readers, though, and moves abruptly from vignette to vignette. The illustrations, however, are astounding. Medieval manuscripts, marbled papers, ancient cityscapes and Persian miniatures are all sources of inspiration for image after image of surpassing beauty. Here’s Francis divesting himself of his garments in order to return to his father his sumptuous silk brocades. Father, bystanders and bishop are all arrayed in magnificent robes— and Demi adroitly indicates nakedness without revealing much. Here’s Francis preaching to the sultan in his brilliantly hued tent. And here’s Francis creating the first Christmas crèche, as fox and goose, wolf and lamb (and a stained-glass gathering of townspeople) come to worship. Beautiful, though not very accessible. (Picture book/biography. 8-14)

THE HERD BOY

Daly, Niki Illus. by Daly, Niki Eerdmans (32 pp.) $17.00 | Oct. 15, 2012 978-0-8028-5417-9 A day in the life and dreams of a young South African herding boy. Daly provides an opportunity to witness an everyday existence most likely very different from the one led by readers. Malusi is a Xhosa herder. Daly sketches his day, from his porridge breakfast to taking the sheep and goats out to graze, a little play with his friend, gathering dung to fertilize the garden, a dangerous encounter with a baboon and then home again. There is an elemental rhythm to the story, and the artwork is striking, the colors a mottle of landscape greens and browns, picked out by vivid wildflowers. The author salts the common proceedings with Malusi’s dreams of a better lunch, owning a dog and becoming president of the country one day. (Nelson Mandela makes a brief appearance, reminding readers that he, too, was a herd boy.) Also sprinkled here and there are a sampling of words from South Africa—both Xhosa and Afrikaans; kraal, donga, googa—that are corralled into a glossary, as well as local fauna, from black eagles to puff adders to those opportunistic baboons. Malusi’s life may be cut to the essential, but it is never short on incident and for the need to be on his toes. Affectionate and existential, Daly has well and fully caught Malusi’s immediate circumstance and his horizons. (Picture book. 6-10)

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LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

Don, Lari Illus. by Chauffrey, Célia Barefoot (32 pp.) $16.99 | paper $9.99 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-84686-766-8 978-1-84686-768-2 paperback Atmospheric illustrations—lush, dark and mysterious—will lure daring readers into this retelling of a classic tale. Done in acrylic, Chauffrey’s images hint at the ominous through small details that play with the mind. In her sinister forest, thorn-shaped leaves that resemble wolves’ teeth are juxtaposed with tear-shaped ones that mimic Red Riding Hood’s eyes. Thus the forest becomes an extension of the Wolf, hungry and watchful. Tiny brush strokes create luxurious fur for the “handsome wolf,” and the stems of the meadow flowers are as delicate as the girl’s innocence and trust. The detailed landscapes, with their intricate patterns, are evocative of classic Russian illustrations, yet Red herself suggests the pop art of Yoshitomo Nara, whose subjects are both seemingly innocuous and seductively dangerous. Interesting compositions play with space and depth in intriguing ways, as Red delves deeper into the forest, and the Wolf gulps Granny down. The latter is |

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explicitly visible, Granny’s legs kicking the air, while the rest of her is hidden within the smug Wolf. Don’s text, true to earlier versions with a hunter rescuing Red and stones sewn into the wolf ’s belly, is clearly moralist, as the hunter receives cakes for his good deed, Granny learns to lock her door, and Red no longer talks to strangers. Gorgeously designed and packaged with a CD narrated by Imelda Staunton, this provocative telling is for young lovers of the gothic. (Picture book/fairy tale. 4-8)

rhyming text that culminates with the mother saying, “The answer, darling little child, / is every creature, tame and wild, / has night and day, has still and leap, / has wide awake and sound asleep.” Ensuing pages go through the alphabet using alliterative language to describe animals going to sleep, from: “Antelope is already asleep, all the way to his antlers” to “and Zebra just Zzzzzzzzzzs.” These entries are rather uneven, and while the mother’s recitation may lull the child in the book to sleep, the impact on children listening to the book may be the opposite if they are interested in tracking the alliteration from page to page. Furthermore, the movement away from, and back into, rhyming verse feels rather forced. McPhail’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations, however, are consistently lovely in evoking diverse, sleepy fauna and simplified landscapes from page to page, with the pleasing inclusion of animals who appear in the alphabet pages in the opening and closing bedroom scenes. A sweet depiction of sleepy animals that will especially please McPhail fans. (Picture book. 2-4)

QUEEN OF THE DEAD

Drago, Ty Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (432 pp.) $7.99 paperback | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-4022-7557-9 Series: The Undertakers, 2 Will Ritter continues the battle started in Rise of the Corpses (2011) to protect humanity from the corpse-possessing invaders from another dimension. When a surveillance mission provides an opportunity to unearth a Corpse plot still in development, and with the new knowledge of how to use salt to kill the interdimensional invaders, the human Undertakers can take the offensive in their war over the world. To do this, they face the titular queen, sophisticated Lilith Cavanaugh, who has replaced the late Kenny Booth as the leader of the invaders. She blends a higher lev el of competence with a downright savage monstrosity, posing a much more pragmatic threat than Booth did. Alternating with Will’s firstperson narration, chapters written in third-person that focus on Lilith reveal more about the world the Corpses come from as well as their purpose. Lilith makes the fight personal for Will and in doing so, raises the stakes. While the first part of the story drags, near the end, a switch is flipped, and the story comes to life with a daring plan. Additional ponderings on corpse theft that go beyond gross-out descriptions, as well as the clear consequences of battle and lack of adult support, give moral and emotional dimensions to the otherwise straightforward story. Uneven, but the quality improves as the story progresses. (Science fiction/horror. 10-15)

THE PLANET OF WIND

Dubos, Delphine Illus. by Élyum Studio Graphic Universe (56 pp.) $7.95 paperback | $19.95 e-book PLB $26.60 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-8225-9422-2 978-1-4677-0327-7 e-book 978-0-7613-8751-0 PLB Series: Little Prince—The New Adventures, 1 In this new graphic series, the Little Prince returns, although fans of Saint-Exupéry’s original will find him virtually unrecognizable. Accompanied by his friend Fox, the Little Prince has devoted himself to visiting planets and helping them defeat the treacherous Snake and his Gloomies, malevolent black clouds that act as the Snake’s henchmen. In this opening episode, the Little Prince and Fox help a blustery world keep at bay encroaching ice that threatens to engulf their beloved home. Akin to a Saturday morning cartoon (and originally based on an animated series), this and its sequels are extremely formulaic and possess an easily digestible, episodic nature: Prince and Fox land on a planet; Prince discovers Snake has tricked said planet’s inhabitants into grave peril; Prince and Fox then use their kindness and saccharine platitudes to save the people and sail off into the harmonious sunset. In Book 2, The Planet of the Firebird, the duo assists a feuding brother and sister whose planet has been scorched by a fire-breathing bird. Perhaps a new audience not familiar with the source might warm to this adaptation, but those who remember the original will most likely be turned off. A far cry from the original masterpiece. (Graphic fantasy. 9-13)

ALL THE AWAKE ANIMALS ARE ALMOST ASLEEP

Dragonwagon, Crescent Illus. by McPhail, David Little, Brown (40 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-316-07045-4

Alliteration and animals add up to a child asleep in this latest offering from picture-book veterans Dragonwagon and McPhail. Opening text introduces a familiar bedtime battle of wills between a child who resists slumber and a mother trying to lull him to sleep. This introductory section adopts a rhythmic, |

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THE CITY OF EMBER The Graphic Novel

The conclusion is more discomfiting than amusing, given that mom has become “too tense to talk” as she “squeal[s] down streets” in the car. A muddled effort. Kate and Nate can run, run, run, but they do not have much fun. (Picture book. 3-6)

DuPrau, Jeanne Illus. by Asker, Niklas Random House (144 pp.) $18.99 | PLB $21.99 | Sep. 25, 2012 978-0-375-86821-4 978-0-375-96821-1 PLB

MY NAME IS PARVANA

Ellis, Deborah Groundwood (176 pp.) $16.95 | $14.95 e-book | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-55498-297-4 978-1-55498-299-8 e-book Series: Breadwinner Quartet, 4

Effective use of light and shadow in the art give this graphic adaptation of the 2003 novel a properly spooky look, but it reads overall more like a summary than a developed story. Though sticking to a sketchy iteration of the original’s plot rather than the somewhat altered film version (no cave monster, sorry), the tale is told in a visual, cinematic way with an admixture of quick reaction shots and wordless action sequences that allow readers to race along almost as fast as they can turn the pages. The terse exchanges between characters use DuPrau’s words, but as dialogue they sometimes come across as stiff: “…if I go, I must leave Poppy, mustn’t I?” frets Lina. “How can I take her on a journey of such danger?” Still, Asker’s penumbral scenes underground and broad, grassy Eden above are strongly atmospheric and depict both settings and the clearly delineated cast (particularly the grossly corpulent Mayor) in tellingly crisp detail. No substitute for the original, but an agreeable alternative for younger or less-able readers. (Graphic science fiction. 8-10)

In a follow-up that turns the Breadwinner Trilogy into a quartet, 15-year-old Parvana is imprisoned and interrogated as a suspected terrorist in Afghanistan. When her father’s shoulder bag is searched, Parvana’s captors find little of apparent value—a notebook, pens and a chewed-up copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Parvana refuses to talk; her interrogator doesn’t even know if she can speak. The interrogator reads aloud the words in her notebook to decide if the angry written sentiments of a teenage girl can be evidence of guilt. Parvana is stoic, her keen mind ever alert as she has to “stand and listen to her life being spouted back at her,” a life in a land where warplanes are as “common as crows,” where someone was always “tasting dirt, having their eardrums explode and seeing their world torn apart.” The interrogation, the words of the notebook and the effective third-person narration combine for a thoroughly tense and engaging portrait of a girl and her country. This passionate volume stands on its own, though readers new to the series and to Ellis’ overall body of work will want to read every one of her fine, important novels. Readers will learn much about the war in Afghanistan even as they cheer on this feisty protagonist. (author’s note) (Fiction. 11 & up)

KATE AND NATE ARE RUNNING LATE

Egan, Kate Illus. by Yaccarino, Dan Feiwel & Friends (40 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-250-00080-4

A single, working mom and her two children oversleep and rush through their morning routine only to discover the shocking truth when they get to school: It is Saturday. Egan’s rhyming narrative is cumbersome at times: “ ‘It’s getting late,’ announces Nate. / Kate rolls over, rubs her eyes. / She sits up straight. ‘Oh that’s just great. / Not again!’ Nate’s mother sighs.” The harried parent leaps across the double-page spread, dog at her heels, son attached to one hand (he’s airborne from the speed). While mom is efficient and her children cooperative, each contributes to the delay. Once outside, Nate’s need for his forgotten bunny leads to his slipping on ice, falling into mud and having a meltdown, for instance. Yaccarino’s signature gouache caricatures, rendered in flat colors and aerodynamic shapes, are oddly mismatched with the text at this point, and whereas the story has heretofore been a play-by-play description, the stuffed animal is confusingly inserted here without any retrieval scene. The mud puddle, too, is a strange contrivance in relation to the previous page’s snow-covered landscape. (Through the kitchen window, the view is green—go figure.) 1930

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THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER

Emberley, Rebecca; Emberley, Ed Illus. by Emberley, Rebecca; Emberley, Ed Neal Porter/Roaring Brook (32 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-59643-493-6 In this playful riff on Aesop’s fable, an ant’s load is made light when her spirit is lifted by the grasshopper’s music. The ant, burdened with a sticky piece of watermelon and weighed down by the thought that her family is depending on her for food, is so tired she can barely take another step. Then she hears MUSIC (emphasized in boldface capital letters) made by the grasshopper and his band. In fact, those first notes leave her positively bug-eyed. Instead of chastising them for playing, the ant is moved by the tune. Gallantly, the band takes to the |

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“Future wordsmiths may be IN-SPIRED [verb: stimulated] by Webster’s devotion to the English language.” from noah webster & his words

NOAH WEBSTER & HIS WORDS

road in order to march her back to her colony. In an additional, delicious twist highlighting their symbiotic relationship, the ant invites them into her home, where they party—a celebration highlighted in a foldout spread that works both front and back. The text has a distinctly jazzy drawl that begs to be read aloud. The collage art is bursting with pleasingly chaotic, Mardi Gras colors, especially the two spreads depicting ant’s first views of the buggy band. The pacing is masterful, and the inclusion of the foldout page provides a wonderful place to pause and, as the text exhorts, “[l]et the good times roll!” The Emberleys offer such a joyful, imaginative interpretation of the classic that even the youngest will understand the unstated message to “eat, drink and be merry.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Ferris, Jeri Chase Illus. by Kirsch, Vincent X. Houghton Mifflin (32 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 23, 2012 978-0-547-39055-0 A charming introduction to Noah Webster, creator of “the second most popular book ever printed in English, after the Bible.” Noah Webster loved words and wanted to be a scholar, so at age 15 he entered Yale University and became a teacher. When the Revolutionary War was over, he wanted to write a “second Declaration of Independence,” an American spelling book that would systematize American spelling. At a time when Americans spelled words any which way—“mosquito, moskito, miscitoe, misqutor, muskeetor”—this was a way to further unite Americans. He followed his speller with a grammar text, and eventually, at age 70, published his American Dictionary of the English Language. What could have been as dry as a, well, dictionary is here made lively and enjoyable, with appealing cartoonish illustrations and a clear and lively text. Webster is drawn with a balloon-ish head since he “always knew he was right, and he never got tired of saying so.” Ferris defines big words in brackets, dictionary-style, throughout the story, a playful device that becomes distracting, since most words can be figured out by context, even by very young readers and listeners. Nevertheless, the volume is a wonderful success in introducing Webster in such a charming manner. Future wordsmiths may be IN-SPIRED [verb: stimulated] by Webster’s devotion to the English language. (timeline, more about Noah Webster, bibliography, websites) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

THE BOY IN THE BOX

Fagan, Cary Clarion (288 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-547-75268-6 Series: Master Melville’s Medicine Show, 1 In this loosely woven series setup, a relentlessly ordinary lad who has taught himself to juggle is kidnapped by the owners of a traveling medicine show. Repeatedly drawn to jovial pitchman Master Melville’s horse-drawn wagon, 11-year-old Sullivan finally nerves himself to crawl into a box on stage as the magician’s volunteer. When he wakes up, the wagon has traveled on, and he’s locked inside with three young performers who are likewise kidnap victims. In a beguiling if startlingly unlikely development, Sullivan soon develops such strong familial ties with the rest of the troupe and becomes so wrapped up in developing and practicing a compelling juggling act, that he puts any plans to escape or even to contact his family on hold. Meanwhile, the general belief back home that Sullivan drowned in the nearby river leads two schoolmates to organize a memorial celebration, while Sullivan’s stubborn little sister Jinny sets out with an octogenarian ally to prove he’s still alive. Fagan cuts his three-stranded tale off abruptly, leaving these plotlines in midair—but readers willing to go with the flow will at least get a glimmer of how Sullivan could become so distracted from his most obvious purpose by the profound inner rewards of acquiring a difficult physical skill. Food for thought here about varieties of motivation, though with too many unanswered questions and a sudden, resolution-free ending that is more annoying than tantalizing. (Adventure. 11-13)

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Flake, Sharon G. Scholastic (240 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-545-05718-9 978-0-545-46984-5 e-book Two unlikely teens find a connection despite the reluctance of one and the vastly different life obstacles they confront. Autumn Knight is good at several things: She’s a great friend, a terrific cook and a fiercely competitive wrestler, the only girl on her team. She is not good at reading or most of her other school subjects. Despite this, she is drawn to the smartest boy in school and determined that he will like her in return. Adonis Miller, severely physically disabled since birth, wants no part of Autumn. She is everything he hates: “I despise her. Nothing about her appeals to me. All those muscles. Not to mention her IQ. I’m sure it’s exceptionally low.” Since he was a little boy, he has striven to be the best at whatever he attempts, from academics to school leadership. His role as manager of the wrestling team often |

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“To symbolize two dogs and one squirrel in a mad dash, upward of 80 squirrel figures race around the yard and over the roof with a similar number of dog figures in hot pursuit.” from boot & shoe

brings him into contact with Autumn, and he has trouble reconciling the successful athlete with the irritating girl who haunts his dreams. This brilliantly realized story is told alternately in their two distinctive voices, and readers will cheer Autumn’s spirit and Adonis’ drive. The narrative is further enriched by intriguing secondary characters, including Autumn’s best friend Patricia (aka Peaches), who has her own secrets, and the loving parents and caring teachers of both teens. An uplifting story that convincingly celebrates the power of perseverance. (Fiction. 14 & up)

up in their shared career. An award naming the tightknit sisters Best Webstars of the Year leads to a licensing deal for their own makeup line—London Calling—with LuxeLife Cosmetics, and now the hottest men in Los Angeles are falling at their feet. Ava begins dating paparazzi-bait–turned–doting boyfriend Liam Carlson (but she continues to enjoy flirtatious banter with Dalton, a fellow volunteer at the local animal shelter). Meanwhile, Sophia, “boytoxing” after being blindsided by a terrible breakup, finds herself torn between wealthy smoothie Hunter Ralston and gorgeous Italian bartender-sculptor Giovanni. The Fowlers—who, like their protagonists, are beauty-and-fashion video bloggers—let their otherwise-effervescent modern fairy tale of sisterly love and self-actualization get bogged down in a dreary subplot of sibling separation anxiety and jealousy, basing it on the flimsiest of serial miscommunications and resolving it in a single paragraph. A last-chapter twist threatens the sisters’ reputation (and sets up a potential sequel), making the novel simply stop, rather than resolve. There’s a built-in audience for the London sisters’ adventures, but beneath all the glitter is a bunch of blah. (Chick lit. 14-16)

FRIENDS

Foreman, Michael Illus. by Foreman, Michael Andersen Press USA (32 pp.) $16.95 | $12.95 e-book | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-4677-0317-8 978-1-4677-0323-9 e-book The time-honored odd-couple pairing of predator and prey does a star turn in this sweet tale of friendship. The protagonists here are Cat the cat and Bubble the goldfish. Cat knows he has a good life, as he can wander the big city whenever he pleases. His best friend Bubble, however, is confined to his little tank, swimming round and round and sighing. One day, Cat locates a transparent bucket and, after convincing his friend to jump in, shows him potential new homes: increasingly larger bodies of water in the form of ponds, rivers and the ocean. Offering the fish freedom, Cat is surprised when Bubble declines, pointing out that while there is a wide world out there, here he has a friend. The two then spend their days exploring their own little world, “From here… / ...to the rainbow’s end.” Foreman’s singular watercolors give his images an inner glow that shines brightest in the artist’s glorious two-page panoramas. In terms of the characters themselves, readers will have little difficulty believing in their friendship, food chain or no food chain. More to the point, here’s a nice lesson of finding the wide world close to home. A warm, welcoming book with a taste and tone of its very own. (Picture book. 4-8)

BOOT & SHOE

Frazee, Marla Illus. by Frazee, Marla Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (40 pp.) $16.99 | $12.99 e-book | Oct. 9, 2012 978-1-4424-2247-6 978-1-4424-5706-5 e-book This gem about canine siblings goes from peaceful routine to funny mayhem to erroneous bereavement—and relief. Littermates Boot and Shoe are small, white dogs with black tails and fur flopping over their eyes. Only their leg coloring differs, giving rise to their names. Boot spends daytime on the back porch, Shoe the front, a habit “perfect for both of them”; they share supper bowl, dog bed and a specific tree for peeing on. Gouache and black pencil create warm vignettes and sturdy spreads with a vibe both lively and mellow. Creamy, speckled paper matches organic, hand-lettered text. One day, a chattering squirrel gets “all up in [their] business,” and the dogs go berserk. To symbolize two dogs and one squirrel in a mad dash, upward of 80 squirrel figures race around the yard and over the roof with a similar number of dog figures in hot pursuit. Postchase, exhausted, each dog finds himself on the wrong porch. Tragically in sync, they circle the house simultaneously to find each other, preventing their own success. Each progresses from patience—hunger, rain, waiting overnight—to true grief, sure the other’s gone. Dog posture, value and composition create poignant pangs—and stunned joy as the dogs reunite when (and where) nature calls. Frazee conveys painful and soothing depth with ease, which is especially impressive given that Boot and Shoe’s eyes can’t be seen. Read unhurried, in a lap, again and again. (Picture book. 4-7)

BENEATH THE GLITTER

Fowler, Elle; Fowler, Blair St. Martin’s Griffin (288 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Sep. 4, 2012 978-1-250-00618-9 978-1-250-01633-1 e-book Hardworking sisters face glamorous romantic and professional challenges in Los Angeles. Approachable fashionista-next-door video bloggers Sophia and Ava London have built an impressive reputation as savvy guides to fashion, accessories and personal grooming and are thrilled to be moving 1932

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illuminating and detailed picture of the hard work and singleminded dedication that is required. The many full-color photographs help readers see both the beauty of the performance and the strength of mind and body required for ballet. There are some humorous moments, along with a running description of Fiona’s difficulties in hitting the Mouse King with her ballet slipper. The Boston Ballet production is beautifully costumed, providing a feast for the eye for all readers. A glossary of ballet terms would have been helpful. Ballet lovers will relish the behind-the-scenes look at this land of enchantment. (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Frenette, Bethany Disney Hyperion (368 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 23, 2012 978-1-4231-4665-0 A superhero’s daughter learns the truth about an ancient evil. Audrey Whitticomb is the daughter of Morning Star, a superhero who watches over Minneapolis. While Audrey’s mother has heroic physical prowess, Audrey’s talents lie in what her grandmother called her Knowing, so she’s never contemplated fighting crime herself. But when high school girls start going missing and turning up dead, Audrey’s mother’s sudden overprotectiveness clues her into a larger picture. Morning Star doesn’t fight crime at all, but rather hateful entities from the Beneath, the place where the Old Race who gave super-powered humans like the Whitticombs—called Kin—their abilities, originated. Why the whole city knows her as a superhero when she doesn’t actually fight crime, but supernatural creatures that generally ignore normal humans is never addressed. A Kin connection to the murders and the secrecy of Morning Star and her teleporting, college-aged sidekick Leon force Audrey to investigate for herself, using her psychic abilities. Of course, this means danger and destiny. While the prose is generally prolix, a blinkand-miss-it climax follows some nifty plot twists. The main storyline is left unresolved for sequels. Decidedly more urban fantasy than comic book, Frenette’s debut features a variety of characters and should please readers looking for paranormal without so much romance. (Urban fantasy. 12-16)

WHO’S WHO?

Geist, Ken Illus. by Cole, Henry Feiwel & Friends (32 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-312-64437-6 A classic counting rhyme is subjected to a lackluster treatment in this retelling

that focuses on twins. Inspired by his own set of twins and the repetitive rhythm of the poem “Over in the Meadow,” Geist features six pairs of animal twins in various habitats. Beginning with a calf twosome on a farm (“Over in the barnyard / where the cows moo and moo, / lives a noisy little calf / and her loud twin, Blue”), the rhyming text continues with bunnies that hop in a garden, long-tailed monkeys that swing in jungle trees, shiny fish that swim in a pond, “itty bitty” bats that flap in a cave, and, finally, silly owlets in the night sky, which giggle and wish children a good night. Cole’s cartoonish animals, rendered in acrylic and colored pencil, are usually the highlight of any of his collaborations. Perhaps drawing little inspiration from the pedestrian text, the illustrations lack his typical energy and charm. This serviceable bedtime story will find the most appeal with families of multiples and brother/sister pairs. [Note: An earlier version of this review was published in the July 1, 2012, issue and cited a concern based on a preliminary copy of the book. We publish herewith this revised review, as the problematic text was removed in the final, edited version.] (Picture book. 1-5)

BECOMING A BALLERINA A Nutcracker Story, Starring the Dancers of Boston Ballet

Friedman, Lise Photos by Dowdle, Mary Viking (48 pp.) $18.99 | Oct. 11, 2012 978-0-670-01392-0

BROXO

A young student in the Boston Ballet School lands the plum role of Clara in The Nutcracker through her hard work, determination and talent. Fiona’s story, told in the first person, unfolds in the months before Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker season, a Christmas holiday fixture. Daily hours of practice and weeks of rehearsal result in a splendid opening-night performance. Fiona lives in Boston with her mother and two sisters, one older and one younger, who also take classes and perform in The Nutcracker. Fortunately, their mother willingly and lovingly supports them. Fiona’s activities with friends at school are of necessity curtailed, but she relishes the camaraderie with the other ballet students and with members of the company. The narration provides an |

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Giallongo, Zack Illus. by Giallongo, Zack First Second/Roaring Brook (240 pp.) $16.99 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-59643-551-3 The ruler of a kingdom of one and a runaway princess join forces in this agreeable sword-and-sorcery graphic novel. Zora, in tattered skirt, furry boots and winged headband, is on an unauthorized mission of peace to the far-off Peryton clan, but when she gets to their mountain |

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WHAT’S THE TIME, MR. WOLF?

she finds only Broxo, in mail shirt, fur cape and earrings. Broxo is alone—and has been for years—but for Migo, a horned, catlike behemoth. The two young teens don’t exactly hit it off, but Broxo takes pity on the lost princess, and besides, he seems happy for the company. The blasted landscape is also home to Ulith, an inscrutable, sometimes helpful witch; Gloth, a maned, wolflike monster; and the creepers, terrifying zombielike things that have a closer relationship to Broxo than he realizes. Giallongo’s glossy panels are dominated by swampy grays, browns and greens, shifting in palette and clarity subtly to signify scene changes and flashbacks. Zora and Broxo have considerable chemistry, often-acerbic banter giving way to more intimate, heartfelt exchanges. Their adventures are well-paced, balancing humor with terror and continually ratcheting up the stakes toward a bloody, mythic climax. The story borrows freely from familiar fantasy and adventure tropes, but it is far from derivative, delivering both action and emotional depth with assurance. By the end, both characters and readers have had a workout; the latter will hope for more. (Graphic fantasy. 10 & up)

Gliori, Debi Illus. by Gliori, Debi Walker (32 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-8027-3432-7

Readers check in on Mr. Wolf every hour of his birthday, but it seems like the poor guy just can’t catch a break on his special day. Four-and-twenty blackbirds wake him up (at 7 a.m.), asking him the titular question. His grumpy answer? “It’s time for blackbird pie.” His porcine neighbors keep him from a snooze by slamming their doors on their way to work (“time for bacon sandwiches”). And the day continues in this vein: The letter carrier (a girl in a red hood) skips his house, his cupboard is bare, it rains on the way to the store, and every hour, fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme characters check in on Mr.Wolf, asking him for the time. But readers won’t need to ask for the time. A marvelous mix of timepieces is scattered throughout the text and includes analog and digital clocks of all sorts: a sundial, a pocket watch, a wristwatch and a cuckoo clock, among others. By the time the hapless birthday boy is awoken from his nap by a fiddle-playing cat, observant readers will have guessed the “surprise” ending. But the time-telling practice and literary references aren’t even the best treasure here. Gliori’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations are both detailed and delicately executed, charming and wowing at the same time. There is much to enjoy here, and the illustrations and allusions beg for repeat readings. (Picture book. 4-8)

SAPPHIRE BLUE

Gier, Kerstin Translated by Bell, Anthea Henry Holt (368 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 30, 2012 978-0-8050-9266-0 Series: The Ruby Red Trilogy, 2 In this second volume of the Ruby Red Trilogy, 16-year-old Gwen continues her time-traveling adventures as the newest member of the Circle of Twelve. In Ruby Red (2011), Gwen discovered she inherited a time-travel gene that makes her the final link in the Circle. Her life’s now controlled by the Guardians, a secret society monitoring time travel through the chronograph. All 12 time travelers must be introduced into the chronograph so the Circle can be closed, and the Guardians have assigned Gwen and irresistible Gideon de Villiers the task of locating four missing time travelers. Adjusting to her new role, Gwen falls for Gideon, who fluctuates between wooing and ignoring her. Adding comic relief, a ghostly gargoyle adopts Gwen. As she ventures into the past, the contemporary Gwen peppers her first-person account with humorous asides. With guts and gumption, she cruises into an 18th-century soiree, where she entertains guests with a 20thcentury tune. Gwen’s obsessive schoolgirl crushing, complicated time switches and the Circle’s undefined secrets may leave readers a bit clueless. Has Gideon manipulated Gwen? What’s with the creepy Florentine Alliance? Is Gwen destined to play a fatal role closing the Circle, when “the secret will be revealed?” Hopefully, all will be revealed in the Emerald Green finale. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

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A THUNDEROUS WHISPER

Gonzalez, Christina Diaz Knopf (304 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-375-86929-7 978-0-375-98274-3 e-book 978-0-375-96929-4 PLB Amid the chaos of the Spanish Civil War, a young girl begins to find her place in the world. Twelve-year-old Anetxu “Ani” Largazabalaga spends her few free hours trying to recapture the idyllic times before her father left Guernica for the front. Her often-disagreeable mother sells sardines and never fails to remind Ani how much she has sacrificed to keep them from starvation. Ani finds her first real friend in 14-year-old Jewish Mathias García, who recently moved from Germany, where he and his mother were facing increasing restrictions. A simple trip to the movies embroils Ani and Mathias in a local network of spies helping the British get supplies through Franco’s blockade. While making house-to-house deliveries of sardines, the two deliver messages and hope that they are helping the war effort. After the infamous air raid lays the town to ruins, Ani and Mathias both face devastating losses |

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Seven Impossible Things: Favorite Books for Fall B Y JU LI E

DA NI ELSON

I enjoy writing and speaking about picture books, and sometimes I get lucky enough to see them in advance, while they are still in their F&G, or “folded and gathered” stage. Just prior to publication, F&Gs are yet to be bound and the 32 pages of picture book goodness are floppy and at the mercy of a great wind. (Never read F&Gs in a fierce tornado.) Because I geek out over picture books at my own site, as well as here at Kirkus, fellow picture book fans often email to tell me about new titles. I love these chats. Often it’s picture book authors and illustrators themselves who do this, supporting their peers. I just spoke to a group of librarians and teachers about my favorite picture books thus far of 2012. It was in compiling that list just the other day that I realized that several of my favorites have yet to be released. They are these yet-to-be-bound galleys, books that will see publication this fall. I decided it’d be fun today to give readers a heads up about them. Could there be a 2013 Caldecott winner in this bunch? Time will tell. I won’t tell you so much about them today that I ruin your reading experiences to come. Just imagine me—when seeing these in a few months—waving a lot, pointing enthusiastically, jumping up and down, and perhaps even engaging in razzle-dazzle jazz hands. Unpleasant, I know, but anything to steer you toward outstanding books. Let’s start with Roaring Brook. That Neal Porter. He’s a very smart man—I’ve never met him in person, and he didn’t pay me to say that—with a good eye for talent. This fall, Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook will release Philip C. Stead’s radiant Bear Has a Story to Tell, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, as well as Stephen Savage’s Little Tug.

