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15 november 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

Ayad Akhtar pens a fine novel centered on questions of religious and ethnic identity p. 2047

Walter Isaacson delivers an impeccably researched, vibrant biography of Steve Jobs p. 2087

Veera Hiranandani gives 21st-century readers a Margaret Simon for their times in her debut for children p. 2124

kirkus q&a

featured indie

Charles J. Shields discusses his biography of the endlessly enigmatic Kurt Vonnegut, It’s So Easy. p. 2092

Matt Taylor presents a beautiful compendium of not just memorabilia, but commentary on the importance of community in the art of filmmaking. p. 2152

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. 2041 fiction p. 2047 mystery p. 2062

science fiction & fantasy p. 2075 nonfiction p. 2077

children & teens p. 2109 kirkus indie p. 2145

Chairman H E R B E RT S I M O N # President & Publisher M A RC W I N K E L M A N 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

A Story of Courage and Hope B Y M A RC WI NKELM A N

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 Assistant Indie Editor REBECCA CRAMER rebecca.cramer@kirkusreviews.com Editorial Coordinator CHELSEA LANGFORD clangford@kirkusreviews.com

In our n ext issue, w e’ll publish a review of Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly. Scribner is releasing the book on Nov. 15th, but review copies were not available before we went to press. In its promotion of the book, Scribner had this to say about Gabby: “From one of the most admired and beloved couples in recent American history, an extraordinarily moving story of public service, risk-taking, romance—and the journey toward recovery. This book delivers hope and redemption in the face of the tragic shooting, and introduces two unforgettable heroes.” I certainly hope that our reviewer agrees with Scribner’s appraisal of the book. Gabby and Mark are among my closest friends, and I know how hard they’ve worked to tell their story. They’re wonderful, extraordinary people, and in sharing their story, I hope other people will come to know them and what they’ve lived through since January 8th. Soon after Gabby was shot, I went to Tucson to see her. It had been about 10 days, and I sat with Gabby by a window looking out toward the mountains. We held hands, and I told her about all sorts of things. When I spoke of her wedding, she squeezed my hand and I was sure that she tried to smile. Mark was dealing with dozens—maybe hundreds—of issues, but we talked about how important it was to record everything about Gabby’s recovery. After being with her and talking with Mark, I returned home feeling that Gabby would get better and that her story could be an inspiration to others. Of course, I hoped she would someday be well enough to return to public service. I was having lunch with my friend David recently, and he asked about Gabby. I had forgotten that they met three or four years ago. David’s daughter was there, too, and when Gabby learned that she was a student in Washington, Gabby gave the young woman her cell-phone number. Just in case you need a friend in D.C., Gabby told her, and “this way you’ll be able to reach me directly.” That was typical Gabby, always looking out for others. Over the months, I’ve been lucky to visit with Gabby regularly and to witness her remarkable progress. She’s still “working hard” to reclaim her life, to get back to helping others. Read the book, and I’m confident you’ll find it a moving and compelling story.

R

Editor’s Correction: In the Oct. 15 upfront essay, “Don’t Be a Literary Snob, Try Sci Fi,” it was incorrectly

stated that The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon could be considered a sci-fi novel. In fact, it is Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.

for more re vi e ws and f eatures, vi si t u s on li n e at k irkusreviews.com

Contributing Editor G REG ORY Mc NAME E #

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This Issue’s Contributors

David Adams • Maude Adjarian • Kent Armstrong • Mark Athitakis • Joseph Barbato • Gerald Bartell • Amy Boaz • Allie Bochicchio • Will Boisvert • Lee E. Cart • Derek Charles Catsam • Marnie Colton • Rose Cummings • Dave DeChristopher • Gregory F. DeLaurier • David Delman • Kathleen Devereaux • Daniel Dyer • Lisa Elliott • Paul Evans • Gro Flatebo • Peter Franck • Faith Giordano • Amy Goldschlager • Alan Goldsher • Jeff Hoffman • BJ Hollars • Sam Kerbel • Robert M. Knight • Paul Lamey • Louise Leetch • Judith Leitch • Peter Lewis • Swapna Lovin • Joe Maniscalco • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee • Carole Moore • Chris Morris • Liza Nelson • Mike Newirth • John Noffsinger • Brandon Nolta • Sarah Norris • Mike Oppenheim • Jim Piechota • Gary Presley • John T. Rather • Michael Sandlin • William P. Shumaker • Barry Silverstein • Clea Simon • Wendy Smith • Margot E. Spangenberg • Andria Spencer • Justin Stark • Catherine Torphy • Claire Trazenfeld • Steve Weinberg • Rodney Welch • Carol White • Chris White • Joan Wilentz • Marc Zucker


interactive e-books RILEY AND THE MAGICAL LAUNDRY BASKET

interactive e-books for children

Danielson, Chris & Danielson, Nic Illus. by De Polonia, Nina Rouselle Monkey Prism $1.99 | Sep. 22, 2011 1.1; Sep. 22, 2011

CREATION

Plump with clever visuals but never really reaching great heights in any other areas, this trip to a fantasy land isn’t as magical as the title suggests. Baby Riley sits in a wicker basket imagining a faraway cupcake palace and the strange inhabitants of a lush, surreal world, while Mommy cleans house. The story begins in the home, but even here, there’s elements of whimsy. The washing machine churns and blows bubbles. A sock monkey announces, “I am a sock monkey, oo-oo-ah!” when touched. Far less endearing is the way Riley, essentially a pre-verbal toddler, is portrayed in the narration by an adult speaking in a little-kid voice. Thirdperson would have been a far better choice for this story. The cupcake land itself is gorgeously rendered, with exquisite character design and surprising sound and voice effects that play differently with multiple screen touches. Sometimes these characters burst into short songs as Riley flies in her enchanted wicker basket. Grooving dinosaurs don’t just look funny in their friendly pastel skin tones, they also wear cute hats and have bow ties. In an app that feels a little short and has unremarkable text that features forced rhythm and rhyme (“Look at the animals and look, a fairy! / Dancing in her ring, so happy and merry!”), it’s the illustrations and their audio accompaniment that remain memorable. Riley’s story isn’t too bewitching, but the colorful characters along the way are worth a look. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

Castle Builders Castle Builders $2.99 | Sep. 13, 2011 Series: Bible BooClips, 1.1; Sep. 13, 2011 A tawdry, bug-ridden account of the Biblical creation story. Adapted from The Animated Kid’s Bible—a series of DVDs that boasts “stunning CGI 3D animation,” according to the blurb in the app store, but it looks pretty clunky to eyes accustomed to Pixar’s smoothness—this app chronicles God’s creation of the world and follows Adam and Eve until they’re expelled from the Garden of Eden. Each spread contains an image, text read by actors (each word is highlighted by a bouncing apple) and a video clip. Menu options include 3-D mode, which requires red/blue glasses and isn’t worth the trouble; translation to Spanish (text only, no audio); sign language interpretation via video; a recording option and an index. Page turns are ridiculously unresponsive and frequently trigger repeat narration. Adam (who has a physique that Charles Atlas would envy) awakens to find a sexy naked woman cuddled up to his nude body. Readers can’t see detailed body parts—though Adam’s bare backside is visible elsewhere—but the scenario is portrayed quite vividly. The serpent, curiously enough, is female, an interesting twist given the company’s stated devotion to Biblical accuracy (most major Bible translations refer to the serpent as “he” in the Genesis 3 account). Adam and Eve come across as clueless 21st-century teenagers who would be equally believable in an animated episode of Glee. Half-baked dogma served with a heaping dose of glitchy kitsch; the creation story deserves better. (iPad storybook app. 7-11)

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ELEANOR’S SECRET

Dautremer, Rebecca So Ouat! $3.99 | Sep. 14, 2011 1.0; Sep. 14, 2011

A gorgeous picture-book app adapted from a French animated film. When beloved Aunt Eleanor dies, she leaves a mysterious old house to a young couple, a seemingly worthless Russian doll to their daughter and a library of books to their young son, Nathaniel. A struggling reader, Nathaniel is underwhelmed by his gift until he discovers that the books’ characters have come to life, albeit in |

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BRONTY’S PARTY

miniature. But a storm destroys part of the roof of the old house, and the books must be sold off to an antique dealer to help pay for repairs. When Nathaniel fails to read a secret inscription on the library wall, a wicked fairy shrinks him down to the size of the storybook characters, and he is taken along with all the books to the warehouse. Nathaniel must get back to the house and properly read the inscription or the storybook characters will fade into nothingness. There are more plot elements than can comfortably fit into a short app, particularly near the end, where the story gets a bit muddled, but the high production values more than make up for this. The stunning animation makes full use of varying perspectives, rich colors and patterns and is paired with an eerie and evocative soundtrack. There is a French-language option, as well as a pop-up screen with options that illustrate or define some words, identify vowels and switch from typeset letters to cursive. One minor quibble is that there is no easy way for readers to turn off the narration and read the book on their own. Readers will become immersed in this spectacular world, just as they might with a high-quality animated movie. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

Ferry, Helen Illus. by Ferry, Helen Baggy Rabbit $1.99 | Sep. 9, 2011 1.0.1; Sep. 17, 2011

Help Bronty Pig open all her bouncy, wobbly, squeaky-wonderful birthday surprises, and discover the best gift of all:

friendship. It’s Bronty’s birthday, and she is blowing up balloons in anticipation of her party. With one knock on the door (notably unmarked by any sound effect), she is surrounded by her Piggledy Island friends, all bearing gifts. From there, Bronty’s Party is one ta-da moment after another, as young readers help Bronty open no fewer than nine surprises. Colorful wrapping hints at what’s inside each box, and all the gifts vary in shape, color and type. Tap the gift boxes, and they open. Tap the gifts, and each one has an appropriate sound effect, enhancing the surprise. Each new gift builds anticipation for the next—all while introducing new colors, shapes and words to capture young learners’ imaginations. DoKee, the egg-shaped astronomer, brings something yellow and round and bouncy. Jiffy the skateboarding snail brings something wobbly and orange. And Renaldo frog’s spiky, green gift dances salsa. More pictures than story, this celebration takes flight with or without parental guidance, although curious parents will be intrigued by Bronty’s friends: Who are the Rum Tum Tummys? Are there other root vegetables besides Fennelli the Fennel? And who or what is The Git? Neither illustrations nor animations are particularly polished, but the app has an undeniably big heart. Overall, this charming picture book offers some skillbuilding fun that, ultimately, affirms the value of friendship. (iPad storybook app. 2-4)

GO AWAY, BIG GREEN MONSTER!

Emberley, Ed Illus. by Emberley, Ed Night & Day Studios $2.99 | Oct. 8, 2011 1.0.0; Oct. 8, 2011

Understated but effective animations and interactive effects boost a long-standing favorite into the storytime stratosphere. The monster’s face that appears piecemeal and then disappears likewise in Emberley’s die-cut original (1992, rev. ed. 2005) gets even better thanks to interactive features. The “big yellow eyes” blink and “boink!” with a tap, and “little squiggly ears” and other facial features flex and sound off similarly. A touchcontrolled “flashlight” for the black “DON’T COME BACK!” finale illuminates a full-body view of the monster (along with other surprises). A terrific set of viewing options add to the glory; with manual page advances, children can either read it for themselves or hear an expressive rendition in the voices of the author or a child, or they can select the automatic mode to listen to a musical version. A natural and seamlessly designed extension of a modern classic, certain to be more durable in this form than the easily destroyed paper original to boot. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

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WINKEN, BLINKEN AND NOD

Field, Eugene Illus. by Rosenthal, Robin Larva Labs $1.99 | Aug. 22, 2011 1.05; Aug. 22, 2011

What might have been a daring choice—instead of traditional narration, word highlighting is triggered by a reader’s voice—sinks this otherwise-attractive adaptation of the classic poem. Winken (the original poem’s “Wynken” and “Blynken” have been regularized) is imagined as a rhinoceros, Blinken is a frog and Nod is a cute baby adorned with a folded-newspaper hat in Rosenthal’s appealing cut-paper illustrations. Well-chosen sound effects and spare animations would make this perfect for a bedtime story, but the frustration of literally trying to make your voice heard renders it useless in that or any other function. The absence of any navigation options at all makes the problem |

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VIOLET AND THE CANDY THIEF

even worse; readers may find they can’t get anywhere without screaming at the app or turning it off and starting over. The help page instructs viewers to read the words out loud, suggesting that talking louder and/or moving the iPad closer if there are problems, but this results in inconsistent success. While touching the words on the screen isn’t offered as an option, it does appear to work on some of the pages. Touching the words and speaking simultaneously on the very first page, however, may cause the remainder of the text to disappear altogether. Offering the option of turning off the speech-recognition function and providing a way to advance the story would save this app. Speech-recognition software is just not there yet in this pretty-but-glitchy app. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

Keeme, Allison Illus. by Keeme, Allison My Black Dog Books $2.99 | Sep. 29, 2011 1.1; Oct. 5, 2011

A Halloween caper (with deliciously spooky special effects) for a young sleuth and her trusty canine sidekick. Trick-or-treat candy disappearing from her bedroom prompts Violet to adopt her “Phantom Girl” mask, screw her courage to the sticking place and search her darkened house for the culprit. Readers brave enough to follow along can tap lamps and switches to turn on lights—throwing sudden bat- or spider-shaped shadows on the walls—and touch several items or shadowy silhouettes in each cartoon scene to make them move, become visible “clues” or emit startlingly loud laughs or other creepy noises. Holiday decorations in every room, plus moderately menacing background music and an occasional flash and rumble from outside add even more atmosphere. A final eerie tweak is revealed when Violet, having cornered a “criminal” who turns out to be small, fuzzy and cute, dons (selectable) pajamas and turns off her bedside lamp. As in previous cases, the author herself stands in as a lively optional narrator, a thumbnail index allows skipping around or revisiting favorite scenes quickly and a button on the opening menu will put outlines around all of the subsequent interactive effects to make them easy to find. Just the ticket for children seeking chills of the sort that stay well away from nightmare territory. (iPad storybook app. 6-8)

ARABY

Joyce, James Illus. by Töttös, Viktoria Crocobee $1.99 | Sep. 14, 2011 1.0; Sep. 14, 2011 This app version of the short story culled from the collection in Dubliners explores the inner journey from childhood to adulthood. With beautiful prose and psychological depth, this is quintessential Joyce, in which coming of age is set squarely on the road to disillusionment. The author’s carefully nuanced descriptions of a dreary Dublin neighborhood are illustrated with Töttös’ gorgeous graphics, rendered in sepia tones and in a style reminiscent of the Edwardian era, in which Dubliners was first published. Initially illuminated through the lens of a child’s imagination, the neighborhood gradually loses its luster as the young narrator’s story unfolds. Frustrated at every turn by adults and impatient to leave childhood behind, his journey into adulthood is embodied in his attempt to travel on the train to the Araby bazaar and purchase a gift for the idealized object of his intense first crush. Available in six languages (and bracketed by an original music loop brief enough to be enjoyable), the text is accompanied by subtle sound effects—of village life, creaky floors, music at the titular bazaar—and occasional animations. The minute hand travels inexorably around a clock face as the boy waits; two two-shilling pieces clink gently when his uncle finally gives him train fare. This app is not remarkable for its interactive features, which are minimal, but for its respect for the source material. A classic story in an appealing format. (iPad storybook app. 14 & up)

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LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

Mayer, Mercer Illus. by Mayer, Mercer Sterling $4.99 | Sep. 12, 2011 Series: Little Critter, 1.01; Sep. 12, 2011 The physical characteristics of Mayer’s guinea pig–like Little Critter characters may not be evolving much, but the apps based on their books are. This 20-year-old take on the Grimm fairy tale is translated into a much richer experience than such previous iPad adaptations of his amusing storybooks as Just Grandma and Me, developed by Oceanhouse Media (2010). While past Critter apps have been static experiences with extensive sound effects and a few passive games (trying to find hidden spiders in the illustrations, for instance), this one features more animation, smarter games (including word and picture matching) and some hilarious diversions in the story itself that aren’t part of the original text. The artwork is typical—busy but filled with small jokes and witty touches—but enlivened here by sharp, expressive movement and some well-executed |

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“…who can resist a clogging moose?” from have you ever seen a moose brushing his teeth?

HICKORY DICKORY DOCK

voice work. The Wolf, in particular, is a hiliariously hammy villain: “I believe my ears are in perfect proportion to my nose, don’t you think?” he asks when questioned about his looks. “Yes, they are humongous!” Little Red Riding Hood chirps. A sidekick mouse who frequently warns about what’s coming next isn’t so entertaining, and page transitions are rough and erratic for such an otherwise polished production. Curiously, there’s an ongoing coin-collecting game that rewards points for tapping on all items shown on the screen. It doesn’t add much to the story and makes the app seem as if it’s trying to be more game than story. It’s not needed; the story would work fine without it, and the point tallying is distracting. Overall, this Little Critter app benefits from deeper interactive features as well as improved character and voice work over earlier iterations. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

Mindshapes Mindshapes $2.99 | September 15, 2011 1.0.1; Sep. 23, 2011

More of a collection of small diversions featuring a goofy purple mouse than any kind of cohesive story, this hyperactive take on the nursery rhyme isn’t without charm. The app takes a literal approach, taking place entirely within a clock that has been outfitted with all kinds of peculiar gadgets and games. By tapping one of the clock numbers, from one to 12, and then tapping “Go!” readers can make animated dust bunnies, earbuds that expel bubbles or a slot machine that produces cupcakes appear. A short burst of music gussies up the original rhyme. “The clock struck eight / He filled his plate!” or “The clock struck nine / The bells all chimed.” The activities themselves are short, onedimensional and far less imaginative than what any kid would find in stand-alone games like “Angry Birds,” but the computer animation is nicely detailed, the music is catchy and the pudgy mouse itself is funny when dancing or chomping down on giant pieces of watermelon. Not all the mini-games, unfortunately, are great, and the app itself is confusing to navigate at first, even with blinking directions. It’s mediocre in parts, chuckle-worthy in other sections and ultimately skippable. One must remember it’s based on the flimsiest of five-line nursery rhymes; it’s remarkable how much work went into trying to flesh out the idea. (iPad nursery-rhyme app. 3-6)

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A MOOSE BRUSHING HIS TEETH?

McClaine, Jamie Illus. by Willy, April Goodman JAFS, Inc. $3.99 | Sep. 8, 2011 1; Sep. 8, 2011

Due to neglect, Moose’s teeth have become a green, slimy mess. Will sparkling moose paste restore his pearly whites? This whimsical tale about the dangers of tooth decay was adapted from a traditional book originally released in 2003. On the opening screen, a moose saunters out with a toothbrush in hand and a towel slung around his shoulders. Touch him, and he’ll dance a little jig and continue on his way while the narrator delves in to the story. There are 11 different screens, each one displaying as few as four and as many as 16 successive lines of text. Kids will enjoy many of the interactive elements, which include flinging green goo that’s hanging from the moose’s teeth; helping him floss; creating a screen full of bubbles by helping him brush; or making the moose spit after he’s finished rinsing. The app’s weak link is the text. The rhyming couplets often feel forced, and there are several spots where certain phrases sound strangely Yoda-like (as in, “untangled they were”), leaving the impression that they were strong-armed into the text. Still, it’s a cute story, the illustrations are adorable and the interaction/navigation are first-rate. Besides, who can resist a clogging moose? Subliminal fun that is likely to increase kids’ interest in dental hygiene. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

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ADAM’S AMAZING DREAM

Morency, Nancy Illus. by LaCalamita, Peter Peter LaCalamita $1.99 | Sep. 16, 2011 1.1; Sep. 21, 2011

A beautifully illustrated dreamscape falls short of amazing and edges toward confusion. Adam, a happy, imaginative boy, dreams big dreams at night with the help of his guardian angel. But this particular night, Adam’s dream is a doorway to reality, a reality even his parents don’t know yet. Based on a story told to the author by her then 3-and-a-half-year-old son, this, her first interactive book, aims to communicate both the importance of dreams and imagination and the connection between dreams and reality. LaCalamita’s illustrations underscore the book’s ethereal tone with a 3-dimensional pop-up aesthetic throughout. Images emerge from the open book and hover above the page, inviting readers into Adam’s world, while ambient music plays softly in the background. Unfortunately, this dreamscape narrative drags itself into the mist with clunky, sugary, overdescriptive prose. After Adam explains he believes he has met his soon-to-be baby sister in his dream, the narrative becomes positively heavy-handed: “Mommy and Daddy believe when our spirits are in heaven, we choose a |

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family to become the best person we can be. Your dream means that a special little spirit was letting us know that she has chosen us, or in this case you!” Some parents might take issue with the spiritual overtones here, and those struggling with infertility might find the message an even bigger pill to swallow. Any way you look at it, it’s a confusing door to open with 3-to-5-year-olds, especially right before bedtime. (iPad storybook app. 3-5)

translation is framed in antique-sounding couplets—“Then the guests, with solemn air, / Led the newly wedded pair / To their iv’ry couch, snow-white, / Where they left them for the night.” Against the text, figures in finely patterned court attire pose formally in scenes through which floating feathers, bouncing balls of yarn and other touch- and tilt-sensitive items drift. There is no audio narration, but readers can opt to record their own. The Prince switches dramatically into a mosquito and back with a tap, but the princess’ transformation from a swan is only described, and the various touch-activated arm movements or sprays of glitter and stars elsewhere add little if anything to the story. Sound effects and orchestral background music are almost inaudible, and, iTunes description notwithstanding, the text is viewable in English only. Rich in plot—and the inspiration for a popular opera by Rimsky-Korsakov—but with the look and language of an early-20th-century period piece. (iPad storybook app. 10-12, adult)

RICHARD SCARRY’S BUSYTOWN

Night & Day Studios Night & Day Studios $3.99 | September 22, 2011 1.0.1; Sep. 23, 2011 Based on Richard Scarry’s book by the same name, the app is less a story than an interactive game designed to teach children new words while exploring the world around them. Young readers create, name and dress their own characters— much like such familiar Busytown characters as Mayor Fox, Postman Pig and Miss Honey—then set off to explore with a swipe and a tap of their finger. From the bedroom to the bathroom to the very messy kitchen, there’s a hidden object in each room that, once found, allows the reader to move to another room, discovering even more new words along the way. Look for the boots at the firehouse, the celery at the grocery stand and the swing on the playground, along with new items and new characters every time you return. And don’t miss Goldbug—the Busytown news bug who drives a small yellow van in the books, here sans van—hidden in each room. Advice to parents: Read the Help page for basic navigation information before starting, and keep the feedback option on until children get familiar with the app and how it works. Simple, rewarding and fun, this print essential for youngsters grows even more rewarding with repeated exploration in this digital upgrade. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

TWILIGHT SPARKLE, TEACHER FOR A DAY Ruckus Mobile Media Ruckus Mobile Media $0.99 | Sep. 22, 2011 Series: My Little Pony, 1.0.0; Sep. 22, 2011

This particular adventure is about generation four of the glimmering equines, but fans of any phase of the franchise will likely enjoy the trip to nostalgia-ville. It is unlikely to convert any new ones, though. Princess Celestia commissions Twilight Sparkle to teach a history lesson, and Twilight takes the task quite seriously. The details of the story aren’t important, as their collective weight is probably less than a spool of cotton candy (and about as half as nourishing). Illustrations are commercially vibrant, sporting brilliant colors and laserlike images. As for interactive elements, one might think that the collaboration between Hasbro and Ruckus (both very resourceful and highly respected) would yield a product that would razzle and dazzle, especially given the track record of the brand. But this app falls far short. On most pages a starburst indicates various interactive elements that are, by most standards, weak and unimaginative—blinking eyes, flapping wings, flickering flames. The mini games are repetitive and lackluster, and on one of the “find the differences” pages, one element never responds to touch. Readers can collect words along the way to plug in to a Mad Libs–like entry in Twilight Sparkle’s diary, and they also have the option of recording their own narration. A profoundly homogenous and vacuous effort covered in faux glitter and sparkle. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

TSAR SALTAN

Pushkin, Alexander Illustrator: Chernikova, Anastasia Developer: Articul Media Articul Media $2.99 | September 10, 2011 1.1; Sep. 20, 2011 Interactive features seem thrown in as afterthoughts, but ornately detailed new illustrations in a pre–Soviet-era style give this edition of a classic Russian short story some visual interest. The folkloric tale sets a scheming mother and her two daughters against a third daughter, married to an often-absent Tsar, and her son, Prince Guidon—who meets and marries an enchanted princess after being transformed into stinging insects and partially blinding his evil aunts. The public-domain |

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occasional short attacks or other animated movements. Small silhouetted icons at the bottom of each page lead to rotating, pinchable images of each featured creature, along with video clips, several paragraphs of background information about the dinosaur’s range, habits and fossil discoveries and a direct link to a search engine for further online enquiry. Spun off from a TV special (trailer included), this blend of science and survival adventure offers both high production values and healthy doses of dino-facts. (iPad informational app. 7-11)

Seuss, Dr. Illus. by Seuss, Dr. Oceanhouse Media $8.99 | Sep. 27, 2011 1.08; Sep. 27, 2011

This “omBook” adaptation of the newly released posthumous collection of seven Seuss stories is a sadly telling demonstration of the dangers of one-size-fits-all app development. The look is clean, in keeping with Oceanhouse’s relatively conservative approach, with four to 12 lines of text on the screen next to an image. In read-it-myself and read-to-me modes, a swipe causes additional lines of text to appear on the screen, sometimes accompanied by a slight shift in the image’s position, until the end of the book’s printed page; only then does the app page turn. (In auto-play, readers are spared the swiping.) Word labels appear as readers touch figures on the screen—”shirt”; “Ikka”; “me”—and readers can press individual words in the text, triggering highlights and voiced pronunciation. But where this works beautifully with an early reader such as Green Eggs and Ham, it underwhelms with this book, which features very long lines of rhymed text and relatively few pictures. Readers find themselves looking at the same images as the text unfurls, swipe after swipe; one image in the titular story requires 10 swipes before the page turns. The need to compress the text onto the screen frequently results in lines that are cut in half, visually hamstringing the couplets. Moreover, not only do readers of the printed book enjoy the freedom of the page turn, they also get Charles D. Cohen’s illuminating introduction. Overall, the disappointingly bland treatment stifles the Seussian silliness readers expect. (iPad storybook app. 6-9)

HIDE, RUN, GROWL

Treweeke, Fiona Illustrator: Stonelake, Mike Developer: Kid-Estorybooks Kid-Estorybooks August 23, 2011 1.1; Sep. 13, 2011 A feel-good, cutesy animal tale with questionable rhymes and standard-fare features, this story of a curious tiger cub could have been called, “Meat, Play, Love.” The little tiger cub (who has no name) decides to hunt for food when his Mummy hurts her paw. He meets a fearsome crocodile with huge teeth, a long, coiled snake, an elephant and a giraffe, all of which he decides he probably shouldn’t attack using his “Hide, run, growl” strategy. When he meets a young bunny, the two play instead of fight, and the bunny rewards the friendship with some fish abandoned by a bear. The illustrations throughout are harmlessly cuddly, with thick, defined lines and friendly curves. Even the crocodile’s teeth don’t seem too deadly. The awkward, rhyming couplets, spoken by a British-accented narrator, stretch the bounds; “Paw” rhymes with “more,” and “path” is flagrantly paired with “giraffe.” Animation throughout is subtle, but limited; words are spoken aloud when readers touch objects like “tiger cub” and “sky,” but except for a puzzle and matching game outside the main story, that’s about as interactive as the tiger cub’s app gets. That may be for the best; Linger too long in the app, and older kids might begin to wonder what happens to the tiger and bunny’s friendship once the two get a little older. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

MARCH OF THE DINOSAURS

TouchPress TouchPress $7.99 | Sep. 29, 2011 1.0.0; Sep 29, 2011

Big, heavy-looking dinos moan, roar and stump their way through prehistoric landscapes in this elaborately crafted reconstruction. Though the Arctic landscape of 70 million years ago is a verdant one, winter’s approach prompts young Scar to migrate south with a herd of fellow Edmontosauruses—braving bands of Albertosaurus and other predators as well as natural hazards from a blizzard to a sudden flood. Meanwhile Patch, a feathered Troodon, and others stay behind to eke out the dark, snowy season. Paired to melodramatic commentary (“If dinosaurs had lips, they’d be licking them….”) optionally read by a narrator in a matter of fact tone, the gore-free but otherwise realistic art depicts 11 extinct creatures rendered in reasonably fine detail. They are placed in a variety of environments and enhanced by 2046

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fiction A THINKING MAN’S BULLY

AMERICAN DERVISH

Akhtar, Ayad Little, Brown (368 pp.) $24.99 | Jan. 9, 2012 978-0-316-18331-4

Adelberg, Michael Permanent Press (190 pp.) $26.00 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-57962-228-2 In these confessions of a super creep, high hilarity alternates with the sad lowdown on a grown-up boy who makes believe he’s macho. Matt Duffy’s a mess: “My best friend from high school blew his brains out at the end of our junior year,” he begins, and then dryly adds: “A year ago, Jack, my fifteen-year-old son, attempted suicide.” Wife Diane naturally suggests a shrink, and so Lisa Moscovitz gets Matt, too truculent for talk therapy, to journal his thoughts to try to discover, then tame, whatever sorrow-sowing monster lurks within. His inner jerk is pretty bad. As a kid he tortures Bobby—he of the “boney body and Gumby-walk”—then moves on to ridicule “Hockey Rocky,” another hapless neighbor he overhears working out, grunting to the soundtrack of the Stallone series (he coaxes his pals to taunt: “Adrian! Adrian!”). That Rocky kicks his ass hardly stops him. In high school, Fran, with her “black hair with shaved sides like Annabella Lwin, the super-hot singer from Bow Wow Wow,” almost humanizes Matt because she’s smarter and tougher than he, but, he’s afraid of love. Instead, he merely knocks boots with a sharp, petite sweetheart, “the Aptly Named Jeannie Small”—he nicknames her “Aptly”—and dumps her. After belittling a token black “friend” and losing touch with another, the pot-smoking “Barry Big Hair,” Matt ultimately moves on to fatherhood, at which he’s by turns permissively, neglectfully and meanly incapable. As his work with Moscovitz progresses, so does his introspection. For one thing, he becomes painfully hip to the sins of his pop, an Archie Bunker who dismisses all males with functioning hearts as “sister-men.” By the end, after a series of slight and unconvincing breakthroughs, he has become almost human—not quite Jimmy Stewart, but sorta. By turning its back on its own bad-ass yucks, Adelberg’s debut concludes with a jarring sanctimony. Five-sixths of a darkly terrific delight.

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Actor/playwright/filmmaker Akhtar makes a compelling debut with a family drama centered on questions of religious and ethnic identity. In 1980s Milwaukee, 10-year-old Hayat Shah lives in a troubled PakistaniAmerican household. Father, a determinedly secular neurologist, has no use for the ostentatiously devout local Muslim community; his best friend is a Jewish colleague, Nathan, and he cheats on his wife with white women, a fact Hayat’s angry mother is all too willing to share with her son. The arrival of Mina, Mother’s best friend from home who has been divorced by her husband for having “a fast mouth,” brings added tension. Mina, a committed but non-dogmatic Muslim, introduces Hayat to the beauties of the Quran and encourages him to become a hafiz, someone who knows the holy book by heart. But Hayat’s feelings for his “auntie” have sexual undercurrents that disturb them both, and his jealousy when Mina and Nathan fall in love leads him to a terrible act of betrayal that continues to haunt him as a college student in 1990. Akhtar, himself a first-generation Pakistani-American from Milwaukee, perfectly balances a moving exploration of the understanding and serenity Islam imparts to an unhappy preteen with an unsparing portrait of fundamentalist bigotry and cruelty, especially toward intelligent women like Mina. His well-written, strongly plotted narrative is essentially a conventional tale of family conflict and adolescent angst, strikingly individualized by its Muslim fabric. Hayat’s father is in many ways the most complex and intriguing character, but Mina and Nathan achieve a tragic nobility that goes beyond their plot function as instruments of the boy’s moral awakening. Though the story occasionally dips into overdetermined melodrama, its warm tone and traditional but heartfelt coming-of-age lesson will appeal to a broad readership. Engaging and accessible, thoughtful without being daunting: This may be the novel that brings MuslimAmerican fiction into the commercial mainstream. (Author tour to New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C.)

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“Almond’s stories range from the hilarious to the poignant—and he’s able to strike almost every note in between.” from god bless america

LEELA’S BOOK

Albinia, Alice Norton (400 pp.) $25.95 | Jan. 9, 2012 978-0-393-08270-8 British travel writer Albinia’s (Empires of the Indus, 2008) first novel retells the Mahabharata in present-day Delhi. The author makes the epic accessible to less knowledgeable Westerners while keeping its large scope. Elephant-headed Ganesh, the traditional scribe of the Mahabharata, narrates. He summarizes the original epic while explaining how its composer Vyasa, Vyasa’s second wife Meera, the slave girl Leela whom Vyasa impregnated and a slew of secondary characters have reappeared through the ages, reliving the original story of egotism, sexual conquest and intrigue, as well as love and loyalty. In his current incarnation, egotistical, womanizing Vyasa is a professor, internationally famous for his controversial take on ancient texts. He has raised his twin son and daughter alone since the death of his wife Meera, whose poetry he published posthumously to great acclaim. Now his son is marrying the daughter of a reactionary right-wing Hindu named Shiva, whose moral rigidity is pure hypocrisy. Meera’s adopted sister Leela lives in New York City with her husband Hari, who happens to be Shiva’s brother. After 20 years of self-imposed exile, Leela returns to Delhi with Hari to attend the wedding. But she has never told Hari, a sweet-natured businessman, that she knows Vyasa, or anything about her past. A poor orphan, she was adopted by Meera’s parents and raised as Meera’s sister. The two girls were inseparable until Meera fell in love with the young professor Vyasa, a proponent of free love; attracted to both Meera and Leela he unwittingly impregnated them both. Meera pretended both children were hers and cut off communication with Leela before her death when the “twins” were toddlers. Leela comes face-to-face with her past at the Midsummer’s Night Dream of a wedding that causes all the characters to discover their true selves for good or ill. Lively, involving and largely cheerful (despite a graphic rape), but how readers respond will depend in part on their reaction to a white British woman presuming to author sharp satire of Indian culture. (Author tour to New York and Washington, D.C. Agent: Sarah Chalfant)

GOD BLESS AMERICA Stories

Almond, Steve Lookout Books (224 pp.) $17.95 paperback | Oct. 25, 2011 978-0-9845922-3-4 Quirky, beautifully crafted short stories. Almond has an eye for the unconventional and singular. The title story in the collection introduces us to Billy Clamm, 2048

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who accidentally shows up at a drama course when he was trying to enroll in a tax-preparation course entitled Loopholes Ahoy! But it turns out Billy takes readily to acting, even though the immediate pragmatic effect of this course is to land him a job as a Boston Tea Party reenactor. He also becomes enamored with the actor’s prerogative to change his name, so by the end he reinvents himself as William Aubergine and almost literally rides off into the sunset. In “Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched,” analyst Dr. Raymond Oss has a weakness for playing poker—and then gets a referral for Gary “Card” Sharpe, 2003 winner of the World Series of Poker, a patient who’s dealing (pun intended) rather cynically with the psychological detritus of his father. Almond ends the story with a high-stakes game that develops between the reckless doctor and the shrewd professional gambler. “Shotgun Wedding” introduces us to Carrie, who unexpectedly discovers she’s pregnant by longdistance boyfriend/fiancé Brian. Carrie hopes for a glimmer of enthusiasm from Brian, but instead of the smile she wants to imagine him having on hearing the news, all she senses is his panic. Almond saves his creepiest moments for “The Darkness Together,” in which a mother and son experience the innuendoes and depredations of a slick and disturbing companion as they travel by train from Buffalo to Toledo. Their train compartment becomes achingly claustrophobic in the company of this unwelcome stranger. Almond’s stories range from the hilarious to the poignant—and he’s able to strike almost every note in between. (Author tour to Boston, New Hampshire, New York, Norfolk, North Carolina, Fort Meyers, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle)

THE NIGHT SWIMMER

Bondurant, Matt Scribner (288 pp.) $25.00 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-4516-2529-5

Sinister forces disrupt attempts by American ex-pats to run a pub in rural Ireland. Bondurant is drawn to the wild and the extreme. His last novel (The Wettest County in the World, 2008, etc.) dealt with violent bootleggers in West Virginia. In his third novel he turns to a death-haunted Irish island. Fred and Elly, a young American married couple, are always up for a challenge; no half-measures for them. They have a great love of liquor, literature and (in narrator Elly’s case) deep-water swimming. She’s six feet tall, with “skin like a walrus.” In the aftermath of 9/11, Fred leaves the corporate world when he wins a brewing company’s contest to become the owner of a pub in Baltimore in southwestern Ireland. As a bonus, they are paid-up guests at a bed-and-breakfast on wind-blasted Cape Clear Island. There are two stories here. One is of a marriage strained by Elly’s frequent absences on the island. The vast ocean depths are a dream come true; she does two foolhardy swims to a lighthouse, marvelously described, the high points of the novel. She is more afraid of motherhood than

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the ocean swells, retreating into herself as Fred, with barely any customers, busies himself with his 9/11 novel. Is the marriage going through a rough patch or irretrievably broken? Bondurant’s indecision weakens the novel. Then there’s the other story of the autocratic rule of the Corrigan clan. Descended from Ireland’s first saint, they do not tolerate outsiders. They particularly resent Highgate, a blind old goat farmer with an international crew of volunteers who frequent Fred’s pub. Tensions mount in a twisty plot that eventually implodes. The most important unplumbed depths are those of Elly’s character. That said, Bondurant has written another nervy, robust and suspenseful novel. (Agent: Alex Glass)

ONE HUNDRED AND ONE NIGHTS

Buchholz, Benjamin Back Bay/Little, Brown (320 pp.) $13.99 paperback | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-316-13377-7 Buchholz’s debut fiction combines an eye-level view of war-ravaged Iraq with a story that centers around lost relationships, longing and regret. Abu Saheeh works at his small mobile-phone sales shop in an Iraqi village near the border of Kuwait. Situated under a bridge guarded by a single inept soldier, Abu Saheeh’s business grants him a prime vantage point from which to watch the daily convoys of American soldiers and trucks laden with supplies that roll through the outskirts of Safwan. It is to this little shop that a street urchin named Layla, with her odd blue eyes, comes each day to visit with the merchant. Charming Layla chatters about American movie stars and culture, and challenges Abu Saheeh to reach back into his dark and deadly past and relive moments he would prefer to forget. Also in Safwan is his old friend, Bashar, with whom he spent many years in Chicago, both sent there to study medicine by the Iraqi government. Bashar, who owns the small restaurant where Abu Saheeh takes his evening meal, represents a past that slips into Abu Saheeh’s restless and nightmarish dreams night after night. As he courts a wealthy widow, the phone salesman also collaborates with a prominent local resident on a mysterious mission. Buchholz, who now resides in Oman with his family, clearly has an eye for detail; the book boils with observations on the culture and daily life of the residents of Safwan and Baghdad. The author is an astute observer, turning sights, sounds and smells into eloquent snips of the lives of a people who have sustained great loss and devastation. Buchholz’s prose is vivid, perhaps too vivid for some because he neglects no detail of the carnage that characterizes Iraq’s current history and recent past. But the narrative that starts out so clear and compelling fades and dips in the last part of the book, leaving the reader both moved and confused at the same time. An uneven story with the ring of authenticity that becomes progressively difficult to follow.

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VULTURE PEAK

Burdett, John Knopf (304 pp.) $25.95 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-307-27267-6 Thai detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep returns in Burdett’s fifth Bangkok novel as he gets involved in murderous—and convoluted—doings working on a case involving the trafficking of human body parts. This triple homicide is particularly grisly because all three bodies have been discovered at a mansion on Vulture Peak, near Phuket, and are all unidentifiable because they’ve been mutilated for the harvesting of their organs as well as less prepossessing body parts like faces. Police Colonel Vikorn puts the detective in an awkward position because solving this crime would make the unfathomably corrupt colonel smell like a rose and the Thai people would get respect when this illegal trafficking is brought to a halt. The plan is for Sonchai to go undercover and pose as one of those very organ traffickers, and when he does so, he quickly comes up against Lilly and Polly Yip, Chinese twins with brains, beauty and ruthlessness. The twins have received medical training and are also pathological gamblers, willing to bet thousands, for example, on when a fly will get to the top of a window. It turns out the demand for organs is fueled by rich farangs (Westerners), and the Yips seem to be willing to supply body parts from Chinese criminals as well as from more unwilling and vulnerable members of society. Sonchai bounces his theories off of his girlfriend Chanya, a former prostitute now working on a doctorate in sociology. (She knows whereof she speaks because her topic is on prostitution in Bangkok.) Burdett’s strengths are tilted toward characterization rather than plotting, for Buddhist Sonchai remains a fascinating cross between Buddhist monk and hard-boiled detective. (First printing of 50,000)

THE FAT YEARS

Chan Koonchung Nan. A Talese/ Doubleday (336 pp.) $25.95 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-385-53434-5 A dystopian portrait of China in 2013, where the populace is both muzzled and soothed by state-controlled capitalism. As the introduction to this intriguing if often plodding novel explains, the book is not officially sold in China, presumably because authorities find its criticism of Communist leadership too provocative. The novel has enjoyed success as samizdat, though, and like its obvious brethren, 1984 and Brave New World, it’s a grim fable that makes stark distinctions between oppressed and oppressor. The novel’s hero is Lao Chen, a middle-aged writer living in Beijing who’s enjoying the

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country’s economic boom. China has taken advantage of America’s economic collapse (Starbucks is now owned by a Chinese firm), and Lao is rich enough to spend his days as he pleases. Two acquaintances unsettle his comfy lifestyle: Fang Caodi, who insists that the state has erased the country’s collective memory of an entire crucial month, and Little Xi, whose online protests of the country’s post-Tiananmen crackdowns are deleted almost as fast as she can post them. Lao’s eventual political enlightenment is predictable, and convenient chess-piece characters are deployed to either defend the regime or sound alarms. Yet the insights aren’t always as simplistic as the characters; Little Xi’s son, an aspiring propagandist, stars in several bracing scenes that explore the philosophy of repression and groupthink. Unfortunately, the book’s narrative thrust stops cold in the novel’s epilogue, which consumes nearly a third of the book; in it, a Party functionary opines on China’s economic dominance, and how far its policy of thought control will go. In an endnote, the novel’s translator reports that Chinese readers find this section especially compelling, which may speak to how badly China is hurting for art that speaks truth to power. Didactic, often wearingly so, but interesting as an example of the kind of storytelling the powers that be don’t want heard.

HURT MACHINE

Coleman, Reed Farrell Tyrus Books (320 pp.) $24.95 | paper $15.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-4405-3202-3 978-1-4405-3199-6 paperback In his seventh appearance (Innocent Monster, 2010, etc.), Moe Prager copes with an old love, a complex murder and a belly-full of trouble. On the opening page of the novel, Moe exits his oncologist’s office thinking about death in a way he never has before. Less abstractly, that is. A newly identified stomach tumor, in all probability malignant, has a way of concentrating attention. Not that Moe was ever a man to approach life blithely. “ ‘Hurt, pain…they’re God’s way of letting you know he loves you,’ “ says a friend, an Auschwitz survivor, encapsulating a worldview Moe long ago tailored to fit himself. And yet right now there are good things in Moe’s life. There’s the prewedding party he’s throwing for his cherished daughter Sarah, for instance, at which the estranged love of his life makes an unexpected appearance. Well, Carmella Melendez’s appearance may in truth be a rather dubious “good,” but there’s no question about her blood-stirring impact. Ex-partner in the PI firm they started together, ex-lover, ex-wife, who left him desolate when she walked out on their marriage, Carmella now has a job she begs Moe to do. Won’t he please look into the murder of her older sister? It was a story the media had recently feasted on, a homicide that many saw compelling reasons for believing was justified. Moe squirms a bit, but this is Carm after all, and he signs on. As his investigation deepens, however, he discovers connections that surprise and shock him, links to dehumanized 2050

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people and sociopathic behavior that one would be hard put not to label pure evil. More and more, he finds himself doublethinking his cancer: its pathology, yes, but as a metaphor, too. In both cases, the effect is heart-sinking. Though once or twice he crosses that tricky line between Weltschmerz and cry-baby, Moe Prager remains basically irresistible.

DEVIL’S GATE

Cussler, Clive & Brown, Graham Putnam (480 pp.) $27.95 | Nov. 15, 2011 978-0-399-15782-0 In Cussler’s latest, this time with Brown co-authoring, an African dictator decides he gets no respect, and so woe betide the world. Djemma Garand, head of state in Sierra Leone, has big plans for his small country, which he feels has been dissed quite as much as he himself has been. Minerals, precious metals and docile geopolitical behavior, historically that’s been the Sierra Leone pigeonhole. Garand has vowed to change all that: “He desired a legacy that would leave his people better off for all eternity.” Garand may be a borderline megalomaniac, but since he’s no fool he understands the difference between a dream and a scheme. To accomplish his grandiose goal, he knows he needs leverage, the kind inherent in a particularly fearsome weapon, for instance, an item his own scientific community has been unable to develop. As a consequence, an international super scientist finds himself snatched off a street in Geneva and forced to experiment at the point of a gun. Meanwhile, Kurt Austin and his NUMA (National Underwater Maritime Agency) colleagues have been bearing witness to some unsettling events. In the Atlantic, not far from the Azores, a Japanese cargo ship bursts into flames. Badly wounded and obviously helpless, it’s a rich, sitting duck of a prize, custom-tailored for the opportunistic predator. So, it’s hardly a surprise when a pirate speedboat hones in, but then it, too, suddenly self-destructs. Coincidence? No seasoned NUMA professional believes that for a moment, but at this point not even the astute Kurt Austin is in a position to perceive the manipulative hand of Garand at work. But when he is it will be almost too late to save the world. Almost. Vintage Cussler (Crescent Dawn, 2010, etc.), and just right for the armchair techie who likes his action nonstop and his characters uncomplicated. Nuance-seekers look elsewhere.

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THE DEMON LOVER

Dark, Juliet Ballantine (432 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Dec. 27, 2011 978-0-345-51008-2 Literary gothic novelist Carol Goodman (Arcadia Falls, 2010, etc.) takes on a Mary-Sueish pen name for this contemporary fantasy about an academic who discovers the truth behind the myths she studies. Cailleach “Callie” McFay, a newly minted doctorate and author of a popular book on demon lovers, accepts a teaching position at Fairwick College, a small liberal-arts college in upstate New York, based on the strength of their folklore department and a desire to buy a home near the college. The department is so strong because its information comes right from the source: Many faculty members and locals are fairies, witches, demons and other assorted magical beings, and Callie learns that she is among their number.

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Moreover, the home that so appealed to her is historically favored by an incubus. Although the incubus offers her hot supernatural sex at night, he’s also leeching Callie of her life substance, so she performs a banishing ritual. The incubus seems to vanish, but not long afterward, Fairwick hires Liam, an attractive Irish poet, and he and Callie begin having mindblowing sex. Could there be a connection between Liam and the incubus? (Is there actually any doubt?) “Juliet Dark” clearly knows what she’s talking about when it comes to academia and folklore; it’s odd that her protagonist seems to know so little about the latter, given that she’s supposedly an expert in that area. The solutions to the central mysteries of the book are almost painfully obvious; however, the final confrontation between Callie and the incubus still holds some surprise and complex emotional texture. Steamy and nuanced, but ultimately a fairly predictable entrance into the already overcrowded paranormal romance genre. (Agent: Loretta Barrett)

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LOVE LIFTED ME

Evans, Sarah with Rachel Hauck Thomas Nelson (320 pp.) $19.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-59554-491-9 The third installment of Evans’ Christcentered drama about a woman who is redeemed through submitting to God and forgiving her husband. As the novel opens Jade and Max Benson’s marriage is just about over. Max is in rehab (again) for prescription-drug abuse and Jade is at their home in Tennessee, raising Max’s 2-year-old lovechild Asa (right before their wedding, Max had a fling with his ex-fiancé Rice, issuing forth Asa, now with Max since Rice’s death in a plane crash a few months prior). Jade has fallen in love with Asa but is wondering if she can ever trust Max again. When he returns, Max is a changed man—clean, committed to Jade and recommitted to living a life in Christ. Just one little thing—he wants to leave Tennessee and the prestigious law practice he’s inherited to coach high-school football in small-town Texas. He is asking Jade to leave behind her friends and the successful vintage-clothing store she’s built, as well as their home and the comfortable life of a lawyer’s wife, but they feel this is what God wants them to do. Why God wants Max to coach high-school ball remains unclear, and it is suspicious that God’s will and Max’s childhood dream are conveniently aligned. Initially, life in Texas, where those Friday Night lights are a serious concern, is disastrous. Max fires assistant coaches, loses games and infuriates the town, all of which alienates Jade. But that’s not all Jade has to worry about—more pressing issues emerge on the way to the resolution. Simplistic, feel-good fare.

TEMPLAR ONE

Gonzales, Tony Tor (464 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-7653-2619-5 Series: EVE, 2 Bang. Crash. Zzzz-ttt. Dweedle-dweedledweedle. There are the super-sci-fi noises. Now throw in cool outer-space nouns (Mens Reppola, Mordu, Catalystclass destroyer, Allotek “Regatta” shuttle, Sigma-Two), some really evil dudes and a cliffhanger or two, and shazam, you’ve started a series. It worked for Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers back in the day. But EVE Online is a more rarified sort of entertainment with lots more conventions; to dig this book and the ones that will be marching behind it like droids after Jar Jar Binks, you may well have to have been one of the few zillion players to have dropped in on the game online. This isn’t the first book to be based on a game, but it’ll likely make some readers long for the days when games were based on 2052

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books. That said, this is perfectly competent, perfectly standard, perfectly interchangeable science fiction: All the elements are there, from the chases and explosions to the love interest and evil minions of a very unpleasant space emperor. Gonzales, author of two previous EVE Online novellas, brings the setup up to date for our Occupy Wall Street days by positing the suzerainty of an evil corporation (scratch that—Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert were there first) tied up tightly with an oppressive government. But who’s in charge? There’s the rub, though we imagine that “State Executor Tibus Heth” has a lot of oomph, given the sheer bad-assedness of his name. So it is that the corporation serves up its citizens to be gnawed on by destiny, “sent to die anonymously in the ongoing war with the Gallente Federation.” Who can stop such untidy things from happening? Who can bust up the empire and save humankind? Hmm. Well, we do have this intergalactic outlaw named Templar One… It unfolds, and it is what it is. Librarians who host MPGs or otherwise serve a large audience of lonely young men and EVE Online fanatics will want to have it—scratch that, need to have it. Others can easily live without.

THE FACE THIEF

Gottlieb, Eli Morrow/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $24.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-06-173505-9 In his jaunty, intermittently suspenseful third novel, Gottlieb (Now You See Him, 2008, etc.) tracks a femme fatale/con artist and her victims. Margot Lassiter was only 16 when she began learning how to control men through sex. Ice cold, she felt nothing for her many conquests. An unhappy childhood behind her, she learned how to read people during a stint at a New York fashion magazine. The plot kicks in when she asks Lawrence Billings for private lessons. Middle-aged and happily married, Lawrence is an expert on face and body language; his seminars are Dale Carnegie spinoffs. Margot has moved on to an investment firm and needs to perfect her game. She already has a target in her sights: John Potash, once a New York educator trapped in a boring marriage, now a transplant in Northern California, madly in love with his second wife and possessor of a sizable nest egg. Gottlieb juggles the stories of Margot, Lawrence and John. Margot’s story is partially flashbacks, for a mysterious fall down a staircase has resulted in memory loss and broken bones. It feels awkward, and somewhat diminishes the drama of her entrapment of John and Lawrence. She quickly separates John from his nest egg; evidently sunny California has turned his brains to mush. Nor is Lawrence, who should know better, immune to Margot’s charms; she almost wrecks his marriage. But when a hard-boiled detective on surveillance duty also falls for her, that strains reader credulity; he’s one sap too many. There are other problems: Margot’s accomplices in the financial scam,

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“Sex, motherhood and relationships bring three friends together and tear them apart in a melodrama told entirely in verse.” from triangles

who appear and disappear without explanation, and a cavalier response to an attempted murder. Though these moves are fumbled, Gottlieb is very good with the incidentals, especially John’s relationship with his canny old mother. Gottlieb is never dull, which is a bigger compliment than it sounds, so we keep turning the pages, albeit with a raised eyebrow.

NEED YOU NOW

Grippando, James Harper/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $25.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-06-184030-2 In Grippando’s latest (Afraid of the Dark, 2011, etc.), a Madoff-like character pilfers billions, but some victims don’t complain. They kill. Abe Cushman was the hotfrom-the-headlines Ponzi purveyor who pulled a Houdini with $60 billion. Now his suicide has left the money lost in the shadows. Patrick Lloyd is a young financial analyst for the International Bank of Switzerland, a too-big-tofail institution luxuriating on huge accounts accessible only by code numbers. The SEC is hamstrung, but the FBI isn’t. Patrick is persuaded by an FBI agent to seek assignment in Singapore. He agrees for selfish reasons. In Singapore, Patrick met and bedded Lilly Scanlon, another BOS analyst. Lilly was the agent for the electronic transfers of $2 billion flowing between Cushman and Gerry Collins’ GC Investments in Florida, one of the scheme’s feeder funds. Now Collins has been garroted, and Lilly is on the lam. Tony Martin, a witness-protected mobster bilked by Collins, confessed to the murder, but there are other bad actors involved. One is Manu Robledo, an Argentine with connections to South America’s Tri-Border region, a lawless outpost where guns and drugs are sold and terrorists find warm welcome. Lilly lands in New York seeking Patrick’s help, and as they investigate, the innocent and the guilty are kidnapped, tortured and killed. A complex and mind-dizzying shell game, Grippando’s tale is heavy on action and filled with the stereotypical characters necessary to keep pages turning. The new BOS chief is a former Treasury official who must find the money or lose more than his career. There’s Mongoose, a onetime covert agent. And then there’s a lowly quantitative analyst, a “quant,” who diagrammed a plot tracing the billions through a mysterious project code-named BAQ and into hawalas, a worldwide informal banking and money-transfer system often used by the wrong kind of people. Agreeably entertaining, Grippando’s novel adds up the collateral damage when billions belonging to the wrong kind of people go missing.

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DARK MEN

Haas, Derek Pegasus Crime (224 pp.) $25.00 | Dec. 15, 2011 978-1-60598-271-7 Haas (The Silver Bear, 2008, etc.) brings his cold, canny professional hit man back in this cold, canny thriller. The author opens with his lethally efficient Columbus, aka the Silver Bear, secluded in an Italian seaside village, hoping to retire from his lucrative work as a hired killer. Risina, his lover, who knows how to cook as well as kill, has “shown him what life could be without a Glock.” Of course, in the thriller genre, a killer’s retirement means that another bloody junket awaits. And indeed, on a visit to a nearby city, Columbus confronts a man who had been following him. The man, Smoke, hands Columbus a note: “Bring Columbus home,” it demands. “Or you’ll get Grant back in a way you won’t like.” This threat against Grant, the Bear’s boss, sends Columbus into a maze of fast kills and treachery. At his side follows Risina, insisting she can learn to kill as ruthlessly and remorselessly as Columbus. Her subsequent trial by blood and terror largely defines her, an aspect some readers will find thin, if not objectionable, characterization. Following a trail that leads to Chicago, Kansas City and Connecticut—and to a man who uses skulls as bargaining chips—Columbus demonstrates his deadly touch, his asides to Risina and to himself constituting a primer on how to excel at the fast kill. He’s particularly masterful at ferreting out wedges that get people to worm on their associates. In one of the book’s more affecting passages, he strong-arms a woman to recall her life with a man she never suspected was a pro killer. When a falling scaffolding takes Smoke’s life, Columbus knows the collapse was not an accident. Connecting clues from the accident and from the woman’s narrative, he realizes he faces “dark men,” a particular kind of foe he’s not used to fighting. Intricate and fascinating. Heartless Columbus offers cold comfort on dark nights.

TRIANGLES

Hopkins, Ellen Atria Books (320 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 18, 2011 978-1-4516-2636-0 Sex, motherhood and relationships bring three friends together and tear them apart in a melodrama told entirely in verse. Holly, Andrea and Marissa are all facing midlife crises. Holly deals by losing weight and starting a string of casual affairs, endangering the kind of stable family life that single mom Andrea has always coveted—and so after a string of disappointing dates Andrea starts up with Holly’s lawyer husband Jace. Marissa, meanwhile,

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is dealing with the decline of her congenitally ill 4-year-old daughter and the attitude of her gay son. Along the way, Holly starts to write erotica, Andrea deals with her job at the DMV and Marissa watches her husband, worn out by their daughter’s struggle, pull away. But if the copious sex is the lure in this first entirely adult-focused novel by bestselling YA author Hopkins (Perfect, 2011, etc.), it’s the mother-daughter relationships that have the most weight. As Holly tries to help her teen Mikayla through her first sexual relationship, she misses the obvious connections to her own acting out; Andrea watches Harley grow into a stronger young woman than her mother ever was, and Marissa breaks her heart trying to make Shelby’s short life meaningful. Adoption, abandonment and unwanted pregnancy all make appearances, as the three story lines intertwine. The narrative is easy to follow, and the alternating viewpoints—particularly Holly’s and Andrea’s—serve to underline each woman’s self-delusions and denial. However, the consistently high emotional pitch, along with the constant crises, make this thick volume more soap opera than art, and the verse aspect comes to seem an affectation. The author’s fans will undoubtedly love the drama, but newcomers will be dissuaded by the format, if not the page count. The sins of the mothers—and their friends—come to visit the daughters in this overblown weepy.

