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KIRKUS v o l. l x x i x, n o. 2 4

| 15 december 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

Chris Pavone delivers a highly enjoyable debut thriller with unexpected twists and turns sure to keep readers guessing p. 2280

Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith deliver a gripping and almost certainly definitive account of the life of Vincent van Gogh p. 2307

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson & R. Gregory Christie bring to life an unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement p. 2333

i n t h i s i s s u e : c h i l d r e n ’s b oa r d b o o k s — r o u n d u p and: best book apps of 2011 Leila Roy (Bookshelves of Doom) looks back at some of her favorite books from 2011, including Franny Billingsley’s Chime p. 2325

featured indie Robb N. Johnston’s stunning debut children’s picture book features gorgeous illustrations, humorous dialogue and a moving narrative about a man with an axe to grind p. 2360

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. 2261 fiction p. 2267 mystery p. 2285

science fiction & fantasy p. 2292 nonfiction p. 2295

children & teens p. 2315 kirkus indie p. 2353

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 Features Editor M O L LY B RO W N molly.brown@kirkusreviews.com

The Literary Potlatch B Y G RE G O RY MC NA M EE

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

The holidays h av e rolled a roun d once again, and with them the usual frenzy of gift-giving, if somewhat muted by the ongoing bad times. Riding my bicycle recently on a Sunday morning, I passed by a man wrestling to get an armful of wrapped presents into his car somehow, all harvested from the mall in the wee hours. (It is material here to remark that in that mall there are five shoe stores—but not a single bookstore.) The sight of all those presents, bless that man’s generous soul, put me to mind of an old Northwestern Indian custom that puzzled generations of anthropologists: the potlatch. Franz Boas, the Columbia University–based, world-roaming scholar, witnessed a couple of instances of the custom, which typically involved a family’s hosting a shindig in which speeches were made, much food and drink consumed and gifts given as tokens of esteem and social status that cut both ways—a notable person received a notable gift, but giving that gift also bestowed notability on the giver. Thus expensive blankets, etched seashells, metal ornaments and other such fineries changed hands. And, as Boas noted, because social status is always changing, those goods were also constantly in circulation. Never mind that all these things traded were not necessities, or that potlatch ceremonies often took place when the people were gaunt with hunger; the idea behind the exchange and the gifting and regifting was simply to keep the goods moving, available for everyone to enjoy at some point or another. We live in a different world and a different time. Our economics is predicated on scarcity: There is too little oil, too little gold, too little food to go around. It is also predicated on accumulation and division: If rocks were money, then soon a handful of people would own the mountains, and the great mass would have but a pebble or two in their pockets. But the economics of the “primitive,” a suspect word that must always be in quotation marks these days, is predicated on the idea of relative abundance: There’s always enough for everyone, as long as no one gets too greedy. Anthony Quinn’s character proclaims in Lawrence of Arabia, “I am a river to my people!” So he is, and if no one gets waterlogged, at least everyone gets a sip. In his widely influential book The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World (Vintage), the poet and essayist Lewis Hyde writes of the work of art as a gift that is easy to keep in circulation, and that naturally belongs to everyone. Unlike that new Rolls-Royce or a crisp stock certificate, that definitive work of art, the book, will pass through many hands if properly kept moving—and, with luck, it will change many lives. The writer may grow wealthy, but, if the book is good, wealth of a different sort spreads as readers find it. Everyone benefits, the scarcity all around us be damned. And that’s a good reason to give lots of good books as gifts in this festive season. Happy holidays!

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This Issue’s Contributors Maude Adjarian • Mark Athitakis • Josh Bell • Amy Boaz • Will Boisvert • Liesl Bradner • Lee E. Cart • Kelli Daley • David Delman • Kathleen Devereaux • Daniel Dyer • Hilary Elkins • Lisa Elliott • Peter Franck • Eric F. Frazier • Bob Garber • Sean Gibson • Ben Gold • Kathy L. Greenberg • Ian Griffin • Jonathan Hiam • BJ Hollars • Robert M. Knight • Janet Krenn • Paul Lamey • Louise Leetch • Peter Lewis • Elsbeth Lindner • Judith B. Long • Joe Maniscalco • Melissa A. Marsh • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee • Chris Messick • Clayton Moore • Liza Nelson • Leslie Nipkow • John Noffsinger • Mike Oppenheim • Jim Piechota • Jon C. Pope • Gary Presley • Lloyd Sachs • William P. Shumaker • Maria Siano • Barry Silverstein • Arthur Smith • Wendy Smith • Margot E. Spangenberg • Andria Spencer • Justin Stark • Claire Trazenfeld • Steve Weinberg • Rodney Welch • Carol White • Chris White • Patrick Whitehurst • Joan Wilentz • Marc Zucker


interactive e-books PUSS IN BOOTS

interactive e-books for children

iStorytime zuuka $3.99 | Oct. 28, 2011 1.0.1; Oct. 28, 2011 A sketchy iteration of the 2011 film, crashatrocious (in this version of the app) but heavily stocked with stills, audio clips and interactive features. Created as a prequel to the Shrek films (and an alternate to the Perrault tale), this episode unites Puss with his old orphanage buddy Humpty Alexander Dumpty and renowned thief Kitty Softpaws to steal magic beans and then the Golden Goose. Read silently or by an unenthusiastic narrator with selectable auto or manual advance, the text provides a wooden and sometimes disconnected summary of the action: “They staged a dangerous raid on Jack and Jill’s creepy, boar-driven wagon. It wasn’t easy, but they finally had the beans!” All of the 22 pages (except the last) feature links to strips of stills, many of which come with snatches of audio, and on several pages a touch of a small cat’s-paw icon activates a sound effect, a short animation that can be manually controlled or a drawing board that resembles a sandbox. So visually appealing is the finely detailed, richly colored art that readers may be inclined to shrug off the audio malfunctions or sudden shutdowns that too-hasty swiping or tapping engenders. Better just to see the movie—though being able to hear Antonio Banderas declaim “I am Poos in Boots, and my name…would becahm…Legend!” at will makes this a worthy keepsake. (iPad film storybook app. 7-9)

MARCEL

Dubash, K. Illus. by Dubash, K. Kids and Beyond $1.99 | Oct. 26, 2011 1.0; Oct. 26, 2011 Marcel the bookworm lives in a magical apple that provides him with an endless supply of books. Marcel needs shelter from the bitter cold of winter. Luckily, a magical apple appears, blows its top and begins spewing books. Throughout the next 12 months, Marcel reads incessantly while the apple carries him to various seasonally appropriate locations, where he meets new friends and gives them books to read. The concept, though on the weird side, isn’t a total dud, but the writing is never better than bland. The developer’s vision statement articulates a commitment to developing stimulating, creative and interactive applications for children; unfortunately this effort is unsuccessful on all counts. While the muted watercolor-like backgrounds are visually appealing, the graphics and animation are primitive and utterly underwhelming. Snow and rain fall, selected fish wiggle (though, disappointingly, all crustaceans are static), the moon cycles through phases and on one page—which is arguably the technological high point—the waters are briefly troubled and then stilled. Besides page turns, interactive elements are limited. Readers can eliminate words from the page and/or silence narration, but they cannot stifle the often-annoying electronic ditties that drone and tinkle from beginning to end (unless everything is silenced altogether, which rules out music-free narration). Though the technical and literary elements don’t warrant a failing grade, there’s not much to bite in to here. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

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MY PRINCESS BOY

Kilodavis, Cheryl Illus. by DeSimone, Suzanne KDT Media $2.99 | Nov. 2, 2011 1.0; Nov. 2, 2011 Each sparkling, tap-happy screen of this version of the earnest 2010 book radiates the same relentless, if praiseworthy “Cherish Their Differences” message. Literally radiates: Touching any character and many background details sets off spreading ripples of semitransparent heart shapes and, often, tinkling chimes too. The short text is a mother’s love note to her 4-year-old son, who enjoys wearing “girly dresses,” twirling like a ballerina and wearing a tiara. Noting that |

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I N T E R ACT IV E

E - B O O KS

Best Book Apps of 2011 The book-app world may still be a brave new one, but the proliferation of titles for young readers is astonishing. We have sifted the best from the not-so-best of 2011 and present them here for you. For toddlers all the way up through teens (and beyond), there is something for everyone. You will find both electronic, interactive versions of traditional books you know and love and wholly original stories organic to tablet technology. We may find more great apps after we go to press; you will find the complete, final list on 12/19, along with exclusive, online-only feature coverage, at www.kirkusreviews.com. Enjoy!

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THE LITTLE MERMAID

Hans Christian Andersen Illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger Auryn, Inc (iPad storybook app. 6-12)

VAN GOGH AND THE SUNFLOWERS Laurence Anholt Illustrated by the author Auryn, Inc (iPad storybook app. 6-12)

TREETOP TED

Bronwyn Callendar Illustrated by the author Frubeez (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

THE GOING TO BED BOOK

FIERCE GREY MOUSE

Chantal Bourgonje Illustrated by the author Tizio BV (iPad storybook app. 2-8)

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Sandra Boynton Illustrated by the author Loud Crow (Ipad board-book app. 1-3)

MOO, BAA, LA LA LA!

HANNAH HABEEBEE MCHATS

Sandra Boynton Illustrated by the author Loud Crow (iPad storybook app. 1-4)

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Bronwyn Callendar Illustrated by the author Frubeez (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

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ALICE IN NEW YORK

BIG LITTLE BROTHER

Lewis Carroll Illustrated by John Tenniel Atomic Antelope (iPad storybook app. 5 & up)

Kevin Kling Illustrated by Chris Monroe Mighty Media/ Borealis Books (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

NASH SMASHER

David A. Carter Illustrated by the author Unicorn Labs/ Ruckus Mobile Media (iPad game app. 1-6)

GO AWAY, BIG GREEN MONSTER!

Ed Emberley Illustrated by the author Night & Day Studios (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

THE MAGIC OF REALITY

THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

Illustrated by Ed Bryan Nosy Crow (iPad storybook app. 5-7)

SCRUFFY KITTY Michael Slack Illustrated by the author Winged Chariot (iPad storybook app. 1-4)

Marmaduke Park Illustrated by Umesh Shukla Auryn, Inc (iPad storybook app. 5-8)

BOBO EXPLORES LIGHT Craig Fusco Illustrated by Dean MacAdam Game Collage (iPad informational app. 7-10)

Barbara de Wolf Illustrated by the author Barbara de Wolf (iPad storybook app. 6-8)

Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Marc Brown Random House Digital (iPad storybook app. 5-9)

HARE AND TORTOISE

Richard Dawkins Illustrated by Dave McKean Random House UK (iPad nonfiction app. 11 & up)

THE PRINCE WITH FIVE HEADS

Van Ryzin, Henrik & Denise. Illustrated by Henrik Van Ryzin Monster Costume/ Octopus Kite. iPad storybook/puzzle app. 4-10)

WILD ABOUT BOOKS

Bill Doyle Illustrated by Troy Cummings Crab Hill Press (iPad storybook app. 6-9)

SPOT THE DOT

THE BUTTON AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA

BRAVE ROONEY

Gerry Renert Illustrated by Barry Gott. Bacciz (iPad storybook app. 5-8)

THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE

William Joyce Illustrated by the author MoonBot Studios (iPad storybook app. 4-12)

POP-IT!

Raghava KK. Illustrated by the author. Raghava KK Inc (iPad informational app. 4-9, adult)

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SYLVESTER’S BAND

Illustrated by Jeppe Sandholt Morten Sandholt/ Uncle Handsalt. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

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interactive e-books

HEAD, SHOULDERS, KNEES, TOEs

Illustrated by Rosemary Wells. Auryn, Inc (iPad storybook app. 1-3)

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CURLY HAIR, STRAIGHT HAIR

the lad is also lovingly accepted by his older brother, his father and playmates but not always by others, the narrator goes on to ask leading questions (“Would you laugh at him?”). Scripted responses follow (“I will not laugh at him”), appearing on translucent overlays in very large letters when certain lines of text are tapped. In the cartoon illustrations, stars pop into view and rise through pink skies as touches send balls bouncing, cause flowers to emit rapid drumbeats and make the boy (who looks considerably older than 4) and the other weirdly faceless human figures dance. An interactive counting game is shoehorned in midway through. “My Princess Boy is your Princess Boy,” the narrative concludes obscurely—a sentiment hinting that parents may have been the author’s intended audience all along. Utterly without subtlety, but there’s little enough out there addressing the needs of transgender children that this can be comfortably overlooked. (iPad bibliotherapy app. 6-8, adult)

Manning, Dorothy Thurgood Illus. by Manning, Dorothy Thurgood 33 Loretta Kids Books $3.99 | Oct. 15, 2011 1.1; Oct. 20, 2011

Multicultural, yet universal enough in its language and situations to appeal to any kid, this app is appealingly simple. A series of quick-hit situations told through the prism of the hair on the heads of cute, watercolor-illustrated children, the story trades in familiar moments. Going to bed, running around the playground, riding the bus and taking a bath are just adventures for curly, straight, long or short hair alike. With lines like, “Flying hair, windy hair. / ‘Catch me if you can’ hair,” the app offers basic, but effective animation. Some characters wiggle or move an arm, others bump up in the air when a school bus hits a bump. The sound effects are well-integrated, and though there’s as much interactivity on each page as in a more extravagant app, this one doesn’t really need it. No trails are blazed here, but it’s nevertheless a story with rhythmic language and a polished look and feel. The text, with the option for narration in English or Spanish, is smooth and evocative. There’s also a Spanish/English dictionary to help readers learn specific words or phrases. For younger readers, it all comes together in an appealing, attractive and easy-to-follow app. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

BIG LITTLE BROTHER

Kling, Kevin Illus. by Monroe, Chris Borealis Books $9.99 | Oct. 19, 2011 1.0; Oct. 19, 2011

All Kevin wanted was a baby brother. Until he got one. Unfortunately, the baby grows big— bigger than Kevin—and takes over his world with “his largeness and fist full of doughnuts.” The baby touches all his toys, cries at night and follows him everywhere. But one day at the Old Woman in the Shoe playcare, Kevin begins to see his big little brother in a different light. In this delightful story of preschool brotherly angst and love, storyteller Kling and painter/cartoonist Monroe combine their talent to create nothing short of a modern children’s classic. Page after swiped page, Kling’s precocious sound effects and tap-for-more commentary add hilarious depth to the well-rounded story: Tap the plastic army figure, and you get “Beans again?!” Tap the hotdog, and you get “a tubular cuisine.” And tap Kevin’s pop-up thought bubbles to hear him say what he really thinks: “And when you’re older, you will do whatever I tell you to do.” Monroe’s detailed, nostalgia-infused illustrations underscore the heartwarming, whimsical aesthetic of the story. Any way the doughnut crumbles, this is a 37-page page-turner, with hundreds of surprise interactive elements and audio that both parents and children will love, especially those with siblings. And the end—the first time music sounds—is simply beautiful. At last, an iPad storybook so good it doesn’t need additional narrative options or games or technological wizardry to distract from its flaws. Because there are none. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

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THE ZOO

Me Books & Penguin Group USA Me Books $0.99 | Aug. 9, 2011 Series: Ladybird Classic Me Books, 1.2; Oct. 11, 2011 An early reader from the 1960s gets an empirical facelift. The Ladybird Classics debuted in England in 1915 and over time became a wildly popular collection of “mass market” children’s books. Ladybird’s learn-to-read titles featured minimal illustrations and simple, highly legible text for early readers. The Zoo has been replicated on the iPad screen and has not been updated in terms of modern graphics, themes or text. However, a small dotted circle in the upper righthand corner of the screen provides a potential creative goldmine for imaginative kids and those who read to them. Touch it once, and translucent lavender-colored areas appear, indicating hotspots. Touch a hotspot, and narration and/or sound effects are triggered. Don’t like what’s built in to the app? Double-tap the hotspot and swipe it horizontally to make it disappear, then use a fingertip to draw another one. Once created, readers can record narration or sound enhancements by pressing anywhere on the new area and holding it down. Though the app comes with preset hotspots, there is no limit to how many readers can create or how many populate each page. A reset function erases recorded elements and returns the app to its original settings. |

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This innovative approach proves that out-with-the-old isn’t a prerequisite for in-with-the-new. The concept alone is worth the price of admission. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

by the monster’s damage to flowerbeds and buildings, drive it away. When economic depression strikes the suddenly deserted town, the complainers, who “felt sorry for treating the Greebley Greebley so badly,” coax it back. Party time! Along with a loop of classical music and crowd noises in the background, tapping figures in the cartoon illustrations sets off camera clicks, exclamations in chipmunk voices, echoing howls and, from the sad monster, hilariously juicy sobs and sniffs. A “home” icon on each page lets readers remake the monster any time, but they are left to discover on their own that page turns require tapping or swiping the lower corners. Furthermore, there is no animation or audio narration. Not much for plot or special features, but the engagingly ugly monster(s) will draw chortles. (iPad storybook app. 6-8)

HEY SON, HEY DAUGHTER, COME READ ABOUT WATER

Mind the Kids Mind the Kids $1.99 | Nov. 2, 2011 1.0; Nov. 2, 2011

Small children explore water cycles in four thematically related but indepen-

dent minibooks. The individual titles themselves don’t always tell the tale. In “Where Does Wee-Wee Come from, Mum?” and “Where Does Wee-Wee Go to, Mum?” a child’s rhymed queries to a succession of adults lead him back along the water line from home to clouds and ocean, then from his “pottie” through sewers to a purification plant and back around. In contrast, “What Can We Do with Our Poo, Mum?” and “Why Is There No More Water, Mum?” shift the setting to an African village, where one lad learns that his drinking water is “full of smelly dirt” thanks to seepage from local garbage dumps, and another follows his mother on her daily trek to a distant tap because there is no nearby well. Sprightly background music, plus every screen’s touch-activated sighs, chuckles or small movements add further life to the bright, elementally simple art. A reference to the Water Board and other language point to the stories’ European origins, but most of the information is applicable or understandable on this side of the Atlantic—and if it’s startling to hear dialogue in the latter pair of tales voiced by an adult with a Scottish accent, the optional audio, particularly the child’s parts, are read throughout with engaging vivacity. Though at first glance these look like preschool fare, they are eye-openers for any young readers who think their drinking and waste water appear and vanish by magic. (iPad informational app. 5-8)

SHOOSH

Weyh, Florian F. Illus. by Geissler, Marie Ridili $3.99 | Apr. 20, 2011 1.1; Jun. 9, 2011 Rough illustrations, a not-quite-there translation and characters who come across as remarkably troubled for a children’s app make this story seem like a good argument for keeping quiet. One morning, bushy-haired Anton climbs into his parents’ bed holding a squeak-toy rubber duck (called a “bird” throughout the story). He’s quieted down immediately, and thus begins a day that seems miserable from the outside; everything that Anton does, from slurping hot soup to shuffling his feet at the museum, is discouraged by his persistently nagging father. Dad, who may be in over his head, is covering for Mom’s headache and entertaining young Anton for the day. In the end, Anton and Dad end up under a bridge, banging instruments as loudly as they can, a brief respite in an otherwise grim drama about stamping out a child’s every whim. Perhaps it’s not meant to be that bleak, but the app’s off-kilter hand-drawn look, the use of guillemets (»Don’t slurp!« scolds his father) instead of quotation marks and sour adult characters make it a chore, despite some nice illustrations and competent narration. “It’s weekend now and we can all rest nicely,” Dad says in one typically awkward exchange. The App Store description, which describes a series of “Ridi-Apps,” confirms the language issue with proclamations like, “So this Ridi allow your child to tune into a foreign language and learn it” and “Ridis can help a child to bridge waiting times.” Those sentences read the way the app feels; like being stuck in a place you can’t quite figure out. Anton’s adventure in aural admonition isn’t too pleasurable; by the time he gets to make a real racket, the story’s already become a jumbled, uncomfortable slog. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

THE GREEBLEY GREEBLEY

Molloy, Tim Ginger Whale $1.99 | Oct. 28, 2011 1.0; Oct. 28, 2011

A customizable monster and silly sound effects aplenty make a story that is, at best, perfunctory seem more or less forgivable. Thanks to its resident monster—which viewers create at the outset by tapping a stocky figure that features 10 interchangeable hairy, slimy or otherwise monstrous heads, bodies, legs and arms—the mountain town of Greebley is a popular tourist destination. Until, that is, the short-sighted residents, infuriated |

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h l au r e n c e a n h o lt

VAN GOGH AND THE SUNFLOWERS

Laurence Anholt Illustrated by the author Auryn, Inc (iPad storybook app. 6-12)

Laurence Anholt has been making traditional books for years, both by himself and in collaboration with his wife, Catherine. Recently, he has dipped his toes in digital waters, working with developers Auryn, Inc., on an app version of the first book in his Artists series, Camille and the Sunflowers. This app, Van Gogh and the Sunflowers, received a starred review from Kirkus and was named to our list of Best Book Apps of 2011. It tells the story of Camille, son of the Arles postmaster, and his friendship with the iconic painter. The app features a fascinating pop-up design that enlists children in the animation of characters, and it also gives them the opportunity to join in the painting. Perhaps most spectacular is the app’s virtual gallery, which displays a number of van Gogh’s Arles paintings and provides extra information about the artist. Anholt spoke to us from his home in Devon, England, about traditional books vs. electronic ones, collaboration and bridging cultures. Q: What do you feel the app does that the book can’t and vice versa?

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Q: Can you say a little more about those reservations? I think all of us book people share them to some extent. A: You see the thing I love about picture books for young kids is that it is a three-way relationship between the child, an adult and the book. The spontaneous chatter [that] goes on is where a kid learns to develop empathy and so many essential human skills. I am a little nervous that kids of the future will get locked into a two-way dialogue with a machine or a faceless entity such as the Internet. The result may be LESS communication, and that is scary. It’s also to do with time. When my kids were little, my wife and I loved to share stories with them. We would enter a completely timeless zone [that] was almost hypnotic. This experience is so soothing and bonding. Q: Can you talk about the collaboration with the developers? In traditional publishing, authors and illustrators are often kept apart, but it wasn’t that way with you and Auryn, I gather.

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Q: Here in the States, we tend to take liberties with the pronunciation of van Gogh: “van go.” I love the way the app’s narration corrects that. Was that a conscious decision? A: Yes, we talked about that a lot. I see that there have been several reviews questioning this: “van goff??” Neither the British nor the U.S. pronunciation is really accurate. In fact, Vincent (a Dutchman) would have said “van hoch.” I believe that one of the reasons he got into signing his paintings “Vincent” was because the French had trouble with his name, too. You see, this is one of the things [that] I love about these projects—they raise so many interesting cultural issues for kids. Q: Do you hope you’ll be able to reach kids you otherwise wouldn’t with a traditional book? A: Of course that is one of the primary reasons for exploring this technology. I have always wanted my books to be as inclusive as possible. But it’s a fascinating time for all of us. I have seen tiny babies swiping iPads...it’s incredibly intuitive. They are wonderful devices, and I’m fascinated by e-books, too. I suppose my greatest fear is that future generations will only be able to digest “tweet-sized” bytes of information, and the amazing journey that fulllength novels provide will become forgotten. But I am fundamentally optimistic; my guess is that we will experience a pendulum effect, and it won’t be long before people start hankering for paper, paints and handmade artifacts again. Then we will find a balance between technology and art. –By Vicky Smith

9 For the complete interview and more on the Best Book Apps of 2011, go to www.kirkusreviews.com.

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P H OTO C O U RT E SY O F C L A I RE A N HO LT

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A: Well, I think the interactive educational aspects are amazing—the way the reader can enter a virtual museum, for example. I like the painting application, where [children] can color their own pictures. I think Auryn have done an incredible job, and we consulted very closely. They listened to everything I had to say. BUT I would be lying if I didn’t say that I have some reservations about the technology in general.

A: That’s right. I’m unusual as an author, because I am pretty collaborative and really enjoy interacting with people who have other talents. My publishers are very supportive of that, and it’s something I have done in various ways. Most interestingly, I worked with a Korean theater company on a stage musical adaptation of this book! [What] I liked so much about that team, and Auryn, too, is that they were equally interested in the historical background—they really studied van Gogh, and that is always important for me. I do take some poetic license with my stories, but they are based on lots of research. Auryn were very appreciative of that.


fiction THE DRESSMAKER

Alcott, Kate Doubleday (320 pp.) $24.95 | Feb. 21, 2012 978-0-385-535588

It’s Titanic revisited, in a romance focused on the survivors and the scandal, seen from the perspective of an aspiring seamstress whose fortunes intertwine with real characters from the epic tragedy. Published to coincide with the centenary of the famous shipping disaster, Alcott’s debut wraps a conventional tale of love and wish fulfillment around the much more interesting historical facts. Out of some 2,223 people on board the Titanic, only 706 survived, 60 percent from first class, mainly women, and 25 percent from steerage. The behavior of the privileged, in particular Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his couturier wife Lady Lucy, raised many questions including rumors of bribery and murder. In Alcott’s version, just before the ship leaves Europe, Lady Lucy hires a maid, Tess Collins, whose real passion is designing and sewing clothes. Lucy turns into a selfish, capricious mistress, but Tess endures in hopes of dressmaking work. On board, Tess catches the eye of a wealthy businessman as well as a rock-solid sailor. Then the iceberg intervenes. All these characters survive, but the aftermath in New York is scarcely celebratory, with newspapers gossiping and a Senate inquiry delving into the horrific events. Tess’ loyalty and affections will undergo many additional stress tests. While the fictionalizing of real characters, notably Lucy, doesn’t wholly convince, there’s an appealing, soulful freshness to this shrewdly commercial offering.