The Steads are the same exceedingly talented duo who brought readers the 2011 Caldecott winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Here’s one of many great qualities about them as book creators— they let their stories breathe. ’Nough said. For now, anyway. People use the phrase “child-friendly” a lot when talking about picture books (to which I say, well, it better be). Savage’s book, for very young readers, is more than that. Without wasting any time or a single word, Savage nails the feelings of insecurity in children (in the guise of a little tugboat), yet turns it around with triumph. I have no doubt that a veritable ton of work goes into a book this seemingly simple. It’s not often we see picture books like this anymore. Don’t miss it. Speaking of gifted duos (as I did with the Steads), this fall FSG will release Sarah Stewart’s The Quiet Place, a moving tale of immigration, with the splendid artwork of David Small, as well as the return of a Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben collaboration in the beautiful The Bear in the Book. How about the funny ones? Mo Willems entertains with what is surely the first instance of Norwegian dinosaurs in all of picture-book history. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (HarperCollins) is dangerous to read while also eating, lest you choke from laughing. You’ve been warned. Put down those crackers. Jon Klassen returns with This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick), which is not, despite the title, the sequel to the award-winning I Want My Hat Back. Klassen, who knows children delight in being one up on the protagonist, brings readers another openended tale of revenge in which deceit and theft simply won’t do, thank you very much. You want one quick picture book biography recommendation? I can do that. Renée Watson’s Harlem’s Little Blackbird (Random House) tells the story of cabaret singer and dancer Florence Mills. The writing is strong, and the artwork from Christian Robinson simply captivates. I save my three favorites for last: Absolutely do not miss Oh, No! (Schwartz |

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& Wade) from Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann, yet another impressive duo. Kirkus has already called the illustrations “sumptuous,” so there you go. Dial Books will release James and Joseph Bruchac’s Rabbit’s Snow Dance, a traditional Iroquois story, illustrated by Jeff Newman, in November. How I wish you didn’t have to wait so long for this one. Let’s just say I’m happy Jeff Newman devotes his professional life to illustrating picture books, and the Bruchacs tell this story, which begs to be read aloud, with style and rhythm. And if you don’t read Matthew Cordell’s timely and exhilarating Hello! Hello! (Disney/Hyperion), it won’t be because I didn’t jazz-hands it to death. It’s my favorite book of all this year. Treat yourself to this beautiful story, come September. Enjoy reading! 9 Julie Danielson (Jules) has, in her own words, conducted approximately eleventy billion interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog focused primarily on illustration and picture books.

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and find refuge in a farm on the outskirts of Guernica. Gonzalez has the two characters handle the losses in vastly different but equally believable ways, and the inclusion of older, sympathetic characters to serve as a contrast to Ani’s mother will be appreciated by readers. Also notable are multiple characters with disabilities, including Mathias. An engrossing tale set against a compelling, seldomseen backdrop. (Historical fiction. 10-18)

even if it means telling elaborate lies to gain entrance to the in crowd. Both girls miss the bond they shared with their mother during the lean times, but that doesn’t keep them from throwing a party at the mansion they call Camelot while the ’ rents are away. Their self-destructive behaviors come to a head during the bash, and one finds unexpected redemption, while the other discovers just how low she will sink to get her sister’s attention. National Book Award finalist Griffin repeatedly nails the details of this tony community and its 1-percent residents with perfectly turned phrases that are just right. A high-end handbag is “plopped like an overfed tabby cat on the seat,” while a financially struggling classmate owns a wallet “as ancient as the Dead Sea Scrolls and always flat as a pita besides.” A sumptuously written examination of sibling rivalry and socioeconomic class. (Fiction. 14 & up)

DINOSAURS

Green, Dan Illus. by Basher Kingfisher (64 pp.) $12.99 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-7534-6823-4 Series: Basher Basics

GAME CHANGER

The umpteenth volume of Basher Basics features a representative assortment of dinosaurs and dino-cousins strutting their stuff. Grouped into “Veggie Munchers,” “Meat Crunchers,” “High-fliers” and “Water Lovers,” 26 dinos and proto-reptiles each step up in turn to flex their attributes: “I’m one happy swimmer—a fish-chasin’, air-breathin’, fully oceangoin’ reptile. Very ‘plesio’ to meet you!” Bulleted lists of basic facts sandwich each testimonial and add to the typically substantial informational load. Basher’s cartoon portraits, on the other hand, don’t add much beyond cuteness. Though recognizable in general form, the prehistoric creatures all float over monochrome pastel backgrounds and are rendered in a flat, stylized way with the same smooth surface textures and similar squints and smiles. Ten dinos get a curtain call in a small foldout poster at the end. Weather publishes simultaneously. Green supplies plenty of grist for the dino-mill; Basher’s formulaic visuals, not so much. (index) (Nonfiction. 8-11)

Haddix, Margaret Peterson Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-689-87380-5 An elite athlete, KT is on the fast track to softball stardom when her world is turned upside down. The eighth-grader’s life drastically changes when she collapses while pitching during a major tournament. Awakening to an alternate reality, KT discovers the traditional roles of academics and sports have been reversed. Now, KT’s younger and supremely nonathletic brother, Max, is the focus of family life due to his status on the school’s math team. Yet KT soon realizes she is not the only one who wants out of this other world. Ultimately, she must figure out the common ground among an athlete, a genius and a video gamer and determine what issues drove them into this altered reality. While the premise of the sports/academics switch provides some humorous scenarios, it also conveys a powerful message. Haddix illuminates the pressure middle school–aged students often feel to conform to predetermined roles. Her cleverly constructed tale gives a voice to all students, encouraging them to look beyond the labels of sporty, smart and so on, to define themselves. KT’s transition from athlete to advocate is calculated to inspire readers to celebrate their individuality. Haddix’s insightful tale is a compelling blend of sports, action and mystery. (Fantasy. 12-14)

ALL YOU NEVER WANTED

Griffin, Adele Knopf (240 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-375-87082-8 978-0-307-97466-2 e-book 978-0-375-97082-5 PLB Two sisters painfully discover that money can’t buy happiness in this provocative family drama. When Alex and Thea’s struggling single mom marries a Greenwich, Conn., millionaire, the girls’ responses to their elevated lifestyle demonstrate the differences in their personalities. Older sister Alex tries to ignore the new wealth by restricting her enjoyment of it, including the food she allows in her body. Thea, though, sees the money as an opportunity to reinvent herself, 1936

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“Biting wit makes this quest for suburban normalcy in the face of depression and anxiety both laugh-out-loud funny and immensely intelligent.” from have a nice day

HAVE A NICE DAY

of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers. An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Halpern, Julie Feiwel & Friends (336 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-312-60660-2 Biting wit makes this quest for suburban normalcy in the face of depression and anxiety both laugh-out-loud funny and immensely intelligent. In Get Well Soon (2007), Anna spent three weeks in a mental hospital, unwillingly. Now she faces her first three weeks back at home—Dad retaining his “classically trained dick” attitude, Mom riddled with “wuss issues”—and back at school. She’s insecure about where she’s been and fears the in-class panic attacks and bowel symptoms that plagued her earlier. She postpones writing to hospital romance Justin, unsure what to say. Instead, Anna focuses on art class, funky clothing and her peers in outpatient therapy. Her first-person narration brims with humor and raunchiness: “The dark wood that made up the library’s décor screamed 1976 academia, but the dainty sentiment of ‘EB sucks cock’ scratched into the wood brought a modern feel.” As life improves, she questions sharply which aspects of treatment—or life—are really helping. Anna finds Holden Caulfield (Halpern employs layered and alluring Catcher in the Rye references); boys find her. Characters and observations are impressively original. The only staleness is relentless textual insistence that Anna’s weight loss—born of “crappy mental hospital cafeteria food, depression, [and] anxiety”—is crucial to, and the same thing as, her recovery. Aside from the too-anxious-to-eat valorization, fresh as a daisy and sharp as a tack. (Fiction. 12-17)

THE ROYAL TREASURE MEASURE

Harris, Trudy Illus. by Stevanovic, Ivica Millbrook/Lerner (32 pp.) $16.95 | $12.95 e-book | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-7613-6806-9 978-1-4677-0129-7 e-book Series: Math Is Fun! A clever princess and a simple man solve a measurement problem and find true love in this fairy-tale–like math story. When King Balbazar and his subjects have trouble making doors and drapes and robes fit, the king decides to hold a contest to find a standard unit of measurement, a husband for his daughter and his successor—he wants to retire. Princess Star judges the contest, dressed as a peasant, her basket hiding a crown for the winner. But things look glum when the men begin measuring with nuts, swords (of different sizes), goats and even pickles. It takes a simple man with no belongings—and no shoes—to come up with the foot as a unit of measure. And the rest is history… although an author’s “foot note” explains what is really known about the origins of a foot. Harris’ ABCB rhyming verses have a nice rhythm to them and some interesting pairings—sickles with pickles. But the speech-bubble asides that are integral to the tale do not rhyme, and this detracts from the flow of the text. Stevanovic’s cartoonish illustrations are filled with detail, but his characters steal the show, their pointy and/or pendulous noses and appendages lending each a distinct personality. Though it is regrettable that in neither story nor note is the metric system, the international standard, mentioned, still, save about half an inch (or roughly 1 cm) on your shelves for this one. (Math picture book. 4-8)

RALPH TELLS A STORY

Hanlon, Abby Illus. by Hanlon, Abby Amazon Children’s Publishing (32 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0761461807 With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut. Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—” “Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page |

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“Not cute curios, but the seriously weird, which for some—hopefully many—will make the animals that much more appealing.” from unusual creatures

UNUSUAL CREATURES A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth’s Strangest Animals

short shrift, as the storyline plays out like a tone poem, with the bulk of the novel built around the author’s photographs of the countryside. Implausibilities interrupt the placid pacing of the prose: Radley’s methodical search of the house before getting food from the pantry, despite days of starvation; her utter reluctance to communicate with others out of paranoia that she’ll be arrested; restaurant Dumpsters full of food though no one seems to be about. Hesse offers some of her best in lavish descriptions of nature and mood, all overlaid with a social message, but this might be of more interest to adults than to teens. (Speculative fiction. 14 & up)

Hearst, Michael Illus. by Noordeman, Arjen; Wright, Christie; Noordeman, Jelmer Chronicle (108 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 19, 2012 978-1-4521-0467-6

Hearst brings us 50 examples of Mother Nature in all her strange pageantry. Meet the aye-aye, a primate from Madagascar that—unfortunately, and thank goodness it is nocturnal—is considered by some of the citizenry to be an evil omen, which is a greased chute to the endangered-species list if there ever was one. Meet the barking spider and the blobfish, the slow loris, the pea frog and the pink fairy armadillo. Each creature comes with a distribution map, line drawings in washed colors, an array of scientific goodies (Latin names, figures, behavioral attributes) and color commentary from Hearst, sometimes in verse and with moments of sheer goofery, as in these two true-or-false zingers: “The basilisk in Greek mythology…can turn a man to stone with its gaze. / The Jesus Christ lizard has similar abilities, but its predators turn into motorized Christmas lawn ornaments.” Yet the text and artwork have achieved something very valuable: One can only marvel at these creatures—the Chinese giant salamander and the hagfish (“the only living animal to have a skull but no spine”)—and, as a company of oddballs, find something endearing in even the flying snake, which is a big step toward a greater protective urge for the planet. Not cute curios, but the seriously weird, which for some—hopefully many—will make the animals that much more appealing. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

THE BRIDGE

Higgins, Jane Tundra (352 pp.) $17.95 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-1-77049-437-4 War propels a boy from the privileged side of town across the bridge to the enemy, where he learns the real causes of the war and about his own history. Seventeen-year-old Nik knows only that his parents were killed in an uprising and that he wants to join ISIS, the government security organization most responsible for his city’s defense against their enemies from the poor side of the river. Although he attends on a scholarship, he’s the most brilliant student in the posh school from which ISIS gets their recruits. When ISIS doesn’t choose him, offering no explanation, he sees no future for himself—until a bomb destroys the school and forces Nik and his wealthy friends directly into the war. The enemy kidnaps Sol, the 8-year-old brother of Nik’s wealthy friend, so he and Fyffe, Sol’s sister, head over the bridge to rescue him. There, they can’t avoid teaming up with the enemy, and Nik learns the real causes of the conflict. When the Southsiders discover Nik’s real identity, however, he becomes the target of both sides. Higgins taps into current social and class conflicts as fodder for her future war. Nik remarks, “while I wasn’t the only brown face in school, I was the only one without back-up.” The Southsiders, it turns out, comprise the underclass that rebelled against their wealthy patrons, contrary to the propaganda that Nik has heard all his life. A suspenseful and entertaining debut. (Dystopian adventure. 12 & up)

SAFEKEEPING

Hesse, Karen Feiwel & Friends (304 pp.) $17.99 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-1-250-01134-3 Billed as “a novel of tomorrow,” this account of a privileged teenager who returns from a goodwill trip in Haiti to a changed America disappoints. In the aftermath of a presidential assassination, the American People’s Party has taken over the government, enforcing strict new security measures. Without food or cash and unable to reach her parents, Radley finally arrives in Brattleboro, Vt., to find her home empty. Holding out hope that she’ll rejoin her parents, Radley heads off to Quebec on foot. She meets a taciturn girl named Celia, and the two cross the border together. They settle into an abandoned schoolhouse, relying on a benefactor Radley dubs “Our Lady of the Barn.” The sinister political backdrop gets 1938

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GRANNY’S CLAN A Tale of Wild Orcas

three hide from the dove for most of the voyage, but how are they going to exit two-by-two? German playwright and actor Hub’s light, loopy riff on the biblical tale is based on his children’s play. Fundamentalists may take umbrage at the philosophical ponderings of the three penguins (not to mention the fact they’re all male, and one cross-dresses to disembark). However, this will make a good discussion starter for youngsters contemplating the nature and existence of a creator. Mühle’s black-and-white illustrations add a touch of endearing slapstick. Not for every reader, but sweet in its own way. (Fable. 6-10)

Hodson, Sally Illus. by Jones, Ann Dawn Publications (32 pp.) $16.95 | paper $8.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-58469-171-6 978-1-58469-172-3 paperback

Hodson’s debut introduces children to one matrilineal group of orcas living in the Pacific Northwest, an actual group of whales that has been studied by scientists for over 40 years. What will strike readers most is how familylike the whales are. Granny, believed to be about 100 years old, nudges her newborn grandson to the surface for his first breath of air. She has valuable knowledge of the waters and salmon habits, which she passes on to Suttles and Mako as the group hunts together, sonar clicks helping them “see” their environment. Hodson lightly sketches relationships among the group, the energetic Suttles and Mako both competing and sharing as they learn to hunt, and Ruffles offering a fish to the new mother. In the end, Granny calls many matrilineal groups together to a superpod gathering, the whales greeting one another before responding vocally to the Orca Sing of the people lining the coast. While many descriptions evoke beautiful images, short, choppy sentences sometimes mar the flow of the text. Orcas are identified by the shapes of their dorsal fins and the saddles on their backs, and Jones does a nice job of depicting Granny and Ruffles, though the other family members are less individuated. Backmatter tells of the real clan of orcas that inspired the story and fleshes out the information presented. Certain to get children interested in learning more about this endangered and very social species. (list of websites, list of further materials available at publisher’s website) (Informational picture book. 5-9)

WHO HAS THIS TAIL?

Hulbert, Laura Illus. by Brooks, Erik Henry Holt (44 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-8050-9429-9

Hulbert and Brooks’ second pairing (Who Has These Feet?, 2011) sets readers to identifying animals by their tails and learning how those tails help them adapt. The titular question is paired with a two-page close-up of an animal tail. The page turn reveals the entire animal in its habitat, the two-sentence text naming the animal and telling how it uses its tail: “A horse has this tail. A horse uses its tail to flick away flies.” But the horse is the most common of the animals presented. The rest will be a challenge, perhaps even for parents, whose toddlers may not be familiar with the physical characteristics of a beaver, a spider monkey, a rattlesnake, a scorpion, a gerbil, a shark, an Artic fox or a peacock. Making it even more challenging is the fact that the tails are shown in isolation against a white background, with nothing to give kids a clue as to size, perspective or habitat. While the final gatefold is rather uninspiring—just a larger, collagelike picture of all the animals that have been seen previously—the flaps of the gatefold are a checkerboard of animal heads and tails against brightly colored backgrounds, allowing for a great matching game. Brooks’ watercolor animals are realistic without being frightening, the colors nicely echoing those found in their habitats. A great challenge for kids who have already mastered the basic pets and farm animals. (Informational picture book. 3-7)

MEET AT THE ARK AT EIGHT

Hub, Ulrich Illus. by Mühle, Jörg Eerdmans (68 pp.) $12.00 | Sep. 30, 2012 978-0-8028-5410-0

Three penguins…but only two tickets to the ark, what’s a friend to do? A trio of penguins stand on an ice floe hoping for something to happen as they try not to kick each other. Along comes a butterfly; the smallest of the penguins decides to squash it. The two larger penguins remind him God says not to kill, but the smaller penguin has never seen God; he accidentally squashes the butterfly and storms off in anger. A dove happens by and tells the two large penguins about Noah’s ark. She gives them two tickets and warns them not to be late. Not wanting to leave their grumpy friend behind, the two concoct a plan to stuff him in their suitcase. The |

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ROMEO REDEEMED

similarly focused physical and behavioral changes not just in insects, but in other creatures too, including rabies-infected mammals. Lest human readers feel left out of the picture, she mentions the protozoan T. gondii, which causes rats to engage in reckless behavior and also has infected up to a quarter of all the adults and teens in this country. In each chapter, Johnson reports back on conversations with scientists engaged in relevant research, and she closes with a quick look at telling signs in the fossil record. Science writing at its grossest and best, though as the title (not to mention the blood-spattered pages) warns, not for the squeamish. (author’s note, glossary, notes, bibliography, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Jay, Stacey Delacorte (384 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $20.99 Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-385-74018-0 978-0-375-89894-5 e-book 978-0-385-90827-6 PLB The world’s most famous teenagers suffer through more convoluted twists and trials in this sequel to Juliet Immortal (2011). Having killed Ariel Dragland (who hosted the soul of Juliet Capulet) and Ben Luna to protect them from the evil friar and the Mercenaries of the Apocalypse, Romeo Montague finds himself trapped in a rotting corpse, stripped of his Mercenary powers but still burdened with centuries of sin. Juliet’s nurse, an Ambassador of Light, offers a chance for absolution: travel to an alternate reality and turn a still-living Ariel Dragland away from evil by making her feel loved. Romeo again possesses abused and abusive bad boy Dylan Stroud, but he now woos only scarred and scared Ariel Dragland, as Juliet is stranded elsewhere. The love story blooms slowly, molded by artificial deadlines, hyperbolic characterization (Ariel may be evil incarnate) and space-time paradoxes. Jay’s reuse of materials from the first book inevitably creates a sense of déjà vu, while the alternate-reality gambit occasionally recalls a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Rapid shifts in perspective and Romeo and Ariel’s dizzying fluctuations between good and evil render their loyalties and motivations unclear. But Romeo’s reformation and Ariel’s transformation from tortured outcast to radiant beloved should appeal to some readers. The combination of torrid teen romance with spacetime travel doesn’t save this Shakespearean spinoff. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

WRAPPED UP IN YOU

Jolley, Dan Illus. by Nourigat, Natalie Graphic Universe (128 pp.) $9.95 paperback | $21.95 e-book PLB $29.27 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-8225-9425-3 978-1-4677-0046-7 e-book 978-0-7613-6856-4 PLB Series: My Boyfriend Is a Monster, 6 When a weird midnight rite in a museum brings a hunky Incan mummy back to life, teenage Staci has a decision to make. Tall, dark, chiseled and gifted with magical powers to boot, the stranger who introduces himself as Pachacutec, or “Chuck,” puts Staci on the horns of a dilemma: Though they have instantly and thoroughly clicked, even he admits that his reanimation is dangerous and unnatural. Furthermore, Staci has a set of erstwhile friends who have been dabbling in magic, and they are so eager to drain the Incan prince of power that they’ve put a vicious hex on Staci to pressure her into betraying him. Even minor figures are distinguishable characters in Nourigat’s monotone ink-and-wash art, and both their emotional tides and the increasingly suspenseful dramatic action are ably conveyed in the small but clear panels. The climactic face-off takes place in the can’t-miss setting of an after-hours fair and leaves the would-be witches thoroughly chastened and Chuck still around for romance—plus, there’s a closing “interview” in which he reveals that he’s actually based on a historical figure. True to this series’ winning formula, an enjoyable mix of terror, comedy and romance. (Graphic paranormal romance. 12-14)

ZOMBIE MAKERS True Stories of Nature’s Undead

Johnson, Rebecca L. Millbrook/Lerner (48 pp.) $22.95 e-book | PLB $30.60 Oct. 1, 2012

Solid (sometimes writhing) proof that the scariest zombie flicks have nothing on Nature. To demonstrate that there are indeed real zombies—“closer than you think”—Johnson (Journey into the Deep, 2010; iPad app, 2011) introduces a select set of fungi, worms, viruses and wasps that invade the bodies and take over the brains of their victims. Enhanced by large and often deliciously disturbing color photos, her descriptions of each parasite’s life cycle is both specific and astonishing; not only does the fungus O. unilateralis force a carpenter ant to clamp itself to a leaf (before sending a long reproductive stalk out of its head) for instance, it even somehow strengthens the ant’s mouth muscles. The author tracks 1940

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“This is a superhero story for people who’ve read too many superhero stories.” from geeks, girls and secret identities

THE MAIN EVENT The Moves and Muscle of Pro Wrestling

To readers, these lines will be clichés—especially if they’re comic-book fans—and in fact, the book is full of clichés: Vincent Wu is a dork, obsessed with superhero trivia and longing after the cutest girl in school. Some people will put down the book after 50 pages, thinking they know what’s coming, but there is a giant surprise on page 58, one that is too big to give away here. Two hints: Captain Stupendous may not survive every battle. And almost everyone in Copperplate City has a secret identity. Don’t we all? The book never completely escapes cliché. Every chapter has lines like “SOON EVERYONE WILL KNOW WHO I AM, CAPTAIN STUPENDOUS!” But this is a genuinely new sort of superhero story, and it will surprise even people who are tired of sound effects and capital letters. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Jones, Patrick Millbrook/Lerner (64 pp.) $23.95 e-book | PLB $31.93 | Oct. 1, 2012

A tight yet thorough history of wrestling as “sports entertainment”—read that as meaning staged— from Jones. This is not the story of the sport or of two Olympians or high schoolers going at it for pin or points, but of the art of making the blows and throws look like the real thing while the outcome has been predetermined. Sometimes that is a little difficult to understand from Jones’ text—”Fans understand. They know what wrestling is all about: Two men, one ring. The main event,” doesn’t exactly chime with “the fix is in.” Similarly, the notion of staged fighting is at odds with the very real damage that can be done, as when Killer Kowlaski ripped off Yukon Eric’s ear during a turnbuckle slam. Indeed, it is a tribute to Jones that he acknowledges the increasing thuggishness of professional wrestling in the 1990s that turned many away, a trend that was gradually averted. But Jones is also a fan, one who can see the fun and appreciate the personalities and the drama. He gets fairly involved in tracking the evolution of the various professional circuits and the shenanigans of the promoter Vince McMahon, but he hits an enjoyable stride when telling the stories of ring heroes—Gorgeous George, Strangler Lewis, Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, The Rock—their famous bouts and their signature moves. Jones shows that the best professional wrestling is a kind of primal theater, and a far cry from the much more brutal mixed martial arts, which is sadly eclipsing its fan base. (Nonfiction. 10-18)

CHE GUEVARA You Win or You Die

Kallen, Stuart A. Twenty-First Century/Lerner (88 pp.) $24.95 e-book | PLB $33.27 | Oct. 1, 2012

How did a wealthy, asthmatic boy from Argentina grow up to become a famous Communist revolutionary? Ernesto “Che” Guevara Lynch Jr. was born in Rosario, Argentina, on June 14, 1928, the son of well-to-do parents who were members of Argentina’s upper classes. The Guevara home was filled with books, and Ernesto grew up reading philosophy, poetry, politics and history. Though a good student, he tired of school and set off on travels that opened his eyes to the grinding poverty throughout South America and to the corrupting influences of the United States–based Anaconda Copper Mining Company, the United Fruit Company, the CIA and the American government itself. U.S.-backed bombing raids in Guatemala in 1954 further radicalized Guevara, and he soon became involved in the Cuban revolution. Fidel Castro made Guevara an honorary Cuban citizen and put him in charge of the Cuban economy and the training of the armed forces. In 1962, Guevara invited the Soviets to build military bases in Cuba, precipitating the Cuban missile crisis. Through its focus on one major figure, Kallen’s fascinating work explores a large segment of 20th-century history. Maps, photographs and sidebars are excellent, though the defining of key terms in the middle of sentences is distracting and, moreover, unnecessary since a glossary is provided. A fine introduction to Latin American history and the ideas of capitalism, socialism and communism. (timeline, who’s who, source notes, bibliography, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 11-18)

GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES

Jung, Mike Levine/Scholastic (320 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-545-33548-5 978-0-545-39251-8 e-book This is a superhero story for people who’ve read too many superhero stories. When Captain Stupendous flies through Copperplate City, every cellphone starts to ring. An emergency text might appear: “STUPENDOUS ALERT: GIANT ROBOT. 24TH & BYRNE.” There will be an announcement over the nearest loudspeaker: “LOCKDOWN PROCEDURES ARE IN EFFECT IMMEDIATELY!” Drivers will abandon their cars. Grown-ups will cram into doorways. Kids will be chanting, “STU-PEN-DOUS, STU-PEN-DOUS.” The students at King Kirby Middle School have grown up hearing supervillains shout, “FLEE IF YOU MUST!” and, “YOU FACE PROFESSOR MAYHEM, DOLT!” |

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“King has created an intense, fast-paced, complex and compelling novel about sexuality, politics and societal norms that will force readers outside their comfort zones.” from ask the passengers

CYBER BULLY

compelling novel about sexuality, politics and societal norms that will force readers outside their comfort zones. The whole town—even the alleged gay characters—buy into the Stepfordlike ideal, and King elegantly uses Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” to help readers understand life inside and outside of the box. Only Astrid knows what she wants. She’s in love with Dee, but she’s not sure if she’s a lesbian. She’s ignoring all of the labels and focusing on what she feels. Quite possibly the best teen novel featuring a girl questioning her sexuality written in years. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Katz, Farley Illus. by Katz, Farley St. Martin’s Griffin (224 pp.) $14.99 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-0-312-60658-9 Series: Journal of a Schoolyard Bully, 2 More unredeemed middle school monkeyshines and satire from the bully’s point of view in an occasionally humorous sequel. Niko Kayler, fat, unhappy and addicted to causing pain and suffering wherever he goes, lasts only a day or two in his new Boulder school (the Organic School for Local Children) before he starts looking for a way to bully and not get caught. Refusing to take calming medication given him by his new psychiatrist—“I am not a Scientologist—I’m not necessarily against psychiatric medicine, but why alter what’s perfect?”—selfabsorbed Niko nevertheless keeps a journal, as prescribed. He barters work at Radio Shack in exchange for cellphones (in a nod to Breaking Bad); he uses them to send terrorizing texts and then, well, as he is Niko, literally burns them. When he bumps up his game to Internet-based anonymous bullying, Niko’s shared discovery of techniques becomes a viral video recorded by Alex, his long-suffering sibling—once again heaping humiliation on Niko, hoist by his own petard. Katz’s manic narrative voice for Niko is mostly furious, arrogant and, yes, mildly funny, with occasional glimpses of the sad boy beneath it all, while the many line drawings accompanying his journal look authentically adolescent. It’s a slog to the dubiously upbeat resolution (Niko realizing where salvation lies on the one hand and vowing a bullying comeback on the other), but that could be because, like Niko, his journal isn’t sure just what it wants to be. (Fiction. 12-14)

THE CLOAK SOCIETY

Kraatz, Jeramey Harper/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-06-209547-3 978-0-06-209549-7 e-book A young supervillain-in-training develops qualms of conscience in this deceptively earnest debut. After 10 years of lying low following a devastating defeat by the Rangers of Justice, the nefarious Cloak Society is ready for a rematch—but Alex, 12-year-old member of the Cloak’s Beta Team, is suddenly having doubts. For one thing, his telekinetic power seems more suitable for no-hands origami than heavy lifting. For another, his telepathic mother, Shade, and the rest of Cloak’s older generation appear to have more up their sleeves than simple domination of Sterling City, Texas. Most disturbing of all, though, encounters in battle and at the mall with shape-changing Junior Ranger Kirbie have left Alex unsure of his true capacity for evil. Along with outfitting both super factions with appropriately cool powers, names, costumes and lairs, Kraatz slips in further cultural enrichment with sly references to game theory, Shakespeare and true crimes. Unsurprisingly, the climactic fray forces members of both junior squads to become reluctant allies—and also leaves enough loose ends to fuel a sequel or six. Familiar superhero/supervillain tropes are positively shoveled into a tale that has enough psychological complexity to please readers who have not overdosed on this subgenre. (Fantasy. 11-13)

ASK THE PASSENGERS

King, A.S. Little, Brown (304 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 23, 2012 978-0-316-19468-6

Big-town girl stuck in a small-town world full of lies falls for another girl. Astrid’s parents moved both her and her sister away from their New York City home years ago to a small town symbolically called Unity Valley. Since then her mom has drunk the society Kool-Aid, and her dad takes mental vacations in the garage to smoke weed. Astrid doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere. Two friends keep her sane: her closeted BFF, Kristina, and Dee, a star hockey player she met while working for a local catering company. Sparks fly between Astrid and Dee, causing Astrid to feel even more distanced and confused. Meanwhile, Kristina and her boyfriend/beard Justin use Astrid as cover for their own same-sex sweethearts, adding more fuel to the fire. King has created an intense, fast-paced, complex and 1942

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FREAKLING

Krumwiede, Lana Candlewick (320 pp.) $15.99 | $10.39 e-book | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-7636-5937-0 978-0-7636-6204-2 e-book The power of psi, or the ability to control objects with thought, is kept in check by one’s conscience. So, when 12-year-old Taemon’s brother Yens, a boy with far more drive than self-control, is named |

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DON’T FEED THE BOY

True Son—a prophesied Messiah-like figure—Taemon is forced to decide how far he is willing to go to protect those he loves. Following a terrible accident, Taemon hears a voice giving him permission to kill his unstable brother. Rather than follow this psychic command, he gives up his psi, leaving him unable to live within the city. Taemon is forced to move to a powerless colony where people use their hands to eat and work. There he meets Challis, his mother’s sister, who exposes him to many secrets that threaten to undo everything he believes. An uneven plot and predictable showdown between the two brothers is partially saved by the surprise ending. Krumwiede facilitates worldbuilding with a psi-centered religion, jargon and slang, as well as caste divisions. At first penned as the stable, sensitive brother, Taemon seems oddly unaffected by his exile. In contrast, Yens, rather than being complicated or interesting, comes across as simply psychotic. Supporting characters are similarly flat. Readers will be drawn to the unique premise, but the many obvious flaws will leave them wanting more. Ultimately unsatisfying. (Dystopian adventure. 10-14)

Latham, Irene Illus. by Graegin, Stephanie Roaring Brook (288 pp.) $15.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-59643-755-5

Raised in the Alabama zoo run by his busy parents, 11-year-old Whit dreams of escape, but his new friend Stella is someone whose need for escape is real. Avoiding an angry, abusive father, Stella spends her days at the zoo, where she first becomes the subject for Whit’s home-schooling field study and then his first real friend. Before he learns her name, Whit calls her Bird Girl because she constantly draws the birds—ironic because these birds can’t fly free; their wings are clipped. In the course of their friendship, Whit experiments with freedom himself. Leaving the zoo boundaries, he visits Stella’s smoke-smelling apartment home, seeing the situation for himself and even taking surprising action. Whit’s zoo is realistic, a place where animals are born and die. He shows off its secret places, and readers get a glimpse behind the scenes. He comes to see it as a place families and friends visit as much to enjoy each other as to see the attractions, learning to appreciate it more. Latham weaves in a strong argument for the conservation mission of zoos and a clear warning about the dangers of handguns. A satisfying ending sees Whit poised to enter the wider world of public middle school. Feed this to animal fans. (Fiction. 9-12)

MEEKELORR The Early Years

Latessa, Shirley Steiner Books (532 pp.) $29.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-5842-0125-0