FLEA CIRCUS A Brief Bestiary of Grief Keifetz, Mandy New Issues (202 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-936970-04-9

Tim Acree, Brooklyn barkeep’s boy, merchant sailor, entomologist, aka Professor Aloysius, flea-circus ringmaster, lies dead, a suicide, at the bottom of a tenement air shaft. And Isabelle Oystershifl mourns. Keifetz’s (Corrido, 1998) second novel, the winner of the 2010 AWP Award, simply dazzles. Izzy, a math geek, always reliant on “the sweet bounds of cold, clean, reason,” now realizes that “my great belief has been in my love for Timmy.” Izzy works for a large bank, but she isn’t defined by her cubicle. Her connection with Tim shaped her world, soothed her psyche and soul. Now Tim’s unexplained suicide, a leap into the abyss without word or note of despair, has unhinged Izzy. The novel is 23 chapters, titled with word-names beginning with letters from “A” to “W.” The first is Altamont, the name of the couple’s cat, and within it Keifetz delves into the human body falling “at 32-feetper-second per second,” the tenement where the two met and lived, the cat hoarder from whom they pilfered Altamont and a brief biographical sketch of Tim. And so it goes until Izzy arrives at “W,” for the Wall, a concrete buttress near her childhood home. All that Izzy believes, all that surrounds her, all that she conjures up in her misery becomes a metaphor for Tim, for their love, for her life without him. Attempting to cope, Izzy 2054

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plays classic logic games, contemplates William Blake, regards the evolution of megafauna. Sharing her world is Mark, Tim’s bar-owner brother, who attempts to draw Izzy from despair, and Dr. Edward “Pudge” Goroguchi, another entomologist, inventor of the flea-breeding artificial dog, and owner of an Izzy-coveted dream car, a 1971 Plymouth Road Runner. Goroguchi becomes Izzy’s lover, each of them fulfilling an oblique longing beyond love, despair and sex. The novel takes the reader to the dark place where reason and love collide and collapse under the oppressive weight of loss. A tour de force.

REEFS AND SHOALS

Lambdin, Dewey Dunne/St. Martin’s (368 pp.) $25.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-312-59571-5 Series: Adam Lewrie, 18 Lambdin (The Invasion Year, 2011, etc.) spins another salt-spray-in-the-face sea yarn, a tale of Captain Lewrie in command of the good ship Reliant and in pursuit of privateers. It’s 1805. Great Britain is at war with Napoleon, and Spain is the emperor’s ally. Privateers from both nations prey on merchant traffic. Reliant is anchored in Plymouth harbor while Lewrie enjoys a bit of featherbed entertainment with his lover, Lydia Stangbourne. Then Admiralty orders arrive. Reliant is to hoist sail for Bermuda, then the Bahamas and finally patrol the Florida coast for privateers. Storms and fair winds abound, canvas is unfurled from flying jib to topsail, with Lambdin master of all things seaworthy as Britannia rules the waves. Reliant navigates the reefs and shoals of Bermuda, and then Lewrie deals with the Honourable Francis Forrester, once a shipmate and now a vain Nassau-anchored harbor-warrior. Lambdin’s knowledge is encyclopedic, with much esoteric information about Cuba and Florida in the early 1800s, about towns and harbors along America’s southeast coast, about people and their lives, about political tensions over America’s neutrality as great powers warred in the New World. The dialogue is spot-on—”I despise him for a pus-gutted, slovenly, arrogant, idle waste of the Crown’s money as ever I clapped eyes on, sir”—and there’s sufficient powder smoke, cannons fired and grog downed to satisfy ambitious armchair sailors. Reliant brushes Cuba, patrols the Florida Keys and sinks two privateers in Mayami Bay before stumbling upon the French privateer Otarie at Charleston. Lewrie, lord of the Reliant and an ocean away from the Admiralty, worries about his sons, both serving in the Royal Navy, his daughter living with his brother, his half-Cherokee bastard son and his love affair with Lydia, the first woman to reach his heart since the death of his wife, all while cornering and conquering a gaggle of privateers in the marshy inlets along the FloridaGeorgia coast. Aye, sir. Lewrie’s a worthy shipmate for Aubry and Hornblower. (1 map; 2 nautical diagrams )

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“This novel might have something to say about gender roles, the relationship between literature and life or other standard themes, but mainly it’s just a hoot.” from treasure island!!!

TREASURE ISLAND!!!

Levine, Sara Europa Editions (176 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Dec. 27, 2011 978-1-609-45061-8 A subversive and often funny exercise in style, voice in particular, with a narrator who pushes unreliability to an extreme. Hollywood might call this novel “high concept,” with a premise that is as simple as it is outlandish. A 25-year-old woman with no apparent ambition or direction (but with attitude to burn) finds the inspiration that her life has been lacking in an adventure novel typically read (if read at all) by much younger boys. Why Treasure Island? Why not? For the unnamed narrator of this debut novel, the book forces her to confront the essential challenge of her existence: “How can I become a hero of my own life?” It also provides her with what she perceives to be its core values: “BOLDNESS. RESOLUTION. INDEPENDENCE. HORNBLOWING.” Her attempts to incorporate each of these values into her daily living (the horn-blowing is a bit of a stretch) quickly cost her the latest in her series of dead-end jobs, a boyfriend who is more responsible than she but no more ambitious, a best friend whose loyalty seems suspect, a therapist she can no longer afford to pay and whatever trust remains with her very different sister. But at least she gains a parrot in the process, though the bird proves to be more trouble than the narrator feels that it is worth. Though this is a short novel, and a pretty slight one, the complications compound and narrative momentum accelerates once the unemployed protagonist moves back home, with her parrot, her novel and her conviction that Treasure Island remains the key to whatever purpose her life has. Soon enough, she has made the lives of every member of her family as dysfunctional as her own. This novel might have something to say about gender roles, the relationship between literature and life or other standard themes, but mainly it’s just a hoot.

WATERGATE

Mallon, Thomas Pantheon (448 pp.) $27.95 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-307-37872-9 978-0-307-90708-0 e-book Revisiting the history of the ‘70s with our favorite cast of characters. Mallon casts a wide political net, starting at the time of the Watergate break-in and ending (except for an epilogue) just after the time Nixon resigned. In between he reconstructs the whole insalubrious episode and how it played out for the prime suspects. Players like Presidential Aide Fred LaRue are also given prominent space, and there’s a special affection Mallon seems to have for |

Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s hapless secretary (or Executive Assistant, as she became) who notoriously erased 18 minutes of taped conversations in the Oval Office...or did she? Other favorites include Martha Mitchell, whose boozy garrulity got her husband, Attorney General John Mitchell, into even deeper trouble. Mallon takes us to the salons and dinner parties of the Highly Connected, like Alice Roosevelt Longworth, where the unfolding of sordid incidents serves as relish to the meals. Pat Nixon emerges as a sympathetic character, disturbed by her husband’s machinations yet powerless to stop—or even to comprehend—them. We witness the hubris and self-satisfaction of Nixonites as Sam Ervin is named to head the investigating committee. (He’s dismissed as an “old, unenergetic southerner who lacked any particular animus toward Nixon”). Elliot Richardson is ingratiating, whipsmart and super-ambitious—and craves even more political power when Spiro Agnew resigns in disgrace. And we’re reintroduced to characters time has almost forgotten: Leon Jaworski, Judge John Sirica and Howard Hunt, who frequently consumes milk to keep at bay effects of a troubling ulcer. While billed as a novel, this book reads more like a documentary of a fascinating yet unlamented time. (Agent: Andrew Wylie)

THE FLAME ALPHABET

Marcus, Ben Knopf (304 pp.) $25.95 | Jan. 20, 2012 978-0-307-37937-5

Beware of children—their language will kill you. That’s the premise of this offbeat disaster novel from Marcus (Notable American Women, 2002, etc.). Had something bitten them while they slept by the ocean? That would explain, think Sam and Claire, their itchy skin and lethargy. But how come Esther, their 14-year-old daughter who’d napped beside them, is doing just fine? Then a pattern emerges in their upstate New York community. Adults are getting sick while kids stay healthy. The symptoms include shortness of breath, facial hardening and immobilized tongues, all caused by children’s speech. Narrator Sam and Claire belong to an obscure Jewish sect. Their synagogues are two-person huts that enclose holes for transmission cables; there they listen to anti-language sermons that advocate a freakish quietism. The virus is its horrifying, unintended actualization. A prominent medical researcher, LeBov, blames “the toxic Jewish child.” His canard doesn’t goose the plot, but the novel’s first, better half is nonetheless compelling. The panic spreads. Sam and Claire are victims twice over. They have pampered their beloved Esther. Now the teenager turns on them, maliciously spraying them (and others) with words. Marcus is at his best evoking their physical decline and helpless unconditional love for their brat—warmth amid the ashes. In time there’s a mandatory evacuation order for adults; children are quarantined. On their way out of town, officials detach the desperately sick Claire from her anguished husband.

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h l e v g r o s s m a n We all know the truth—geeks run the world. As a senior writer for TIME magazine, Lev Grossman has profiled some of the world’s most influential geeks, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. The protagonists of his novels The Magicians and now The Magician King are powerful geeks, too, but instead of utilizing technology, their tool is magic. Here, Grossman tells us about the geek personality, his literary inspirations and the pitfalls inherent in seeking knowledge and power. His book also lands on our best fiction of the year lists.

THE MAGICIAN KING

Lev Grossman Viking (416 pp.) $26.95 Aug. 9, 2011 978-0-670-02231-1

the person you want to be with, or the house you want to live in, where you think that if you got them, all your problems would be finished. Done. Except that that never quite turns out to be true. They’re great, sure, but they don’t solve all your problems, as much as they look like they’re going to. Once you have magic, you realize that your problems aren’t going away, and that you’re going to have to face your demons, inside you, which nine times out of 10 is where the real problem is. And facing your demons is a hell of a lot harder than doing magic.

Q: Narnia—The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Magician’s Nephew, in particular—clearly influenced The Magician King. What does Narnia mean to you?

Q: Quentin’s and Julia’s journeys toward power, and perhaps, self-actualization, involve heavy doses of selfishness and self-destructiveness—a hair’s breadth seems to separate them from Martin Chatwin, the villain of The Magicians. Why is that? The kind and well-meaning seem to fare even worse. Is it possible to successfully search for and wield advanced knowledge compassionately?

A: I must have been around eight when I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time. The effect on me, well, it was extreme. Seismic. I was a melancholy little child, with somewhat distant parents, and this story about children wandering from an empty house without parents into a beautiful, magical world where their real destiny lay...it provided a story, and a structure, for all this inarticulate longing I had inside me. It gave me a story to tell about myself—a way to understand who I was. Of course, I got completely the wrong message from the book. I was supposed to learn about goodness and bravery and self-sacrifice, and take those virtues back to my own life on Earth. But all I really learned was that Narnia was where it was at, and I was not in Narnia, and I had to do whatever it took to get there.

A: You’re absolutely right about Quentin and Julia and Martin. Martin is their shadow, the flip side of the coin in the magic trick. They’re just a 16th of an inch apart. As for learning to wield knowledge compassionately, the story of The Magician King is really the answer to that question. In Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings the answer is easy—you smite evil till there’s no evil left to smite. But I think in the real world evil is less easy to spot—good and evil don’t come in absolutes, and you’re never sure what side everyone’s on, including yourself. The choices are a lot harder to make. That’s the world Quentin lives in.

Q: Julia is a fascinating object lesson in what it is like to not be the chosen one, to be left behind. Why did you feel so compelled to tell her story?

Q: Your fiction suggests that most geeks have poor social skills. Do you think that’s generally true?

A: Julia is absolutely a Dursley in disguise! Though I had in mind Dudley Dursley, Harry Potter’s stepbrother—I always thought that if my little puke of a stepsibling got to go to Hogwarts, and I was left behind, I would be absolutely consumed with envy. I’m not convinced Rowling got the psychology there quite right. I think everybody knows what it feels like to be the one who’s left behind or left out, to be the one who’s denied what everybody else is granted. I had only meant for Julia’s story to take up a chapter of the book, but once she had the stage, it turned out she had a great deal to say. I hit a deep, thick vein of sadness and bitterness with Julia.

A: I might disagree with that slightly. In my experience geeks—and I am one, and I’m from a whole family of them—have a different kind of social skills. They’re less comfortable with white lies and pat social formulas. They’re more used to saying what they’re thinking, and answering questions directly, and if they’ve got nothing to say, they shut up. That can come off as awkwardness, but the older I get the more comfortable I am with it.

Q: Why doesn’t magic make people happy? If it doesn’t make people happy, why is it so obsessively pursued?

A: Yes. I’m calling it a trilogy. Two doesn’t seem like it would be enough. What is that, a bilogy? I’m saying three, and then we’ll see where we’re at. After all, Ursula Le Guin went back to Earthsea 20 years later.

A: Magic is the thing that you think is going to solve all your problems. It’s the job you want to have, or 2056

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P H OTO © S O P H IE G EE

Q: The Magician King ends on a somewhat indeterminate note. Are you planning a third installment of Quentin’s adventures?


In the novel’s second half, Sam is a researcher in a medical lab, tasked with creating “a new language to outwit the toxicity.” This is dull and clinical, though the appearance of the sharptongued anti-Semite LeBov perks things up momentarily; he points out that Jewish researchers are needed for their “conductive” skills. A short final section has Sam back at his hut coping, barely, with a grim post-apocalyptic world. Marcus has imagination to spare, but the religious Jewish theme is not a comfortable fit with a raging epidemic, and the suspense ebbs away. (Author tour to Boston, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle. Agent: Denise Shannon)

KNIT ONE PEARL ONE

McNeil, Gil Voice/Hyperion (416 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Dec. 27, 2011 978-1-4013-4167-1 Third in a bland series about a British knit-shop owner. McNeil’s dubious strategy appears to be this: Take an inherently tame subject and make it even tamer. Having relocated from London to the sleepy seaside town of Broadgate Bay, Jo Mackenzie has finally achieved equilibrium after presumably more exciting upheavals in previous books (Divas Don’t Knit, 2007, etc.). Her globe-trotting, philandering reporter husband Nick, father of Jo’s two sons, announced he wanted a divorce shortly before he was killed in a car crash. While visiting her singularly unsupportive parents in Venice, Jo had a consolatory fling with Daniel, a top fashion photographer, resulting in an unplanned pregnancy. Worse, she discovered she’s penniless since Nick mortgaged the family home. Now, Pearl, the unplanned baby, is going through her princess toddler phase and sons Archie and Jack are misbehaving in ways American parents could only dream of. For such a dull drudge, Jo has some interesting friends: Grace, a student in Jo’s knitting class, also happens to be a movie star (Broadgate’s answer to Julia Roberts?), and Ellen is host of a weekly TV interview program. In the romance department, carpenter and computer guru Martin, he of the lovable but untrainable hound Trevor, puts Jo to sleep on their first date. Will this be a regular occurrence, Jo’s friends speculate endlessly? Only time will tell. (The soporific effect on readers, however, will be immediate.) Halfway through, crisis looms when Jo’s parents come to visit, imposing themselves on Jo’s grandmother and threatening to disrupt a big event: Grace has agreed to be Ellen’s first guest at an episode to be filmed at Jo’s knit shop. Slowed by bloated and repetitious dialogue, child-rearing minutia (no detail spared about family routines, meals, school activities, etc.), lame attempts at cuteness and an almost complete absence of conflict, the story fizzles long before a major complication can salvage it. May appeal to a niche readership with a high tolerance for tedium.

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HEFT

Moore, Liz Norton (384 pp.) $24.95 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-393-08150-3 In musician/novelist Moore’s bifurcated second novel (The Words of Every Song, 2007), the two first-person narrations—from a housebound, grossly overweight former literature professor and a teenager in crisis over his future—never converge although they eventually intersect. Weighing in at over 500 pounds, Arthur Opp is approaching 60, alone and lonely in the Brooklyn house he hasn’t left for years. Since his only friend has died, he avoids facing the world outside his front door; all his material needs are delivered. He spends his days eating. Then he receives a letter from a former student. When Charlene Turner took Arthur’s class 20 years ago, she was intellectually out of her depth. Yet Arthur recognized a kindred spirit. After one semester she dropped out and he never saw her again; soon after, partly due to unfounded suspicions about their relationship, his own career disintegrated. Now Charlene makes a vague request that Arthur tutor her son. Anticipating her visit, Arthur hires a maid, Yolanda, a pregnant high-school dropout who brings unexpected life and energy into his home. But although the title refers to Arthur’s quirky, larger-than-life charm, readers will find his story expendable compared to the struggles faced by single mom Charlene’s son Kel. Kel’s narrative, full of male adolescent swagger and uncertainty, is heart-wrenching. Charlene’s desperate attempts to give him the chances she missed cause Kel to struggle with deeply divided loyalties as he commutes from his working-class Yonkers neighborhood to a prestigious Westchester high school where Charlene used to work as secretary. Handsome and athletic, Kel is beloved by his friends and teachers, who have bent rules to keep Kel enrolled ever since Charlene quit (or was fired) several years ago. Now a senior, Kel is tempted by a professional baseball scout, while Charlene drinks away her days to dull the pain of lupus and concocts her wild scheme, doing whatever it takes to get Kel to attend college. Only a hardhearted reader will remain immune to Kel’s troubled charm.

THE LEOPARD

Nesbø, Jo Translated by Bartlett, Don Knopf (544 pp.) $26.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-307-59587-4 Another spooky gothic by Norwegian gloomster Nesbø (The Snowman, 2011, etc.), the poet laureate of boreal psychopathy. If there were a dictionary-definition image for numbed world-weariness, Oslo detective Harry Hole

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would be it, in just the way that Edvard Munch’s The Scream is the canonical image of terror. (When the film is made, only the Stellan Skarsgård of Insomnia will do.) As Nesbø’s newest procedural opens, Hole has taken himself into a Hong Kong exile, where he ponders the smog that builds up thicker and thicker from mainland China and fills his own modest room with the smoke from his opium water pipe. Enter Kaja Solness, Oslo gumshoe extraordinaire, who needs to find him immediately. Naturally, something very ugly has happened back home; a murder bloody enough to make a Viking of yore lose his lunch has occurred, involving a cruel instrument of torture that shoots out metal spikes: “Two needles pierced the windpipe and one the right eye, one the left. Several needles penetrated the rear part of the palate and reached the brain.” Yuck. Only Hole, it seems, can divine the mind of someone sick enough to pull off such a thing, and once Hole, plagued by the memories of earlier murders and a constant craving for drink and smoke, is pulled into the case early on in the novel, it’s all a go-go-go rush across the continents: Europe, of course, and Asia, but also Africa, where an ugly war is raging off in some backwater of the Congo and where, it develops, a person of interest is conducting a nasty trade. It is vintage Nesbø to throw in red herrings and MacGuffins, but also to have Hole engage in a little John Woo– style dance, cop and suspect, in which the bad guy has a definite chance of taking out the good one. Nesbø’s formula includes plenty of participation by Kaja, a very capable woman, and plenty of current geopolitical backdrop, making Nesbø a worthy mysterian-cum-social-critic in the Stieg Larsson tradition. But will good prevail? It’s anything but a foregone conclusion. Good for a nightmare or three—a taut, fast-paced thriller with wrenching twists and turns. (First printing of 150,000.)

COME IN AND COVER ME

Phillips, Gin Riverhead (352 pp.) $26.95 | Jan. 12, 2012 978-1-59448-844-3

After the well-received The Well and the Mine (2009), Phillips’ second novel tackles ghosts, both real and metaphorical, on an archaeological dig in New Mexico. Ren’s defining characteristic is not that she is a successful archaeologist or that she is the curator of pre-Columbian artifacts at a New Mexico museum. It is that she sees ghosts. Most frequently she sees the ghost of her brother Scott, dead from a car accident when she was a child 25 years ago. She also sees glimpses of people while on digs—people who lived 1,000 years ago and re-inhabit excavation sites, giving her the (professionally advantageous) opportunity to see brief snapshots of life as it was. Now Ren might have found the thing she’s been looking for—additional pottery from an ancient Puebloan (popularly called the Anasazi) she calls the Artist, whose extraordinary pottery she found years ago, but no more since. On site is fellow archaeologist Silas Cooper, smart 2058

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and a little in awe of what he thinks of as Ren’s “intuition” about the artifacts they uncover. Little does he know that Ren’s artist, Lynay, is appearing on site along with her mother-in-law Non. The two ghosts seem vaguely aware of Ren as she and Silas uncover new sights and burial chambers, uncovering pots Lynay made. The narrative dips into the lives of Lynay and Non, a parrot handler, as Ren “sees” their lives unfold. In the less distant past Ren’s happy childhood before Scott died, and the shattered life she lived with her parents, who became kind of living ghosts, seems to cast a dark shadow over the burgeoning romance she has begun with Silas. The secret of all these ghosts, Lynay, Scott and the memories of happier times, make Ren almost unreachable. Unfortunately, these disparate threads vie for prominence, making the relationship between Ren and Silas less important than it needs to be for the end to resonate. This uneven second novel offers fine details and character study, but it occasionally falls prey to overly ambitious plotting.

BREAKING AND ENTERING

Pollack, Eileen Four Way (386 pp.) $18.95 paperback | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-935536-12-3 An exploration of Tolstoy’s dictum about unhappy families. Richard Shapiro, his wife Louise and daughter Molly are living the good life in California when tragedy hits. Richard, a therapist, has a patient who unexpectedly takes her life, and a short while later Richard, still stunned by the suicide, accidentally sets a forest afire on a camping trip to Colorado. In response to these woes, the Shapiros decide to uproot themselves and begin a new life in southwest Michigan. Richard takes a job as a Director of Psychological Services at a local prison, but Louise, a social worker, has trouble finding appropriate work in Stickney Springs. Although she eventually gets a part-time position as a counselor at the local high school, she’s put off by the politics (right-wing) of the locals, by their denial of evolution and by their sympathy for militias and conspiracy theories. Pollack sets her novel around the time of Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and some of the locals were known to have consorted with McVeigh—and they even show some sympathy and support for him. While Richard’s status as a Jew makes him a curiosity in this largely evangelical community, he finds himself unaccountably drawn toward survivalist acquaintances. Louise begins to grow apart from Richard, still haunted by his failure as a therapist. As their emotional distance increases, Louise begins a torrid affair and discovers that passion is a stern master—while it makes her feel most alive, at the same time it tears her apart. A rich and satisfying novel that explores in a significant way contemporary issues of family, religion and politics. (Agent: Maria Massie)

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“Every story is beautifully located in place and period, edging toward grace rather than postmodern irony, and peopled by characters coping with love and loss.” from pulp and paper

TUESDAY NIGHT MIRACLES

Radish, Kris Bantam (496 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-553-38476-5

Four women are sentenced to a very unusual anger-management class. Olivia, a Chicago psychotherapist, is launching a daring new variant of the anger-management group sessions she has been leading for years. Her latest patients have been court-ordered to attend the class in lieu of jail, after angry outbursts landed them in the criminal-justice system. Kit went after her brother with a broken bottle after he criticized her care during their elderly mother’s final weeks. When a deal falls through, Jane, a once-affluent broker whose business was decimated by the Crash of ‘08, beats a colleague with a stiletto shoe. Exhausted after a hard day of nursing, Grace reacts to her teen daughter Kelli’s disobedience by wrecking Kelli’s boyfriend’s car. Leah, who lives in a domestic-abuse shelter, hits one of her children. To varying degrees, all four patients have man problems. Olivia, abetted by her amazingly sentient cocker spaniel Phyllis, challenges the women with assignments that reflect the unspoken longings of each: Jane is sent on a nature hike and to a children’s birthday party, and Kit to a comedy club. Leah is chauffeured for a mani/pedi, and Grace escapes from a singles event to close a bar with a fellow divorcée. Group excursions include sessions at a rifle range and a bowling alley. All the women, including Olivia, harbor secrets. The framework of an anger-management class offers many opportunities for spellbinding storytelling, and Radish avails herself of almost none. Too often the women’s debacles provide a platform for platitudinous preaching and pat affirmations rather than for insightful examination of their anger issues. An intriguing concept, woefully underdeveloped. (Agent: Ellen Geiger)

WAYWARD SAINTS

Roche, Suzzy Voice/Hyperion (272 pp.) $24.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-1-4013-4177-0

Roche’s first novel has the quirkiness one would expect from a singer in a group whose fans consider them to be down-to-earth music royalty. The Saints in the title refer to daughter Mary and mother Jean, who live both miles and worlds apart. Mary skipped out from under her abusive father’s thumb when she was a teenager, leaving behind Swallow, N.Y., where she felt stifled and repressed. Later, the mother who failed to protect either her daughter or herself from Bub’s attacks puts her failing husband in a nursing home and moves to a new place, but she and Mary have not seen one |

another in years. Now Mary’s career as an alternative rocker with hits like “Sewer Flower” and “Feet and Knuckles” to her credit is over, dying along with her lover, Garbagio. She’s landed in San Francisco with an endearing and practical black transvestite named Thaddeus, a bedraggled dog and a fear that people will recognize her and see the failure in her eyes. Jean, on the other hand, remains in Swallow, troubled by a request from a high-school teacher who wants to bring Mary back to play a concert at the high school where she was miserable. To everyone’s astonishment, Mary agrees to do the concert for a ridiculous amount, and her impending trip causes ripples that turn into waves in everyone’s lives. Roche, who knows a thing or two about word slinging, writes with a fine ear, attuned to the rhythm of the language. Although the characters are offkilter enough to be interesting and compelling enough to be sympathetic, there is, alas, lots of filler in the form of some of the minor characters, like the pedophilic teacher who brings Mary back to town. Like extra verses of a song that no one ever bothers to sing, Roche’s book stretches to add details that are neither important nor very interesting. A debut novel that offers a slightly unsettling look into the lives of two women who are just beginning to understand one another.

PULP AND PAPER

Rolnick, Josh Univ. of Iowa (182 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Oct. 1, 2011 978-1-60938-052-6 Eight stories comprise Rolnick’s debut collection, winner of the University of Iowa Press’s 2011 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. The opening section, “New Jersey,” begins with two stories of loss. “Funnyboy” focuses on a father who cannot accept the death of his son, and Rolnick’s piercing phrases sharpen the sense of unrelenting bereavement. “Innkeeping” follows young Will as he and his mother attempt to keep the family’s seaside inn open. A growing realization descends, and Will learns he cannot replace his father, killed at sea, cannot hold the hard world at bay, nor can he choose how his mother will live. In “The Herald,” “something propulsive and intense and irresistible” drives a veteran reporter past common sense only to be rescued by a curmudgeonly editor. In “Mainlanders,” two teen boys immersed in their Jersey shore idyllic life meet two city girls and get a glimpse of what they cannot have but may someday find off-island. In the second section, Rolnick moves his stories to New York. “Pulp and Paper” contrasts loyalty and sacrifice against a man-made disaster. Particularly affecting is “Big River.” Garnet and Finch, a year past high school, companions since childhood, lovers, find themselves expecting a baby. Garnet feels hemmed in by the inescapable demands of incipient motherhood and by the rural landscape to which Finch is tied. Also powerfully emotional is “Big Lake.” Molly Cage falls

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through the ice and drowns, an accident that also costs her husband Jack his arm. Flip, 13 years old and entranced with Molly, is trapped between truth and fear and love and guilt. The collection ends with “The Carousel.” Rubin inherited a Coney Island carousel from his father, with the words, “it can sometimes make you happy,” words which both charm and become elegy. Every story is beautifully located in place and period, edging toward grace rather than postmodern irony, and peopled by characters coping with love and loss.

CAIN

Saramago, José Translated by Costa, Margaret Jull Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (196 pp.) $24.00 | Oct. 4, 2011 978-0-547-41989-3 Why would a dedicated communist and atheist turn to the Bible as the theme for his final novel? Because the Bible is literature, and literature in a way that the best writers have long recognized—and the late Saramago (Small Memories, 2011, etc.) is one of the best. Indeed: The best modern (if not modernist) writers—Mann, Kafka, Bellow, the list goes on—have always made fruitful use of the Bible, and particularly in subversive readings of it that match the collapse of faith in Western civilization’s post-Nietzschean twilight. In the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner (and communist and atheist) Saramago’s case, the story opens as it does in the Bible: with Genesis, that is, in which God is an impatient, violent and impulsive chap who isn’t quite sure why the humans he created have turned out so bad, but is swift to punish them savagely for living up to their natures. (Talk about setting someone up for failure.) Adam and Eve are tossed from the Garden of Eden, finding their way to a cave, and there they beget Cain and Abel. Writes Saramago, lowercasing his nouns, “Let us begin by clearing up certain malicious doubts about adam’s ability to make a child when he was one hundred and thirty years old.” Adam pulled it off, though, his offspring introducing murder to the list of human sins. Our eponymous Cain wanders into exile, accompanied by a semi-magical donkey (the Roman writer Apuleius seems to have stolen into the biblical mix) and has adventures aplenty. He’s a ticked-off fellow too: Saramago tells us that he was a fratricide precisely because he was not a successful deicide, and he might have enjoyed a fine career conquering such ancient cities as Sodom and Nineveh had not God always been interfering. Cain is also self-aware, if constantly unable to read the deity’s intentions; he offers himself up to God for the sacrifice God seems to be demanding, only to be made to live out his punishment for hundreds of years. Says a frustrated Cain, “I have learned one thing…That our god, the creator of heaven and earth, is completely mad.” A pleasing, elegantly written allegory.

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THE FORGOTTEN AFFAIRS OF YOUTH

Smith, Alexander McCall Pantheon (272 pp.) $24.95 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-307-37918-4

Edinburgh philosopher Isabel Dalhousie’s cases often register low on the crime meter, but this one—the search for a new acquaintance’s father—is 100 percent felony-free. It is not, however, free of Isabel’s trademark ethical dilemmas. Should she warn her niece Cat that Sinclair, the Adonis who’s filling in at her deli, is obviously unsuitable as a romantic partner? Should she invest in West of Scotland Turbines on the advice of her housekeeper’s medium? What should she do when Professor Robert Lettuce, who persists on the editorial board of the Review of Applied Ethics, accepts on his own initiative an essay written by his nephew Max? And where did Charlie, the 2-year-old son of Isabel and her fiancé, bassoonist Jamie, pick up the nasty word he was heard using in his playgroup? All these questions, however, take a back seat to Australian philosopher Jane Cooper’s request that Isabel help her find the man who impregnated her mother, Clara Scott, while she was still at university. Clara, long dead in a car crash, can be no help, and Isabel’s far from certain that the man who took such pains to avoid leaving a paper trail so long ago will want to be part of Jane’s life now. Isabel agrees to investigate anyway because it’s the right thing to do, and then has to deal with the quest’s unexpected complications using exactly the same moral lodestar. The woolliest of Isabel’s eight adventures (The Charming Quirks of Others, 2010, etc.) at times seems little more than a catalogue of its heroine’s always principled errors and misjudgments. But it shows again, and handsomely, the most lovable feature of Edinburgh: “Everything is…connected somehow.”

IAGO

Snodin, David Henry Holt (464 pp.) $30.00 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-8050-9370-4 One of Shakespeare’s most infamous villains gets the widescreen historicalnovel treatment. In Othello, Iago is a consummate manipulator whose scheming turns murderous, and the source of his bloodthirstiness has long been debated by actors and scholars. In his debut novel, Snodin attempts to fill out Iago’s back story. But though he’s the novel’s titular character, Iago doesn’t fully enter the narrative until nearly halfway into the book, and he isn’t truly its lead. That role belongs to Gentile Stornello, a 15-year-old introverted Venetian noble who accidentally becomes entangled in the effort to bring Iago to justice. After Gentile falls afoul of

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a bully from a rival family, he enters the orbit of Venice’s chief interrogator, who thinks that Gentile’s youth and bookishness might better extract information from the captured Iago than conventional methods. It’s a contrived setup, but it gives Snodin room to pursue a variety of themes: As Gentile and Iago interact, the author explores Renaissance-era attitudes toward philosophy, warmongering and romance. Torture too, and Snodin’s narrative uncomfortably suggests that nothing can make a man out of Gentile quite like routine beatings by interrogators. Yet if Gentile weren’t toughened up, he wouldn’t be worthy of Franceschina, the bully’s beautiful girlfriend, whose affections he tries to win. Which is to say that the book is a familiar coming-of-age story with a touch of Elizabethan finery. Snodin’s résumé includes popularizations of classics for radio and television, experiences that serve him well here: His paragraphs are punchy and straightforward, peppered with just enough history and bits of Italian to convey authenticity. But Iago’s character never really deepens: We learn plenty about his capacity for viciousness, but the climactic revelations about his past history feel underwhelming. A likable page-turner about love, war and conspiracy in the early 16th century. Just don’t expect Shakespeare.

THE WINTER PALACE

Stachniak, Eva Bantam (464 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-553-80812-4

Young Catherine the Great, as observed by a palace mole. Varvara, daughter of a Polish bookbinder, is fortunate, after being orphaned at an early age, to be hired to serve Empress Elizabeth of Russia as a seamstress. Bestuzhev, Chancellor of Russia, soon sees the makings of an excellent spy in the comely young woman. He undertakes her training, and soon she’s ingratiating herself with the Empress and reporting on every tantrum and foible. Catherine, daughter of impoverished Prussian nobles, is brought to Russia to marry Elizabeth’s nephew Peter, the Crown Prince. Varvara and Catherine soon bond, as Catherine’s meddling mother angers the Empress and almost scuttles the betrothal. Once married to Peter, Catherine’s position at court remains precarious—her husband seems more interested in playing soldier than fathering the new heir Elizabeth longs for. Varvara’s loyalty to Catherine antagonizes Bestuzhev, who despises Germans in general and Catherine in particular. Bestuzhev effectively banishes Varvara, arranging her marriage to Egor, an officer of the Palace Guard. Meanwhile Catherine and Peter are consigned to a remote castle in hopes that, deprived of distractions, they will mate. Catherine does produce a son, Paul, in all likelihood fathered by her lover, Saltykov. Elizabeth immediately appropriates Paul, who as he grows becomes a stranger to his mother. Catherine takes another lover, and Varvara is recalled to court by Bestuzhev as he envisions Catherine succeeding Elizabeth |

instead of Peter (just as Elizabeth herself usurped the throne from other heirs). War with Prussia takes Egor to the front, and as construction on the Empress’ Winter Palace proceeds at a glacial pace, the court waits to see how, and to whom, the balance of power will shift. All this watchful waiting saps the novel of drama. Historically brilliant and erudite, Catherine comes off as a passive and needy whiner, dependent on others to mediate for her. Varvara is such a covert operator that her personality never emerges. Less a novel than a 400-plus-page prologue to an anticipated sequel.

THE BEST BAD DREAM

Ward, Robert Mysterious Press (288 pp.) $24.00 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-8021-2601-6

FBI agent Jack Harper has no choice but to solve a kidnapping after Harper’s wanna-be girlfriend, Michelle Wu, car thief and chop-shop expert, telephones that her sister is missing. In Ward’s (Total Immunity, 2009, etc.) latest, Michelle is in Santa Fe visiting sister Jennifer, a nurse at Blue Wolf Lodge, a posh New Age health resort. Jack is anticipating two weeks off, maybe with a relaxing fishing trip to Baja California. But Jack cannot refuse Michelle. Ever ambitious, Michelle also intended to meet Lucky Avila in Santa Fe. Lucky leads the dope-dealing, hard-riding Sons of Satan biker gang. Michelle thought a hookup with Lucky would add to her illicit chop-shop cash-flow. Jennifer unsuspectingly tagged along, and the sisters met Lucky high on his own product. Lucky proposed a menage á trois, and Michelle’s refusal came at knife point. Later Jennifer goes missing. Michelle suspects revenge. Jack hits town, sneaks into Lucky’s El Coyote motel compound but doesn’t find Jennifer. Jack confronts Lucky, who hints Jennifer may have been taken as raw material for the sex trade. That sends Jack to the Jackalope, a brothel run by the Jesters, another cycle gang. Ward loves odd characters. Lucky’s sidekick, the massive, slow-witted Zollie, has a pet javelina named Ole Big. Jester chief Pancho Flores runs the bordello but spouts sex-as-liberation jive. The deceptively vigorous Alex Williams heads Blue Wolf, where enough money buys tai chi, plastic surgery and Fountain of Youth chemistry. There are subplots, one featuring a strong-arm thief named Johnny Z, who preys on the elderly and ends up double-crossed. The other, not relevant to what’s happening in Santa Fe, finds Jack’s teenage son, Kevin, seduced into a torrid affair with a perverted but beautiful older librarian, a dalliance tacked on as if Ward wanted to use notes for a book not worth developing. Crime fiction, yes, but crime fiction with a macabre, “too much is never enough,” edge-of-believability resolution. (Agent: Phillip G. Spitzer)

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m ys t e r y TRIPLE SHOT

Balzo, Sandra Severn House (208 pp.) $27.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7278-8079-6 Murder comes a little too close for comfort when Maggy Thorsen (A Cup of Jo, 2010, etc.) finds a body underneath her coffee shop. The historic train depot of a suburban rail line would seem to be the perfect location for Uncommon Grounds. After serving the rush of Milwaukee-bound commuters, the coffee shop still gets a steady trickle of what Maggy calls “Brookhills Barbies,” pencil-thin, tanned and back from their tennis lessons. And there’s the occasional celebrity, like TV reporter Ward Chitown, who’s in Brookhills with his producer Deirdre Doty to film a segment on the Brookhills Massacre, an FBI-vs.-Mob battle that took place—who’d a thunk it?—beneath the very floorboards of Maggy’s establishment. Naturally, Maggy gets to investigate her own mini-massacre when Chitown, Deirdre and local reporter Kate McNamara discover Brigid Ferndale sleeping with the fishes. Brigid once worked for real-estate agent Sarah Kingston, Maggy’s partner in Common Grounds. Is her death just one more in a string of agent killings that’s rocked the Brookhills’ real estate world? Or is it linked to her lawsuit against bipolar Sarah, who responds to the crisis by packing a Smith and Wesson? It’s a race between Maggy, clad in her special red dress for the festivities, and her boyfriend, sexy Sheriff Jake Pavlik, to unravel yet another baffling crime. Balzo’s formula has gone staler than yesterday’s cappuccino. Even Maggy’s red dress can’t save this one.

VIGILANTE

Cannell, Stephen J. St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $25.99 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-312-64611-0

cops look bad, ranging from greedily corrupt to abysmally stupid, leaving Shane Scully smack in the middle of a mess he never made. Whatever else Nash may be (psychopathic, for instance?), he certainly is vengeful. And he clearly harbors negative feelings toward the LAPD and Shane Scully. When ferocious anti-police activist Lolita Mendez is murdered, Nash promptly makes the case a centerpiece of his show and publicly pits his resources against Scully’s in a race to crack it. Challenged, Scully has no choice but to play Nash’s convoluted game. As it hurtles toward its climax, however, he begins to understand exactly what Nash means him to understand: that the stakes are career against career and, in the final analysis, life against life. Well plotted and smartly paced. Scully goes out a winner.

THE CAT SITTER’S PAJAMAS

Clement, Blaize Minotaur Books (272 pp.) $24.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-312-64313-3

A Florida pet sitter is involved in yet another strange murder case. Two cats await Dixie Hemingway at the house of one of her favorite clients, pro football player Cupcake Trillin, who’s vacationing in Italy with his wife Jancey. Waiting along with them is a near-naked woman who introduces herself as Briana and claims to be Cupcake’s wife. Dixie calls first Cupcake and than the police, who enter only to find Briana gone and an unidentified woman dead on the floor. When Dixie leaves to take the cats to a sitter, Briana follows her, denies killing the woman and pleads for help. She maintains that she was Cupcake’s friend when they were both growing up poor in Louisiana. Perhaps her former life as a police officer leaves Dixie open to such pleas, but it also leads her into many a dangerous situation. Questioned by an Interpol agent on loan to the FBI, Dixie realizes that this is more than a case of a disturbed woman and a simple murder. When she is attacked and her apartment ransacked, it only makes her more anxious to discover who is behind the murder and what the killer wants from her. Not on a par with Clement’s best (Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons, 2011, etc.), but still full of interesting characters, both human and animal, and descriptions of Siesta Key that may have you booking a vacation. (Agent: Al Zuckerman)

In his valedictory case, LAPD Detective Shane Scully (The Prostitutes’ Ball, 2010, etc.) finds real danger in the dubious world of reality TV. Nixon Nash is an ex-lawyer, an excop and an ex-con over a little matter of embezzlement that led to a two-year prison stretch. But never mind all the exes. What matters most are his consistently lofty Nielsen numbers. He’s cobbled together a reality show called Vigilante TV that audiences have fallen in love with and cops universally haven’t. Vigilante TV deliberately and relentlessly makes 2062

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THE IONIA SANCTION

Corby, Gary Minotaur Books (304 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-312-59901-0 978-1-4299-7915-3 e-book

An inexperienced sleuth learns that the deeper the mystery, the higher the stakes. Pericles, the leader of Athens, calls his young protégé Nicolaos to investigate the death of Thorion, a proxenos—that is, a sort of lobbyist for a city—from Ephesus, in Ionia, across the Aegean Sea from Athens. An apparent suicide, Thorion was found hanged, and there’s a note to Pericles in which he confesses betraying his office. It would seem to be an open-and-shut case, except that Nicolaos notices some odd details that indicate the scene was staged. Further confirmation comes when Nicolaos is attacked and barely escapes with his life. Characteristically, Pericles ignores his injuries and asks why Nicolaos didn’t catch

his attacker. And he orders him to find the killer. Thorion’s son Onteles gets the investigation rolling when he visits Nicolaos, implicating a slave named Asia, whom Nicolaos literally rescues from the auction block. Far from being a girl of the streets, let alone the lynchpin of a murder mystery, Asia maintains that she’s the daughter of Themistocles, the Satrap of Ephesus’ neighboring city, Magnesia. But is she? Nicolaos does what any young sleuth in distress would do: He consults his parents. A journey to Magnesia uncovers a far more pernicious plot than a single killing, with literary conundrums figuring in the solution. Nicolaos’ sophomore mystery (The Pericles Commission, 2010) is abundantly appointed with maps, historical notes, a list of characters with pronunciation assistance and bromides to open each chapter. With action scenes, a colorful setting and narrow escapes, it reads less like a whodunit than an adventure story, albeit a lively one.

By Laurie Stevens ISBN 978-1456450113 Paperback $14.99 E-Book $3.99

“Stevens sets the stage for graphic sensory details and fast-paced, tantalizing mystery that utilizes her passion and research in forensics and psychology.” “Memorable characters, macabre scenes and a dazzling portrayal of reality will leave readers anxious for book two in the Gabriel McRay Series.”

-Kirkus Reviews

Inquiries : Laurie@Lauriestevensbooks.com

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THE ALPINE WINTER

Daheim, Mary Ballantine (320 pp.) $25.00 | Nov. 29, 2011 978-0-345-50259-9

The Lords celebrate Christmas. Emma Lord’s holiday season is getting off to a bumpy start. Her brother Ben, a priest, thinks she and her divorced love, Sheriff Milo Dodge, are heading down a sinful path. Her son Adam, another priest, is overdue from Alaska, where he’s snowbound. Mitch Laskey, her employee at the weekly Advocate, needs time off to hunt for his son, who’s just escaped from prison for the second time. Emma thinks things couldn’t get much worse, but of course they can. When hikers find a body moldering in a cave on Mount Sawyer, Roy Everson, the local postmaster, is convinced it’s his mama, Myrtle, who disappeared 16 years ago. The body turns out to be male, but that doesn’t stop Roy from carrying on and Emma from digging away at the only clue to its identity, a Saint Augustine medal. The more Emma digs, the more she gets in the way of the sheriff, who knows that kissing her won’t stop her, but can’t resist anyway. The town gossips go wild. The Lord priests take differing views on the romance. Someone is so upset by Emma’s snooping that her carport is set on fire. Even worse, she’s attacked and almost killed before the sheriff steps in and rescues her, the perp is identified and Roy learns what really became of Myrtle. Daheim (The Alpine Vengeance, 2011, etc.) keeps this longrunning series lively with generous helpings of small-town chatter, charm and middle-age romance. (Agent: Maureen Moran)

SCOTCH MIST

Darrell, Elizabeth Severn House (208 pp.) $27.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7278-8069-7 What else would you expect on Guy Fawkes Day but an explosion? Every year, the British military base in Germany commemorates the 5th of November with a huge bonfire that elicits oohs and aahs from service personnel and their families. This year, a battalion of Drumdorran Fusiliers arrives just in time to be piped in for the celebration, but the screeching of the bagpipes is drowned out by an unplanned explosion that sends debris flying, badly burns an officer’s young son and kills the Pipe Major’s wife. Although the garrison commander is away at a conference, Max Rydal and Tom Black of 26 Section, Special Investigative Branch, Military Police, are on hand to sort through the chaos. Were terrorists targeting the base? Why were the Pipe Major and his wife living apart? Did any of the soldiers responsible for setting the bonfire add extra charges to humiliate a tyrannical officer? A few nights later, there’s more 2064

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chaos when someone sets fire to the hedges outside the mess. The base erupts, with battalions from the West Wiltshire Regiment battling the Royal Cumberland Rifles, the Royal Engineers feuding with the Royal Signals and everyone ganging up on the poor Scots. Meanwhile, Tom also must deal with his teen daughters’ embarrassment at his wife’s unplanned pregnancy, and Max must overcome his jealousy of his friend Clare’s handsome overnight guest. A reassessment of everyone’s alibi resolves matters, but not before more mayhem sets Max up for convalescent leave. Less fun than an hour-long bagpipe recital, and no more serious competition to Lee Childs’ military police stories than Indian Summer (2011) or its ilk.

EXTINCTION

Davis, Carol Anne Creme de la Crime (224 pp.) $28.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-78029-013-3 The amorous adventures of a sociopathic Bristol psychotherapist and his shrinking list of patients. On top of his own practice, psychologist Adam Neave volunteers at the bereavement center at Weston-superMare. It’s a great way to meet fragile women and talk himself into their confidence before he drugs and rapes them. Sometimes Adam can’t wait for the next eligible patient, so he goes out on the town looking for prey. Lately he’s graduated from rape to murder (his late wife Helen’s death was originally something of a one-off), sometimes accidentally doping his victims to death, sometimes adopting a more handson approach. Det. Supt. Bill Winston, duly suspicious, sics undercover officer Olivia Marsden on him as a new widow. His plans backfire, however, when Olivia finds herself falling for the man she’s supposed to be trapping. Things aren’t going much better for Beth, Adam’s partner at the bereavement center, whose boyfriend suddenly turns aloof and critical, or for Nicholas Neave, the brother who’s tried in vain to interest the law in Helen Neave’s death. And they’re going even worse for the innocent relatives of Brandon Petrie, 16, a cold, manipulative patient whom anyone but Adam would instantly diagnose as an apprentice sociopath. In fact, no one in the greater Bristol area seems capable of having a nice day, and it’s easy to see why not. Not even the most brilliantly repellent earlier work by Davis (Kiss It Away, 2004, etc.) quite prepares you for this seven-course banquet of violence, sex and violent sex.

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FI C T I O N

2011 Best Fiction Books 2011 has been another great year for readers, filled with the kind of novels that keep us turning pages. Picking just a few books from the thousands we review each year is no easy feat, but we’ve compiled our favorites to bring you this year’s Best of Fiction list. Please visit www.KirkusReviews.com for the complete reviews, as well as author Q&As, essays and more. LAST MAN IN TOWER

Aravind Adiga Knopf

UNTIL THE DAWN’S LIGHT

Aharon Appelfeld Schocken

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING Julian Barnes Knopf

ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS YOU Elizabeth Berg Random House

THE SLY COMPANY OF PEOPLE WHO CARE Rahul Bhattacharya Farrar, Straus and Giroux

SPELLBOUND

THE MAGICIAN KING

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION

FAITH

Blake Charlton Tor

Lev Grossman Viking

Jennifer Haigh HarperCollins

Marcia Clark Mulholland Books/ Little, Brown

THE GRIEF OF OTHERS

THE PRAGUE CEMETERY

THE ART OF FIELDING

A CUPBOARD FULL OF COATS

BUZZ ALDRIN, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU IN ALL THE CONFUSION

Chad Harbach Little, Brown

Umberto Eco Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Leah Hager Cohen Riverhead

OPEN CITY

Teju Cole Random House

Yvette Edwards Oneworld Publications

RED ON RED

Johan Harstad Seven Stories

THE WOODCUTTER

Edward Conlon Spiegel & Grau

THE HUM

Reginald Hill HarperCollins

THE INFERNALS

Alex Bledsoe Tor

BLOODMONEY

John Connolly Atria Books

NOW YOU SEE ME

GALORE

BACK OF BEYOND

THE TRINITY SIX

S.J. Bolton Minotaur

David Ignatius Norton

THE MIGHTY WALZER

Michael Crummy Other Press

C.J. Box Minotaur

THE FORGOTTEN WALTZ

Charles Cumming St. Martin’s

WITH FATE CONSPIRE

Anne Enright Norton

MISTERIOSO

Marie Brennan Tor

Harry Dolan Putnam

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli Midnight Ink/ Llewellyn

Nancy Jensen St. Martin’s

Jeffrey Eugenides Farrar, Straus and Giroux

VERY BAD MEN

MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN

THE SISTERS

THE MARRIAGE PLOT

Arne Dahl Pantheon

TROPHY

Michael Griffith Northwestern Univ. Press

WHEN THE SAINTS Dave Duncan Tor

EYES WIDE OPEN

OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY

Andrew Gross HarperCollins

Justin Cartwright Bloomsbury

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TURN OF MIND

THE SCRAPBOOK OF FRANKIE PRATT

Alice LaPlante Atlantic Monthly Caroline Leavitt Algonquin

Donna Leon Atlantic Monthly

PARTITIONS

Amit Majmudar Metropolitan/ Henry Holt

RIZZO’S FIRE Lou Manfredo Minotaur

THE TROUBLED MAN

Paula McLain Ballantine

TRACKERS

THE SNOWMAN Jo Nesbø Knopf

Dominic Smith Washington Square/ Pocket

Anne Patchett Harper/ HarperCollins

Richard K. Morgan Del Rey/Ballantine

THE NIGHT CIRCUS Erin Morgenstern Doubleday

STEALING MONA LISA

Carson Morton Minotaur

Daniel Woodrell Little, Brown

THE ROCK HOLE

Reavis Z. Wortham Poisoned Pen

CLOSE YOUR EYES

MOONDOGS

Alexander Yates Doubleday

REAMDE

Sally Spencer Severn House

Neal Stephenson HarperCollins

THICK AS THIEVES Peter Spiegelman Knopf

WE OTHERS

THE COLD COMMANDS

THE OUTLAW ALBUM

Amy Waldman Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Amanda Eyre Ward Random

ECHOES OF THE DEAD

China Miéville Del Rey/Ballantine

L.E. Modesitt Jr. Tor

THE SUBMISSION

BRIGHT AND DISTANT SHORES

STATE OF WONDER

Kathleen Winter Black Cat/Grove

Juan Gabriel Vásquez Riverhead

John Sayles McSweeney’s

Don Winslow Simon & Schuster

ANNABEL

THE SECRET HISTORY OF COSTAGUANA

A MOMENT IN THE SUN

EMBASSYTOWN

SCHOLAR

Justin Torres Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Adam Ross Knopf

Samuel Park Simon & Schuster

THE GENTLEMAN’S HOUR

WE THE ANIMALS

LADIES AND GENTLEMAN

ORIENTATION

Kevin Wilson Ecco/HarperCollins

Simon Tolkien Minotaur

Shann Ray Graywolf

Amanda Kyle Williams Bantam

THE FAMILY FANG

THE KING OF DIAMONDS

AMERICAN MASCULINE

Deon Meyer Atlantic Monthly

Steven Millhauser Knopf

Colm Toíbín Scribner

Ian Rankin Little, Brown

Yannick Murphy Perennial/ HarperCollins

THIS BURNS MY HEART

THE EMPTY FAMILY

THE COMPLAINTS

THE CALL

ASSASSIN OF SECRETS

THE PARIS WIFE

Hannu Rajaniemi Tor

Haruki Murakami Knopf

Henning Mankell Knopf

THE STRANGER YOU SEEK

THE QUANTUM THIEF

1Q84

Daniel Orozco Faber & Faber/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Q.R. Markham Little, Brown

Richard S. Wheeler Forge

Caroline Preston Ecco/HarperCollins

PICTURE OF YOU

DRAWING CONCLUSIONS

THE RICHEST HILL ON EARTH

RULE 34

THE LEFTOVERS

Charles Stross Ace/Berkley

Tom Perrotta St. Martin’s

LUCIFER’S TEARS

THE INFORMANT

James Thompson Putnam

Thomas Perry Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

THE YEAR WE LEFT HOME

THE TRAGEDY OF ARTHUR

Jean Thompson Simon & Schuster

Arthur Phillips Random House

IN THIS LIGHT

Melanie Rae Thon Graywolf

SNUFF

Terry Pratchett Harper/ HarperCollins

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“If, like Shakespeare, you want to kill all the lawyers, this is your must-read.” from murder season

GONE WEST

Dunn, Carola Minotaur Books (304 pp.) $24.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-312-67548-6 The wife of a Scotland Yard detective is such a clever sleuth that she’s on the scene before her husband. Answering the pleas of her school friend Sybil, the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher takes herself off to Derbyshire to see if Sybil’s fears could possibly be true. Humphrey Birtwhistle, who went to the Wild West as a young man, now makes a good living writing westerns under a pseudonym. His brother and sister, who run the family farm, were not happy to see him return with an American wife but found his money a welcome addition. Because Humphrey has not been well for quite a while, Sybil, hired as a secretary, has begun to write the most recent books based on Humphrey’s ideas. Indeed, her efforts have actually improved sales. In addition to the brother, sister and wife, the house also harbors Humphrey’s son Simon, a budding writer who looks down on his father; Simon’s friend Neil Carey, an Irish playwright; the beautiful Myra, a distant cousin; and her follower Walter Ilkton, a high-born snob who is madly in love with her. Sybil’s worries that someone is poisoning Humphrey prove justified when he’s found dead and her boyfriend Dr. Roger Knox refuses to sign a death certificate. Daisy’s husband’s superior, taking a dim view of her involvement, sends Alec Fletcher to solve the case. Despite (or because of) plenty of promising suspects, Daisy and Alec have their work cut out for them. Dunn (Anthem for Doomed Youth, 2011, etc.) adds another winner to a long string of charming mysteries evocative of the period between the Great Wars.

BROKEN MUSIC

Eccles, Marjorie Minotaur Books (336 pp.) $25.99 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-312-59145-8 A determined police officer revisits a case that’s long haunted him. The battered remnant of the flower of English youth is returning from the horrors of World War I. Herbert Reardon, badly burned in the war, is not sure whether he can return to his former job as a police officer. Before he makes any decisions, he goes back to Broughton Underhill, the site of his last prewar case. Marianne, the oldest of the lovely daughters of the Reverend Francis Wentworth, was found drowned in the ruins of a rickety dock. The death was written off as an accident, but Reardon has always had his doubts. After the death of his wife and the loss of his faith, Reverend Wentworth accepted the offer of a home, a dismal rectory, from Lady Sybil, his wife’s cousin. His private income covered 2068

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his son William’s school fees, and his daughters shared the governess of Lady Sybil’s daughter Eunice, whose brother Greville was also away at school. Not long after Reardon reopens his inquiries, Lady Sybil’s maid is found murdered. Reardon, who’s been offered his job back at the rank of Inspector, is given the case. Careful questioning reveals that the placid surface of prewar life in Broughton Underhill conceals a number of dangerous undercurrents that may have led to Marianne’s death and the murder of the maid. The latest in Eccles’ long string of period English mysteries (The Cuckoo’s Child, 2011, etc.) offers a gaggle of murder suspects along with a melancholy look at the period just after the war to end all wars.