THE DARLINGS

Alger, Cristina Pamela Dorman/Viking (352 pp.) $26.95 | Feb. 16, 2012 978-0-670-02327-1 First-time novelist Alger brings previous careers in investment and law to bear in her financial thriller about a prominent Manhattan family of financiers brought down by scandal months after the stockmarket crash. Carter Darling and his Brazilian wife Ines, a stereotypically shallow Upper East Side matron, are doyens of Manhattan society with two Spence educated daughters, pretty Lily and smart |

Merrill. Carter employs both his sons-in-law, preppy dullard Adrian and self-made lawyer Paul—Merrill’s husband and the novel’s more or less central character—at his hedge fund Delphic. The Darlings, including daughters and sons-in-law, live inside a tightly controlled bubble in which family is supposedly everything until Delphic’s dealings come under the scrutiny of the New York office of the SEC. But the Darlings are not the Madoffs. They are aristocratic and “waspy” (an adjective Alger uses a lot). The Madoff stand-in is Morty Reis, a nouveau riche Jew who apparently commits suicide just before the SEC exposes that his management firm, a big part of Delphic’s portfolio, has been running a massive ponzi scheme. Did anyone at Delphic know? Is someone going to have to take the fall? Is there other, more personal misconduct in danger of being exposed? Where do the fault lines of loyalty lie within this family? And how much does the family’s concierge/lawyer, another nouveau riche Jew, know? While Alger builds suspense by tracking the family’s disintegration in short scenes day by day by exact hour, from the Tuesday before Thanksgiving until the Monday after, she dissipates tension with a surfeit of financial chatter; the temperature never rises above tepid, even during sex scenes, and neither does the satiric heat. Merrill and Paul are portrayed as the innocent victim-heroes throughout, but it is hard to work up much sympathy—Paul has dropped his North Carolina family for no understandable reason except social climbing, and Merrill is a “waspy” snob and a possessive wife. A lukewarm financial thriller.

CITY OF BOHANE

Barry, Kevin Graywolf (288 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 13, 2012 978-1-55597-608-8

Gangland warfare rules the day in an imagined, decivilized Irish city. Roll up Joyce, Dickens, Anthony Burgess and Marty Scorsese, sprinkle with a dash of Terry Gilliam, and smoke up. That’s roughly the literary experience to be had from ingesting this marvelously mashed-up creation from Irish storyteller Barry (There Are Little Kingdoms, 2007). The author goes for broke in constructing his fictional City of Bohane, a once-great city on the west coast of Ireland that has taken 40 years to fall into utter decay. The setting is a rich stew of ethnicities, loyalties, gangster cred, vices and technologically barren conflicts. Different provinces promise different pleasures: parallel streets in New Town, barely controlled

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“A romping good read that is character-driven yet intellectually provocative.” from accidents of providence

chaos in the Back Trace, fetish parlors and shooting galleries in Smoketown, all behind the moat of the Big Nothin’. Pulling the strings on this criminality is Logan Hartnett, a gaunt, pale rake called “The Albino.” Hartnett is beleaguered by harpy wife Immaculata and protected by a trio of young warriors: ambitious Wolfie Stanners, irrepressible Fucker Burke and razor-cool Jenni Ching, who works all sides with equal aplomb. A “welt of vengeance” threatens to jump off, after a Cusack of the Rises gets “Reefed” in Smoketown. Make sense? Much like the fiction of Irvine Welsh, the vernacular takes some acclimatization. Stirring the pot is the fact that Hartnett’s mortal enemy, “The Gant Broderick,” has sashayed back into town. “Halways pikey, halfways whiteman. Been gone outta the creation since back in the day. Was the dude used to have the runnins before the Long Fella. Use’ t’do a line with the Long Fella’s missus an’ all, y’check?” explains Wolfie in his messy patois. The familiar gangland drama won’t come as any great surprise, pulling in traces of pulp fiction, cop flicks and the grittier dystopian films into its gravity, but its style is breathlessly cool. Barry’s addictive dialect and faultless confidence make this volatile novel a rare treat. (Author tour to Boston, New York, Philadelphia)

THE SHADOW PATROL

Berenson, Alex Putnam (416 pp.) $25.95 | Feb. 21, 2012 978-0-399-15829-2

Former CIA tough guy John Wells is back, and this time he’s busting a heroinsmuggling ring operating out of an isolated Army base in Afghanistan. After a disastrous meeting with his estranged son, Wells accepts a freelance mission offered by his old agency boss Ellis Shafer. In the aftermath of a suicide bombing that killed the station chief and several of the best agents in the CIA’s Kabul station, Wells is supposed to go to Afghanistan, see how things are going, then report back to CIA chief Vince Duto. More importantly, there have been reports that a mole in the Kabul station is working with a local Taliban leader, possibly to smuggle heroin. An analyst in the Kabul station thinks a group called the Thuwanis may be the source of the heroin, and that soldiers in the U.S. Army may be involved. Posing as a wealthy Saudi anxious to help fund jihad, Wells visits the Thuwani compound and uncovers some key information. But as he and Shafer unravel the threads of the conspiracy, they just can’t seem to figure out a motive, which may have more to do with revenge than money. Fans of Berenson’s previous Wells novels (The Faithful Spy, 2006, etc.) will find more to like here, including plenty of superbly paced action sequences, and the kind of background that suggests a betterthan-average understanding of what soldiers on the ground actually see in Afghanistan. Skeptics will continue to roll their eyes at Wells’ superhuman ability to, almost at the drop of a hat, pass for a national from whichever Middle Eastern country best 2268

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suits his needs. There are also a few too-convenient plot twists, including a head-scratching scene wherein a conspirator in the smuggling ring is discovered thanks to the fact that he has “friended” a co-conspirator on Facebook. However, the prose is airtight, the pacing is excellent and the phenomenal action sequences more than make up for minor weaknesses in the plot. Berenson’s highly enjoyable series continues with more of the rock-solid same.

ACCIDENTS OF PROVIDENCE

Brown, Stacia M. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (272 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-547-49080-9 Brown’s first novel is a heart-poundingly vivid, intellectually provocative account of the legal case against a fictional woman condemned to death for secretly burying her dead, illegitimate newborn in Cromwell’s England. In 1649, Cromwell has taken power after the beheading of Charles I. Politics is in turmoil, suspicion and paranoia the mood of the day. But the law still must be upheld as aging and ailing criminal investigator Thomas Bartwain reluctantly builds his case against Rachel Lockyer, an unmarried glovemaker’s apprentice, for breaking the 1624 “Act to Prevent the Destroying and Murdering of Bastard Children.” No one questions that Rachel buried her infant daughter; the case hinges on whether the child was born dead. Humorously Rumpole-like, with a wife who keeps him morally on pitch, Bartwain is increasingly uneasy, especially when he finds a flaw in the law. Meanwhile Rachel remains largely silent out of her confused sense of guilt and because she does not want to expose William Walwyn, who has been her adulterous lover for three passionate years—the author provides great, unsentimental sex scenes that feel true to the era. With his crony Richard Lilburne, Walwyn is a wellknown leader of the Levelers, a human-rights advocacy group that originally supported Cromwell but has turned against him and is now under attack. William is also the father of 14 legitimate children, and his wife Anne watches and waits for her husband to return his heart to his marriage, not passive but patient. Rachel’s true friend and supporter is feisty and outspoken Elizabeth Lilburne, who has recently lost two small sons to smallpox and remains loyal to husband John despite her impatience with his political posturing. Events in the plot are based on historical incidents, and one of the book’s many joys is the way fictional (Rachel, the Bartwains) and historical figures (the Walwyns, the Lilburnes) weave seamlessly together; everyone’s motives and reactions are richly complex. A romping good read that is character-driven yet intellectually provocative on issues of law, religion and morality—historical fiction at its best.

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RAGNAROK The End of the Gods Byatt, A.S. Grove (192 pp.) $24.00 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-8021-2992-5

A multilayered retelling of the end of the world from Norse mythology, framed by the award-winning British novelist’s analysis of how myth relates to her own work. This slim volume doesn’t invite comparison with the expansive novels of Byatt (Possession, 1991, etc.). As she explains, “Gods, demons and other actors in myths do not have personalities or characters in the way people in novels do. They do not have psychology.” Yet her narrative strategy recasts the myth through the perception of a reader known only as the “thin child in wartime,” a British girl whose name and age are unknown, who finds resonance in this war of the Gods with the war from which she doesn’t expect her father to return. Byatt invites some identification of this girl with the author by dedicating this book to her own mother, “Who gave me Asgard and the Gods,” a primary source for this retelling. The girl compares the myth of world’s end with the Christian faith into which she was born, and to Pilgrim’s Progress, which she has also been reading. “Bunyan’s tale had a clear message and meaning. Not so, Asgard and the Gods. That book was an account of a mystery, of how a world came together, was filled with magical and powerful beings, and then came to an end. A real End. The end.” The girl doesn’t come to believe in the Norse gods, a worshipper of Odin and Thor, but the reading experience leads the author to the conclusion that “the Christian story was another myth, the same kind of story about the nature of things, but less interesting and exciting.” While the narrative illuminates the essence and meaning of myth, particularly as it shapes a young girl’s wartime experience, it also serves as an environmentalist parable, one where we are “bringing about the end of the world we were born into.” Though the cadences are like those of a fairy tale, a narrative seen through the eyes of a child, the chilling conclusion is not.

HARD KNOCKS

Carr, Howie Forge (352 pp.) $24.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-7653-2640-9

From Carr, Boston Herald columnist, talk-show host and author of true crime books (The Brothers Bulger, 2006, etc.), a first novel in which all politics are local. And dirty. Jack Reilly is a former cop who left the Boston PD accompanied by a nice fat disability pension and without much in the way of official regret. While on the job he’d chauffeured for the iconic Boston mayor, whose political |

smarts were legendary, and who over the years taught Jack the invaluable lesson that served as the foundation for his later career: always know where the bodies are buried. Now the old mayor is gone, and Jack, transformed into a political insider with a famously flexible code of ethics, has become the go-toguy whenever there’s a need for big league mud-slinging. State rep Daniel Patrick Mahoney is an ambitious if unsavory pol. Currently, the number two power in the House, he approaches Jack because he sees himself as Speaker once he figures out a way to rid the House of its current Speaker. Dirt’s required, the kind that sticks, the kind Jack is handsomely paid for providing. But at the moment Jack has a lot of distraction on his plate. There’s the deal his jailbird brother Martin has sucked him into, which has already resulted in one untimely, thoroughly inconvenient corpse, more stiffs on the cusp; there’s his increasingly bleak relationship with two of Boston’s scariest mobsters and, on the sunnier side, there’s his growing attachment to Katy Bemis, the scrappy Boston Herald investigative reporter whose legs do such pleasant things for a short skirt. It’s she, however, who asks Jack the pertinent question, the one certain readers, surfeited by an overload of chicanery and corruption, might well yearn to have answered: “ ‘Do you know anyone who isn’t crooked?’ “ Jack remains silent. Best for political junkies. Otherwise, wait for his next.

THE SLEEPY HOLLOW FAMILY ALMANAC

D’Agostino, Kris Algonquin (336 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Mar. 20, 2012 978-1-56512-951-1 Cancer. An overdue mortgage. An unexpected pregnancy. All weigh upon Calvin Moretti, film-major graduate, special-education teacher assistant and vaguely guilty semi-slacker. Cal actually is responsible for none of these troubles. He has dropped out of grad school and taken work as a teacher’s assistant in a school for autistic children, a job he’s good at but disengaged from. But he does live at home, where his father copes with cancer, bemoans his loss of his flying career and obsesses about death. Meantime Cal’s harried mother stretches disability benefits to cover bills and­ stave off foreclosure on their suburban New York City home. Cal’s older brother, Chip, also residing at home, brings a substantial paycheck home from the city, but neither Chip nor Cal are ready to assume responsibility, financial or otherwise. That doesn’t dissuade Cal’s younger sister Elissa, a high-school senior, from confiding in him that she’s pregnant. Therein lies D’Agostino’s narrative arc. Mired in ennui, Cal watches independent and self-aware Elissa struggle with her decision to keep her child-to-be even while reaching out to empathize with her father. Cal soon experiences a series of convoluted self-realizations suggesting he can accept that life and love carry responsibilities, to family and self. The book is modern realism, eavesdropping on a family big on hugs,

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vocal expressions of love and lacing casual conversations with the F-word as they live a life less perfect with sardonic humor and fatalism. D’Agostino sketches a memorable turning point in a scene involving a wedding and a gunshot, an occasion that blasts Cal out of the boredom generated by a world of unearned comfort toward an existentialist awareness. Cal’s character is well-defined, one that grows in likability. Surprisingly, so does the self-centered Chip. Elissa is more foil than central to the narrative, but the older Morettis mirror modern woes that cast shadows upon the American dream. D’Agostino’s fiction debut winningly describes the millennial generation exploring the borders of love and responsibility.

THE MOUNTAIN OF GOLD

Davies, J.D. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (368 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 2, 2012 978-0-547-58099-9 Matthew Quinton, the appealing title hero of Davies’ Gentleman Captain (2010), returns in this 17th-century seafaring saga on a royal assignment to find a longrumored mountain of gold in North Africa. Can the scoundrel who swears he has seen these riches be trusted? Should his punishment for crimes against the British fleet be suspended so he can lead Quinton to the gold? Meanwhile, back in the northern British village of Ravensden, can King Charles II be trusted in promoting the marriage of Quinn’s brother to a woman who is said to have murdered her two previous spouses? Told in breezy, larkish fashion, the book pits Quinn against one Brian Doyle O’Dwyer, whom he first encounters as a surviving Malta galley man calling himself Omar Ibrahim—an Irish rogue speaking Arabic with an Irish brogue. Charles, who will do anything to acquire the riches to put England on equal financial footing with the Dutch, quickly names O’Dwyer a lieutenant colonel in the Irish army. Quinn knows the search for gold has folly written all over it but is smart enough to know not to stand in the way of a king with visions of instant wealth. Numerous fact-based characters appear in the novel, including Samuel Pepys and naval and military leader Robert Holmes. Equally comfortable as a social observer, Davies thrives on the down time back in England before the big voyage, wittily describing political rivalries, adulteries and Quinn’s fruitless efforts to have a baby with his Dutch wife. His encounters with pirates may be the least-interesting part of the story. A naval adventure that goes well beyond the usual outlines of the genre to paint a lively portrait of England in the 1600s.

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PORTRAIT OF THE MOTHER AS A YOUNG WOMAN

Delius, Friedrich Christian Translated by Bulloch, Jamie Farrar, Straus and Giroux (128 pp.) $13.00 paperback | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-374-53329-8

A German woman living in Rome during World War II falls under the spell of the Eternal City. Over the course of one afternoon, the heavily pregnant young narrator of this stream-of-consciousness novella takes a long walk though the streets of Rome en route to a Bach concert at a protestant church. But while that is all that actually happens, her thoughts wander freely, touching often on her absent husband, Gert, a soldier stationed in North Africa. Suffering from a chronic but not life-threatening leg wound acquired in Russia, Gert had hoped to be stationed in Rome as a minister. But in 1943, with the Germans losing the war, he is redeployed to Tunis. His bride remains in Italy, sharing a room with another girl named Ilse in a mission run by German nuns. Pious and naïve, she counts herself blessed to be wintering in the Italian sun while so many are struggling, and fixates on the timeless (and un-German) beauty and sensuality of Rome. And while she finds the vestiges of its pagan culture mildly disturbing, she nonetheless looks forward to the days when she and her husband can enjoy “Roman delights.” The specific horrors of the war figure little in her thoughts, other than a vague recognition that the Führer who “places himself above God” should not be obeyed blindly. She’s a good girl, with her many opinions shaped by the men in her life. But apart from her personal fears, this notably healthy mother-to-be has an unshakeable faith in her and her baby’s future—come what may. Written as one long sentence broken up by indentations, this slender volume has a dreamlike quality and an unapologetically autobiographical theme. Delius (The Pears of Ribbeck, 1991) was born in Rome in 1943, the son of a German pastor. An intriguing blend of travelogue and love letter.

BOND GIRL

Duffy, Erin Morrow/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $24.99Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-06-206589-6 Ambitious young woman faces numerous obstacles after breaking into the maledominated world of bond trading. Inspired by her father’s long career in finance, Alex Garrett knew from an early age that she would end up working on the Street. So when top brokerage firm Cromwell Pierce recruits her right out of college, she feels a certain sense of destiny. Her optimism fades, naturally, when she arrives at the chaotic bond-trading floor to discover that she does not have a desk,

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“Erickson weaves a complex and imaginative literary tapestry about family and identity.” from these dreams of you

just a folding chair. Her gruff boss Ed “Chick” Ciccone dubs her “Girlie” and makes it clear that she might be logging years as an indentured servant (aka analyst) for the team before the possibility of actually selling any bonds. Her duties include fetching coffees and lunches while trying to learn the super-complex workings of the finance business. The hours are grueling and the hazing never stops—at least until a new victim arrives. As punishment for showing up late one day, she is dispatched to the Bronx to procure meatball heroes and a 50-pound wheel of parmesan—and is stuck with the $1,200 lunch tab. Still, there is an absurd amount of money to be made, as she discovers when she is given a $110,000 bonus after her first full year with the company. Alex’s good looks also attract the attention of colleagues and clients alike, and she begins a clandestine relationship with office cutie Will Patrick, a seemingly nice guy who mysteriously goes missing every weekend. At the same time, married (and filthy rich) hedge-fund manager Rick Kieriakis takes a shine to her, peppering her with unwanted, stalker-like messages. His behavior crosses the line, but knowing that it is her word against his, Alex grits her teeth and tolerates him—to a point. Then the 2008 financial crisis arrives, throwing the whole industry into a tailspin and prompting Alex to choose between money and self-respect. Finance veteran Duffy’s topical fly-on-the-wall debut skirts the darker issues of Wall Street’s role in the world, but still makes for a compelling, fun read. Testosterone-soaked take on the Devil Wears Prada model. (Author appearances in New York. Agent: Erin Malone)

ARCHIVE 17

Eastland, Sam Bantam (272 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-345-52573-4 Set in a Siberian labor camp, this atmospheric (read: brrrr!) thriller finds Nicholas II’s one-time special investigator on an undercover assignment from Stalin to solve a cold-case murder—and find the long-dead tsar’s hidden supply of gold. Inspector Pekkala is more than a little familiar with Siberia. Banished there after the fall of the Romanovs, he spent nine brutal years in a forest marking trees, a job no man had previously survived for more than six months. Now it’s 1939. The world order is crumbling. Russia’s treaty with Germany is shaky. America is poised to enter the war. Stalin needs that gold, and now. In Shadow Pass (2011), the previous entry in this series, Pekkala investigated leaks in Stalin’s secret tank-building program. Now, the former Finnish soldier must not only uncover the mysteries behind the murder—the victim was falsely identified as the imperial officer in charge of transporting the gold— he must also unravel the secret plot that put his own life at risk. Returning to the gulag, where barrels of formaldehyde await fresh cadavers for medical research, he faces an immediate scary threat from the surviving members of the fight-till-theydie Comitati band. The nomadic Ostyak tribe, which butchers |

hopeless “escaped” convicts who aren’t killed by the cold, lurks on the outskirts of the prison. Fortunately, Pekkala has a few people watching his back. He’ll need them in a saga involving trained assassins, harsh betrayals and sudden reversals. It’s a bit hard to believe the hero is as sane and centered as he is following his gruesome ordeal. But while not on a par with Martin Cruz Smith’s Renko novels, Eastland’s third Inspector Pekkala entry is a model of narrative control and intricate plotting. (Agent: Jason Cooper)

THESE DREAMS OF YOU

Erickson, Steve Europa Editions (320 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jan. 31, 2012 978-1-60945-063-2 In Erickson’s (Zeroville, 2007, etc.) latest, the lives of Zan and Viv have imploded in the wake of their adoption of Sheba, an Ethiopian toddler “supernaturally cognizant beyond the span of

such a short life.” Alexander Nordhoc—Zan—is a novelist, but he’s written nothing new for years. Instead he teaches and works as a disk jockey at a pirate radio station. Viv is a gifted photographer, one whose most prominent work was plagiarized by a celebrity poseur. Viv is indifferent. The Nordhocs are also too broke to sue. In fact, they face foreclosure on their California home, a house that’s also, and symbolically, rat-infested. Into this mess comes a missive from J. Wilkie Brown, occupier of the J. Wilkie Brown Chair of the University of London, and Viv’s one-time lover. Brown offers Zan £3,500 to lecture on the “Novel as a Literary Form Facing Obsolescence in the Twenty-First Century.” Too little to rescue them, the money is also too much to refuse, especially since Viv, white-angst guilty, wants to accompany Zan to England and fly on to Ethiopia and find Sheba’s mother. Chapter-less, a stream of interconnected vignettes, Erickson’s narrative segues toward surrealism while mimicking the chaotic interior emotions of real life. Threads and characters serendipitously stumble through a missing-link chain of coincidences, with mazes and labyrinths both real and imagined. Erickson even references Mussolini’s use of mu­stard gas and a pizza-delivery mugging evoking Do the Right Thing, all while Zan dreams in parallel of a novelist who plagiarizes the future. The story is dense with cultural references and there’s a beautiful, elegiac remembrance of Robert Kennedy, his campaign and assassination, from Jasmine, a grey-eyed Ethiopian woman whom RFK met while in London. Later, Jasmine will work for a Bowie-like rock musician, during which time she becomes pregnant with Molly, who becomes Sheba’s temporary nanny during the Nordhoc’s sojourn. With this book, set against the backdrop of Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency, Erickson weaves a complex and imaginative literary tapestry about family and identity.

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THE LOST DAUGHTER

Ferriss, Lucy Berkley (400 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-425-24556-9 A child left for dead at birth reappears 15 years later to transform the lives of her parents. The opening pages of Ferriss’ sixth novel (Leaving the Neighborhood, 2001, etc.) are a harrowing overture to a book that’s soaked with domestic tension. In 1993, Brooke and her boyfriend, Alex, enter a motel to deliver what the high-schoolers are certain will be a stillbirth; the teas prescribed by a hippie-ish family friend of Brooke’s were supposed to ensure that. The first chapter’s visceral depiction of the delivery signals that Ferriss intends to deliver an unflinching study of parenthood, and though the book is overlong and takes some sentimental turns, she largely follows through on that promise. Fifteen years later, Brooke has married another man, Sean, with whom she has a daughter, and their life is outwardly cozy. But Sean’s job at a print shop is foundering and she’s batting away his pleas for another child. As Sean drowns his anger in drink, Brooke reconnects with Alex, who can’t stop hating himself over their parental misadventure. After a series of revelations, the two discover that their child is alive: Alex left her breathing in a crate near the motel’s dumpster, where she was taken in by a working-class Polish-immigrant family. The girl, Najda, has a severe physical disability but is whip-smart; among the novel’s sharpest chapters are those she narrates, full of close observations of her dysfunctional adoptive family and guilt-wracked biological one. Ferriss’ main message is that the truth will always come out, and she often gives this fairly preposterous scenario a convincing, Franzen-style realism. That skill is undercut slightly by a second message that dreams do come true; Ferriss is no Pollyanna, but she ties the bow in ways that feel more comforting than sincere. Despite some too-convenient plot twists, a powerful domestic novel.

