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15 october 2011

REVIEWS

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

nonfiction

children & teens

A time portal and the Kennedy assassination factor into Stephen King’s latest winner p. 1866

Matthew White delivers a brilliant and endlessly arguable book about historical atrocities p. 1916

Barry Denenberg memorializes the Titanic in a lushly designed, oversized volume p. 1926

kirkus q&a

featured indie

Former GNR bassist Duff McKagan talks to us about his latest writing project— his life—in his memoir It’s So Easy. p. 1898

E. Thomas Behr tells a thrilling tale from the early days of the U.S. Marines in his work of historical fiction. p. 1951

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


The Kirkus Star A star is awarded to books of remarkable merit, as determined by the impartial editors of Kirkus. Kirkus Online: Trust the toughest critics in the book industry to recommend the next great read. Visit KirkusReviews.com to discover exciting new books, authors, blogs and other dynamic content.

interactive e-books p. 1849 fiction p. 1859 mystery p. 1874

science fiction & fantasy p. 1880 nonfiction p. 1883

children & teens p. 1919 kirkus indie p. 1949

SF Signal: Don’t Be a Literary Snob, Try Sci Fi B Y JO H N

Reasons You May Not Be Reading Science Fiction Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard for people avoiding science fiction: MYTH: Science Fiction is for prepubescent teenage boys. TRUTH: The idea that a whole genre as varied and diverse as science fiction would be targeted toward a group of specific age and gender is ridiculous. I suspect this is a holdover from the days when pulp science fiction paperbacks were vying for rack-space alongside other dime-store books. Nothing catches the eye like a scantily clad damsel in distress being attacked by an alien. But those images are a thing of the past. Today’s science fiction offers stories suitable for anyone’s tastes and background. Yes, there’s a huge market for young adult readers, with books than can be enjoyed by young and old alike, but there are also plenty of books not marketed specifically for that age group. (Which is not to say that young adults won’t enjoy those books, too.) And, science fiction is not for women? There was a whole movement to disprove that assumption. MYTH: It’s too technical. TRUTH: While it’s true that science fiction stories contain some scientific element to them—otherwise, they wouldn’t be sf—there are varying degrees to which they do so. Did you know, for example, that there are “hard” sciences and “soft” sciences? Hard sciences get all the credit for sf and are the things most of us think of when we think science fiction: astronomy, chemistry, physics, biology and so on. Soft sciences focus on human activities and are less rigorous. Think psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, theology and such. You say you’re averse to science? I say, steer toward soft sf stories.

# President & Publisher M A RC W I N K E L M A N Editor E L A I N E S Z E WC Z Y K eszewczyk@kirkusreviews.com Managing/Nonfiction Editor E R I C L I E B E T R AU eliebetrau@kirkusreviews.com Features Editor M O L LY B RO W N molly.brown@kirkusreviews.com Children’s & YA Books VICKY SMITH vicky.smith@kirkusreviews.com Kirkus Indie Editor P E R RY C RO W E perry.crowe@kirkusreviews.com Mysteries Editor THOMAS LEITCH

DENA RDO

It has come to my attention that not everyone in the world reads science fiction. Gasp! I thought anyone who had a desire to read would instantly reach for science fiction, a genre with a vast spectrum of stories suitable for any reader’s tastes. How can this possibly be?

Chairman H E R B E RT S I M O N

MYTH: Real writers don’t write science fiction. TRUTH: Let’s pretend that “real writers” is not an insult and assume this notion encompasses subjective qualities like “good” and “worthwhile.” Science fiction is the place some of the best writers call home. People simply may not realize it because of the bad reputation sf can have. Let’s put the most “real” writer you can think of up against the beautiful prose of Ursula K. Le Guin, or the craftsmanship of Gene Wolfe, or the insightfulness of Octavia Butler, or the influence of Joanna Russ, or the lyricism of Ray Bradbury, or the style of Theodore Sturgeon, or the subtlety of Dan Simmons, or the depth of Samuel R. Delany, or...well, you get the picture, which is worth way more than 1,000 words. Guess What? You May Already Be Reading SF What tickles me most is when folks dismiss the value of science fiction while reaching for their copy of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Guess what, naysayer? That’s science fiction. “Tis not!” you proclaim. “This is Literature!” Well, that’s my point—so is science fiction. In fact, many books that you don’t normally think of as science fiction contain speculative fictional elements to them. Books like The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger; The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; 1984 by George Orwell; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut; and more. A Tip for the Wise Reader Don’t fall into the trap of genre classification. The science fiction label is meant to steer people toward stories that play with certain conventions, but that is not grounds for a generalization about the value of those stories. Don’t be a literary snob. Pick up a science fiction book and give it a spin. John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a group sciencefiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. Visit him at kirkusreviews.com.

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Editorial Coordinator and Assistant Indie Editor REBECCA CRAMER rebecca.cramer@kirkusreviews.com Contributing Editor G REG ORY Mc NAME E # for customer service or subscription questions, please call 877-441-3010 Kirkus Reviews Online www.kirkusreviews.com Print indexes: www.kirkusreviews.com/ book-reviews/print-indexes Kirkus Blog: www.kirkusreviews.com/blog Advertising Opportunities: www.kirkusreviews.com/about/ advertising-opportunities Submission Guidelines: www.kirkusreviews.com/about/ submission-guidlines Subscriptions: www.kirkusreviews.com/ subscription Newsletters: www.kirkusreviews.com/ subscription/newsletter/add

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interactive e-books interactive e-books for children

Although the illustrations are a bit cartoonish (Dorothy’s oversized head is actively unlovely), their overall integration with the expertly produced interactive features and judicious use of video create a continuity that thoroughly enriches the story. While Dorothy and her friends walk through the illustrations on their journey, interactive highlights reveal such things as lightning, rainbows, fireballs and hidden lamps. Bugs walk across the words on one page and must be shooed, and the tilt technology works so well that readers can actually tangle the lamps hanging from a ceiling. Some pages must be “colored in” by readers to reveal the next scene, cleverly using the technology to abet visual foreshadowing. Like a peek into another world, the first strokes turning a scene to night suddenly reveal a witch flying through the background; it’s a hint of things to come that is just spooky enough for little ones. The no-narration format and frequently thrilling interactive features (yes, at times they are just ho-hum) showcase the iPad’s ability to combine story and art without becoming a video game. A worthy interactive update of the beloved classic. (iPad storybook app. 5 & up)

RAPUNZEL

Álvarez, Silvia Yippee Arts $1.99 | Jul. 28, 2011 1.0 | Jul. 28, 2011 Beautiful illustrations are no compensation for the awful translation and incoherent plot of this “adaption” (as the narrator puts it). In exchange not for the eponymic herb but for “berries with special powers,” “a witch whom [sic] lived in the woods of a forest” spirits green-tressed Rapunzel—pronounced “RApnzaaal” throughout—to an “iced cold” tower. Years later, Rapunzel’s lover (no beating around the bush here) is blinded by icicles, but once her singing “empowered his eyes to see things again,” they somehow follow her magically regrown hair to her parents’ doorstep and are married. Enhanced by sparkles and touch-responsive animations, and depicting figures rendered in jewel-bright tones and elegant dress, the art is worth lingering over. Contrariwise, so distracting are the textual errors on nearly every page and the mispronunciations and misreadings in the audio—which can’t even be switched off—that Englishlanguage audiences, at least, will be hard put to stay focused on the plot. It is also available in Spanish and Chinese and has a “sleep mode” option that plays the audio sans illustrations. Adequate interactive effects and above-average visuals are wasted on a hacked-out, poorly told story line. (iPad storybook app. 7-10)

WIZARD OF OZ 3D The Experience

Baum, L. Frank Illus. by Hildebrandt, Greg Flying Word $4.99 | Jun. 30, 2011 1.0 | Jun. 30, 2011

Described by the developers as a “3D audiobook,” this unabridged version of the classic tale is really a digital book with good illustrations and optional audio. Unlike the majority of storybook apps, it does not have the interactive games and educational features readers have come to expect from the format and is clearly not aimed at a preschool or early-reader audience. However, with the look of antique pages and beautifully rendered illustrations, this is how many imagined digital books would be before actually downloading their first free copy of a classic, with its utilitarian computer-screen look and disappointing lack of illustrations. Each chapter is illustrated with Hildebrandt’s original artwork, which is rendered in a 3D format resembling a pop-up book. Although the touch technology is a little cranky, the pictures can be moved and tilted to enhance the 3D effect, and they also shrink to a thumbnail at the top of the screen on non-illustrated pages. Ambient background sounds are perfectly integrated, and the narration is truly excellent—with the glaring exception of Dorothy, who is read in a syrupy baby voice that is hard to forgive.

OZBOOK

Baum, L. Frank Slypot $5.99 | Jul. 20, 2011 1.0 | Jul. 20, 2011 With the help of often-brilliant interactive elements, this 17-chapter abridgement manages to update the language while staying true to Baum’s original story. |

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“Nosy Crow’s dynamic adaptation stays close to the traditional yarn in terms of plot and sequence, but a plethora of nuances and interactive elements adds unprecedented depth and pizzazz.” from cinderella

Overall, readers looking for a quality digital format of a classic story will not be disappointed. (iPad storybook app. 7-11)

unfolding adventure, adults will love to word-search the paper hat/boat/tent/pool, not that there are hidden messages. Or are there? The navigation is clear, the typeface pleasingly oldfashioned and the extras—coloring activities, a paper-hat pattern and a karaoke sing-along—are all in good fun. Interactions are low-key; aside from independent video loops on each page, touches trigger exclamations, small movements, some atmospheric effects and occasional thought bubbles. Overall, though, it’s hard not to think that this celebration of the imagination would’ve been better on paper, where readers’ minds could roam freely. As an app, it’s just okay. Bourgonje’s second venture in the app world, while not as memorable as her first, is big on story if low on action. (iPad storybook app. 2-8)

MIKA’S ADVENTURE

Biege, Florian Illus. by Biege, Florian zuuka! GmbH $4.99 | Oct. 6, 2010 1.1 | Nov. 10, 2010

A lad discovers an abandoned jungle city in this well-designed first chapter of an original tale. Young Mika wanders away from his scientist grandma, finds a directional sign covered in “whimsical symbols,” fends off a giant snake and blithely carries away a small golden statue from a ruin. To go along with quiet New Age background music and low-volume sound effects, the verdant junglescapes in each atmospheric scene feature strange-looking flora and fauna, plus as well as eyes and eldritch lights that brighten or dim with a tap. Simple but smooth animations include an opening sequence, page “turns” and small flowers that bloom when touched. A touch will also blow the blocks of very small text up to a more legible size. Icons at the bottom of each screen point forward and back, allowing the voiced narration and music to be (independently) switched on or off; they also lead to a jigsaw puzzle and a concentration game. The translated text features some malapropisms and offbeat lines—” ‘We will have to jump to make it across there,’ he thinks with a foreboding in the back of his mind”—and though the App Store description promises four languages, the app offers only English. An exciting jaunt, imbued with a sense of mystery—but readers curious about what happens next or the significance of what Mika finds will have to wait for future episodes to find out. (iPad storybook app. 7-9)

CINDERELLA

Bryan, Edward Nosy Crow $5.99 | Sep. 13, 2011 1.0 | Sep. 13, 2011 An enchanting and highly entertaining take on the classic fairy tale. Nosy Crow’s dynamic adaptation stays close to the traditional yarn in terms of plot and sequence, but a plethora of nuances and interactive elements adds unprecedented depth and pizzazz. In most every scene, the characters can be moved around, flipped and tapped to offer additional dialogue (they are also accompanied by their own background music, giving each a unique sound identity). It seems a little odd that both Cinderella and the prince appear prepubescent (while other characters look more like teens/adults), but somehow it works, perhaps as a commentary on the virtues of childlikeness. Readers can help with a multitude of tasks and are even acknowledged or thanked when having done so. There are simply too many delightful elements and surprises to enumerate, but suffice it to say that a touch-tilt treasure trove awaits curious and persistent little fingers. Child actress Freya Wilson (The King’s Speech) beautifully narrates, and the “read-by-myself ” mode allows readers to select the length of time text should appear on the screen. There’s a bonus for iPad 2 users, as the front-facing camera activates in certain scenes and places the reader’s image in a mirror in the room (the stepmother even acknowledges it). A magical masterpiece that hits the technological and artistic bull’s-eye. (iPad storybook app. 3-8)

FINN’S PAPER HAT

Bourgonje, Chantal Illus. by Bourgonje, Chantal Tizio BV $1.99 | Aug. 4, 2011 1.0 | Aug. 4, 2011 Oh, the places you’ll go and the creatures you’ll meet wearing a simple paper hat. In this whimsical tale by Dutch author/illustrator Bourgonje (Fierce Grey Mouse, 2011), childlike imagination takes center stage as young Finn creates a paper hat that becomes the perfect boat that takes him to the North Pole and back, by way of special friends. Here, the story itself is the charm, enhanced by seven narrator options in English and Dutch, beautiful music and spirited, if somewhat strange, sound effects. Bourgonje’s line-and-collage illustrations are curiously engaging, employing a palette informed by the hat’s dull newspaper hues throughout. As young ones enjoy the 1850

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PETE AND THE SECRET OF FLYING

one illustration that fades in, pans or features a little movement. There is no audio reading, but the texts are available in English and four other European languages. Since the “autoplay” option moves the pages along far too quickly even for speed readers, it would be better to stick with manual advance. The lack of notes means readers who want to explore more will have to do a little bit of digging to find the source stories. Not exactly feature rich, but good for a few roars from confirmed dragon lovers. (iPad storybook app. 9-12)

Bungter, Tobias Illus. by Briner, Niklas Shape Minds and Moving Images GmbH $1.99 | Jun. 15, 2011 1.2 | Jul. 20, 2011 An avian iconoclast rises above conventional mores to find his bliss and enlighten others. When Pete tells his mother he wants to fly she admonishes him never to speak of it again. Being the freethinker that he is, Pete persists in his wanderlust by flapping his wings when no one is watching. One night while his parents are asleep, he sneaks out, climbs a tree falls from the heights and learns to fly. When he returns home other young birds follow suit and—in a reaction that could’ve been mined from the cultural revolution of the ’60s—the parents are “shocked” at the deviant behavior of their youth. The entire digital presentation (interaction, animation, artwork) is both progressive and refreshingly simple. The app is reliably responsive, navigation is breezy, and the narration (which can be switched on or off) is well done. But the story itself lacks logic and substance. If “In the beginning all the birds were walking on the ground,” how did Pete even know what flying was? Why was the idea of flying so scandalous to the grownups? And though mama and papa bird eventually accept Pete’s lifestyle and join the flying club, the moral of the story appears to be that kids must overcome the small-minded beliefs of their parents. A technologically respectable app that’s grounded by a subpar and potentially problematic storyline. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

FRANKIE FROG

Dammann, Anke Illus. by Dammann, Anke Oetinger GmbH Aug. 17, 2011 1.0 | Aug. 18, 2011 A simple, predictable story of animal friends playing hide-and-seek loses itself in the telling. Billy Beaver, Pinky Piglet, Robbie Rabbit, Elvis Elephant and Frankie Frog are playing hide-and-seek in this storybook app by German author/illustrator Dammann. Their adventure, enhanced by an enjoyable narrator, spot animation and a puzzle activity at the end, holds great potential, with colorful illustrations of adorable furry friends. But the app loses its way with a confusing story line, clunky, overworked text and snooze-worthy interactive elements. From the title, readers might assume that finding Frankie Frog is the point, but he doesn’t show up until the last page. Pinky Piglet (the only girl) hides in a bathtub full of suds, which is problematic for parents, who might be concerned at the notion of their children hiding underwater. By page six, no one has seen Frankie Frog, so Beaver suggests they all just go for a swim instead of finishing the game. Isn’t this story supposed to be about finding Frankie? Beyond the logical holes, a simple story for this age group shouldn’t require 50-75 words per page to move it along. Moreover, the language is clunky at best: The punch line on each page consists of a couplet that rhymes concealed/revealed, with minor variations. Lackluster sound effects—a flushing toilet, rubber toys that all squeak similarly, occasionally occurring circus music and birds chirping with butterflies in the air—complete this flimsy tale. This is one adventure best left hidden. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

DRAGON LEGENDS

Ciruelo Illus. by Ciruelo Zentric $4.99 | Aug. 2, 2011 1.0 | Aug. 2, 2011

Occasional animations, subdued sound effects, a dreamy orchestral soundtrack and a video clip plump up this electronic version of the illustrator/composer’s Book of the Dragon (2005). Ciruelo does paint good dragons—spiky, winged, solidly muscular, dramatically posed and covered in shimmering scales of diverse hue. Here he sets them rearing or soaring over a variety of heroes or fair maidens to illustrate 16 short tales loosely based on Classical or European legends. The contents open with Hercules twice tricking guileless Atlas (“You are so stupid you deserve your fate,” chides the guardian dragon Ladon) into helping to steal the Golden Apples of the Hesperides. It ends with a two-minute video of the artist in action and a selection of dragon wallpapers. In between, it pits Siegfried, Perseus, St. Martha, the prophet Daniel and other brave hearts against a variety of dragons who usually, though not invariably, come out second best. Most, not all, of the tales come with a low-volume bellow or two plus at least |

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RANDY THE DAYDREAMING DOG

Graveline, Jan Illus. by Graveline, Todd TaleSpring, Inc. $1.99 | Aug. 5, 2011 1.0 | Aug. 5, 2011

After his master leaves for work, a dog passes the time by daydreaming. This book is one of a handful recently published by TaleSpring, a do-it-yourself platform whereby authors can build |

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I CAN DO IT MYSELF!

their own interactive apps. The premise of this particular story has everything going for it; dreaming big and exercising one’s imagination has been preached everywhere from the classroom to the boardroom. However, this app isn’t going to accomplish much to that end. The artwork features bright, vivid illustrations and sharp angular objects that exhibit beautifully on the tablet screen. Beyond that, it subscribes to the lowest common denominator on every front. Randy the dog spends his time in a daydream-like state in which “anything is possible.” He travels to outer space, where readers can touch stars to summon planets that burp, pass gas and say things like “What?” and “How you doin’?” in their best Joey Tribbiani voices. An elephant has an ethnic identity crisis, and a bunny exclaims, “That’s stinky,” with no context whatsoever. Narration is prompted on a pageby-page basis and sounds like it was recorded in a cave; on at least one occasion there’s audible background noise. A perfect choice for those who value weak potty humor, a hollow story and uninspiring animation and interaction. Others would do well to set their alarms before this dream takes shape. (iPad storybook app. 4-7)

Gustafson, Mary Illus. by Regan, Dana ZunZun Books LLC $3.99 | Jul. 24, 2011 1.0 | Jul. 24, 2011

A simple, rhyming text provides readers a glimpse of a confident little girl’s routine at home. Displaying her independence, Emily, who appears about kindergarten age, guides readers through a typical day, running through the tasks she has mastered, such as putting away her toys and going potty all by herself. However, the colorful and endearing illustrations tell a different story, showing Emily leaving a trail of destruction behind her that ranges from an overflowing bathtub to a spaghetti-splattered floor. Despite Emily’s endearing can-do attitude, her patient mom makes several cameo appearances, including a final appearance in which Emily acknowledges that despite her independence that it is still nice to get tucked in for bed. Throughout Emily is accompanied by her loyal puppy sidekick, adding a layer of humor, as the puppy usually bears the brunt of Emily’s mistakes. Readers can opt to be read to by a spunky young narrator who speaks clearly over a folksy instrumental and syncs with simple repetitive animations, like tail wags and teeth brushing. The “read myself ” version provides some interactivity with interspersed sound effects such as popping soap bubbles, squeaking toys and a crying baby sister. A quick (the read-aloud section clocks in at just under two minutes) but, overall, satisfying read. (iPad storybook app. 3-5)

HANSEL AND GRETEL

Grimm, The Brothers Illus. by Sato, Ten DICO $3.99 | Jun. 27, 2011 1.1 | Jul. 4, 2011

Lush illustrations are let down by rote, bland storytelling in this oddly paced, tonedeaf version of the Brothers Grimm tale. The story of the neglected, lost kids Hansel and Gretel starts promisingly. The main characters are drawn like Japanese-animation heroes and surrounded by evocative, detailed artwork emphasizing cracks in walls and rich vegetation dotted with tree stumps and wild animals. But the text (which can be read aloud with optional narration) doesn’t pull its weight. When Hansel and Gretel arrive at the witch’s insanely adorned home of pastries, lollipops and candy canes, the text merely calls it a “House of sweets” and tells readers limply, “They ran up to the house and started pulling sweets off of it.” In no time the stooped witch is pushed into the oven, and the tale has shifted tone, ending darkly in just nine pages. The final image of the reunited family cheering as they gather around a bag of gold and jewels (never mind the mysteriously deceased stepmother and the incinerated witch), the look of deranged joy on the father’s face may be too much for some parents to bear. Still, the art is remarkably good for such a mediocre telling, and the sound effects and animation are put to good use. Still, tapping the screen to push someone into a walk-in oven may not be what the iPad’s creators envisioned when they designed the device. Fans of the grimmest Grimm stories may find this app’s artwork to be worth a peek, but the story itself doesn’t provide much that is new or different. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

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POTTY TIME

I Can Do It Books I Can Do It Books $0.99 | May 3, 2011 1.1 | Aug. 18, 2011 An “I can do it book” that just doesn’t do it when it comes to celebrating kids and their success with potty training. A series of single, boldly colored pages depicts one child on each proudly boasting about his or her ability to take on different aspects of potty training. For example, one child boasts of lifting the toilet lid, while another can stay dry while out walking. A diversity of races is represented in the simple, naïve cartoons, though they generally lack expression. The text includes simple navigation that enables readers to move back and forth by clicking rolls of toilet paper in each bottom corner. Swiping to turn pages is not an option, which might frustrate those familiar with standard e-book protocol. There is no read-aloud option, although when readers click to turn pages, a child brightly exclaims, “Next page!” A limited range of off-key sound effects can be triggered through tapping various elements, such as a drum, toilet and sleeping child. Other interactive opportunities include dragging shoes, pants and bows to |

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“Although it is a simple concept, it is designed consistently, with very easy navigation and flawless execution.” from el libro verde / the green book

dress the characters, but these are not always obvious and may be overlooked. Despite a message of empowerment, this text’s amateur illustrations and funky navigation makes it a wet blanket. (iPad storybook app. 2-3)

in how to correctly grasp a magic fork stuck in a rock. Thus begins a tongue-in-cheek Arthurian adventure in which the duo completes challenges that deal mainly with table manners but also with “magic words” and kindness toward others. Engaging graphics, slurping and burping sound effects and a smattering of animation and interactivity will appeal to kids and grownups alike, though they cannot conceal the essentially didactic nature of the effort. The words are highlighted as the narrator (attempting a British accent with mixed results) speaks, helping early readers follow along with the text. Each page has a touch button that opens up a boxed scroll featuring additional etiquette history and trivia. Some tips—”You wait [to eat] until the host says you may begin or if your host begins to eat”—are helpful, while others— ”You get in and out of your chair on the right side”—are likely to confirm Rosalind’s disdain for etiquette. Grownups on a quest to teach youngsters table manners will enjoy this app (probably rather more than the children it is aimed at, though). (iPad storybook app. 3-8)

PIRATE OF THE MIST

Innocenti, Marco Illus. by Frasca, Simone Giunti Editore $4.99 | Aug. 29, 2011 Series: Captain Fox, 1 1.0 | Aug. 29, 2011

Despite some extraneous special features and an English translation that is, at best, unvarnished this pirate yarn nonetheless scores points for sheer silly fun. Rescued from a raft just before he’s eaten by sharks, citybred Ricky Rat is inducted by Captain Fulgencio Libertador Fox into the hard-drinking, all-animal pirate crew of a ship called a “Chameleon Vessel” because it changes color (in the story at least, if not in the cartoon art) along with the sea. The pirates’ primary adventure is to fetch “bootlegger treasure” from the belly of a white whale. Along the way, they survive repeated ambushes by Admiral Sibilla Snake—a scaly vision clad in haute couture straight out of Vogue—and a layover to visit their hardnosed wives (“You have a female mouse in every port, and maybe even a duck and a hen! Eh?” screams one, clobbering her mate with a heavy cane). Along with two side games and two extra screens that allow users to create new episodes using their own voices and even photos, the 119-page main story features a lively, multi-voiced audio reading, many touch- or tilt-activated items and thumbnail chapter and page indexes. On every page, there is a self-record button along with a set of colored markers that have no evident purpose aside from creating random noises or scribbles. Still, fine fare for readers who prefer their nautical comedy broad and don’t mind a few typos along the way. (iPad storybook app. 8-10)

EL LIBRO VERDE / THE GREEN BOOK

Longo, Alejandra Illus. by Chaskielberg, Daniel Panarea Digital $1.99 | Aug. 24, 2011 1.7 | Aug. 24, 2011 Simple but very nicely put together, this bilingual picture-book app teaches names of animals that have the color green in common. Each page of this app, the first in a planned series of Spanish-and-English interactive books for young children, features a green animal against a brightly colored background. The animals, including a parrot (el loro), turtle (la tortuga) and crocodile (el cocodrilo), each have a brief moment of animation. The crocodile snaps its teeth, a frog swallows a fly and so on. The optional narration that accompanies the large, easy-to-read text is read by a child and is basic and consistent. “La rana es verde. The frog is green,” one page reads. The repetitive format makes it easy to concentrate on the words and their translations. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and the last pages feature a green dog that, it turns out, should actually be brown. A final page features all the animals together with their accompanying sound effects and animations. Although it is a simple concept, it is designed consistently, with very easy navigation and flawless execution. Even an included coloring game goes above-and-beyond: All the pages can be drawn upon, and the coloring tools include stamps, polka-dot, striped or plaid paints and different sizes of brushes. The youngest readers may not fully appreciate the careful construction of the app, but parents will be able to detect the deceptively easy-looking effort shown here. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

A QUEST FOR GOOD MANNERS

Lefranc, Karin Illus. by Neale, Hannah TaleSpring, Inc. $1.99 | Jul. 9, 2011 1.0 | Jul. 9, 2011

A princess and dragon learn manners in a pleasant-enough medieval adventure. Princess Rosalind and Sparkler the Dragon have such terrible table manners that the Queen threatens to banish the dragon unless they find “Good Manners” in just three days. Percival the wizard helps them on their journey by instructing the Princess |

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“Not only will nostalgic adults be thrilled to share a favorite book with a child, but the option to record your own voice reading the text will be especially attractive to grandparents or parents who are away.” from the poky little puppy

THE POKY LITTLE PUPPY

decidedly British. In addition to the story, there are two extras: a “hug gallery,” in which various images can be e-mailed, and a game of “Noughts and Crosses” (more frequently known in America as Tic-Tac-Toe). This app won’t win any awards for technological innovation, but it offers enough warmth and educational value to justify the price. (iPad storybook app. 3-8)

Lowrey, Janette Sebring Illus. by Tenggren, Gustaf Random House Digital $3.99 | Aug. 25, 2011 1; Aug. 24, 2011

One of the first 12 books published in the Little Golden Book series and arguably one of the most beloved, this is the perfect choice to debut the series on iPad, iPhone and iPod. Developers very smartly kept the book’s distinctive appearance and original 1942 story and illustrations. Once readers crack open that familiar golden spine, they can personalize the “inside cover” with a child’s name and picture. The tilt and touch features are simple but well executed, and the app is loaded with educational goodies. The icon in the top right of each page unlocks interactive learning games appropriate for preschoolers, and kids earn “stickers” for counting or color and word recognition. These can be used at the end to create a personalized scene to save to the photo album. Each word is highlighted as it is read; when the narration has been turned off, readers who need help can tap on individual words to hear them. Not only will nostalgic adults be thrilled to share a favorite book with a child, but the option to record your own voice reading the text will be especially attractive to grandparents or parents who are away. This classic story of naughty puppies and their backyard adventures—complete with fuzzy caterpillars, musical flowers, crickets and frogs and all topped off with dessert— is sure to be a favorite yet again. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK Mindshapes Mindshapes $2.99 | Jul. 25, 2011 1.0.0; Jul. 25, 2011

A high-energy, modern take on the story of a boy and his magic beans, this app’s solid presentation and slyly humorous touches make it stand out from other “Beanstalk” adaptations. Jack, a hyperactive kid who sits in front of the television set playing twitch-inducing video games all day (even as he lives in a tiny cottage on a farm), sells the family cow to buy some beans, climbs a giant beanstalk and discovers a homicidal giant from whom he can steal an enchanted harp and a magic hen. While it doesn’t quite match the standard of the Ayars Animation version, which was a more classical take, this app’s music, animation and voice work are just as appealing. Each page is packed with small background jokes and items to manipulate, and the characters have a varied “library” of dialogue, so multiple taps do not always bring up the same lines on each page. On the other hand, some of the activities seem thrown in for no good reason; dressing Jack up in clothes and props has no bearing on what he’s wearing on the next page, for instance. But overall the jokey artwork (check out the ’80s heavy-metal look of the giant) is enjoyable, even if the text and narration are bythe-numbers and at times sloppy. This zany version of the oft-told (and oft-app’ed) story makes up for its storytelling shortcomings with lots of personality. (iPad storybook app. 3-8)

HUGLESS DOUGLAS

Melling, David Illus. by Melling, David Hachette UK $2.99 | Aug. 18, 2011 1.0 | Aug. 18, 2011

A cub searches for a much-needed bear hug. Adapted from Melling’s 2010 book of the same name, this story is about a young brown bear who wakes up in need of some affection. Douglas wraps his arms around a boulder and tries to cuddle with a tree, but neither delivers what he’s looking for. After disturbing a herd of sheep and a cranky owl (all of whom refuse to reciprocate his hugs), he finds a rabbit that eventually leads him to the warm embrace he craves. Illustrations are taken directly from the book, with certain details given limited, superficial movement. The readto-me version is played like a video, which—aside from being able to pause and play—leaves it completely sans interactive elements. Alan Davies’ narration is delightfully lively and is read at a reasonable pace as each word is highlighted. The read-itmyself option allows for self-paced page advancement as well as limited interaction; tapping items yields audio and visual one-word descriptions, though some diction and spellings are 1854

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MOMONGA’S SNOW WHITE

Moina, Eve DICO $3.99 | Jul. 29, 2011 1.0.1 | Aug. 8, 2011 A concise version of the classic tale, with racy manga-style illustrations. Whoo-hoo! Clad in a ruffled gown that is high of hem and low of décolletage, buxom, square-eyed Snow White poses fetchingly in the first scene beneath a white palace that belongs in a French manuscript illumination and sprawls across a row of dwarven beds (in her underwear, as a tap of the blanket reveals). After |

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falling to the apple offered by her surprisingly young-looking evil stepmother, she lies in her glass coffin among pink roses in a navel-exposing camisole. Enter a shaggy-haired prince, who bends down (with another tap) to give her a smooch and whisk her away to a “happily ever after.” Though (aside from a nifty dissolve in the magic mirror) the animated effects are stiff and simple, a menu button on each of the ten screens allows viewers to select a text and (optional) audio narration in any of eight languages or choose a version without text. Unusually, readers can also control the volumes of the narration, the sound effects and the tinkly orchestral background music separately with sliders. Rich in narrative choices, if not interactive features— and maybe not the best choice for a younger child’s first exposure to the story, but teen manga fans will love it. (iPad storybook app. 12-16)

This highly predictable tale begins with three princess-wannabes giddy at having been invited to the prince’s soirée. Once one of the girls is selected, readers must help with her chores so she can go to the ball. Tasks include tidying up, arranging a vase of flowers and feeding various types of “fruit” (including carrots, strangely enough) to animals. Subsequently, a diminutive fairy godmother provides everything from kimonos to bling so that readers can dress the maiden, paper doll–style. Once properly adorned, she arrives at the party and gets her shot with the prince by solving three “riddles,” one of which is properly arranging a table setting (apparently Emily Post has found her way to Fairyland). The text is presented alternately on a fauxantique book and a scroll, which drifts down to temporarily obscure a full-screen image. There are a few other tactile treats, including popping balloons, detonating fireworks and an opportunity to paint (yawn), but they quickly lose their luster amid the primitive animation and clunky presentation. In addition, language like “Oh yeah!” and “Lookin’ good!” are incongruent with the once-upon-a-time motif that the calligraphy-laden text and the Old World attire suggest. A retrograde, positively vapid story with superficial whistles and bells that fizzle well before the clock strikes midnight. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

GIGGLY SPIDER

Nelissen, Marieke Illus. by van Veldhoven, Marijke le petit studio $3.99 | Aug. 26, 2011 1.0.1 | Sep. 2, 2011 Eleven big, brightly colored animals, uncomplicated special effects and a minimal text combine for a delight for the

DORA & DIEGO’S VACATION ADVENTURE

diaper-clad. A smiling blue spider emits a cheery sound (more a chirrup than a giggle) at a touch, then on the next screen can be moved around with a fingertip to create a web that traps a passing fly. Likewise, in successive scenes a squawking chicken drops an egg, a cow moos and chews, a blinking pig flings mud at viewers and a waggy dog lunges up to lick the screen. At the end, a sleepy child’s eyes close as a blanket is pulled up, Mommy (or, in an option chosen at the beginning, Daddy) delivers a kiss and, in a closing nighttime scene, taps turn out each of the lights. The text, in English or Dutch, runs to a single word or phrase per screen, and low-volume sound effects or snatches of music accompany small-scale animations that are both easy to start and easy to see. The titular spider’s eight eyes all roll adorably, for instance, and a butterfly delicately unfurls its proboscis to sample a flower’s nectar. A low-key app that’s not overloaded with digital bells and whistles—and so all the better for quiet sharing with very young children. (iPad storybook app. 2-4)

Nickelodeon & Budge Studios Budge Studios Aug. 9, 2011 1.0 | Aug. 9, 2011

“Wow! ¡Qué vacaciones!” Meeting many friends along the way, Dora joins Diego, Baby Jaguar and others from the show in an outing to the Rainforest Campground. With customary effervescence, Dora (optionally) narrates the text that appears a line or two at a time beneath each of the eight cartoon scenes. She also repeatedly urges viewers to tilt the tablet for 3D effects, touch figures to set off quick animations or zooms and drag three stickers per scene to matching pulsing silhouettes. Pages are a little slow to load, but the narration and the nicely varied array of special effects work smoothly, and successive encounters with a large cast of familiar (to fans, at least) vacation-bound characters make each stage of the trip a memorable one. There’s nothing new about it, but for children who love the characters from the TV show, it will be both nicely familiar and mildly exciting. (Adults may wish to stifle Dora after a reading or two, though.) Engaging enough even for the car-seat crowd. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

A PRINCESS TALE

Nguyen, Peter & Bradford, Galen Illus. by Bradford, Galen Tiger Stripes LLC $2.99 | Aug. 26, 2011 1.0 | Aug. 26, 2011 Three fair (literally—they are all white) maidens ready themselves to vie for the prince’s love. |

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MOTHER OCEAN, FATHER SUN

with “to be continued” flashing across the scene. There are some interesting effects, including a page where objects in a room need to be moved back to their correct place, ink spots that disappear when touched and a video clue that plays on a television monitor. There is no narration offered, so this app is for independent readers or a one-on-one shared reading experience. Here’s hoping the creators will employ a better translator and editor for the sequels. (iPad storybook app. 7-10)

Niles, Anne Illus. by Arenberg, Tom Fish-e-Tales $4.99 | Sep. 4, 2011 2 | Sep. 8, 2011

A raindrop takes a circular journey from forest to ocean to cloud and back in an app that still needs major work. Dubbed “Ayashi” (Chippewa for “Little One”), the drop falls from a leaf tip into a stream that flows down through a city and into a bay. She is then drawn up into the sky by Father Sun, joins other droplets in a cloud, falls in night rain and again wakes on a leaf. The illustrations, all of which pointlessly have lines and shadows running down their centers to simulate the gutter of a book, resemble photographs that have been processed to look like out-of-focus or pixilated paintings of land- and seascapes. Many screens are still images, even (as in scenes of an ocean reef and of billowing clouds) when there are references to movements in the accompanying narrative, and several of the rare touch-activated animations—a water drop that plunges like a lead weight into a stream, shooting stars that appear with a tap but only in portions of a night sky—aren’t quite right. Sound effects are bright and distinct, but they frequently continue even after one or more new pages have been swiped into view, and selecting the audio narration option at the beginning activates an autoplay with no “pause” button. An unvarnished, if (appropriately) atmospheric introduction to the water cycle. (iPad storybook app. 6-8)

THE DOVES AND THE HUNTER Podder, Gopal Green Broccoli $1.99 | Aug. 11, 2011 100 | Aug. 11, 2011

An ancient tale from India is framed in a modern picture-book story. Two youngsters and their grandparents take a break at the playground to hear grandfather’s story of “The Dove and the Hunters” from the Panchatantra collection of Indian fables. In the tale-within-a-tale, an evil hunter lures a dole of doves into a net. Under the wise tutelage of their king, they fly off together with the net, and some kindly mice friends free them by chewing the net apart. The framing device is apparently common in the Panchatantra tradition, but here the playground story detracts from an interesting fable that would have stood up well on its own. The grandfather holds a didactic question-and-answer session following the tale that further leaches enjoyment from the story. The illustrations feel stereotypical; while the kids could be any ethnicity, the grandmother has a bindi on her forehead, and the evil hunter appears to be an exaggerated cartoon version of a Hindu demon. The sing-song, amateurish narration is further marred by careless mismatches with the text. Aside from a few well-designed puzzles, there is very little animation and almost no interaction. An awkward framing device, a didactic tone and scant use of animation or interactive elements sink this potentially engaging Panchatantra tale. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

CUT! IT’S A WRAP!

Okovitaya, Ekaterina Translated by Bittner, Valerie Illus. by Okovitaya, Ekaterina eMotion Tales $2.99 | May 19, 2011 1.1.1 | Jul. 28, 2011 This chapter book for independent readers features talking animals in a lightweight gumshoe mystery. Fox is having a tough time; he’s buried in work at the movie studio he took over when his cousin mysteriously disappeared in the jungle. He’s less than enthusiastic when the famous actress Lulu the Doe beseeches him to find her missing jewels, but he agrees to help, and the plot thickens when it appears that a mummy is haunting the studio. The story’s attempt to provide a hardboiled-detective mystery for the younger crowd mostly succeeds, with solid noir elements like snappy dialogue, tonguein-cheek humor, a hint of romance, red herrings and suspicious characters. The writing style is average at best and awkward at worst, perhaps resulting from translation or editing issues. The ending deteriorates into a nonsensical Keystone Cops–type chase, wherein Fox and his crew end up trapped in a locked room 1856

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IVOR THE ENGINE The First Story Postgate, Oliver Illus. by Firmin, Peter Dreadnought Design $2.99 | Sep. 3, 2011 1.0; Sep. 3, 2011

A new version of the original story line from an animated British television series first shown in the ’50s features a close, if less anthropomorphic, cousin of Thomas the Tank Engine. “Not very long ago, in the top left-hand corner of Wales, there was a railway.” When Ivor, the one locomotive on that railway, hears the local Grumbly and District Choral Society |

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“The endearing creatures in this lively app will keep kids entertained while they learn and practice animal sounds.” from who says moo?

WHO SAYS MOO?

and develops a yen to join in, it’s up to Dai Stationmaster and engineer Jones the Steam to figure out the problem and track down a properly mellifluous set of organ pipes to replace the engine’s whistle. Viewed through a window that occupies half the real estate on each portrait-mode–only screen, the informal pen-and-watercolor illustrations (done by the original cartoonist) pan and zoom slowly as an avuncular narrator reads, backed by sprightly brass background music supplemented by the occasional bit of dialogue or song. A tap on either bottom corner turns the page. Though there is no quick way to skip screens and no option to turn off the narration while keeping the background sounds, the tale flows smoothly along to its happy, musical resolution. An “Ivor” game is available as another app. With unassuming art and both prose and characters sporting low-key Welsh inflections, this is an engaging natural for both shared and independent reading. (iPad storybook app. 7-9)

Robinson, Punch Illus. by Robinson, Punch Knee Bouncers $2.99 | Jul. 29, 2011 1.0; Jul. 29, 2011

Silly-looking animals make their respective sounds in a simple but satisfying and educational picture-book app. “Who says moo? / Do you say moo? / No, I do not say moo! / I say quack! / Quack, quack, quack!” That’s pretty much the whole text, repeated with appropriate variations by cute cartoon animals who introduce their own animal sounds in a variety of nonsensical ways. The pig adorns herself with pearls, the hen lays a clutch of brightly colored eggs, the goat sports horns that honk loudly—and the cow on the last page happily announces, “I do say moo! / Moo, moo, moo!” The main page features all 15 animals, and it’s there that readers can hear their actual animal sounds. Page navigation is easy; readers advance by touching and grabbing an animal to the left or right of the screen and moving it to the center position. A terrific add-on is the easy voice-recording option, allowing a mother, father or early reader to become an optional narrator. A few small quibbles—there are no animal names on the individual pages (their names do appear on the main page), and readers can’t navigate easily from the main page to a specific animal’s page. The endearing creatures in this lively app will keep kids entertained while they learn and practice animal sounds. (iPad storybook app. 3 mos.-6)

BRAVE ROONEY

Renert, Gerry Illus. by Gott, Barry Bacciz $2.99 | Aug. 23, 2011 1.0; Aug. 23, 2011

An amusing, cleverly told story that plays off the glut of superheroes in pop culture benefits tremendously from an app design that’s just as fun and engaging. Rooney (“Not Captain Rooney or Commander Rooney, just plain old Rooney”) is the new kid at a school full of caped, masked superhero kids. His home straddles the line between Majesticville and Normalville, and he’s sent to school with no powers of flight, X-ray vision or super strength. But when a National Poetry Week event calls on the students to read an original poem, the super-powered kids balk... and Rooney comes to the rescue. Soon he’s celebrated for his own unlikely superpower: the ability to give a speech without withering away from the assignment as if it were Kryponite. It’s an imaginative take on fitting in at school; Rooney, an oft-injured kid who frequently visits the school nurse hired on solely for his benefit, makes a great main character. The hand-drawn scenes are packed with background details and colorful supporting characters (as in a great opening scene of Majesticville residents displaying their powers to sweep streets and deliver newspapers). Music, narration and animation that springs to life when the screen is pressed are all expertly handled. There’s even a useful screen of settings that allow for more control over interactions; it would be nice if all storybook apps gave the option to disable accidental page turns or to control the volume of narration, sound effects and music separately. Rooney’s story is one any kid, super-powered or not, can identify with, and the app does everything it can to make his story into an enjoyably playful experience. (iPad storybook app. 5-8)

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MAX’S TEMPER TURNAROUND

Terranova, Michael-Paul Illus. by Terranova, Michael-Paul Curious Circus $3.99 | Aug. 11, 2011 1.0 | Aug. 12, 2011 A well-designed and humorous concept book shines with just a few well-

chosen effects. Max is a round, red blob with stick arms and legs, and boy, is he M-A-D! He sticks out his tongue, waves his arms up and down in frustration and even gnashes his teeth! His grievances will be all too familiar to young readers: He has two annoying siblings, his dad makes him take a bath and his mom makes him eat yucky peas. But then, for no apparent reason at all, Max decides he isn’t going to be mad anymore. “Maybe I don’t need to be mad. Maybe I should be glad!” Maybe he should be glad that his brother and sister want to play with him, that his mom wants him to be healthy, etc. By this time, readers will be having far too much fun to be taken aback by the quick transition. The narration, which could easily have been loud or screechy, is restrained yet expressive. Vibrant graphics, big swaths of white space and bold, black text compete energetically for screen space. The |

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“Gorgeous page-turn transitions offer extra artwork between the story pages.” from dinoboy

effects are very simple yet effective: When readers touch Max, he morphs momentarily from mad to madder (or glad to gladder) and then back again, along with a simple twanging noise. An optional thumbnail navigation banner runs at the bottom of the screen, providing a visually interesting bottom border. Readers will be G-LA-D that they accompanied Max on his barely restrained rampage and subsequent cool down. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

corners. The story’s shift from Dino Boy’s world to ours is handled nicely; against a photographed backdrop, he appears as an illustrated paper cut-out. Apart from its refreshing art style, it also differs from most storybook apps by allowing the story to branch off in one of three different directions when Dino Boy must choose whether to explore a toy store, a playground or a museum in order to get back home. Gorgeous page-turn transitions offer extra artwork between the story pages. And, in a design choice that makes the app more fun (but could prove frustrating), readers can’t advance until they press the right object on screen to unlock a page-turn icon. If the story’s text were as sharp and attuned to detail as the rest of the app, it would be nearly perfect. But, unfortunately, it sometimes forgets apostrophes and can’t consistently settle on “Dino Boy” or “Dino boy.” It’s hard to quibble with Dino Boy’s appeal, his cheerful sense of adventure and the app’s beautiful design. The punctuation problems don’t ruin an otherwise lovely app experience. (iPad storybook app. 3-8)

MOTHER HOLLE

The Brothers Grimm Imagination Stairs $0.99 | Aug. 19, 2011 1.0; Aug. 19, 2011

A prim, Grimm tale in which two characters receive their respective just deserts for industry and laziness is poorly served by bland illustrations and clumsy design. Forced down a well to recover a dropped spindle, the beautiful and hardworking stepdaughter (“the Cinderella of the family”) rescues burning cakes and shakes a tree full of ripe apples. She then so pleases long-toothed old Mother Holle with her housework that she receives a shower of gold. Her ugly, lazy stepsister leaps down the well in hopes of a similar prize but behaves badly and instead earns a shower of “tar” that “stuck to her as long as she lived.” Lightly edited from 19th-century translations, the text is complete but appears on each screen only piecemeal and in varied sizes before coming to a sudden, jarring close. Though Mother Holle’s teeth look disquietingly like vampire fangs, the other women are rendered in a twee style, with flowing dresses on undersized bodies and fixed expressions beneath big, disheveled hair. Animations are both rare and strictly minor league, and the touch-activated ones too often effect premature page turns by accident. Semi-transparent icons on each screen control the sonic-wallpaper background music and offer an optional, mannered audio reading either with visible text and manual advance or in a text-free auto-advance mode; . An insipid rendition, with a stingy assortment of anemic interactive features. (iPad storybook app. 6-8)

DEEP-SEA SUBMARINE

Top That! Publishing Top That! Publishing $3.99 | Aug. 18, 2011 1.0; Aug. 18, 2011

An under-the-sea example of unimaginative design and leaky storytelling, this app sinks quickly. Readers are invited to command a submarine, but even the opening page, with its uninviting block of text, three sets of circular controls and a window to an empty expanse of azure nothing is more blah than blue wonder. Pages of rhyming instructions (“The radar beeps and flashes, / Keep a lookout up ahead, / Steer safely through the tangled nets, / Aim for the ocean bed”) are followed by ocean scenes in which readers steer a bullet-shaped red submarine past crabs, whales and shipwrecks. The controls are a four-way direction dial, but the only way to advance is to keep tapping the right arrow until the submarine nudges its way (so, so slowly) across the screen. While the cartoonish fauna are cute enough and the scenes are colorful and interactive—even the sharks like to play—the meaningless navigation turns the story into the most boring kind of video game. The idea is certainly rich enough for a great adventure, but the execution here is lacking. Compared to similarly themed aquatic apps, this one’s simply out of its league. More bargain-bin video game than genuine story, this submarine sojourn is anything but airtight. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

DINOBOY

Thomas, Alex Illus. by Jorgensen, Arnie Three Thumbs Up $3.99 | Aug. 11, 2011 0002 | Aug. 15, 2011 An artful bundle of cuteness, marred only by some careless errors in the accompanying text. In this series opener, a cherubic child in a thickly padded dinosaur costume moves to the city with his parents. Once there, he finds a slide that transports him from his hand-drawn, animated home to a photorealistic world of storefronts and street 1858

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fiction A CRIMSON WARNING

420 CHARACTERS Stories

Alexander, Tasha Minotaur Books (320 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-312-66175-5

In Alexander’s sixth Lady Emily mystery, our port-tippling heroine tracks a villain who’s threatening London’s best families with scandal—and worse. Lady Emily, now married to dashing Colin Hargreaves (who occasionally acts as an undercover agent in service to Queen Victoria), is still courting social opprobrium with her slightly outré predilections, such as consuming unladylike after-dinner drinks, studying Latin and Greek and advocating women’s suffrage. However, soon more pressing challenges loom: Someone is defacing the facades of fashionable London townhouses with red paint, only, shortly thereafter, to disclose the deepest, darkest secrets of their occupants. Emily’s best friend Ivy, fearing exposure of some unnamed wrongdoing, confides only in her diary. Tied in, somehow, with the paint-spattering, fatalities mount. A prosperous businessman, Mr. Dillman, is found burnt to death in the warehouse he owns, and shortly thereafter his fiancée, Cordelia, is kidnapped and murdered. The miscreants taunt Scotland Yard with their misdeeds and with missives sealed with distinctive yellow wax. Colin, who has accepted Emily’s assistance with his investigations in the past, won’t tell her everything he knows of the ongoing manhunt, thus prompting her to embark on her own sleuthing in the company of Jeremy, Duke of Bainbridge, a recurring character who provides welcome comic relief from all the polite posturing and faux-Victorian parlance. Jeremy, a selfdescribed rakish cad, is actually upset that the red paint vandals find him unworthy of smearing. When Lady Glover, a flamboyant former music-hall star never really accepted by Society, is kidnapped, the domestic tranquility of several highborn husbands hangs in the balance. Suspects proliferate at a dizzying rate, among them a politician who backs votes for women, his West Indian best friend, a shrewish London hostess who knows where all the bodies are buried and, well, half of the West End. Although, we can be assured, all will end with port and cigars in Emily’s library, this installment is encumbered by an impossibly convoluted plot and a lorry-load of scarlet herrings.

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Beach, Lou Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (176 pp.) $22.00 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-547-61793-0

Eclectic, vivid moments in time, delivered in the exacting limits of social media. Well, this is one hell of a way to mitigate the boredom of those monotonous Facebook updates. Celebrated illustrator Beach, better known for designing album covers for Weird Al Yankovich and The Flying Burrito Brothers, here turns his uncommon sensibilities to the written word, composing a small fortune in vignettes that originally appeared as Facebook updates. There are a few recurring themes and characters, but most stories exist as such gems on their own that it’s easy to gobble them up like popcorn. An early standout finds an elderly narrator staring at a picture he (or she) painted long ago, struggling to excavate its original meaning. A miner reflects on the closing of his workplace for 27 years: “Where am I going to go every day, what am I going to do with all that sunshine?” Some are completely nonsensical: “I don’t have to listen. I own the ocean,” is just a couplet in one preposterous paragraph. Others are simply, evilly dark: “My hands are bound, and I am pressed against the spare tire. If there was a God, I would believe in him. The lid comes down and I am in darkness. It smells of oil and gas and rubber.” Certainly some will argue that this is just another folly of the blogs-to-books phenomenon exemplified by Stuff White People Like and other humorous texts, but this book has more in common with bold, impulsive flash fiction than it does with the featherweight detritus of the Internet. These moments, even if not all of them are universal to the human experience, are theatrical, instantly recognizable and slide off the tongue with the cacophony of a Tom Waits riff. Don’t miss the bonus section on the author’s website, where celebrity narrators Ian McShane, Dave Alvin and Jeff Bridges lend their unique cadences to Beach’s miniature snapshots. An adroit experiment that marries linguistic restraint to literary cool. (Author tour to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and New York)

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“A novel that attempts to mine the post-9/11 era of unease as Seven Days in May and Fail Safe did the Cold War’s.” from blink of an eye

THE THIRD REICH

Bolaño, Roberto Translated by Wimmer, Natasha Farrar, Straus and Giroux (288 pp.) $25.00 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-374-27562-4 From the acclaimed Chilean novelist (1953–2003), a recently discovered 1989 novel; this enigmatic look at power though the prism of war games is on a smaller scale than the two sprawling works that secured his reputation: The Savage Detectives (2007) and 2666 (2008). Udo Berger and his girlfriend Ingeborg, Germans in their 20s, arrive on Spain’s Costa Brava for their vacation. Life’s never been better, Udo confides in one of the diary entries that comprise the novel. War games are Udo’s passion, and he’s the German champion, a brilliant strategist moving armies across the board; he’s brought with him a World War II game, the eponymous Third Reich. (Udo’s no Nazi, despite his nostalgic love for German generals.) He and Ingeborg make friends with another German couple, Charly and Hanna; they go drinking and clubbing together. Charly is an aggressive boor who drowns while windsurfing, and a puzzling distraction from the core of the novel: the game and two unlikely opponents. Hanna and Ingeborg return to Germany; Udo has other fish to fry. He remains behind ostensibly to identify Charly’s body when it washes up (it does). But he also wants to romance the attractive hotel owner, and more importantly pursue his obsession with a mysterious, badly scarred guy known as El Quemado (the Burn Victim), who owns a pedal-boat business and sleeps on the beach. No one is sure of his background; South America? There’s even a suggestion he’s the re-incarnation of an Incan warrior. At first Udo idealizes him as a Noble Savage, but he’s plenty smart, a poetry lover. Udo teaches him the game; El Quemado catches on fast. Power shifts from the cocksure Udo to his humble opponent as the German crumbles, on the board and off. It’s an allegory, yes, but Bolaño casts around uncertainly for the best way to frame it, and juggles various endings. A sluggish novel that gives few indications of the extraordinary work to come.

BLINK OF AN EYE

Cohen, William S. Forge (368 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7653-2764-2

The latest from Cohen (Dragon Fire, 2006, etc.), a former Republican senator and congressman who also served as President Clinton’s secretary of defense. Both the plot and the author’s insider’s perspective should attract readers of international thrillers, but the awkward pacing, cardboard characters and clichéd writing slow the novel’s momentum. When 1860

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Cohen warns of an America in which “the center was no longer holding because centrists were treated as traitors to their political party,” it’s plain that he feels that statesmanship and compromise have fallen victim to political polarization. Among the familiar elements in Cohen’s latest are aftershocks of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, as an American port city becomes obliterated by what is first described as a tsunami that results in a massive power outage, but soon seems to bear the imprint of a terrorist attack. President Blake Oxley not only has familiar initials, but also has a gift of oratory that seems increasingly powerless in the face of brass-knuckle politics and uncompromising demagoguery. His national security advisor, Sean Falcone, has a legislative background remarkably similar to the author’s, while the president’s chief of staff has the bluster of a Karl Rove. When a Washington Post journalist known for his insider access and his string of bestselling books (sound familiar?) writes about a clandestine cadre of Christian conservatives, a mini-military-industrial complex that can’t wait for Armageddon to arrive, there’s a suggestion that the enemy within is more dangerous than any foreign threat, particularly after the journalist shares what he knows (but hasn’t published) with Falcone. Spoiler alert: The planet avoids annihilation and America (somehow) prevails. A novel that attempts to mine the post-9/11 era of unease as Seven Days in May and Fail Safe did the Cold War’s.

THE DROP

Connelly, Michael Little, Brown (416 pp.) $27.99 | Nov. 28, 2011 978-0-316-06941-0 Harry Bosch, the LAPD detective who insists, “I don’t want to be famous. I just want to work cases,” gets his wish times two. Assigned to the Open-Unsolved Squad, Bosch catches a cold case with an impossible twist. Now that the lab can analyze DNA evidence from the 1989 rape and murder of Ohio student Lily Price, it’s linked conclusively to Clayton Pell, a known predator whose long history of sex crimes has already landed him in prison. Pell would be perfect as the killer if only he hadn’t been eight when the victim was slain. Before Bosch can start looking beyond the physical evidence for an explanation, he’s pulled out of past crimes and into the present by an old enemy. City Councilman Irvin Irving, the ex–deputy chief whom Bosch played a supporting role in bouncing from the LAPD years ago, demands that Bosch take charge of the investigation into his son George’s fatal plunge from his seventh-story room at the Chateau Marmont. It looks like suicide, but the Councilman claims it’s murder, and he doesn’t want it swept under the rug, even if it takes the hated Bosch to ferret out the truth. Hamstrung between two utterly unrelated cases, Bosch tries to work them both, with predictably unhappy results: scheduling conflicts, treacherous leaks to the media, trouble with his bosses and even his old partner, Lt. Kizmin Rider. Even so, it’s not long before he’s worked out pretty convincing explanations for both crimes and

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can begin the slow, patient process of winding them up before a pair of nasty surprises gives both of them a bitter edge. Not by a long shot Bosch’s finest hour, but a welcome return to form after the helter-skelter 9 Dragons (2009).