MURDER SEASON

Ellis, Robert Minotaur Books (352 pp.) $25.99 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-312-36617-9 Murder and cover-ups in the city of the angels. Once again the paparazzi are surrounding celebrity hangout Club 3 A.M. But this time the LAPD Deputy Chief is circling the wagons to keep them away and putting admired homicide detective Lena Gamble in charge while D.A. Higgins and his assistants Debi Watson and Steven Bennett are shunting legal maneuvers off to Greg Vaughan. What makes this case such a hot potato is that inside, dead, is friend to the glitterati, club owner Johnny Bosco, and Jacob Gant, much loathed by the public for his acquittal in the brutal rape/slaying of his teenage neighbor Lily Hight. Security tapes show Lily’s father driving away from the 3 A.M. scene with something that looks like a gun on the seat beside him. But Higgins, Watson and Bennett, still criticized for botching the Gant trial, realize that they’ll be in for more condemnation if Hight is charged for what the public deems justifiable homicide. When Lena contacts investigator Dan Cobb for background on Lily’s murder, the bodies start falling, the lies keep coming and it becomes clear that the D.A.’s office, knowing full well that Gant was innocent, prosecuted him anyway, paving the way for the Bosco and Gant murders. One final twist will nudge the death total past nine, leaving Lena the last one standing. Solid police work from Lena (The Lost Witness, 2009, etc.). If, like Shakespeare, you want to kill all the lawyers, this is your must-read. (Agent: Scott Miller)

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BOCA DAZE

Forman, Steven M. Forge (352 pp.) $25.99 | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-7653-2876-2 A 61-year-old ex–Boston cop continues to adapt to life in Florida. Eddie Perlmutter likes Kugel’s Deli, his live-in girlfriend Claudette, who sort of resembles Halle Berry, and his transformation from Boston cop to Boca Raton private eye. He’s become friends with the reporter who dubbed him the “Boca Knight” for his tilting at perps and who now wants him to mount a crusade and investigate the fatal bashing of homeless man Weary Willie. Eddie huffs and puffs but agrees to look into matters. First, though, he has old Doc Hurwitz to deal with. Doc’s granddaughter Shoshanna has become a victim of the No Pain-U-Gain Clinic, which dispenses drugs to all comers. There’s also the shady goings-on at B.I.G. (standing for B.I. Grover), the splashiest Ponzi scheme ever to send well-heeled retirees into destitution and back into the workforce. With the help of Three Bag Bailey, who claims to be Weary Willie’s wife, Eddie is soon playing fast and loose with shooters, bombers and the Overtown Outlaws, a gang of thugs loyal to Mad Dog Walken, and living up to his reputation as local hero—although not before a home explosion almost kills him. Like Boca Mournings (2010, etc.) and its kin: tough, mean and surprisingly sappy when Eddie carries on conversations with Mr. Johnson, the penis he deems in need of frequent encouragement and little blue pills.

DIE HAPPY

Gregson, J.M. Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7278-8070-3 Death threats to a literary festival’s planning committee seem more potent when one of the board’s members is shot to death in his study. Everything seems to be rolling along for the Oldford Literary Festival committee. Under the determined leadership of former civil servant Marjorie Dooks, a fine slate of speakers has been assembled. Christine Lambert is on the verge of persuading her Chief Supt. husband John to appear alongside crime writer David Knight, who’s been recruited by Oldford’s own crime writer, Sue Charles. Of course, Knight’s appearance itself raises the hackles of freelance BBC producer Peter Preston, who feels that the honor of appearing at the festival should be reserved for “real” writers like his old friend Denzil Carter. Preston also snipes at the committee’s youngest members, poet Sam Hilton and painter Ros Barker, for what he regards as their naïve and uninformed view of the contemporary arts. But |

fractious as the committee can be, the formidable Mrs. Dooks keeps them moving forward, at least until a series of threatening messages begin to arrive at the various members’ doors. Even more unsettling is the discovery of Preston’s body, shot twice through the heart—an event that enlists John Lambert, along with his Sgt. Bert Hook (In Vino Veritas, 2010, etc.), to appear not just on the podium but at the scene of the crime. Like Marjorie’s committee, Gregson’s 14th Lambert and Hook adventure plows forward steadily, providing enjoyment for fans of the grill-’em-till-you-got-’em British procedural.

THE HOUSE AT SEA’S END

Griffiths, Elly Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (384 pp.) $25.00 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-547-50614-2 The old bones discovered on a bleak and crumbling Norfolk beach lead to a number of present-day deaths. Forensic archaeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway is just returning to work after the birth of her daughter Kate, whose unnamed father is married DCI Harry Nelson. Ruth adores her daughter but is finding it hard to juggle motherhood and her cherished job and is additionally stressed by Nelson’s obvious concern for and desire to share in the life of their daughter. Now her life gets even more complicated when she’s called to the site of a mass grave and identifies the bones of six different men, bound and shot in the head. Further testing reveals they’re most likely Germans. Ruth’s local bit of coast was a choice spot for a German invasion, and the Home Guard, led by the father of an MP who now owns a family house endangered by relentless erosion, was determined to repel any attempt. One of the few Home Guard members still alive, all of them pretty old, hints at a secret they swore to protect with their lives. When a German reporter arrives they hear about Operation Lucifer and the possibility of a British war crime. As the elderly witnesses start to die suspicious deaths, Ruth and Nelson struggle to come to terms with their relationship while delving into a cold case that’s become hot enough to burn a group of suspects desperate to hide the past. Griffiths’s third (The Janus Stone, 2010, etc.) offers not only an excellent mystery but a continuing exploration of the lives of complex, sometimes unlovable characters.

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DEAD LAST

Hall, James W. Minotaur Books (304 pp.) $25.99 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-312-60732-6 Nothing, it seems, can boost a sagging TV crime series but a series of copycat crimes. After only five episodes, Miami Ops is already on life support. Blame Gus Dollimore for stretching himself too thin as show runner, executive producer and sole director. Blame his daughter Dee Dee, an actress of limited scope and unlimited pectorals, for her portrayal of the good-and-evil twins who drive the show. Blame her costar Flynn Moss or his twin Sawyer, the writer who, having successfully pitched the concept of a masked killer who leaves obituaries as calling cards at his crime scenes, may end up as TV’s youngest has-been. But if Miami Ops doesn’t add a million viewers within a month, it’s history. Luckily for the show, but unluckily for several real-life victims, someone is evidently inspired to act out its creaky plot in real life. An obit penned by Flynn and Sawyer’s mother April, a veteran reporter, and left at the first scene, implicates soldier of fortune Thorn, even though the killing was in far-off Oklahoma, and brings Sheriff Buddha Hilton calling on him. Thorn, who’s mourning the death of his lover and wife Rusty Stabler, isn’t best pleased to see the 19-year-old sheriff, or to get tangled with a TV cast and crew as dysfunctional as any of Hall’s trademark villains (Silencer, 2010, etc.). But his hand is forced when the most appealing character around becomes the next victim, and he’s soon en route to formula thrills to which he’ll have an unexpectedly personal relationship. Hall works some pleasing changes on a gimmick that was threadbare when Josephine Tey used it 75 years ago. Not the best Thorn, despite some deeply felt moments.

WITH MY LITTLE EYE

Hammond, Gerald Severn House (192 pp.) $27.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7278-8093-2

Not all the care a surveyor who’s determined to develop an old Scottish house into a block of flats puts into choosing his fellow tenants prevents one of them from topping another. Underwood House is eminently a property worth developing, and Douglas Young, eager to throw off the shackles of a firm that charges a high price for his services but doesn’t pass on the riches to him, is eager to refurbish it. With the financial backing of filling-station owner Seymour McLeish, whose one novel hit the financial jackpot, he purchases the property and assembles a group of tenants, beginning with McLeish and his wife Betty. University 2070

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of Edinburgh gardener Stan Eastwick lets the basement flat at a reduced rate in return for taking responsibility for the grounds. Professor Cullins adds his domestic partner, university technician Hubert Campion; architect Harris Benton contributes his design expertise; and widow Hilda Jamieson brings along her attractive daughter Natasha, whom Douglas promptly claims as a part-time secretary. All goes well until Stan Eastwick is found dead of obscure causes soon recognizable as murder. At first it seems as if Hammond (A Dog’s Life, 2011, etc.) is trying his hand at a closed-circle whodunit à la Agatha Christie. But he’s less interested in most of the characters than in the developments promised when Tash Jamieson politely asks Douglas to relieve her of her virginity. Although the killer interrupts the happy couple’s honeymoon, it’s all to little effect. Charming but slight, even by Hammond’s gossamer standards.

VACUUM

James, Bill Creme de la Crime (192 pp.) $28.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-78029-012-6 What happens when the status quo goes belly up? Rival drug barons Mansel Shale and Panicking Ralphy Ember treat each other with benign neglect. No drive-by shootings of couriers. No back-alley dispatching of underlings. No messy attempts to wrest control of the area around Valencia Esplanade from each other. There’s a simmering tension, sure, but life is basically quiet for mobsters and civilians alike, which is just how Acting Chief Constable Iles likes it. When Shale abdicates his fiefdom and turns to religion after the shooting death of his wife and son (I Am Gold, 2011, etc.), however, the status is no longer quo. His second in command, who sometimes thinks he’s General Franco back in the 1930s, may not be suited for leadership. Hints that the third goon in line may be making plans to elevate himself to Number One cause his girlfriend Karen, who’s afraid he’ll get himself killed, to ask DCS Harpur to intercede. Margaret Ember, who suspects that her husband is responsible for the Shale killings, is so afraid she and her daughters will be targets of retribution that she calls on Karen in a bid for sympathy. Sir Upton, Iles’ new superior, who wants to take advantage of the Shale organization’s disarray and rid the area of his rival as well, orders a raid on Ember. So many people stepping into the vacuum left by Shale mean that there’ll inevitably be corpses. And sly maneuvering. Until, thankfully, an emotional reversal sets matters right again. A noir farce that’s just as wickedly funny as most of the 27 other Harpur and Iles escapades—compelling evidence that James is long overdue for a major award.

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“Suspense rather than mystery is the order of the day in Jerkins’ grisly debut.” from at the end of the road

DEAD MAN’S GRIP

James, Peter Minotaur Books (560 pp.) $25.99 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-312-64283-9 978-1-4299-8149-1 e-book A nasty accident on a rain-soaked Brighton street is equally fatal for its victims and its survivors. Whether he’s distracted by recent sex or the weather or the early hour, American student Tony Revere rides his bicycle into an intersection on the wrong side of the street and is promptly mowed down by a lorry whose unknown driver speeds off. Two other drivers have been involved in the accident: long-haul trucker Stuart Ferguson and widowed solicitor Carly Chase. Ferguson is seriously injured; Carly is detained by the police after her night-before drinking causes her to fail a Breathalyzer test. Arrested and left in a cell, she despairs of her ruined day, the impending loss of her driving license and her uncertainty about how to get her son Tyler, 12, to school and back. Nor is it cause for joy when the Brighton CID, under veteran Det. Supt. Roy Grace (Dead Like You, 2010, etc.), clears her of causing the accident and releases her, for by then a much more serious threat has surfaced. Tony’s controlling mother Fernanda, whose jailed father is “the New York Godfather” and whose husband Lou is the Mob’s chief banker, flies in from Long Island to wail, gnash her teeth and offer a $100,000 reward for the identification (not, be it noted, the capture and conviction) of her son’s killer. Meanwhile, convinced that all three drivers are at fault, Fernanda privately offers a killer named Tooth $1 million to eliminate them all, preferably in baroque and painful ways. It’s almost too easy for Tooth to dispose of the first two unfortunates, but as he closes in on Carly, she hatches a desperate scheme to save herself. It doesn’t exactly go as expected, and she’s left much worse off than before with still many pages to go. As usual, James spins a kitchen-sink thriller that goes on forever, and very enjoyably, though it certainly could have been cut down to a single night’s reading.

AT THE END OF THE ROAD

Jerkins, Grant Berkley Prime Crime (304 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-425-24334-3

A young boy grapples with unimaginable horror in rural Georgia. Kyle’s mind is full of the things that might occupy any 10-year-old: the woods along the road to the reservoir, the green scum on the surface of the pond, his scratchy Sunday suit, the corn and the sweet potatoes planted on either side of the long gravel driveway that winds from his house to the road. That driveway is so long, in fact, that no one but Kyle can see the woman flip over her blue Chevelle when |

she brakes to avoid hitting him. No one even speaks about the accident, and the next day the crumpled car is gone, woman and all. Kyle wonders what happened to her, but soon his mind goes back to its familiar places. After his older brothers Wade and Jason torment him, tying him up and leaving him in the pasture with Buddy the bull, his younger sister Grace becomes his chief companion, playing treasure hunt and building campfires in the woods. But then one fire gets out of control, burning acres of woodland. Even worse, Grace realizes that she’s left her treasured Wonder Woman doll at the scene. When he sees their paralyzed neighbor Kenny Ahearn hiding the toy in his wheelchair, Kyle goes to retrieve the prize. He ends up an unwilling accomplice in the hiding of evidence to a string of crimes Ahearn committed before a stroke robbed him of his mobility. But what’s buried in the garden is nothing compared to what’s hidden in the attic. Kyle must overcome not only his fear but his guilt in order to stop a monster from killing again. Suspense rather than mystery is the order of the day in Jerkins’ grisly debut.

DEATH AT THE WEDDING FEAST

Lake, Deryn Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7278-8086-4 When a bridegroom and several guests are murdered in front of him, an intrepid sleuth goes into action. February 1768: John Rawlings, apothecary of Shug Lane, Piccadilly, has finally succeeded in carbonating water. His friends, including the blind magistrate Sir John Fielding, all encourage him to bottle his new invention and sell it commercially. First, however, Rawlings must hurry off to Devon to be with his passionate, opinionated older lover, the Marchesa Elizabeth di Lorenzi, who’s about to bear his child. Once his friends help him find a down-on-herluck lady capable of starting up the new business, he dashes off to discover Elizabeth and her newborn twin boys at the home of her friend Lady Sidmouth. Lady Sidmouth’s cousin, snippy Miranda Tremayne, is engaged to marry the Earl of St. Austell, a suitor 52 years her senior with a dreadful reputation. Since he cannot convince Elizabeth to leave her home and his daughter Rose is about to leave for school, Rawlings shuttles back and forth between Devon and London. Before she departs, Rose, who is psychic, warns him that if he sees two old ladies dressed in brown, he must fall to the floor. Sure enough, at the wedding of Miranda and the Earl, two ladies dressed in brown enter. They shoot and kill the Earl and two other people. It’s obvious that they were men dressed as old women, but nothing else about the case seems straightforward. Luckily, a fully recovered Elizabeth comes to Rawlings’ aid as they work to unravel the crime. The latest in Lake’s long-running series (Death and the Black Pyramid, 2009, etc.) continues to mix period detail and a sound mystery with a hint of romance.

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FAMILY WAY

Lewin, Michael Z. Five Star (228 pp.) $25.95 | Dec. 16, 2011 978-1-4328-2542-3 Will the Lunghi detective family’s long string of murder-free investigations be threatened by the corpse that appears in the middle of Cobham Court? Once a year, the city of Bath celebrates Nation Day, and Angelo Lunghi’s neighborhood declares its independence as The Republic of Walcot. This gently crazy holiday is the perfect backdrop to the Lunghi family’s third installment of detection lite (Family Planning, 1999, etc.). Angelo calls on Veronica Wigmore, whose husband Des would be the perfect suspect for the break-in to her flat if only he weren’t doing still another stretch in Langnorton jail. Soon after Angelo’s sister Rosetta snaps photos of obnoxious young women acting badly on the street, her cell phone is snatched. Pressed by a series of unsuitable young men, Angelo and Gina’s underage daughter Marie tries her first vodka and orange, then tries several more. Marie’s kid brother David is introduced to the agonies of first love when his date to spend the day with gorgeous computer geek Lara Tonkin falls through. Oh, and there’s a dead man too—one Henry Daniels, his head crushed by a blow that looks like murder to DI Phillips, who wants to talk to Azaria Nolfi, the third ex—Mrs. Daniels, down at the station. The Rube Goldberg plot, practically all of it transpiring in a single day, is winsome and endearing, and none of it, not even the fatality, amounts to a hill of beans.

THE DOWER HOUSE

Macdonald, Malcolm Severn House (256 pp.) $28.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7278-8061-1

A group of artists and artisans try communal living at a country house in 1947 England. Felix Breit is a well-respected sculptor in prewar Europe. Living in Paris after a fight with his father, he is shocked when he is arrested and sent to Mauthausen. It seems that his grandfather, a second-rate artist and vocal anti-Semite, was actually born a Jew. So Felix is a quarter Jewish, enough for the Nazi death list. Two architects he meets when he’s rescued from Mauthausen invite him to England, where he takes up their offer of an apartment and workshop in a sprawling Hertfordshire mansion. A chance meeting in the Victoria and Albert Museum brings him a lover and career-builder in the delightful form of Faith Bullen-ffitch. Among his neighbors in the building is an American bridegroom of Marianne von Ritter, whose Nazi-loving Swedish parents sent her to work in Germany; an English architect whose French wife despises Marianne; and 2072

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several other ill-assorted couples. Felix is immensely attracted to Angela Wirth, a Ravensbrück survivor, who worked for the Nazis as a sound recorder. After secretly recording the meeting about the Final Solution, she made a transcript that she sent to the Communists, earning herself a spot in a death camp. This series debut from prolific Macdonald (Rose of Nancemellin, 2001, etc.) explores the dynamics of the relationships between the Europeans and their very different English hosts. It’s all heartbreaking and romantic, with intimations of future happiness.

HELL

Norman, Hilary Severn House (256 pp.) $28.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7278-8074-1 A gruesome murderer stalks a tightknit family of detectives, bringing them to their own personal hell. Norman’s latest take on Detective Sam Becket (Shimmer, 2009, etc.) echoes earlier stories of the family: Becket and his family appear to be fighting off the unwanted attentions of psychotic serial killer Cal the Hater, aka Jerome Cooper. Cal’s M.O. appears to have changed only slightly while maintaining its grisly edge. The tale begins by emphasizing the Becket family’s cloyingly wholesome methods for dealing with his madness, then takes an unexpected turn when Sam’s wife Grace goes beyond desperate measures to protect herself. Suddenly, Sam’s playing a defensive role, one for which he’s neither trained nor quite prepared. With the entire preachy Becket clan hunkered down together and Sam struggling to play bad cop against Cal, it’s hard to find a sympathetic character in the fray, especially as some of the stakes for some of the suspense sequences are too low to encourage much buy-in to the cast members. Diehard fans will appreciate the ending, which promises another Becket mystery coming soon. Not exactly the high point of this series. But Norman still keeps up the pace as she puts familiar characters through their paces.

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FACING JUSTICE

Oldham, Nick Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7278-8075-8 Three paths through the snow converge. Det. Supt. Henry Christie of the Lancashire Constabulary Force Major Investigation Team and his friend, FBI agent Karl Donaldson, working as a legal attaché out of the U.S. embassy in London, decide on a walking holiday on the moors. |


Steve Flynn, who left Christie’s team under a cloud and relocated to the Caribbean as a fishing guide, heads back to Britain when his former lover Cathy calls for help, telling him she suspects that her husband Tom is a bent copper. Jonny Cain, a drug dealer ensconced in Mallowdale House, who fends off rivals by siccing a carnivorous cat on them if they trespass on his remote estate, knows a few underlings who must be taught a lesson. Donaldson falls ill, Henry finds a body, Steve can’t locate Cathy and Jonny is hounded by an assassin. Snow incapacitates them all, and they can barely find their way to the Tawny Owl, a small pub that lets out rooms. As Donaldson retires to the WC to recuperate, Christie and Steve, despite their mistrust, work together to find out exactly what Cathy and Tom have been up to. They’ll need to enlist the aid of pub regulars and Alison the proprietor to Medivac a victim or two, deflect roaming hit men from their target and deal with the snow that’s isolated them. Suddenly, criminals are plentiful as snowflakes and lethal as falling icicles. And the local pastime of the village of Kendleton seems to be murder committed to the tune of a wild cat gnashing its teeth. Oldham (Seizure, 2010, etc.) carves out a new niche: the noir procedural with cozy trimmings. Bolt the door, warm up the teapot and settle in for a unique read.

DEADLY CAMPAIGN

Orloff, Alan Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (336 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Jan. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-2318-1 An out-of-service comedian turns investigator in a political race to the death. Running the Last Laff comedy club with his senior partner Artie is supposed to keep Channing Hayes out of trouble, especially because the comedian hasn’t been ready for the stage since the car accident that claimed the life of his fiancé Lauren. Unfortunately, Channing seems to be a magnet for disaster, and trouble finds him when he’s not looking—this time in the form of masked men with bats breaking up Edward Wong’s political rally. Not an avid follower of local politics, Channing is at the rally only as a favor to Thomas Lee, Edward’s uncle and the owner of Channing’s favorite Chinese restaurant. So Channing feels he can’t say no when Lee asks him to look into the attack. The obvious place to start is with Sanford Korbell, Wong’s opponent and the quintessential politician, whose slick headquarters could be hiding anything. Channing also has his suspicions about the Wong family dynasty, each member of which has a different agenda. While Channing is busily investigating, he’s also trying to get his life in order. With each comedy show that passes, he hopes he can get his chance to play the role of funnyman once again. Less witty than Orloff’s debut (Killer Routine, 2011), this second installment focuses on minor characters who aren’t as intriguing as the mainstays.

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WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES

Peacock, Caro Creme de la Crime (256 pp.) $28.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-78029-011-9

A killer of young women terrorizes 1839 London. Liberty Lane, a music teacher turned private investigator, is still establishing herself when she suddenly gets two new clients. The first is a young man whose fiancée is missing, the second a gentleman of mystery who wants her to protect the Contessa D’Abbravilla from a dangerous involvement with Price Ernest of Saxe Coburg, who’s visiting England with his brother Price Albert. Liberty and her assistant Tabby, a streetwise girl she’s taken in, have paid scant attention to the awful stories of girls being snatched off the street by men with the heads of bulls driving a black carriage. Now they must consider the possibility that one of the bodies found dead at the base of a well-known monument may be the missing fiancé. Liberty is also busy trying to get close to the Contessa in the hopes of thwarting her plans to talk to Price Ernest, the lover who spurned her. Although the nation is enthralled with the romance between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Liberty learns that even royal love affairs have diplomatic consequences and fears that neither of her cases may be as simple as she first thought. Since her clients are not what they seem, Liberty must make the most of her social connections to get the information she is discovering to the right people. Peacock’s fourth (A Foreign Affair, 2008, etc.) is an enjoyable mystery featuring a sprightly heroine and the obligatory period detail.

LOVE, HONOUR, AND O’BRIEN

Rowe, Jennifer Poisoned Pen (206 pp.) $24.95 | paper $14.95 | Lg. Prt. $22.95 Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-59058-543-6 978-1-59058-545-0 paperback 978-1-59058-544-3 Lg. Prt. A woman scorned hires a private detective, with decidedly unexpected results. Leaving her boring fiancé and doting parents, Holly Love has moved to Australia’s Blue Mountain area, where she’s met, romanced and accepted a marriage proposal from charismatic Andrew McNish. When she arrives at his house on their wedding day, she finds a note reading, “Don’t try to find me,” an envelope containing $40, and not much else. Andrew has cleaned out their joint account, and Holly, left almost penniless, must sleep on the floor and eat scraps of cheese and pickles while debt collectors arrive in steady streams. Enraged, she calls a private detective, O’Brien, who agrees to take her case. But

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“The disappearance of a 12-year-old boy flushes out all manner of secrets in the sleepy farm town of Belinda, Pa.” from the boy who shoots crows

when she goes to his apartment office, she finds his dead body, a picture of Andrew and a mouthy parrot. After Holly convinces O’Brien’s neighbors in Mealey Marshes that she didn’t kill him, they befriend her and suggest she use his just-rented apartment. Naturally, Holly starts getting calls from people wanting O’Brien to investigate. She agrees to take on a case that may lead to Andrew. Delivered to a gloomy mansion by an Elvis impersonator driving a hearse, she learns that the wheelchairbound owner, who claims Andrew is her half brother, thinks he has been murdered by one of the odd group of people living there. With the help of her new friends, one of them a psychic, Holly becomes embroiled in a desperate and dangerous adventure to track down her missing lover. The prolific Australian author (The Makeover Murders, 1993, etc.) offers the hilarious first in a new series that mixes humor with mystery.

THE BOY WHO SHOOTS CROWS

Silvis, Randall Berkley Prime Crime (368 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-425-24346-6 The disappearance of a 12-year-old boy flushes out all manner of secrets in the sleepy farm town of Belinda, Pa. Jesse Rankin liked shooting crows so much that he played hooky from school to take a shotgun into the woods one spring day and never came out. Widowed Cumberland County Sheriff Marcus Gatesman, when he goes out to question Charlotte Dunleavy, a divorced New York painter who’s leased an adjoining farm, realizes instantly that she’s just as attractive as his secretary and ex-lover had indicated. Whether she has any useful evidence to offer is less certain. In response to his questions, she reports seeing Dylan Hayes, an older boy who works for neighboring farmer Mike Verner, enter the woods around the time Jesse went missing, and not hearing his tractor start up again for another 40 minutes. But when Dylan, thoroughly frightened, confronts her, she backs down, saying that he may have been in the woods only a few minutes and insisting that he can’t possibly have harmed Jesse. Too late: Jesse’s father Denny gets a load on and beats Dylan unmercifully. Once she becomes the latest victim of one of her husband’s alcohol-fueled rages, his wife Livvie refuses to stay with him. Charlotte takes her in and nurses her, then soon enough becomes the patient herself. By this time, many readers will have wondered whether the mystery is any more likely to be solved than the disappearance of the heroine of the Antonioni movie L’Avventura. Rest assured, there’s a hair-raising finale to come. Slow-moving and oppressively portentous, but Silvis (Disquiet Heart, 2002, etc.) worms his way so deep into Charlotte’s weariness and despair that the horrific ending comes as almost a relief.

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THE INNOCENT

Stevens, Taylor Crown (336 pp.) $24.00 | Dec. 27, 2011 978-0-307-71712-2 Whatever you do, don’t touch this heroine. Vanessa Michael Munroe (The Informationist, 2011) reacts badly when men paw her, even if it’s only in her nightmares. She either attacks whoever’s by her side or goes out looking for a bad guy to kill, which she does with speed, dispassion and these itty-bitty knives she likes to keep handy. Her lethal skills are sought by many—in this case her old friend Logan, who asks her to reclaim the daughter who was kidnapped eight years ago by a member of The Chosen, the cult he used to belong to. With Logan, Gideon and Heidi— two other former cult members who have their own agendas for seeking out The Chosen—and her protective backup Miles Bradford, Munroe sets off for Buenos Aires, where the cult has established several compounds. Able to plant bugs, tail persons of interest, speak 22 languages, make up cover stories and allay her anxieties about being touched with murderous forays, Munroe gains access to The Chosen’s enclaves. At length she zeroes in on the one where Logan’s daughter has been hidden—and sexually abused by the cult leader. Gideon, Heidi and Logan almost derail Munroe’s efforts, but the assignment ends with parent and child reunited and Munroe’s nightmare demons placated, at least for now. A disappointing second effort from Stevens, who interrupts Munroe’s gore fests for diatribes you’ve heard before about the sexism and debauchery of cults. Imagine. (Agent: Anne Hawkins)

AN UNCERTAIN PLACE

Vargas, Fred Translated by Reynolds, Siân Penguin (416 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-14-312004-9 A brilliant Parisian sleuth untangles a grisly English crime with links to a French murder. Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg (The Night’s Foul Work, 2008, etc.) is in London for a law-enforcement conference, an entirely satisfying adventure, even if he’s accompanied by his awkward, overexcited deputy Danglard, an underling who tries to be helpful by translating for his boss, who doesn’t really need it. By happenstance, the French duo is with their British counterpart, DCI Radstock, when the British detective is approached by elderly Lord Clyde-Fox, who insists they accompany him posthaste to Highgate Cemetery. Though Radstock patronizingly describes Clyde-Fox as an “eccentric,” this time the nobleman

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is on the mark: He’s found a row of shoes with the dismembered feet still inside them. Adamsberg is naturally intrigued. Despite the intrusion of other cases, he carries his interest back to Paris. In fact, both Adamsberg and Danglard look into the checkered history of Highgate Cemetery, soon focusing on the murder of elderly former journalist Pierre Vaudel. The man reportedly had no enemies, but his will tells another story, creating suspects within the family. The reappearance of Clyde-Fox revives interest in the grisly case, which has surprising links to the Vaudel murder. Vampires, the Great War and longstanding family feuds also figure prominently. The death of a beloved cat and a personnal shakeup in the police department add background texture. Adamsberg’s seventh outing bubbles entertainingly along via the chemistry of its recurring cast and the author’s knack for creating colorful minor characters.

THE WINSLOW INCIDENT

Voss, Elizabeth Five Star (498 pp.) $25.95 | Dec. 16, 2011 978-1-4328-2546-1

Winslow, a remote mountain hamlet in the Pacific Northwest, is suddenly visited by an unknown plague. Hazel Winslow is the daughter of the town sheriff and the niece of Pard Holloway, whose ranch does much to support the tiny town. Because her mother deserted her, Hazel has relationship problems, but she continues to be loyal to her lifelong friends Sean and Patience. The first sign of trouble comes when her uncle’s cattle sicken and die. Tourists continue to visit the local ghost town, the rodeo goes on and all the local hangouts are full, when suddenly people begin to get sick. Their illness is not just physical. The victims seem to be losing their minds, seeing ghosts and desperately searching for someone or something to blame. Hazel is one of the few in town to retain her sanity, but she’s frantic with worry for her father, who’s out in the woods hunting an imaginary creature, and for Sean, whose delusions may be based on guilt. Years earlier, the town had banished Hawkin Rhone to a tiny cabin, and Sean was forced to kill him when he attacked Hazel. Even after the cause of the madness is discovered, nothing can be done, since Pard is protecting his reputation by allowing no entry or exit to the town, leaving a battered, starving Hazel to protect her loved ones from the sins of the past and present. Billed as a paranormal mystery, this overlong debut provides little mystery but plenty of thrills, chills and horrifying descriptions of suffering men, women and beasts.

THE TOWMAN’S DAUGHTERS

Walker, David J. Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7278-8066-6 A night on the town lands the Wild Onion, Ltd. partners in the middle of another case with oh- so-many moving parts. Kirsten and Dugan’s last outing, Too Many Clients (2010), had, well, too many clients. Their latest doesn’t really have any. It’s clear that Isobel Cho needs help from the moment an inebriated Dugan accidentally rescues her from her bodyguard, Tyrone Beale, and returns her to her father, who promptly locks her up. But even after Juan Cho, owner of Wancho’s Towing, releases her, Isobel explains that she can’t pay for Wild Onion’s services. Neither can her boyfriend, Jamison Traynor, son of the junior Senator from Illinois. Beale isn’t their client either, even though he calls Dugan repeatedly asking to meet in a variety of parks and plazas for exchanges of confidential information. And Juan doesn’t stick around long enough to hire them, leaving abruptly to check things out at his factory in China. But when two creeps Dugan refers to as Toad and Weasel show up at Beale’s apartment, Kirsten is spooked enough to ask her old friend Cuffs Radovitch to babysit Isobel in an undisclosed location. Meantime, she noses around Hit the Rock, a foundation supplying water to remote villages in South America. Isobel was supposed to work for them until their director, Miguel Parillo, was killed in a D.C. shooting. But even if the Wild Onion duo manages to connect the dots, who’s going to pay the freight? Another fine outing for Kirsten and Dugan, who set the standard for plotting, pace and hard-boiled humor.

science fiction and fantasy STONE SPRING

Baxter, Stephen ROC/Penguin (512 pp.) $25.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-451-46418-7 You want climate change? Try living back in the Paleolithic, when proto-Picts prowled, icebergs melted and odd travelers from Jericho ate your store of elk meat and gawked at your daughter uninvited. That’s the setup for sci-fi/fantasy writer Baxter’s (Evolution, 2003, etc.) latest, the first volume of a projected

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trilogy. (The author, it seems, will not write a self-contained book when a series is possible.) The setting is a northerly peninsula of a place called Northland, a fertile and very nice locale, “a rich, rolling landscape that extended to the south as far as you could walk.” Said peninsula, Etxelur, along with the rest of Northland, now lies under the waves, pondered by stalwarts puffing their hookahs in Amsterdam cafes, but 10,000 years ago it was the province of Baxter’s heroine, a teenage girl named Ana (shades of Ayla, of Clan of the Cave Bear fame) who enjoys bouncing about in animal hides and striking up conversations about fashion with strangers out of neighboring Albia (“We make it from reeds and bark and stuff,” says said stranger of his ensemble, shivering in what would appear to be the last of the cold weather before the Big Melt). There are things to like about a book with characters named Shaper, Ice Dreamer, Mammoth Talker and Moon Reacher, but it takes Baxter a long while to—beg pardon—warm up to his overarching subject, which is that the lowland that is Northland is ever so noticeably disappearing as the seas come lapping up ever higher, thanks to melting ice caps and other accouterments of what we’re calling climate change these days. Enter that stranger, kidnapped all the way from the walled city of Jericho, who sets in motion one of the brighter ideas of the Old Stone Age: namely, building a great wall to keep the seas out. Will our ancestral Hans Brinker save Ana and pals from the fate of Atlantis? That particular bit of denouement, you might guess, awaits another installment. Jean Auel meets Al Gore—but without Auel’s sense of drama and around-the-fire storytelling, and without Gore’s skill at popularizing science.

SISTERHOOD OF DUNE

Herbert, Brian; Anderson, Kevin J. Tor (496 pp.) $27.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-7653-2273-9 Another entry in the latter-day Dune saga, this one beginning a trilogy about the origins of the Bene Gesserit, Mentats and Swordmasters. Eighty-three years after the defeat of the thinking machines at the Battle of Corrin, Emperor Salvador of House Corrino rules the human empire. On the jungle planet Rossak, Raquella Berto-Anirul— the first and, so far, only Reverend Mother, able to access all the memories of her female ancestors—has formed the Sisterhood to train women to achieve their full potential physical and mental powers. On Lampadas, Gilbertus Albans teaches his students to become Mentats, human computers with extraordinary powers to make statistical predictions and uncover hidden associations. His great secret is that he keeps the brain of the evil thinking robot Ersamus in a cupboard in his office. Josef Venport, heir to a vast interstellar trading empire, employs the narcotic spice from Dune to turn humans into Navigators able to find safe pathways through the higher dimensions of foldspace. War hero Vorian Atreides, having retired to a remote planet, soon finds himself on Dune itself, hunted by 2076

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the vengeful descendants of the disgraced Abulurd Harkonnen and also by his siblings, half-human, half-machine warrior creations of his father, the feared mek general Agamemnon. The Butlerians, anti-technology fanatics feared by everybody up to and including the emperor, are poised to begin a new crusade against scientific progress of any sort. Characters and plot are thus beautifully set up, the timing is precise; alas that the prose drones in the usual flat, affectless manner, while the characters for the most part lack personality and distinction. McDune, sure, but the universe conceived by Frank Herbert is so vast, complex and fascinating that the magic lingers, and even Herbert-Anderson detractors will be hard put to resist the allure. (Agent: John Silbersack)

DARTH PLAGUEIS

Luceno, James Del Rey/LucasBooks (416 pp.) $27.00 | Dec. 27, 2011 978-0-345-51128-7 Prolific Star Wars novelist Luceno (Millennium Falcon, 2008, etc.) offers a rather redundant standalone tale examining the life of a master of the Force’s dark side. Taking place in the years leading up to the first Star Wars prequel film, The Phantom Menace, Luceno’s novel mostly just engages in gap-filling, expanding on the role that Sith Lord Darth Plagueis played in training and mentoring Darth Sidious (also known as the nefarious Emperor Palpatine). Palpatine’s arc has been thoroughly explored both in the Star Wars films and in various supplemental works, so there’s little new ground for Luceno to cover once he gets to Plagueis recruiting Palpatine as an apprentice. The first part of the book, detailing Plagueis’ efforts to harness the power of the Force to grant immortality, has greater novelty, and occasional scenes later in the book hint at a more mystical story. But Luceno mostly concerns himself with dry accounts of political and business maneuvers, full of convoluted deals and deceptions. Many passages are little more than parades of names, listing off people and planets that Plagueis and Palpatine must make into allies or enemies (or enemies masquerading as allies). At one point Plagueis himself even laments how convoluted the Sith Lords’ plans to overthrow the Galactic Republic have become. As the later part of the story overlaps with the events of The Phantom Menace, a number of familiar faces show up in small parts (including Darth Maul, Queen Amidala and Count Dooku), but the story remains focused on Plagueis and Palpatine, two patently evil characters whose very existence is defined by being cold and ruthless. It’s hard to engage with such unpleasant, unknowable protagonists, and even more so when their fates are essentially predetermined. With increasingly smaller niches to explore, Star Wars novels need to find new approaches to the same material, something Luceno is unable to achieve here.

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nonfiction THE END OF ILLNESS

FIVE DAYS THAT SHOCKED THE WORLD Eyewitness Accounts from Europe at the End of World War II

Agus, David B. Free Press (288 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-4516-1017-8

Oncologist Agus (Medicine and Engineering/Univ. of Southern California) predicts that the application of advanced technology for modeling complex systems will transform 21st-century medicine. The author writes that a remark Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann made to him in 2009— ”Look at cancer as a system”—transformed the way he views his own specialty and the entire field of preventative medicine. It made him realize that “[r]ather than honoring the body as the exceedingly complex system that it is, we keep looking for the individual gene that has gone awry, or for the one ‘secret’ that can improve our health.” Agus writes that although the ability to sequence the entire human genome is a great step forward, it is insufficient for achieving a significant breakthrough. Even though it may start with a mutation, cancer “is a dynamic process that’s happening…far from the confines of a static piece of DNA”—it involves the body’s immune system, its ability to regulate cell growth, metabolism and more. Agus directs his university’s Center for Applied Molecular Medicine and is the co-founder of two personalized medicine companies, Applied Proteomics and Navigenics. His hope is that their research will contribute to developing better analytical tools for preventative medicine and for the treatment of cancers. These will address the functioning of the body as a whole, applying digital technology already used by physicists to provide virtual models of cancers and model the action of proteins that regulate cell communication in the body. He also hopes to develop tools that will provide information on the concentration of different proteins in a drop of blood taken from a patient, which may reveal the onset of disease. The author also includes some guiding principles and warnings about certain healthy practices that may not be so healthy. A refreshing change of pace in the medical field, but by venturing beyond his field of expertise to pontificate on a wide range of subjects, Agus makes his otherwise intriguing narrative difficult to follow.

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Best, Nicholas St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $26.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-312-61492-8 978-1-4299-4135-8 e-book

Dramatic, sordid recap of the most horrendous closing moments of World War II, which “began with the murder of Mussolini and ended with the news that Hitler had killed himself at his bunker in Berlin.” There is a sensational element to this work by British journalist Best (The Greatest Day in History, 2008), narrated alongside frank, graphic primary accounts. The author covers the action over five decisive days at the closing of the war, beginning with Apr. 28, 1945, when Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci were shot, driven to Milan and strung up for ghastly display. On the 30th, inside the Chancellery in Berlin, Hitler shot himself while his brand-new wife Eva Braun ingested a poison pill, leaving Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz as successor in command. As the fighting raged to the last man at the Reichstag, and Russians raped German women and killed indiscriminately, SS head Heinrich Himmler separately sent out conciliatory messages to the British and Americans, generating wild rumors in the Western press. After the bunker suicides and clumsy burning of the bodies, the remnant staff planned their escape through the blasted streets of Berlin. The news of Hitler’s suicide made Stalin’s May Day celebrations in Moscow; the Americans were dropping food supplies over Holland for the starving residents as part of Operation Chowhound; Private Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict, eagerly deserted his post with the “liberation” of Munich by the Americans and headed home; and Hamburg was declared an open city on May 1 by Gauleiter Kaufmann, acting on his own initiative. In addition to engaging suspense, Best provides plenty of moments of prurience—e.g., orgies in the bunker’s dentist chair; the looting of Eva Braun’s knickers by the first Russian visitors. Suspenseful, sketchy and somewhat vulgar—these accounts render no one’s finest hour.

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““This crisp, clean book won’t be the last word on the perplexing events in Iraq, but for now it’s one of the better ones.” from arrows of the night

ARROWS OF THE NIGHT Ahmad Chalabi’s Long Journey to Triumph In Iraq Bonin, Richard Doubleday (272 pp.) $27.95 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-385-52473-5

Emmy-winning 60 Minutes producer Bonin tells the story of America’s (mis) adventures in Iraq through the lens of Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi is a fascinating figure, and the book is as much a biography of this persistent, intelligent, savvy and manipulative man as it is a history of how America became mired in Iraq. Chalabi was born into one of Iraq’s wealthiest and most influential families, and he lived a life of almost storybook privilege, at least until 1958, when the military overthrew the country’s monarchy. The Chalabi family was particularly vulnerable, as they represented the lavish success of the few in a country where most people had no access to electricity, potable water or sewage systems. The fact that the revolutionaries were overwhelmingly Sunni only added to the political dynamic and to young Chalabi’s resentments. When Saddam Hussein rose to power, Chalabi lived in comfortable exile abroad, always planning to return to topple the Hussein regime. As the United States became increasingly embroiled in events in Iraq, at first in support of Hussein’s regime and later as its foe, Chalabi always seemed to be at the center of the storm, maneuvering himself into positions of influence and power, often outsmarting organizations such as the CIA along the way. As with many biographies, the book occasionally suffers from myopia as all of the events are seen through the lens of Chalabi. Nonetheless, Bonin offers a welcome contribution to the growing library of books on modern Iraq. This crisp, clean book won’t be the last word on the perplexing events in Iraq, but for now it’s one of the better ones.

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN Historical Reflections from the 1800s to the Present

Bourke, Joanna Counterpoint (448 pp.) $30.00 | Dec. 13, 2011 978-1-58243-608-1

A scholarly look at more than two centuries of varying interpretations of what it means to be human. British historian Bourke (History/Birkbeck, Univ. of London; Rape: Sex, Violence, History, 2007, etc.) focuses on AngloAmericans and Haitians, the former for their perceptions of cultural and ethnic outsiders, and the latter as an example of a subjugated people who revolted against their white colonial overseers and established a black republic. In examining the various 2078

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distinctions made between human and nonhuman creatures, the author turns to the image of a Mobius strip, a one-sided surface with no beginning or end, for she finds the boundaries between human and nonhuman just as indistinguishable. All criteria for dividing human from nonhuman—e.g., language, intellectual ability, use of tools, possession of a soul or belief in God—are seen to be inadequate, but humanity’s continuing and futile efforts to make such a demarcation is “the greatest driving force of history and also the inspiration for systematic violence.” Bourke ranges widely, looking at the denial of full humanity to women, children and nonwhites, at the arguments for and against the rights of animals and at the problems posed by the radical biotechnological techniques that have enabled the merging of human and animal cells. Her writing is dense and demands close reading, but the black-and-white drawings and photographs are often showstoppers, even stomach-turners. Among them are illustrations comparing the face of an Irishman to that of a dog, and of a Negro slave being boiled alive, and photographs likening the slaughter of pigs to the Holocaust. Historians and philosophers may be engaged, but this is much too weighty for casual readers.

1494 How a Family Feud in Medieval Spain Divided the World in Half

Bown, Stephen R. Dunne/St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $27.99 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-312-61612-0 978-1-4299-4130-3 e-book

Spanish-Portuguese quarrels, the voyages of discovery and an obscure 1494 treaty led to centuries of worldwide conflict, events all rousingly recounted here by Canada-based historian Bown (Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600–1900, 2010, etc.). In the 15th century, Spain and Portugal were backwaters until their ships hit the jackpot by reaching America and the Indies. The author begins his history of the bloody competition that followed by pointing out that by 1480 Portugal dominated the prosperous West African trade, a monopoly granted earlier by Papal bulls. In 1493, Portugal’s king insisted that Columbus’ discoveries belonged to him under the same authority. Spain’s rulers appealed to Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI, who obligingly decreed that new lands west of a north-south line down the Atlantic belonged to Spain, those east of it to Portugal. Popes still exerted immense authority, so the immediate result was the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, in which Spain and Portugal agreed on specifics. In the second half of the book, Bown describes the subsequent vast expansion of European settlement, commerce and violence. No one believed in free trade. Spain and Portugal forbade unauthorized commerce throughout their empires, seizing foreign ships and often executing crews. In response, Holland, Britain and France fought their way into foreign ports (whose citizens, once defenders surrendered, were happy to

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trade) and seized Spanish and Portuguese ships. Piracy flourished, and governments authorized privateering even during peacetime to allow merchants to recover losses. A well-delineated, exciting history of a particularly contentious period of international trade, which persisted for centuries until Spain and Portugal grew too weak to resist and did not disappear until nations decided that oceans should be open to all. (24 black-and-white maps and illustrations)

THIS IS A CALL The Life and Times of Dave Grohl

Brannigan, Paul Da Capo/Perseus (416 pp.) $26.00 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-306-81956-8

Former Kerrang! editor Brannigan’s scattershot attempt at presenting a definitive biographical portrait of reluctant rock star Dave Grohl. The author’s unauthorized bio of Nirvana drummer turned Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl is his first book, and in some ways it reflects the author’s lack of experience. Brannigan allows his subject’s personal history to be swallowed up by the larger cultural history that his bands helped to shape. For example, when broaching the subject of Grohl’s early interest in punk, the author provides a mediocre textbook history of punk rock, followed by a surface-skimming overview of the Washington, D.C., hardcore scene that would eventually lure Grohl into its clutches. Grohl was a high-school dropout touring with hardcore bands by the time he was 17; yet he was rarely the dominant personality in any of his bands, from his younger days in hardcore outfits Dain Bramage and Scream, to his drumming duties in world-conquering grunge band Nirvana. Brannigan begins to deal with Grohl’s tenure in Nirvana during the peak of that band’s success around 1992. Even in his own post-Nirvana project Foo Fighters, it wasn’t until almost a decade into this second career that he finally embraced his public role as bandleader. Brannigan, obviously stretching his limited access to Grohl, takes a bio-by-the-numbers approach to the Foo Fighters legacy. We’re privy to a few mild controversies and personality clashes during the making of each album, as well as the predictable listing of critical notices from the rock press and Grohl’s always-brief side of things. If this book is a reliable measure, Grohl is a simple, uncontroversial, not-particularly-quotable guy who saves his self-expression for his music. If nothing else, Brannigan salutes a musician who’s surfaced, prosperous and sane, from the perils of an extended punk-rock adolescence that not all of his friends survived. Reverent and informative, but too distanced from its subject. (16 pages of black-and-white photographs)

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SCREW BUSINESS AS USUAL

Branson, Richard Portfolio (288 pp.) $26.95 | Dec. 8, 2011 978-1-59184-434-1

Virgin CEO Richard Branson (Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen, and Blasting into Space, 2011, etc.) offers a stirring vision for a “new capitalism” that makes doing good for society a top business priority. A maverick whose Virgin Group companies incorporate socially beneficial initiatives, the author seems to have anticipated the demands (“People Not Profits!”) of Occupy Wall Street, observing that people are becoming more aware of unfairness. “We must change the way we do business,” he writes, going so far as to predict that companies that exist only to maximize profits “will not be around for long.” Branson celebrates many entrepreneurs who have met people’s needs and made a profit, from pioneers like Ben & Jerry and Anita Roddick (founder of The Body Shop) to entrepreneurs around the world. The latter include Gyanesh Pandey, whose Husk Power delivers eco-friendly electricity to Indian families for only $2 per month; Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladesh-born economist and inventor of microfinance; Jane Tewson, who has reinvented British charity with Comic Relief; and Victoria Hale, creator of America’s first nonprofit pharmaceuticals company. “While the industrial age was all about wealth,” writes Branson, “unsustainable growth through depletion of natural resources and delivering profit to your shareholders, this new era, the ‘Age of People,’ is all about shifting the focus to how business can and must deliver benefits to people and the planet—as well as shareholders.” Besides recounting his own efforts to address world issues, the author describes opportunities in health, education and other areas, where fledgling entrepreneurs can help drive social change. Long known for thinking big, Branson certainly does not disappoint in this heartfelt but over-the-top view of socially engaged business. He serves it up in his engaging, namedropping style, including a vignette about celebrity-visitor Kate Winslet saving his mother’s life during the fire that destroyed his vacation property in the British Virgin Islands. Overwritten but inspiring.

COLLABORATE OR PERISH! Reaching Across Boundaries in a Networked World

Bratton, William and Tumin, Zachary Crown Business (288 pp.) $12.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-307-59239-2

A guide to previously unattainable levels of collaboration and control in a networked global environment. It would be hard to argue that collaboration was ever an entirely alien concept in government,

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“A featherweight campaign autobiography that is too revealing of the candidate’s limitations.” from this is herman cain!

business or private spheres. What former Boston, New York City and Los Angeles police chief Bratton (The Turnaround, 1998) and co-author Tumin assert is that technologically up-tothe-moment collaboration is now virtually a matter of survival. Either learn to create shared-goal cyber platforms linking all the players or, as they exclaim in their title, perish! With Bratton drawing on his front-line policing experiences, the authors present a series of highly informative, wide-ranging and frequently unsettling examples showing the rapidly expanding impact of collaboration-enhancing technology. They also suggest techniques for effective collaboration, ranging from right-sizing problems to coercing participation, if it comes to that. Their purpose, they write, is to share the wisdom they have gathered over their 40-year careers from government leaders, top executives, managers, researchers and others. “It is a book that will help you collaborate better,” they write, “and get on with the business of transforming the world as it is into the world that should be”—though they never get around to explaining the exact nature of that world. That it might be repressive, given the immense new powers of top-down control that come with collaboration as the book defines it, never arises as a topic. Mostly enlightening reading for understanding what the world is becoming.

THIS WILL MAKE YOU SMARTER New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking Brockman, John--Ed. Perennial/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $15.99 paperback | Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-06-210939-2

Edge.org founder and publisher Brockman (Culture: Leading Scientists Explore Civilizations, Art, Networks, Reputation, and the Online Revolution, 2011, etc.) asks a group of eminent scientists and writers their views on the question, “What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody’s Cognitive Toolkit?” The thematic question was actually proposed to the editor by Harvard professor Steven Pinker, who urges the need for people to recognize the value of win-win bargaining based on cooperation rather than competition—positive rather than zero sum games. New Scientist editor Roger Highfield writes humorously that “one way to win the struggle for existence is to pursue the snuggle for existence: to cooperate.” In a similar vein, astronomer Marcelo Gleiser suggests that since humans may be unique in the universe, “[we] might as well start enjoying one another’s company.” Psychologist Daniel Goleman examines the seeming indifference of most people about the risk of “planetary meltdown.” In the same vein, science writer Alun Anderson suggests changing the name of our species to Homo dilatus because of our inability to face up to the consequences of global warming. Physicist Lawrence Krauss looks at the importance of scale in determining how precise an answer must be, and Lisa Randall argues the need 2080

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for understanding both the “robustness and the limitations” of scientific results. Neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky warns against too much reliance on anecdotal evidence, and several contributors touch on the theme of how to evaluate risk and the tendency of people to over-focus on the immediate in estimating dangers. Other notable contributors—there are more than 150—include Stewart Brand, Richard Dawkins, Jonah Lehrer, Nicholas Carr, David Eagleman, Alison Gopnik, Jaron Lanier, V.S. Ramachandran, Brian Eno, Amanda Gefter and Clay Shirky. A winning combination of good writers, good science and serious broader concerns.

THIS IS HERMAN CAIN! My Journey to the White House

Cain, Herman Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster (242 pp.) $25.00 | Oct. 4, 2011 978-1-4516-6613-7

An unlikely presidential candidate introduces himself to the nation. If nothing else, many readers will agree that Herman Cain is, in many ways, a remarkable man. He has set high goals for himself and consistently achieved them because he was willing to “work a little harder, and a little longer.” He grew up in the segregated South, but his enterprising father never let him use racial barriers as an excuse for failing to pursue his dreams with dogged determination. His business acumen is beyond question; he has been president and CEO of several large corporations and chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He is an ebullient and rousing public speaker with a strong religious faith and love for America. However, his debut book shows that Cain is neither a skilled writer nor a deep thinker, as he might readily admit. The text rolls on like unedited oral history—imagine Cain on his porch reminiscing about a long career in business, shaking his head in wonder at how it all turned out. There are a few odd, embarrassing sections, as well—e.g., the chapter on his fascination with the number 45, or his “Leadership History” table going back to high school. Of course, this is a campaign biography, written to motivate the reader to imagine the author as CEO of the United States. While Cain tries to make a virtue of his lack of ready answers on every conceivable issue, his political positions never go deeper than conventional pieties like his wish “to create reasonable regulations that cut down on bureaucracy while helping business to succeed” and conservative slogans like “replace Obamacare with a patient-centered free-market approach.” His famous “9-9-9” program does not even make an appearance. The resulting impression is of a well-meaning and well-spoken man with enormous selfconfidence and a vision inspiring to many, but no real sense of the depth and complexity of our foreign and domestic issues, and no practical knowledge of how to accomplish effective change within our political system. A featherweight campaign autobiography that is too revealing of the candidate’s limitations.

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QUIET The Power of Introverts In a World that Can’t Stop Talking Cain, Susan Crown (320 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 24, 2012 978-0-307-35214-9

An enlightened Wall Street survivor exhorts wallflowers everywhere to embrace their solitude-seeking souls and fully appreciate the power of the lone wolf. Could up to one-half of a nation obsessed with Jersey Shore narcissism and American Idol fame really be inhabited by reserved, sensitive types? According to Cain, yes—and we better start valuing their insight. Extroverts have their place, but things can quickly go haywire when we start confusing assertiveness with competence—the economic meltdown on Wall Street was the most stunning recent example. Had there been a few more conscientious, contemplative introverts in the boardroom (and had they made themselves heard), Cain writes, the country’s fortunes would now be decidedly different. But today’s prevailing susceptibility to “reward sensitivity,” as embodied by alpha-dog Wall Street types, wasn’t always the norm. Cain provides fascinating insight into how the United States shifted from an introvert-leaning “cult of character” to an extrovert-leaning “cult of personality” ruled by the largerthan-life Tony Robbinses of the world. Readers will learn that the tendency for some to be reserved is actually hardwired, and as every evolutionary biologist will tell you, innate characteristics are there for a reason—to help humans survive and thrive. The author also boldly tackles introverts themselves, as well as the ambivalence many often feel about being relegated to the corner. “Stick to your guns,” writes fellow introvert Cain. The author’s insights are so rich that she could pen two separate books: one about parenting an introverted child, and another about how to make an introvert/extrovert relationship work. An intriguing and potentially life-altering examination of the human psyche that is sure to benefit both introverts and extroverts alike.

1616 The World In Motion Christensen, Thomas Counterpoint (288 pp.) $35.00 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-1-58243-774-3

A well-researched and entertaining but somewhat scattershot look at a single watershed year in history and how its upheaval changed the world. The year 1616 experienced numerous small transformations, writes Christensen (Worse Than a Monolith: Alliance Politics and |

Problems of Coercive Diplomacy in Asia, 2011, etc.). Because the author doesn’t focus on just one country or individual, he is able to look at world events more broadly than other history books that tackle the same period. Addressing economics, the role of women, art, science and more, Christensen discusses disparate geographic areas jointly, connecting Europe with the Mughal Empire in India and beyond. However, this structure also has a significant drawback: the lack of an overarching narrative. Each chapter is a set of stories illustrating Christensen’s central thesis of “a world in motion,” but even with his commentary these accounts don’t always coalesce into an ordered history. As a result, the narrative tends to meander and lose momentum. The challenge of writing a book of such broad scope is that the organization must be meticulous, and Christensen doesn’t fully succeed. However, he was clearly scrupulous about the research, and he discusses the material with the authority of an expert. The illustrations, photos, timeline and selected reading section also enhance reader understanding of the issues at play. “I hope that in the book…readers will find some fraction of the enthusiasm that I felt in reliving the year 1616,” he writes. In that he succeeds. Despite organizational issues, Christensen provides interesting anecdotes and a unique reading experience. The book comes together more as a series of historical vignettes than as a comprehensive history.