FRIENDS LIKE US

Fox, Lauren Knopf (272 pp.) $23.95 | Feb. 17, 2012 978-0-307-26811-1

A young woman who introduces her best friend to her formerly nerdy highschool companion has mixed feelings about the situation when the two begin a romantic relationship. Drifting in a way typical to recent college graduates, aspiring illustrator Willa takes considerable comfort in the fact that her roommate Jane is in the same boat. Sharing a dingy Milwaukee apartment, the girls are closer than sisters and have similar 2272

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lanky, curly-haired good looks. Jane, who works as a housecleaner but writes poetry on the side, is, in Willa’s mind, a sunnier and more confident version of herself. Their cozy twosome is altered forever, though, with the arrival of Ben. Willa and Ben were inseparable in high school, and after a seven-year separation meet again at a reunion, where Ben confesses to a longtime crush on her. Willa senses Ben’s appeal, but after an awkward first kiss relegates him to the “friend” role. And soon after Ben meets Jane. Willa, happy to see her two favorite people in love, initially blesses their union, and they become a happy trio, doing everything together. Willa also takes an easy job in a flower shop and dates a slippery Irishman named Declan, but Ben and Jane remain the center of her world. But when Ben asks Jane to marry him, Willa panics, worrying that life is going forward without her. Jealous of what Jane has, and still hurting over past events (such as the demise of her parent’s marriage), Willa makes an irreversible decision guaranteed to have painful repercussions for everyone involved. In spite of the novel’s predictable scenario, Fox (Still Life with Husband, 2007) has a talent for language and her wounded, witty Willa is a remarkably complex creation. Moving, artfully written Gen-Y roman à clef. (Author tour to Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee in February 2012)

THE LOST SAINTS OF TENNESSEE

Franklin-Willis, Amy Atlantic Monthly (352 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-8021-2005-2 In Franklin-Willis’ first novel, set in 1985 with backward glances at three decades, a 40-something Southerner struggles to come to grips with his roles as father, son, ex-husband and twin brother. Ezekiel Cooper was supposed to be the one in his family to make it out of their small working-class community. His mother Lillian, whose own ambitions were thwarted by her first pregnancy, had low expectations for her three daughters, and Ezekiel’s brother Carter was mentally impaired since a childhood bout of encephalitis, but Lillian recognized Ezekiel’s potential and made sure he received a scholarship to the University of Virginia. Twenty years later, Ezekiel works at the elevator plant and lives alone with his dog in a shack in Lillian’s backyard. Divorced from his high-school sweetheart, who has recently remarried, he rarely sees his daughters. And he’s still grief-stricken over Carter’s drowning 10 years earlier. He blames Lillian for Carter’s brief, unhappy life but blames himself for Carter’s accidental death. In a depressed funk, he drives out of town planning to commit suicide. Instead he finds himself heading to the horse-country farm outside Charlottesville, where he lived with Lillian’s cousin Georgia and her wealthy husband Osborne during the happy months he attended college in 1960, before returning home for Christmas. Discovering his mother had placed Carter in a facility, he

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quit school to take charge of Carter’s care. Now he finds happiness in Virginia again, not to mention potential romance. But then he learns his mother is dying and his older daughter is in emotional crisis, along with his ex-wife. His efforts to balance his own needs with his responsibility to his family are set in relief against Lillian’s memories of being a wife and mother torn between love of family and private yearnings. Franklin-Willis has a fine touch for the small-town Southern world in which she grew up and an obvious affection for her characters, if anything a surfeit of affection—Ezekiel’s sensitivity strains credibility and wears the reader out. (Author tour to Birmingham, Jackson, and Oxford, Miss.; Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, San Francisco)

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ALL THAT I AM

Funder, Anna Harper/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $25.99 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-06-207756-1 Funder follows her critically acclaimed nonfiction debut (Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, 2003) with the novelized account of German activists who opposed Hitler before World War II. The author uses an unnecessary framing device, having two of the dissidents tell their sometimes-overlapping versions of events. In 2001 Australia, as her short-term memory fails along with her health, Ruth Becker remembers back 70 years to her early adulthood in Germany and England. In 1939 Manhattan, Ernst Toller, a worldrenowned playwright and human-rights activist, holes up at the Mayflower Hotel where he dictates to his secretary the events that happened six years earlier. Both narrators are historical

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“A graceful novel of an American family struggling to find identity and spiritual meaning.” from norumbega park

figures, as are almost all the “characters” in the book, despite a few name changes. Ruth and Ernst’s paths cross in the 1920s. Toller, a decorated soldier during World War I, has been imprisoned for his pacifist activism. Among the pacifists and socialists working to gain his release is Ruth’s older cousin Dora. While visiting Dora, 18-year-old Ruth falls deeply in love with journalist Hans Wesemann, whose courageous satirical articles make vicious fun of Hitler and his cronies. Ruth and Hans marry. When Toller leaves prison, where he has managed to write his well-loved plays, Dora becomes his secretary and passionate lover. Toller, scarred by his wartime and prison experience, suffers bouts of serious depression. He wants to marry Dora, but she is a committed feminist who refuses to be tied down. Life as an anti-fascist in late 1920s and early ‘30s Berlin is a heady mix of idealism, passion and drinking. Then the burning of the Reichstag occurs. Dora is arrested briefly, but it is Ernst the authorities want. Soon Ruth and Hans find themselves in London with Dora, Ernst and numerous other Germans trying to raise the alarm about Hitler. Some find adapting to expatriation harder than others, and one becomes a traitor to the cause. The disquieting historical facts entwined by themes of love and betrayal are powerful enough to make up for flatfooted storytelling. (Author appearances in New York and Tristate Area. Agent: Sarah Chalfant)

ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE JANSON COMMAND

Garrison, Paul Grand Central Publishing (432 pp.) $27.99 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-446-56450-2

Paul Janson, ex–Consular Operations assassin, is offered $5 million to find a missing oil-company physician captured by pirates near the island nation of Isle de Foree off Africa’s west coast. Janson, now operating CatsPaw Associates, a security business, agrees to the job out of loyalty. Doug Case, a former Cons Ops agent shot and paralyzed while protecting Janson, has asked Janson to take on this assignment. Janson also runs Phoenix Foundation, his mechanism of atonement for morally shaky missions in his past. Phoenix locates and rehabilitates undercover ops who were used and tossed aside by secret operations agencies. Case, now head of security for American Synergy Corporation, was a Phoenix project. Garrison (The Ripple Effect, 2004, etc.) drops more than one colorfully sketched archetype into the mix. There’s a bloodthirsty dictator, a tough but conscientious rebel leader struggling to control his revolution, a ruthless South African assassin on assignment from the nefarious Securité Referral, former Mossad operatives, a Nigerian princess and corporate manipulators eager to control a multibillion-dollar oil patch. Janson jets to the scene, accompanied by super-sniper Jessica Kincaid, his chief operative and sometime love interest. They infiltrate into the rebel camp where the doctor is held, but the rescue collapses into chaos as loyalist forces attack. Then Reaper drones shatter the dictator’s troops. Janson and Kincaid 2274

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manage a temporary rescue of the doctor and the rebel chieftain, Ferdinand Poe, but Isle de Foree’s brutal President for Life Iboga escapes via Harrier jump-jet. The doctor also slips away. Kincaid gives chase while Janson attempts to learn who can field Reapers and Harriers. It could even be ASC, powerful in a world “where rogue corporations are more dangerous than rogue government agencies.” The action moves from Spain to Australia to Switzerland to Israel to Corsica and finally back to Isle de Foree. There’s sufficient knife work, sniper shots, RPGs, private jets, helicopters, betrayals and corporate machinations to satisfy every armchair covert agent. Formulaic yet entertaining.

NORUMBEGA PARK

Giardina, Anthony Farrar, Straus and Giroux (336 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-374-27867-0

A graceful novel of an American family struggling to find identity and spiritual meaning in an age resistant—and even hostile—to their fumbling attempts. Giardina takes us through the intricacies of the Palumbo family across three generations. We first meet Jack Palumbo at the age of eight, tormenting his younger sister Joan in the backseat of their parents’ car. (His mother’s first words about him are “ ‘I wish he’d be nicer,’ “ a wish the reader shares.) The novel ends 40 years later, with Jack confronting his failed marriage and Joan giving birth (at the age of 43) to a baby girl after having been a nun for most of her adult life. Their parents, Stella and Richie, have endured their own trials, though their married life began, like so many, with both hope and promise. The turning point in Stella and Richie’s life occurs when Richie falls in love with a house in Norumbega, Mass. Awkwardly, he ingratiates himself with the owners and makes an offer when the family matriarch dies. Because of Richie’s diminished prospects at work—a company that specializes in defense contracts during the Vietnam War—he opens a pizza parlor and tries to make his house a home. As a child Joan feels the tug of conventual life, while Jack, bright but lost, remains a disappointment to his father. Always attractive to women, Jack finds himself drawn to Christina Oakes while they’re both still in high school. Eventually they marry but begin to drift apart, Christina growing more and more emotionally removed both from Jack and from their children. Throughout doubts, arguments and infidelities, the Palumbos stumble toward grace and meaning. This is a superb novel on every level, for Giardina fully fleshes out his characters as he scrutinizes their personal, family and social lives.

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MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND

Hale, Shannon Bloomsbury (288 pp.) $24.00 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-60819-625-8 In a sequel to her bestselling Austenland (2007, etc.), Hale sends another 21st-century American to play Regency heroine at Pembrook Park. Charlotte Kinder could certainly use a vacation at the English estate that promises its female visitors the complete Jane Austen experience, right down to the corsets and attentive gentlemen (actors) to provide a chaste 19th-century romance during their two-week stay. Husband James has taken up with another woman, leaving Charlotte’s self-confidence and self-esteem shattered despite the millions she’s made as the creator of a web-based landscaping business. Post-divorce, while the kids spend time with their father and his fiancée, Charlotte heads for Kent, where she finds a house full of male “eye candy” and other guests recovering from modern traumas. “Miss Charming” (the ladies all take Austenish sobriquets) has also been dumped by a cheating spouse; “Miss Gardenside” is a recognizable 20-yearold pop star whose case of “consumption” masks the symptoms of drug withdrawal. Charlotte (“Mrs. Cordial”) finds her designated Romantic Interest, Mr. Mallery, pleasingly smoldering, and she grows very fond of Eddie, who is playing her brother while paying suit to Miss Gardenside. The agreeable pretend mystery set up for the guests turns disagreeably real when Charlotte stumbles on a body while playing Bloody Murder. The body vanishes, but resourceful Charlotte eventually finds it again and identifies the miscreant, even as flashbacks fill in the details of her failed marriage and her lifelong failure to stand up for herself. Of course, she finally tells off rotten James and finds true love with a handsome actor happy to be her real-life Romantic Interest. A smartly plotted mystery somewhat compensates for the fact that Charlotte’s psychological problems are entirely predictable, the rest of the characters sketchily portrayed and the arch narration a huge comedown from the real Jane’s sharp, sardonic tone. Will no doubt appeal to those fans who think that period clothes and happy romantic endings constitute an authentic re-creation of Austen’s hard-edged novels.

HANGING HILL

Hayder, Mo Atlantic Monthly (432 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-8021-2006-9 A middle-class cleaning lady. A porn kingpin. A detective who cuts herself. Hayder (Gone, 2010, etc.) has assembled an unusual cast for her latest crime novel. Her leads, Zoë and Sally, live in Bath in the West of England; they are sisters, |

long estranged. Both have self-esteem issues. Big sister Zoë, feeling unloved as a kid, took it out on Sally, once breaking her finger. A smart loner (her best friend is her Harley), Zoë became a detective; but still self-hating, she often punctures her skin. Sally is the airhead, miserably aware of her shortcomings. Dumped by her husband, she is raising their teenage daughter on her own and cleaning houses to make ends meet. The novel begins with the dead body of Lorne, a pretty, popular 16-year-old, found beside a towpath, raped and murdered. Zoë is assigned to the case, along with Ben, who she’s been dating. After some fieldwork, attention shifts to the owner of a mansion Sally cleans, David Goldrab. He oversees a porn empire and has some connection to a top-ranking but corrupt civil servant; both men were involved in human trafficking in Kosovo. Goldrab is an entertaining, foul-mouthed villain, and some of the air goes out of the novel when he meets, all too soon, a violent end. His connection to Lorne is nonexistent, but her murder investigation gets back-burner treatment as Zoë focuses on Goldrab’s disappearance. There will be a second rape and a lightly sketched dismemberment, tame by Hayder standards. What’s disconcerting is that Zoë acts more like a PI than one link in a chain of command with bosses, even telling Sally, “I’m not going to the police.” Yes, that’s sister Sally, for by now the two have reconciled, and the spectacle of these sisters gaining strength and self-respect has become as important as the chills and thrills. The psychobabble and uncertain focus make this one of Hayder’s less-impressive works. (Agent: Jane Gregory)

THE SNOW CHILD

Ivey, Eowyn Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown (400 pp.) $24.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-316-17567-8 A couple struggling to settle in the Alaskan wilderness is heartened by the arrival of the child of their dreams—or are they literally dreaming her? Jack and Mabel, the protagonists of Ivey’s assured debut, are a couple in their early 50s who take advantage of cheap land to build a homestead in Alaska in the 1920s. But the work is backbreaking, the winters are brutally cold and their isolation only reminds them of their childlessness. There’s a glimmer of sunshine, however, in the presence of a mysterious girl who lurks near their cabin. Though she’s initially skittish, in time she becomes a fixture in the couple’s lives. Ivey takes her time in clarifying whether or not the girl, Faina, is real or not, and there are good reasons to believe she’s a figment of Jack and Mabel’s imaginations: She’s a conveniently helpful good-luck charm for them in their search for food, none of their neighbors seem to have seen the girl and she can’t help but remind Mabel of fairy tales she heard in her youth about a snow child. The mystery of Faina’s provenance, along with the way she brightens the couple’s lives, gives the novel’s early chapters a slightly magical-realist cast. Yet as

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Faina’s identity grows clearer, the narrative also becomes a more earthbound portrait of the Alaskan wilderness and a study of the hard work involved in building a family. Ivey’s style is spare and straightforward, in keeping with the novel’s setting, and she offers enough granular detail about hunting and farming to avoid familiar pieties about the Last Frontier. The book’s tone throughout has a lovely push and pull—Alaska’s punishing landscape and rough-hewn residents pitted against Faina’s charmed appearances—and the ending is both surprising and earned. A fine first novel that enlivens familiar themes of parenthood and battles against nature.

FIVE BELLS

Jones, Gail Picador (224 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Feb. 28, 2012 978-1-250-00373-7 Four characters are tethered to the past in this flaccid memory piece, the fifth work of fiction from the Australian Jones (Sorry, 2007, etc.). One fine summer day, they converge on Sydney Harbor. The cosmopolitan crowds! The Circular Quay! That world-famous cultural icon, the Opera House! It’s a backdrop but not a catalyst for a novel sorely in need of one. Two of these people knew each other as kids in Western Australia. They were clumsy but passionate 14-year-old lovers; having sex in an abandoned foundry is their most joyous memory. Now, 20 years later, James has sought a reunion. Unlike cheerful, robust Ellie, he’s a sad sack who went to pieces after his Italian immigrant mother died in a mental hospital. What they’ve been up to in those 20 years is mostly a blank. (There’s enough missing material here to build another opera house.) But we do know James needs to talk to Ellie about a girl’s death. Death is also on the mind of Catherine, an Irish journalist mourning her brother Brendan, her life’s formative influence. Why she had to leave her hot French boyfriend in London, exchanging her job with Reuters for an unspecified gig in Sydney, is unclear (more missing material). The fourth character is an elderly Chinese woman, Pei Xing, a longtime resident of Sydney. Both her parents were killed during the Cultural Revolution; Pei was imprisoned for two years. However, forgivingly, she visits her brutal female prison guard, now a stroke victim. The disproportion between deaths caused by one of the 20th century’s worst atrocities and the banal accidental deaths so upsetting James and Catherine throws the novel further out of whack; and a late attempt by Jones to link her characters through the surveillance video of a kidnapping falls flat. A failed attempt to weave past and present.

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THE VANISHERS

Julavits, Heidi Doubleday (304 pp.) $25.95Mar. 13, 2012 978-0-385-52381-3

A dour heroine tracks her psychic attacker in this dark latest from Julavits (The Uses of Enchantment, 2006, etc.). At New Hampshire’s Institute of Integrated Parapsychology, Julia Severn is selected to record Madame Ackerman’s words as she roams the cosmos. But Madame Ackerman’s “regressions” are actually extended naps, so Julia begins inventing psychic revelations. Shortly after Julia envisions actual information sought by a client of Ackerman’s, who is trying to find controversial filmmaker Dominique Varga, she becomes so ill she has to leave the Institute. A year later, mysterious new acquaintance Colophon Martin tells Julia she is the victim of psychic attacks by Madame Ackerman. Her only solution is to avail herself of the services of his company, vanish.org, which helps people disappear from untenable lives. Colophon offers to help Julia because he’s that former client of Madame Ackerman’s; Julia’s psychic abilities have been suppressed by her ailments, and he needs her to get well to find Varga, who disappeared in 1984. Julia’s willing, because her anxious father has revealed that her mother, an artist who committed suicide when Julia was one month old, knew Varga, who “made your mother believe death could be an artistic act.” The connections only grow more sinister (and far-fetched) after Julia checks in to the Goergen, a refuge in Vienna for vanishers of various sorts. What is the true identity of the fellow resident who claims to be “Hungarian skin care royalty?” Is Madame Ackerman behind the emails Julia keeps getting from “aconcernedfriend”? What happened in Room 13, 152 West 53rd Street, on October 24, 1984? Julia’s ailments recede, and her psychic powers grow, but she still seems clueless as the story lumbers towards an extremely elaborate denouement culminating in a confrontation with Madame Ackerman. A searing final section very nearly redeems all this clutter, as Julia returns to New Hampshire to unmask the real culprit and to make the grimmest sort of settlement with her dead mother. Intelligent and ambitious, but also heavy-handed and alienating.

THE LAST GOOD MAN

Kazinski, A.J. Translated by Nunnally, Tiina Scribner (480 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 6, 2012 978-1-4516-4075-5

Working on his own, a beleaguered Italian cop, Tommaso, uncovers a strange wave of international murders. According to Jewish scripture, there are 36 “good,” righteous people unknowingly assigned to protect civilization. One by one, from Chicago

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“Lee writes with a clarity and simplicity of style that discloses deep and conflicting emotions about cultural identity.” from drifting house

to Mumbai, they are being killed. Only two are left alive. It’s up to Tommaso and Bentzon, the Danish cop he tags across the language barrier, to save humanity. It isn’t easy to identify the targets; not all of the victims were humanitarians or activists. But the race is on when Hannah, a brilliant, disheveled, data-crunching astrophysicist teamed with Bentzon, devises a chart of where and when each of the killings was or will be. The final two, conveniently enough, are planned for Copenhagen, where President Obama is attending a world climate conference and Bentzon must contend with an Arab terrorist on a deadly mission, and Venice, where Tommaso’s efforts are informed by a strange final warning from his dying mother. Writing under a pseudonym, Danish filmmaker Anders Rønnow Klarlund and Danish crime and children’s novelist Jacob Weinreich have concocted a fast-paced, smartly plotted book. Described in Denmark as “Dan Brown meets Stieg Larsson,” the book owes a lot more to Brown’s occultish puzzle novels than Larsson’s ultra-violent, socially aware thrillers. As dire as the situation is, this is a good-humored book with a cast of lively and likable characters—none more than Hannah, who goes from grieving her dead son and the death of her marriage to deriving excitement from working on the most gripping problem anyone has ever faced to dying and coming back to life nine minutes later. The co-authors successfully keep the wheels of their end-of-the-world scenario spinning.

GODS WITHOUT MEN

Kunzru, Hari Knopf (384 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 6, 2012 978-0-307-95711-5

Hopscotching across time, looking quizzically at space, Kunzru’s marvelous novel uses diverse cultures (Native American, Catholic, Mormon, Wall Street, hippie UFO believers) to speculate on the nature of reality and religion, magic and mystery. The novel is anchored by a time, a place and a relationship. The core year is 2008; we visit several other time periods. The place is the Three Pinnacles rock formation in the Mojave Desert. The relationship involves Jaz, an assimilated American Sikh, and his Jewish-American wife Lisa. Instead of a linear narrative, we have the energizing cross-currents of history. In 1947, Schmidt, an aircraft mechanic and World War II vet traumatized by Hiroshima, is alone at the Pinnacles, hoping to attract extraterrestrials with his message of universal love. Success! A spacecraft lands; he’s welcomed aboard. (That same year saw the alleged UFO crash-landing in Roswell, N.M.) Meanwhile in Brooklyn in 2008, Jaz and Lisa are raising their autistic son Raj. Seems it’s easier to talk to aliens than for the Matharus to communicate with their four-year-old. Kunzru’s portrait of their marriage is finely nuanced. They’re a modern, secular couple, yet shreds of old beliefs divide them. When they visit the Pinnacles on vacation and Raj disappears, the marriage almost comes apart. The rocks may be a crossing point into the Land of the Dead; they have witnessed much drama. Schmidt met a fiery end when his homemade space capsule blew up. An anthology professor |

holed up there and went mad after betraying a Native source to a bloodthirsty white posse. A Spanish friar saw God there in the 18th century. As for our century’s tarnished magic, the computer trading program overseen by Jaz generates millions but wrecks the Honduran economy (collateral damage), while our royalty, rock stars, are represented by a worthless narcissist. Ironies abound; mysteries multiply; there’s a cliffhanger ending for Jaz and Lisa. Kunzru (My Revolutions, 2007, etc.) just gets better and better. This fourth novel is an astonishing tour de force. (Author tour to Boston, Denver, New York, San Francisco, Seattle.)

DRIFTING HOUSE

Lee, Krys Viking (224 pp.) $25.95 | Feb. 6, 2012 978-0-670-02325-7

Affecting stories about the conflicts between Korean and American culture. Lee tends to focus on domestic relationships, the tensions—sometimes unbridgeable—between husband and wife, between parent and child. In the opening story, “A Temporary Marriage,” Mrs. Shin saves money to travel from Seoul to southern California to find her daughter Yuri, who she feels has been “kidnapped” and spirited away to America by her ex-husband. In the suburbs of Los Angeles she shares a home with Mr. Rhee, a stranger but fellow-countryman, and fears he might have romantic designs on her. Desperate to locate her daughter, Mrs. Shin hires a detective, Mr. Pak, who eventually locates Yuri, only to find that her daughter has essentially forgotten her, poisoned by the bitterness of her ex-husband as well as by the cultural divide between Korea and the U.S. In “The Pastor’s Son,” a woman makes her husband, Pastor Ryu, promise to marry her old childhood friend, Hyeseon Min, after she dies. The pastor and Hyeseon travel from California back to Seoul for a traditional Korean wedding, but the pastor’s new wife is distressed to discover this marriage of convenience involves no love on the part of the pastor. The heartbreaking “The Salaryman” presents the depressed economic conditions in Korea following the economic bust of 1997. Lee traces the misfortunes of Mr. Seo, who loses his job and then his wife and family. He winds up on the street with a sign around his neck, begging for food and fighting off other “beggars.” “At the Edge of the World” focuses on the split identity of Myeongseok Lee, a prodigy who goes by his Korean name at home and by “Mark” at school. Lee writes with a clarity and simplicity of style that discloses deep and conflicting emotions about cultural identity.

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THE HUNTER

Lescroart, John Dutton (400 pp.) $26.95 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-525-95256-5 Time for San Francisco private eye Wyatt Hunt to confront the obligatory demons from his past as he searches for the killer of his birth mother. “How did your mother die?” asks an anonymous text message. The founder and principal of The Hunt Club, who’s never known who his birth parents were, soon learns at least part of the answer: She was killed 40 years ago, only three years after her marriage to the man who was tried twice for her murder and set free twice by hung juries. Father Don Bernard, the priest who married Margaret and Kevin Carson, has more news for Hunt: an ancient letter from his father swearing his innocence and saying that he’s leaving the Bay Area for a job in Texas. The ice-cold trail, lit at first only by the flares of further text messages, turns red-hot when Ivan Orloff, Hunt’s newest investigator, gets killed after making what seemed like some pretty routine inquiries. The trail leads from Evie Secrist, Margaret’s best friend, back to the Jonestown mass suicide a generation ago, and forward to Evie’s ex-husband Lionel Spencer. But it ends again, frustratingly, with Spencer’s own death, which Hunt’s old SFPD frenemy, homicide inspector Devin Juhle, is all too eager to write off as suicide. Will Hunt and Tamara Dade, his veteran assistant and new lover, be able to pick up the scent the cops missed? Most readers will see ahead of Hunt where this is all headed. Nor will many of them consider the substitution of the hero’s back story for Lescroart’s customary sociological probe of San Francisco corruption (Treasure Hunt, 2010, etc.) an improvement. The scene in which Hunt finally comes face to face with his anonymous informant, however, is transfixing. (Agent: Barney Karpfinger)

THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY

Livesey, Margot Harper/HarperCollins (464 pp.) $25.99 | Jan. 24, 2012 978-0-06-206422-6 A clever orphan girl, mistreated by relatives, then sent to suffer cruelly at boarding school, finds heartbreak and eventual heartsease with a brooding older man. Sound familiar? “Neither my autobiography nor a retelling of Jane Eyre,” says Livesey (The House on Fortune Street, 2008, etc.) about her new novel in the foreword. However, this story bears more than a passing resemblance to Charlotte Brontë’s immortal classic. Poignantly narrated, Livesey’s tale opens in late-1950s Scotland where, after her uncle’s death, harsh new conditions are imposed 2278

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on 10-year-old Gemma by her cartoonishly callous aunt and cousins. Sent to horrible Claypoole School as a working pupil, Gemma becomes a lonely, bullied drudge until befriended by asthmatic Miriam, whose sad death gives Gemma the power to endure. After the school’s closure she moves, now almost 18, to a remote Orkney island, to work as an au pair caring for Nell, the unruly niece of taciturn banker Hugh Sinclair. Love and a surprise proposal follow, and it’s here the story parts company most noticeably and least convincingly from Jane Eyre. Shameful secrets, foreign travel and a quest fulfilled follow, before Gemma finally establishes a future on her own terms. Nicely, touchingly done, and the familiar story exerts its reliably magnetic pull, but fans of Jane Eyre will wonder why.

GATHERING OF WATERS

McFadden, Bernice L. Akashic (250 pp.) $24.95 | paper $15.95 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-61775-032-8 978-1-61775-031-1 paperback This well-intentioned but seriously flawed eighth novel from McFadden (Glorious, 2010, etc.) seeks to honor the memory of Emmett Till, victim of one of America’s most horrific lynchings. The details can still make you sick to your stomach. Fourteen-year-old Emmett, an African-American from Chicago, visited family in 1955 Mississippi; after the briefest of exchanges with a white woman, he was murdered by her relatives, who mutilated his body. His story has been told many times in novels and documentaries. Curiously, McFadden devotes fewer than 40 pages to the murder and its judicial aftermath. The long first section covers the years 1921 to 1940. The narrator (the voice of Money, the hamlet where Till was lynched) focuses on a black pastor, August, and his wife Doll, whose body has been possessed since her birth by the spirit of an evil whore called Esther. While McFadden writes convincingly of the body-soul relationship, she loses control of her family saga amidst melodramatic flourishes. Just two things are important. The first is that Doll’s granddaughter Tass will fall for Emmett. The second is that a child known as J.W. will die in a flood but return to life possessed by Esther, Doll having drowned. He will grow up to be J.W. Milam, the instigator of the lynching and a certified monster with a lust to kill, thanks to Esther. So it’s not his fault! McFadden’s bizarre interpretation cheapens Till’s story. After recounting the fateful incident at the grocery store and, touchingly, Emmett’s innocent flirtation with Tass, she hurries through the murder itself, carried out by J.W. and his weak-willed brother-in-law. A long, banal concluding section follows Tass in later life; Emmett’s spirit has attached itself to her protectively. And that wicked old Esther? On the 50th anniversary of the lynching, she returns…as Katrina. A magical-realist treatment of Till’s story can succeed (see Lewis Nordan’s 1993 Wolf Whistle), but not at this level of distortion.