THE MARBLED SWARM

Cooper, Dennis Perennial/HarperCollins (208 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-06-171563-1 The ever-transgressive novelist attempts a high-toned novel about rape, incest and cannibalism. The narrator of the latest novel by the prolific and profane Cooper (Ugly Man, 2009, etc.) is a wealthy Frenchman who, as the story opens, is purchasing a chateau from a family with some deeply unsettling (if typically Cooper-esque) issues:

The owner has been spying on his two sons’ sexually abusive relationship, a dysfunction that ultimately leads to one brother being murdered and the narrator abducting the other for culinary purposes. If that all sounds unappealing, there’s little in the way of moral resolution going forward. But Cooper isn’t simply going for shock value; he wants to investigate the behavioral and linguistic tics that accompany violence and madness. The “marbled swarm” of the title refers to the artful, brocaded language that the narrator’s father used—”trains of sticky sentences that round up thoughts as broadly as a vacuum.” That doesn’t make the catalogue of atrocities much easier to take, but it does clarify Cooper’s intentions, and in truth those sticky sentences have a black-humored charm; the reader is drawn into his twisted rationalizations even while he openly confesses he’s trying to recruit the reader to support his indefensible behavior. That grows difficult as the story becomes more perversely complicated. The narrator details his half-brother’s life among a sullen cult of manga-loving “Flatsos,” people who fantasize about being steamrollered flat, and drug abuse abounds, as do homes filled with plenty of metaphorically fraught secret

Yellow Bird

A n ov e l b y L in da J oh n s on “Johnson’s debut is, at its core, a pastoral tale, a celebration of the rustic music and rich traditions of the hills and hollows of Virginia and West Virginia and their ability to offer relief and purpose in a harsh, lonesome world. . . a charming story about a bygone time where even magic seems possible.”

                  c KirKus reviews ISBN 13: 978-0-578-06973-9 ISBN or UPC: 0-578-06973-3 Trade Paper Price: $14.00 Available for Order

To request a review copy or information about publication rights, call 410-635-3031 or email info@gardengatefarm.com.

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passages. Cooper is careful to calibrate the story’s repulsive elements with more philosophical considerations of double lives and the nature of seduction, though the novel doesn’t so much resolve as exhaust itself. A button-pushing portrait of sex and rage, told with Sade-esque fervor, but is it futile to ask for more coherence from a madman’s laments?

PRINCE OF RAVENSCAR

Coulter, Catherine Putnam (416 pp.) $19.95 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-399-15807-0

A hard-used family of English aristocrats deals with yet more plots and murder attempts. Julian Monroe, Prince of Ravenscar, has returned from three years abroad making a fortune and trying to forget the murder of his wife, unaware that his mother, the Dowager Duchess of Brabante, has hatched a scheme to marry him to Sophie Wilkie, her dear friend’s daughter. Sophie arrives in London for the Season accompanied by her stunning red-headed aunt Roxanne Radcliffe, who’s only seven years older than Sophie. Meanwhile, Julian’s former brother-in-law Richard Langworth, firmly convinced that Julian murdered his sister Lily, is out for Julian’s blood. Julian’s nephew Lord Devlin Monroe, who’s nearly Julian’s age, agrees to accompany Julian, his mother, Sophie and Roxanne on a trip to Ravenscar. They’re joined by Roxanne’s sharp-tongued sister Leah, who considers herself the most beautiful of the Radcliffes. Leah has set her sights on Richard as her future husband. Julian’s former father-in-law, Baron Purley, has asked him to visit in the hope of settling the problems between the families. When one of Julian’s ships is nearly destroyed by fire and Roxanne is kidnapped, Julian is convinced that Richard is still plotting to make him suffer. Julian, Devlin, Sophie and Roxanne must sort out their love lives even as they’re trying to find out what happened to Lily. The latest addition to the long-running Sherbrooke series (The Heiress Bride, 1993, etc.) offers pleasant characters and an easily solved mystery for fans of historical romance.

THE ARTIST OF DISAPPEARANCE

Desai, Anita Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (176 pp.) $23.00 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-547-57745-6 The three protagonists in this trio of novellas struggle with fulfilling their desires while life in modern India speeds past them. 1862

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Stuck in a career he would not have chosen for himself, the unnamed young government officer of the first novella, The Museum of Final Journeys, finds himself posted to a mosquitoinfested backwater. Starved for adventure and dreaming of being a writer, he is led to an incredible collection of colonialera artifacts housed in a crumbling mansion in the middle of nowhere. But his initial delight turns to claustrophobic dread as he ponders what, if anything, he can do with such useless treasures. Prema, the prematurely aging teacher at the heart of Translator Translated, also yearns for a meaningful life outside her dull routine. And after a chance meeting with a glamorous former schoolmate who runs a small publishing house, it seems as if there really is an opportunity for a different path. The publisher, Tara, allows her to translate into English the story collection of an obscure but talented female writer from the same town as Prema’s mother. The rewarding work brings Prema back to life, but a second attempt at translating a lesser novel proves problematic when the author’s nephew discovers discrepancies between Prema’s words and the original text. Like Prema, Ravi, the recluse in the final, titular novella, is his own worst enemy. As the adopted son of an upper-class anglophile Indian couple, Ravi grows up privileged (if neglected) in the idyllic mountain town of Mussoorie, in the Himalayas. Unable to connect with people his own age, the young Ravi takes solace in nature, until a family tragedy forces him to live with relatives in Bombay. He eventually returns to the mountains, though, and settles into a meager, solitary existence in what used to be his house. His peace is disturbed only when a well-meaning group of documentary filmmakers comes across Ravi’s life work, a secret hidden project that he would far prefer to keep to himself. Reading Desai’s (Fasting, Feasting, 2000, etc.) poignant and wry new effort offers a modest pleasure that suits its fragile characters. A deft exploration of the limits people place on themselves by trying to cling to the past.

THE DOLL

du Maurier, Daphne HarperCollins (224 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Nov. 22, 2011 978-0-06-208034-9 Early work by the author of Rebecca and other bestsellers, some written while du Maurier (1907-1989) was still in her teens, brings back the era when short stories were popular entertainment. There are no impressionistic mood poems or anything else in the oblique, meticulously crafted style favored by creative-writing workshops in this collection. From the opening story of adultery and murder on a remote island (“East Wind”) to the closing narrative of a woman who sucks the life from everyone she knows, all the while asking “What is it that I do?” (“The Limpet”), du Maurier favors strong plots, overt irony and heavy foreshadowing. When the protagonist of “Nothing Hurts for Long,” waiting eagerly for her husband to return from three months in Berlin, listens to

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“A delectable serving of Tudor dish.” from the favored queen

the confidences of a friend whose spouse wants a divorce and learns that the couple has been on the rocks “ever since he came back from America,” readers can be quite sure the post-Berlin reunion will not be blissful. And only the narrator of “The Doll” can’t guess before his tale’s final pages the perverted nature of his beloved’s relationship with a life-sized mannequin she calls Julio. They may not be subtle, but all 13 stories are effective and gripping. “And Now to God the Father” is a scathing portrait of a smug, self-satisfied minister who worships nothing but social success. “Piccadilly” and “Mazie” paint a grim picture of a prostitute’s life. Two persuasive chronicles of love affairs going sour strike contrasting notes: one couple breaks up over the course of a grimly funny “Week-End,” while “And His Letters Grew Colder” takes six painful months to trace the downward spiral from a romance’s ardent beginning to the man’s coldas-ice departure. Du Maurier’s prose style is serviceable, her understanding of human nature basic, but her storytelling gifts are formidable, and a good story is what was demanded by the mass-circulation magazines that published her. On that level, she never disappoints. Old-fashioned fun.

THE FAVORED QUEEN

Erickson, Carolly St. Martin’s (304 pp.) $25.99 | Oct. 1, 2011 978-0-312-59690-3

Another “historical entertainment” from Erickson, in which the third wife of Henry VIII has her say. Queen Jane Seymour has been the focus of few Tudor historical novels, compared with her more flamboyant predecessor Anne Boleyn. In all likelihood, perhaps because Jane was the only wife to give Henry what he wanted (a male heir) and to die before Henry could tire of her, Jane is generally seen as too nice to capture readers’ interest. Erickson debunks the lackluster truth by freely imagining some unhistorical escapades for the shy daughter of the politically astute Seymours. As maid of honor to Henry’s first Queen, Catherine of Aragon, Jane serves her mistress faithfully, all the while Catherine is being maligned, discredited and ousted by Henry, who declares himself the head of the Church in England mainly to nullify his marriage. Jane hates her father for seducing her fiancé Will’s sister, thereby alienating Will’s family and jeopardizing the engagement. Seymour senior also beds his son Ned’s wife Cat, causing Ned to banish Cat to a convent and disown his two sons, whom Jane takes under her protection. But Jane has her amoral, conniving side. She joins with Catherine’s other ladies in mercilessly baiting Anne Boleyn, a newcomer to Court. While still being courted by Will, she has an unapologetic affair with Galyon, a French glazier who is repairing Anne Boleyn’s windows. Informed by Ned of a poisoning attempt on Henry Fitzroy, King Henry’s illegitimate son by Anne’s sister Mary, Jane sanctimoniously tattles to the King, implicating both Anne and the now-exiled Catherine. After Anne has Galyon killed |

and Will announces plans to wed another, Jane resigns herself to spinsterhood but vows revenge against Anne, who has fallen into royal disfavor after the birth of Princess Elizabeth. Jane entices Henry by going with what she’s good at: appearing to be gentle, unassuming and, above all, trustworthy. But as Erickson amply demonstrates, there is no trust among Tudors. A delectable serving of Tudor dish.

LOST DECEMBER

Evans, Richard Paul Simon & Schuster (272 pp.) $19.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-4516-2800-5 The parable of the Prodigal Son reworked as a parable for Corporate America. Luke Crisp has always revered his father, Carl, self-made multi-millionaire founder and CEO of Crisp’s Copy Centers, a burgeoning chain of print shops headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz. Carl is grooming Luke to take over the company, a goal that Luke has worked toward since managing several Crisp’s locations as a teen. An MBA from the Wharton School, Carl decides, is just the polish his son needs. Luke reluctantly agrees. Once at Wharton, Luke falls in with a clique of East Coast sophisticates, led by Sean, dissolute son of a hedgie. Carl and Luke lose touch, as Luke embraces Sean’s hard-drinking, free-spending lifestyle. After graduation, Sean suggests a whirlwind tour of Europe, where only the most expensive hotels, restaurants and entertainments will do. Almost immediately, Sean, pleading momentary illiquidity, persuades Luke to tap into his million-dollar trust fund. When he’s forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to ransom Sean from casino thugs, Luke tries to escape, but one last Sean-fueled spending spree in Vegas instantly bankrupts Luke. Betrayed by friends and lovers and convinced that his father has disowned him, Luke joins the growing contingent of Las Vegas homeless people, until robbers take everything but his boxers. A passerby, Carlos, rescues Luke, providing him with a job and room and board at a nursing home. As Luke regains his self-respect doing menial chores, he takes a second job at the Vegas Crisp’s, wowing supervisors with his expertise in all things Xerox. Without revealing his family connections, Luke moves up at the store and wins the trust of a disgruntled colleague, Rachael. When, however, Crisp’s Corporate HQ abandons Carl’s philosophy of caring for employees and starts laying off people in Vegas before their pensions vest, the prodigal son must return. Although Luke’s downfall is a mesmerizing train wreck, his redemption is predictable and unearned. Worse, sentences like “Morning came early” abound. Wish-fulfillment for a blighted economy. (Agent: Laurie Liss)

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ASSUMPTION

Everett, Percival Graywolf (272 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-55597-598-2 This detective novel by the genrebending author is like a series of card tricks in which no one is playing with a full deck. The latest from Everett (I Am Not Sidney Poitier, 2009, etc.) has all the markings of a mystery novel: a detective, a series of crimes, a sense that people and events might be connected in ways that aren’t initially evident. At least such are the assumptions of deputy sheriff Ogden Walker, a black man amid the desert of New Mexico, where most others are white, “in that hick-full, redneck county,” but are more often distinguished by their drug habits (primarily meth) and lack of teeth, limbs or both. Readers this world through the eyes of Ogden and will agree with his mother that “You’re a good man, Ogden. There are not a lot of good men around.” But he’s not necessarily a good detective, or maybe the very notion of cause-andeffect, the underpinnings of the classic detective novel, is suspect. The book is divided into three cases, each separate from the others, and none really solved in a conventional sense by Walker and his occasional partner Warren (an Indian who refers to Walker as “cowboy”). In fact, each ends abruptly, surprisingly, without culminating in an accumulation of evidence. When the trail of a suspect leads to a series of dead ends, Ogden realizes that “the longer he drove around Denver, asking his stupid questions, the less he knew what he was doing. And he’d only been there a day; how much could he not know in a week?” Ultimately, readers come to suspect that perhaps Ogden doesn’t know himself and that neither do those with whom he works and lives. There are recurring motifs— shifting or mistaken identities, women who initially might seem like a suitable wife for Ogden, mothers, disappearing suspects (or bodies), drug conspiracies and big stashes of cash. Yet not until the last couple of pages does anything add up. Fun to read, but frustrating for those who look for the usual pleasures from detective fiction.

LUCKY BREAK

Freud, Esther Bloomsbury (320 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-60819-690-6 Glimpsed in scenes spanning 14 years, a handful of aspiring actors suffer professional highs, lows, indignities and strokes of fortune in this absorbing, lightly comic novel by the noted British writer. Freud (Love Falls, 2007, etc.) seems keen to strip the mystique from theatrical life in her cautionary tale of Dan Linden, Nell Gilby, Charlie Adedayo-Martin and their friends, who meet at drama school in London in 1992. Nell, 1864

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besotted with Dan but never involved with him, is ejected from the school after two years and struggles, without an agent, doing fill-in work, to get parts. Charlie, black and beautiful, has an easier entrée via a sexually explicit movie, and Dan, despite a growing family, enjoys the easiest trajectory of the three. But each must grapple with the difficulties inherent in the work to which they are addicted: competition, repetition, bad skin, embarrassing nudity, aging, brief but intense relationships, promiscuity and more. Freud, generally a shrewd observer, occasionally strays into caricature, notably in encounters with a predatory filmmaker and a superficial agent, but elsewhere she captures fleeting hopes, insecurities and self-doubts—is this, after all, a worthwhile way to earn a living? Sober but not profoundly soulsearching, this entertainingly readable antidote to E! News brings a touch of irony to the red carpet.

THE PLOT AGAINST HIP HOP

George, Nelson Akashic (176 pp.) $15.95 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-61775-024-3 When his mentor is stabbed to death outside his New York City office, an oldschool bodyguard investigates the roots of the hip-hop community’s predilection for violence. Some authors know their territory all too well. This might be the case with music critic George (Thriller, 2010, etc.), who mines the hip-hop community for a noir novel that serves equally well as time capsule. It starts with a bang as bodyguard D Hunter protects a rap star at a fundraiser before returning to his office to witness a murder. There, D finds his mentor, journalist Dwayne Robinson, slumped at his door with fatal stab wounds, muttering, “Remix. It’s all a remix…Biggie was right….It was all a dream.” While D is no Easy Rawlins, George has done the work to flesh out his uneasy detective into a credible character. D is a hard man among the trigger-happy stars of the hip-hop universe, but his fearsome appearance is softened by his underlying terror at being HIV-positive. Doing his violent digging, D discovers that Robinson was a contributor to a marketing memorandum on how not only to cash in on hip-hop culture, but how to control it for profit and cultural sabotage. “So it didn’t take much skullduggery to control hip hop,” D discovers in a lost notebook. “It was just a matter of helping the most volatile people in on the game rise to positions of prominence. Eventually they’d sabotage themselves and, in so doing, bring down scores of others.” George is an ace at interlacing the real dramas of the world—the crack epidemic and the government’s part in it, not to mention the pivotal murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. But the book’s slim length and flyweight depth could make it an artifact of this particular zeitgeist in American history. Playas and haters and celebrity cameos fuel a novel that is wickedly entertaining while being frozen in time.

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BATTLE OF THE CRATER

Gingrich, NewtForstchen, William R. Dunne/St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $27.99 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-312-60710-4 Putative presidential hopeful, political lightning rod and prolific author Gingrich (Gettysburg, 2003, etc.) novelizes a little-known Civil War battle. Joined by Forstchen, Gingrich deconstructs an 1864 Union effort that could have ended the war. The Battle of the Crater occurred after Grant maneuvered away from a bloody stalemate at Cold Harbor to attack near Petersburg, Va. Grant wanted to seize Richmond, the linchpin of the Confederacy. Jerusalem Plank Road, “the aorta of Bobbie Lee,” linked the two cities. However, Grant’s probe soon descended into trench warfare, with Confederate lines anchored by Pegram’s Battery. The 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, led by Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants, volunteers from coal-mining country, realized the fortification was only a few hundred feet from their own lines. The miners believed they could tunnel under no-man’s land until they were beneath the fortification, and then plant enough explosives to blast a hole in the defenses. The daring plan was put in place, although few of the brass believed it would work or offered material support. Pleasants, Burnside, Meade and other officers are well-known figures, but other historical people appear, including Garland White, once a slave to Senator Toombs of Georgia, but then serving as sergeant major of the 28th Colored Infantry. A fictional illustrator for Harper’s Weekly, James Reilly, nourished as a homeless young man by an attorney named Abraham Lincoln, is the now-President Lincoln’s secret eye on the battlefield. His character ties the narrative together. The fractured relationship between Burnside and his superior, Meade, which may have doomed the unorthodox plan, is dissected. The authors also provide insight into the treatment of African-American troops, superbly trained to lead the drive through the breech but relegated to the reserves by prejudice. Reilly’s fictional perspective is gained by hindsight, and there’s a disconcerting random switching from first to surnames, but overall, the action-filled narrative is easily followed through the planning, the battle and the inquiries that followed. Well-researched and entertaining.

THE PRINTMAKER’S DAUGHTER

Govier, Katherine Perennial/HarperCollins (412 pp.) $14.99 | Nov. 22, 2011 978-0-06-200036-1 The gifted daughter of a 19th-century Japanese artist chafes at her society’s restrictions on women. Based on exhaustive research into the life of famed painter and printmaker Hokusai, this novel postulates that much of his work, particularly in his dotage, was actually |

that of his daughter and chief protégée, Oei. Born in 1800 in Edo (now Tokyo), Oei is her father’s favorite, and his only child displaying a talent for drawing equal to his own. Oei follows her father to the Yoshiwara, the licensed red-light district of Edo, where he sketches the courtesans. Among these is Shino, a noblewoman sold into prostitution as punishment for some unknown transgression. Shino becomes Hokusai’s mistress and teaches the young Oei manners and martial arts. After Shino marries, Hokusai and Oei travel throughout Japan and Hokusai becomes obsessed with the sea, which will be the subject of his best-known masterpiece, Great Wave Off Kanagawa. Never considered pretty (her prominent jaw earns her the nickname Ago-Ago, or chin-chin), Oei attracts lovers with her wit and talent and charms a Dutch art connoisseur. A brief marriage ends in divorce because Oei eschews housework and smokes and drinks sake like a man. For Hokusai, family exists only to serve his art. After his other children (and wives) either flee or die, Oei becomes her father’s sole partner and caregiver. Their fortunes wax and wane with the vagaries of artistic fashion, not to mention the caprices of the ruling Shogun and his censors. Among their bestselling products are Beauties, scrolls depicting life among the courtesans, and shunga—pornography. As Hokusai ages (his life-span extends to an unheard-of, for that period, 90), he suffers from palsy, and Oei acts as his ghost-painter. While symbiotically joined to her father, Oei wonders if, after helping to prolong her father’s life, she will ever have her own. Although her story is hamstrung by an episodic and gangly narrative structure, Oei’s quandary will resonate with female artists today.

THE ANGEL MAKERS

Gregson, Jessica Soho (352 pp.) $24.00 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-1-56947-979-7

One woman disposes of her problem fiancé, and soon all the other women in her remote Hungarian village want to do something similar. Treading an uncertain line between tragedy and farce, British writer Gregson’s debut, based on a true story, can’t quite decide on its tone or chief narrative orientation. Is it a war story; a tale of domestic abuse; a witchy fairy tale; a rural parable of spiraling amorality? In remote Falucska, Sari Arany, the orphaned daughter of a respected healer, is taken in by Judit, an “angel maker”/abortionist/midwife. Sari is betrothed to gentle Ferenc, but World War I intervenes, the village men go to fight, Italian prisoners of war arrive and Sari falls for university lecturer Marco. When Ferenc returns, depressed and different, he kills Marco and beats Sari, so, for the sake of her unborn child, she decides to murder Ferenc with poison supplied by Judit. Soon a neighbor wants to use the same method to kill her violent husband, and then an epidemic of murder takes hold. Gregson is a fluent, empathetic tale-spinner, but Sari has no depth and her formless story registers little impact.

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“John Estem has stolen $10,000 from Martin Luther King Jr.” from our man in the dark

OUR MAN IN THE DARK

Harrison, Rashad Atria Books (320 pp.) $25.00 | Nov. 15, 2011 978-1-4516-2575-2

John Estem has stolen $10,000 from Martin Luther King Jr. It is 1964, and Estem has been hired by a Southern Christian Leadership Conference executive named Aaron Gant to audit the organization’s books. The reactionary establishment wants to hang tax-evasion charges on King. Now Estem has uncovered an odd contribution and decided to pocket the money: “I took it because I could, and no one would ever suspect I was capable of it.” An invisible man among highpowered personalities like Andrew Young, Ralph Abernathy and Gant, Estem wanted to impress Candice, a lounge singer in a dive called “Count’s.” Candy is also Count’s girl. With money, Estem bought stylish clothes and a late-model Cadillac. A bundle of contrasts, Estem is arrogant and superior but self-conscious because of a leg brace; he’s lonely for a woman’s companionship but resentful because he feels patronized; and he’s self-pitying and weak-willed but also intelligent and manipulative. And naive. The FBI monitors the SCLC closely, and Strobe and Mathis, agents working to fulfill Hoover’s ambition of uncovering Communist influence in the group, catch Estem and extort him into spying. As with novels incorporating historical figures, readers might stumble over the contrast between public persona and fictional presentation. King’s humanity is amplified by imagined conversations with Estem wherein King admits his sexual appetites, but King is also beautifully drawn as a questioning, vulnerable, lonely man consumed with his cause. Plot-reliant rather than literary, the narrative gains urgency through use of a present-tense, firstperson point of view. The dark conclusion descends into powerful moral ambivalence about love, loyalty and family. Harrison’s debut novel contemplates a nightmare inside a dream.

WHITE TRUFFLES IN WINTER

Kelby, N.M. Norton (352 pp.) $24.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-393-07999-9

From Kelby (Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar and Grill, 2008, etc.), a fictional biography of the pioneering French chef Auguste Escoffier full of luscious details about his methods, both of cooking and seduction. In the mid-1930s, after 30 years of separation, the aged and ailing Escoffier has returned to his wife Delphine, a poet. Sixty years ago he wooed her through his cooking—the sensuality of his food-centered seductions beats even the famous scene from Tom Jones—and their early marriage was joyful. But when 1866

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he moved to London as chef at the Savoy, she refused to uproot the family to follow him. Lonely, he rekindled his earlier friendship with Sarah Bernhardt and also dallied with the English chef and hotelier Rosa Lewis. But his alter ego Mr. Boots courted Delphine from afar, sending her delicacies like figs. Eventually he realized that his heart truly lay with Delphine. By then their youngest son had died as a World War I soldier, a grief heightened by the fact that Escoffier had cooked a meal for Kaiser Wilhelm months before war was declared. Now Escoffier begins a memoir that captures the true stories behind his recipes and is full of sex and early-20th-century celebrity sightings. Her own health failing, Delphine hires a young woman named Sabine to cook for the extended family that gathers at their Monte Carlo home. Delphine, a local girl, has no idea how to prepare Escoffier’s sophisticated fare, but not coincidentally, she’s a dead ringer for the young Sarah Bernhardt. Both Delphine and Escoffier give Sabine lessons, and her evolution as a cook and as a woman offset the story of the ailing Escoffiers. Delphine desperately wants Escoffier to create a dish in her name as he has for his other famous patrons, but he resists. The complexity of their relationship almost defies even his ability to combine ingredients. Kelby’s prose fits her subject, lusciously rich as the truffles and foie gras that dominate Escoffier’s recipes, but sensory overload eventually sets in. (Author tour to Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Iowa City)

11/22/63

King, Stephen Scribner (864 pp.) $35.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-4516-2728-2 King (Under the Dome, 2009, etc.) adds counterfactual historian to his list of occupations. Well, not exactly: The author is really turning in a sturdy, customarily massive exercise in time travel that just happens to involve the possibility of altering history. Didn’t Star Trek tell us not to do that? Yes, but no matter: Up in his beloved Maine, which he celebrates eloquently here (“For the first time since I’d topped that rise on Route 7 and saw Dery hulking on the west bank of the Kenduskeag, I was happy”), King follows his own rules. In this romp, Jake Epping, a high-school English teacher (vintage King, that detail), slowly comes to see the opportunity to alter the fate of a friend who, in one reality, is hale and hearty but in another dying of cancer, no thanks to a lifetime of puffing unfiltered cigarettes. Epping discovers a time portal tucked away in a storeroom— don’t ask why there—and zips back to 1958, where not just his friend but practically everyone including the family pets smokes: “I unrolled my window to get away from the cigarette smog a little and watched a different world roll by.” A different world indeed: In this one, Jake, a sort of sad sack back in Reality 1, finds love and a new identity in Reality 2. Not just that, but he now sees an opportunity to unmake the past by inserting himself into some ugly business involving Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, various

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representatives of the military-industrial-intelligence complex and JFK in Dallas in the fall of 1963. It would be spoiling things to reveal how things turn out; suffice it to say that any change in Reality 2 will produce a change in Reality 1, not to mention that Oswald may have been a patsy, just as he claimed—or maybe not. King’s vision of one outcome of the Kennedy assassination plot reminds us of what might have been—that is, almost certainly a better present than the one in which we’re all actually living. “If you want to know what political extremism can lead to,” warns King in an afterword, “look at the Zapruder film.” Though his scenarios aren’t always plausible in strictest terms, King’s imagination, as always, yields a most satisfying yarn.

THE UNINNOCENT

Morrow, Bradford Pegasus (256 pp.) $25.00 | Dec. 5, 2011 978-1-60598-265-6

A set of neo-Gothic tales that seek out the line between sanity and madness in modern suburbia. The stories in this collection by Morrow (The Diviner’s Tale, 2011, etc.) consistently cultivate a tone of creepy unease. The narrator of “Tsunami” coolly explains why she killed her husband, but it slowly becomes clear to the reader that she’s unaware of the degree to which she’s become undone by a series of tragedies in her life, while her fixation on global catastrophes underscores her loss of perspective. “Ellie’s Idea” gives this slow kind of mental decline a slightly comic pitch: Determined to put her life in order after her husband leaves her, the narrator calls people she feels she’s slighted, which does more harm than good. Adolescents abound in these stories, and it’s easy to see why Morrow finds them appealing—they exemplify a mix of growing confusion about and awareness of the world. The title story focuses on two young sisters who pine for a brother they never had, while “The Enigma of Grover’s Mill” centers on a 15-year-old boy who’s struggling to negotiate the new man in his grandmother’s life and his own awkward sexual awakening. Each story is skillfully turned, though a sameness to the insanity emerges—nearly everybody who loses it is hyperliterate and heartbroken, and ghoulish twists have a way of leaping from the final paragraphs. The best stories play with form: In “(Mis)laid,” parenthetical comments offer retorts to an official narrative about a man taking his estranged wife hostage, and the closing “Lush” smartly alternates narratives between an alcoholic’s grueling path to sobriety and a woman who becomes an unlikely part of his life. The eeriness of these stories grows overly familiar, but there’s no question Morrow knows how to conjure a mood.

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THE PILGRIM

Nissenson, Hugh Sourcebooks Landmark (368 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-1-4022-0924-6 Coming of age as a New England Pilgrim was a tough, bloody and sexy business. Charles Wentworth always had doubts. Raised in the English town of Winterbourne, “a godly town,” as the son of a minister, the young man has all his needs cared for. But unlike his father, or even their illiterate servant Ben, his faith is shaky. Perhaps because of various heartaches and brutality not uncommon as the 17th century began—the death of his mother, the hanging of his nursemaid for infanticide, the smallpox that claims a friend and leaves him scared—Charles cannot believe he will be among the elect, those he believes are predestined to be saved. Even his love of learning seems to be a trick of the Devil’s, a lure into vanity. Unwilling to finish his degree at Cambridge, young Charles bounces around, falling often into such sins as getting drunk and even visiting whores, despite his basic leaning toward the spare “true faith”—or Puritan—religion that his father secretly espoused. When the opportunity to emigrate to New England comes, he grabs it. The freedom to worship, however, comes with starvation, sickness and the constant fear of Indian attacks. It also brings the promise of new love and— eventually—the promise of salvation. Told in a straightforward first-person that indulges in just enough period detail to sound convincing, Nissenson’s latest (The Days of Awe, 2005, etc.) is a marvelously intimate look back through time. Charles’ fears and desires are made quite believable as he recalls the everyday horrors of the time—and the bits of Scripture that both justified and aggravated them. And while the young protagonist earnestly seeks salvation, his all-too-human failings—such as when he and the pretty Abigail Winslow flirt on the Sabbath—make him as sympathetic as any young striver since Holden Caulfield. The author’s return to historical fiction raises human questions with immediacy and flair.

LOVE AND SHAME AND LOVE

Orner, Peter Little, Brown (448 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 7, 2011 978-0-316-12939-8

Orner anatomizes family relationships with precision in a novel that spans three— and touches on four—generations. At the center of the author’s examination is Alexander Popper, a fiction writer manqué (he tries in vain to write a “good, sad story”) and reluctant law-school graduate who winds up handling misdemeanor cases for the Cook County Public Defender. His lack of professional accomplishments does not, however,

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h a m a n da e y r e wa r d Close Your Eyes

Amanda Eyre Ward Random House (272 pp.) $25.00 | July 26, 2011 9780345494481

When Lauren and Alex climbed into their tree house, they had no idea it would be their last night in New York. Close Your Eyes follows the siblings, all grown up and living in Austin, Texas, as they uncover the truth about their mother’s murder and why their father took the blame. Amanda Eyre Ward (Sleep Toward Heaven, 2003, etc.) found inspiration for her latest page-turner in her own backyard. Here the Austin-based author explains why her hometown of Rye, N.Y., was not the idyllic place it seemed. Q: I understand the murder was based on a true story. What happened? A: When I was 16 there was a murder in Larchmont, N.Y., where an Indian couple, doctors, were murdered in their house on New Year’s Eve—savagely with a knife from their kitchen. There was no motive, so it was four and a half years before a guy from my town confessed in an AA meeting that he was having flashbacks to a night on New Year’s Eve when he had been a teenager and had blacked out. It turned out that he had broken into this stranger’s house, but it was the house that he had grown up in, so I guess in a drunken haze, he thought he was killing his parents.

Q: Did you change the story a lot during the writing process? A: I did have a very hard time doing the murder mystery because in order to write a murder mystery, you need to be able to move the characters around at your will. In order to write a character-driven novel, you need to give the characters leeway to do what they’re going to do. So for the first time in this book, I found that I had those two impulses competing against each other. I think that’s why this book went through eight billion drafts. Q: How long did it take you to finish?

Q: Why did you want to write about it?

A: It takes me about three years for every book. I do have kids, but I work three days a week and then think about it the rest of the time.

A: It was sort of a double whammy. As a teenager, you feel like Rye is really safe and manicured, and the city was always wild. We’d go into boutiques in the East Village and it was so dangerous and exciting, but Rye was always very safe. So for one thing, there was the idea that it isn’t safe, and then that it turned out that it was one of us that did it was another thing that haunted me. I started thinking, which among us is capable of things like this and why?

Q: That’s not a bad life. A: It’s wonderful. I’m so fortunate, I really am. And I think I’m very lucky to have moved to Austin when there was still time to be a novelist because it’s so much cheaper here and it’s just easier to be able to sustain a life where you can afford lunch and be working on your novel every night for a long period of time. It’s so easy, it’s like living on a cruise ship. I couldn’t have done that in New York. You can only eat ramen for so long. But I go to New York all the time.

Q: Why did he do it? Well, he was pretty messed up. He was the son of a bank president, and he had been diagnosed with some sociopathic tendencies. My research showed that if you have an alcoholic blackout, you don’t ever remember what happened because what happens chemically is that you stop forming memories, whereas this guy says that he started to remember it, which doesn’t happen. So it could be that he knew all these years and it tortured him, but he never would have been caught. There’s a whole interesting angle that I had in the book and then took out about the fact that in AA, if you admit something, it becomes privileged information, like you said it to a priest or something. So they couldn’t prosecute him for a long time, but eventually they did.

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A: I worked a bunch of places. I was at the Museum of Natural History for one whole summer and it was just surreal. I was in the accounting department, which was behind the amber exhibit. They were doing some caterpillar experiment, so I got one at my desk. It’s an amazing view of the city when you’re temping behind the scenes. I also know it’s really exhausting. I remember thinking, what is this going to add up to? But now I look back on it for inspiration. That’s what it adds up to—a fascinating life. –By Devon Glenn |

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Q: What did you do in New York City?


“Lighter than lightweight but undeniably fun, largely because Preston is having so much fun herself.” from the scrapbook of frankie pratt

define him as much as his failed relationship with Kat, whom he meets at the University of Michigan. Although they never get married, they eventually have a daughter, Ella. We also learn of Alexander’s exceptional brother, Leo, and their parents, Miriam and Philip, whose unhappy relationship, owing to Philip’s cheating with a family friend, blights Alexander as well as his mother. (Miriam is forced to take temporary jobs such as census taker and lackey in a real-estate office.) And going back yet one more generation, Orner introduces us to Seymour and Bernice. They work their way to prosperity and then see it decline because of some morally questionable business practices on Seymour’s part. These are profoundly unhappy people, trying to make it yet living their lives in such a way as to make unhappiness inevitable. Orner approaches his narrative with a nonlinear chronology, moving back and forth from Seymour’s wartime notes to Bernice, to Alex’s adolescent peccadilloes, to Alex’s letters to Ella. The result is a masterful, multifaceted novel. Readers will find both love and shame in abundance in Orner’s teeming fictional world.

THE SCRAPBOOK OF FRANKIE PRATT

Preston, Caroline Ecco/HarperCollins (240 pp.) $25.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-06-196690-3 Selecting from her own collection of period mementos, Preston (Gatsby’s Girl, 2006, etc.) creates a literal scrapbook for a young New Hampshire woman coming of age in the 1920s. Frankie receives a blank scrapbook and her deceased father’s typewriter as high-school graduation gifts and begins to record her adventures with the keepsakes she collects. Although Vassar offers Frankie a scholarship, Frankie still can’t afford to attend college. Instead she takes a job caring for elderly Mrs. Pingree (see old debutante picture). The dowager’s visiting nephew Jamie, a dashing, emotionally damaged World War I vet in his 30s, emotionally seduces 17-year-old Frankie (see his scribbled notes). When the not-yet-sexual affair is discovered, Mrs. Pingree gives Frankie a $1,000 check (see society-pages article about Jamie’s wife). Soon Frankie heads off to Vassar, a haven of socialites and bluestockings (see bridge score card, pack of bobbed hair pins). Her rich, intellectual but neurotic Jewish roommate Allegra is a supportive friend until Frankie wins the literary prize (read snippet of Frankie’s story about Jamie romance). After graduation, Frankie moves to Greenwich Village and finds a job at True Story. Allegra’s brother Oliver, working at a new magazine called the New Yorker, becomes her constant companion. Though smart, kind and attentive (see admission tickets to movies, dancehalls, ballgames), he doesn’t propose. When Frankie realizes why, she goes to Paris (see Cunard baggage sticker), where the past catches up with her and a whole new chapter of life starts. |

Lighter than lightweight but undeniably fun, largely because Preston is having so much fun herself. (Author tour to Asheville, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Charlottesville, New York, Raleigh/ Durham, Washington, D.C. Agent: Henry Dunow)

MOZART’S LAST ARIA

Rees, Matt Perennial/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-06-201586-0 Rees’ latest marks a distinct departure from the Omar Yussef detective series as it combines mystery and historical intrigue with a timeless love story. Thousands of words have been written about the late-18th-century musical genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a child prodigy who, with his sister, toured much of Europe. Maria Anna, known to her family as Nannerl, was five years older than her brother, who died in Vienna in the winter of 1791. He rose to acclaim in the Austrian capital, leaving Nannerl behind. She married and the two were estranged three years before his death. The story opens with Nannerl on her own deathbed. She gives her nephew, also called Wolfgang, an old diary to read. In it she has recorded the story of her search for the reason behind her brother’s death. The younger Nannerl, accompanied only by her maid, travels to Vienna after receiving the news. She feels sad, knowing that she cut herself off from the one person who loved her most, and goes to see his widow, Constanze, who describes her husband’s last few days. Nannerl starts to believe her brother was poisoned and, against the frozen background of Vienna in the days of King Leopold, whose own sister, French Queen Marie Antoinette, lives under arrest, she sets out to unravel the mystery of her brother’s murder. While searching for answers, Nannerl finds more than simply a conspiracy; she also uncovers a side to her beloved brother that she had never before known. Rees nails the details of Mozart’s Vienna with precision, seasoning his story with musical details that will delight fans of classical music. The author renders Nannerl very sympathetic and teases in a touch of romance that is both bittersweet and unexpected. At the heart of the tale lies Mozart’s real-life membership in the Masons, a tiresome and familiar plot device that mars an otherwise lovely story. A beautiful book illuminated by the author’s own musical background that moves slowly and deliberately to a fine conclusion.

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THE NEXT ALWAYS

Roberts, Nora Berkley (352 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-425-24321-3 In Roberts’ new series launch, the conversion of a tumbledown Maryland hotel into a boutique country inn fails to expel an extremely shy resident ghost. The first half of the novel, essentially an extended prologue, is painstakingly slow. As Roberts demonstrates a newfound passion for construction minutia (perhaps because she renovated and owns Inn Boonsboro in real life), the activities of architect Beckett Montgomery and his two builder brothers as they retrofit a historic building in Boonsboro (near the Antietam battlefield) unfold almost in real time. Working under the supervision of their benevolent tyrant of a mother, the brothers exchange good-natured macho gibes as they appoint the Inn-to-be with the most opulent tile, woodwork and fixtures. Amid all the bromance, Beckett watches longingly as his crush since grade school, Clare, goes about running her amazingly profitable independent bookstore while raising three unruly boys alone. (Her soldier husband died in Iraq.) Does she or doesn’t she notice him, Beckett muses ad infinitum. Meanwhile, Clare tells herself that Beckett is not really interested, just being kind to a war widow. Once this minor miscommunication is cleared up, the two begin a tentative relationship, however, the necessity of introducing obstacles to true love has Roberts stretching for things for them to squabble about, including the sighting by Clare’s youngest son of a ghostly lady dressed in an old-timey long gown, staring from an upper story window of the Inn. (The ghost, nicknamed “Lizzy,” has betrayed her presence to Beckett and a few others only with a scent of honeysuckle and a penchant for opening doors.) Cartoonish villain Sam, the spoiled, indolent son of the area’s wealthiest family, stalks Clare and tries to take indecent liberties, but his belated appearance, and his failure to pose a believable threat, do little to propel the plot. The fictional doppelganger of Boonsboro is an anachronistic bubble, seemingly untouched by the blight besetting so many American small towns. An effective infomercial—and guest-room sleep-aid— for Inn BoonsBoro.

ADAM & EVELYN

Schulze, Ingo Translated by Woods, John E. Knopf (304 pp.) $27.95 | Nov. 10, 2011 978-0-307-27281-2 A novel that works on many levels— the personal, the political and even the mythological. This Adam and “Evi” are a couple in the decidedly non-Edenic world of East Germany in 1989. Adam is a tailor, and a good one, who makes 1870

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gorgeous clothes for women. And while he loves to dress them, unfortunately for Evi he also loves to undress them, and his infidelities ultimately become too much for her to bear, especially once she catches him in flagrante delicto. She takes off for greener pastures in the West, closely followed by Adam. Along the way Adam links up with Katja, a young woman whom he helps smuggle through the Hungarian border. While Adam and Katja don’t have quite an affair, they’re obviously attracted to one another—as Evi is to her traveling companion Michael. The narrative becomes one of a journey, as characters continue moving toward freedom and away from the confines of their original “garden.” Eventually they end up in West Germany on the eve of the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Adam’s pursuit of his Evi is not in vain, and she finds herself still attracted to him. All of the characters’ lives get even more complicated when Evi discovers she’s pregnant and is not sure who the father is. Schulze’s clever plotting works on parallel tracks, so when Evi exclaims to Katja that Adam “acts like he’s the first and only person on earth,” the resonance goes all the way back to Genesis. A novel rich in dialogue and in its examination of a contemporary fall from grace.

HOTEL VENDÔME

Steel, Danielle Delacorte (336 pp.) $28.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-385-34317-6

Can a jilted husband and abandoned daughter learn to trust again and even find true love? The latest offering from Steel (Legacy, 2010, etc.) spins the romantic tale of a young girl growing up in a posh hotel with her kind father. Hugues Martin strides into this novel as the perfect romantic hero. Passionate about his calling, he has trained at the best schools, interned at the best hotels, invested his inheritance wisely, and fate offers him the chance of a lifetime, which he, of course, seizes. He purchases and renovates a small, forgotten hotel in New York. Under Hugues, this small hotel becomes the exquisite Hotel Vendôme. Décor is elegant, spa services luxurious, employees capable and security discreet. In this castle he lives with his supermodel wife and lovely daughter, Heloise (references to Eloise at the Plaza are discouraged). Until bad-boy rock-star Greg Bones comes to stay and steals Hugues’ wife. After Miriam’s departure, Hugues becomes both father and mother for his daughter, raising her with great care. Like his hotel, Heloise is perfect, taking care of not only her father but also the homeless. Potential villains (such as a gold-digging catering manager) are quickly unmasked and sent packing before inflicting any lasting harm. Devoted to his daughter, Hugues keeps his affairs superficial, yet he deserves the love of a good woman. As the story unfolds, both father and daughter find themselves transformed. A novel that will appeal to the most dedicated of Steel’s fans.

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HELL & GONE

Swierczynski, Duane Mulholland Books/ Little, Brown (256 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Oct. 31, 2011 978-0-316-13329-6 A rugged ex-cop faces his greatest challenge ever as a tortured inmate. College student Julie Lippman decides to take action when her boyfriend Bobby dies in a Nevada plane crash during semester break. The trouble is, Bobby wasn’t supposed to be on that plane but rather building houses for the poor. Julie enlists a few friends to help dig up Bobby’s grave, but some mysterious figures kill them all. Seventeen years later, one-time top cop Charlie Hardie is haunted by the death of his partner Nate. Hardie’s been hired to protect troubled Hollywood actress Lane Madden, targeted by Mann, an infamous hit woman. Wounded in a shootout, he’s whisked away by EMTs. Over the next several weeks, Hardie, drifting in and out

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of consciousness, loses strength and the use of one leg. When he wakes up fully, he’s a prisoner, at first overseen by Mann and then thrown into a bizarre prison, where he’s told he’s the new warden. The prisoners are shackled, and the guards are violent and terrified of a disembodied voice called the Prisonmaster, who sees all. Meanwhile, in the outside world, Hardie’s FBI pal Deke Clark begins to look for him but stops abruptly when a Big Brother–like figure contacts him with a video monitoring every move of him and his family. It looks as if Hardie must escape on his own. Readers of this middle installment in Swierczynski’s Charlie Hardie trilogy (Fun & Games, 2011) who suspend disbelief will be rewarded with nail-biting suspense, ample twists and a crackling narrative style.

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RAIN FALLS LIKE MERCY

Todd, Jack Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (272 pp.) $25.00 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-1-4165-9851-0 This Western-based tale of murder, war, love and the pursuit of justice cuts a wide swath from Japan to Germany before returning home to Wyoming and leaving readers breathless. In 1941, Sheriff Tom Call investigates the vicious killing of a 15-year-old runaway girl whose body is found in a shack on Eli Paint’s ranch. Call is dedicated and conscientious, but he finds time to enjoy flying his single-engine Aeronca and taking Paint’s wife for rides that lead to their love affair. The murder case occupies and frustrates him right up until the attack on Pearl Harbor, when he decides to put his passion for flying to use as a B-17 pilot in Europe. Todd’s writing is exceptional and vivid, especially in depicting the combat scenes on the USS Tennessee in the Pacific. The large cast of characters fights the war on two oceans. Amid the dangers of combat, Call’s mind often returns to the murder. Meanwhile, Pardo Bury, the son of a powerful businessman and a seriously unbalanced lowlife, does hard time in a Texas prison for slicing a prostitute. He is released around the time the war ends and is bent on revenge, embarking on a crime spree best not read about over lunch. Pardo doesn’t especially need revenge as a motivation, though. In the tradition of criminals like Charles Starkweather, he takes a special pleasure in killing for its own sake. When the story follows Pardo after the war, the sex and violence are as graphic as they can be, rather like being crushed to a puddle by a pallet of Penthouse magazines. The final showdown between good and evil hits the reader like a knife to the gut. A brilliant, compelling, at times repulsive and highly readable novel.

FOOTBALL WIDOWS

Tucker, Pat Atria Books (304 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Oct. 4, 2011 978-1-59309-315-0 Hell hath no fury like a scorned woman who finds out that all her friends knew her shame. B.J. Almond is used to being the queen bee. The wife of an NFL head coach, she has adopted his top status in the wives’ hierarchy, lording her no-nonsense attitude and slightly conservative personal style over her coterie of assistant coaches’ wives. Not that her designer duds aren’t as costly or her pleasures any less extravagant, but neither her necklines nor her morals have plunged quite so much as her juniors’ have in order to keep their marriages together. Small wonder then, that when B.J. walks in on her husband fooling around with one of their own, she’s 1872

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furious—and when she realizes that all her so-called friends knew, she’s madder still. Her planned revenge includes a tell-all book, in which she threatens to use all the knowledge she has gathered as the take-charge go-to gal of their clique, dirt her agent promises will make her book a bestseller. As she holes up in the Ritz, supposedly writing, she recalls them all—the time she had to rescue one friend who was left nude and dazed in a no-tell motel, the trip she took so another could get anonymous treatment for an STD— in lurid detail. In between her racy rememberings, the other gals scurry to salvage their lives of immense privilege and, occasionally, love. The fallout gets worse when one woman threatens to write her own book and another turns violent. But the real passion in this African-American-targeted fantasy by Tucker (Daddy by Default, 2010, etc.) is for the Jimmy Choos and other expensive paraphernalia that these women accept as their due. While the sex scenes are written with titillation in mind (all bodies are hard, all passion peaks), it’s the fashion that really excites these women and, most likely, the readers who choose to give them their time. Payback may be dirty, nasty and mean, but all dressed up, it provides a guilty pleasure for the reader.

QUEEN OF AMERICA

Urrea, Luis Alberto Little, Brown (384 pp.) $25.99 | Dec. 7, 2011 978-0-316-15486-4

In his sequel to The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005), Urrea continues the mythic history of his great aunt Teresita as she begins a new life in the United States after escaping her political and religious enemies in Mexico in 1893. While a young girl in Mexico, Teresita, called the Saint of Cabora, has developed a wide following of believers in the healing power of her touch, although she insists that God does the healing and she is merely a conduit. The Mexican government believes she also foments rebellion, the reason 19-year-old Teresita and her father Tomás Urrea flee to Arizona, where her father’s best friend, a politically active newspaperman, uses her popularity to rally public sentiment against the corrupt Mexican president. Violence as well as goodness seems to follow in her wake, yet all Teresita wants is to practice her healing. She is a fascinating mix of wisdom, love of life’s simple pleasures (like ice cream) and innocence, but is she a saint? As she and alcoholic, profane Tomás—a landowner who impregnated Teresita’s Indian mother—settle into Arizona society, Mexico sends agents to kill her. They all end up dead. But a more insidious evil eventually arrives in 1899: cruel but handsome Rodriguez, who marries her, them immediately tries to kill her; worse, he destroys her relationship with Tomás and her local reputation. She has no choice but to leave Arizona. In California a consortium of questionable businessmen sets her up as a healer under a devious contract that keeps her a virtual prisoner until the lovable rogue John Van Order, a friend from her earliest Arizona days, arrives and negotiates a better deal. As her fame and

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“Passionate, intelligently written, thoroughly entertaining historical fiction.” from the richest hill on earth

notoriety spread, Teresita and John travel across the country to New York City, where she struggles to maintain spiritual clarity despite tasting earthly luxury and human love. Mixing religious mysticism, a panoramic view of history, a Dickensian cast of minor characters, low comedy and political breast-beating, Urrea’s sprawling yet minutely detailed saga both awes and exhausts. (Author tour to Miami, St. Louis, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Austin, Seattle, Portland)

THE RICHEST HILL ON EARTH

Wheeler, Richard S. Forge (320 pp.) $25.99 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7653-2816-8

Wheeler (The Deliverance, 2003, etc.) brings to life robber barons, Irish immigrant miners and lost souls among the trash heaps and bawdy houses, headframes and smelters of 1890s Butte, Mont. Two iron men grow rich as copper, silver and gold are pried from the ground to power the Industrial Revolution. Marcus Daly, a miner who blasted his way to ownership of Anaconda Copper, and William Andrews Clark, a dour and bloodless Scot, war over The Richest Hill on Earth, and the casualties litter Butte, a “battered, filthy, chaotic, ugly city.” Miners do the hard work that makes the copper capitalists rich, miners who earn three-and-half dollars a day and die of silicosis, tuberculosis and typhus in the shadow of pristine mountains. Wheeler adds the rapacious Rockefellers and a real-life opportunist named F. Augustus Heinze, but the power within this beautifully researched novel lives through the fictional characters that rage among the pits, sheds, stamp mills and saloons. There is J. Fellowes Hall, a newspaperman imported by Clark to edit his mouthpiece, the Butte Mineral. Clark lusts for an appointment to the U.S. Senate no matter the cost in bribes and “boodlers.” There is Slanting Agnes, a “fey woman” who catches flashes of the future. Royal Maxwell, a syphilitic undertaker, finds comfort on Mercury Street, “precinct of the bawds.” “Red Alice” Brophy, a Dublin Gulch widow and dollar-a-day washerwoman, grows angry, begins to agitate for socialism and the ouster of corrupt union leader Big Johnny Boyle, earning beatings as a reward. Wheeler’s work isn’t character study, nor is it a shoot-’em-up, hero-centric tale. It is a mirror to a time and place where copper, for wires, for brass, for war and peace was clawed from the earth by men as disposable as machinery, men left without care or comfort to hide away in the tunnels so they might once more be warm as they cough up their lives. Passionate, intelligently written, thoroughly entertaining historical fiction.

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THE DARK AT THE END

Wilson, F. Paul Tor (336 pp.) $25.99 | Oct. 11, 2011 978-0-765-32283-8

After hammering hard at evil for the 15th time (Fatal Error, 2010, etc.), Repairman Jack puts his tools away. In an author’s note, Wilson informs readers that in their collective hands they now “hold the final installment of the Repairman Jack series.” If so, it’s a rather melancholy valedictory. At the novel’s outset, though, here’s Jack full of beans, eager to get at his long-time nemesis, Rasalom, aka the One. This malevolent, monomaniacal lowlife heads a sinister organization known as the Order, whose self-appointed task it is to bring about the Change. While no one knows exactly what that entails, all right-thinking people view it as not for the better and quite sensibly want nothing to do with it. Ever-resourceful Jack has a plan, a typically all-in cast of the dice he hopes will rid the world of the One once and for all. By novel’s end, however, the world…but that would be telling. In between, just about everything that happens is dismaying to Jack and his friends. The Lady—as much the embodiment of good as Rasalom is of evil— has been killed twice, a third strike and she’s out of the game. Glaeken, Jack’s Merlin-like mentor, fades ever more noticeably. Is it possible, thinks Jack dispiritedly, that after thousands of years he’s down to his final months? Dawn Pickering continues to chase the baby Rasalom stole from her, all the while fearing her baby might have been rendered akin to Rosemary’s. And Weezy, poor girl, who’s had Jack’s back forever, is feeling the pangs of unrequited love. At length Jack lays down his climactic, high-power barrage against Rasalom and the Order, but when the smoke clears Good vs. Evil remains an unresolved contest, the smart money sitting on its hands. An impressive, vividly imagined saga that over its last two entries has begun showing signs of series fatigue. A good time to end it. (Agent: Albert Zuckerman)

A MEANING FOR WIFE

Yakich, Mark Ig Publishing (200 pp.) $15.95 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-19354394-1 In poet Yakich’s fiction debut, a young widower returns with his toddler son, Owen, to his childhood hometown outside Chicago for a 20th high-school reunion. The author employs a lively, witty second-person voice to tell the story of this never-named young man thrust suddenly into grief, guilt (his wife has died of anaphylactic shock after eating a cashew that was lurking in takeout food he brought home) and new and frightening responsibilities. He leaves New Orleans, where he teaches high school online (a

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perfect indicator of his intriguing mix of engagement with the world and isolation from it), for what he hopes will be a restorative visit to his parents’ place; at the very least there will be free babysitting. His stay at home allows him the chance to regress pleasantly: sleep in his old room, eat comfort food, watch sports, toss the football around the backyard…and the opportunity to attend his reunion and perhaps piece together, from who he was back then, the makings of a new and workable identity, a way of coping with his horrific circumstances. The voice is nimble and sharp, and Yakich bravely resists the siren call of melodrama; the protagonist is an ironist, a loner, a laconic withholder of information, and that serves the narrative well, up to a point. But in the novel’s second half, a series of set pieces that occur at the Casino Night-themed reunion, the emotional thread between the madcap incidents being related (sex on a rooftop, a fight, etc.) and the dead wife and sleeping son frays and thins a little. A smart, perceptive—if not altogether satisfying— debut by a talented writer. (Contact: Robert Lasner)

m ys t e r y THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011

Coben, Harlan – Editor Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (432 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Oct. 4, 2011 978-0-547-55396-2 Ranging from homespun to lush and tropical, this year’s crop of 20 stories offers a variety of tastes and textures. But exotic doesn’t always mean compelling. Charles McCarry’s “The End of the String,” set in Africa, lumbers like an elephant toward a conclusion as momentous as a mouse. “Diamond Alley,” Dennis McFadden’s quiet tale of small-town teens confronting the murder of a popular classmate, packs a far greater punch. Family stories are equally powerful. In Christopher Merkner’s chilling “Last Cottage,” a young couple tries to outlast a neighbor determined to oust them from their waterfront home. Across cultures, mothers protect. In Richard Lange’s “Baby Killer,” Blanca struggles with an acting-out granddaughter. And although embarrassed by her profession, a Chinese mother helps her detective daughter in S.J. Rozan’s “Chin Yong-Yun Takes a Case.” An absentee father’s return challenges a wife who’s moved on in Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Stars Are Falling.” But Chris F. Holm shows in “The Hitter” that sometimes the greatest threat is to the dads themselves. Families don’t always grow through birth or marriage, as Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin reveal in “What His Hands Had Been Waiting For.” And of course, some families are just plain toxic, as Lawrence Block’s “Clean Slate” and Loren D. Estleman’s “Sometimes a Hyena” aptly 1874

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demonstrate. But nasty behavior isn’t just a family affair. Eric Barnes shows teenagers wreaking havoc for no particular reason in his slow-moving “Something Pretty, Something Beautiful.” And in “A Long Time Dead,” Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins show that evil can turn up where it’s least expected. It has its highs and lows, but the best of Coben’s Best is really first-rate.

THE SANDBURG CONNECTION

de Castrique, Mark Poisoned Pen (298 pp.) $24.95 | paper $14.95 | Lg. Prt. $22.95 Oct. 1, 2011 978-1-59058-941-0 978-1-59058-943-4 paperback 978-1-59058-942-7 Lg. Prt.

A suspicious death on top of Glassy Mountain turns two laid-back private sleuths into prime suspects. Asheville, N.C., detectives Nakayla Robertson and Sam Blackman, whose first-person narration is relaxed and direct, are hired by an insurance company to follow history professor Janice Wainwright, who’s suing a local surgeon and his hospital for botching surgery on her herniated disk. Although Janice claims to be further debilitated, Nakayla follows her to Connemara, the childhood home of poet Carl Sandburg, and is only steps behind as Janice improbably climbs Glassy Mountain. Hearing a scream, Nakayla rushes to Janice, followed quickly by Sam. They find the claimant prone on an outcropping where she’s apparently fallen. After speaking the words, “It’s the Sandburg verses,” Janice lapses into unconsciousness and never recovers. All the questions surrounding her medical claim now take a back seat to a new one: Did she fall or was she pushed? Nakayla was the last known person to see her alive, making her a suspect—and an enemy to Janice’s daughter Wendy, who visits Sam and Nakayla’s office and threatens them with a gun, screaming bloody murder. Fortunately, she’s a bad shot, and the duo is able to subdue her with the help of a lawyer from a neighboring office. The incident must be reported to police, but Sam, hoping to gain Wendy’s trust and if necessary her assistance, decides to say that he discharged his own weapon. Can the theft of books from the Connemara really be a coincidence? Sam’s third case (The Fitzgerald Ruse, 2009, etc.) benefits greatly from the chemistry of its two sleuths and the author’s—make that the narrator’s—clean, accessible style.