At epic length, this cerebral doorstopper tracks a child’s spiritual education, his experience of different sorts of love and his discovery of a personal destiny. The tale opens with a quote from Rudolf Steiner and is imbued with anthroposophical notions from universal evolution to the existence of two evil entities (here called “Adversary Gods”) that throw up obstacles to the world’s self-realization. It follows Meekelorr from age 4 when, unlike the adults around him, he begins to see the implike “Elementals” that govern nature, through his teenage years as a brilliant student (at, unsurprisingly, a Waldorf-style academy) battling his way to a hard-won inner balance of heart and mind. Meekelorr’s schooling is punctuated by frequent visions of spirits and past lives as well as dialogues with wise teachers designed to help him “rise above the thinking that is bound to the brain.” It also includes a love life that develops from an early crush on a tutor to a deep connection with a utopian community’s blueskinned priestess, and it concludes with his resolution to raise an army of loving warriors that will bring an end to the centuries of vicious raids that have devastated his land. Rich in ideas but written in an unvaryingly even tone that distances readers from the characters’ emotional lives, and so deliberate of pace as to seem interminable. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

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PENGUIN’S HIDDEN TALENT

Latimer, Alex Illus. by Latimer, Alex Peachtree (32 pp.) $15.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-56145-629-1

Everybody has some kind of talent. The big talent show is just days away, and the animals are busy practicing. Bear juggles, Rabbit pulls himself out of a hat, and Fox burps like crazy. Penguin, though, just sits at home, thinking. He doesn’t know what his talent is, and he doubts that he has one. Instead of performing, he decides to help organize the event, so he can be involved. The show goes off like gangbusters, with the king of Norway delivering an inspiring opening address. Bear takes home the trophy, several medals are awarded, and a great time is had by all. But the talentless Penguin avoids the after-party, trudging home in the snow. His friends worry about him, so they work late into the night to put together an appreciation party. Truth to tell, it’s not much of a celebration, with tacky decorations, misspelled signs and bland food. When Rabbit declares that this party would be so much better if Penguin had organized it, Penguin has a revelation...his talent is party planning! Latimer’s offbeat illustrations—stylized pencil drawings, digitized and then finished with color and texture—are delightfully droll. And he |

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tucks many deadpan jokes into the story (the king’s pie chart indicates the proportional ingredients of a pie, for instance). Quirky, with a side of self-esteem. (Picture book. 4-7)

the denizens of the Toxic City: the Irregulars, who attempt to blend their new powers with their humanity; the Superiors, who cast aside who they used to be; and the feared Choppers, the patrol force that watches over them all. Lebbon, an awardwinning author for adults, never finds his footing with this clichéd mess of a teen novel. There’s no character development beyond the missing-parent trope, and Jack’s leadership is as inspiring as bland oatmeal. Lucy-Anne’s obviously established mental instability holds no suspense and is poorly executed to boot. The mutant hook doesn’t come together, drawing unfavorable comparisons to Michael Grant’s Gone series and Marvel’s X-Men franchise. A potentially interesting setting is wasted with shoddy characters, derivative content and dull action. (Science fiction. 12-16)

REDEMPTION

Launier, Véronique Flux (360 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Sep. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-3074-5 To vampires, werewolves, zombies, pixies, merpeople, angels, demons and fairies, we can now add gargoyles. Guillaume has been affixed to a Montréal church since the 1940s, paying scant attention to the doings of the humans below, when a girl oozing “essence” is attacked and, astonishingly, awakens Guillaume and his three gargoyle companions, who revert to their original, human forms. Aude, 16, is predictably freaked out by the attack and the strange voices, chanting and drumming she hears in her head, but she shakes it off so she can concentrate on her band, Lucid Pill. Glacially, Launier reveals the gargoyles’ back story (created 800 years ago, they are the protectors of a line of female witches, or “essentialists,” thought to have died out) and current dilemma (the Iroquois “Prophecy of the Seventh Generation” tells of a time of apocalypse, when “stone monsters”—not the gargoyles, different stone monsters—rampage and other bad stuff happens). The narration alternates between Guillaume’s past tense and Aude’s present tense, as they agonizingly figure out what is happening (kind of) and realize they love each other. Frustratingly, Aude’s rejection of her French heritage (she prefers to be called Odd) goes unexplored, along with numerous other plot threads. The promise of the compelling opening chapter goes unfulfilled, as the debut author struggles with voice (would an 800-year-old French gargoyle really say “you guys” and “anyways”?), sentence structure and storytelling. Skip. (Paranormal romance. 12-16)

THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS

Legrand, Claire Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-1-4424-4291-7

A heartwarming friendship tale— played out amid carpets of chittering insects, torture both corporal and psychological, the odd bit of cannibalism and like ghoulish delights. Being practically perfect in every way and someone who “never walked anywhere without extreme purpose,” 12-year-old Victoria resolutely sets about investigating the sudden disappearance of her scruffy classmate and longtime rehabilitation project Lawrence. After troubling encounters with several abruptly strange and wolfish adults in town, including her own parents, she finds herself borne into the titular Home by a swarm of 10-legged roachlike creatures. This abduction quickly leads to the discovery that it’s not an orphanage but a reform school. There, for generations, local children have had qualities deemed undesirable beaten or frightened out of them by sweetlooking, viciously psychotic magician/headmistress/monster bug Mrs. Cavendish. Victoria is challenged by a full array of terror-tale tropes, from disoriented feelings that things are “not quite right” and “[s]harp, invisible sensations, like reaching fingers” to dark passageways lined with rustling roaches and breakfast casseroles with chunks of…meat. A thoroughgoing ickfest, elevated by vulnerable but resilient young characters and capped by a righteously ominous closing twist. (Horror fantasy. 11-13)

LONDON EYE

Lebbon, Tim Pyr/Prometheus Books (231 pp.) $16.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-61614-680-1 Series: Toxic City, 1 A band of orphans travels into a postapocalyptic London and finds horror. Lucy-Anne, Jenna, Emily, Sparky and Jack have all grown up in the shadow of Doomsday, when London was transformed into a toxic wasteland. After an encounter with Rosemary, a Londoner with mysterious powers, the intrigued teens embark to the ruined city in an attempt to find their missing parents. As Jack and his crew explore the ruins, they encounter 1944

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“First-time author Levis writes with a particularly refreshing innocence that affirms readers’ feelings but also shows them that sadness does not have to be scary—or even a bad thing.” from stuck with the blooz

NONI THE PONY

The process of understanding emotion, especially for young children, can be overwhelming and abstract—the Blooz just might be the perfect concrete visual to help everyone get through those cranky days. (Picture book. 4-8)

Lester, Alison Illus. by Lester, Alison Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (32 pp.) $15.99 | $12.99 e-book | Oct. 30, 2012 978-1-4424-5959-5 978-1-4424-5960-1 e-book

IF YOU WERE A CHOCOLATE MUSTACHE

Noni, friendly and funny, is the perfect pony for preschoolers. Like Noni herself, the light rhyme, bustling with rhythm and easy to read, is friendly and funny. Lester’s art, which shows every apple, carrot, cow and hen she mentions in her text, invites new readers and horse-loving listeners to join Noni and her best friends, Dave Dog and Coco the Cat, in their play. Each couplet is accompanied by Lester’s droll illustrations. The animals appear humorously flat, almost as if Lester cut them out and glued them in by hand. The movements are exaggerated and at times remarkably unhorselike. The cover is especially amusing, showing Noni doing a split in midair. “They ambush each other and play hide-and-seek, / racing and chasing and jumping the creek,” is illustrated with arrows and dotted lines to show the movement of the animal friends, while subtle eye movements let the reader know exactly who is hiding from whom. The layout, just one couplet per spread with every word illustrated, is perfect for anxious youngsters who want to prance through stories over and over again but not linger too long on any page. The gentle ending, with pony and friends cuddled up for bed, slows the trotting long enough— just the way a book for toddlers should end. Night-night, Noni. (Picture book. 2-5)

Lewis, J. Patrick Illus. by Cordell, Matthew Wordsong/Boyds Mills (160 pp.) $18.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-59078-927-8

Prolific versifier, author, riddlizer (etc.) Lewis offers this mostly new (a few appeared in magazines or anthologies) collection of laughs and linguistic lampoons. “[A] book is like an oven— / What it’s cookin’ is book lovin’. / Set the temperature, then shove in / Every brain cell you can find.” And there’s plenty shoved in here, from two-word poems (not including the titles) to 30-liners. There are concrete poems and list poems, rap (from a giraffe), limericks, haiku, riddles and haiku riddles. There’s even a jump-rope rhyme. There are verses on blog-writing dogs, insects, germs, boredom, school and the hazards of the incorrect usage of Elmer’s glue and eating paste (but those are totally different things). There are myriad meters, rhyme schemes and shapes. A few are a bit tortured, and there are a couple total head-scratchers. However, poetry (and silliness) seekers will find much to feast upon. Cordell’s scribbly illustrations bring the master (Silverstein, who receives a tribute poem here) to mind and are the goofy icing on this goofy cake. Verse seekers could do worser than to swallow down this course of funky, funny forms of wordy wit. (Poetry. 6-12)

STUCK WITH THE BLOOZ

Levis, Caron Illus. by Davis, Jon Harcourt (40 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-547-74560-2

STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY

In the imagination of one little girl, the “blues” take the shape of a very big, very wet and very blue bumbling monster. The Blooz isn’t scary; it just drips and sloshes and oozes (as one might expect of personified gloom). The little girl tries to keep it away and hotly tells it, “You weren’t invited.” But the Blooz dribbles right into her chocolate milk and is there to stay. She tries all different tactics: ignoring it, yelling at it, asking it questions, even offering the last peach-raspberry ice pop in the box. But the Blooz just sits there, large and lumpy. Exasperated, the little girl sits and stares right back. Finally, in a very Buddhist approach, she accepts the sadness for what it is and simply spends a little time with it. That is often the only true way to set the Blooz free. First-time author Levis writes with a particularly refreshing innocence that affirms readers’ feelings but also shows them that sadness does not have to be scary—or even a bad thing. Davis abets this with his portrayal of the Blooz as a vaguely Seuss-ian and wholly unthreatening big-nosed blob in an old-fashioned–looking, blue-striped romper. |

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Lin, Grace Little, Brown (304 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-316-12595-6 When a troubled runaway arrives in an isolated Chinese village where the moon has disappeared, he initiates a quest to find the missing orb and resolve his past. Escaping from home in a merchant’s cart, Rendi’s abandoned in the Village of Clear Sky, where the innkeeper hires him as chore boy. Bad-tempered and insolent, Rendi hates Clear Sky, but he has no way of leaving the sad village where every night the sky moans and the moon has vanished. The innkeeper’s bossy daughter irritates Rendi. He wonders about the innkeeper’s son who’s disappeared and about peculiar old Mr. Shan, who confuses toads with rabbits. When mysterious Madame Chang arrives at the inn, her storytelling transports Rendi. She challenges him to contribute his own stories, in which he gradually |

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“This deeply satisfying story offers what all children crave when letting go—security and a trusted companion.” from sleep like a tiger

SLEEP LIKE A TIGER

reveals his identity as son of a wealthy magistrate. Realizing there’s a connection between Madame Chang’s stories and the missing moon, Rendi assumes the hero’s mantle, transforming himself from a selfish, self-focused boy into a thoughtful young man who learns the meaning of home, harmony and forgiveness. Lin artfully wraps her hero’s story in alternating layers of Chinese folklore, providing rich cultural context. Detailed, jeweltoned illustrations and spot art reminiscent of Chinese painting highlight key scenes and themes and serve as the focus of an overall exquisite design. A worthy companion to Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2009). (author’s note, bibliography of Chinese folk tales) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Logue, Mary Illus. by Zagarenski, Pamela Houghton Mifflin (40 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 23, 2012 978-0-547-64102-7

The stages and script preceding this child’s passage into dreamland are so appealing they will surely inspire imitation. When the protagonist announces that she is not sleepy, her wise parents counter that they are not requiring sleep, only pajama-wearing, face-washing and teeth-brushing. She then feels so good that “she loved / …stretching her toes / down under the crisp sheets, / lying as still as an otter / floating in a stream.” Logue’s words lull and caress as parents and child converse about how and where animals sleep. (Many appeared on earlier pages as toys.) Alone, the youngster replays each scene, inserting herself; the cozy images help her relax. Zagarenski’s exquisite compositions are rendered digitally and in mixed-media on wood, offering much to ponder. The paintings are luminous, from the child’s starry pajamas to the glowing whale supporting her sleep journey. Transparent layers, blending patterns, complex textures and wheeled objects add to the sense of gentle movement. The tiger, both the beloved cloth version and the real deal, is featured prominently; it is the child who contributes this example, narrating the connection between strength and rest. When sleep arrives, the stuffed animal is cradled in her arms; she leans against the jungle beast, and he clings to her doll. This deeply satisfying story offers what all children crave when letting go—security and a trusted companion. (Picture book. 3-6)

FLUTTER

Linko, Gina Random House (352 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Oct. 23, 2012 978-0-375-86996-9 978-0-375-98636-9 e-book 978-0-375-96996-6 PLB Billed as edgy science fiction, this novel’s high-tech trappings conceal a genre romance with a hidden agenda. Emery’s always had seizures that she experiences as time travel (she calls them “looping”). Increasingly disabling, they’ve weakened her body. Now she lives in the hospital, monitored by her widowed, neurologist father and his soulless scientist colleagues. While the looping experiences feel happy and serene, the transitions are killers. Emery’s kinder, gentler future father warns her they’ll get worse. A little boy she meets while time traveling urgently needs her help, and following his clues, Emery flees the hospital for a town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Arriving, she notes, “Lawns were clutter-free, the shrubs trimmed even in this cold season. And there were no paint-chipped houses, no screen doors with holes. This was a place that people took pride in. I liked it.” Residents bearing European names exude rural worth. By now readers are aware they’re not in edgy, sci-fi country anymore, Toto, but metaphorical Kansas, and—iPod notwithstanding—Emery is 17 going on 75. Once she meets handsome, tortured Asher, her transformation is complete. Linko, who’s authored Christian children’s fiction, writes smoothly. Her story holds readers’ interest, but the ending’s bait-and-switch strategy—following shifts in tone and sharp turns in plotting (untied strings dangling)—will leave them feeling manipulated. Science fiction in name only. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

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MISS LINA’S BALLERINAS AND THE WICKED WISH

Maccarone, Grace Illus. by Davenier, Christine Feiwel & Friends (40 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-250-00580-9

One of Miss Lina’s nine lovely ballerinas suffers pangs of jealously when casting is announced for The Sleeping Beauty. Regina falls off balance when the company director holds auditions, resulting in a domino effect for the other eight girls and the one boy, Tony Farina. She and Tony will perform as rats who pull the Bad Fairy’s carriage, while the others will hold aloft garlands as they waltz. Unhappy thoughts fill Regina’s heart and head as she goes to bed. “She wished to waltz, and that was that!” In her dreams, all the girls fall ill and suffer injuries, but dancing their roles is too-too much for poor Regina. She wishes them well and awakens to find her wish has come true. On opening night, all dance with “spirit and heart” and “very pretty poses,” which are followed by a “shower of roses.” Once again, Maccarone has crafted an appealing story in verse. The subject matter turns more serious this time around as Regina visualizes the |

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consequences of her bad feelings and tames them. Davenier’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations convey Regina’s full range of emotions, and a lovely double-page-spread finale depicts an inviting scene from the ballet. Applause for another lovely production from the authorand-illustrator duo. (glossary of ballet terms, summary of The Sleeping Beauty ballet) (Picture book. 3-8)

So it goes, until “soon they had / the tallest houses in the world.” When a windstorm assists in toppling their teetering, untenable abodes, the animals land in a pile of dirt, strewn vegetables and broken twigs. Their shared plight engenders renewed cooperation and friendship: “Alone they had nothing / but together they had all they needed… / to build one small house.” Marino’s full-bleed pencil-and-gouache illustrations beautifully capture the pair’s harmonious play, mounting rift and oh-so-satisfying reconciliation. The marvelously dizzying perspective and visual depiction of emotions mesh, in pictures that preschoolers can “read” with absorption. During their estrangement, Owl and Rabbit appear on opposite ends of double-page spreads or glare across the sky-high gap between their absurd towers. The wellturned, dialogue-rich narrative complements the sunny visuals, making this an excellent choice for one-on-one or group readalouds. Smart design details include a tall trim size, the choice of an elegantly readable typeface and end pages that pictorially encapsulate the story arc. Another winner for rising star Marino. (Picture book. 3-6)

THE STORY OF THE BLUE PLANET

Magnason, Andri Snaer Translated by D’Arcy, Julian Meldon Illus. by Jónsdóttir, Áslaug Seven Stories (96 pp.) $12.99 | Oct. 23, 2012 978-1-60980-428-2 A traveling salesman tricks an island of innocent, ageless children into selling their most valuable possession for fun and games in this undoubtedly metaphorical tale. When Gleesome Goodday—looking in the illustrations like an evil clown clad in a Hawaiian shirt—emerges from his rocket ship promising to make everyone’s sweetest dreams come true, Brimir, Hulda and the rest of the children happily exchange percentages of their “youth” for such benefits as the ability to fly and dirt-proof coatings of Teflon. In no time (literally, as Goodday also nails the sun into the sky), the children have abandoned their previously idyllic lives to learn about commerce, ownership, democratic politics and making bombs. It’s all a laugh riot until Brimir and Hulda discover that all the children and animals on the other side of their world are pining away in perpetual darkness and notice that they themselves and all their playmates have gone gray. No worries, though: by abruptly turning Goodday into a fool who is easily tricked into freeing the Sun and emptying his tanks of hoarded Youth, the Icelandic author engineers a facile happy ending. A few scary incidents and the references to poop and nasty food that are evidently required in all European light fiction add bits of savor to an otherwise bland import with a cautionary message that is, at best, vague. (Fantasy. 10-12)

JUST PERFECT

Marinsky, Jane Illus. by Marinsky, Jane Godine (34 pp.) $16.95 | Oct. 4, 2012 978-1-56792-428-2

Searching for a new family member, a little boy considers a number of animal choices before finding something “just perfect.” “Mommy, Daddy and I made three, but we thought we might like four.” Cuddled between his mother and father on the porch swing, this observant child narrates the story of finding an addition to the family. With a spare storyline and rich, warm illustrations, Marinsky parades through a number of ill-fitting animal choices. The dog sheds too much. Walking the turtle takes too long. The litany of unsatisfactory animals quickly veers into the absurd with a dolphin swimming in the living room and the kitchen being destroyed by an octopus. The young boy, found in every picture, personally witnesses the reason each animal is not selected. At last, the perfect addition is found, in the person of a baby sibling the little boy addresses directly. The combination of text and image may confuse, as it slips in and out of the surreal. Overall, the whole book has a calm tone, and there is a gentle kindness in the older brother that appeals; in the last picture, he reads an animal book to the new baby. Since the shelves are crowded with titles in the preparing-for-the-new-baby genre, choose this only if there is room for one with its sophisticated tone in both voice and image. (Picture book. 3-5)

TOO TALL HOUSES

Marino, Gianna Illus. by Marino, Gianna Viking (40 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 27, 2012 978-0-670-01314-2

Hilltop neighbors Rabbit and Owl nearly destroy their friendship when envy and one-upmanship take hold in this appealing story that reads much like a folk tale. First, gardener Rabbit’s autumnal veggies block Owl’s forest view. Then, Owl’s remodel diminishes light for Rabbit’s garden. |

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SQUEAK, RUMBLE, WHOMP! WHOMP! WHOMP!

effect that both Danika and the illicit music have on him: “Each tiny glance sets my body humming. The songs themselves set me humming. They get inside me and tear apart all I ever was. They break me free.” Patrik and his family live in fear that his father, a psychiatrist who’s pressured to declare people “unfit,” will himself be arrested before they have a chance to escape to America. The strain of trying to tell which of their neighbors is trustworthy wears on them. Patrik, living on the edge between childhood and adulthood, dares to make a difference. Inspired by a true story, this easily accessible novel should appeal to teens who, like Patrik, are keen observors of the chaos that surrounds them. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Marsalis, Wynton Illus. by Rogers, Paul Candlewick (40 pp.) $15.99 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-7636-3991-4

Marsalis and Rogers, who collaborated on the scintillating Jazz ABZ (2005), reunite for this sonic celebration for the younger crowd. Marsalis contributes 10 three-line verses that crackle with invented sound words. Most verses link a couple of everyday sounds with one made by a musical instrument: “Big trucks on the highway RRRRUMBLE. / Hunger makes my tummy GRrruMBle. / The big bass drum goes ‘Bum! Brrrum! BRRRUMBLE!!!!’ ” Rogers’ digitally colored ink drawings depict a New Orleans setting. The narrator, an African-American boy in white high-tops, exudes curiosity and cool (and plays trumpet). Those onomatopoeic words, elegantly red-dressed in Caslon 540 Italic, will challenge readers and delight listeners. Marsalis’ choices seem just right: “Chrrrick chrrrick chrrrick chrrrick—buttering my toast.” An upright bass emits “Doom, Doom, Doom, Blap! Doom, Doom, Slap!” Rogers’ hip, playfully cartoonish spreads pop with clever visual allusions to jazz tunes and players. Hand-lettered lyrics to a popular funeral song blow out of a church band’s instruments; indeed, the tuba’s bell forms the “O” for “O[h] didn’t he ramble.” An ambulance’s side reads “U.M.M.G. Ambulance,” a brilliant reference to the Billy Strayhorn tune whose titular acronym means “Upper Manhattan Medical Group.” The final spread rounds up a cacophony of sounds, from “Squeak” and “Schuk-chuk” to “BAP!” Loud and clear, the creators show how tuning into everyday sounds can inspire music. Clap, clap, CLAP! (Picture Book. 3-7)

JEPP, WHO DEFIED THE STARS

Marsh, Katherine Disney Hyperion (384 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-1-4231-3500-5

Part coming-of-age novel and part paternity quest, this late-16th-century tale earns its distinction by virtue of its narrator: a dwarf. Edgar Award–winning author Marsh (The Twilight Prisoner, 2009, etc.) has written a fast-paced adventure, abundant with period details, that comprises about two years of the diminutive Jepp’s life. Jepp’s account begins at a perilous point in his story—“ imprisoned in [a] star-crossed coach, bumping up and down bone-rattling roads”—which leads to an exposition of the events that have brought him to this fate. Eventually his tale moves to a time beyond the hazardous coach journey and on to a satisfying, if overly contrived, ending. The book has three parts, loosely linked to three crucial northern European settings: the rural inn where Jepp was raised by a loving mother; the kingdom of Coudenberg, where he endures the luxurious but humiliating life of a court dwarf and is involved in a horrible tragedy; and the palace of Uraniborg, renowned for astronomical research, where Jepp’s status rises almost miraculously from pet dog to that of a respected scholar as well as a favored suitor for his beloved. Despite the fact that the third part of the book pales in comparison to the first two, the honest and humorously self-deprecating voice of Jepp moves readers to rejoice with him as he seeks and manipulates his destiny. (Historical fiction. 12-18)

MY OWN REVOLUTION

Marsden, Carolyn Candlewick (192 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-7636-5395-8

A vivid portrait of life under the Communist rule of 1960s Czechoslovakia. Getting their hands on a bootleg copy of a Beatles single is just one of the small acts of rebellion that Patrik and his friends engage in. They face real reprisal if they’re caught painting over the two last letters of a sign that says “Long Live the USSR!” and urinating on a statue of Lenin. At 13, Patrik’s feelings for Danika, who lives upstairs, are starting to change, and he wants to be more than friends. Meanwhile, Danika seems more interested in the new boy at school, a party loyalist from Bratislava. Marsden captures the tension of Patrik’s adolescent longings with evocative descriptions of the 1948

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“McClintock writes with her usual simple prose that can appeal to a broad audience, scattering little clues for astute readers and highlighting Iceland’s interesting culture.” from close to the heel

TEN GOOD AND BAD THINGS ABOUT MY LIFE (SO FAR)

and the Captain’s full journey. The After the Dust Settled world is shared among authors in a series of books with similar brief length. Publishing simultaneously are Plague Riders, by Gabriel Goodman, a heart-pounding adventure about couriers who work for a despotic doctor, and a flight from slavers in the weaker River Run, by Deirdre Black. Along with low page count, these titles share the survival guidebook, quick pace and ambiguous endings. Ideal for readers looking for maximum bang for the buck and no wasted words in their reading experience. (Adventure. 12-18)

Martin, Ann M. Feiwel & Friends (272 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-312-64299-0

What starts out to be a bummer summer turns out well in retrospect. In spite of the title, alluding to Pearl Littlefield’s first outing, Ten Rules for Living with My Sister (2011), this represents her first assignment for fifth grade. It’s an essay about summer vacation, written to an outline (supplied in the back and as chapter headings). With her father out of a job, money is tight, and except for a month at camp in New Jersey, Pearl and her older sister Lexie stay home in New York City. Still, there is plenty to write about: rescuing the cat that falls from their apartment window; a serious fight with her best friend, James Brubaker III; exhibiting a painting at her grandfather’s retirement community; pretending to be a tourist during the family’s “staycation”; and starting a business with JBIII after they reconcile. Pearl’s first-person narration is convincing and sprinkled with gentle humor. Martin’s characterizations are clear and distinctive; readers won’t need to have met them in the previous title to feel they know them well. Pearl develops some sympathy for her father’s job search and perhaps even for a hated classmate, and she learns—as readers will—that “you never know what’s around the corner.” Here’s hoping more unexpected good things are in store for the Littlefield family. (Fiction. 9-12)

CLOSE TO THE HEEL

McClintock, Norah Orca (272 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Oct. 10, 2012 978-1-55469-950-6 Series: Seven (The Series) This exciting mystery-suspense novel takes readers to faraway Iceland. Written as one of a set of seven linked novels to be released simultaneously, this story easily stands on its own. Seventeenyear-old Rennie has serious trouble getting along with his superstrict, military dad and has engaged in serious rebellion since his mom died. As the novel opens, Rennie finds himself close to death, stumbling alone through a massive field of snow and ice, waiting to freeze. Rennie’s grandfather has died, leaving a request that Rennie go to Iceland to memorialize the enigmatic woman who had saved him after a plane crash in World War II. There, he stays with teenage Brynja and her father and grandfather, the doctor who also helped Rennie’s grandfather. Brynja, responding to Rennie’s insolence, treats him with open hostility from the start. Rennie quickly learns that a murder mystery festers in the tiny village. As he learns more, he wonders if Brynja’s family members are victims or culprits. When he uncovers the first real evidence of murder, however, he becomes the next possible victim. McClintock writes with her usual simple prose that can appeal to a broad audience, scattering little clues for astute readers and highlighting Iceland’s interesting culture. Rennie’s defiant character will appeal to many reluctant readers, who may be moved to try another in the series. A neat, suspenseful mystery tailor-made for young readers. (Mystery. 10-14)

SHOT DOWN

Mary-Todd, Jonathan Darby Creek (104 pp.) $7.95 paperback | $20.95 e-book PLB $27.93 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-7613-9399-3 978-1-4677-0015-3 e-book 978-0-7613-8329-1 PLB Series: After the Dust Settled A highly efficient post-disaster adventure story, one of three that introduce a new series. Young Malik, flying with the Captain in a hot air balloon, is shot out of the sky. They survive the landing, but the crash is the least of their problems. In post-apocalyptic America, humans are more dangerous than anything else in the wild. The family with the gun that shot them down has a hunt in mind, and they prefer to hunt man. Luckily, Malik and the Captain have the Gene Matterhorn Wilderness Survival Guidebook on their side. A conceptual push-pull between sentimentalism and social Darwinism provides more meat to the story without getting in the way of the action. The characters are distinct and surprisingly complex for such a short exposure. The ending leaves a lot of room for readers to decide the ultimate result of Malik |

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“Moniz’s animals have a childlike quality and a soft focus that support his valuable message, which is presented with an admirably light touch.” from wazzyjump

THE LAND OF NEVERBELIEVE

Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels. Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Messenger, Norman Illus. by Messenger, Norman Candlewick (32 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 4, 2012 978-0-7636-6021-5

Free-floating imagination meets artistic expertise in this visual record of the exotic flora, fauna and (more or less) human residents encountered on an unexpected visit to an elusive island. Messenger extends his available space with one or two side flaps on nearly every spread and proceeds to fill it all. He provides formally posed, elaborately detailed images of such rare creatures as the tentacled Octofrog and the two-headed Double Cream Cow, along with plants like the Chocolate Tree (in a cutaway view to reveal its peppermint fondant center), a Pasta Tree and the grasping, sinister Tree of Horrible Hands. He also portrays such not-quite-natural features as the aptly named Spooky Dark Mountains and vocal Book Mountain. The brightly striped houses of the friendly, pig-footed local settlers cluster around the foot of the latter. The author points out odd behaviors and special features in chatty explanatory captions throughout, and he also notes that the island is hard to find because it will, without warning, extend legs and wander off. As indeed, it did to him in a moment of inattention. For young would-be tourists as well as students of nature’s more fanciful imaginary reaches, the next best thing to an actual visit. (Picture book. 7-10)

WAZZYJUMP

Moniz, Michael Illus. by Moniz, Michael Simply Read (44 pp.) $16.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-89747-658-1 Everyone seeks the magic of the little brown rabbit, but what exactly is it? All the creatures in the forest have heard of Wazzyjump, the most mysterious creature who lives there. His magic is legendary, but no one seems able to describe it. Lion cannot stand the idea that any animal is more powerful than himself, and he vows to catch Wazzyjump and question him. Learning of this plan, the clever fox decides to search as well...for himself. He happens upon the sleeping rabbit, and the duo ends up laughing and playing all afternoon. The other animals get wind of this and decide to follow the fox the next day. At last, they will have their answer. When they find the rabbit and the fox, the lion tries to pounce on Wazzyjump, again and again, but the rabbit is too quick for him. The lion becomes frustrated beyond roaring, and the only thing that’s left to do...is laugh! Soon everyone in the forest is laughing and playing together; and when the lion asks Wazzyjump to explain his magic, the quick little rabbit replies, “What magic?” Moniz’s animals have a childlike quality and a soft focus that support his valuable message, which is presented with an admirably light touch. The visual transformation of both the lion and the fox from predator to playmate borders on...the magical. Sublime. (Picture book. 3-6)

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

Messenger, Shannon Aladdin (496 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4424-4593-2

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm. Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry 1950

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Mull, Brandon Shadow Mountain (480 pp.) $18.99 | Oct. 12, 2012 978-1-60907-179-0 Series: The Candy Shop War, 2

The arrival of another nefarious magician prompts further world-saving, fruit-flavored magic and bonding by a squad of small-town preteens in this laidback sequel (The Candy Shop War, 2007). Fishy doings at the newly opened Arcadeland draw Nate and sidekicks in to play some cool games—and, thanks to |

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THE GIANT AND HOW HE HUMBUGGED AMERICA

free use of Peak Performance gum, to win so many thousands of tickets that arcade owner Jonas White recruits them to compete against one another in finding a set of long-hidden real-world talismans. White’s ultimate goal, as it turns out, is possession of a voodoo-doll–like simulacrum of the entire Earth called “Uweya,” which was created in prehistoric times by a great (if maybe not too bright) mage and then hidden away behind corridors of swinging blades, armies of clay warriors and like obstacles. Amid easy banter and with help from aptly named goodies concocted by magician/baker Sebastian Stott, the young heroes set out to find Uweya, rescue captured friends and scotch White’s plot. Readers unfamiliar with the previous episode may have trouble weathering both the author’s sketchy efforts to recap events and the slew of new characters, but like the tasty Moon Rocks that give Nate and friends the ability to leap buildings (short ones, at least) in a single bound, the tale floats along airily. Action aplenty, with tongue (and candy) firmly in cheek. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Murphy, Jim Scholastic (112 pp.) $19.99 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-439-69184-0