BACK TO WORK Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy

Clinton, Bill Knopf (208 pp.) $23.95 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-307-95975-1

The former president and bestselling author comes out swinging on the economic front. He does so, it seems, a touch reluctantly. Clinton (Giving, 2007, etc.) writes that he had conceived this book but then shelved it several times “because politics is no longer the center of my working life”—and, he continues, “I don’t just want to add another stone to the Democratic side of the partisan scale.” An apolitical, nonpartisan Clinton? Fat chance, and here, with considerable appetite, he tears into the antigovernment opposition, the ones who assert, with Ronald Reagan, that government is part of the problem, if not the problem. Nonsense, Clinton argues: Government has many roles, not least an economic one in assuring that the political and social conditions are fitting to a robust economy. Besides, he writes, despite what that opposition is saying, the recent banking meltdown happened because the banks were overleveraged. The government helped avert a full-scale depression, and the stimulus helped “put a floor under the collapse and begin the recovery.” The opposition—he keeps returning to it—may appear to be antigovernment, but it’s really antitax and antiregulation, two things that simply don’t make sense in the current economic climate. In good political form, Clinton

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begins with generalities about what a good country this could be and what’s wrong with it—all those antigovernment talking heads, for one thing, who “already have the answers, and the fact that the evidence doesn’t support them is irrelevant.” Happily, though, he moves on to pointed specifics, some honed in policywonkish detail—on, for example, relaxing mortgage debt, developing a renewable energy regime and getting small businesses into the exporting game (“This is what Germany does”). Vintage Clinton, with provocative if generally evenhanded solutions to the economic crisis and political stalemate plaguing the country. (First printing of 300,000)

PAPER PROMISES Debt, Money, and the New World Order

Coggan, Philip PublicAffairs (352 pp.) $27.99 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-1-61039-126-9

Will the rules of international finance be replaced; if so, what will be the terms? Economist columnist Coggan (Guide to Hedge Funds, 2008, etc.) tackles these questions and others in this comprehensive treatment of money and debt. As an award-winning financial journalist, the author writes for the layperson, refusing to shelter behind the jargon of the dismal profession. Further, he doesn’t claim to know with certainty how the current crisis will play out. Coggan states forthrightly that the confusing mess in which we currently find ourselves—initiated in 2007-08 by subprime mortgages—is not just another upheaval in American finance but the end of an era, a major turning point. He does not think there can be a return to the status quo because the promises to pay made in earlier times cannot be honored. The author situates his conclusion in a discussion of the longer-run history of booms and busts of monetary systems, and their related structures of indebtedness. The extremes in this series included phases associated with the word “bubble”—e.g., the Mississippi and South Sea Bubbles— and the hyperinflation of Weimar Germany. The rapid expansion of paper credit secured only on promises to pay from the proceeds of anticipated future growth caused crises when they outran the possibilities of growth. As a result, leaders reacted with draconian austerity to rebalance financial excess, often with gold-based monetary systems. Unfortunately, the United States has fallen from its once-lofty perch. “The US,” writes the author, “so long the dominant power, is watching nervously in its rear-view mirror as China catches up. In short, the confidence needed to borrow and lend is diminishing.” A helpful analysis for anyone who wants to know how the world got into the present financial mess, which issues need to be addressed and what the consequences might be.

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THE 6 HUSBANDS EVERY WIFE SHOULD HAVE How Couples Who Change Together Stay Together Craig, Steven Simon & Schuster (336 pp.) $24.99 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-1-4391-6798-4

Therapist Craig brings a new book on marriage to the self-help shelf. According to the author, a lasting partnership is built on five cornerstones of viability—maturity of the partners, flexibility, commitment, trustworthiness and intimacy. In order to maintain this solid foundation, partners need to change and evolve through different phases of a relationship; writes Craig, “a marriage isn’t a marathon; it’s a decathlon… many uniquely different races, all linked together, each of which requires different strategies and skills in order to perform well.” Whether couples are newlyweds, just entering or maintaining the parenting phase, entering the empty-nest stage or growing into the older, mature stage, each person must shift to match the demands of the current stage in order for the relationship to remain vibrant. Craig offers readers a hands-on approach to establishing a two-person team that finds strength in honesty and commitment to each other. Numerous exercises, checklists and quizzes help readers stay on track, while ample examples from Craig’s own practice and personal life help illustrate his many ideas. Despite the title, readers will find the information pertinent to wives as well as gay and lesbian partnerships. Interesting new theories on improving marital relationships presented in a self-help format.

CITY OF FORTUNE How Venice Ruled the Seas

Crowley, Roger Random (400 pp.) $32.00 | Jan. 24, 2012 978-1-4000-6820-3 978-0-679-64426-2 e-book The only seas Venice ruled were the Mediterranean and Black, but it dominated European trade from 1000 to 1500, an achievement that owes much to its citizens’ energy and freedom but mostly to their willingness to fight. While mildly neglected compared to Britain and France, Venice receives a stirring account from British historian Crowley (Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World, 2008, etc.). The author concentrates on its golden years and the wars that made them possible, passing over its great but less-pugnacious cultural accomplishments. Isolated by Adriatic’s lagoons, Venice escaped barbarian invasions that ended the Western Roman Empire. One of the few areas of Italy still ruled from Constantinople by the

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Byzantine Empire, it prospered throughout the Middle Ages. Despite its nominal subservience, Venice eagerly accepted an immense fee to build an massive fleet and transport the Crusaders who sacked Constantinople in 1204, after which it added many formerly Byzantine cities and islands to its growing trading empire. It continued to flourish despite competition from other Italian cities and encroachment from the steadily expanding Ottoman Empire. Between brutal naval wars with the Turks, it was happy to trade, a policy that outraged the Vatican and other Christian nations. After 1500, ships from Portugal, Spain, Britain and Holland began sailing across the Atlantic to America and around Africa to Asia, beginning Venice’s decline. An action-packed political and military history that will remind readers of the Italian sea power that prevailed for centuries before Western European nations arrived on the scene. (Black-and-white illustrations; 8-page color photo insert; maps. Agent: Andrew Lownie)

THE EXEGESIS OF PHILIP K. DICK

Dick, Philip K. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (976 pp.) $40.00 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-0-547-54925-5 A dyspeptic dystopian’s mad secret notebooks, imposing order—at least of a kind—on a chaotic world. “The majority of these writings…are neither familiar nor wholly lucid nor, largely, elegant,” write editors Lethem and Jackson. That’s exactly right. But it is a measure of the esteem in which the late science-fiction novelist Philip K. Dick is held in the literary world that Lethem and Jackson could be brought into this vast disorder—a project, in its own way, rather like the frankensteining of David Foster Wallace’s Pale King, and with many of the same conditions present: a vastness of notes, a hint of a complete system (in this case, partially imposed by a previous editor) and the impossibility of that completeness without much posthumous help. And that complete system is surpassing strange. Dick writes of a critical moment in 1974, “at the initial height of the ‘Holy Other’ pouring into me, when I saw the universe as it is, I saw as the active agent, a gold and red illuminated-letter like plasmatic entity from the future, arranging bits and pieces here: arranging what time drove forward.” Very well, then. That entity—perhaps, the editors whisper, a manifestation of epilepsy, though perhaps not—seems to have confirmed Dick’s suspicion, which lies at the heart of so much of his work, that the world we inhabit is an elaborate ruse and that any freedom we have is illusory: “We are being fed a spurious reality”; “one cannot sense that reality is somehow insubstantial unless somehow, unconsciously, one is comparing or contrasting that reality with a kind of hyper-reality; otherwise the intuition makes no sense.” A blend of diary, notebook, ledger, blotter and back-of-envelope scribbles, Dick’s “exegesis” of that reality ranges from sublime philosophizing (“Our sin is self-centered monocamerality”) to |

chronicling (among other things, Richard Nixon’s last days in office) to strange ranting. In short, it’s in perfect keeping with his body of work at large. Fascinating and unsettling. Still, at more than 900 pages, this will test the mettle—and the stamina—of even the most devoted of Dick fans.

SERGEANT REX The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog

Dowling, Mike with Lewis, Damien Atria Books (304 pp.) $26.00 | Dec. 13, 2011 978-1-4516-3596-6

Straightforward telling of an unusual wartime narrative: the reintroduction of the Marines’ Military Working Dog (MWD) teams to frontline combat for the first time since Vietnam. With the assistance of Lewis (co-author: Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse, 2011, etc.), Dowling, who deployed to Iraq in 2004 with a German shepherd named Rex, notes that he and several others were “guinea pigs…we’re to learn how to take K9 units into the heart of war once again.” Upon arrival at the Marine base in the “Triangle of Death,” the author was dismayed to discover the dangerous, shifting nature of the Iraq war’s early years. Although commanders were initially bemused by the MWD teams, Dowling and Rex soon found themselves on combat patrols, where the author had to rely on the subtleties of Rex’s tracking abilities, but also protect him from gunfire and other hazards. Adding to the tension of the wartime narrative, Dowling breaks with chronology to look back at his working-class youth and the family issues that compelled him to excel in the military. He also examines the intricate training program for the dogs, underscoring the discipline involved in this arcane specialty and the bond between soldier and dog. While there are frequent moments of emotional button-pushing (including many imagined “observations” from Rex), Dowling’s approach offers a clear-headed view of the improvisational nature of combat in Iraq, and the brutal difficulties with which American military personnel contended. Fortunately, battle-hardened Marines quickly nicknamed the dog “Sexy Rexy” and adopted Dowling’s aggressive approach to the hazardous missions. A unique testimonial from today’s professional, highly specialized military, with a clear extra appeal to animal lovers.

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CLOVER ADAMS A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life

THE AGE OF AUSTERITY How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics

Dykstra, Natalie Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (288 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 8, 2012 978-0-618-87385-2

A scholar’s debut recounts the life and troubling death of a Gilded Age woman. In the Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C., a brooding, bronze figure marks the too-early grave of Marion Hooper “Clover” Adams (1843–1885), known, if at all, to posterity as the wife of a distinguished man and as a suicide. This shrouded, enigmatic Saint-Gaudens masterpiece appears almost to warn off biographers intent on probing the puzzle of Clover’s life. But Dykstra (English/Hope Coll.) proceeds boldly and supplies us with all the recoverable details, even if the mystery remains. A child of privilege in Transcendental Boston, Clover received the best progressive education then available to young women. She came of age during the Civil War, bold, athletic and passionate about art, reading and foreign languages. She charmed the likes of John Hay, Clarence King, Henry James and, of course, her husband, the celebrated professor, editor and historian Henry Adams, the direct descendant of two presidents. (Indeed, both Henrys modeled characters in their novels, at least in part, on her.) Though she confidently presided over a Washington home that sparkled with wit, 13 years into her marriage she swallowed a lethal chemical used in her photography, a three-year-old avocation for which she was beginning to develop a reputation. Why? Dykstra finds shadows in Clover’s seemingly enviable life: the early death of her poet mother (Clover was only five), the suicide of a favorite aunt and the unusual closeness between Clover and her physician father who died only months before she took her own life. Clover’s childlessness and the infatuation of her husband with a pretty, young and unhappily married friend may also have contributed to the overwhelming depression that marked her final months. Relying on letters and photographs, even the placement of pictures in an album, Dykstra teases all this out, occasionally appearing to over-read clues to Clover’s inner life. Is it significant that Clover used one of the tools of her art to kill herself, or was potassium cyanide merely the death-dealing agent closest to hand? The curtain at least partly raised on a charmed and haunted life. (Author tour to New York, Boston, Washington, D.C.)

Edsall, Thomas Byrne Doubleday (208 pp.) $24.95 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-385-53519-9

New Republic and National Journal correspondent Edsall (Public Affairs Journalism/Columbia Univ.; Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive For Permanent Power, 2006, etc.) returns with a heavily documented elaboration of his thesis that austerity will continue to polarize the country. The author pulls few punches in this grim account of where we are and where we’re heading. From the first page (“A brutish future stands before us”), he points repeatedly to the essential conflict in the country: In periods of austerity, the haves will fight desperately to keep their assets; the have-nots will suffer. Edsall argues that President Obama fell into a GOP pit when he focused on debts and deficits, traditional Republican issues (at least when they are not in power); he handed the agenda to them, and the power-shifting midterm elections of 2010 granted the GOP the political clout they’d lost in 2008. Throughout, Edsall marshals statistical data (the text is chockablock with charts and graphs) to quantify what has become common political sense: The Left and the Right are fundamentally different—not just politically but economically, morally and psychologically. He recognizes the monolithic character of the GOP legislators and the elasticity of the Democrats. Republican voters, he writes, do not want cuts in Medicare, Social Security and defense spending (programs from which they benefit), but they are willing and often eager to support cuts in programs that principally benefit the poor. Edsall examines a number of key events that illustrate the divide: Medicaid cuts in Arizona, anti-immigration laws, busing conflicts in North Carolina, the flow of jobs overseas and more. Although the author begins in fairly evenhanded fashion, the current of his argument eventually runs to the left. Perhaps too Lefty for the Righties, but a stark snapshot of the present and a dark view of the future.

THE POWER STRUGGLE OVER AFGHANISTAN An Inside Look at What Went Wrong...and What We Can Do to Fix It Eide, Kai Skyhorse Publishing (320 pp.) $24.95 | Jan. 18, 2012 978-1-61608-464-6

A former UN envoy to Afghanistan takes stock of his uneven, bracing twoyear tour. As the special representative to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2010, veteran Norwegian ambassador Eide presided over a tumultuous 2084

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“A highly pertinent, deeply damning indictment of the flourishing of the world’s ‘second-oldest profession.’” from the shadow world

time overseeing presidential elections, as well as a transitional era between American administrations. He calls his tour “the two most dramatic years since the fall of the Taliban in 2001,” largely as the result of tension between Afghan authorities (and insurgents) and the international community. Preferred by President Karzai for his “mild-mannered” ways, Eide agreed with the president that more authority should be transferred to Afghan institutions in the administering of humanitarian and development aid. The UN mandate for the Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) was to be a more aggressive leader in coordinating aid, while toeing a fine line between civilian and military organizations. Eide had to fill vacant positions and give the UN mission more political direction, while maintaining its independence (he reminds readers that the UN had been in Afghanistan since the late 1940s, not since 9/11). While the Bush administration was eager and ready to give the mission monetary support, there was little regulation of that bounty, resulting in highly paid middlemen and rampant corruption. With the arrival President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, a more rigorous accountability ensued, with something that looked like a real strategy—“in many ways similar to ours,” writes Eide. The author considers at length the international monitoring of the 2009 presidential elections (he depicts a remarkably close, frank relationship with Karzai), the rise of insurgency, often as the result of local resentment over the international presence, and a rapprochement with a (changed) Taliban. Eide writes persuasively from the Afghan point of view and urges the need for “Afghan ownership.” Clear-eyed, pertinent account from a leader who derives his experience from the trenches.

THE SHADOW WORLD Inside the Global Arms Trade

Feinstein, Andrew Farrar, Straus and Giroux (560 pp.) $30.00 | Nov. 11, 2011 978-0-374-20838-7

A highly pertinent, deeply damning indictment of the flourishing of the world’s “second-oldest profession.” Global military expenditure was priced at $16.2 trillion in 2010—”$235 for every person on the planet,” writes South African journalist and former ANC member of Parliament Feinstein (After the Party: Corruption, the ANC and South Africa’s Uncertain Future, 2009). The trade in conventional arms, the legitimate tool of government (as opposed to weapons of mass destruction), engenders a secretive world, mainly due to enormous profits and the advance of nefarious political aims. The author focuses on the black market as well as the so-called grey market, where the government is involved “through legal channels, but undertaken covertly.” He methodically examines the construction of the global military-industrial complex, including the breakup of the British arms trade after World War II, exemplified by British Aerospace’s (now BAE Systems) courting of Saudi contracts, and the inroads of the |

Americans in the early ’60s. After the war, the Americans had incorporated many key ex-Nazis into the West German intelligence service—e.g., Reinhard Gehlen and Gerhard Mertins, who secured beneficial arms deals for the U.S. and Germany. Feinstein looks closely at Margaret Thatcher and BA’s deal with Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia in the mid ’80s; and the pernicious legacy of Lockheed Martin and middlemen John Murtha, Charlie Wilson and Adnan Khashoggi. The author sees the collapse of the Soviet Union as key in changing the way arms dealers did business, since small, fractured states became the new clientele of rapacious dealers, from Croatia to Africa to Pakistan. He also provides portraits of the crusading investigators who have pursued these criminal cases—e.g., Helen Garlick of the UK’s Serious Fraud Office. The detail is occasionally overwhelming, but Feinstein’s book is sound, timely and invaluable. Diligent readers will be rewarded.

UNORTHODOX The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots Feldman, Deborah Simon & Schuster (272 pp.) $23.00 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-1-4391-8700-5

A young woman’s coming-of-age and escape from a sect of Hasidic Judaism. In her debut memoir, Feldman recounts the many struggles endured while growing up within a particularly orthodox branch of Hasidic Judaism. The daughter of mentally unstable parents, the author was raised by her Hasidic grandparents, whose allegiance to their religious and cultural traditions often proved problematic for the young Feldman. Cloistered from the secular world, the author’s pinhole-sized view of New York kept her at a continual disadvantage, providing a singular narrative for understanding the world beyond her neighborhood. As she matured, Feldman became more aware of the inner turmoil “brewing madly between my own thoughts and the teachings I was absorbing.” As she continued to question her faith, she soon recognized the tyrannical aspects of the traditions, the culmination of which led to an arranged marriage for her and another young Hasid, Eli. Despite the sect’s blessing, the marriage soon faltered, primarily due to sexual problems spurred by an utter lack of knowledge by both partners. The Hasidic community’s uncompromising insularity rendered the young couple woefully unprepared for their relationship, as well as the parental responsibilities that followed soon after. After Eli continued to place his strict observance of Judaic tradition above the health of his pregnant wife, Feldman acknowledged her own unimportance in their relationship. Having endured her secondclass citizenship long enough, she took her child and fled to the outside world, basking in her newfound liberty. It was a bold move, but Feldman doesn’t fully capture the significance of her departure. A remarkable tale told somewhat unremarkably. (12 black-and-white photos)

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DISTRUST THAT PARTICULAR FLAVOR

Gibson, William Putnam (272 pp.) $26.95 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-399-15843-8

Cyberpunk’s patron saint of prose proves that his reality is every bit as trippy as his fiction. Gibson’s gift for language is such that banal discussions of Steely Dan and even eBay easily take on otherworldly aspects. In his universe, Singapore is left of Pluto, London lies in the Crab Nebula and Tokyo, of course, might well have its own extra-dimensional zip code. Fans of Mona Lisa Overdrive, Neuromancer and Gibson’s other popular sci-fi novels will not find this at all strange. There is an element of exclusivity to Gibson’s writing that almost lies at the polar end of exposition—or as the author might write, “geared in some achingly complex sphere within sphere way.” The illumination in this text comes from the extent to which the complex author reveals himself to be entirely ordinary, just an average Joe trying to make a living off his writing. Recollections of learning the craft, avoiding the Vietnam War, meeting a woman and getting married show that the man who pioneered “cyberspace” (while actually coining the term) is actually just a normal guy. The welcome humanity seeping through the cracks of this matrix serve as an intriguing counterpoint to the esoteric musings heaped on everything from Japanese movie stars to curious storefront windows. Other targets of the author’s wonder include the Internet, Futurism and one dude’s particularly snazzy pair of jeans. Gibson bolsters the good feelings even further by following up each of these original entries with a brief explanation of what he was thinking about at the time of their creation. In this case, understanding the writer a little better makes the fantastic thoughts emanating from his head all the more captivating and strange. A provocative, surprising look at the lesser-known parts of a sci-fi superstar’s writing career.

THE CARTOON GUIDE TO CALCULUS

Gonick, Larry Illus. by Gonick, Larry Harper/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $18.99 paperback | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-06-168909-3 A tour of calculus from the polymath whose illustrated guides have illuminated a wide range of subjects, from genetics and sex to the environment and the universe. This time out, unfortunately, Muse cartoonist Gonick’s (The Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part 2, 2009, etc.) presentation is labored, the cartoons are primarily decorative and the course is tough. To begin with, calculus requires four 2086

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years of high-school math, which the author reprises in the first 50 pages. For many readers this will be a slog through algebra, trigonometry, exponentials, function theory, etc. While most texts map equations onto lines or curves on a standard x-y axis, Gonick introduces parallel lines with arrows connecting an x value on one line to its f(x) value on the parallel line. This approach is particularly unhelpful when you want to visualize, say, minute changes of position (on the y axis) over time (on the x axis). Nor does the author discuss fundamental concepts like continuity or maxima and minima until well into the chapters on the derivative and differential calculus. While he does highlight fundamental theorems and classic rules, Gonick devotes too much space to how-to manipulations like how to differentiate inverse functions. The narrative improves when the author introduces the concept of the integral as the sum of skinny rectangles under a curve, and Gonick provides many helpful, practical examples of how calculus is used. This is no idiot’s guide to math, but it could be useful as a supplement to a standard course in calculus.

THE WRECKING CREW The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best Kept Secret Hartman, Kent Dunne/St. Martin’s (304 pp.) $25.99Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-312-61974-9 978-1-4299-4137-2 e-book

The saga of the first-call Los Angeles session musicians who powered some of the biggest hits of the 1960s and ’70s. In truth, the Wrecking Crew isn’t the secret it once was: Drummers Hal Blaine and the late Earl Palmer penned books about their lives in the studio, and a documentary about the unit by Denny Tedesco, son of Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, has made film festival rounds. It’s nonetheless a fascinating story, albeit one not always well served by Hartman’s approach. After kicking off with background on three key players—Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye and guitarist/pop star-to-be Glen Campbell—the author delineates the group’s genesis as top-paid hired guns on producer Phil Spector’s elaborate “Wall of Sound” sessions. Subsequently, a core unit of adept but uncredited pros became go-to backup musicians for a seemingly endless round of L.A. record dates, playing behind acts ranging from the Beach Boys to Simon & Garfunkel. Hartman notes that in the Crew’s heyday, record labels called the shots, and groups like the Byrds, the Monkees, the Union Gap and the Association were compelled to reluctantly drop their instruments in favor of the anonymous studio aces’ polished work. Only after the wind shifted in the ’70s in favor of self-contained bands did the Crew’s impact wane, and its members moved on to film and TV gigs. Hartman makes a compelling case for the skill of his subjects, who often fabricated the crucial hooks that brought their clients fame. Some chapters, such as one about the recording of

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“Jobs was an American original, and Isaacson’s impeccably researched, vibrant biography—fully endorsed by his subject—does his legacy proud.” from steve jobs

“Bridge Over Troubled Water,” are rich in fly-on-the-wall detail. However, the musicians frequently disappear within their own story, as Hartman chooses to focus on others, like producer Jimmy Bowen and songwriter Jimmy Webb, who played major roles in hits they worked on. Some Crewmen, like drummer Jim Gordon, a schizophrenic who murdered his mother, receive indepth treatment, but too many are names merely mentioned in passing. The book’s greatest failure is the format, which weaves interview and source material into a novelistic structure with re-created dialogue that often falls flat. These gifted players sadly remain too faceless. (16-page black-and-white insert)

BORROW The American Way of Debt

Hyman, Louis Vintage (224 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-307-74168-4 978-0-307-74490-6 e-book From an economic historian, a timely look at the evolution of consumer debt

in the United States. Staggering debt, specifically in the form of student loans, accounts for many of the numbers swelling today’s Occupy Wall Street movement. Having graduated into a market where there are no jobs, young Americans feel bitterly duped at having pointlessly incurred the sort of “good” debt traditionally assumed by previous generations, confident that dividends would be forthcoming. How did we reach this pass? Hyman (Industrial and Labor Relations/Cornell Univ.; Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink, 2011) takes us almost decade by decade through the history of consumer debt, beginning just prior to the 1920s when individual borrowing still carried a moral stigma. The advent of the automobile changed all that. Soon, buying cars and houses on credit—all OK according to sophisticated financial advisors as long as the purchases conformed to a “budget” easily calculated when incomes were rising and jobs rarely lost—became a mark, not of being unable to pay, but rather of trustworthiness and stalwart character. Properly understood, borrowing is neither good nor bad in itself. Rather, it’s a part of American capitalism, “more than numbers, it is a set of relationships between people and institutions” well within our power to regulate. From the time when lenders and borrowers stared at each other across a desk to today’s impersonal transactions where debt can be traded “like any other commodity,” Hyman fills his narrative with a variety of tales that help us put the current economic turmoil in perspective. Confirmed free-marketeers will balk at portions of his analysis, thinking he’s gone too easy, for example, on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and hold his big-picture solutions—new federal agencies to evaluate businesses the same way the FHA created standards for homes and to coordinate the secondary market for securitization of business loans—at arm’s length, even if |

they agree with his goal of stimulating business investment. For the most part, however, this is an evenhanded account aimed at the general reader baffled by today’s economic crisis. From Model-Ts to TVs to McMansions, Hyman uncovers the credit story behind all the glittering prizes and offers a prescription to prevent the American Dream from turning into the American Nightmare. (Agent: Eric Lupfer)

STEVE JOBS

Isaacson, Walter Simon & Schuster (448 pp.) $35.00 | Oct. 24, 2011 978-1-4516-4853-9 978-1-4516-4855-3 e-book An unforgettable tale of a one-of-akind visionary. With a unique ability to meld arts and technology and an uncanny understanding of consumers’ desires, Apple founder Steve Jobs (1955–2011) played a major role in transforming not just computer technology, but a variety of industries. When Jobs died earlier this month, the outpouring of emotion from the general public was surprisingly intense. His creations, which he knew we wanted before we did, were more than mere tools; everything from the iPod to the MacBook Pro touched us on a gut level and became an integral part of our lives. This was why those of us who were hip to Steve Jobs the Inventor were so moved when he passed. However, those who had an in-depth knowledge of Steve Jobs the Businessman might not have taken such a nostalgic view of his life. According to acclaimed biographer and Aspen Institute CEO Isaacson (American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and a Heroes of a Hurricane, 2009, etc.) in this consistently engaging, warts-and-all biography, Jobs was not necessarily the most pleasant boss. We learn about Jobs’ predilection for humiliating his co-workers into their best performances; his habit of profanely dismissing an underling’s idea, only to claim it as his own later; and his ability to manipulate a situation with an evangelical, fact-mangling technique that friends and foes alike referred to as his “reality distortion field.” But we also learn how—through his alternative education, his pilgrimage to India, a heap of acid trips and a fateful meeting with engineering genius Steve Wozniak—Jobs became Jobs and Apple became Apple. Though the narrative could have used a tighter edit in a few places, Isaacson’s portrait of this complex, often unlikable genius is, to quote Jobs, insanely great. Jobs was an American original, and Isaacson’s impeccably researched, vibrant biography—fully endorsed by his subject—does his legacy proud.

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WHATEVER IT IS, I DON’T LIKE IT The Best of Howard Jacobson

Jacobson, Howard Bloomsbury (368 pp.) $18.00 paperback | Mar. 1, 2012 978-1-60819-798-9

The 2010 winner of the Man Booker Prize serves up selections from his columns at the Independent. Although the essays are uniform in length, they range over a wide variety of Jacobson’s (No More Mr. Nice Guy, 2011, etc.) interests, passions, peeves, quirks and queries. Volcanoes, terrorists, Kafka, opera, the BBC, royals, weeping, beach books, the Holocaust, art, Dickens, bicycles, Americans, British politics, Leonard Cohen, Sarah Palin—these and numerous other topics bang about in Jacobson’s mind until they escape into the world. A number of stylistic and thematic similarities emerge. He adores Shakespeare, and specific allusions to the Bard appear often—as do playful uses of quotations, especially from Hamlet. Dickens is another favorite. But Jacobson also writes several times about the importance of literature that challenges rather than entertains or sedates. Brains grow when engaged and stagnate when soaked in treacle. He also writes about how governments and laws exist to make certain that the best sides of our nature hold tight reins on the worst—e.g., our desires for revenge and for harshness of all kinds. There are numerous personal pieces, too—about the death of a good friend, playwright Simon Gray; about the tenseness, then reconciliation, with Harold Pinter; about learning at a wake that he was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. And there’s an amusing piece about his fondness of Wagner, a fondness not shared by his wife. Jacobson is certainly thoughtful and emotional but, like Mark Twain, can jolt you with laughter when you least expect it. Rich and flavorful—best ingested in small amounts so the savory pleasures linger.

A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND The Glorious Story of a Rowdy Nation

Jenkins, Simon PublicAffairs (384 pp.) $35.00 | Nov. 22, 2011 978-1-61039-142-9 978-0-7382-1573-0 e-book

In a slim volume, Jenkins (Thatcher and Sons, 2006, etc.) summarizes England’s past. Beginning in 410 with the rise of the Saxons, the author divides the chapters into time frames, each focusing only on the important events of that period. This allows Jenkins to provide a comprehensive discussion of time periods and trends while still maintaining the brevity needed to keep the book under 400 pages. The author sprints through many periods of fascinating English history; 2088

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Queen Elizabeth I’s tempestuous reign receives only 15 pages. Jenkins doesn’t fully illuminate the history, but he excels at creating an informative and concise narrative of England’s past and present. The book is elevated by the author’s engaging writing style, and he does a remarkable job with English royal history from 1066 to 1714, demonstrating how the individual kings and queens fit together into one coherent story. As the monarchs give way to prime ministers, the narrative loses some of its tautness, meandering through the last three centuries of English politics. Though it still provides a solid overview, it loses much of its narrative momentum. The author ends with a meditation on the reasons for England’s remarkable success as a country and his thoughts on its future. Though obviously well researched, the book would have benefitted from Jenkins’ picks for further reading on selected topics. A broad, accessible history for those readers not well versed in English history.

HONOR IN THE DUST Theodore Roosevelt, War in the Philippines, and the Rise and Fall of America’s Imperial Dream Jones, Gregg NAL/Berkley (400 pp.) $24.95 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-451-22904-5

A journalist provides a balanced look at America’s bloody effort to annex the Philippines in the early 20th century. Former Dallas Morning News correspondent Jones (Red Revolution: Inside the Philippine Guerrilla Movement, 1989) gives both sides to the issues and their adherents—though he begins with a graphic description of American soldiers administering water torture to a Filipino captive (the issue of military misconduct recurs repeatedly). Jones swiftly summarizes the war with Spain that gave birth to the events in the Philippines, paying careful attention to rising star Theodore Roosevelt and his exploits with the Rough Riders. We see President William McKinley as something of a ditherer; he was reluctant to make decisions that he knew would cost lives. Once Spain agreed to surrender their sway in the Philippines, the Americans snatched the chance for expansion. President Roosevelt was no ditherer. The Filipinos, initially grateful, quickly realized that they were not going to retain sovereignty, and an insurgency swelled. Soon thousands of American military personnel flooded the islands, and the action turned brutal, sanguinary and punitive. Torture, executions, destruction of private property and the burning of entire villages—all were done by the U.S. in the cause of victory. Jones describes the incidents, chronicles the reactions back home (Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie were passionately opposed to U. S. involvement) and charts the flight of the political football as Republicans and Democrats fought to control the public perception of events. One major result was the elevated status of the Marines, whose days had seemed numbered beforehand. A well-researched, generally disinterested account whose parallels to today are obvious.

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PANTHER BABY A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention

Joseph, Jamal Algonquin (272 pp.) $23.95 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-1-56512-950-4

Joseph (Tupac Shakur Legacy, 2006) offers an inspiring, unapologetic account of his transformation from armed revolutionary to revolutionary artist. In the late 1960s, the young, gifted author was inevitably drawn to the Black Panthers. Amid the dangerous life in the Bronx ghetto, he writes, “nobody was badder than the Panthers.” Their usual apparel—black berets, black leather jackets and guns—portrayed a romantic image of a group serious about revolution during a time under “a revolutionary magic spell where anything seemed possible and victory over the oppressor was assured.” Soon the Panthers became Joseph’s whole life. Beyond the image, he learned, they were a group of men and women thoughtful in their ideology and dedicated to serving the community through schools and breakfast programs. Internecine power struggles, fueled by government infiltration and violence, broke the Panthers apart, however, and Joseph found himself going underground and finally to prison. He remained there for the next 20 years or so, a man-child coming of age behind bars. In prison, he discovered art and began to write poetry and plays, and he formed a theater group of prisoners who performed his plays about the life around them. Quickly becoming an established artist and drawn to academia, Joseph used these credentials to help found Harlem’s IMPACT Repertory Theatre, where thousands of young people experience music, drama, dance and film. Improbably, this led Joseph—and, he insists, IMPACT—to an Academy Award nomination for Best Song. Though the author’s commitment to revolutionary ends remained intact, the means to that end had changed. Not all will find Joseph’s politics compelling, but readers will draw inspiration from his story of struggle and transformation.

THINKING THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Judt, Tony with Snyder, Timothy Penguin Press (448 pp.) $35.00 | Feb. 6, 2012 978-1-59420-323-7 Two brilliant scholars parse the politics and economics of the past 100 years. That could be a dry task, but for the quiet passion of Judt (The Memory Chalet, 2010, etc.) and Snyder (History/Yale Univ.; Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, 2010, etc.), who spent most of 2009 talking about, in Snyder’s summary, “the limitations (and capacity for renewal) of political ideas, and |

the moral failures (and duties) of intellectuals in politics.” The authors consider these questions within the framework of 20thcentury history and the biography of Judt, who died in 2010. Born in London in 1948, the son of immigrant Jews, Judt grew up with the modern welfare state, benefiting from its meritocratic educational system to attend Cambridge and pursue academic studies focused first on French history, then Eastern Europe after World War II. He was an ardent youthful Zionist who later severely criticized Israeli policies, creating a furor in 2003 with an essay arguing for a one-state solution to the Palestinian problem. Judt reluctantly took on the role of public intellectual because of a sense—clearly shared by Snyder, their conversations reveal—that the problems currently plaguing America in particular and the advanced industrial economies in general cannot be meaningfully addressed without understanding their deep roots in a history that stretches back to World War I. This history includes the ravages inflicted by unrestrained capitalism, the appeal and very similar failings of communism and fascism, the misguided uses to which the Holocaust has been put and the post-WWII social bargain that unraveled in the ‘70s. Judt and Snyder analyze these and many other historical issues with lofty erudition matched by unabashed polemicism—Judt skewers David Brooks as a know-nothing and characterizes Thomas Friedman’s support of the Iraq war as “contemptible”). Social democracy has rarely had better-informed, more ethically rigorous advocates than these two distinguished men. For readers who like to be challenged, this searching look at our recent history provides a firm intellectual and moral foundation for understanding the dilemmas of our time.

JACQUELINE KENNEDY Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy

Kennedy, Caroline & Beschloss, Michael Hyperion (400 pp.) $60.00 | Sep. 14, 2011 978-1-4013-2425-4

The late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis speaks candidly about life in Camelot. Just before publication of this collection of interviews with journalist/historian Arthur Schlesinger, conducted in 1964, a few leaked bits of conversation revealed that Jacqueline was content to leave the politics to her husband. This led to Kennedy’s being lambasted as a lightweight at best, a betrayer of feminism at worst. The interviews, gathered in transcribed form with elegant introductions by first daughter Caroline Kennedy and historian Michael Beschloss, indicate that she was anything but a lightweight, even if, as Beschloss wryly notes, “well-bred young women of Jacqueline’s generation were not encouraged to sound like intellectuals.” Jackie preceded the generation of feminists that would soon arise (and then became a role model, speaking frankly in Ms. and other movement publications). But the real defense comes through her words here, gathered only a few months after JFK’s assassination. They reveal a nimble if worried mind. Personally,

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JFK wasn’t the easiest man to live with, due in part to the sour stomach born of nerves and “those awful years campaigning…living on a milkshake and a hot dog,” as well as the terrible general health that he bore stoically in public but that caused him private agony. Jackie is shrewd in her assessments about people: Stewart Udall rose to head the Interior Department, she notes, because he delivered Arizona to JFK in the 1960 election—but then emerged as a real leader. She also provides on-the-spot commentary about unfolding world events, such as the ever-more-urgent specter of Vietnam and a divided Germany (the only ambassadors JFK “really disliked” were those from Germany and Pakistan). All politics is local—and personal. These interviews are invaluable in providing a fly-on-the-wall view of life in the Kennedy White House—and there has never been so intimate a view from a First Lady’s perspective. (Includes 8 CDs)

AMERICAN SNIPER The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper In U.S. Military History Kyle, Chris with McEwen, Scott and DeFelice, Jim Morrow/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $21.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-06-208237-4

Memoir of America’s most prolific sniper, with an emphasis on the grisly, unpredictable nature of contemporary warfare. With more than 250 confirmed kills in Iraq and several citations for bravery, including two Silver Stars, Kyle may well be the “most lethal” soldier in American military history. Fortunately, this memoir (written with co-authors Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice) takes a more unassuming and approachable tone in narrating his improbable journey from a modest Texas childhood to becoming a sniper with SEAL Team 3 and serving four deployments in Iraq: “my so-called ‘legend’ [has] a lot to do with luck.” As with other recent books about the SEALs, they are depicted as a breed apart: hyper-competitive, with the most intense training, hazing and bonding rituals (the latter involving much drinking and fighting). Kyle is unapologetic about his own conservative persona, and perhaps not the ideal spokesman for military public relations. The highlights of the narrative are the grim yet often funny accounts of Kyle’s violent battles all over Iraq, most of which are described crisply. The author describes his participation in numerous urban battles, such as the protracted struggles for Ramadi and Fallujah, and asserts that elite operators like himself contributed to Iraq’s evolving stability—”it took violence of action to create a situation where there could be peace.” Kyle provides a few surprising moments, as when he writes eloquently about his fellow veterans, including SEALs killed or wounded in battle. “There’s no reason someone who has fought for their country should be homeless or jobless,” he writes. Kyle’s wife offers her counterpoint narrative in italicized passages, driving home the surreal life of difficulty bestowed on professional warriors’ loved ones. 2090

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This aggressively written account of frontline combat, with plenty of action and technical nitty-gritty, should appeal to conservative readers and military buffs.

CRAZY ENOUGH A Memoir Large, Storm Free Press (288 pp.) $25.00 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-4391-9240-5

Indie singer and reality-TV star Large unloads stories about her volatile life. Best recognized as a contender on Rock Star: Supernova, Large has the heart of a true exhibitionist. She wrote and starred in a short-lived one-woman show off-Broadway, but this project marks her first literary foray, and her memoir pulls no punches. The book opens with the author’s girlhood revelation about her hypersexuality, and goes on to describe her emotional, messy relationship with her mentally ill mother. Now in her early 40s, Large writes with brutal honesty about visiting her mother in mental hospitals, as well as being told by doctors that she would grow up to be just like her. That prediction had an enormous effect on her psyche, and she came out swinging against every part of herself she identified as being similar to her mother. Defensive to the point of violence, she was picked on at school, and she perpetuated mean gossip by acting out in ways that included profligate drug use and having sex with strangers from a very early age. “When I was high I felt like a rock star,” Large writes—although after she began to develop her singing talent, it became acting like a rock star that led her to feel like one. She eventually fled New York and now lives in Portland, and she regularly tours with full-time musicians. The author’s prose is casual and vernacular, rife with descriptions that are not for the faint of heart. Though not necessarily likable, she comes across as authentic and unapologetic. A no-holds-barred coming-of-age story replete with mental illness, drugs and sex.

DA VINCI’S GHOST The Untold Story of the World’s Most Famous Drawing Lester, Toby Free Press (304 pp.) $26.99 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-1-4391-8923-8

Atlantic editor Lester (The Fourth Part of the World: The Epic Story of History’s Greatest Map, 2009, etc.) returns with another narrative-on-crank, this time about Leonardo da Vinci’s ubiquitous drawing known officially as his Vitruvian Man. The author has a fondness of superlatives (see his subtitles), but in the case of da Vinci, it’s hard to avoid them. Vitruvian Man—the

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“An enlightening, scary journey.” from boomerang

drawing of a man, arms and legs in two different positions inside a circle and a square—is named for Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, a Roman military and civil engineer, whose Ten Books on Architecture proposed the idea that the human body was a microcosm—learn the body’s secrets and design and you learn the universe’s. Providing many useful illustrations, Lester shows how versions of this idea appeared in the works and drawings of numerous others before da Vinci eventually pinned it down on a sheet of paper not much larger than a standard piece of office stationery. The author charts da Vinci’s career, noting his autodidacticism, his phenomenal desire to know everything, and his decision to keep notebooks and fill them with ideas, drawings, plans and observations. We also see a man who had trouble with deadlines: Da Vinci’s own work interested him far more than his commissions. Lester is fond of the bait-and-switch tactic. For example, he tells us about a visit to an archive in Venice to see the original drawing; then, at the threshold, he changes the subject, and we wait about 200 pages for the viewing, which, oddly, is underwritten and anticlimactic. The author also likes portentous endings and beginnings to chapters. Leonardo-lite, but the illustrations are illuminating and da Vinci’s life is inspiring. (Author tour to Boston, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.)

BOOMERANG Travels In the New Third World Lewis, Michael Norton (224 pp.) $25.95 | Oct. 3, 2011 978-0-393-08181-7

A world tour of nations that have collapsed financially or that played a role in the collapse of others. In his previous book, The Big Short (2010), Lewis dug deep into the housing-market failure that precipitated the economic collapse of 2007-08. Here the author tours Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany and California to compose a broader picture of what went wrong. Like Lewis’ other bestsellers, this book is alternately wry, snarky, laugh-out-loud humorous, serious and, most importantly, filled with insights. The author is a master at explaining financially complex realms by casting them as narratives of individuals. In each place, he finds people famous, infamous and nearly anonymous who can fairly be rendered as villains or heroes. Each chapter started as an article for Vanity Fair, yet the seemingly disparate features coalesce nicely in the book. Lewis is willing to court danger by generalizing about the characteristics within each nation that led to unexpected consequences. As usual, the author delivers a nice balance of trenchant analysis and lucid writing. In regards to Greece, the most distressed nation of all, “it turned out, what the Greeks wanted to do, once the lights went out and they were alone in the dark with a pile of borrowed money, was turn their government into a piñata stuffed with fantastic sums and give as many citizens as possible a whack at it.” An enlightening, scary journey. |

THE ACCIDENTAL FEMINIST How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice

Lord, M.G. Walker (192 pp.) $22.00Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-8027-1669-9

A chatty, name-dropping little work based on the notion that actors are, or become, the characters they portray in film and on stage. Like those who think of actor John Wayne as a real-life HeMan, Jimmy Stewart as a sort of grown-up Scout master and Humphrey Bogart as a genuine tough guy, cultural critic Lord (Masters of Professional Writing Program/Univ. of Southern California; Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science, 2005, etc.) sees a feminist in Elizabeth Taylor. The author analyzes Taylor’s portrayal of characters from the spunky little girl who rode her horse to victory in National Velvet to the strident middle-aged wife in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and in her stage performance as the fierce Regina in The Little Foxes. Into what is essentially a glowing mini-biography of the actress, Lord inserts detailed plot summaries of Taylor’s films, which she admits to having watched repeatedly, along with tidbits about Taylor’s several husbands and some of her fellow actors: Richard Burton, Eddie Fisher, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson and others. Besides finding material for her thesis in the scripts of Taylor’s movies, the author interviewed people who knew her, worked with her, were related to her or wrote about her, including gossip columnist Liz Smith and Burton’s daughter Kate. In Lord’s view, the actress’ work in the fight against AIDS in the 1980s demonstrates that roles played by Taylor as a young woman influenced her thinking about social justice as an older woman. Not central to the book but an informatory sidelight is the author’s account of the Hays Code, which dictated the moral content of Hollywood films from the early ’30s through most of the ’60s. It forbade nudity, adultery, sexual perversion, miscegenation, drug use and irreverence to religion and the flag. How the code shaped scripts and how directors worked around the restrictions is a story worth telling. Light reading most likely to appeal to star-struck fans of People magazine. (8-page color insert)

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h c h a r l e s j. s h i e l d s

AND SO IT GOES:

Kurt Vonnegut: A Life Charles J. Shields Henry Holt (528 pp.) $30.00 Nov. 8, 2011 9780805086935

Few American writers were as popular in the late 1960s and ’70s as Kurt Vonnegut, the ironist and satirist who captured the zeitgeist in such brilliantly authority-defying novels as Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five. And few writers, it would appear, were as full of despair and self-doubt, born of the certainty, on Vonnegut’s part, that he was forever to be an outsider. Though a teacher at one of America’s foremost writing programs, the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a bestselling writer for much of his career, Vonnegut never seemed to shake those misgivings. Beloved but reserved, stylistically simple but psychologically complex, Vonnegut provides endless enigmas for the critic and student. We caught up with Vonnegut biographer Charles J. Shields, author of And So It Goes, to talk about what he learned about his subject while writing his book. Q: You mention early on that you spent several years writing this biography. Unusually, it started, it seems, as an authorized project, but then encountered resistance once Kurt Vonnegut died. Why do you suppose that happened? A: Kurt’s permission wasn’t enough for his estate or his widow. I received a note from him in October 2006 shortly after we began working together. It began, “Please proceed with my biography. What a pal!” The first sign of trouble came the following month when he called and said his wife was giving him “holy hell about this book.” I offered to send him a letter promising him the right to review the manuscript and “remove anything that is untrue or hurtful to a family member.” He said, “That would be so nice.” Then shortly after his death in April 2007, his longtime agent and co-executor of the estate, Don Farber, remarked to my agent, “Kurt could do what he wanted while he was alive.” In June, I went to New York to meet with Farber, and he cancelled the appointment. A few months later, the estate hired someone to write a biography of Vonnegut, but there was a falling out and it never happened. When I sought permission from the estate to quote short passages from about 13 percent of the 1,500 letters I collected, the estate refused.

A: The chapters on the Battle of the Bulge, and especially on Dresden, were emotionally very hard to write. I interviewed men who fought at the Bulge. A few, I’m convinced, are still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. One stuttered as he tried to talk about his experiences; another began 2092

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Q: You bring forth many incidents and anecdotes from across the course of Vonnegut’s long life. Is there any one of them, any single moment, that you would say best represents his character overall? A: He caught one of his teenage daughters kissing her boyfriend in the barn on the Vonneguts’ Cape Cod property. He raged at both of them, and when she tried to apologize, he fell to his knees and imitated her pleading in a sing-song voice. She was so shocked she didn’t know what to think. Vonnegut was caught in liminality—he was a boy-man with unresolved issues about his worth and competence. I think that’s why young people believed he was speaking to them—they saw him as their ally. Q: Was there anything particularly surprising—for you and/or us—that you learned about Vonnegut while researching and writing your book? A: Kurt Vonnegut is often likened to Mark Twain. That was a deliberate choice on his part—Kurt dressed in white suits at the beginning of his popularity. Twain was a brand and an immediately recognizable one, which to Vonnegut, a former public relations man for General Electric, had real value for getting attention. It was surprising to me how consciously Vonnegut performed as Twain, and how ironic it was that Samuel Clemens performed as Twain, too. The similarity between the two writers is mainly how they shared a particular persona, not their writing. Q: Would you care to make any bets on how Vonnegut will be thought of, say, 20 years to come? Will he still be read as widely as today? A: As long as there are young adults who are beginning to question authority, who realize that a lot of conventional wisdom is nonsense, who believe that they are misunderstood, Vonnegut will have readers. He addressed important questions, paradoxes and injustices. Critics who label him as a science-fiction novelist or a cult writer don’t appreciate how hard it is to propel novels with ideas, instead of relying on plot, or even character. He was a high-wire performer, and audiences will always want to watch and be thrilled. –By Gregory McNamee

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PH OTO CO U RT E SY O F JE N FA R IE L LO

Q: Apart from that difficulty, were there any other stumbling blocks—any particularly vexing parts of the book, say, that took longer to sort out than others?

to tell me about the fight and then said abruptly, “I just can’t go back there,” and hung up. Men who were in Dresden with Vonnegut tended to have long gaps in their memory, almost like blackouts. Writing about the pattern bombing of Dresden and its aftermath was so upsetting that I lost weight and had bad dreams.


THE END OF NORMAL A Wife’s Anguish, a Widow’s New Life

Mack, Stephanie Madoff with Jones, Tamara Blue Rider Press (256 pp.) $26.95 | Oct. 20, 2011 978-0-399-15816-2

Cringingly sad account of the fall of the house of Madoff by the second wife of the eldest son. A former assistant to designer Narciso Rodriguez, the author married Mark Madoff, a senior manager at Bernie L. Madoff Investment Securities, in 2004. She settled in for a comfortable marriage and motherhood in their tony Soho loft and enjoyed a close relationship with Mark’s family—even though she had to jostle for her own place in the “pecking order.” In fact, she was seven months’ pregnant with their second child in December 2008, when her father-in-law confessed to his two sons that “it’s all one big lie” and that he was going to give out Christmas bonuses early in order to circumvent authorities before he had to turn himself in. However, the sons went to the feds first, and even though “they had no proof, no documents, no insider knowledge,” they convinced the authorities that “the King Midas of Wall Street” was a fraud. The author reveals that she knows very little about the financial shenanigans of her father-in-law, only that Bernie was practicing a shameful Ponzi scheme; she maintains a kind of childlike distance from it all. She and Mark remained mystified and resentful that Bernie’s wife would stand by her husband rather than take their side, and she reflexively insists that her husband knew nothing of Bernie’s private fund, despite investigations to the contrary. Mark’s suicide in 2010 only compounded the suspicions around him. A tertiary and not-terribly-sympathetic character tells her side of this modern-day Shakespearian tragedy.

THE AMERICAN WAY OF EATING Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table McMillan, Tracie Scribner (288 pp.) $25.00Feb. 21, 2012 978-1-4391-7195-0

An exposé on the production and consumption of food in America. During the course of a year, former City Limits managing editor McMillan examined the process by which food goes from the field to the table. Whether picking bunches of table grapes, sorting peaches or cutting garlic, the author discovered firsthand the rigors of farm labor working alongside Mexicans and other migrant workers struggling to survive on paltry wages. From the fields, she moved to the produce department of a Walmart, “the |

largest grocer in both the U.S. and the world.” McMillan exposes some of the megastore’s behind-the-scenes practices, which allow the company to offer significantly discount prices. One such practice is “crisping,” a method of rehydrating wilted greens so they appear fresh and can be returned to the floor. While working in the prep area, McMillan reflects on “doing returns”: “a perpetually growing stack of crates next to the food prep area crammed with rotting lettuce, moldy berries, slimy greens, expired bags of salad, and wrinkled mushrooms” all waiting to be tabulated as returns before going into a compost bin. McMillan also examines an Applebee’s restaurant, demonstrating how food is cooked and served in one of the nation’s largest restaurant chains. She discovers that much of the food comes prepackaged, frozen or dehydrated (no real surprise to anyone who has eaten at Applebee’s) with the only real cooking being a few seconds in the microwave, where bits of plastic stick to the food and need to be wiped off before serving. Full of personal stories of the daily struggle to put food of any kind on the table in today’s economy, McMillan’s book will force readers to question their own methods of purchasing and preparing food. Attentive foodies may already know much of the information, but on the whole, McMillan provides an eye-opening account of the route much of American food takes from the field to the restaurant table.

WHY CAPITALISM?

Meltzer, Allan H. Oxford Univ. (160 pp.) $21.95Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-19-985957-3

Meltzer (Political Economy/Carnegie Mellon Univ.; A History of the Federal Reserve, Volume 2, Book 1, 1951-1969, 2010, etc.) provides a concise alternative to current economic policies for those who look with suspicion at the writings of economists and financial specialists. The author presents three main reasons why capitalism should be defended: It is the only system that supports both growth and individual freedom; it can adapt to different cultures; and it takes people as they are, not as they are imagined to be. Meltzer compares it to systems like the socialism of the former Soviet Union, and he argues forcefully for the case that capitalism can change and reform itself. He is sharply critical of the way Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner handled the subprime mortgage crisis. For him, such choices have brought the world to an unsustainable economic position, which requires “new rules for monetary policy” that will end excessive American fiscal and monetary expansion, as well as Asia’s reliance on exports to the U.S. He insists that the post–World War II Pax Americana “has now ended,” and the U.S. lacks either domestic or international support for a revival. Meltzer’s new monetary order would include an agreement from the Chinese to change its currency policies, and he believes that the American global military posture ought to be

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THE FIRST LADY OF FLEET STREET The Life of Rachel Beer: Crusading Heiress and Newspaper Pioneer

re-evaluated from the twin standpoints of need and cost, and be brought into line with what the country can afford. The author presents the full array of regulatory instruments available, and he notes that financial failures must be allowed to occur. A lively, politically challenging contribution to a developing discussion on how to change international monetary arrangements.

COMING APART The State of White America, 1960-2010 Murray, Charles Crown Forum (416 pp.) $27.00 | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-307-45342-6

American Enterprise Institute scholar Murray (Real Education, 2008, etc.) considers the chasm between the haves and the have-nots and how the welfare state has wrecked the “founding virtues.” For the first half of the book, the author elaborates on some of the now-well-trod assertions about the “cognitive elite” first promulgated in his book The Bell Curve (1994): that the “new upper class” making up the “most successful 5 percent of adults ages 25 and older” enjoys the highest incomes and IQs, lives in pockets of “SuperZips,” intermarries and ensures that their children constitute the applicant pool for the elite schools and essentially practice “lifestyle choices” that would be approved by the Founding Fathers. These include industriousness, honesty, marriage and religiosity. With the elite isolating themselves in SuperZips and making most of the decisions for the rest of the country (they vote, for example), they have, however, little idea about the lives in the lower strata. Murray creates a detailed comparison between two communities: Belmont, a suburb of Boston inhabited by the aforementioned elite, and Fishtown, outside Philadelphia, where undereducated citizens are mired in low-skill jobs and blighted by a breakdown of the founding virtues—e.g., children out of wedlock and lack of industriousness by able-bodied men. With a plethora of graphs, the author shows that the same problems occurring in places like Fishtown are bleeding into areas like Belmont and contributing to a general erosion of “social capital,” which reflects all of American society, black and white. (“The trends I describe exist independently of ethnic heritage,” he writes, despite the use of an incendiary use of “white America” in the subtitle.) Murray’s mostly straightforward study goes a bit off the rails in the last chapter, in which he slams the advanced welfare state as robbing citizens of personal responsibility, thus “enfeebl[ing] the institutions through which people live satisfying lives.” However, with European states buckling and the U.S. gripped by economic downturn, Murray’s extrapolations may be heeded. Somewhat cautious, nonacademic work meant to persuade broadly and accessibly.

Negev, Eilat and Koren, Yehuda Bantam (368 pp.) $30.00 | Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-553-80743-1 978-0-345-53238-1 e-book

Portrait of two important late-19thcentury English families and their connection to the newspaper industry. Negev and Koren (Lover of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath’s Rival and Ted Hughes’ Doomed Love, 2006, etc.) spend an inordinate amount of time detailing the religious ancestry and great wealth of Rachel Sassoon and her husband Frederick Beer, even though both rejected their Jewish heritage. Not until well into the narrative do the authors finally begin to chronicle how the owners of the Observer and the Sunday Times took active roles in their business. This period was a time of great social and political changes, completely altering the methods of reporting the news. The advent of the telegraph enabled instant news and regular columns from around the world. The socialite pair first became active in the running of their newspapers in the early 1890s, and Rachel maintained her role throughout her husband’s subsequent illness. Over a mere eight years, Rachel’s papers righteously reported women’s issues, the working poor, the Dreyfus Affair, the Boer War and the establishment of the Penny Post. Even as she attempted to maintain a neutral position, her liberal views shaped her newspapers and influenced government and the populace alike. After Frederick’s death in 1901, she ceased her involvement with the papers entirely. Even so, her influence on journalism and particularly women in journalism ensured her place in history, even though those tedious Victorian “gentlemen” generally ignored and dismissed her work. The successes and sufferings of the Beers and Sassoons makes for interesting material (Rachel was poet Siegfried’s aunt), but the authors missed an important opportunity to concentrate more on Rachel’s success in running her newspapers. (Black-and-white photo insert. Agent: Scott Mendel)

TAKING PEOPLE WITH YOU The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen Novak, David Portfolio (256 pp.) $25.95 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-59184-454-9

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Novak (The Education of an Accidental CEO, 2007, etc.) lays out a team-oriented approach to achieving breakthrough


“SI.com and Wall Street Journal writer Pearlman delivers a definitive biography of one of the NFL’s all-time greats.” from sweetness

The CEO of YUM! Brands, the world’s largest restaurant company (KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell), the author warns that you will “never accomplish anything big if you try to do it alone.” Most readers are familiar with YUM! restaurants and can relate to Novak’s challenges, struggles and anecdotes, but the author’s inclusion of overly long sidebar quotes disrupts the narrative flow. Novak divides the book into three sections: getting your mind-set right, having a plan and following through to get results. The first task requires setting the right attitude for yourself and your employees, and Novak counsels the importance of being yourself, always striving to learn and believing in people and your own capacity to get big things done. The second part involves understanding the reality of a specific business and developing compelling goals. Finally, put the right resources in place, create a culture where everyone wins together and celebrate success. In addition to his message, Novak challenges readers with creative self-tests, helpful tools and self-reflection exercises. He also maintains a relentlessly upbeat attitude: “Today I am probably best known within my organization for casting a shadow of recognition and positive energy.” Like many big projects, however, the beginning portion is more dynamic than the end. While Novak’s world consists of global corporations, his leadership lessons of recognizing the good work of others, being yourself and setting big goals should translate to other settings.

WIRED FOR CULTURE Origins of the Human Social Mind

Pagel, Mark Norton (384 pp.) $29.95 | Feb. 27, 2012 978-0-393-06587-9

Pagel (Evolutionary Biology/Univ. of Reading; Evolutionary Genomics and Proteomics, 2007) examines the human species and the importance of culture and the social environment. He writes that we became “wired for culture” as we developed the capacity to think symbolically and the imaginative ability to speculate about the possibilities inherent in our own actions and those of others. From this emerged language and our ability to tap into the discoveries of people we may never have met. In the process we surpassed the primitive tools for hunting and fishing used by other hominids, developed art forms, pondered the stars and created a new social environment that allowed us to populate the globe. “[B]eing able to jump from mind to mind,” writes the author, “granted the element of culture a pace of change that stood in relation to our genetical evolution something like an animal’s behavior does to the more leisurely movement of a plant.” Pagel extends Richard Dawkins’ conceit of the selfish gene, whose purpose is to replicate itself rather than the host body, to describe the role of cultural memes that (metaphorically) used humans to replicate society. Much of |

the book is devoted to the author’s deconstruction of cultural norms such as reciprocity—i.e., cooperation with competitors by adhering to accepted norms of trading. In the process we enlarge our loyalty from just those who share our gene pool to humanity as a whole. The process, however, is not smooth. Pagel traces memes such as love of flag and country to our discomfort in trusting strangers, and he recognizes that there can be survival benefits to deception—even self-deception—as well as to group loyalty. An intriguing combination of information on the latest advances in genomics and epigenetics, with an optimistic prediction of a future global society in which inventiveness and cooperation prevail.