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SWIFT EDGE

DiSilverio, Laura Dunne/Minotaur Books (288 pp.) $25.99 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-312-62444-6 The case of a missing figure skater ushers a private eye into a world whose skaters’ personalities are more fearsome than the investigation itself. Charlie Swift, of Swift Investigations, once thought that having formerly silent partner Gigi Goldman assume an active role in the business was the most day-to-day drama she could take. Turns out that’s only because Charlie had never met Gigi’s daughter, Kendall. When Gigi forces Kendall on Charlie’s agency as a part-time staffer, it’s hard to know who’s most unhappy with the arrangement— except of course for Gigi, who thinks her dear daughter can do no wrong. While Kendall’s nosy and intrusive style is all Gigi, she’s also a surly teenager obsessed with Charlie’s latest investigation. Dara Peterson has retained Swift Investigations to find her skating partner, the famed Dimitri Fane. The last time Dmitri disappeared, he was taking an unannounced vacation with a boy toy, so Charlie thinks the case is going to be an easy ride around the rink. Unfortunately, the sleuth ends up with so many bumps and bruises that she needs a little rescuing of her own, and Detective Connor Montgomery is once again ready to catch her when she falls. As much as she wants to resist his charms, Charlie fears that she may be fighting a losing battle. Now if only the same isn’t true of her search for Dmitri. Charlie’s second doesn’t live up to the quirky charm of her series debut (Swift Justice, 2010) but still deserves better-than-average scores. (Agent: Paige Wheeler)

MURDER IN LASCAUX

Draine, BetsyHinden, Michael Terrace Books/Univ. of Wisconsin Press (284 pp.) $26.95 | $14.95 e-book | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-299-28420-6 978-0-299-28423-7 e-book An art historian’s research trip to southwest France is enlivened by her encounter with a corpse. The Dordogne valley, known to natives as Périgord, is famous for its walnuts and duck. Nora Barnes and her antiques-dealer husband Toby Sandler are exploring the quirky regional cuisine through a cooking course at the Château de Cazelle offered by Marianne, daughter of the current baron. Nora also has the family’s permission to look at journals and letters left by Marianne’s great-great-aunt Jenny Marie, an artist who painted alongside Manet and Morisot. And Toby has wangled the pair the rare opportunity to view the cave paintings at nearby Lascaux, which admits only five visitors per day. Unfortunately, they choose a day during which one of the five—a government official named |

Michel Malbert—ends up strangled, garnering them unwelcome attention from Inspector Daglan. To wriggle out from under the local detective’s baleful squint, Nora seeks to find the killer by bombarding Marianne and her brother Guillaume with questions about topics they’ve been reluctant to discuss, including the cause of Jenny Marie’s death and the rumor of Nazi loot hidden on their property. She also noses around sites they’ve expressly forbidden her to explore, including an old chapel used by members of the Cathars before they were purged by Rome. Will she learn to make an acceptable magret de canard before she gets booted out of the chateau, or before anyone else gets killed? Emeriti Professors Draine and Hinden’s mystery debut offers a good dose of Périgord culture, but Nora’s antics make you want to send an apology to her hosts.

SCOTCHED

Dunnett, Kaitlyn Kensington (272 pp.) $22.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7582-3881-8 A quiet Maine town’s affinity for murder is about to be announced to the world. Liss MacCrimmon runs Moosetookalook’s Scottish Emporium when she’s not nosing around as an amateur sleuth. All the town businesspeople are happy that the First Annual Maine-ly Cozy Con is being held at the family-owned hotel run by Liss’ fiancé Dan until the arrival of a snoopy reviewer and blogger who threatens to disclose long-buried secrets. When her body is discovered at the bottom of a cliff, her death is at first written off as an accident until a closer look reveals that it was murder. Both Dan and Liss’ former boyfriend, State Police detective Gordon Tandy, warn her to keep out of the investigation, but when the conference organizer and former Moostookalook resident Nola Ventress is the next victim, Liss can’t help going into sleuthing mode. Both the blogger and Nola have made quite a few enemies, so Liss won’t have an easy time identifying a clever killer. Just like the Maine-ly Cozy authors, Dunnett (The Corpse Wore Tartan, 2010, etc.) provides a pleasant diversion with a wide choice of murder suspects for her heroine to investigate.

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A BURIAL AT SEA

Finch, Charles Minotaur Books (320 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-312-62508-5 A 19th-century sea voyage to Egypt is the setting for murder. His brother asks retired sleuth Charles Lenox, M.P., to undertake a clandestine mission for the British government. Charles’ wife is pregnant, but he |

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“A hapless repo man’s quest for a defalcating consumer turns personal in Gavin’s debut, a testosterone-fueled romp.” from ranchero

cannot refuse the request. England’s relationship with France is on dangerous ground, and the deaths of several British spies have only increased tensions. So Charles sails aboard the Lucy along with his brother’s son Teddy, who’s making his first voyage as a midshipman. In this time of peace, warships often carry out what the crew think of as make-work duties. But the ship’s routine is scuttled when the ship’s second lieutenant is found brutally murdered. Captain Martin, aware of Lenox’s reputation, asks him to find the killer. Given the limited number of suspects, the task would seem easy, but Lenox finds it daunting. No sooner has he narrowed down the list to the ship’s officers than Captain Martin is murdered and Lenox is fortunate to escape with his own life. The ship continues to Egypt, where Charles must accomplish his task as an undercover agent and put paid to the murder investigation before he can return to his pregnant wife. A welcome change of scene for Finch’s clever protagonist (A Stranger in Mayfair, 2010, etc.). The descriptions of life aboard a ship in 1873 are especially entertaining.

RANCHERO

Gavin, Rick Minotaur Books (272 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-312-58318-7 A hapless repo man’s quest for a defalcating consumer turns personal in Gavin’s debut, a testosterone-fueled romp. Nick Reid is just minding his own business, putting the bite on Percy Dwayne Dubois for the 42-inch flatscreen TV he’d missed three payments on, when Percy Dwayne lays him out with a fireplace shovel and helps himself to Nick’s wallet and cell phone and the 1969 calypso coral Ford Ranchero he’s driving. Because the car isn’t even Nick’s—it was the pride and joy of Gil Jarvis, the late husband of the landlady who loaned it to Nick while his own wheels were under the weather—Nick chivalrously vows to retrieve it in mint condition. Enlisting the help of Desmond, a hulking African-American colleague, he slips the traces of K-Lo, his enraged Lebanese boss, and high-tails it after Percy Dwayne, his wife Sissy and their diapered baby PD Jr. His sort-of-plan is to head to Yazoo City, the reputed home of Luther Dubois, who just might be a relation. Percy Dwayne, meantime, has other plans. Calling Nick using his own cell phone, he offers to ransom the Ranchero back to him. All these plans come to naught when a meth cooker named Guy runs off with Sissy, PD Jr. and the car. It’s not clear whether Sissy, like Helen of Troy, is cooperating with her abductor. In fact, nothing much involving psychology or narrative causality is ever all that clear. What’s certain is that no one normal will appear and nothing normal will happen until Nick catches up with the Ranchero— maybe not even then. Forget comparisons to other books. The closest you’ve ever come to Nick’s experience is sitting in a Florida drivein theater circa 1958.

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THE BETRAYAL OF TRUST

Hill, Susan Overlook (368 pp.) $24.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-59020-280-7

DCI Serrailler reopens an investigation of a missing girl when her body is found. The quiet Cathedral town of Lafferton is hunkered down for a storm whose hard rains uncover bones that have been hidden for years. DCI Simon Serrailler discovers that the bones belong to Harriet Lowther, a teenager who went missing nearly 15 years ago. While he tries to determine who would hurt a perfectly harmless schoolgirl, the investigation must be reconsidered in light of the discovery of a second set of bones in the same area. Meanwhile, Si’s sister, Dr. Cat Deerbon, is settling into a new routine after the loss of her husband while providing steady support to longtime patients like Jocelyn Forbes. Just as Simon trusts his instincts when it comes to interviewing suspects, Cat has a second sense about what may be ailing Jocelyn, and the news isn’t good. Blended with these stories is the thread of Lenny Wilcox and her longtime life partner Olive, who’s been kicked out of yet another care home. Olive’s dementia and temperament make her impossible for Lenny to live with. Will Dr. Fison’s new facility offer Olive a more permanent home? Actions build to a never-quite-realized climax whose incompleteness is the only flaw in this otherwise compelling story. Though the many threads of the tale never fully come together, each throws new light on the ethics of death and dying. Fans and newcomers to Hill’s series (The Vows of Silence, 2009, etc.) will appreciate the characters’ deep humanity.

SAHARA DUST

Ingraham, Jim Five Star (298 pp.) $25.95 | Sep. 21, 2011 978-1-4328-2508-9 Suddenly, Cherokee City, Fla., is chock full of folk in sheep’s clothing, and it’s up to Detective Sergeant Randa Sorel to defrock the wolf. Randa has much to cope with these days. Her blowhard boss, for instance, never saw a TV camera he didn’t want to cozy up to. He doesn’t like Randa, and she doesn’t like him. Domestically, there’s trouble, too. Attractive, charming, marriage-phobic Lee Fronzi is everything a woman could want in the boyfriend department, provided Randa isn’t listening nervously to her biological clock. But that’s the sort of stuff that tends to get shoved to the back burner when a homicide cop gets a whiff of a really juicy homicide. Who killed retired NCIS agent Woodrow Barstow, what was he doing in Cherokee City and why are so many Federal types trying so hard to persuade local law enforcement—namely Sergeant

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Randa, who’s gotten the case—that national security is involved? Are the Feebies playing mind games for some special reason, or just out of habit? Specifically, what’s Randa to make of enigmatic Native American FBI Agent Tyonek Horse? She doesn’t trust him. Actually, she doesn’t trust any of them. And soon enough a crop of bumps and bruises will vindicate her judgment. Sure-handed Ingraham (Remains to be Seen, 2008) spins a satisfying tale whose greatest triumph is flawed, sympathetic Sergeant Randa.

THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE

Kaaberbol, LeneFriis, Agnette Soho Crime (320 pp.) $24.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-56947-981-0

Of all the recent Scandinavian thrillers that have been rushed into translation for fans of Stieg Larsson, here’s one whose pair of strong heroines taking on a monstrous conspiracy of men behaving badly is actually reminiscent of the Mil-

lennium Trilogy. As if the demands of her family and her job caring for women who’ve run away from abusive partners aren’t stressful enough, Nina Borg has a new problem, and it’s a doozy. For reasons she doesn’t explain, Karin Kongsted, an old friend from nursing school, has begged her to pick up a piece of luggage from a locker at Copenhagen’s Central Station. When Nina opens the suitcase, she instantly sees why Karin was so closemouthed about her errand. Inside is a naked little boy, drugged and deeply asleep but still alive. A chance encounter at the police station where she goes to report her shocking discovery instantly persuades Nina that her best move is to go into hiding, as Karin seems to have done herself. By the time she catches up with her friend to demand an explanation, however, Karin’s been murdered after using her dying breath to identify Nina to the man who beat her to death. Nina will have to look elsewhere for answers—just as Sigita Ramoskiene, the Lithuanian mother whose 3-year-old son Mikas has just vanished from a playground near their house in Vilnius, will have to look further for answers than the Department of Missing Persons, whose investigator, Evaldas Guzas, doesn’t believe her wild story of abduction. It’s clear that Mikas is the boy in the suitcase, and it’s only a matter of time before the two women hunting for the truth find each other. But the reason Mikas has been kidnapped, when it’s finally revealed, packs quite a wallop. So does the continued threat of Karin’s killer, who’s on the hunt himself. A debut that’s a model of finely tuned suspense. First, inevitably, of the Nina Borg trilogy.

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CHELSEA MANSIONS

Maitland, Barry Minotaur Books (336 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-312-60066-2

A pair of murders apparently related only by their proximity in time and place— London’s normally homicide-free Chelsea district—provides the latest challenge for the Met’s DI Kathy Kolla and DCI David Brock (Dark Mirror, 2009, etc.). Which is more incredible: that a stranger would attack visiting Boston widower Nancy Haynes as she emerged with her accountant and friend Emerson Merckle from the Chelsea Flower Show and throw her under a passing bus, or that wealthy Russian businessman Mikhail Moszynski would be stabbed to death in his garden a few steps from Chelsea Mansions, the faded boutique hotel where Nancy had insisted on staying? The theory favored by Commander Sharpe, Brock’s boss, is that Nancy must have been mistaken for Mikhail’s imperious mother Marta by someone bent on revenge against her son. A second theory, pushed hard by Chelsea Mansions owner Toby Beaumont, is that the evil power behind Mikhail’s death is Sir Nigel Hadden-Vane, the dirty MP Brock last tilted with in Spider Trap (2006). But there’s a third, even darker possibility buried deep in Nancy’s family history. Although Brock is sidelined through most of the early going by a life-threatening infection and Kathy gets pulled off the case just as he’s fit enough to return, they close the case by an impressive show of tag-team sleuthing, complemented by the unsolicited help they both get from Canadian forensic linguist John Greenslade, who’s now sleeping in the bed last occupied by Nancy Haynes. Satisfyingly rich fare for puzzle addicts and conspiracy theorists alike, capped by a string of climactic fireworks that are still exploding in the very last paragraph.

EL GAVILAN

McDonald, Craig Tyrus Books (400 pp.) $24.95 | paper $15.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-4405-3194-1 978-1-4405-3191-0 paperback An Ohio town is racked by violence in a clash of cultures. New Austin, Ohio, seems much more like El Paso, Texas, as most of the growing population consists of Latino immigrants, many of them illegal, who put a strain on local resources. Tell Lyon is a former Border Patrol officer who has accepted the Chief of Police job in New Austin after his wife and daughter were murdered by Mexican drug dealers. He is immediately caught up in a case involving the rape and murder of an undocumented woman. The murder occurs in a spot that could be in his area or that of Sheriff Able Hawk, known as El Gavilan, or

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the brutal Vale County sheriff Walt Pierce, all of whom want the case. Hawk brings along reporter Shawn O’Hara, who quickly recognizes the badly beaten body by her tattoo. Since he had sex with her the night the body was found, he panics and keeps quiet, but when he is targeted for arrest by Pierce he is badly beaten by Latino gang members eager to avenge the death. Although Hawk is very tough on undocumented workers, he is also friendly with the Latino population, some of whom agree with his policies. Tell strikes up a tentative friendship with Hawk as some really shocking facts come to light about this murder and two more that fit the same pattern. Tell has developed a relationship with O’Hara’s former lover, a beautiful Latino woman, and they are both in mortal danger until the killings can be solved. McDonald offers another gritty, violent mystery (One True Sentence, 2011, etc.) in this exploration of both sides of a divisive problem.

WELL-OFFED IN VERMONT

Meade, Amy Patricia Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (240 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7387-2590-1

A Manhattan couple find moving into their recently purchased Vermont home just a tad more complicated than they expected. Stella and Nick Buckley are making big changes in their lives to accommodate Nick’s dream of following a career with the Forest Service. Arriving at their circa-1890 farmhouse with all their possessions, they plan on a romantic night before they get down to the business of moving in. But things go differently. First they are disturbed by a neighbor bearing cupcakes, then by the discovery of a body in their well. The dead man is Allen Weston, whose contract to fix the well didn’t include any such hands-on services. Weston had the reputation of being a sharp businessman who boasted many enemies. Local sheriff Charlie Mills forces Nick and Stella to leave the premises, since they’re now a crime scene. But an old friend of his, local bakery owner Alma Deville, who knows that the whole area is overrun with leaf peepers who have booked every available room, offers them the use of a sparsely furnished hunting camp. Stella, acutely aware of her disadvantaged status as a flatlander and newcomer, is convinced that solving the case will be the quickest way to get them into their new home. A second murder adds urgency to their sleuthing. The first in a new series for Meade (Black Moonlight, 2010, etc.) features yet another set of bright young detectives along with some unlikely scenarios.

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THE DEVIL’S RIBBON

Meredith, D.E. Minotaur Books (304 pp.) $25.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-312-55769-0

A very early CSI team fights crime in 1850s London. Forensic scientist Adolphus Hatton and his capable assistant, Albert Roumande, are knee-deep in the corpses of poor Irish cholera victims when flamboyant, none-too-scrupulous Scotland Yard Inspector Jeremiah Grey asks them to investigate a suspicious death. Irish MP Gabriel McCarthy appears to be another casualty of cholera, but Hatton quickly establishes that he was killed by strychnine poisoning. Grey, who’s not above planting evidence, is anxious for Hatton and Roumande to find forensic confirmation, perhaps from the very new technique of fingerprinting, to help solve the politically sensitive case. Hatton finds himself falling for the widow, a beauty who reminds him of a long-lost love, and is soon caught up in the investigation. The city, meanwhile, is rocked by violence and riots promulgated by a fiery Irish priest, a fighter for independence who’s certainly a suspect in the murder of McCarthy, widely considered an enemy of his people. Although Hatton is busy helping to train a promising new assistant, fighting for more money for his department and keeping up with his autopsies, he is swept up in a difficult and dangerous case that may change his life forever. This second series entry (Devoured, 2010) neatly combines history with a puzzling mystery and solid characterization.

A DEADLY INJUSTICE

Morson, Ian Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7278-8062-8

A Venetian Investigator for the Mongol Emperor is given a difficult case to solve. In 1268, with most of China ruled by the Mongols, Nick Zuliani and his colleague Lin Chu-Tsai are given a task that sets them up for failure. Now that a young woman has been convicted of murdering her future father-in-law, her sentence is put on hold while Nick and Lin (City of the Dead, 2008, etc.) investigate. Lin is sure that his enemy Ko Su-Tsung has put them in a no-win situation: If they prove the girl innocent, they will be insulting a highly placed Mongol official. They set off on the two-week trip accompanied by Nick’s lover Gurbesu, a Pole whose village was overrun by Mongols, and a Venetian Friar. Upon arriving, they interview the girl, her adoptive mother, who treats her like a slave, and the murdered man’s son, who wants to marry his father’s accused killer. They identify the poison added to the old man’s soup as aconite but still can’t determine who put it there. Nick is adept

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“Parker remains worth reading for the historical detail and the descriptions of a stunning area of Colorado.” from mercury ’s rise

MERCURY’S RISE

at running scams, usually to fatten his purse, but this time he must pull off the biggest scam of all to get them out of a dangerous trap and identify a murderer. Nick’s second case is best read for the historical detail rather than the ponderous mystery.

Parker, Ann Poisoned Pen (378 pp.) $24.95 | paper $14.95 | Lg. Prt. $22.95 Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-59058-961-8 978-1-59058-963-2 paperback 978-1-59058-962-5 Lg. Prt.

FEVER DREAM

Palumbo, Dennis Poisoned Pen (350 pp.) $24.95 | paper $14.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-59058-957-1 978-1-59058-959-5 paperback 978-1-59058-958-8 Lg. Prt. Clinical psychologist Daniel Rinaldi gets yanked out of a session with a patient and onto a smoking-hot trail of dirty money, dirtier politicians and wholesale killing. At the first sign of trouble, one of the two robbers who’d stormed into Pittsburgh’s First Allegheny Bank turns tail and flees. The other one executes assistant manager Bobby Marks, who doesn’t stay quite still enough; frees Bobby’s girlfriend, bank officer Treva Williams; keeps three more hostages inside; and begins issuing demands. That’s when Det. Eleanor Lowrey phones Dr. Rinaldi, whom she’s worked with before (Mirror Image, 2010, etc.), and demands that he high-tail it downtown and interview the traumatized Treva before things get worse. Rinaldi does his best, but things get worse anyway, and the robber, stealing a page from the Hannibal Lecter playbook, makes a clean getaway. The robbery-turned-murder is only the beginning of a crime spree that will seriously complicate D.A. Leland Sinclair’s gubernatorial bid, make Rinaldi wonder whether PostGazette reporter Sam Weiss is indeed correct that Sinclair is in attorney Evan McCloskey’s pocket, and produce a collateraldamage casualty list worthy of a high-stakes actioner. There’s no need for Palumbo to dial down the suspense while Rinaldi goes looking for suspects, since they keep coming at him in waves. Through it all, this unlikely hero, even when he’s abducted and threatened with death, keeps his cool, keeps his edge and never backs down from either the bad guys or his alleged allies, as if he were Jack Reacher with a psychology degree. Palumbo, who’s willing to do absolutely anything to keep up the tension, succeeds admirably. Readers who don’t require originality and plausibility in their detective thrillers will be as happy as career politicians whose skeletons are securely locked away.

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In her fourth adventure (Leaden Skies, 2008, etc.), Inez Stannert, a partner in the Silver Queen Saloon in Leadville, finds 1880 Colorado no more receptive to a woman of independent spirit. Inez’s husband Mark, Civil War veteran and professional charmer, vanished over a year ago. But now, as she’s seeking to restore some order to her life by getting a divorce, he suddenly returns. Furious but undaunted, Inez continues her plan to visit the Manitou Mountain Springs House, where her sister has arrived from the East with Inez’s young son, whose lung condition requires him to live at a lower elevation. On the stage trip down to Manitou, businessman Edward Pace, feeling ill, takes a swig of his wife’s tonic and dies before their eyes. When his widow asks Inez to investigate, she quickly discovers that the hotel is a hotbed of deception and danger. The hotel doctor, a specialist in tuberculosis, makes up special tonics that the patients think are so effective that they wouldn’t dream of leaving the hotel and those that are near death are quietly removed. Her brother-in-law is being wooed by the hotel owners to invest in the property. Someone pushes her down the stairs, but she survives her mishap, only to face death again in a carriage accident. Despite her misgivings about their partnership, Inez feels that she must call upon her wily husband to come to town posing as a likely investor if she’s to decipher the secrets that threaten her and her family. Though the meandering mystery won’t tax your brain, Parker remains worth reading for the historical detail and the descriptions of a stunning area of Colorado.

THE CURSE

Robbins, Harold & Podrug, Junius Forge (320 pp.) $25.99 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7653-2714-7 Returning from the dead for yet another encore, two headline-making names, boy king Tutankhamen and megaselling Robbins, partnered once again by living collaborator Podrug, power another case for antiquities investigator Madison Dupre. All right, “power” may not be the most exact word for this shrill, inept thriller. To be sure, Madison, tossed out of her cushy curatorial post at New York’s Piedmont Museum after a spot of high-profile trouble (The Looters, 2007, etc.) and forced to live from one freelance check to the next, takes it very seriously indeed when someone shows up at her apartment door and tries

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to kill her. But well-informed readers already know that Fatima Sari’s heart isn’t in the job she’s taken on for the evil mastermind codenamed Sphinx; after all, the weapon is a letter opener, she wields it with little conviction and soon after her failed attempt at murder she’s thrown herself under the wheels of a subway, leaving the heroine, who witnesses her death, to wonder why Dr. Mounir Kassem has hand-picked Madison to authenticate the Heart of Egypt, a scarab Sir Jacob Radcliff looted from King Tut’s tomb back in 1922. Now that the scarab’s been stolen from the Radcliff collection and held for ransom, its owners, if that’s what you want to call them, need to make sure they’re paying for the real thing and not a counterfeit executed by Jeremy Botwell or Quintin Rees. Desperate for cash, Madison signs on and flies to Cairo, where Egyptian police officer Rafi al Din, whose daughter Dalila is dying of leukemia, promptly confiscates her passport and takes her to bed. There’ll be more featherweight adventures, confrontations, double-crosses, revelations, couplings and triplings, but zero atmosphere or sense of place as the characters hurtle from one picture-postcard location to the next. Madison’s summary nails it: “Murder, madness, and greed swirled around me like a Mojave dust devil.” You go, girl.

BLACK THUNDER

Thurlo, Aimée & Thurlo, David Forge (352 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7653-2451-1 Serial killers are stalking residents of a Navajo reservation. Special investigator Ella Clah gets the case when a number of bodies are found buried near the border of the Rez. Because some of them are over the line, Ella and her team must also work with the New Mexico police and the FBI. Meanwhile, Ella’s dealing with some personal issues. Her mother’s cooking spree is clearly the symptom of some problem, but whatever it is, she won’t talk about it. Her tween daughter is skipping school. And Ella is forced to end her long friendship with a minister when he asks her to marry him. The team slowly makes progress by identifying the dead, all Navajo who seem to have little in common. They do turn up some possible suspects in two Navajo with criminal records who could easily have killed people over incidents of road rage. Another possibility is the business partner of one of the dead men, who’s been harassing the widow, even going so far as to hire private detectives to try to find the money he claims the partner stole. When she keeps digging, in an attempt to catch the mysterious killers before they strike again, Ella finds herself the recipient of both threatening text messages and gunfire. Ella’s cases (Earthway, 2009, etc.) are always a good value. The latest is a procedural containing the usual insights into Navajo culture.

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CHALICE OF BLOOD

Tremayne, Peter Minotaur Books (384 pp.) $25.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-312-55121-6

Murder, mayhem and religious dissent plague Ireland in 670 CE. Sister Fidelma, advocate of the law and sister to the King of Muman, finds herself at odds with her life partner, Brother Eadulf. She plans to leave the religious life in order to pursue her ambitions while he prefers the security of the religious life. Their disagreement, however, soon becomes moot. The pair is forced back together when their considerable sleuthing skills are called upon to solve the locked-room murder of Brother Donnchad, who’s recently returned to the Abbey of Lios Mór after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Fidelma and Eadulf observe that the Abbey is in turmoil over more than the murder. Iarnla, the Abbot, seems to allow Lugna, his steward, to make all the important decisions. Lugna, trained in Rome, is a fiery proponent of many new rules that the Irish dislike. Meanwhile, Lady Eithne, the murdered man’s mother, is financing a huge building project. Missing manuscripts that question the faith seem to be at the heart of the murder. But all these problems must be set aside when another murder occurs and two neighboring tribes are at loggerheads. Fidelma will ask many questions and visit a neighboring Abbey before she can unmask the killer. Like all Fidelma’s cases (The Dove of Death, 2010, etc.), this one is literate, historically detailed and demanding of concentration by any readers hoping to absorb the finer points of ancient Irish law.

science fiction and fantasy WHEN THE SAINTS

Duncan, Dave Tor (336 pp.) $27.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7653-2348-4

Second installment of the versatile, talented Duncan’s latest historical fantasy, following Speak to the Devil (2010), set in Jorgary, a fictional country in late 15th-century Central Europe. Certain individuals possess a form of magic called Speaking, which involves invoking saints (or according to the Church, demons—even though the Church

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has its own Speakers) to work miracles. The Magnus clan has loyally served the kings of Jorgary for centuries. However, Cardinal Zdenek, the real ruler of Jorgary—old King Konrad lies dying, while Crown Prince Konrad is an irresponsible rakehell— knows that Duke Wartislaw of Pomerania has invaded Jorgary with an army of Wends. Only the seemingly impregnable Castle Gallant holds the Silver Road against Wartislaw’s advance. Unfortunately, Wartislaw has brought with him a monster cannon capable of smashing the castle. The four surviving Magnus brothers, Wulf, Otto, Anton and Vlad, have belatedly been dispatched to Gallant to organize the defenses. Young Wulf is a Speaker, powerful but untrained and ignorant of magic’s rules, wracked with doubts as to whether his talents truly emanate from saints or demons. Zdenek arranges for another Speaker, from a mysterious organization known as the Saints, to assist with Wulf ’s education. But Wulf has other problems: He’s desperately in love with countess Madlenka, Anton’s wife; and, thanks to his actions in the previous book, the Inquisition is after him—and they are relentless. An authoritative reworking of history, combining a splendid welter of religious and political intrigues with Duncan’s typically inventive, deft handling of magic and character-driven action. After some rather inattentive efforts in the past few years, the author is back in top form.

THE SHATTERED VINE

Gilman, Laura Anne Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $26.00 | Oct. 18, 2011 978-1-4391-0148-3 The concluding chapter in Gilman’s Vineart War trilogy brings the story to a satisfying if sometimes sluggish end, expanding on the author’s unique concept of magic as expressed through winemaking. After a perilous sea journey in the previous novel (Weight of Stone, 2010), Jerzy, a Vineart who has the power to cultivate magic contained in spellwines, returns to his homeland with three companions who are his allies in the battle against a mysterious enemy. A rogue Vineart from a faroff land is gathering together all five types of magic, a practice forbidden for centuries to prevent Vinearts from gaining too much power. Holed up at Jerzy’s vineyard, the four friends work to formulate a plan to defeat their unknown adversary, while fending off threats from various feudal lords and the Washers, a religious order committed to keeping Vinearts from overstepping their ancient prescribed limits. Gilman presents a complex and often fascinating system of spellcasting, rich in both fantastical and oenophilic detail. That system at times seems more fleshed out than the characters, especially the supporting players who aid Jerzy in his fairly predictable quest. Although the characterization can be sparse (and the writing sometimes dry), it is evenhanded, with the factions opposed to Jerzy’s mission getting a spotlight. The ultimate villain, however, is a one-dimensional megalomaniac, and his final showdown with |

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Jerzy is a little anticlimactic. While that can be frustrating, it’s also indicative of how Gilman subverts expectations, favoring philosophical debates over big action sequences, and even dispatching one major battle completely off the page. The result is a story about how the real victories are won behind the scenes, with cunning and careful planning, rather than by large armies doing as much damage to each other as possible. By mixing familiar fantasy elements with unexpected new approaches, Gilman produces a novel that’s both traditional and forward-thinking. (Agent: Jennifer Jackson)

A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

Martin, George R.R. Bantam (1040 pp.) $35.00 | Jul. 12, 2011 978-0-553-80147-7

The fifth installment in Martin’s (A Game of Thrones, 1996, etc.) Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. Fans of the author’s work will likely be satisfied with this volume ipso facto, for it’s vintage Martin: It’s a little cynical, plenty dark, with not many laughs and, truth be told, not much action. There’s the usual blend of exposition, sometimes seemingly endless, and the usual swords-and-sorcery dialogue: “The plunder from Astapor was much less than you were promised in Volantis, and I took the lion’s share of it.” “Two kings to wake the dragon. The father first and then the son, so both die kings.” “False friends, treacherous servants, men who had professed undying love, even her own blood…all of them had deserted her in her hour of need.” Martin has been likened to J.R.R. Tolkien, but Tolkien was never quite so ponderous, and certainly not so obsessed with bodily functions of various sorts: “The Grand Maester befouled himself in dying, and the stink was so abominable that I thought I might choke.” “When you bugger a man you expect a squeal or two.” Indeed. Apart from all that, this volume furthers Martin’s long tale of a vast world war of the kind that sweeps through Middle Earth in LOTR, though some of the characters seem to have lost their taste for it; the once-scary Tyrion Lannister mostly mopes around, alternately insomniacal and prurient, while out on The Wall the stalwart Jon Snow comes over all Hamlety, wondering what to do, soliciting input and then keeping his own counsel. A few hundred pages of this, and one longs in vain for piles of headless corpses and flesh singed with the fire of dragon breath—something, anything, to induce a squeal. Is Ice and Fire drawing to a close? There’s plenty of wiggle room for more volumes in the series, but on the evidence, one wonders if Martin isn’t getting a little tired of it.

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“Butch Cassidy territory—ignore the tumbleweeds and enjoy.” from the alloy of law

SCHOLAR

Modesitt Jr., L.E. Tor (576 pp.) $27.99 | $27.99 e-book | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7653-2955-4 978-0-7653-2955-4 e-book First of a new trilogy set on the world of Terahnar, set hundreds of years before the previous books (Imager’s Intrigue, 2010, etc.), where a handful of people have the power to create objects through visualization. Little except the politics is different in this earlier incarnation. The continent of Lydar is divided into three states, belligerent Bovaria, watchful Antiago and Telaryn, which ten years previously conquered neighboring Tilbor. Telaryn’s young, talented ruler, Bhayar, concerned about the ambitions of Bovaria, suggests to Quaeryt, a young scholar whose advice he values, that troops might be withdrawn from the occupation of Tilbor for redeployment along the border with Bovaria. Quaeryt disclaims knowledge of the situation in Tilbor and, to further his long-term plans—although Modesitt declines to do more than hint at what these might entail—allows Bhayar to persuade him to travel to Tilbor and report. Quaeryt is secretly an imager, or wizard, as well as a scholar. Astonishingly, before he leaves, Bhayar’s beautiful and highly intelligent younger sister, Vaelora, speaks with him and gives him a personal letter. Surviving footpads, power-mad police, shipwreck, poisoning and the hostility of his fellow-scholars, Quaeryt arrives in Tilbor, where he finds that the governor, Rescalyn, has quietly accreted and trained an army vastly larger than anybody suspected, ostensibly to defend the people against the rebellious High Holders of the hill country. After combing through the records, Quaeryt realizes he might need to risk his own life to uncover the truth. Modesitt has only one style: subtle intrigues anchored in vividly drawn, complex characters, stiffly formal conversations and descriptional arabesques in tones of gray. Perhaps the best so far in this consistently fascinating series.

THE ALLOY OF LAW

Sanderson, Brandon Tor (336 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7653-3042-0

Sanderson returns to planet Scadrial (The Hero of Ages, 2008, etc.) where, 500 years later, the scenario is a fantasy Wild West where the largest city, Elendel, despite its unpredictable mists, boasts railroads, electric street lighting and

nascent skyscrapers. Though lesser beings than their godlike ancestors, certain citizens gain magic powers from an ability to metabolize metals. Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, can both attract and repel metals using Allomancy and gain or lose bodily mass via 1882

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Feruchemy. Having spent 20 years in the Roughs—Tombstone in the 1880s, with every day a bad day—expunging evildoers, Wax has learned that House Ladrian, complete with supercilious butler, is all but bankrupt thanks to a profligate uncle. Sadly he returns to Elendel to do his duty and marry a rich heiress. Lord Harms presents his rather too well-organized daughter Steris, who arrives for introductions complete with a 20-page pre-nuptial agreement. Accompanying father and daughter is penniless cousin Marasi, more intelligent and personable and vastly more attractive. Meanwhile, strange crimes are afoot: mysterious thieves, “Vanishers,” have stolen consignments from railroad cars, raided parties and taken hostages. It’s eventually deduced that the hostages may be the Vanishers’ real targets: all are descended from the same ancient family, and all have specific magic powers. And, at the first social event Wax attends with Lord Harms and the two girls, the Vanishers strike again. Sanderson’s fresh ideas on the source and employment of magic are both arresting and original—just don’t expect rigorously worked out plot details, memorable characters or narrative depth. Think brisk. Think fun. Butch Cassidy territory—ignore the tumbleweeds and enjoy.

THE THIRTEEN HALLOWS

Scott, Michael & Freedman, Colette Tor (352 pp.) Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7653-2852-6

Fantasy from bestselling author Scott (The Warlock, 2011, etc.) and playwright Freedman (Sister Cities, 2009, etc.). Let’s eavesdrop on a parallel universe, where a literary agent is having a phone conference with a couple of co-authors: “…Sure, Potter has Hallows, but…Okay, so yours are magical whatzits that defend the realm against whatever, Dark Lords, demons, aliens…right…We need a number…Thirteen? Great! And they’re protecting Britain or the world or whatever…No, no, everybody does Irish…Welsh, wonderful! I get it, the Hallows have huge long unpronounceable titles in Welsh, they’ll lap it up. Go on…The keepers of the Hallows are all clueless old doddery types, and the agents of the bad guys are slaughtering them, lots of blood, gore, mayhem? Love it! We need some sex, though… Bad guy, bad girl, and they have to screw to get mystical visions and stuff, psychic powers… Brilliant! And the good guys? That’s always a problem…I know, I know, well, we can work something out later. So how do you bring in the Americans, that’s the big payoff…Yeah, right, everybody English or Welsh has relatives in America…uhuh…So, these Hallows, what…Ancient, mystical chess sets and chalices and like that…cool…and they need to be bathed in blood to be activated…perfect! Wait, wait, thirteen McGuffins is way too many. What if one of them is the master control or suchlike? But it can’t be something wimpy like a chalice, you can’t whack bad guys with…of course, a sword!...” It’s just fiction, folks, manufactured rather than crafted; still, it could have been a lot worse.

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nonfiction THE FAMILY MEAL Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià

INTEL WARS The Secret History of the Fight Against Terror

Adrià, Ferran Translated by Cillero, Enrique Phaidon Press (386 pp.) $29.95 | Oct. 3, 2011 978-0-7148-6253-8

Aid, Matthew M. Bloomsbury (272 pp.) $28.00 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-60819-481-0

A deliciously dynamic yet approachable cookbook from arguably the world’s

greatest chef. Adrià (A Day at elBulli, 2010, etc.), head chef and owner of Spain’s world-renowned elBulli restaurant (which closed in July 2011 but will reopen as a creativity center in 2014), is well known as a mad gastronomical scientist. However, his new cookbook does not require special gelatin processes or any of the laboratory techniques with which he is associated. Instead, this cookbook focuses on the simple but delicious meals Adrià shared with his restaurant staff before any guests arrived each evening. Examples of the three-course menus include: a potato chip omelet, pork loin with peppers and coconut macaroons; grilled lettuce hearts, veal with red wine and mustard and chocolate mousse. The most extravagant tool is a kitchen blowtorch, which is not actually required. Adrià does recommend a soda siphon to make his caramel foam, but ice cream will do. The majority of the ingredients can be found at the local market, with the exception of a few spices, and the author’s easy-tofollow directions will help any home cook prepare base sauces and stocks. Each recipe includes photos of each step, a photograph of what the countertop should look like with all of the ingredients for that day’s menu, a helpful organizing timeline to correctly time the preparations, measurements for two, six, 20 or 75 servings, possible substitute ingredients and a guide to how long sauces and stocks can keep in your refrigerator. A gem of a cookbook packed with fantastic recipes and tips from a master—the closest most readers will come to eating with him.

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Less secret than the title implies, this richly detailed overview of U.S. intelligence since President Obama’s election reveals only spotty progress. Intelligence historian Aid (The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency, 2009) asserts that the avalanche of money following 9/11 vastly expanded U.S. security agencies while leaving many deficiencies intact. Duplication, turf wars, refusal to share information and bureaucratic inertia contributed to the attacks. In response, Congress created a Department of Homeland Security to oversee American intelligence, but it has failed. Bush administration leaders opposed reform; the FBI and Defense Department demanded exemption. Congress agreed, so the Director of Homeland Security, like the Surgeon General, possesses an impressive title but little authority. Reviewing efforts around the world, Aid concludes that Iraq may escape anarchy when America withdraws, but Afghanistan remains in doubt. A troop surge and unmanned drones are wreaking havoc among the Taliban, but most Afghans detest the central government. After a decade of self-delusion, America understands that Pakistan has always supported the Taliban, but the only result is a paralysis in cooperation between the two nations. In the Middle East, Syria and Iran no longer aggressively encourage terrorism, but matters are deteriorating in Yemen and Somalia. Drug wars in Mexico have also become a major preoccupation. Aid concludes by warning that we cannot prevent future terrorist attacks at home because perpetrators will likely be disaffected individuals acting alone. An expert update on American security that turns up more problems than solutions. (8-page color insert)

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“A laugh-out-loud look at the East/ West culture clash.” from tune in tokyo

NO TURNING BACK One Man’s Inspiring True Story of Courage, Determination, and Hope

Anderson, Bryan with Mack, David Berkley (240 pp.) $25.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-425-24355-8

With the assistance of Mack (The 4400, 2009, etc.), Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart winner Anderson looks at his life after a devastating explosion in the streets of Baghdad left him a triple amputee. The opening chapter, “Alive Day,” details the mindset of a soldier as he prepares for a routine task—escorting a general through Baghdad—and the minutia (vehicle checks, locating preferred soda, checking on his fellow soldiers) that helped to anchor his experiences. The bomb that hit Anderson’s vehicle, a version of an improvised explosive device dubbed an EFP (explosively formed penetrator), followed a path directly through the driver’s side of the truck he was driving. Anderson woke up in Walter Reed Army Hospital facing more than a year of recovery and rehabilitation. Imbued with a steady stream of positive thinking and can-do philosophy, the narrative chronicles Anderson’s insistence that he master the use of prosthetic legs and his determination to thrive in environments outside of the hospital or rehab. In straightforward, occasionally treacly language, the author describes the life he has made for himself and the joy of discovering new experiences like snowboarding, dating, traveling the country as a spokesperson, acting and working as a stuntman. An undoubtedly admirable, inspirational story—but not for readers who don’t enjoy inspirational memoirs.

TUNE IN TOKYO The Gaijin Diaries

Anderson, Tim AmazonEncore (288 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Nov. 29, 2011 9781612181318 An English teacher’s humorous observations on life in Tokyo through Western eyes. Dissatisfied with the American Way and anxious about the prospect of turning 30, Anderson, a gay white North Carolinian, left his home country to snap himself out of the sameness of middle-class American life. “The last time I felt totally wide awake and alive was the last time I lived outside the country,” he writes. After a six-month stint in England, he decided to cash in on his otherwise useless English degree and took a job teaching English at a language school in Tokyo. From there, Anderson provides a frantically paced, inyour-face extended riff on everything bizarrely Japanese (which turns out to be pretty much everything Japanese, period). The 1884

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obvious East/West tension and language barriers account for much of the humor, but even more hilariously observant is Anderson’s wry commentary on the bafflingly instantaneous social rebirth that even the most awkward, dim and unattractive of his American male colleagues often experienced in Japan. From Anderson’s perspective, the simple virtue of being a male Westerner garners instant gigolo status among the most beautiful of Japanese women. The author also found himself playing viola in a ramshackle experimental noise band and, inevitably, the Tokyo karaoke bars. Anderson reliably mines the rich comic potential inherent in simple, innocent miscommunications and misunderstandings, but most impressive is the author’s ability to sustain his hyperactive comedic voice throughout most of the book without losing his edge. A laugh-out-loud look at the East/ West culture clash.

A YEAR STRAIGHT Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Lesbian Beauty Queen

Azzoni, Elena Seal Press (256 pp.) $17.00 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-58005-361-7

A 30-something comedic actress explores her sexual orientation. Attracted to women from a young age, as an adult, Azzoni found herself not only a card-carrying member of the Brooklyn lesbian community, but, after claiming the Miss Lez beauty-pageant title, its veritable poster child. “I couldn’t have been gayer,” she writes. “I cat-sat, drank herbal tea, and in high school played field hockey. I’d been both vegan and vegetarian. I was a food co-op member. I drove a stick shift. As a kid I undressed Barbie and Skipper and made them kiss and touch boobs. I was even allergic to nuts.” Consequently, the author was shocked when, one day in yoga class, the embrace of her yoga instructor left her breathless with desire for him. That brief encounter ignited Azzoni’s curiosity to become intimately involved with men. In often-hilarious detail, the author recounts her daring voyage into the dizzying cosmos of hetero dating. What sets this account apart from the typical mildly ironic coming-of-age chick-lit memoir is Azzoni’s bald examination of how acting on this “newfound man-lust” would rock not only her sense of self but her station in the gay community: “What if I were truly attracted to men?” she writes. “Would I still have a place in my world? Could I betray the very people who had cheered me on as Miss Lez? I was reluctant to forfeit the rewards of coming out in the first place.” Readers will appreciate the candor of the author’s admission to fearing that her attraction to men might drive her back into the closet with the very friends who, like her, had struggled to get out of it. Frank, funny and revealing of relations between—and among—the sexes. (Agent: Jane Dystel)

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EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT BUSINESS I LEARNED FROM THE GRATEFUL DEAD The Ten Most Innovative Lessons from a Long, Strange Trip

Barnes, Barry Business Plus/Grand Central (256 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 2, 2011 978-0-446-58379-4

A celebration of the Grateful Dead as the accidental gurus of enlightened business practices. The old command-and-control model of corporate organization is dead—but who’d have thought that we’d have the late Jerry Garcia to thank? Well, Barnes for one. In this convincing debut, the author riffs on all the ways the Dead had it right both onstage and off. Long hailed for their musical improvisation, Barnes argues that the Dead should also be appreciated for their substantial business acumen. Innovation, shared leadership, brand loyalty and social responsibility—the Dead had it all long before the business world realized they held the keys to the kingdom. Today, modern business giants like Amazon, Zappos and Apple get it, and others are following close behind. Barnes explores 10 specific ways in which the Dead blazed the trail. Whether they were inventing new ways to amplify sound or revolutionizing employee relations, the band was ahead of their time. Brisk and compelling, this overview of the Deadhead nation reads like a candid rock biography as well as an insightful business manual. The band may have only been trying to do things their own way, but as the author sees it, they succeeded in redefining the way smart people will be doing business for years to come. Important lessons learned from a unique band of musical pioneers.

SKINNY BITCH: HOME, BEAUTY & STYLE A No-Nonsense Guide to Cutting the Crap Our of Your Life for a Better Body and a Kinder World

Barnouin, Kim Running Press (256 pp.) $20.00 paperback | Oct. 1, 2011 978-0-7624-3940-9

Barnouin (Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook, 2010, etc.) gives home, beauty and style some loving in this sassy new guide. Using the same formula that made vegan opus Skinny Bitch a whirlwind success (along with the subsequent sequels), the author trains her focus on the eco-friendly household. True to her brand’s form, Barnouin’s latest dispenses disturbing information about the toxicity and overall evilness of standard household |

items. She warns of benzene in paint and furniture (a known carcinogen), BPA in plastics (which imitates estrogen in the body and causes myriad health problems), phthalates in nail polish (linked to cancer in lab animals) and many more. Part of the series’ appeal emerges from the author’s ability make hippie philosophies seem glamorous, and this installment is no different. She explores each topic with girly banter and a good dose of verbal lashing. Some of Barnouin’s mantras will be too hardcore for average readers, such as avoiding bleach as a cleaning product. And her advice to abandon wardrobe purchases consisting of polyester, non-organic cotton, leather, down, fur or fabric dyes will leave fashionistas with little to wear. Those wondering if any of their possessions are safe may find solace in the decidedly more mellow segments on gardening, recycling, essential oils and DIY facials. Ladies seeking an irreverent guide to an eco-friendly home will enjoy this fun primer.

LIDIA’S ITALY IN AMERICA More Than 175 Lovely, Lusty Recipes—and Their Stories—from All Parts of Italian America Today

Bastianich, Lidia Matticchio and Manuali, Tanya Bastianich Knopf (384 pp.) $35.00 | Oct. 26, 2011 978-0-307-59567-6

Beloved cooking doyenne and successful restaurateur once again teams up with her daughter Tanya to present a cornucopia of regional Italian food. In Bastianich’s (Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, 2009, etc.) latest cookbook—the companion volume to her forthcoming TV series exploring Italian-American communities—her warm, welcoming demeanor permeates the more than 175 “lovely, lusty” recipes. Using nine categories, covering everything from hot and cold antipasti dishes to Zuppe, Meat, Poultry and Seafood, to a generous selection of nearly two-dozen delectable dessert ideas, Bastianich showcases the heritage she proudly wears on her sleeve. While many of these recipes could be considered basic dinner-table staples, she distinguishes the versions in this volume with regional profiles of the artisans who bring their American restaurants and food stores alive with authentic Italian cuisine. Recipes that feature antipasti from the Bronx, artichokes from Northern California and New England’s Halibut and Boston Cream Cakes are as alluring as the stories and generous photographs that accompany them. There’s even a section on Chicago versus New York–style pizza. A cake-heavy dessert section includes traditional almond paste–based Italian Rainbow Cookies, Spumoni, Tiramisu and an enterprising Blueberry Frangipane Tart. And be sure to read up on how to make your own Limoncello liqueur. This substantial collection furthers Bastianich’s tradition of bringing Italian culture to American tables by way of mouthwateringly hearty cuisine. (National author tour, with stops in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence, Kansas City, San Francisco and St. Louis.)

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“An ever-upbeat message from the well-connected yet modest veteran journalist.” from the time of our lives

MOLTO BATALI Simple Family Meals from My Home to Yours

Batali, Mario Ecco/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $29.99 | Oct. 25, 2011 978-0062095565

Batali (Molto Gusto, 2010, etc.) offers a collection of recipes focusing on simple, delicious, seasonal food. The author presents 12 exquisite meals in traditional Italian style: a soup, two pasta dishes, a main, four vegetable dishes and a dessert, with each meal intended to feed 8-12 people. “This represents the way I think we should eat with less reliance on proteins at the center of the plate and much more emphasis on a bigger variety of vegetable and grain courses at the table in our daily diet,” writes the author. Despite his best intentions, however, Batali readily admits that readers will unlikely prepare all the components of the meals he outlines; however, the possibilities for mixing and matching individual dishes are endless. His pleasantly conversational prefaces to each set of dishes, paired with the gorgeous full-color photography of Quentin Bacon, highlight the purity of his ingredients and the simplicity of Italian cuisine. Standout recipes include: Green Garlic Soup; Bucatini with Crayfish, Jalapenos and Basil; Porcini-Rubbed Prime Rib Eye; Wilted Arugula with Pine Nuts and Lemon; and Brown Sugar, Almond and Sour Cherry Torta di Uova. A quarter of the profits from the sale of the book will benefit the Mario Batali Foundation, whose mission is to provide hunger relief and nutrition education to children. Exciting recipes and meal-planning advice from an institution of classic Italian fare.

MWF SEEKING BFF My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend

Bertsche, Rachel Ballantine (368 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-345-52494-2 Tiresome chronicle of the author’s 52 friend dates in one year, and the psychology of friendship. Once the golden glow of a new marriage settled into a daily routine, Bertsche realized she needed more than the constant love and attention of her husband. “But when I need to talk my feelings to death,” she writes, “really sit and analyze why I am confused/lonely/ecstatic, he’s just not up to it.” Additionally, “in your late twenties, friend-making is not the natural process is used to be. In fact, as it turns out, I’ve completely forgotten how to do it.” Stringing together her encounters with potential friends, Bertsche drops in snippets of scientific research concerning the nature of friendship along with anything else she thinks is relevant, including breast cancer, depression and her interviews with professionals 1886

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regarding her friend quest. Along the way, the author experimented with online friending sites and experienced book clubs, a wellness cleanse at her yoga studio and a flash mob in her dance school. When she heard about a local friend matchmaker service, she signed up. “If I were more narcissistic,” she writes, “I’d think the local Chicago area was learning about my search and creating companies just for me.” Ultimately, her search succeeded. She was a better friend. She was more adventurous, independent and less naïve about the “idea of the attached-at-the-hip BFF.” She adhered to conventional rules of etiquette (many of which are generally learned in grade school), such as not interrupting others when they are speaking. Essentially, she became a happier, nicer version of herself. This contrived memoir might have been a mildly entertaining blog or magazine article. For adult women without a single friend, maybe some of this recycled information will help.

THE TIME OF OUR LIVES A Conversation About America Brokaw, Tom Random (320 pp.) $26.00 | Lg. Prt. $26.00 CD $40.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-4000-6458-8 978-0-7393-2683-1 Lg. Prt. 978-0-7393-4104-9 CD

The venerable newscaster administers advice for our ailing nation. Brokaw (Boom!: Voices of the Sixties Personal Reflections on the ’60s and Today, 2007, etc.) jumps into triage mode with this tenderhearted, nostalgic journalistic roundup, just in time for the upcoming presidential election. The author sounds the themes familiar to readers of his Greatest Generation (1998) and other works—e.g., that the United States is an immigrant nation and derives its strength from the enterprising mix, that Americans need to learn more science and math to compete with China and Korea, as well as embrace thriftier habits and volunteer for public service. Brokaw and his wife are grandparents now, and the author moves in an exalted retirement that allows him to reflect on the collision of generations throughout the decades. He harkens back continually to the values instilled in him growing up in South Dakota in the ’50s, with frugal parents who had come through the Depression and were determined to give their children more than they had. As a result, his “bridge generation” tended to be somewhat consumerist, “a little giddy by what we were earning and all the new opportunities to spend.” Brokaw is especially good at working the human-interest angle; he includes telling vignettes about people who’ve been bankrupt by the housing bubble, and others who have thrown their resources, money and talent into public service and community activism. Each chapter sounds a nostalgic theme—e.g., “Stepping Up and Signing Up” or “Balancing the Book of Life”—to assert how best to tap back into the rosy themes that made America great, as if this past can be regained. An ever-upbeat message from the well-connected yet modest veteran journalist.

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THE LOVE LIVES OF THE ARTISTS Five Stories of Creative Intimacy

Bullen, Daniel Counterpoint (336 pp.) $28.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-58243-775-0

In his debut, Bullen takes a new lens to the relationships shared between some of the world’s best-known writers,

artists and thinkers. His subjects include: Lou Andreas-Salomé and Rainer Maria Rilke, Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin. Bullen’s selection of pairings was contingent on two criteria—that “both partners were artists” and “both saw the question of open relationships as part of their creative projects.” While many of the aforementioned believed “their innovations in love would bolster their careers in art,” this proved to be only occasionally true. In most cases, their “innovations” came coupled with an utter lack of stability, crippling depression and indescribable loneliness. This was particularly true for Rilke, who abandoned his family for a Parisian adventure that he soon described as a “vast screaming prison.” Yet these well-known figures shared more than open relationships that often ended in heartache; they shared motivation as well. Rilke and Miller were both driven to create masterpieces in an effort to woo their lovers, while O’Keeffe, Kahlo and de Beauvoir used similar tact to earn the admiration of their artistically intimidating male suitors. Despite a mutual respect, many of these love affairs became stained by a mostly unspoken competitiveness, egos at war with one another while each creator struggled for recognition within the artistic community. The result: artists attempting to produce to their greatest potential without offending their muses. A captivating exploration of artists seeking personal happiness amid the turmoil of professional success.

COOK LIKE A ROCK STAR 125 Recipes, Lessons, and Culinary Secrets

Burrell, Anne with Lenzer, Suzanne Clarkson Potter (256 pp.) $27.99 | Oct. 1, 2011 978-0-307-88675-0

A popular Food Network personality offers detailed recipes to help home chefs rock the kitchen. Known best for her upbeat persona and edgy look, Burrell has appeared on the Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and battled alongside Mario Batali on Iron Chef America. In her first cookbook, she begins with the twin principles of preparation and comfort, assuring readers that any home chef can “rock out” and prepare delicious meals for family and friends. “Being a rock star in the |

kitchen means taking control, having fun, and thinking of cooking as entertainment,” she writes. She starts with recipes for piccolini (“Think of them as Italian tapas”), such as Figs Stuffed with Gorgonzola and Walnuts, Oyster Mushroom Chips and Eggplant Cakes with Ricotta. Appetizers like Parmigiano Flan give way to entrees as diverse and exciting as Duck Breast with Dried Fruit and Vin Santo, Seared Crispy-Skin Black Bass and Braised Cabbage Stuffed with Sausage and Fennel. Recipes featured in the chapters on Pasta, Sides and Desserts are equally varied and mouthwatering. Throughout, Burrell adds expertise and advice for both novice and experienced chefs—e.g., her warning about preparing risotto: “Brace yourself and really whip the hell out of the rice—the Italian word for this is mantecare, and this is the step the Italians don’t tell you about!” A spirited cookbook that will lead to fun and flavor at home.

LAUGHING AT WALL STREET How I Beat the Pros at Investing (By Reading Tabloids, Shopping at the Mall, and Connecting on Facebook) and How You Can Too Camillo, Chris St. Martin’s (240 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-312-65785-7

It took “self-directed” investor Camillo just three years to transform $20,000 into $2,000,000. It should take readers about three pages of this book to realize that duplicating that feat is going to take considerably longer. The tone is like a loud, late-night infomercial, and the opening paragraphs make striking it rich seem so easy. However, any thoughts readers may have of hacking through the Wall Street jungle in search of riches will soon give way to confusion over concepts like maximizing call options contracts. Camillo’s road to wealth was a convoluted path of highly technical and complicated financial tools. That’s not to say that replicating his considerable achievements is impossible; it’s just a lot more complicated than the author would have investment neophytes believe. All that’s needed, according to the author, is for readers to use their already finely tuned consumer radar to scope out the next Ugg boots sensation before Wall Street catches on. The bigwigs in their ivory towers, he writes, have a huge blind spot when it comes to zeroing in on such things. We Main Street types, on the other hand, have the inside track because our kids happen to be the arbiters of all things cool and popular. Even if Camillo’s premise is correct, actually capitalizing on Main Street’s alleged entrepreneurial advantage over Wall Street requires a lot more technical expertise than is available in this high-pressure how-to guide. It’s probably a good place to start, but fresh-faced investors simply need more information. Initially tantalizing until the sober reality of complicated investing tactics kicks in.