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FURTHER INTERPRETATIONS OF REAL-LIFE EVENTS

Moffett, Kevin Harper/HarperCollins (240 pp.) $24.99 | Mar. 20, 2012 978-0-06-206921-4 A multi–award-winning short story leads this showcase of desert-dry tales of life’s rich pageant. For his second literary outing, Moffett (Permanent Visitors, 2006) continues in the desiccated vein of stories that find their protagonists at razor’sedge crossroads in their sad, lonely lives. The widely available and praised title story has been published in both McSweeney’s and The Best American Short Stories 2010. It is the kind of story that short-story artists love, blending the art of writing and the disquiet of real life into metafiction that is clever without being coy. The story is narrated by Frederick Moxley, a writing instructor and unpaid writer of literary stories. His father takes to writing and submitting short stories to those ill-read literary journals, inspiring jealously in the son and quiet grief in the father. Literati-minded folks will linger on the younger Moxley’s hilarious mentor, an insane writing teacher named Harry Hodgett whose writing advice Moffett violates with abandon. “A story needs to sing like a wound,” Hodgett advises. “I mean, put your father and son in the same room together. Leave some weapons lying around.” Other stories are intriguing in their own way, even when they revisit similar themes. “Buzzers” and “English Made Easy” revolve around the internalized turmoil of grief and its aftermath, while “Lugo in Normal Time” eavesdrops on a sodden divorcee and part-time father who realizes in the midst of breaking things around him that he is, right now, in real trouble. Remembered moments of another sort populate the sadly romantic “First Marriage,” in which newlyweds Tad and Amy discover the harsh realities of togetherness as they make their way across the desert in a stolen car with an inexplicable odor of dead snake. The only anomaly in the bunch may be the final story, “One Dog Year,” which re-imagines John D. Rockefeller’s only plane ride, replacing historical realism with fictional gloss. A well-honed but emotionally distant experiment in the manifestation of character.

RESTORATION

Olafsson, Olaf Ecco/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-06-206565-0 A soap-opera romance set against a dramatic backdrop of war, art and the hills of Tuscany, from Olafsson (Valentines, 2007, etc.), a top executive at Time Warner. “Nothing had happened yet, but she knew it was going to happen and she was |

sure that he knew too,” reflects a pivotal character on the verge of an affair. And so it happens. At least twice. The intersecting plotlines of two different affairs—and the relationship sparked between two women of different generations and nationalities—provide the complications which this novel resolves in a manner that may not satisfy readers devoted to the genre of historical romance. The title also has multiple references. Toward the end of World War II, a young British woman from a wealthy family, living in Italy, marries an Italian landowner whom her family rejects as beneath her. While searching for a place to settle, she discovers a Tuscan villa in dire need of repair, deemed uninhabitable, and she and her husband begin to restore it. She subsequently has a baby and an affair, and soon it’s her crumbling marriage that is in need of restoration. Meanwhile, a young apprentice painter from Iceland finds work restoring classic canvases from earlier centuries, which the sinister art dealer with whom she’s having an affair sells to the Germans. Ultimately, both women as well as a painting of questionable origin come together at the restored Tuscan villa, which has become something of a haven for children and others escaping the war. Divided loyalties, political and marital, result in “problems [that are] trivial in the scheme of things. We can see now that the world lies in ruins.” The world doesn’t end, though pivotal relationships might. Though there are some quasi-literary flourishes here, the interior lives of the characters rarely rise above melodramatic cliché.

HELPLESS

Palmer, Daniel Kensington (416 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-7582-4665-3 Following his ex-wife’s murder, things go from terrible to worse for New Hampshire high-school soccer coach Tom Hawkins, who is falsely implicated in a child-pornography ring, accused of sleeping with his 16-year-old daughter Jill’s best friend and targeted by an old military pal who was involved in smuggling heroin from Germany with the dead wife. The book opens with Lindsey, Jill’s friend, bowing to her boyfriend’s pressure to sext him nude shots on her cell phone. The photos end up on a child-porn website that computer shenanigans link to Tom, whose daughter was already mad enough at him thanks to all the terrible things her mother told her about him. Now his careful campaign to win her back seems doomed, as are his efforts to convince the school that the kids are safe with him. Tom was a Navy SEAL stationed in Germany when his Army-enlisted future wife, a former high-school girlfriend, hid millions worth of drugs in his baggage for the trip home. Now their long-unheard-from third wheel overseas appears on the scene to skulk in the shadows, threaten Tom and whack him around. That sort of thing has been happening to Coach a lot lately, what with his old high

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“A working-class Glaswegian widower starts to drown under the weight of his own sorrow.” from waterline

school nemesis being the cop assigned to the case and other town folk wanting bad things to happen to this good person. Good thing he knows how to break out of a meat refrigerator. Palmer’s thriller is nothing if not topical, and it’s got enough plot for two novels. But the plot turns stretch for believability. Tom is too bland to attract the interest of an attractive FBI agent. And the novel is longer than it needs to be. The teenagers are sympathetic and believable, leading one to think that the book might have been better had they played a bigger role.

THE EXPATS

Pavone, Chris Crown (336 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 6, 2012 978-0-307-95635-4 An impressive thriller by first-time novelist Pavone, with almost more double-crosses than a body can stand. Dexter and Kate Moore move to Luxembourg with their two young children so Dexter can make a pile of money working as a security consultant for a bank. Unknown to him, Kate has been working for the CIA but has recently quit, disgusted by her role as an agent occasionally called on to terminate wayward enemies. In Luxembourg they meet Bill and Julia, an attractive couple with whom they begin to socialize, but, as in all good thrillers, nothing is as it seems. Bill and Julia are FBI agents hot on the trail of the seemingly innocuous and nerdy Dexter, whose knowledge of bank security—trying to find breaches in the system—also allows him to find cunning access points, and it seems he may have stolen €50 million. That her husband has a secret life he hasn’t been sharing surprises Kate... who, of course, also has a secret life she hasn’t been sharing. Kate pushes herself to try to find out whether Bill and Julia are right about Dexter or whether they’re trying to run a scam of their own, for it appears that Julia in particular is not to be trusted. The novel switches chronology from a series of flashbacks to how Kate and Dexter’s life unravels in Luxembourg and how Julia and Bill catch up with the Moores in Paris a year later. While Kate occasionally has to rely on former CIA contacts to help straighten out the mess she finds herself in, she shows herself quite capable of ruthlessness and venality. A thoroughly competent and enjoyable thriller with unanticipated twists that will keep readers guessing till the end.

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THE REBEL WIFE

Polites, Taylor M. Simon & Schuster (304 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-1-4516-2951-4 Widowed in postwar Alabama, with fever raging and no one to trust but a freed slave, Augusta (Gus) Branson needs to find her future, in this heavily atmospheric Southern gothic. Brooding resentment and ineradicable racism thicken the already sweltering air of Polites’ debut, a tableau of the post–Civil War South featuring the town of Albion, where Yankee-supporting Eli Branson, Gus’ husband, is the first to succumb to a blood-draining—and symbolic— fever. After a materially comfortable 10-year marriage, forced on Gus by her mother, she learns from the trustee of Eli’s will, Judge Heppert, that Eli was steeped in debt and there is no money, which contradicts the whispered comments of Simon, an ex-slave used by Eli to deliver political bribes. Passive Gus, her torpor deepened with laudanum, has few allies: not Judge or his ex-suitor son, nor her caricature wastrel brother Mike. Instead, increasingly she relies on Simon and the other freed slaves. Polites draws a detailed portrait of post-war politics and sentiments, with the blacks heading for a better life in Kansas and long-term bigots heading up the merciless Knights of the White Cross. As for plot, progress is leaden until the final apocalyptic sequence of violence, revenge and just desserts. This feverishly static tale offers obvious lessons in sin and freedom. (Agent: Trena Keating)

WATERLINE

Raisin, Ross Perennial/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-06-210397-0 A working-class Glaswegian widower starts to drown under the weight of his own sorrow. In his second novel, Raisin (Out Backward, 2008) explores work, family and grief. While this book is a less showy, more introspective bit of fiction, it showcases the author’s immense talent for occupying characters both through their inner lives and the ways in which they are perceived by those around them. A steadfastly Scottish novel, it opens on a funeral. Former shipbuilder Mick Little is suffering through the worst hard time. After years dragging his family around Australia before returning to Glasgow, he’s lost his job as a minicab driver and his wife has just died. Worse, she died from the results of asbestos that Mick carried home on his clothes for decades. His son Robbie, in from Australia, tries to support his Da, but Mick’s estranged son Craig can’t hide his anger for his father’s culpability. The in-laws, in from the Highlands, have taken over all arrangements, leaving Mick with

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no role in the tragedy of his life. “So this is grief, well,” Raisin writes from inside his broken vessel. “Sat at the kitchen table with all your joys and your miseries sleeping and snoring about you and you sat there wondering what to do for your breakfast.” This distinctly northern vernacular may be off-putting for readers, but, like with Irvine Welsh or James Kelman, the journey is worth the navigation. When he can’t stand it anymore, Mick boards a bus bound for London, taking the meager savings earned from selling off the gold and trinkets left in his home. It’s painful to watch as Raisin’s beleaguered everyman slouches inevitably towards homelessness. But the author carries off his poignant meditation on the plight of the modern working man with an incisive absence of melodrama and an austere dignity. A compassionate portrait of a man on the verge filled with disquieting tension. (Agent: Peter Straus)

ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING

Rayner, Sarah St. Martin’s Griffin (416 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-250-00019-4 The lives of three women are altered when a man dies on a commuter train. Lou is paying little attention to the people around her; after all, she makes the trip from Brighton to London every morning. But then suddenly the man across from her is having a heart attack. His wife Karen is begging for help, but it’s too late. Everyone is asked to exit the train, and Lou shares a cab the rest of the way to London with fellow traveler Anna. The two strangers commiserate over the tragic event when Anna’s cell rings—it’s her best friend Karen, in shock at the sudden death of her husband Simon on that very same train. Anna returns to Brighton to comfort Karen as Lou goes to work as a youth counselor. The

s 2011 Kirku ie List Best of Ind

What is our greatest fear—the place we flee or the place we go to? Either way, it’s an Uncertain Journey. In this story, a young illegal alien bears many titles, but seeks only to be known by one: a human being. “A subtle, absorbing portrait of the immigrant experience.” —Kirkus Reviews

JAMES ROUMAN www.uncertainjourney.com

¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨ |

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novel spans the ensuing week, as Karen prepares for Simon’s funeral and Anna and Lou, in their own ways, reevaluate their lives with this ever-so-sharp reminder of their mortality. Anna is a successful copywriter, but her home life is a mess—boyfriend Steve is a mean drunk, but she can’t imagine life without him. Lou lives a happy lesbian life in gay-friendly Brighton, but she hasn’t come out to her overbearing mum, and the secret is killing her. Meanwhile, Karen and her two young children are barely coping now that their family is broken. Anna supports Karen, and Lou with her counseling experience is there for them both. The novel’s strength—facing head-on the minutia of coping with a death—is also one of its failings when it occasionally reads like a self-help book. Sitting with the body in hospital, explaining to children about saying goodbye, how to reach out to friends and banish guilt—a week’s worth of it gets a bit too much. Nevertheless, Rayner never shies away from her character’s misery and ineptitude in dealing with the worst, offering a welcome dose of reality in the literature of female bonding. Affectionately drawn characters lift a morose topic into a companionable light. (Agent: Vivien Green)

SLEEPWALKER

Robards, Karen Gallery Books/ Simon & Schuster (384 pp.) $25.00 | Dec. 27, 2011 978-1-4391-8372-4 Robards’ latest romantic thriller has all the requisite components—a sexy cop, a robbery, a mob boss and a million bucks in a duffle bag—but the snail-like pacing is deadlier than the glock in our

heroine’s hand. Having just walked out on her cheating boyfriend, Mick escapes to her “Uncle” Nicco’s empty mansion on Lake Michigan. When she hears rumbling downstairs, she grabs her policeissue gun and stumbles into a robbery. The crooks are loading up unmarked millions, but as Mick begins to arrest the bad guys, her attention is momentarily diverted—out of the safe fall photos that incriminate Nicco in a notorious political murder. Nicco’s guards come running to rescue Mick, but after seeing the photos, she’s not sure she’s safe anymore in the bosom of vipers (how she didn’t know Uncle Nicco was a mob boss, considering her work in law enforcement, his “construction” empire and the FBI case on him, is hard to fathom). When the getaway van escapes without its mastermind, Mick and cat burglar Jason must fend for themselves on a freezing New Year’s night. The novel spans only a few days, but in that time they are chased on the lake by Nicco’s goons (who think Mick has been kidnapped), are lost in the woods during a snowstorm, forced to hide out in a deer stand (things get cozy), are kidnapped by dirty cops and then barely escape a gun battle with Nicco’s guys before they get in Jason’s plane headed for Grand Cayman. And that’s not even the end. Along the way the two admit to a mutual attraction that both boosts their spirits and keeps hypothermia at bay. All of this 2282

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sounds sexy and exciting, but at each step forward Robards halts the action with needless description, ruining what fun could be had when an uptight cop falls in love with a hunky thief. Unforgivably clunky. (Agent: Robert Gottlieb)

THE BIG TOWN

Schulz, Monte Fantagraphic Books (494 pp.) $29.99 | Feb. 8, 2012 978-1-60699-503-7 A salesman struggles to survive in 1929 Chicago, before the Crash. This fourth novel from Schulz concludes his Jazz Age trilogy. Harry Hennesey has been on the road for years in the Midwest, but not bringing home the bacon for his wife Marie and their two children. Gambling everything, the 43-year-old salesman sells his rural Illinois house, sends his family to his mother’s place in Texas and moves to Chicago, renting space in a warehouse to sell wholesale. Harry is a straight arrow and prize dummy, believing that if you follow the old maxims (dress well; look the client in the eye) you’ll get their business. But it doesn’t work that way in Prohibition-era Chicago. Corruption is rife. The warehouse’s owner, wealthy industrialist Charles Follette, will eventually evict Harry to make space for bootleggers, telling him “you’re a terrier among wolves.” And Harry has a distraction in Pearl, who flirts with him at a movie theater and won’t let him go. She’s streetwise but pure of heart, an adorable adolescent waif escaped from an orphanage, and she speaks in period slang applied so thick you can’t discern the individual underneath. Harry is wildly attracted to her but won’t sleep with her; she’s just too young. He’s no saint; he cheats on sexually frigid Marie but he’s a sentimentalist too, venerating his darling wife and kiddies. We ramble with Harry and Pearl through big-city adventures. They gatecrash a society party and dodge bullets in restaurants and roadhouses. There’s a wisp of plot (Follette is hunting for Pearl, his bastard daughter, and means her harm), but it’s not to be taken seriously. Schulz has done a prodigious amount of research yet is unable to penetrate the past and make it live for us. A dull, preachy protagonist and a relationship that’s stuck at first base compound his problems. Boring, digressive and superficial.

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“A scholar is invited to an eerie scholarly retreat in this melancholy blast from the past.” from mrs. god

AT LAST

St. Aubyn, Edward Farrar, Straus and Giroux (272 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-374-29889-0 A London funeral stirs up a lot of memories but few epiphanies in this British author’s latest, which concludes a trilogy. You may remember the protagonist, Patrick Melrose. He was the one with the evil father in Some Hope (2003), and a father himself, alcoholic and self-destructive, in Mother’s Milk (2006). Since then he has separated from his wife Mary and their two sons and exiled himself to a small studio, after a month at a Suicide Observation Room in a mental hospital, where he managed to dry out. Now, after two mute years in a wheelchair, his mother Eleanor has died, making Patrick a 45-year-old orphan. The action, such as it is, covers the crematorium funeral and subsequent reception; mixed in are family memories. The most jolting, though they cover some old ground, are those of David, Patrick’s father. He raped Eleanor (Patrick was the product); later he raped his son and other kids; he almost killed Eleanor before she divorced him. Patrick’s sour take is that his mother was a masochist who colluded in David’s crimes; he says, more than once, that her death is a relief. St. Aubyn also delves into Eleanor’s background: a fabulously wealthy American family, scarred by divorce and alcoholism. Her extravagant sister Nancy, present at the funeral, is the sad result; she’s been stealing and freeloading all her life. (Why are trust funds never big enough?) Eleanor though, a kooky philanthropist, gave everything away to a New Age foundation. After the service (it begins with a Porgy and Bess song and ends with Sinatra) the chatter rises to a crescendo. Back in his studio Patrick, more forgiving now, sees his “supposed persecutors,” his parents, as “unhappy children” themselves. It’s a curious conclusion. St. Aubyn tries for a Muriel Spark kind of black comedy but lacks her finesse.

MRS. GOD

Straub, Peter Pegasus Crime (192 pp.) $23.95 | Feb. 15, 2012 978-1-605698-304-2 A scholar is invited to an eerie scholarly retreat in this melancholy blast from the past. At the end of the 1980s, Peter Straub (A Dark Matter, 2010, etc.) was in a rough patch, having spent three years writing Koko (2011), a bleak story about murderous Vietnam veterans to which the author was emotionally attached. It was that loss that inspired this dreary novella, which was published in a very limited edition in 1990, and is now unleashed on the general reading public. The book is |

almost myopically centered on Professor William Standish, an undistinguished poetry researcher who believes a unique scholarship will provide a leg up on his career—not to mention a welcome reprieve from the daily haranguing from his pregnant wife Jean, already suffering from an early miscarriage. In short order, Standish has accepted an offer from Esswood House, a littleknown British library known for supporting D.H. Lawrence and T.S. Eliot, among others. Standish’s fascination is with a distant relative, Isobel Standish, who published a single volume of poetry in her lifetime, Crack, Whack and Wheel, in 1912. Straub does inject his characteristically subterranean sense of ordinary menace into Standish’s journey, starting with a short but near-violent encounter with the locals at a pub. “The fellow was murdered there,” the barman tells him offhandedly. Then we’re off into the labyrinthine Esswood House, tended by the even more impenetrable custodian Robert Wall. There, as Standish begins to unravel the mysteries of Isobel’s life, he starts to become a bit unraveled himself, obsessing over his wife’s impending birth and experiencing dark and disturbing visions. The writing is fine, but the story folds in on itself without ever really delivering either a genuine scare or emotional resonance. Like the novella form itself, it’s a hard act to characterize—neither a true ghost story nor an Edgar Allen Poe–like portrait of a psychological schism. An intriguing artifact for hardcore fans but an unremarkable entry point for new readers.

MONSTRESS Stories

Tenorio, Lysley Ecco/HarperCollins (240 pp.) $13.99 paperback | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-06-205956-7 Unusual culture clashes between the Philippines and the West drive this intimate and admirably controlled debut story collection. Tenorio has a great knack for striking story premises. “Help” is narrated by a young man who’s recruited by his uncle to attack the Beatles at the Manila airport for supposedly disrespecting Imelda Marcos. “The View From Culion” is set in a leper colony where a young Filipino woman attempts to connect with a stranded American. “Felix Starro” is narrated by a young man who helps take advantage of San Franciscans with a faith-healing scam, and the heroine of the title story is an attractive actress who’s spent much of her career relegated to wearing monster costumes in junky B-movies. In each of these eight stories, Tenorio cultivates a plainspoken (but not blunt) style that recalls Tobias Wolff, and the conflicts are straightforward as well, usually dealing with lost innocence and heartbreak. The best stories add an extra layer of complexity: “The Brothers” tracks the different impacts a transsexual man’s death has on his family and his friends in the community, while “Save the I-Hotel” leaps back and forth in time to follow the tense relationship between two Filipino immigrants in San Francisco as they manage homophobia, xenophobia and the destruction of the residence hotel where

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they’d spent their lives. Like many young story writers, Tenorio has talent and ideas to burn, though he isn’t always certain where he wants to take those ideas. For every story like “I-Hotel” or “Superassassin,” in which a young man’s anger metastasizes into a terrifying comic-book fantasy, there are others that end with vaguely artful gestures that don’t quite clarify what has changed within the characters. An introduction to a promising writer who knows how to get a reader’s attention, though he occasionally has trouble sticking the landing. (West coast tour: Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle)

MAY THE ROAD RISE UP TO MEET YOU

Troy, Peter Doubleday (400 pp.) $25.95 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-385-53448-2

The Hunger—the Irish famine— forces Ethan McOwen across the Atlantic, where his life eventually gets caught up in the American Civil War. Even before the harshness of The Hunger the McOwens experience tragedy, most notably for Ethan the loss of his beloved sister, Aislinn. They had both been bookish and imaginative children, and Ethan’s later drive to learn earned him the nickname “The Professor.” The McOwens—Ethan, Da, Mam and Aunt Em—reassemble in Red Hook, N.Y., to start their new lives. Meanwhile, Troy introduces slave families that experience a reality parallel to the McOwens’. Micah is sold from a plantation in South Carolina to a new owner in Charlottesville, Va., and Mary, an educated house slave, works for the Kittredge family in Richmond. Eventually Micah courts Mary, and they develop a plan to escape on Christmas Eve. Only Micah makes it to freedom, however, after an arduous journey across the Blue Ridge and then the Potomac River. During the Civil War Ethan becomes a talented photographer, in fact an assistant to Matthew Brady, and takes well-received pictures of the Irish Brigade, but he’s also wounded at Antietam and eventually marries a nurse, Marcella Arroyo. With the war still raging, Ethan and Marcella make a separate peace by moving to Cooperstown, where the narratives intersect as Micah, a talented carpenter, becomes their handyman as well as Ethan’s friend. Troy ends his narrative with the conclusion of the war as Micah and Mary finally find their way to each other. While Troy’s narrative starts in Ireland, he tells a quintessentially American story of adversity and triumph. (Agent: Marly Rusoff)

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ANOTHER WOMAN

Vincenzi, Penny Overlook (512 pp.) $26.95 | Jan. 19, 2012 978-1-59020-357-6

A runaway bride leaves behind a thicket of family secrets and betrayals in Vincenzi’s (The Decision, 2011, etc.) latest export. Set in 1990s England (and originally published in 1994), this novel features several situations that could only exist in an era without ubiquitous cell phones. When Cressida, delicate daughter of society gynecologist James Forrest, disappears the morning of her wedding day, she’s well and truly incommunicado. Unfolding over two days, the Cressida debacle wreaks no end of recriminations (and accompanying flashbacks) among James’ overprivileged and ingrown circle of family and friends. James himself is at the epicenter—his only brush with malpractice resulted in the birth of Ottoline (now 20, a supermodel, and for reasons that defy cursory explanation, a wedding guest) and the stillbirth of her twin sister. Cressida’s older sister Harriet has always resented her—for being their parents’ favorite and for causing Harriet’s banishment to a bleak boarding school. Now Harriet’s fashion business teeters on the brink of bankruptcy. James’ oldest friend Theo, a billionaire, unwittingly abetted Cressida’s escape by paying for her flying lessons, and was, until his marriage to fifth wife Sasha, carrying on an affair with Harriet. Their mutual attraction lingers. Elderly but still vital godparents, world traveler Sir Merlin and French sophisticate Janine, attempt unsuccessfully to lighten the prevailing gloom. The younger generation, including Theo’s dissolute son Mungo, Rufus, son of James and his long-term mistress Susie, and Oliver, the American groom left at the altar, are as mired in melodrama as their elders. Facts emerge revealing Cressida to be less English rose than shrewd operator. As the search for Cressida intensifies, we learn interesting information about the other characters. A brisk and engaging read that manages to demonstrate that there are some problems no amount of money can forestall, or rectify.

THE QUIET TWIN

Vyleta, Dan Bloomsbury (384 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-60819-808-5 The residents of a Viennese neighborhood intersect over illness, murder and an increasingly intimidating Nazi presence. The second novel by Canadian novelist Vyleta (Pavel & I, 2008) is purposefully claustrophobic: Taking place over the course of a few weeks in 1939, the story rarely shifts from an apartment building where everybody seems to be sick or deeply eccentric. The sole exception is Dr. Anton Beer, the novel’s hero, who’s soon managing the concerns of three troubled women: Zuzka, a

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teenager whose claims of paralysis may just be a plea for romantic attention; Lieschen, a 9-year-old whose father is an alcoholic brute; and Eva, who genuinely suffers from paralysis, with the sickening bedsores to prove it. To this discomfiting milieu Vyleta adds a supporting cast of eccentrics, including Eva’s brother, a cabaret performer, and a Japanese trumpeter who’s creepily observant of the neighborhood’s goings-on. The core plot involves a series of murders in the area, and Beer is increasingly pestered by a Nazi investigator looking for a patsy to attach to the crimes. But this book isn’t so much a murder mystery as a mood piece about how paranoia escalates as a totalitarian regime comes to power, and some of the novel’s best scenes underscore Dr. Beer’s anxiety as a result of the growing surveillance of the apartment. Beer doesn’t quite have the depth of character to carry the novel, unfortunately; over time, his stoic demeanor makes him seem less like a defiant hero than a passive blank. But Vyleta knows how to create an oppressive atmosphere without making the prose feel bogged down, and the novel’s closing chapters pick up energy, revealing the evil of the Nazis and the ability of a few committed people to push back against it. An evocative if largely grey-toned portrait of life in a new police state.