SWEETNESS The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton

Pearlman, Jeff Gotham Books (496 pp.) $30.00 | Oct. 4, 2011 978-1-59240-653-1

SI.com and Wall Street Journal writer Pearlman (Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty, 2008, etc.) delivers a definitive biography of one of the NFL’s all-time greats. Though some of Walter Payton’s (1954–1999) records have been broken since his 1987 retirement, his image as a gridiron hero, and arguably football’s greatest-ever running back, has endured. Pearlman’s book provides much to enhance that image, and a bit to tarnish it as well. An extraordinarily gifted athlete known for his ferocious stiff-arm, his refusal to run out of bounds and his unparalleled work ethic, Payton was, and is, beloved by football fans. But to those who knew him, even close friends and family, he was an enigma. Praised as the ultimate team player, he would sulk and whine if not given the ball as much as he felt he deserved. After years of carrying mediocre Chicago Bears teams, Payton threw his equipment to the ground in disgust and hid in a closet after finally winning a Super Bowl, when Bears coach Mike Ditka allowed William “Refrigerator” Perry, not Payton, to score a touchdown in the game. Known for going out of his way to befriend marginal players who were certain to be cut, for spending hours with sick children, for knowing the names and backgrounds of every employee, Payton was an absentee father and serial womanizer who provided financial support for, but never met or acknowledged, his illegitimate son. Pearlman at first seems not to recognize the disparity, repeatedly describing Payton as a humble man while recounting anecdotes that indicate otherwise. Eventually the author confronts the puzzling contradictions of his subject’s personality, but refrains from psychoanalysis or other attempts to explain them. The section on the infamous 1985 Bears, a team rife with dysfunction everywhere but on the field, is a highlight, as is the description of Payton’s senior year in high school, when Mississippi schools were forced to desegregate.

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A CHANCE IN THE WORLD An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home

The book’s devastating conclusion shows the familiar depressing decline of an athlete in retirement and his shocking death from cancer at 45. A highly readable warts-and-all portrait of an athletic giant, but those who prefer their idols unblemished may want to steer clear.

GIRL HUNTER Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time

Pellegrini, Georgia Da Capo Lifelong/Perseus (272 pp.) $24.00 | Dec. 13, 2011 978-0-7382-1466-5 A bubbly combination hunting memoir and how-to guide, with some stellar recipes. Pellegrini (Food Heroes: 16 Culinary Artisans Preserving Tradition, 2010), whose popular blog chronicles her adventures hunting, cooking and globetrotting, focuses her book on the hunts. After college, the author forewent a career on Wall Street in favor of more schooling, at the French Culinary Institute. As a chef, she worked at Manhattan’s gourmet Gramercy Tavern as well as Blue Hill at Stone Barns; her mouthwatering, meat-centric recipes are the stars of her stories. Pellegrini began hunting several years ago, when she was curious to determine if it was possible to eat only meat that she had killed. Her interest shares the same spirit as Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, although her recounting of her hunts is more personal and less deadly serious than most. A large part of Pellegrini’s identity as a hunter has been defined by her relative youth and striking, blond-haired beauty, and her toughness constantly surprises veteran male hunters. The author divides her book by prey, with separate chapters devoted to quail, squirrel, deer and turkey, among others. Pellegrini describes chasing wild hogs along the banks of the Mississippi while riding on the back of an ATV, as well as quieter moments spent drinking whiskey fireside and listening to the tales of grizzled hunters. The author isn’t a particularly strong or compelling writer, but her enthusiastic stories are original and will appeal to chefs and foodies, especially women, who are interested in tracking their food all the way to the table. Entertaining for a specific audience.

Pemberton, Steve Thomas Nelson (256 pp.) $24.99 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-59555-263-1

Corporate executive Pemberton spins a grim, touching memoir of his life as an abused foster child and his search for family. Shuttled from home to home, the author finally found a permanent residence with the Robinsons in New Bedford, Massachusetts. From all outward appearances they were caring adults, but once the social service workers left, they became monsters. The mother was shrewd, manipulative and feral; the father was all menace and brutality. When he was not being psychologically abused or denied the simple pleasures of childhood, he was having his hands held over a stove’s lit burners or getting the kinds of beatings that landed him in the hospital. Books were his saviors, but so too was his diligent quest to find his biological parents, which became equally charged with ambivalence once he learned their identities. His father “had denied me the identity and role I had most wanted, that of a son,” while his mother “had failed at nearly everything, but her greatest failure was motherhood.” Pemberton also managed to track down brothers and sisters, yet these were also fraught affairs. Still, amid the cruelty and mayhem, the author found moments of peace, like his white-brick garage sanctuary: “I had sat in its shade immersed in my latest mystery. I had scaled its walls and watched fireworks from its roof. The world always seemed so much bigger from its height, filled with a promise that eluded me.” Speaks directly to the miracle of surviving a childhood without love.

SEAL TARGET GERONIMO The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden Pfarrer, Chuck St. Martin’s (256 pp.) $25.99 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-1-250-00635-6

A marvelously engrossing account of the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, from associate editor of The Counter Terrorist Pfarrer (Warrior Soul, 2004, etc.). The author is a former assault commander of SEAL Team Six, which gave him a decided upper hand when collecting material for his story: As a brother in arms, he was able to talk to team members. It is a decidedly different picture than other highprofile accounts, such as the recent New Yorker article. Before 2096

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he gets to northern Pakistan, however, Pfarrer has a number of other stories to tell. First is a history of the Navy SEALs, with emphasis on Team Six, “the smallest and most elite special operations unit in the world.” He covers their training, equipment and operations they have led in Beirut, Grenada, Libya, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia and, perhaps the most fleshed-out operational description included here, the rescue of an American sea captain from Somali pirates. Seeking a broader context, Pfarrer delves into the roots of Islamic fundamentalism and produces a pocket biography of bin Laden, which in turn informs his history of al-Qaeda and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who played bin Laden like a puppet to get at his money. “Zawahiri needed capital,” writes the author, “and Osama needed intellectual and religious justification for a global campaign of violence.” Pfarrer points to Zawahiri as the likely source who ratted out bin Laden, and many others, to gain control of the organization’s treasure box. Though the author’s line of thought on al-Qaeda’s access and deployment of weaponry is not always easy to follow, his writing is consistently informed, with a crunchy texture that belies its sub-surface polish. Richly told in broad, cinematic strokes, this is catnip for readers who enjoy special-ops tales.

AUTUMN IN THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War

Platt, Stephen R. Knopf (496 pp.) $30.00 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-307-27173-0

During years that overlapped the American Civil War, the Chinese were engaged in their own self-destructive conflict (1851–1864), which eventually claimed more than 20 million lives. Platt (Chinese History/Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst; Provincial Patriots: The Hunanese and Modern China, 2007) maintains a generally descriptive, analytical, dispassionate voice, despite the savagery, arrogance and absolute mercenary and/or egotistical motives of the principal players. The author begins in 1853 with a quick description of the Qing dynasty, then in its second century of sway. Rising in opposition was the so-called Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, whose sub-monarchs went by names like Brave King and Loyal King. Weaving their way into the fabric were various Western Christian missionaries hoping to covert the masses, aligning themselves with the rebels, who were infused with a sort of hybrid Christianity. The French and British nervously observed, concerned about protecting their trade channels, sometimes venturing into battle, supplying arms, ships and leadership. Although there were too few of them in country to occupy territory, Platt shows that the armaments and early support were important factors in the eventual defeat of the initially dominant Taiping. By 1861, of course, the Americans were engaged in their own civil war; the North feared the British would side with the Confederacy and were relieved when they opted for China instead. Platt tells all of |

these stories in a seamless narrative, moving gracefully from one point of view to the next, relating strategies, presenting personalities and illuminating political complexities. In general, he allows the horrors of war—mass executions, rapes, starvation, cannibalism, cholera and overall depravity—to speak for themselves. The author raises a curtain to show us events largely unknown in the West—yet achingly familiar as well. (16 pages of photographs; 5 maps)

BLACK MARKET BILLIONS How Organized Retail Crime Funds Global Terrorists

Prabhakar, Hitha FT Press/Pearson (336 pp.) $29.99 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-13-218024-5

A labyrinthine study of how retail theft ripples down to fund international terrorism. An idea born from instant messages exchanged with a friend pushing knock-off handbags, Bloomberg Television reporter Prabhakar decided to “follow the money trail” through the complicated billion-dollar business of counterfeit and stolen retail merchandise. Her consistently distressing research illuminates how organized retail crime (ORC) thrives amid a recessive economy as penny-pinching consumers turn to cheaper ways of purchasing everything from luxury items to prescription and over-the-counter drugs. These seemingly minor shopping decisions, she writes, fuel intricately systematic rings of thieves who funnel millions of American-earned dollars into international terrorist cells, many functioning on American soil. Prabhakar’s indignation is well supported by chapters on the many interlocking facets of black-market thievery, including the calculated machinations of insider and outsider thefts, the creation of money-laundering shell corporations, online “e-fencing,” gift-card fraud and cigarette smuggling. The author chronicles her hours of interviews with authors, industry insiders, loss-prevention experts and key businessmen, many of whom remain anonymous. Law-enforcement case studies demonstrate gradual, hopeful inroads toward thwarting ORC movements with collaborative efforts between government agencies. Countering this is a series of thief profiles revealing a cunning, professional workforce. On a smaller scale, Prabhakar offers everyday advice on how to recognize (and avoid) the work of an ORC operative both online and on the streets, yet ultimately she believes that without the cooperation of state and federal law enforcement and retailers to aggressively regulate this black market, “the cycle will continue.” Sharp-pencil analysis on the seemingly futile battle against retail fraud.

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“Liberals will love it; conservatives won’t read it.” from the obama hate machine

THE OBAMA HATE MACHINE The Lies, Distortions, and Personal Attacks On the President—and Who Is Behind Them Press, Bill Dunne/St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $26.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-312-64164-1 978-1-4299-4125-9 e-book

The ubiquitous liberal radio and TV pundit vigorously defends President Obama against what the author terms…well, see the subtitle. Press, who has published a number of volumes attacking Republicans and defending Democrats (Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right Has Poisoned America’s Airwaves, 2010, etc.), writes firmly within a current political genre: books that sag with secondarysource quotations and convince no one on the other side but supply supporters with arms and ammo for coffee-shop colloquies. Press’ tactics are straightforward: He begins with the euphoria (among many) at President Obama’s inauguration, then steps away from the celebration to a consideration of the forces at work to strip the new president of credibility. The author pauses to consider nasty politics in other eras, and then identifies the übervillains in his tale: Charles and David Koch, the massively rich brothers who fund numerous pro-right organizations, including the Tea Party. Press looks at the coordinated attempts to “other” Obama by portraying him as a crypto-Muslim and terrorist sympathizer, a socialist, Nazi, communist—as one who is outside “real” America and whose U. S. citizenship is dubious. The author spends many pages describing the dozens of anti-Obama books, devotes a chapter to the Koch brothers, another to the failings of the media and ends with an odd little coda about the politics of civility. Along the way, Press blasts Dick Morris (“the most amoral man in American politics today”), Michele Bachmann (“batshit crazy”), Fox News and its commentators, Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. Liberals will love it; conservatives won’t read it.

THE DARK DEFILE Britain’s Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan, 1838-1842

Preston, Diana (352 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-8027-7982-3

An earlier invasion of Afghanistan by the British offers some enlightening lessons for American readers in this nicely encapsulated study by a British historian. Troubled by the expansionist vision of Russia in Central Asia and keen to protect the interests of the East India Company, the British crown cooked up a wild scheme to invade Afghanistan in 2098

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1838. The aim was to replace one crackpot dynasty for another, but the occupation went on for two years and raised native insurrection, essentially repelling the British troops and leaving a bitter aftertaste for the inhabitants of the land. Does this scenario sound familiar? Preston (Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima, 2005, etc.) does an admirable job of enlarging the narrow, academic nature of the conflict for more accessible consumption. As a buffer and traditional transit point, the feudal Afghanistan was attractive to invaders from Darius of Persia and Alexander of Macedonia to the 18th-century Persian Nadir Shah, who all crossed the Khyber Pass on their way to sack and subdue India. British precursors to the region had included Mountstuart Elphinstone and his delegation, who had tread gingerly over the disputes between Afghan leaders; and Scottish officer Alexander Burnes, sent by the British on an espionage fact-finding mission to assess the navigability of the Indus in 1831. Burnes reported on the immense trade potential for the British, though the British hardly understood the region’s factionalism. Afghan governor general Lord Auckland issued the famous Simla Manifesto of Oct. 1, 1838, justifying an invasion that was no longer relevant since the Russian-backed Persians were already in retreat. The bewildered British withdrew by 1842, concluding “a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, and brought to a close, after suffering and disaster, without much glory attaching either to the government which directed, or the great body of the troops which waged it.” Preston brings this obscure, ill-begotten conflict to a lively, pertinent center stage.

GREEDY BASTARDS How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry Ratigan, Dylan Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $25.00 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-4516-4222-3 978-1-4516-4224-7 e-book

A diatribe against bankers, corrupt politicians, lobbyists, Wall Street traders and others “greedy bastards.” MSNBC host Ratigan takes aim at American citizens who he presumes will no longer tolerate being robbed of their money by those who enrich themselves at the expense of society as a whole. The author explains how the greedy bastards wrested control of the health-care system, the energy-supply pipeline and other sectors, and he preaches that ordinary citizens must become informed—and then enraged—before they are moved to act against those robbing them. Some of Ratigan’s solutions are relatively specific—e.g., he proposes a revision to the tax code that would encourage long-term investment rather than short-term extraction of deposits. Ratigan suggests reforming campaign-finance laws, blocking the revolving door between

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service in the legislature and service in lobbying firms and altering the ways Congressional districts are redrawn by state legislatures to protect incumbents and disenfranchise minority voters. Not bound by the false theory that the United States is the world’s most progressive nation, Ratigan looks to other nations that have found better answers to age-old dilemmas, such as providing high-quality health care at affordable cost to every individual from birth until death. Rather than citing only the solutions found in Canada—often the touchstone of reformers—Ratigan mentions successes throughout Europe and also in Singapore. To underscore his points, the author includes flow charts, cartoons and other reader-friendly touches; unfortunately, he does not provide sufficient sourcing for his arguments. A pastiche of thinking by other reformers with a thin original Ratigan overlay.

SHAKE THE WORLD It’s Not About Finding a Job, It’s About Creating a Life Reilly, James Marshall Portfolio (288 pp.) $25.95 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-59184-455-6

A mixture of job-search recommendations, self-help advice, anyone-cansucceed-in-business inspiration and mini-biographies of young entrepreneurs. Reilly is president of The Guild Agency Speakers Bureau and Intellectual Talent Management, where he brands and markets individuals with reputations as cutting-edge thinkers. While reflecting on his own youthful success, the author decided to interview other young outside-the-box entrepreneurs, most of whom have found a way to combine philanthropy with forprofit capitalism. Interview subjects include Blake Mycoskie of TOMS, Jessica Jackley of ProFounder, Chad Troutwine of Veritas Prep, and Tony Hsieh of Zappos. The insights are mingled in chapters whose themes are sometimes difficult to discern. While Reilly touches on the occasional early-in-life failures of his interview subjects as a demonstration of how failure can build character, he is primarily uncritical of those subjects and sometimes seems starry-eyed as he chronicles their generosities. The author makes the obvious but worthwhile point that none of the subjects was born to greatness, and he posits that their humility in the wake of success might have been a lifelong quality that contributed greatly to individual success. The book is especially relevant because, as Reilly notes, economic recessions can accelerate entrepreneurial ventures as those out of work seek fresh paths into the capitalistic culture. The pursuit of graduate and law degrees often makes sense during economic downturns. However, those credentials are not an automatic ticket to success—sometimes what has been conveyed in classroom settings stifles innovative thinking. Abstract, sometimes cryptic platitudes studded with inspirational gems. |

POWER CONCEDES NOTHING One Woman’s Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Kill Zones to the Courtroom Rice, Connie Scribner (368 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-4165-7500-9 978-1-4516-2592-9 e-book

Attorney Rice revisits her past and the career achievements that made her a top civil-rights litigator. The daughter of educated and socially ambitious middleclass parents, the author took an early interest in defending the less fortunate. She also understood that her “cocktail lineage” put her in a special and to some degree privileged position with respect to other African-Americans. While many dark-skinned people “threatened white existence,” Rice’s lighter skin allowed her to live a sheltered life in a mostly white world. Determined to make a difference in the world, like her heroine, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Rice attended Harvard University and then NYU law school, where she would learn “the skills needed to bend the powerful.” Her first foray into the legal realm was as a law clerk with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) in New York City, where she worked to exonerate death-row inmates in Georgia. As a full-fledged lawyer at the LDF’s Los Angeles office, she plunged headfirst into L.A.’s gang underworld and became notorious as the gadfly of a brutally corrupt LAPD. Her work on behalf of the poor and dispossessed also led her to champion the building of new schools in an ineffective, overcrowded L.A. public-school system. Parts of the narrative—e.g., her recounting of her bare-knuckled interactions with inner-city gangs and a dysfunctional LAPD—are genuinely compelling. However, the author’s irritating tendency toward self-congratulation detracts from her genuinely inspiring, passionate story. A provocative but occasionally egotistical book.

AGING AS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older and Wiser Richmond, Lewis Gotham Books (256 pp.) $22.50 | Jan. 5, 2012 978-1-592-40690-6

A Zen Buddhist priest and meditation teacher offers “a user’s guide to aging well” by celebrating “the joys and rewards of aging” while accepting the inevitable losses that accompany it. Richmond (A Whole Life’s Work: Living Passionately, Growing Spiritually, 2005, etc.) believes that diet and exercise are only part of the story. He provides a refreshing road map for facing

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old age optimistically but without the illusion of a fountain of youth. In his mid-60s and having suffered two life-threatening illnesses, Richmond draws on a depth of personal experience about the reality of overcoming fear while recognizing that certain changes are irreversible and certain options are closed to us as we age, even if we are not ill or infirm. The author describes four stages in the “journey of aging,” and he emphasizes that true contentment comes from looking inward. “The spiritual life is all about connection…to oneself as well as others,” and spending time with “your closest and dearest friend—yourself.” While Richmond applies traditional Zen techniques, he does so from an ecumenical standpoint. Each chapter is filled with anecdotes from contemporary life about how people he knew have dealt with the challenges of getting older. Referring to Erik Erikson’s “groundbreaking 1950s book Childhood and Society,” Richmond suggests that we often fail to appreciate the wisdom that comes with age and what the elderly have to contribute as mentors. A spiritual affirmation that provides a welcome alternative to the prevailing belief that maintaining the appearance of youth as long as possible is an antidote to aging.

FUG YOU An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, The Fugs, and Counterculture In the Lower East Side Sanders, Ed Da Capo/Perseus (304 pp.) $26.99 | Dec. 13, 2011 978-0-306-81888-2

A memoir about the 1960s that reflects the slapdash spirit of that decade’s underground press. Sanders is a writer of renown and accomplishment—a published poet, author of prize-winning short stories and a controversial account of the Manson Family murders (The Family, 1971)—yet this hodge-podge shows little evidence of such craft. Instead it functions more like an annotated diary, with entries by topic or date rarely longer than a couple of paragraphs, padded with illustrations that function more as historical artifacts than art. Sanders had his fingers in many of lower Manhattan’s counter-cultural pies: He published a mimeographed arts journal with an obscene name, ran an alternative bookstore, helped to found the notorious Yippie anti-party and “levitate” the Pentagon and proselytized for legalized marijuana and mass fornication in the streets. But he remains best known for fronting the Fugs, a notorious rock band of politically minded poets who landed a major-label contract and (amazingly enough) earned Sanders the cover of Life magazine and spots on national TV. The most extended and hilariously engaging part of the book is a transcript from William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, with Sanders joining the conservative host, a clueless academic, and Jack Kerouac, who had become an alcoholic reactionary, in a discussion that Buckley introduced with, “Our topic tonight is the 2100

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Hippies, the understanding of which we must, I guess, acquire or die painfully.” The entire program was a joke that only Sanders and occasionally Kerouac seemed to get. The matter-of-fact tone through much of the narrative makes it difficult to distinguish satire from delusion. Of the Fugs, he writes, “Some of the songs on our second album are not what is currently known as PC, or politically correct, and we might not now write them in quite the same way, but they were true to the testosteronecrazed era in which they were created.” One might say the same about the book, except that it was written now, about then. A collection of solid archival material for a better book. (200 black-and-white photographs and illustrations)

THE LIFE OF SUPER-EARTHS How the Hunt for Alien Worlds and Artificial Cells Will Revolutionize Life on Our Planet

Sasselov, Dimitar Basic (240 pp.) $25.99 | Jan. 24, 2012 978-0-465-02193-2

Since astronomers discovered the first planet circling another star in 1995, they’ve found hundreds; predictably, this has energized the debate on whether life exists beyond Earth. Sasselov (Astronomy/Harvard Univ.) reviews the hard evidence in favor (not much) before proceeding to explain discoveries and simulations that suggest we are not alone. No telescope has directly observed an extra-solar planet, but the author delivers a clear explanation of how instruments and, since 2009, a satellite are detecting subtle changes in a star’s light or movement that reveal not only the presence of planets (600 so far) but their size, orbits and a hint of their composition. Sasselov maintains that the minority of “super-earths” possess conditions favorable to life: proper temperature, protective atmosphere, volcanism and tectonic movements. These are rocky, watery planets from one to 10 times the mass of Earth, which barely makes the cut. The author reminds readers that life is not fussy. Microbes thrive inside Antarctic ice sheets and in hot rock miles beneath us. Near boiling vents at the sea bottom, far beyond the reach of sunlight, they feed on hydrogen sulfide or other toxic chemicals that spew out and support a dense ecosystem of higher life forms. Life has existed for four billion years, a time comparable to the age of the universe (13 billion), so it may be a normal cosmic process along with planet formation. As short, cogent and stimulating as John Gribbin’s Alone in the Universe (2011), but far more optimistic. Readers should check out both. (14 illustrations. Author tour to Boston, San Francisco, Seattle)

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“A profoundly human book that touches readers with a rare and healing candor.” from not the last goodbye

EXTREME WEATHER A Guide to Surviving Flash Floods, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Heat Waves, Snowstorms, Tsunamis and Other Natural Disasters Schneider, Bonnie Palgrave Macmillan (256 pp.) $17.00 paperback | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-230-11573-6

After receiving weather queries from fans of her intensive weather analyses, CNN meteorologist Schneider addresses many critical dilemmas in an easy-to-read preventative guidebook. The author dictates the proper steps to take before, during and after such momentous events as flash floods (get out of your car), firestorms (stay in your car) and earthquakes (“drop, cover, and hold on”). Schneider introduces the chapters with short true-life stories of survival—e.g., one friend warning another just before Hurricane Katrina’s levee-bursting ferocity leveled their neighborhood, and some harrowing testimony from a survivor of a tsunami in Japan. The author capably dispenses basic survival advice, smartly skirting discussions about the possible cause of the weather conditions themselves (i.e., global warming, climate deterioration). Schneider may surprise readers with information debunking myths surrounding lightning during severe thunderstorms, information on odd animal behavior possibly predicting impending weather events and the phenomenon of “thunder snow.” Offering tips on preserving health and maximizing human safety, the author employs the reliable sources of American park rangers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the CDC, Red Cross and FEMA. Graphs, charts and illustrations enhance chapters of cautionary material for not only humans, but also their animal counterparts. Veterinarians advise on how best to protect or shelter animals at risk of injury or death when exposed to excessive heat (cracking a car window isn’t enough), cold, hurricanes tornadoes and floods. Family-disaster and emergency-food-storage plans round out the author’s important message. A user-friendly pocket guide for anyone unexpectedly at the mercy of Mother Nature.

NOT THE LAST GOODBYE On Life, Death, Healing, and Cancer

Servan-Schreiber, David Viking (168 pp.) $22.00 | Nov. 21, 2011 978-0-670-02591-6

With poignant simplicity and heartbreaking humility, recently deceased psychiatrist Servan-Schreiber (Anticancer: A New Way of Life, 2008, etc.) recounts the events of the year preceding his final battle with brain cancer. |

In June 2010, the author received the news that a “gigantic, vein-filled mass” had taken over his frontal lobe, the region that had been operated on twice nearly 20 years before. He knew this tumor presaged his death; at the same time, his “desire to live was very much intact, as was my determination.” Rather than falling into despair, Servan-Schreiber faced his many rounds of hospitalization, surgery and radiation treatment with courageous resolve. He also continued to adhere to the regimen of “physical exercise, yoga, meditation” that he propounded in the international bestseller Anticancer, and took full responsibility for having disregarded a key part of his own treatment plan: stress management. Servan-Schreiber never stopped believing in the value of his holistic approaches, despite his relapse: “The fact that I have lived all these years with such an aggressive form of cancer…is enough to support the idea that it was within my power to contribute positively to my health.” As his disease progressed and he drew closer to death, which occurred in July 2011, the psychiatrist turned his thoughts toward “dying well.” That meant getting his affairs in order and, more importantly, saying goodbye to friends and family, forgiving others and seeking forgiveness. For the author, dying was not an inevitable fate that would separate him from the life he so loved. Rather, it was a gift that allowed him to cultivate inner peace and forge even closer ties with those who mattered most. A profoundly human book that touches readers with a rare and healing candor.

CHARLOTTE AU CHOCOLAT Memories of a Restaurant Girlhood

Silver, Charlotte Riverhead (272 pp.) $25.95 | Feb. 16, 2012 978-1-59448-815-3

Memoir of a childhood spent at the legendary Harvard Square restaurant Upstairs at the Pudding. Silver brings back to life an era when Harvard Square wasn’t filled with the soulless plate-glass windows of national banks— when local businesses were chaotic, working on trade, a little dusty, yet full of human spirit and character. The book will no doubt enjoy a prominent place in the windows of the Harvard Coop, and fans of Upstairs, a local institution that closed in 2001, will likely enjoy the backstage view of the beloved restaurant. As a memoir, though, the book is lacking. The author provides many lighthearted stories about long nights spent amusing herself in the restaurant, but she rarely re-examines the events in the light of adulthood. Silver gives equal attention to her youthful party dresses and her emotional inner life, with a slight edge to the party dresses, while significant events, such as court dates or divorces, are mentioned in passing. The author presents her stream of anecdotes in a straightforward way, rarely offering critical distance or narrative context. For example, Silver drops a description of an electrifying moment in her burgeoning sexual awareness in the middle of a chapter

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THE RULES OF INHERITANCE A Memoir

about mice in the restaurant. It’s almost as if the author doesn’t want to fully share herself with readers. Like its namesake dessert, a confection—enjoyable but lacking substance.

FDR AND CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES The President, the Supreme Court, and the Epic Battle Over the New Deal

Simon, James F. Simon & Schuster (368 pp.) $27.00 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-1-4165-7328-9

An instructive, vigorous account of FDR’s attempt at court-packing, and the chief justice who weathered the storm with equanimity. Charles Evans Hughes (1862–1948) isn’t one of the more studied justices, though he presided over the Supreme Court during the historic New Deal era, and enjoyed a long, fascinating career, as Simon (Emeritus/New York Law School; Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney, 2006, etc.) develops in depth. An adored only son of a minister who expected his son to pursue the ministry, Hughes went instead into law, eventually setting up a lucrative practice on Wall Street. He first gained an intellectually rigorous, high-minded reputation by taking on the utilities industry in New York; courted by the Republican party, he was elected governor, and first appointed to the Supreme Court by President Taft in 1910, only to resign to run for president in 1916, a campaign lost in favor of Woodrow Wilson. After serving as Secretary of State under President Harding, he was reappointed to the highest bench by President Hoover, this time as Chief Justice in 1930. Yet he proved to be no cardboard pro-business model, and when FDR was elected amid economic mayhem during the Great Depression, the court was split. FDR’s emergency legislature during his 100 first days was challenged by the conservatives, precipitating one of FDR’s worst blunders: a court reform proposal sent to Congress that would increase the number of justices and force retirement for the septuagenarians—as most of them were. “Shrieks of outrage” greeted the dictatorial proposal, which was resoundingly rejected by the Senate. However, Simon looks carefully at the change in court direction with the threats of reform, along with Hughes’ own sense of consternation and later important decisions in the protection of civil rights—e.g., Gaines v. Canada. A fair assessment of Hughes’ eminent career and an accessible, knowledgeable consideration of the important lawsuits of the era. (8-page black-and-white insert)

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Smith, Claire Bidwell Hudson Street/Penguin (304 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 2, 2012 978-1-59463-088-0

A young psychotherapist’s nonlinear debut memoir describing myriad personal tragedies including the deaths of both parents. Now in her early 30s, Smith lost her mother to cancer during her first year at college, and her father seven years later. An only child, she spent years struggling to come to terms with their deaths while trying to soothe her permanent sense of loneliness. The narrative jumps around in time, intercutting chapters about her teenage years with scenes from her 20s, when she lived first in New York and later in Los Angeles. She also recounts other tragedies, including her abortion and subsequent sadness, a years-long terrifying romantic relationship, her growing dependency on alcohol, her best friend’s death from leukemia, her stint working for a myopically selfish magazine editor and traveling on a train in front of which a stranger jumped and died. The material is dark, no question, and some of Smith’s revelations are hackneyed (“Grief is like another country”). But her voice is compelling, and the choice to write only in the present tense, even for years long past, works to heighten the scenes’ emotional immediacy. Many of the chapters are preceded by lines written by Elisabeth KüblerRoss, whose studies on the stages of grief have clearly impacted Smith. Ultimately, her memoir bears a strong resemblance to great blog-writing: simultaneously self-indulgent and, at times, surprisingly affecting. Recommended for adults in their teens, 20s and 30s who are interested in stories of loss and the aftermath of a parent’s death.

EISENHOWER IN WAR IN PEACE

Smith, Jean Edward Random (944 pp.) $40.00 | Feb. 21, 2012 978-1-4000-6693-3 978-0-679-64429-3 e-book One of the most favored subjects of eminent historians receives yet another lofty tribute as the prescient general and “most successful” president of the 20th century after Franklin Roosevelt. Having written biographies of FDR, John Marshall and Lucius Clay, Smith (History/Columbia Univ.; FDR, 2007, etc.) is amply qualified to reshape the life of the late, great president, whom the author calls an “enigma.” The making of the leader seems to interest Smith most, and he breezily tracks Eisenhower’s (1890–1969) early years as the third of seven sons born to a

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“A highly creative, illuminating, genre-resisting history.” from red plenty

brooding, difficult father who finally found work at a creamery in Abilene, Kan., and a vivacious, energetic mother whose confidence in her sons’ abilities propelled them to prosper in the world. Smith dutifully points out a few weaknesses in the general’s legend, such as that he lied about his age when applying to West Point, and participated with alacrity in General MacArthur’s shameful clearing of the Bonus Army encampment in Washington, July 1932. Popular, capable, ambitious and a hard worker if not a brilliant mind, Ike was furious that World War I had passed him by, relegated to the peacetime Army—although he leapfrogged the ranks while ingratiating himself wit the major generals of the day. Although he had never led an active command, he was swept into General Marshall’s War Plans Division of the Army after Pearl Harbor. Smith examines Eisenhower’s leadership in the European theater, concluding that he was a master at consensus and delegating, offering the appearance of casual confidence; however, as a field commander his understanding was “abstract and academic.” As president, he capably handled the Suez crisis and sending troops into Little Rock, kept the country out of war and would not abandon his vice president Richard Nixon. He ended his presidency with the still-ringing warning about “the military-industrial complex.” A straight-shooting, comforting account—though not super-enlightening, considering the mountain of previous Ike bios. (86 photographs; 4 maps. Agent: Elizabeth Kaplan)

THE BLACK BANNERS The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al-qaeda

Soufan, Ali H. with Freedman, Daniel Norton (600 pp.) $26.95 | Sep. 12, 2011 978-0-393-07942-5

Could 9/11 have been prevented? By former FBI special agent Soufan’s account, the answer is a resounding yes. In this heavily redacted memoir—some pages contain nothing but crossed-out lines—the author recounts a long career on the trail of al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups, a quest that sometimes seems to have begun before those groups were even up and running. There is not a whisper of self-promotion in his narrative, but it is clear that Soufan was on the case early and often. He writes, for instance, that on reading of a fatwa signed by Osama bin Laden and Muslim clerics in 1998, he wrote a memo to headquarters recommending that the FBI “focus on the threat he posed to the United States. Al-Qaeda came into focus even earlier on: “Al-Qaeda trainers were on the ground during the Battle of Mogadishu (also known as Black Hawk Down)”—a defeat of American forces that bin Laden declared not only a great victory but also proof that the American enemy was weak and lacked the stomach to fight back. Not so, insists Soufan, though given the ineptitude he portrays within FBI and other intelligence agencies, it seems amazing that the country managed to survive the last couple of decades; 9/11 was virtually |

foretold, and yet federal agencies did nothing. Fortunately, he writes, the enemy was also incompetent, particularly when it came to training operatives in how to use explosives. Remarked one prisoner of a training program in Afghanistan, “we’re graduating more people to heaven than out of the class.” The author concludes that al-Qaeda is on the decline, but more groups like it are on the rise. Soufan provides a sobering, sometimes maddening view from the front lines.

RED PLENTY

Spufford, Francis Graywolf (448 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Feb. 14, 2012 978-1-55597-604-0 The strange, sad, hilarious story of the Soviet Union’s blind pursuit of a Communist paradise, told through a mix of history and fiction, using both to get to the truth. Spufford (I May Be Some Time, 2003, etc.) traces the latter half of the history of the Soviet Union, starting in the late 1950s, when the Soviets were seeing an imaginary light over the horizon. After 40 years that included struggle, war, starvation and Stalin, the Marxist dream looked as if it might be taking off under Nikita Khrushchev. The Soviet Union’s economic growth more than doubled that of the United States, and if it kept going at the same rate the “planned economy” would “overtake and surpass” capitalist America. Cars, food and houses would be better, and there would be more money and leisure all around, thanks to a top-down, start-to-finish management that “could be directed, as capitalism could not, to the fastest, most lavish fulfillment of human needs.” Through a series of episodes involving economists, scientists, computer programmers, industrialists, artists and politicians—some real, some imagined, some drawn together from composites—Spufford tells the story of the life and death of a national illusion, as utopian dreams moldered into grim dystopian realities. The planned economy was a worker’s nightmare, where production targets increased even as equipment became more and more outdated, and unforeseen, unplanned events—like the sudden loss of a spinning machine at a textile factory—set off a ripple effect of unproductiveness. Pay cuts and scarce commodities led to riots, such as one in Novocherkassk, where the dead bodies were hauled out and the bloody streets were repaved overnight. In his often-whimsical, somewhat Nabokovian notes, Spufford freely points out his own inventions, approximations and hedged bets on what might have happened. A highly creative, illuminating, genre-resisting history.

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GROW How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies

Stengel, Jim Crown Business (336 pp.) $27.50 | Dec. 27, 2011 978-0-307-72035-1

A global-marketing guru extols the power of idealism in business. From a childhood paper route as a kid in central Pennsylvania to a pivotal seven-year stint as a marketing officer at Proctor & Gamble, Stengel knows his territory well and demonstrates a distinct business savvy. He stresses early on that the core of any business model should be in the establishment of a brand “ideal factor,” a term which the author longwindedly translates throughout the book as the focused attention a business pays to the improvement of its customers’ lives. Stengel lays out five core “must-do” principles based on a decade-long growth study he performed on 50,000 businesses worldwide brands in conjunction with a noted brand-consulting firm. From that research, the author presents his top businesses (“The Stengel 50”), which he believes are industry role models for their sustainability, financial profitability and consumer loyalty. In the book’s more practical second section, Stengel expansively vets the strengths of successful powerhouse brands like Jack Daniel’s, Discovery Communications, Pampers and Visa, and introduces important leadership-building “culture cues.” Additionally, he astutely analyzes how and why each of the five interlocking pieces of his business model will prove successful when applied to any company eager for sustained growth, enhanced profitability and increased morale. Stengel capably conveys the merits of corporate idealism, but the message becomes messy with the frequent repetition of core principles and continuous mentions of his executive position at Proctor & Gamble. Business professionals not flummoxed by the book’s infomercial aftertaste will find the marketing pep-talk galvanizing.

THE MAN WHO QUIT MONEY

Sundeen, Mark Riverhead (272 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Mar. 6, 2012 978-1-59448-569-5 A sophisticated blend of memoir, biography, romantic travelogue, history and psychology, creating a marketable modern myth about a pseudo-saintly survivalist. Sundeen (The Making of Toro: Bullfights, Broken Hearts and One Author’s Quest for the Acclaim He Deserves, 2003, etc.) tells the tale about how he crossed paths with Daniel Shellabarger, aka Suelo, amid the hip atmosphere he calls “Moab Chic.” The 2104

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author juxtaposes a suicide attempt by Suelo against his present lifestyle, evoking the image of the phoenix rising from the ashes: “Daniel Shellabarger died as a modern man driving his car over a cliff, and was reborn as an eternal man—without money or possessions, with only his two feet and two hands, trying to climb back to the top.” Some readers may find it difficult to figure out whether the subject is a saintly figure, a madman or a clever political huckster. In addition to the suicide attempt, Sundeen examines Suelo’s repeated mental breakdowns over a period of a few years—”I may have sacrificed my sanity but have gained something indescribable that is eternal”—and then explains how Suelo now essentially lives without money. A dumpster-diver who has repudiated the modern cash economy and lives in a cave, he has also been a regular housesitter over more than two decades. In exchange for food and shelter, he barters his services and does volunteer work, but he does not accept money (or pay taxes). Suelo is not shy about self-promotion on his website and Facebook page, where he also promotes this book but gives top billing to his organizing efforts against banks and taxation. Hopefully he is genuine about his mostly impressive lifestyle choices, but it’s occasionally difficult to discern his motives from this text. An ambiguous collaboration, with sundry forms of cross-marketing that raise a caveat lector sign for readers willing to take the plunge and read this modern picaresque.

CONFIDENCE MEN Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President

Suskind, Ron Harper/HarperCollins (496 pp.) $29.99 | Sep. 20, 2011 978-0-06-142925-5

Is it too early for a postmortem on Barack Obama? Not for Pulitzer winner Suskind (The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism, 2008), who offers a damning picture of the president as a Man Who Could Have Been. The author characterizes Obama as a politician who blew a golden opportunity to deliver sweeping reform to a manipulative financial industry just when its bloated belly was turned to the sky. Although Obama was confident of his abilities as a candidate—having been prepped on the coming crisis by early supporters on Wall Street—as president it was a different story. According to Suskind, he was unsure where to turn for assistance, as angels and demons fought for his soul. The angels included Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, who became “the nation’s town crier on the subject of bankruptcy and debt” and former Fed chair Paul Volcker, who advised Obama to take the “tough love” approach to the financial industry, even if it meant letting some of the dinosaurs die. The demons included Treasury chief Timothy Geithner, Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and the egomaniacal National Economic Council head Larry Summers, who all counseled that any major initiative could

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shake “confidence in the system.” Not the most compelling explainer of the hard stuff—collateralized debt obligations, repurchase agreements, derivatives, credit-default swaps— Suskind sprinkles the final pages with a dim, faint hope that Obama has learned from his mistakes and regained his old passion. Whether that proves true or not, his own “Occupy Wall Street” moment has passed. Most interesting as a clear-eyed assessment of the passion of Obama, or what remains of it, and also as a kind of elegy for an old financial world in which there was at least a semblance of ethical standards.

WORTH FIGHTING FOR Love, Loss, and Moving Forward

Swayze, Lisa Niemi Atria Books (256 pp.) $24.00 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-4391-9635-9

The wife of actor Patrick Swayze (1952–2009) shares bittersweet memories of caring for her husband during his battle with cancer. Although the cover shows the author smiling as she pets a horse, the narrative reveals a much more complex story about the love that sustained a couple through a 34-year marriage. Swayze pulls no punches as she recounts the rocky patches that she navigated with her star husband. In 2003, his drinking became so problematic that she finally left; even after reuniting a year later, the two struggled to recapture their early romance. All that changed, however, when Swayze was diagnosed with cancer in early 2008. Always a devoted partner throughout their many endeavors, the author redirected her energy to arranging top medical care, assisting Swayze during the filming of a TV series and tackling home-nursing responsibilities. With unflagging cheer and the quality of “Sisu” (courage) so esteemed by her Finnish family, she undoubtedly made her husband’s final days as comfortable as possible, and her earnest narrative conveys the deep love that she and her husband shared. Sadly, Swayze began to deteriorate in 2009, succumbing to a barrage of infections that weakened his already compromised immune system and made it impossible to continue chemotherapy. These portions of the book are incredibly painful to read, and the final chapter and epilogue are especially commendable for their refusal to indulge in platitudes: “I wish I had something good, or enlightening, or even remotely encouraging to say about the process of losing someone. But I don’t. There is nothing fun about it, nothing good, nothing hopeful.” While Swayze’s candor may prove unpalatable for some, her memoir makes a worthy addition to the canon of literature that honestly assesses grief without sentimentalizing it.

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ENTERPRISE America’s Fightingest Ship and the Men Who Helped Win World War II Tillman, Barrett Simon & Schuster (384 pp.) $27.00 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-1-4391-9087-6

Veteran military historian Tillman (Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan, 1942–45, 2010, etc.) comprehensively delineates the history of the legendary USS Enterprise (“the Big E”). “Enterprise was America’s ship,” writes the author, “and there will never be another like her.” Through his focus on the famous ship and her crews, he also provides a history of the naval aspects of World War II. As much as possible, Tillman identifies every aviator downed by enemy action, accident or friendly fire, and he offers illuminating details about their lives. The Big E took part in all the major engagements in the Pacific War, and though enemy action forced her from the battlefield three times, she was rebuilt and refitted to come back stronger each time. Her keel was laid down in Norfolk, Va., in 1933, as part of Roosevelt’s WPA jobs program, and she entered into service in 1938. She was designed for the transition from bi-plane to metal-made monoplane aircraft, and by the end of the war was being made obsolete by new carriers preparing the way for jets. She was eventually assimilated into combined task forces of multiple aircraft carriers capable of launching hundreds of planes against their Japanese targets. A platform for innovation, her aviators helped pioneer nighttime operations for defensive patrols and offensive deployments, and she provided a test bed for application of radar technology to both day- and nighttime aviation. Though the cost in human lives was enormous, “Enterprise was about leadership. Amoebalike, she spawned cell after new cell of leaders at every level, men who absorbed the lessons of their mentors and passed those values to the next generation like naval DNA.” A commendable history of a significant ship that also commemorates the economic might unleashed to supply the fighters in WWII.

REZ LIFE An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life

Treuer, David Atlantic Monthly (368 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-8021-1971-1

In a book that is part memoir, part journalistic exposé and part cultural history, novelist Treuer (The Translation of Dr. Apelles, 2008, etc.) offers a movingly plainspoken account of reservation life. The author intertwines stories of growing up on the shores of the Lake Leech Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota with those

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“An enthusiastic, persuasive case to start probing outer space again.” from space chronicles

of the Ojibwe people and other Native American tribes. Treuer writes that “[m]ost often rez life is associated with tragedy”; at the same time, he notes that it is also shot through with pride and a profound love of tradition. Alternating between personal recollections of unforgettable “rez” personalities—e.g., tribal police officers, rice-gatherers and fishermen—and sharp-eyed historical analyses of events in Native American history, the author sheds light on aspects of Indian culture closed to most non-Natives. He speaks candidly about the “comforting trouble” he finds at the heart of his own mixed-race family and the perennial problems of alcoholism, poverty and crime facing reservation dwellers everywhere. Treuer also delves into the issues surrounding Native American sovereignty and treaty rights, examining the inhumane—and sometimes genocidal—government policies that have led to the systematic abuse, exploitation and disenfranchisement of Native Americans. The author soundly critiques tribal governments as well, focusing in particular on the corruption and cronyism that characterizes so many of them. For most of these entities, “there is no balance of power; on the contrary power is very much out of balance.” That Treuer is one of a few Native Americans to have made it out of the “rez” only adds to the book’s poignancy. He examines a culture that is in crisis, but persists, even thrives, with enduring grit and courage. Powerful, important reading. (Author tour to Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Los Angeles)

I DARE TO SAY African Women Share Their Stories of Hope and Survival

Twongyeirwe, Hilda--Ed. Lawrence Hill Books/ Chicago Review (336 pp.) $17.95 paperback | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-56976-842-6

A collection of testimonies compiled by the members of FEMRITE, the Ugandan Women Writers’ Association, brings human-rights violations to light. The women telling these life stories range in age from 13 to 70, and all of them have been scarred by the injustices inherent in societies that enforce women’s inequality. Gaining access to refugees forced to flee their homes, wives who have contracted HIV/AIDS from unfaithful husbands and candidates for female circumcision, the FEMRITE activists allow women who have long been silenced to speak freely about their experiences. The fact that so many of these experiences convey horror and betrayal makes for grim reading, yet some women do express gratitude to the humanitarian organizations that have sprung up in Uganda in recent years. Others find comfort in religion or children; almost all struggle daily to bear the physical and emotional pain sustained from improper medical care, unhappy marriages, war atrocities and unrelenting poverty. The editors have grouped the anecdotes into four chapters. The first 2106

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addresses marital abuse and discord; the second, HIV/AIDS diagnoses; the third, war’s effects on women; and the fourth, female genital mutilation (FGM). The latter two chapters, in particular, vividly portray the agony with which these women struggle on a daily basis. To read these stories is to witness how African women bravely voice outrage and sorrow in the face of censure from those wishing to uphold entrenched cultural norms. As one woman eloquently puts it, “I wondered why culture and customs are always invoked and become sacred and unchangeable only when women try to fight for their rights.” Bleak yet inspiring evocations of hope in the midst of misery.

SPACE CHRONICLES Facing the Ultimate Frontier

Tyson, Neil DeGrasse Norton (384 pp.) $24.95 | Feb. 27, 2012 978-0-393-08210-4

Astrophysicist Tyson, the director of Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, delivers a forceful, cumulative argument for space exploration even in the face of a disastrous economy. In this collection of articles and talks, the author investigates what space travel means to us as a species and, more specifically, what NASA means to America. Deploying an energetic tone, scattershot with clever twists and peculiar, entertaining factoids, Tyson handles the species half of the equation from the comic angle. That perspective is inclusive and humbling, open and encouraging of wonder, and the author finds in Earth a precious mote in the vastness, allowing readers to transcend the primal and celebrate great scientific laws to appreciate our place in the universe. It also helps us get past the jingoistic aspects of space exploration, for if NASA—the other half of Tyson’s concern—is driven by anything, it is military politics. “When science does advance, when discovery does unfold, when life on Earth does improve,” he writes, “they happen as an auxiliary benefit and not as a primary goal of NASA’s geopolitical mission statement.” But those auxiliary benefits are the critical, serendipitous fallout of the space program: GPS, cordless power tools, ear thermometers, household water filters, longdistance telecommunication devices, smoke detectors and much more. You can’t script the benefits; you have to have faith in the cross-pollinating splendors of science, and Tyson finds little evidence for this in the current Congress. If Tyson handles both the rarified and scientific justifications of continued space funding with aplomb, his economic reasoning falls short. One half a penny of each tax dollar sounds scant, but that leaves only 199 like-sized programs for the entire government. An enthusiastic, persuasive case to start probing outer space again.

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INTO THE GARDEN WITH CHARLES A Memoir

Wachsberger, Clyde Phillip Farrar, Straus and Giroux (256 pp.) $28.00 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-374-17571-9 A love story to the author’s lush Long Island garden, to his affectionate partner and to the beauty, surprise and evanescence of life. Wachsberger (co-author: Daffodil, 2004, etc.) begins his memoir with a living snapshot: a moment in the garden with Charles, his partner, who is trimming the privet hedge; the author ruminates about how he had always dreamed of having such a companion. Wachsberger found his house (which was three centuries old, and showed it) in Orient, N.Y., in the 1980s. Living alone, he devoted himself to his garden. As he gradually improved the house and expanded the garden, he revisits his past, telling us about his parents, relatives and boyhood dreams, all of which, he writes, were romantic. But he’d never had much luck with lovers, had about given up and even considered suicide. Then he met Charles through a personal ad, and they clicked. The two became inseparable, and soon the author’s garden became “our” garden. Each brought to the task unique interests and perspectives (Charles liked more control; the author liked to see how things would work out). Their lives became rounds of acquiring plants (some quite rare), waiting for things to bloom, acquiring a puppy, going to the opera and arranging garden tours. Their lives became their Eden. The story darkens when the author developed prostate cancer; the disease had metastasized, eliminating the possibility of surgery or radiation. He tried hormone therapy and other experimental drugs, but readers will detect Wachsberger’s valedictory mood. A writer tends the garden of his life with tears of joy. (14 full-color illustrations)

IMMORTAL BIRD A Family Memoir

Weber, Doron Simon & Schuster (368 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-1-4516-1806-8 A father’s intimate portrait of a dying son. In his debut memoir, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation program director Weber chronicles his son’s monumental struggles with a malformed heart. Damon’s coming-of-age amid his illness quickly becomes the narrative focal point, as well as the effects of a family worn thin from the strain of his suffering. Damon’s father provides a voyeuristic view of a family in turmoil, serving as both patriarch and Damon’s most dedicated supporter. Yet after 9/11, Weber reached a startling conclusion: |

“Why couldn’t we stop this?” he writes. “What else can’t we protect [the children] from?” The answer was, heartbreakingly, a life-threatening illness. After a series of surgeries and the nearconstant seesawing of Damon’s health, the family soon learned that a heart transplant remained his only option for survival. Weber faithfully recounts this struggle, but Damon’s blog posts provide the most unadulterated view of innocence corrupted by illness. Weber’s occasional overstep from intimacy to indulgence is easily forgiven by the characters he brings to life, even as he watches his main character “disintegrating before [his] eyes.” In the climactic scene, as father and son met once more around the hospital bed, the author attempted a stoic farewell to his son: “There’s no time for false modesty,” he writes. “I’m only giving Damon is due.” A heartsick father’s poignant account of his heartsick son, and a primer on the fragility of life. (Agent: Kathy Robbins)

GOD’S RIGHT HAND How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right

Winters, Michael Sean HarperOne (464 pp.) $28.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-06-197067-2

A sympathetic biography of the man who, for good or ill, became “the face of Christianity to millions of Americans” in the 1980s. A successful pastor and pioneering televangelist who built his Thomas Road Baptist Church from 36 members to a megachurch of thousands, Jerry Falwell (1933–2007) was distressed that as America descended into what he considered moral anarchy, Christianity was represented in the political arena primarily by complicit liberal clergy. He saw government oppression in Supreme Court rulings and IRS policies, and he rallied conservatives to a defense of their values with “a fighting faith, a muscular Christianity ready to do battle, not reach an accommodation, with the forces of secularization at work in the mainstream culture.” Winters (Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics and How the Catholics Can Save the Democrats, 2008, etc.) effectively describes the worldview of a fundamentalist Baptist pastor that informed all of Falwell’s actions. He did not fully comprehend the pluralistic values of the society he wanted to reform, or the difficulties of promoting a morality grounded in religion within the politics of a secular culture. He was capable of forming lasting personal friendships with such opposing figures as Ted Kennedy and Larry Flynt, and yet his goals and intolerant rhetoric were often deeply hurtful and offensive to millions; as Flynt put it to him, “You don’t need to poison the whole lake with your venom.” Winters focuses primarily on Falwell’s political activities as a leader of the Moral Majority; an account of his parallel career as a pastor must await a more comprehensive biography. The author presents a thorough if indulgent account of Falwell’s rise to national prominence, including the temptations, conundrums and missteps

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“A goldmine of hand-picked information for those trying to navigate today’s tough consumer terrain.” from what’s your problem?

WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM? Cut Through Red Tape, Challenge the System, and Get Your Money Back

that befell him as his deepening involvement in politics drew him far afield from the biblical roots of his thinking. Falwell achieved few of the Moral Majority’s goals, but he reshaped the Republican Party and national politics. An illuminating biography, though Winters is often too forgiving of Falwell’s trespasses.

THE LAST GREAT GAME Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds that Changed Basketball

The Chicago Tribune’s problem-solving advocate hacks through the bureaucratic roadblocks of the contemporary

Wojciechowski, Gene Blue Rider Press (320 pp.) $26.95 | Jan. 5, 2012 978-0-399-15857-5

Thorough chronicle of the legendary 1992 NCAA basketball tournament clash between Duke and Kentucky. Duke’s last-second triumph over Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA East Regional is one of the most indelible moments in the history of college sports. Most college-basketball fans remember where they were when Duke’s Christian Laettner sank the miracle game-winning shot. Veteran ESPN columnist Wojciechowski (co-author, with Jerome Bettis: The Bus, 2008, etc.) tells the story of the game, and the two teams’ seasons leading up to it, with a newspaperman’s eye for detail. Arguably college basketball’s most iconic program, Kentucky, under new coach Rick Pitino, wasn’t even supposed to be a threat for the championship, just two seasons removed from crippling NCAA sanctions over widespread rules infractions. Duke, the defending NCAA champions, were on their way to becoming a modern dynasty under coach Mike Krzyzewski. The author explores the backgrounds and personalities of the opposing coaches and key players including, Kentucky’s freshman superstar Jamal Mashburn and Duke’s Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley. Wojciechowski neatly deals with the problem of a book-length exploration of a single game by retelling it twice, once from each team’s perspective. Though it obviously cannot compare with the excitement of watching the action, the book ably recaptures the energy of one of sport’s greatest moments. In Laettner, a villain to everyone except Duke fans, including some of his own teammates, the author finds a surprisingly complex protagonist, and the story’s most intriguing character. A fitting, illuminating tribute to a game that many believe was the best ever.

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Yates, Jon Harper/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-06-200988-3

customer experience. Yates admits that he’s come a long way from his roots as a sheepish kid and reticent college student to becoming Chicago’s solutions guru. He effectively distills his years as the Tribune’s “consumer conscience” in a book that tackles a variety of thorny and universal buyer-beware issues. As a common consumer, Yates sympathizes with those given the circuitous company runaround when simply seeking problem resolution. Refreshingly, the author doesn’t mince words about today’s fiercely competitive marketplace. Companies are in business to make money, they routinely avoid confrontation and being nice only goes so far when aiming for real results. The author dispenses pages of practical information on how consumers can avoid being taken advantage of whether by circumnavigating circuitous call centers, initiating small-claims court cases or battling utility providers and banks. He provides cautionary counsel on too-good-to-be-true product deals, service contracts and automobile financing, exposes cunning scamming operations and, perhaps most importantly, provides a definitive listing of “consumer commandments.” Elsewhere, Yates directs readers to resources like junk-mail removal websites and offers counsel on the most effective way to complain, and he reiterates that dogged determination is often the key to a successful negotiation. Rather than solve consumer problems, as in his newspaper column, the guidebook supplies the necessary tools to empower consumers to help themselves. “At some point,” Yates writes, “we all must become our own best advocates.” A goldmine of hand-picked information for those trying to navigate today’s tough consumer terrain.