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“An impressive guide for teaching religious tolerance and respect to readers of all ages.” from beyond religion

THE UNQUIET AMERICAN Richard Holbrooke in the World

Chollet, Derek and Power, Samantha–Eds. PublicAffairs (400 pp.) $29.99 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-1-61039-078-1 An elucidating collection of writing by and about the late fiery, outspoken, undeniably capable United Nations ambassador and longtime diplomat. Holbrooke (1941–2010) died suddenly at age 69, while serving his final mission as the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, appointed by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. In this omnibus, which incorporates many of his fine, reflective essays, former State Department colleagues like Strobe Talbott, prominent journalists such as Jonathan Alter and widow Kati Marton write movingly about Holbrooke’s long and eventful life. His successful career included his diplomatic cutting-of-teeth in Vietnam in the early 1960s, editing Foreign Policy magazine, appointments during every Democratic presidential administration since and including Jimmy Carter’s, negotiating the Bosnia war treaty in 1995 (for which he was considered for a Nobel Peace Prize) and spearheading a more assertive approach to AIDS/HIV awareness among the global business community while at the UN, among many other notable accomplishments. Growing up in Scarsdale, N.Y., Holbrooke heeded JFK’s idealistic call to “do” for his country and entered the Foreign Service after college. His work on “pacification strategy” as part of the American counterinsurgency effort in Vietnam gave him a unique view on the failed U.S. effort there, which lent him expertise and credibility in diplomacy initiatives decades later in “Ak-Pak.” He was chosen as the youngest member of the American delegation to the Paris Peace Talks led by Averell Harriman in 1968, and helped assemble the Pentagon Papers. He worked alternately on Wall Street and as ambassador to Germany in the early Clinton presidency, and he was in favor of expanding NATO and the EU and of reforming the State Department as well as the UN. Holbrooke could be abrasive, ambitious and publicity-savvy; one observer noted, “He was as good at seducing journalists as he was at bullying dictators like Milosevic.” Reverential but mostly evenhanded assessment of a singular diplomat. (Agent: Amanda Urban)

BEYOND RELIGION Ethics for a Whole World

Dalai Lama Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (192 pp.) $24.00 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-547-63635-1 The Dalai Lama (A Profound Mind: Cultivating Wisdom in Everyday Life, 2011, etc.) proposes an ethical approach to a happier existence that transcends religion. While discussing the breakdown of organized religion, His Holiness acknowledges that “although humans can manage without religion, they cannot manage without inner values.” He begins by discussing his views in a secular manner: “I offer my thoughts not as a Buddhist, nor as a religious believer, but simply as one human being among nearly seven billion others, who cares about the fate of humanity and wants to do something to safeguard and improve its future.” He successfully utilizes anecdotes about life experiences and observations that help deepen the meaning of his insights. His sincerity is often engaging and reveals his own limitations, such as when he writes of a mother who stayed loyally awake all night on an airplane to soothe her children before confessing he could never be equally patient. In the second half, the author focuses on how to integrate his beliefs into everyday life. He thoroughly discusses obstacles that can get in the way and how to overcome them through emotional awareness. He warns that “ignoring or suppressing emotion can actually aggravate the problem and make them intensify, at which point, like a swollen river bursting its banks, they will find expression in all kinds of unexpected negative thoughts and behavior.” An impressive guide for teaching religious tolerance and respect to readers of all ages.

JEWS AND BOOZE Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition Davis, Marni New York Univ. (248 pp.) $32.00 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-8147-2028-8

In her debut, Davis (History/Georgia State Univ.) suggests that anti-Semitism and Prohibition were parallel expressions of political disquiet during the turn

of the last century. As the nation’s fifth-largest industry, alcohol was an important source of public revenue. The author cites statistics showing the explosive growth of retail liquor dealers: 90,000 in 1865, 175,000 in 1880 and nearly 200,000 in 1900. The industry offered an important niche for Jews from Central Europe who had practiced the trade in the old country and provided them a pathway for admission into American society despite obstacles such as the tie-ins between 1888

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brewers and saloons. Davis describes the social networks and community relationships established by this early wave of American Jews who became leaders in their broader communities, practiced Reform Judaism while maintaining their ethnic and religious roots, and favored assimilation. While they supported moderation in the use of alcohol, they did not support Prohibition. “The anti-alcohol movement,” writes the author, “absorbed and tapped into populist anxieties about the concentration of capital and exploitation of labor and consumers.” She describes this as scapegoating immigrants who were blamed for the “increasingly urban and commercial nature of the American economy,” and it spawned anti-Semitic rhetoric, which painted “Jews as an alien and malevolent force in the American economy” that turned the drunken lower classes into their political pawns. Davis touches on strains within the Jewish community as later waves of Eastern European Jews rejected the religious liberalism of their Jewish predecessors. With Prohibition, most Jews left the industry, but bootleggers like the Bronfman family became wealthy and were accepted into high society, and the mafia flourished—led by Al Capone, “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky and others. A fascinating, nuanced social history.

THE PLOTS AGAINST THE PRESIDENT FDR, a Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right

Denton, Sally Bloomsbury (288 pp.) $28.00 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-60819-089-8

Investigative journalist Denton (Pink Lady: The Many Lives of Helen Gahagan Douglas, 2009, etc.) follows critical moments in the career of four-term president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, demonized by far left and far right, escaped an assassin’s bullet and a bizarre coup plot. In this tale of a popular president, resentful Wall Street bankers and wacko wing-nuts, the author has found a story whose parallels to today are eerie—perhaps more starkly than they merit because of the prominence she awards them. She focuses on two episodes: the gunshots fired by Giuseppe Zangara at FDR in 1933 following a speech in Miami and the crack-brained coup attempt supposedly spearheaded by bond trader Gerald MacGuire, who was fronting for some conservative powerhouse businessmen who were unhappy with FDR’s early financial moves. MacGuire had approached war hero Marine General Smedley Darlington Butler about his plot; aghast, Butler listened and then blew the whistle. Subsequently—and perhaps consequently?—FDR cracked down even harder on Wall Street and the banks. Denton’s research, though wide and deep, suffers some because she could find out nothing of consequence about assassination |

threats from the close-mouthed Secret Service—though she does credit the FBI for cooperation. Additionally, she spends so many pages summarizing the political rise, personal life and early presidency of FDR that the title of the book sometimes seems misrepresentative. Demonstrates how political popularity has a bitter, resentful relative who acts as if elections are valid only when his side wins—and who sometimes packs heat. (8-page black-and-white insert. Author events in Washington, D.C. area)

MODELS.BEHAVING.BADLY. Why Confusing Illusion with Reality Can Lead to Disaster, on Wall Street and in Life

Derman, Emanuel Free Press (240 pp.) $26.00 | Oct. 25, 2011 978-1-4391-6498-3

A fascinating cross-disciplinary exploration of how and why financial and scientific models fail. Derman (Financial Engineering/Columbia Univ.; My Life as a Quant, 2004) is a former theoretical physicist turned Wall Street financial engineer, or quantitative analyst (“quant”). Having previously written about the world of quantitative finance, he now sets out to discover why existing financial models failed to predict the economic crisis of 2007-08. Quants use mathematics and physics to create their predictions of how markets work; Derman argues that these models fail to account for the human element, or what John Maynard Keynes called “animal sprits.” Drawing on his experience as a child in Apartheid South Africa, the author exposes the failure of models and theories when applied to politics. By incorporating philosophy, physics, social theory and economics, he presents an eclectic, multidisciplinary discussion about what happens when models are taken too seriously and the human factor is ignored. “The greatest conceptual danger is idolatry; believing that someone can write down a theory that encapsulates human behavior and thereby free you of the obligation to think for yourself,” he writes. Derman draws intriguing connections between the language of physics and economics, and while the material may be complex for nonphysicists, the author’s prose writing is fluid and makes many of these complicated theories accessible. A unique examination of the limits of models and theories in understanding and predicting human behavior, and a nice rejoinder to the equations-can-solve-or-explaineverything crowd.

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“An unpredictable, unfailingly intelligent demonstration of a unique wit given free reign.” from deliriously happy

YOU NEED A SCHOOLHOUSE Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South Deutsch, Stephanie Northwestern Univ. (208 pp.) $24.95 | Dec. 30, 2011 978-0-8101-2790-6

A tribute to the productive partnership between Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald, a now largely forgotten philanthropist who made his fortune in the retail business as the president of Sears, Roebuck and Company. The two met in Chicago in 1911: “Washington regularly cultivated wealthy people who might donate money to Tuskegee Institute” and Rosenwald was “interested in using his money promote the well-being of African Americans.” Both were well known and well respected at the time of their first encounter. But where Rosenwald was the middle-class son of Jewish immigrant parents who worked their way from poverty into affluence, Washington was an ex-slave who had to fight for everything he had, including an education. Their remarkable collaboration produced almost 5,000 “Rosenwald schools” scattered throughout “every state of the American South, from Maryland to Texas.” Black children otherwise denied access to public instruction because of Jim Crow laws could count on receiving a quality education that would help them improve their lives. But the Rosenwald schools did more than educate a black underclass that lived in the shadow of a racist white society. As Deutsch notes, they gave rise to “the parents of the generation who marched and sang and risked their lives in the revolution for equal justice under law.” A moving, inspirational story about an important link in the historical chain that led to the civil-rights movement and a new, more truly democratic chapter in American history.

DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY and Other Bad Thoughts

Doyle, Larry Ecco/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-06-196683-5

The Thurber Prize winner struts his stuff. Doyle (Go, Mutants!, 2010, etc.) collects a dizzyingly diverse and consistently hilarious body of short humor pieces originally published in a variety of publications, making a case for the former Simpsons scribe as one of the premier practitioners of the form. Encompassing parody, absurdism, black satire, loopy ephemera and unhinged silliness, the author displays a mastery of varied stylistic approaches and comic voices, from the Pynchonesque t.V. to a bravura approximation of Mark Twain in Huck of Darkness, in which “lost” passages from Huckleberry Finn are re-inserted into the narrative, 1890

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making the classic’s subtextual homosexual content decidedly more emphatic. It’s hard to pin a consistent comic philosophy on Doyle’s pieces, aside from a Simpsons-like devotion to dismantling the conventions of social and cultural mores with ruthless efficiency. Highlights include an epic wedding invitation tweaking the smug bride’s increasingly berserk instructions for those attending her special day; a letter from summer camp that reads like the fever dream of a young G. Gordon Liddy; a surreally pathetic newsletter detailing the continuing trauma and attendant delusions of a romantic breakup; and a savage, dogcentric takedown of memoirists in the manner of James Frey and Augusten Burroughs. Doyle repeatedly employs such devices as absurd lists (pretentious ice cream flavors, ideas for pet stores) and magazine-style questionnaires to help pace the collection and suggest a formal consistency, but the greatest pleasure is the sheer range of tones and subject matter on display. An unpredictable, unfailingly intelligent demonstration of a unique wit given free reign. (Author appearances in Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C.)

THE BEAUTY AND THE SORROW An Intimate History of the First World War Englund, Peter Translated by Graves, Peter Knopf (512 pp.) $35.00 | Nov. 11, 2011 978-0-307-59386-3 978-0-307-70138-1 e-book

The Great War, as experienced by 20 ordinary people. There is no shortage of histories of World War I written from the viewpoints of the generals and statesmen who drove the grand strategies. Swedish historian Englund (The Battle that Shook Europe: Poltova and the Birth of the Russian Empire, 2002, etc.) takes a different approach, creating a history of the war as perceived by 20 individuals scattered across the globe. Among them: an Australian woman driving ambulances for the Serbian army; a Venezuelan soldier of fortune in the Ottoman cavalry; the American wife of a Polish aristocrat, whose home was wrecked and then turned into a hospital for typhus victims by the occupying Germans; a French civil servant; a Scotsman fighting Germans in East Africa, a 12-year-old German girl, and a dozen others. The war began for them in an explosion of optimistic patriotism but descended inexorably into cynicism, horror, suffering, privation and exhaustion. Through it all they endured, trying to make sense of it and bear up with their dignity and humanity intact. There are adventures and battles, of course, but also many moments of quiet contemplation with closely observed details of street scenes, restaurants, railway stations and deserted battlefields. Englund unobtrusively includes helpful background information within the text or in footnotes. The text is based largely on diaries, letters and memoirs, from which the author quotes copiously, but most of the narrative

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is his own, an artful condensation of his source materials into brief passages faithful to the experiences and emotional states of his subjects. Largely written in the present tense to maintain the sense of immediacy, it is by turns pithy, lyrical, colorful, poignant and endlessly absorbing. An exquisite book. (32 photographs)

CIAO ITALIA FAMILY CLASSICS More Than 200 Treasured Recipes from Three Generations of Italian Cooks

Esposito, Mary Ann St. Martin’s (464 pp.) $40.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-312-57121-4

A primer for authentic Italian cooking from the host of the long-running PBS show Ciao Italia. Esposito (Caio Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites, 2009, etc.) returns with Italian recipes both familiar and unfamiliar; her section on sauces not only includes recipes for pesto and tomato sauce, but also Salmoriglio, a Sicilian sauce made with lemon and olive oil. The author provides a helpful resource for cooks wishing to deepen their knowledge of the principles behind Italian cooking, while simultaneously broadening their repertoire of Italian dishes. Esposito begins with an introduction to “Italian Pantry Basics,” a helpful encyclopedia of the ingredients that appear most often. Organized according to different main ingredients and rife with anecdotes, history and additional information about techniques, the book emphasizes local, seasonal and organic produce and meat. Even so, most ingredients can be easily found in any chain grocery store. Recipes range in difficulty but are clear and easy to follow. Readers who wish to use storebought pasta are accommodated, as are those who want to try their hand at homemade Spinach Pasta. Most recipes are well within the range of a moderately experienced cook. Uncooked Cherry Tomato Sauce could easily be put together by a child, and Creamy Cauliflower Baked in a Mold, though requiring more skill, would undoubtedly make an impression at a dinner party. Complete, authoritative and accessible guide to Italian ingredients, cooking and cuisine.

ALMOST PRESIDENT The Men Who Lost the Race but Changed the Nation Farris, Scott Lyons Press (352 pp.) $24.95 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-7627-6378-8

A lively, opinionated examination of the instructive role of the loser in presidential races. Former political columnist and campaign manager Farris looks at men (the frontrunners have so far |

all been men) who have been instrumental in American politics, for better or worse. These include the masterly legislator Henry Clay, who ran and lost three times against Jacksonian “tyranny” but whose “American System” embraced an active, liberal government role that helped redefine the Democratic Party to become, nominally in turn, the Whigs and then the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, and Vice President Al Gore, whose media savvy in spreading the message of global warming was not unlike William Jennings Bryan’s manipulation of the media in disseminating his liberal Christian message. Farris considers chronologically the role of Stephen Douglas in helping keep the Union together by throwing his support behind Lincoln despite the bitter loss of the 1860 election, and thus ensuring his party would have a viable future after the war. Thomas E. Dewey, conceding to FDR in 1944, then Harry Truman in 1948, helped reconcile the Republican Party with the New Deal, an important lesson ignored by Barry Goldwater in his losing campaign against Lyndon Johnson in 1964, when Goldwater starkly delineated the Conservative movement, gaining the white Democratic South but losing blacks and minorities. Adlai Stevenson, George McGovern and Ross Perot all earn riveting, sympathetic treatments, and in a thoroughgoing appendix, Farris includes other important figures such as Hubert Humphrey and Wendell Willkie. A most useful aide-mémoire for situating the upcoming presidential slugfest.

SHOCKAHOLIC

Fisher, Carrie Simon & Schuster (160 pp.) $25.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7432-6482-2 Actress and screenwriter Fisher (Wishful Drinking, 2008, etc.) assembles “sort of an anecdotal memoir of a potentially more than partial amnesiac.” The author’s experience as a standup comedian comes through in the humor of the book, but change the names and Hollywood details and her stories have the qualities of those overheard on a bus: gossipy, wisecracking, profane and rambling. The second and last chapters of the book contain the most substantive material. Fisher describes her routine electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatments) for manic depression and its effects on her. While the therapy blocked her near-term memories and lacerated her vocabulary, “[i]t did for me what drugs had done for me. It was like a mute button muffling the noise of my shrieking feelings.” The book ends as Fisher builds a relationship with her declining father before he passed away. In between these two chapters, the material is fluffy and bland. Fisher prattles on about Christmas Eve with Michael Jackson (his last), gaining then losing weight, her flatulent stepfather, verbal sparring with Ted Kennedy and her ex-stepmother Elizabeth Taylor. The book lacks an overall structure, reading instead like a series of outtakes from Wishful Drinking, combined with anecdotes of recent events in her life. When friend Greg Stevens died in Fisher’s bed from a combination of sleep apnea and

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“Although he can go on too much about how unaffected and genuine he is, Garner comes across as likable on the page as he does on screen.” from the garner files

oxycontin use, she blamed herself, dove back into drugs, lost her daughter and checked into rehab. Fisher shares these struggles in a few sentences with little description or insight. Not exactly electrifying reading. (15 photos.Agent: Suzanne Gluck)

THE SCATTERED TRIBE Traveling the Diaspora from Cuba to India to Tahiti & Beyond

Frank, Ben G. Globe Pequot (320 pp.) $17.95 paperback | Oct. 18, 2011 978-0-7627-7033-5

Travel-guide scribe Frank (A Travel Guide to the Jewish Caribbean and South America, 2004, etc.) describes his experience in visiting “little-known Jewish enclaves in the most unusual places” in an effort to “meet my people and learn how they lived and survived.” The communities visited include Russia, the Caribbean, Asia, North Africa, Cuba and Israel. Some, like Vietnam, are made up of only a few expatriates, while others, like those in Russia, are returning to vitality after decades of repression. The author shows his guidebook-writing background, including plenty of street addresses of sites and other information useful to travelers. The author also includes plenty of non-Jewish–related facts. Frank often digresses into historical, political and literary references, as well as personal memories connected to his destinations. The narrative has a genial, meandering style, though it lacks the grace of the finest travel writing. While the author relates some fascinating stories of the people he encounters, the somewhat matter-of-fact presentation fails to truly convey their personalities and emotions or get to the heart of what it’s like to live as a Jew in Myanmar or Tahiti. Nevertheless, there is something to be learned here for anyone seeking insight into the current state of the Jewish diaspora, or a basic knowledge of Jewish life in the various places visited by the author. Though Frank’s depictions of his travels are not quite topnotch fare, his obvious knowledge and passion for the subject may inspire readers to follow in his footsteps. Worthwhile as a travel guide to exotic Jewish areas, though less successful as a compelling narrative.

SEE ME NAKED Stories of Sexual Exile in American Christianity Frykholm, Amy Beacon (208 pp.) $24.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-8070-0466-1

A biographer and religious theorist analyzes the great divide between healthy sexual expression and spirituality in modern Christianity. “Perhaps it is a relief to check our bodies at the door when 1892

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we go to church,” writes Frykholm, but the candid plights described by the nine individuals he profiles were not resolved that effortlessly. The author focused on interviews with Protestant Christians because she believes the disharmony in connecting “one’s whole self to something spiritual” has significant Protestant roots. Each of her subjects shares “the pain of a toxic culture of religion and sexuality,” and their tales are rife with fear, shame and isolation. Frykholm begins with recollections of her adolescence, when her limits were tested by an increasingly frisky boyfriend while her sensibilities continued to be shaped by her Baptist roots. In the first section, both “Sarah,” the daughter of a Korean Presbyterian minister, and “Mark,” the son of a suburban Ohio Methodist minister, found themselves estranged from Christianity once they were faced with the “crisis” of sexuality. Other frank memories of sex addiction, abuse and street prostitution are equally powerful. Frykholm acknowledges that the homosexual population wrestles frequently with this conundrum, and that demographic is featured prominently. Paul emerged as a successful gay pastor in his community despite coming out publicly to his congregation, while Megan embraced a lesbian relationship, but only after years of self-doubt and hesitancy. Using keen insight and a host of memorable voices, Frykholm successfully relates her desire to utilize “our stories, our bodies, our sexualities, our minds, and our souls to love one another better.” A culturally significant collection that explores the challenges of reconciling pleasure with piety.

THE GARNER FILES

Garner, James and Winokur, Jon Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $25.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-4516-4260-5 With Winokur (The Big Book of Irony, 2007, etc.) Garner tells his life story with the same wry, self-effacing charm that characterized his classic TV characters: the laidback cowboy Bret Maverick and the down-on-his-heels gumshoe Jim Rockford. Raised in Depression-era Oklahoma by an alcoholic father and abusive stepmother, Garner escaped to Hollywood, got his own hit show (Maverick) before he was 30 and made movies. He has stayed married to the same woman for over 50 years. Fate has, for the most part, been kind: “The only reason I’m an actor is that a lady pulled out of a parking space in front of a producer’s office.” Along the way, he also spent a hellish season in the Korean War and received two Purple Hearts in Korea—though he claims that he “didn’t save anybody but myself.” Garner praises mentors such as Henry Fonda and Marlon Brando and offers testier assessments of his late neighbor and competitor Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson (“a bitter, belligerent SOB”) and Charlton Heston (“stiff as a board”). He gives great inside dope on the technical demands of making of his racing hit Grand Prix (1966), the sheer physical toll action roles can take on the body and the equally brutal business end of Hollywood, where

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Garner has survived two legendary you’ll-never-work-in-thistown-again run-ins with the studios (“It was like being in business with the Mafia, only Universal didn’t need a gun, just a pencil”). The author is also full of contradictions. He doesn’t believe in glorifying the military but supports a memorial for Korean War veterans, calls himself a coward but continually points out that he never backs down from a fight and claims not to take acting too seriously (“I have to laugh when I hear actors talking about their art”) but clearly knows the craft and respects it. Although he can go on too much about how unaffected and genuine he is, Garner comes across as likable on the page as he does on screen. (Agent: Phylis Wender)

THE HEIRLOOM LIFE GARDENER The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally Gettle, Jere & Gettle, Emilee with Sutherland, Meghan Hyperion (256 pp.) $29.99 | Oct. 1, 2011 978-1-4013-2439-1

The founders of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company present an overview of the heirloom seed movement. When other kids his age were outdoors playing tag, Jere Gettle spent his childhood combing through seed catalogues. It was then that he first noticed a disturbing trend: Each year an increasing number of seeds were disappearing. To counteract this, he started saving his own seeds. Fast forward two decades later and Gettle, along with wife Emilee, are now the proprietors of one of the country’s most successful heirloom seed companies. Jere, who the New York Times once referred to as “the Indiana Jones of seeds,” has traveled the world in search of the seeds he now makes readily available to consumers. In their debut book, the Gettles show novices how to get away from the standard fare found in their neighbors’ plots and grow truly amazing varieties. Their primer opens with an introduction to heirloom variety seeds and a basic gardening guide before moving on to highlight a variety of backyard favorites. Beginning alphabetically with amaranth and ending with watermelon, the Gettles cover the cultivation, cooking and seed-saving for an extraordinary number of plant varieties. Readers will find the ancestral versions of the most common produce so markedly different from their grocery-store counterparts that they might think they’ve been farmed on a different planet altogether.

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A HAPPY POCKET FULL OF MONEY Infinite Wealth and Abundance in the Here and Now

Gikandi, David Cameron Hampton Roads (288 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Oct. 1, 2011 9781571746627

A Kenyan real-estate investor briefly explains the nature of reality and reveals how a truer understanding of it can shower readers with wealth and abundance. Gikandi relies on quantum physics and snatches of mysticism to portray reality as a glimmering, interconnected energy field of infinite possibility. According to the author, it is not necessary to strive to grow rich but only to realize that wealth and abundance are there for the taking. In Gikandi’s world, there’s no need to knock on the door; it is always open if readers know how and where to find it. And since we often end up with exactly what we expect to get, why shouldn’t we expect the best? Readers should have a clear plan; visualize success; love money; and always be joyful, grateful and generous. Also helpful is the repetition of mantras that promote wealth consciousness. Throughout the book, the words “I am wealth, I am abundance, I am joy” appear frequently, dropped in boldface between paragraphs in a seemingly random pattern and presumably meant to sink into the reader’s consciousness. But does this cosmic sense of optimism hold up? Should people who believe that money will roll in as needed risk buying houses and other material things they can’t afford? Will joy help pay the bills? Probably not, though the message may be inspirational for certain readers. A chimerical mishmash.

DARKMARKET Cyberthieves, Cybercops, and You

Glenny, Misha Knopf (288 pp.) $26.95 | Oct. 4, 2011 978-0-307-59293-4 978-0-307-70055-1 e-book

A complex, eye-opening account of cybercrime, one of the world’s fastest growing sectors of criminal activity. Former BBC Central Europe correspondent Glenny (McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal World, 2008, etc.) draws on interviews, court records and website archives to craft this chronicle of a new and invisible form of crime made possible by the Internet. Unlike ordinary criminals, identity thieves, creditcard fraudsters and other cyber criminals engage in activities that are virtual, transnational and so technical in nature that they are difficult to prove in court. By 2004, with most countries and companies taking a haphazard approach to network security, sophisticated criminals were stealing millions from institutions

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worldwide. Glenny’s main focus is DarkMarket, which became the world’s top English-language cybercrime site, a digital “supermarket” that sold stolen identities and credit-card data that cost the banking industry tens of millions. Looking like any other message board, the site became the place where manufacturers of skimming machines (devices to read card data) could find a market, and where holders of credit-card databases could recruit people to extract cash from ATMs. Founded in 2005 by Renukanth Subramaniam, a Sri Lankan-born British citizen, the underground Internet forum was shut down in 2008 after FBI agent J. Keith Mularski infiltrated the group like a “cyber Donnie Brasco.” Disguised as hacker “Master Splynter,” the agent was so successful that he wound up running the server that hosted DarkMarket from his offices in the National Cyber Forensics Training Alliance in Pittsburgh. With a wealth of detail that occasionally slows the narrative, Glenny describes the global activities of hackers, cops, lawyers, thieves and others, all of whom try to maximize their effectiveness in a virtual world where anything goes. The subtitle of the book is misleading; there is little in the book about “you” the reader, except as an object to be bilked by online hoodlums. Since 2008, writes the author, cybercrime has gone deeper underground. Scary reading. (Author tour to Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C. Agent: Michael Carlisle)

ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE Why Our Planet Is Unique

Gribbin, John Wiley (256 pp.) $25.95 | Dec. 20, 2011 978-1-118-14797-9

The British astrophysicist and prolific science writer presents a skillful, contrarian examination of the possibility of intelligent life beyond Earth. Gribbin (In Search of the Multiverse, 2010, etc.) begins with a lucid discussion of galaxy, star and planet formation. Since life on Earth appeared instantly (in geological terms) after the young planet settled down, it’s mathematically probable that life develops quickly on habitable planets, and planets themselves seem almost universal. Sadly, Gribbin concludes that conditions favorable to habitable planets are rare. Liquid water must be present. If the Earth’s orbit (amazingly circular, another rarity) were one percent further or five percent nearer to the sun, the inhabitants of Earth would be out of luck. Another blessing is our huge moon, which stabilizes the Earth; it and the huge planet Jupiter sweep the solar system largely clear of debris that would normally bombard our planet. Our sun is extraordinarily well behaved and long lived. Larger stars burn out too quickly to allow time for life, and most smaller ones are too unstable. Finally, earthly life’s four-billion-year progression to Homo sapiens included regular disasters (asteroid strikes, abrupt climatic changes, freezeovers), which are guaranteed to continue and which make the survival of advanced civilization (as opposed to simple life) problematic. 1894

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Within most readers’ lifetimes, astronomers will possess technology to detect water, oxygen and tolerable temperatures around extra-solar planets. Predictions of scientific discoveries have a poor success rate, so readers should keep their hopes up as they enjoy this thought-provoking history of the universe and the prerequisites of life.

UNREAL ESTATE Money, Ambition, and the Lust for Land in Los Angeles

Gross, Michael Broadway (496 pp.) $28.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7679-3265-3 978-0-7679-3266-0 e-book

Location, location, location. Gross (Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum, 2009, etc.) presents a history of Los Angeles land development that is rich in incident and full of thwarted ambition, visionary zeal and conspicuous consumption. The book will appeal mainly to those who first turn to the real-estate section of the newspaper, those armchair moguls who salivate at the specs of sumptuous mansions and impossibly tony addresses. The author is generous with salacious gossip about such families as the Bells, the Greens and the Jansses, socially ambitious builders who forged such exclusive havens for the rich as Bel Air and Beverly Hills and whose family histories are rife with alcoholism, bitter infighting, sex scandals and suicide. This being L.A., there are also accounts of the housing adventures of movie stars such as Harold Lloyd, whose pleasure palace Greenacres, with its opulent screening room, tennis courts and bowling alley, stands as a monument to fun—a welcome respite from the unlovely status-driven mania of much of the book’s sprawling cast. Gross has clearly done his research, and many anecdotes—such as the extremes taken by the owners of the manse seen in the opening credits of the Beverly Hillbillies to shield their property from invasive tourists—have a comic snap that enliven the proceedings. In addition, there is schadenfreude to be found in the accounts of overreaching billionaires and scandal-rocked social-register types. However, the endless tallying of who sold what to whom for how much becomes wearying, and a gradual feeling of disgust at so much money and ego run amok is difficult to avoid. A juicy, breezily told social history of La La Land, deal by deal. (Author events in New York and Los Angeles. Agent: Dan Strone)

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ADMIRAL NIMITZ The Commander of the Pacific Ocean Theater Harris, Brayton Palgrave Macmillan (256 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-230-10765-6

A military historian’s look at the fivestar admiral “who commanded the 2 million men and 1000 ships that won the war in the Pacific.” When Chester W. Nimitz (1885–1966) entered the Naval Academy, the Spanish-American War had only recently concluded. By the end of his distinguished career, the U.S. Navy featured supercarriers and nuclear submarines, innovations he’d vigorously championed. Retired Navy captain Harris (War News: Blue & Gray in Black & White: Newspapers in the Civil War, 2010, etc.) revisits every stage of Nimitz’s era-straddling career, from his Texas boyhood and Annapolis years through his various postings and commands, to his crowning 1945 appointment as Chief of Naval Operations, where his postwar pushback against the move to unify the armed services probably preserved naval aviation and the Marine Corps. The bulk of this short narrative, however, focuses on Nimitz’s command of land, sea and air forces in the Pacific during World War II. FDR ordered Nimitz to Pearl Harbor only days after it was attacked. He took over a shattered force and eventually orchestrated a string of naval battles and island conquests that culminated in the Japanese surrender, with Nimitz signing for the United States. Although it was Nimitz who memorably said of the Marines on Iwo Jima, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue,” he was neither especially eloquent nor charismatic. Rather, he was a steady leader whose outward calm and ready supply of jokes masked the partial deafness and nervous tension that plagued him, and he was a superb handler of me. Intolerant of poor performance or discourtesy and horrified by any internecine squabbling, Nimitz rarely permitted his feelings to show. Still, he once explained the framed photo of Gen. MacArthur he kept on his desk as a reminder “not to be a horse’s ass and make Jovian pronouncements complete with thunderbolts.” For military buffs, surely, but also for general readers looking for an introduction to the Navy’s senior hero of WWII.

HORSES NEVER LIE ABOUT LOVE The Story of a True Heart Named True Colors Harris, Jana Free Press (288 pp.) $24.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-4516-0584-6

A romantic exploration of horse ownership. Poet and novelist Harris (Creative Writing/Univ. of Washington; Oh How Can I Keep On Singing?: Voices of Pioneer Women, 2003, etc.) examines the complexities of her |

passionate avocation of raising horses. The center of the narrative is her relationship with True Colors, the then-8-year-old blood bay mare Harris and her husband acquired in 1986 as the first step toward fulfilling the author’s childhood dream of breeding horses. Captivated at a young age by equine power and grace, Harris began riding and became adept enough as a young adult to compete in dressage. True Colors was to be the first broodmare brought to the couple’s farm at the foot of Washington’s Cascade Mountains, for the dual purpose of breeding and riding. But Harris soon found they got more and less than they bargained for: True Colors had been so traumatized by being caught in a fire that she was terrified of humans. Thus began the tense psychological dance between owner and horse, as Harris tried to solve the mystery of healing and training this massive animal. While the author quickly realized that her dreams of riding competitively with True Colors would never materialize, she began to recognize the horse’s independence, protectiveness and strength of character. In engrossing detail, Harris describes the physical challenges of horse rearing, from assisting in the birth and first steps of a foal creature to reckoning with the unbridled power of a testosterone-crazed stallion and dealing with the eccentricities of blacksmiths and veterinarians. However, the author never answers the basic question posed early on—what is the meaning of these great beasts in her life? Animal lovers will enjoy the sharp scrutiny of the horse’s behavior but may wish for greater authorial introspection. (Black-and-white photos throughout. Agent: Robin Straus)

IN THOUGHT AND ACTION The Enigmatic Life of S.I. Hayakawa

Haslam, Gerald W. and Haslam, Janice E. Bison/Univ. of Nebraska (456 pp.) $26.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-8032-3764-3

Biography of a polarizing popularizer of general semantics and one-term senator from California. Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa (1906– 1992), born in Vancouver of aristocratic Japanese parents who returned to Japan when he entered college, never learned Japanese and always thought of himself as North American. He studied and taught English literature in Canada and the United States and aspired to be a modernist poet like one of his heroes, T.S. Eliot. By the time he began teaching at the University of Wisconsin in 1936, he had affected the manners and speech of an Oxford don, a self-presentation that led others to give him the nickname of Don, which would stick. Hayakawa first made his mark as the author of a manual for students of writing that came to be called Language in Thought and Action, based on the idea of general semantics formulated by Alfred Korzybski, a supposedly scientific means of analyzing the meanings of words. Always restless in mind and ambitious in spirit, Hayakawa used the magazine he founded, ETC., to muse about favorite subjects like jazz, automobile design and civil rights. His early liberalism, which made him suspect in the McCarthy years, yielded to an

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“Journalist Hellwarth chronicles American efforts to create an underwater habitat that would open the ocean’s depths to exploration, at the same time that astronauts were racing to the moon.” from sealab

eccentric conservatism in the ’60s, particularly in his iconic role as acting president at San Francisco State University. Haslam (English Emeritus/Sonoma State Univ.; Workin’ Man Blues: Country Music in California, 1999, etc.), a student and colleague of his subject’s, admits that while he thought much of the left’s criticism of Hayakawa was unfair, he and the senator drifted apart politically as well as professionally. Nevertheless, the book is a promise kept to Hayakawa’s wife. Haslam (with his own wife as partner) was a good choice for biographer. He clearly admired his subject but is fair (though discreet) about his flaws, including a reputation for philandering. Absorbing study of a surprising, multifaceted life. (30 illustrations)

10 MINDFUL MINUTES Giving Our Children—and Ourselves—the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happier Lives

Hawn, Goldie with Holden, Wendy Perigee/Penguin (256 pp.) $24.00 | Oct. 3, 2011 978-0-399-53606-9

Beloved actress demonstrates how a few minutes per day can change the way we see the world. Following on the heels of her bestselling memoir, Hawn (A Lotus Grows in the Mud, 2005) shares the success of MindUP, a social and emotional learning program developed by her Hawn Foundation with the support of experts and used in elementary schools. She describes MindUP as a program that teaches children the mechanics of their own brain, allowing “them to become more self-aware and…to manage and reduce their own stress. It effectively puts them in control of the way they respond to the outside world.” These tools have resulted in a positive change in the way children, as well as adults, perceive how their brains influence their lives. Hawn shares personal anecdotes that illustrate the MindUP theory in action, juxtaposed against scientific evidence and practical exercises. She instructs readers on how to find “teachable moments to share discoveries—at the dinner table, in the car, or on the way to school—whenever and wherever it feels appropriate.” Decent advice for young children; some adaptations for teens would be beneficial.

SEALAB America’s Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor Hellwarth, Ben Simon & Schuster (400 pp.) $28.00 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-7432-4745-0

Journalist Hellwarth chronicles American efforts to create an underwater habitat that would open the ocean’s depths to exploration, at the same time that astronauts were racing to the moon. In 1959, Navy doctor George Bond, was given the project to train and equip seamen to escape from damaged submarines while avoiding the bends, the often-fatal arterial gas embolisms caused by rapid decompression of air as a diver rapidly surfaces. Bond envisaged expanding the program beyond rescue missions to encompass a wide range of underwater activities—scientific and industrial as well as military. He anticipated President Kennedy, who in 1961 proposed a major underwater exploration program as a matter of absolute necessity to the national interest, to the cost of $2 billion over the next decade. “Knowledge of the oceans is more than a matter of curiosity. Our very survival may hinge upon it,” said the president. This resulted in the creation of the Sealab program, which Bond was chosen to lead. Not only were the space and underwater exploration programs contemporaneous, but they shared key personnel such as Malcolm Scott Carpenter, the second American to orbit the earth who also led a Sealab II team that lived underwater successfully for 30 days. “Never had so many people lived and worked for so long at such depths…a grand total of three and a half man-years living on the bottom,” writes the author. Unfortunately, the Sealab III mission was prematurely aborted after developing a serious leak, and that aspect of the program ended—although offshoots from it (many of which are still top secret) continued, including tapping submerged Soviet communications cables. Another offshoot was the development of technology necessary for off-shore drilling of oil and gas. Intriguing account of a relatively unknown program for undersea exploration. (16-page black-and-white insert. Agent: Scott Waxman)

THE BLIND ADVANTAGE How Going Blind Made Me a Stronger Principal and How Including Children with Disabilities Made Our School Better for Everyone

Henderson, Bill Harvard Education Press (198 pp.) $24.95 paperback | Oct. 17, 2011 978-1-61250-109-3

Henderson uses his experience with a disability to enhance the learning environment at O’Hearn Elementary School in Boston. 1896

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In his 30s, the author began to notice the impact of his degenerative eye disease, and he was told by a doctor to get out of education. Instead, he sought out information and guidance to help him cope with the changes. When he was assigned as principal at his school, he began instituting inclusive policies, drawing on his own struggles and reaching out to others to build a successful program. Henderson knew it wouldn’t be an easy undertaking, but because “O’Hearn was also committed to integrating so many students with disabilities, the entire school community had to focus on additional factors. We had to promote a culture of inclusion in which every student was validated for strengths, welcomed enthusiastically, and encouraged to achieve at high levels.” The author candidly shares the details of this transition, providing engaging anecdotes that highlight the benefits of inclusivity when it is set up properly. His ability to make light of situations with grace and humor carry through in his voice. Henderson’s account does have one glaring omission, however: a lack the perspectives of nondisabled students. Proves that true vision is about the heart, not the eyes.

THE LANGUAGE WARS A History of Proper English Hitchings, Henry Farrar, Straus and Giroux (416 pp.) $28.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-374-18329-5

Caring about the propriety and properness of language is so gay. Those are fighting words. In fact, there are fighting words in just about every utterance we make. But, observes Evening Standard theater critic Hitchings (The Secret Life of Words, 2008, etc.), some words are fighting-er than others. “When I was younger,” he writes (the author was born in 1974), “one of the most common complaints I heard about any aspect of the English language was the change in the use of the word gay.” No longer a word meaning “merry” among the oldsters, “gay” had come to mean something else—though it had come to mean that something else well before World War II and had just taken time to catch up. “Experience suggests”—not “past experience,” which is redundant—”that you can always start a row by staking a claim about English usage,” he writes. And he’s right. Go around insisting that “data” must be always a plural, agreeing with the plural verb form—”the data are convincing”— and you’ll wind up with a mouthful of loose teeth one day; go around using “gay” flippantly, and you’ll be branded as incorrect and worse. But proscriptive and prescriptive grammarians have been with us always, or at least since the Georgian age, when Britons seemed very ill at ease speaking their mother tongue and a catastrophic social faux pas was always only a syllable away. Hitchings is good on the history of that dis-ease, and though he lacks the zest of some of the old-timey word writers, from Edwin Newman to the sainted H.L. Mencken, he acquits himself well on the use, misuse, disuse and abuse of English grammar over the centuries. |

The Miss Grundy grammarians in the crowd may not always like Hitchings’ line of argument, which some will find shockingly permissive because realistic. But word lovers will. (Agent: Peter Straus)

THAT IS ALL

Hodgman, John Dutton (368 pp.) $25.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-525-95244-2 John Hodgman is a busy man. And, on the strength of the published evidence, including this new book, a very strange man indeed. Perhaps best known as the milquetoasty but oddly self-satisfied PC in the Apple commercials, Hodgman is a writer of considerable charm and much merit. As with More Information Than You Require (2008) and Areas of My Expertise (2005), this odd little volume delights in being…well, if not wrong, then bizarrely inventive, and rock-solid in the assuredness of the justice of his cause. Take this specimen, riffing on the old saw “You don’t have to be crazy, but it helps” (which Hodgman willfully misquotes to serve his murky purposes): “Well, guess what? The guy who made up that slogan probably made a million dollars, because it was very popular, and he printed it on food during the Great Depression.” Let us count the ways in which that is wrong—and also very funny. Which is entirely the point: Hodgman, a sometime colleague, aims to outdo Jon Stewart’s America and Earth book empire with sheer outré exuberance, and he succeeds at every step. Exhibit A: Everyone wants to be rich in America, right? Well, counsels Hodgman, that won’t happen, because “the billionaires who actually control the world would not allow it.” But what’s to stop you from believing you’re filthy rich, and who’s to say you’re not? That’s the glory of modern life—and because we live in a land of opportunity, strange and unpredictable things happen, which is just the reason, Hodgman asserts, that Wilt Chamberlain had to hire a “special sex butler.” Bad math, bad facts—it all adds up to what Jean-Paul Sartre would have called bad faith. But Sartre’s dead, and it’s Hodgman’s world— and besides, Sartre never wrote half as convincingly about the impending apocalypse that will be Ragnarok. Just the sort of book to keep by your bed—a bundle of knowing laughs, though at whom is ever the question at hand.

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h d u f f m c k a g a n it’s so easy

Duff McKagan Touchstone (384 pp.) $26.00 October 4, 2011 978-1-4516-0663-8

Talk to any rock ’n’ roll fan who was around in the late ’80s about their favorite albums and you’re likely to hear Appetite for Destruction near the top of their list. The gritty, raunchy, dirty album blew apart the L.A. hair-band scene and secured Guns N’ Roses a place in history as one of the most important bands. Ever. In true Behind the Music style, Guns imploded in the ’90s, its members taking on other projects here and there, including front man Axl Rose’s epic quest to put out Chinese Democracy with a new line-up. Bassist Duff McKagan has not only built himself a happy life as a husband and father, but also continued playing in Velvet Revolver and now his own band, Loaded. And he writes. McKagan is a columnist for his hometown’s alternative newspaper, the Seattle Weekly, ESPN.com and Playboy.com. Here, McKagan talks to us about his latest writing project—his life—in his memoir It’s So Easy. Q: Why the book now? A: For me, I started getting my writing chops about three years ago, out of nowhere really, to write an article for Italian Men’s Vogue about 1987 in Hollywood…I wrote a 2,500 word article for [them], and I kind of dug it…But from that, one of the editors of Playboy magazine saw that article and asked me to write another 2,500-word article for Playboy on the music business. And then Seattle Weekly had a spot that had just opened up, this is about two and a half years ago, and I started a weekly column, a 1,000-word column. And then Playboy.com offered me a financial weekly column…So, I’m not a journalist, but I’m a writer… So anyhow, why a book now? Well, because I’ve kind of developed a style. The question I’ve gotten the most is, how bad did it get? How much did you drink, how much drugs did you do? And how did you get sober? And I can’t really ever explain. If I told you on the phone—and I assume you’re probably a “normy,” a normy meaning you don’t drink a gallon of vodka a day, or do a ball of blow every day or smoke heroin—so if I ever tell you how much I did, it wouldn’t make any sense. You would go, “Wow that sounds like a lot,” but you wouldn’t really know what I’m telling you. So I started experimenting with writing about what that was like and the descent down into that. I was supposed to die at 18, 19. And everybody in Seattle thought I was the chosen one, musically wise. You know, if anyone was going to make it, it was going to be that guy. I was never the one into doing heroin. The influence of doing heroin came to Seattle and I dodged it. I moved to Hollywood away from the heroin. The first band I performed with was Guns N’ Roses [in L.A.]. Three weeks

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into being in Hollywood I was playing with Slash through an ad in the paper. So it kind of chronicles the whole story. It’s really about my descent, and then my rise out of addiction. Q: Obviously, what you guys lived through was insane and incredible, but when you actually start chronicling the drugs and alcohol [in the book], when I got to the “10 bottles of wine a day” line, I was like, “Holy shit, that’s a lot.” How did it feel to see that on paper? A: Not good. It wasn’t good. I sat there and wrote the book myself. I imagine you are a writer. And you write alone. You don’t write holding your wife’s hand, or you don’t write with a therapist in the room. You write alone… My life now is amazing. I have a teenage daughter and a 10-year-old daughter. Things are pink and fluffy at my house, with two little dogs. It’s pretty funny to be me now. And I’m in on the joke that is my life. People take rock ’n’ roll so seriously, but there is a lot of humor in this thing. There is a lot of humor in the Guns N’ Roses story that hopefully I touch on and reveal. There are enough rock ’n’ roll books that are boring to me at this point. I know Simon & Schuster would like for me to say this is a rock ’n’ roll book because I guess they sell. And it is, I am a rock ’n’ roll guy. But I think when I got sober in 1994 I realized there’s all this other stuff in life that I gave up hope on ever achieving when I was 26. I thought I would live till 30 and that was it. Things like going to school and having a healthy relationship with kids and dogs and people relying on me for everything? Life’s turned around for me, and I’m used to it now. Q: I noticed you aren’t paired with a super-journalist rock writer doing the story. A: It wasn’t fun, a lot of that stuff, to write about. I think I was probably a little moody and a little dark at times. For me to go back, I’d write a sentence, and I’d go ugh, and then I’d follow up with another sentence that backs up that sentence, and what I started to reveal was my part in things. You look in the rearview mirror, and if there was controversy it was always the other guys’ fault. You always say, “It was that fucking guy, it was their fault, it was them!” But I started to really find my place in things, and I took accountability, I really did. I took accountability for myself. Hopefully it’s funny at times along the way. If I could go back to where I was in 1993 and read this book—because I never thought I would get out of where I was, I never did—but even me, I did, I got out. And I got out in

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“[Y]ou look at some of the other guys…Nirvana… Excess laid waste to a lot of my contemporaries.” a big way and life became pretty magical after I got all those monkeys off my back. Q: You’ve been in many bands, but do you must strongly identify with being in Guns N’ Roses? What does that experience feel like looking back now? A: I don’t identify myself with that, and it’s been a long time since. In going back, I went back to when I was 9 years old, in this book. I think that’s why I was in a dark mood. Because I was living in the past for a couple of months, and it took about 14 months to write this book, and for a couple months, maybe three, I was living in the past. And I don’t like to do that at all. You can’t with kids…. I have great memories from them sure. But I see friends of mine from then, and they are stuck there. And life never got any better, so they talk about 1989 or 1991 or 1997. And that happens a lot with some of the people that were in and around us.

p hoto © fa b f er n a n d e z

Q: And you were on a flight with Kurt Cobain right before he died. And both of your bands had your crucial moments about the same time, right around there. Because everyone was saying Nirvana was the death of the L.A. scene and all that other stuff. A: I think everybody but us were saying that. Everyone but the bands were saying that and that shouldn’t be overlooked. It was about two years the press made a sort of big deal, and we were affected by it, by the hoopla. Guns N’ Roses were playing stadiums when that was going down so we weren’t affected businesswise by any new bands coming into the scene. But it sucked, being from Seattle and hearing the press making such a big deal about this being the death of rock. And kid’s rock bands believe it all. And we were all too young to understand how to deal with that stuff. Really too young. And in my experience, the ordinary guy, really, the ordinary guys were thrown into extraordinary circumstances with no guidance of how to get yourself through it. And you’re left to your own devices, and it’s a miracle all of us survived it. Steven’s got some road marks that will never go away. And lives might be shortened by the excess. But none of us died. But you look at some of the other guys…Nirvana…Excess laid waste to a lot of my contemporaries. But half of the book really isn’t about that. It’s about the way out. And that’s the fun part of the story was me getting to the martial arts by fate. Someone led me to this martial arts sensei. And it was an amazing journey up and out of that murk. I hope that’s what people come away from this book with is how I got out and how life can |

change and how you can take ownership, even though you’re in this massive band. Q: I know you joined Axl [Rose, front man] last fall in London for the first time in ages. How is your relationship with the guys in Guns N’ Roses? A: It’s great. I was there on financial business and not rock ’n’ roll at all. Our rooms happened to be right next to each other of all the hotels and all the cities in the world. So I’m a grown-up, and I went over to his room. I think everyone was freaking out that our rooms were next to each other, except for me. I realized it was meant to happen this way. We hadn’t talked for 13 years and that’s dumb. As grown-up adult men, enough’s enough. So that was just a very personal moment. If there wasn’t a gig that night, and I didn’t go down to the gig with him and get up on stage, nobody would have known about the personal moment we had. And sometimes I wish I wouldn’t have gotten up to play and just kept it a personal moment. But the relationship is fine with everyone. –By Molly Brown

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“A deeply reported, thoroughly engaging look at what it takes to succeed in the NFL—and a perfect complement to the NFL Network’s compelling miniseries Bill Belichick: A Football Life.” from war room

INTIMATE WARS The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Boardroom Hoffman, Merle Feminist (272 pp.) $18.95 paperback | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-55861-751-3

A searingly honest debut memoir by a leader in the fight for a woman’s right to “legally gain and exercise reproductive choice—the power of life and death.” Hoffman—founder and CEO of Choices, one of the largest women’s medical facilities in the country and editor of the quarterly magazine On The Issues—writes about how stultifying she found the expectations for women as she was growing up. She explored the idea of living an artistic life but lacked a true calling until, by chance, in 1970, she answered an ad for a parttime job as assistant to a New York City family doctor. New York State had just legalized abortion, and her employer, Dr. Martin Gold, saw this as an opportunity to position his HMO as a leader in providing abortion services to women. He and his partner opened the Flushing Women’s Medical Center, one of the first ambulatory abortion facilities in the country, and she managed the office for them. The next year, she and Gold established Choices, with her as director. The clinic pioneered in the new field of women’s-health services, offering alternatives to mastectomy as well as abortion services. She writes animatedly of the exciting first few years when the trajectory of the women’s-rights movement was on the upswing and she became one of its leaders as her relationship with Dr. Gold deepened—ultimately leading to marriage. Then the right-to-life movement regrouped. By 1985, there had been 150 attacks on abortion clinics, and the author received numerous death threats. An inspiring story of a woman who participated in “one of the greatest revolutions in history”—and is still at the forefront of the struggle. (24 black-and-white photos)

WAR ROOM The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team Holley, Michael It Books/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $25.99 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-06-208239-8

A longtime Patriots chronicler goes inside the brain trust of the NFL’s most successful team. In the NFL, team building—drafting, trading and signing fee agents—is a multimillion-dollar business with many livelihoods and professional reputations at stake. The widely acknowledged virtuoso of this peculiar blend of art and science is Bill Belichick, GM and head coach of the New England Patriots. Holley (Red 1900

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Sox Rule: Terry Francona and Boston’s Rise to Dominance, 2008, etc.) traces the genesis of Belichick’s “Big Idea” back 20 years when, as the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns, he began piecing together notions—particularly, the idea of a uniform playerevaluation system—about how best to construct a consistent winner. Working for him then were scouting assistant Scott Pioli and young groundskeeper Thomas Dimitroff, both of whom, after extended apprenticeships under Belichick in New England, would go on to helm NFL franchises elsewhere, spreading the gospel of The Patriot Way. With Belichick as the principal and Pioli and Dimitroff in supporting roles, Holley dives deep into the complexities of the draft and the subtleties of an appraisal system sufficiently exact to rely upon, flexible enough to allow for exceptions. There’s plenty of inside-football, but the narrative soars when the author’s in storytelling mode, drawing sharp portraits of the three very different franchise architects and other prominent NFL figures, supplying behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the Patriots’ glorious run (three Super Bowl championships, one perfect regular season), the team’s infrequent failures (e.g., the notorious Spygate episode), the contributions and departures of key assistants and pivotal players, the abiding brilliance of quarterback Tom Brady and the emerging efforts by Pioli in Kansas City and Dimitroff in Atlanta to reshape the football culture—to replicate, albeit with their personal stamps, Belichick’s master plan. A deeply reported, thoroughly engaging look at what it takes to succeed in the NFL—and a perfect complement to the NFL Network’s compelling miniseries Bill Belichick: A Football Life. (8-page color photo insert)

COMFORT An Atlas for the Body and Soul

Hoover, Brett C. Riverhead (304 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-59448-548-0

A Paulist priest examines physical, emotional and spiritual comfort. Hoover (Pastoral Studies/Loyola Univ.; Soundbyte Spirituality, 2002, etc.) opens the final chapter of this book-length homily with the admission that “this journey into comfort turned out differently than I expected.” He had planned to pile up stories demonstrating a contemporary “comfort gap,” in which “affluent cushiness” produces indifference toward the world’s have-nots, but he found the evidence more nuanced. The result is a comprehensive survey of the pursuit of comfort in all spheres—at home, work and play, alone and with others, around the nation and abroad, ancient and modern. In different hands, this well-written account might have turned pedantic, but Hoover is unfailingly generous and never pious. Sub-chapter headings like “Shit and Angels Happen” and “Psycho-God” will delight or disappoint different readers. Some may find his reliance on personal anecdote a tad heavy, but the widely traveled Hoover draws liberally

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from diverse acquaintances and experiences and balances these musings with evidence from anthropology, sociology, psychology, history, literature and every major religion. Sources range from scripture to Mark Twain, scientific journals to Mae West and the U.S. Census Bureau to Malcolm X. Lurking always in the background is comfort’s shadow, discomfort. Hoover uses a light touch to make his points about the dangers of too much comfort and too little challenge. An interesting—and yes, comfortable—read, but fundamentalists of all stripes and those who cannot sit still for a long sermon may want to pass.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE MICHAEL Through a Brother’s Eyes

Jackson, Jermaine Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (464 pp.) $26.00 | Sep. 13, 2011 978-1-4516-5156-0

Jermaine Jackson sets out to resurrect the tarnished legacy of late superstar brother Michael in an emotionally charged memoir. “Erms” (Michael’s nickname for Jermaine) had a complex relationship with his brother. There was jealousy, sibling rivalry and professional brinksmanship. A lot went down between the two since first huddling together as starry-eyed innocents at their window overlooking Jackson Street in the 1960s. Ultimately, the gradual degradation of their close relationship led to long periods of estrangement where Michael was alone. Jermaine attempts to present all this in the most positive light, and his enduring love for his doomed brother is evident. But his reliability as an advocate for The King of Pop’s more inscrutable behavior remains questionable. According to Jermaine, Michael kept his brothers at arm’s length during much of the baffling metamorphosis he underwent later in life. The author clouds the picture even further at times when it appears he is simply singing his own praises. Jermaine’s narrative works best in recounting the early years of the Jackson 5 when the brothers were undeniably united in a musical dream and Michael was unquestionably the coolest little dude anywhere to command a stage. Even here, though, the seeds of Michael’s downfall loom. The insular nature of the brotherhood itself seemed to preclude outside relationships and produce in Michael an overreliance on a unit that was always destined to change, leaving him adrift when it did. Couple that with the young artist’s inability to effectively cope with his growing body dysmorphia, and some of the head-scratching events that followed in MJ’s life begin to make more sense. Whether Michael was the victim of twisted, uninformed perceptions of him, as Jermaine steadfastly asserts, or was actually the dangerous eccentric portrayed by the media, the view from 2300 Jackson Street is still tragic. A not entirely convincing but unwavering defense of an unquestionably odd performer, and an intimate look at one of the greatest recording artists of all time. |

HOLY GHOST GIRL A Memoir

Johnson, Donna Gotham Books (288 pp.) $26.00 | Oct. 13, 2011 978-1-592-40630-2

Growing up on the revivalist sawdust trail in the 1960s. Johnson was three when her mother, after a lapse in faith that left her divorced and pregnant, joined tent preacher Brother David Terrell’s evangelical team as the organist. Much of this debut memoir is about the author’s discovering and dealing with her mother’s status—and shame—as Terrell’s mistress. This chronicle of a world filled with love and sin, boredom and adventure and faith and questioning also serves as a portrait of a complex and charismatic man. Terrell was the last of the great Holy Roller preacher-healers, and his eventual fall from grace coincided with Johnson’s own emancipation from the only reality she knew. Throughout her childhood, the author observed healings, exorcisms, people babbling in tongues and threats from the KKK. “The events I witnessed and the stories about these events have intertwined to form a single thread of memory,” writes the author. “Sifted and shaped over time by the adults around me, my recollections have distilled into a mythology of faith, hard to believe, harder still to deny.” By telling her story from a child’s perspective, Johnson captures both the confusion and clarity that come with preadolescent recollection. She avoids intellectualizing and judgment through a disciplined honesty about her own struggle with faith. After living with a series of sometimes-affectionate, sometimes-abusive caretakers while her mother traveled with Terrell, Johnson saw the once-poor ministry grow into a lucrative operation. Terrell fathered three daughters with the author’s mother, adding to his network of illegitimate children who traveled blindfolded to visit him on his secret properties before he was taken to prison for tax evasion. A trustworthy narrator, Johnson is consistently funny, poetic and remarkably devoid of bitterness. (Agent: Dan Conaway)

RULE AND RUIN The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party Kabaservice, Geoffrey Oxford Univ. (488 pp.) $29.95 | Jan. 2, 2012 978-0-19-976840-0

A myth-dissolving account of the past state of politics in the United States and what was lost when the Republican Party was destroyed. Drawing on the rediscovered files of the Ripon Society, a centrist Republican organization, Kabaservice (The

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Guardians: Kingman Brewster, His Circle and the Rise of the Liberal Establishment, 2004) documents the differences between politics and ideology, and politicians and ideologues in the decline of the moderate aspects of the Republican Party. With Mitt Romney running for president and the successors of 1960s Goldwater-ism stirring in the Tea Party, the author examines what seems to be coming to pass in the current presidential cycle. He shows a tension between those in either party who wanted the country to be organized around ideological purity and a broader, inclusive openness. Kabaservice writes that New Yorker governor Thomas Dewey used to lambast the “impractical theorists” who promoted such approaches in his day, and he investigates Clif White’s “Syndicate” and William Rusher of the National Review in taking on the mechanics of the organizational dirty work to clear the way for Goldwater. “White saw in movement conservatism,” writes the author, “the vehicle through which to takeover the Republican Party, using tactics he had learned from the Communists.” The targeted opponents were not only Republicans but also supporters of voting rights, civil rights, health care, public investment in infrastructure and education. White and Rusher provided a frame for Nixon’s polarizing actions against his opponents of either party, and for the new generation of Republican youth then coming up. An engaging contribution to American political history.