GIRL READING

Ward, Katie Scribner (352 pp.) $25.00 | February 7, 2012 978-1-4516-5590-2 The women depicted in seven works of art offer glimpses of female-centered worlds across time, in an ingenious British debut. Called a novel, this collection of chronologically organized, ultimately linked tales shares a sensitivity to women’s roles and rights through history, a brightness of imagination and luxuriant detail. Ward’s style is atmospheric, poetic and dexterous, often exploring interior worlds lit by powerful emotion. “Angelica Kauffman Portrait of a Lady, 1775,” for example, examines not only the exiled, heartbroken countess who has lost her female lover but the frustrations of the artist, criticized for anatomical errors in her work yet excluded by gender from life-drawing classes. Elsewhere, a pregnant Tuscan foundling becomes the Virgin of an Annunciation; a Victorian photographer takes images of her twin sister, a medium; and a besotted 20th-century teenager gives away a sketch of her sister. These and other scenarios are pulled together in the final episode, dated 2060, which reveals an electronic figure, Sibil, capable of empathizing with works of art and sharing the stories buried within them, but currently confined to only six works, namely the ones in the preceding chapters. Ambitious in range and technically impressive, this unusually structured tasting menu of a book lacks true cohesion and ends too tidily but is undoubtedly the work of a writer to watch.

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m ys t e r y CURSE THE NAMES

Arellano, Robert Akashic (200 pp.) $15.95 paperback | Dec. 27, 2011 978-1-61775-030-4 A Los Alamos journalist whose cushy lifestyle is already perilously self-destructive stumbles onto a monstrous secret just as toxic to the rest of the world as it is to him personally. Though he pulls down a six-figure salary and drives a fully restored Spider, James Oberhelm can’t resist the siren call of adventure. When the Goth technician who’s taking his blood invites him to spend the 4th of July with her girlfriends and her at an abandoned house at Morphy Lake where “we could hook up,” he presses his wife Kitty to take a camping trip close by, sneaks out on her in the middle of the night and hikes out to the house, which he finds deserted, with one room mysteriously locked. After gathering information on the house, site of the infamous Johnson family massacre in 1874, he returns days later to break into the locked room and discovers its walls plastered with pages and pages of his own reportage. Who’s so eager to link him to this fatal site, and why? The answers to these questions matter less than the texture of the nightmares into which Oberhelm swiftly sinks. His reveries of the Hiroshima blast, nuclear accidents and a coming apocalypse merge with his increasingly surreal waking life as his identity is stolen, his bank accounts looted and his family dissolved, all as his dependence on drugs spirals from recreational roaches to super-sized portions of Kitty’s oxycodone chased with alcohol. Arellano (Fast Eddie, King of the Bees, 2001, etc.) pulls off the not-inconsiderable feat of making the disintegration of his hero more compelling than the end of the world as we know it.

DYING IN THE WOOL

Brody, Frances Minotaur (368 pp.) $24.99 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-312-62239-8

A World War I widow takes up sleuthing. Although Kate Shackleton’s husband is listed as MIA, she hasn’t given up hope. Meanwhile, she’s assisted others in locating their family members. But she’s reluctant to help her fellow VAD friend Tabitha Braithwaite find her missing father, mill owner Joshua Braithwaite. Tabitha, who’s soon to marry a much-younger man, would love to have her father walk her down the aisle, but Joshua went missing

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“A naturopathic doctor’s visit to her relatives turns into a life-altering experience.” from death drops

soon after he was hospitalized following a supposed suicide attempt. Even though his son had just been killed in action, he vehemently denied trying to kill himself. And why would he have tried? His mill was minting money from war contracts, and he still enjoyed quite a reputation as a ladies’ man. Kate’s father, a high-ranking policeman, suggests that since time is short and Tabitha is paying her, she should hire former police officer Jim Sykes to help with the legwork. Kate’s investigations turn up many secrets past and present that people would prefer to remain hidden. When several people die in staged accidents, it’s clear that Kate must find the killer before he strikes again. The first in a planned series introduces a refreshingly complex heroine and adds a fine feeling for the postwar period. (Agent: Judith Murdoch)

SHEAR MURDER

Cohen, Nancy J. Five Star (246 pp.) $25.95 | Jan. 18, 2012 978-1-4328-2554-6

Finding the bride’s sister’s corpse under the dessert table can ruin most of your day, as hairstylist Marla Shore (Killer Knots, 2007, etc.) discovers at her friend Jill’s wedding. With her own special day a scant two weeks off, Marla plays close attention to the Barlow-Hartman nuptials. And at first things look perfect. Jill Barlow has even converted to Judaism so she and Arnie can include the traditional Seven Blessings in their service under a gorgeous, flower-bedecked chuppah. Jill’s sister Torrie, a fashion reporter from Boca Style Magazine, has talked philanthropist Falcon Oakwood into allowing the wedding to take place on the opening day of his Orchid Isle nature preserve, so Boca Style photographer Griff Beasley is on hand to take lots of fabulous pictures. Florist Phillip Canfield has outdone himself in supplying cascades of rare blooms. Of course, Jill’s quarrel with Torrie over what to do with the parcel of land they co-own, managed by their realtor cousin Kevin, doesn’t bode well. But the real downer is Marla’s discovery of Torrie’s body tucked under the table just before Jill and Arnie cut the wedding cake. Marla is so bummed out that she can hardly make tender love to her sexy fiancé, Dalton Vail, that evening. Instead of writing out place cards, she spends the time before she ties the knot asking pointed questions of anyone she thinks may be responsible for Torrie’s demise, until of course someone decides to shut her up—unfortunately, not soon enough. Cohen takes the amateur-sleuth-who-asks-too-manynosy-questions formula to new depths. It’s enough to make your hair curl.

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A CATERED ST. PATRICK’S DAY

Crawford, Isis Kensington (336 pp.) $24.00 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-7582-4740-7

The cooking and sleuthing team of sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons get involved in yet another holiday murder. When a member of the Corned Beef and Cabbage Club drowns in a keg of green beer, the case is a natural for the doyens of A Little Taste of Heaven. Bernie’s boyfriend Brandon presides over the bar where the group of high-flying stockbrokers hang out. But it’s the wealthy aunt of club member Duncan Nottingham who hires them to get her nephew off the hook for murder. None of the club members has been popular after the market crash, but the dead man lost a great deal of money for many people, including his friends and former friends, so there’s no dearth of suspects. Between cooking and baking, the ladies swing into action with some help from their father, the former police chief. Sadly, the results are just as scattered and lackluster as in Crawford’s earlier entries (A Catered Thanksgiving, 2010, etc.). Even the inevitable appended recipes look uninspired.

DEATH DROPS

Fiedler, Chrystle Gallery Books/ Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Feb. 15, 2012 978-1-4516-4360-2 A naturopathic doctor’s visit to her relatives turns into a life-altering experience. Dr. Willow McQuade may live in California, but her heart is in Greenport, Long Island, with her beloved Aunt Claire. Willow’s critical mother and sister, a duly credentialed M.D., also live there, but they’re not speaking to Claire. Claire seems distracted while immersed in her efforts to complete her formula for a new skin cream. When Willow discovers Claire dead with a bottle of flower essences nearby, she realizes that the almond smell indicates cyanide and that Claire was murdered. Worse, the police consider Willow the number one candidate, especially when Clare’s will reveals that Willow has inherited everything. Deciding to stay and run her aunt’s store and cafe immediately puts Willow in danger. A longtime store assistant who believes the store should have been hers does everything possible to sabotage Willow’s efforts. The store is broken into, Willow is run off the road, money is stolen and enemies seem to multiply. Willow turns to Jackson Spade, a handsome cop on a disability pension, to help her discover her aunt’s murderer before she becomes the next victim. Fiedler’s first foray into the mystery genre focuses too little on the mystery and too much on providing advice on how to treat various ailments with natural remedies. (Agent: Ann Collette)

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BELIEVING THE LIE

George, Elizabeth Dutton (624 pp.) $28.95 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-525-95258-9

Why investigate an accidental drowning? Wealth hath its privileges, and one of them, Lord Fairclough finds, is bending New Scotland Yard to his will by arranging for a discreet inquiry into the accidental drowning of his nephew Ian Cresswell. So Inspector Thomas Lynley (The Body of Death, 2010, etc.) is dispatched incognito to the Lake District, where his task is to determine whether Fairclough’s wastrel son Nicholas perhaps jimmied loose the boathouse stones on which Ian slipped to his death. The coroner thinks not, but Lynley has asked forensic specialist Simon St. James and his photographer wife Deborah to nose around just in case there’s evidence of foul play to be found. Meanwhile, back in London, DS Havers is engaged in

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another sort of research on the morosely dysfunctional Faircloughs, which includes Fairclough’s warring twin daughters Manette and Mignon; his nephew Ian’s corrosively angry son Tim and sexually rapacious ex-wife Niamh; as well as the man Ian left his family for, the foreign-born Kaveh; and, of course, there’s Fairclough’s recovering junkie/alcoholic son Nicholas and his beautiful, secretive Argentine wife Alatea. Muddying the landscape is a tabloid reporter who’s eager to save his job with a juicy sex scandal, even if he has to make one up. Pedophilia, homophilia, infidelity, illegitimacy and greed will come into play, but it is Deborah, consumed with her own infertility, who sets in motion the final tragedy. Pared-down George, weighing in at a svelte 600 pages, but still strewn with subplots, melodrama, melancholy, a wretchedly unhappy Havers and the impossibly heroic, impossibly nice Thomas Lynley.

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F I C T I O N

10 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books For December B Y JO H N

D eNA RDO

The good news for voracious readers is that each month there are many excellent books being published. The hard part is deciding which ones to pick! That’s where I come in. Use the following as a guide to steer you toward some of this month’s most promising science-fiction and fantasy releases.

1. TERRITORY Emma Bull

For a touch of strange, try this “weird western” which puts a magical emphasis on the events of Tombstone, Ariz., in the late 1800s, when Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clanton brothers became legends. (If you like this, you might also like last year’s The Buntline Special by Mike Resnick and the new sequel out this month, The Doctor and the Kid).

2. EMPIRE STATE

Adam Christopher

Adam Christopher’s superhero-noir novel Empire State takes superheroes and puts them in an alternate Prohibition-era New York of yesteryear. Here, superheroes have fallen out of the public eye while a police detective makes a startling, world-changing discovery.

3. HUMAN FOR A DAY

Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Jennifer Brozek This anthology features 16 stories that examine the good and bad things about being human. It boasts a fantastic lineup: Ian Tregillis, Jay Lake, Seanan McGuire, Anton Strout, Fiona Patton, Erik Scott de Bie, Dylan Birtolo, Tanith Lee, Laura Resnick, Jean Rabe,Tim Waggoner, Eugie Foster, Jody Lynn Nye, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, David D. Levine and Jim C. Hines.

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4. THE LIMINAL PEOPLE

Ayize Jama-Everett

Debut novelist Ayize Jama-Everett offers a gritty take on superheroes with The Liminal People. The protagonist, Taggert, has the power to hurt and heal with a simple touch. Jasmine, the object of Taggert’s affection, asks for Taggert’s help to locate her daughter, a girl with newly discovered telekinetic and mind-reading powers. Taggert tries to rescue Jasmine’s daughter while operating under the radar of his boss, a mysterious collector of humans with special abilities.

5. PLANESRUNNER

Ian McDonald

Multiple award-winning novelist Ian McDonald makes his young adult debut with this story about a young man who becomes the owner of the Infundibulum, a map of all the known existing parallel worlds. He then uses it to rescue his scientist father, who was kidnapped for his knowledge of parallel dimensions.

6. BAD BLOOD Kristen Painter

In the conclusion of the House of Comarré series—a trilogy that involves a special race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility—the plot to merge the mortal and supernatural worlds comes ever-closer as protagonists Malkolm and Chrysabelle search for the all-important the Ring of Sorrows.


“This short novel wraps robots, Broadway and self-discovery in a cozy holiday atmosphere.” from all about emily

and assembled them into one blast-fromthe-past volume. Behind the beautiful retro cover you’ll find classic stories by Henry Slesar, James E. Gunn, A.Bertram Chandler, Don Berry, Robert Bloch, Jack Vance, J.F. Bone, Robert Moore Williams, Daniel L. Galouye, Alan E. Nourse, Charles W. Runyon, Tom Godwin and Robert Silverberg himself.

This science-fiction thriller introduces a disturbing virtual-reality world originally intended as a military-training ground and thus inhabited by virtual counterparts of some of history’s most notorious and deadliest psychopaths. But this virtual playground gets frighteningly real when the president’s daughter becomes trapped and the rescue team must avoid the virtual world “dupes” that are anxious to drain their real-world victims’ blood.

8. TALES FROM SUPER-SCIENCE FICTION

Robert Charles Wilson

2. BABYLON STEEL

Bruce Sterling

Rod Rees

1. A BRIDGE OF YEARS Gaie Sebold

3. CITY OF LIGHT AND SHADOW

9. GOTHIC HIGH-TECH

7. THE DEMI-MONDE: WINTER

What, you read more than 10 books a month? OK. These new sf/f (and related) titles are also worth a look:

Few authors are universally credited with writing mind-blowing science fiction. Bruce Sterling is one of them. His new collection of stories Gothic High-Tech is a great example of Sterling’s commentary on life as mankind wrestles with how to manage his analog legacy as he moves into the digital age.

10. ALL ABOUT EMILY

4. COUNT TO A TRILLION

In the near-future, an aging and cynical theater legend named Claire Havilland meets a devoted teenage fan who happens to be related to a famous artificial intelligence pioneer. Written in Willis’ singular comic style, this short novel wraps robots, Broadway and self-discovery in a cozy holiday atmosphere.

John C. Wright

5. DEATH AND RESURRECTION

R.A. MacAvoy

6. EARTHBOUND

Joe Haldeman

7. KURT VONNEGUT: THE LAST INTERVIEW: AND OTHER CONVERSATIONS

Connie Willis

Ian Whates

Kurt Vonnegut

8. LEFT HAND MAGIC

Nancy A. Collins

9. NESTED SCROLLS: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF RUDOLF VON BITTER RUCKER

Rudy Rucker

10.PATHFINDER TALES: DEATH’S HERETIC

James L. Sutter

11. POSTCOLONIALISM AND SCIENCE FICTION

Edited by Robert Silverberg

Science Fiction legend Robert Silverberg has chosen 14 science-fiction stories originally published in SuperScience Fiction during the mid-1950s

Jessica Langer

12. SUPERVOLCANO: ERUPTION

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“Dark and edgy, with interesting characters and locales.” from budapest noir

A DARKER SHADE OF BLUE Stories

Harvey, John Pegasus Crime (384 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 15, 2012 978-1-60598-284-7 A collection of 18 previously published short stories—and, yes, Charlie Resnick fans, he turns up in five of them. In “Billie’s Blues” and “The Sun, the Moon and the Stars,” Charlie tries to help out Eileen, a stripper turned whore turned witness to murder, with dour results. “Home” finds him dealing with a teen’s death and a brother’s revenge. In “Well, You Needn’t,” Charlie’s birthday begins with a break-in and ends with him and his cats listening to Thelonious Monk. Resnick makes a cameo appearance in “Trouble in Mind,” which features Harvey’s leading short-story protagonist, Jack Kiley, who, reading mystery writer K.C. Constantine, notes that Charlie looks like aging lawman Mario Balzic. Kiley, the former footballer and Met copper now eking out a living as a private eye, faces the usual Harvey suspects—druggies, delinquents and dames—with the gals usually in for a bad day. Frank Elder, who stars in three Harvey novels, loses his wife and begins his retirement in “Due North,” while Tom Whitemore, a minor character in one of the Elder books, faces his own marriage troubles in “Sack O’ Woe.” But perhaps the story to savor most is “Snow, Snow, Snow,” which marks the debut of Malkin, a hit man who metes out overdue justice. Is there a better shortstory writer around than Harvey? Probably not. His introduction not only provides a fine overview of his work but may send readers in search of James Crumley’s output.

BUDAPEST NOIR

Kondor, Vilmos Harper/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $13.99 paperback | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-06-185939-7 A dead Jewish prostitute arouses the interest of a crime reporter in 1936 Budapest. Despite two major headline stories to occupy him—the death of the prime minister and the upcoming trial of the head of Unit IV, which was tasked with confidence crimes— Zsigmond Gordon, ace crime reporter for the Evening, is sidetracked when he spots a racy photograph of a girl in a drawer left unlocked by Vladimir Gellért, current homicide section chief. Who is she, and what happened to her? A snitch sends Gordon to Nagy Diófa Street, a prostitute’s stroll, where the girl lies dead with a Jewish prayer book in her purse. Later, the autopsy report indicates that she was pregnant and killed by a brutal kick to the stomach. Gordon’s attempts to identify her 2290

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lead him to a porno photographer and secret boxing venues. To circumvent his inquiries, his girlfriend is threatened and he is beaten so badly that he can barely stand up for two days. Still, he soldiers on, discovering the girl’s ties to a businessman who owes his financial success to his cozying up to German politicos and whose livelihood would have been threatened if the girl’s love for a rabbi’s son were to be revealed. Tram rides from Buda to Pest and an overnight car journey to the mountains disclose more parts of the dead girl’s story, which ends with another fatal beating and a death the homicide section chief deems a suicide. Dark and edgy, with interesting characters and locales. More from Kondor would be welcome.

MR. KILL

Limón, Martin Soho Crime (368 pp.) $25.00 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-1-56947-934-6 Two dogged Army investigators in occupied Korea get an assist from a local detective in ferreting out an elusive rapist. Riding the packed Blue Train from Pusan to Seoul in 1974, Sergeants Ernie Bascom and narrator George Sueño are thrust into action when a Korean woman in car three reports being raped by a kockeingi, a foreigner. Even as they try to get a fuller description from the fragile victim, passengers in the car are reviling them with cries of “Yankee go home!” The rapist escapes, but the duo is determined to track him down. The G.I. who was sitting next to him identifies him as an American, which probably means a soldier. But Staff Sergeant Riley and the other paper-pushers at CID headquarters at first claim that a G.I. couldn’t possibly be the perp, then decide not to pursue the investigation further. Ernie and George break the bad news to their Korean police colleague Lieutenant Pong and walk away reluctantly. But everything abruptly changes when a second Korean woman is raped and then murdered. Pong requests that the American pair be brought in on the case. A likely suspect, Army Specialist Nicholas Q. Weyworth is identified, though not captured. And the American cops meet Mr. Kill, a local detective with Holmesian skills and demeanor who proves a perfect complement in a search that stretches for hundreds of miles and involves both twists and narrow escapes. Sergeant Sueño’s seventh adventure (G.I. Bones, 2009, etc.) is another solid police procedural, grounded in muscular prose and enhanced by unique local color.

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THE EIGHTH VEIL

Ramsay, Frederick Poisoned Pen (286 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Lg. Prt. $22.95 Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-9677590-5-0 978-0-9677590-6-7 Lg. Prt. The chief rabbi of Jerusalem is forced to use his scholarly skills to solve a murder. 28 CE. Herod Antipas is king of Israel, but the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate wields a great deal of power. When a servant girl is found dead in a palace pool, Pilate forces Rabban Gamaliel to investigate. Deaths and scandal are nothing new to the royal family, who are wholly divorced from the lives of common people, many of whom turn to itinerant preachers like Jesus of Nazareth. Gamaliel finds the girl, raped and with her throat cut, in a bloody pool which, when drained, contains a few possible clues: a pendant, several coins, some pieces of clothing and a distinctive knife. Both the physician Loukas and the goldsmith Agon are a big help in uncovering some of the mysteries the clues present. Under the crude pendant is a second, golden one with writing on it. Gamaliel soon realizes that the girl is far more than a mere servant. She arrived at court with the Queen and her daughter Salome, and it’s clear that political intrigue swirls around her death. The knife, too dull to kill, belongs to the king’s old friend Menahem, whom the queen would be happy to blame for the murder. But the rabbi is far more scrupulous even though he has only a short time to solve the murder before returning to his job of teacher of The Law. The intriguing mystery, packed with historical detail, is quite a departure from the Ike Schwartz series (Rogue, 2011, etc.). Ramsay, a retired Episcopal priest who’s spent a good deal of time in Jerusalem, provides insight into what it must have been like in the time of Jesus.

THE TALK SHOW MURDERS

Roker, AlLochte, Dick Delacorte (304 pp.) $26.00 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-0-385-34370-1

A celebrity chef lands in someone’s crosshairs after an appearance on a daytime talk show. Billy Blessing (The Midnight Show Murders, 2010, etc.), star of Wake Up, America!’s cooking spot, hasn’t entirely made a secret of his former life as William Blanchard, who went to jail for helping his foster father, con man Paul Lamont. But he doesn’t exactly flaunt it either. So when he guest stars on Midday with Gemma along with former Chicago cop Pat Patton, the last thing he wants is for Patton to show up in his hotel room threatening to expose his past. Paul is long deceased, killed on orders from mobster Gio Polvere. Polvere is dead too, killed in a fire. When Patton buys it as well, Billy goes on alert, but what puts |

him over the top is the death of Larry Kelsto, a comic who was supposed to appear on Gemma with him and Patton until he got bumped because starlet Carrie Sands went on too long about her latest project, an American remake of Gerard Parnelle’s The Thief Who Stole the Eiffel Tower. Now strangers in a van are taking pot shots at Billy and Carrie. Mantata, an art gallery owner with likely ties to Lamont, steps out of the shadows, sending three oddball henchmen to protect him. But can Philippine fashion plate Hiho, jiving Jamaican Trejean and good-old-boygone-wrong Dal save Chef Billy from a threat whose source is as mysterious as Mantata himself? Despite its over-the-top finale, Roker and Lochte’s third is as well-paced and thoughtfully prepared as an Alice Waters tasting menu. (Agent: Mel Berger)

ANGEL FACE

Solomita, Stephen Severn House (192 pp.) $27.95 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7278-8076-5 A gorgeous high-class prostitute and a cold-blooded killer meet cute. Angela Tamanaka has spent a lifetime being irresistible. Although her friends call her Angel, an angel she’s not. She’s a professional hired out to fat-cat clients who can afford to splurge for the special eroticism she brings to her calling. Racketeer Ricky Ditto is one such. It’s on entering Ricky’s opulent apartment that Angel initially encounters Leonard Carter. He too has a professional engagement with Ricky, in fulfillment of which he neatly places a bullet hole in the middle of the gangster’s forehead. Carter’s no angel either. He’s ex–Special Forces, having spent a decade fighting and killing in the hardest places the U.S. deploys its military. More recently, however, he’s gone into business for himself, taking on the sort of contract work of the kind that’s introduced him to Ricky. Stunned by the swiftness of it all, a terrified Angel can only assume that she’s next, that this super cool and competent hit man will choose to eliminate witnesses, but when his first words to her are “Did you touch anything?” she rightly concludes that he, like the many others before him, has been well and truly smitten. So bad boy meets naughty girl, they click, have great sex, then team together to chase the MacGuffin: $500,000 of someone else’s payoff. Solomita (Mercy Killing, 2010, etc.) serves up a spare, fast, unlikely noir romance that turns out to be highly entertaining.

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“A truly spellbinding work even audiences jaded by standard U.S./U.K. fantasy will devour.” from the scar

HILL OF BONES The Medieval Murderers Simon & Schuster (416 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-85720-426-4

A notable landmark outside Bath becomes the scene of murder and mayhem down through the ages. Solsbury Hill, the supposed site of King Arthur’s last battle against the Saxons, is one of the places Symon Cole and his wife Gwenllian must investigate in 1199 as they look into the suspicious death of the much disliked prior of Bath Abbey at the command of King John, who has no love for them. They get little help from the abbey members or the townsfolk. When more deaths follow, the sleuthing pair, who cannot accept the tale of a killer wolf, must solve the crime or lose their home. A century later, the hill features in the tale of Eldred, a poor monk accused of stealing valuable church property. Can his friends solve the crime in time to save his life? In 1453 the hill becomes the temporary home of a mystic whose past conceals from his followers a nasty secret that leads to more deaths on the haunted hill. Centuries later, actor Nick Revill of the King’s Men helps a damsel in distress and searches for lost treasure on the same hill. His inquiries are followed many years later by a pair of tricksters who try to solve a murder involving royalty. Finally, police and archeologists searching in 2010 for a serial killer’s gravesites find much more than they bargained for. The seventh short-story cycle by The Medieval Murderers, featuring some of the same sleuths as their past collaborations (King Arthur’s Bones, 2009, etc.), provides an eventful but often uneven look at murder down through the centuries.