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children & teens RANGOLI Discovering the Art of Indian Decoration

artist and sheep farmer whose real identity is made known when the drawing lands on Antiques Road Show decades later) and develops a love for animals by working on a farm before receiving news that his widowed father has been killed. Meanwhile, in alternating segments, a modern teen, Mallie, lands a part-time job in a pet shop owned by a crusty retired veterinarian, buys an old drawing in a thrift shop and engineers both work and a personal connection with the vet’s unattached son for her widowed artist mum. A disastrous dinner party during which the old man spots Mallie’s drawing and accuses her of theft sets up a climactic round of revelations, shared memories and long-ago connections that ties the tale into a tidy bow. Young readers may enjoy the lively banter between Mallie and her BF Jamila and perhaps take mild intellectual interest in the historical back story—but to American children for whom the war wasn’t fought so close to home, the emotional resonance won’t be particularly sharp. Likely to be a miss on this side of the pond, though written in a style fluid enough to smooth over some contrivances. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Ananth, Anuradha Illus. by Jain, Shailja Frances Lincoln (20 pp.) $11.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-179-1

What happens when a young city girl wakes up early in her grandma’s village? In the courtyard, she sees a large design of wavy lines enclosed in squares. There are graceful half-circles and curvilinear designs forming diamonds and teardrops. Grandma tells her about the custom of mixing rice flour and sugar and inviting ants and birds to share in this bounty as a good deed. Adding colored dyes, women create intricate designs to beautify exterior walls, courtyards and streets. The girl sees the designs everywhere. She wonders: “Where will I do a rangoli at our flat in the city?” Using a slate and chalk, Grandma demonstrates a design that she can replicate in her apartment hallway. The watercolor-and-pastel illustrations vary from full-bleed doublepage spreads to smaller panels; some illustrations feature cartoonlike, wide-eyed people and animals, and others focus on the rangoli, both geometric and pictorial. Outside of the subtitle, there is no mention of place, although the illustrations picture Indian life. In India, where this book was originally published, this art may have seemed familiar. Here, children with no prior knowledge may still be intrigued by the designs and the custom, to which this slim book is a brief introduction. The passing on of a traditional art from grandparent to grandchild is a worthy topic, but this short book provides too quick a glimpse of India and no real story development. (Picture book. 3-5)

AFTERSHOCK

Ashley, Bernard Frances Lincoln (144 pp.) $8.95 paperback | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-055-8 Football (soccer to Americans), his father’s mandolin and his concern for his widowed mother carry Makis through an earthquake on the Greek island of Kefalonia to a new life in Camden Town in London. The story moves swiftly, from the earthquake that devastates the island and kills Makis’ father (an earthquake actually did destroy the island in 1953), to the relocation to England, to Makis’ finding a place on the football team. His mother, Sofia, is devastated by her loss of spouse and homeland. She works in a Greek-run factory, but most of the Greeks there and in council housing are Greek-Cypriot and do not treat her kindly. Makis rapidly learns English and shows his strength on the pitch, but the boy he replaces on the school team rags on him because of his nationality. Not only does Makis find a way to teach his mother English, but an upstairs neighbor, a BBC musician, hears him play his father’s mandolin and invites Makis to practice with him. A crucial game, a crisis for his mother, a confrontation with a bully and a coach coming late to understanding combine for a satisfying climax. Ashley packs a lot

THE RABBIT GIRL

Arrigan, Mary Frances Lincoln (232 pp.) $8.95 paperback | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-156-2 A novel explores intergenerational links, with a modern teenager at one end and a child orphaned in the London Blitz at the other. The bombing sends unwilling, urbanized 10-year-old Tony into the Lakes District. There he is given a drawing by old “Mrs H” (a certain |

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of information and emotional resonance as well as some wizard football plays into a very simply told story. Both Makis and his mother show growth and strength under difficult circumstances, and children will be caught by the many strands in this brief but absorbing tale. (Fiction. 8-12)

EVERNEATH

Ashton, Brodi Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-06-207113-2 Ashton’s debut is a melancholy, modern retelling of Greek underworld myths. Nikki Beckett regains lucidity after a 100-year Feed in the Everneath. Cole, the immortal Everliving who brought her there willingly to feed on her emotions and life, is delighted that she has emerged from the Feed intact and offers her the chance to become an Everliving herself. Instead, Nikki chooses to go back and deliver the goodbyes she neglected when she initially fled the living world, though she cannot tell her loved ones where she has spent the past few months, which seriously hampers the repairing of relationships. Additionally, she has only six months before the Tunnels, the darkest part of the Everneath, claim her as a battery until the underworld drains her out of existence. As readers see her trying to find how to say goodbye, flashbacks reveal why she was in enough emotional pain to agree to go with Cole in the first place. While Cole persistently chases her, wanting her to return as his queen, she resists; choosing Cole means dooming another to her fate. A slightly overextended romantic subplot involving Jack, the boyfriend she left behind, resolves in time for a desperate Hail Mary pass. The intense prose is slow-motion grieving mixed with mythology, awakening hope and redemption—a mix ideal for angst connoisseurs. (Paranormal romance. 13 & up)

AWKWARD

Bates, Marni Kensington (264 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-7582-6937-9 A brilliant but socially inept girl finds herself starring in a YouTube video gone viral when she knocks over a football player and tries to give him CPR. Can she survive the humiliation? Mackenzie tries to keep her head down as the entire nation laughs at her for her awkward video moves. The popular “Notables” in her high school sneer. The press swarms her at school. But her notoriety takes a positive turn when the hottest rock group around turns her film into a music video with a new hit song, boosting her fame even further. Suddenly she receives in the mail dozens of boxes filled 2110

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with free designer clothes. She winds up singing with the hottie lead singer on stage. The film of her performance also goes viral when it turns out that Mackenzie has real talent. All these events lead to her sudden social rise in her high school’s hierarchy. But will the fame go to her head? Bates keeps her prose light, always focusing on the comedy as she lampoons highschool popularity, and gives narrator Mackenzie some good one-liners: “My life had officially become stranger than a Tim Burton movie.” It all becomes a bit preposterous, but hey, it’s a comedy, and a good one. Very funny. Should please lots of readers, awkward or not. (Comedy. 12 & up)

PRINCESS SYLVIE

Beskow, Elsa Illus. by Beskow, Elsa Floris (28 pp.) $17.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-086315-813-1

A beloved Swedish author’s picture books are finding their way into English more than 85 years after their original publication. This tale from 1934 is the second to appear in 2011, and while not quite so enchanting as The Land of Long Ago, it shares the same straightforward simplicity. Princess Sylvie and her father love going for walks in the palace gardens. The “big strong king” wears his red cloak and sash (and his crown, of course), and his velvets have a pocket of sweets for Sylvie. She and her dog, Oskar, want to leave the gardens to explore the woods beyond, but the king is doubtful. (His Majesty’s expressions, from doubt to confusion to surprise to annoyance, are quite funny.) But off they go, and Oskar immediately chases a hare. Sylvie runs after him, but the king, enraptured by the wildness of the wood, does not see her go. The hare hides behind a bear(!), who greets Oskar as a playmate. The bear bows to Sylvie and invites her to ride upon his back until her befuddled father orders her down, leashes Oskar and takes her tightly by the hand so they can get home in time for tea. The bear looks like a very large teddy, the “wild” wood is spacious and airy and Sylvie never loses her tiny crown or musses her dress. And the hare has a great story to tell his family. Old-fashioned in all the senses of the word, but quite charming in its art-deco shapes and vintage colors; Sylvie and her dog and her dad will probably find themselves wellknown once again. (Picture book. 4-6)

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“An exceptional individual is brought at last to the up-close-and-personal attention of young readers.” from his name was raoul wallenberg

HIS NAME WAS RAOUL WALLENBERG Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During World War II

of Montenegro, one of a long line of “blood drinkers,” is causing the illnesses. Elena is also trying to force Katerina into an unwanted relationship with her handsome, controlling older brother, Danilo. Katerina possesses the dark magic of necromancy—the ability to reanimate dead things. Could that power be motivating the vampire’s domineering drive to marry her? Perhaps the ring Katerina has been given by an elderly woman with her own agenda can help her fend him off, or maybe George, the tsar’s younger son, an apparent ally and potential love interest, will help? The fully realized setting, a fantastical version of pre-revolutionary Russia, adds a level of believability to this debut. Many key players are well-rounded, though with most aligned with Dark or Light forces, readers may need a scorecard to keep track of all the alliances, as well as the complex, never clearly explained back story. An atmospheric and complicated vampire tale that’s worth the effort of reading it. (Historical fantasy. 11 & up)

Borden, Louise Houghton Mifflin (144 pp.) $18.99 | Jan. 16, 2012 978-0-618-50755-9

An exceptional individual is brought at last to the up-close-and-personal atten-

tion of young readers. Raoul Wallenberg, born into a distinguished Swedish family in 1912, was destined for greatness. Outgoing, intelligent, artistic, fluent in multiple languages and deeply imbued with strong moral courage, he traveled the world from a young age. A sense of his life’s purpose developed while on business in Budapest in the mid-1940s. There he witnessed firsthand the Nazis’ brutal treatment of Hungary’s Jews. Eventually assigned to the neutral Swedish legation in Budapest, Wallenberg, on his own and with fellow outraged diplomats, labored tirelessly and at great personal risk to provide special documents and to adopt other measures that brought thousands of Hungarian Jews under royal Swedish protection, thus sparing them from deportation and death. Borden describes this hero’s extraordinary life and exploits in free verse, which makes for fast-paced, exciting (though sometimes choppy) reading. Her research has been impeccable, and she has included a wealth of personal and historic detail. The contemporary photos, documents and maps are excellent and place events in lucid context. Readers will be fascinated by the story of this laudable man—and shocked by his ignoble capture and mysterious imprisonment by the Russians at the end of the war. Details about Wallenberg’s final days remain unknown. Moving and inspiring; Wallenberg’s is a name to remember for all time, and Borden has done an admirable job of ensuring readers will. (epilogue, author’s note, bibliography, sources) (Biography. 11 & up)

GRAVE SECRETS

Cascone, Gina & Cascone, Annette Starscape/Tom Doherty (192 pp.) $12.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-7653-3065-9 Series: Deadtime Stories, 1 The Deadtime Stories from the mid-1990s are rising again—this time in conjunction with a planned series of liveaction TV-movies. In this lightly edited reboot, preteen Amanda discovers an old doll buried in her backyard and shortly thereafter begins receiving ghostly messages written in sand or bathroom steam along the lines of “I want my baby back—now!” Then the doll disappears. Getting it back entails multiple encounters with Anna, the child ghost from whom it was stolen long ago, and the hostile, spooky old lady next door known to Amanda and friends as “Barnsey.” The shudders here are laboriously manufactured by contrived cliffhangers at each short chapter’s end, an obnoxious character who revels in sharing eerie rumors about Barnsey’s supposed witchy ways, nighttime expeditions into her yard and, particularly, with frequent screams: “And Kevin, who had been screaming his head off over Anna’s appearance, stopped screaming mid-scream the moment he saw Barnsey.” There’s no overt gore or violence, Anna fades away once she’s reunited with her doll and Barnsey, unsurprisingly, suddenly turns into a nice old lady. Formula horror from the 1990s still feels formulaic today. (Horror. 9-11)

THE GATHERING STORM

Bridges, Robin Delacorte (400 pp.) $17.99$10.99 e-book | PLB $20.99 Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-385-74022-7 978-0-375-89901-0 e-book 978-0-385-90829-0 PLB Series: The Katerina Trilogy, 1 Sixteen-year-old Katerina, a descendant of Russian royalty, is threatened with the evil sorcery of vampires in this first of a trilogy. Attending a school for young noblewomen, Katerina feels she’s valued only for her potential for a good marriage but she wants a career in medicine, her true passion—not likely for a young woman in 1888 Russia. When classmates fall deathly ill, Katerina’s convinced that her roommate, Elena, Princess |

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“An inventive new take on the traditional bully story.” from popular clone

POPULAR CLONE

Castle, M.E. Egmont USA (320 pp.) $15.99 | $15.99 e-book | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-60684-232-4 978-1-60684-301-7 e-book What happens when you take one lovable-but-nerdy sixth grader and add a little mad scientist and a smattering of tween James Bond? You get Fisher Bas, a 12-year-old genius who’s seen the inside of one too many toilet bowls thanks to the Vikings, Wampalog Middle School’s infamous band of bullies. Unwilling to subject himself to one more day of torment, Fisher steals a sample of his world-renowned scientist mother’s top-secret human-growth hormone and clones himself. At first, Fisher is relieved to let his clone deal with the Vikings while he watches from his computer at home, but his simple plan quickly becomes dangerously complicated. Fisher Two’s unexpected popularity threatens to blow their cover, and things go from bad to worse when both Fishers wind up in the evil grasp of resident mad scientist Dr. X, who’s desperate to get his hands on the topsecret formula. Castle’s debut, the first in a planned series, strikes just the right balance of humor and action and is sure to keep young readers turning the pages. Fisher’s struggles to fit in, to relate to girls and to uncover and preserve his true self feel genuine, making him a misfit and unlikely hero worth rooting for. An inventive new take on the traditional bully story. (Fantasy. 9-12)

THE COYOTE UNDER THE TABLE / EL COYOTE DEBAJO DE LA MESA

Castro L., Antonio Cinco Puntos (136 pp.) $19.95 | paper $12.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-935955-21-4 978-1-935955-06-1 paperback Eight tales of tricksters and magical transformations are given a Southwestern setting by a veteran storyteller and paired to Spanish versions on facing pages. Despite occasional common folkloric elements, the stories are not just regional variations on “Cinderella” and other well-worn chestnuts. In “If I Were an Eagle / Si Yo Fuera Águila,” for instance, an orphan lad with the ability to turn himself into various animals rescues a kidnapped princess from a giant but marries the shepherd’s daughter who saves him from a bear. A village comedian subsequently answers three supposedly impossible questions to save a beloved priest in “What Am I Thinking? / ¿Qué Estoy Pensando?” and in “Caught on a Nail / Enganchado en un Clavo,” a clever young woman fools three persistent suitors into terrifying one another. Other tales feature a magical ring that sows dismay by doubling and redoubling 2112

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the wearer’s strength, a spotted cat who leads a young third brother to riches and (in the title story) a coyote and an old dog who put aside their traditional enmity to become allies. Each tale opens with a realistically detailed black-and-white scene to set the comic or dramatic mood. Though previously published (in English only) by a small press as Everyone Knows Gato Pinto (1992) and also available in audio versions, these wise and witty tales continue to repay fresh encounters. (source notes) (Folktales. 10-12)

THE WISHCATCHERS

Christie, Carol Floris (137 pp.) $11.95 paperback | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-86315-801-8 Familiar plot elements of the new girl in town, the girl bully and the girl with imagination and belief in magic characterize this friendship/magical-realism story from a Scottish publisher. When Ant (short for Antonia) finds a shell necklace in a cave by the sea, she’s certain that it’s connected to the Wishcatchers. Only the villagers know that if you place a written wish in a fishing creel and drop it into the water at Wishcatchers’ Point, your wish could come true. When Ant wishes that Rosie the school bully would “pick on” the new girl in the class instead of her, it’s a case of “be careful what you wish for,” as Ant and Clarissa, the new girl, quickly become friends. This slight story has many holes. The Wishcatchers, whom Ant sees one misty night, are never sufficiently explained to readers. Adults are incidental here; the events revolve around Ant and Clarissa and their effort to help Rosie the bully (whom they discover is being verbally abused by her brother). British terms sometimes clog the action: “trainers” (sneakers); “chock-a-block”; “draught”; “chocolate-spread sandwiches”; and so on. Ant’s naiveté makes her seem younger than the apparent intended audience. Readers probably won’t wish for a sequel. (Fantasy. 7-11)

THE EDUMACATION OF JAY BAKER

Clark, Jay Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (288 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-8050-9256-1 A sardonic teen must balance life, love and irritable bowel syndrome in this strained middle-class comedy of manners. Jay Baker’s life is a mess. His parents are separating, his mom is shacking up with his crush object’s dad and he’s running for freshman-class president against football Neanderthal Mike Hibbard, who’s been bullying him for the past two years. He’s also torn between two girls: the aforementioned crush—and best friend—Cameo kirkusreviews.com

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and hot, new tennis whiz Caroline. To top it all off, Jay’s IBS does nothing to help his game either on or off the court. Clark’s dialogue-heavy prose is littered with Jay’s sarcastic zingers, often to the point of distraction, like this tortured bon mot: “Ah, there he was: my born-again inner snarkster delivering that little fetus to their doorstep. It’s a boy!” Between the soapy story line, constantly acerbic commentary and clumsily doctored pop-song titles that introduce each chapter, the whole effect is too, too much. In addition, references to current celebrities like Katy Perry and Jessica Alba ensure a short shelf life. For more authentically humorous male teen voices that aren’t trying so hard, look to Don Calame’s Swim the Fly (2009) or Susan Juby’s Getting the Girl (2008). Restraint would have been the better part of valor here. (Fiction. 13 & up)

Cross, Julie Dunne/St. Martin’s Griffin (352 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-312-56889-4 Series: Tempest, 1 Jackson Meyer is a 19-year-old Upper East Sider with a loving and loyal girlfriend, a brilliant and funny best friend and an unexpected and exciting new talent. Inexplicably, Jackson can suddenly “jump” back and forth in time. Exploring his gift for time travel begins as harmless fun but quickly turns into a bona fide race against time as Jackson journeys two years into the past to save the girl he loves in the present. Using a combination of Jackson’s journal entries and his own first-person narration, debut author Cross takes readers on a thrilling ride as Jackson struggles to harness his abilities in a desperate attempt to learn the truth about who he is and, even more importantly, who he can trust. Though plenty complicated, the logistics of time travel are woven into the story in a way that makes them accessible to readers yet still feel organic. The characters are equally well crafted. Complex and distinct, they will work their way into readers’ hearts and stay with them long after the book is finished. It is equal parts adventure, romance, science fiction and touching family drama; readers will turn the last page and find themselves wishing they could “jump” to the future and read the sequel. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

ANOTHER BROTHER

Cordell, Matthew Illus. by Cordell, Matthew Feiwel & Friends (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-312-64324-9

Davy, a little sheep, has trouble adjusting to the arrival of not one but 12 baby brothers in this humorous twist on the tried and true new sibling theme. Although Davy was his parents’ adored only lamb, “things change.” In the space of two page openings, he suddenly has a dozen little brothers wagging their tails behind him. True to their ovine nature—and much to his chagrin—the little sheep copy Davy’s every move. When he complains, his exhausted parents say that his flock of siblings imitates him out of admiration, reassuring him that as they grow and find their own interests they will let him be. This can’t happen soon enough for poor, beleaguered Davy, who can’t even groan without a dozen echoes of “ugh” bleating forth—or can it? When the day comes that his brothers do stop mimicking him, Davy feels alone and bereft until he hears a voice echoing his once more—but this time it comes not from another brother, but from a new sister, a downright “darling ewe.” This is not just another new-baby book: Cordell’s humorous text and mischievously silly, expressive cartoon art will have readers bleating to read it again and again. (Picture book. 4-8)

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THE GREAT RABBIT RESCUE

Davies, Katie Illus. by Shaw, Hannah Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (224 pp.) $12.99 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-1442420649 Barely pausing from their labors, recounted in The Great Hamster Massacre (2011), Anna and Suzanne return to sow more mayhem. Again, their focus is pets; this time, it’s Joe-down-thestreet’s New Rabbit. Joe’s obsessed with protecting it from harm, but now that he’s moving in with his dad, whose landlord prohibits pets, Joe must leave New Rabbit behind. Because her family’s New Cat was the indirect cause of Old Rabbit’s demise, Anna is determined to protect its successor. Joe’s strategy of standing guard with a Super Soaker to repel predators is not an option, but the girls are up to the challenge. Aided by Anna’s little brother, Tom, they concoct a splendid, if very complicated, plan to keep New Rabbit safe. (Clandestine visits to mean Miss Matheson’s compost heap, technical assistance from retired police officer Mrs. Rotherham and a working knowledge of Beatrix Potter are involved.) The plan appears to work until New Rabbit gets sick. Joe isn’t doing well, either. Could they |

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be pining for each other? While reintroducing characters slows the pace at first, once underway, this gentler sequel again showcases Davies’ laconic style and deadpan humor, so well-matched to the chapter-book format. Neatly complementing the text, Shaw’s sly, witty illustrations, pie charts and graphics are a treat. A welcome return for the indomitable Anna. (Fiction. 8-12)

THE MERCHANT’S DAUGHTER

Dickerson, Melanie Zondervan (288 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0310727613 Living in rural Glynval, England, in 1352, a beautiful but penniless merchant’s daughter discovers appearances can be deceiving. As she did with The Healer’s Apprentice (2010), Dickerson spins period romance from a fairy tale, in this case, “The Beauty and the Beast.” When their wealthy father loses his ships in a storm and dies of pestilence, 17-yearold Annabel and her family must pay a huge fine to avoid the indenture of one of them to Lord Ranulf le Wyse. Although her “dearest wish was to enter a convent,” Annabel opts to work as Ranulf ’s serving maid rather than enter an arranged marriage with the lecherous bailiff. Rumored to have a fierce temper and beastly appearance, Ranulf finds himself attracted to kindhearted Annabel and, to her joy, asks her to read him the Bible every evening. When the bailiff is brutally attacked and Annabel implicated, Ranulf knows he should send her away to a convent, but he can’t bear to lose her. Should Annabel flee or stay to defend lonely, disfigured Ranulf, whom she has come to love? Awash in meticulous medieval detail and heavily glossed with Christian overtones, this thinly veiled homily pulses with selfsacrifice, good intentions and suppressed sexuality. A virtuous romance with characters who “fall in love with each other’s inner beauty in spite of outward appearance.” (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

CRAFTY CHLOE

DiPucchio, Kelly Illus. by Ross, Heather Atheneum (40 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 21, 2012 978-1-4424-2123-3

items are hard to make, and they require planning and skills. Will Chloe finish her special gift in time? Chloe feigns having the “chicken pops” to avoid the hard work of creating a masterpiece. But when she makes up her mind to go to the party, the hard work begins. After thinking and doodling for a very long time, Chloe passionately works away the day on her personal gift. An accident that happens on the way to party poses a challenge to Chloe that she gracefully rises to meet. DiPucchio is to be commended for providing a simple and strong story with a loving solution that will surprise readers. Strong pacing and fanciful illustrations full of happy yellow highlights capture a delightfully determined and winning child. Ross gives Chloe a sweet individuality that makes her memorable and likable. A corresponding website provides crafting ideas and instructions. Required reading for any child going to a birthday party. (Picture book. 4-8)

THE PIRATES NEXT DOOR

Duddle, Jonny Illus. by Duddle, Jonny Templar/Candlewick (44 pp.) $15.99 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-7636-5842-7

A newly moved-in family with a different lifestyle gets a hostile reception from the oh-so-respectable neighbors. Most of them, anyway. As in a dream come true, dazzled young Matilda welcomes Jim Lad, who “had no shoes, an eye patch, and a wooden-legged dog… / a pirate ship with treasure chests and barrels full of grog!” The arrival of Jim’s family in aptly named Dull-on-Sea is more of a nightmare for Matilda’s parents and the other adults though, who complain vociferously, spread rumors (“They never wash. / Their kids have lice. / They also just don’t smell that nice.”), and petition Town Hall for an eviction. “Before you know it, there’ll be more—we’ll all have pirates right next door!” Rendering every detail with concrete exactitude, Duddle (Pirate Cruncher, 2010) depicts Matilda and the pirates having wild pirate fun as comically dismayed townies huddle and recoil. No worries: the Jolley-Rogers are only ashore temporarily to make some repairs, and one morning they’re gone—leaving large X’s in everyone’s yard marking, as a double gatefold reveals, buried chests of treasure to show that “pirates aren’t so bad.” Veiled in humor, but hard not to read as a parable that tweaks narrow minds and parochial attitudes. (Picture book. 6-8)

Crafty Chloe is the creative cousin of Clementine. Ginger haired, with an adorable taste in free-to-be-me outfits and a heart of gold, this young heroine finds original and kindhearted solutions to big problems. When snooty London flaunts that SHE has already purchased the perfect gift for Chloe’s best friend Emma, Chloe retorts that she is going to make a present instead. But handmade 2114

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“[Muth] creates an airy, expansive setting for the spare words that positively compels pensive contemplation.” from blowin’ in the wind

CALIFORNIA HISTORY FOR KIDS Missions, Minors, and Moviemakers in the Golden State

near roads and on rolling grassy hills, in a misty wood or floating in a small boat past a prison wall and a mountain of ice. Adding paper airplanes, a bright red balloon, a guitar, a cannon shrouded in national flags (topped by those of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China) and other openly metaphorical details, the artist creates an airy, expansive setting for the spare words that positively compels pensive contemplation. Big questions, posed with majestic simplicity—and packaged with a CD of the original track. (artist’s afterword). (Picture book. 8-10, adult)

Duffield, Katy S. Chicago Review (144 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-56976-532-6 Series: For Kids, The title says it all, almost, about “The Golden State,” from early history to the near-present. Covering many topics with sidebars and illustrations to supplement the main text, as well as supplying 21 activities, largely crafts, such a book might be used as a text for elementary-school classes. But there are many elements that weaken its usefulness. The inclusion of facts seems scattershot; for instance, the book contains a “California First Facts” that lists the “Number of Dentist Offices (2008)” but does not mention the state flower, state bird, state animal or state flag—surely of more use and interest to students than dentists. Throughout, information is abbreviated and feels dumbed down, though the author has been fair in discussing issues about Junípero Serra, the internment of Japanese-Americans, the anti-foreigner laws during the Gold Rush and after, the treatment of minorities and the destruction of native populations by Anglo and Spanish invaders. But without a tribal map, how can readers know what areas the Maidu or Kashia or Coast Miwok or Ohlone inhabited? Without a general state map and/or textual description, how can readers know what areas are covered by geographical terms such as northern, southern or central California? As for the activities, they are poorly planned and do little to enhance the straightforward (one might say dull) prose. Caveat emptor. (bibliography, websites, index [not seen]) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

KISS OF FROST

Estep, Jennifer Kensington (368 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7582-6694-1 Series: Mythos Academy, 2 Psychometrist Gwen Frost returns in this series sequel to investigate mysteries and attempt to forestall a clash of titans. With her usual sarcasm and selfdeprecation, Gwen again narrates, while Estep capitalizes on details she laid in opener Touch of Frost (2011). Characters who previously resembled caricatures gain new depth, and the evolving storyline grows more nuanced. Gwen herself is wiser, flexing greater understanding of people’s mystifying motives. By the time she and her mythologically descended classmates attend the annual Winter Carnival, early in the novel, Gwen has survived two attacks on her life. A third attempt to thwart Gwen occurs soon enough, but the book’s gnawing tension stems from the romantic subplots. Gwen’s main squeeze eludes her long enough for readers to empathize with those moments when jealousy strikes her—in this manner, as in many others, high school is the same for preternaturally gifted adolescents as for normal ones. The author deftly manipulates other teenage crushes, planting false trails as to who wants Gwen dead, though these red herrings will be obvious to some readers. No twists profoundly stun or enlighten, and sinister moments that arise fail to elicit spasms of horror. Estep elects to keep from exploring Gwen’s dark side but exploits her magical powers in innovative ways. Less formulaic and more suspenseful than its precursor, though still on the tame side. (Urban fantasy. 12 & up)

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND

Dylan, Bob Illus. by Muth, Jon J Sterling (32 pp.) $17.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-4027-8002-8

Dylan’s lyrics succeed here better than many other songs that find their way to picture books. Bucking the usual dismal results when popular songs are forced into an illustrated format, this one makes a brave go— though children will likely be less drawn to it than their parents and grandparents. Paired to Dylan’s often-abstract 1963 lyrics— which, as music scholar Greil Marcus notes in a perceptive tribute as an afterword, can be either “hopeful” or “full of doubt,” depending on how they are sung—Muth’s (Zen Shorts, 2005; City Dog, Country Frog, 2010) full-spread, Impressionistic watercolors are equally open to interpretation. They place a cast of introspective young children with eyes cast down or to the side |

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★★★

★★★★

★★★

Kirkus Reviews • Booklist Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books School Library Journal

The Horn Book • Kirkus Reviews • Booklist

wick Pr e l d e an shines bright

ss

C

HC: 978-0-7636-3619-7 • $24.99 ($28.00 CAN)

HC: 978-0-7636-4242-6 • $16.99 ($19.00 CAN)

HC: 978-0-7636-2931-1 • $15.99 ($18.00 CAN)

Kirkus Reviews • Booklist • School Library Journal

aRoUND thE WoRLD by Matt Phelan

NaaMah aND thE aRK at NIGht by Susan Campbell Bartoletti illustrated by Holly Meade

Who has What? All About Girls’ Bodies and Boys’ Bodies by Robie H. Harris illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott

★★★★

★★★

a MoNstER CaLLs by 2011 Carnegie Medalist Patrick Ness inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd illustrated by Jim Kay

thE FLINt hEaRt by Katherine and John Paterson illustrated by John Rocco HC: 978-0-7636-4712-4 • $19.99 ($23.00 CAN) • Also available in audio

Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews School Library Journal

HC: 978-0-7636-5559-4 • E-book: 978-0-7636-5633-1 $16.99 ($19.00 CAN) • Also available in audio

Booklist • Kirkus Reviews Publishers Weekly • School Library Journal

★★★★★

stEaMpUNK! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant HC: 978-0-7636-4843-5 • E-book: 978-0-7636-5638-6 • $22.99 ($26.00 CAN) Also available in audio

Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews • Booklist Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books School Library Journal

★★★★ LIFE: aN ExpLoDED DIaGRaM by Mal Peet Kirkus Reviews • Booklist Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books School Library Journal

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★★★ thE WatCh that ENDs thE NIGht Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf

HC: 978-0-7636-5227-2 • E-book: 978-0-7636-5631-7 $17.99 ($20.00 CAN) • Also available in audio

HC: 978-0-7636-3703-3 • $22.99 ($25.00 CAN) • Also available in audio

The Horn Book • Kirkus Reviews • Booklist

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C H I L DR E N

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2011 Best Books for Children Compiling our best-booksof-the-year lists can be both exciting and a little bit heartbreaking—there’s only so many times you can say, “Just one more.” After considerable solitary soul-searching and spirited back-and-forth with our corps of reviewers, I am pleased to present the first of our two lists of Best Books for youth. Here you will find books that will thrill, tickle, soothe and enlighten. Explore and enjoy, and make sure to visit www.KirkusReviews.com for the complete reviews, as well as author Q&As, essays and more.

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ROOTS AND BLUES: A CELEBRATION Arnold Adoff Illus. by R. Gregory Christie Clarion (Poetry. 8 & up)

CITY OF ORPHANS Avi llus. by Greg Ruth Richard Jackson/ Atheneum (Historical fiction. 10-14)

THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK Kelly Barnhill Little Brown (Fantasy. 9-12)

BLUE CHICKEN

Deborah Freedman Illus. by the author Viking (Picture book. 3-7)

NAAMAH AND THE ARK AT NIGHT Susan Campbell Bartoletti Illus. by Holly Meade Candlewick (Picture book. 3-7)

SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS Ellen Booraem Dial (Fantasy. 10-14)

DRAGON CASTLE Joseph Bruchac Dial (Fantasy. 10-14)

MOUSE & LION

Rand Burkert Illus. by Nancy Ekholm Burkert Michael di Capua/ Scholastic (Picture book. 3 & up)

JEFFERSON’S SONS

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley Dial (Historical fiction. 9-14)

WHAT’S NEW AT THE ZOO?

PABLO NERUDA: POET OF THE PEOPLE

Betty Comden & Adolph Green Illus. by Travis Foster Blue Apple (Picture book. 3-7)

Monica Brown Illus. by Julie Paschkis Henry Holt (Picture book. 4-11)

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CORAL REEFS

Jason Chin Illus. by the author Neal Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook (Informational picture book. 5-9)

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THE UNFORGOTTEN COAT Frank Cottrell Boyce Illus. by Carl Hunter and Claire Heney Candlewick (Fiction. 8-12)

THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT

Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright Illus. by Barry Moser Peachtree (Animal fantasy. 10-12)

TITANIC SINKS

Barry Denenberg Viking (Nonfiction. 10-14)

UNDERGROUND Shane Evans Illus. by the author Neal Porter/ Roaring Brook (Picture book. 5-9)

SIDEKICKS

SNOW RABBIT, SPRING RABBIT

Jack D. Ferraiolo Amulet (Superhero fantasy. YA)

Il Sung Na Illus. by the author Schwartz & Wade (Picture book. 1-5)

AMELIA LOST

Candace Fleming Illus. by Jessica Hische Schwartz & Wade (Nonfiction. 8-12)

CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER?

Martin Jenkins Illus. by Vicky White Candlewick (Informational picture book. 5-9)

HIDDEN

Helen Frost Francis Foster/Farrar Straus & Giroux (Poetry. 10-16)

CAMO GIRL

Kekla Magoon McElderry (Fiction. 8-14) Simon Mason David Fickling (Fiction. 9-12)

DEAD END IN NORVELT

ME… JANE

Jack Gantos Farrar Straus & Giroux (Autobiographical fiction. 11-13)

SQUISH, SUPER AMOEBA

STUCK

Patrick McDonnell Illus. by the author Little, Brown (Picture book/ biography. 2-10)

Jennifer L. Holm Illus. by Matthew Holm Random (Graphic novel. 7-9)

Oliver Jeffers Illus. by the author Philomel (Picture book. 3-6)

Lita Judge Illus. by the author Atheneum (Picture book. 2-7)

ZITA THE SPACEGIRL

INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN

Ben Hatke Illus. by the author First Second (Graphic science fiction. 9-12)

Thanhaha Lai Harper (Historical fiction/ verse. 9-12)

THE SECRET BOX Barbara Lehman Illus. by the author Houghton Mifflin (Picture book. 4-8)

WILD WINGS Gill Lewis Atheneum (Fiction. 9-13)

THE MANATEE SCIENTISTS

Peter Lourie Houghton Mifflin (Nonfiction. 10-14)

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Kadir Nelson Illus. by the author Balzer + Bray (Nonfiction. 10 & up)

MOON PIE

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THE FLOATING ISLANDS Rachel Neumeier Knopf (Fantasy. 12-14)

ORANI: MY FATHER’S VILLAGE

RED SLED

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HEART AND SOUL

IF I NEVER FOREVER ENDEAVOR

Holly Meade Illus. by the author Candlewick (Picture book. 4-8)

FIRES BENEATH THE SEA

Lydia Millet Big Mouth House (Fantasy. 9-13)

THE INQUISITOR’S APPRENTICE Chris Moriarty Illus. by Mark Edward Geyer Houghton Mifflin (Fantasy. 12 & up)

WE ARE AMERICA: A TRIBUTE FROM THE HEART Walter Dean Myers Illus. by Christopher Myers Harper (Picture book/ poetry. 8 & up)

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Claire A. Nivola Illus. by the author Frances Foster/ Farrar Straus & Giroux (Picture book/ memoir. 7-10)

LIESL & PO

Lauren Oliver Illus. by Kei Acedera Harper (Fantasy. 8-12)

SECRETS AT SEA

Richard Peck Illus. by Kelly Murphy Dial (Animal fantasy. 8-12)

AROUND THE WORLD

Matt Phelan Illus. by the author Candlewick (Graphic nonfiction. 10-13)


A year of Shining StArS from Chronicle Books!

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Press Here By Hervé Tullet

Brother Sun, Sister Moon: St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures Reimagined by Katherine Paterson Illustrated by Pamela Dalton

$14.99 HC 978-0-8118-7954-5

$17.99 HC 978-0-8118-7734-3

A Handprint Book

A Handprint Book

 “Magic.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review  “Brilliant.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“Gorgeous.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“An inspiring modern classic.”

 “A breath of fresh air.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review  “An interactive book that gives the

—Booklist, starred review

“Grace and joy for all ages.”

iPad a licking.” —The Horn Book, starred review

—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site By Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld $16.99 HC 978-0-8118-7782-4

“A standout picture book.” —Booklist, starred review

A Butterfly is Patient By Dianna Hutts Aston Illustrated by Sylvia Long

A Zeal of Zebras: An Alphabet of Collective Nouns By Woop Studios

$16.99 HC 978-0-8118-6479-4

$17.99 HC 978-1-4521-0492-8

 “Eye-catching.”

 “Thoughtful and provocative.”

—School Library Journal, starred review

 “Sure to be a hit with

truck-loving preschoolers.” —School Library Journal, starred review

—Publishers Weekly, starred review

 “A lovely mix of

“A fabulously fascinating

science and wonder.”

work of wondrous words.”

—Publishers Weekly, starred review

—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

 “Stunning.” - Library Media Connection, starred review

CHRONICLEBOOKS.COM/EDUCATORS

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BEST CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF 2011 from

★ Kirkus Reviews ★ Booklist ★ School Library Journal ★ Publishers Weekly

★ BCCB ★ Kirkus Reviews ★ School Library Journal

(HC) 978-0-8037-3376-3 • $16.99 • Ages 10 up

(HC) 978-0-8037-3455-5 • $16.99 •Ages 8-12

★ Kirkus Reviews ★ The Horn Book ★ Publishers Weekly

★ Kirkus Reviews

(HC) 978-0-8037-3471-5 • $16.99 • Ages 10 up

★ Kirkus Reviews ★ Booklist ★ School Library Journal

(HC) 978-0-8037-3499-9 • $17.99 • Ages 8-12

★ Kirkus Reviews

(HC) 978-0-399-25410-9 • $15.99 • Ages 3–5

(HC) 978-0-670-01243-5 • $19.99 • Ages 6 and up

(HC) 978-0-670-01293-0 • $15.99 • Ages 3–5

(HC) 978-0-399-25737-7 • $16.99 • Ages 3–7

Penguin Young Readers Group

★ Kirkus Reviews ★ Publishers Weekly ★ School Library Journal

★ Kirkus Reviews

Dial Books for Young Readers • G.P. Putnam’s Sons • Philomel Books • Viking Children’s Books Divisions of Penguin Young Readers Group • www.penguin.com/teachersandlibrarians Follow us on Twitter @ThePenguinPeeps

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THE FREEDOM MAZE

Delia Sherman Big Mouth House (Historical fantasy. 12 & up)

BLACKOUT

John Rocco Illus. by the author Disney Hyperion (Picture book. 5-8)

OWLY & WORMY, FRIENDS ALL AFLUTTER!

LOVE, MOUSERELLA

David Ezra Stein Illus. by the author Nancy Paulsen/ Penguin (Picture book. 5-7)

Andy Runton Illus. by the author Simon & Schuster (Picture book. 2-5)

EDDIE’S WAR

Carol Fisher Saller Namelos (Historical fiction. 11 & up)

WHERE’S WALRUS?

Stephen Savage Illus. by the author Scholastic (Picture book. 3-7)

Allen Say Illus. by the author Scholastic (Graphic memoir. 10 & up)

RAH, RAH, RADISHES!

April Pulley Sayre Illus. by the author Beach Lane/ Simon & Schuster (Picture book. 3-7)

OKAY FOR NOW CLARION Gary D. Schmidt (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Katie Van Camp Illus. by Lincoln Agnew Balzer + Bray (Picture book. 3-6)

YOUNG FREDLE TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR

Jane Taylor Illus. by Jerry Pinkney Little Brown (iPad storybook app. 3-7)

DIEGO RIVERA: HIS WORLD AND OURS

Duncan Tonatiuh Illus. by the author Abrams (Picture book/ biography. 5-9)

THE SUNDOWN RULE DRAWING FROM MEMORY

COOKIEBOT! A HARRY AND HORSIE ADVENTURE

Wendy Townsend namelos (Fiction. 8-12)

Cynthia Voigt Illus. by Louise Yates Knopf (Animal fantasy. 8-12)

BLIZZARD OF GLASS

Sally M. Walker Henry Holt (Nonfiction. 10-14)

WONDERSTRUCK Brian Selznick Illus. by the author Scholastic (Historical fiction. 9 & up)

SPINSTER GOOSE Lisa Wheeler Illus. by Sophie Blackall Atheneum (Picture book/poetry. 8 & up)

THE WATCHER

Jeanette Winter Illus. by the author Beach Lane/ Simon & Schuster (Picture book/ biography. 2-10)

ALL THE WAY TO AMERICA PRESS HERE

Hervé Tullet Illus. by the author Handprint/ Chronicle (Picture book. 3-8)

HOUND DOG TRUE Linda Urban Houghton Mifflin (Fiction. 8-12)

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Dan Yaccarino Illus. by the author Knopf (Picture book. 5-9)

A FEW BLOCKS

Cybèle Young Illus. by the author Groundwood (Picture book. 4-8)

TEN BIRDS

Cybèle Young Illus. by the author Kids Can (Picture book. 5-10)

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“This primer on friendship wrapped in hijinks is paced for maximum pleasure.” from east dragon west dragon

EAST DRAGON, WEST DRAGON

Eversole, Robyn Illus. by Campbell, Scott Atheneum (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-689-85828-4

In this variant of “The City Mouse and the Country Mouse,” two dragons learn to appreciate each another’s talents and milieus. Sophisticated East Dragon lives in the emperor’s palace with eight siblings. He dabbles in brush painting; a double-page spread of his family reveals skills ranging from sushi preparation and Kabuki performances to landscaping and storytelling. Whimsical caricatures hint at desktop Zen sand gardens and Pueblo storyteller dolls, anachronisms creating an additional level of enjoyment. West Dragon’s habitat is a “boy cave.” Surrounded by a tricycle, soccer ball, television set and books, he endures regular intrusions by the king’s knights: “Nothing made a cave smell nastier than roast knight.” While the dragons snub each other from their respective corners of the world, truth be told, each fears the other. It isn’t until West Dragon’s plot to distract the bothersome knights backfires, and he nearly drowns at the hand of marauding pirates, that their paths cross. Having just admired his counterpart’s great wingspan and ability to fly, East Dragon swims swiftly to the rescue. All ends very well at a party complete with karaoke, pizza and a piñata. Eversole’s spare narrative mixes tongue-in-cheek exaggeration, childhood fears and adventure, inspiring Campbell to contrast the rough and the refined, designing detailed watercolor worlds brimming with humor and beauty. This primer on friendship wrapped in hijinks is paced for maximum pleasure. (Picture book. 3-7)

THE RUMOR

Felix, Monique Illus. by Felix, Monique Creative Editions/ Creative Company (32 pp.) $16.99 | Dec. 15, 2011 978-1-56846-219-6 A group of animal friends misinterprets a small piece of information, resulting in outsized fears and creating a one-joke tale that rolls quickly along to a happy ending. The confusion begins when a quizzical-looking rabbit named Rupert spots an item about a wolf in the area while reading the paper. He hurries to warn his friends. As the story spreads and grows, each animal adds its own self-inspired spin. Cleo, the cat, describes the wolf ’s “sharp claws,” while Antoine, the alligator, focuses on its big teeth and biting ability. Young listeners are sure to get the joke when they realize that Antoine is sharing his fears with his friend Wallace, who just happens to be a wolf. Oddly enough, Wallace doesn’t point out the foolishness of their fears. Instead he panics too and urges all of his friends inside for a bowl of mushroom soup, which they enjoy in the safety of his 2122

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“double-locked” house. Most of Felix’s anthropomorphized animals wear items of clothing, and all are engaged in typical human activities. These details definitely add appeal (Antoine in the bathtub in an old-fashioned striped bathing costume is particularly amusing, while Rupert’s blue jacket is decidedly reminiscent of another storybook rabbit’s), but they aren’t enough to entirely outweigh the predictable plot and didactic overtones. Ironically enough, this particular Rumor doesn’t seem likely to inspire much repetition. (Picture book. 6-8)

THE LONELY PINE

Frisch, Aaron Illus. by Delessert, Etienne Creative Editions/ Creative Company (32 pp.) $17.99 | Dec. 15, 2011 978-1-56846-214-1 Poetic phrases and gorgeous illustrations introduce readers to the harsh environment of the Arctic. Stunted, ragged and lonely, a lone pine growing above the treeline witnesses the changes that the seasons bring throughout one Arctic year—from the snowy darkness of the winter months to the snowmelt and blooming of spring, the year completes its cycle in darkness once again: “The sun retreated. / The colors followed, hunted by the cold. / The world turned silver under black. / Bright stars freckled the sky. / The moon reclaimed its throne.” Frisch’s elegant language, while lovely, precludes this being used by the youngest audiences, who will notice the lack of a plot and may miss the allusions to migration and the northern lights. Delessert’s watercolor-and–coloredpencil artwork helps bridge this gap a little by bringing to life the colors and textures of the Artic. While a few of his animals look a little awkward, most scenes are filled with up-close views of the animals and landscape of the far north, the pine always visible, even if only the tips of its needles. Beautifully turned phrases and perfectly captured descriptions beg for this to be used in middle- and highschool writing classes. (Picture book. 9-13)

I AM THOMAS

Gleeson, Libby Illus. by Greder, Armin Allen & Unwin (32 pp.) $19.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-74237-333-1 “March to the beat of your own drummer and never look back,” appears to be the theme of this picture book for teens. Thomas resents and defies family, teachers and peers, whether they are asking him to keep clean, do his homework or show respect. He hides behind his headphones as they deliver accusations and predict his failure, but he offers nothing as an alternative. He kirkusreviews.com

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WHY WE BROKE UP

interprets cultural pressures that urge him to join the military or to vote or to embrace religion as demands to “do as we say, think like us, be like us.” This mantra appears frequently, sometimes shouting at readers in large bold letters and sometimes hiding in gray beneath other text. Gleeson’s spare, terse syntax is woven within and around Greder’s stark, rather vicious, gray-and-black illustrations that variously fill the pages or are scattered in panels. Thomas is depicted only in the final pages, drawn in lightly colored hues, first surrounded by childhood toys and last seen heading for a bus, presumably leaving home with destination and future unknown. All of this is way beyond teenage angst or even a search for one’s passion or raison d’etre. The overall mood of the piece is one of intense, unremitting anger. It is far beyond the emotional understanding of the usual picture-book audience and ultimately without substance or purpose for older readers. Dark, bitter and disturbing. (Picture book. 13 & up)

Handler, Daniel Illus. by Kalman, Maira Little, Brown (368 pp.) $19.99 | Dec. 27, 2011 978-0-316-12725-7

A toy truck, bottle caps, rose petals, a cookbook and a box full of other seemingly unobtrusive mementos are dumped on the doorstep of Ed Slaterton by his exgirlfriend, Min. Their unlikely romance lasted just over a month. On the exterior he’s a gorgeous basketball-jock douchebag; she’s an outspoken, outsider, romantic-movie buff with frizzy hair. They’re opposites, and no one else in the novel sees why they’re together. But as objects from the box are revealed in Kalman’s vividly rendered paintings, readers are taken beneath the surface of what will no doubt be one of the most talked-about romances in teen literature. Handler frames their lives together with a sharp, cinematic virtuosity that leaps off the pages. Their relationship sparks and burns with so much passion, honesty, enlightenment and wonder that readers will feel relieved when they finish those chapters that don’t end with “…and that’s why we broke up.” The ordinary becomes extraordinary: A thriftstore cookbook explodes into a madcap dinner party for an aging imaginary film star. A rubber band causes readers to wince in pain when it’s ripped from Min’s hair. Torn condom wrappers induce smiles of knowing amusement as Min jokingly describes her first time. All is lovingly connected via a roster of fantastically drawn films and stars that readers will wish actually existed. The novel’s only fault lies in its inevitable conclusion, which can’t help but be a letdown after 300+ pages of blazing romance. A poignant, exhilarating tale of a love affair gone to the dogs. (Romance. 14 & up)

CIRCLE OF FIRE

Hall, S.M. Frances Lincoln (322 pp.) $8.95 paperback | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-121-0 Series: The Maya Brown Missions, 1 The first in a proposed thriller series, this book introduces a new heroine, 15-year-old Brit Maya Brown. Maya is devoted to her mother, Pam, a highly placed agent in England’s security services. Pam rescued Maya from the horrors of ethnic conflict in Eastern Europe, bringing her west and adopting her. Now, years later, Maya considers herself an average English teen, not the Muslim child she was as an infant. But it is Islamic extremists who are threatening to kidnap her if Pam doesn’t stop investigating their terrorist activities. Tucked away in the countryside, surrounded by security guards, Pam and Maya think they’re safe enough to go for a quick jog…only to have the threatened kidnapping go horribly wrong when it’s Pam who is abducted. Now it’s up to Maya to do the rescuing. To save her mum and stop the threat of multiple bombings, Maya must infiltrate the Islamic community in Leeds and separate friend from foe before it’s too late. In and around the action, Maya’s search explores relevant themes of bigotry, civil unrest, faith and loyalty, as well as the search for self-discovery all teens must make. But the overall treatment of these themes feels glib and oversimplified, and Maya’s growth is subverted by the book’s mission. Here’s hoping future outings fold the big ideas in more gracefully. (Thriller. 11-16)

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LETTERS TO MISSY VIOLET

Hathaway, Barbara Houghton Mifflin (160 pp.) $15.99 | Jan. 9, 2012 978-0-547-36300-4

This Depression-era gem, a followup to Hathaway’s debut (Missy Violet & Me, 2008), offers a child’s-eye view on America’s racial inequities. Like its predecessor, the novel utilizes the epistolary format with minimal narration. Viewed primarily through the lens of young Viney, the letters feel real, as though discovered in an old cigar box. Viney updates Missy Violet, a midwife traveling to care for a sick relative, on everything from the sour disposition of her schoolteacher to a fearful encounter in the woods with the Ku Klux Klan, from the hilarious wedding of a homely spinster to the courtship of a curmudgeonly codger called “Som Grit” with the honest simplicity of one who has lived these events. Missy Violet’s responses are measured and reassuring. Hathaway’s tone never surpasses |

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a child’s reckoning, allowing readers to respond to its gentleness and the authenticity of its voices. She imbues delicate little passages with more love than a Valentine and weaves difficult bits of history into everyday life, reminding readers that America was born from hard times and that its people continue to develop roses amid thorns. Like a warm cup of alphabet soup, this offering packs several essential ingredients—hope, love, despair, courage, family, honor—into a hearty, child-size blend. (Historical fiction. 6-9)

THE BUNNY’S NIGHT-LIGHT A Glow-in-the-Dark Search Hayes, Geoffrey Illus. by Hayes, Geoffrey Random (32 pp.) $11.99 | Jan. 24, 2012 978-0-375-86926-6

When Bunny announces that he cannot sleep because “[t]here’s too much dark at night,” he and Papa go off on the subtitle’s promised “Glow-in-the-Dark Search” for the perfect night-light. The text presents a comforting, if slight exchange between father and child as Papa points out potential night-lights and Bunny rejects them: The moon? Too bright. Stars? Too twinkly. Fireflies? Too busy. Papa never loses patience as their hunt takes them from their front door to field and shore and all around rabbit town, when Papa finally realizes that Bunny wants a light in his room. They return home again, where Mama solves the problem by unpacking the night-light she used as a child. Each spread is framed by a repeating border of vignettes in soothing indigo blue. The illustrations are suffused with earthy colors and muted pinks, blues and greens, creating such a cozy scene of town and home that children will want to move in. However, the rabbits’ faces are sometimes distorted, and the promised glow-in-thedark lights are disappointingly dim unless read under the covers, spread by spread, with a flashlight flicking on and off. The book, a revision of A Night-Light for Bunny (2004), is only partly successful in execution. Children who want soothing at bedtime may do better with House in the Night, by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes (2008), or the classic Goodnight Moon. (Picture book. 2-5)

THE WHOLE STORY OF HALF A GIRL

Hiranandani, Veera Delacorte (224 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-385-74128-6 978-0-375-98441-9 e-book 978-0-375-98995-7 PLB Four decades separate Sonia Nadhamuni and Judy Blume’s Margaret Simon, but these feisty, funny offspring of Jewish interfaith marriages are sisters under the skin. Perched on the uncertain cusp of adulthood, each grapples with perplexing cultural identity issues, but in very different worlds. While Margaret’s grandparents pressure her to label herself as they wish, it’s Sonia’s peers who expect her to define herself racially and culturally. Having a nominally Hindu, Indian-immigrant dad and Jewish-American mom wasn’t a big deal until her father lost his job. Now Sonia must leave her comfortably small private school behind and—with Dad sinking into clinical depression and Mom taking on more work—chart her own course at Maplewood Middle School. Where does she fit? With the cheerleaders like pretty, blonde Kate or the bussed-in, city kids like Alisha, who’s writing a novel? Sonia’s the only cheerleader not invited to Peter Hanson’s birthday party. Is racism the cause? As in real life, her challenges don’t come neatly compartmentalized; Sonia will have to work out her mixed-heritage identity while contending with stressed-out parents, financial woes and vexing social uncertainties. Multifaceted characters, especially Sonia—astute, observant and original—provide depth. Like Blume, Hiranandani resists simplistic, tidy solutions. Each excels in charting the fluctuating discomfort zones of adolescent identity with affectionate humor. (Fiction. 9-13)

A BOY CALLED DICKENS

Hopkinson, Deborah Illus. by Hendrix, John Schwartz & Wade/Random (40 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-375-86732-3 Metafictive techniques and atmospheric graphite, ink and acrylic compositions effectively pull readers into the life and soul of 12-year-old Charles Dickens. As in Hendrix and Hopkinson’s Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek (2008), the narrator addresses the audience directly, inviting viewers to search for the boy in the London fog, experience his long day in the vermin-infested shoe-polish factory and consider the effects of dysfunctional parenting on a youth. Both accessible and rich in simile and metaphor, this fictionalized biography concerns the budding novelist’s coming of age, as he

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““This attractive world (warriors ride unicorns!) and likable characters… will give fledgling readers of fantasy a treat.” from warriors of the black shroud

WARRIORS OF THE BLACK SHROUD

ekes out a living (during his family’s stint in debtors’ prison) and pursues his dream. Page designs vary, some combining four distinct layers: a Leonardo-inspired composition that creates convincing depth in the hazy distance; a realistic cityscape bathed in grays and browns; close-up, highly-focused caricatures, rendered in a brighter palette; and swirling, blue, otherworldly figments of the boy’s imagination. He is often “surrounded by… ladies with shattered hopes; a miserly old man; a young gentleman with great expectations….” David Copperfield appears in an imagined encounter relayed to Dickens’ friend, Fagin. The final scene portrays the celebrated adult author, after which Hopkinson reflects on Dickens’ difficulty in discussing his adolescence and “how much we all might lose when a child’s dreams don’t come true.” This thoughtful and entertaining portrait offers a model for reading critically that will bear fruit as readers grow. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Howe, Peter Harper/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $16.99 | PLB $17.89 | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-06-172987-4 978-0-06-172988-1 PLB This fast-paced fantasy novel begins with a nerdy boy reading in his refrigerator-box hideout, only to be whisked off to a kingdom filled with beauty and magic. When 11-year-old Walker Watson meets red-headed, swordbearing Prince Edward, he discovers that in the Kingdom of Nebula, “We live in light but we don’t forget that the dark is always present just the other side of the walls, and it could take over at any moment.” When the Warriors of the Black Shroud and their evil master strike Nebula, the reluctant Walker, his only friend Frances (a.k.a. Frankie) and Prince Edward take action. With the exception of the three young people, characters develop only enough to make sense within the plot and drive the action. This book falls into the traditional category of good-against-evil battles in which “elders have to be taught by children”; the explicit use of “Chosen One” to describe, well, the Chosen One further wedges it into its genre niche. Wellworn tropes aside, the climax and resolution have just enough surprise to satisfy readers. This attractive world (warriors ride unicorns!) and likable characters—boy heroes with a strong girl sidekick— will give fledgling readers of fantasy a treat. (Fantasy. 8-11)

TIGER’S VOYAGE

Houck, Colleen Splinter/Sterling (560 pp.) $17.95 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-4027-8405-7 Series: Tiger’s Curse, 3 Hunky Indian were-tiger–sibling rivals continue to claw at the heart of their American lady love in this quest quartet’s penultimate doorstopper. Devastated that the elder brother, Ren, walled off all memory of their passionate love and psychic attachment in the previous episode (he had his reasons), Kelsey embraces the sultry affections of Kishan. No sooner does she promise Kishan that he’s The One than Ren regains his memories, though, and, being jealous and controlling as well as still being her “blue eyed prince” and “dark Poseidon,” proceeds to screw the romantic conflict to agonizing levels. (So to speak: For all the steamy snogging, neither tiger prince still even gets to second base here.) Eventually Kelsey and company set off on a nautical quest for a magical Necklace that is the third of the goddess Durga’s four promised gifts and the next stage in removing the ancient curse that forces the two men to spend part of each day as big cats. Having thrown a kraken, a giant shark and no fewer than five dragons at her tempestuous trio, Houck trots in the malign sorcerer Lokesh for a climactic battle, and sets up the closer with a cliffhanger reversal of fortune. Lines such as, “It’s time for me to let myself love again,” and, “Ren’s love was an all-consuming fire, but Kishan was more like… a space heater,” are representative. Hankies, cold showers and possibly a neck brace for all the emotional whiplash are recommended. (Paranormal romance. 13 & up)

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SHATTERED DREAMS

James, Ellie St. Martin’s Griffin (352 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-312-64702-5 Series: Midnight Dragonfly, 1 Debut author James crafts a sexy, suspenseful paranormal thriller. Sixteen-year-old Trinity Mounsour has just arrived in New Orleans to live with an aunt she barely knows. She finds a group of friends at her new school, but things get complicated very quickly. First of all, Trinity has long suffered from dreams that seem like premonitions, and in New Orleans, the dreams grow more powerful than ever. Trinity begins to have visions of her classmate Jessica lying in a disheveled heap in an old abandoned house. When Jessica actually disappears and Trinity starts dating her ex-boyfriend Chase, the local police get suspicious that Trinity has harmed her. Trinity has information for the police, but if she reveals it, they will only have more reason to think her guilty. As Trinity’s dreams get stronger, her relationship with Chase blossoms. He helps her to find out the truth about her parents’ death, a truth her family had always kept hidden from her and one that might just help her to understand |

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“A cunning heroine learns magic in Jones’ last, posthumous offering.” from earwig and the witch

what she is going through. Through Trinity’s first-person narration, James keeps the suspense level high. Aside from the intriguing mysteries at its heart, this tale showcases a gothic New Orleans setting and a spicy love triangle to boot. There’s definitely more to Trinity’s story than what is revealed here, and readers will want to find out what it is. Luckily, there is more to come in the Midnight Dragonfly series. (Paranormal mystery. 12 & up)