THE ANATOMY OF ADDICTION Overcoming the Triggers that Stand in the Way of Recovery

Khaleghi, Morteza and Khaleghi, Karen Palgrave Macmillan (240 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Oct. 1, 2011 978-0-230-10709-0

Noted mental-health professionals and founders of Malibu’s Creative Care treatment center analyze the biological, societal and familial roots of addiction. According to the Khaleghis (Free From Addiction, 2008, etc.), relapse rates for addicts in traditional rehab programs are an alarming 70 to 90 percent within the first year. They tout their own practice as an example of success, and they stress the importance of self-examination, as do many 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. However, unlike many traditional programs, the Khaleghis’ treatment plan also delves into physiological or psychological problems. Ridding “blame” from the recovery process is important, and the authors work to discover the causal elements of addiction—e.g., depression, physical or emotional trauma and genetic makeup. Doing so helps their patients become aware of triggers and avoid future relapse. The chapter on bipolar disorder is particularly illuminating. While highly treatable (a success rate of 40 to 50 percent with drug treatment alone), bipolar disorder is one of the physiological problems most often associated with addiction. The authors’ writing style is analytical yet reader-friendly, but some of the 1902

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content is numbingly familiar—i.e., children model their parents’ attitude toward drinking. Geared for family members or friends who want to help a loved one.

WHY I AM A FIVE PERCENTER

Knight, Michael Muhammad Tarcher/Penguin (304 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Oct. 1, 2011 978-1-58542-868-7 Thorough investigation of a misunderstood branch of the Nation of Islam, seen through a white Muslim’s perspective. Often disregarded as a religion for rappers, gangsters and convicts, Five Percenters have long been marginalized as a dangerous and mystical offshoot of the also-scorned Nation of Islam. Even Knight (Blue-Eyed Devil: A Road Odyssey Through Islamic America, 2009, etc.) admits, “Don’t get me wrong—before my first trip to Allah School, they had me scared shitless.” So begins the author’s exploration of a religion founded in 1964 by Clarence Smith after breaking from the mosque led by Malcolm X in Harlem. But as much as this book is an investigation into the far reaches of American Islam, it also reads as a justification for the author’s own religious identification. Inspired by the references to Islam in the lyrics of the hip-hop artists he loved as a youth, such as Public Enemy, and a fascination with Malcolm X, Knight’s passion was further cemented when, at 15, he first met his absent father, only to discover he was a white supremacist. The Five Percenters, he writes, “offered both freedom and discipline, politics and spirituality, salvific manhood and then more salvific manhood.” Through song lyrics, doctrine and his own spiritual journey, the author distills the essence of the Five Percenters’ take on race, religion, sex, personal power and refinement. An insider’s view of a largely unknown belief system woven tightly with the author’s own journey of spiritual discovery.

MOURAD New Moroccan

Lahlou, Mourad Photos by Jones, Deborah Artisan (400 pp.) $40.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-57965-429-0 Authentic Moroccan cuisine as interpreted by one of America’s up-and-com-

ing young chefs. Many of the book’s photos feature the handsome, tattooed author; perhaps he is deserving of such an homage: A self-taught chef who began cooking as a student in America because he was homesick for Morocco, Lahlou now owns the Michelin-starred

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San Francisco restaurant Aziza. Creating a cuisine he refers to as “New Moroccan,” the recipes are unabashedly complicated and ingredient-heavy. As a California chef, the author writes about having to find a middle ground between fresh West Coast fare and the Moroccan propensity for heavy sauces and spices. However, he doesn’t make too many allowances for the American pantry. He presents cooks with a text-heavy instruction manual of how to capture the true flavor of Moroccan cuisine, and includes tips for professional chefs as well as websites for ordering ingredients. He is exacting in his approach (he admits to firing chefs for grinding too many spices as a short cut) and goes so far as to offer an entire chapter on hand-rolling couscous. With such sections as “Dude, Preserved Lemons,” however, this is far from a stuffy culinary manual. As precious (and precocious) as he may sound, Lahlou’s recipes, when followed accurately, are exciting and deliciously new.

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LEARNING TO LIVE OUT LOUD A Memoir

Laurie, Piper Crown Archetype (368 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-8230-2668-5 978-0-8230-2677-7 e-book

In a candid memoir, Emmy- and Golden Globe–winning actress Laurie remembers her long, surprising life as a film, theater and TV star. An “uncommunicative, silent child” who suffered from acute anxiety disorder, Laurie was inexplicably drawn to the world of stage performance from a young age. After suggesting that she “be in the movies,” her mother entered her in a contest that offered a screen test as first prize. Laurie won the contest but failed the screen test; yet the resolve to persist in following her dream remained strong. Her efforts eventually

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“Both well written and researched— a valuable contribution to an ongoing discussion.” from europe’s angry muslims

landed her a contract at Universal Studios when she was just 17. What she did not know was that “Universal was a picture factory then, specializing in a disposable product for a double feature market,” and that she would be promoted as a glamorous B-movie “bimbo.” Five years later, Laurie began the painful process of speaking for herself and articulating her professional desires. She broke her contract with Universal to take more serious roles on Broadway and in such groundbreaking TV dramas and films as the CBS Playhouse version of Days of Wine and Roses (1958), The Hustler (1961), Carrie (1976) and Twin Peaks (1990-91). Laurie’s openness—about her struggles with shyness and amphetamine addiction and her quietly determined pursuit of artistic fulfillment and sexual freedom—save the book from reading like just another Hollywood career catalog. The selfportrait that emerges is of a gracious woman who was in many ways ahead of her time and who fought “the good fight” on the way to becoming “a part of the speaking world.” Warmly intimate. (16-page black-and-white insert. Agent: Adam Chromy)

EUROPE’S ANGRY MUSLIMS The Revolt of the Second Generation Leiken, Robert S. Oxford Univ. (368 pp.) $27.95 | Jan. 4, 2012 978-0-19-532897-4

An expert on national security challenges stereotypes of Islamic militancy and the threat it poses. Leiken (Why Nicaragua Vanished, 2003, etc.) analyzes social policies affecting Muslim immigrant communities in France, the U.K. and Germany, and how these have affected recruitment to Islamic jihadist organizations. Rejecting a one-sizefits-all categorization of Islam, he suggests that it is the “postmigrant” second-generation of young men who provide potential recruits for terrorist organizations in Europe and the United States, especially as they face a crisis of identity in a time of economic stagnation. The author draws the conclusion that the apparently socially repressive policies adopted by the French have proven to be most successful in dealing with a possible threat of terrorism, while the British face a serious problem. Migrants from Algeria are encouraged to view themselves as French and are expected to assimilate French culture. Leiken believes that the 2005 street riots were fueled by economic conditions rather than ideology. In contrast, the terrorist attack on the British subway system was ideologically motivated. The author attributes the rise of Islamic terrorism in the U.K. to British multiculturism. Leaders in Muslim communities received generous government subsidies and were expected to act as mediators for the Muslim population, which was not encouraged to assimilate. Migrant laborers generally maintain close ties to their native communities, which their children lack, leaving them 1904

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vulnerable to terrorist recruitment. By offering apprenticeship programs and vocational training, Germans provided them a road to economic, if not social, integration and an alternative to radicalism. Leiken provides a historical, ethnic and socioeconomic context that identifies important differences as opposed to empty generalities. Both well written and researched—a valuable contribution to an ongoing discussion. (10 halftones)

THE ROYAL STUARTS A History of the Family that Shaped Britain Massie, Allan Dunne/St. Martin’s (384 pp.) $26.99 | Dec. 20, 2011 978-0-312-58175-6

A well-fashioned history of the remarkable Scottish monarchs. They were “Stewarts,” mythical descendants of Shakespeare’s Banquo, before they were “Stuarts,” writes prolific Scottish novelist and historian Massie (Death in Bordeaux, 2010, etc.). The spelling was changed by Mary Queen of Scots so that it would be easier to pronounce for the French. The clan actually traces its roots in Brittany, with enterprising members crossing the Channel first in the service of the Norman king Henry I. The first Stewart on the Scottish throne, Robert II, weathered the wars of independence against the English, though the Scottish monarchy was much weaker than the English, lacking a similar administrative apparatus. What Cambridge historian F.W. Maitland termed a “mournful procession of the Jameses” followed, with mixed results. Several were murdered early on, though James IV’s marriage to English princess Margaret Tudor in 1503 was significant because it would lead to the Union of the Crowns 100 years later. Queen Mary’s story has been told often elsewhere, and provides the saddest interlude, while her son, James VI, proved the great survivor, an intellectual, solid Protestant and patron of the arts, effectively putting Scotland’s house in order before Elizabeth I’s death invited him to join the thrones of England and Scotland. There is no end to the fascination with the lives of the two truncated Charleses, in turn spurring revolution then restoration, and Massie truly brings these singular characters to life with his felicitous prose. Perhaps the least understood of the clan was Queen Anne, who presided over the Treaty of Union in 1707, possessed principles and stamina yet had no living heir to keep the throne from falling to the Protestant Elector of Hanover, who became George I. A palatable history lesson that might help untangle the royal lineage web for American readers.

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SNIPER ELITE The World of a Top Special Forces Marksman Maylor, Rob with Macklin, Robert St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $25.99 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-312-64541-0

Another macho memoir of a specialforces badass but with a charming, mildly exotic British overlay. Following the convention of military memoirs, Maylor, with the assistance of Macklin (My Favourite Teacher, 2011, etc.) describes an aimless youth (bored at school, heavy drinking, etc.) before he found himself after joining the marines in 1992. These were Royal Marine commandos, so readers will encounter the traditional sadistic training regimen designed to select those able to endure extreme pain, exhaustion and humiliation. Peacetime warriors kill few bad guys, but Maylor toured the world, enduring surprisingly grueling exercises from the arctic to the jungle, plus unpleasant tours in Northern Ireland before joining the snipers in 1995; military buffs will enjoy his description of their highly technical instruction. After years with no action in sight, he quit the service, married, returned to his native New Zealand, found earning a living difficult and joined the Australian army, where he repeated sniper training. The book is well past the midpoint when his unit arrives in Afghanistan, but it is worth the wait as the author paints a vivid picture of the experience during which his unit patrolled, fought and sniped with varying degrees of success until it was ambushed in one of the biggest battles involving Australian troops. Sticking to his role as a soldier, Maylor shows mild sympathy for Afghan civilians, no hatred of the Taliban, love for his comrades, satisfaction with his performance and no claim that he was fighting for a noble goal. A satisfying stream of travel, training, horseplay and nuts-and-bolts military minutiae along with the usual fireworks. (8-page color photo insert)

IF IT WAS EASY, THEY’D CALL THE WHOLE DAMN THING A HONEYMOON Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, SexObsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Married

McCarthy, Jenna Berkley (320 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Oct. 4, 2011 978-0-425-24302-2

McCarthy (The Parent Trip: From High Heels and Parties to Highchairs and Potties, 2008, etc.) wakes up to find she’s married to Prince Charming and the Beast all rolled into one. The author delivers a raw, postfeminist take on the domestic fate of women, explaining how the seed for the book was |

planted after she lobbed a cup of ice at her husband’s temple during a disagreement over parenting. Once peace was restored, she asked her blog readers and Facebook friends: “What does your husband…do that drives you nuts?” The idea was to give women a safety valve to let loose their defiant inner bitches and reveal the “irritating behaviors that women who consider themselves ‘happily married’ are indeed willing to put up with.” The feedback made her “feel infinitely better about my own enchanting Neanderthal.” An assortment of gems—e.g., “He blows his nose into the air without a tissue. He says nothing comes out, but sometimes it does”—are lavishly distributed in boldface throughout the book under the heading, “At Least You’re Not Married to Him.” Chapters include “If It’s Broken… Please God Don’t Fix It,” in which, to save a few bucks, a hubby attempts to make a high chair and runs a circular saw over his hand, resulting in medical bills 10 times the cost of the chair. But McCarthy outshines them all with intimate details men might find exaggerated but women not—e.g., her self-description as “a ravenous nursing cow…balancing a squirming newborn on my post-baby hip while yellowish milk dripped from my nipple.” Forget the condom talk, she adds: “This is the image they should show in high school sex ed. classes.” Uneven but candid account of how the grass is not always greener in someone else’s marriage.

PROPHETIC ENCOUNTERS Religion and the American Radical Tradition

McKanan, Dan Beacon (320 pp.) $34.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-8070-1315-1

Examination of religion’s place in American political radicalism. McKanan (Theology/Harvard Divinity School; The Catholic Worker after Dorothy: Christian Communities Transforming Society, 2008, etc.) explores the role of faith communities in movements ranging from abolitionism to environmentalism. He documents the individuals and organizations across the history of American radicalism, identifying and explaining links that may not be obvious to casual readers. Protestant Christianity necessarily plays the major role here, but McKanan goes to great lengths to discuss the radical aspects of Catholicism, Judaism and even such belief systems as Wicca. He begins with the nation-dividing anti-slavery question, illustrating not only white church involvement in the abolition movement but also the rise of historically black churches during this era. The author moves on to discuss the fight for women’s rights, a decades-long process that witnessed a great deal of change in American Christianity. The energy of the suffragist and temperance movements, combined with mini-revolutions within the late-19th-century church, gave way to a new radical emphasis on urban needs and the labor movement. McKanan explores American socialism and especially its tie to immigrant Catholics in the era before the Great Depression and World War II. After the war,

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“A lively testament to a complicated though loving mother-daughter relationship.” from the habit

THE HABIT

American radicals of faith turned their attentions to race relations and the civil-rights movement. With the deflation of mainstream Protestantism, the post-1960s era provides a new and changing template for faith involvement in radical politics. “Radicalism thrives in times of crisis,” writes the author. So too does religion. An illuminating book.

THE LOST EMPIRE OF ATLANTIS History’s Greatest Mystery Revealed

Menzies, Gavin Morrow/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $26.99 | Lg. Prt. $26.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-06-204948-3 978-0-06-204951-3 e-book 978-0-06-208859-8 Lg. Prt. The author of 1434 (2008) and 1421 (2003) argues that the destruction of Atlantis was not fiction but a tale of an actual volcano and consequent tsunami that devastated the heart of the vast Minoan empire on Crete and Santorini (then called Thera). Employing the research of many scholars, the self-confidence of a rock star, the zeal of a True Believer and a travel budget sufficient to make Marco Polo and Henry Stanley glow an envious green, Menzies, who served in the Royal Navy, begins his tale on Crete, where he and his wife went for a brief vacation. When he saw the ruins of the palace of Phaestos, his curiosity about the Minoans was piqued, and off he went, chasing down Minoan artifacts, viewing ruins, interviewing scholars and visiting sites of significance, from Crete to England (did you know that Stonehenge was Minoan?) to Lake Superior to the Mississippi River (which the Minoans used to access their American mines) to, well, just about everywhere. Menzies claims that 2,000 years before Christ, the Minoans ruled a vast Bronze Age empire with myriad outposts. They were master shipbuilders, sailors, mathematicians, astronomers and navigators, and they gathered tin from England and copper from mines around Lake Superior, from which they crafted the bronze tools found later in many relevant sites. If Menzies is right—a massive IF that scholars will surely address—then the tsunami of 1500 BCE might have been the wave that drowned a culture, occasioned Plato’s story and spawned a giant Atlantis-related industry. The author’s style is breathless and excessively spiced with rhetorical questions, but—thank Zeus—he invokes no ancient astronauts. Animated by a contagious enthusiasm that will propel eager, like-minded readers into a truly Lost World. (Two 8-page color inserts)

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Morse, Susan OpenRoad Integrated Media (272 pp.) Nov. 8, 2011 978-1-4532-2290-4 978-1-4532-1971-3 e-book A page-turning, humorous account of one woman’s experience during her difficult mother’s turbulent journey into old age. When the author’s father died, Morse convinced her mother that moving closer to family would be a wise decision. This began “Operation Ma,” and the author became the “self-appointed CEO/CFO of Op Ma: a series of maneuvers we siblings design as we go, to make our mother’s years as a widow (left with suddenly limited resources and risky ideas) as comfortable and safe as possible.” Morse’s role as caretaker was complicated by her own daily needs as a mother of three teenagers and wife of actor David Morse. Not merely a rosy-cheeked grandmother, the author’s mother was highly unconventional: “Ma’s voracious intellectual curiosity and zest for living has taken her down many interesting paths,” writes Morse. Always searching for answers to life’s big questions, Ma’s short list of obsessions included Roman Catholicism, astrology, the Montessori method, transcendental meditation, Silva Mind Control, health food, vitamins, full-spectrum lights and Reiki. Pushy and determined, she inevitably dragged her family along through her exploration of new realms. Morse begins her memoir on the day when her 85-year-old mother became an Orthodox Christian nun, and moves the story along by jumping back in time and filling in with family history. The author analyzes why as a child she assumed the role of caretaker within the family, and she examines her family life a father who drank and gambled too much and a strong-willed, kooky mother. A lively testament to a complicated though loving mother-daughter relationship.

VEGAN PIE IN THE SKY 75 Out-of-this-World Recipes for Pies, Tarts, Cobblers, and More

Moskowitz, Isa Chandra and Romero, Terry Hope Da Capo Lifelong/Perseus (224 pp.) $17.00 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7382-1274-6 The icons of hip vegan cuisine tackle the heavyweight champ of American dessert: pie. Moskowitz and Romero (Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, 2009, etc.) are the force behind the fantastic vegan website The Post Punk Kitchen (theppk.com); among their long list of credits, the authors have reinvented both the cupcake and cookie formats for vegan bakers. Here, bursting with an “anyone-can-do-this” approach and a defiant “non-vegans-won’t-be-able-to-tell-the-difference” attitude, they provide dozens of recipes for classic fruit

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pies, cobblers, crisps and cheesecakes. Vegan cooks can look forward to whipping up a pear and cranberry galette that will even have their carnivorous relatives scarfing down a second slice at the next family gathering. Before getting started, the authors concisely cover all the basics, from ingredients to equipment, in the aptly titled chapter “How to Create the Universe or Bake a Pie from Scratch.” All the ingredients used are now easily available at most health-food stores or your local Whole Foods. And don’t miss the recipes for vegan toppings like “Rad Whip,” a vegan version of Cool Whip that will please even the staunchest dairy advocates. More than just a niche guide, this mouthwatering collection of desserts will satisfy even the most reluctant reader.

RAFA

Nadal, Rafael and Carlin, John Hyperion (272 pp.) $27.99 | Aug. 23, 2011 978-1-4013-2451-3 Elite tennis star Nadal serves up a smashing account of his life on and off the court. Tenacious. Driven. Obsessed. This is how the sports world has come to know Nadal, the Mallorcan phenom who at age 24 became the youngest man ever to complete a career Grand Slam in the Open Era. What’s revealed here, however, is a much more complex figure prone to all sorts of anxieties, and a man who simply would not be the athlete he is today if not for the constant love and support of his extended family. Mallorca, the tiny island off the coast of Spain where he was born, is home base for the Nadal clan, and the cocoon to which the globetrotting sportsman must always return to reinvigorate body and soul. And yet, the greatest antagonist in Nadal’s young life, we learn, has not been Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or any of the other fearsome opponents he’s had to face down on the other side of the net. Rather, it has been a blunt, combative man named Toni, his beloved uncle and ever-present coach. Nadal explores the intricate interplay between the two, as well as his epic battles with the game’s best, in a compelling narrative that volleys back and forth between first and third person, consistently building momentum and adding depth as well as insight. The titanic showdown between Nadal and Federer at Wimbledon in 2008, for instance, is played out shot-for-shot over several engrossing chapters. Throughout, the alternating point of view and over-the-shoulder accounts provide readers with a stunning invitation into the mind of one of the greatest tennis players ever. A winning endeavor packed with intelligence and excitement.

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THE WESTERN LIT SURVIVAL KIT An Irreverent Guide to the Classics, from Homer to Faulkner

Newman, Sandra Gotham Books (256 pp.) $18.00 paperback | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-592-40694-4 A clever tour d’horizon of what you might encounter in a Great Books course

in college. At first glance, Newman’s (Read This Next, 2010, etc.) work comes across as a comedy routine meant to poke many of the received-opinion greats in the eye with a sharp stick, much in the manner of Ovid, one of the author’s favorites. And that is certainly part, but far from all, of the truth. First, a typical zinger: “As a general note, all of Homer’s heroes were illiterates who considered rape and genocide normal. Generations of European boys were raised on Homer. Just saying.” The author is not here to venerate—though Shakespeare gets a pretty deep genuflection—or eviscerate: She appreciates genius and fine, intellectually thrilling writing. With each writer, she gets to the nub of a work or style from the outset (“The Bronte home was a little biosphere of literary misery”), and she is not afraid to venture her true feelings: Of Tristram Shandy: “Page for page, it’s possibly the funniest novel ever.” Newman is a serious fan of humor and a good roll in the hay: e.g., Sappho, Tom Jones and Gargantua and Pantagruel. Montaigne’s Essays also get the nod, as do Dickinson, Kafka, Eliot and a holy host of others. Half the fun here is quibbling with her choices and tinkering with her rating system: How important are the books considered? How accessible are they? How much fun? Newman assigns each a number from 1 to 10, and despite all the levity, she has clearly (if seemingly surreptitiously) read deeply and brought serious rumination to the proceedings. A sly piece of work—though you still should read the books.

HOLIDAYS IN HECK

O’Rourke, P.J. Atlantic Monthly (288 pp.) $23.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-8021-1985-8 The prolific cultural commentator offers a miscellany of (mostly) travel pieces, a follow-up of sorts to his collection of war journalism, Holidays in Hell (1988). Having retired from the hazards of war, O’Rourke (Don’t Vote—It Just Encourages the Bastards, 2010, etc.) faces the challenge of learning to travel for leisure with his family: “What is this thing called fun? To judge by traveling with my wife and daughters it has something to do with shopping for clothes.” Many of the essays are unabashed paeans to the pastimes of wealthy, middle-aged Republicans: The author visits ski resorts, hunting preserves

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“Comprehensive, definitive, grim and gripping.” from fatal crossroads

and even a tour of the Galápagos Islands. Unfortunately, despite lovingly described meals and leisure, these serve as excuses for O’Rourke to rail against uptight liberals who love perverted art and oppressive government and hate guns, hunting, the outdoors and good times. This predictable rhetorical structure reaches its nadir in an irritating essay on the 2005 Venice Biennale, where O’Rourke expresses a strange anger towards the entire edifice of contemporary art: “The Guerrilla Girls are too young to remember what a babe Gloria Steinem was…[and] too old to realize how beside the point their point is.” The problem here is not the author’s conservative views, but rather that his writing has become increasingly sour and lazy. The better pieces are built more around straightforward reportage and observation, such as two essays narrating his trips through the new economic powerhouse of China. He also provides colorful, earthy descriptive passages regarding stag hunts in Britain, extreme horseback riding in the wilds of Kyrgyzstan, a poignant look at his bout with cancer and a brief jaunt to Kabul, Afghanistan. Red meat for his fans, unlikely to convert new ones.

DIARY OF A PLAYER How My Musical Heroes Made a Guitar Out of Me

Paisley, Brad and Wild, David Howard Books/Simon & Schuster (240 pp.) $25.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-4516-2552-3 With the assistance of Rolling Stone contributing editor Wild (He Is…I Say: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neil Diamond, 2008, etc.), country-music sensation Paisley pridefully shares his thoughts and thanks on a charmed “life in progress.” Born in West Virginia to a schoolteacher mother and a highway worker, the acclaimed performer enjoyed musically inspired roots peopled with wise advocates who helped shape his moralistic sensibilities. The author fondly recalls the guitar he received from his grandfather, a lover of instrumental country music, on his eighth Christmas. With enthusiastic prose, Paisley writes of a swift ascent to greatness beginning in the third grade, when he asked to play guitar in church. Under the careful mentorship of professional musician Clarence Goddard, his talent branched out to songwriting at age 12 and a warm-up performance at the Wheeling Jamboree. The singer’s good fortune quickly blossomed in Nashville with a first album and the formation of a multi-city tour, what he calls a “curious kind of traveling circus.” Paisley writes of his indebtedness to bands like Alabama, Restless Heart and the Beatles, and to legendary guitarist Buck Owens and the Grand Ole Opry. There are also gushing accolades from countrymusic luminaries like Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood and Roy Clark, who calls him a “true superstar.” If Paisley is repetitive with personal facts, his praise of hard work is redeeming and honorable; he admits that he would be “at best mediocre if not 1908

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for ingenuity and sweat.” This sage motto, coupled with the author’s obvious adoration for country music, makes the book ideal for a younger generation of devotees. Both sentimental and inspirational—for fans only. (8 pages of full-color photographs)

FATAL CROSSROADS The Untold Story of the Malmédy Massacre Parker, Danny S. Da Capo/Perseus (320 pp.) $26.00 | Dec. 17, 2011 978-0-306-81193-7 978-0-306-82068-7 e-book

Military historian Parker (The Battle of the Bulge: The German View, 1998, etc.) returns with a sharply focused look at a grisly 1944 incident, the massacre of more than 80 American prisoners outside Malmédy, Belgium. Assembling a massive amount of data (the back matter alone consumes more than 120 pages), the author views the tragedy from the perspectives of survivors, the Germans and the Belgian civilians, some of whom aided the wounded, some of whom did not. The author begins with a snapshot of a field full of casualties, then points our attention to survivor Bill Merriken, whose experiences Parker revisits throughout. The author sketches the genesis of the Battle of the Bulge and rehearses the events from various perspectives. At times, the narrative seems almost to have a rewind button: Parker tells about an incident, then repeats it from the point of view of another participant or witness. He was able to interview some living survivors—on both sides (though the SS officers and others were less than candid)— and casts a critical light on the war-crimes trials that ensued, noting that there was, to some extent, a rush to judgment. Some of the guilty escaped; some innocent were convicted. Parker pins down the name of the man who fired the first shot but is unable to determine who gave the order for the massacre— though a principal candidate is Battalion Commander Jochen Peiper. At his trial, Peiper remained unbowed and unrepentant. Some of the details are wrenching—especially the first-person accounts of survivors, wounded in the cold, hearing Germans moving among them, executing the remaining survivors. In an appendix, Parker provides stories about the fates of the participants and a look at Malmédy today. Comprehensive, definitive, grim and gripping. (8 pages of BW photographs)

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THE WHORE OF AKRON One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James

Raab, Scott Harper/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $25.99 | Nov. 15, 2011 978-0-06-206636-7

An embittered, lifelong Cleveland fan chronicles the painful departure of LeBron James from the Cavaliers, taking stock of his own life in the process. Among long-suffering fan bases, Cleveland sports fans can make a legitimate claim to the top spot. With no championships to celebrate since the Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964 (in the pre–Super Bowl era), they have suffered an ignominious procession of near misses and heartbreaking defeats in football, baseball and basketball. When James, perhaps the most physically gifted basketball player ever to grace the hardwood—and a native son from nearby Akron to boot— was drafted by the Cavaliers in 2003, all of that miserable history seemed likely to end. Unfortunately for Esquire writer Raab (Real Hollywood Stories: Inside the Minds of 20 Celebrities, With One A-list Writer, 2008) and his tortured brethren, the next seven years would bring only more pain, with James leading the Cavs to only one NBA Finals appearance, where they came up short. In the summer of 2010, the King took his talents to South Beach, and the author decided to take matters into his own hands, chronicling the now-hated icon’s quest to win a championship with the Miami Heat. Raab hurls intricate helixes of epithet-laden invective at James, though each profane outburst feels less cathartic than it should (the book’s title comes from one such verbal haymaker launched on Twitter). Instead, it’s the author’s blunt evaluation of his own life—including his battles with alcohol, drugs, weight and relationship problems—that resonates as a mirror for Cleveland’s own festering decay and constant struggle. Unlike Cleveland, though, Raab can take solace in the fact that he finally found a good woman and fathered a son, championship victories denied his beloved Cleveland— that, and the fact that James failed in his first attempt to win a championship in Miami. The vitriol wears thin, but sharp writing makes this a worthwhile read for fans who know Cleveland’s pain.

CURRENCY WARS The Making of the Next Global Crisis Rickards, James Portfolio (304 pp.) $26.95 | Nov. 10, 2011 978-1-59184-449-5

A pioneer in the use of market intelligence for strategic purposes warns of the coming collapse of the dollar-based financial system. |

In Rickards’ view, the world is currently going through a third currency war (“CWIII”) based on competitive devaluations. CWII occurred in the 1960s and ’70s and culminated in Nixon’s decision to take the dollar off the gold standard. CWI followed WWI and included the 1923 German hyperinflation and Roosevelt’s devaluation of the dollar against gold in 1933. Rickards demonstrates that competitive devaluations are a race to the bottom, and thus instruments of a sort of warfare. CWIII, he writes, is characterized by the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing, which he ascribes to what he calls “extensive theoretical work” on depreciation, negative interest rates and stimulation achieved at the expense of other countries. He offers a view of how the continued depreciation and devaluation of the dollar will ultimately lead to a collapse, which he asserts will come about through a widespread abandonment of a worthless inflated instrument. Rickards also provides possible scenarios for the future, including collaboration among a variety of currencies, emergence of a world central bank and a forceful U.S. return to a gold standard through an emergency powers–based legal regime. The author emphasizes that these questions are matters of policy and choice, which can be different. Intriguing thinking about these current potentials and their history, especially given the dollar’s pervasiveness in the pricing and exchange of global assets.

AMERICAN DESPERADO My Life—from Mafia Soldier to Cocaine Cowboy to Secret Government Asset

Roberts, Jon and Wright, Evan Crown (560 pp.) $28.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-307-45042-5

A spellbinding narrative of drugs, death and debauchery as told by one of America’s most notorious criminals. Cocaine trafficker Roberts and Vanity Fair contributor Wright (Hella Nation: Looking for Happy Meals in Kandahar, Rocking the Side Pipe, Wingnut’s War Against the GAP, and Other Adventures with the Totally Lost Tribes of America, 2009, etc.) team up to recount Roberts’ unflinchingly brutal coming-of-age amid the crime-soaked underworld of New York City and beyond. Yet to call Roberts just a cocaine trafficker hardly does the man justice. He was a hustler on every front—from his humble beginnings ripping off drug deals to his ascent to the highest level of drug kingpins. Told primarily through Roberts’ firsthand account (as well as the occasional insertion by Wright and Roberts’ associates), the book reads like a how-to guide for criminals: “My father was careful not to hit people in the face who owed him money…you might kill him, and then you won’t collect your money.” Equally disconcerting are Roberts’ tips on disposing of a body, noting that the trick is to separate the guts from the rest when dumping a corpse into the ocean: “The reason bodies float is because the juices inside the guts make gases.” After being charged with kidnapping early in his criminal career, Roberts joined the army and

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“A great incentive to fire up Spotify, or even the old stereo.” from best music writing 2011

served in Vietnam in an effort to avoid prison time. In the jungles of Southeast Asia, Roberts’ insatiable bloodlust began to flourish; he describes one instance in which a VC soldier was skinned alive, noting simply, “Our amusement was finding new ways to make the bad ones suffer.” The author recounts his brutal crimes against man and morality in an off-handed manner, confirming Roberts’ assertion, “I don’t have a conscience”—an assessment with which readers will likely to agree. A savage, unrelenting tale. (8-page full-color insert)

CHANGE.EDU Rebooting for the New Talent Economy

Rosen, Andrew S. Kaplan Publishing (260 pp.) $23.00 | Oct. 17, 2011 978-1-60714-441-0

An enjoyable look back at the history of higher education in America and the startling new ways it might develop in the future. The author and CEO of test-prep powerhouse Kaplan is willing to doff his mortarboard to the Ivy League—but only because Rosen is absolutely convinced that one day, often maligned private-sector institutions like his will rule the day. Incredibly, his argument never comes off as self-serving; the author’s thorough exploration of “Harvard Envy” and the rise of “resort” campuses is both fascinating and enlightening. He cites spiraling costs, dwindling budgets and improved technology as some of the many reasons behind this inevitable changeover. If America is going to compete with the global brain trust, the author argues, it will have to be done from behind a computer screen. The prestige that Ivy League schools command is largely due to their exclusivity, a fact that runs counter to the growing need to expose increasing numbers of people to higher education. Thus, somewhere in America, there is a college campus contemplating the highest rock-climbing wall in an effort to woo new students. That’s just about as ridiculous as online distance learning—what might be thought of as the successor to old “correspondence courses”— becoming as viable as Yale or Duke. But both are happening. The U.S., writes Rosen, has no other choice but to look to virtual forprofit learning outlets like Kaplan and the University of Phoenix to boost the number of college graduates. Presently, this may be the subject of snide editorials and contemptuous hearings, but Rosen envisions a day when for-profit learning centers step up and fill the education gap much in the same way “land grant” and community colleges did in years past. The alternative, he fears, spells trouble for American supremacy in education.

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BEST MUSIC WRITING 2011

Ross, Alex–Ed. Da Capo/Perseus (336 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-306-81963-6

New Yorker music editor Ross (Listen to This, 2010, etc.) curates the year’s finest scribbling about sound. The latest entry in the annual anthology of music journalism draws on a breadth of sources, from metro dailies and national magazines to websites, blogs and even Twitter. Ross brings in lively pieces from his primary discipline, classical music: Justin Davidson offers a measured contemplation of Beethoven’s contemporary interpreters, and online contest winners risibly summarize opera librettos in 140-character tweets. Befitting the times, pop mega-stars are the focus of several penetrating profiles: Vanessa Grigoriadis on Lady Gaga, Chris Norris on Will.i.am, Caryn Ganz on Nicki Minaj. Jonathan Bogart’s critical take on Ke$ha tells you more than you may ever want to know about pop’s trollop of the moment, but does it hilariously. Rock gets comparatively short shrift, and the top selections are backward-looking: James Wood on the Who’s maniacal drummer Keith Moon, Evelyn McDonnell on ’70s femme rockers the Runaways, Nate Chinen on the unlikely yet apt onstage confluence in 1970 of Miles Davis and Neil Young. The writing about contemporary rock—Titus Andronicus bassist Amy Klein’s hyper-feminist tour diary entry, blogger Mike Turbé’s review of a metal show in a Brooklyn basement—never rises above the jejune. The most startling stuff drives boldly into new territory: Lauren Wilcox Puchowski’s profile of a Washington, D.C., wedding band at work, Jason Cherkis on a Baltimore record collector’s life-changing obsession with an early-20th-century Greek vocalist, Chris Richards’ search for Parliament-Funkadelic’s Mothership stage prop and Joe Hagan on the profound darkness revealed in Nina Simone’s hitherto unpublished diaries. There is also a dizzying chapter from Dave Tompkins’ book How to Wreck a Nice Beach, excerpted by NPR.org, about the vocoder’s passage from cryptography to music. Though country and various roots styles are half-heartedly represented and a handful of solipsistic pieces tax the reader’s patience, this edition mainly sidesteps the usual suspects while maintaining the series’ high standard. A great incentive to fire up Spotify, or even the old stereo.

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PRACTICAL GENIUS The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Passions and Talents Working for You

Rudan, Gina Amaro Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (240 pp.) $24.99 | Oct. 11, 2011 978-1-4516-2604-9

A leadership coach invites readers to evaluate their true potential and challenges them against complacency. Rudan asks, “How do smart, motivated, accomplished people like us, who are walking around with all the human assets one could ever hope for, end up in this no-man’s land?” She breaks down the components of genius into five elements, explaining that “every one of us has the capacity for genius. Anyone one of us could achieve or discuss or express something so extraordinary that it could change the world.” Unfortunately, her counsel is severely limited. She introduces a series of underdeveloped ideas, such as in the chapter entitled “Market Your Genius,” which encourages readers to use their natural talents to break out of routine. Here she fails to describe how to identify these talents or offer wisdom on how to break up the routine. Rudan is most engaging when she explores her personal narrative, most notably when she urges readers to write their own stories and makes use of catchy wordplay (such as when she encourages readers to find their “Other G-Spot,” the place between their heart and mind). Ultimately, though, readers are left somewhat adrift. According to Rudan, it’s all as simple as getting readers to put forth the effort because “self innovation is at their fingertips.” Heavy on inspiration, light on concrete advice.

SIMPLE FOOD, BIG FLAVOR Unforgettable MexicanInspired Recipes From My Kitchen to Yours

Sánchez, Aarón Atria Books (224 pp.) $30.00 | Oct. 4, 2011 978-1-4516-1150-2

Popular Food Network personality, restaurant owner and executive chef Sánchez (La Comida del Barrio, 2003) infuses personal history and big flavors into more than a dozen fiery components of Mexican cuisine. The author credits his upbringing in Texas, a love of family and apprenticeships with gastronomic luminary Paul Prudhomme and New York chef Douglas Rodriguez with helping to hone the culinary style he brings to both his Tribeca restaurant Centrico and this cookbook. Here Sánchez presents 15 “magical” culturally inspired Mexican sauces, pastes, toppings and salsas. To each, the author adds an explanation of how they are best incorporated into dishes, alongside suggestions for alternate uses that leave home chefs a lot of room to mix, match and substantially shake up the dinner table. He opens |

with “Garlic-Chipotle Love,” a “dead simple” sauce marrying roasted garlic, cilantro, oil, chipotle chili peppers and lime zest into one of the author’s “favorite flavor memories.” This mixture is the spitfire ingredient igniting recipes for mussels, raw oysters and mashed potatoes. Elsewhere, “lip-tingling” Salsa Verde, bold Adobo, fragrant Cilantro-Cotija Pesto and the author’s signature, 23-ingredient “Mole Sánchez” provide the zesty springboard for pork tenderloin, “Banging Baby’sGot-Back Ribs,” chicken or crab tostadas and empanadas. While the heat quotient is high, most recipes are accessible and flexible enough for newcomers to Mexican cuisine to dial down the more aggressively spiced ingredients to suit their individual tastes. Tips on how to keep pesto green, choosing the best tomatoes and secrets to making pickled onions are friendly and helpful. The book closes with sweet inspiration from Dulce de Leche–flavored ice cream and a temptingly sophisticated version of Bananas Foster. For Sánchez fans and those unafraid to fire up their taste buds like a pro.

MASTERS OF MYSTERY The Strange Friendship of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini Sandford, Christopher Palgrave Macmillan (304 pp.) $27.00 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-230-61950-0

Veteran celebrity biographer Sandford (Polanski, 2008, etc.) brings together two fierce yet mutually respectful antagonists on the subject of spiritualism. The title is doubly misleading. The friendship between the most popular author and the greatest illusionist of their time occupies only the middle third of this volume, and the friendship was never all that friendly. The two famous figures, Sandford concedes, enjoyed “a love-hate relationship…that eventually tilted toward the latter” after only two years in their eventful lives. Doyle’s deepening interest in communicating with the dead, which Sandford traces back to at least 1887, the year A Study in Scarlet first appeared, blossomed into firm belief after his son’s death of influenza in 1916. Houdini, who described himself to Doyle as “a skeptic, but a seeker after the truth” in a letter he wrote Doyle soon after their correspondence began in 1920, had meanwhile set up shop as a worldclass debunker of bogus mediums and their claims to channel astral voices and paranormal phenomena. It was inevitable that the two men—each prodigiously ambitious, persistent and selfconfident—should have been drawn to each other. But not even a 1922 séance—in which the two were joined by Doyle’s wife, who under their eyes produced 15 pages of automatic writing she claimed to have been inspired by Houdini’s late mother— could convince the skeptic. Instead, his dissent from belief in the miracle led to the rupture of a relationship that had been fragile at best.

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JUSTICE AND THE ENEMY From the Nuremberg Trials to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

More a double portrait than an account of a friendship, but a fascinating account of an unlikely relationship framed in a good deal of lightly sourced dual biography.

THE TENDER HOUR OF TWILIGHT Paris in the ’50s, New York in the ’60s: A Memoir of Publishing’s Golden Age

Seaver, Richard Farrar, Straus and Giroux (432 pp.) $35.00 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-374-27378-1

A dense, detailed, priceless eyewitness account of the making of a literary generation between Paris and New York. A native of Pennsylvania, a Navy man, erstwhile teacher and AFS fellow living in Paris in the early 1950s on a shoestring, Seaver fell in with a group of ex-pat writers and intellectuals turning out the English-language literary magazine Merlin, published by Alex Trocchi and Patrick Bowles. Seaver, who spoke French fluently and was in the process of completing graduate studies on James Joyce, had become acquainted with the writing of Samuel Beckett, also living in Paris but then fairly unknown although he had been publishing since the late ’20s. Seaver’s essay about Beckett and subsequent translations of his short work in the magazine helped spread the word about the brilliant but reclusive bilingual author, whom Seaver finally befriended and depicts here in wonderfully explicit passages. Other legendary figures Seaver encountered included the towering Jean-Paul Sartre, who graciously offered pieces from his own Les Temps modernes and urged him to publish Jean Genet. Gradually the magazine ventured into publishing books, inviting Olympia Press publisher Maurice Girodias to act as manager debuting with Beckett’s Watt. Marriage to young French violinist Jeanette—later his co-editor at Arcade Publishing and the editor of this posthumously published work—and two subsequent years in the Navy Reserves prompted Seaver to relocate to New York, where he segued naturally into the managing editor role at Grove Press, run by Barney Rosset, the English publisher of Beckett and many of the same incendiary authors Seaver had championed in France. Indeed, the press would make its name fighting pornography charges in the ’60s against D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (and Capricorn) and William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and valiantly standing by Last Exit to Brooklyn and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, among many others. A rich record of the vicissitudes of publishing during an inimitable time and place.

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Shawcross, William PublicAffairs (256 pp.) $26.99 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-58648-975-5

A controversial intervention into the ongoing political and legal argument about whether and how to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators for their role in the 9/11 attack. British writer and commentator Shawcross (The Queen Mother: The Official Biography, 2009, etc.) takes a no-holdsbarred approach to the issues involved in putting the alleged perpetrators of 9/11 on trial for their crimes. His argument is embedded in parallels concerning World War II and the application of justice to Nazi war criminals. Shawcross’ father was the British prosecutor at the Nuremberg war-crimes tribunal; at that time there were differences of opinion among the allies. Churchill favored summary execution of top Nazis, without recourse to trial. Stalin proposed eliminating the top 50,000 officials. Truman was in favor of the trials and appointed Robert Jackson to represent the U.S. Shawcross believes that the Nuremberg trials provide a precedent for the current situation, and he argues that military commissions, or tribunals, are well established in U.S. law. A key precedent, he writes, was provided by Ex Parte Quirin 1942, in which German spies were to be tried by military commission. Justice Jackson wrote one of the opinions and upheld tribunals as within the war powers of the presidency. Shawcross similarly supports the Bush administration’s decisions on illegal combatants and believes that Mohammed, waterboarded more than 180 times, was not necessarily a victim of torture. Sure to cause further heated debate on the Mohammed situation and other similar scenarios.

EIGHT PIECES OF EMPIRE A 20-Year Journey Through the Soviet Collapse Sheets, Lawrence Scott Crown (320 pp.) $28.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-307-39582-5

Prosaic travels through the rubble of the Soviet Empire. Former NPR Moscow bureau chief Sheets has been a longtime resident of Russia, having arrived there as a student in the late 1980s and been privileged to see firsthand the reforms of the Gorbachev era and, soon thereafter, the collapse of the Soviet Union. As he writes here, not everyone in Russia or its former satellites was glad to see the Soviets go. One old survivor of the siege of Leningrad, for instance, faults current leader Vladimir Putin,

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a former KGB stalwart, for not being tough enough, even if he “had made Russia respected in the world again—if not an empire, then certainly a country to be taken seriously.” Sheets travels through several post-Soviet landscapes, observing the war Chechnya as it was unfolding; he adds value to other accounts by being able to speak directly to the combatants in conversations that highlight, among other things, racism in the ranks. There are some revealing moments, as when former statesman Edvard Shevardnadze admits that he had not correctly foreseen the events that would sweep the Soviet state from power (“I was convinced the Soviet Union would disintegrate,” he says. “But to be honest, I was off by 10 or 15 years”), and when Sheets travels into the “Stans,” which he calls “some of the most quirky countries of earth.” The author’s accounts are evenhanded and trustworthy, but his prose limps along, pausing to remark on too man obvious points. Less of the expected nostrums and more on the gritty business of collecting news in dangerous places would have helped. A latecomer to the field, not strong enough to displace better books that cover the same ground, such as Marq de Villiers’ Down the Volga (1992), Thomas Goltz’s Chechnya Diary (2003) and Andrew Jack’s Inside Putin’s Russia (2004).

AND SO IT GOES Kurt Vonnegut: A Life

Shields, Charles J. Henry Holt (544 pp.) $30.00 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-8050-8693-5

The life of a once-lionized writer who is gradually, it seems, being forgotten today. “We are what we pretend to be,” wrote Vonnegut in his novel Mother Night, “so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Vonnegut didn’t pretend to be much, preferring to let others invent roles for him, such as shaggyhaired dispenser of goofy wisdom or the dark chronicler of the gloom and doom that technology and consumerism would one day visit upon us all. One has to feel some pity for Shields (Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, 2006, etc.), who began this biography with Vonnegut’s blessing; alas, Vonnegut died as Shields was beginning to work, and Vonnegut’s widow and son deauthorized the book, refusing to allow Shields to quote directly from a body of 258 letters that Shields himself had “received from his correspondents.” The result is a slightly choppy piece, though the main threads will be familiar to readers of Vonnegut’s work. For one thing, he was a moralist through and through—and a self-aware one who noted, “People are constantly demanding moralizing…that’s certainly what people want to hear when they ask me to lecture.” For another, Vonnegut quite deliberately chose the vehicle of science fiction to warn about the dangers of science—though, as Shields’ book illuminates, at least some of Vonnegut’s distaste for technology was a reaction to a brother with whom he had lifelong issues. Though guilty of unnecessarily overwritten |

passages, Shields is a sympathetic and responsive reader of Vonnegut’s work, which deserves to be taken seriously even when so often dismissed as literary pranksterism, and even though the last couple of decades of it frankly wasn’t very good. The author also cuts Vonnegut some of the necessary slack, since to be a writer by definition is to be a selfish and peevish being—and so Vonnegut was. Indeed, Vonnegut emerges as irascible, ungenerous and usually unkind, “flinty, defensive, and sarcastic,” which will surely disappoint admirers who wanted him to be something better. (Agent: Jeff Kleinman)

THE WHOLE-BRAIN CHILD 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

Siegel, Daniel J. and Bryson, Tina Payne Delacorte (208 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 4, 2011 978-0-553-80791-2 Siegel (Psychiatry/UCLA; Mindsight, 2010, etc.) and Bryson dissect the different sections of the brain and offer useful parental tools that can limit temper tantrums as well as ensure well-rounded development. The authors, both of Los Angeles’ Mindsight Institute, reveal 12 “whole-brain” strategies the entire family should implement as part of a holistic approach to child development. They suggest that the more we know about how the human brain operates, the more we can do to control it in difficult times. Most readers are already aware, for example, that there is a “right brain” and a “left brain.” But what about the “upstairs” and the “downstairs?” When we’re at our best, all of these parts work together harmoniously. Tantrums and meltdowns occur when one part of the brain temporarily takes over, causing “dis-integration.” To remedy this, the authors suggest 12 strategies designed to “re-integrate” the brain. These suggestions can also benefit adults who are prone to “dis-integration” as well. The authors include a fair amount of brain science, but they present it for both adult and child audiences. To facilitate a greater understanding of the process for the entire family, the authors summarize each strategy into comics form at the end of each chapter for easy comprehension. The appendix includes a handy reference guide that provides a quick refresher course when needed. Useful child-rearing resource for the entire family.

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“Take that, warriors of secularism.” from the triumph of christianity

THE TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIANITY How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion

Stark, Rodney HarperOne (544 pp.) $27.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-06-200768-1

A no-nonsense, defensive account of Christianity’s rise in the West. There is much to correct in the historical record, as sociologist Stark (Institute for Studies of Religion/Baylor Univ.; God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, 2009, etc.) makes plain here, repositioning the central role of Christianity in Western development. Once it started to spread among the privileged urban classes and, especially, women, Christianity promised a better life in a typically brutish time. Its appeals to mercy and alleviating misery fell on welcome ears amid squalid ancient cities of the Roman Empire. Early Christians elevated the role of women, denounced infanticide and raised the marriageable age. Early persecution only strengthened Christian intransigence, while the “performance” of martyrs proved utterly convincing in the conversion process. With the conquest of Islam, Stark shows how Christianity was mercilessly decimated in the East, forcing the faithful to seek safe harbor in European lands. In the chapter titled “Europe Responds: The Case for the Crusades,” the author debunks previous assertions by Karen Armstrong and other historians that the Crusades were essentially colonizing and exploitative; rather, he writes, they were “fundamentally defensive” in protecting Christian pilgrims and shrines from Muslim attack. Moreover, the Medieval era categorized erroneously by the Enlightenment writers as the “Dark Ages” was a rich, inventive period that spurred capitalism (profits, property rights, modern banking, etc.) and science. It was the Christian Scholastics educated in urban universities and steeped in the Christian theology of logic and reason who invented science long before Copernicus and Galileo. Stark credits European belief in “God as the Intelligent Designer” as their scientific mentor. The author provides a refreshing, unorthodox polishing of Martin Luther and the Spanish Inquisition, while crediting the survival and growth of Christianity to the rich pluralism of America. Take that, warriors of secularism.

UNSTUCK IN TIME A Journey Through Kurt Vonnegut’s Life and Novels Sumner, Gregory D. Seven Stories (320 pp.) $24.95 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-1-60980-349-0

An introductory-level summary of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, with a biographical twist. It’s clear that Sumner (History/Univ. of Detroit Mercy) is a devoted and thoughtful reader of Vonnegut’s novels. However, it’s difficult to tell whether his book is intended to be a scholarly work or simply the gushing evangelism of a true fan. Readers who enjoyed Slaughterhouse-Five but are looking for a refresher on the plot, or those coming to Vonnegut for the first time, will find that the book meets their needs. Readers seeking a more analytical approach may be disappointed. Sumner describes Vonnegut’s novels in chronological order and dispenses corresponding details from the author’s personal history when relevant. Though light on analysis, the book is accessible. In his chapter on Night Mother, Sumner zeroes in on the novel’s insistence on the impossibility of true moral purity through its portrayal of a protagonist who embodies the role of both war criminal and war hero: “He opens us to the disturbing malleability of the human soul, insists that there is no place of purity and ‘clean hands’ to which we can safely and finally retreat.” In the chapter on Cat’s Cradle, Sumner examines Vonnegut’s exploration of the occasionally evil consequences of good intentions. The chronological organization often reveals the development of a particular theme in successive novels, but it precludes a more in-depth investigation of these themes. For general readers, a useful refresher course on Vonnegut’s life and novels; scholars should look elsewhere.

A TOAST TO BARGAIN WINES How Innovators, Iconoclasts, and Winemaking Revolutionaries Are Changing the Way the World Drinks

Taber, George M. Scribner (336 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-4391-9518-5

A well-researched exploration of an often-overlooked sector of the international wine business: bargain wines. We are living in “the golden age of wine,” writes Taber (In Search of Bacchus, 2009, etc.), an assertion most easily proven by the abundance of high-quality, inexpensive wines on store shelves today. New producers in the industry such as Australia, Chile and the United States have increased global competition; as a result, wines at the low end of the price spectrum (specifically $10 or less) 1914

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have improved greatly over the past few decades. Taber begins by dispelling the myth that expensive wine is automatically better by relating a few stories of red-faced wine tasters and some of their epic blunders throughout history. He goes on to target the “gold medals” and other awards given to wines at various tasting festivals. The verdict: So-called “wine experts” are inconsistent at best, and what one deems gold-medal quality, another could deem unpalatable. The author encourages amateur wine enthusiasts to trust their own taste, go with what they like and not be too concerned with experts and awards. Taber shines brightest in the book’s second half, an exhaustive guide to bargain wines broken down by style and region. A must-read for wine enthusiasts, especially those on a budget.

A SLAVE IN THE WHITE HOUSE Paul Jennings and the Madisons

Taylor, Elizabeth Dowling Palgrave Macmillan (336 pp.) $28.00 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-230-10893-6 The former director of education at James Madison’s Montpelier debuts with the biography of Paul Jennings, a slave who grew up with the Madisons, was with the former president when he died, gained his freedom and sired many descendants. Because Jennings for much of his life was considered merely property, Taylor had to be satisfied with a skeleton of fact, which she fleshes out with imaginative and thorough research, careful supposition and heavy contextual description. Jennings himself contributed a slim document, included here as an appendix, A Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison, which originally appeared in 1863. Throughout, Taylor reminds us of the moral failures of the Founding Fathers, especially their unwillingness to accept the notion that black people should enjoy the benefits of freedom so eloquently expressed in the nation’s founding documents. Although Jennings testified to the kindness of Madison, he was still willing to buy and sell human beings. Dolley Madison does not come off so well. We hear about her petulance, excessive spending (she died in near poverty) and wastrel son from her first marriage. One admirable white man does emerge: Daniel Webster, who loaned Jennings the money to purchase his freedom (after Madison died), allowing him to work off the debt. But this is Jennings’ story, and the author admirably keeps the focus on him—though there are occasional detours to explore context and speculate. Born in 1799, Jennings somehow learned to read and write and gradually assumed enormous importance in the Madisons’ lives—both in Virginia and at the White House, where he was instrumental in saving a portrait of George Washington from the 1814 British assault. In 2009 his descendants met at the White House to honor their ancestor. An important story of human struggle, determination and triumph. |

MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

Tosi, Christina Clarkson Potter (256 pp.) $35.00 | Oct. 25, 2011 978-0-307-72049-8

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing. In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.

MIDAS TOUCH Why Some Entrepreneurs Get Rich—and Why Most Don’t

Trump, Donald J.; Kiyosaki, Robert T. Plata Publishing (348 pp.) $24.95 | Oct. 4, 2011 978-1612680958

Trump and Kiyosaki are back with a tag-team tutorial on how to rake in oodles of cash as a winning entrepreneur. What makes a successful entrepreneur? According to the authors, five qualities comprise success, and each is represented by one of your fingers. The thumb represents strength, the index finger suggests focus, the middle finger symbolizes a brand, the ring finger implies relationships and the pinky finger stands for the little things that still count. Together they comprise the Midas Touch. If you don’t have it, the authors warn, you won’t make it big in business. Both authors take turns expounding on each principle by harkening back to their own personal experiences. Kiyosaki draws on his service in Vietnam and his failed attempt to build a financial empire out of Velcro wallets. Trump references his many escapades

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“A strange, brilliant and endlessly arguable book, one every student of history needs to have close at hand.” from the great big book of horrible things

building New York City skyscrapers and hosting a reality-TV show. The authors complement each other surprisingly well, as both men possess rare insights into the way business really gets done. This manual is as good as many of the other so-so entrepreneurial handbooks out there, but the subtext is alarming. “As the middle class disappears there’s only one or two ways you can go: rich or poor,” write the authors. “We want you to be rich.” They go on to argue: “Government cannot create real jobs. Only entrepreneurs can do that.” Then how to explain the millions of cops, nurses and firefighters who also dream of owning a boat or vacation home someday? Is their only recourse to hope for a spot on The Apprentice? Serviceable but undermined by its political proselytizing.