When a stone giant is found on a farm in upstate New York, William Newell sees the chance to get rich quickly. On October 16, 1869, in Cardiff, N.Y., Gideon Emmons and Henry Nichols went to William Newell’s farm to dig a well. After a few hours of hard digging, they hit stone and eventually unearthed a 10-foot stone man, so anatomically detailed that examiners suggested a fig leaf in case the “unclothed giant might provoke the village women to have sinful thoughts.” Was it an “old Indian”? A Stone Giant of Onondaga legend? A petrified man? Farmer Newell capitalized on the “discovery,” and before long, lines of people were paying good money for the chance to see the marvel, demonstrating that Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff were not the first to make money on people’s will to believe. Murphy effectively recreates the place and times that made the Cardiff Giant famous, building on solid and welldocumented research. A generous mix of newspaper illustrations, carnival posters and photographs lend a period feeling to the thoroughly engaging volume. After reading this fascinating story, young people will appreciate the old expression, spawned by this very hoax, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” (research notes, source notes, bibliography, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

MUD PUDDLE

Munsch, Robert Illus. by Petricic, Dušan Annick Press (32 pp.) $19.95 | paper $9.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-55451-427-4 978-1-55451-426-7 paperback The master of the manic patterned tale offers a newly buffed version of his first published book, with appropriately gloppy new illustrations. Like the previous four iterations (orig. 1979; revised 2004, 2006, 2009), the plot remains intact through minor changes in wording: Each time young Jule Ann ventures outside in clean clothes, a nefarious mud puddle leaps out of a tree or off the roof to get her “completely all over muddy” and necessitate a vigorous parental scrubbing. Petricic gives the amorphous mud monster a particularly tarry look and texture in his scribbly, high-energy cartoon scenes. It’s a formidable opponent, but the two bars of smelly soap that the resourceful child at last chucks at her attacker splatter it over the page and send it sputtering into permanent retreat. Score one for cleanliness. Like (almost) all Munsch, funny as it stands but even better read aloud, with lots of exaggerated sound effects. (Picture book. 6-8)

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Myers, E.C. Pyr/Prometheus Books (340 pp.) $16.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-61614-682-5 In a convoluted sequel to Fair Coin (2012), teens crack wise and lock lips while saving the multiverse from an information overload. Impelled by spectral phenomena at his senior prom and the unexpected reappearance of Zoe, an “analog” of his girlfriend Jena from a parallel universe, Ephraim again steps out of his own world. Landing in a somewhat more advanced one (“Unfortunately, we also have reality TV”), he learns from an adult version of Jena that all the universes have entered a cycle of uncontrolled proliferation and collapse. How to reboot the continuum without causing loved ones from less “real” planes to disappear? As in the opener, the plot is a mare’s nest of comings and goings driven by romantic and ethical conflicts, hidden agendas, madscience–style devices and arbitrary physics. It’s a struggle to keep the cast members straight, too, since most are analogs of one another with, often, similar names. Still, Myers salts his tale |

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with amusing, often-libidinous adolescent banter, and by cheating a little, lands his characters in good places in the end. Fans of alternate worlds will find a heapin’ helping here, though the cast’s relationship-chess makes a stronger showing than the narrowly averted cosmic calamity. (Science fiction. 13-16)

treasure. Strange things begin happening as soon as they arrive, and all six guests at the inn seem to be hiding something. Secret passageways, ghostly footsteps, secret identities and a snooty teen idol keep things interesting as the double detectives follow the clues. Norris, pen name for Clue series scribe Dona Smith, kicks off a new series of inoffensive whodunits with a cartoonstyle mystery: think Scooby Doo minus talking dog, musical chase scenes and most of the laughs. Wooden characters, stilted dialogue and a few too many scenes of eavesdropping make this simply plotted and paced clue-crawler best for newly fledged mystery mavens rather than sophisticated sleuths. Fans can follow the twins to the Amazon, Paris and the Rockies later this year…if they haven’t found something better. (Mystery. 8-11)

KEVIN KEEPS UP

Nagda, Ann Whitehead Holiday House (96 pp.) $15.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-8234-2657-7 A boy who just can’t stay on track finds himself facing his biggest challenge ever. Like Joey Pigza before him, Kevin is an endearing and well-meaning boy who struggles mightily to focus in school. With the best of intentions, Kevin tries to keep up, but keeping his thoughts from flitting from one thing to the next is near impossible. A close third-person narrator does an impressive job taking readers along for the ride and recreating what it must feel like for Kevin as he does his best to stay on topic and write a report on cheetahs for school. Things go from bad to worse when his teacher announces she is going on an extended trip to Africa, and the dreaded Mrs. Beezer will be the one assisting the class with their animal projects. Unlike the patient Mrs. Steele, “the Buzzard” seems to believe the only way to deal with Kevin is to move his desk to the front of the room and keep him in from recess. Readers will cheer as Kevin powers through and ultimately comes up with a final project that will knock his teacher’s socks off. With a winning protagonist and an enjoyable cast of characters, Kevin’s story makes for a fresh and entertaining chapter book likely to please transitioning readers and give children with ADHD a character to whom they can easily relate. (Fiction. 7-10)

ON THE ROAD TO MR. MINEO’S

O’Connor, Barbara Farrar, Straus and Giroux (192 pp.) $15.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-374-38002-1 Can a one-legged pigeon create a connection, however tenuous, among disparate residents of a sleepy South Carolina town? Sherman has literally flown the coop, leaving Mr. Mineo heartsick. He is, after all, the caretaker of his brother’s small flock of homing pigeons, which have, surprisingly, begun to provide much-needed fulfillment for the lonely man. Meanwhile, a whole group of Meadville inhabitants would like to catch that pigeon, for a variety of different reasons just as individual as they are. The children: Spunky Stella desperately wants a pet; Gerald, slow moving and passive, just wants to satisfy Stella, his only friend; bully Levi and his sidekicks seem to want the bird mostly to frustrate the others; Mutt wants him because that danged pigeon landed on his head more than once, but no one believes him. The others: a small, lonely brown dog seeking companionship; Amos and Ethel Roper—one more thing to cheerfully bicker over. O’Connor weaves the fabric of her tale from each of these separate threads, moving back and forth among points of view, sympathetic to nearly all (except Levi and company). As in The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis (2009), she condenses long summer days down into their essence, quiet but humming with an undercurrent of childhood energy. Yes, a one-legged pigeon can satisfyingly link even these quirky characters together. (Fiction. 9-12)

THE SECRET OF SKULL ISLAND

Norris, Zack Sterling (144 pp.) $4.95 paperback | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4027-7912-1 Series: Double Detectives, 1 Is Black Heart’s treasure still on Skull Island? Twelve-year-old twins Cody and Otis Carson are excited that they and their supersmart cousin Rae Lee get to visit their great-aunt on Calavera (“skull” in Spanish) Island in the Caribbean. Since they love a good mystery, they’re even happier when they learn that the inn she owns, which has been plagued by problems since opening, is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a pirate looking for his 1952

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“Compelling character development (in adults as well as children) and authentic language fitting the setting add to the strength of this story.” from keeping safe the stars

KEEPING SAFE THE STARS

space. The endpapers are full of similarly fanciful images of tiny Dot standing under a toadstool, leaping over a daisy or sporting butterflies as headgear. “In stories we can be small together,” his mother says, ending this quiet mother-and-son idyll. Winsome. (Picture book. 4-7)

O’Connor, Sheila Putnam (304 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 11, 2012 978-0-399-25459-8

NOW WE ARE COOL

Left in a Minnesota cabin when their grandfather is hospitalized with encephalitis, 13-year-old Pride and her younger siblings struggle to be self-reliant, but after a bus trip to Duluth to see him, they realize they will have to seek and accept help. When their grandfather went off to see the doctor, the orphaned Star family—Pride, Nightingale and Baby—had just become accustomed to life with reclusive Old Finn, so different from their commune in New Mexico. They knew he wouldn’t want anyone to learn they were on their own. To make money for food, they sell crafts and pony rides to tourists, attracting unwanted attention. Against the backdrop of the last few days of Nixon’s administration in 1974, narrator Pride compares her own need to lie to Nixon’s self-justification even as Nightingale insists on honesty. Unusually, this family survival story is also a story of love between two older adults. Through letters Pride reads, readers learn that before he became a surrogate parent, her grandfather loved someone named Justine. Courageous and resourceful, the children track her down. More realistic than many children-on-their-own adventures, the resolution may strain adult credulity. Compelling character development (in adults as well as children) and authentic language fitting the setting add to the strength of this story. Family loyalty, stubbornness and love in an implausible but totally satisfying blend. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Opel-Götz, Susann Illus. by Opel-Götz, Susann Fitzhenry & Whiteside (28 pp.) $18.95 | Oct. 30, 2012 978-1-55455-235-1 Two brothers aim to be cool in OpelGötz’s bemused identity quest. An older brother tells his younger sibling that it is time to get cool. “What do you mean?” Mug asks Leo. Well, explains Leo, for instance, cool people wear sunglasses all day long. “Even when it rains! Even in the bathroom!” “Why?’ asks Mug. “Because…because then they can imagine it’s a dark and scary night!” Mug is puzzled, but he’s still game. Leo goes on. They’ve got to talk cool, sport cool backpacks, listen to loud and angry and cool music, have cool pets like poisonous rats and misbehave—“a lot”—with equally bogus reasoning for each cool act. Finally, being cool sounds like too much work and too much posturing, and the boys go back to being a couple of bony, messy-haired munchkins. From racy, jazzy cool to funky, bohemian cool, Opel-Götz levels a gimlet eye at it all, but with kindly humor, much of it of the visual variety. Her artwork is full of spidery lines and phenomenally expressive faces, and the two boys walk a thin, comic line between earnest and goofy. A humbly sophisticated send-up: The boys could be beatniks if they wanted, but they’re too cool for that. (Picture book. 7-10)

WHEN I WAS SMALL

O’Leary, Sara Illus. by Morstad, Julie Simply Read (32 pp.) $16.95 | Sep. 29, 2012 978-1-897476-38-3 Series: Henry Books

CHASING THE SKIP

Patterson, Janci Henry Holt (240 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-8050-9391-9

“Dad thinks if you have a kid, you should pay child support. Paying for them is the law, but spending time with them isn’t.” That’s what aspiring journalist Ricki writes her first day riding shotgun with her bounty-hunter father. It’s the first time in her life she’s spent appreciable time with him, so she writes from the heart. They are only together because her feckless mother has taken off—again—and her grandmother got tired of putting her up. She used to tell herself stories of the exciting life her father led, inventing a mythology to explain his absence, but it turns out, he’s just been a jerk. Bail-bond enforcement is a lot duller than reality TV suggests, but the adrenaline starts flowing when

The third of the Henry books (When You Were Small, 2006; Where You Came From, 2008) continues the adorable journey but doesn’t veer from the path. Henry wants to know about when his mother was small. She responds by telling him her name was Dorothea, but “because the name was too big for me, everyone called me Dot.” The picture on the facing page shows a class of really cute children inked in black and white, an equally cute teacher and Henry’s doll-sized mom in bright red. She went swimming in the birdbath, could “feast on a single raspberry” and wore a daisy for a sunhat. The text for each spread floats on a pure white page, and on the opposite page Morstad’s beautiful, clear drawings characterized by the spot use of color float on the same white |

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“Wen’s palpable growth…provides a moving and engaging experience for readers.” from red thread sisters

RED THREAD SISTERS

Ricki strikes up a conversation with “skip” Ian, who has jumped bail on a grand theft auto count. In seemingly no time, the charismatic teen has slipped his cuffs and stolen Ricki’s dad’s truck. The ensuing caper is a gentle one, a road trip calculated to give Ricki time to get to know her dad and achieve an understanding of herself and her family. She is an appealingly vulnerable character, her anger at both parents and her love for her mother both genuine and leading to completely believable choices, however wrongheaded. A solid cast and heartfelt emotions lift this above its contrivances. (Fiction. 13-15)

Peacock, Carol Antoinette Viking (224 pp.) $15.99 | Oct. 11, 2012 978-0-670-01386-9

A Chinese legend says that a red thread connects those destined to meet and that the thread may stretch or become tangled but will never break. Growing up in a Chinese orphanage after being abandoned by her family, Wen feels a connection like that with her best friend, Shu Ling, another orphan. Eventually, Wen is adopted by an American family, but the prospect for Shu Ling is grim: She has a deformed foot. Before Wen leaves for America she promises she will find a family for Shu Ling—imagining that her adoptive family can take her, too. Although her new family is loving and kind, Wen can’t forget her promise, and neither, after her earlier abandonment, can she fully trust the Americans, leaving her in believable emotional turmoil. She tries a variety of determined strategies to find a home for Shu Ling after it becomes clear her family can’t afford another adoption. Raising the suspense, Wen learns that Shu Ling will soon age out, becoming legally unavailable for adoption. Wen’s palpable growth—as she begins to understand American ways and the dynamics of her family, works on Shu Ling’s cause and recognizes other red-thread connections in her life—provides a moving and engaging experience for readers. A fine addition to both the coming-of-age genre and books sensitively dealing with cross-cultural adoption. (Fiction. 9-14)

VALKYRIE RISING

Paulson, Ingrid HarperTeen (352 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-06-202572-2 978-0-06-219029-1 e-book This debut introduces readers to Norse mythology, apparently still operating in modern times. Sixteen-year-old Ellie travels to Norway to visit her grandmother and finds that she has an identity she never expected. She learns that both she and grandma are Valkyries, the mythological maidens who transport dead warriors to Valhalla, where they join Odin’s supernatural army. But it seems that Odin has decided not to wait for more battles to supply him with warriors. He wants new warriors now, so he sends his supermodel-gorgeous Valkyries out to kidnap living boys. As soon as Ellie arrives, she learns that the local population hates both her grandmother and her, with the exception of handsome Kjell, who can’t stay away from her. But when both Kjell and Ellie’s recently arrived brother Graham fall prey to the Valkyries, Ellie vows to get them back. Meanwhile, she’s in love with Tucker, Graham’s best friend and traveling companion, who seems immune to the Valkyries, and Ellie will learn the reason why in due course. Paulson does a nice-enough job of incorporating the Norse legends, but she laboriously explains every detail of the story, every decision Ellie makes, every feeling Ellie experiences and every move she makes. Even with the decisive battle raging, the action stops for more explanations (and some flirting). A good idea that needs better delivery. (Paranormal romance. 12-16)

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Peacock, Shane Orca (256 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Oct. 10, 2012 978-1-55469-935-3 Series: Seven (The Series) This entry in the series called Seven, like the others, deals with a grandson and a journey. Adam, 16, has been given an unusual mission by his deceased grandfather, a larger-than-life patriarch who seemed disdainful of the boy’s only average qualities. His assignment is to go to France and attempt to find the family that once sheltered his grandfather from the Nazis after he was shot down during World War II. Hidden in their barn was a painting of immense value that David intended to steal. If Adam succeeds at this odd mission, two more, each more difficult than the last, will follow. Adam is intrigued and imagines that achieving these strange goals will make him more attractive to class goddess Vanessa, a guilttinged desire as he already has a perfectly nice, very loyal girlfriend. Adam’s earnest self-focus, effectively depicted in his first-person narration, may have been created to remind readers |

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of his need for growth, but it quickly becomes tedious. The missions he’s assigned are amusing and suspenseful, but sadly, he only begins to acquire insight into the real force behind his grandfather’s plan near the conclusion, far too little and too late to imply that he’s learned much from the experience. An unusual tale that’s undermined by a shallow main character with a too-healthy dose of self-appreciation. (map and family tree, not seen) (Adventure. 12-16)

about it. In the midst of his artistic awakening, Harold makes the acquaintance of scads of people, including a future wise woman, the Wolluf (a wolflike dog), the Chicken Man (a crazyseeming old man with a chicken) and a veritable army of people with funny-sounding names. He also has a best friend who is convinced that Bushman, the 427-pound gorilla who once lived in the Lincoln Park Zoo and is now stuffed and on display in the Field Museum of Natural History, is still alive. This book comes off as one of native Chicagoan Pinkwater’s most personal (albeit quirky) novels to date. With a tone that closely resembles Harold and Maude, it considers what art is, what it claims to be, what people want it to be, and what it must never be. The cult of Pinkwater, already strong, now has a rallying cry for insiders in the know. “Bushman lives!” (Fantasy. 13 & up)

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE RAINBOW FISH

Pfister, Marcus Illus. by Pfister, Marcus NorthSouth (32 pp.) $18.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-7358-4082-9

DEAD CITY

Ponti, James Aladdin (288 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4424-4129-3

For his 20th anniversary, Rainbow Fish gets a bedtime story. Poor little Rainbow Fish can’t sleep. He tosses and turns, but he’s just too anxious. Mommy sends in the lantern fish, but darkness isn’t the problem. Rainbow Fish asks Mommy to stay and promise she’ll never leave, but even that promise isn’t enough. Rainbow Fish worries that the tide will come in and whisk him away. Mommy promises to swim faster than a swordfish and get Rainbow back home safely. What if he loses his way in a cloud of octopus ink? Mommy promises to find him and dispel the cloud. If a monster fish comes to get him? He’ll have to contend with Mommy first! If a jellyfish threatens? Mommy will rescue Rainbow…even from bad dreams. Pfister’s seventh tale of the sparkly sea dweller, translated from the German, is a perfectly acceptable, though nowhere near innovative, bedtime book. The draw here remains the shiny scales on every page. The watercolor, pencil, and foil illustrations match the rest of the series. Rainbow’s fears are age-appropriate, and young listeners will identify and be comforted. A formulaic, fishy nighttime read sure to please fans. (Picture book. 2-4)

Middle schooler Molly excels at judo and fencing—both necessary skills when combatting New York City’s 1,000-plus zombies. The summer before starting at a science magnet school on Roosevelt Island in the East River, Molly spends Friday afternoons at the coroner’s office on the east side of Manhattan. Her mother worked there before her death, and Molly feels comfortable with the dead bodies. Once in school, she joins a group of friends and is initiated into Omega, an organization that both protects and fights the zombies of New York. Her group consists of four classmates: one other girl and two boys. All follow the rules of CLAP: keep Calm, Listen, Avoid physical confrontation and Punish. The zombies arose from an 1896 subway explosion that killed 13 worker; they prefer to be called undead and derive their strength from schist—Manhattan bedrock. In Ponti’s breezy and adventure-driven story, readers follow Molly and the Omegas as they connect the dots between the explosion, Little Women, the Dewey Decimal System and the Periodic Table of Elements. It works. Ponti incorporates New York City sights and gory zombie descriptions in a quick transit to an exciting finale with high-blown dramatics and a surprisingly tender moment. A fast-paced read for those who like their zombies with just a little fright. (Horror/fantasy. 8-12)

BUSHMAN LIVES!

Pinkwater, Daniel Houghton Mifflin (256 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-547-38539-6 In this companion to his Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl (2010) Pinkwater saturates his customary eccentricities with a Beat-era flavor. In this bildungsroman that does double duty as a love letter to Chicago’s artsy past, Harold Knishke has no idea he wants to be an artist until the guy in the army cap in Bughouse Square just asks him. Almost immediately Harold is taking drawing classes from a taxidermist and acquires a studio of his own in a building so mysterious he can’t tell a soul |

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DEAD GIRL MOON

the Soviet Union. She presents Ivan’s story as a first-person narrative in beautifully composed writing enhanced by Ivan’s visual acuity and depth of emotion. Terrifying, life-affirming and memorable. (author’s note, bibliography) (Adventure. 10-14)

Price, Charlie Farrar, Straus and Giroux (272 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 30, 2012 978-0-374-31752-2 Three teens, variously abandoned and abused, become involved in a smalltown murder that exposes their own exploitation in revealing ways. Grace has arrived in town after running away from horrific abuse by her older brothers and an uncaring mother. After the death of her parents, JJ is stuck with her dope-fiend uncle, practically catatonic aunt and uncontrollable cousin Jon. Mick’s father is a thief, and they’ve been moving around for so many years that Mick is determined to make changes and stop the cycle in this new town of Portage, Mont. Similar in age, the three take an unusual outing on a hot summer day, including wild boy Jon just to stop his whining. The dead body they discover by the river sets off a series of events akin to a tumbling deck of cards in this town where lawbreaking and -bending are the rule. “Portage was a sewer, rotten with secrets and deals,” Grace learns. The vulnerability of the teens contrasts with their inability to tell right from wrong, particularly evident when Grace does some hooking. Price presents readers with a less action-packed tale than his usual fare, but it’s just as heartbreaking a picture of how our society fails adolescents as they come of age. A paltry few good guys try to balance cunning and pervasive evil in this disturbing mystery. (Mystery. 14-18)

THE DIARY OF B.B. BRIGHT, POSSIBLE PRINCESS

Randall, Alice; Randall Williams, Caroline Illus. by Strickland, Shadra Turner (160 pp.) $19.95 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-1-61858-015-3

Sweet, sassy and mystical, this novel deftly melds an old-fashioned story of princess preparation with the modern twist of body image and self-esteem. B.B.’s plight unfolds in a diary format. At 13, she has grown bored with life on a secluded island with her doting, albeit squabbling Godmommies. B.B. is in exile because her royal parents feared for her life. Rather than fearing for her safety, however, B.B. is more concerned with having friends, meeting a boyfriend and wearing stylish clothes. What works best is the classic storytelling voice. Randall (The Wind Done Gone, for adults, 2001) and Randall Williams create characters who feel authentic and familiar even as they inhabit a fantastical, supernatural world. The Godmommies are a hoot, coloring B.B.’s world with their homespun wisdom. B.B.’s constant comparisons between herself and Photoshopped images in the magazines she reads sometimes feel jarring, although they are certainly timely. At its heart, this is a tale of a girl straddling two worlds—the safety and comfort of what she’s been taught with the promise of who she really wants to be. Young readers will respond to the voice as well as the predicament, while grown-ups will appreciate the values. (Fantasy. 10-14)

THE DOGS OF WINTER

Pyron, Bobbie Levine/Scholastic (320 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-545-39930-2 978-0-545-46985-2 e-book An orphaned boy in Russia survives as a member of a pack of dogs. Ivan is only 4 years old when he runs away to the streets of Moscow. At first, he is taken in by a scruffy group of children under one adult’s control. They live in the subway stations, begging and stealing food. He soon befriends and is adopted by a small group of dogs and becomes one of them. They survive on the trains in the winter and in the forest during the summer. Ivan keeps a button belonging to his (probably dead) mother as a talisman and remembers the fairy tales she read to him. Increasingly, his time with the dogs provides nourishment for both his hungry belly and his soul. Threats are ever present in the form of police, gangs of teens and wild animals in the forest. Two years later he is captured, and after months of care, he regains his humanness. Pyron has based her story on magazine articles about a Russian feral child, one of hundreds of thousands whose lives were disrupted by the dissolution of 1956

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STEALING AIR

Reedy, Trent Levine/Scholastic (288 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-545-38307-3 978-0-545-46989-0 e-book Skateboarders, boy or girl, will know the terms getting air, half-pipe and ollie, but, can three boys “steal” enough air to fly a homemade airplane? Brian, a skateboarder newly moved to Iowa, Max, a Trekkie and inventor, and Alex, an oddsmaker and entrepreneur, band together to secretly build an airplane. Getting it to fly depends on Plastisteel, a steel-infused polymer, |

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“A dark and dangerous thrill ride pushes teen readers to the brink of their comfort zones when it comes to issues of love, lust, politics, family and war.” from this is not forgiveness

THE SNOWSTORM

which Brian’s parents and Max’s mother are trying to manufacture. The setup is obvious from the start: The boys will use their plane to demonstrate to a potential investor that Plastisteel will work and save the company. Even with Brian’s flying experience with his dad and Max’s brains, the first two attempts fail (of course), but their persistence pays off, and the third succeeds. Plot threads of bullying, a bit of romance, peer pressure, a pigout eating contest and good-old-fashioned ingenuity keep the story moving. Implausibility is sky-high, but the boys’ determination will keep readers going. Tankfuls of aeronautical know-how may deter some readers; numerous references to Beatles music are balanced by the thoroughly modern devices they play on. Part Hardy Boys, part Gary Paulsen, part Skateboard Magazine for Kids, this can appeal to mechanical-minded, skateboarding enthusiasts. (Fiction. 9-13)

Riel, Jørn Illus. by Cann, Helen Barefoot (128 pp.) $12.99 paperback | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-84686-797-2 Series: The Inuk Quartet, 3 The third in a four-part Viking-era adventure pits four young Greenlanders against both a howling gale and a crew of brutal pirates. Signs of spring coming to his adopted Arctic send Leiv, his Inuit brother-and-sister companions Apuluk and Narua, and rescued serf Sølvi sledding northward in search of the vanished chieftain Thorstein. Cann’s frequent vignettes of people and wildlife add graceful visual notes to Riel’s vivid depiction of life in this harsh (“They hammered blubber for the lamps....”) but often beautiful setting. The explorers weather a journey highlighted by a violent, two-day storm, followed by an equally violent battle aboard an iced-in British longship after Leiv and Apuluk are captured. The return home is made even more joyous when the closely bonded quartet stages a double elopement to kick off a second trek north in search of a passage to the fabled country to the west. Fledgling readers will enjoy this simply told, visually appealing historical tale, though starting with the first two episodes will make it easier to follow the developing characters and storyline. (Historical fiction. 9-11)

THIS IS NOT FORGIVENESS

Rees, Celia Bloomsbury (288 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-59990-776-5 A dark and dangerous thrill ride pushes teen readers to the brink of their comfort zones when it comes to issues of love, lust, politics, family and war. Despite repeated warnings, Jamie can’t resist the sexy and mysterious Caro. He would do anything for her, and she knows it. What he doesn’t know is that Caro and his older brother Rob have a secret past. Rees revels in an unapologetic exploration of extremes in this smart and well-crafted novel. The brothers are perfect foils for each other, with Jamie an eager-to-please, typical teen, and Rob a menacing and tragic war veteran prone to terrifyingly violent outbursts. Though Caro’s manipulations of the brothers for her own political gain drive the action of the story, the relationship between the two siblings provides its molten emotional core. As Rob becomes increasingly unhinged, Jamie’s desperation to claim Caro as his own and to assert himself in his relationship with his brother becomes a matter of life and death. Though the portrayal of Rob’s deteriorating mental state is raw and often uncomfortable, in the end, the honest, uncensored storytelling makes this a tale that will stay with readers long after the final page is turned. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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THE BIG FLUSH

Robbins, Trina Illus. by Page, Tyler Graphic Universe (64 pp.) $6.95 paperback | $21.95 e-book PLB $29.27 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-8225-9161-0 978-1-4677-0043-6 e-book 978-0-7613-8165-5 PLB Series: Chicagoland Detective Agency, 4 This mystery should come with sheet music and a dance chart. A ghost is haunting the girls’ bathroom at Pine Lake Academy, but that isn’t the interesting part of the story. The interesting thing is that she’s singing “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” Anyone who drinks the water ends up possessed, and even a manly young detective like Raf Hernandez finds himself saying, “How I love the Turkey Trot! But Auntie says the Turkey Trot and the Grizzly Bear are vulgar and will corrupt today’s youth.” Some authors might stop at that level of quirkiness, but Robbins gets wilder and more inventive as the story goes on—even in a book with a talking dog in the first chapter. In Chapter 4, to solve the mystery, the dog allows himself to be possessed by not one, but two ghosts, who can’t stop arguing. Haunted plumbing doesn’t scare him. “Us dogs always drink from toilet bowls,” |

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“Nicely drawn Darcy comes across as a fully developed human, however intriguing her paranormal abilities.” from the shadow society

he says. Not every page contains a surprise. The conclusion is oddly mundane; it has to do with the disposition of a household object. But then, the mystery is beside the point. Who needs detective work when an entire ghostly orchestra shows up for the final chapter? Mystery lovers will be perplexed, but fans of the series will line up for the next book, and their grandparents will hope it comes with a vinyl record. (Graphic mystery. 9-14)

friend, Tracy, disappears into the world of cheerleading and partying, and her mother shuts down because of her own grief, the unexpected attention of troubled Jamie seems like a dream come true, but Jamie’s jealous girlfriend is nothing short of a nightmare. The familiar story of smart girl meets bad boy is enhanced by Rose’s intelligent and authentic voice. Unfortunately the rest of the story reads more like an episode of Jersey Shore. Copious amounts of alcohol, a homecoming striptease and a catfight are only a sampling. Rose, who claims to have too much self-respect to participate in the bad behavior, has no problem sneaking around with Jamie. Even prom is compromised, as Jamie is jailed for buying with a fake ID. In the end, anger may be the least of Rose’s issues. Like reading bad television. (Fiction. 14 & up)

BODY ACTIONS

Rotner, Shelley Illus. by White, David A. Photos by Rotner, Shelley Holiday House (32 pp.) $16.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-8234-2366-8

THE SHADOW SOCIETY

Rutkoski, Marie Farrar, Straus and Giroux (416 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-374-34905-9

Bright, clear photographs and design offer an unfussy look at anatomy for very young readers and listeners. Full-color photographs of children accompany a brief text that invites readers to think about how they accomplish everyday activities: “How do you kick a ball, jump rope, blow up a balloon, digest food, read a book, or ride a bike?” Overlay drawings of body systems—skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, circulatory, digestive—offer a peek inside, and a longer explanation at the end of the book reinforces the information. A diagram of the airways and lungs is superimposed on the photograph of a girl blowing up a balloon, which becomes a cross section of an eye in another photograph. The explanation for each function is very brief, really just providing the location and generalized way that it contributes to the body, but it’s enough to be a starting point for more learning and certainly for an appreciation of the complexity right at hand. Brief definitions of the five senses, a longer explanation for the function of skin and hair, and a glossary of 14 body terms and text elaborating on body systems make up the backmatter. Very simple, accessible and appealing as a starting point for human-science learning. (Informational picture book. 3-6)

In a multidimensional Chicago, Darcy learns that she isn’t really human after all. Abandoned at age 5, Darcy can’t remember anything about her early life. She’s always shifted from one foster family to another. She hopes to become an artist, but everything goes off the tracks when a charismatic new boy arrives at school and asks to work with her on an assignment. She finds Conn extremely attractive, but she comes to hate him when he kidnaps her into an alternate-dimension Chicago where society despises and hunts creatures of her kind. Darcy’s species, Shades, can make themselves invisible, and they have been at war with humans for centuries. Caught between the human and Shade factions, Darcy has trouble deciding where her loyalties should lie. Mostly, she wants to learn about her past and find a portal back to the old Chicago where she can continue her normal life. Rutkoski weaves an extended discussion of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” throughout the narrative, tying many of Darcy’s insights to the poem. After the long buildup to the climax, however, the solution seems a bit too easy. Nicely drawn Darcy comes across as a fully developed human, however intriguing her paranormal abilities. The author builds an engaging world, similar to the real Chicago but different enough to tantalize and keep interest high. Entertaining and provocative. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

CONFESSIONS OF AN ANGRY GIRL

Rozett, Louise Harlequin Teen (272 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-373-21048-0 Fifteen-year-old Rose Zarelli has every right to be angry, but she needs to figure out a way to control it, or she risks losing everything she loves. Still reeling from the death of her father and, to a lesser degree, the departure of her collegebound brother, Rose quickly finds that high school is nothing like she hoped and everything like she feared. When her best 1958

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PIECES OF ME

a nighttime dream. Any question of reality versus representation is the gentlest kind, utterly unobtrusive. Adults should keep an eye on the midbook 3-D easel featuring small, stapledon papers vulnerable to eager hands, because those papers hold text as well as illustration. Joyful imagination, plain and simple. (Picture book. 3-6)

Ryan, Darlene Orca (240 pp.) $12.95 paperback | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-4598-0080-9 A gritty portrait of teens and children living on the street suffers from a too-tidy ending. Maddie has been living on the street since her mom’s boyfriend started hitting her. After leaving a manipulative church service, she meets Q, another street kid, who offers to let Maddie sleep in his car. Though at first suspicious, Maddie says yes: Q will ask fewer questions than the well-meaning shelter director who wants to reunite kids with their families, and the piece of glass Maddie keeps in her pocket will protect her if need be. As Maddie grows to trust Q, the two forge a sort of family together. An abandoned child soon falls under their care; they rent a squalid apartment from an exploitative slumlord; and a skittish 12-yearold, first offered to Q in a poker bet, slowly warms up to them too. Day-to-day existence is rendered in believable and exhausting detail. Maddie and Q acquire food, manage the stresses of caring for a child and attempt to make enough money to get by. Despite both young people’s certainty that foster care would be a worse solution than the life they’ve cobbled together, the book ends with a sudden turnaround that implies that adults and institutions can always save lives like Maddie’s. A sadly simplistic finish mars an otherwise complex survival story. (Fiction. 14 & up)