FORBIDDEN

James, Syrie & James, Ryan M. HarperTeen (416 pp.) $8.99 paperback | Jan. 24, 2012 978-0-06-202789-4 Yet another paranormal romance, this time with an assortment of angels in a chick-lit setting, that will appeal to those addicted to the genre if few others. Sixteen-year-old Claire has lived life on the run with her mother. She attends a private L.A. high school, where she meets new student Alec, a young-looking Scot with a delightful accent. Alec reveals Claire’s history to her: She’s half-angel and may be killed if the angel Elders find her. Alec himself is a full angel, but he has gone AWOL and also risks death if discovered. The two fall in love. Claire receives visions from Helena, who commands her to tell no one about her new psychic powers. Claire, of course, instantly tells all of her friends. The Jameses weave in some quite effective paranormal suspense and intense-but-quixotic high-school romance through their extremely lengthy tale. All characters remain superficial, including Claire, although charming Alec stands out. The plot becomes too intricate at times to work properly, as when Claire envisions that she will be killed if she steps out alone from the homecoming dance and the authors then tortuously explain why she does precisely that. Lightweight, but the story has some thrills, and the aforementioned genre addicts will enjoy it. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

EARWIG AND THE WITCH

Jones, Diana Wynne Illus. by Zelinsky, Paul O. Greenwillow/HarperCollins (128 pp.) $15.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-06-207511-6 A cunning heroine learns magic in Jones’ last, posthumous offering. Most children hate orphanages, but Earwig—Erica Wigg, according to her birth certificate—loves hers. Earwig manages people to perfection, and everyone at Saint Morwald’s Home for Children does exactly what Earwig wants, whether it’s making her a shepherd’s pie or buying her a new red sweater. She’s excellent at making 2126

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herself unlovable to potential foster parents so they’ll leave her alone in sunny St. Morwald’s. But a terrible new pair of prospective parents arrives at the home: nasty-faced Bella Yaga and the Mandrake, a ridiculously tall man who seems to have horns. Bella Yaga and the Mandrake cart Earwig off, willy-nilly, to powder rats’ bones and cook breakfast. Indomitable Earwig determines that if she must work for a smelly witch, at least she’ll learn magic. But how to do so when wicked Bella Yaga keeps threatening to give her worms? Moreover, no matter what, Earwig has been warned not to disturb the Mandrake, who trucks with demons. Earwig, illustrated with marvelous vitality by Zelinsky, is not to be trifled with. There’s just the right level of grotesquerie and scariness (worms that are “blue and purple and very wriggly”) in this utterly charming chapter book. Earwig, as a spunky as any Jones heroine, keeps young and old readers chuckling through sadness at an era’s end. (Fantasy. 7-9)

R IS FOR RUSSIA

Kabakov, Vladimir Photos by Das, Prodeepta Frances Lincoln (32 pp.) $17.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-102-9 Series: World Alphabet, Using a combination of Russian and English words to fit into the English alphabet structure, the author tries to summon up a grand picture of Mother Russia. Most pages have one large color photo, generous white space, a line of traditional embroidery design that matches the color of the design behind each set of English letters—capitals and smalls—and a narrow photo border. (The Cyrillic letters are not used—an unfortunate choice, as that might have made the book more interesting.) A short paragraph describes each photo. The emphasis is on Russia today, although references to the Kremlin, the Winter Palace and the Queen (or Tsaritsa) allude to the past. The Communist period is obliterated, although the Revolution is mentioned. Bowing to children’s interests, topics include: “G is for Gymnastics,” “M is for Matryoshka” (nesting dolls), “Y is for Youth Club” and “Z is for Zenit,” a famous football club (soccer team). Meant for the armchair traveler or for introducing a social studies unit, this skims the surface of this largest country on Earth. The series is starting to suffer from its now-overfamiliar pattern, but those seeking a glossy, positive image of Russia complete with “E is for Easter eggs” (with its wooden folk-art eggs contrasted with Fabergé eggs), can glean a sense of contemporary life and the rich history behind it. (Informational photo essay. 6-9)

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LOOKING AT LINCOLN

of assistants to extricate him. Or T. Jefferson the inventor, J.Q. Adams the skinny dipper or Z. Taylor’s nearly missing the presidency for want of a stamp. But that J. Adams was chubby, J. Madison was small and M. Fillmore is forgotten? There’s little to spark even a muted guffaw or a sympathetic nod. In the end, however, they all testify to something important: Presidents are only men (so far, anyway) and capable of every mortal weakness and weirdness. (Picture book/poetry. 6-9)

Kalman, Maira Illus. by Kalman, Maira Nancy Paulsen Books (32 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 5, 2012 978-0-399-24039-3 Kalman’s narrator sees a man who reminds her of Abraham Lincoln and goes to the library to find out more about the 16th president in this appealingly childlike introduction. She finds information about Lincoln’s family life, his education, how he dressed, his presidency and his death. She wonders what he thought about, and she offers information about his antislavery views and his meetings with Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Kalman’s artwork is the main attraction here, with appealing naive illustrations done in gouache. Each page offers visual treats in a Matisse-like palette, unusual for a biography of a president, but fun in their own right—images of various people and items related to the president, including pancakes, a vanilla cake, a whistle, apples and, toward the end, an ominous-looking gun facing a rocking chair with a top hat on the floor. In the compression necessary to the picture-book form, however, history is regrettably oversimplified. Lincoln did indeed hate slavery and did say, as the narrator states, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,” But to assert that “[t]he Northern states (the Union) believed that slavery should be abolished. And so they went to war,” is to offer children a not-quite-accurate version of history adults should be ready to contextualize. In enjoying the art, readers will pick up some bits of history along the way. (notes, sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

THOSE REBELS, JOHN AND TOM

Kerley, Barbara Illus. by Fotheringham, Edwin Scholastic (48 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-545-22268-6

A graceful and good-humored account introduces the very human sides of the disparate duo who came together in the Continental Congress to give birth to American independence in an extraordinary achievement in 1774-1776. Kerley makes the essential points about Jefferson and Adams: Though different from birth—humble roots for athletic John, an aristocratic upbringing for intellectual Tom— both were committed to the American colonies. Light-hearted, kinetic illustrations emphasize their dissimilar styles, with Adams’ love of a good verbal argument and Jefferson’s devotion to the pen almost comically contrasting. A predominance of blue, red, white and gold sets off cameo-style portraits mixed with cartoon drawings to strike just the right notes. Use of a generous trim size and a classically styled typeface with enlarged, bolded phrases recalls the emphatic design in the printing of revolutionary broadsides. Jefferson’s slave ownership is acknowledged in several places: His efforts to include a clause condemning slavery in his declaration is mentioned; in one illustration, John wheels a barrow of fertilizer at his Braintree farm, and Tom sits thinking astride his horse at Monticello while black men in slave clothing labor in the background. A densely packed author’s note tells the rest of the story about Adams and Jefferson—that their friendship had a gap of 11 years, but their July 4th, 1826 deaths were within hours of each other, each with the other in mind. Humorous, respectful and affectionate: a solid invitation to learn more. (author’s note, facsimile of Declaration, quotation source notes) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

THE PRESIDENT’S STUCK IN THE BATHTUB Poems About U.S. Presidents

Katz, Susan Illus. by Neubecker, Robert Clarion (32 pp.) $17.99 | Feb. 6, 2012 978-0-547-18221-6

This gathering of presidential foibles and fancies covers the gamut, from George W. the First to Barack. Each is set as either a poem (rhymed and free verse) or a prose poem, and all display a handling of language that both is comfortable and exhibits a certain degree of flash. Of one-eyed James Buchanan: “So he cocked his head to focus. / He could tilt his view toward a distant star, / ogle an ash on a nearby cigar, / or peer halfway to Zanzibar. / Was there anything he didn’t notice?” Neubecker’s illustrations are wonderful puddles of colorful personality, true to the text but amplifying it (or further poking a sharp stick into the presidential eye). The only concern here is that some of the presidential tics are a bit dull. Of course, no one will deny the import of blubbery William Howard Taft wedging himself into the White House tub and needing a team |

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THE FIRES OF THE SUN

Kinch, Michael Flux (288 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Jan. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-3076-9 Series: The Blending Time, 2

Three teens fight bandits in a future Africa as they attempt to rebuild civilization on the continent. This sequel to the effective dystopia The Blending Time (2010) relies on some knowledge of the previous book but offers excellent suspense and some attractive characterizations. The multicultural teens, Jaym, Reya and D’Shay, meet again after Jaym and D’Shay have defeated the “‘gades” (renegades) that attacked their village. Now they trek across the waterless savanna to find an outpost of New Sun, the organization behind their original mission to Africa. All their efforts will fall apart, however, if a strong force of ‘gades succeeds in wiping out their camp. Much of the story centers on their preparations for the coming attack, and it really takes off when the fight begins. Kinch makes the action truly exciting, but, sadly, it obscures the inventiveness of the dystopia somewhat. Although the story takes place in the 2070s, there’s plenty for contemporary teens to recognize. The three main characters come across as real people, although some in the supporting cast feel one-dimensional, such as the unpleasant Aussie Tarkin. Ultimately, as a war story, the book works beautifully. For some great action, this can’t be beat. (Dystopian action. 12 & up)

LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK

Levine, Kristin Putnam (304 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 5, 2012 978-0-399-25644-8 The remarkable story of the Little Rock Nine is familiar to many, but what happened next? In this quietly powerful page-turner, Levine focuses her attention on the events that unfolded in Little Rock the year after the integration of the city’s public schools. Readers meet quiet, 12-year-old Marlee and her outgoing and warm-hearted best friend, Liz, who is instrumental in Marlee’s burgeoning ability to speak her mind to anyone outside of her family. To Marlee’s dismay, Liz suddenly vanishes from school, and the rumor is that she has been passing for white. Marlee initially feels betrayed by her friend, but her understanding of the complicated nature of race relations and politics matures. Levine sensitively portrays her process as she sorts out these feelings, finds a way to stay friends with Liz and becomes involves with the Womens’ Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) after the city shuts down all of its public schools to prevent integration. When Marlee’s father, a schoolteacher, is fired because of his 2128

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pro-integration stance, the entire family becomes involved in the Stop This Outrageous Purge (STOP) campaign in an attempt to have all of the teachers rehired and the public schools reopened. This engaging story, with its emphasis on the impact of friendship and on finding one’s voice when it is most important to be heard, will no doubt appeal to a broad range of readers and inspire many interesting conversations. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

AND THE SOLDIERS SANG

Lewis, J. Patrick Illus. by Kelley, Gary Creative Editions/ Creative Company (32 pp.) $17.99 | Dec. 15, 2011 978-1-56846-220-2 Definitely for older children (and most likely to be appreciated by adults), this version of the true story of the Christmas Truce of 1914 is told through the eyes of a fictional young Welshman, with a terse yet lyrical text and stark, dramatic illustrations. The unofficial cease-fire has inspired other picture books, including Christmas in the Trenches, based on the song by John McCutcheon. That version also used a fictional hero/narrator but allowed him to survive to tell the tale to his curious grandchildren. Lewis’ unnamed soldier is not so lucky. He describes the horrors of war eloquently and evokes the miracle of peace that reigned briefly for the holiday. The author piles on the poignancy, revealing the young man’s vain hope that the war would soon be over in a journal entry discovered after his death by sniper shot. He notes in a brief afterword that the war continued for just under four more years with a total loss of almost 10 million lives. Kelley’s compelling artwork features mostly dark shades and strong, angular compositions. The overall design includes panels of various sizes, allowing him to pack in plenty of events and emotions and providing a strong narrative flow. Grim, upsetting and utterly beautiful, this is both a strong anti-war statement and a fascinating glimpse of a little-known historical event. (Picture book. 8 & up)

SELF PORTRAIT WITH SEVEN FINGERS The Life of Marc Chagall in Verse Lewis, J. PatrickYolen, Jane Creative Editions/ Creative Company (32 pp.) $18.99 | Dec. 15, 2011 978-1-56846-211-0

U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Lewis and the prolific Yolen team up for a celebratory picture-book biography in verse of the 20th century painter and designer kirkusreviews.com

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“Deftly weaving together historical anecdotes and simple line illustrations, Lin once again touches the heart of growing up in a multicultural family.” from dumpling days

GORAN’S GREAT ESCAPE

Marc Chagall (1887-1985) that may quickly become a favorite of art-loving families and museum docents. This handsome book is amply illustrated with archival photos, spot art from Chagall’s oeuvre and, most importantly, 14 full-color reproductions of Chagall’s affecting, mystical, sometimes surreal re-imaginings of his Jewish childhood in Eastern Europe, paintings that swell with touching imagery of joy, loss and beauty. Most of the book’s two-page spreads include an evocative poem (by either Lewis or Yolen) inspired by or reflecting upon the painting on the facing page. These spreads also feature informative, telling biographical briefs that anchor the art and beautifully crafted poetry to Chagall’s long, incidentrich life and artistic career. Details about each painting’s size, medium, date and provenance also add interest. Chagall’s work is represented in over 40 museums in North America, and teachers and parents often find his work particularly accessible and appealing to children who readily and eagerly decode his imagery, making this book useful as well is beautiful. This inspired collaboration adds a heightened poetic dimension to readers’ understanding of Chagall’s life and art. (Picture book/poetry/biography. 11 & up)

Lindgren, Astrid Translated by Lawson, Polly Illus. by Törnqvist, Marit Floris (32 pp.) $17.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-086315-793-6

Years ago in Sweden, on an Easter morning, Goran the bull escaped from his barn and might still be at large if 7-year-old Karl hadn’t come by and offered to scratch his head. This charming story, published in Swedish as part of a collection in 1950 and later translated, illustrated and republished on its own in English (The Day Adam Got Mad, 1991), gets new life with Lawson’s translation, which smoothes and slightly modernizes the English. From the beginning, readers are invited into the story with “Let’s find out what happened.” This version offers a quiet lesson, when Karl explains: “I’m used to bulls...you just have to be nice to them.” Törnqvist’s meticulous watercolor illustrations again complement the story. They show an old-fashioned farm, the farming family, hands and neighbors, the central action and, at the end, the heroic “small Swedish bullfighter” high-stepping home “among the pale, pale green birch trees.” There are lovely touches of humor: a sock half off a boy at breakfast, a cat stealing a shoe, the farmer holding his torn pants and a chicken following young Karl with his basket of eggs. Front and back endpapers show different neighbors watching the raging bull. From a beloved author, a tiny gem for reading aloud or reading alone. (Picture book. 4-7)

DUMPLING DAYS

Lin, Grace Illus. by Lin, Grace Little, Brown (272 pp.) $15.99 | Jan. 2, 2012 978-0-316-12590-1 Pacy and her family travel to Taiwan for one month to celebrate her grandmother’s 60th birthday, giving this Chinese-American girl another lens through which she can examine her identity. When Pacy’s dad calls Taiwan an island of treasure, or bao dao, which sounds similar to the Chinese word for dumplings, she wonders—could Taiwan’s treasure be food? In a companion novel to The Year of the Dog (2006) and The Year of the Rat (2008), gentle Pacy is back, brimming with questions of identity and self-discovery. At home in New York, Pacy is one of the few Asians in her class. She tries hard to fit in. In Taiwan, she looks similar to everyone else, but she doesn’t speak Chinese or Taiwanese. So she doesn’t fit in there either. Pacy’s mom signs her up for a painting class, and Pacy is excited. She’s a good artist; surely she’ll make some friends. But painting with a bamboo brush on rice paper is difficult! The one talent that made her feel safe is suddenly gone; Pacy doesn’t know who she is anymore or where she belongs. Luckily, there is a lot of loving family to surround her, and a lot of incredible food to eat (especially dumplings). This third outing is as warmhearted as the first two. Deftly weaving together historical anecdotes and simple line illustrations, Lin once again touches the heart of growing up in a multicultural family. (Fiction. 8-12)

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SHATTERED SOULS

Lindsey, Mary Philomel (336 pp.) $16.99 | Dec. 8, 2011 978-0-399-25622-6

A formulaic forbidden-love story and teen debut featuring [insert female name:] Lenzi, who [insert paranormal gift:] serves as a conduit for ghosts with unresolved issues, and [insert male name:] Alden, the guy she wants but shouldn’t have. When Houston teen, origami-loving Lenzi, begins experiencing hallucinations and disembodied voices, she’s sure that she’s succumbing to the same schizophrenia that recently claimed her father’s life, until Alden unexpectedly arrives. The 17-year-old should remember Alden and the last time she died, in the Galveston hurricane of 1900; after all, their souls have been cycling together for generations. But somehow she’s developed past-life amnesia. Reminiscent of Lauren Kate’s Fallen series and Alyson Noël’s Immortals series, the story builds slowly as Alden, who can (get ready to swoon, romantics) feel Lenzi’s soul respond to emotion, explains their roles as paired Protector and Speaker in helping Hindered spirits pass on to the next world. The only real action occurs when the pair battles Hindereds who have turned into Malevolents, including a court-martialed |

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“Harlem’s 125th Street provides a warm and welcome cohesion among the stories…” from uptown dreams

Civil War soldier still bent on revenge for Lenzi’s deception in a past life. As she struggles to recall her past life and understand her current role, Lenzi must also reconcile her feelings for Alden and both their previous platonic, work-only relationship and the strict demands on their gifts. Lingering threads suggest a sequel, but isn’t that part of the formula? (Paranormal romance. 14-18)

UPTOWN DREAMS

London, Kelli Kensington (256 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7582-6128-1 An uneven narrative follows four aspiring young artists attending the Harlem Academy of Creative and Performing Arts. An initial chapter from each character’s point of view introduces the character and his or her major obstacle. La-La has a younger sister with cancer and an irresponsible mother. Reese produces hiphop beats in secret, but her strict mother insists she only study classical music. Ziggy hides his dancing because his West Indian father is convinced that boys who dance are gay. Jamaica-Kincaid has convinced her rich, absentee parents that she attends boarding school in Connecticut. As the school year progresses, romances unfold, a rivalry heats up and secrets are revealed. Harlem’s 125th Street provides a warm and welcome cohesion among the stories as multiple characters encounter the Sandman, “the official unofficial mayor of Harlem,” and Ziggy’s brother, Broke-Up, whom Ziggy helps sell knockoff handbags with an illegal vending license. Some gaps and dropped threads in the plot are distracting: Readers see a character wake up from a hangover without having seen her arrive at the party that caused it, and a threat to the school’s funding that initially seems significant is resolved off-page. A light read for teens who love performing arts... and the other kind of drama. (Fiction. 12-16)

THE YIPPY, YAPPY YORKIE IN THE GREEN DOGGY SWEATER

Macomber, Debbie & Carney, Mary Lou Illus. by Lambert, Sally Anne Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-06-165096-3 Series: Blossom Street Kids, 2

Macomber and Carney team up for their second entry in the Blossom Street Kids series, this time focusing on an unwanted move to a new neighborhood for a girl named Ellen and her Yorkshire terrier named Baxter. Ellen is reluctant to leave her familiar house, her friends and the local shop owners she has befriended, including the 2130

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yarn shop where she learned to knit. Once settled in their new house, her woes increase when Baxter the Yorkie escapes from the back yard while wearing the bright green sweater that Ellen knit for him. Ellen and her mother visit the shops in their new neighborhood, repeating over and over to each owner in turn, “Have you seen a yippy, yappy Yorkie in a green doggy sweater?” They find Baxter in the flower shop, where he has found a Yorkie friend for himself and her owner, a little girl who befriends Ellen. The story is completely predictable and nearly devoid of any suspense or humor, and even the two Yorkies don’t offer much spunk to spice things up. Soft-focus watercolor illustrations convey Ellen’s sad feelings, but there is little motion or excitement, just pretty rooms and shops and a tiny dog that fades into the backgrounds rather than driving the action. This yippy, yappy Yorkie is just another tired puppy in search of a plot. (Picture book. 4-7)

THE REALLY AWFUL MUSICIANS

Manders, John Illus. by Manders, John Clarion (32 pp.) $16.99 | Dec. 20, 2011 978-0-547-32820-1

When all the bands in the kingdom sound horrible, the king takes drastic action. Individually, each musician isn’t awful, but when they play together, it’s excruciating. Even the royal musicians produce an unbearable sound. The king issues a proclamation: “NO MUSIC.” A little piper named Piffaro decides to leave and absconds with an old dray horse, which he calls Charlemagne. On the road, they nearly collide with a mandolin player named Espresso, the fastest musician in the kingdom. He hitches a ride; later, their sensitive ears pick up the soft strains of a harp. On the side of the road sits Serena the Silent; she and her harp hop on Piffaro’s wagon as well. The trio becomes a quartet when it encounters Fortissimo, a sackbut player recently voted the loudest musician in Bombardy. They’re nearly away when an elderly slowpoke blocks their progress. His name is Lugubrio, plays the contrabass and increases the wagon’s load to five. All play as they ride, but they are oblivious to the others. It takes wise Charlemagne to pull them up short, and get them to work together. The result is harmony. And who should ride by and hear this newly melodious band but the king? This nifty riff is greatly enhanced by Manders’ bright gouache-and–coloredpencil illustrations, which give each player a distinct personality, and onomatopoeic instrument sounds that literally filled the air. Undeniably a lesson, it is delivered with a sense of fun; a helpful author’s note describes each instrument. (Picture book. 3-6)

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CHARLES DICKENS Scenes From An Extraordinary Life

invites neighbors into his apartment to draw with the fancy pens that carry conjuring power. Each child draws a new monster to partake in the surprise. Copious white space keeps focus on the monster, with his contained, slightly alarming flowery blue swirls, and on the appealingly buoyant kids, drawn in fine, delicate lines and colored with pleasantly pale watercolor. It might lack the mild menace of its predecessor, but it satisfies in its supply of companionship all around. (Picture book. 3-6)

Manning, Mick & Granström, Brita Illus. by Manning, Mick & Granström, Brita Frances Lincoln (27 pp.) $18.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-187-6 In celebration of the coming centennial of Dickens’ birth arrives this graphic perusal of his life and work. Manning and Granström combine their talents again, as they did so capably in What Mr Darwin Saw (2009), to coax another tangible life out of the 19th century. Using a combination of multiple panels, boxes and wonderfully evocative background spreads, they roam through many of the experiences that shaped Dickens: pulled from school, his father thrown into debtors’ prison, the pot-blacking work and then, yes!, success. The authors have used material from Dickens’ letters, quotes and miscellaneous writings to shape the relatively ample narrative boxes, and the words flow like quicksilver: “I have often transcribed important public speeches on the palm of my hand, by the light of a dark lantern, in a post-chaise and four, galloping through wild country, through the dead of night!” This fits hand in glove with their colors, which are as deep as old dyes, and the general bustle of the urban scenes. Smaller, comic-book– like streams of panels give sensible, welcoming introductions to such works as Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, Bleak House, A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield. A joyfully informal conveyance of the atmosphere and facts that swarmed around Dickens’ life. (Picture book/biography. 8-12)

FIRST DATE

McGee, Krista Thomas Nelson (336 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-4016-8488-4 This light teenage romance with a reality-show twist is entertaining and forgivably predictable. Getting good grades and into an Ivy League college are 17-year-old Addy’s two goals in life. So when her principal taps her to represent her school on the new reality TV show The Book of Love, Addy isn’t thrilled, despite the show’s prize of a date to the prom with Jonathon Jackson, the son of the president of the United States. Looking to be sent home quickly, unlike the other 99 girls, Addy doesn’t fawn over the First Son and instead chooses to just be herself, which, to her dismay, endears her to viewers and prolongs her stay. Addy’s positive attention attracts some serious nastiness from her competitors and the show’s director, Hank, which convinces Addy that her purpose on the show is to really share her faith. Relying on Christianity, Addy musters the courage to persevere, just like her deceased missionary parents, who are referenced throughout. Short transcripts of interviews with the show’s participants are sprinkled between chapters, underscoring the vapid nature of the other girls. Although reality shows and religion don’t usually mix, this text blends both well and serves up Addy as a believable and endearing heroine. (Fiction. 12-15)

THE MONSTER RETURNS

McCarty, Peter Illus. by McCarty, Peter Henry Holt (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-8050-9030-7

Jeremy hatches a plan to cope with his monster’s unexpected return. In the opening scene, Jeremy’s alone, just as he was at the beginning of Jeremy Draws a Monster (2009). He seems content drawing, hoping not to be disturbed, though McCarty’s tempting view of neighborhood kids outdoors implies a gentle question about whether Jeremy’s isolation is really optimal. A paper airplane flies in the window, instructing Jeremy to draw a compass and telescope. Jeremy peers though the telescope (everything he draws becomes real, as in Harold and the Purple Crayon) and sees his old blue monster, who rings up via telephone to declare, “I’m back. And I’m bored!” This announcement means different things to different readers. Those who’ve read Jeremy Draws know that the monster’s bossy and domineering, so they’ll find Jeremy’s monster-diversion scheme a clever defense; new readers may see the plan as simply sweet and fun. Jeremy |

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I’M FAST!

McMullan, Kate Illus. by McMullan, Jim Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-06-192085-1 The usually dynamic McMullan duo (I Stink!, 2002) stalls with their sixth title, which stars an uber-confident train that accepts a challenge to race an equally self-assured sports car. Before the trek from Sacramento to Chicago can begin, the freight is loaded with a boisterous call-and-response rhythm: “LUMBER? FLATCAR! YARD CREW? Hop to! / BRICKS? GONDOLA! STEEL? COIL CAR! GAS? TANK CAR! // GRAVEL BIN? Open the HATCH! HOPPER? Catch!” Then |

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HEART AND SOUL: The Story of America and African Americans

Kadir Nelson Balzer + Bray (108 pp.) $19.99 Sept. 27, 2011 978-0-06-173074-0

For this sweeping project, Kadir Nelson marries his monumental paintings to a cozy storyteller’s voice. He says he crafted the narrator’s voice based on his grandmother and from his friend Debbie Allen, whose soft Texas drawl greets you in conversation along with “honey” and “chile.” Nadir’s narrator invites us to pull up a chair and hear about her experiences and those of her family, beginning with slavery throughout the Emancipation Proclamation, to the Civil Rights Movement, up to the 2008 election that would result in the first African-American president of the United States. It also lands on our best books for children lists for the year. Q: You cover such a huge span of history in Heart and Soul. How did you decide what events to include and what to leave out? A: I wanted this to be not only about American and African-American history, I wanted it to be very personal. I knew I couldn’t tell a complete history in 100 pages, so I felt the most natural way to do that was to tell it through the voice of someone whose family had lived through it. I could hit these major milestones, and then turn it around and ask this narrator what it was like for her family. Q: Did you start sketching first? Did you jot down ideas in writing first?

Q: In many previous books you’ve illustrated, the figures are stylized, but these are very realistic. Can you talk about your choice of style here?

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Q: Your other portraits spread the wealth among the great thinkers and achievers who made statements through their accomplishments. Were those decisions difficult? A: Yes, that was a bit difficult to narrow down. You think, well, do you show Booker T. or do you show W.E.B. DuBois? Again, when I was faced with those choices, I’d turn to the narrator. I think that this particular narrator would resonate more with Booker T. and Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, who were on the ground with the narrator. Who would she have pictures of in her scrapbook? Where would she have a picture of Martin Luther King? On a church fan. Of course she’d have a picture of Rosa Parks, and her brother in front of a WWII plane. Of course she’d have a picture of Joe Louis. Like Howard Zinn’s book [A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present], this is a history that’s written from the ground up, versus the other way around. –By Jenny Brown

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For the complete interview, visit www.kirkusreviews.com.

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PH OTO © DAV ID H A RR IS O N

A: I wrote it first. The story was going to start before the first slaves landed on American shores. It would be this ancient voice from across the ocean. But a friend recommended maybe it shouldn’t be so broad a voice, but rather a grandmotherly voice. I’d also heard this story of a 100-plus-year-old woman who had voted for the first time in the [2008] election. She was very proud to see that there was not only an African-American man but also a woman running for president. She said she marched her 100-plus-year-old legs over to the voting booth and cast her ballot. When I was interviewing older African-Americans, one of the things I noticed immediately, was that they are very tight-lipped about talking about slavery. It’s a shameful history. That’s part of the story as well. Many of the elders are at an age where if they don’t share this history, then it will be lost. The prologue references that, “many of us are getting up in age…” Once I heard that, it became a lot easier to hear the voice.

A: I wanted this to serve somewhat as a document of American history. Whenever I traveled, I went to museums to look at American paintings in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, in the Chicago Art Institute, in New Orleans. I studied the paintings so mine would fit into that genre, that same vernacular. It’s all part of the same story, and I wanted to tell it with the same voice, not only with the spoken word, but also with the paintings. This almost seemed to be as much Pap’s [the narrator’s grandfather] story as it is the narrator’s story. In the images of him, it’s as if we’re looking up at him, even when he’s six. Then as a man, when he lifts the basket of cotton, he takes on the stature of Paul Bunyan. I’d had that sketch of young Pap for a long time. In this image, I thought of him as a manchild. I wanted to show that even when he was a slave, he had this inner strength. And again, when you see him with the basket of cotton, he’s very strong, and the sky is the same behind him, a brilliant blue sky. That’s what I aimed to do with We Are the Ship [Nelson’s Sibert and Coretta Scott King Award–winning chronicle of Negro League baseball] as well. Even though times were difficult, they were able to hold their integrity and dignity as people. I love to show that in all the work that I do. Whether it’s a tall tale or a historical portrait, I want to show that light inside of people.


CINDER

they are off: the car vrooming and the train hurtling with a “Chooka chooka chooka chooka.” The freight train impresses as it tunnels through rock, plows through snow and zooms past traffic, all the while pulling cars full of everything from frozen treats to pizza ingredients. The illustrations have a pleasingly retro touch. The sleek, red car contrasts nicely with the hulking, bright-blue mass of the freight engine as they traverse full-bleed spreads drenched in saturated colors of the landscape. Words flash in various bright hues accenting the many sound effects that comprise most of the frenetic text. This textual energy works well from a compositional standpoint, but it does pose difficulties for reading aloud. This, combined with a certain sense of overfamiliarity, keeps the book from rising to the top. Preschoolers will most likely warm to the good-natured competition between car and train, and parents and teachers will appreciate the friendly conclusion. But for those looking for a standout title in the multitude of things-thatgo stories, there is little here that would warrant a repeat journey. (Picture book. 3-5)

Meyer, Marissa Feiwel & Friends (400 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-312-64189-4 Series: The Lunar Chronicles, 1 Although it packs in more genres than comfortably fit, this series opener and debut offers a high coolness factor by rewriting Cinderella as a kickass mechanic in a plague-ridden future. Long after World War IV, with a plague called letumosis ravaging all six Earthen countries, teenage Cinder spends her days in New Beijing doing mechanical repairs to earn money for her selfish adoptive mother. Her two sisters will attend Prince Kai’s ball wearing elegant gowns; Cinder, hated because she’s a cyborg, won’t be going. But then the heart-thumpingly cute prince approaches Cinder’s business booth as a customer, starting a chain of events that links her inextricably with the prince and with a palace doctor who’s researching letumosis vaccines. This doctor drafts cyborgs as expendable test subjects; none survive. Cinder’s personal tenacity and skill, as well as Meyer’s deft application of “Cinderella” nuggets—Cinder’s ill-fitting prosthetic foot (loseable on palace steps); a rusting, obsolete car colored pumpkin-orange—are riveting. Diluting them is a space-fantasy theme about mind-controlling Lunars from the moon, which unfortunately becomes the central plot. A connection between Cinder’s forgotten childhood and wicked Lunar Queen Levana is predictable from early on. Despite the simplistic and incongruous-feeling telepathic-enslaver theme, readers will return for the next installment in this sharp, futuristic “Cinderella” tale. (Science fiction/fairy tale. 12-15)

KISS CRUSH COLLIDE

Meredith, Christina Greenwillow/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-06-206224-6 The summer before her senior year of high school, a girl who seemingly has it all—money, looks, smarts and social position—falls for a dazzlingly handsome but mildly unsuitable boy. Leah Johnson is not the captain of her own ship. Although she knows how to drive, Leah prefers to let others take the wheel. Without much effort or thought, she drifts along in the wake of her perfect sisters, assuming, like the Johnson she is, that she’ll be homecoming queen and then valedictorian. Although the pressure to be just like her sisters causes some minor chafing, and she’s indifferent to the charms of her handsome, wealthy, athletic boyfriend, it’s a dream life, and it never occurs to Leah not to meet everyone’s expectations. Until she falls for Jon Duffy, a boy who doesn’t quite fit the expected mold. This overwhelming rush of feeling wakes Leah up, and Duffy becomes the catalyst she needs to look at herself and her life choices in a different light. It’s a fine premise, but her struggle is tepid, and Leah is so insipid and so completely disconnected from the wider world that the sympathy she generates is muted. Although the most intriguing thread of the book is familial, this tame G-rated story will appeal largely to girls who enjoy romances. (Fiction. 13 & up)

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MASON DIXON: BASKETBALL DISASTERS

Mills, Claudia Illus. by Francis, Guy Knopf (176 pp.) $12.99$9.99 e-book | PLB $15.99 Jan. 12, 2012 978-0-375-86875-7 978-0-375-89960-7 e-book 978-0-375-96875-4 PLB Series: Mason Dixon, 3 Fourth grader Mason Dixon, in his third series outing, earnestly stumbles from one potential disaster to another, many involving his total basketball ineptitude. First, best friend Brody convinces him to join a basketball team at the Y, fine for athletic and scrappy Brody but not so great for the more clumsy, “I’m not what you would call a sports person” Mason. Then his father becomes the coach of the team—a situation rife with unlimited embarrassment potential. The class bully, the very athletic Dunk, joins another Y team, |

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“Forty familiar and not-so-familiar nursery rhymes are illustrated with gorgeous and evocative images.” from the cat and the fiddle

meaning they’ll have to play against each other. And finally, a lady who hates dogs moves in right next door, and Mason and Brody have to deal with her constant vigilance as she tries to catch them letting three-legged Dog into her yard. Mason encounters believable situations enhanced by a fast-paced thirdperson narration that effectively captures his grade-school perspective. Non-athletic kids will recognize his concerns and fully sympathize with his plight. Other characters are sufficiently sketched to add a little depth. If most of the numerous, rather superficial issues are resolved ever-so-readily, and just the way readers would wish, well, who doesn’t love a happy ending? Altogether, this is an amusing if undemanding account of the typical fourth-grade problems the athletically ungifted face as they make their way through school. (Fiction. 8-11)

FRACTURE

Miranda, Megan Walker (272 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-8027-2309-3 Eleven full minutes pass before 17-yearold Delaney’s best friend Decker pulls her from beneath the ice of a northern Maine lake. Can she recover from the bizarre results of her long period without oxygen? Or, perhaps more importantly, can their relationship, evolving from being soul mates for years toward being romantically involved, survive? Even though the doctors say Delaney should be severely brain damaged, the only aftereffect she can discover is that she’s suddenly aware of—and irresistibly drawn to—those around her who are about to die. It’s through that fixation that she meets handsome, intriguing Troy, who seems to share her new compulsion, but he has dark, disturbing secrets in connection to it. Delaney’s mother begins an emotional disintegration that results in her trying to keep the teen drugged with sedatives, adding an unnecessary complication to the plot, and Decker becomes involved with another girl, leaving Delaney no one to confide in. Her first-person narration and her issues with Decker largely ring true, but her mother’s problems feel contrived. Teetering between tired, predictable romance and edgy thriller, the breathlessly scary moments of this effort provide sufficient pizzazz to keep the plot moving forward, even though it’s sometimes bogged down by Delaney’s too-trite soul searching. An occasionally thrilling paranormal romance with enough spellbinding incidents to overcome the clichéd components. (Paranormal romantic thriller. 11 & up)

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THE MERMAID OF WARSAW And Other Tales from Poland Monte, Richard Illus. by Hess, Paul Frances Lincoln (116 pp.) $8.95 paperback | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-164-7

A gratifying and unusual collection of folktales from Poland. There are a number of good stock characters in these pages: beautiful princesses who get themselves into trouble, warty-nosed ogres (“His spine was crooked as a banana, his nose was a monstrous protrusion of fugal shapes, his eyes small, dark, and beady…”), buffoons who overstep themselves or commit one-too-many deadly sins. There are also talking trees, dark forests, miraculous springs and enough monsters and temptations to sink a raft of righteous souls. The tales are told by Monte in an unwavering voice, with portent enough to keep an audience listening close, and Hess’ artwork has the right spidery look and sinister atmosphere. What makes these tales unusual is that they are not tidied up, but are left open ended. Both the good guys and the bad guys have their dark sides, and the bad guys can have sympathetic traits. The moral of the tale isn’t simply stated, and readers will have to dig a little, and some of the imagery—like the goats butting their heads high in the tower—will have them scratching their heads. That the locales are ancient and real gives the whole collection added wallop. So visit the Karkonosze Castle or the Wieliczka salt mine or the banished city of Wineta—you may be challenged, but you will not be disappointed. (Folktales. 8-12)

THE CAT AND THE FIDDLE A Treasury Of Nursery Rhymes

Morris, Jackie Frances Lincoln (64 pp.) $19.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-84507-987-1

Forty familiar and not-so-familiar nursery rhymes are illustrated with gorgeous and evocative images. Morris employs muted but rich colors and fabulous floral patterns to lend both whimsy and granter to the rhymes. The title page quotes “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, / Jack jump over the candlestick,” and the illustration depicts an elegantly tophat-and-tails–clad Jack leaping gracefully on his hare steed over a blue-and-white striped candlestick with a dove-shaped topper. Every image is arresting: The lady with “rings on her fingers and bells on her toes” is trailed by troubadours playing tambourine, lute and a double recorder. “Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly” and “Lilies are white, rosemary’s green / When I am king, you will be queen” are on facing pages, sharing an illustration of the king and queen on a great white bear. He is crowned with rosemary and kirkusreviews.com

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the bear with lavender, and the lilies are larger than the bear. “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” is both exotic and familiar: A ram as large as a camel carries pretty striped bags labeled “for Master,” “for Dame” and “for Little Boy” and is led by a woman in silks and velvets knitting a brilliantly colored shawl. Even the tag line about the art—”Illustrated with Windsor & Newton artist’s quality watercolours, on Arches hotpress watercolour paper”—is sumptuous. A beguiling and surprising addition to the nurseryrhyme shelf. (Picture book/nursery rhymes. 3-7)

and the others would have been familiar to contemporary readers. Although modern youngsters might recognize Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, most of the players here will be ancient, unknown history to them. Wisely, the verses are accompanied by statistical information and delightful, large-scale, close-up depictions of the players in action, rendered by Payne in layers of colored pencil, acrylics, water colors and a variety of other media. Following each group of three or four verses, and headed by a diminutive version of the appropriate illustration, Nash’s daughter Linell Nash Smith provides more detailed information about each player. She also contributes a charming introduction in which she recalls memories of sharing her father’s deep love of the game. Nash concurs. “I is for me, / Not a hard hitting man, / But an outstanding all-time / Incurable fan.” Not for the casual fan, but a work that can be joyfully shared by young baseball enthusiasts with parents and grandparents, who will add their own memories of favorite players of later eras. Lovingly nostalgic. (Informational picture book/poetry. 9 & up)

GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS

Muller, Gerda Illus. by Muller, Gerda Floris (40 pp.) $17.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-86315-795-0

Another “Goldilocks”? Yes, with a fresh take, unusual setting and appealing illustrations. Goldilocks’ parents work in a circus. One evening, the caravan stops at the edge of a big forest. A path leads the girl into the woods, where she picks a bouquet of pretty flowers, but then she can’t find the path to go back. In tears, she finds herself in a clearing where there’s a funny house. She goes in, but no one is home. She tries the usual threesomes of chairs, porridge and beds. The bears return home to find her asleep in Baby Bear’s bed. Startled, she grabs her shoes and runs outside. Daddy Bear shouts after her, “Don’t you know to knock first if a door is closed?” Goldilocks finds the path to the caravan and from then on “always remembered to knock first.” The engaging illustrations of Goldilocks in her vivid red sweater and polka-dot skirt are painted on ecru paper, adding a woodsy flavor. Textured details such as the wooden, bear-shaped chairs, umbrellas with carved bear heads, bee patterns on the bedspreads and three-little-pig piggy banks enhance the whimsy. Even the white splotch under Mama Bear’s chin suggests a fuzzy necklace. The artwork, a cross between Paul Galdone’s version (1985) and Emma Chichester Clark’s (2010), makes this a charming version you can’t bear to be without. (Picture book/ fairy tale. 3-7)

ROUND AND ROUND TOGETHER Taking a Merry-GoRound Ride into the Civil Rights Movement

Nathan, Amy Paul Dry Books (250 pp.) $12.95 paperback | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-58988-071-9

A snapshot of the civil-rights movement in one city provides insight into the important role of individual communities as change moved through the country. The struggle of local activists to integrate a small amusement park in Baltimore, Md., serves as the focus of this examination of attempts to change discrimination laws from the 1940s through the 1960s. What makes this rise from the level of local to national interest is the fact that the classic carousel from the now-defunct Gwynn Oak Park sits on the National Mall, where all ages and races climb aboard. Interestingly enough, the first African-American child to ride the carousel did so on the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech during the historic 1963 March on Washington. Nathan, who grew up in Baltimore during this turbulent period, has written a detailed history of the city’s civil-rights activism, placing the incident at the park in historical and social context. Many were involved, both black and white, young and old, and a significant number were connected to what was happening beyond their own community. The many period photographs and excellent source credits enhance the story. This very dense narrative will work best as a case study of how citizens of one city both precipitated and responded to the whirlwind of social change around them. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)

LINEUP FOR YESTERDAY

Nash, Ogden Illus. by Payne, C.F. Creative Editions/ Creative Company (56 pp.) $19.99 | Dec. 15, 2011 978-1-56846-212-7

Baseball legends of yesteryear come alive more or less alphabetically in Nash’s pithy verses. Twenty-four players of the first half of the 20th century are profiled in playful, humorous short poems with an ABCB rhyme scheme. When they were written, in 1949, Cobb, Ott |

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MAUDIE AND BEAR

Ormerod, Jan Illus. by Blackwood, Freya Putnam (48 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 5, 2012 978-0-399-25709-4

Picture books are full of odd-couple friendships, plenty of which feature a bear; this example stands out in splendid composition and an unsettling dynamic. Five stories showcase the domestic and emotional relationship between Maudie, a little girl in old-fashioned garb, and Bear, looming over Maudie with a curved body and gentle expression. Bear gives Maudie everything, from night-time dancing to a comforting lap after a Goldilocks-inspired forest scare. However, roles are oddly unclear: Bear seems too pandering for a parent, too ever-present for a babysitter. But nor are they peers, in the classic Frog and Toad mold. Is Bear a stuffed animal, fantasyenlarged? Perhaps, because Bear caters to Maudie’s every desire, and a toy bear on wheels (Bear’s real form?) appears frequently; but Bear hurts Maudie’s feelings twice, which doesn’t seem fantasy-bear–like. (They make up both times, but both events are significant.) Humor lies in Maudie’s exercising by sitting in a bike basket while Bear peddles or picking dandelions and fussing (“You forgot to peel the grapes”) instead of helping fix their snack. Maudie’s more self-entitled than amusingly childlike; Bear’s an agreeable doormat when not laughing at her. The illustrations are more palatable. Soft watercolors inhabit loose, sketchy pencil lines. Blackwood’s inventive compositions dance and change on every page, with visual material from spreads hiding creatively behind multi-sized sequential picture boxes. There’s fascinating aesthetic composition here, if the relationship doesn’t distract. (Picture book. 3-6)

SEIZURE

Reichs, Kathy Razorbill/Penguin (491 pp.) $17.99 | November 1, 2011 978-1-59514-394-5 Series: Virals, 2 Tory Brennan, 14, and her friends are still trying to determine exactly what happened to them following the events of the series opener (Virals, 2010). The teens have been exposed to an experimental virus that altered their DNA, giving them characteristics comparable to wolves, enhancing their natural senses and creating a human pack. Hardly has this novel started when her father, Kit, drops a bomb. Due to the economy, funding has been pulled on his research project, necessitating a change of job and a move away from South Carolina and her pack mates—but not before she debuts into Charleston society, at her father’s girlfriend’s insistence. Determined to stay together, Tory, Ben, Hi and Shelton band together to search for the long-lost treasure of 2136

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America’s most famous female pirate, Anne Bonny. It’s not long before things go awry, and they learn that they aren’t the only ones on the hunt. They’re going to need all their abilities just to survive. Dodging bullets, slipping out after curfew, following obscure clues into underground tunnels, not to mention Cotillion duties and snarky classmates, are just part of the adventure. Will this be their last? Reichs taps into the angst of teens, fear of separation and the uncertainty of today’s economy and wraps it all in an entertaining yarn of history, pirates and modern technology. These characters are keepers. (Thriller. 12 & up)

COLD CEREAL

Rex, Adam Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (432 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-06-206002-0 A motley assortment of human experimental subjects and faerie exiles take on a New Jersey cereal company run by eldritch management for nefarious

purposes. With an off-the-wall sensibility that fans of the author’s True Meaning of Smekday (2007) will recognize with delight, Rex kicks off a planned trilogy. He brings together sixth-grade outsider Scottish Play Doe (an actor’s son, surprise), young genius Erno Utz and his even brighter supposed twin Emily, a crusty old leprechaun and like unconventional allies to be hunted by agents of the huge Goodco Cereal Company—producers of Burlap Crispâ„¢, Honey Frosted Snoxâ„¢. These and similar products enjoy a wild popularity that can be ascribed to the literal truth of the company motto: “There’s a Little Bit of Magic in Every Box!” The author tucks in portrait illustrations and hilariously odd TV-commercial storyboards, along with a hooded Secret Society, figures from Arthurian legend, magical spells and potions, a certain amount of violence, many wonderful throwaway lines (“Yeh may have a tarnished glamour about yeh, sure. Like a celebrity’s daughter.”) and tests of character with often surprising outcomes. All in all, it’s a mad scramble that culminates in the revelation of a dastardly plot that will require sequels to foil. A massive explosion at the end only sets that evil scheme back a bit; stay tuned for further strange and exhilarating developments. (Fantasy. 11-13)

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“A sprightly, accessible series opener recommended for those ready for a change of venue from standard-issue, middle-grade fantasy.” from the book of wonders

THE BOOK OF WONDERS

mention that it underlies the center of present-day Mexico City. Kleinová’s illustrations range from moderately realistic pictures of people at work and play to cartoonlike glyphs. No sources are actually provided for any of the information or illustrations. Readers curious about this history will find much more in Peter Lourie’s Lost Treasure of the Inca (1999), Mystery of the Maya (2001) and Hidden World of the Aztec (2006). Reductionist history in an unnecessary novelty format. (Informational novelty. 8-11)

Richards, Jasmine Harper/HarperCollins (416 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-06-201007-0

Dipping into the deep plot well of Middle Eastern fairy and folk tales, this buoyant debut offers a fresh plot, brisk pacing and engaging characters. Zardi’s 13th birthday celebration is cut short when her sister, Zubeyda, is abducted by the cruel sultan to serve as his praisemaker, an “honor” that in 90 days will end in her death. Zardi (short for Scheherazade) sets off to find the sultan’s enemies and obtain help in rescuing Zubeyda, accompanied by her adopted brother, Rhidan, who is on a quest of his own: tracking down Sinbad the sailor, who has clues to Rhidan’s mysterious heritage. Though not entirely reliable, Sinbad proves an ally, as does his mother, Sula, who defies the sultan’s ban on magic and uses her powers to help Zardi and Rhidan discover their own. With Sinbad, they head for the Black Isle, home to powerful sorcerers and possibly Rhidan’s birthplace, but fate has other plans for them. These include rocs, a brass giant, trapped djinn and the fearsome Queen of the Serpents in her snake-filled kingdom. Richards deftly borrows from lesser-known tales of the 1001 Arabian Nights to enrich her complex storyline while keeping style and syntax simple and direct. A sprightly, accessible series opener recommended for those ready for a change of venue from standard-issue, middle-grade fantasy. (Fantasy. 8-12)

MAYA, AZTECS AND INCAS

Ruzicka, Oldrich Illus. by Kleinová, Pavla Firefly (30 pp.) $16.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-55407-933-9 A miscellaneous collection of factlets about three pre-Columbian civilizations are presented on board pages suggesting a Mesoamerican step pyramid in this latest title in the publisher’s “shape book” series. Each section includes a map and mentions an important archeological site—the Maya Chichén Itzá, the Aztec Templo Mayor and the Inca Machu Picchu—but provides no dates. Readers may be intrigued by Maya beauty ideals, the Aztec ball game and Inca goldwork. Maya and Aztec calendars are shown, as well as pictures of Aztec and Inca warriors and weaponry. Ružicka describes the end of the Aztec and Inca empires at the hands of Spanish conquistadors but ignores the collapse of the Maya. There is a recipe for Maya hot chocolate that neglects to say when the almonds listed in the ingredients should be added and a description of Tenochtitlán that does not |

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THE GIRLS OF NO RETURN

Saldin, Erin Levine/Scholastic (352 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-545-31026-0 978-0-545-39253-2 e-book Lonely, angry and acting out, Lida is sent by her father and stepmother to a school for problem girls in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. Trying to keep a low profile, Lida becomes an observer. While the girls are there for different reasons, cabinmate Boone is more frighteningly tough than most. Lida gradually engages with the wilderness and both Boone and Gia, a charismatic new girl, for whom her attraction is romantic but not sexual. When Boone takes Lida hiking to a nearby fire lookout to meet Ben, a friendly supplier of booze, Lida knows she has gained Boone’s trust—but Gia’s intrusion and manipulations roil the plot. It all explodes on a solo overnight camping trip, and the choices each girl makes set up a violent confrontation, hinted at in the short “Epilogue” sections that are interspersed in italic type. Not everyone is distinct; the “I-bankers,” or daughters of wealthy investment bankers, are particularly interchangeable. But teen and adult characters that matter are complex and intriguing. Saldin keeps readers intrigued by both withholding information and sharing Lida’s retrospective thoughts without ever seeming manipulative. This debut is richly rewarding and will linger for its subtle examination of human behavior and emotions—love, trust, guilt and forgiveness. A smashing debut. (Fiction. 12 & up)

THE LITTLE PUDDLE

Scheffler, Axel Illus. by Scheffler, Axel Nosy Crow/Candlewick (32 pp.) $12.99 | Dec. 27, 2011 978-0-7636-5878-6 Series: Pip and Posy, Behavior modeling for the almost potty-trained, with some decidedly odd developments between its padded covers. Pip has so much fun playing at his friend Posy’s house that he “forgot he needed to pee.” No problem: With a soothing, “It’s |

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“Turning the adage that sticks and stones may break one’s bones on its ear, picture-book titans Singer and Pham team up to entice young readers to go where most Generation Xbox angels fear to tread: outside.” from a stick is an excellent thing

OK, Pip,” and, “Everyone has accidents sometimes,” Posy mops up the puddle and then leads him to her dresser, from which he selects a fetching sundress to wear in place of his pants. In cartoon illustrations as simple as the one-or-two-sentence-per-spread text, Scheffler portrays the pair—one a bunny, the other probably a mouse—playing happily in a succession of adult-free indoor settings that are heavily strewn with toys and popeyed, bemusedlooking dolls. Readers, too, may be a bit bemused when Pip not only takes his next pee sitting down (on a training potty), but then joins Posy in the sudsy tub that she’s drawn and prepared. A cozy “playdate.” (Picture book. 3-5)

ICE ISLAND

Shahan, Sherry Delacorte (176 pp.) $15.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $18.99 Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-385-74154-5 978-0-375-98575-1 e-book 978-0-375-99009-9 PLB Riveting and atmospheric, this is a tale of teenage Tatum, who becomes lost and separated from her friend on an Alaskan island with only a team of dogs, a few supplies and her instincts to keep her alive. Thirteen-year-old Tatum’s dream is to run the Iditarod. She and her mother travel from Nome, Alaska, to a remote, frozen island for her mother’s job. There, Tatum meets Cole, a boy who shares her obsession with dog mushing. One morning, they head out with two dog teams for a practice run with Tatum’s beloved husky, Bandit, leading her sled. In vivid, crisp prose, the story accelerates as they veer off course and are enveloped in a blinding storm. Cole and Tatum rely on their training and resourcefulness as they face hunger and below-freezing temperatures. One particularly hair-raising event finds them on a frozen river surrounded by cracking ice. Tatum must eventually leave Cole behind and venture on for help alone. With time running out, Tatum has only her courage and her loving trust of the dogs to keep her from succumbing to the harsh elements and her fear. Told a fast-paced third-person, this survival adventure creates an almost otherworldly experience within a treacherous and bracingly beautiful landscape. As a race for survival, this is also an exhilarating sprint through the pages. (author’s note, glossary) (Adventure. 9-13)

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A STICK IS AN EXCELLENT THING Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play

Singer, Marilyn Illus. by Pham, LeUyen Clarion (40 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 27, 2012 978-0-547-12493-3

Turning the adage that sticks and stones may break one’s bones on its ear, picture-book titans Singer and Pham team up to entice young readers to go where most Generation Xbox angels fear to tread: outside. Here Singer presents the full spectrum of outdoor activities in rhymed poems consummately animated by Pham’s vibrant drawings. No matter the diversion—playing with the dog, balancing on the curb, running through a sprinkler, making stone soup with friends—Singer’s entreaty to get out and play is unmistakable. While many of the snappy lyrics show off the pleasures of moving—”Everything’s a blast / when you do it really fast!”concludes a piece extolling the virtues of running, puddle-jumping and skateboarding—a real strength of the collection is its engagement of the imagination. For example, in the title piece, what an ordinary stick in the hand can become— a royal scepter, pen, magic wand, drumstick—is limited only by its holder’s creativity. Pham’s evocative artwork heightens the imagination’s importance in play, with her digitally colored pencil-and-ink renderings so finely textured that they radiate a warmth as arresting as Ezra Jack Keats’. A thrilling integration of verse and image, motivating all to serious fun. (Picture book/poetry. 3-8)

HOW TO BEAT THE BULLY WITHOUT REALLY TRYING

Starkey, Scott Simon & Schuster (272 pp.) $15.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-4424-1685-7

This debut focuses on a familiar character in middle-grade lit, the perennially bullied kid—except this time, he’s unexpectedly victorious, early in the story. The twist to bullying victim Rodney’s story makes this stand out from other books on the topic, and it also allows for some humor. He was bullied in his old school in Brooklyn; when his family moves to Ohio, he expects (and gets) more of this same. It’s only due to blind luck that a stray baseball hits bully Josh, and the kids all think Rodney threw it. Rodney’s problem then morphs from the typical coping-with-a-bully challenge to figuring out how he’s going to keep up his misbegotten reputation as a tough guy. First-time novelist Starkey gets kids’ voices and anxieties mostly right and clearly understands the playground dynamic. However, there are many pop-culture references here, including kirkusreviews.com

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some that kids will get, such as, “ ‘Mmmmmmm …White Castle,’ my dad murmured, sounding a lot like Homer Simpson”; a typical reader might not recognize others, such as a reference to a dilapidated house on Halloween: “I thought we lived in Garrettsville, not Amityville.” Some have more of an impact than others on a young reader’s ability to follow the storyline. In general, this is an enjoyable read about coping with bullying, an unfortunately evergreen situation. (Fiction. 9-11)

chicken tales. They are an endearing triumvirate, if massively untutored in the ways of the world. Here, Pip gazes upon the farmer’s truck and visions of going “out into the wide world” dance in her wee brain. The others are game but a bit queasy… and, frankly, that truck is awful loud. Comes the moment of truth, with Pip bounding off Midge’s head into the truck bed, when Midge and Dot balk, leaving Pip alone in the truck. The truck roars to life, and Pip throws a blanket over her head and behaves like a chicken until the motor stills. She peeks out and, relieved, sees Midge and Dot. Pip struts a bit—”I was so brave”—until she is told the truck went nowhere; it was just turned on and off. Before embarrassment sneaks in, they clap Pip on the back and exclaim at her bravery anyway: She got in the truck! It was loud! Such good comrades, such unconditional love. Stoeke’s sweeps of sherbet colors create a beckoning world, one broken into short chapters and simple text, which make this a bright challenge for early readers. The lack of perfection is rarely so comically gladdening. (Picture book. 3-5)

SOUL SEARCHING A Girl’s Guide to Finding Herself

Stillman, Sarah Beyond Words/Simon Pulse/ Simon & Schuster (176 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-58270-303-9

Thoughtful and thought-provoking, Stillman’s guide addresses many topics pertinent to contemporary teens. Describing “soul searching” as the endeavor to discover one’s inner voice, the author introduces various methods to achieve self-awareness, including yoga, meditation and journaling. She offers various examples of how to implement the ideas and includes quotes from fellow teens for inspiration. Readers can investigate the fundamentals of philosophy and world religions, learn about Feng Shui, discover dream interpretation and practice daily affirmations. In this updated version of the book she wrote at age 16, Stillman addresses the isolating and timeconsuming aspects of modern technology. Readers are encouraged to create a quiet space and carve out time for themselves, free from the distractions of technology. While the text does not delve very deeply into any one subject, each chapter concludes with a list of resources for further exploration. The narrative voice is a blend of sage older sibling with the easy affability of a close friend. Quizzes and opportunities to record their own thoughts give readers the option to actively participate in this contemplative process. The empowering message of acceptance of self and others permeates this text, providing inquiring readers a starting point for their journey of self-reflection. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)