HOME COOKING WITH JEAN-GEORGES My Favorite Simple Recipes

Vongerichten, Jean-Georges with Ko, Genevieve Clarkson Potter (256 pp.) $40.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0307717955

Rediscover the joy in home cooking along with star chef Vongerichten (Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges, 2007, etc.). To celebrate his 50th, chef and restaurateur Vongerichten gave himself weekends off to spend at his country house. During that time, he rediscovered the pleasures of cooking at home—something he hadn’t done in years. Far from the high-concept French-Asian fusion for which he is known, this collection focuses on meals that can be easily prepared in any home kitchen. It’s not about impressing guests or finding quick shortcuts to get dinner on the table; it’s a celebration of cooking family meals. Vongerichten writes of the importance of quality ingredients, shares information about his vendors and advocates shopping at local markets for seasonal produce. He includes photographs of his family and anecdotes about their favorite recipes, including his wife’s deliciously rich Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Readers can share Vongerichten’s pleasure in creating new flavor combinations for everyday meals. His Fiery Grilled Shrimp with Honeydew Gazpacho is simple yet intriguing, mixing chilies with mint and sweet melon for a cooling summer lunch. Snacks like Rosemary Popcorn and cocktails like Ginger Margaritas round out this cookbook, giving readers a picture of daily life in the country, Vongerichten-style. An endearing twist on the super-chef cookbook, geared toward creative home cooks who want to explore new tastes.

MAN SEEKS GOD My Flirtations with the Divine

Weiner, Eric Twelve (352 pp.) $26.99 | CD $29.98 | Dec. 5, 2011 978-0-446-53947-0 978-1-6113-981-5 CD A peripatetic journalist and the author of The Geography of Bliss (2008) jets around the globe trying to find a religion that makes sense for him. Born a Jew (but no longer observing), Weiner received a recent medical scare and was startled by a nurse’s question: “Have you found your God yet?” That question propelled the author in his search through a tiny fraction of the world’s religions. Some of the groups he chose—Wiccans and Raelians, for example, the latter a UFO-based religion whose Las Vegas convention Weiner attended—seem choices based more on whimsy and sensationalism than a sincere response to the nurse’s question. Still, Weiner is often an appealing tour guide, complaining throughout about the quality of the coffee, making fun of his efforts to whirl like a dervish, chiding himself for his inability to meditate, recording his fears when he walked down a city street or met a Wiccan named Black Cat and telling how he sneaked out of sessions for a drink. Weiner also samples some more conventional religions, like Buddhism and Taoism, and he lived with some Franciscans at a shelter in the South Bronx. The author even explores shamanism at a remote Maryland location, though he confesses a discomfort with polytheism. Weiner ends his quest in Israel, where he studied Kabbalah with a variety of teachers. The author’s conclusion—find what works for you—is hardly novel, and the tone and diction are informal and self-deprecating but sometimes clichéd. A mixture of sincerity, sensationalism and irony that alternately delights, informs and annoys.

THE GREAT BIG BOOK OF HORRIBLE THINGS The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities

White, Matthew Norton (560 pp.) $35.00 | Nov. 7, 2011 978-0-393-08192-3

Who was worse, Adolf Hitler or Genghis Khan? An odd question, perhaps—but after finishing prolific historian White’s compendium, it’s one readers will be better prepared to entertain. The answer, of course, is that both were quite terrible. Between the two dictators, something on the order of 100,000,000 people died during their regimes—most of them noncombatants. “War kills more civilians than soldiers,” 1916

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writes the author. “In fact, the army is usually the safest place to be during a war.” That said, White patiently works his way through 100 atrocities, examining each with a tone that’s sometimes waggish, sometimes even flippant, but never less than smart. He reckons, for instance, that the dreaded Persians, whom the Greeks supposedly kept from destroying Western civilization, really weren’t such bad guys, even if their military machine dispatched many a foe. Timur, known to the West as Tamerlane, was similarly a pretty good guy, at least if you were on his good side. By one of history’s little ironies, those who were on his bad side were usually co-religionists: “He was a devout Muslim who almost exclusively destroyed Muslim enemies.” Stalin? A rotter. Mao? Perhaps worse. Hitler? Well, to the conservatives who insist that we were wrong to ally with Stalin against Hitler, White writes that “the world went to war against Hitler because he was dangerous, not because he was evil,” adding, “when you start invading your neighbors, the rest of the world gets jumpy.” Observing that nothing will prompt a fight more quickly than a set of numbers, White merrily quantifies the grimmest records humans have set—and if there’s any overarching lesson to take from his book, it is that our species is little more than a pack of chimps with guns and murderous intent. Fight or not, White is an equal-opportunity quantifier, showing that if Zulu chief (and sometime hero) Shaka had plenty of innocent blood on his hands, so did the French and British imperialists, to say nothing of Robert McNamara. A strange, brilliant and endlessly arguable book, one every student of history needs to have close at hand. (4 maps)

MASTERS OF MANAGEMENT How the Business Gurus and Their Ideas Have Changed the World— for Better and for Worse

Wooldridge, Adrian Harper Business (464 pp.) $29.99 | Nov. 29, 2011 978-0-06-177113-2

A welcome update of a business classic. In 1996, Wooldridge (God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World, 2010, etc.) co-authored The Witch Doctors, a brilliant analysis of the cult and culture of business management. The various global meltdowns of the 21st-century have necessitated a wholly updated edition, and this revised incarnation should overtake its predecessor as the most bracing and relevant discussion of the world created by MBAs. Today, the author is largely concerned with the ways in which a group of management mavericks—trained at some of the world’s most elite institution—have been given free reign to shape the economy. While Wooldridge concedes the many positive contributions management “gurus” have had on American enterprise, he is ultimately damning. He calls the industry to task for its lack of intellectual rigor; love of novelty |

for novelty’s sake; propensity to obfuscate through meaningless neologisms; and refusal to acknowledge criticism. In sharp, direct prose, he looks at examples in which entire industries have been reshaped—often with catastrophic results—by this coterie’s theoretical whims. In an increasingly volatile world in which the public demands more for less and resources that were once plentiful have become more and more scarce, CEOs and politicians have made themselves easy targets for millionaire prophets promising salvation. Simultaneously smart, insightful, terrifying and humorous.

THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF SUCCESSFUL WOMEN Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It

Young, Valerie Crown Business (304 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 11, 2011 978-0-307-45271-9

A former marketing executive investigates the complex emotional response women have when dealing with success. Using a collection of anecdotes and reinforced stereotypes, Young reveals the secret trepidations many women feel about success. She begins by sharing the fears of talented individuals like Meryl Streep, who once confided in a reporter, “Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?” This approach is often engaging, but Young relies too heavily on other people’s stories to carry her message. The author’s personal history is much more relevant to the crux of her mission. The “secrets” she unveils are all fairly obvious—e.g., “you are responsible for yourself ”—and are repeated frequently throughout the book without further development. Young includes a series of interactive questions, some of which are useful, but most are overly simplistic and lack originality. While the focus of the book is women and self-esteem, too often Young makes unnecessary and unsubstantiated statements—e.g., “Despite all the gains women have made, the essential truth remains: if you are pale or male, you are presumed competent until proven otherwise.” The author’s generalizations about women often overshadow the lessons she endeavors to provide. Unfortunately, the author saves her most interesting idea until the final pages. Provides little insight on how to re-evaluate your self-worth.

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MR. CSI How a Vegas Dreamer Made a Killing in Hollywood, One Body at a Time

Zuiker, Anthony E. Harper/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $26.99 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-06-172549-4

The creator of one of TV’s most successful franchises spills his guts. Zuiker knows how to tell a story, and like most episodes of CSI, this one begins with a grisly crime scene in a low-rent Las Vegas apartment. There, the real-life inspirations for the author’s fictional characters discovered the body of his long-estranged father, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Zuiker received the news the next morning, after having attended an awards show the night before, and his return to his hometown to deal with the aftermath provides a gripping start to his memoir. The reminiscences about his troubled relationship with his father, a hustler in the old Vegas mold, distinguish the book as more than an ordinary autobiography of a self-made man. But the majority of the narrative is just that, told with humor and a notable lack of ego. Zuiker’s ambition to succeed was clear from an early age, and he embarked on a series of often ill-advised get-rich schemes, including selling dice games of his own creation through vending machines and creating advertising ideas for businesses from casinos to adult stores. However, it was his involvement with scholastic public-speaking competitions that led to his eventual triumph in Hollywood. The actual creation of the CSI franchise makes up a relatively small part of the story, though there are a few anecdotes about the stars and the people behind the scenes. The promise of the book’s beginning remains largely unfulfilled, however, as Zuiker finds forgiveness for his father’s shortcomings but fails to explore their impact on his life. A well-told tale of rags to Hollywood riches, but a missed opportunity for a deeper exploration of a creative mind.

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children & teens PLAYGROUND

50 Cent Razorbill/Penguin (272 pp.) $17.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-59514-434-8 A white social worker helps troubled 13-year-old Butterball understand and change his actions in this tale of an outcast-turned-bully’s redemption. When the story opens, Butterball is speaking with Liz for the first time after attacking a boy for reasons he does not immediately reveal either to readers or to “this uptight white woman.” As the story unfolds, readers begin to see, if not why Butterball filled a sock with batteries and smashed it against his former friend’s face, the social rewards he reaps for having done so. Popular students high-five him in the hallways, and his dad, whom Butterball visits in the city two weekends a month, tells him, “I was kind of proud of you...maybe you’re not such a worthless fatass after all.” Thoughtful readers, however, will recognize his father’s derision and neglect as well as the shallowness of the popular boys’ interest in their newly proven tough guy. Themes of masculinity and homophobia are handled subtly and open-endedly here. Butterball is an appealing narrator, mustering as much toughness, humor and, eventually, vulnerability for readers as he does for his fellow students, his mother and Liz. An instructive and inviting look into the psychology of a young bully. (Fiction. 10-13)

SPARKS

Adams, S. J. Flux (264 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7387-2676-2 What’s a heartbroken teen to do when the object of her secret lesbian crush ditches her for a boring boyfriend? Debbie, who joined the Active Christian Teens to be closer to wholesome Lisa Ashby, is devastated when Lisa cancels their standing Friday-night Full House date to make out with pompous, tiresome Norman Hastings. Then a friend of a friend offers to tell Debbie about her new religion, and, desperate for change, Debbie accepts. So begins a zany, comic, all-inone-night “holy quest” with Emma and Tim, inventors of the Church of Blue. “Bludaism,” which holds that there are divine |

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“Sparks of Blue” in everyone, emphasizes creativity, silliness and “matters of the heart,” though its grabs from other religions are sometimes trivializing (the pair got “Bluddha,” a painted Buddha figurine that adorns Emma’s dashboard, “so we’d have something to pat for luck”). As Debbie, Emma and Tim drive around Des Moines aiming to complete the last three goals on a holy-quest checklist, locate a missing backpack and allow Debbie to declare her love to her best friend, they encounter a funny and satisfying set of recurring motifs and side characters. The final revelations are both surprising and believable, and though one checklist item—”witness a girl-on-girl kiss in which at least one participant has never kissed a girl before”—seems a bit too convenient, its execution is both original and appealing. A kinetic and well-paced comedy that just might win a few converts. (Fiction. 12 & up)

DAVE AND VIOLET

Adams, Sarah Illus. by Adams, Sarah Frances Lincoln (32 pp.) $17.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-052-7

Violet’s best friend Dave has a hard time fitting in. Not only is he a dragon, Dave is also shy. Violet, a little girl, takes him to the park to meet her friends, who have never seen a dragon before. They approach him amiably, but Dave gets very nervous. He turns bright orange, and a huge flame gushes from his mouth. “WHOOSH!” Dave tries to apologize, but everybody has been scared away except Violet. To cheer him up, she invites Dave to come and play with her school band at their concert that evening. Dave brings his trumpet, but gets so nervous when the audience quiets down to listen that the same thing happens. Fire whooshes out of Dave’s trumpet. Violet’s next suggestion is a job for Dave at school, as a lunch lady. He burns all the food to a crisp. Dave hides in his cellar for days, until Violet coaxes him outside for a stroll. It’s a dark and rainy night, and all the townspeople seem gloomy. The people gathered in the town square make Dave nervous, but this time he shoots fireworks into the sky, triggers a spontaneous party and becomes a local hero. Adams’ illustrations, like her story, are simple and direct; the lino prints have bold outlines and bright colors, and eggplant-shaped, mop-topped Dave has a goofy appeal. A fitting fable for the very young about friendship and diversity. (Picture book. 3-6)

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“How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.” from the one and only ivan

THE PRINCE’S NEW PET

Anderson, Brian Illus. by Anderson, Brian Neal Porter/Roaring Brook (40 pp.) $16.99 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-1-59643-357-1 When the Queen died and her bereft king banished color from the kingdom, Prince Viridian’s world turned the gloomiest gray. A mysterious present (a cute, colorful creature called a wooglefoof) crashes his birthday party and changes all that, spiriting its garish stripes across the castle and sending the king’s Color Snatcher in fiendish, feverish pursuit. Scratchy, black ink drawings deliver wobbly, warped perspectives over undulating gray backdrops, punctuated with pop-eyed expressions and swift action. The wooglefoof ’s vivid fur clashes brilliantly with fine black linework and murky gray fog, propelling readers onward. Expert paneling unfailingly energizes and advances the story as well, creating a pace that leaves you panting. The sinister Color Snatcher’s jagged cheekbones, sharp nose and supremely str-e-etch-ed smile raises goosebumps, while the wooglefoof ’s fluffy rainbow tail, googly eyes and spastic sprints deliver laughs. In Anderson’s giddily dark world, where Tim Burton or Edward Gorey might happily put up their feet, the comic and ridiculous teeter alongside the horrid and beastly. Sophisticated language and frightening chase scenes broaden this book’s appeal to older readers, who might start touting joyful flamboyance over ascetic boredom. Creepy, kooky and deftly delivered, this dark story offers a bright ending for readers who might think they’ve just outgrown fairy tales. (Picture book. 5-10)

DARTH PAPER STRIKES BACK

Angleberger, Tom Illus. by Angleberger, Tom Amulet/Abrams (176 pp.) $12.95 | Aug. 23, 2011 978-1-4197-0027-9 Series: Origami Yoda, 2 Can tiny paper guru Origami Yoda save nerdy Dwight (from whose finger Yoda pontificates) from Principal Rabbski’s unfounded suspension (and worse)? Last year, the sixth graders of McQuarrie Middle School compiled a case file to decide whether Origami Yoda was real or just Dwight wiggling his paper-clad finger and talking in a Yoda voice; he seemed to be the real deal and helped a lot of students out. Unfortunately, on the first day of seventh grade, ever-skeptical Harvey appears with an origami Darth Vader on his finger bent on dispensing the gospel of the Dark Side… well, actually he is still trying to get everyone to admit Origami Yoda’s a total scam. Is Darth Paper more powerful than Origami Yoda? When Jen asks Origami Yoda for advice about 1920

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cheerleading tryouts and he says, “Zero Hour comes. Prepare to meet your doom!”, Principal Rabbski suspends Dwight for threatening behavior and recommends he be sent to CREF, the Correctional and Remedial Education Facility. Tommy plans to take this new case file, complete with negative comments from Harvey and illustrations from Kellen, to the school board to save his friend. Angleberger’s just-as-funny follow-up to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (2010) delves deeper into the mystery of the helpful paper Yoda in a satisfying tale of friendship and just resistance to authority. Pitch-perfect middle-school milieu and enough Star Wars references (and laughs) to satisfy fans and win new ones. (paper-folding instructions) (Graphic hybrid fiction. 9-14)

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

Applegate, Katherine Illus. by Castelao, Patricia Harper/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $16.99 | PLB $17.89 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-06-199225-4 978-0-06-199226-1 PLB How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage. Living in a “domain” of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and, rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout. Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

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A LITTLE BOOK OF ALLITERATIONS

THE FILE ON ANGELYN STARK

Atkins, Catherine Knopf (240 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-375-86906-8 978-0-375-89989-8 e-book 978-0-375-96906-5 PLB

Arthur, Felix Illus. by Capon, Jenny Inside Pocket (66 pp.) $7.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-9562-3155-0

An alphabet of alliterative sentences, each illustrated with fey drawings. The beginning alliteration is: “Awful Auntie Agatha ate all of Arthur’s available apples.” Most are even more quirky and informed by more adult-oriented sense of whimsy. For example, the letter I sentence reads, “Ivan is irate over Ivor’s increasingly idiotic ideas.” The illustration depicts an iguana with feather wings flying too close to the sun (inventively evoking Icarus), while a smaller iguana watches from below. The letter K uses “k” sounds with “c” words: “Karen crept carefully past Kevin’s creepy crypt.” The challenging letter X is: “Xeno expertly examined Xenon’s xylophone.” The book could be used for an entertaining word project with middle schoolers on up. Its small size and offbeat wordplay make it the kind of catchy display item at the bookstore checkout that catches the eye for a gift. Readers are invited to submit their own alliterations at the book’s website, given at the end. Silly sentences spotlight surprising scenes for sophisticated senses with swagger. (Picture book. 8 & up)

THE FUTURE OF US

Asher, Jay & Mackler, Carolyn Razorbill/Penguin (320 pp.) $18.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-59514-491-1 If you had the chance to see what your life would be like 15 years in the future, would you take it? High-school students Emma Nelson and Josh Templeton were best friends until a misguided kiss last November made things between them awkward at best. But when Josh’s mother forces him to give Emma a CD-ROM for America Online, the two discover that, for better or for worse, their destinies are intertwined. While installing the CD, Emma stumbles upon her Facebook page. The problem is, it’s 1996. Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. Emma shares her secret with Josh, and the two quickly learn that everything they do in the present has an immediate impact on their lives in the future. Unfortunately, they don’t always like what they see. Can the two teenagers rewrite the future? Should they try? Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why, 2007) and Mackler’s (Tangled, 2010) fantasy, told from both Emma and Josh’s perspectives, makes for an entertaining but ultimately disappointing read. Focusing almost entirely on the teens’ future love lives, the authors neglect 1996-era subplots involving the teens’ friends and families that might have given the story additional depth and immediacy. Without question a page-turner, it’s nevertheless unlikely to linger long in readers’ minds. (Fantasy. 13 & up) |

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A troubled teen tries to tell a truth no one wants to hear in this problem novel told almost exclusively in dialogue. Fifteen-year-old Angelyn Stark seems to relish her position as the head of a pack of bad girls, but her tough exterior covers a terrible secret. The summer she was 12, her stepfather, Danny, sexually molested her. The abuse stopped after a neighbor called police, but when her mom didn’t believe her, Angelyn told investigators it never happened. Danny still lives with them, and Angelyn endures her mother’s anger over the incident. Angelyn’s boyfriend, Steve, keeps pressuring her for sex, but she’s only interested in her teacher, Mr. Rossi, the single adult in her life who encourages her. But Mr. Rossi is fighting demons of his own and rightly fears that a relationship with Angelyn will jeopardize his reputation. She will have to save herself. While Angelyn is an intriguing, complicated character, the clipped, occasionally clichéd conversations that make up most of the novel do little to deepen secondary characters’ dimensions beyond type. In addition, subplots concerning a new girl and Angelyn’s next-door neighbor get lost in the more compelling story lines of Angelyn vs. Mom, Steve and Mr. Rossi. Still, the ample white space created by long stretches of dialogue and the provocative topic make this an ideal selection for reluctant readers. (Fiction. 14-18)

MY TWO GRANDADS

Benjamin, Floella Illus. by Chamberlain, Margaret Frances Lincoln (28 pp.) $16.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-060-2 Benjamin and Chamberlain’s picture book is squarely focused on family diversity as it tells the story of a biracial boy and his musical family in a companion to their earlier collaboration, My Two Grannies (2008). Although Aston’s grandads are both musicians and live in his Lancashire hometown, his maternal Grandad Harry is white and from Lancashire too, while his paternal Grandad Roy is black and from Trinidad. The rather text-heavy story depicts Aston immersed in a bicultural mix of music. Both grandads encourage Aston to practice, and his love of music carries over to school. When the school’s Summer Fair is suddenly without a band, Aston asks his grandads if their respective brass and steeldrum bands might step in—even though his teacher tells him that there’s only time for one. When both respond positively, |

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Aston worries: “How could he decide which band should play?” Ultimately, he suggests that the bands practice so that they can play together. The Summer Fair is a great success, with Aston getting up on stage to join in the music-making. Cheery, brightly colored, cartoon-style illustrations reiterate the text, which, while a touch didactic, laudably expands on the typically monocultural depictions of families in picture books. (Picture book. 3-6)

DEATH WATCH

Berk, Ari Simon & Schuster (544 pp.) $17.99 | Nov. 15, 2011 978-1-4169-9115-1 Series: The Undertaken Trilogy, 1 Folklorist Berk enters the world of teen lit with mixed results. In a town where ancient customs hold sway and the dead often linger, a young man named Silas searches for his father and learns that he may be destined to help move souls on. Berk knows a great deal about death and its attendant rituals and stories, but he doesn’t have the same facility with dialogue or characterization. Occasional incandescent moments—Silas’ journey to the dead’s gathering places, his efforts to reunite the souls of lost children with those of bereft mothers—fail to shine when crammed into a tale torn in too many directions. Plot necessities drive behavior: Mrs. Bowe, who plays the archetypal role of wise guide to Silas as he learns how to be an undertaker, is often and inexplicably reticent; Silas suddenly grows a backbone when needed but is otherwise intensely passive. Tighter editing could have streamlined the thematic clutter (search for a father, murder mystery, examination of family and responsibility, coming into power and, odd in a YA title, the pain of losing a child) and the tendency toward repetitive writing, but not the almost didactic underlying message (helpfully reiterated in the backmatter) about the importance of remembering the past and the dead. Original ideas bog down in prosy, purpose-driven writing. (reading group guide, author Q&A) (Fantasy. 12 & up)

PAST CONTINUOUS

Breese, K. Ryer Dunne/St. Martin’s Griffin (320 pp.) $9.99 paperback | $9.99 e-book Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-312-54772-1 978-1-4299-8570-3 e-book Ade Patience, who spent most of Future Imperfect (2011) giving himself concussions in order to see the future and experience “the Buzz,” now chases a new high and fights still more aspects of himself. Having spent the summer on a series of stylized Date Nights with his beloved Vauxhall, Ade finds himself increasingly drawn away from their relationship by his new taste for the Delirium, a high caused by chaos. When a thrill-seeking scheme gets out of hand, Ade seeks help from The Glove, a dangerous and unsavory figure with the power to change the past. Drugged and emerging from a sensory deprivation tank in The Glove’s apartment, Ade finds that the past has indeed changed: Vauxhall doesn’t remember him, and Ade must fight and defeat four alternate versions of himself. The book’s rules of time travel and altering reality don’t entirely hold up under scrutiny, but action, not metaphysics, is the point here. Short paragraphs and short, conversational sentences propel readers through larger-thanlife fight scenes, criminal underworlds and superhuman displays. Frustratingly, Vauxhall is again more a prop than an actor; even when she attempts to use her powers, she does so as the pawn of Ade’s enemies. Intrigued readers should start with the first book, in which Ade, Vauxhall and their rapidly shifting universe are introduced. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

BLACK & WHITE The Confrontation Between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor Brimner, Larry Dane Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills (112 pp.) $16.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-59078-766-3

A fascinating look at one of the most crucial places and periods in the civil rights movement through two polar opposites. Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth, an African-American minister, was committed to ending segregation in Birmingham, Ala., and Eugene “Bull” Connor was just as determined to see it maintained. Shuttlesworth was drawn to preaching and teaching as a young man, and his fiery personality led him to seek change in his community. His agitation for the hiring of black police officers outraged “Bull” Connor, Commissioner for Public Safety, who was determined to “…put the Negro in his place, something he liked to brag about knowing how to do.” Brimner captures the intense and often violent struggle between the 1922

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“Absorbing suspense dominates this chick-lit vampire story.” from last breath

forces for change and those seeking to keep the status quo in a city known as “Bombingham.” He carefully explores the realities both men faced and does not shy away from depicting their complex personalities. The author is also clear about his point of view. While he admires Shuttlesworth, he understands the importance of Connor’s role. “Without this staunch racist and his harsh response to the African American cry for justice, civil rights progress might have taken an even longer time in coming.” A clean, graphically interesting design abets a wellresearched, engaging narrative that contributes a more nuanced view of the period than is often seen. (author’s note, further reading, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)

JUSTINE MCKEEN Queen of Green

Brouwer, Sigmund Illus. by Whamond, Dave Orca (64 pp.) $6.95 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-55469-927-8 Inventive and intrepid Justine McKeen, most likely a grade schooler, finds amusing ways to make classmates and community members more environmen-

tally conscious. School bully Jimmy Blatzo takes an immediate dislike to Justine after she fishes his carelessly discarded soda can out of the cafeteria trash. In retribution, he squashes her lunch flat and steals her brownies, not realizing they’re flavored with crushed crickets and intended for a science presentation. Aided off and on by her sidekicks, Safdar and Michael, she creates posters out of homemade recycled paper, constructs a greenhouse out of 1,500 soda bottles, and shames a local merchant into being more environmentally friendly. Simultaneously, she gradually defuses Blatzo’s anger and turns him into a reluctant ally. While none of the cardboard characters feature significant development, Justine is feisty enough to add some flavor to the mix. Her environmental efforts seem oversimplified and too easily accomplished, though. Brisk, very brief chapters are accompanied by lively full-page black-and-white illustrations. To complete the environmental package, the book is printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as being from “responsible sources.” Endnotes provide suggestions for environmental projects included in the story, but they don’t mention particular websites. While brief paperbacks for newly independent readers are too numerous to count, this one is slightly funnier and fresher than most. (Fiction. 7-9)

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LAST BREATH

Caine, Rachel New American Library (352 pp.) $17.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-451-23487-2 Series: Morganville Vampires, 11 Absorbing suspense dominates this chick-lit vampire story. This 11th installment of the Morganville Vampires series doesn’t require familiarity with the previous books for readers to figure out what’s going on, and to find excellent suspense. Claire, the story’s main protagonist, lives in the Glass House with her heartthrob Shane, her best friend, goth girl Eve, and vampire Michael (whom human Eve wants to marry). Humans and vampires share Morganville, with humans providing pints of blood for their more powerful neighbors. The town reacts against the proposed marriage, but all becomes moot when a far more powerful entity invades: the draug, sea-based enemies of the vampires. They decimate the vampire population, also attacking humans who get in their way. Claire finds herself caught in a limbo-like state as she tries to fight them, adding another layer of suspense to the already gripping tale. Caine puts her strong imagination to good use in devising semi-impossible scenarios for her characters to conquer, and she writes the major fight scene well. A few quirky characters and some humor flavor the story, such as Claire’s highly eccentric scientist employer, vampire Myrnin, who apparently secretly loves her, as does the emotionally aware house the group lives in. Chick-lit staples come in the form of clothes, a bit of gossip and girl rivalry. A gripping, original take on vampires. (Paranormal adventure. 12 & up)

POLAR LANDS

Callery, Sean Kingfisher (32 pp.) $12.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7534-6691-9 Series: Life Cycles, The fourth in the Life Cycles series (following River, Ocean and Forest), this focuses on 11 Arctic and Antarctic animals, exploring their life cycles and the ways in which they are interconnected by a food chain. The first food chain Callery presents is hermit crab, Arctic tern, Arctic fox, polar bear. Each spread is devoted to a single animal. Readers’ eyes are led from left to right, reading a short paragraph about the animal, seeing its lifecycle in a four-part circular chart and reading a list of other fascinating facts. A final fact states the animal’s life expectancy and leads right into the next page, which features its predator. Beautiful close-up photographs show the animals in their natural habitats eating, playing and interacting with one another. Publishing concurrently is Grasslands, which explores three food chains in Africa and |

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“The delightful accompanying full-length CD is a must-listen, since text and art mesh with it in genuine symbiosis, song by song.” from duke ellington’s nutcracker suite

South and North America. Both texts begin with rudimentary and oversimplified introductions. Food chains start with producers that make their own food, then move on to primary and secondary consumers (“eats small, slow prey”). Finally, “At the top of a food chain is a top predator.” However, these generalizations do not hold true, even within the books—the Grasslands title has one food chain ending with a scavenger. A great beginning look at the lifecycles of some fascinating animals and a solid tool for learning about food chains…just skip the introductions. (contents, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 5-8)

DARK EDEN

Carman, Patrick Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $17.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-06-200970-8 The author of the Skeleton Creek and Trackers series continues to explore multiplatform narratives with this tale of phobia treatment gone awry. Two years of therapy have not helped 15-year-old Will Besting overcome his acute fear of crowds, and his parents are willing to try extreme measures. These include packing him off with six other phobic teens for treatment with pioneering therapist Rainsford at Fort Eden, a cluster of cold concrete buildings in the middle of a dark wood. Armed with only his homemade recording device and an MP3 player, Will investigates the brutal nature of Rainsford’s cures. Carman’s attempts to build a psychological thriller are hampered by both characters and climax. Will’s observations of his fellow teens via monitor combine with his disregard for patient confidentiality to create an uncomfortable sensation of voyeurism, making it difficult to feel sympathy for him. The supposedly evil Rainsford, on the other hand, seems largely unthreatening until multiple epilogues provide insight into the motivation and process of the treatments. The other teens feel like color-coded numbers, there to advance the plot and devoid of personality beyond their phobias. A downloadable app will provide multimedia content on mobile devices; this is due in August 2011, some three months before the book’s scheduled publication date. Carman’s dedication to integrating digital content with print is admirable, but as a standalone book, this thriller doesn’t thrill. (Mystery. 10-14)

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DUKE ELLINGTON’S NUTCRACKER SUITE

Celenza, Anna Harwell Illus. by Tate, Don Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $19.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-57091-700-4

Drawing from letters, memoirs, photos, film and recordings, Celenza presents a spry account of the 1960 composition and recording of a decidedly swinging Nutcracker Suite. Laced with invented dialogue and crisply delineating the close collaboration between Ellington and his brilliant, classically trained friend, Billy Strayhorn, the narrative traces the piece from radical idea to work in progress to exuberant recording session. Such a bold departure—classical ballet into jazz suite—required convincing: Both the recording exec and the band were initially dubious. Text and art sync around the premise that the musical traditions and global influences of the cities in which Duke and “Strays” worked—L.A., New York, New Orleans, Vegas—infused the evolving composition with distinct rhythms and cultural metaphors. The brilliant music cues Tate’s full-bleed mixed-media pictures. Bold ink strokes outline and define figures—Duke’s quizzical forehead and Strays’ distinctive cheekbones are expressive squiggles—and create movement across paint-spattered spreads studded with stars, snowflakes and musical notes. The palette marries rich violet-blues with hot, harmonious yellows, sepia and crimson. The delightful accompanying full-length CD is a must-listen, since text and art mesh with it in genuine symbiosis, song by song. Indeed, the absence of a track list—ideally, integrated within the relevant page spreads— is a missed opportunity for deepening context. Still, real cool. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-9)

HOW NOT TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT

Clark, Catherine Egmont USA (192 pp.) $15.99 | $15.99 e-book | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-60684-101-3 978-1-60684-302-4 e-book When 12-year-old Aidan Schroeckenbauer saves presidential candidate Bettina Brandon from a falling campaign sign and ends up the “Clarinet Hero,” he’s adopted by the campaign and hits the road. Aidan brings good publicity, but it becomes a hard road when he endures attacks on his clarinet playing, his baseball prowess and even his age, as reporters say he might actually be older than 12, making him ineligible to play Little League. Even his mother, laid off from the local FreezeStar factory, has been accused of being a spy for a Chinese corporation. Partly a light satire on modern elections, Clark’s tale is mostly a fun romp, lightened by the contentious relationship between Aidan and Governor Brandon’s daughter Emma. Their often-humorous kirkusreviews.com

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banter keeps the story on track as they become friends and learn to work together to keep the campaign rolling. Names of political figures and Brandon’s Fresh Idea Party are made up, and even the Democratic candidate is said to be a former Democratic vice president, Jack Mathias. (Though being fictional is just as well, since Aidan’s mother calls him an “out-of-touch idiot.”) Humorous dialogue, smart pacing and some dirty politics make for an engaging read. With an election around the corner, this isn’t a bad way for young readers to view the political arena. (Fiction. 8-12)

PRICKLES VS. THE DUST BUNNIES

Cleary, Daniel Illus. by Cleary, Daniel Blue Apple (40 pp.) $10.99 | paper $4.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-60905-080-1 978-1-60905-185-3 paperback A neatnik cat repeatedly and fruitlessly orders dust bunnies to leave in this conspicuously uninspired domestic drama. Endowing all of the figures in his cartoon scenes with the same inexpressive, heavy-lidded eyes and placing them in static tableaux, Cleary (Stop Bugging Me!, 2010) sets up a monotonous argument between Prickles the cat and an increasing army of mouselike smudges that are reluctant to leave the safety of the couch’s underside to venture outdoors. Ultimately they win out, with some bunnies clumping themselves into a sweater for the resident mouse and others gathering in legions to be knitted into a like garment for the homeowner, a rat (?) named Mr. Cheese. Designed and arranged in large graphic panels à la Candlewick’s Toon Books (and part of a series dubbed Balloon Toons in further direct, if unacknowledged homage), this may spark some initial interest in budding comics fans for its format, but the bored-looking characters and the general air of ennui don’t exactly add up to a memorable reading experience— particularly in comparison to the far livelier bits of fluff in Jan Thomas’ Rhyming Dust Bunnies (2009). A stiff, flat, lifeless knockoff. (Graphic picture book. 6-8)

CROUCHING TIGER

Compestine, Ying Chang Illus. by Nascimbene, Yan Candlewick (40 pp.) $16.99 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7636-4642-4

action-packed martial arts, Vinson is surprised to find this quiet way of gaining strength a challenge, but the payoff—holding aloft the cabbage for the dragon in the New Year’s parade—is wonderful. Compestine creates a simple portrait of a familiar cultural bridge, conveying Vinson’s awe, shyness and embarrassment about his serious grandfather. Nascimbene captures both the compact energy of the small boy and the graceful, composed grace of the adult. His contained, quiet style with warm colors nicely matches the low-key narrative. The text appears on the left-hand page along with small captioned illustrations of a young boy moving through the positions of the form. The right-hand pages develop the story in charming ink-and-watercolor glimpses of Vinson alone or with his grandfather. A celebration of family and Chinese New Year along with a simple introduction to Wudang martial arts, especially tai chi—and to the idea that strength can be gentle. (Picture book. 5-9)

DON’T BREATHE A WORD

Cupala, Holly HarperTeen (304 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-06-176669-5

Two separate threads come together in this offering from the author of Tell Me a Secret (2010): a grim but compelling take on an abusive relationship and a coming-of-age love story. While they don’t entirely mesh, the author’s considerable narrative gifts keep readers engaged throughout. For Joy Delamere, asthma is a prison that shuts her in and burdens her family until she meets dangerous, sexy Asher, scion of a wealthy family. Their romance is liberating at first, but it becomes another prison as he gains power over Joy and her family. In desperation, she fakes her kidnapping and flees, losing herself among the homeless teen population on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Suburban naivete nearly does her in, but four teen squatters led by an attractive musician, Creed, take her in and teach her street smarts. Unlike creepy, psychotic Asher, Creed is gently protective of Joy, although there’s a whiff of old-fashioned paternalism in their relationship. Tough issues are too easily resolved, but the vivid setting and characters, especially the street kids—outwardly jaded, they’re fresh and likable survivors—compensate. Cupala knows her venue inside out and renders this harsh but lively world of hygienically challenged Dumpster divers with a lot of heart. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Discipline and warmth bring a child and his Chinese grandfather closer together. When his grandfather comes for a visit from China, Vinson is fascinated by the dance the older man practices in the garden: “His hands moved like gliding birds. He crouched like a tiger; he drew an invisible bow.” Vinson is encouraged by the older man to try a standing meditation. For a boy most interested in |

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TICK TOCK CLOCK

still resonate today. The text is lively, compelling and convincing, but written to answer 21st-century readers’ questions. Because readers know the outcome, many of the chosen quotations sound ironic, especially cheerful reiterations that the ship is unsinkable. This is history at its best, an original and appealing way to mark the centennial of this familiar disaster. (author’s note, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction.10-14)

Cuyler, Margery Illus. by Neubecker, Robert Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | paper $3.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-06-136309-2 978-0-06-136311-5 paperback Grandma spends a busy day with her twin granddaughters in a day filled with action, rhythm and rhyme. A tribute to the short “o,” this book for very new readers is filled with the “–ock” sound, as in: o’clock, tick tock, knock, smock, block, dock, flock, walk, block, lock and wok. With four to six words per page, in twoword sentences, two girls, dressed in matching red outfits are welcomed by their bespectacled grandmother, who is up for anything. From finger painting to building with blocks to picnicking on the dock, tick tock, the day with Grandma is full of fun. Neubecker’s sunny illustrations, in rich reds, yellows and greens, perfectly reflect the spare, very easy-to-read text. Each illustration is set on a white, unframed background and is set apart from the text, making it nicely legible. The repetition of words, particularly “Tick tock,” helps beginning readers build confidence. It’s strange that with all the references to the clock, there are no clocks in the illustrations, which is an opportunity lost. Children are interested in clocks and time and thus will note their absence; though the endpapers are festooned with them, set to varying times, this will not entirely compensate. Any new reader lucky enough to spend a day with Grandma will want to read this to her. (Early reader. 3-5)

TITANIC SINKS!

Denenberg, Barry Viking (80 pp.) $19.99 | Nov. 10, 2011 978-0-670-01243-5 A memorial edition of an imagined magazine covers the construction and fateful voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic, Queen of the Ocean, which sank in April 1912. As in Lincoln Shot! (2008), the design alludes to the historical period, here using the dimensions and sepia tones of an old-time newspaper supplement. Visually dramatic pages are filled with photos and memorabilia as well as eyewitness accounts that add to the “You are there” effect. The first third of Denenberg’s narrative consists of articles purportedly published between 1903 and 1912, the second is the unfinished (and miraculously recovered) journal of the magazine’s correspondent. The final section includes a chronology of the ship’s final hours, statements from survivors and an interview with the captain of the rescue ship, all based on actual testimony. A “note from the publisher” closes the narrative with a short round-up of what followed. This is a story of heroism as well as personal and corporate greed, issues that 1926

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FANGTASTIC

Diver, Lucienne Flux (240 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Jan. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-3039-4 Series: Vamped, 3 Gina Covello, teen vampire and allaround glamour queen, is back in a new adventure that pits her and her heartthrob Bobby against enemies new and old. Dressed to kill but never taking more than a sip, Gina’s working for the Feds, who keep her on a tight rein, cutting into Gina’s idea of a good time. Her job here is to act as bait while hunting a teenage killer who is far too bloodthirsty to be a regular human boy. The wardrobe is to die for, but Gina’s not enthusiastic about her task, which quickly gets even hinkier than usual…just who is the enemy now? No longer sure whom to trust, Gina must walk a tight line between her government handlers, the old vamps making Tampa, Fla., their new headquarters, an inventor who can’t get a patent to save his soul and a growing gang of murderous teens who are way too into the whole goth look for comfort. Add in her very first human servant-wannabe, and Gina’s nights are becoming more than full. As ever, Gina’s feisty, funny narration carries the day. Gina never fails to please, as she strides down the runway of afterlife with just the right mix of humor, make-up advice, youthful lust that never crosses the line and a kung-fu style all her own. This one doesn’t miss a beat. (Paranormal comedy. 12 & up)

SHIPWRECKED

Edwards, Garth Illus. by Stasyuk, Max Inside Pocket (128 pp.) $6.99 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-9567449-5-1 Series: The Adventures of Titch & Mitch, 1 Exploring the wide world, pixies get into a bundle of troubles in this outing for readers already successfully into

chapter books. In this first of a series previously published in the UK, Titch and Mitch are pixie brothers, Titch the eldest by a year and a bit the braver of the pair. They pack up a little food and head off on a series of adventures that take them away from the safe haven kirkusreviews.com

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“While the employ of the dual narrative is a current trend in teen fiction, it serves this particular tale… extraordinarily well.” from winter town

of Pixie Valley and out into the human world where they are kidnapped by a schoolboy, then escape on a boat that crashes on an island. There they are befriended by a series of talking animals and rescue a fairy caught in a shrub. She provides them with a magical flying bicycle that they use to visit her, provide some dental services to a mouse-sized dragon and rescue a very smart turkey. Numerous detailed black-and-white sketches accompany these brief episodes and nicely break up text-heavy pages. Character development is nearly nonexistent, and while the brief adventures provide a mild amount of excitement, their superficiality sharply limits the potential impact. Magical elements seem flat and unimaginative. There is no conclusion, merely an abrupt end, where the next tale will presumably begin. This uninspired offering fails to compete well with other fantasies for young readers. (Fantasy. 7-9)

WINTER TOWN

Emond, Stephen Illus. by Emond, Stephen Little, Brown (336 pp.) $17.99 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-316-13332-6 Two childhood friends struggle to preserve their relationship as it evolves into a romance amid a host of pressures in this remarkable illustrated work of contemporary fiction. After her parents break up, her mother moves rebellious Lucy from New England to Atlanta. She returns just once a year to see her dad at Christmas, and it is during one such trip during her senior year of high school that this story begins. Beginning the novel as a third-person narrator is her best friend, Evan. The studious, dutiful only child in his tight-knit family, he is uncomfortable with changes in her appearance and demeanor, and their visit starts out shakily. At the halfway mark, the point of view switches, and Lucy quickly reveals the heartbreaking reasons behind her transformation. While the employ of the dual narrative is a current trend in teen fiction, it serves this particular tale—which so eloquently depicts how impossible it is to truly get inside the head of another—extraordinarily well. Interspersed throughout are both realistic illustrations and drawings of a comic strip being created by Evan and Lucy; these black-and-white, almost chibi-style panels form an effective parallel with the plot and appeal mightily on their own. Compelling, honest and true—this musing about art and self-discovery, replete with pitch-perfect dialogue, will have wide appeal. (Fiction. 13 & up)

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DUCK, DEATH AND THE TULIP

Erlbruch, Wolf Translated by Chidgey, Catherine Illus. by Erlbruch, Wolf Gecko Press (38 pp.) $17.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-877579-02-8 Parents who choose to discuss death with their young children may feel this odd import is an excellent discussion starter (if they don’t find it peculiar and macabre). Duck is going about her daily activities when she notices the presence of Death. Personified as a miniature Grim Reaper, complete with long robe and grinning skull, Death initially frightens Duck, who wonders if Death has come to “fetch” her. The (not so) reassuring response? “Oh, I’ve been close by all your life—just in case.” Eventually Death seems so familiar that Duck even reaches out to warm him after a dip in the pond. Touched but undeterred, Death waits patiently until one day Duck succumbs, whereupon he launches her (and the titular tulip) out upon the “great river.” Erlbruch’s text, in Chidgey’s translation, offers plenty to talk about, with touches of gentle humor as well as some briskly summarized views of the afterlife. His illustrations likewise repay careful attention despite their apparent simplicity. Created primarily in subdued shades, they appear to incorporate drawing, painting, etching and collage, and they deftly convey both action and personality with a few lines. Adults looking for a unique, thoughtful perspective on a serious subject should definitely consider this—but be sure to preview it before sharing. (Picture book. 6-8)

ALSO KNOWN AS ROWAN POHI

Fletcher, Ralph Clarion (208 pp.) $16.99 | Nov. 14, 2011 978-0-547-57208-6

Fraud pays. “Pohi” seems like a great last name for a fictional high-school applicant invented in an International House of Pancakes: IHOP, Pohi, see? It’s a a lark for Bobby and his friends, sitting there surrounded by all those privileged Whitestone Prep kids, to fill out a Whitestone application for “Rowan Pohi,” Boy Scout, National Honor Society inductee, soup-kitchen volunteer and football player. But when “Rowan” gets accepted to Whitestone, Bobby takes a good hard look at his wrong-side-of-the-tracks life and realizes this could be the opportunity of a lifetime. Whitestone’s teachers and facilities are miles away from those of Bobby’s crappy public high school, and of course there’s the girls. Bobby almost immediately falls for Heather, “a study in whiteness: white T-shirt, white shorts, white teeth, blonde hair. And long legs.” Bobby has antagonists both in and out of school, but his ultimate success at Whitestone seems |

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“Expect delighted choruses of ‘Eeewww, gross!’ at every turn from newer readers taking this tour of an outer-space clinic.” from a day in the office of doctor bugspit

undeserved; the class inequities of the system are less important to the Whitestone decision-makers than the fact that Bobby’s a nice guy with a tragic back story. A recurring evocation of faux– Native American stories, culminating in a 5-year-old’s assertion that “[b]eing Spider-Man is way cooler than being an Indian,” will insult Native (and other) readers. Lightweight fluff in the Chris Lynch/Chris Crutcher mode, if that’s possible. (Fiction. 13-15)

KILLER STRANGELETS

Furlong, C.T. Inside Pocket (208 pp.) $7.99 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-9562315-6-7 Series: Arctic 6 Adventures, 1 Six British kids save the world in this suspenseful, comic romp through Switzerland’s famed CERN laboratories. Iago leads a pack of diverse and talented kids in his attempt to save the world from annihilation by a mad scientist, Katarina Kreng, an over-the-top villain who intends to create a black hole that will swallow the Earth. She’ll use subatomic particles called killer strangelets in the CERN Large Hadron Collider, where Iago’s Uncle Jonas works, to accomplish her dastardly deed. The group of young heroes hops a private plane to Switzerland and plots their attack using schematic drawings stolen from Uncle Jonas. While one wields his hacking skills to open doors and dig up information, Iago and his secret heartthrob Charlie, his pretty female friend, try to infiltrate the facility. Suspense ensues when they succeed. Furlong keeps the narrative brisk and full of light humor, although the preposterous tale remains a bit of a jumble. The kids appear to be middle-school age, and that seems to be the book’s natural audience, although some older readers may enjoy it. Reminiscent of the Alex Rider series for a younger set, this appears headed toward James Bond–style mayhem but with as much an emphasis on comedy as on suspense. Lots of fun for the right audience. (Comic suspense. 9-13)

BEYOND BULLETS A Photo Journal of Afghanistan

Gerszak, Rafal & Hunter, Dawn Photos by Gerszak, Rafal Annick Press (128 pp.) $19.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-55451-293-5

This “photo journal” features images from both trips to Afghanistan, accompanied by diarylike accounts of his travels. Gerszak’s frank and descriptive observations effectively convey the ugliness, monotony and tragedy of war. Most compelling are descriptions of civilians he meets, encounters that put a human face on the conflict Gerszak was unable to experience as an embedded journalist. His powerful images never romanticize or sensationalize the war. There are scenes of bloody battles, wounded people in hospitals and dazed refugees, but also remarkable images of busy marketplaces and vibrant street activity revealing that life goes on in the midst of death and destruction. The snippets of Gerszak’s observations often lack cohesion and context. Though good background information is provided throughout in sidebars on such subjects as the Taliban, Muslim traditions and ethnic groups, this book alone will not give readers insight into the complexities of the Afghan conflict. As one journalist’s perspective, this stands as an excellent supplement to a more comprehensive overview. (maps, photographs) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)

A DAY IN THE OFFICE OF DOCTOR BUGSPIT

Gravel, Elise Illus. by Gravel, Elise Blue Apple (40 pp.) $10.99 | paper $4.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-60905-092-4 978-1-60905-182-2 paperback Expect delighted choruses of “Eeewww, gross!” at every turn from newer readers taking this tour of an outer-space clinic. Looking like a cross between a slug and a sock puppet in Gravel’s crudely drawn, garishly colored cartoons, alien Doctor Bugspit plies his trade. He blithely dispenses jars of “FixIt-Up Syrup” (made from sock juice, dead flies, moldy meat, pickle juice and ear wax) and other nostrums to extraterrestrial patients complaining of maladies ranging from split brains (“You have two smaller brains,” the doctor diagnoses, “like a cow”) to an all-body outbreak of toes. Despite nap and lunch breaks (“my favorite sandwich: slug slime and glow-in-the-dark jelly”) it’s an exhausting routine but the good doctor is up to it— until, that is, the gooey results of a sneeze (“some yellow stuff is coming out of my nose!”) send him into panic-stricken calls for “a REAL doctor!” Presented in a loose assortment of graphic panels, page-sized or smaller, this Balloon Toons entry will exert a strong draw on budding graphic-novel fans as well as children fascinated by yucky stuff. Real visits to the doctor are rarely so hilarious. (Graphic picture book. 5-8)

Author/photographer Gerszak first went to Afghanistan to spend a year embedded with an American military unit documenting house searches, disputes with village elders and the aftermath of battles. He returned as an unaffiliated photographer without a military escort, determined to document civilian life. 1928

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THE ALWAYS WAR

Haddix, Margaret Peterson Simon & Schuster (208 pp.) $16.99 | Nov. 15, 2011 978-1-4169-9526-5 For the past 75 years, Tessa’s nation has been at war—a war that has no end in sight. Tessa lives in a community of weary people, visibly crushed by endless years of combat. They are numb; war is commonplace. But when a local boy receives an award for bravery— the nation’s highest—it lifts the city. Everyone, especially Tessa, desperately needs a hero. But Gideon shocks the town by refusing the honor. He declares himself a coward and runs away. He has killed more than 1,000 people; there is no honor in that. But that’s what war is, isn’t it? Killing the enemy is necessary. Gideon infuriates Tessa, but she is inexplicably curious as well. She follows him and ends up on a plane, with Gideon steering it straight toward the enemy line. He hopes to apologize, to atone for his mistakes, but what he and Tessa (along with a stowaway orphan named Dek) find when they open the plane’s door changes the plan dramatically. This dystopian drama examines the human aspect of war, and also how technology may redefine war in the future. In line with that tension, it is difficult to pinpoint which character grows the most in the narrative—Tessa or the computer. If hoping to grab a heartfelt connection, readers may feel sidelined, but plot turns will certainly keep them entranced. (Dystopia. 10-14)

SAVING JUNE

Harrington, Hannah Harlequin Teen (384 pp.) $18.99 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-373-21024-4 It’s clear from the start that highschool senior June, days away from graduation, is past saving, since 16-year-old Harper begins her account on the day of her sister’s funeral. Escaping trite funereal platitudes, Harper takes refuge in the backyard and encounters hunky Jake, an apparent friend of June’s. She quickly figures out that the oldies mix June listened to as she killed herself was Jake’s creation and wonders if he holds the key to her death. Was it because their mother refused to let her attend college in California? Or did their parents’ divorce or her not-so-great- relationship with Harper push June to the edge? Harper and BFF Laney set off on a rambling road trip from Michigan to California in Jake’s van to drop June’s ashes in the Pacific rather than let her warring parents split them into two urns. Jake and Harper’s relationship heats up, and while her grief infuses the tale, it remains secondary to their |

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growing infatuation. Jake’s connection with June remains a mystery, though his nifty music mixes provide clues to their past. Some sidelong references are oddly dated: which Olsen twin is in detox, for example. Still, Harper’s voice rings true, and readers looking for a mildly steamy romance (with more than a splash of alcohol, smoking and sex) won’t be disappointed. (Fiction. 13 & up)

HUSH, BABY, HUSH! Lullabies from Around the World Henderson, Kathy Illus. by Smy, Pam Frances Lincoln (48 pp.) $17.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84507-967-3

Addressed primarily to adults interested in singing these traditional songs to their children, this collection includes 29 lullabies from countries including Japan, Nigeria, Malawi and Greenland. On some double-page spreads, a common theme runs through several lullabies, such as one in which the singer warns the baby about the grey wolf in the Russian song “Hushabye, Baby, Hush,” the witch Befana in the Italian “Ninna, Nanna” or the “scary night monster” in “Tutu Maramba,” a Brazilian selection. Food is highlighted on another spread, with “Candy Floss” from Iraq, “Sugar, Bread and Butter,” a Hindi song from India, “Black-Eyed Peas with Onions” from Turkey and the Mexican “Stir, Stir the Chocolate!” (usually regarded as a game song). Music for about half the lullabies is provided. Most songs are printed in their original languages, but lullabies in languages such as Arabic and Korean are transliterated instead of being rendered in original scripts. Animated oil-and–colored-pencil paintings show adults and children in fully-realized landscapes, city streets, marketplaces and bedrooms. Because several lullabies often appear in each double-page spread, however, the illustration only relates to one culture, a disconnect that may annoy the multicultural purist. Acknowledgements mostly note individuals, not print sources, because the songs are from the oral tradition. This attractive presentation is appropriate as a baby gift, for daycare and preschool collections and public libraries. (sheet music) (Picture book. birth-5)

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UNLEASHED

spelling, snigger and the lack of periods after “Mr”) and cursive writing in the illustrations make this book a better read-aloud than a selection for independent reading. It’s hard to see how specialist Mr. Shapland’s explanation of dyslexia and brain theory could comfort any child. Children with learning differences just need to know they think differently than some other children and might have to work hard, but they are still very smart. It’s no wonder that Hudson hates school, and it’s hard to see how readers will feel any different. (Picture book. 4-8)

Holder, Nancy & Viguié, Debbie Delacorte (400 pp.) $18.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $21.99 Nov. 22, 2011 978-0-385-74098-2 978-0-375-98346-7 e-book 978-0-375-98979-7 PLB Series: Wolf Springs Chronicles, 1 After her mother’s death Katelyn trades in Los Angeles for a backwoods Arkansas town where everything, all the way down to deaths, is wolf-themed. Going from the city to tiny Wolf Springs is a huge transition for Katelyn. In her grandfather’s corner of the Ozark Mountains, cell-phone reception is spotty and legends are plentiful. As the new girl, Katelyn takes the spotlight over from the last big news in town—the mysterious death of a local girl, believed to have been killed by animals in the woods. The mystery is transparently (and humorously) built through a book on the town’s history that is missing a page: the one in between a warning of a creature in the woods more fearsome than the wolves and the line, “And thus it remains that our good company shuns the wooded hills.” While Katelyn is courted by standard paranormal-romance suitors, it’s her relationship with new BFF Cordelia Fenner that takes center stage. Even though Katelyn is being attacked and hunted, it’s Cordelia’s plot (which directly references the Cordelia in King Lear) that slowly takes over the novel. From the townhistory book to the Shakespeare parallel, the story has little time for subtlety. Instead of solving the mystery, the ending adds additional complications for the sequel to tackle. Enjoyable enough, but it doesn’t stand out from the pack. (Paranormal romance. 12-17)

HUDSON HATES SCHOOL

Hudson, Ella Illus. by Hudson, Ella Frances Lincoln (28 pp.) $16.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-033-6

Hudson has many interests, but school is a misery for him until he learns to work with his dyslexia. Tapping into the frustration that many children with undiagnosed dyslexia feel, author Hudson, speaking from personal experience, explains Hudson’s school struggles, especially with spelling tests. Once he is identified and finds the help he needs in a pull-out class, Hudson enjoys school for the first time. Negative subplots, including the mocking of his peers (“Ha ha! Hudson can’t spell!”) and ineffective teaching strategies (holding Hudson in from playtime to work on spelling), give this book a troubling tone. Stylized ink, watercolor and pencil illustrations feature oval-headed people and are sunny and bright. A few examples of British spelling (learnt, spellings instead of 1930

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THEY STOOD ALONE! 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference

Humphrey, Sandra McLeod Prometheus Books (177 pp.) $14.00 paperback | $11.99 e-book Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-61614-485-2 978-1-61614-486-9 e-book Twenty-five men and women who questioned conventional wisdom and made a difference are profiled in this well-meant collective biography. Offering these lives as role models for young readers, Humphrey invites their attention by asking them to imagine themselves in a particular situation with a particular dream or idea. From Christopher Columbus to Neil Armstrong, her heroes and heroines are presented roughly chronologically. The profiles of Albert Einstein and Jackie Robinson, also described in Dare to Dream (2005, not reviewed), have been rewritten. These overviews are sometimes oversimplified. Harriet Tubman is described as a Civil War nurse, but she didn’t nurse on the battlefield, as Clara Barton did, a difference that matters to Barton’s story, the very next profile. The Rosa Parks section restates the myth that she “stood alone” in a spontaneous decision not to move back further on the bus. The writing is awkward and repetitive; occasionally words are misused. Nikola Tesla did not “claim” that radio waves could locate moving objects, he proposed that use which we now call radar. Sometimes, toward the end of a section, the author brings up revisionist thinking about the person’s achievements but then drops the issue, reiterating their importance. A poem, source notes for quotations and an extensive bibliography intermingling books for children and adults complete this pedestrian resource. Less than inspirational. (Collective biography. 11-15)

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“Olemaun’s spirit and determination shine through this moving memoir.” from a stranger at home

ON THE COME UP

Hunter, Travis Dafina/Kensington (256 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7582-4252-5 Part ‘hood fairy tale, part slice of life, this warm but uneven chronicle sees a pair of twins from Atlanta achieve hardwon and unexpected successes. After his 32nd stay in juvenile prison, DeMarco, sporting a facial tattoo he gave himself, goes home determined to go back to school and stay out of trouble. He returns to the Bluff, the poor neighborhood where his family lives, and finds that his mother, an alcoholic, has been neglecting the house and his baby brother Devin. Meanwhile, DeMarco’s twin, Jasmine, who narrates some of the chapters, has become involved with a group of dangerous girls and is being sexually threatened by her mother’s boyfriend. After her new “friends” leave her at a high-class party, evidently drugged, Jasmine is rescued by a heroic gentleman who launches her into a modeling career that seems too good to be believed—but is never shown to be so. The large and diverse cast of characters, some developed better than others, adds depth to the portrayal of the Bluff, and the narrative makes many straightforward yet insightful observations about race, poverty and injustice. The book could benefit from another round of editing, however: A final section feels tacked on, and a few points of exposition are repeated unnecessarily. Despite some flaws, there is heart and wisdom to be found here. (Fiction. 12 & up)