HERO IN DISGUISE

Sanders, Stephanie S. Bloomsbury (240 pp.) $15.99 | paper $6.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-59990-907-3 978-1-59990-906-6 paperback Series: Villain School, 2 Master Dreadthorn’s School for Wayward Villains again (Good Curses Evil, 2011) lives up to the “Wayward” as some of its more challenged students keep rescuing captives and saving the day. Never the brightest of bulbs, headmaster’s son Rune Drexler fails to notice a series of broad clues—from leading questions to a glimpse of red undies over bright blue tights—that his new roommate, “Dodge VonDoe,” is really a spy from Doctor Do-Good’s School for Superior Superheroes. Until, that is, his father and a certain crystal ball disappear and the school is taken over by the genuinely villainous Mistress Morgana. As it turns out, VonDoe (or to use his real name Deven Do-Good) is both working for Morgana and plotting to boot out his own superhero father. Deven is also a thoroughgoing bully on his own turf, which leads to his ultimate downfall. Sanders throws family revelations, secret passages, reconciliations, villain humor (“Ugh, monologues. It was hard to believe Morgana had become such a powerful villainess when she was always blabbing her plans to everyone”) and even a horrifying (to some) prophecy about villains becoming heroes into the mix, and dishes out just deserts to all. An airy school story beneath a veneer of fantasy, low both on violence and actual villainy. (Light fantasy. 10-12)

ANDREW DREW AND DREW

Saltzberg, Barney Illus. by Saltzberg, Barney abramsappleseed (40 pp.) $15.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-4197-0377-5

An unassuming boy, a single lead pencil and plenty of fresh white space make for a true descendent of Harold and the Purple Crayon, with its own flavor. Andrew is a “doodle boy” with a standard pencil. This book’s thick, glossy pages are his expansive workspace: Andrew appears on the pages, drawing, and the pages are also the paper he’s drawing upon. Some pages are the same width as the cover, others narrower or wider, turning over or folding out to change a drawing’s meaning. Andrew doesn’t plan; he draws and sees where it takes him. “[B]efore he kn[ows] it,” an abstract line becomes a kite and then a rocket. If he draws stairs, they’re physical enough for him to sit on—but turn the flap, and they’re a dinosaur’s back. Andrew himself is rendered in color, while his carefully shaded desk and pencil sharpener are—quite wonderfully—the gray of his own pencil. “When night dr[aws] near,” Andrew slowly fills the space with dark pencil crosshatches until it’s something else entirely—perhaps the next day’s artwork or |

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I WANT TO GO TO THE MOON

Saunders, Tom Illus. by Nugent, Cynthia Simply Read (32 pp.) $17.95 | Oct. 6, 2012 978-1-897476-56-7 The inspiring life of Neil Armstrong, set to music. “Neil was born on an August morn” and, to hear Saunders tell it, pointed out the window at the moon as he lay in his crib. When he’s old enough, he climbs out and shakes his sleeping father awake, declaring “I want to go to the moon!” Dad explains gently that rocket ships are just in storybooks, that he’ll never go to the moon. But Neil holds on to his dream, building a |

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ELENA’S STORY

rocket ship that looks like a Rube Goldberg contraption and studying exhaustively. His teachers agree that it’s good to have a goal, “but yours is too extreme.” When he finishes college, the only job he can find is working at night as a dishwasher, but this leaves him time to practice flying during the day. In 1962, he becomes an astronaut, “the finest of the finest,” and in 1969, a general asks Neil the question he’s waited all his life to hear: “Do you want to go to the moon?” and the rest, as they say, is history. The enclosed CD puts the rhyming text of the book to pleasant music. Nugent’s illustrations are colorful, and the solid message is presented with upbeat clarity. But Saunders’ writing is often clumsy, and the tone of the story inconsistent. Sunny, but unlikely to add much to children’s knowledge. (Picture book. 3-5)

Shaw, Nancy Illus. by Rodanas, Kristina Sleeping Bear Press (32 pp.) $16.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-58536-528-9 Elena narrates this touching story set in Guatemala, about a girl’s longing for education. She lives with her mother and younger siblings in a rural village while the father of the family works far away. Elena attends school and is trying to learn to read in Spanish, but she finds it hard to find time to practice reading when she needs to help her mother with cooking, child care and gardening. Candles are scarce as well, so Elena is frustrated with her lack of time to study her books. She solves her problem by reading out loud to her mischievous younger brother, keeping him occupied and practicing her reading at the same time. Her mother realizes that Elena’s reading could help the whole family, so she approves Elena’s use of candles for her reading at night. A large trim size shows off the vibrant illustrations with engaging characters and authentic details in clothing and backgrounds, researched by the author in her travels to Guatemala. There are several foreign terms used in the story, and although they are defined in the glossary, it is unclear to the reader whether these terms are Spanish or Mam, Elena’s native Mayan language. Useful for students learning about life in other countries, and an entertaining story in its own right. (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book. 5-9)

INK ME

Scrimger, Richard Orca (224 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Oct. 10, 2012 978-1-4598-0016-8 Series: Seven (The Series) Meet Bunny (short for Bernard) O’Toole—mentally slow, physically strong and fast—the observant, nonjudgmental narrator of this convoluted but enjoyable fable of Toronto gang life recorded in believable, phonetically spelled prose. His grandfather never got around to getting a tattoo while he was alive. He’s left a letter asking Bunny to do it for him and he does, though the tattoo’s design confuses him. The “15” makes sense—it’s his age—but why is there a candle next to it? Is the tattoo why Jaden, whom he rescued from a bully, and his gang befriend him, even though they’re black and Bunny’s white? Accustomed to teasing and harassment, Bunny finds the gang’s close bond exhilarating. Soon, he’s hanging out at Jaden’s gym, where the manager, Morgan, teaches him boxing. (Bunny’s gifts reflect a stereotype, the disability equivalent of the “magical negro” trope.) Bunny enthusiastically joins in their mysterious deal to raise money to keep the gym open. He reacts to what he experiences; his impressions aren’t funneled through a prism of fears and assumptions. (Readers won’t find the gang so benign.) Loyalty is the currency of their world—something Bunny understands. Most intellectually disabled characters in children’s fiction are siblings or pals whose treatment by other characters signals their compassion or otherwise. Bunny’s a rare hero—not on anyone’s journey but his own. (Fiction. 10-14)

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ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND

Showalter, Gena Harlequin Teen (416 pp.) $18.99 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-373-21058-9 Series: White Rabbit Chronicles, 1 Attack of the invisible zombies! Alice Bell has never been an ordinary girl—she’s never been allowed outside after dark courtesy of her paranoid father and the monsters he sees everywhere. But after a terrible car accident kills Alice’s family, she begins to see the undead, too. Now living with her grandparents and starting a new school, Ali—she eschews her old name due to memories, grief and survivor’s guilt—can’t build a new life while being followed by her father’s demons. As if being chased by slobbering, decaying dead things wasn’t enough, Ali also navigates wellmeaning if out-of-touch grandparents and the tension between her new social group and the rough crowd (more specifically, Ali’s interested in its leader, Cole Holland). The obligatory love triangle never threatens the main love story, but at least Ali’s friendships with other characters, especially her quirky new best friend Kat, are interesting. While using an Alice in Wonderland motif and established survival/horror video game staples (such as |

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“Sinykin does a commendable job of dispelling fear with empathy and tenderness through some very direct yet positive answers to a child’s uncertainty.” from zayde comes to live

a gradually revealed journal written in code), Showalter creates an original zombie mythology and a completely new set of rules for the monsters to follow, as covered by the sometimes-clunky exposition. The climax is rushed, especially when compared to the pacing of the first act of the story, but action-packed. Showalter has created a promising playground for future story installments. (playlist, author Q&A) (Horror/ paranormal romance. 12-17)

sleeper-chair with an oxygen tube, Rachel instinctively knows that he is close to death and begins to question where he will go after his last breath. Megan says he will go to heaven, and Hakim says he will go to Paradise, but Zayde’s Jewish; is there a place for him? Through this question-and-answer text, listeners are told of the inevitability gently, with Zayde’s acceptance and feelings of “shalom,” peace and completeness, and the rabbi’s explanation of “Olam Ha-Ba,” the Jewish belief in the “World to Come.” Most importantly Rachel learns that memories carried in family stories will keep her grandfather alive in her heart. Sinykin does a commendable job of dispelling fear with empathy and tenderness through some very direct yet positive answers to a child’s uncertainty. Linoleum prints created with watercolors and colored pencils in muted tones reflect a spiritually calm and sometimes whimsical ambiance, matching the text’s gentle tone. Though Rachel’s quest takes place within a Jewish context, her emotions and situation are near universal, and this artful book handles both well. (Picture book. 5-10)

SEYMOUR SIMON’S EXTREME EARTH RECORDS

Simon, Seymour Chronicle (60 pp.) $17.99 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-4521-0785-1

Simon adds another to his mammoth body of swinging, smart science books for kids. The author devotes four pages each to the most extreme environments and environmental events on Earth: coldest, hottest, driest, highest, deepest, biggest earthquake, largest volcano, most destructive tsunami and kindred greats. As always—and this is no mean feat—he manages to wow readers, while imparting the scientific circumstances that either create or allow for these phenomena. There is the sheer juicy stuff—temperatures ranging from minus 129 F to 160 F, 56 feet of annual snowfall—but he also adds the human factor (why do 300 people live on Tristan de Cunha, the world’s most remote place?) and introduces the rare flora and fauna. There is an artful blend of text and image, but so much happens in the mind’s eye—a wave traveling at 600 mph, holy cow—that Simon really gets readers thinking. Two grouses: There should have been a photo of Mount Thor on Baffin Island, the greatest pure vertical drop (4100 feet), rather than three waterfall shots; but most egregiously—no maps! Metric measurements are included parenthetically. These places are somewhere—perhaps near, so let’s go—and readers deserve a sense of their location. A dozen earthly gems, buffed high by Simon. (index) (Nonfiction. 7-12)

ISLAND OF DOOM

Slade, Arthur Wendy Lamb/Random (320 pp.) $15.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $18.99 Sep. 11, 2012 978-0-385-73787-6 978-0-307-97574-4 e-book 978-0-385-90697-5 PLB Series: The Hunchback Assignments, 4 Modo is back for one last adventure. Horrendously ugly, but superhumanly strong and able to change his face and form briefly, Modo has been a valuable agent of the Permanent Association, a secret group dedicated to protecting Britannia. But three months after The Empire of Ruins (2011), he has been effectively suspended from duty for disobeying Mr. Socrates, the man who has raised but never parented Modo. When French teen agent Colette (The Dark Deeps, 2010) contacts Modo, he and Octavia, along with Mr. Socrates and Tharpa, are drawn back into conflict with the wicked Clockwork Guild, which seeks to bring down the British Empire and everyone else as well. The Guild has continued to advance, with resurrected creatures made from dead bodies (think Frankenstein’s monster); meanwhile, the Association has powerful steam-powered, armor-clad soldiers of their own, who were once the children harnessed by the Guild to bring down Parliament (The Hunchback Assignments, 2009). Adding to the drama, Modo’s parents may be alive, and Colette and Octavia vie for his attention despite his true, awful face. Beneath the action runs the question of “who am I”; while the answer may prove elusive, this final showdown helps Modo face the question and begin to answer it for himself. By turns touching and pulse-pounding, this conclusion will leave fans fully satisfied. (Steampunk. 11-14)

ZAYDE COMES TO LIVE

Sinykin, Sheri Illus. by Swarner, Kristina Peachtree (32 pp.) $16.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-56145-631-4

Though many parents tend to shield their young children from the realities of terminal illness, this picture book looks at death through the concerned and loving eyes of a child who begins to understand the concept behind the “circle of life.” When Zayde comes to live in Rachel’s house, it is “because he is dying.” Watching him sit and sleep day and night in a |

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“Unrelentingly harsh in tone and language…, this will be devoured by fans of the first, despite the fact that it offers few clear answers, right to the surprisingly gentle and wise conclusion.” from passenger

PASSENGER

and his chronicling of the woes of the Baudelaires. Intact from his earlier series are the gothic wackiness, linguistic play and literary allusions. This first in a series of four is less grim and cynical and more noir and pragmatic than Snicket’s earlier works, but just as much fun. Fans of the Series of Unfortunate Events will be in heaven picking out tidbit references to the tridecalogy, but readers who’ve yet to delve into that well of sadness will have no problem enjoying this weird and witty yarn. (Mystery. 8-12)

Smith, Andrew Feiwel & Friends (480 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-250-00487-1 The menacing, post-apocalyptic world of Marbury is again richly imagined in this stunning sequel to The Marbury Lens (2010). Four boys at the heart of the first novel return for another harrowing journey. Jack, whose abduction and near-rape was the catalyst that brought about his descent into Marbury, his best friend, Conner, and Ben and Griffin, two boys they first encountered in the alternate world, begin by attempting to destroy the lens that clutches Jack in its grip, compelling him to return repeatedly to the horrific world of cannibals, monsters and death. When they smash it, they inadvertently create a schism between dimensions—their hometown of Glenbrook becomes a terrifying mirror of Marbury with many variations in between—making escape nearly impossible. As in the first, readers will not be sure what is real, what is nightmare, what may be metaphor. Smith has created a fantastically effective, sinister setting and imbued it with characters that are loyal and decent, even at their most desperate. Unrelentingly harsh in tone and language (“Fuck this…I’ll show you who he is. We’ll fucking go kill him. I’ll bring back his fucking head”), this will be devoured by fans of the first, despite the fact that it offers few clear answers, right to the surprisingly gentle and wise conclusion. Brilliant and remarkably unsettling. (Horror/fantasy. 16 & up)

THE CUP AND THE CROWN

Stanley, Diane Harper/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $15.99 | PLB $16.89 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-06-196321-6 978-0-06-196322-3 PLB

The further adventures of Molly, the kitchen maid who saved a king (The Silver Bowl, 2011), provide an explanation for her magical abilities and suggest that the future holds even more changes and challenges. Brief mention of earlier events will remind returning readers of how Molly, along with her friend Tobias, saved the life of King Alaric and helped him to claim his throne. Readers unfamiliar with Stanley’s earlier foray into the kingdom of Westria may feel a bit lost as Molly is charged with finding a special cup for King Alaric, and the action picks up quickly. However characters new and old are effectively drawn, and the plot moves smoothly, ensuring that both sets of readers will follow the ensuing journey with enthusiasm and interest. Mysterious visions, a secret city, a family reunion of sorts and kidnapping all figure into the tale, as do a clever rat catcher and a magical protector. Stanley’s storytelling is polished, her imaginary world clearly constructed. She doesn’t shy away from serious subjects, but her light touch enables readers to ponder them as part of the whole rather than as overt messages about life, love and politics. Savvy readers will suspect (or hope) that Molly’s story will continue, but this section of her saga comes to a satisfying end. Richly imagined and elegantly conveyed, this is a worthy successor to Molly’s star-studded debut. (Fantasy. 10-14)

“WHO COULD THAT BE AT THIS HOUR?” Snicket, Lemony Illus. by Seth Little, Brown (272 pp.) $15.99 | Oct. 23, 2012 978-0-316-12308-2

Young Mr. Snicket seems to always ask the wrong questions. In the basin of a bay drained of seawater, where giant needles extract ink from octopi underground, sits Stain’d-by-the-Sea, the mostly deserted town where 12-year-old Lemony Snicket takes his first case as apprentice to chaperone S. Theodora Markson. They have been hired by Mrs. Murphy Sallis to retrieve a vastly valuable statue of the local legend, the Bombinating Beast, from her neighbors and frenemies the Mallahans. Nothing’s what it seems…well, the adults are mostly nitwits…and Snicket is usually preoccupied with someone he left in the city doing something he should be helping her do. With the help and/or hindrance of girls Moxie and Ellington, can Snicket keep his promises and come close to solving a mystery? Author Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) returns with a tale of fictional-character Snicket’s early years, between his unconventional education 1962

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JUMP CUT

Staunton, Ted Orca (232 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Oct. 10, 2012 978-1-55469-947-6 Series: Seven (The Series)

Grandfather’s will sends a 17-year-old boy on a zany adventure. Unlike his brother and male cousins, Spencer is not athletic or adventurous. Instead, he’s rather timid, a watcher rather than a doer. That all changes after the reading of his |

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DEAR DAISY DUNNINGTON

grandfather’s remarkable will, which sends Spencer on a quest to find and get a kiss on the cheek from an aging B-movie actress named Gloria Lorraine. Turns out that Gloria has a larger-than-life theatrical personality, a bulldozer-strong will and an agenda of her own. In the sometimes hard-to-get-a-gripon madcap adventure that follows, Spencer and Gloria pick up Gloria’s granddaughter, AmberLea (who is under house arrest), and discover that the thumping coming from the back of their “borrowed” Cadillac is being caused by an armed thug and cannoli baker who is tied up in the trunk. In the course of the story, Spencer tangles with Mafia toughs and motorcycle gang members, finding maturity, smarts and personal strength in the process. Like much of the novel, the wingding climax is funny, inventive and hard to follow. The author makes some inexplicable choices affecting reader comprehension. For example, do the two men in Gloria’s young life really need to be named Danny and Davey? Muddled but entertaining story with a heart of gold. (Fiction. 10-14)

Stein, Mathilde Illus. by Groenink, Chuck Lemniscaat USA (32 pp.) $17.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-935954-18-7 Downtrodden Daisy imagines a much less restricted life for herself in amusing and ultimately hopeful ways. She’s down the apartment stairs at the front door. There’s a letter for her on the doormat. A hectoring voice from above harangues her about doing this and not doing that. On each successive spread is a formal letter, and each letter tells readers a little more about Daisy and a lot about the strength of her imagination. Batisto Giovanni Prospero Carlotti wants her to join his circus, as her balance while washing windows enchants him. A sheik proposes marriage. Sir Hubert Tatter Tawdry-Tout admits she was accidentally switched at birth, and the queen herself will come to bring her to the palace. A group of aliens are taken with her sweet singing voice, and their letter inviting her to come to their planet and sing to them is done in pictures. Each of the letters is fulsomely illustrated with rich detail and rubbery figures; Mel Glitzstein’s invitation for Daisy to star in Wrath of the Mummy waggishly depicts an Indiana Jones–type escape with a Peter Jackson/Martin Scorsese–ish director calling the shots. In the end, clutching the still-unopened missive in her hand, she goes off without her coat or her bag or any of her mother’s vitriol. It’s an odd and very European tale, and a very brave one. (Picture book. 7-12)

BEHIND THE BOOKCASE

Steensland, Mark Illus. by Murphy, Kelly Delacorte (288 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-385-74071-5 978-0-375-89985-0 e-book 978-0-375-98963-6 PLB What is behind the bookcase? A black tunnel that is a secret portal to an adventure for a girl and her younger brother. When Sarah’s family arrives at her grandmother’s house to get it ready to sell, strange sounds and sensations begin immediately. As she’s packing boxes, Sarah discovers an unfinished letter from her grandma with the words, “Strange things are happening behind the bookcase.” Of course, Sarah investigates the tunnel and lands in Scotopia, which is ruled by the talking King of the Cats, Balthazat. She becomes the key figure in a battle of good versus evil as dangerous creatures attempt to foil Sarah’s efforts to keep the malignant cat from unleashing the sleeping souls locked inside the house. The fantasy characters are inventive: an enormous hand on legs called Lefty; sentinels whose eyes and mouths are stitched shut and carry heads for lanterns; a boy with half his face missing; and a giant bat with a boy’s face. However, the humans are stock figures, and plot elements are derivative. The black-and-white drawings attempt to be Gorey-esque but fail to meet that standard. Though the title and cover are promising, the writing is muddled with too many conveniently trumped-up figures. Stick with any of John Bellairs’ books for a skillful gothic tale. (Fantasy. 8-12)

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THE FIRE CHRONICLE

Stephens, John Knopf (400 pp.) $17.99 | PLB $20.99 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-375-86871-9 978-0-375-96871-6 PLB Series: Books of Beginning, 2 Time travel, an Arctic ice shelf and frivolous elves converge in this second installment of The Books of Beginning. Siblings Kate, Michael and Emma were lauded for successfully battling evil in The Emerald Atlas (2011), but soon afterward, their trusted confidant, Dr. Pym, redeposited them in a decrepit orphanage without explanation. After several months, a foreboding black cloud rolls in, catapulting the children into action. Kate escapes to 1899 Manhattan via the previous book’s titular atlas, while Michael and Emma are miraculously plucked from danger by Pym. So sets the stage for Kate’s mission to rejoin her siblings and for Michael and Emma’s journey to a secreted, lush valley in Antarctica to seek a second magic book, the Chronicle. The children aren’t strangers to magic, but their awe of magical places, allies |

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and enemies does anything but wane here (it’s hard to be hohum when entranced by elves, pursued by a dragon and combatting trolls). A third-person-omniscient narration alternates between Kate and Michael, but Michael, the meekest child (and destined keeper of the Chronicle), is the primary focus as he struggles to find a fiery strength within himself. With no rest for the children, the ending is anything but a fading ember as Emma is kidnapped, separating the trio once again and setting the stage for Book 3. Irreverent humor and swashbuckling adventure collide in a fetching fantasy. (Fantasy. 10-14)

McGregors’ picnic basket—after polishing off a sandwich that’s as big as he is—and wakes up in the far-off Scottish Highlands. Thompson (who also often wakes up in Scotland) doesn’t leave him at loose ends for long, though. Rescued by kilted cousin Finlay McBurney, he spends a cozy night atop a sack of “sheepswool and heather.” The next day he attends a rabbit Highland games (“very boring”) before enjoying a further gustatory encounter with an “unusually large RADISH” hidden behind a “Keep Out” sign. At last he makes his way back home with a “fat little haggis for his mother.” Looking something like a fat little haggis himself and still clad in his customary torn blue jacket, Peter draws the eye in each of Taylor’s verdant, loosely brushed watercolors. Most of the action plays out in the text, but, rendered in Beatrix Potter’s general style with a paler palette and less dramatic tension, the pictures nonetheless create pretty, idyllic tableaus of wildflowers, tartans and dappled greenery. An outing to which children (like Peter’s cousin Benjamin Bunny) will listen with “particular attention,” done up in a large, decidedly un-Potter-like trim size that’s suitable for sharing in a lap or with a group. (Picture book. 5-8)

DRAWING FROM THE CITY

Tejubehan Translated by Geetha, V.; Wolf, Gita Illus. by Tejubehan Tara Publishing (28 pp.) $35.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-93-80340-17-3

DEMON EYES

Art and design take center stage in this carefully crafted, elegant, artisanal book. This stunning autobiographical art book recounts self-taught artist Tejubehan’s journey from an impoverished childhood in rural India, through her family’s efforts to improve their lot in a tent city in Mumbai, and into her adulthood, when she lived as a singer and artist with her husband. The direct, unadorned text has an immediacy that reveals its roots as an orally narrated life story, which was then recorded in Tamil and translated into English. Hand–screenprinted illustrations comprised of intricate linework and patterns of dots underscore elements of the text without being strictly tied to delivering straightforward narrative. In this way, the book emerges more as an illustrated memoir than it does a traditional picture book with interdependent art and text. As a physical artifact, it draws attention to its creation with stiff pages and fragrant, tactile inks. The illustrations themselves are black and white, while the text is set in a sans-serif typeface in colors that change subtly from spread to spread. A unique offering that presents readers with arresting artwork and a compelling life story. (Art book. 8-14)

Tracey, Scott Flux (384 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-7387-2645-8 Series: Witch Eyes, 2 Braden must sort through the messy consequences from Witch Eyes (2011) while unraveling another deadly magical plot. Braden’s powerful witch eyes are more curse than strength, as the strain he put them through battling Lucien Fallon has left them so unstable that using them is potentially life-threatening. This displeases his father— though to the rest of Belle Dam, Braden is merely Jason Thorpe’s ward. He is the latest pawn in Thorpe’s feud with witch Catherine Lansing; if she knew Braden’s identity, he would be put in danger. The feud and lies mean Braden has to sneak around to see his best friend, Jade Lansing, and can’t see love interest Trey Lansing at all. Braden and Trey, in equal measures drawn to each other and pushing each other away, are not arbitrarily star-crossed—their romantic tension is earned through their dance among mistrust, obligations and genuine affection. The feud heats up though, with Jason and Catherine both becoming more aggressive, and girls start vanishing in disappearances that reek of the supernatural. To top things off, Braden is tormented by visions that Lucien is still alive and in Belle Dam. The mysteries all seem to converge on Braden, putting all those near him at great risk. The risks and consequences create great tension, and the climax is especially well-paced. Colorful characters, dangerous magic, secrets and forbidden romance—what’s not to love? (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

THE FURTHER TALE OF PETER RABBIT

Thompson, Emma Illus. by Taylor, Eleanor Warne (64 pp.) $19.99 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-72326-710-2

Showing his age not a whit, nor having lost his appetite, Peter Rabbit eats his way into a pair of (metaphorical) pickles in this droll comeback. Idly wishing for a change of scenery, Peter falls asleep in the 1964

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“Sophisticated, prodigious blending of familiar and original storytelling elements adds multilayered texture, while the rich prose oozes exotic, imaginative imagery.” from the girl who fell beneath fairyland and led the revels there”

DEATH OF A KLEPTOMANIAC

matches September’s self-conscious determination to behave “as a heroine.” Sophisticated, prodigious blending of familiar and original storytelling elements adds multilayered texture, while the rich prose oozes exotic, imaginative imagery. Juan’s black-and-white spot art highlights September’s questing. Heartless September sprouts a heart during this remarkable, awesome journey. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Tracy, Kristen Hyperion (272 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 30, 2012 978-1-4231-2752-9

Even when she’s dead, Molly has things to discover and deal with in her own way— with required screaming, sassiness and a little help from a guide named Louise. Apparently, before a soul can cross over, it needs to settle residual issues, and Molly has them in spades. In addition to her titular kleptomania, she had trouble deciding which guy she really liked and knowing who her real friends were. Somehow this is epitomized by clocks. Lots of them. Do not expect logic, just go with the flow. It’s all pretty silly and lighthearted, which makes the read appealingly fluffy despite Molly’s death from being bitten on the butt by a rattlesnake while horseback riding. (Too embarrassed to admit her butt is sore, she let everyone think that the horse simply threw her and it’s the head injury that matters. Not.) Likable and flawed (Tracy specializes in this kind of narrator), she resists the afterlife as she grapples with the discoveries she makes visiting the people that mattered to her. While setting herself square, Molly can see and hear what she never could alive. No one could take any of it seriously, but perhaps that is its greatest charm. Theft, death and laughter. (Fiction. 12-15)

SILVER

Vance, Talia Flux (384 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Sep. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-3303-6 Brianna Paxton has always suspected she is invisible to boys. It turns out there’s a supernatural explanation: A silver bracelet her grandmother gave her keeps Brianna from revealing herself as an uber-desirable and uber-dangerous bandia. According to Blake, the boy who takes it upon himself to educate her about her powers, Brianna is the descendant of Danu, a goddess who punished Killian, the one man she couldn’t make love her, with a curse. Now Brianna is embroiled in a cosmic war against the Sons of Killian, an order meant to extinguish the descendants of Danu. (Unsettlingly, the Sons perpetuate themselves through “selective breeding” and seek out high school girls to date based on their gene pool.) To complicate matters, Brianna and Blake share a kiss that forges a magical bond between them, and Blake spends the novel torn between his desire for Brianna and his distrust of her powers. Despite Brianna’s supernatural abilities, she is more often passive than active. Others teach her about her powers and history without being asked; she is attacked but rarely goes on the offensive; and romantically, she mostly waits around for Blake to make up his mind. A quick read with some interesting fantasy elements, but the passive heroine and sometimes-confusing worldbuilding disappoint. (Fantasy. 13-16)

THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE

Valente, Catherynne M. Illus. by Juan, Ana Feiwel & Friends (272 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-312-64962-3

In this sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (2011), heroine September embarks on another quest, this time to Fairyland-Below, where her shadow rules as queen. It’s been a year since September saved Fairyland after sacrificing her shadow and returned home to Nebraska, where she carries the secret of her adventure “with her like a pair of rich gloves which...she could take out and slip” on. On her 13th birthday, September chases a peculiar boat across the wheat fields and falls into Fairyland-Below, a dark region without rules. There, everything’s “upside down and slantwise,” shadows are siphoned from Fairyland and September’s shadow, Halloween, orchestrates wild nightly revels. September resolutely pledges to recover all missing shadows, including her own, by traveling to the very bottom of Fairyland to awaken the Sleeping Prince. Her deliberate descent into dark, surreal places where she encounters bizarre, fantastical creatures is chronicled by the perceptive narrator whose familiarity with fairy-tale tradition |

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RAINING CATS AND DETECTIVES

Venable, Colleen AF Illus. by Yue, Stephanie Graphic Universe (48 pp.) $6.95 paperback | $20.95 e-book PLB $27.93 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-7613-8541-7 978-0-7613-8736-7 e-book 978-0-7613-7919-5 PLB Series: Guinea PIG, Pet Shop Private Eye, 5 Detective Sasspants returns! But this time, she has competition. Guinea pig Sasspants, her faithful, exuberantly enthusiastic sidekick, Hamisher the hamster, and all the denizens of |

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“The rich setting and the thrilling details of the climb will make readers yearn for their own adventure.” from between heaven and earth

Mr. Venezi’s Pets & Stuff are still in the store. Despite assistant salesperson Viola’s best efforts, Mr. Venezi still can’t get the correct species names on the animals’ cages. All the animals are friends, so most are content to stay in the shop. Then (human) Detective Pickles arrives and adopts Sasspants, so when Tummytickles, the bookstore cat next door, vanishes, there’s no one to find him. Suddenly, everyone from the goldfish (all named Steve) to the snooty chinchillas are donning detective hats and…well, calling themselves detectives. Will Sasspants return to save the day, or can Hamisher detect on his own? Venables’s fifth Pet Shop Private Eye graphic adventure for the chapterbook crowd is as sly, sarcastic and silly as its predecessors. Yue’s expressive, dot-eyed creatures in bright hues and cinematic panels are still perfect at bringing the tales to life and adding an extra dimension of character and humor. Readers of the previous four titles will get a few more laughs than those new to the series, but this can stand alone. Sass and Hamisher hint that they may be getting out of the detecting business given the end…let’s hope NOT! (Graphic mystery. 7-11)

BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH

Walters, Eric Orca (256 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Oct. 10, 2012 978-1-55469-941-4 Series: Seven (The Series) Seventeen-year-old DJ attempts to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in fulfillment of his grandfather’s final wish to have his ashes spread at the summit. Accustomed to succeeding at everything he does, DJ mistakenly believes that he can travel to Africa, climb the mountain and be home in a matter of days. Tricked into taking on the first female porter, he finds himself set to climb with a 67-year-old woman; nevertheless, DJ believes that his fitness and youth will be enough to get him to the top. However, if pride comes before the fall, then perhaps humility comes before the ascent. He learns that to travel quickly, one must travel alone, but to travel far, one must go with others. The rich setting and the thrilling details of the climb will make readers yearn for their own adventure. However, graphic descriptions of altitude sickness and stomach-twisting trail food leave no false illusions that the journey will be an easy one. This exciting adventure is only slightly marred by obvious foreshadowing and a predictable ending. DJ’s tale is the first of seven books in this series, all publishing simultaneously. Each, written by a different author, will focus on one of the six other grandsons following their grandfather’s will. Richly detailed and satisfying. (Adventure. 10-16)

THE POPPY LADY Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans

Walsh, Barbara Elizabeth Illus. by Johnson, Layne Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills (40 pp.) $16.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-59078-754-0 Imbued with an unwavering sense of duty and patriotism, a woman conceives a lasting tribute to war veterans. Georgia schoolteacher Moina Michael, deeply saddened at the outbreak of World War I, wanted to help departing soldiers. She rolled bandages, knitted socks and sweaters, and boosted morale by delivering books, food and goodwill. These efforts, even combined with waving farewell at train stations, weren’t enough; Michael yearned to do more. Working with the YMCA in New York City, she offered support and kindness to soldiers. A chance rereading of the famous wartime poem “In Flanders Fields,” with its images of poppies on graves, galvanized Michael into action, and she devoted herself to seeing that a red poppy became a symbol to memorialize the war dead. Her idea eventually led to the public distribution of paper poppies to raise funds for veterans and military families, a tradition that continues in some communities. Michael’s moral force and commitment are commendable and noteworthy, but this is a well-meaning, though only serviceably written, overwrought book that will resonate more with adults. Children of military families may take it more to heart than other youngsters, especially those unfamiliar with the tradition. The heroic oil paintings are colorful, and Michael looks nothing less than beatific. Of possible interest where poppies are distributed around Memorial Day and Veterans Day. (prologue, epilogue, author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book. 7-10) 1966

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CAN WE SHARE THE WORLD WITH TIGERS?