IRISES

Stork, Francisco X. Levine/Scholastic (304 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-545-15135-1 978-0-545-39263-1 e-book Two sisters in El Paso face weighty decisions following their father’s sudden death. Mary has struggled with her artistic talent since an accident left their mother in a vegetative state. Kate secretly dreams of going to Stanford to become a doctor. Neither can see an escape from the burden of their mother’s constant physical needs. Nor can they see each other’s perspective, a reality underscored by the third-person narrative that alternates points of view. Kate’s boyfriend proposes to her, offering a way out of their financial difficulties, but she’s afraid that accepting means giving up her dream. Mary is attuned to a life of faith, like their minister father, and believes that their mother will wake up someday. Kate finds it easier to accept that their mother’s life is already gone, and she is the first to recognize that withdrawing life support is an option. Stork never shies away from allowing his teenage characters to deal with tough philosophical issues. His flawed supporting cast— an overzealous father, an imposing aunt, an ambitious young pastor who offers comfort to Kate and a seemingly rough boy who befriends Mary—allows the girls to sort through the complexities of human nature and come together to reach a decision regarding their mother. At times the family dynamics and symbolism seem forced, but there is plenty of poignancy in questions of faith that are raised. (Fiction. 14 & up)

PIP’S TRIP

Stoeke, Janet Morgan Illus. by Stoeke, Janet Morgan Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 19, 2012 978-0-8037-3708-2 Series: The Loopy Coop Hens, 2 Three hens look at a pick-up truck and dream of flight. This title marks the return of Pip, Midge and Dot, three hens in Stoeke’s long-running battery of |

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THE GRIZZLY BEAR WITH THE FRIZZLY HAIR

digitally combined. Most fill a page, full bleed, opposite a page of text that has a bird, butterfly or airplane silhouette (Peterson wrote military handbooks during World War II) as well as spot art in black and white. One memorable page turn shows the boy about to touch a sleeping flicker and then, across a wordless spread, the startled flicker flying away, glowing yellow under its wings. An afterword describes “The Peterson Effect”—the increase in care for our environment. An excellent addition to the “sense of wonder” shelf. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Taylor, Sean Illus. by Shaw, Hannah Frances Lincoln (32 pp.) $17.95 | paper $8.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-085-5 978-1-84780-144-9 paperback Can the clever rabbit stop the hungry bear from eating him? The titular Grizzly Bear with the Frizzly Hair has eaten almost everything in the forest but is still ravenous. And he’s very bad-tempered about it, to boot. An “itzy-bitzy” rabbit makes the mistake of asking the bear what he’s going to do. Lickety-split, the bear swoops the rabbit up in his giant paw and prepares to swallow him whole. Fast-talking rabbit tries distraction, self-deprecation and just plain pleading to get the bear to change his mind. Each buys him a little time, but he finally gets the bear’s attention when he claims that there are much bigger things to eat down at the river. Bear, keeping a tight hold on rabbit, decides to check it out. When he looks in the water, he does see a creature a lot bigger and more appetizing than the scrawny rabbit. Before long, he’s picked a fight with his own reflection and, in the heat of the moment, lets the rabbit go. Anyone who has read about the narrow escapes of Brer Rabbit can guess what happens next. Taylor’s prose has some nice flourishes that read aloud well. Shaw’s illustrations in pen and ink and scanned textures have some fun compositions, but the pictures of the rabbit actually in the bear’s mouth might take some aback. Ultimately, amiable but undistinguished. (Picture book. 3-5)

KING OF THE MOUND My Summer with Satchel Paige

Tooke, Wes Simon & Schuster (160 pp.) $15.99 | Feb. 21, 2012 978-1-4424-3346-5

A boy takes first steps on the road to physical and emotional recovery from a bout with polio, thanks to help from a solid new friend and a baseball hero. After a year in the hospital, Nick gets a harsh welcome home from his embittered widower father. The onus of being a “cripple” is eased by the unfaltering friendliness offered by his baseball-loving neighbor Emma and the news that the owner of the local semipro team, the Bismarck Churchills, has not only signed up more talented “colored boys” but enticed the great Satchel Paige to return for the 1935 season. As his father is the team’s catcher, Nick is enlisted to sell programs and generally make himself useful—which allows him to witness Satch leading a spectacular integrated team to a minor league world championship win. Along the way Nick also watches the renowned pitcher respond with dignity to racial hatred (including an encounter with a “cracker cop”). Absorbing both advice (“Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common”) and some of Satch’s prized “deer oil,” he quickly sheds his leg brace and regains his own pitching skills. Tooke sticks closely to historical records, with the addition of a few extra Paige exploits and aphorisms, and though Nick’s recovery seems a little too easy, the fictional overlay offers a comfortably predictable “hard work brings just rewards” arc. Nourishing fare for Matt Christopher graduates. (Sports fiction. 10-12)

FOR THE BIRDS The Life of Roger Tory Peterson

Thomas, Peggy Illus. by Jacques, Laura Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills (48 pp.) $16.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-59078-764-9

Intrigued from childhood by the wildlife around him, Roger Tory Peterson grew up to publish, in 1934, the first pocket-sized bird guide, a book that drew people’s attention to the natural world and grew into a series that eventually encompassed plants and animals all over the world.From cover to cover, this picturebook biography is filled with birds, just as the world must have seemed to the young naturalist as a child. Using language and imagery relevant to her topic, Thomas (Farmer George Plants a Nation, 2008) provides a lively chronological narrative. Regrettably obscured by the cover in places, the endpapers include a field-guide entry for this birder, including his habitat, identifying markings, voice and range. Jacques’ hyper-realistic mixed-media paintings have sharp edges and blended shadows, giving the appearance of acrylics and collage 2140

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“Hopman’s luminous double-page spreads of soft watercolor and loose pen-and-ink lines lend humor to this multilayered story.” from tom the tamer

THREE CUPS

dissolute behavior has been excised, the lad’s first transformation is milked throughout for double entendres—”Oh no!” gasps a witness. “You’ve made an ass of yourself!”—and there are plenty of silly incidents and names (silly in Latin, anyway, like a dopey Centurion dubbed Decius Verissimus Stultus) to lighten the overall tone. Motley’s elaborate illustrated initials and pen-and-ink drawings add satiric bite (“Eat roses from my bosom,” intones Isis mystically, floating over awed worshipers like a divine Vanna White) and further comic elements. So thoroughly reworked that even the original’s most famous imbedded story, “Cupid and Psyche,” is relegated to an appendix, this nonetheless conveys a clear sense of Apuleius’ plot, language and major themes. An entertaining romp, even without the raunchy bits. (afterword) (Classic. 11-14)

Townsley, Tony & St. Germain, Mark Illus. by Willy, April Thomas Nelson (24 pp.) $9.99 | Nov. 8, 2011 978-1-4003-1749-3 Three mismatched teacups from the cupboard are not exactly what a 5-yearold boy hopes to receive for a birthday gift, but with some parental guidance, they help set them on a path to sound

financial well-being. An accompanying envelope holds the very first installment of his allowance and the promise of future “adventures.” “Saving, Spending, and Giving.… Doing all three things as you keep growing up … that’s the adventure.” And he is off to a good start. A trip to the bank to open a savings account teaches the boy about interest, several weeks of scrimping allow him to finally buy a baseball glove and a school food drive for needy families puts his giving cup to good use. While the boy and his family are idealized, and “experiences” or “opportunities” might better replace “adventures” for literal-minded young readers, the three-cup system is an excellent way to instill lifelong money habits in children, and this book does a good job presenting it. Willy’s soft-focus illustrations are full of warmth, clearly showing the emotions that accompany each of the child’s monetary decisions. Backmatter includes a parent’s guide to beginning the three cup system. Missing, though, are any guidelines on how to divvy up the money among the cups percentage-wise. And while readers learn that the boy used his savings for college, there are no discussions about other ways his money could be used. A good introduction that should be paired with some other books to round out and develop kids’ understanding of money and allowances. (Picture book. 5-10)

TOM THE TAMER

Veldkamp, Tjibbe Illus. by Hopman, Philip Lemniscaat USA (32 pp.) $16.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-9359-5405-7 A small boy’s imaginative play tames his father’s fears. Dutch author Veldkamp (Little Monkey’s Big Peeing Circus, 2006) revisits the circus theme to gentler effect. Tom, desperate for his father’s attention, builds first a snail trapeze and then a squirrel circus, but his father’s fear of animals keeps him indoors. Tom needs a new show, so he heads to “Paws, Claws, Beaks & Bugs,” where he announces himself as Tom the Tamer and asks if there are any animals that still need to be tamed. Hamster? Small dog? “I was thinking of a polar bear,” says Tom. His knack as a tamer soon has an affable bear lending its furry self to Tom’s circus, disguised in its off time as a piece of furniture. The new comfy chair by the fire is joined by flamingo drapes, an octopus chandelier and a three-hippo sofa, all wearing hiding-in-plain-sight looks of nonchalance. In on the game, and in a nod to Tenniel, is a white rabbit. The show is about to begin. But will it work? The father, finally the strong man that Tom needs, throws caution to the wind as he finds joy in an exuberant circus pyramid. Hopman’s luminous double-page spreads of soft watercolor and loose pen-and-ink lines lend humor to this multilayered story. Children will pick up subtle clues in the illustrations to the source of the father’s emotional distance and the healing power of play. Sublime. (Picture Book. 4–7)

THE GOLDEN ASS

Usher, M.D.--Adapt. Illus. by Motley, T. Godine (112 pp.) $17.95 | Dec. 15, 2011 978-1-56792-418-3

A faithful (if relatively clean) version of the world’s oldest surviving complete novel, written “for librarians, teachers, scholars, and extremely intelligent children,” according to the afterword. Usher (Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates, 2005) frames his adaptation as a tale within a tale in which the author meets two travelers on the road. He listens as one describes how he was transformed into an ass by reckless use of a stolen magical ointment, is mistreated in turn by robbers, “eunuch priests” (homosexual con men, in the original) and other rough handlers—then transformed at long last into a human boy by the goddess Isis. Though all of the sex and most of the |

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“Strong, realistic language and well-drawn secondary characters contribute to this authentic narrative.” from black boy white school

BLACK BOY WHITE SCHOOL

Walker, Brian F. HarperTeen (256 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-06-191483-6

Life at a Maine boarding school is vastly different from an inner-city neighborhood in East Cleveland, Ohio, and requires a corresponding set of survival skills for a young black male. Anthony “Ant” Jones is anxiously awaiting word whether he will leave his East Cleveland neighborhood to begin his freshman year at a boarding school in Maine. His mother has decided that he must go if he is to have a better future, and when his best friend is killed, Anthony looks forward to a different experience. Life at Belton Academy reinforces his concerns about a nearly all-white environment, though, and challenges many of the ideas he carried. Some of the racism is almost casual, and school administrators seem clueless. However, his roommate, Brody, is not what he expected, and some black students have adopted coping strategies that puzzle Anthony. A complicating factor is the presence of Somali refugees in the small town surrounding the school, triggering racist responses directed at all people of color. Anthony is a complex, likable character who convincingly grows in the course of the novel. He gradually understands what will be required if he is to succeed in his new school. “So I put on a mask that was so perfectly polished that it only reflected who you all wanted to see.” His sense of belonging to neither his old community nor the world represented by Belton Academy is palpable, as is his frustration at those who refuse his attempts to define himself. Strong, realistic language and well-drawn secondary characters contribute to this authentic narrative. (Fiction. 14 & up)

BEATRICE’S DREAM A Story Of Kibera Slum

Williams, Karen Lynn Photos by Stone, Wendy Frances Lincoln (32 pp.) $17.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-019-0

Life for a girl in the slums of Nairobi. Beatrice, 13, tells readers about her life in Kibera, a shantytown of discarded metal, wood and other refuse. The youngest of five children, she lives with her eldest brother, Francis, and his wife. Her father perished in in a car accident, and her mother died of tuberculosis when she was 9 years old. Every weekday morning, rain or shine, she walks half an hour to school, a building built of tin. Her favorite subjects are English and Kiswahili, the official language of Kenya. Beatrice is the school timekeeper during lunch. They eat githeri, a special Kenyan dish made from beans and maize. She stays after school for extra 2142

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lessons but must be home before six o’clock, when it gets dark. Often, her dog Soldier is waiting for her. Beatrice’s nightly chores include making dinner and ironing. If there’s enough paraffin in the small lamp, she’ll also study. On weekends, she works in her brother’s shop, washes clothes and helps with the marketing. All of this is told in Beatrice’s matter-of-fact first-person voice. The book ends with a two-page description of the Kibera slum and a sad picture of it. Stone’s beautiful color photographs—40 in all—work in tandem with Williams’ simple, direct prose to capture the poverty of Kibera as well as Beatrice’s resilience and many unique aspects of her life, likely unfamiliar to most American children. Informative and affecting. (Picture book. 5-10)

BUMBLEBEE

Wilson, J.V. Illus. by Kennaway, Adrienne Frances Lincoln (32 pp.) $16.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-008-4 The pastoral life of a bumblebee queen. Her yearly cycle begins on the first day of spring, when she sleepily flies in search of food and a nest. She has spent the winter hibernating in a dry mousehole. The queen visits dandelion and pussy-willow flowers, drinking nectar and gathering pollen by brushing her hairy body on them. Along the way, she deposits pollen in other flowers. She finds a new mouse-hole, where her colony will begin. By making honey pots (which resemble tiny brown eggs) and laying eggs and covering them with wax, she gives life to all the worker bees that well populate the colony. There are intruders: a weasel, shown how unwelcome he is in short order; and a cuckoo bee, who wants to drive out the queen and take over. Luckily, the worker bees spot her hiding in a corner and drive her out. On the last day of summer, “the old bumblebee queen flies out of her wonderful nest for the last time.” And in the autumn, all the new queens fly out to find drones to mate with before settling into another winter of sleep. Wilson’s narrative is crisp and concise, though prone to anthropomorphism. Similarly, Kennaway’s watercolors are straightforward and mostly realistic in their particulars. A valuable page about “Helping bumblebees” and a glossary conclude the book. Informative and, in its way, lovely. (Picture book. 5-8)

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ROSIE SPROUT’S TIME TO SHINE

Wortche, Allison Illus. by Barton, Patrice Knopf (40 pp.) $17.99 | Dec. 13, 2011 978-0-375-86721-7

Rosie is pretty secure in her own skin, but, just once, she wants to be better than her classmate Violet at something. Violet runs fastest, sings highest, tells the loudest stories and looks fanciest. When Rosie tires of Violet’s perfection, her jealousy gets the best of her. Competition tightens when both girls’ pea plants sprout at the same time, but Violet loudly claims the sprouting crown. Rose can’t take it anymore and heaps soil on Violet’s sprout, claiming her pea plant to be the best. Her happiness doesn’t last long. When her conscience nags at her and Violet comes down with a case of chicken pox, Rosie does what she needs to do to both salve her conscience and keep Violet’s plant alive. Readers will wonder why “everyone” allows Violet her reign of perfection—the sunny, digitally created watercolor illustrations show a self-congratulatory little braggart who never thinks about others. Rosie, who is a perfectly wonderful little girl, does learn to be kinder (or at least not to sabotage a classmate’s project), but the ending doesn’t satisfy, and the lesson feels muddled. Rosie works hard to grow two great plants, but Violet can barely acknowledge the effort. Only Rosie and the strangely disengaged teacher, Ms. Willis, seem to know how much work Rosie did. A confusing, if visually attractive offering. (Picture book. 5-8)

“needs to learn by living.” When a mob of white supremacists burns the newspaper office and arrests his father, Moses becomes dangerously involved and discovers what it means to be his father’s son. Relying on historical records, Wright deftly combines real and fictional characters to produce an intimate story about the Wilmington riots to disenfranchise black citizens. An intensely moving, first-person narrative of a disturbing historical footnote told from the perspective of a very likable, credible young hero. (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

A NEW YEAR’S REUNION

Yu Li-Qiong Illus. by Zhu Chen-Liang Candlewick (40 pp.) $15.99 | Dec. 27, 2011 978-0-7636-5881-6

Chinese New Year brings a young family joyously but all-too-briefly back together in this poignant import. Little Maomao knows only that her father “builds big houses in faraway places” and comes home just for New Year. Though she hardly recognizes the shaggy figure at the door, by the time he’s given her and her mother gifts, gotten a haircut and a shave and made sticky rice balls (one with a lucky coin in the middle just for her) they’re an inseparable pair—repairing the windows and roof together and watching dragon dancers march past. The next day brings a round of play with friends in the snow, and the day after that Daddy packs up his rolling suitcase to leave again. In Zhu’s paintings Maomao looks a bit too young for lines like “Excellent! Mama never allows me up [on the roof] alone!” but simple patterns and bright red highlights give the inside and outside settings a particularly inviting look, and the artist captures the emotional backdrop with delicate clarity in her figures’ postures and expressions. Sensitive, restrained—but festive too…with a closing note that China has over 100 million migrant workers, many separated from their families except during the holiday. (Picture book. 6-8)

CROW

Wright, Barbara Random (304 pp.) $16.99$10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-375-86928-0 978-0-375-98270-5 e-book 978-0-375-96928-7 PLB

SECRETS OF THE GARDEN Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard

Growing up in Wilmington, N.C., in 1898, a naive black boy and his family are devastated by a racist uprising in this fictionalized account of a little-known historical event. On his last day of fifth grade, a buzzard portentously casts a shadow over Moses Thomas, prompting his grandma, Boo Nanny, to warn: “[Y]ou happiness done dead.” Moses lives with Boo Nanny, a former slave who takes in white people’s laundry, his Mama, a housemaid for wealthy whites, and his Daddy, a reporter and business manager of the Daily Record, “the only Negro daily in the South.” Graduate of Howard University and an elected alderman, Daddy ardently believes in the power of education, and Moses tries to follow in his footsteps by reading library books, learning vocabulary words and maintaining perfect attendance at school. In contrast, Boo Nanny thinks her protected grandson |

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Knopf (40 pp.)  16.99 | Feb. 28, 2012 $ 978-0-517-70990-0

Zoehfeld, Kathleen Weidner Illus. by Lamont, Priscilla

Zoehfeld’s latest is a wonderfully informative and enjoyable journey through one family’s backyard garden, from spring planting to fall harvest. Covering a dazzling array of topics, the author still manages to hold onto a story line that will draw readers in and allow |

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them to experience both the good and the bad right along with narrator Alice. They will wait for the seeds to sprout and worry along with Alice about the nibbles that are missing from a few plants. Taking some time to be quiet in the garden, Alice discovers that it is home to many different animals, some beneficial and some not, and that the garden plants are the beginnings of many food chains, all interconnected in a web. Autumn sees the family putting up their vegetables so that they can enjoy the harvest throughout the winter, while they dream and plan their next garden. The text comes alive through Lamont’s pen-and-watercolor illustrations, which reinforce the learning while entertaining at the same time—the humans are not the only ones doing the educating. A funny pair of chickens appears throughout, providing more in-depth information about lots of topics, including photosynthesis, composting, common garden insects, food chains and the parts of the plants that people eat. Sure to become a standard go-to for elementary teachers and gardeners alike, this is bound to spark some backyard explorations. (Informational picture book. 4-9)

Nordqvist, Sven Translated by Lawson, Polly Illus. by Nordqvist, Sven Floris (32 pp.) $17.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-86315-824-7

This holiday offering presents a longish story about an oldfashioned farm family in Sweden celebrating Christmas Eve alongside a family of tomtes, elf-like creatures from traditional Scandinavian tales. In this original story, the tomte family prepares for Christmas in their cozy home in the hayloft of the barn. Their dinner festivities include special Christmas soup and customized varieties of beer for all the tomtes, from little 4-year-old Pilka to 427-year-old Grandfather. The father tomte is looking forward to his annual holiday gift from the humans, a bowl of porridge with a big pat of butter, but this year the humans have forgotten all about the tomte family. To avert the father tomte’s anger, the mother tomte and her children devise a complicated plot to distract the family and steal a bowl of their porridge to take home as the Christmas offering. Nordqvist’s amusing watercolor-and-ink illustrations are full of distinct personalities and tiny details in costumes and settings, reminiscent of the work of Trina Schart Hyman. An author’s note explaining the Scandinavian origins of the tomte and their mischievous ways would have been a welcome addition, but as it is, interested readers will have to do their own research. A charming and sprightly story with the flavor of a traditional tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

A STORK IN A BAOBAB TREE An African 12 Days Of Christmas House, Catherine Illus. by Alakija, Polly Frances Lincoln (32 pp.) $17.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-1-84780-116-6

This misguided effort offers explanations of many aspects of traditional African cultures within the structure of the oftparodied holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” In this version, the first day of Christmas brings a stork in a baobab tree, with an accompanying paragraph of explanatory text focused on southern Africa. Subsequent days of the celebration bring thatched huts, wooden carvings and traditional drummers, dancers and storytellers. A young couple and their baby appear in several illustrations, cleverly integrating the Nativity story into the art. Each double-page spread offers a vibrant illustration of evergrowing numbers of characters, with the corresponding line of the song flowing through the illustration. A paragraph or two of text explains each new gift, often tied to the Christmas holiday celebrations (for example, the wooden carvings are Nativity sets). However, these explanatory asides imply that all Africans are Christians who celebrate Christmas, and there is a distinct implication that “traditional African culture” is the way that all Africans live today and is consistent throughout the continent. An author’s note indicates which countries correspond to each illustration, but there is no map to help put this information in perspective. The arresting illustrations and the reworked version of the song are intriguing, but the insensitive cultural inferences and unclear or incorrect text are serious drawbacks. (Picture book. 4-7)

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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 • Ebony E. Thomas • 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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INJUSTICE FOR ALL

Allen, Christoper Dorrance Publishing Co. (202 pp.) $22.00 paperback | Apr. 20, 2011 978-1434910059 A political thriller-cum-science fiction epic about an alien conspiracy and a president who unwittingly facilitates the destruction of the American dream. In 1984 Myanmar, an extraterrestrial from a warfaring race known as the Magals landed on Earth and began a desperate fight with the United States. This creature abandoned his post on Earth sometime thereafter, but left his sons with his father, Gozaren. These sons, Gozer and Malhavco, have since joined the military and use their near-invincibility for special operations, presumably not for the protection and promotion of America’s interests abroad, but for dark, ulterior motives. This really isn’t such an unfamiliar America—the many wars on terror are still raging, the Bush administration had its two terms in power and there’s a newly elected black president in the White House. However, readers will have a difficult time believing that geopolitical history would have unfolded the same way as it has today given the occurrence of an interstellar war that decimated America’s armed forces. Another problem is the aliens themselves. Presumably they look humanoid as they navigate easily through the corridors of power, but who knows? At least initially, there are few clues or thoughtful explanations, and too much is assumed of the readership. This lack of setup early on leaves readers unable to place the characters in the world they inhabit. Malhavco is a genuine evil, though, and once the hard work of piecing together this universe is over, his brutality is as engaging as it is shocking—not satisfied with simply ruining humanity, he rapes women and kills any man that he can. Luckily for America, Gozer has another mode besides wanton evil and he aligns himself against his brother for the sake of the American dream. The novel’s climax is much stronger than its opening, but the journey between the two is fraught with the highs of the novel’s hard-boiled prose and the difficulties of its breezy exposition. Despite this, the thematic tug of war between nihilism and hope is pitch-perfect for millennial America, and the novel offers a message that boldly aligns on the side of optimism. An imaginatively veiled political allegory that will please the most generous science-fiction fans.

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“Despite Loveless’ extensive laundry list of faults, Boersema makes his protagonist endearing, mainly through his unflinching honesty on the page and the cheerful charm with which Loveless lives his life.” from loveless in the nam

THIS WONDERFUL YEAR The Adventures of Mister Edward Pamprill Benno, Mark E. CreateSpace (562 pp.) $19.99 paperback | Aug. 3, 2011 978-1463517021

In this historical novel, an unlikely hero finds himself thrust into the turbulence of Napoleon-dominated Europe. As the ancien régime begins to crumble, well-to-do Edward Pamprill has his life turned upside down when his father, Lord Richard Pamprill, has him kidnapped and put upon the HMS Atlantis in order to get “a dose of hardship.” Benno traces the young, genteel Englishman’s travels aboard the Atlantis, which takes him to Naples and the United States, among other places. Benno, who describes in the preface and afterward how he accidentally came upon the original manuscript describing Pamprill’s tale, infuses the text with enough action to please readers who favor plot above all. Filled with battles, duels and women, this novel feels epic not simply because of its geopolitical scope, but due largely to the sheer amount of events that unfold. In this way, Benno’s work follows in the footsteps of picaresque novels such as Voltaire’s Candide and William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Luck of Barry Lyndon, whose antiheroes continually find themselves in peculiar, unexpected circumstances. The difference between these famous works and Benno’s, however, lies in how the latter treats the title character; whereas Candide and Barry Lyndon pit themselves against the rest of the world, Pamprill easily makes friends aboard the Atlantis and receives the praise of others. Instead of stumbling into one bad situation after another, the protagonist has too many things go his way. As a result, the novel, for all of its action, becomes tedious, which may not be a surprise given that it clocks in at over 550 pages. The title aptly illustrates the problem; if the book paid closer attention to its literary antecedents, “wonderful” would not be the term Pamprill chooses at the novel’s close. Benno’s work would have benefited considerably if Pamprill met a more sobering end, but as it stands one feels little interest in, or pity for, Pamprill, despite all that he endured. An ambitious piece of fiction that falls well short.

LOVELESS IN THE NAM

Boersema, Jim Dorrance Publishing Co. (212 pp.) $23.00 paperback | $9.99 e-book Jul. 14, 2011 978-1434911766 Frank Loveless, the hapless protagonist of Boersema’s novel, may be the poster child for John Lyly’s quote, “The rules of fair play do not apply in love and war”; despite being an admitted coward, seducer and habitual liar, Loveless often comes out on top in this amusing story of one man’s accidental success in war. 2146

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Loveless’ story, told as a found memoir after he disappears in 1992, relates how he began his career as a callow youth in 1968. Graduating from a lackluster college career capped with a misadventure in the Bahamas, Loveless is shanghaied into the military by his disapproving father and shipped off to Vietnam. His inexplicable ability to bed any woman he wants lands him in hot water—getting his orders switched from a cushy desk job to infantry grunt, to begin with—but he keeps landing in glory. Awarded numerous medals and accolades due to cowardice and incredible luck, Loveless nevertheless finds a way to mess things up, usually through his efforts to sleep with virtually every woman to catch his eye. Despite Loveless’ extensive laundry list of faults, Boersema makes his protagonist endearing, mainly through his unflinching honesty on the page and the cheerful charm with which Loveless lives his life. The wry satirical edge with which the story begins—a lengthy anecdote opening with a can of beans and ending with Loveless’ first medal—wavers throughout the story, as the author seems unsure at times whether he’s telling a serious story with a comical protagonist or vice versa. Still, despite the uneven tone, Loveless as a character remains clear, and his adventures are entertaining throughout, even when foreshadowing toward Loveless’ future adventures becomes heavy-handed. An engagingly flawed protagonist and a grounded sense of reality make Boersema’s novel a smooth, fitfully thoughtful entertainment.

CAUGHT EVER AFTER Children of the Ruskin Heights Tornado

Brewer, Carolyn Glenn DK Publishing (334 pp.) $18.50 paperback | May 20, 2011 978-0615486857 The god-awful story of a monster tornado’s progress, told by Kansas City writer Brewer, who was also a witness. The year 2007 marked the 50th anniversary of a Category 5 tornado—known as the “incredible” and highest category, a step above the merely “devastating”—that wended its way from Williamsburg, Kan., to Knobtown, Mo., in a display of unrivaled energy and, to those who lived through the event, what must have felt like capricious malice. Brewer was then a child living in Ruskin Heights, Mo. “In Ruskin we had nothing but sky,” she says. Santa came from the sky, so did Grandma. “God lived in the sky. We were kids. What could you trust more than the sky?” Then something nasty dropped from the heavens. “First the smell. Sour, earthy, the inside smell of things never meant to be opened.” Brewer follows the course of the twister, taking testimony. Much of it underscores the banality of portent—”A few blocks to the east, Barbara Keister had a full house”—but there are also instances of beautiful understatement—”[Les] Lemon’s house was spared with only minor damage, but Les had a difficult time going to sleep that night.” There are a few stolen asides when readers can let their breath out, as when food critic Calvin Trillin sings the praises of Jess and Jim’s Steak House in Martin

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“...a lucid, engaging defense of evolution against creationist obfuscations.” from faith and reason

City, Kan., (destroyed, then rebuilt): “finest steak restaurant in the world.” Still, the tendency is to go from ominous to sheer terror, from “she noticed the neighbors were outside looking at the sky,” to “[s]he placed the still sleeping toddler in the linen closet and grabbed Melanie out of her crib.” The nightmares and scars are legion, and still much in evidence, but when you see “a house…lift up in the air about twenty feet, do a quarter turn, and disintegrate,” nightmares and scars are to be expected. An almost unbearably vivid tale, experientially chromatic, but emotionally wrenching.

FAITH AND REASON The Reconciliation of Christianity and Biological Evolution Glass, Bruce (212 pp.) Sep. 10, 2011

Deploring both the atheistic and “intelligent-design” camps that have polarized recent debates over Darwin, this smart, well-informed but conflicted treatise insists that Christianity and evolution are entirely compatible. Centering the author’s treatment of this contentious subject is a lucid, engaging defense of evolution against creationist obfuscations. Glass delivers a superb exposition of Darwinian theory and a meticulous, sharply reasoned discussion of the evidence— fossils, DNA analysis, vestigial or oddly engineered organs that suggest descent from distant species, direct observations of evolutionary change—that supports it. He supplements his discussion with a brief, engrossing history of life, taking readers from the earliest microbes through the emergence of the major categories of flora and fauna—birds, he contends, are essentially flying dinosaurs—to a detailed account of the evolution of man. Glass is uncompromising and persuasive in his dismissal of “creation science,” but his efforts to conjoin evolution to robust Christian faith are less compelling. Rejecting literalist readings of the Bible, he argues that the fundamentalist view of a God who instigates every event, or of a “God of the gaps” who lurks in every natural phenomenon that science can’t yet explain, misunderstands a supernatural God who stands outside time and space but can choose to work through physical laws and random happenstance. Steeped in Aquinas and St. Augustine, Glass is no mealymouthed agnostic—he believes in an unerringly good, omniscient God and serves up involved discussions of Christ’s divinity and the Trinitarian mystery. However, his full-blooded Christianity sits a bit awkwardly beside his scientific rationalism. His logic is impeccable when he insists that evolutionary theory does not rule out the existence of God, but he offers no positive evidence for a deity. (That, he contends, would be the error of looking to nature for proof of a God who transcends it.) Glass makes a stronger case for evolution than for Christianity, but readers of all persuasions will find his attempt to reconcile the two illuminating. A fine introduction to evolutionary science that leaves room for religion. |

AN INCONVENIENT LIE Secrets in Language

Gouëffic, Louise Sapien (262 pp.) $28.95 paperback | $14.99 e-book Jun. 1, 2010 978-0969027720 A passionate, logically jagged, linguistic-based argument of man’s subdual and suppression of women. There is a lie being told, passed around not merely from person to person, but from generation to generation, and its destructive powers are great. Such is the force with which Gouëffic attacks symbol-makers and users, with scarcely anyone safe from her criticisms. Starting with Manu in 2400 B.C., the author weaves her polemic against man’s creation of words aimed at separating off, rising above and distinguishing themselves as the idealized part of our species. It’s not merely the use of the term “man” to refer to our species as a whole that distorts the truth. The other half—the feme—is subjugated by man to a mere add-on, to wo-man. Words such as “human,” “mankind” and “woman” built from “man,” or having “ver” (man), “wor” (man), “fir” (tree/phallic) or “sem” (semen) in “universe,” “world,” “firmament” or “seminal” respectively, has man placing himself over and above all, projecting himself outward, making himself the alpha male, the godhead. But, according to Gouëffic, there is a solution—the Rofemtic movement, “the movement to reestablish true-to-reality symbols and truths”; its heart is the idea that we establish man not as man, but as male, and fem as fem. Gouëffic’s writing has passion and fire to it, but it might take too much effort for the reader to attempt the task of absorbing the information. With an incessant use of slashed words (H/he, F/father, etc.), long Hegelian-type prose, overly repetitive arguments and loose informal reasoning, the book reads more like propaganda in search of a philosophical soapbox. An essay that was pushed beyond its means; what could have been an engaging look at historical and social etymology is rendered difficult and distant.

THE CROOKED TILE

Harrison, Howard CreateSpace (433 pp.) $18.99 paperback | $3.00 e-book Sep. 5, 2011 978-1463750954 One-eyed murderers, international child sex slavery rings and people in power covering up crimes—it’s another go-round in the trenches for Chief Inspector Bill Harrigan of the London Metropolitan Police in this third and latest entry in Harrison’s (Destroy the Paper Tiger, 2011, etc.) series of police procedurals. Harrigan’s latest adventure begins in late 1989, as he and his romantic partner, Margaret, are stopped at the Sydney

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“At least job seekers will understand what they are up against.” from out- of -work and over-40

airport as they prepare to return to London; his assistance has been requested in the investigation and apprehension of Reginald Baines, an unstable hit man Harrigan captured years before. According to the Australian Federal Police, Baines was transferred to the UK as part of a prisoner exchange, where he promptly escaped, killing several people in the process. As Harrigan and his expanding team of trusted associates investigates Baines’ escape and subsequent crimes, however, the plot thickens exponentially, growing to encompass the machinations of the ruthless Esposito crime family and an infant murder case that may not be as settled as those in power would like. Despite the increasing intricacy of the plot, the narrative unwinds with confidence, clearly stating the events and the characters involved. Many of the secondary characters are barely sketches, but the central actors—particularly Harrigan, Margaret and Inspector Throgmorton, Harrigan’s latest stalwart ally in the Met—are drawn with sufficient depth and color to come alive. In the early chapters, the exposition of minor background details, such as car makes and models and furniture, slow the narrative, as does a saturation of commas and apostrophes. But the story finds its rhythm by the novel’s midpoint, and adept plotting keeps things moving to a well-earned denouement. Despite a choppy first half, the narrative settles down into a clearly plotted adventure that maintains a swift pace through to the end.

OUT-OF-WORK AND OVER-40 Practical Advice for Surviving Unemployment and Finding a Job Laser, Stephen A. Xlibris (167 pp.) $29.99 | paper $19.99 | Jul. 30, 2011 978-1462880959 978-1462880942 paperback

A business psychologist who advises companies on hiring decisions offers valuable insights into how older workers can find a job. The anemic job market seems to be a boon for self-help books targeting the job seeker. Losing a job is not just damaging to the ego, says Laser: “With so much of our identity tied to our jobs—for better or worse—being unemployed is a devastating event and one that should not be minimized even by those who seek to define their lives with a broader sense of purpose.” Laser directly addresses “the obvious ageism” that he says is hidden in large layoffs. Securing a position, he says, is difficult for those over 40 and “almost impossible” for those over 50. He begins with a reality check on a job seeker’s “Three A’s”: age, appearance and attitude. He offers insightful advice about all three, concluding that attitude is perhaps most important because of today’s “new reality” in the job market. The author acknowledges that older workers will be quietly discriminated against, and that persistence and positive thinking will be necessary to prevail. Finding a job, says Laser, is full-time work, although he suggests that the job seeker make his or her time productive by also considering 2148

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part-time employment or volunteer work since they could lead to other opportunities “to showcase your skills in front of prospective employers and key contact people.” Laser’s profession is helping employers evaluate candidates, so readers are likely to find his perspective on “what employers are really looking for” to be worth the price of the book. He makes the somewhat stunning admission that “if you look good and talk a good game, you have a better chance of being hired than someone who is not so attractive or gifted with his or her words.” At least job seekers will understand what they are up against. Laser includes the expected information about resumes, references and interviewing found in other books in this category, but the real value of this book is Laser’s unvarnished viewpoint on what older job seekers can do to make themselves appealing to employers.

I’LL PLAY THESE A Sports Writer’s Journey

Markus, Bob Xlibris (585 pp.) $34.99 | paper $23.99 | $9.99 e-book Jul. 19, 2011 978-1462869770 978-1462869763 paperback A retired Chicago Tribune sports writer recalls great moments and great athletes with column reprints and contemporary musings. Markus’ career spanned three and a half decades, work that included interviewing some of the greatest athletes of the time and witnessing some of the greatest moments in sports. This book is a hand-picked collection of the writer’s best columns, many complete with extended quotes from the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Walter Payton, Wayne Gretzky and others. Interspersed in the nostalgia is the author’s contemporary perspective of not only the events, but also of the events’ coverage, with much of the emotion removed from the original era; regarding the U.S. basketball team’s 1972 Olympic loss to the Soviets, Markus asserts that a lousy tempo, not a lousy call, should have lost the game for the Americans anyway. The collection hints at the author’s and media’s influence on sporting events and people (Markus claims he coined Gretzky’s nickname, “The Great One”); however, those moments pale in comparison to the focus of the collection: enjoyable events and personalities recollected by the nostalgic fan. Markus adds to the fun, recounting various methods of technologies he used to deliver stories to the Tribune (Western Union, fax, dictation and e-mail) and discussing the mock court trial that creatively recounted the controversial Elrod Hendricks-Bernie Carbo home plate call from the 1970 World Series. The book’s tag line of “writing in a golden age of sports” might be debatable as golden ages shift with each passing generation or the aging of the individual observer. The book makes changes in sports writing apparent; Markus says that even simple technologies like the tape recorder changed his writing approach, often for the worse, and his post-retirement column-blogs (included here), complete with the obligatory

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cute similes, read more like the commentaries of a blow-dried ESPN personality than those of a hardboiled reporter. The blogs also lack hands-on athlete/reporter interviews or actual presence at the game—more relics of a bygone era. Today’s blogger, one that writes from home and often parrots mainline stories, might do well to find instruction, if not inspiration, in this journalism of a bygone era. The glaring shortcoming is the absence of an index or table of contents, as either guide would make quick reference markedly easier. Accompanying dates for the columns would also be useful. A simple, but resourceful trip down memory lane that’s fun and instructional.

SEVENLIVES AND THE WOOF PACK

Morrison, Kenny AuthorHouse (88 pp.) $13.32 paperback | $9.39 e-book Aug. 9, 2011 978-1456785956 A warm adventure story featuring man’s best friends and a very special cat. Sevenlives the cat and her canine friends roam the English countryside playing games and keeping a check on the ill-tempered dogs of Stealers Farm and their human owners. But Sevenlives isn’t an ordinary cat—she’s a werecat; when she’s in trouble, frightened or angry, Sevenlives becomes Sevenia, a half-feline, half-human female creature taller than most men, with a powerful tail and the ability to heal when injured. Sevenlives keeps her mystical identity hidden from her dog cohorts, Sweetness, Sadness, Laughter and Dependable, whose names “perfectly reflect their personalities.” A puppy, Mischief, joins the pack around the same time dogs from the area begin mysteriously disappearing, and when Mischief goes missing, Sevenlives and company suspect the residents of Stealers Farm— Gumless and Molar and their dogs Brutal and Angry—and it’s a race to save Mischief and others from a violent fate. Morrison’s book is peppered with enough theatrical language and magical intrigue to keep young readers interested, but the core of the book is an uplifting story of supportive friendship between very different characters. The book champions courage and teamwork and vilifies fighting, avarice and theft in accessible, touching ways. The story unfolds in just a couple of days, and, because the timeframe of the book is manageable, the dangers and triumphs the characters experience seem all the more real. Though human characters are flat, background fillers, and many of the magical elements of the story are left unexplained (Sevenlives and her otherworldly secret may be slightly confusing), Sevenlives and the dogs—even their names should be fun discussion points for the right age group— are drawn in an open, playful style, and they display enough of the familiar behaviors of the domesticated pets we invite into our homes and hearts to easily endear them to readers. Good thwarts evil in a simple, relatable way in Morrison’s morality tale that entertains while avoiding saccharine moralizing. |

A NEW LEASH ON LIFE Mueller, Erna Book Baby (227 pp.) Oct. 15, 2011

Tough Seattle cop Lt. Spencer Watley, killed in the line of duty, is reincarnated in the body of his former police dog to redeem himself not only by nabbing the cyber-crooks responsible, but also by helping a troubled teenager face physical and emotional challenges. This clash of genres hearkens back in many ways to Disney live-action feature comedies (and the books that inspired them) from the 1950s to the 70s. A childish retro-spirit prevails despite the modern—yet still somewhat dated—milieu of a cyberpunk-esque Seattle populated with lethal computerhacker gangs and software/hardware pirates. Justin Andrews is a tech-savvy teenage rebel, alienated from his workaholic father, frequently in trouble at Catholic school and lonely after the death of his mother. Lt. Spencer Watley is a tough cop on the scent of a grotesque criminal dynasty named Dreck; Cruella De Vil-style Drusilla Dreck runs a robotics-oriented toy company but really schemes a vast identity-theft heist using a hot new cybernetic plaything named Robo Pooch that has been secretly upgraded with a snoopy spy chip. Watley is killed during a police pursuit—an accident that also puts bystander Justin in leg braces. But an angel in heaven grants Spencer a second chance in God’s “Jerk Redemption Program,” bringing the lawman back to Earth in the body of a purebred briard police dog (that has swallowed the Drecks’ precious spy chip) so that he can befriend Justin and battle the villains. The latter antics are so slapsticky that one expects chirpy birds and twinkling stars around the heads of the detestable Drecks and their henchmen after each gets conked in the many fight scenes. The narrative also overplays its “dead parent” hand, with fully three deceased moms and dads (and that’s just the human ones) causing lingering trauma to their bereaved offspring. Still, there are some intriguing third-act twists, and it’s possible that tween readers who find the more realistic Puppy Place and Pet Vets series too sedate will be amused by the rambunctious spirit and lively pacing. Readers and pet owners of any age should know that dog-Spencer’s habit of drinking coffee is not a canine treat recommended by veterinarians. Cop-dog comic YA novel-fantasy doesn’t lead the pack but still may collar a following among adolescent readers.

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“A natural storyteller, O’Neill brings to life a dizzying array of historical events... and injects humor into the darkest moments.” from tommy and john

SEAL TEAM 6 bin Laden and Beyond

TOMMY AND JOHN

O’Neill, William CreateSpace (505 pp.) $12.95 paperback | $2.99 e-book Jul. 5, 2011 978-1453863817

Narmi, J.L. CreateSpace (326 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Sep. 23, 2011 978-1463610982 A fictional account of SEAL Team 6, the unit responsible for the assassination of Osama bin Laden, taking on other covert operations. Geno Genelli, having led the “takeout mission” against bin Laden, is pulled away from visiting his ailing mother for an assignment deemed more treacherous than any the SEAL leader has previously experienced. Terrorists, under the guidance of Arab Imran Ali Hamza, are planning an attack on the royal family of Saudi Arabia. The mission becomes more crucial, however, when the terrorists seize the royal palace, and Secretary of State Kathryn Kurtz is one of the hostages. In his debut novel, Narmi expertly unifies real-world events, such as 9/11 and the failed Operation Eagle Claw during the Carter presidency, with the fictional characters and narrative. Several of the earlier chapters detail the political unrest in the Middle East, but Narmi keeps the story grounded with indications of Genelli’s opinions as constant reminders of the protagonist. The author’s style, approaching the material as if he were writing a historical book, is retained for exposition of characters, which gives the story and its players a more credible depiction. The drawback to such a method is its detrimental impact on minor characters, including the SEAL team members (apart from Fats Walker, Genelli’s friend called away from retirement), who are introduced quickly before the mission commences, making it difficult to care when one or more are killed in action. The bulk of the story deals with strategic maneuvering, but the combat sequences are invigorating, as SEAL Team 6 renders the enemy powerless in mere minutes. The book is split into two parts, with the operation concluding at the end of Part I. Part II unnecessarily recaps the events immediately preceding it, but another mission, Team 6 working with the CIA’s SOG (Special Operations Group) in the detainment of Iran’s president, is as remarkable and intriguing as the earlier assignment. At times excessively patriotic, but on the whole an entertaining, edifying account of the War on Terror in full swing.

This meticulously researched debut novel follows the trials and travels of two Irish men, one historical and one fictional, in the wake of the famine that crippled their country. The Irish potato famine of the 1840s was one of the greatest catastrophes of modern times, causing the death of 1 million people and the mass exodus of roughly a million more. It is also the decisive event in O’Neill’s sweeping novel, which follows the turbulent lives of two Irish men. At one end of the class spectrum is the charismatic, well-born Thomas Francis Meagher, a fierce nationalist who leads the radical Young Ireland movement against the British, only to find himself imprisoned and banished to a Tasmanian penal colony. He escapes to America in 1852, around the same time as the impoverished, young John Gillespie, who has barely survived the famine that killed his family and inspired him to join Meagher’s ill-fated uprising. In tough, gritty New York City, Meagher and Gillespie simultaneously struggle to find their place in a “tumbling, searching, catch-as-catch-can heap of America.” Although their lives follow strikingly different paths, they are both fueled—and led astray—by a rebellious, fighting spirit that propels them into politics, gang wars, the Civil War and, eventually, the West. A natural storyteller, O’Neill brings to life a dizzying array of historical events (the first transatlantic cable, Tammany Hall, the Irish Brigade) and injects humor into the darkest moments. His descriptions of the carnage inflicted by the famine and the Civil War are as harrowing as his description of Gillespie’s New York arrival is hilarious. Haunted by failure and the horrors they left behind, Meagher and Gillespie are compelling, flawed figures. When they meet once again near the end of the novel, Meagher poignantly ruminates on the winding journey that has led them to the fertile fields of Minnesota: “To succeed you must know what it is that you are trying to do.” A powerful, poignant debut novel.

SHADES OF GRAY

Sanders, Kim (256 pp.) $10.49 paperback | Oct. 4, 2011 978-1463731274 In Sanders’ debut novel, renowned photographer Samantha Jennings loves her camera and solitude, but when she’s accused of murdering her lover, only the man who broke her heart 10 years earlier can save her. Sanders’ romantic thriller leans more to the romance side of this hybrid-genre story, but the strong

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“Wenger’s tale is filled with catchy rhymes that impart a rhythm to the story, balancing fun and humor with a dark undercurrent of suspense.” from little red riding hood

characters and story make this an enjoyable read from beginning to end. Samantha “Sam” Jennings records the world around her in her photography, but retreats to her dog and secluded beach home in South Carolina whenever possible. After having been accused of murdering her lover—in a crime of passion no less— she’s managed to elude press and police. But she ventures out of hiding to tell her side of the story, to let the judge know it’s all a big mistake, that she’d never kill her best friend, Ben. Sam’s courtroom appearance brings the press and a past she’s been trying to avoid for over 10 years; Caleb broke 17-year-old Sam’s heart one summer, and she’s been running away from him, and love, ever since. Now, he’s a famous attorney on the fast track to a promising political career—and the only man who can save Sam. She resists his help at first, but puts aside her pride and anger when she realizes Caleb will defend her as no other man can. As they try to find the real murderer to clear Sam, their passion rekindles, but the real murderer may separate them forever. This story oozes all the necessary passion of any good romance novel, a blend of deep betrayal and sensuality. The author keeps the story moving and the sweltering Southern romance hot. A few bumps in the logical progression of the mystery make the story a little less believable, but as a romance, the book hits all the right moments. Sanders also strikes a nice balance between the mystery and romance. Sometimes the story reads like it’s moving through a romance genre checklist, but the story slides by quickly thanks to Sanders’ strong writing. The romance enthusiast won’t be disappointed with this novel that never skimps on passion or story.

IF I HAD AS MANY GRANDCHILDREN AS YOU Stewart, Lori Palmar (32 pp.) $19.95 | Oct. 25, 2011 978-0983929307

In Stewart’s debut picture book, a grandparent’s dilemma about how to spend time with “a gaggle of grandchildren” is answered in rhyme by a wise old lion, backed by colorful photographs that illustrate his wide-ranging advice. Lounging in a backyard vegetable garden, Grand Paws, a lion in a baseball cap, tells his human counterpart what he would do “if I had as many grandchildren as you”: take them to the beach to make sand castles, fly with them on an imaginary trip around the world (via a giant unicorn made of driftwood) and help them make costumes for a wild animal parade “through the poppy fields up to the trees / Where grandkids could sing just as loud as they please!” He would read them stories “and teach them to fish / And give them all stars upon which they could wish.” After a rooftop feast of popovers and pink lemonade, “We’d race around chasing big dreams and small bugs / Then gather around for a round of group hugs!” Creativity, imagination, sharing and caring are Stewart’s overall cross-generational themes, and she conveys them nicely through lively verse and a collection of vivid photographs that color each facing page. Stewart’s rhyming couplets gallop along, begging to be read aloud and easily |

holding young readers’ attention. And while some of the photos have a generic or amateurish feel, they effectively illustrate the wide world of wonder and possibilities suggested by the book, and simple captions beneath some photos set Grand Paws’ advice into a real-world context. Particularly captivating are the images of portaledges (hanging tents) and a flash of green as the sun dips below the horizon. A photo-rich picture book that engagingly suggests a myriad of fun activities brought to life by Stewart’s bouncy, heartfelt verse.

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD Into the Forest Again

Wenger, Shaunda Kennedy Essemkay Company Productions (58 pp.) $5.99 paperback | Mar. 31, 2011 978-0615445977 In Wenger’s children’s novel, Little Red Riding Hood is at it again—off to Grandmother’s house; this time, though, she promises not to speak to strangers. With memories of the Big Bad Wolf still looming, Little Red once again sets off on a trip through the shadowy forest to Grandmother’s house. Unfortunately for Little Red, the “strawberry, lemon, cherry, and plum, coconut, kiwi, and blue-buttery-fun” cake that she’s bringing to Grandmother’s attracts lots of attention from strangers: a gray mouse, a bird, a porcupine and a duck. None of them can resist the cake’s yummy smell and shiny candy decorations, and each promises Little Red something in exchange for a piece. Eager for company in the increasingly dark forest, she agrees to allow the animals to accompany her to Grandmother’s house, but only after asking each of them if they are “of good manners and fine repute.” Little Red is reminded by Platter (upon whom the cake is balanced) that she promised not to talk to strangers. But to Little Red, the small animals of the forest are harmless; it’s the wolves she need fear. And sure enough, Little Red does—once again—run into a wolf. Wenger’s tale is filled with catchy rhymes that impart a rhythm to the story, balancing fun and humor with a dark undercurrent of suspense. The illustrations, also by Wenger, are effective but feel a bit rushed. Though the lesson of not speaking to strangers gets lost in this telling, as Little Red repeatedly speaks to strangers without suffering any negative consequences, young readers will learn the value of friendship. Each member of Little Red’s caravan eventually proves to be a worthy friend by playing an important role. Platter, for example, motivates Little Red to continue the journey even when she is most afraid. By the end of the story, the travelers learn the importance of getting to know someone before passing judgment on them. A fun fairy tale with an enduring message: friends come in all shapes and sizes—and they all love cake.

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h m at t tay l o r

JAWS: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard

Taylor, Matt Moonrise Media (296 pp.) $59.95 paperback September 29, 2011 978-0983350200

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Q: How did Martha’s Vineyard feel about the Hollywood invasion? A: They speak very fondly about it now, but at the time, everybody talked about how frustrating it was to work on that movie just because everything would continually go wrong every day. They all signed on for one or two months and the thing dragged on six months. They signed on for 9-to-5 and ended up working 18- to 20-hour workdays, seven days a week. Susan Murphy talks about that in the book, how she watched the attack scene where the shark is mauling Robert Shaw on the deck of the Orca. She was standing behind the camera thinking, “Oh, God, get this over with.” There were a lot of locals who were opposed to the movie being made on the island back when the studio was trying to get permission to come here, but they were the older generations who really aren’t around any longer—the ones who liked things quiet and simple and kind of cringed at the showiness of a large-scale Hollywood production. The younger the islander, the more fun they seemed to have with Jaws. Q: What makes Jaws such a memorable film? A: I think the combination of the musical score with the footage was just brilliant; I don’t just mean the familiar three-note shark theme, but the other parts of the score as well—the “rousing adventure on the high seas” type tracks that are reminiscent of pirate movies and horror films. Also, the acting—Spielberg was very much into letting his actors improvise on the set. That added a real-life-sounding tone to the dialogue in the film. In my opinion, if the viewers can relate to the characters, then they’ll feel more frightened for them when they’re supposed to. The film also has these great elements of man vs. beast, man vs. himself and man vs. each other. It really seems to touch a raw, primal fear of the unknown. Q: Have you ever seen a shark? A: No, I actually had a chance a couple months ago. Do you remember reading about Tommy Mello? He’s

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one of the kids in the estuary scene on the sailboat. He now works for the Dukes County Harbor Patrol. In July he was hired to keep people away from this drifting sperm whale carcass on which an 18-foot great white was feeding. It was only a mile or two off South Beach, where hundreds of people were swimming, and Tommy would just circle this whale carcass in his boat all day long, keeping boaters and people who wanted to see the shark away. He actually called me one day and said, “I’m going to leave in 15 minutes. If you want to come down here, I’ll take you out to see the shark.” I raced as fast as I could to get there, but he had to leave before I could get to the dock. Q: How did you find all the local people, like Mello, who worked on the film? A: I knew a lot of people who had worked on the movie just from being here every summer as a kid. I would be talking to one person and it would turn out that they had a whole drawer filled with slides or a shoebox filled with Polaroid photos from the production. Then they might casually mention that they had worked on the crew for a month and they’d have all these stories. Pretty soon I had about 130 people involved and I was just drowning in Jaws information. Q: Did you have to leave anything out? A: A lot of technical stuff involving the shark got cut. At the end of the day, the book is more about the Vineyard people involved in the production and not so much about the nitty-gritty details about the shark and the special effects. Q: How did you get Steven Spielberg to write the foreword? A: We began talking to the Universal licensing department—even though none of the material we were working with was shot by Universal photographers, we wanted to make sure that they were on board with what we were doing. The people running that department at the studio now weren’t around 35 years ago and weren’t aware of the fact that the production of Jaws employed so many locals. They just weren’t getting it, so after a while they said, “You need to talk to Steven Spielberg, here’s the number.” We began communicating with DreamWorks—they were some of the nicest, most helpful people we dealt with throughout the entire project. We sent them a mock-up of the final copy this past February and three or four weeks later, we got a call from one of Steven Spielberg’s assistants saying he loved the book and he’d like to do a foreword. That was huge. –By Devon Glenn

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Matt Taylor was only 2-years-old when camera crews arrived on Martha’s Vineyard in 1974 to film Jaws. But when internationally renowned collector of movie memorabilia Jim Beller approached him in 2006 with an idea for a coffee table book about the making of the film, Taylor, a 15th-generation Vineyard resident, went door-to-door to find snapshots and other production artifacts that had gone unseen for over 35 years—an angle so fresh that Spielberg volunteered to write the book’s foreword, and Kirkus awarded the book a star. “I love the idea of the book being kind of like ‘Hollywood comes to Mayberry,’” Taylor told us as we talked to him about Jaws, islander mentalities, and his chance to see a live, 18-foot great white shark eat a whale.


THE THINGS WE SAVE

Zienty, Joanne CreateSpace (393 pp.) $16.99 paperback | $3.99 e-book Sep. 19, 2011 978-1463696245 In Zienty’s debut novel, a family struggles through loss and painful history, exploring the things that haunt us and help us remember, everything from artifacts to junk to treasures. Claire Sokol is a mother drawn back to her hometown of Chicago to help her father sort through her grandmother’s belongings after her death. During the process, she finds artifacts that recall the memory of the boys that haunt her—her brother, Joey, and her cousin, Jamie. A museum curator, Claire knows the significance of relics—she saves photographs, vinyl records, a lock of hair in an old Marshall Fields box, a treasure trove of memories buried in a drawer. Aaron, Claire’s lover and the father of her daughter, Tally—a family unit to which Claire just can’t seem to fully commit—is an archeologist who says of artifacts and memories, “The questions are always the same: why is it there and what does it signify?” Zienty excavates a family story, carefully uncovering why Claire feels such anger toward her father, how Claire lost her brother and cousin, the latter having become her close comrade after Joey’s death, and why Claire feels guilt over her one-time admiration for Aunt Peach, Jamie’s captivating mother, in the face of her own mother’s death. The novel lyrically works at the tension between the need to save and the need to forget, coming to the realization that sometimes you need to do both in order to move on and try to forgive. Zienty clears away the layers of dust and grime with a steady hand, leaving the raw surface of emotion signified by belongings no longer buried and memories no longer forgotten. A well-plotted, lyrical novel filled with the harsh emotions of a family torn apart by death.

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November 15, 2011: Volume LXXIX, No 22  

Ayad Akhtar pens a fine novel centered on questions of religious and ethnic identity; Walter Isaacson delivers an impeccably researched, vib...

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