Roger Tosches, the richest man in the county, is killed before he can complete the purchase of a ranch. It’s possible that both men were killed by Gabe, the cook at the ranch, who has by now confessed to the Donohue murder. When that proves unlikely, Lena chats up the two widows, one grieving, one not, and follows Olivia, a Times reporter, to a meeting of cancer sufferers who’ve been dealing with medical calamities ever since the Nevada nuclear tests over 50 years ago. Despite assurances from the Atomic Energy Commission that the tests were harmless, half the cast and crew of the 1954 John Wayne film The Conqueror have passed away, and radioactive soil and water contamination have dispatched some family members going back three generations. One more will die before all the angles become clear to Lena and an apparition resembling the Duke himself tips his hat to her and rides off into the sunset. A perfect example of the mystery-on-a-soapbox, in which the author’s moral outrage is more compelling than the fiction designed to convey it. And Lena (Desert Lost, 2009, etc.), with her bad-choice romances and appalling childhood abuse, is hard to like.

science fiction and fantasy THE SCAR

Dyachenko, Sergey & Dyachenko, Marina Tor (336 pp.) $24.99 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-7653-2993-6

DESERT WIND

Webb, Betty Poisoned Pen (328 pp.) $24.95 | paper $14.95 | Lg. Prt. $22.95 Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-59058-979-3 978-1-59058-981-6 paperback 978-1-59058-980-9 Lg. Prt. You can never be too careful with murderers, however much you like them. When full-blooded Pima Jimmy Sisiwan doesn’t show up for work at Desert Investigations, Scottsdale private eye Lena Jones, who considers him her “almost-brother,” finds him locked in a jail cell in tiny Walapai Flats after he asked a little too vigorously why his brother Ted was being held as a material witness in the murder of Ike Donohue, a PR flack for local uranium mining interests. Did Ted set out to avenge the murder of his wife Kimama, an active agitator with V.U.M. (Victims of Uranium Mining)? Lena gets Jimmy released, but her snooping puts a target on her back. Then 2292

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First English translation of a work written in Russian in 1997, from an awardwinning Ukrainian husband-and-wife team now resident in Moscow. This book is actually the second in a tetralogy that began three years earlier with The Gate-Keeper— so, when bringing translated works to an Anglophone audience, why not begin at the beginning? Truly the ways of publishers are strange—which introduced, or, better, created, the enigmatic and powerful mage known as the Wanderer, the key figure in the series. Egert, a supremely skilled, arrogant member of the elite guards, is also a bully and heedless philanderer from a culture that encourages, even extols, such behavior. When a young student, Dinar, and his stunningly beautiful fiancée Toria arrive in town seeking rare books on magic, Egert decides he must have Toria, and torments poor Dinar into a duel. Unskilled, Dinar is easily dispatched, but the mysterious Wanderer, a witness to Dinar’s cruel end, challenges Egert in turn. The Wanderer,

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who could easily have killed Egert, instead contents himself with slashing the guard’s face, leaving Egert with a painful scar. Worse, Egert finds that the scar has drained his confidence, leaving him an abject coward, too terrified even to commit suicide. Deserting his regiment, Egert journeys far, eventually arriving in the city where Toria lives with her father, Luayan, a mage and Dean of the University. Taking pity on Egert, Luayan finds him lodging and offers him the chance to attend classes. Somehow, through his shame and degradation, Egert must find a way to face Toria, deal with his own problems, confront the evil designs of a secretive cult of wizards and face the Wanderer’s inevitable return. Rich, vivid, tactile prose, with a solid yet unpredictable plot—and an extraordinary depth and intensity of character reminiscent of the finest Russian literature. A truly spellbinding work even audiences jaded by standard U.S./U.K. fantasy will devour. Kudos to the publishers for taking the plunge—but what took them so long?

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IN THE LION’S MOUTH

Flynn, Michael Tor (304 pp.) $25.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-7653-2285-2

Third entry in Flynn’s far-future space opera, following Up Jim River (2010, etc.), wherein two human empires, the Confederation of Central Worlds and the United League of the Periphery, struggle for dominance—although, thanks to Flynn’s veering, elliptical narrative, it’s difficult to deduce even this much without knowledge of the previous books. On planet Dangchao Waypoint, the mistress of Clanthompson Hall, Bridget ban, a Hound or agent of the League, seeks news of Donovan buigh, a scarred former Shadow, or operative of the Confederation, her former lover and father of her daughter, the harper Méarana. The great powers of the Confederacy, Those of Name, tortured Donovan to fragment

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his mind into seven distinct personalities (though he seems to have added a couple more since), each with its own distinct talents. Powerful Shadow Ravn Olafsdottr ghosts into the Hall to reveal Donovan’s fate despite the fact that Hound and Shadow are mortal foes. A civil war, it emerges, smolders in the Lion’s Mouth, the control arm of the Shadows, between Those of Name and a rebellious faction that seeks to depose them. Or not, as it turns out. Donovan miraculously escaped the horrors inflicted by the Names, and now the rebels have dispatched Ravn to recruit or at least capture him. Unknown to everybody—except, possibly, Ravn—Donovan’s separated personalities have begun to communicate and access their common memories, making him even more formidable than before. Donovan, however, wants only to retire to Earth. While individual scenes are pellucid and logical, with dazzling battle sequences, it’s never clear what’s going on at any level, not to mention dialogue that strays from standard English into a variety of exotic vernaculars ranging from broad Scots to a sort of comical futuristic hoot. Fascinating and intelligent—at times a bit too clever for its own good—if elusive, the sort of yarn you can appreciate and enjoy if not fully apprehend.

ECHOES OF BETRAYAL

Moon, Elizabeth Del Rey/Ballantine (480 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 21, 2012 978-0-345-50876-8

The third installment in Moon’s Paladin’s Legacy series (Kings of the North, 2011, etc.) is a solid if unremarkable fantasy tale, with some rousing action and intriguing plot twists. The current series follows up on the author’s Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy from two decades ago, and readers who aren’t familiar with Moon’s world will want to start at the beginning. But those who are already invested will find plenty to appreciate, even as the plot moves forward only incrementally. Nominal main character Kieri Phelan, who’s found himself the king of Lyonya, a land shared uneasily between humans and elves, faces an invasion and a potential traitor from within. Elsewhere other characters encounter a powerful and aloof dragon; villains who can project their minds into others; and mages who heal by mixing humans with plants, like a sort of Tolkien take on the Swamp Thing. The range of characters can be dizzying even for series veterans, and many seemingly important players go missing for a hundred pages or more at a time. Although the book starts with a chaotic battle and ends with a shocking assassination, it feels at times like Moon is just spinning the wheels, resolving very little by the time the novel comes to a close. In between, though, she parcels out plenty of fascinating military detail (as readers of her many military sci-fi novels might expect) and gives a sense of the wellplanned depth of the world she’s created. At times a little formal and stilted, Moon’s prose is very much in the established Tolkien epic fantasy tradition, and while it can seem staid, it’s also 2294

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comfortingly familiar. She’s an old hand at the genre, and she knows how to deliver its most potent elements. Readers hungry for more dragons, elves, mages and gnomes will find exactly what they’re looking for.

TOUCHSTONE

Rawn, Melanie Tor (368 pp.) $25.99 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-7653-2362-0 The play’s the thing: new fantasy series about a magical theater company, from the author of The Golden Key (1996). Part Elf, part Wizard, Cayden Silversun is determined to follow his aptitude and instinct into the theater, despite the snobbish disapproval of his aristocratic mother and the example of his father, who moves in lofty regions at the Royal Court (where he’s actually the Royal pimp). Cade knows he and his troupe are exceptionally gifted, and when brash but highly talented young Elf Mieka Windthistle inveigles his way into the company, Cade knows they’ll be second to none and could challenge to join the Royal Circuit itself. They are four: Cade, the “tregetour,” playwright and director who imbues the glass withies essential to the performance with magic; Jeska the “masquer” plays all the parts; Rafe the “fettler” controls the performance on stage; and Mieka the “glisker” uses his magic to make everything come alive. Though Mieka offers Cade his trust and friendship, Cade can’t bring himself to tell the young Elf his dark secret: he foresees possible futures and has the ability to make them come true or turn them aside. But he foresees a horrid future for Mieka and, assuming he can do nothing and should not interfere anyway, Cade says nothing. Finally the company, Touchstone, joins the Winterly Circuit, enjoying long roads, rivalries, bad food, surly innkeepers, all-male audiences, ghastly weather and the attentions of groupies. There are promising ideas, though Rawn doesn’t really manage to convey how it all works, together with an insufficiency of plot and little or no real insight. Instead of a grand finale, it just stumbles to a halt. Youthful melodrama without catharsis.

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nonfiction BEYOND THE SLING A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way

Bialik, Mayim Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $23.99 | Mar. 6, 2012 978-1-4516-1800-6

An alternative-methods parenting guide. Feeding and sleeping schedules, potty training and early independence. These are the three maxims actress and mother of two Bialik claims parents must let go of in order to raise a child in the attachment parenting way. This “green” method of parenting “seeks to create a generation of children who love and respect people and the earth because they have been loved and respected by their parents.” Guidelines set by Attachment Parenting International include natural childbirth, breastfeeding, sensitivity to the child and bonding. The author provides examples from her own experiences regarding these strategies. She recommends the use of midwives and doulas to help with childbirth in lieu of doctors and painkilling medications. Bialik explains breastfeeding on demand, holding the baby in one’s arms or via the use of a baby carrier and the use of a family bed. Other advice includes saying no to all the gadgets and stuff available for babies and toddlers, avoiding unnecessary trips to the doctor for minor ailments and alternative approaches to discipline. Perhaps the most controversial suggestion is the idea of elimination communication—the ability to learn when a child, even a newborn, needs to pass waste products. Bialik claims that any child would prefer to eliminate into a potty rather than a cloth or disposable diaper. By learning the nonverbal signals that all children demonstrate, a parent can determine when the infant or child needs to use the potty and rush him or her to the appropriate location. The author admits parents must be willing to endure numerous accidents before the method is foolproof. Reminiscent of the back-to-the-land parenting methods of the 1960s, the book provides alternative ideas on childbirth and childrearing for today’s modern parent.

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EMPIRE OF SHADOWS The Epic Story of Yellowstone Black, George St. Martin’s (576 pp.) $35.00 | Mar. 13, 2012 978-0-312-38319-0 978-1-4299-8974-9 e-book

The story of a national park might seem a niche subject, but OnEarth magazine editor Black (Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection, 2006, etc.) surrounds it with a colorful, stormy, often-distressing history of our northern mountain states. The author begins with Lewis and Clark, whose 1804–06 expedition passed nearby but brought back only rumors of odd geological events. The northern Rockies remained a backwater for another half-century. Almost no one but fur traders took an interest for the first 30 years; wagon trains pouring west after 1840 passed well to the south. By the 1850s gold mining and ranching produced settlers, quickly followed by the Army, both anxious to eliminate the Indians. Black provides painful details of 20 years of conflict that accomplished this goal. Lacking gold or good grazing, the Yellowstone area attracted few settlers, but visitors brought back tales of wondrous geysers, boiling springs and breathtaking scenery. In 1869 the small, privately funded Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition produced such a tantalizing report that Montana residents organized a large expedition. That expedition spent a month exploring, resulting in a torrent of publicity that led to the federally funded Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. Its enthusiastic report included historical photographs by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran, and the resulting publicity persuaded Congress to create the world’s first national park in 1872. Congress did not, however, provide money, so vandalism, poaching and commercial exploitation flourished until 1886 when the Army moved in. It did not leave until the new National Park Service took over in 1918. An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation. (8-page black-and-white insert)

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YOU’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations

Black, Michael Ian Gallery Books/ Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $23.99 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-1-4391-6785-4

TV funnyman on marriage, family and BMW shopping. Black (My Custom Van: And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays that Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face, 2008, etc.), familiar to comedy fans from the sketch series The State and Stella and dozens of TV and movie appearances, presents an affecting memoir that unflinchingly details his failings as a romantic partner and father while curiously eliding his troubled childhood and professional career—aspects of the author’s life that might seem to be richer material for an autobiography. Black briefly describes his parents’ fractious relationship, his mother’s midlife embracing of lesbianism and the anxiety he felt for a younger sister with Down Syndrome, but these dramatic elements are largely ignored as Black details his callous behavior and sexual insecurities as a young man on the make and his current status as a conflicted husband and father. Readers hoping for glimpses behind the scenes of the alt-comedy boom will be disappointed, as Black barely mentions any specifics of his career as a writer and performer. However, he writes with real courage and feeling about his relationship with his wife, Martha, a moody and difficult partner with little patience for her husband’s immaturity and petulance. While Black is consistently funny and maintains his slightly detached, absurdist persona in his prose, there is authentic pain and moral confusion in his descriptions of marriage-counseling sessions, bitter arguments and threats of divorce. The author treads well-covered ground, but does so memorably and funnily. A slight but reliably amusing look at masculine insecurity and confusion.

HOW WE DO HARM A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America

Brawley, Otis Webb with Goldberg, Paul St. Martin’s (256 pp.) $25.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-312-67297-3

With the assistance of investigative journalist Goldberg (The Final Act: The Dramatic, Revealing Story of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group, 1988, etc.), Brawley (Medicine/Emory Univ.), chief medical scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, delivers a scathing indictment of the American medical system. 2296

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The authors provide solid documentation in support of the case that the American health system is fundamentally flawed, drawing on illustrative examples taken from his own experience as an oncologist as well as his expertise in public health. Brawley presents a shocking conclusion: “The system is not failing. It’s functioning exactly as designed,” with “the greedy serving the gluttonous.” While low-income Americans are denied adequate medical care, the wealthy are also poorly served, often paying for unneeded treatments that can have dangerous side effects. The authors describe the case of a man whose experience was not atypical. While receiving chemotherapy as a precaution against cancer following colon surgery, he became too debilitated to work. When he could no longer afford the co-pays, he landed at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital, which accepts patients with financial problems. After evaluating the patient’s case, Brawley concluded that he was fortunate that his high-priced previous oncologist would no longer treat him, since he had mishandled the chemotherapy. “A negative wallet biopsy may have saved his life,” he writes ironically. Less fortunate was the breast-cancer patient who received a fatal bone-marrow transplant intended to reduce the risk of recurrence— a procedure based on positive data later proved to be fraudulent. Brawley provides citations from a variety of cases—pharmaceuticals that have dangerous side effects, unnecessary treatments for prostate cancer, etc.— including those of misguided patients who demanded excessive treatment and threatened lawsuits if it was denied. A powerful contribution to the ongoing discussion on health-care reform.

JAMES MADISON A Son of Virginia and a Founder of the Nation

Broadwater, Jeff Univ. of North Carolina (320 pp.) $30.00 | Mar. 16, 2012 978-0-8078-3530-2

A workmanlike study of the checksand-balances Founding Father from Virginia. Broadwater (History/Barton Coll.; George Mason, Forgotten Founder, 2006, etc.) asserts the need for another appraisal of James Madison (1751–1836) as more than a “disembodied brain” who wrote many of the Federalist Papers and pushed hard for the adoption of the Constitution. After the succession of excellent Madison biographers Drew McCoy, Ralph Ketcham, Lance Banning and Jack Rakove, Broadwater organizes his more “modest” effort by facets dear to his subject, such as religious freedom and the party system. The first of 12 children born to a wealthy plantation owner, Madison became a religious scholar at Princeton, suffering a delicate constitution (however living to a very old age). As an elected delegate, he was enlisted to help draft the provision on religious freedom for the prototypical Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776. Cementing an important relationship with governor Thomas Jefferson, Madison was 29 years old when he was first elected to Congress,

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“A fascinating account of a resilient culture that has survived despite oppression.” from holding our world together

sent to Philadelphia to amend the Articles of the Confederation at a tumultuous time in the young nation’s history. Madison recognized the need for Constitutional reform early on, ordering in 1786 a “library cargo” of political history of the Greeks, Swiss, Dutch and Germans for model confederacies. The process of hammering out compromises in Philadelphia drew out his concerns about checks and balances in protecting minority rights, about which he elaborated famously in the Federalist Papers. Once the Constitution was ratified, he decided to support a Bill of Rights after all, and won Congressional election against James Monroe. Madison helped forge the Republican Party and remained an implacable foe of Great Britain, which led to the War of 1812, dominating his two-term presidency. His wife Dolley Payne, a lively widow he married in his middle age, defined the role of First Lady. An essential American philosopher and president gains a substantive treatment. (10 illustrations)

HOLDING OUR WORLD TOGETHER Ojibwe Women and the Survival of the Community

Child, Brenda J. Viking (208 pp.) $22.95 | Feb. 20, 2012 978-0-670-02324-0

In a follow-up to her prize-winning study, Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families: 1900-1940 (2000), Child (American Studies/ Univ. of Minnesota) chronicles the “history of Ojibwe community life in the Great Lakes,” with special emphasis on the role of women. As a member of the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation, the author has an intimate connection to her subject. Beginning in the 1830s, with the U.S. government’s policy of forced relocation of Native Americans to reservations, Child chronicles the destruction of their way of life, which had been based on the cultivation of wild rice, traditionally woman’s work, and hunting, which was done by men and boys. When the Ojibwe were forcibly removed from their homes and land in Michigan and Wisconsin to a reservation in the territory of Minnesota, their standard of living was reduced to bare subsistence. Forced to depend on food shipments and a meager annuity from the government, their population was decimated by starvation and disease. Remarkably, they preserved the core of their cultural beliefs, and traditional spiritual values survived despite the pressures and hardships of their new circumstances. The author writes of the unsuccessful but relentless drive of the institutions of the dominant American population to impose its core values, such as the inferior position of women in society and the replacement of traditional religious practices with Christianity. In some ways, the situation of the Ojibwe improved during the New Deal when the policy of forced assimilation ended. Poverty-relief programs run by New Deal agencies offered new |

employment opportunities, and the Ojibwe received funding to farm wild rice using modern methods. During World War II, Indian men were subject to the draft while women worked in defense plants. Today the vast majority live in cities while maintaining ties to the reservation and their traditional way of life. A fascinating account of a resilient culture that has survived despite oppression.

MORE ROOM IN A BROKEN HEART The True Adventures of Carly Simon Davis, Stephen Gotham Books (448 pp.) $27.50 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-592-40651-7

The story of singer-songwriter Carly Simon’s rise to stardom. Journalist and self-described fan Davis (LZ-’75: The Lost Chronicles of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American Tour, 2010, etc.) provides an unauthorized but intimate glimpse into the life of a musical icon. The daughter of publishing mogul Richard L. Simon (co-founder of Simon & Schuster), Carly grew up in a household filled with American royalty, including composer George Gershwin and baseball icon Jackie Robinson. The guests were representative of Carly and her father’s two shared interests, music and baseball, the former of which encouraged at least two Simon sisters to enter the music business. Yet beneath the family’s star-studded exterior remained many deeply rooted problems, including the Simon parents’ infidelities, creating what Carly later described as an “atmosphere of erotica.” While music remains the focus of Davis’ book, the author pays equal attention to the tabloid-like details of the Simon family’s home life, as well as some of Carly’s better-known love affairs, including her 9-year marriage to fellow musician James Taylor. Simon’s tumultuous marriage to the drug-addicted Taylor—which produced two children but ended in divorce—provides the fodder for much of the latter half of the book. Told in strict chronological fashion, Davis’ straightforward reporting accurately recounts Simon’s surface story but will leave some readers questioning just what complexities might linger beneath the surface. A competent retelling of one woman’s successful— though personally troubled—emergence into the 1970s music scene.

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“MULTIPLICATION IS FOR WHITE PEOPLE” Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children Delpit, Lisa New Press (256 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 20, 2012 978-1-59558-046-7

A call-to-action book on how to close the racial achievement gap in the American educational system. Despite having an African-American as president, MacArthur winner Delpit (Education/Southern Univ.; Other People’s Children, 1995, etc.) writes that African-American students are still not being treated as equal to their white peers. Using numerous examples from school situations and her own daughter’s experiences, the author shows that stereotypes and racial prejudices still abound, with many teachers teaching “down” to their black students. To counteract this negative effect, teachers need to understand the cultural backgrounds of their students and connect the curriculum to this background so that learning has relevance to the student. Instead of asking “do you know what I know?” Delpit says the question to ask is “what do you know?” “This is the question that will allow us to begin, with courage, humility, and cultural sensitivity the right educational journey,” she writes. When good teachers incorporate this method and learn to identify with each individual child, test scores and self-esteem rise and disobedience and absenteeism fall. Delpit feels her work in education is two-fold: She is “charged with preparing the minds and hearts of those who will inherit the earth…as a sacred trust…and the second purpose…is to build bridges across the great divides, the so-called achievement gap, the technology gap, class divisions, the racial divide.” If all teachers adopted these ideas, the American educational system would be vastly improved for all students. Covering age groups from preschool to college, Delpit offers advice to new and veteran teachers, advice that applies not only to African-American students but to all ethnic and minority groups. A much-needed review of the American educational system and an examination of the techniques needed to improve the teaching methods of all involved in that system.

THE POWER OF HABIT Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It

Duhigg, Charles Random House (304 pp.) $28.00 | CD $40.00 | Mar. 6, 2012 978-1-4000-6928-6 978-0-307-96664-3 CD According to this instructional text for readers habituated to unhelpful ways, changing those bad habits for good habits isn’t rocket science— it’s brain science. 2298

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New York Times investigative reporter Duhigg demonstrates how automatic behavior, good or bad, can grow from a repeated decision that gets lodged in the basal ganglia. The result is a fixed loop of cue, routine and reward. Animal trainers are already familiar with this information. For improvement, the trick is to keep the cue and reward, but change the routine. The belief that acquiring a new “keystone habit” can really be achieved is necessary, and that’s why support groups, like AA, are valuable. To clarify his points, Duhigg offers some simplistic diagrams with many cautionary stories of surgeons, baristas, gamblers, sex addicts and football coaches, as well as the selling of toothpaste, aluminum and room deodorizers. Along with tales of paragons of corporate management, we learn how supermarkets are arranged, how Target stores target consumers, how Marin Luther King Jr. managed the Montgomery bus boycott and how Rick Warren organized his monumental Saddleback Church. Even with such varied exemplars, the skilled narrative remains accessible. Unlike other exhortations with titles that promise empowerment, this admonitory entry is supported by interviews, neurological studies and empirical histories. Copious notes and a “Reader’s Guide to Using These Ideas” are appended. For self-help seekers, a more convincing book than most.

THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About the Good Life

Edelman, Shimon Basic (240 pp.) $25.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-465-02224-3

Edelman (Psychology/Cornell Univ.; Computing the Mind: How the Mind Really Works, 2008, etc.) asks readers to discard the “familiar ‘computer metaphor’ that halfheartedly likens the brain to a computer,” and accept his argument that “the mind is computational in the literal sense.” Before dealing with the question of happiness, the author elaborates on his contention that human minds could evolve “to support foresight” because of the brain’s ability to “compute by learning and using the statistics of the world in which we live.” He explains this with examples such as the ability of a baseball pitcher’s brain to specify the location of his body and control its action by directing his shoulder according to horizontal and vertical planes and rotation, while anticipating a ball’s trajectory; or the more mundane ability of a shopper to estimate which is the fastest check-out lane. Our brains are continually deluged with data that must be evaluated for cognition to occur. Survival of the organism depends on its ability to foresee the future and act accordingly. Edelman writes that this is the basis for the pursuit of happiness in humans, and by extension all living beings. On a more sophisticated level, humans retain memories and develop foresight, which the author felicitously describes

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“Stately pronouncements from a master of the form.” from life sentences

as “remembering the future.” We build up expectations while savoring the past and imagining possible futures, with episodic memory acting as “the mind’s personal space-time machine—a perfect vehicle for scouting and harvesting happiness.” Edelman describes learning language as a similar process that depends on the brain’s use of statistics as a basis for inferences about meaning, and concludes that we derive our most sustained happiness from our predisposition to “enjoy every day learning.” An elegant tour de force that combines neuropsychology with liberal references to Shakespeare and Homer.

WHILE AMERICA SLEEPS A Wake-up Call for the Post-9/11 Era Feingold, Russ Crown (320 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 21, 2012 978-0-307-95252-3

Former Senator Feingold shares his progressive foreign-policy vision. Defeated for reelection by a Republican in 2010, the author served 18 years in the Senate, making his mark most notably with the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 and by challenging the Bush administration on the Iraq War and the Patriot Act. In this straightforward, clear-eyed look at the fallout after 9/11, Feingold revisits the U.S. reaction in the wake of the attacks, which set off an “unfortunate trend” in soured international relations that is only presently being arrested under President Obama. While Feingold graciously allows former President Bush accolades for his initial words of resolve and restraint after 9/11, he grew increasingly alarmed by the hysterical fear gripping Washington, and cast the lone vote against the Patriot Act. He was disturbed by Bush’s 2002 “axis of evil” speech and refused to buy the administration’s justification for war, despite Joe Biden’s extensive hearings and endorsement of it. (Curiously, meeting former President Nixon, his nemesis, helped Feingold come to doubt the reasoning behind the Saddam-bin Laden conspiracy.) In the post-9/11 Risk game, as he calls it, Feingold urged the government not to lose sight of other important strategic spots like Yemen, Indonesia and Somalia, and he traveled widely with Hilary Clinton and others; he first urged the troop withdrawal from Iraq in 2005 and was gratified to see it finally occurring under Obama. He has been a vocal proponent for “restoring the rule of law” to the presidency and of Obama’s health-care legislation, which essentially invited the Tea Partiers to organize his defeat in the antiincumbent fever of 2010. Sage, sensible words by a leader who can now point to how he right he was.

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LIFE SENTENCES Literary Judgments and Accounts

Gass, William H. Knopf (368 pp.) $28.95 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-307-59584-3

A wry, mannered retrospective collection of essays by octogenarian Bass (A Temple of Texts, 2006, etc.). In these wide-ranging essays, the author embarks on considerations of the function of mimesis in Greek theater with the same stylistic devotion and plentitude as he does an exegesis of lust. In “Retrospection,” a revelatory piece written at age 87, he admits that writing never came easily to him, yet creating metaphors was “unstoppable,” as natural as “carp ris[ing] to a dimple of bread.” (He lists seven personal “bad habits” in the same essay—e.g., naming, metaphoring, jingling, preaching, theorizing, celebrating, translating, all of which nicely percolate in other essays here.) The profound reading of this former philosophy professor is gorgeously in evidence—e.g., in his writing about Nietzsche, Kafka, Malcolm Lowry and Henry James, and in an excoriating look at the extent of Nazi Germany’s legitimizing of murder. His essay on the “Nordic Nazi” and little-read Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun is a fascinating study of a soul-impoverished quisling. Bass also offers erudite but no less accessible reflections in a series of Biggs Lectures in the Classics. The author delights in a well-turned sentence, and the last section of this alluring collection diagrams some duds and some doozies—e.g., Sir Walter Scott’s litany from Waverley, Chester Himes’ tough-guy constructions in Run Man Run. As a philosopher, Bass confesses that his most cherished part of speech is the preposition, particularly of, meaning “those of possession and being possessed, of belonging and exclusion.” Throughout, rhythm is the author’s organizing principle, rendering his own sentences compelling, exacting and suggestive. Stately pronouncements from a master of the form.