STUCK

Jeffers, Oliver Illus. by Jeffers, Oliver Philomel (32 pp.) $16.99 | Nov. 10, 2011 978-0-399-25737-7 Everything but the kitchen sink gets tossed up a tree to help Floyd retrieve his kite—oops, there goes the kitchen sink too! Floyd has one approach, and one approach only, to kite recovery: Throw something up to knock the kite down. He flings up a bucket of paint, the milkman, real trucks, a full-size lighthouse and “a curious whale, in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Everything sticks. Jeffers’ light-handed illustrations are hilariously droll. Some pages symbolize mood with a single color, boy and tree both murky brown with irritation or red with frustration. The text is handwritten in a childish yet legible scrawl, with liberal use of uppercase letters. The comically deadpan narration never overtells, moving straight from “Floyd fetched Mitch” (a cat) to “Cats get stuck in trees all the time, but this was getting ridiculous.” Sometimes Floyd verges on solutions, but he always lapses into the familiar pattern: “Floyd |

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fetched a ladder. He was going to sort this out once and for all… / … and up he threw it. / I’m sure you can guess what happened.” Finally, Floyd fetches a saw, holds the blade carefully against the tree trunk—”and hurled it up the tree.” The giggle-inducing conclusion leaves some stuff, um, up in the air. Floyd’s stubbornness and the smorgasbord-filled tree remain funny through repeated readings, offering kids the special glee of knowing more than the protagonist. (Picture book. 3-6)

A STRANGER AT HOME A True Story

Jordan-Fenton, Christy & Pokiak-Fenton, Margaret Illus. by Amini-Holmes, Liz Annick Press (124 pp.) $21.95 | paper $12.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-55451-362-8 978-1-55451-361-1 paperback After two years in Catholic residential school, 10-year-old Olemaun returns to Tuktoyaktuk on Canada’s Arctic coast, a stranger to her friends and family, unaccustomed to the food and clothing and unable to speak or understand her native language. Margaret Pokiak’s story continues after the events of Fatty Legs (2010), which described her boarding-school experience. In this stand-alone sequel, she describes a year of reintegration into her Inuvialuit world. At first, her mother doesn’t even recognize her: “Not my girl,” she says. AminiHolmes illustrates this scene and others with full-page paintings in somber colors. The sad faces echo the child’s misery. Gradually, though, with the help of her understanding father, she readjusts—even learning to drive a dog team. She contrasts her experience with that of the man the villagers call Du-bil-ak, the devil, a dark-skinned trapper no one speaks to. She has a home she can get used to again; he would always be alien. The first-person narrative is filled with details of this Inuit family’s adjustment to a new way of life in which books and reading matter as much as traditional skills. A scrapbook of photographs at the end helps readers enter this unfamiliar world, as do the occasional notes and afterword. Olemaun’s spirit and determination shine through this moving memoir. (Memoir. 8-12)

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“Kara’s hilarious observations, as when she compares feigning happiness to the difficulty of fastening the, like, 15 hooks of her 87-year-old grandma’s bra, keep it buoyant.” from the boy project

THE BOY PROJECT Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister

Kinard, Kami Scholastic (272 pp.) $12.99 | $12.99 e-book | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-545-34515-6 978-0-545-39225-9 e-book Looking for a boyfriend takes on a whole new meaning when 14-year-old Kara starts her research project. Kara, a self-proclaimed geek, decides to find a boyfriend using the scientific method. This initially involves covert observation of her subject: boys. She keeps detailed index cards, and the novel is decorated with her charts, graphs and lists. The project eventually becomes a science-fair project that also utilizes Facebook for a love survey. When her best friend Tabbi gets a boyfriend first, unfortunately with Kara’s crush, it takes Kara some time to remember that she needs her best friend more than a she needs a boyfriend. This middle-school drama is hip to the moment, with break-up texting, kissing and popularity tug of wars. The boy obsession becomes tiresome, but Kara’s irrepressible spirit, clever wit and introspection save this story from vapidity. Kara’s hilarious observations, as when she compares feigning happiness to the difficulty of fastening the, like, 15 hooks of her 87-year-old grandma’s bra, keep it buoyant. As she becomes increasingly discerning, Kara realizes that being true to oneself is the coolest asset. Kara’s boy-crazy experiment lends refreshing perspective on teen relationships, and the results point to selfenlightenment. (Fiction. 10-13)

THE PARADE A Parade of Stories about Ananse, the Trickster Spider Kojo, K. P. Illus. by Lilje, Karen Frances Lincoln (96 pp.) $15.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-163-0

leopard—and would do well to practice before reading aloud. The how-and-why stories have continuity, each leading to the next, with chapter endings addressing readers directly. The cover is inviting, but, unfortunately, the format is not, as the text is broken up with sparse black-and-white drawings that don’t enhance the tales. It does not replace the more appealing The Adventures of Spider, by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (1992). Ananse’s cunning and trickery come through, but overall, the book will have limited appeal. (Folktales. 8-11)

YOU BE YOU

Kranz, Linda Illus. by Kranz, Linda Rowman & Littlefield (32 pp.) $12.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-58979-666-9

There are many fish in the sea—and they are all different. Adri, a winsome fish, spends the day exploring, and as he heads home, he can’t help but notice variety in the assortment of finned creatures that surround him. In this companion to the earlier Only One You (2006), which presented Chicken Soup–type advice to the same young fish, Kranz escapes didacticism and provides young readers with an appealing look at diversity. Primarily focused on opposites such as right and left, up and down, big and tiny, smooth and spiny, the bouncy, rhymed text points out differences, while colorful fish swim through the pages illustrating the aforementioned variations. If there is a flaw in Kranz’s stylistic rockfish, it is that the differences are not always obvious, as all of the fish have a similar look, but this will serve to make children examine the pictures more closely. Presented with clarity, the distinctions are nicely summarized by Adri himself when he returns to his parents: “There are so many of us…We all have something special that only we can share.” Youngsters will enjoy the catchiness of the text and the lively nature of the illustrations, while appreciating the concepts found within, and parallels can easily be drawn to differences of all sorts. A good choice to help children consider similarities and differences. (Picture book. 3-6)

CINDER AND ELLA

A performance poet and storyteller tells this collection of six Ananse stories

set in Ghana. Tales of Ananse have entertained legions of listeners for years, primarily through the tradition of oral storytelling. Today’s readers are mostly aware of Ananse from single stories illustrated in picture-book formats. Of the six stories here, one is original, and one is the popular favorite, “Hot Beans in a Hat.” The others are generally less well known. There is authenticity in the teller’s voice, and he fuses a number of Ghanaian languages for the names of the characters. Western readers may find these a bit cumbersome—Aso Yaa, Ananse’s wife; his son, Ntikuma; Nana Oppong, the lord of the trees; Ketebo the 1932

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Lemon, Melissa Bonneville Books (208 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-59955-906-3

or Disney’s version.) kirkusreviews.com

After their father is lured from home by an evil prince, Cinder and Ella care for their sisters and hardworking but mentally absent mother. (Names excepted, this take on “Cinderella” has little in common with either Perrault’s original

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Cinder toils on behalf of their spoiled sisters, but Ella resists enabling their bad behavior. Their mother barely notices (she now conflates the two as Cinderella) when Cinder leaves to take a castle job on the prince’s domestic staff. Ella soon leaves too, although her goals aren’t clear. While the tale has intriguing elements (everyone has a counterpart that is a tree, and the welfare of both are intertwined), they’re largely underdeveloped. Readers learn little about the rules or foundational beliefs governing this world. What motivates Cinder and Ella to act as they do is unclear. Their actions come across as aimless and arbitrary, despite the intrusive narrator’s heavy-handed points about perseverance and initiative, since readers lack access to the moral compass they follow—or don’t. Much of the pleasure retold fairytales offer arises from their contrast to, interaction with and comments on the original. Here, the lack of a meaningful connection with its original leaves the narrative unanchored and insubstantial. For a taste of what’s missing, seek out Donna Jo Napoli’s Magic Circle (1993) or Rafe Martin’s Birdwing (2005). (Fantasy. 11 & up)

LEGEND

Lu, Marie Putnam (336 pp.) $17.99 | Nov. 29, 2011 978-0-399-25675-2 A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles. Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He’s also the Republic’s most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June’s Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel. This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes. (Science fiction. 12-14)

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THE MAD MASK

Lyga, Barry Scholastic (240 pp.) $16.99 | paper $6.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-545-19651-2 978-0-545-19653-6 paperback Series: Archvillain, 2 Continuing to plead that he’s not the Archvillain (2010) everyone makes him out to be, a teenager with super powers complicates his case by falling in with a hilariously crazed megalomaniac bent on world conquest. It’s just so frustrating. Despite a megagenius IQ and super powers of his own, every scheme Kyle has concocted to unmask widely admired superhero Mighty Mike as an alien in disguise has gone wrong while making him look like the Bad Guy. Worse yet, Kyle’s long-time best friend Mairi has taken to hanging out with the hunky creep! Yet another teen superhero appears on the scene, this one wearing a cool wooden mask, given to frothy third-person rants (“The Mad Mask fears no one— man, woman, child, or platypus!”) and sporting both plans for a titanic killer robot and some impressive tech gear. It’s too much; Kyle disregards the reservations of the mouthy sidekick AI he’s constructed in his iPod and jumps at the chance to, well, at least show Mighty Mike up. Styling himself “The Azure Avenger” but generally known as “The Blue Freak,” Kyle isn’t the most reliable of POV characters, but his intentions are generally good, despite a tendency to rationalize iffy acts like stealing chemicals for his basement lab or altering his parents’ memories with a brain-wave manipulator. By the end, he finds himself actually having to help Mighty Mike. Figures. A fizzy mix of multilayered comedy and awesomely destructive battles, presented from an unusual narrative angle. (Adventure. 10-13)

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? The Story of a Song Lyon, George Ella Illus. by Cardinale, Christopher Cinco Puntos (40 pp.) $17.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-933693-96-5

“Folk songs are alive,” states Lyon in her author’s note, and none is more so than “Which Side Are You On?” The song, based on a hymn tune and lyrics, rose up from coal miners’ strikes in Harlan County, Ky., in the 1930s. Narrated in the first person by a miner’s son, this plainspoken account tells of the physical threat to the Reese family when their father is chased from town and the family comes under attack by Sheriff J.H. Blair’s hired and armed thugs. Interspersed with the narration are the words of the song. Cardinale’s digitally colored scratchboard art is dynamic and presents a visual reality that strengthens the history of the song and the |

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people who sang it. The author’s note adds a concise history of unions, laborers’ demands for fair wages, safe conditions and an end of servitude to mine owners. Her explanation of the folk process is clear and shows how words and perceptions change over time. The book will be of great use in explaining U.S. labor history and development of workers’ rights. Given that many of the same conditions exist today, only changed by mechanization, the music and lyrics included may well find use in the current generation. Lyon has given today’s readers a stirring story about yesterdays. (bibliography, websites) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

SHATTER ME

Mafi, Tahereh HarperTeen (352 pp.) $17.99 | Nov. 15, 2011 978-0-06-208548-1 A dystopic thriller joins the crowded shelves but doesn’t distinguish itself. Juliette was torn from her home and thrown into an asylum by The Reestablishment, a militaristic regime in control since an environmental catastrophe left society in ruins. Juliette’s journal holds her tortured thoughts in an attempt to repress memories of the horrific act that landed her in a cell. Mysteriously, Juliette’s touch kills. After months of isolation, her captors suddenly give her a cellmate—Adam, a drop-dead gorgeous guy. Adam, it turns out, is immune to her deadly touch. Unfortunately, he’s a soldier under orders from Warner, a power-hungry 19-year-old. But Adam belongs to a resistance movement; he helps Juliette escape to their stronghold, where she finds that she’s not the only one with superhuman abilities. The ending falls flat as the plot devolves into comic-book territory. Fast-paced action scenes convey imminent danger vividly, but there’s little sense of a broader world here. Overreliance on metaphor to express Juliette’s jaw-dropping surprise wears thin: “My mouth is sitting on my kneecaps. My eyebrows are dangling from the ceiling.” For all of her independence and superpowers, Juliette never moves beyond her role as a pawn in someone else’s schemes. Part cautionary tale, part juicy love story, this will appeal to action and adventure fans who aren’t yet sick of the genre. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

NATURE ADVENTURES

Manning, Mick & Granström, Brita Illus. by Manning, Mick & Granström, Brita Frances Lincoln (48 pp.) $18.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-088-6 Chocked full of information, illustrations and inspiration, this wildlife journal will captivate nature lovers young and old. 1934

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With the approval of Britain’s Wildlife Trust, Manning and Granström seek to convince children that nature need not be found only in dramatic wilderness settings. Organized into everyday locations (In the Town, Fresh Water, Woodland, Field and Hedgerow, Wild Country, The Seashore), each page of this field guide overflows with illustrations, explanations, poetry and fun facts. The pencil-and-watercolor illustrations feel like entries in a personal diary—not perfect, but full of immediacy and life. The extra bits of information are fascinating. “If you find a dead bird with a ring on its leg… send the details to the address on the ring.” “Squeal like an injured rabbit by blowing through a blade of grass. It might attract a stoat or even a fox.” Young environmentalists will love the detailed drawings of so many flora and fauna. Older children will use the book as a field journal that will teach them how to observe, identify and document. Originally printed in the UK, spelling and measurements are British, along with the tradition of walking public rights of way. A strong choice for explorers, artists and nature lovers. (glossary, safety note, list of poems and music, information on The Wildlife Trust) (Nonfiction. 6-10)

ODDFELLOW’S ORPHANAGE

Martin, Emily Winfield Illus. by Martin, Emily Winfield Random (144 pp.) $14.99 | $9.99 e-book | PLB $17.99 Jan. 24, 2012 978-0-375-86995-2 978-0-375-98635-2 e-book 978-0-375-96995-9 PLB

An undeniably charming story about the characters, albeit one-dimensional, who form a family at Oddfellow’s Orphanage. Headmaster Oddfellow Bluebeard, tame relation to the infamous Bluebeard, and Professor Stella dash off at night to rescue Delia. By morning, they have brought her back to Oddfellow’s Orphanage, haven to peculiar children orphaned by events natural, unexplained or, in two cases, jarringly violent. Here, bears dance, cooks serve hot chocolate and staff call their charges “dear.” The residents include Delia, who does not speak (readers never find out exactly why), tattooed Imogen, Hugo the hedgehog boy, “onion-headed” Ollie and several others, some of whom do not merit more than a mention. In her debut, Martin relies on third-person narration and uses adjectives such as “cozy,” “twinkling” and “pretty” to set a scene of happy companionship. Although somewhat reminiscent of Hogwarts, with classes such as cryptozoology (“the study of mysterious and possibly imagined animals”) and F.T. (“fairy tales and folktales”) Studies, readers will find no bullies or evil at Oddfellow’s. The rare time that one child misbehaves, all is forgiven. Small, safe adventures take place between March and New Year’s, when a new babe appears on the doorstep. Pencil drawings appear throughout (final art not seen), adding to the feeling of warmth. An uneven effort; still, youngsters not ready for Harry Potter will find comfort here. (Fantasy. 7-10) kirkusreviews.com

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“A bear of imposing presence provides safety and joy in this visually distinctive debut.” from my bear griz

LIGHTBRINGER

McEntire, K. D. Pyr/Prometheus Books (324 pp.) $18.00 | $9.99 e-book | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-61614-539-2 978-1-61614-540-8 e-book Wendy struggles to hold her personal life together while performing the Lightbringer duties of reaping souls of the dead. In McEntire’s debut, ghosts wander the land in between living and a true afterlife, a land called the Never. Wendy, as a Lightbringer, can see and interact with the Never. Piotr is one of the ghosts of the Never, an eternal teenager who, as a Rider, protects the ghosts of children: When children die with too much life ahead of them, their ghosts become batteries for cannibalistic adult ghosts called Walkers. Wendy discovers that the Never is far more dangerous than she imagined when her mother’s soul goes missing after an accident. Meanwhile, Piotr finds protecting his group of children, the Lost, increasingly difficult, as Walkers have begun organizing under the power of a mysterious creature, the White Lady. When Wendy and Piotr team up to help each other with the strange happenings of the Never, the White Lady begins haunting Wendy’s dreams. The prose is bloated and initially disorienting, with dialogue aiming to reflect the time periods of the ghosts coming off instead as stilted. The narrative is strongest when it recalls Wendy’s familial obligations— holding her siblings and household together in the place of her comatose mother—and allows them to conflict with her job and growing affection for Piotr. Superficial references to Peter Pan fail to resonate meaningfully, leaving them effectively nothing more than a naming device. Creative ideas outpace the writing quality. (Paranormal romance. 12-17)

MY BEAR GRIZ

McGinness, Suzanne Illus. by McGinness, Suzanne Frances Lincoln (28 pp.) $17.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-113-5 A bear of imposing presence provides safety and joy in this visually distinctive debut. “I love bears,” opens narrator Billy, but there’s really only the one: Griz. Griz is striking, drawn in densely hatched and layered pen lines of browns and blacks, too big to fit on the page yet dominating the space. Griz has a wildness about him, an unrestrained vibe, but he never feels dangerous. Billy trusts Griz implicitly as they explore, share secrets and eat peanutbutter–and-honey sandwiches. Backgrounds are abstract, mellow watercolor, balancing the energetic lines of Griz’s fur. Billy’s enthusiastic, just-learning-to-write printing runs over the pages, crowing “Griz loves honey!” and “Grrr! Roar!” One aspect of Griz isn’t revealed until the final page, though discerning |

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readers may note hints of make-believe in the fancifully colored forest trees (site of hide and seek) and the fluid size ratio of boy to bear. When they nap together, Billy’s curled-up body is smaller than Griz’s muzzle; when they stargaze, Griz is tremendous in the inky night sky, his size protecting Billy—who’s dwarfed by even the width of Griz’s foreleg—from feeling lost in the universe. In contrast, on a yellow spread about joke-telling, Griz rolls over in gales of laughter, fitting completely onto the page, Billy’s height (including whimsical newsprint crown) now comparable to Griz’s head. A winner for read-alouds, whether in groups or one-onone. (Picture book. 2-5)

DENVER

McKee, David Illus. by McKee, David Andersen/Trafalgar (32 pp.) $16.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84270-963-4 An utterly odd paean to trickle-down economics, British-style, this adult-centric examination of wealth, generosity and greed won’t garner much interest. Denver, a red-haired gent with a sweet smile, has a big house, large staff, pleasant temperament and loads of money. He patronizes local businesses and gives gifts to children at Christmastime. All is well until an unnamed troublemaker suggests that the current situation is unfair. Easily swayed, the local villagers begin to resent Denver’s good fortune. Amazingly enough, he decides to share his wealth. Initially thrilled, the villagers wind up even more unhappy than before after they squander their money and Denver is no longer available to support their community. Our hero, meanwhile, has moved on to another pleasant little town, where his hobby, painting, earns him an excellent living and brings financial success to his new neighbors. In closing, readers are warned to ignore the efforts of the stranger who is still “wandering around breeding discontent.” Childlike artwork features flat figures with simply drawn features posed against vividly colored backgrounds. Humorous touches enliven some pictures, but in general the illustrations appear static, further distancing listeners from the abstract ideas raised by McKee. Ultimately there’s no child-friendly story to enjoy, and neither the pro–status quo/anti-individualism message nor the unflattering portrait of the middle and working class as foolish and profligate is likely to resonate with U.S. readers. (Picture book. 6-8)

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h c o l i n m e l oy a n d m a i l e m e l oy

Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book 1

Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis Balzer + Bray (560 pp.) $17.99 Aug. 30, 2011 9780062024688

Prue and Janie will probably never meet since they live between different covers. But they’d like each other. They’re both smart, resourceful, open to possibility and willing to try their best at saving their respective imagined worlds, even at risk to their own lives. Maybe they’d get along because their creators— Colin Meloy and Maile Meloy—are brother and sister who share an early history of reading lists and family discussions about ideas. Here Colin, the leader of the band the Decemberists, and Maile, a writer of awardwinning adult fiction, discuss their debut children’s novels and how they came to be the writers they are. Colin Meloy’s Wildwood, illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis, imagines a vast, impenetrable wilderness that borders Portland, Ore. (It is based on that city’s Forest Park.) When a murder of crows kidnaps Prue’s little brother, she plunges into the Wildwood, accompanied only by an unpopular schoolmate, to rescue him. There the children become separated, and each must encounter alone a fantasy world populated by animals and riven by political disputes. Q: The world of Wildwood is amazingly well imagined—did you and Carson Ellis spend long hours sitting around the dinner table discussing it? A: That did happen! Before we even had a story, we had the idea of taking Forest Park and making it its own country that would be sealed off from the rest of the city with some kind of magical boundary so only the very intrepid would be able to pass through. That was the germ of the idea. Carson traced out the real boundary of Forest Park, and then we started populating it with places we knew, anywhere from real structures like the Pittock Mansion to weird trees or ruined foundations. Then we fed the story into the map. Q: You write about some pretty dark places—battles, betrayals, death. Did you ever consider holding back, or was this the story you wanted to tell?

Q: Was it a leap to go from writing songs to writing a novel?

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Maile Meloy’s The Apothecary, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr, conjures an alternative 1950s, in which protagonist Janie and her family move to London to avoid investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee. There, she becomes friends with Benjamin, latest in a long line of apothecaries, whose family’s magical elixirs become key elements in an attempt to thwart Soviet detonation of an atomic bomb. Q: I loved that the relationship between Janie and Benjamin wasn’t overtly sexual like young romance in so many other books—was this a reaction to today’s culture of “sexting” or simply a natural part of the story? A: Janie and Benjamin are 14-year-olds in 1952, so it seemed natural for the feelings between them to be submerged and sublimated, and to come out in the brush of an arm when they’re becoming invisible. Also, they’re annoyed with each other some of the time, and they’re teamed up for a higher purpose, against forces bigger than themselves. Janie loves Katharine Hepburn, and I wanted some of that smart, bantering feeling of 1940s movies between the two of them. Q: There’s a rich history of literature for young people that involves both an adventure and also a story of personal, sometimes reluctant, transformation—it’s clearly evident in Janie’s character. Can you talk a bit about this comingof-age moment and why it makes for such great books? A: Yes! The idea that childhood is a time when everything is possible, and that there’s some inevitable loss in growing up, is incredibly poignant and powerful to me. It’s in A Wrinkle in Time, it’s in the Narnia books, it’s in Philip Pullman, it’s in Treasure Island, it’s in everything great. Q: Your book addresses the often gray nature of conflict by bringing it to a very personal level—the scientist working with the Russians on the bomb is someone the other scientists want to meet. Why is the idea that enemies are also human an important one for kids to be exposed to?

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p h oto © AU T U MN DE W ILDE

A: This was the story I wanted to tell. To be honest, I get the sense people might be overly concerned about what younger readers are able to process. When you’re writing a novel for children, no matter how much research you do, you’re really going on your own experience as a kid. As a kid, I fell in love with the books that explored the darker side of human relations. I don’t recall ever being disturbed by it or having my parents disturbed by it. I think that had to do with the more permissive atmosphere in parenting in the ’70s. It wasn’t glossed over, those darker sides of life.

A: Even though they involve the same kind of creative work—writing—they really couldn’t be more different in the way that you do them. Writing a novel feels to me like chopping wood. You’ve got a huge stack of unchopped logs and you need to chop it into firewood, you just have to keep going and keep going. Whereas songwriting is a little more of an unknown quantity—you’re building something that can happen in a spark, and you really don’t know when that spark will happen. You can write a song in the time it takes to play it. Which is kind of a crazy thing.


A: Dehumanizing enemies is what people do. It’s how monstrous things happen, on both global and everyday levels. There were cheesy ’80s songs in my childhood about the need to see enemies as people like us, but there’s truth in cheesiness. I love books where villains aren’t entirely villainous, and heroes have flaws— where there’s some shifting around in that gray area. The Soviet physicist Andrei Sakharov is a character in The Apothecary, and the apothecary and his colleagues feel that he’s a like-minded soul, someone who would be interested in using science for peace, even though he’s part of a system that’s out to destroy them. And I think Sakharov would have been a likeminded soul, and the rest of his career bore that out.

The Apothecary

Maile Meloy, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr Putnam (368 pp.) $16.99 Oct. 4, 2011 9780399256271

Q: Which kids’ novels do you like to read? COLIN: I’ve dug into a few. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. I read The Hunger Games, and I read a Harry Potter novel. But not a ton. My taste in adult novels runs toward the fantastic—I’m not a fantasy reader or science-fiction reader, but I like books that skirt the margin of the genre. Like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which presents itself as an adult novel but involves magicians walking the land. Michael Chabon—a few of his books skirt that margin, he’s a champion of that idea. I think reading that stuff informs what I do, but I’m channeling it through an illustrated novel that’s heavily influence by fairy tales. MAILE: I loved Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, and John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I revere Philip Pullman— both His Dark Materials and the four Sally Lockhart novels. I think Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret is incredibly beautiful. I just reread A Wrinkle in Time and The Westing Game, two favorites from my childhood. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray isn’t a young adult novel but it it’s about kids, in the most harrowing way. Q: Both of you have written fantasy books for children that share a few themes and also show some pretty dark images. Is there something about your shared history that led you both to write these particular books? COLIN: We grew up in a pretty progressive family, one that wasn’t afraid of talking about ideas. There was never a subject that was not allowed. There was a lot of talk about real political conflicts. I remember going to No Nuke rallies with my mom and having a very clear idea of what had happened in Hiroshima. Maybe that was the difference: There was such an established boundary between real violence and imagined violence that I had no problem distinguishing between the two. I could recognize the threat of a nuclear holocaust—I |

remember being totally terrified of the A-bomb— but I also could read a Tolkien book without being like, why don’t they just become friends? MAILE: I can speculate on my own behalf. Mine is about the 1950s Cold War, and we had the 1980s Cold War in our childhood. MX missiles were being put in the ground in Montana, where we lived, so we knew we’d be an early target. We grew up with the movie War Games and the idea that we could be pulverized at any moment. And also with the idea that the Cold War was dehumanizing, and nuclear proliferation a terrible endgame. The Apothecary is a fantasy that you could do something about it. Q: When two writers grow from the same family, I always imagine a very literary upbringing: poetry at the dinner table, a house crammed full of books. Was your childhood home like this? COLIN: We weren’t reading poetry at the dinner table, but our parents were really supportive of us reading. Summer vacations were often filled with booklists to check off as we go. Maile always did better than I did working through the list. She just wrote that essay for the New York Times about when she got her 10-speed bicycle for reading all those books. I was doing the same thing, but I think I only made it through a couple of books. She was more precocious academically and was also three years older. But I do remember that bike, and it was pretty sweet. MAILE: We did read a lot, and were read to and told stories. No poetry at the dinner table, but lots of hypothetical questions. We didn’t have a TV, and when we did we weren’t allowed to watch it, which was embarrassingly weird at the time, but probably not a bad thing…But there was a lot of sending us outside to play, too.

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ICEBERG RIGHT AHEAD! The Tragedy of the Titanic

McPherson, Stephanie Sammartino Twenty-First Century/Lerner (112 pp.) $24.95 e-book | PLB $33.26 | Nov. 1, 2011

With the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy coming up in April 2012, this engaging overview retells the powerful story and its aftermath. McPherson opens effectively, with the crucial scene when the iceberg was spotted “right ahead,” noting that the lookout binoculars had been missing for days, and gives a brief recap of the sinking. The narrative then goes back through a brief history of steamships and the business reasons for building huge ones, followed by a more detailed account of the trip and its terrible end, the survivors’ arrival in New York and the quickly convened Senate hearings about the disaster. Final chapters report on finding and excavating the ship in recent years. The smooth writing uses many quotes from the time, deftly incorporates facts and conveys the terror and heartbreak of the sinking, in which more than 1,500 died, and the rescue of about 700. A graceful design with a wide format features many historical photographs and illustrations, and sidebars on a host of topics such as significant people and statistics. Although the source notes and index are inadequate, McPherson provides a timeline, glossary, bibliography and thoughtful list for finding more information. An attractive, solid entry on a disaster that continues to fascinate. (Nonfiction. 11-15)

ONE WORLD KIDS COOKBOOK Easy, Healthy and Affordable Family Meals Mendez, Sean Interlink (104 pp.) $20.00 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-56656-866-1

International recipes for families interested in cooking a variety of world cuisines together. This colorful, amply illustrated cookbook emphasizes the educational, nutritional and social benefits of cooking with children, offering 19 recipes from as many nations. The book devotes four pages to each recipe and country, along with enriching notes on food and cultural facts. The country’s flag is depicted with a map locating the country, followed by a double-page spread documenting how to create each recipe. The emphasis here is on fun, collaboration, invention and food as an engaging art rather than exact science; “tasty tips” following recipes invite children to try variations (which always include a vegetarian option). Dishes include the familiar (Mexican fajitas, kebabs from Iran) along with the more adventurous (Brazilian salmon stew, Australian Fish parcel with damper bread). Recipes feel approachable—most are cooked atop the stove, with the most high-tech gadget required being an immersion 1938

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blender for creaming soup. Ingredients are laid out clearly, with equivalent temperatures and metric measurements—but not always presented in order of use. Though cooking time for meat is mentioned, the more reliable internal temperature might be preferable (“fry until cooked” could result in underdone meat). Overall, though, this cookbook offers complex, authentic international flavors without overcomplicating the process, and the result is something you’d really enjoy having for dinner. A deliciously engaging fusion of cookbook and cultural lesson. (Nonfiction. 8 & up)

FIX ME

Michaels, Rune Atheneum (160 pp.) $16.99 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-1-4169-5772-0 Be warned. This is a harrowing read, although the abuse that’s broken the selfmutilating narrator, Leia, is revealed solely through its aftereffects on the victims. Teen orphans Leia and Brian live with their Aunt Phoebe, who’s supervised by less-than-observant social workers. The adults appear unaware of, or are simply indifferent to, the siblings’ violent, corrosive relationship. When a man recognizes Leia at the coffee shop where she has a part-time job, she flees to the one place she feels safe: a private zoo. Hiding out there, she’s discovered by the owner’s son, Kyle, who hatches a scheme whereby she’ll share his job of feeding the animals and mucking out their cages; in return, Leia gets food and a place to sleep. As she grows attached to the animals, especially the elephants and Tiny, an abused chimp awaiting transfer to a sanctuary, Leia starts to heal. Then Brian finds her. Michaels (Noble Genes, 2010) is strong on style—lean and brutally evocative—and Leia herself is utterly convincing. But Kyle and Brian never quite come into focus; important plot points remain puzzlingly unresolved (the man who recognizes Leia seems merely a device to set the plot in motion), although the decision to omit details of the abuse itself feels right. An edgy, flawed but powerful read. (Fiction. 12 & up)

FINDING SOMEWHERE

Monninger, Joseph Delacorte (240 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | PLB $20.99 Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-385-73942-9 978-0-375-86214-4 e-book 978-0-385-90789-7 PLB Two teenage girls and a noble, aged horse on a road trip. What could beat that? Sixteen-year-old Hattie, in an expressive, quirky yet pitch-perfect first-person voice, provides the flowing narrative, as she steals Speed, an ancient kirkusreviews.com

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“A girl with strange powers and a subversive sense of humor bedevils the epic adventures of a young knight-aspirant and his Bigfoot sidekick.” from the totally awesome epic quest of the brave boy knight

horse scheduled to be put down the following autumn morning (merely to prevent the possibility of a difficult winter burial) and heads west with her best friend, Delores. She’s an emotionally fragile 18-year-old, rejected by her boyfriend-focused mother, and needs a rescue almost as badly as the horse. Their goal is to find free range for Speed, offering him the opportunity, for once in his life, to just be a horse—free, not plodding around a carnival ring. Along the way they encounter other horse lovers, most notably Julie, an elderly woman who just wants to share a few heart-wrenching moments with patient Speed; Fry, a Minnesota double amputee with plenty of land and a big heart; and Punch, a handsome young rodeo rider who loves both horses and Hattie. Monniger’s writing is delicious, evocative and, especially during horse-focused scenes, moving. Horse story, road trip, coming-of-age tale: It’s any and all of these, but mostly a tender and authentic voyage into the mind of a wise, funny and wholly likable protagonist. (Fiction. 11 & up)

ZOMBIE TAG

Moskowitz, Hannah Roaring Brook (240 pp.) $15.99 | Dec. 20, 2011 978-1-59643-720-3 Wilson discovers that being undead is not the same as never having died, in this contemporary version of “The Monkey’s Paw” from a middle-schooler’s perspective. Wilson thinks he knows how to put his broken family right, months after his beloved older brother died of an asthma attack in the family’s bathroom. His invented indoor, nighttime game, Zombie Tag, by luck allows him to find a zombie resurrection bell secreted in his best friend’s house. But the Graham who comes back from the dead, along with everyone else buried in the local cemetery, is vacant, dull and polite, only capable of emotionally experiencing anger and fear. Wilson’s first-person narrative hints matterof-factly at a world understood to be extraordinary: Wilson’s father is engaged in time-based travel work in an unnamed business; friends’ fathers are said to have seen unicorns and yetis; a decades-old incident involving zombies is common knowledge; and most amusingly and true to form: Media attention on the local appearance of zombies is frenzied and then disappears entirely. Despite these intriguing elements, gaps and coincidences in the plot seem abundant, and the story isn’t as fleshed out as readers might hope. Heartbreaking at times and odd at others; an intriguing but only partly successful variation on the zombie theme with a look at mortality and the process of grieving. (Paranormal fiction. 10-13)

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THE TOTALLY AWESOME EPIC QUEST OF THE BRAVE BOY KNIGHT

Naujokaitis, Pranas T. Illus. by Naujokaitis, Pranas T. Blue Apple (40 pp.) $10.99 | paper $4.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-60905-099-3 978-1-60905-183-9 paperback A girl with strange powers and a subversive sense of humor bedevils the epic adventures of a young knight-aspirant and his Bigfoot sidekick. He might be wearing a colander on his head, but this contemporary boy-knight is aching for action, some real knightly questing. With the appearance of the Animal Princess, his wish seems to be on the verge of coming true: She has a “totally epic quest for two knights” to dispense. The boy and his friend, who resembles Sasquatch, are game. There follows three quick adventures that may find some echoes for older readers—the lion and the mouse, the grail quest—which all end with the princess pulling the rug out from under the knight. The tales are loopily involving, allowing both the boy and the girl to play big parts, with humor that comes in broad strokes that Naujokaitis vividly paints on the faces of the actors. The panels in general have an appealingly heightened sense of emotion, with terrific facial expressions and an unassuming sophistication in coloration, though both the text and the graphics remain true to a focus on fundamentals. The kind of big-hearted fun that may lose its element of surprise, but not its power to please young readers. (Graphic picture book. 6-9)

THE WITCH’S REVENGE

Nelson, D.A. Delacorte (272 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-385-73631-2 978-0-375-98360-3 e-book 978-0-385-90601-2 PLB Stolen magical artifacts! Kidnapped wizards! Assassinated queens! Earthquakes! Two months after saving the magical kingdom Marnoch Mor in Dark Isle (2008), Morag and her friends must save it all over again. Marnoch Mor, a secret kingdom in western Scotland, has been a safe haven for magical folk for hundreds of years. Now Morag and her friends (the dragon chief constable Shona, the prissy dodo Bertie, the rat Aldiss and Henry, the talking medallion) have discovered a terrible new danger. A disused magical train starts them on their adventure (good thing they have a jar of Instant Driver— ”just add water”), Aldiss warmly clad in “a neon-pink bobble hat.” Though the safety of the entire magical world is at stake, Morag has more mundane concerns to confront as well: Her |

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“Kitty’s discoveries and ethical dilemmas are age- and era-appropriate, the characters affectionately portrayed, rounded individuals.” from something to hold

evil, positively Dursleyesque foster parents are still seeking her, and now that she’s left Marnoch Mor, she’s in constant danger. The set dressing here almost seems to come from a simpler time in children’s fantasy: “tiny star-shaped elves” holding “little measuring tapes,” a weepy dodo loudly blowing his beak with “a large red and white polka-dotted handkerchief.” Lovers of wisecracking fairies and broody vampires will find this twee, but it has its own silly charm. (Fantasy. 8-10)

WHO CUT THE CHEESE?

Nesbø, Jo Illus. by Lowery, Mike Aladdin (464 pp.) $15.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-4424-3307-6 Series: Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder, 3 With help from friends, an eccentric inventor and his two young associates save both Norway and the world from Swedish-speaking alien chameleons with

hypnotic powers. Having clouded the minds of everyone who watched him compete in the NoroVision Choral Throwdown on television, a mysterious figure disguising himself as singing chiropractor Hallvard Tenorsen moves into the royal palace, sends the king into exile and declares war on Denmark (planning to open his campaign by bombing Legoland, the fiend) as a first step in chowing down on all humanity. What can the motley crew of non–TV watchers ranged against him, led by sensible young Lisa and her short but extravagantly imaginative classmate Nilly, do? Plenty, as it turns out, thanks to timely help from Nilly’s pet Peruvian sucking spider, the titular “Fartonaut Powder” (which induces consumers to odorlessly but explosively “cut the cheese with the strength and noise of a flock of three hundred thousand wildebeests and eighteen water buffaloes all farting in unison”), a giant sewer dwelling anaconda and other aids. Though a bit windy himself, Nesbø, author of numerous adult bestsellers, tucks enough silly antics, oddball adults and sly digs at his country’s culture and foibles into his third Doctor Proctor epic to keep even non-Scandinavians amused. Hefty but lightweight, with occasional pokerfaced line drawings to reinforce the tongue-in-cheek tone. (Satiric fantasy. 10-12)

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SOMETHING TO HOLD

Noe, Katherine Schlick Clarion (256 pp.) $16.99 | Dec. 5, 2011 978-0-547-55813-4

Kitty Schlick is apprehensive about starting sixth grade on Oregon’s Warm Springs Indian Reservation, home to Paiute, Warm Springs and Wasco people, where her father’s job has taken the family in 1962. After a rocky start with the local kids—especially sullen Raymond and his sister, Jewel—Kitty’s brothers moved on and made friends. Kitty’s having a harder time. One of the school’s few white students, she feels isolated until she’s befriended by Pinky, a Wasco classmate whose mother, like Kitty’s dad, staffs a fire lookout. As Kitty finds her footing, she’s troubled by the preferential treatment teachers give white students and the casual racism of the white girls attending her church. She comes to appreciate the quiet strength of Raymond and Jewel, abused by their white stepfather but sheltered by their Warm Springs grandmother. Kitty, who’s felt isolated, finds she has a place in this community. Noe, who bases the narrative on her childhood years in Warm Spring, resists didacticism. Kitty’s discoveries and ethical dilemmas are age- and era-appropriate, the characters affectionately portrayed, rounded individuals. The ever-present threat of forest fire makes a grimly effective backdrop to the gentle foreground of this engaging tale, chronicling how tolerance of difference engenders mutual respect and opens the door to necessary change. (author’s note, glossary) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

CHICKEN, PIG, COW AND THE CLASS PET

Ohi, Ruth Illus. by Ohi, Ruth Annick Press (32 pp.) $6.95 paperback | PLB $19.95 Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-55451-346-8 978-1-55451-347-5 PLB Three toys take an unexpected field trip. Huddled in close quarters, Cow, Pig and Chicken try to dissect the sounds around them. Readers see that their temporary housing (a makeshift Popsicle-stick barn) confines them to a classroom while their beloved young owner enjoys her day at school. The friends’ introduction to the imposing class pet, dubbed Furface by the anxious critters, leads to some wacky interactions (no surprise, as students’ signage reveals the hamster’s given name as Mr. Crankypants). When the hamster begins to gnaw on their barn, the pals escape in hopes of distracting him. Wry dialogue keeps the tone light. “I am not a salad,” Chicken protests from under leaf of lettuce as the group tries to lure the hamster to his cage after a fruitless game kirkusreviews.com

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of fetch. Humorous watercolors splashed against open white backgrounds extend the visual humor, depicting the classroom environment from a toy’s-eye point of view. The three adventurers shove a box of crayons in place to act as stairstep to Furface’s cage; “Push. Grunt,” indicates the effort. Human characters fade to the background, pictured, if at all, as a pair of giant hands or from shoulders down. A lighthearted glimpse reveals how stuffed animals will play when their child (and their teacher) is away. (Picture book. 4-8)

OMER’S FAVORITE PLACE

Onyefulu, Ifeoma Photos by Onyefulu, Ifeoma Frances Lincoln (28 pp.) $17.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-241-5

Omer’s infectious smile will draw young readers into this photo essay detailing everyday life in an Ethiopian middle-class family. Omer invites them to figure out his favorite spot to play. He mentions Korki (described as “a game like marbles”) but played with metal bottle caps, Atamata (“an Ethiopian clapping game”) and Gebeta—”an African counting game,” also known as Mancala in some countries. Most of his toys are instantly recognizable, as are the house furnishings save for some of the coffeemaking equipment and the griddle for the injera, the Ethiopian staple pancake. Omer introduces readers to his parents, two sisters, his aunt, a nanny and a maid. Like many little boys, he always seems to be in the way, so he finds a special place where he can curl up with a book, use his crayons or have a snack. The insular scope of the text doesn’t include his location, except for a mention on the jacket flap and in the very short glossary opposite the title page (which provides page numbers for references, a well-intentioned but confusing gesture, as the pages are not numbered). The attractive, sharp photos and simple text, counteracting many stereotypes, can be used to introduce the concept that children in different countries have similar needs and feelings, especially when it comes to fun. (Informational picture book. 3-6)

NEW SHOES FOR HELEN

Onyefulu, Ifeoma Photos by Onyefulu, Ifeoma Frances Lincoln (28 pp.) $17.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-128-9

thongs, shiny black pumps with bows and brown sandals with shell decorations. She isn’t satisfied until she takes a trip to the market with her mother and brother. There, Helen finds her dream shoes, intense turquoise, with rhinestone embellishments. While some adults may look askance at the child’s choice, she is convinced that they will look just right for her auntie’s wedding. The photos of middle-class urban life are a sharp and welcome contrast to many images of East Africa, but they suffer from drab design: The thin pinkish frames surrounding them don’t provide distinctive contrast from the generous white borders. Meant for the youngest readers, such lines as “Will Helen ever find the shoes she likes?” or “Lucky Helen!” sound stilted. All in all, this effort lacks the excitement of the author’s photo essays set in Nigeria, making this an additional choice for those looking for easy books about different countries. Onyefulu stresses the similarities between kids in Africa and those in Britain or the United States in very simple language, but the quotidian treatment doesn’t give the subject enough pizzazz. (Picture book. 3-5)

THE FLYAWAY BLANKET

Peterkin, Allan Illus. by Pidgen, Emmeline American Psychological Association/ Magination (32 pp.) $14.95 | paper $9.95 | Nov. 15, 2011 978-1-4338-1047-3 978-1-4338-1046-6 paperback A child’s blanket sails off on a winddriven odyssey, then circles back to perform its proper function. Think “cozy.” Also “agenda.” Just as young Jake and his mother settle down for a nap in the yard, a gust of wind snatches his treasured blue blanket off the clothesline and sends it flying past families of birds, bunnies and other animals. Despite wooden writing (“The calf watched it fly into the farmer’s garden. Moo! Moo! Moo!”), the journey has a ritual, dreamlike quality that both evokes Jake’s drowsy state and is reflected in Pidgen’s fanciful cartoon scenes. Unlike the animals and the idyllic outdoor settings, the blanket has a nebulous, undefined quality, seeming less a material object than a symbolic representation of one. And, indeed, after an anxietyinducing suggestion that the blanket might fly away forever, the author instead sends it back to settle over sleeping Jake and his mother and then closes with a note about the importance of comfort objects to children. An intimate episode—written by a professor of psychiatry, published by an imprint of the American Psychological Association and clearly, if indirectly, addressed as much to parents as to children. (Picture book. 4-6)

Buying new shoes is a peak experience for many little girls, but selecting shoes for a wedding takes the cake. Helen, an Ethiopian preschooler, tries on several pairs of shoes in bright colors: red patent-leather Mary Janes, yellow |

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ZEKE BARTHOLOMEW: SUPERSPY

Pinter, Jason Sourcebooks (256 pp.) $7.99 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-4022-5755-1 Series: Zeke Bartholomew, 1 A geeky seventh grader’s fantasies about becoming a “kick-butt spy” all come true when a new classmate clad in a business suit and mirror shades moves

in next door. Intrigued by the advent of sneering, hypercool “Derek Lance,” Zeke does the logical thing and sneaks out that night to go through his new neighbor’s garbage-whereupon he’s picked up by a carload of plug uglies who mistake him for Lance. Zeke is interrogated about codes for something called “SirEebro,” attacked by a mutant fire monster whose veins run with lava, rescued by a hot (if sharp-tongued) teenaged operative from SNURP (“The Strategic National Underground Reconnaissance Project”) named Sparrow and catapulted into a desperate effort to scotch the evil scheme of costumed mastermind Mr. Le Carré. This evildoer plans to enslave humanity from an underground fortress with sound waves buried in a music video. Pinter, a writer of adult thrillers, keeps the action cranked up to full speed, but the “spy” and “superhero” tropes mix uneasily, and the characters seem labored. Unfortunately, this applies most notably to Zeke, who paradoxically maps himself at length as the familiar scorned, nonathletic, typecast suburban nerd but then goes on to display not only bottomless reserves of coolheaded pluck but also a secret underground lab of his own filled with fantastic techno-spy inventions. Headlong fun (with at least one sequel on the way), but readers will really have to work hard to suspend disbelief. (Thriller. 11-13)

I CAN SAY A PRAYER

Piper, Sophie Illus. by Bolam, Emily Lion/Trafalgar (32 pp.) $12.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7459-6233-7

the versions used in U.S. churches. Bold, cartoon-style illustrations provide a cheery complement to the text of prayers, with simplified shapes and appealing characters with disproportionately large heads and uniformly earnest expressions. The final spread shows Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer to the assembled preschool-aged characters shown throughout the book, which may need explaining from a historical standpoint. A pleasant but not essential introduction to the concept of integrating prayer into daily life. (Picture book/religion. 2-5)

SOLOMON CROCODILE

Rayner, Catherine Illus. by Rayner, Catherine Farrar, Straus and Giroux (32 pp.) $15.99 | Dec. 20, 2011 978-0-374-38064-9 Solomon Crocodile annoys and irritates the other creatures in the swamp. Solomon loves making frogs jump, bugging the dragonflies and stalking the storks. But his idea of fun doesn’t win him any friends. None of them seem enjoy his games, and they tell him to stop being a nuisance, a pain, a pest and to just go way. The hippo is most emphatic in his denunciation of Solomon as “nothing but trouble,” and he slinks away to sulk because no one will play with him. When he hears a disturbance among the animals, he is frightened until he sees another crocodile, and they quickly join forces to become double trouble. Rayner employs descriptive and playful language to describe Solomon’s antics. Repetition of the phrase, “go away, Solomon, you’re nothing but….,” adds structure to the slight plot. Solomon’s toothy grin is ever present as he slithers through the swamp playing his tricks, and he appears appropriately chastised, sad or scared as the events warrant. Although Solomon is depicted as an exaggerated cartoon, the other creatures are drawn quite accurately. Unframed, large-scale illustrations fill double-page spreads with color and movement. Solomon never really learns how to make friends, but a bit of discussion during a cuddly read-aloud could clarify the point. Light and entertaining fun. (Picture book. 2-6)

I IMAGINE

Rivett, Rachel Illus. by Moriuchi, Mique Lion/Trafalgar (32 pp.) $12.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-7459-6208-5

Preschoolers incorporate prayer into their daily activities in this collection of

12 short prayers. Washing up, making music, sharing a meal and being kind to animals are some of the circumstances explored by a multiethnic group of cheerful children, who get along remarkably well without any grownups in sight. Most of the prayers rhyme, and most are written in first person, with a variety of children serving as narrators. Several of the prayers are based on familiar Bible verses, mostly from the Psalms and concluding with the Lord’s Prayer. The version of the Lord’s Prayer used here is that of the Church of England, which differs slightly but noticeably from 1942

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An unusual, whimsical collection of 12 short prayers offers an imaginative approach with a patterned text and creative responses from the children narrating the prayers. Each prayer follows a similar pattern, describing a particular circumstance or challenge familiar to young children (“if life is stormy”), followed by the child narrator’s imagined action (“I kirkusreviews.com

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“As unforgiving as the western Kansas prairies, this extraordinary verse novel… paints a gritty picture of late-19th-century frontier life…” from may b.

imagine I’m a tree, tossed and tumbled in the wind”). In alternating spreads, there is also a comforting response from God (“you show me how my roots are getting stronger”). This particular prayer is illustrated with a cutaway view of a tree’s roots extending deep into the ground, providing extensive support for the tree even though we can’t see it from our perspective. Throughout the collection, the first-person imagined personifications and responses from God are surprisingly sophisticated in their symbolism and imagery, while still being intellectually accessible to the intended audience. Moriuchi’s pleasing collage illustrations of chubby-cheeked children incorporate textured papers, fabrics and snippets of print along with painted elements. Creative type placement provides additional motion within the illustrations, with flowing text indicating the movement of wind or water. The light, soothing atmosphere created by the wellmatched prayers and illustrations is deceptively simple, effectively conveying powerful images and a strong sense of comfort. (Picture book/religion. 3-6)

MAY B.

Rose, Caroline Starr Schwartz & Wade/ Random (240 pp.) $15.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $18.99 Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-58246-393-3 978-1-58246-437-4 e-book 978-1-58246-412-1 PLB As unforgiving as the western Kansas prairies, this extraordinary verse novel— Rose’s debut—paints a gritty picture of late-19th-century frontier life from the perspective of a 12-year-old dyslexic girl named Mavis Elizabeth Betterly… May B. for short. Between May and her brother Hiram, she’s the dispensable one: “Why not Hiram? I think, / but I already know: / boys are necessary.” Ma and Pa, hurting for money, hire out their daughter to the Oblingers, a newlywed couple who’ve just homesteaded 15 miles west—just until Christmas, Pa promises. May is bitter: “I’m helping everyone / except myself.” She has trouble enough at school with her cumbersome reading without missing months… and how can she live in such close quarters with strangers? A misshapen sod house, Mr. Oblinger and his wife, a miserable teenager in a flaming red dress, greet her as “Pa tucks money / inside his shirt pocket.” This sad-enough tale crescendos to a hair-raising survival story when May is inexplicably abandoned and left in complete isolation to starve… just until Christmas? Snowed in and way past the last apple, May thinks, “It is hard to tell what is sun, / what is candle, / what is pure hope.” If May is a brave, stubborn fighter, the short, free-verse lines are one-two punches in this Laura Ingalls Wilder– inspired ode to the human spirit. (Historical fiction. 9-14)

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MORALITY FOR MUGGLES Ethics in the Bible and the World of Harry Potter

Rosenberg, Moshe KTAV (128 pp.) $12.95 paperback | Nov. 15, 2011 978-1-60280-183-7

With added input from some of his fifth-to seventh-grade students, a rabbi and private-school teacher reflects on values in the Harry Potter series and finds parallels in

the Torah and Talmud. Taking “life’s eternal questions” as his purview (“Sorry, not witchcraft and magic wands”), Rosenberg begins with personal behaviors (“Breaking the Rules,” “Manners”) and broadens the perspective as he goes to, ultimately, “Death,” “Good and Evil” and “Love.” He makes comparisons throughout—between Harry’s breaking rules for need, not fun and Elijah’s technically illegal “showdown” with the prophets of Ba’al on Mount Carmel; between the trios of Harry, Ron and Hermione and Moses, Aaron and Miriam; the bittersweet repentances of Snape and of David. They are only sometimes a little stretched and, except when he discounts the racist overtones some readers perceive in Rowling’s house elves (but does rebuke her for her treatment of the gnomes), clearly reasoned overall. Closing with 20 pages of generally engaging student essays (“Even though what Harry did was a little ‘braver,’ what Moses did was a little more sensible”) and a gathering of specific Bible references, the author gently eases even less contemplative readers into considering, as one chapter head puts it, “What Really Matters.” Similar elements drawn from distinctly disparate sources, presented with a beguiling blend of good humor and serious intent. (Literary criticism/religion. 10-13, adult)

BESWITCHED

Saunders, Kate Delacorte (256 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Dec. 13, 2011 978-0-385-74075-3 978-0-375-98927-8 e-book 978-0-375-98967-4 PLB A spoiled, contemporary English schoolgirl travels back in time to 1935, where she must adjust to a different life style, make new friends and complete a mysterious task. Twelve-year-old Flora Fox resents leaving her pampered life with her doting parents while their London home is renovated. En route to snazzy Penrice Hall for one term, Flora naps on the train and wakes up at stuffy St. Winifred’s boarding school in 1935. Flummoxed to find herself without such 21st-century necessities as cell phones, laptops, jeans, lattes and hot showers, Flora feels like an alien until she becomes attached to her three roomies: impetuous Pete, astute Pogo and gentle Dulcie. Determined to make the best of the rigid boarding school with its eccentric |

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“Schimel takes readers into the mind of the unnamed girl through his skillful use of the first-person narration…” from let’s go see papá!

teachers and schoolgirl rivalries, Flora actually becomes a nicer person. The more she appreciates the past, the more she treasures “all the things in the future she had always taken for granted.” Discovering her roommates have pulled her into 1935 through a summoning charm, Flora knows she’ll remain in the past until she completes her mission. Told in a third-person, past-tense narration with schoolgirl humor and perspective, this time-travel tale convincingly links England of 1935 to the present. A ripping English boarding-school story with a perceptive heroine and time-travel twist guaranteed to appeal to modern schoolgirls. (Fantasy. 10-13)

GLORY BE

Scattergood, Augusta Scholastic (208 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-545-33180-7 The closing of her favorite swimming pool opens 11-year-old Gloriana Hemphill’s eyes to the ugliness of racism in a small Mississippi town in 1964. Glory can’t believe it… the Hanging Moss Community Pool is closing right before her July Fourth birthday. Not only that, she finds out the closure’s not for the claimed repairs needed, but so Negroes can’t swim there. Tensions have been building since “Freedom Workers” from the North started shaking up status quo, and Glory finds herself embroiled in it when her new, white friend from Ohio boldly drinks from the “Colored Only” fountain. The Hemphills’ African-American maid, Emma, a mother figure to Glory and her sister Jesslyn, tells her, “Don’t be worrying about what you can’t fix, Glory honey.” But Glory does, becoming an activist herself when she writes an indignant letter to the newspaper likening “hateful prejudice” to “dog doo” that makes her preacher papa proud. When she’s not saving the world, reading Nancy Drew or eating Dreamsicles, Glory shares the heartache of being the kid sister of a preoccupied teenager, friendship gone awry and the terrible cost of blabbing people’s secrets… mostly in a humorously sassy first-person voice. Though occasionally heavy-handed, this debut offers a vivid glimpse of the 1960s South through the eyes of a spirited girl who takes a stand. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

LET’S GO SEE PAPÁ!