Wells, Robert E. Illus. by Wells, Robert E. Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-8075-1055-1 Series: Wells of Knowledge Science Series Using threats to endangered Bengal tigers’ survival as a springboard, Wells teaches young readers about the many ways humans interfere with the natural world and its biodiversity. Opening with a Bengal tigress and her cubs, Wells introduces into the mix a langur monkey that stops the tigress from walking into a poacher’s trap. The anthropomorphized quartet (the tiger plants a big kiss on the monkey’s cheek—yeah, right) then travel through the book together, teaching readers about habitat destruction, pollution, overharvesting, invasive species, biodiversity and extinction. Words are defined in the text, in a glossary or in glaring yellow “Learning Circle[s]” that also sometimes provide factoids, but while many of the glossary words are all in caps, there are other words that also appear this way that are not defined in the back. Also, while the more scientific terminology is defined, other vocabulary is not as audience-friendly: excessive, |

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sensitive, vegetation, profit, livestock, disrupted, emit, incurable. Not as strong as its predecessors in the Wells of Knowledge Science series, this is not as well-written or -designed—the text is scattered across the spreads and often justified or otherwise confusingly spaced, making it difficult to follow. Too, there are a few pages that are vertically oriented. The pen-and-acrylic illustrations nicely convey the concepts using a mix of timelines, flowcharts and artwork, but the fact/fiction blend jars. A hot topic receives a tepid treatment. (Informational picture book. 5-9)

find the treasure.” Each clue is a nursery rhyme with a missing word that rhymes: “I’m a little ______, short and stout. Tip me over and pour me out!” The clue is concealed under a flap on the page, and the bunnies excitedly fill in the missing word on the following page. The final treasure box has five gold coins filled with chocolate—but wait, there are only four bunnies! They decide to give the fifth to Lily’s doll, Dagmar, but where is she? Instead of ending the story with the discovery of the treasure, Wells adds one more fillip of fun as the bunnies retrace their steps and clues to find the doll. The large format and heavy paper are filled with Wells’ sprightly and charming illustrations, with borders added to the bottom of the clue pages that repeat an image of the rhyme: Jack jumps over the candlestick; Miss Mary Mack sits back to, showing off her silver buttons, buttons, buttons. Perfect for one-to-one sharing or small group participation; one reading will not be enough. (Picture book. 3-5)

FEEDBACK

Wells, Robison HarperTeen (320 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-06-202610-1 978-0-06-219012-3 e-book

ODDREY

In Variant (2011), Benton Fisher thought he lucked out when he was admitted to Maxfield Academy in New Mexico, and then even luckier when he escaped what turned out to be a virtual prison populated

Whamond, Dave Illus. by Whamond, Dave Owlkids Books (32 pp.) $16.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-926973-45-6

by robot clones, but… Ben and Becky have fled into the forest, with Becky badly injured. Ben has to find help before they’re discovered. The hunt for them is on, and the clock is running against them. Ben finds a settlement outside the school grounds, but he is shocked to discover that it’s populated by people he already knows…or thought he knew. But these people are real, while the kids from his past were no more than clones of these originals. Hiding out while Becky recovers, Ben tries to learn who is for real and who can be trusted, always looking for a path to safety. But it becomes clear there is only one way to go: back to school to destroy the enemy from within. Picking up only moments after the first book ends, this book features the same nonstop, breathless pace, adding new dimension to old characters and new plot twists that are hard to see coming. The often violent action flows logically from the plot. An absorbing read that won’t let fans of the first down. (Thriller. 12 & up)

Little Oddrey the charming oddball makes good when her classmates seize up like overheated cylinders during the school play. Whamond’s Oddrey is a berserkly cute imp. She likes to do things her way: odd, but not dangerously so. Her hopscotch layout is unique; her apples are blue; her dog meows; she looks for the silver lining when others just want to get out of the rain. Her classmates are a tad suspicious, a little standoffish, but not hateful. When her class puts on the school play, Oddrey gets a supporting role and has to conform to the drab outfit her drab teacher gives her. When the stars of the show come down with serious stage fright, Oddrey races from each to each with encouragement, and the show goes on. Despite the fairly dear artwork and the unflagging optimism and original personality of Oddrey, readers can’t help but feel a letdown at how her creator has her rather unoriginally save the day. It’s plain flat and not what we’ve come to expect from her. And when the other kids start to emulate her, she might as well be Audrey. So bighearted and good-spirited, it is a shame that the climax fails at liftoff. (Picture book. 4-8)

MAX AND RUBY’S TREASURE HUNT

Wells, Rosemary Illus. by Wells, Rosemary Viking (32 pp.) $17.99 | Oct. 30, 2012 978-0-670-06317-8

Wells cultivates her taproot into the minds and actions of young kids for an exuberant return adventure for Max and Ruby. When a thunderstorm ruins Ruby’s tea party, Grandma suggests the four bunnies have a treasure hunt. “There are seven clues hidden in seven places….Follow the clues, and you will |

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FLY, CHICK, FLY!

A tale driven by its informational purpose, with only a short story’s worth of plot. (map and family tree, not seen) (Fiction. 11-13)

Willis, Jeanne Illus. by Ross, Tony Andersen Press USA (32 pp.) $16.95 | $12.95 e-book | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-4677-0314-7 978-1-4677-0320-8 e-book

BEAR SAYS THANKS

Wilson, Karma Illus. by Chapman, Jane McElderry (40 pp.) $16.99 | $12.99 e-book | Sep. 4, 2012 978-1-4169-5856-7 978-1-4424-6126-0 e-book

The third of three owl chicks hesitates to fly, requiring much encouragement from its parents. As they did in Don’t Let Go! (2003), veteran collaborators Willis and Ross here allude to both the terrors and rewards of a child’s first steps toward independence. The repetitive, alliterative poem and realistic pictures work together to tell the story. Ross’ illustrations vary in size and placement on the white pages. Done with pastels on a textured base, they show barn owls with endearing, heart-shaped faces. Father hunts and brings food; mother looks out from their woodland tree cavity. One especially sweet image has both parents looking on as lovingly as owls can look as the last chick hatches from its egg. Later, readers see the first two chicks flapping, flipping, flopping and flying. When the third chick worries she might be eaten by a crow or hit by a train, the color deepens: Against a deep red sky a looming steam engine threatens. The chick clings desperately to a tree branch; Father tries to pull her free. At last, she flies. But that’s not the end. “Snow came. Crow came. Spring came. / But what became of this last chick?” This gentle read-aloud looks forward to the time when the child will have a young one of her own. (Picture book. 3-7)

In a new companion to Bear Snores On and Bear Wants More (2002, 2003), a lovable bevy of friends come together again for feast and fun. Bear is bored and lonely and decides that a dinner party is the perfect way to gather all his friends for some sharing and fun, but there is no food to be found in his cave. One by one his friends stop by, each bringing something delicious with openhearted enthusiasm. Mouse, Hare, Badger, Gopher, Mole and feathered friends Owl, Raven and Wren pool their goodies and create a glorious feast. Bear is grateful and warmed by their generosity and, as in previous works, the title refrain is repeated at every offering. But he is also embarrassed at having nothing to contribute. His friends reassure him that he has stories to share that will make the feast special. The lilting verse is neither trite nor singsong, and movement and excitement are conveyed as the animals flap, flitter, hurry and tromp into Bear’s home. Rich autumn hues abound throughout, from the opening double-page spread to the glowing earth-toned cave strewn with twigs and colorful leaves. Deep friendship is supremely evident in facial expressions and body language and their joy at being together. Who would not love this cuddly, soft, furry creature? A tender tale of friendship, timed for Thanksgiving. (Picture book. 3-7)

LOST CAUSE

Wilson, John Orca (224 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Oct. 10, 2012 978-1-55469-944-5 Series: Seven (The Series)

WHAT’S UP, BEAR? A Book About Opposites

Posthumous messages and tantalizing clues send a teenager from Canada to Barcelona in search of a hidden chapter from his beloved grandfather’s past. One of a septet of simultaneously published novels, all by different authors and featuring cousins who are each left a mission or task in their shared grandfather’s will, this takes Steve to Spain, where he discovers that his elder relative was a member of the International Brigades. He is guided by his grandfather’s old journal and also by Laia, an attractive young resident of the city who lectures him on the Spanish Civil War while taking him to several local memorial sites. Steve slowly gains insight into how it felt to believe passionately in a cause—even, in this case, a doomed one—and then to lose that innocent certainty in the blood and shock of war. The storyline is, though, at best only thin glue for a series of infodumps, and readers will get a stronger, more specific view of that conflict’s drama and course from William Loren Katz’s Lincoln Brigade: A Pictorial History (1989). 1968

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Wishinsky, Frieda Illus. by Moore, Sean L. Owlkids Books (32 pp.) $16.95 | $11.95 e-book | Oct. 15, 2012 978-1-926973-41-8 978-1-926973-51-7 e-book A trip to the Big Apple is fraught with anxiety for Sophie’s stuffed bear in this tour-cum–opposite book. Sophie is thrilled to be visiting New York City with her dad; Bear is not as excited. Left-hand pages present one sentence from Sophie’s perspective, while right-hand pages detail Bear’s experiences. Bolded words in each introduce opposites: up and down for the airplane ride, fast and slow for the taxi trip, tall and short when comparing themselves to Manhattan’s skyscrapers. While not all the sights are specific to New York, readers will recognize LaGuardia Airport, Times Square, the |

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“There’s wondrous art in the service of little brothers in this follow-up to A Few Blocks (2011).” from a few bites

A FEW BITES

Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, and of course, the subway (the 3 train) in Moore’s brightly colored digital illustrations. (The endpapers provide further facts about each of these places.) When Sophie and her dad head to a toy store, though, the tale takes a darker turn as Bear questions his self-worth and then is lost amid all the other bears at the store: fancy/plain, new/old, big/small, forgot/remember. Happily, he wears an address tag that helps him reunite with Sophie: lost/found. Throughout, readers will be captivated by both Sophie’s and Bear’s facial expressions; Sophie’s exuberance is obvious, while the patched and well-loved Bear looks like he might lose his lunch after riding the subway. Where will the lovable Bear and his best friend travel next? (Picture book. 2-5)

Young, Cybèle Illus. by Young, Cybèle Groundwood (48 pp.) $18.95 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-1-55498-295-0 There’s wondrous art in the service of little brothers in this follow-up to A Few Blocks (2011). Viola has made lunch for her little brother Ferdie: broccoli, carrot sticks, ravioli. Ferdie is consumed with the desire to find a missing toy part, but Viola promises to help him find it after he eats. Ferdie does not want this lunch. But then Viola launches into a brilliant saga of dinosaurs who could climb mountains and scale volcanoes so long as they ate 5,000 broccolis a day. This plays out in full color around the delicate little black-andwhite sketches of brother and sister, fabulous paper sculptures of the children, dinosaurs, mountains and forests overlaying the original domestic scene. Ferdie eats three bites. Then he balks at the carrot sticks. Viola begins again, with aliens and their Orange Power Sticks, and after the second explosion of color, line and story, he eats them all up. But the ravioli is cold now, and although Viola launches a wild and splendid story—fish this time—she falters at the end. The images return to black and white, and Viola plugs in her earphones. She’s done. But Ferdie has an idea, in color, and it works out very well indeed. A good story and thoroughly engaging art that flows organically from it; two attractive siblings in a recognizable setting; a winner. (Picture book. 4-8)

IT’S DUFFY TIME!

Wood, Audrey Illus. by Wood, Don Blue Sky/Scholastic (40 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-545-22089-7 A dog’s life is a tough one, as evidenced by Duffy’s busy day, which consists mostly of naps punctuated by meals. The Woods’ pug’s typical day includes going out to the yard to “potty,” playing with his best friend and greeting his dog friends on a walk to the park. But most of the book focuses on the numerous naps Duffy takes. There are the before- and afterbreakfast naps, the “late morning nap” and the “mid-day nap” that lasts through into the “early afternoon nap.” Three more naps and it’s bedtime, when, surprise, Duffy, dressed in pajamas that match his best friend’s, isn’t tired. The short sentences and relatively easy vocabulary make this a good choice for new readers, if they can get through the banality of Duffy’s schedule. The inclusion of clocks in all different shapes and sizes helps readers tell how much time has passed between naps, though the younger audience may have appreciated a focus on only the hours. Throughout, Duffy’s wrinkles and intense eyes reflect his emotions, especially his impatience (or is it embarrassment?) at waiting in line at the bank while dressed in a pirate costume. When it comes to books about napping, the Wood team cannot beat their own The Napping House, and while their love for their pug is obvious, in terms of fun (or even interesting) dog books, almost anything can beat this. (Picture book. 3-7)

christmas & hanukkah roundup EMANUEL AND THE HANUKKAH RESCUE

Akib, Jamel Kar-Ben (32 pp.) $17.95 | paper $7.95 | $13.95 e-book Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-7613-6625-6 978-0-7613-6627-0 paperback 978-1-4677-0059-7 e-book A boy’s insistence on exercising freedom of religion helps an 18th-century Portuguese-Jewish immigrant community openly practice and observe its faith. Emanuel works with his merchant father offering supplies to the whalers of New Bedford, Mass., and, with dreams of joining a ship when he is older, loves to listen to Captain Henshaw’s

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“It’s Santa Claus the prequel in this witty exploration of Santa’s younger years.” from santa from cincinnati

THE COUNT’S HANUKKAH COUNTDOWN

adventurous seafaring stories. But his cautious father, scarred by the Spanish Inquisition, tells him that whaling is a dangerous occupation and that Emanuel’s place will be at the store. Emanuel grows weary of his father’s fears. He particularly cannot understand why they do not openly celebrate Shabbat or the eight nights of Hanukkah with their menorah’s candles beaming in the window. On the eighth day of Hanukkah, the determined 9-year-old stows away on Captain Henshaw’s ship, leaving a note expressing his search for freedom. Disaster strikes immediately in the form of a fierce storm that causes the ship to turn back. As suspense builds, the darkness is lit with the numerous flickering menorah candles in the windows of the Jewish homes, guiding the struggling ship and its crew back to shore. Opaque dark-blue– and brown-hued paintings provide a shadowy atmosphere; the chiseled faces of hard-working men are illuminated by candlelight. Emanuel’s New World innocence, untouched by persecution, is reflected in his boyish, smooth face. Although didactic and idealized, this broad interpretation of freedom from a Jewish perspective is one not often seen. (Picture book. 5-8)

Balsley, Tilda; Fischer, Ellen Illus. by Leigh, Tom Kar-Ben (24 pp.) $16.95 | paper $6.95 | $13.95 e-book Aug. 1, 2012 978-0-7613-7556-2 978-0-7613-7557-9 paperback 978-1-4677-0694-0 e-book Series: Shalom Sesame A family visit from Israel to Sesame Street includes a traditional Hanukkah observance while the number-obsessed Count happily looks for ways to include the perfect Hanukkah numeral 8 whenever possible. With Grover’s assistance, Aunt Sara, Uncle Joe and the twins get ready to celebrate the holiday with their Israeli guests, Brosh and Avigail (all are Muppets). Latkes are made, the table is set, the menorah is cleaned and polished, and Uncle Joe recounts the legend of Judah Maccabee and his small, brave army. As the Count participates, he insists on counting to eight (represented as 8 throughout) for everything. He takes 8 bites of latkes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), sings 8 songs and hands out 8 gifts. But “[e]verything at Hanukkah doesn’t have to be 8,” points out one of the twins when there is only one dreidel to play with. Leigh’s signature Sesame Street illustrations in bright, bold colors authenticate this Shalom Sesame tale, the first in a new series focused on Jewish culture and life. It may not be the most traditional-looking celebration, but the familiarity of Grover and the Count will draw little ones in, with the added fun of counting aloud and recognizing the numerals 1 through 8 continuing the engagement. (Picture book. 3-5)

DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA

Alko, Selina Illus. by Alko, Selina Knopf (32 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-375-86093-5

A little girl celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah at her house, combining holiday traditions from the two sides of her family. Narrator Sadie has a cheerful attitude about her family’s diverse heritage, matched by the vibrant colors and creative composition of the illustrations, which are done in mixed-media collage incorporating bits of fabric and paper. There is no actual mention of the two religions, and the holiday celebrations are treated more as cultural events rather than religious ones. Sadie and her parents decorate the house for both holidays, including a tree with gelt scattered underneath and candy canes hanging from the menorah on the mantelpiece. A special dinner with the extended family for the last night of Hanukkah includes references to the relevant stories of the miracle of the oil and “the animals in the manger, waiting for the baby to be born” (a slight misstep, of course; the animals were in the stable, waiting for the baby, who was placed in the manger). A recipe for cranberry kugel dressing is included, along with a timeline of most major Jewish, Christian and secular holidays throughout the year. An appealing story that will interest many families. (Picture book/religion.4-7)

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SANTA FROM CINCINNATI

Barrett, Judi Illus. by Hawkes, Kevin Atheneum (48 pp.) $16.99 | $12.99 e-book | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4424-2993-2 978-1-4424-2994-9 e-book It’s Santa Claus the prequel in this witty exploration of Santa’s younger years. Santa narrates the story himself, starting with his birth on December 25 in Cincinnati to a normal couple who spotted his first name in a bowl of alphabet soup. His preferences and interests as a child are often indicated in Hawkes’ illustrations; as a newborn he’s wrapped in a red blanket with a tiny Santa cap, and as a little boy, he totes around a pillowcase full of stuffed reindeer toys. Santa and his father build toys together in his basement, and as a young man, Santa starts giving toys away every Christmas Eve. Each aspect of Santa’s character is addressed, so that his current persona seems a logical result of his younger years. A large |

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trim size with expansive double-page spreads lets the acrylic-and– colored-pencil illustrations shine, and lots of the laugh-out-loud humor is presented in the art. And of course, lots of children in Cincinnati will expect to find this under the tree on Christmas morning, a gift from their new hometown hero. The droll, understated wit of the text and the delightfully comical, skillfully planned illustrations make this a story that will delight both children and adult readers. (Picture book. 4-8)

back door of the castle, where a kitchen maid finds them. She takes the cloth home and sews a jacket for her mother. This pattern is repeated, with a badger making a hat for his father, a squirrel stitching gloves for his wife and a mouse using the last, tiny scrap as a scarf for her little son. Each gift-giver is pleased with his or her offering, and all the recipients are grateful for their warm, red gifts. The final spread shows all the pairs ice skating together, with each recipient wearing their red clothing. Charming illustrations in mixed media include cloth and paper pattern pieces, with lines of stitching and ribbons cleverly dividing pages with multiple spot illustrations. The succinct text has the satisfying feel of a folk tale, and it’s the sort of story children will want to hear over and over—and the kind adults won’t mind reading many times. Just right. (Picture book. 3-7)

SANTA RETIRES

Biedrzycki, David Illus. by Biedrzycki, David Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $16.95 | paper $7.95 | $6.99 e-book Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-293-3 978-1-58089-294-0 paperback 978-1-60734-459-9 e-book

CHRISTMAS PARADE

Boynton, Sandra Illus. by Boynton, Sandra Little Simon/Simon & Schuster (32 pp.) $14.99 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4424-6813-9

Mr. and Mrs. Claus retire to Mistletoe Island, leaving the elves in charge at the North Pole, but they find that a life of leisure in a warm climate is not for them. At first, they enjoy their new activities: walks on the beach, hula lessons and surfing. The reindeer arrive on the island for a visit, but they sadly return to the North Pole when Santa announces his permanent retirement. Before long, the quiet catches up with Santa, who misses his old routine, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus return to their old home. They soothe the upset reindeer, restore order to the toy workshop and decide that an annual vacation to Mistletoe Island will be enough to keep Santa in a jolly mood year-round. Computer-generated illustrations provide amusing images of Santa in his new athletic activities, and the reindeer are a comical cast of sidekicks. A tiny mouse character in a Santa hat can be spotted on every spread, along with a red crab he befriends on the island, creating a miniature secondary story as the two little creatures interact. The theme of Santa being tired of his job is a common one, and one more likely to be understood by adult readers than by the intended audience. Mildly amusing, but not a Santa story that children will ask for again and again. (Picture book. 5-8)

Boynton’s droll animal characters march through this small volume with their usual deadpan humor, set off by her minimalist rhyming text. A little pig watches the parade out his window, starting with a fierce-looking elephant drum major. There are chickens with bassoons, pigs with balloons, hippos with drums, and on and on, down to a tiny bird with a huge sousaphone. When the parade is over, the narrator pig is surprised by a knock on the door, followed by cheery Christmas greetings from the entire band. The text has a strong rhythm befitting a musical theme, and special sound effects are indicated by larger display type. The animals naturally have the signature hilarious expressions that Boynton does so well, and they wear a variety of snappy band uniforms. Santa appears in the parade, of course, as a rhino in a furry, red costume playing a tiny trumpet. Younger children will learn the names of the instruments the animals play, and any adult readers who are marching-band alums will enjoy pointing out their favorite musical instruments. Boynton’s buoyant text and comical characters march to their own inimitable drummer. (Picture book. 2-5)

JUST RIGHT FOR CHRISTMAS

Black, Birdie Illus. by Beardshaw, Rosalind Nosy Crow (32 pp.) $15.99 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-0-7636-6174-8

A king buys a bolt of bright red cloth on the day before Christmas, setting off a chain of gift-making that spreads throughout his kingdom, from his daughter to a tiny mouse. The royal seamstresses work all morning to make a long cloak for the princess. They leave the fabric remnants at the |

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WHO BUILT THE STABLE? A Nativity Poem

listen to real stories, and though the text is short and simple, it still offers an actual plot and humorous dialogue. Digitally produced illustrations use simple shapes with thick outlines around the characters and a jazzy palette of neon brights contrasted with cool pastels to create a sharp, contemporary mood. Peppa Pig and her friends seem destined for further adventures to complement the currently popular TV series. (Picture book. 2-5)

Bryan, Ashley Illus. by Bryan, Ashley Atheneum (40 pp.) $16.99 | $12.99 e-book | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4424-0934-7 978-1-4424-5458-3 e-book

SAD SANTA

Bryan’s Christmas offering combines a poignant poem about a shepherd boy who builds his own stable with exuberant paintings in a masterful melding of rhythmic text and dazzling art. His illustrations, in vibrant, glowing hues, fairly leap off the page with swirls of color in stained-glass tones lit by sunshine or starlight. Striped borders frame double-page spreads showing layered scenes of the carpentry shop, the stable and the surrounding countryside, a place of lush plants and huge trees. The boy who builds the stable serves as a shepherd, caring for the family’s animals, but he is also a beginning carpenter, apprenticed to his father. The boy builds the stable himself and takes care of the animals there each morning and evening. When he sees Mary and Joseph outside at night with no place to sleep, the boy asks if they need help and offers them his stable. He sweeps the floor, puts fresh hay in the manger, provides a blanket and water and leaves his dog behind to watch over the sleeping couple. At dawn, the boy meets the new baby, proclaiming that this child will also be both a carpenter and a shepherd. Bryan’s Bethlehem, a “rich and verdant land,” seems an enchanted place where something mysterious and wonderful could happen, especially with a huge, twirling star illuminating the night sky. Brilliant. (Picture book. 4-8)

Carpenter, Tad Illus. by Carpenter, Tad Sterling (32 pp.) $14.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-4027-8830-7 Poor Santa Claus suffers from postChristmas letdown in this amusing and unusual look at the motivation behind Santa’s drive to make everyone happy with their gifts. On December 26, Santa takes to his bed with a bad case of the blues. The elves and reindeer try unsuccessfully to cheer him up, and finally, Mrs. Claus takes him away for a beach vacation. His depression continues, as Santa feels out of place and unneeded until he receives his first letter of the year, from a boy requesting presents for his parents and brother. With a renewed sense of mission, Santa returns to the North Pole to get started on “extra-special” gifts for the next Christmas season. Though the tone of the text is light and humorous, Santa’s concluding thoughts about the spirit of the season—“giving, caring and living as if it were Christmas every single day of the year”—elevate the story to something more substantial. Punchy illustrations stand out with simple shapes and a limited palette of red, aqua and brown printed on thick, tan paper with the look of brownpaper grocery bags. Feeling sad after Christmas is a worthwhile concept for discussion with children, and Santa’s transformation to busy and energized provides a subtle lesson for the postChristmas season. (Picture book. 3-6)

PEPPA PIG AND THE LOST CHRISTMAS LIST

Candlewick Press Illus. by Candlewick Press Candlewick (32 pp.) $12.99 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-0-7636-6276-9 Series: Peppa Pig

THE BIRDS OF BETHLEHEM

dePaola, Tomie Illus. by dePaola, Tomie Nancy Paulsen Books (40 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 30, 2012 978-0-399-25780-3

Peppa Pig moves from her preschool TV series shown on Nick Jr. to the holiday bookshelf with this simple, amusing story about Santa’s missing list of toys and their intended recipients. Peppa and her little brother George open the story by meeting their friends at the mailbox to mail their letters to Santa with their toy requests. The porcine siblings prepare for the holiday with their parents, and on Christmas Eve, the little pigs surprise Santa in their living room as he leaves their wrapped gifts. He discovers he has lost his list of presents, and Peppa is able to help Santa, as she can remember all the items their friends requested. The final page shows all the friends lined up at the pig family’s door, carrying their new Christmas toys. The story is just the right length and complexity for preschoolers who are starting to 1972

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A quiet, simple story told by pairs of birds who witness the Nativity scene in Bethlehem. In turn, each pair of birds comments to others in the flock about something unusual observed in the town. The green birds saw a long line of people, the yellow birds saw that the inn was full, and the blue birds saw a man and his wife being led to the stable outside the inn. Other birds see and hear an angel announcing the birth of a special baby, and still others |

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“The cleverly constructed plot unfolds with perfect comedic timing and dry wit, complemented by digitally produced mixedmedia illustrations that have a suitably sinister, magnetic charm.” from the santa trap

THE SANTA TRAP

hear angels singing. Finally, all the birds fly into the stable and see “a young mother, her husband and their newborn baby,” though there is no explanation of their significance. The subdued text fails to convey much emotion or excitement, despite the fact that the birds refer to the appearance of the angels as “extraordinary” and “spectacular.” DePaola’s simplified, folkart–inspired style is well-suited to the stylized birds, but the announcing angel has a grim face, and the heavenly hosts are downright spooky, like flying aliens. Many other Nativity stories, such as Hurry! Hurry! Have You Heard? by Laura Krauss Melmed and illustrated by Jane Dyer (2008), more effectively convey the excitement of animal characters journeying to the stable. (Picture book/religion. 3-7)

Emmett, Jonathan Illus. by Bernatene, Poly Peachtree (32 pp.) $15.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-56145-670-3

A beady-eyed brat sits in a red, thronelike chair, glaring out of the cover in this hilarious, bizarre holiday story. What’s that machinery behind him, and what is that kid up to? That’s Bradley Bartleby on the throne, and he’s bad, bad to the bone. He terrifies his “immensely rich” parents, mistreats his pet elephant and demands a huge list of presents every Christmas. But Santa brings him just one gift each year, a pair of socks. So the outraged Bradley builds a Santa trap in the chimney, planting dynamite at the bottom. He extends his trap to all the chimneys and adds tigers, guillotines and trapdoors. His parents decamp to a hotel, leaving Bradley alone on Christmas Eve, when he inadvertently falls into his own trap. But he is not forgotten by Santa, who still leaves him a pair of socks, along with a box of bandages and some antiseptic, in a slam-dunk conclusion that finds Bradley inside his own metal cage. The cleverly constructed plot unfolds with perfect comedic timing and dry wit, complemented by digitally produced mixed-media illustrations that have a suitably sinister, magnetic charm. Bernatene’s artwork uses dark colors, shadows and cinematic perspectives to bring Bradley’s world into believable focus. Now, some will find these devilishly delinquent developments positively beyond the bounds of good taste. But many others will say, “Naughty. But nice.” (Picture book. 5-9)

THE ADVENT CRAFT AND ACTIVITY BOOK

Dhom, Christel Photos by Dhom, Christel; Lamb-Klinkenberg, Ramona Floris (144 pp.) $19.95 paperback | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-8631-5912-1 This compendium of old-fashioned craft projects, recipes and stories was written by a Waldorf kindergarten teacher in Germany and translated for English-speaking countries, though the focus remains European and is not well-suited to the U.S. market. The text is written for adults to use with children and includes explanations of German holiday traditions, such as setting boots outside the door for St. Nicholas to fill on December 6. Recipes for holiday cookies and candies are included, with measurements given in both grams and ounces. Craft projects include traditional advent wreaths, beeswax candles and Nativity figures made from unspun sheep’s wool. Other selections include holiday legends and the Nativity story from the Books of Luke and Matthew. Poems and lyrics to holiday carols are woven throughout, including selections from Shakespeare, Browning and Longfellow. High-quality photographic illustrations of children and craft projects add to the volume’s appeal. There are no safety warnings about cooking or using knives with adult supervision, and there are two photographs of little girls lighting candles with no adult present, which don’t illustrate proper safety protocol. Though there aren’t many family holiday books of this sort available, this version is suitable only for large library collections with heavy demand for Christmas activity books. (Nonfiction. 5-9, adults)

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Forrester, Margaret Illus. by Klaassen, Sandra Floris (32 pp.) $11.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-8631-5842-1

In this Scottish import, a little girl named Catriona and her cat, Mac, celebrate Christmas together at home in Edinburgh, with Catriona learning an important lesson about Christmas gifts. On Christmas Eve, the girl follows the cat into her parents’ bedroom (off-limits during Christmas), where she finds her unwrapped Christmas presents. She slips one of her gifts, a star-shaped ring, on her finger and then leaves with the family to pick out their Christmas tree. By the time the tree is in the house, the ring has vanished. Catriona and Mac spend hours searching for the ring inside and out. Mac finally climbs up the decorated tree to retrieve the star ring that is stuck near the very top, knocking over the tree in the process, and a contrite Catriona promises her mother she will never peek at her gifts again. There are several British expressions in the text: Mum, mince pies, fairy lights and tea instead of dinner, but the overall |

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“The little wombat is oblivious to the significance of Santa and the reindeer, though readers will understand all the Christmas connections, with many of the funny plot twists revealed through the illustrations.” from christmas wombat

story and Catriona’s dilemma work as well in the States as in Great Britain. Soft-focus watercolor illustrations match the old-fashioned flavor of the story, which concludes with the starstruck cat spying a special, bright star outside Catriona’s window on Christmas Eve. Cheerful and cozy. (Picture book.4-7)