A BAD IDEA I’M ABOUT TO DO True Tales of Seriously Poor Judgment and Stunningly Awkward Adventure Gethard, Chris Da Capo/Perseus (256 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-306-82030-4

The up-and-coming comedian shares— and occasionally overshares—tales from his nerdy, manic-depressive youth. In the introduction to his debut collection of personal essays, Gethard proclaims that he has “always wanted to charge headlong into outlandish situations at the first sight of them.” Outlandish situations are in dispiritingly short supply here, though:

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Gethard’s predicaments are largely of the garden-variety teen and 20-something variety, from awkward sexual experiences to moving violations. Growing up in New Jersey, the author was an introvert whose relatives were prone to violent verbal explosions, and the title story reveals how he inherited some of that barkiness. Alas, too often Gethard oversells moderately irritating experiences as hyper-wacky, emotionally cataclysmic events. When he balances his self-deprecating posture with some genuinely humiliating moments, he can be funny: In “White Magic,” he recalls an ill-fated stint playing a pimp for a Z-grade pro-wrestling league, and “The World’s Foremost Goat” is an amusing fable-like yarn about how his attempt to get an easy A in college led him to care for a goat in a harder-than-expected agriculture class. The stories run in chronological order, and as Gethard becomes more involved in the New York comedy scene the book acquires something of an arc: Self-hating funny guy comes to terms with his depression. (He breaks down on the phone with his mom more than once.) So he’s easy to root for toward the end in “Jiu Jitsu,” in which he ties his modest martial-arts success to his hard-won emotional equipoise. But to get to it, readers have to get past the self-explanatory “Colonic,” and Gethard isn’t funny enough to justify detailed discussions of his bowel movements. The author has a good time laughing at himself, but he needs more interesting stories to tell.

REVOLUTION 2.0 The Power of the People Is Greater than the People in Power: A Memoir

Ghonim, Wael Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (256 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-547-77398-8

A demonstration of the power of social networking by a Google engineer named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2011. As the head of marketing for Google Middle East and North Africa, Ghonim was so outraged by the State Security’s beating to death of a young Egyptian named Khaled Mohamed Said that he created the Facebook page Kolona Khaled Said (“We Are All Khaled Said”). The website helped sparked the revolution ending Hosni Mubarak’s presidency. Here, in sometimes hour-by-hour detail and with ample and extensive quotes from Facebook, the author recounts the events from its appearance in June 2010 to February 2011, when Mubarak stepped down. He also documents his own transformation from passive critic of the Mubarak regime to motivated activist whose “computer keyboard had become a machine gun, firing bullets with every keystroke.” The response to his page was immediate, and the numbers grew rapidly, establishing the site as a major voice of the Internet generation. From reading its posts, people realized that they were not alone in their fears and frustrations, and they began to add their comments, contribute content share in 2300

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decisions about what actions might be taken. Ghonim credits the Tunisian revolution with finally giving young Egyptians the confidence to take to the streets. His own fears about concealing his identity were justified: He was arrested, blindfolded and handcuffed and interrogated in isolation for 12 days. Ghonim’s Facebook page was not alone, however. Hundreds of other sites were launched to collect and disseminate news and images, and he credits these and Al Jazeera satellite TV and CNN with keeping the story of the Egyptian revolution alive. Questions remain: Is the revolution really over, or is another one against Egypt’s entrenched military just beginning. If so, what role will social media play this time? A remarkable personal testament that will be cited by future historians of both Facebook and the Arab Spring.

THE NEW HATE A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right

Goldwag, Arthur Pantheon (384 pp.) $27.95 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-307-37969-6 978-0-307-90707-3 e-book

A well-reported study of disaffected groups who hate other groups whose members look or think differently than the haters. In his latest book about ideologies, freelance writer and editor Goldwag (Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies, 2009, etc.) transcends numerous other books warning about the dangers of political conservatives who have assumed influence during the administrations of Reagan and the two Bushes. These haters—given voice by such high-profile individuals as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage and Michelle Malkin—worry about far more than who controls American politics. They worry about the atmosphere of family life, classrooms, corporate workplaces, public parks and just about every other venue where values antithetical to their own might seep into impressionable minds. Goldwag terms the phenomenon “the paranoid style of hatred,” and shows how that style has been linked to conspiracy theories for hundreds of years. The author examines with special depth hatreds against Jews, Catholics, Freemasons, African-Americans and the extremely wealthy. With the election of President Obama, the haters coalesced against what they saw as an obvious enemy. Goldwag is able to effectively use the hatreds toward Obama to illustrate the irrationality of the haters. Given that many, perhaps most, paranoids exhibit some form of brain dysfunction and that undocumented conspiracy theories in general are linked to instability, Goldwag could have written off the haters as mentally ill. Instead, he treats their hatreds as something to be seriously researched because of their undue influence on the tenor of electoral politics, as well as almost every other aspect of daily life in America. A provocative, intellectually rigorous book written clearly and with an admirable lack of hatred.

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“Savory appetizers that will cause curious readers to order the full 12-course meal.” from the selected letters of charles dickens

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF CHARLES DICKENS

Hartley, Jenny--Ed. Oxford Univ. (584 pp.) $34.95 | Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-19-959141-1

From the massive 12-volume The Letters of Charles Dickens, editor Hartley (English Literature/Roehampton Univ.; Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women, 2008, etc.) selects letters that illuminate the dimensions of Dickens’ mind, the range of his interests and the scale of his moods and passions. No one will ever write like this again, not in this brave new world of e-mail, emoticons and textual truncation. Dickens was an epistolary phenomenon. He wrote often (thousands of letters), with great fluidity and wit and at great length. In an early, heartbroken letter to a young woman who had dismissed him, he reeled off a 141-word sentence that basically said, “I am returning some things you gave me.” He wrote to the high and the low, to geniuses and wannabes and fans and fools alike. Hartley includes samples of letters to Thomas Carlyle, Robert Browning, William Makepeace Thackeray and Michael Faraday. In an 1862 letter to Wilkie Collins about Collins’ novel-in-progress No Name, Dickens interrupts his praise to teach his friend the difference between “lie” and “lay.” Among responses to pious people wondering why Dickens’ stories weren’t more patently Christian are work-a-day samples of Dickens in his roles as husband, father, writer, editor, friend and colleague. Dickens also wrote to friends about his travels to the United States. During his first visit to our shores in 1842, he was a bit more caustic about us than he was in 1867. Of great interest are his letters about his works-in-progress and his furtive affair with actress Ellen Ternan. Hartley, who reproduces the annotations from the complete edition, wisely stays out of the way and lets her gifted principal command the stage. Savory appetizers that will cause curious readers to order the full 12-course meal.

BLACKHORSE RIDERS A Desperate Last Stand, an Extraordinary Rescue Mission, and the Vietnam Battle America Forgot Keith, Philip St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $26.99 | Feb. 11, 2012 978-0-312-68192-0 978-1-4299-4095-0 e-book

A fine, precisely detailed record of an obscure but nasty battle in Vietnam in which heroism was forgotten even more quickly than the war itself. The book begins in 2009 when President Obama awarded survivors the Presidential Unit Citation, a rare, highly prized |

honor. Intrigued by the long delay, Vietnam veteran and writer Keith discovered that the battle produced dozens of medal recommendations that were declined or ignored until one veteran, Capt. John Poindexter, discovered the oversight 30 years later. Stimulated, Keith delved into military archives as well as accounts and writing of the men themselves to tell their story. On March 26, 1970, an infantry company stumbled into a fortified North Vietnamese army stronghold and were immediately surrounded and pinned down. Dense tropical-forest cover ruled out the usual air support; with only a few hours of ammunition the outnumbered unit faced annihilation. Four kilometers away another unit heard the noise. Without orders and already exhausted by several days of activity, its armor and men forced their way through the jungle, drove off the enemy and extracted all the surrounded men, dead and injured included. Keeping the traditional patriotic overlay to a minimum and with only a modest amount of invented dialogue, Keith provides engrossing, almost minute-by-minute account of the preliminaries and the battle itself. Military buffs will take it in stride, but Americans accustomed to 30 years of campaigns in which a single soldier’s death is news and more than one makes the front page will squirm to read that in the typical war, men die en masse.

THE SWING VOTE The Untapped Power of Independents Killian, Linda St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $25.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-312-58177-0 978-1-4299-8944-2 e-book

The silent majority is neither Democratic nor Republican—and it’s ticked off. If you feel disconnected from national politics, the chances are that you vote independent—which puts you in the majority, if the unheard one. So posits political analyst Killian (The Freshmen: What Happened to the Republican Revolution?, 1998) in this look at the current electorate. These independent and swing voters, she argues, are “the centrist voters who decide elections and represent more voters than those at the conservative and liberal ends of the spectrum.” Given the state of ideological gridlock, it is small wonder that these centrists, who are “fiscally conservative and socially tolerant,” might feel overlooked and ignored. Killian examines some of the curiosities of the political system: Why, for instance, does New Hampshire’s primary count so much, given that state’s relative lack of influence? The author proffers a couple of answers, one local (New Hampshire law requires its primary to be the first in the nation, so it gets perhaps undue attention) and one national (the New Hampshire primary is no longer a bellwether, given that the last three presidents all finished second). Why do candidates appeal to rural and small-town values when so few voters live in such places? How is it that the Tea Party electoral sweep of 2010 was able to occur? Killian also examines some wellworn notions and discovers them to obtain today: Voters may distrust and dislike Congress, for instance, but they tend to think their

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THE SCIENCE OF SIN The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good for You)

own representative is OK. In passing, the author also observes that whereas President Obama made political hay of a promise to heal the partisan rift in Washington, he has done little to act on it, such that independent voters in particular have been “disappointed in Obama’s presidential leadership”—with obvious implications for the upcoming election. A useful look at the current makeup and mood of America’s voters.

THE MUSES GO TO SCHOOL Inspiring Stories About the Importance of Arts in Education

Kohl, Herbert and Oppenheim, Tom--Eds. New Press (240 pp.) $26.95 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-1-59558-539-4

Incensed by recent trends to eliminate arts education from public-school curriculums, co-editors Kohl and Oppenheim present 20 insightful essays in a bid to draw attention to the cultural and developmental significance of the cause. National Book Award winner Kohl (The Herb Kohl Reader, 2011, etc.) is angered by the myth that the arts “are merely frills or embellishments to a meaningful education,” while Oppenheim, artistic director of New York City’s Stella Adler Studio of Acting (and Adler’s grandson) reiterates the social functionality of teaching the arts to less-fortunate youth, “no matter how difficult their circumstances.” A live panel discussion in 2008 inspired these insightful essays from a variety of artists in many mediums. Recollecting her dyslexic childhood enlivened by theater, Whoopi Goldberg believes in the nurturing of the “artistic voice.” Rosie Perez comments that her current work on the board of a nonprofit arts organization allows her to promote creativity to children in inner-city NYC. Phylicia Rashad testifies to the good fortune of a high-school experience rich in artistic programs and creative encouragement; she pleads for a continuation of arts cultivation in schools, thwarting what she calls a “nation of robots.” Heartfelt thoughts from collegiate scholars like Bill Ayers and Deborah Meier lend a necessary urgency to the cause, as does education professor and MacArthur recipient Lisa Delpit, who remarks that “the arts allow us a lens to see gifts that may not be immediately evident.” The dedicated work of former professional dancer and artist Frances Lucerna and linguistic anthropologist Shirley Brice Heath offer prime examples of how the arts can be successfully integrated into school curriculums. Uniformly written and passionately considered, the collection brims with ideas, memories and hope for creatively inspired students.

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Laham, Simon M. Three Rivers/Crown (224 pp.) $14.00 paperback | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-307-71934-8 978-0-307-71935-5 e-book

Australian social psychologist Laham suggests the seven deadly sins can have positive value. The author opposes the “simplistic labeling” of them as “uniformly wrong [because it] does nothing but breed contempt for ‘sinners’ and stifle sophisticated discussion.” He argues that lust, greed and so on are emotions that can motivate the “sinner” to perform at a higher level. Laham cites experiments that provide interesting sidelights on how framing a subject—for example, by placing it in a sexual context—can enhance concentration rather than distract; how males and females, when sexually aroused, will act in ways that are expected to please the opposite sex—women by appearing more accommodating, men by demonstrating leadership qualities—but both sexes will also be more detail-oriented. As might be expected, greed can be tapped by rewarding desired behavior with money, and sloth plays a beneficial role in consolidating memory, as in the case of a good night’s sleep or even a quick nap. The author’s section on gluttony should definitely please foodies. He distinguishes between a discriminating palate and the tendency to overeat, and suggests that cultural influences play a large part in our behavior toward food. For example, when asked to chose the odd-man-out in a choice of three words, bread, pasta and sauce, health-conscious Americans tend to chose sauce since the first two are carbohydrates, while the French see bread as the misplaced word. Similarly, French people identify fried eggs with breakfast, while Americans deem them to be high in cholesterol. Envy is two-sided because we may also find role models in the people we envy, and anger is properly directed when focused against injustice, provided that it is not coupled with violence. A lighthearted foray into motivational research.

GRACE AND GRIT My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond

Ledbetter, Lilly with Isom, Lanier Scott Crown Archetype (288 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-307-88792-4 Former Goodyear floor manager turned equal-rights activist Ledbetter knew from childhood that she “was going somewhere special.” However, the Alabama native never dreamed that she would one day spearhead the fight for equal pay for working

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“Funny and informative, with the kick of a dry martini.” from mad women

women. Ledbetter grew up in the Southern backwater town of Possum Trot at a time when women were expected to do little more than find a husband and have children. After marrying at 17, she became a depressed, dissatisfied stay-at-home mother of two. Against her traditionalist husband’s wishes, she took a minimum-wage part-time job, which quickly turned into a fulltime office-management position. Still, her success on the job was always tinged with working woman’s guilt: “someone or something was not always tended to properly” at home. At 41, Ledbetter decided to become a supervisor at a local Goodyear plant to help ensure her family’s security. A few of her mostly male colleagues supported her, but she often felt as though she was “a missionary in a strange land, trying to convert [the natives] to a new religion.” The author struggled against hostility, harassment and endless humiliation for almost 20 years only to discover that her male counterparts were making thousands of dollars more per year than she was. For 10 years after that, she pursued bitter anti-discrimination court battles that yielded nothing financially but eventually brought into existence the fair-pay legislation that bears her name. Ledbetter’s story is inspiring, but some readers may wonder why she persisted in a job that, for all its apparent prestige, proved so physically and emotionally damaging to her. Frank and feisty.

MAD WOMEN The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ’60s and Beyond Maas, Jane Dunne/St. Martin’s (272 pp.) $24.99 | Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-312-64023-1 978-1-4299-4114-3 e-book

Maas (Adventures of an Advertising Woman, 1987, etc.) looks back on her days as a pioneering female copywriter and ad executive in the heady ‘60s and ‘70s, dishing on the profligate behavior characteristic of the industry at that time as dramatized by the TV series Mad Men. The author frequently references that show’s authenticity (and occasional infelicities) as she remembers the institutional sexism and hard-partying ethos of the ad business in those years, but her real brief is to reflect on the special challenges facing women whose professional success often came at the expense of feeling fulfilled as wives and mothers. Maas was a star at Ogilvy and Mather, rising from copywriter to creative director and ultimately establishing her own firm (she would oversee the iconic “I Love New York” campaign of the mid ’70s), but her success was tempered by guilt over neglecting her young daughters and fraught with what today could only be described as gross sexual harassment. The author writes without bitterness about these difficulties, managing to convey the fun and excitement of the era and cheekily recounting tales of wild affairs and stylish dissolution. She has interesting observations about the “creative revolution” that swept the industry during her heyday |

and provides juicy anecdotes about such figures as advertising legend David Ogilvy and hotel magnate Leona Helmsley (with whom she had a brief and disastrous professional entanglement). Maas’ memoir will likely not have the impact of her classic 1977 tome How to Advertise (co-written with Kenneth Roman), but this slight volume is a bracing and consistently engaging look at the realities behind the fetishized nostalgia of Mad Men. Funny and informative, with the kick of a dry martini.

THE GUARDIANS An Elegy

Manguso, Sarah Farrar, Straus and Giroux (160 pp.) $23.00 | Mar. 6, 2012 978-0-374-16724-0

How does the suicide of a friend affect someone who has come perilously close to suicide herself? That’s the question Manguso (The Two Kinds of Decay: A Memoir, 2008, etc.) wrestles with in this purgative memoir. The friend was Harris, a brilliant but troubled musician who escaped from a psychiatric ward in 2008 and threw himself in front of an oncoming train. No stranger to depression herself, Manguso attempts to figure out her friend’s motivation. Was it a reaction to an antipsychotic drug known to make patients maddeningly restless? How did he leave the facility so easily? Could she have saved him? What if she had married him? Could he have lived a happy life, or would it always have been one of “unendurable suffering”? As in The Two Kinds of Decay, which recalled her own debilitating struggle with a rare illness, Manguso is adept at breaking her memories into small, vivid pieces. She scrutinizes everything from the language of death to her own close relationship to it: “I say I’m interested in life, but really I want to play a little game with Death. I want to lie down next to him and smell his infected breath.” The author displays brave writing throughout, but she is also self-absorbed. She is so fascinated and fixated on trying to palpate the contours of her own grief that the subject gets lost. Who is Harris? Ultimately, this so-called elegy is more about the author than the subject. Manguso is an intriguing, talented writer, but this book is missing something vital. It has the weight of the author’s loss without the weight of her experience.

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THE REAL ELIZABETH An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II

TITANIC TRAGEDY A New Look at the Lost Liner

Marr, Andrew Henry Holt (416 pp.) $32.00 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-8050-9416-9

Maxtone-Graham, John Norton (256 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 19, 2012 978-0-393-08240-1

A title that sets an impossible standard, with predictable results. The problem for any writer setting out to produce an intimate biography of Queen Elizabeth II is that the people who might supply the necessary anecdotes will never do so. The British monarch is on public view so much that an impenetrable institutional wall protects what remains of her private life, leaving the would-be biographer little to work with but carefully orchestrated public appearances and statements and rank speculation. Journalist Marr (The Making of Modern Britain, 2010, etc.) could not overcome these obstacles, which is just as well. Rather than serve up more warmed-over family soap opera, the author provides a comprehensive and lively history and analysis of the British monarchy as a political and social institution from the World War I to the present, more than half of which time has been taken up by Elizabeth’s reign. During this period the monarchy has had to adapt to Britain’s transition from ruler of a vast empire to head of the Commonwealth of Nations, and to the nation’s steady decline in global influence. Elizabeth has also had to guide the change in the social role of the royal family from the starchy and unrealistic model of conventional middleclass family values promoted at the time of her accession to one more accepting of human failings in the wake of her children’s divorces. Marr describes in thorough detail Elizabeth’s diligent exercise of her constitutional duties as sovereign through the crises of almost six decades, including her relationships with more than a dozen prime ministers. He also ably discusses her activities as head of state, her efforts to cope with her children’s marital problems and controversies surrounding the royal finances in the context of the ongoing debate about the sovereign’s proper role in a modern democratic society. A perceptive history of the British monarchy under the management of the current Queen—just not the “intimate” one promised by the title. (Two 8-page black-and-white inserts; one 8-page color insert)

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One of the deans of maritime history returns with some sidebars to enlarge the hefty history of the Titanic. One of the most appealing features of Maxtone-Graham’s (Normandie: France’s Legendary Art Deco Ocean Liner, 2007, etc.) approach is his generous gratitude and affection for his mentor, Walter Lord (1917– 2002), whose A Night to Remember (1955) was a bestseller that ignited one of the first firestorms of interest in the disaster. The author looks closely at a number of aspects of the case, beginning with the developments of Morse code and the Marconi wireless, techniques and inventions that lowered the loss of life that night. He also examines the design and construction and departure of the ship and talks of recent visits to the sites, where, he notes sadly, “there is less and less to preserve.” He recalls the near-collision at departure with the nearby New York; a passenger filmed the episode, but the footage sank with the ship. MaxtoneGraham also writes about the chaos and human tragedy associated with the loading and lowering of the too-few lifeboats, and adds some grimly humorous details about how people managed without chamber pots. He revisits the case of the nearby Californian, which sat still and did not respond; he takes us aboard the crowded Carpathia, the ship that rescued the hundreds of survivors. The author also reminds us of the musicians who played— and died—that night and is saddened by the vandalism that has damaged a number of Titanic memorials. Small details enriched with deep emotion and dramatic irony.

THE ROGUE Searching for the Real Sarah Palin

McGinniss, Joe Crown (320 pp.) $25.00 | Sep. 20, 2011 978-0-307-71892-1

A bestselling author returns from “Palinland” with colorful stories, none flattering, about its most famous resident. In 2010, to research this book, McGinniss (Never Enough, 2007, etc.) traveled to Alaska and moved in next door to the Palins on Lake Lucille in Wasilla. From this provocative perch he conducted a five-month search for the “real” Sarah Palin, collecting, it seems, every bit of gossip, rumor and innuendo that would expose “this clown in high heels.” No connection to scandal is too tenuous (the Palins were family friends of a soldier who pled guilty

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“Not just a remarkable memoir of McWilliam’s battle with the onset of blindness, but also a blissful celebration of the poetry of her prose.” from what to look for in winter

to the murder of three Afghan civilians), no offense too slight (Sarah once condescended to a physical therapist supporter who offered advice on health care), no flaw too minute (the ghostwriter for Going Rogue misquoted basketball coach John Wooden) for inclusion here. “God’s chosen candidate” is foulmouthed at home and publicly vitriolic. McGinniss’ sources supply any number of anecdotes to fill in the portrait of Alaska’s youngest and only female governor as paranoid, vindictive, lazy, obsessive, incurious, intolerant and unlettered. Baffled by simple words like “notwithstanding” and “benign,” uninterested in the intricacies of policy and devoted far more to celebrity than service, Palin, as office-holder or candidate, has left a “trail of blood in her wake.” We learn that her marriage is a fraud and that the “self-proclaimed mama grizzly” can barely be bothered to care for her children, finding them useful only as political props. The kids are out of control, and one of them (the Down syndrome afflicted Trig) may not even be her own. In Going to Extremes (1980), McGinniss wrote wonderfully about Alaska. Here he goes to such extremes, employing a sledgehammer where a scalpel will do, that even confirmed

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Palin-haters or the two or three Americans who’ve yet to make up their minds about her will cry, “Hold, enough!” Absolutely no dirt goes unstirred.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WINTER A Memoir in Blindness

McWilliam, Candia Harper/HarperCollins (464 pp.) $26.99 | Mar. 20, 2012 978-0-06-209450-6

Not just a remarkable memoir of McWilliam’s (Wait Till I Tell You, 1997, etc.) battle with the onset of blindness, but also a blissful celebration of the poetry of her prose. Strange little asides, digressions and complete interruptions mark this work. Some readers may shake their heads in confusion, but they will surely forgive as the stream of the author’s

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consciousness carries them along. She explains her functional blindness simply and matter-of-factly because, as a good Scot, speaking of dramatic personal matters is not acceptable. A masterful wordmonger, McWilliam consistently delivers the perfect word or phrase to express each thought. When she lost her sight, she was forced to adapt to audio books, but she never lost her love of the physical book. In addition to the loveliness of the prose, the author’s life story is just good reading: her childhood in Edinburgh, happy days spent on the Scottish Isle of Colonsay, the years she ignored her writing talents and how she dealt with her blindness. She drops names in the British way of assuming readers know exactly whom she is talking about, and she includes so many of England’s greats, who stimulated, encouraged and prodded her along the way. There is a slight hiccup in the middle of the book as McWilliam descends into cathartic confession, but it’s easily skimmed through and worth the wade. Her alcoholism and guilt are nothing new, but readers will cherish the author’s infectious bibliophilic delight. “I want to attest to the goodness of life and I want to share something,” she writes in closing. “If it isn’t a life—well, then, let it be a sentence.” Anyone who enjoys a play of words and appreciates the turn of a phrase in a beautifully constructed sentence will value this book for years to come.

PARANORMAL My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife

Moody, Raymond and Perry, Paul HarperOne (256 pp.) $25.99 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-06-204642-0 A lucid, engrossing memoir from a psychologist and philosopher dedicated to the afterlife. If Moody’s (The Last Laugh, 1999, etc.) career capstone arrived with the lionizing 1975 publication of his landmark report Life after Life, his memoir, co-authored by Perry (coauthor: Evidence of the Afterlife, 2010, etc.), an acclaimed author on the subject, affords his life’s work even more dramatic heft. Moody’s passion for the spiritual world can be traced to an early childhood in World War II–era Georgia raised by an abusively crass father and a depressed mother. He recalls at age 4 establishing theories about death and concepts of postmortem “soul survival.” Moody writes ardently of an interest in astronomy throughout adolescence, undeterred by a skeptical father and crippling myxedema, a thyroid deficiency. As a philosophy scholar, he became “hooked on death” and intensely explored spiritual phenomena, out-of-body sensations, near-death events and theories of mind-body coexistence. Plumbing an interest in “facilitated visions” via hypnotic past-life regression therapy, Moody details his nine former lives, including that of a threadbare wooly mammoth hunter, a drowning boat builder and a murdered female Chinese artist. He coined the term “near-death experience” as his first book soared in popularity; on the lecture circuit, he befriended fellow afterlife pioneer 2306

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Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Then his illness resurfaced, causing a suicide attempt and a stint at a psychiatric facility after his experimentations with spirit communication and crystallomancy were discovered by his closed-minded father. Now in his mid-60s, Moody continues his revolutionary research. The supernatural undertones saturating the narrative are dwarfed by an overwhelming sense that this eccentric visionary just might be on to something. The fascinating life story of an impassioned mystical maverick.