Schimel, Lawrence Translated by Amado, Elisa Illus. by Rivera, Alba Marina Groundwood (48 pp.) $18.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-55498-106-9 A young girl realizes that moving to the United States to live with her father means leaving familiarity behind. “I haven’t seen my papá for one year, eight months and 1944

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twenty-two days.” Her father moved away to earn money to send back to his family. Since Sundays are the cheapest day for long-distance phone calls, that day is special to the girl, her mamá and her abuela. The three live together in an unnamed, presumably Latin American country. She keeps a notebook of all the things Papá is missing and reminisces about the times they spent walking their dog Kika. One Sunday, Papá tells his daughter that she and Mamá will finally be able to come live with him in the United States. While she is happy at the prospect of living with her father again, she is also has trepidations about leaving Abuela, Kika and her best friend Rocío behind. Schimel takes readers into the mind of the unnamed girl through his skillful use of the first-person narration, while Rivera’s mixedmedia illustrations combine traditional materials with photocopies and transfers to give some pages a scrapbooklike appeal. Readers will enjoy deciphering the various visual elements. While this is clearly a much-needed story that effectively captures the experience faced by many immigrant families, its themes are relevant to all children. (Picture book. 4-8)

LATASHA AND THE LITTLE RED TORNADO

Scotto, Michael Illus. by Gabriel, Evette Midlandia Press (141 pp.) $10.99 paperback | Nov. 15, 2011 978-0-9837243-0-8 What’s an 8-year-old with a working single mother and an energetic dog to do when her puppy’s high energy (the “zoomies”) threatens to try their land-

lady’s patience? The premise is appealing: Third-grader Latasha must give her dog (Ella, named after Ella Fitzgerald) some exercise, but she is too young to go the park by herself. Often, she’s cared for by Mrs. Okocho, the landlady, who is from Nigeria and who isn’t particularly fond of dogs—especially those that take an unhealthy interest in her garden, as Ella does. Latasha must use some creative problem-solving skills to put up with babysitting from Mrs. Okocho and to care adequately for Ella, eventually resulting in a near-fatal accident for the puppy. Unfortunately, this debut is marred by some awkward writing, including dialogue that seems more adult than third-grader, presumably in order to get across some admittedly worthy lessons: “But telling fibs is wrong and definitely not a mature thing to do. It can be really hard to make the right choice sometimes!” The length and vocabulary seem suited for preteens, making it a mismatch with an 8-year-old protagonist. There are some bright spots, including a satisfying ending that’s not too neat, but this is too long, and too clearly written with a grown-up’s sensibility to have as much kid appeal as it could have had. (Fiction. 9-11)

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A DOG IS A DOG

Shaskan, Stephan Illus. by Shaskan, Stephan Chronicle (40 pp.) $14.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-8118-7896-8 A quirky quartet of amusing animals. Simple rhymed text and colorful, digitally rendered illustrations combine to present a serial assortment of animals in this playful offering by first-time author-illustrator Shaskan. A smattering of realistic and fantastic snippets on behavior, personality and appearance is provided for each animal (“A dog is a dog, / whether it’s naughty… / … or nice. / Whether it suns on the beach, / or glides on the ice”), accompanied by wry illustrations that will have readers giggling. The text seamlessly segues as the illustrations show each animal humorously transforming into the next one: “A dog is a dog, if it’s skinny or fat. / A dog is a dog, unless it’s a… / CAT!” Appealing, retro-inspired illustrations are the focus here; gentle humor, whimsy and lively wit emanate from the skating pup, mischievous cat, jet ski–riding squid and frolicking moose. The seemingly random choice of animals will surprise and charm, and while the descriptions of the animals are a tad insubstantial, the simplicity and clarity of the text makes this a good choice for the very young; it’s easy to imagine a toddler enjoying this while seated on a mom or dad’s knee. Overall, an energetic debut. Young animal lovers are in for a treat. (Picture book. 2-5)

MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON Things About Me

Slate, JennyFleischer-Camp, Dean Illus. by Lind, Amy Razorbill/Penguin (40 pp.) $18.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-59514-455-3

A perky anthropomorphic shell named Marcel introduces readers to his highly original universe in this quirky spin-off from the 2010 Stop Motion animated short film of the same name. With one large eye, a mouth and a pair of scuffed red-andwhite shoes, univalve Marcel confidently asserts, “I like myself.” Speaking in the first person, present tense, Marcel isn’t afraid to express himself. He loves where he lives, sleeps between two pieces of bread known as his “Breadroom” and often visits the “aquarium” (a goldfish bowl). Which amusement ride is he afraid to go on? The salad spinner. What’s his favorite ride? The ladle. How does he dry off? Dives into the sock drawer. What does he use as a helmet when scaling a high-heeled sandal? A pistachio shell. Created from a series of multicolor paintings resembling fuzzy interior photographs, clever illustrations serve as strikingly realistic backdrops for Marcel with his fantastical props and playthings, providing visual clues about the actual scale of his diminutive world. Like a camera lens, illustrations zoom in and out on |

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Marcel, confidently perched atop books, dragging his lint dog on a hair leash, standing defiantly beneath a toilet bowl or tucked into his Breadroom as he revels in his one-of-a-kind life. The sky’s the limit for this winning, winsome, wee mollusk. (Picture book. 5 & up)

STARS IN THE SHADOWS The Negro League All-Star Game of 1934

Smith Jr., Charles R. Illus. by Morrison, Frank Atheneum (112 pp.) $14.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-689-86638-8

Some of the best-ever baseball players face off in 1934 at the second annual Negro League All-Star game in Chicago. In an era when major league baseball meant white players only, many of the best players played for the Negro Leagues and never got the chance to compete in a larger arena. Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Willie Wells, Satchel Paige and Oscar Charleston are legendary names despite the segregation that kept them from competing in one integrated league for their entire careers. The concept behind this slim volume is excellent—a story in poems told in nine innings, each inning properly divided into the top of the inning and bottom. Graphite illustrations lend an old-timey feel to the text, and various advertisements, fan comments and even a performance by the Jubilee Singers complete the event. The variety of things happening on and off the field offers both frequent changes of pace within the text and a sense of what attending a real game is like. Unfortunately, the text itself presents quite a reading challenge. Long poetic lines, the rhymes occasionally forced, may trip up young readers, where leaner, more muscular lines would have better served the energy of the game being described. Still, what baseball fan won’t thrill at this game that included the likes of the Brown Bomber, Willie “the Devil” Wells and the Tan Cheetah? (Historical fiction. 8-12)

MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE

Staniszewski, Anna Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (208 pp.) $6.99 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-4022-5946-3 In a light comic romp with a fantasy theme, 12-year-old Jenny, reluctant adventurer, decides to live a normal life, if she can. Jenny has spent the last three years traveling to magical lands, vanquishing foes by dispensing “cheesy” wisdom. She’s in high demand as an adventurer. However, she yearns for a normal life, with friends and school. When she meets an enemy, the terrible clown |

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monster Klarr, that appears too powerful for her skills, she quits. Her normal life, however, doesn’t fulfill her hopes, as she just doesn’t seem to fit in with ordinary kids her age. Jenny finds she can’t get away from her magical adventures in any case. She goes back with her gnome sidekick Anthony to rescue her new friend Prince Lamb from Klarr’s grasp. Staniszewski pitches her writing to a middleschool audience in her debut, emphasizing comedy along with non-threatening suspense, and keeps the tone chatty and frothy. She throws in some sweet animal characters along with the less interesting humans, although Jenny’s Aunt Evie, always surrounded by animals, and her kindly magical protector, Dr. Bradley, stand out. An eye for imaginative detail mixes with these likable characters and a theme of empathy for others to keep the story appropriate to a younger audience, who easily will identify with Jenny. Charming. (Fantasy adventure. 9-14)

THE SUPER-DUPER DOG PARK

Steinke, Aron Nels Illus. by Steinke, Aron Nels Blue Apple (40 pp.) paper $4.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-60905-093-1 978-1-60905-184-6 paperback

DARKNESS FALLS

In cartoon format and awash with voice and thought bubbles, kids and canines make a day of it at the dog park. The Super-Duper Dog Park that is. Here our pooch pals can do everything from playing badminton to riding an old-fashioned bicycle, swim underwater, climb trees and howl at the rain. Steinke’s text is geared to be easy reading, but it is not without cleverness: snatches of rhyme or onomatopoeic devices that give a good taste of sound. Sometimes the text can feel almost surreal—while a girl is crying out, “We can bounce!” she is also thinking, “Dogs in the bounce house!” Sometimes there appear to be role-reversals, as when a boy is thinking “Food! Food! I want food!” just as readers might imagine a dog thinks about hunger. The artwork follows the text’s accessible engagement. It’s as visually plain-speaking as a Nancy comic strip but also active and varied; the drive to the dog park—kids and dogs only, dog behind the wheel—passes through verdant fields, parched desert and snow-capped alpine ridges. Both colorful and high spirited, this title will give new readers a good run for their money. (Graphic early reader. 6-9)

BEN THE INVENTOR

Stevenson, Robin Illus. by Parkins, David Orca (64 pp.) $6.95 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-55469-802-8 Ben and his best friend Jack face a crisis: Jack is moving away. Perhaps the wily pair can invent some way to prevent that?

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Ben and Jack live across the street from each other; a speed bump connects their houses and, seemingly, their hearts. When the “for sale” sign appears in Jack’s front yard, its threat seems dire. “Inventors invent inventions,” the two grade-schoolers like to say. So they begin to construct a giant catapult to shoot dead weeds into Jack’s front yard to discourage buyers. If that fails, they can resort to Plans B or C. All of their plans share a common feature, a quality of dreaming and scheming that seems perfectly age appropriate: Not too well thought out, but very imaginative. Taking into consideration the controlled vocabulary of this effort geared toward readers transitioning to chapter books, Ben and Jack exchange a lot of believable dialogue, but neither of their characters is particularly distinguishable from the other. Attractive, cheerful black-and-white full-page illustrations appear every few pages. While having a new friend ever-so-conveniently move into Jack’s house after he leaves seems like a too-easy resolution, everything about this effort is charmingly upbeat. This easy read only lightly deals with a common childhood issue, and its winsome attitude makes it fun. (Fiction. 6-9)

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Tiernan, Cate Little, Brown (400 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 2, 2012 978-0-316-03593-4 Series: Immortal Beloved, 2 This follow-up to Immortal Beloved (2010) amps up the romance as ex-badgirl immortal Nastasya continues her rehabilitation. Nastasya’s breezy, slangy and just a little bit vulnerable narration quickly brings new and returning readers up to speed. After 400 years as a superficial and destructive party girl, Nastasya has found her way to River’s Edge, where immortals like her heal from their past misdeeds and traumas and learn to do Tähti magic, a more wholesome and less destructive kind than the Terävä Nastasya practiced with her friends. More trusting and committed to healing than before, Nastasya is still haunted by the fear that she is irreparably full of darkness. She is also haunted by Reyn, a fellow resident at River’s Edge, whom she once kissed before realizing the nature of their shared past. Though readers will easily see through both Nastasya’s fears and her insistence that she finds Reyn merely annoying, her pained internal monologue still invites compassion. Innocencio, Nastasya’s cruel, capricious and manipulative former best friend, reappears in this volume, and his behavior toward Nastasya quite openly and chillingly mirrors real-world domestic violence. The action builds to a high-stakes climax, but there are plenty of loose ends to resolve and plenty of room for Nastasya to keep growing and learning in another volume. Another successful blend of sarcasm, pathos and magick. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

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“Weaver paints a realistic picture of life without electricity or plumbing, from the constant labor required to keep the wood pile stocked to killing and dressing a deer.” from the survivors

DOGS DON’T EAT JAM AND OTHER THINGS BIG KIDS KNOW Tsiang, Sarah Illus. by Leng, Qin Annick Press (32 pp.) $8.95 paperback | PLB $19.95 Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-55451-359-8 978-1-55451-360-4 PLB

An older sister prattles on to her newborn sibling about all the things to learn in the world. In their first collaboration, Tsiang and Leng produced A Flock of Shoes (2010), an airy tale of a child’s attachment to an article of clothing. Unfortunately, this second story does not have the same whimsy or story arc. The narrator is an older sister, using a conversational voice to list the myriad skills the newborn sibling will have to master. The voice is unfortunately arrogant, albeit confessional, and has a manic quality about it. The scale of the sibling’s list of knowledge is enormous. It starts from learning how to eat and cry, through walking, talking, potty training, trouble with parents, punishments, going to bed and giving up the pacifier, and it ends at riding a bus and learning the alphabet. Leng’s illustrations are sketchy and appropriately toddler-active. Yet here, too, the images could benefit from a cohesive plan. Where did the older sister’s handmade guide, seen at the beginning, go? How are the individual vignettes sequenced? Why is there a voice bubble around these words? The busyness of the whole keeps readers from forming an emotional attachment to the characters or the story. It is all just too jumbled to succeed as a charming oldersibling book. (Picture book. 3-6)

THE SURVIVORS

Weaver, Will HarperTeen (320 pp.) $17.99 | PLB $18.89 | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-06-009476-8 978-0-06-009477-5 PLB A family fleeing rapidly degenerating social order caused by world-changing volcanic eruptions finds respite and new heart in this well-crafted sequel to Memory Boy (2001). Driven from their comfortable home outside Minneapolis in the previous episode by increasingly brutal hard times and a rising tide of lawlessness, the Newells have taken refuge in an isolated cabin in the north woods—knowing that they have to adapt to radically changed living conditions, and also to keep from being identified by local residents as homeless “Travelers” to be hustled along, or worse. Fortunately, eighth-grader Sarah and her equally urbanized, floundering parents have big brother Miles to lean on, with his tough, commonsense outlook, ready shotgun and a photographic memory stocked with information |

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on living off the land. But they can’t always be dependent on him, as they discover when he is sidelined by a devastating injury. Weaver paints a realistic picture of life without electricity or plumbing, from the constant labor required to keep the wood pile stocked to killing and dressing a deer. And, even more compellingly, in the Newells’ contacts with others, he portrays a society in which some struggle to maintain cherished values and stability while others succumb to increasing suspicion, parochialism and desperation. Sobering, thoroughly credible and, ultimately, optimistic about the chances of our better natures triumphing when the going gets rough. (Science fiction. 10-13)

GHOST MOON

Wilson, John Orca (192 pp.) $12.95 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-55469-879-0 Series: Desert Legends Trilogy, 2 A young wanderer lands in the middle of New Mexico’s Lincoln County War in this middle volume of the oater Desert Legends Trilogy. Relatively fresh from meeting Cochise in the previous episode (Written In Blood, 2010), 16-year-old James Doolen falls in with Bill Bonney (not yet known as “Billy the Kid”)—a charming but decidedly mercurial teenager who hares off on a vicious killing spree after their new boss, John Tunstall, is murdered by a rival merchant’s gang of hired gunmen. Along with having his narrator witness several documented gunfights, Wilson fills in the cast with historical figures and the general background with barely disguised infodumps. In his simply phrased, present-tense account, James goes from a brash “I want to learn about the world and have adventures” to a disgust with the escalating violence that, after several narrow squeaks, leads him on to a new job (and the next volume) scouting for a troop of buffalo soldiers. The tale’s women are, with a single late exception, silent bystanders, but action fans will thrill to the gunplay and other dangers. James’ conflicting feelings about his archetypically dangerous friend—and also a telling conversation with an old Mexican survivor of the Alamo about the difference between legend and reality—introduce thought provoking elements. A tale of the Old West with a sturdy historical base and nary a dull moment. (Historical fiction. 11-14)

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“Irreverent humor, quirky small-town charm and surprises along the way help readers brace themselves for the tearjerker ending.” from the probability of miracles

THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES

Wunder, Wendy Razorbill/Penguin (368 pp.) $17.99 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-59514-368-6 Faced with death, one teen discovers life in this bittersweet debut. Despite growing up in Disney World with parents who performed in the “Spirit of Aloha” at the Polynesian Hotel, cynical and loner Campbell Cooper (an Italian-Samoan–American) gave up on magic after her parents divorced, her father died and she developed neuroblastoma (a cancer with low survival rates in adolescence). Having exhausted Western medicine, her single mother suggests spending the summer after Cam’s graduation in Promise, Maine, a hidden town (with a secret entrance off of the Dunkin’ Donuts at Exit 33) known to have mysterious healing powers. While Cam’s mother and younger sister are awed by such anomalies as flamingos, snow in July and purple dandelions, the teen prepares for the inevitable by suppressing her wishes. But as she begins an unexpected relationship with Asher, whose family founded the town and thus feels obligated to stay so the magic won’t leave with him, she realizes the true meaning of friendship, family, love, living in the moment—and yes, even miracles. Exploring both sides of Cam’s heritage, the story unfolds through narration as beautiful as the sun’s daily “everlasting gobstopper descent behind the lighthouse.” Irreverent humor, quirky small-town charm and surprises along the way help readers brace themselves for the tearjerker ending. Fans of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay (2009) and others will find hope and laughs amid tragedy. (Fiction. 12 & up)

SNOW IN SUMMER

Yolen, Jane Philomel (256 pp.) $16.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-399-256639

Yolen spins an interesting variation of the classical Snow White story, setting it in a small town in West Virginia in the 1940s. Snow in Summer—named after the beautiful white flowers in the front yard and called Summer for short—is 7 years old when her mother dies. After her death, Summer’s father, Lemuel, is swallowed up by grief. Summer and her Cousin Nancy, who lives next door, do their best to hold things together as they watch Lemuel fade. Summer herself tells most of what happens in the years that follow, but occasional chapters are narrated by Cousin Nancy and, eventually, by Summer’s stepmother, who has enchanted Lemuel in hopes of getting control of his land. Stepmother saps the remaining vitality from Lemuel and makes Summer’s life a sequence of torments. The pace starts to pick up when Summer has her first period. Stepmother, convinced by now that Summer will not join her in what she calls “the 1948

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craft,” arranges to have the girl killed. Summer has only the advice of a magic mirror and, eventually, seven small friends to aid her. Can she survive? Yolen folds in references to folk tales and songs as well as such classics as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Just So Stories, giving the narrative a metafictive lift. A quiet and compelling story more closely tied to the classical fairy tale than the now-popular Disney version. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 9-12)

THE SPACE BETWEEN

Yovanoff, Brenna Razorbill/Penguin (352 pp.) $17.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-59514-339-6

A dark love story between a girl from Hell and a boy from Earth, both with heavenly heritage. Daphne is royalty in Hell’s city Pandemonium because she’s the daughter of Lilith—Adam’s first wife—and the fallen angel Lucifer. She’s disconnected from her succubae sisters fathered by lesser demons and is closest to her eldest brother, Adam’s son Obie. Instead of collecting souls for Hell, Obie’s job is to save the Lost Ones, the half-human children of angels. But when Obie leaves Pandemonium for good only to go missing, Daphne’s single lead is one of his last cases—Truman, a selfdestructive, alcoholic teenager. The narration switches between Daphne’s first person and Truman’s close third, providing characterization through each other’s eyes while affirming the yin-yang quality of the pair: a girl who wants to feel and a boy who feels too much. The race to stay ahead of the angelic demon hunter Azrael and his beast, Dark Dreadful, along with solving the mystery behind Obie’s disappearance, balance out the introspective elements of the story. Although the lush descriptions occasionally edge into gothic purple prose, they create beauty in both gritty locations and violent gore alike. The pace accelerates in the last act as the characterizations converge with the plot. A dreamy, atmospheric take on Judeo-Christian mythology that prioritizes character. (Paranormal romance. 13 & up)

This Issue’s Contributors # Kim Becnel • Emilie Bishop • Marcie Bovetz • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley • Sophie Brookover • Louise Brueggemann • Timothy Capehart • Louise Capizzo • Ann Childs • Julie Cummins • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Dave DeChristopher • Elise DeGuiseppi • Lisa Dennis • Carol Edwards • Robin Elliott • Brooke Faulkner • Laurie Flynn • Diane B. Foote • Omar Gallaga • Barbara A. Genco • Judith Gire • Carol Goldman • Linnea Hendrickson • Heather L. Hepler • Megan Honig • Jennifer Hubert • Shelley Huntington • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Laura Jenkins • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • K. Lesley Knieriem • Robin Fogle Kurz • Megan Lambert • Angela Leeper • Peter Lewis • Ellen Loughran • Lauren Maggio • Joan Malewitz • Hillias J. Martin • Kathie Meizner • Lisa Moore • R. Moore • Kathleen Odean • John Edward Peters • Susan Pine • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Melissa Riddle Chalos • Lesli Rodgers • Leslie L. Rounds • Dean Schneider • Chris Shoemaker • Karyn N. Silverman • Paula Singer • Meg Smith • Robin Smith • Karin Snelson • Rita Soltan • Edward T. Sullivan • Shelley Sutherland • Bette Wendell-Branco • Monica D. Wyatt

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kirkus indie Kirkus has been keeping an eye on selfpublishing for years, and we’ve never seen anything like the current boom. With the number of self-published titles now pushing 1 million per year, and independent authors utilizing new technologies to sell tens of thousands of copies of their work, the age of indie has truly arrived. Kirkus Indie brings readers the best works by independent authors, and we bring independent authors the crucial tools to get the word out about their books like no one else. We’ll give your book an unbiased, professional review, and then we’ll push that review into the world via our social-media properties, newsletters, website and expanding content. To learn more about Kirkus Indie and start promoting your title, please visit us online at kirkusreviews.com/indie/about.

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THE ART OF LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE The Five Principles of Technological Evolution Amblee, R.S. Gloture (227 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Aug. 6, 2011 978-0983157403

Consumerism will impel us toward a marvelous machine-made world, according to this ambitious treatise on economics and technological change. Amblee, a software engineer, spotlights a handful of simple economic principles that he feels will mold the shape of things to come. Chief among them are the eternal desire for cheaper, better, more convenient goods and services; the drive for globalization and automation; and the need for cheap energy, the lack of which he believes is the primary cause of recessions. From these rather generic notions, the author derives tech-heavy prognostications of varying plausibility. Sensibly, he foresees remote testing equipment and computer programs performing routine medical diagnoses; less sensibly, he sees insurance companies making people wear monitoring devices that will pressure them to eat healthier food. Software linked to all-knowing financial databases will eliminate distortions in stock prices and bank lending, he contends, and thus forestall asset bubbles and end the business cycle. At restaurants, “dining tables will become digital, offering world information” that will enable us to work while we eat. Everything converges toward a future that offers “more quality, more precision” and “timelier service,” one where the main jobs will be “robot design, robot assembly, software development for robots, and so on,” and where “life will be so easy and comfortable you will wonder how people used to stand in long lines just to pay!” Amblee’s book reads like a mash-up of Adam Smith and Isaac Asimov rendered in the stilted prose and bewildering flow-charts of a marketing textbook. His forecasts are bold—living in “space cities,” we will be impervious to global warming and asteroid impacts—but often uninformed and naïve, more like arbitrary conjectures than careful analyses. (His solution to the energy crisis—self-replicating robot armies building solar power plants everywhere—ignores the complexities of resource and land constraints, power-grid stability, clouds and nighttime.) Amblee puts his finger on important trends, but his vision of a frantically competitive, callow, materialistic, “ecofree world” won’t convince everyone. A clouded window onto a future that robots will love.

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“A testament of remarkable clarity and humanity, wrung from dark experience.” from amidst latvians during the holocaust

AMIDST LATVIANS DURING THE HOLOCAUST

A NEW CALIFORNIA DREAM Reconciling the Paradoxes of America’s Golden State

Anders, Edward Occupation Museum Association of Latvia (204 pp.) $15.50 paperback | Dec. 27, 2010 978-9984993188 A Jewish teenager views World War II from a very precarious perch—Nazioccupied Latvia—in this quietly harrowing memoir. Anders, a prominent chemist, was 15-years-old when the German army rolled into his hometown of Liepaja, Latvia, in 1941. Faced with the Germans’ murderous anti-Semitic policies, his middle-class Jewish parents hit upon a desperate survival strategy—his mother, Erica, would claim to be a German foundling raised by a Jewish family. The ploy didn’t save his father, who was dragged from their apartment and shot in a mass execution, but it gave Erica the provisional status of an Aryan and her two sons that of half-Jews—a gray area in the Nazi racial taxonomy that sheltered them from the worst persecution. The scheme became a cat-and-mouse game with skeptical Nazi officials; the family gleaned one temporary reprieve after another as they amassed bogus documentation of German ancestry—the author used his knowledge of chemistry to alter identity papers—always aware that one false step could lead to a rejection of their claim and consignment to a death camp. It’s a nerve-wracking saga in which life and death depend on a capricious fate, and the author tells it with an absorbing lucidity. Writing with an almost scientific detachment, he sketches vivid portraits of the people around him— Erica, whose manipulative charm saved herself and her children, is especially vibrant—and shrewdly analyzes their actions under duress. He also presents an even-handed assessment of Latvia’s collective responsibility for war crimes under German occupation—he testified at the Nuremburg Trials in 1948—and concludes that, while some collaborated in atrocities, most Latvians deplored them and many gave crucial help to Jewish neighbors, including his family. Anders’ subdued, matter-of-fact account bears witness to terror and sorrow without histrionics, and to a simple moral vision—”I met enough decent, brave, and noble Germans and Latvians during the war to be immunized against prejudice”—that resonates. A testament of remarkable clarity and humanity, wrung from dark experience.

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Atwater, Patrick Atwater Consulting Group (236 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Sep. 9, 2011 978-0615474663

In his sweeping, dialectical history of California, Atwater investigates the tumultuous marriage of dream and reality in the Golden State. Atwater’s is a colossal undertaking—he introduces his project as an attempt to take the lessons embedded in California’s collective memories and dreams and apply them to the present state of affairs. His approach is based heavily on citations, pulled mainly from texts by California State Librarian Kevin Starr and journalist Carey McWilliams, often at significant length. Though he preempts criticism of this tactic at the outset, one cannot help but feel overburdened by the quoted material, and perhaps more interested in reading the source texts rather than the presented amalgam. When Atwater is describing California in his words, he does so with equal parts oratorical flair and academic historicism, as well as a smattering of personal anecdotes. Over the course of four parts and eight chapters, he addresses each aspect of the California existence—economics, lifestyle, education, race relations and even geology—in the same way: first in its fabled grandeur, then in its uglier truth and finally with the rhetorical question of “why not fix it?” While this question may feel naïve to readers familiar with the nature of political gridlock, Atwater finally arrives at the simple answer that “the paradisal conceptions we have of how to live life…cannot but be twisted by the fact that we irrevocably live in reality.” This conclusion feels long in coming, as the discrepancy between dream and reality feels inherent throughout the text. Rhetorical questions and answers aside, Atwater at his best is able to elegantly depict California as a metaphor for the United States as a whole—a land in which economic greatness is “an imperfect proxy for societal well-being,” and the greater good is ensnared by arcane bureaucracy and special interest. Though questions of the attainability of the change proposed throughout are left to linger, Atwater’s “blueprint” will appeal to the hearts of California enthusiasts.

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BLOOD BROTHERS A Novel of Courage and Treachery on the Shores of Tripoli

Behr, E. Thomas CreateSpace (387 pp.) $15.99 paperback | $9.99 e-book Jun. 9, 2011 978-1456527303 In 1804, a small force led by a contingent of U.S. Marines sets out to defeat a much larger army and capture Tripoli. After years of wandering, Henry Doyle, the bastard son of an Irishman and raised by Mohawk Indians, is now a soldier of fortune in North Africa. He finds himself working with the Americans— the very people who massacred the Mohawk and drove him from his native land—as they attempt to invade Tripoli and place an American puppet on the throne, putting an end to years of piracy and, in the process, setting free several hundred American sailors captured by the brutal Pasha of Tripoli. Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean, Capt. Peter Kirkpatrick, who, unbeknownst to both men is Doyle’s half-brother, is a rising star in the U.S. Navy in command of the USS Eagle. Doyle and Kirkpatrick support William Eaton, a former officer in the Army who is leading the assault on Tripoli. But the mission is opposed by powerful forces—and elements within the U.S. military—who work to undermine Eaton at every step, making the odds of success for the ragtag Army very slim indeed. Written in crisp, compelling prose, the plot is deeply rooted in history. The action sequences, especially the naval encounters, are exceedingly well-done, full of enough detail to bring them to life without bogging down the action. The breadth of the author’s knowledge of history, local culture, military and naval technology and strategy of the time, religion, language and more is simply staggering, and the dialogue is clear, but peppered with enough period detail to make it ring true. Although Doyle’s story is somewhat farfetched, it is at least possible, and the characters here are developed enough to make such minor credulity stretching easy to overlook. The plot is labyrinthine, but readers who follow it carefully will be richly rewarded. An exceptional book, full of rich historical and cultural detail, great characters and thrilling action scenes.

AGELESS FABLES

Childers, Seldon Thomas Illus. by Buck, Diana CreateSpace (80 pp.) $16.49 paperback | Aug. 10, 2011 978-1460933756 In their illustrated book of children’s poetry, Childers and Buck present new takes on old parables, set to rhyme. Using various rhyme schemes, Childers retools a selection of aged fables, sometimes hewing close to the original and other times taking his own tack. For instance, |

“The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf ” and “The Three Pigs” are presented as direct descendants of the old chestnuts, while the story of Icarus is a more distant relative (deploying an eagle and a tortoise). Whichever approach taken, Childers’ work is clever and (often darkly) comedic. Couplets predominate—”‘Whoa!’ said Frog, ‘Ya think I’m daft? / To use my body for a raft, / and haul a cargo such as you, / one quick stick could kill us two!’”—but Childers is not bound to the form when two, three, five or more lines are needed. He also implements internal rhyme to catch the ear (“Sun said, ‘Just because you topple trees, / and freeze lost Bees below their knees, / does not make you a bloomin’ czar’”) and varies the tempo and highlights the story’s turn. The writing is brisk, never forced or overpacked, and, best of all, it’s never scolding; these may be words to the wise, important lessons that readers should always keep in the back of their minds—”many of these seemingly capricious parables contained messages, valuable recipes for surviving in society and the physical world,” says Childers in his foreword—but they are administered with a spoonful of honey rather than fish oil. Though the tales are relatively straightforward, Childers has snuck in a teaser—”There was a Tasmanian Devil, / who, when spinning, made everything level. / It’s from ambition, I fear, / he spun up his own ear, / and now that / poor Devil / is level / !”—but for each tale Childers has provided, at the end, a short rhyme that interprets the lesson in bell-clear terms. Each of these single-page tales is accompanied by a piece of Buck’s artwork—snappy color illustrations that get right to the essence of things. A jaunty lot of advice, sound as ever and told with good cheer.

SHANGHAIED

Collins, David Paul iUniverse (265 pp.) Oct. 15, 2011 After being forced into service on a freight ship, a naïve teenager sails around the world, learning more about life than he bargained for. As a 15-year-old, Jack Sligo is a romantic dreamer; he wants to not only see the world, but experience it. So he ditches his safe, predictable life in Boston and travels to New York where he hopes to get work on a magnificent cruise ship sailing to exotic ports. When New York is a bust, Jack goes to Mobile, Ala., where he hooks up with a couple of seamen who take him out drinking and partying. Upon waking up the next morning, Jack discovers he has been shanghaied; for all intents and purposes, he is now a slave aboard a huge African freighter, the Iron Prince. Contending with hard men, each of whom has a tale of hard-won experience, foreign languages and harsh, tedious work, Jack rapidly matures into a young man. At a small port in Venezuela where he rubs shoulders with criminals, riff-raff and prostitutes, Jack participates in the shanghaiing of a cook. On the ship, Jack befriends a Jamaican named Winston, who was shanghaied at the age of 12. Always on the lookout for a way to escape, Jack

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“Horrible bloodshed, cryptic omens and a doomsday asteroid propel this angsty Christian sci-fi saga.” from 3 juno

and Winston engage in vicious knife fights, battle hurricanes and live through a shipwreck. At the story’s climax, when the ship heads to Odessa in the Soviet Union, Jack finally discovers who he is. Collins writes with authenticity, having lived the life he relates. With the author’s vivid descriptions, the reader can feel the men’s sweat and smell the stink of the ship. The dialogue is crisp and realistic, offering glimpses into each character’s personality. Collins’ effortlessly natural, nonjudgmental voice makes for an easy read. An entertaining, poignant coming-of-age memoir.

A TINY LITTLE DOOR

Dorian, Judith CreateSpace (57 pp.) $13.25 paperback | Jul. 20, 2011 978-1461011460 An illustrated book of children’s poetry, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss. Dorian is a wordsmith and artist with a passion for creating and illustrating children’s poetry. Imaginative and expressive, Dorian’s work puts a new spin on favorite children’s topics such as getting kids to eat their vegetables, visiting magical places, bugs and making friends. Starting with “Noodle Eater,” Dorian explores how many ways one can eat a child’s favorite food— ”I like noodles made with butter / I like noodles tossed with cheese / When I eat them with black pepper / I at once begin to sneeze.” Friends such as Billy Jo Brown (“He lay in a boat parked on the grass”), Jellycake Jane (“Jane serves soup in a teapot, burnt toast on a tray”), Tom Martin MacChase (“As a child Tom could lift ninety pounds in one hand”) and the Muffin Man (“We put blueberry, strawberry, blackberry jam / On our muffins to eat with blue eggs and ham”) are lovable characters, relatable to children and adults. Dorian shines when she uses fantastic words to express everyday actions, emotions or people. Characters such as the llegoswitch, whom you should never visit because, “You’ll be grabbed, and twittered and stuck in a ditch / and tossed 40 feet high in the air,” aren’t frightening. Rather, the play on words conjures up images of a magical, fun-loving animal. But it is to Dorian’s greatest credit that she makes the most dreaded experience for a child the most fun; her poems about food allow children to have no fear to tread into the unknown of new items. “Come along, come on with me to Daredevil’s Hope / I’ll buy all the drinks you can drink / a pineapple-didouble-dipberry-lope / Till you find you can no longer think.” There’s also a chance to try Grasshopper Jam (as well as dragonfly pie and curried ant soup). Dorian brings the reader completely into her world in the books’ titular poem, where she welcomes readers to a magical room that can only be entered by saying the magic word Kaladoosha-mangopipick-eeriedeeriepurd. Brightly colored, textilelike illustrations by the author accompany many of the poems, enriching the reading experience with their childlike exuberance. If the parents can pronounce the made-up words properly, a fun time will be had by all.

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3 JUNO

Gregory, William Michael CreateSpace (316 pp.) $12.00 paperback | $9.00 e-book Jan. 26, 2011 978-1456558949 Horrible bloodshed, cryptic omens and a doomsday asteroid propel this angsty Christian sci-fi saga. When archaeologist Jonah Lamb unearths a scroll in the Holy Land containing the prophecy that “a rock thrown by the priestess Juno will strike the earth,” his astrophysicist friend Martin Henley connects it to the comet that’s about to hit asteroid 3 Juno and knock it onto a collision-course with earth. Rejecting an invitation from snobby plutocrats to join them on their space station, Martin and Jonah activate a project to preserve a saving remnant in an “Ark”—a nuclear-powered bunker in Idaho where a young man and woman, thousands of frozen embryos, a garden and a two-by-two collection of animals will wait in cryogenic slumber to repopulate Earth once the asteroid radiation subsides in a few decades. All they need is a watchman, and who, they wonder, could be better than David Keyes, a doctor who has been in an alcoholic stupor ever since his family was slaughtered by psychopaths in the novel’s grisly opening chapter? David is dubious, but with God’s prompting he accepts the lonely mission to watch over the bunker’s sleeping “Adam” and “Eve.” Alas, every Eden has its serpent, and the devil’s murmured temptations prod David toward a crisis of faith—with all Creation hanging in the balance. The author crafts an arresting end-of-days scenario and invests his hero’s predicament—alone and despondent, David can never quite tell whether he is sane or delusional—with real pathos. The story often gets derailed by mythic and spiritual flourishes; there are extended scenes of the showdown between David and Goliath and the crucifixion of Jesus, and mystic soliloquies becalm the narrative. (“When you make the two into one and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower…then you too will enter the kingdom of heaven.”) Gregory’s pastiche of biblical and sci-fi motifs can feel contrived and heavy-handed. A tech-heavy reimagining of Genesis and the Book of Revelation, with hit-and-miss results.

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“Groover displays a commanding style and creates an appealing cast of colorful characters.” from season of the shadow

SEASON OF THE SHADOW

Groover, Bobbi 1st Books (487 pp.) $30.95 | paper $15.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1403334176 978-0759627673 paperback A lively historical romance set against the backdrop of the antebellum South. Groover’s pre-Civil War romance, set in Virginia, begins with the long-awaited return of a handsome prodigal son bent on revenge. Ten years prior, Fletcher Stedman, heir to the wealthy Seabrook plantation, was brutally kidnapped by his jealous cousin, Buck, and locked away in an asylum. Fletcher’s parents were left devastated, along with Kyndee Brock, the love of his life, who was forced to marry Buck in order to save her family’s plantation. Now, after escaping the asylum, Fletcher returns to his hometown in disguise, driven by rage, determined to take back Seabrook and still helplessly in love with feisty Kyndee, whom he no longer trusts. Kyndee, of course, has pined for Fletcher all these years, and their eventual reunion is passionate, but filled with complications—secrets, betrayal and twists of fate that threaten to keep them apart. The bulk of the novel follows their romantic tug-of-war as Fletcher tries to outwit Buck and reclaim his home, and Kyndee struggles with the code of honor that binds her to a brutal husband. While sharply written, the scenes between Fletcher and Kyndee begin to feel repetitive as we see the lovers come together and split apart again and again. The prose lapses into serious melodrama during their more steamy scenes (“In a perfect duet of exquisite harmony they sought the pinnacle on fiery winged unicorns”), and the best moments between hero and heroine are grounded in snappy dialogue rather than overwrought emotion. While the period setting may feel like an afterthought at times, Groover displays a commanding style and creates an appealing cast of colorful characters. As for the key ingredient, there is plenty of romance from beginning to end. This chivalrous romance has plenty of twists and turns to keep fans turning the page.

CAVEMEN, MONKS, & SLOW FOOD: A History of Eating Well

Gartenstein, Devra Quirky Gourmet Productions (227 pp.) $12.95 paperback | $3.99 e-book July 12, 2011 978-0615437279 Cookbook author Gartenstein (The Accidental Vegan, 2009, etc.) serves as guide on an entertaining and informative culinary romp through the ages. Gartenstein, owner of Patty Pan Grill, a Seattle-based farmers’ market business, traces (mostly Western) man’s relationship |

with food, charting the evolution of cuisine; from the Sumerians to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, on through the Middle Ages, she tracks man’s connection to his environment and his struggle to cultivate enough plants or kill enough animals to sustain life. The competition between empires to find a shorter route to the Spice Islands ultimately opened a world of new flavors. And with the discovery of the New World, Europeans were introduced to corn, potatoes and chocolate. While New World colonists struggled to clear land for the planting of corn, squash and tobacco, the French refined the art of cooking and the English mass-produced and refined flour and sugar, giving the world ample amounts of white bread and sweetener for tea and jam. Gartenstein goes on to review the rise of health food in America, the Seventh-Day Adventists, Graham crackers, John Harvey Kellogg, C.W. Post and the advent of Shredded Wheat and Grape Nuts. Farming in America, once dominated by small family enterprises, dwindled to a small percentage of wealthy farmers, cooperatives and corporations. Flight to the cities brought convenience foods, canned fruits and vegetables, more supermarkets and fewer hours spent in food preparation. The 1950s wrought the age of diners, drive-ins and frozen TV dinners. Though Americans had left the farm and its long, hard days of back-breaking work that consumed calories, the American appetite still craved large quantities of fat, sugar and salt. Mass production, economies of scale and fast-food restaurants eliminated the need to struggle for food. Gartenstein’s book is well-written, with nicely organized chapters and evident research into the topics. Each chapter can be read and enjoyed independently of others. The author comes down decidedly in favor of diets which feature less meat; this bias and lack of firsthand experience with fast-food culture may have led her, when discussing the fast-food industry, to erroneously attribute Burger King’s famous “Have It Your Way” advertising campaign to competitor McDonald’s. Eating well is subject to interpretation and shifting values, but Gartenstein provides a thorough treatment of its history.

BUSH WENT TO HELL

Kozhimannil, Varghese CreateSpace (261 pp.) $12.95 paperback | Jan. 14, 2011 978-1439254592 The new novel from Kozhimannil (Awake America, 1989) is a highly imaginative tale in which George W. Bush gets the punishment many liberals think he deserves. A blend of fact and fiction, this scathing satire revisits not only the controversial presidency of George W. Bush, but also his death, resurrection and final judgment. On his merciless march down the path to hell, Bush is joined by a familiar cast of characters, including his chicken-hawk administration, media pundits and historical figures representing everything from peace and justice (in the form of Gandhi) to the darkest iniquity (personified by Hitler).

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15 october 2011

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h a n d r e w a n d e l a h e day t on In the novel The House that War Minister Built, Andrew and Elahe Dayton—a husband-and-wife team—address the complexities of life in 20th-century Iran by telling the story of the Iranian matriarch Nargess and her extended family. Here, Andrew and Elahe talk about how to learn history from fiction, what it’s like to co-write a book with a spouse and how Elahe’s Iranian heritage helped build the story. Q: In many ways, War Minister is a tragic novel—so many of its protagonists come to sad ends. Why did you choose such a stark narrative for your book? And where do you find hope in it?

THE HOUSE THAT WAR MINISTER BUILT

Dayton, Andrew Imbrie and Elahe Talieh Dayton Octavio (292 pp.) $24.95 September 20, 2011 978-0983095804 K i rk us M edi a L L C # K i rk us M edi a L L C President M A RC W I# NKELMA N President SVP, Finance M A RC W I N K E L M A N J ames H ull SVP, Finance Marketing JSVP, ames H ull M ike H ejny SVP, Marketing M ike H ejny SVP, Online Paul H o f f man SVP, Online Paul H# o f f man

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Q: Despite that tragedy, War Minister features some fine comic moments. How do you understand the relationship between comedy and tragedy, and how do the two elements work with each other in the novel? ANDREW: On one hand, because the Iranian psyche is so wrapped up in sadness, we wanted to portray that by itself, keeping it somewhat separate from humor. Otherwise, we feared it would come across as mocking the streak of sadness at the heart of the culture. On the other hand, Iranians have a wonderful sense of humor and can be as playful as anyone. We wanted to portray that as well. So we tended to keep some separation between the two elements.

ELAHE: The experience was frustrating, illuminating and rewarding. Constantly I had to remind Andy that Iranians react differently and think differently in many situations. His tendency was naturally to write with Western sensibilities, and I had to continually bring him back from that. For instance, when he first wrote the scenes in which War Minister interacted with his son, Vali, they were much too Westernized. The son was behaving much too familiarly with the father. At that level of society, the son would genuflect before the father and approach him as a private might approach a general. Q: You are a married couple who claim that writing a novel together “strengthened your ties.” How? ELAHE: We’ve worked together before, in the laboratory, so working together came fairly naturally, though occasionally with pistols at 20 paces. We did experience significant differences in what we wanted to write and where we wanted to take the story. We resolved these differences and found that creating something artistic together was even more rewarding than creating something artistic separately. I guess it’s sort of like raising children. Q: Elahe, you are from Iran. How much does your experience living in the country shine through in the novel? ELAHE: The story is fictional, but without a doubt all that I witnessed and all that I experienced was a huge resource for us to draw on. I did have among my ancestors a powerful prince, on whom the character of War Minister is very loosely based, and I did have a grandmother who lived to be 108 (but she wasn’t connected with the prince in any way), and that’s about it. The rest is made up. –By Joshua Pederson

Q: Your novel spans nearly a century of Iranian history, and some of its plot twists hinge on crucial moments in that history. Do you believe that fiction is an effective vehicle for teaching history, or for learning about it? p h oto c o u rt esy o f t he au t h or s

Copyright # 2011 by Kirkus Media LLC. KIRKUS Copyright 2011 by Kirkus REVIEWS (ISSN 0042 Media KIRKUS 6598) is LLC. published semiREVIEWS (ISSN 0042 monthly Kirkus semiMedia 6598) is by published LLC, 6411byBurleson Road, monthly Kirkus Media Austin, TX 78744. LLC, 6411 Burleson Road, Subscription Austin, TXprices 78744.are $169 for professionals ($199 Subscription prices are International) and $129 $169 for professionals ($199 International) and $129 ($169 International) for ($169 International) for individual consumers (home individual consumers (home address required). Single address required). Single copy: $25.00. All other rates copy: $25.00. All other rates on request. on request.

ANDREW: The history of Iran for the last several centuries has been very tragic. The populace is highly sophisticated and ever conscious of the empires of Cyrus and Darius, yet for centuries they have endured bad governance and bold-faced manipulation by foreign opportunists. Even their religion (Shiism) is overarchingly sad, preoccupied with martyrdom. So a novel about Iran, dominated by tragedy, is culturally appropriate. The novel is sad, yet in the end it finds beauty and hope, delivered in the very last lines: “When no one is looking, / And I want to kiss God, / I just lift mine own hand / To my mouth.”

Q: What is it like to co-write a novel? How did the two of you split writing responsibilities?

ANDREW: It’s certainly a lot more fun than memorizing names and dates. If your goal as a reader is to gain a basic appreciation of a time or a country without needing to master all the nuances and details, historical fiction is a great way to go. You are allowed to have fun in life. It’s our hope that readers will come away from this novel with a broad feel for Iranian culture and just accept it as it is, the good and the bad.

15 october 2011

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“Against a vivid sci-fi backdrop, Lange brings a light touch to heavy material, with a fast-paced, funny story to boot.” from tricheon hash

Foremost, the book’s Dantean framework supports some entertaining flights of imagination; Bush and his cronies are brought up on charges of war crimes in the 2020s, conservative environmental policies lead to centuries of Al Gorean upheaval and the end of the world in 2847, demons force Bush’s entourage to battle with Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden’s people, Bush’s Scottish terrier, Barney, takes a trip from heaven to hell to scold his former master, and, in the captivating conclusion, a young female victim of the Iraq War forces Bush to sing “Thou Shall Not Kill” as she bounces him off a diving board and into hell’s burning lake of sulfur. However, the commentary has a bit of a hobbled-together, shoot-from-the-hip feel. Often-tangential quotes collected from the media run together and underscore myriad and sometimes random progressive points, such as the danger of junk food. The author has also included a few seemingly local anecdotes, using them to make clear points on a micro level, but apparently settling personal scores as well. Throughout, the venom is poured on thick—especially on Republicans. Dubya’s Inferno will be a fun ride for Bush-bashing liberals, but lacks the nuance to propel it to greater cultural commentary.

TRITCHEON HASH

Lange, Sue Book View Café (275 pp.) Nov. 23, 2011 In this smart, entertaining sci-fi tale, conflict between men and women has reached interplanetary proportions. Lange (We, Robots, 2010, etc.) begins her tale in the year 3011 on the planet of Coney Island, to which the women of Earth decamped when they realized, in the 22nd century, that “men just would not behave.” Coney Island is a peaceful world of vegetarianism and high culture, while back on Earth wars rage and resources dwindle. The titular heroine, though, longs for adventure; she’s a swaggering, Han Solo-type pilot who loves her wife and daughters but hates being tied down. When the men of Earth put forth a desperate plea for reunification, Tritcheon Hash is the natural choice to determine whether they’ve earned a second chance. Once Tritcheon lands on Earth, she’s drawn into a halting affair with an Earth man and a dilemma over how to deal with the rapidly, and sadly, deteriorating planet—each Earth dawn brings a display of electric lights in lieu of sunshine that has long been blocked out by a haze of atmospheric trash. Environmental and gender issues loom large, but they add purpose and direction to the novel rather than weighing it down. Though Tritcheon doesn’t come fully to life—her true desires and motivations remain elusive, which keeps the novel from packing the emotional punch that it might have—her story is well worth reading for Lange’s insightful narrative and glittering prose. The author breezes melodically through stretches of invented language— ”lighterator,” “melly-melly,” “mechanobroom”—and her easy, humorous approach to profound topics (as well as her fondness for churlish artificial intelligence) is reminiscent of Douglas |

Adams’ work. Logical lapses and stilted dialogue crop up occasionally, but Lange’s wit and sharp sense of metaphor make up for them; of Tritcheon’s “vindictive nature,” Lange writes, “She didn’t necessarily live for revenge; she just savored it a little on cold, lonely nights.” Against a vivid sci-fi backdrop, Lange brings a light touch to heavy material, with a fast-paced, funny story to boot.

A LITTLE GIRL CALLED SQUEAKS a story of hope

Maddigan, Debbie AuthorHouse (333 pp.) $35.00 | paper $26.58 | $10.00 e-book May 12, 2011 978-1456754068 978-1456754051 paperback Life coach and inspirational speaker Maddigan tells Laura Gilbert’s story—an unlikely triumph over abuse, addiction and despair. Gilbert’s childhood was so bleak that it’s tempting to compare her to one of Charles Dickens’ abused, impoverished urchins; born to an alcoholic, pill-popping mother (father unknown), young Laura—nicknamed Squeaks by one of her mother’s boyfriends—endured her tender years in squalid hotel rooms in the slums of 1960s Vancouver. It was a world of rats and filth, brawls and bacchanals. Her mother existed in a state of stupefaction or rage, leaving Laura unfed, unwashed and unschooled. Often abandoned for days on end, Laura stole to eat and her only companions were street pigeons and a stuffed panda. Occasional rescues by social services—plus the good will of neighbors, a church lady, Laura’s loving grandmother and a girlfriend or two—provided temporary relief and much-needed meals, but never a permanent home, ultimately leaving Laura at her mother’s mercy once more. She soon learned to fight back, at one point stabbing her mother in self-defense. Neglect and mistreatment planted their seeds, and booze, drugs and men eventually seduced Laura as they had her mother, with predictable results. At 18, Laura shared her mother’s helplessness—”[W]e both felt like our lives were a prison sentence.” As Laura becomes a mother, then a wife, her alcoholism grows acute and her self-destructive nature erupts. The cycle of drinking, regret, shame and drinking again will be familiar to anyone who has battled addictions or witnessed their destructive path through families. Maddigan writes convincingly in Laura’s voice, though at times the language feels too casual and naïve for the more sordid episodes. And while Laura’s plight is moving, the litany of her misfortunes may exhaust some readers’ sympathies. A careful proofreading would have helped as well. Fortunately the sun finally shines in this dark book that culminates in a series of personal testaments—and a reprise of earlier characters—revealing how an unwanted, troubled girl learned to cherish and heal herself. A journey from squalor to wholeness, occasionally tiring but ultimately uplifting.

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15 october 2011

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HOW’S YOUR FAMILY REALLY DOING?: 10 Keys to a Happy Loving Family

COYOTE HEALER, COYOTE CURANDERO

Ruybalid, Mariana CreateSpace (465 pp.) $21.00 paperback | Jul. 26, 2011 978-1463565015

MacMannis, Don and Debra Manchester MacMannis Two Harbors (207 pp.) $15.95 paperback | $7.99 e-book August 23, 2011 978-193640125 The expectation of stable children must be founded on a family rooted in security, safety and rational communication, according to this husband-and-wife team. Psychotherapists MacMannis and Manchester MacMannis aim their self-help book at parents, opening with a plea that parents not expect their child to find stability or functionality in his or her life without first being given a sound home environment with each of those elements. It’s in this exchange that the authors place the onus upon the reader (the parent) to explore the family structure in terms of the system created by the authors. Following a self-evaluation to be completed by the reader, the authors walk through a series of “keys” (“Talking and Listening,” “Adapting to Change,” “Seeing the Positive,” etc.)—each a pillar in the overall foundation of healthy emotional familial relations. Peppered throughout the text are anecdotes and wisdom gained from the authors’ experiences as family therapists, and each anecdote is made relatable to the subject at hand. The authors weave popular quotations and psychological facts throughout, which teeter between complementary and distracting. Overall, the text provides a sound guide for a healthy emotional approach to any familial relationship one may encounter, be it parental or romantic. However, with such a strong introductory framing of the tools presented here as being effective in healing a family that finds itself at a breaking point, practical application is not gone into with much detail; techniques for putting the ideals set up here to use when years of poor habits don’t allow for immediate integration are glossed over in what seems to be a quick wrapping up at the end of a great deal of information, knowledge and practicum. But still there is much to be learned from this thoughtful text. A fine guide through the emotions, challenges and proper approaches to family life for anyone on the brink of entering or already within a family unit.

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Personal and social progress are intertwined in Ruybalid’s (A Pattern of Silent Tears, 2011) vision of a dystopian future. By 2026, what’s left of the United States is mostly ruled by a white supremacist government that enforces segregation and orders the deaths of people with disabilities. Martín, a mixed-race boy with cerebral palsy, is blessed with unusual mental and healing powers. As he and his family become more involved in the resistance movement, he sharpens these mental abilities while also improving his physical ones—learning to use a wheelchair and then, as he grows into adulthood, to walk. Training and learning are constant activities for the resistance fighters; as Martín’s partner, Blue Feather, explains, “[W]e became superpeople...in order to survive.” After Martín’s mother, Sofía, is killed by a white soldier, Martín struggles with compulsive fantasies of torture and revenge. His successes and failures at abandoning this indulgence at the behest of his senior healers and loved ones make up some of the more compelling sections of the book. Ruybalid is at her best when she explores people’s inner darkness and the interpersonal consequences of oppression, as when Martín’s childhood friend becomes untenably clingy after being abused in detention. Unfortunately, the majority of the characters—regardless of age or experience— are ideal emotional processors, completely aware of their feelings and needs at all times. As much of the story is told through dialogue, this tends to flatten out the overall tone. This leveling is arguably an asset in uniting the large-scale heroism of the resistance’s actions with the petty domestic details of the toilet seat’s position and the allocation of chores. Logistical conversations among the many extended family members and fellow revolutionaries foreground the importance of sharing responsibilities as well as developing gifts, and it’s in this smaller heroism that the story’s action ultimately lies; when the “big push” to overthrow the government comes, readers see the prelude and the aftermath, but not the event itself. Packed with action and ideas, but stylistically invariable.

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“Darkly entrancing tales whose pages bleed struggle, trauma and madness.” from demyansk

DEMYANSK More Tales from The Russian Wilderness 1941-45

POOR WIDOW ME Moments of feeling & dealing & finding the funny along the way

Schneider, Russ Neue Paradies/NPV (339 pp.) $21.95 paperback | Jun. 3, 2011 978-0964238916 A new edition of the late author’s macabre stories set along the Eastern Front during World War II. A desperate German SS officer stumbles naked from a frigid river, trying to flee the Russian tanks murdering his countrymen on the other side. A Ukrainian Jew claws her way through a pit of human corpses to escape a massacre doled out by Nazi machine guns. A war-weary German soldier has a strange vision of Christ while nearby his comrades are hacked to pieces by horse-mounted Cossacks. These are just a few of the grim scenes that make up Schneider’s (Madness Without End, 1994, etc.) second volume of short stories. Drawing from the epic clash between Nazism and Stalinism, the author masterfully weaves history and fiction to create a nightmarish vision of “cauldron” warfare—tiny pockets where encircled Germans hold out against the Red Army. In the midst of the blood, mud and terror, the book’s characters confront the chaos of war with only the slightest grip on their sanity. Broader themes of duty and vengeance seep to the surface. A German officer assigned the task of killing Jews finds the job distasteful, but reconciles it with cold professionalism—”To rid one’s self of one’s enemies was a responsibility that had to be borne.” A member of an allfemale Russian tank crew witnesses the grisly retribution on Germans who committed atrocities when the war was going their way. Whether there is a real victor in these stories remains unclear as both sides emerge polluted from the conflict. The author’s use of simile to depict the horrors of battle is a stylistic achievement—dead Germans lie with “shoulders rising up from the ice like men caught turning over in their sleep,” while executed Russians dangle from long ropes “like the strings of a harp.” Some readers may be put off by the book’s violence and abrupt shifts in perspective. But the stories mirror their setting—the bewildering, terrible meatgrinder that was the Eastern Front. Darkly entrancing tales whose pages bleed struggle, trauma and madness.

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Scibelli, Carol Pigeon (77 pp.) $12.95 paperback | $6.99 e-book Aug. 1, 2011 978-0983261001 After the death of her husband, a woman finds humor in everyday situations. Comedy writer Scibelli was 55 when her husband Jimmy, 56, died of Burkitt’s lymphoma after being sick for just about a month. High school sweethearts, the two had been happily married for 33 years, lovingly doting on precious granddaughter Skylar. In Jimmy’s absence, the author managed to find the levity in life when circumstances were grim. Among the topics covered are financial matters such as her husband’s business partnership, her therapist “Mean Jean” and the “posse” of men who handle tasks formerly relegated to Jimmy. Well-meaning friends and relatives surround her, including a couple who name their baby after Jimmy by calling her Liat Zoe (reasoning that “Zoe” means “life” and Jimmy loved life—an argument the author is quick to poke holes in; Scibelli writes, “I imagine him responding, ‘I loved ice cream, too. Maybe some people should name their kid Rocky Road.”). Eventually Scibelli enters the dating scene, surprisingly enjoying herself. Despite the book’s theme, the tone stays lighthearted as it follows the arc from death, to funeral, to burial, to eulogy and into that defining moment when the curtain falls and one is truly alone, sans mate. Although the book is brief, the author strikes a recognizable chord in the post-marriage life of a 50something. The brevity of the text, and Scibelli’s line of work, suggest that a live performance may best bring the material to life—after all, in comedy, timing is everything. Families have their particular nuances, and those of the Scibelli clan are hinted at here. Unlike Joan Didion’s exploration of the loss of her husband, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), there’s not much depth, which is no doubt intentional, but there is an arc of experience and a final wrenching moment in which the author comes to terms with widowhood, not for a few days or months or even for the length of a book, but through the years. Widows will find comfort, inspiration and laughter here. It’s a humorous, touching read and, in the words of the late Jimmy Scibelli, “Abbondanza!” An amusing, heartfelt look at life after loss.

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15 october 2011

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Stellar New Titles from

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ED YOUNG brings to vivid life memories of his childhood in Shanghai during World War II in this powerful tribute to his father.

★ “Exquisite.” ★ “Vibrant.” ★ “History at its most —SLJ

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personal.” —PW

JERRY PINKNEY’S dazzling interpretation of American’s most beloved lullaby is perfect for easing little ones to sleep.

★ “Evocative.” ★ “Another superb outing —Booklist

from a fixed star twinkling in the children’s literature firmament.” —Kirkus

Learn more about these artists at www.LBSchoolandLibrary.com

October 15, 2011: Vol. LXXIX, No. 20  

A time portal and the Kennedy assassination factor into Stephen King’s latest winner; Matthew White delivers a brilliant and endlessly argua...