Matthew hopes to make his out of a rubber ball. As they begin working, Jeremy uses a simple lump of gray clay to create his dreidel, molding dots on each side. Confused and a bit intrigued, the other children watch Jeremy, wondering if the dots are a secret code, and learn they are, in fact, Braille. Jeremy explains that although blind, his dad leads a typical life of work and play, even helping with homework with the use of computer technology. Pastel drawings enhanced with some collage accents depict a modern-day Judaic learning environment. In addition to providing a positive perception of life with a disability, this tale also explains the story and concepts behind the holiday. A postscript includes several dreidel-making projects, instructions for the game and information about the English Braille alphabet. A nicely subtle approach to diversity. (Picture book. 5-7)

CHRISTMAS WOMBAT

French, Jackie Illus. by Whatley, Bruce Clarion (32 pp.) $16.99 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-0-547-86872-1 Series: Diary of a Wombat

MACCABEE MEALS Food and Fun for Hanukkah

In this holiday-themed entry in their successful series, French and Whatley introduce their lovable wombat character to Santa and his reindeer. A bearlike Australian animal, the wombat likes to sleep, hide in holes and eat. This wombat especially likes to eat carrots, and the witty, understated plot focuses on the wombat’s intensive search for more and more carrots. The brief, first-person narration, using just a few words per page, describes the wombat’s activities and its discovery of carrots set out for some “strange creatures” (Santa’s reindeer). The wombat chomps every carrot in sight, stows away in Santa’s sleigh and beats the reindeer to their carrot treats at stops around the world. The little wombat is oblivious to the significance of Santa and the reindeer, though readers will understand all the Christmas connections, with many of the funny plot twists revealed through the illustrations. The brief, ironic text and the humorous expressions of the wombat and reindeer are delightfully comical, providing a satisfying story that will appeal to the whole family, from toddlers through adults. The wombat hopes those strange carrot-attracting creatures will be back soon, and young readers will hope the lovable wombat returns for more cleverly constructed carrot quests. (Picture book. 2-7)

Groner, Judye; Wikler, Madeline Illus. by Roma, Ursula Kar-Ben (64 pp.) $8.95 paperback | $6.95 e-book Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-7613-51443 978-1-4677-0060-3 e-book

This child-friendly cookbook features traditional latkes and easy-to-make jelly doughnuts as well as less-traditional, kid-inspired treats. Beyond the classic potato latke, young chefs will learn how to make seven other varieties from cheese, vegetables, apples and even chicken, for eight types of meals ranging from brunch to Shabbat dinner or a pajama party. Many of the recipes reflect American staples: Peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches cut in triangles are placed in a stack to create a Jewish star, for example. Hot dog mini-kebabs are another example, but Groner and Wikler are careful to include some lesser-known culinary customs, such as a meal designed for Sephardic communities that includes “burmuelos” a flour, milk and egg–based fried doughnut sprinkled with cinnamon, and the crescent-shaped “new moon cookie” offered in celebrations of Rosh Chodesh Tevet (the new moon that falls during Hanukkah). Primary colors in simply drawn, black marker–outlined illustrations decorate section headings and recipe titles in large purple and pink lettering. Sprinkled throughout are informative pages on such topics as the holiday itself, commemorative postage stamps and Israelistyle celebrations. Kitchen tips and difficulty scale, including those that require adult supervision, introduce the book, while specifics from candle-lighting blessings to dreidel rules and table-decorating crafts complete the text. Both well-conceived and useful. (index) (Nonfiction. 5-10)

JEREMY’S DREIDEL

Gellman, Ellie Illus. by Mola, Maria Kar-Ben (32 pp.) $17.95 | paper $7.95 | $13.95 e-book Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-7613-7507-4 978-0-7613-7508-1 paperback 978-1-4677-0060-3 e-book

A special Hanukkah workshop at the Jewish Community Center gives Jeremy a chance to make a unique dreidel as a surprise gift for his father, who is blind. When the workshop leader welcomes everyone, materials are out and waiting. Abby is eager to make her dreidel from recycled materials, Jacob wants to reuse an old music box, and 1974

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SANTA ON THE LOOSE!

holding a cat shifts to a view of Santa enjoying his Christmas Eve snack. The mechanism of the changing panels moves easily, making the book a pleasure to use. The moving-picture feature, while gimmicky, can seem quite magical to young children, and this one has better text, illustrations and mechanism than most of this kind. (Picture book. 2-6)

Hale, Bruce Illus. by Garbot, Dave Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $7.99 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-06-202262-2

Santa must solve the mysterious disappearance of toys from his workshop through this search-and-find quest with detailed pages full of elves at work and play. The crime? A theft of Christmas toys. The suspects? An elf, a reindeer, a snowman, a polar bear, a penguin and a young girl. The detective? The reader, who must find one clue on each of 11 double-page spreads that are crammed full of elves, toys, packages and animals or items specific to each locale. The cartoonstyle illustrations are frantically busy, showing a cast of elves in varied locations at the North Pole and on outings together to places such as a mall and a hockey rink. Santa is in each spread holding the clue, but the elves wear red suits quite similar to Santa’s, leading to dozens of nearly identical characters on each page. Illustrations of the suspects are provided, so young detectives must compile a list of the 11 clues and then deduce which suspect is wearing or holding all 11 of those items. The mystery? Slight. The interest level? A quick read for sharp detectives; a frustrating one for those less experienced in clues, mysteries and deductive reasoning. The verdict? Titles in the I Spy genre with multiple searches on each spread have more to offer. Case closed. (Picture book. 5-8)

MARY’S SONG

Hopkins, Lee Bennett Illus. by Alcorn, Stephen Eerdmans (32 pp.) $17.00 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-8028-5397-4 Hopkins, the noted poet and anthologizer of children’s poetry, offers an original free-verse poem, a Christmas Eve musing about her newborn son in Mary’s first-person voice. Mary looks back at the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel told her of her forthcoming child, and at her journey on the donkey into Bethlehem. The noise and hubbub from visitors began with the shepherds and continued with the animals in the stable, leaving Mary longing for quiet time with her baby. She rocks the child, hums a special song and wonders what will become of him. Striking illustrations in mixed media on ivory backgrounds show the lines of oil pastels and pencils, with watercolor shading. The overall effect is muted, ethereal and filled with golden light that suggests the mysterious power of the event. The book’s huge trim size and use of double-page spreads allow the art to shine, and the generous size will ensure that even larger groups will be able to see. Though both the text and illustrations are notable, the mother’s perspective may be of more interest to older children and adults than to the traditional picture-book audience. A lyrical, unusual viewpoint for the Nativity story, seamlessly matched with gorgeous illustrations that are unlike other interpretations of the Christ Child’s birth. (Picture book/ religion. 5 & up)

CHRISTMAS MAGIC A Changing Picture Book Hall, Kirsten Illus. by Mendez, Simon Sterling (20 pp.) $14.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4027-7075-3

A shiny red cover with a see-through panel shows Santa ready to take off with his reindeer in this changeable picture book featuring panels that shift smoothly with the pull of a tab from one holiday scene to another, closely related one. A loosely structured, rhyming text moves from a house lit up for Christmas Eve to a group of children engaged in earlier preparations for the holiday, such as baking, attending a performance of The Nutcracker and caroling in the neighborhood. Then the story shifts to the elves and Santa preparing for the Christmas Eve delivery of toys, concluding with a double-page spread of toys under a decorated tree, with filled stockings hanging over the fireplace. Each spread has text on one side and a moving-picture illustration on the other, with each illustration evolving into a logical extension predicted by the text. A pile of snow transforms into a jolly snowman, the elves move from their workroom to the sleigh outside, and an armchair |

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CHRISTMASTIME

Jay, Alison Illus. by Jay, Alison Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Nov. 8, 2012 978-0-8037-3804-1

Jay’s signature style of painting with muted, antique colors and a crackled-varnish effect is showcased exquisitely in this deceptively simple tour de force filled with tiny, hidden surprises to delight inquisitive readers. The storyline sends a brother and sister pair creeping downstairs on Christmas Eve and venturing outside to meet Santa Claus. He whisks them off in his sleigh to the North Pole, where they sit down to supper with Mrs. Claus before touring |

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PETE THE CAT SAVES CHRISTMAS

the toy workshop. A Christmas angel flies the children back home, where the story ends on Christmas morning. Each page shows one view of a particular item or scene with just one or two words of description, and every illustration includes an element from the previous page and one from the following page. Sometimes these links are easy to spot, and sometimes difficult, such as Santa’s shadow or the holly print on wrapping paper. Cleverly hidden with the illustrations are miniature vignettes or characters from 17 holiday songs, with a key to the locations on the final page. The Christmas season is full of magical surprises, and Jay’s absorbing creation conveys that sense of magic, from the tiny sleeping mouse on the first page to the snowman peeking in the window on Christmas morning. (Picture book. 2-7)

Litwin, Eric Illus. by Dean, James Harper/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $17.99 | PLB $18.89 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-06-211062-6 978-0-06-211063-3 PLB He’s back! That wildly popular cat steps in to save Christmas in the nick of time when Santa Cat gets sick. Santa calls Pete, who is vacationing in Key West, and the helpful cat hops in his magically powered red van with his friend, a little yellow bird. Together they travel to the North Pole, where they hitch up the reindeer and load up the Christmas toys for delivery. Pete sings a new holiday song about giving: “although I am small, / at Christmas we give, so I’ll give it my all.” (As with the other Pete stories, the song and the story are available for download on the publisher’s website.) Pete, the yellow bird and the reindeer get all the toys delivered by Christmas morning, and when they return to the North Pole, they are met with cheers and a banner of thanks from Santa, the elves and the townsfolk. In the bottom corner of the final page, the yellow bird waits with a tiny package for Pete. The vibrant illustrations and the simple story create a satisfying whole, complemented by the song, but kids may need help understanding the expression “give it your all,” and they may also wonder why Pete looks perpetually bored. But hey, it’s all good. Keep movin’ and groovin’, Pete. You’re one hip cat. (Picture book. 3-8)

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, DEEP UNDER THE SEA

Kelleher, Kathie Illus. by Andreasen, Dan Holiday House (32 pp.) $16.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-8234-2336-1

An amusing parody of “The Night Before Christmas,” set in an underwater world with marine life filling the familiar roles of family members and Santa. The story is narrated by a jolly lobster with expressively bulgy eyes, and instead of children “nestled all snug in their beds,” readers meet mermaids with “visions of periwinkles” swimming though their heads. Rather than “the moon on the crest of the new-fallen snow,” our lobster narrator proclaims, “The moon shells they glimmered like pearls from the glow / Of luminescent jellyfish gliding below.” The perfectly rhymed text is full of rich vocabulary and closely follows the original text as Santa arrives at the lobster’s underwater shipwreck home to deliver his Christmas gifts. This Santa Claus is a blue walrus in a red rubber suit commanding a conch-shell sleigh pulled by sea horses with names like Limpet and Quahog. Humorous, doublepage–spread illustrations were created by combining oil paintings with digital enhancements to create the subtle layered look of the deep sea, and sparkly highlights provide an effervescent accent to underwater bubbles and the title words on the cover. A clever and creative parody of the old holiday chestnut. (Picture book. 4-7)

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A VERY HAIRY CHRISTMAS

Lowell, Susan Illus. by Harris, Jim Rio Chico (32 pp.) $15.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-933855-80-6

This Christmas-themed sequel to The Three Little Javelinas (1992) revisits the three javelina siblings and their nemesis, the coyote trickster character. The javelinas, Juan, José and Josefina, are preparing for Santa’s arrival on Christmas Eve with baking, music and a ballet performance by Josefina in the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Hairy.” In a deliciously spooky entrance, Coyote (in Santa disguise) arrives with his eight tiny mule deer, bursting into the javelina home through the wood stove. He’s looking for his supper but is thwarted by the resourcefulness of the javelina siblings, who tie up Coyote with red Christmas ribbons and stuff him in an empty bean sack. After a visit from the real Santa Claus, the javelinas enjoy a happy Christmas dinner with their new mule deer friends, and Coyote reforms and joins in the holiday fun. The story unfolds with dramatic suspense and delightful humor, spiced with clever dialogue and Southwestern flavor. Detailed watercolor-and-pencil illustrations offer a pleasing variety of |

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“Young buckeroos who like their Christmas stories punchy rather than sweet might just take a likin’ to ol’ Dwight, Darryl and Dub.” from cowboy christmas

moods including sweet, wild, funny and scary, with admirable range in perspective and design. Fans of the original javelina story will welcome this reappearance after two decades. This Christmas treat strikes just the right balance between spicy and sweet. (Picture book. 4-8)

stretch out the days before Christmas to get their work done. A large format with heavy, coated pages implies quite a young audience, but the concepts of a heavy workload leading to stress and time expansion are more suited to an older audience. Computergenerated illustrations provide amusing views of the busy elves, including both male and female helpers of many skin tones. The story is told in cleverly rhymed quatrains set in curved text blocks that flow within the illustrations in a pleasing manner. These overworked elves don’t crack any new ice, but their story is entertaining enough for holiday reading in those busy days before Santa’s arrival. (Picture book. 3-7)

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Moore, Clement C. Illus. by Almazova, Elena; Shvarov, Vitaly Grafton and Scratch (32 pp.) $16.95 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-0-9879023-0-6

COWBOY CHRISTMAS

Sanders, Rob Illus. by Manders, John Golden Books/Random (32 pp.) $10.99 | PLB $13.99 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-0-375-86985-3 978-0-375-96985-0 PLB

News flash: Santa quits smoking! This version of the famous Christmas poem has one unique feature: The references to Santa’s pipe and the smoke that “encircled his head like a wreath” have been edited out of the text. Purists may decry mucking about with a beloved classic, but plenty of parents might not want to introduce old St. Nick as a smoker. An author attribution on the cover reads, “Edited by Santa Claus for the benefit of children of the 21st century,” and a commitment to nonsmoking is a legitimate goal in materials intended for children. A clever note to readers from Santa on the back cover flap explains the excision of the smoking text and also affirms in a humorous way that Santa’s costume uses only fake fur out of respect for “my dear friends the artic polar bears.” The illustrations are greeting-card pretty, with an oldfashioned home and the father in a nightcap and holding a candle. (The lighted candles on the Christmas tree are something else 21st-century children don’t need.) The toys in Santa’s pack look like they come from the 1950s, and the illustrators’ style is clearly influenced by animated Disney movies of that era. Well-meant, but not memorable aside from the smokefree environment. (Picture book. 3-6)

Three lonesome cowboys stuck out on the range face a “low-down and miserable” Christmas without the usual treats and trimmings until a surprise visit from “Santy Claus” brightens their holiday. Dwight, Darryl and Dub are the three cowpunchers, working the range with their faithful father figure and grub wrestler, Cookie. The cowboys try to make do with their Christmas preparations, making bean-sprinkled cookies, decorating a cactus and fashioning reindeer costumes for their heifers. Cookie takes Christmas day off, but the cowboys return after a hard day on the range to find Santa in camp with a full dinner, decorated tree and wrapped presents for all. Sharp-eyed, older readers will note the Santa hat tucked in Cookie’s back pocket when he returns to camp as well as the identical boots worn by Cookie and Santa, but younger children will believe that Santa delivers to cowpokes out on the range as well as to little girls and boys. Cartoon-style art, lots of cowboy lingo and the funny attempts at holiday decoration and baking add humor to the overall effort. Young buckeroos who like their Christmas stories punchy rather than sweet might just take a likin’ to ol’ Dwight, Darryl and Dub. (Picture book. 4-7)

THE GREAT CHRISTMAS CRISIS

Norman, Kim Illus. by Ho, Jannie Sterling (26 pp.) $14.95 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-1-4027-8632-7

Another story in a long string of similar tales about difficulties with the elf staff at the North Pole. This time the elves are “bickering, / blaming and bleating” due to mechanical difficulties and supply shortages. Santa Claus goes on an undercover research mission in the workshop by shrinking himself down to elf size (though he doesn’t bother to change his suit from red to green). He finds that the elves are suffering from pressure to work faster from their zealous foreman. Santa institutes a more relaxed pace with massages and joke-telling sessions, but then the staff falls even further behind. At the suggestion of Mrs. Claus, they use their chimney enlarger machine to |

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“ ‘DINOSAUR WINS!’ So will young readers and listeners likewise charged up with dino DNA.” from dinosaur vs. santa

A BIT OF APPLAUSE FOR MRS. CLAUS

illuminated manuscripts. More modern illustrations from the 20th century include two Coptic paintings, two Chinese works and several contemporary paintings by Schuon, a Swiss-born artist who is one of the volume’s editors. Her intriguing painting, “The Virgin of the Sleigh,” reproduced as the cover illustration, shows Mary and the Christ Child being pulled through a snowy landscape by a white reindeer with candlelit antlers. The case-bound volume is intended as a family resource and would also be suitable for large public-library collections or church libraries. (author’s note) (Religion. 9 & up)

Schick-Pierce, Susie; Schick-Jacobowitz, Jeannie; Drake-Policastro, Muffin Illus. by Malinow, Wendy Wallin Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (32 pp.) $15.99 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-4022-7085-7 A slight story about Mrs. Claus and her efforts to fill in for Santa when he gets sick on Christmas Eve. A family team of two sisters and one of their daughters created this short, mildly amusing story about Mrs. Claus rushing about the North Pole to get everything ready for the big night. (A previously published version by this team with the same title focused on Mrs. Claus on the day after Christmas.) This time she answers letters to Santa, trims the trees and decks the halls, bakes cookies and wraps presents with the help of the elves. Just as the reindeer are hitched up to the sleigh, Santa reappears in time to deliver the toys himself. The unspoken subtext is that Mrs. Claus (read: moms of the world) have to work at warp speed to pull off the Christmas carnival and thus deserve some praise. The brief rhyming text has some logic issues: Why would Mrs. Claus need to answer children’s letters to Santa on Christmas Eve? Whose trees and halls does she decorate? Charming watercolor illustrations in candy-bright colors include decorative borders full of ornamental Christmas details, and Mrs. Claus has a delightful spiral beehive hairdo, but the cheery art doesn’t offset the less-than-innovative text. Just a bit of applause for this one. (Picture book. 3-6)

DINOSAUR VS. SANTA

Shea, Bob Illus. by Shea, Bob Disney Hyperion (40 pp.) $15.99 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-1-4231-6806-5 Series: Dinosaur vs…

Fresh from roaring out at bedtime (2008), at potty training (2010) and in the library (2011) Shea’s prehistoric preschooler takes on Christmas. Flashing dentifrice that would do a shark proud, the diminutive dino “attacks” a letter to Santa, struts proudly away from a newly decorated (at least in its lower branches) tree, glues up crafty gifts for the parents and heroically takes a pass on a tempting gingerbread cookie (“Dinosaur versus… / being extra good!”). After sneaking downstairs for a Santa sighting (“something no dinosaur should ever do”), he even surmounts the supreme challenge of falling asleep on Christmas Eve. Flashing expressions that range from fierce scowls and high jubilation to a less showy—but more substantial—grimace of triumph (see cookie encounter, above), the energetic urchin gambols across appropriately noisy scatterings of crayons, craft sticks, glitter and various (secular) signs of the season placed by the author against backgrounds of solid color alternating with plaid and other patterns. “DINOSAUR WINS!” So will young readers and listeners likewise charged up with dino DNA. (Picture book. 3-5)

A KING JAMES CHRISTMAS Biblical Selections with Illustrations from Around the World

Schuon, Catherine; Fitzgerald, Michael --Eds. Wisdom Tales (80 pp.) $19.95 | Oct. 16, 2012 978-1-937786-03-8

SANTA IS COMING TO NEW YORK

Biblical selections from the King James version of the Christian Bible are taken from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew and arranged for reading aloud during the Christmas season. Additional verses are included that follow Jesus into adulthood, including the Flight into Egypt, Jesus teaching in the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, which includes the Lord’s Prayer. The text is set in a large font for ease in reading aloud, with some unfamiliar terms paraphrased parenthetically. The words of Jesus in the later sections are set in contrasting, dark red type. The Biblical verses are complemented by a wide selection of art reproductions, both classical and contemporary. These illustrations include several works by Fra Angelico and Giotto as well as reproductions from stained-glass windows and 1978

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Smallman, Steve Illus. by Dunn, Robert Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (32 pp.) $9.99 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-4022-7503-6 Series: Santa is Coming Santa Claus delivers many presents to the children of New York City in a slight story with too many words and too many changes of type size. On Christmas Eve, Santa and his team of reindeer get lost in a blizzard outside New York City. (Children will be sure to notice that there are only six reindeer in this interpretation.) When |

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TOGETHER AT CHRISTMAS

Santa’s navigation system fails, the youngest reindeer hears the bells of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and leads the team down toward the city. After getting stuck on top of the Empire State Building, Santa and the team stop in Central Park and then deliver presents to all five boroughs. Attractive watercolor-and-pencil illustrations create a distinct personality for Santa and his elves and provide some dramatic nighttime views of the Manhattan skyline. Dunn provides varied perspectives in the illustrations, with many snowy airborne and rooftop scenes. The story is overenthusiastic and a little wordy, with too many New York attractions shoveled into the text. The major drawback is the excessive use of enlarged type and additional display type throughout the text, which loses any special effect through overuse. While this title may be of interest mainly to children in the New York City area, it is one of a series that takes Santa to other cities and regions in the United States and includes the generic Santa Is Coming to My House. (Picture book. 4-7)

Spinelli, Eileen Illus. by Lee, Bin Whitman (24 pp.) $15.99 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-8075-8010-3

Ten tiny mice find themselves outside in the snow on Christmas Eve, seeking shelter and companionship. At first the mice are all huddled together, just trying to survive in the snow. One by one, the mice venture away from the group, with each finding a different type of refuge. Some of the shelters are obvious choices, such as a fallen branch or an open milkweed pod, while others are more fanciful, like a quickly made overcoat from cattail fluff. Before long, the mice miss each other, so they creep back together for singing and dancing in the snow before moving on to a new shelter together within a hollow log. Their group home even has some hidden berries for a midnight mouse-friend feast. The short, rhyming text with just a few lines per page sets a hushed, poetic tone, complementing the late-night setting. Lee’s illustrations use a muted nighttime palette of deep blues and browns, but moonlight and starlight shining on the snow illuminate the scenes. His mouse characters are appealing, appearing to move naturally, even while dancing and singing in the snow. The group sheltering together against the elements has echoes of Jan Brett’s The Mitten (1989), but this time the protective structure has room for all to take cover in safety. (Picture book. 3-7)

PUPPY’S FIRST CHRISTMAS

Smallman, Steve Illus. by Edgson, Alison Good Books (32 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-56148-767-7

This British import features a bouncy, innocent puppy who tries to figure out the meaning of all the unusual Christmas activities going on in his home. In rhyming text, the puppy wonders about the tree in the house, the stockings mysteriously nailed up on the mantel and the unusually good behavior of the two children in the family. The other pet in the household, a kindly, older cat, explains the Christmas circumstances to the puppy and tells him about Santa Claus. The pair try to stay awake on Christmas Eve as they wait for Santa’s arrival, but they are asleep together under the tree when Santa makes his delivery. Sweetly traditional illustrations use lots of glowing light to create a warm mood, and the little puppy is undeniably cute, especially when wearing an oversized Santa hat, which has added texture, thanks to a raised, velvety surface. Several Santa hats and Santa’s entire suit have this extra touch, including the one sported by the smiling puppy on the cover illustration. An extra-large trim size and lots of double-page illustrations make this a good choice for reading to a group. There are surprisingly few recent Christmas books about puppies or dogs, so this little puppy might be a welcome visitor in homes with dogs. Not particularly innovative, but earnest and sweet, like a puppy trying to behave. (Picture book. 3-6)

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ADVENTURES IN CARTOONING Christmas Special

Sturm, James; Arnold, Andrew; Frederick-Frost, Alexis First Second/Roaring Brook (67 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Sep. 18, 2012 978-1-59643-730-2 This lightweight, mildly humorous story about Santa, his favorite elf and a Christmas knight advises kids to draw their own comic strips, though no practical help is offered in drawing instruction. Santa and his Magical Cartooning Elf decide to create a Christmas comic book for distribution to children on Christmas Eve. They are assisted by a knight who has assorted adventures with a yeti, some giant children and a dragon who is pressed into service to deliver the completed comic books. On Christmas morning, children around the world are inspired to start making their own comics. Young readers are encouraged to send their original comics showing favorite things, places or foods to the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, presumably for the next installment in the series. The rhyming text is a bit singsong, with some corny puns and some funny asides, but it also uses a hip, self-deprecating tone and current computer terms that let kids know the authors are up on the latest. The |

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cartoon illustrations use varying panel layouts with hand-lettered speech balloons and backgrounds in cool green to set off the holiday reds. Wrapped up with some drawing paper and pens, this clever Christmas cartoon construction might spark some creative projects. (Graphic picture book. 5-10)

family celebrating Christmas inside the house, and Santa mysteriously returns to collect the elf and his dog. The story, first published in Switzerland, is a little too long and wordy, with a chatty, old-fashioned tone that doesn’t do justice to the lovely watercolor illustrations. The snowy, starlit views of Santa’s sleigh in flight are gorgeous examples of watercolor at its best, and Tom and his dog are charming little characters who deserve a shorter, more succinct story. Vainio is a talented illustrator who needs to polish his texts to match his attractive paintings. (Picture book. 3-6)

CHRISTMAS QUIET BOOK

Underwood, Deborah Illus. by Liwska, Renata Houghton Mifflin (32 pp.) $12.99 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-0-547-55863-9

SCAREDY SQUIRREL PREPARES FOR CHRISTMAS

Watt, Mélanie Illus. by Watt, Mélanie Kids Can (80 pp.) $17.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-55453-469-2 Series: Scaredy Squirrel

In their third collaboration on the numerous nuances of volume, Underwood and Liwska focus on the softer sounds of the Christmas season. Using the same format as the beloved Quiet Book (2010), each page presents just one quiet moment from the run-up to the holiday. Groups of animal characters engage in familiar activities such as trimming the tree, making gingerbread houses and participating in a Christmas pageant. The simple text describes each type of quiet in only a few words: “Snow angel quiet”; “Reading by the fire quiet”; “Listening for sleigh bells quiet.” Atmospheric pencil illustrations with softly shaded colored highlights use backgrounds of white or gray that evoke a wintry feeling, with pleasing variation between indoor and outdoor scenes. One memorable illustration shows several bears and rabbits making their way home through a snowy, candlelit woods: “Luminaria quiet.” The final page is a bit of a let-down, with an illustration of two bunny children turning toward their stack of presents, with the text “Christmas morning quiet.” The unemotional conclusion feels flat and doesn’t provide a real ending (nor does it seem that this would be a particularly quiet moment). Nevertheless, a congenial, understated choice for reading aloud to excited children to help them settle down for a long winter’s night. (Picture book. 3-6)

Scaredy Squirrel, star of his own wildly popular series of humorous stories about his neurotic life, offers a tongue-in-cheek guide to getting through the holiday season in a safe, sane and germ-free fashion. Previous Scaredy Squirrel stories provided a story in addition to safety tips and charts of potential dangers and caveats. This Christmas-themed collection has a preface and eight short chapters with lists, charts, diagrams, tips and instructions, but there is no story and no way of understanding Scaredy Squirrel and his lovable ways without familiarity with his other books. Of course, a name like Scaredy Squirrel and an introductory warning to “put on mittens before reading this safety guide” do give some clues, but kids who don’t know Scaredy already might need some explanation of his personality in order to get the humor. Chapters include guides to decorations, sweets, gifts, characters, pet peeves, fun and Scaredy’s last resort for dire straits: playing dead. Each item is amusing on its own, but an entire book of ironic humor about the holidays is a bit much and might be better enjoyed in small doses. Spot illustrations of Scaredy with his earnest grin are sprinkled throughout, along with small illustrations for the many charts and lists. Fans of the series might enjoy this; others can keep calm and carry on. (Picture book. 5-8)

TOM THE CHRISTMAS ELF

Vainio, Pirkko Illus. by Vainio, Pirkko NorthSouth (32 pp.) $17.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-7358-4089-8

In yet another story about stowaways in Santa’s sleigh, a young elf and his dog have an adventure together on Christmas Eve. Tom is just learning to help out in Santa’s workshop. He hides under a blanket among the presents piled in the sleigh and, after take-off, is surprised to find his dog, Tucker, hiding there as well. The elf, his dog and the blanket fall out of the sleigh and are stranded in a snowy, rural area near a single house. Tom leaves the blanket and his hat as a gift for the 1980

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“Teague’s familiar collection of humorous, oversized dinosaurs sporting scaly bodies, clawed feet and fang-filled smiles within the confines of a normal home will keep young Paleolithic enthusiasts riveted.” from how do dinosaurs say happy chanukah?

SMUDGE AND THE BOOK OF MISTAKES A Christmas Story

overshadowed in this effort, but that is due to the crowded and cumulative nature of the song. A glossary of pirate terms is included, surrounded by a border of mermaids and sea creatures. Avast, me hearties! Here be another bonny piratical parody ready for the readin’ to the young’uns at the Christmas season. (Picture book. 3-8)

Whelan, Gloria Illus. by Costanza, Stephen Sleeping Bear Press (48 pp.) $17.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-58536-483-1

HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY HAPPY CHANUKAH?

A 15-year-old boy finds his place in an Irish monastery during the Middle Ages in this long, beautifully illustrated story about illuminated manuscripts. Young Cuthbert is assigned to the scriptorium at the monastery, where he struggles to learn to be a scribe. He loves making the letters with a quill pen and ink, but his skills are rudimentary when precision is required, and due to his many mistakes, he earns the nickname of Smudge. In a convoluted, unlikely plot, Smudge is chosen to provide the lettering for a special edition of the Christmas story illustrated by the monastery’s most talented artist. The project stretches over many months due to a lie the artist tells to the abbot of the monastery, and with the artist’s kind tutelage, Smudge learns to be a scribe and completes the project. The story is too long to interest most children, and the book needs both an author’s note to define the setting and time period and a glossary for the many terms that are inadequately defined in textual context. Costanza’s well-researched paintings are the book’s strongest feature, with appealing characters, evocative settings, and handsome borders and decorated letters. Younger fans of historical fiction, librarians and rarebook aficionados will enjoy this, but its appeal is limited, and the Christmas connection is minimal. (Picture book. 8-11)

Yolen, Jane Illus. by Teague, Mark Blue Sky/Scholastic (40 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-545-41677-1

Yolen and Teague’s rascally dinosaurs bring their mischief to the titular holiday, illustrating the many ways it is recognized and celebrated by similarly behaving children in American Jewish households. Yolen’s facile rhyme in question-and-answer format subtly displays the poor and corresponding acceptable conduct for each aspect of the celebratory eight nights. “Does a dinosaur act up / on Chanukah nights / when Mama comes in / with the holiday lights?” Fidgeting through the nightly prayers, grabbing the chocolate candy coins and snatching the dreidels so no one can play are examples judiciously countered with “No – / a dinosaur doesn’t. / He sings every prayer, // takes turns with the dreidel, / remembers to share.” Teague’s familiar collection of humorous, oversized dinosaurs sporting scaly bodies, clawed feet and fangfilled smiles within the confines of a normal home will keep young Paleolithic enthusiasts riveted. Per the series formula, each page features one labeled prehistoric beast, and the endpapers contain all 10 varieties included in the visual portion of the story. Entertaining and loving, though the concepts and legend behind the annual weeklong winter remembrance are missing. (Picture book. 2-5)

A PIRATE’S TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Yates, Philip Illus. by Serra, Sebatsiá Sterling (32 pp.) $14.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-1-4027-9225-0

HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS?

The pirate cabin boy who narrated A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas (2008) returns with this sequel, another witty parody of a holiday classic. The lonely lad is left behind to swab the decks when all the other pirates leave to “plunder wrecks.” He awakens the next morning to a surprise gift: “a parrot in a palm tree!” The patterned text of the familiar song unfolds, including cutlasses, black cats, chests of gold, monkeys, mermaids and dolphins. On the 12th day of Christmas, the 12 pirates return in jolly humor, admitting they sent the gifts to their cabin boy. The last pages cleverly reverse the sequence, with all the characters falling asleep, including the parrot and the cabin boy up in the crow’s nest, as Sir Peggedy, the pirate Santa, flies by. The parody is just as skillfully written as the first volume in the series, and the busy, detailed illustrations manage to pack all the accumulating characters into successive spreads. The cabin boy is a little |

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Yolen, Jane Illus. by Teague, Mark Blue Sky/Scholastic (40 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-545-41678-8

Yolen and Teague extend their dinosaur franchise with this rollicking romp of rampaging dinosaurs up to their terrible tricks throughout the Christmas season. Using the familiar structure of naughty-then-nice behavior, the dinosaur crew rips open presents, knocks over decorated trees and dumps out filled stockings. When they get hungry, they eat all the Christmas cookies and lick all the candy canes. But in the calmer, concluding half, the well-behaved dinosaurs sing carols politely, help with the dishes and interact nicely with |

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“…the stratospheric level of interactivity transforms the verse into soaring, imaginative exploration.” from where do balloons go?

BOOM BAH

the grandparents. They even get to sleep in time for Santa’s arrival. Young readers will delight in the initial wild antics, with the falling Christmas trees, flying ornaments and the brilliantly colored dinosaurs cavorting around the decorated living rooms in wild abandonment. The large trim size and double-page illustrations offer plenty of room to show off the dinosaurs in motion. Each dinosaur is identified within the illustrations as well as in humorous spot illustrations on the endpapers. What child wouldn’t love to grab all the presents and lick all the candy canes one by one? Those naughty dinosaurs have the most fun, and their fans will be waiting to see what they get up to next. (Picture book. 3-7)

Cummings, Phil Illus. by Rycroft, Nina Kane/Miller $4.99 | May 16, 2012 1.0; May 16, 2012 Pleasant animal characters use household items to create a marching band in this app based on an Australian picture book of the same name (2010). A mouse taps a spoon on a mug with a “ting,” and thus begins a musical romp featuring barnyard animals using kitchen utensils to create a marching band. The rhyming, rhythmic text is fun to follow: “A bell, a can, some lids, a cup. / Ting! Tong! Warming up.” The charming watercolor characters line up in front of large swaths of white space. When the makeshift band meets a marching band with real instruments, they all come together in a rousing crescendo. While there are a few animations and interactive moments, there are also missed opportunities and some disconnect between the story and the interactivity. For instance, when the narrator counts the chicks, “one, two, three, four,” the opportunity for kids to count them is taken away. When, according to the text, the rooster nods his head and taps his toe, the only thing that kids can move on the screen are some falling feathers. Single-page navigation is adequate, while other options include the ability to mute the narration and sound effects. The story and illustrations are charming, but the app underutilizes the opportunities presented by the format. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

interactive e-books THE VERY HUNGRY BEAR

Bland, Nick Illus. by Bland, Nick Wheelbarrow $4.99 | Jun. 15, 2012 1.1; Jun. 25, 2012

Two bears from very different places meet and bond over their love of fish in a pleasant-enough app that has a few clever touches. Big, brown, hungry Bear snags his fishing rod on a small iceberg with a polar bear standing on top of it. Polar Bear comes bearing armfuls of fish, and that’s enough to win Bear’s affection. “Now a fish to a bear / Is like a chocolate éclair, / It’s INCREDIBLY hard to resist. // So the thought of a pile / That would last for a while / Was an offer too good to be missed!” But Polar Bear’s stay in the forest doesn’t last long, and soon the pair is seeking a cooler, snowier home. While the story doesn’t win many points for originality or interesting twists, it’s beautifully illustrated throughout. The bears’ fur is lovingly detailed and textured, and the movements of the characters work well with the rest of the app’s expert animation. The rhyming text is well-paced and charming; it’s read jauntily by Australian actor Angus Sampson. And while the interactive elements aren’t mind-blowing—some character movements and a game that challenges readers to find fish hidden within the story—there are a few moments of innovation: The app’s title page shows the two bears facing each other as their eyes follow the places where the screen is tapped, for instance. It’s an entertaining read that misses greatness...but just bearly. (iPad storybook app. 2-7)

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WHERE DO BALLOONS GO? An Uplifting Mystery

Curtis, Jamie Lee Illus. by Cornell, Laura Auryn $5.99 | Jul. 12, 2012 1.0.1; Jul. 12, 2012

Based on the traditional book of the same name, this interactive storybook takes balloon travel to all-new heights. All children are captivated by balloons, but when their brightly colored orbs accidentally escape (as they almost always do), the first of many questions is: Where do balloons go? This delightful, action-packed app engages pre-readers and young readers alike with 17 pages of possibilities. The “uplifting mystery” is well-narrated by Curtis and features easy-to-navigate voiceover, music, hint and bookmark options. Eyebrow-raising sound effects support the story beautifully. Especially clever are the haunting sounds at the Bates Motel and the Muzak in the doctor’s-office waiting room. From there, the stratospheric level of interactivity transforms the verse into soaring, imaginative exploration. Children can record their own voices and play them back as if helium-distorted for lots of belly laughs; by |

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THE ADVENTURES OF SLIBBY THE SNAIL The Stolen Food

dragging their fingers across the page, they can create their own constellations; dragging a fan across pages throughout the book whips up a digital breeze. In the Balloon Theater, a separate “play area,” children can create their own characters, record dialogue and act out scenes. Auryn does a characteristically excellent job of creating interactions that both support and extend the source material, but Cornell’s busy, ink-and-wash illustrations don’t always translate optimally to the tablet environment. Overall, the fanciful result is a storybook app with a far longer shelf life than most. (iPad storybook app. 4-9)

Kuleš, Ivan Illus. by Zlobec, Tina CoolAsh Studio $2.99 | Jun. 29, 2012 1.0; Jun. 29, 2012

Interactions disrupt the flow of a mediocre mystery adventure. Readers can put together a jigsaw puzzle, connect the dots, match some pairs and repeat some percussion rhythms, but they can’t find much of a story here. Slibby, a snail who lives just outside the town of Porchlandia, has to solve the mystery of who stole the food from his friends, the ants. Each step of his investigation features activities that work well, are explained clearly and are developmentally appropriate for the target age group, but the creators clearly paid more attention to them than to the storytelling, evidently writing the plot around the desired interactions. At one point, the detective snail needs to “fly” from one tree to an unspecified destination, and readers are asked to clear the clouds out of the way, for instance. Such leaps in plot logic abound, making for a wholly unsatisfying story. The punctuation is sloppy, there is no way to shut off the repetitive music, and one of the full-cast narrators has an irritating, condescending tone of voice. The illustrations are standard cartoonstyle computer graphics, and the music and sound effects are unimaginative. Full-app navigation is available from every page. The pedestrian story is an undeserving vehicle for the puzzles and activities along the way. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

SHOE ZOO

Jelbert, Rebecca Illus. by Jelbert, Rebecca Jellywalk Jun. 26, 2012 Series: Tales by Torchlight An artistically inventive tale, rendered clunky and frustrating by interactive features of, at best, amateur quality. Following an introductory frame story, Evangelina, a young artist who spins nighttime tales for her toys, describes how she and her mother pay a visit to a real zoo after old boots and other clothing inspires her to fancy herself as various animals. The zoo animals are photographed; the imagined ones are childlike drawings superimposed over more finished paintings of Evangelina’s face or other images. Selected screens have single, simple touch-activated changes of color or figure position, primitively signaled by printed instructions in the margin that locate the one area that will respond to a tap. Like a paper flip book, these changes are accomplished with short sequences of nearly identical separate images which, though they shift invisibly the first time through, must be manually scrolled back one screen at a time to replay the effect or, for that matter, even to page ahead. The story downloads into iBooks, and tapping any figure that is not touch-sensitive invariably activates the reader’s menu bar, highlighting and search functions—all of which, except for the “index” icon, are irrelevant distractions. The multilayered illustrations cleverly capture a child imaginatively transforming herself, but it’s impossible to read this through without annoying stops and interruptions, and readers accustomed to the flexibility and razzmatazz of the better apps will be disappointed. (iPad enhanced e-book. 6-8)

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THOMAS’S TRAVELS IN BOOKLAND

Lavignette-Ammoun, Cécile Illus. by Richard, Gabrielle La Souris Qui Raconte $1.99 | Jul. 14, 2012 1.0.0; Jul. 14, 2012

Arty, heavily worked pictures give this sketchy account of a child’s first visit to a public library a distinctively sophisticated look and tone. Surrounded by tall piles of volumes that are blurred to anonymity, Thomas first brings a scarily feral wolf and a red-hooded woman with heavy eye makeup to life from a collection of fairy tales. He flees by choosing appropriate words from a dictionary and atlas and sails past “treasure” and a “mermaid” to other quick adventures. Though necessary to follow the storyline, the text (available in English or French) is a secondary element that appears on overlaid white strips and has to be manually summoned into view with the tap of an icon. Perhaps as a result of translation, it runs to wooden lines like “Thomas hastily picks up another book and gleans some more sea related words to help him navigate.” Richard mixes heavily processed photos, paint applied in broad daubs and swirls, and flat cartoon figures into grainy, |

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1983


BIZZY BEAR BUILDS A HOUSE

visually complex compositions. Colors transform, floating letters form into words, and little robots or other figures drift past or pop into view. In addition to an optional audio narration, chuckles and other low-key sound effects join a short loop of pleasant orchestral background music. In the end, Thomas writes his way back into the library and departs with his miniskirted mom on a wink from the voluptuously tressed librarian. Culturally and aesthetically leagues away from such American outings as Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland (2003), though it springs from the same root. (iPad storybook app. 6-8)

Nosy Crow Nosy Crow $3.99 | Jun. 21, 2012 Series: Bizzy Bear 1.0.1; Jul. 3, 2012

Kids who love trucks and construction will identify with Bizzy as he dons his hard hat and “helps” the crew build a house. Lots of attention has been paid to making this app easy for little ones to use, and young readers will have fun participating in all aspects of the construction site. Narrated in a British accent by child actors, this brightly illustrated app allows the reader to bulldoze, mix cement and dig a hole for a foundation. A blue dot blinks to help readers locate the many interactive elements. Page turns and the home-screen icon must be tapped twice to activate, which neatly prevents accidental navigation, and while they occasionally blink to suggest readers move on, they never rush things, allowing readers to move along at their own pace. Highlighted words follow the text in Read and Play mode, and in Read to Myself, readers can adjust how long the text remains on the screen. With the exception of a slightly annoying loop of background music, the sound effects, from truck engines and bird chirps to brick laying and a flushing toilet, are nicely done and add an extra level of fun. Like the board book it is based on (Bizzy Bear, Let’s Go to Work! 2012), this app has only a few pages, but each one is packed with features that encourage budding builders to linger as long as they like. (iPad storybook app. 6 mos.-3)

THE TURTLE IS GETTING MARRIED

Li, Qiao-Mei Illus. by Zheng, Ming-Jin Kai-feng Kama Bookstore $3.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 1.0; Jul. 17, 2012 An original, folkloric tale set in Taiwan and positively festooned with maps, games and nonfiction side articles—but much in need of better translation and proofreading. Li pairs two turtles—one belonging to a clan from Toucheng that “held a peaceful and prosperous life by fishing,” the other from the port of Keelung, which specializes in “delivering various goods on the sea”—who fall in love “at the very first sight” and are wed with much rejoicing. Zheng illustrates the speedy romance with childlike, pink-dominant assemblages of waxy crayon strokes, large pieces of cut paper and carved vegetable stamps. Value-added features include a labeled map (the same map) of the local coastline that spins friskily into view on every screen with the touch of a corner, two simple interactive games and four multiscreen side essays with photos. These last survey the Taiwanese fishing industry (whose workers “attract small fishes like sardines by exploiting their phototaxis nature”), wedding legends and the important functions of nonprofit organizations in Taiwanese society. There is an option for audio narration, but only for the story, and the narrator’s script sometimes varies slightly from the visible text. An icon on each screen allows readers to switch among English, Japanese and Chinese versions. If not always fluid, the English translation is frequently laughable: “A day at sea equals three days without defecation,” according to one folk saying. A charming tale, but not seaworthy enough to bear the heaping cargo of cultural information it’s plainly designed to carry. (strip index) (iPad storybook/informational app. 7-10)

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SPEED MACHINES

Parker, Steve Miles Kelly Publishing Jun. 15, 2012

Developer Miles Kelly presents a decent but curiously static selection of speedy land, sea and air vehicles. “I feel the need, the need for speed,” said Tom Cruise’s character in the movie Top Gun, speaking the sentiments of the many, from all quarters of the globe, who simply wish to go faster and faster. This work does not explore the urge, but it does have a partial handle on the ways and means. From motorcycles to trains to speedboats to helicopters and supersonic aircraft, a couple dozen particular machines are presented in cutaways and profile, which can be spun about to look at the top, bottom and sides. Brief, boxed histories and associated “Fast Facts” come in great number, and there are inquiries called “Look Closer,” which explain altimeters, pressurization, Li-ion cells, fuel pumps, droop-snoots and other features of quick craft. A number of real classics are introduced—the X-1 and X-15, the jet-powered Bluebird boat, the Concorde and the TGV—though contemporary vehicles are given short shrift. The slide shows offer balance to the text but can feel too brief, and the videos are both terrific and |

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“Little polar bear Kodee and his friend Raccoon learn about echoes in this suitably simple storybook for preschoolers and early readers.” from kodee’s canoe

disappointing—who really wants to watch a Flying Fortress sitting on the runway?—especially when they are not accompanied by sound. The presentation, primarily a flip-page affair, though visually attractive, doesn’t have a sense of energy, and reader involvement is minimal. More a handsome first draft than a well-considered final product. (Nonfiction enhanced e-book. 10 & up)

of each scene seem to invite interaction, there’s generally only one interaction per page, and often, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the story. It’s a missed opportunity, given the app’s otherwise solid presentation. An app with top-notch writing and memorable characters wouldn’t need the help. But unfortunately for this one, the text is ho-hum (“The sun shines in through Ella’s window. It wakes her up”), and Ella barely stands out from all her similarly cheerful, overstimulated friends. There’s a useful message for kids about making lemonade, but this beach adventure won’t be memorable enough for most readers to see past the lemons. (iPad storybook app. 3-7)

ICE CREAM MONSTERS

Raj, Erik X. Illus. by SPORG Studio Erik X. Raj $1.99 | May 31, 2012 1.0; May 31, 2012

THE WITCH WITH NO NAME SlimCricket SlimCricket $4.99 | Jun. 22, 2012 1.0.0; Jun. 22, 2012

One-eyed ice-cream-cone monsters play together on planet Amazing Yummy in this didactic storybook app. Each page in this app features two ice-cream monsters with different attributes playing together, accompanied by a repetitive explanation: “Some ice cream monsters have cherries and nuts on top of them and some ice cream monsters don’t. Even though these two ice cream monsters are different from one another, they still love to play together.” The opening music is mediocre, the distasteful computer-generated cyclopean cartoon characters frolic about against unappealing forest backgrounds, and the sound effects of kids’ laughter are maniacal and forced. The narration is just awful, with a singsong-y intonation that is as condescending and preachy as the text itself. There is single-page navigation, and the simple interactions mostly focus on changing superficial features of the cones. Skip the trip to this ice-cream planet, which amply demonstrates that good intentions don’t necessarily lead to good art. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

Readers assist a witch in creating a potion that will help her remember her name. The developers at Slim Cricket Books have taken their collective successes in the video game industry and translated them surprisingly well to the interactive book format. That’s not to say that the story itself is particularly well-written; it’s not. But what sets this interactive book apart from a slew of others that have flooded the market is that it engages readers by continuously involving them in the story. When the witch decides to cast a spell to help her remember her name, she sets out with her bat roommate to retrieve the ingredients for the potion. To help them, readers must put together a puzzle and play games that help them retrieve a nose hair from a giant and produce a concert of farts, among other things. Once the potion is complete, the witch realizes that she lost her name because she lent it… to you! The iPad’s camera activates, and when the reader’s face appears in the crystal ball, they’re asked to name the witch. The tablet’s audio records the name, which is repeated back when the witch subsequently encounters her neighbors again. A clever, engaging presentation that is weighed down by a long-winded and shallow story. With better writing, this would have been an exceptional interactive read. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

ELLA BELLA BEACH ADVENTURE Rock Pocket Games Rock Pocket Games $4.99 | Jul. 4, 2012 1.0; Jul. 4, 2012

A rained-out day at the beach leads to a happier day indoors for a group of kids in this sharp-looking but ultimately

KODEE’S CANOE

Stinn, Nicole; Tiernan, Greg Nitrogen Studios $5.99 | Jun. 30, 2012 1.0.0; Jun. 30, 2012

uninspired app. Wormy-haired Ella asks her father if she and some friends can spend the day at the beach, but the day’s cut short by a storm. Returning home, the group turns the living room into a beachplay area, goes treasure hunting and has an indoor picnic. When the rain stops and the outdoors are again an option, Ella says, “We’ve already had the best day at the beach ever.” The app’s art style, with its inviting, soft colors, rounded edges and clean details, is the star feature here, even if it at times feel visually repetitive. But although the objects, characters and backgrounds |

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Little polar bear Kodee and his friend Raccoon learn about echoes in this suitably simple storybook for preschoolers and early readers. Nitrogen Studios—known for providing the stunning computer-generated animation in the wildly popular Thomas and |

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Friends television/DVD franchise—has transitioned into the app market with a notable effort. It is perhaps best described as a mashup of stunning graphics, smooth animation and gentle interaction. Kodee and Raccoon hear someone yell, “Hello,” but they can’t figure out who’s saying it. After deciding the voice is coming from a nearby island, the duo sets out in the titular canoe to investigate. Readers can help them put on life jackets, summon flying fish and prompt a number of delightful movements and responses from various animals and insects. In the end, Kodee and Raccoon discover that the voices they heard were their own, and the concept of echoes is introduced. Readers are subsequently invited to make their own echoes with a record/playback feature. In addition to the app’s (optional) professional narration, various individuals can also record up to three versions of the story, which can be saved for later playback. The only downsides are an annoying pop-up triggered when leaving the echo chamber or going to the home screen that continually requests a review in the app store (the “Do not ask again” button doesn’t halt the appeals) and the fact that it will not work on iPad 1. A very well-balanced offering that both educates and entertains. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

WHO’S IN THE LOO?

Willis, Jeanne Illus. by Reynolds, Adrian Robot Media $4.99 | Jun. 8, 2012 1.0.1; Jul. 11, 2012

Sound effects and animated wriggles squeeze out laffs from this unabashed exercise in toilet humor, but the software coding and design is a major update short of release-ready. Published in print on this side of the pond in 2007 as Who’s in the Bathroom? but reverting to its British title for the app version, the episode uses the same art and rhymed text to roll out an extended series of speculations about who is holding up the line outside an outdoor restroom: “Is it a tiger who needed a tiddle? / A wandering wombat who wanted a widdle? / A waddling penguin too frozen to piddle?” Each watercolor scene features one or more creatures who groan, strain, emit a noxious-looking cloud (in the case of a “rhino who had a hot curry”) or gesture suggestively, and a toilet in (thankfully) side view that flushes with a tap. Readers can opt for silent mode, self-record or, albeit with a very slow auto-advance, a narrator who delivers the lines with indecent relish. But even in silent mode the text appears piecemeal on many screens, and only temporarily at that, with repeated manual swipes required to bring the next line into view. Pulling a chain on the title page produces not only loud flushing, but two side activities: a select set of coloring pages and a more promising multiple-choice fill-in-the-rhymingword iteration of the story that, unfortunately, crashes the app after the first few screens. A few clogs in the digital plumbing away from a wrap. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

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This Issue’s Contributors # Elizabeth Bird • Marcie Bovetz • Sophie Brookover • Louise Brueggemann • Timothy Capehart • Ann Childs • Julie Cummins • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Dave DeChristopher • Elise DeGuiseppi • Lisa Dennis • Carol Edwards • Robin L. Elliott • Brooke Faulkner • Laurie Flynn • Omar Gallaga • Laurel Gardner • Barbara A. Genco • Judith Gire • Carol Goldman • Melinda Greenblatt • Heather L. Hepler • Megan Honig • Julie Hubble • Jennifer Hubert • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Laura Jenkins • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • K. Lesley Knieriem • Robin Fogle Kurz • Megan Lambert • Angela Leeper • Peter Lewis • Ellen Loughran • Lori Low • Wendy Lukehart • Joan Malewitz • Hillias J. Martin • Jeanne McDermott • Kathie Meizner • Daniel Meyer • R. Moore • John Edward Peters • Susan Pine • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Melissa Riddle Chalos • Lesli Rodgers • Leslie L. Rounds • Ann Marie Sammataro • Mindy Schanback • Dean Schneider • Chris Shoemaker • Karyn N. Silverman • Robin Smith • Rita Soltan • Shelley Sutherland • Jennifer Sweeney • Deborah D. Taylor • Gordon West • S.D. Winston • Monica Wyatt

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indie DEATH HAS ITS BENEFITS

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Aiken, Ronald Nightbird Publishing (281 pp.) $15.00 e-book | Jul. 31, 2012

DEAD END JOB by Ingrid Reinke.............................................. p. 1992 LIFE IN CONTINUUM by Kirk Ward Robinson......................... p. 1993

In this hard-boiled suspense novel, an unwitting attorney tracks the sleazy underside of New York City into his home, where it infects his marriage and his life. Poor Leo. With friends like Tony Benson, who needs enemies? Nonetheless, Leo has enemies—at least that’s what he repeatedly tells Tony, his workout buddy. Unconcerned and dismissive of Leo’s delusional assertion that his boss is out to kill him, Tony moves in on Leo’s wife, Trudy. But an odd incident proves that Leo was actually in his right mind. Then, when Tony’s life is also threatened, he finds he’s losing his own grip on reality. Tony’s cynical attitude remains, however, even as his life goes from bland to black. Author Aiken turned up the testosterone to create this tale of corruption, blackmail and amorality, where few of the characters are likable; the ones who are cut their losses when and if they can. Thugs, strippers, con men and crooked cops make up a roll call fleshed out by nearly sociopathic colleagues; only the women seem to react sensibly and see things clearly. Tony is decidedly unsympathetic: He cheats, disrespects and makes one bad decision after another. He only delves into Leo’s predicament out of a sense of repayment— Leo once saved him from a mugging—rather than loyalty and affection for his longtime “friend.” Yet there’s something riveting about Tony’s slide from normalcy to paranoia to a nadir of his own making. The settings, which Aiken captures in a highly visual style, are equally on the edge of ruin, especially amid the dank odors of the Horror View gym and the spine-tingling creepiness of Pilgrim State Hospital, New York’s draconian, real-life mental institution, where both Leo and Tony find themselves. Told in short, snappy chapters with sharp, wiseass dialogue, the story gains speed about a third of the way through as it builds into a thrilling ride to hell. Readers willing to enter an edgy, seamy world will enjoy this dark and fatalistic tale.

YOU SHOULDN’T CALL ME MOMMY by Susan Tsui................ p. 1994 LIFE IN CONTINUUM

Robinson, Kirk Ward CreateSpace (272 pp.) $14.99 paperback $6.99 e-book May 18, 2012 978-1475053890

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“Ayer’s prose is accomplished throughout, and her details intoxicate—from a blind organ tuner’s flylike fingers and tiny tools to a corpse’s wrinkled trousers.” from tales of chinkapin creek

SECRETS UNRAVELED Overcoming Munchausen Syndrome

TALES OF CHINKAPIN CREEK Volume II Ayer, Jean CreateSpace (168 pp.) $10.00 paperback | $9.99 e-book Jun. 27, 2012 978-1470135799

Avigal, Andrea and Hall, Thomas G. CreateSpace (176 pp.) $17.95 paperback | $9.99 e-book May 23, 2012 978-1468094800

Ayer (Tales of Chinkapin Creek, 2011) returns with more sparkling sketches of rural West Virginians who lived by their hands, hearts and wits before the age of machines. Life in the Mountain State in the early 1900s was blessed but hard—even for Nellie Wister, the eldest daughter of prominent farmer Jack and homemaker extraordinaire Carrie, who together raised five children while presiding over hired hands and serving girls who might have graced the set of Upstairs Downstairs, the Appalachia edition. As in her debut volume of stories, Ayer recreates the titular riverine patch in a series of sketches told by Nellie. To the Wister homestead come vendors, gypsies, widows and farm boys marked by solitude, struggle or need—sometimes all three. Yet Nellie’s nostalgia can be as devilishly wry as it is deeply profound. When indoor plumbing is installed on the farm, unflattering misadventures follow. Later, an impending trip to Baltimore sparks a sewing marathon that hushes the household for days. Oddballs with hard-luck stories emerge. There’s the blacksmith, Robert E. Lee Kilgore, a tortured soul who forges a macabre legacy, and the pacifist basket weaver, Levi Eads, who recounts a deadly appointment at Antietam. Ayer’s prose is accomplished throughout, and her details intoxicate—from a blind organ tuner’s flylike fingers and tiny tools to a corpse’s wrinkled trousers. Yet a tendency to summarize occasionally dilutes the drama of otherwise well-told tales. That, and some sentimental stretches, make this a slightly shallower Creek than its predecessor. But only slightly. Especially rich is the author’s descriptive language: The dew before sunrise that cures freckles; the ring of blackberries that sprouted from a lightning strike; the echoing pop of exploding pig bladders announcing well-being to distant neighbors; calf ’s jelly and horehound lozenges and leather baseballs fashioned from balls of socks. This is a book to be read much as one would listen to a reed organ, hearing beyond its deep tones high piano notes that herald the changing timbre of a new age. Finely nuanced hymn to the world before Ikea, and the stout West Virginians who peopled it. Recommended.

In the authors’ first nonfiction title, the particulars of Munchausen Syndrome—those diagnosed perpetually feign or provoke symptoms of illness for attention—appear not in the jargon of medical textbooks but in the fraught life of one woman. Through alternating recollections from Avigal, the patient, and Hall, the therapist, the specifics of Avigal’s episodes are brought into disturbing focus. Abused by her father and unprotected by her mother, Avigal suffered repeated traumatic events. Lacking familial refuge, she continued to harm herself until she was eventually placed in a residential school for children dealing with emotional abuse. Even there, though, she couldn’t escape, falling prey to her caregivers. Avigal didn’t meet Hall until well after she had already married, bore children and lost a son to cancer—a loss which prompted her to attempt suicide again and then reevaluate her well-being. Under Hall’s guidance, Avigal underwent a therapeutic regimen that caused both her and Hall to question many aspects of their own lives. The book’s approach is somewhat unseen in the genre of psychological memoirs: Instead of opting for a singular perspective, the combined frankness of Avigal about her tribulations and Hall about his hurdles in combating them offers enlightening changes of perspective and pace. Despite the book’s often stomachturning content, it ends on a note of well-earned hope, with Avigal working to address the afflictions of her past. Avigal’s honesty is riveting and bracing, as is Hall’s when he candidly writes of the difficulties of treating Avigal. The book carries a dual meaning in its title: firstly, the secrets of the illness itself and, secondly, the mystery of treating an ailment from which many have not recovered. Avigal and Hall’s collaboration offers readers a coherent timeline while still managing to put forth an arrestingly personal account of redemption. Sensitive, nuanced, ethical and creatively wrought—including reproduced emails between patient and therapist about the treatment process— the book is a major step forward in overcoming the formal restraints of psychiatry to secure dignity, optimism and peace for the mentally ill. As Hall himself says, “an eye-opening and sobering experience.”

1988

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1 september 2012

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THE GHOSTS THAT COME BETWEEN US A family drama inspired by life events

L: A NOVEL HISTORY

Becker, Jillian The William Baldwin Group (316 pp.)

Bahuguna, Bulbul Drona Productions (447 pp.) $28.95 | Dec. 15, 2012 9780985422219

Becker’s novel, republished from 1995, imagines an alternate political reality. Becker is a lifelong student of history and terrorism, both domestic and abroad, so it’s no surprise that her novel isn’t a fairy tale. As a self-anointed “atheist conservative,” it’s nigh on impossible to separate her politics from her prose. That said, having authored the popular Hitler’s Children: The Story of the Baader-Meinhoff Terrorist Gang, there was little worry that her follow-up would be superbly engrossing. For a thick, dyspeptic tome that takes on the ratiocinations of philosophical heavyweights like Bataille, Foucault, Sartre and, most tellingly, the Hungarian aesthete Lukács, Becker’s premise here is remarkably simple and forthright: What would’ve happened, post-1979, if Labour Party radicals had instead vanquished Margaret Thatcher? As expected, coming from the founder of the now-defunct Institute for the Study of Terrorism, plenty of the world would have been sent asunder. Writing from the year 2023, the fictional historian Bernard Gill pieces together the “true,” declassified story of Louis “L” Zander—the supreme leader of the brutal but short-lived Red Republic of England (1987–1989). L conscripted the private militia of his archrival, the neo-Nazi stalwart Edmund Foxe, and enacted unspeakable atrocities on the good people of the Isle, plunging a once powerful, prosperous nation into Marxist misery. Often, however, that brutal existence is painted with too heavy a hand. It’s difficult even for a prodigious talent like Becker to shoulder the ideological burdens inherent to historical dystopia, and the flashback technique here makes this telling more problematic and less compelling. And yet, for voters anywhere in the political spectrum, that’s not enough reason to keep from reading on. As always, Becker’s chief concern is for humanity itself: “May the story of L be a warning to all those who would trade in their freedom for a mirage of security under a paternalistic state led by a charismatic would-be dictator.” The radical fear is amplified by its believability—or worse, its recent arrival. An election-year must-read.

In Bahuguna’s debut novel, a girl comes to terms with childhood abuse through love, education and family. A stream-of-consciousness prologue opens this novel with questions about life, God and the meaning of everything. It’s a move that places the reader squarely inside Nargis’ fraught existence. Exactly what’s wrong isn’t clear, but it’s obvious she’s suffering mental and physical distress. Bahuguna uses that entree to segue into Nargis’ difficult story—from a childhood in India in the ’60s, schooling, falling in love, a bout with tuberculosis, a subsequent stay in a sanatorium in Russia and raising a family in a Chicago suburb. The path this endearing narrator takes is filled with bumps. The main issue, though, is Nargis’ relationship with her father. Bahuguna writes: “Daddy would call all the shots in the family: How we should be educated, what language we should speak, how we should behave, and how we should think. And also, how we must dream. He would even decide our relationship with God.” Over the course of several years, he would also molest Nargis. As a way to heal, she not only moves away, she writes an account of her entire life, which takes form as this novel. “As you can understand, I have been hesitant about telling my story, at the risk of remorse over selfdisclosure and the agony of feeling the pain again. But nothing can stop me now.” It’s a difficult story, but one that is welltold. Nargis is a relatable character and Bahuguna approaches her plight with grace and sympathy. The supporting cast—her father, mother, siblings and boyfriend—is well-drawn, and the family drama that ensues is efficiently handled. Bahuguna notes that she, too, has lived in India, Russia and Chicago, and she’s able to colorfully develop each setting. In the introduction, she writes that her work as a psychiatrist inspired her to create Nargis as a composite fictional character, with the goal of enhancing “the awareness of abuse issues.” That background information, which complements years of Nargis’ back story, would be better suited as a postscript, though, so the reader could approach the text from Nargis’ perspective. Bahuguna’s evocative prose is also peppered with references to pop culture, Indian terms (a glossary appears at the end) and flowery but appropriate language. An insightful, graceful read that’s slightly overextended.

THE TRACKING HEART

Croghan, Melissa Nepaug Press (364 pp.) $14.95 paperback | $6.99 e-book Jun. 26, 2012 978-0984749706 A many-layered story of lost loves and covered-up crimes, set against the backdrop of the Pennsylvania woods. Park ranger Callie Major doesn’t expect to encounter someone from her past when she comes across an illicit campsite, but the camp’s |

kirkus.com

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indie

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1 september 2012

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1989


“An engrossing, entertaining psychological family drama cen