HITLERLAND American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power Nagorski, Andrew Simon & Schuster (400 pp.) $28.00 | Mar. 13, 2012 978-1-4391-9100-2

A contextually rich look at the buildup of Nazi power, revealing the feebleness of Americans’ assessment of the future danger. In these seemingly casual impressions recorded in newspapers, letters, magazines, diaries and diplomatic reports, many Americans rooted in interwar Germany failed to see the menace in the increasingly inflammatory Nazi rhetoric, as Nagorski (The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow that Changed the Course of World War II, 2007, etc.) depicts in this well-marshaled study. Or if they did—e.g., Chicago Daily News correspondent Edgar Mowrer or Foreign Affairs editor Hamilton Fish Armstrong, who interviewed Hitler on Apr. 27, 1933, and recorded, “So completely has the Republic been wiped out”—they were not believed. On one hand, most well-clad Western observers were approving of the German sense of method and order; on the other, the Americans were appalled by the enormous discrepancy in wealth between rich and poor and the Weimar Republic’s reputation for sexual licentiousness, especially homosexuality. Nagorski looks at the first wave of fawning observers, if not admirers, of the brash young agitator who engineered the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, including U.S. Envoy Alanson B. Houghton, an industrialist who threw grand parties and blamed America for Germany’s economic woes, and Karl Henry von Wiegland, reporter for Hearst, who described Hitler as a “man of the people.” Some of the more shameless hangers-on included Ernst Hanfstaengl, a halfAmerican, Harvard-educated aristocrat who became enamored of Hitler and served as his publicist; Charles Lindbergh, who shared aircraft secrets and a ringside box at the 1936 Berlin Olympics; and young Martha Dodd, good-time daughter of the American ambassador in Berlin. Few spoke out against Hitler’s virulently anti-Semitic message, and many sheepishly covered over their early lapses in later memoirs. An engrossing study of the times made more fascinating and incredible in retrospect. (8-page black-and-white insert)

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“A gripping and almost certainly definitive account of the all-too-short life of a great artist who believed he was doomed to oblivion.” from van gogh

VAN GOGH The Life

Naifeh, Steven & Smith, Gregory White Random House (976 pp.) $40.00 | Oct. 18, 2011 978-0-375-50748-9 978-1-58836-047-2 e-book A gripping and almost certainly definitive account of the all-too-short life of a great artist who believed he was

doomed to oblivion. Indeed, few who knew Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) thought he would amount to anything. Fired by religious mania, mental illness and a love-hate relationship with his domineering pastor father, he was a difficult child who became a socially awkward adult. After blowing through a series of failed careers—art dealer, preacher (repeatedly), tutor, bookkeeper—he was well into his 20s before he became an artist. “This painting of yours will be like all the other things you started, it will come to nothing,” said one former employer. But for van Gogh, art, not religion, was the transcendence he had been looking for all along, offering “an imagery of reconciliation with which he could re-imagine his own life of failure and remorse.” His new calling proved every bit as monkish and self-mortifying as his old one, pushing him to create but failing to reward him, forcing him to rely on money from his beloved brother Theo. A desperate and haunted figure, he faced demons both outer (personal and professional rejection) and inner (paranoia, self-hatred, self-mutilation and a lifelong yearning for death). Van Gogh’s life has long been the stuff of tortured-artist drama, but it is hard to imagine it has ever been told better than by Pulitzer winners Naifeh and Smith (Jackson Pollack, 1991, etc.). Their van Gogh is tender, caddish, selfish and sympathetic. The authors occasionally get defensive about their subject, but they offer a credibly argued theory that suggests he died from an accidental shooting, not suicide. Despite its exhaustive length, the book is brilliantly written and engaging, presenting a three-dimensional and larger-than-life portrait of the artist. (127 illustrations; two 16-page color photo inserts)

THE LADY IN GOLD The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer O’Connor, Anne-Marie Knopf (400 pp.) $32.50 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-307-26564-7

The lusciously detailed story of Gustav Klimt’s most famous painting, detailing the relationship between the artist, the subject, their heirs and those who coveted the masterpiece. |

Family letters, which remarkably survived the war, support the biography of Klimt and Bloch-Bauer, and the Nazi regime’s precise records contribute to their story as they gathered up all of Europe’s art collections. Washington Post writer O’Connor then deals with their heirs’ fight with Austria to restore their property. Klimt was born a catholic in 1862 in Vienna, a city in which the Hapsburgs courted highly successful Jews to finance their railroads. Those Jews easily intermarried with the established families of the empire. Even though 10 percent of Vienna was Jewish, only a very few were sufficiently wealthy to be considered part of the “second society” of freshly minted aristocrats and industrialists. The poorer Jews continued as victims especially as Vienna became the birthplace of anti-Semitism as a main political force. Klimt and his brother, Ernst, were sons of a gold engraver who established themselves early in life as painters of frescoes and architectural decorations. Ernst’s premature death caused Gustav to turn away from their success and devote himself to art. Klimt and his friends closely followed the trials of the French Impressionists and imitated their rejection of the established art world with their own “Secession,” exhibiting their “art of the soul.” From the time it was painted, the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer caused a sensation, and Klimt and BlochBauer delighted in it. O’Connor’s thorough research comes fully into the light in the second part of the book as she traces the “ownership” of this painting and the inestimable number of artworks that were absorbed as Hitler planned his museum in Linz. Finally, the tenacity with which descendants of those robbed by the Nazis is exemplified by the work of Randol Schoenberg, who tirelessly strove to assure the return of the Lady in Gold. Art-history fans will love the deep details of the painting, and history buffs will revel in the facts O’Connor includes as she exposes a deeper picture of World War II. (54 photographs)

KILLING THE MESSENGER A Story of Radical Faith, Racism’s Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist Peele, Thomas Crown (464 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-307-71755-9

A tale of the rise of a Black Muslim leader, the death of a newspaper editor and the history of the Black Muslim Movement. In his debut, investigative journalist Peele attempts to trace the winding roots of the Black Muslim Movement. Beginning with Nation of Islam founder W.D. Fard, the author moves quickly to the better known Elijah Muhammad before eventually settling on his primary focus, Yusuf Ali Bey, a former barber and Nation of Islam member who recognized the financial benefits that came from his rising power. In the early 1970s, Bey formed a splinter group from the Nation of Islam, solidifying his base in an Oakland bakery while profiting from both his business and his

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followers. Yet Bey’s radical teachings against the so-called “white devil” seemed at odds with his business practices, in which he regularly sold his products to whites. “Bey was hungry for wealth, and if he got it by selling to the devil, so what?” writes Peele. “In that sense the only color that mattered to him was that of money.” For Bey, greed quickly overshadowed orthodoxy, though money wasn’t all he was after. The smooth-talking leader also demanded his female followers “submit themselves completely to him,” a teaching that allowed him to rape and molest dozens. After Bey’s death, his son, Yusuf Ali Bey IV—better known as “Fourth”— eventually took control, ruling with his father’s violent tactics. After newspaper editor Chauncey Bailey reported on Fourth and his followers, Fourth put a hit out on the journalist’s life. In August of 2007, Bailey became a casualty of his story, dying at the hands of a Black Muslim assassin. A complex, carefully constructed story of the development of the Black Muslim Movement and one of its most notorious leaders.

HOW I GOT THIS WAY

Philbin, Regis It Books/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $25.99 | Nov. 15, 2011 978-0-06-210975-0 TV talk-show legend Philbin reminisces about some of the important people who have impacted his impressive 50-year run. “Rege” is not the most insightful author. Palling around with Jack Nicholson was a hoot; meeting Joe DiMaggio was a thrill; dining at home with George Clooney was a delight; etc. A few dozen strong personalities comprise the author’s pantheon of friends and heroes, but none of them, including wife and frequent TV co-host Joy, receive anything other than superficial attention. For example, Philbin’s description of his life partner: “Great face. Great figure. Wonderful personality. Charming conversationalist. All the things you want in a woman.” Chapters devoted to other potentially fascinating personalities—e.g., George Steinbrenner, Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Spielberg—run just a scant few pages, and each chapter ends with a few painfully obvious observations about “What I Took Away From It All.” Philbin, whose broadcasting career started in the late ’50s and continues today despite his recent departure from his daily morning show with Kelly Ripa, got to know hundreds of interesting people during his unparalleled tenure in TV. He apparently just didn’t know any of them that well. And perhaps that has been the secret to his enduring success. He doesn’t probe. He doesn’t pry. He’s the guy you can continually goof on and still get away with it. Others have come and gone, but the breezy Philbin is still here. What you see on TV is what you get in this book. Fans will love it; others won’t have much to contemplate.

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BELOW STAIRS The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir that Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey Powell, Margaret St. Martin’s (192 pp.) $22.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-250-00544-1

What the kitchen maid saw. Powell’s account of her time “in service”—employed as a servant in several stately English homes in 1920s England—is a key inspiration for such entertainments as the TV series Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey, programs that relish in the dynamic between the lordly masters of the house and the earthier workers who toil down below. The author’s voice is instantly compelling, salty and unsentimental about the many difficulties and small satisfactions she encountered as an impoverished young girl and woman struggling to make her way. Sex is much on Powell’s mind, both as a source of wry amusement and a mercenary desire to marry and escape a life of domestic drudgery, and her plainspoken bluntness on the topic is bracing. She is also amusing on the eccentricities of various employers and colleagues, the rigors of working to unreasonable standards and the social structures and mores of both the servant classes and their putative betters. But it’s Powell’s nascent social conscience—an evolving rage at the inequities and institutional humiliation inherent in the English class system—that makes the strongest impression and elevates the memoir from a quaint look back to an affecting portrait of a vital, intelligent young woman struggling to assert herself against a system that would prefer she keep her head down and her mouth shut. It’s to her credit and the reader’s good fortune that she did neither. An irresistible inside account of life “in service” and a fascinating document of a vanished—if fetishistically longed-for—time and place.

ALL BUSINESS IS LOCAL Why Place Matters More than Ever In a Global, Virtual World

Quelch, John A. & Jocz, Katherine E. Portfolio (224 pp.) $25.95 | Feb. 2, 2012 978-1-59184-465-5 A marketing instruction manual for small-business owners. Quelch, a former Harvard Business School professor who now serves as dean of a business school in China, teams with Jocz, a current HBS research associate, to offer advice on marketing any product to any group of consumers. Satisfying paying customers who desire a local, meaningful connection with a product but also operate in a world of globalization could constitute a conundrum. Quelch and Jocz (co-authors:

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“Articulate and learned descriptions and defenses of the author’s Christian faith.” from when i was a child i read books

Greater Good: How Good Marketing Makes for Better Democracy, 2008) seek to transform this problem into an opportunity for greater profit. They open with the example of Real Madrid, the successful soccer club in Spain. Naturally, Spanish soccer fans feel a special kinship with the team; the authors understand that kinship, which includes an ownership interest by thousands of Spaniards, has been vital to the club’s many successes. But why stop there, the authors ask, when opportunities to market highgrade soccer play exist in dozens of other soccer-crazy nations. They explain how Real Madrid’s website, bolstered by social media, reaches out to soccer fans with spendable income in other nations across the world. Such a local/global mix can be exploited by almost any capitalist enterprise, but only with careful market research followed by actual marketing that offers something for just about everybody. The authors explain how to manage psychological place, physical place, virtual place and geographic place to build revenue flow. Because the intended audience is decisionmakers inside business enterprises, other readers may need to dig through some jargon, as well as a hefty dose of repetition. A clearly presented, mostly successful marketing text.

THE BEHAVIOR GAP Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money Richards, Carl Portfolio (240 pp.) $24.95 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-59184-464-8

Financial advisor and New York Times blogger Richards discusses “how to cope with fear and stay grounded when mak-

ing financial choices.” In an era of austerity and lowered monetary expectations, the author provides smart, simple methods for taking charge of your personal finances. He begins with the premise that “financial decisions aren’t about getting rich”—they are “about getting what you want—getting happy.” The one element investors must learn to understand and control to maximize personal contentment/financial security is their own investing behavior. Richards coins the term “behavior gap” to describe “the gap between investor returns and investment returns,” a phenomenon that occurs when individuals make decisions that work against their best financial interests—in fact, he writes, “all investment mistakes are really investor mistakes.” Investing is based in choice, and people need to accept responsibility for their actions instead of blaming external factors like a fickle market or troubled economy. The path to success requires managing emotional responses to recessionary downturns, which play on investor fear, and prosperous upturns, which play on investor greed. This allows for a more balanced approach to managing financial portfolios. Richards’ straight-shooting observations about cultivating fiscal self-discipline and awareness, embracing uncertainty and accepting personal fallibility seem like statements of the obvious. However, the obvious |

is often overlooked during turbulent economic times, which makes Richards’ book is a must for small investors serious about gaining control of their financial lives. A solid, sensible guide for finding and maintaining financial stability in an unstable world.

WHEN I WAS A CHILD I READ BOOKS Essays

Robinson, Marilynne Farrar, Straus and Giroux (220 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 20, 2012 978-0-374-29878-4 The Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist returns with a collection of essays that are variously literary, political and religious. Robinson (Iowa Writers’ Workshop; Home, 2008, etc.) begins with some quotations from Whitman about democracy, then blasts the contentious, mean-spirited political climate. Although she discusses writers, her reading and her life, one subject colors her pages with passion: religion. Although she establishes early (and often) her political liberalism, she is an unashamed Christian, an intellectual who proudly asserts her credentials of faith and defends her beliefs against both the crudities of contemporary culture and the assaults of the popular atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens et al.). Although she tries hard to keep a balanced view (she admits the cruelties of Christians over the centuries; she acknowledges the claims of other faiths and the truths of science), she returns again and again to her belief in the wisdom of the scriptures—and defends most thoroughly the Old Testament and its God. She argues that the Old Testament has had a bad rap lately, with critics of all sorts alluding to its vengeful, sanguinary deity. So Robinson offers a counterbalance, pointing to Mosaic laws that show compassion for the impoverished and the otherwise weak; she quotes chapter and verse to support her view—though she surely realizes (better than most writers) that one may also visit Leviticus and find verses that present a much harsher picture. Robinson is a splendid writer, no question—erudite, often wise and slyly humorous (there is a clever allusion to the birther nonsense in a passage about Noah Webster). Articulate and learned descriptions and defenses of the author’s Christian faith.

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THE LEADERLESS REVOLUTION How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics In the 21st Century

FOUR FEET TALL AND RISING A Memoir

Rossi, Shorty with Hodges, S.J. Crown Archetype (288 pp.) $25.00 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-307-98588-0 978-0-307-98589-7 e-book

Ross, Carne Blue Rider Press (256 pp.) $22.95 | Jan. 19, 2012 978-0-399-15872-8

A personal assessment of the transforming power of consultative democracy in the coming century. Political advisor Ross (Independent Diplomat: Dispatches from an Unaccountable Elite, 2007, etc.) looks back at his disaffection with the British diplomatic service and resignation in the wake of the exposure, and subsequent suicide, of the government’s top weapons-inspection scientist David Kelly. He had been intimately involved with Iraq sanctions and the buildup to war, as well as many other conflict situations, and he portrays the violence resulting from official “group think” with the Milgram experiment’s proof of people’s unquestioning potential for cruelty. The author provides many fascinating personal insights into the crises not only in Iraq, but also Afghanistan, Kosovo, Mauretania and Sudan. While many will be drawn to this aspect of his account, Ross’ concern is not the past but the lessons to be applied now. In his view, the nation-state basis for the international diplomatic order has been undermined by the increasing power of particular interests acting through global institutions. Writing that society requires “authority in order to enjoy peace and stability,” Ross questions authority itself by pointing to some of the worst outrages in human history—e.g., Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union. In democracies as well, he writes, “the very rules and institutions established to protect us in fact do the opposite,” mainly because people tend to abdicate responsibility when they empower elected representatives to act on their behalf. Ross is an advocate for deliberative democracy— typified by Gandhi’s nonviolent movement against the British in the 1920s and ‘30s—which he distinguishes from terrorism, anarchism and representative government. Intriguing but not entirely convincing. Stay tuned to see if the author’s contentions play out in the next decade or so.

A salty, pugnacious memoir of a Little Person, his gangland background, his love of pit bulls and his road back from

self-destruction. Rossi is known to many as a brash-talking TV personality whose mission is to rehabilitate the pit bulls’ woeful image. “The dogs were not designed to kill,” he writes. “They had no special “enzyme” that made them fight. It’s only humans that consciously make the decision to kill. All dogs are capable of violence if they’ve been trained by shitty owners to be nasty, protective, fighting machines.” Rossi has seen the same thing happen with another species—his own. He barely survived his youth at the hands of a violently abusive father, fleeing to his friend’s house in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, where by dint of association he became a member of the Bloods gang. He lived on the edge, always ready for something bad to happen: “I learned to protect myself. I carried guns.” This path would earn him 11 years in prison, where he was the only white man housed in a black unit, preferring Blood relations to life with the Aryan Brotherhood. His prison diary is told with a surprising degree of insight, but this is a story of redemption. Eventually Rossi managed to wire his act together, starting a Little People talent agency, working hard as an actor and dance man and working tirelessly to resuscitate the pit bull and bull terrier image. “That’s the most important thing,” he writes. “To give something back, no matter what it is…To actually be considered a success, you gotta give a shit.” Now he has caught a little break, a moment of fame, and he’s using it for the dogs and the Little People. A candid, charged slice of personal history.

WE GOT HIM! A Memoir of the Hunt and Capture of Saddam Hussein

Russell, Steve Threshold Editions/ Simon & Schuster (480 pp.) $26.99 | Dec. 6, 2011 978-1-4516-6248-1

The story of Saddam Hussein’s capture. The events in December 2003 produced headlines and predictions that they would end the increasingly bloody insurgency. This didn’t happen, and the event is now considered a historical footnote. However, it was not a footnote in the career of former Lt. Col. Russell, who provides an account of his battalion’s actions from May 2003 to 2310

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February 2004, with frequent asides to express personal beliefs. According to Russell, after Hussein’s defeat he went underground to orchestrate a bitter insurgency designed to wear down American forces. It was moving into high gear when Russell assumed command in Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit. The author is clearly a professional soldier focused on crushing the enemy, and he writes a nearly day-by-day chronicle of patrols, raids, skirmishes and intelligence gathering as his men fought insurgents while tracking and capturing Hussein’s high-level henchmen and eventually the dictator himself. Sadly, according to the author, al-Qaeda immediately stepped in to take over the insurgency, which persisted for many years. Russell credits prayer with facilitating the capture. A dedicated officer, he loves his men, agonizes when they suffer, praises God when they’re spared, never doubts that they fought to defend America, and does not hide his contempt for those who felt otherwise: liberals, the media, antiwar demonstrators and spineless politicians as well as any officer who has not experienced battle. Readers not put off by the author’s piety and unqualified patriotism will encounter a vivid, nuts-and-bolts account of small-unit tactics during the early years of the Iraq insurgency.

CONNECTOME How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are

Seung, Sebastian Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (384 pp.) $27.00 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-547-50818-4 The key to understanding how brains work, writes Seung (Computational Neuroscience/MIT), is in the wiring. The author champions the study of “connectomes,” the unique wiring diagrams of individual brains. However, we are barely at the connectome threshold. Indeed, if nothing else, Seung’s text is a convincing sales pitch for more funding. The goal would be to map all the synapses that all the neurons in the brain make with other neurons near or far. With such data we should be able to trace what memories look like; we could see how inputs from lower-order neurons feed into a single neuron that enables you to, say, recognize a celebrity. Comparing connectomes from normal vs. disordered brains might reveal faulty wiring that could explain schizophrenia or autism. These and other long-sought explanations of mental faculties are what “connectomics” promises. Moreover, we could see how experience changes the brain, through the “four R’s—reweighting, reconnection, rewiring, and regeneration.” Seung ably reviews the history of brain mapping, from the 19thcentury phrenologists to the pioneers who associated regional brain damage with the loss of specific functions. There are newer technologies in electron and light microscopy that can slice the brain and capture serial neuronal images, and scientists are at work mapping the brains of roundworms and mice. But even if technology comes to the rescue, would it suffice? Seung |

ignores the role of the abundant glial cells, once thought of as supporting cells but which interact and affect neuronal behavior. The author’s final chapters on those seeking immortality by postmortem brain freezing or uploading their brains to a computer seem like sci-fi padding to the text. Expect to hear more about connectomics as the field develops. Meanwhile, enjoy Seung’s book as a solid primer on brain physiology and the history of brain mapping. (66 illustrations)

GOD’S HOTEL A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine Sweet, Victoria Riverhead (384 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 26, 2012 978-1-59448-843-6

A doctor’s experiences in a unique corner of the medical world. At Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, the doctors and nurses provide long-term care for the sick poor; the working and living environments are unlike that of any other hospital in the country. Physician Sweet accepted a job at Laguna Honda because they were willing to offer her a part-time position (extremely rare at the time), and she was interested in continuing to practice medicine while simultaneously pursuing a doctorate in the history of medicine. The author had come to realize that modern medicine did not mesh with her idea of being a physician, and she sought answers in the teachings of Hildegard of Bingen, a German nun who practiced medicine in the Middle Ages and who had, miraculously, penned a medical textbook. Laguna Honda turned out to be the perfect place to put many of Hildegard’s ancient theories into practice. What was originally supposed to be a months-long stopover turned into a career spanning more than 20 years and countless life-altering realizations about the nature of medicine. Sweet writes of Laguna Honda with unguarded affection, but she doesn’t gloss over the negative phases. She is remarkably honest about the darker side of her experiences at the hospital: the patients who couldn’t be saved, patients whose bad behavior was openly tolerated (smoking, drinking, gambling, etc.), the political infighting among the staff and bad managerial decisions. In the dozen or so patient success stories, Sweet’s warm, anecdotal style shines brightest. The author’s compelling argument for Laguna Honda’s philosophy of “slow medicine” will make readers contemplate if perhaps the body should be viewed more as a garden to be tended rather than a machine to be fixed.

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“Tunstall is at times flatly earnest, even sappy, but never at the expense of conveying what is truly inspiring about her subject.” from changing lives

CHANGING LIVES Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music

NEED, SPEED, AND GREED How the New Rules of Innovation Can Transform Businesses, Propel Nations to Greatness, and Tame the World’s Most Wicked Problems

Tunstall, Tricia Norton (320 pp.) $26.95 | Jan. 30, 2012 978-0-393-07896-1

The story of “El Sistema, an extraordinary program for children and youth in Venezuela, where music education and social reform have been fused on a national scale with astonishing results.” Music educator Tunstall (Note by Note: A Celebration of the Piano Lesson, 2008) traveled to South America, California and elsewhere to explore the El Sistema’s global groundswell. Founded in 1975 by pianist José Antonio Abreu, the movement, which currently serves nearly 300,000 underprivileged children throughout Venezuela alone, seeks to develop civic engagement and social responsibility by engaging youth with the rigors of the musical discipline and the interpersonal dynamics of playing in an instrumental ensemble. El Sistema has been profoundly successful, earning massive government support in Venezuela and spawning dozens of offshoots throughout the world, including the United States. Having produced arguably the most celebrated conductor today, 30-year-old Gustavo Dudamel, the program has become the most symbolic example of the social relevance that classical music can have in today’s cultural landscape. Tunstall soundly probes how it is that classical music has played such a powerful role in the protection, education and elevation of so many children born into poverty. The author does a noble job tracing the history of El Sistema, while managing to keep the narrative as much in the immediate present as possible. Occasionally, Tunstall’s otherwise enjoyable and sincere narrative becomes infected with the hyperbole endemic to classical music culture. Transformation, intellectual awe and spiritual uplift are notions that have always coded classical music with elitism while masking its deep anxiety over its own relevancy. Yet the author does readers a service by drawing attention to the group energy, individual artistry and organizational power that the social structures of classical music require. Tunstall is at times flatly earnest, even sappy, but never at the expense of conveying what is truly inspiring about her subject. (16 pages of illustrations)

Vaitheeswaran, Vijay V. Harper Business (304 pp.) $27.99 | Mar. 13, 2012 978-0-06-207599-4

A correspondent for the Economist offers an insightful assessment of the changing global economy, complete with recommendations for how companies can thrive in a perpetually disruptive environment. Today’s dizzying pace of innovation, and the attendant economic upheaval, represents both a challenge and an opportunity for businesses and consumers alike. Vaitheeswaran (ZOOM: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future, 2007, etc.) tries to make sense of the chaos by focusing on the need for an uptick in the pace of innovation, the frighteningly exhilarating speed at which it’s happening and the transformative power of selfinterest—that is, how greed has the potential to benevolently speed the coming of the postindustrial age. His examples of the problems created by globalization—which range from the threat of rapidly spreading “super bugs” to supply-chain disruptions created by natural disasters—are powerful, as is his case for how savvy decision makers can leverage new technology and means of communication to tap into innovative ideas in every corner of the globe. Examples of the latter include behemoth “dinosaurs” like Proctor & Gamble opening up their research and design function to encourage contributions from outside sources and medical device makers in China finding ways to produce portable, economical versions of previously astronomically priced testing equipment. Only a few fanciful tangents, including a discourse on “the Singularity”—the point at which machines will surpass humans in intelligence—and the author’s well-intentioned but occasionally cumbersome attempts to provide a fully balanced account of the positives and negatives of technological progress mar this otherwise exemplary narrative. The perfect primer for the postindustrial age.

BLACK COOL One Thousand Streams of Blackness

Walker, Rebecca--Ed. Soft Skull Press (160 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-59376-417-3 A collection of essays focused on the “cool” cultural legacy of African-Americans. In her latest work, writer/editor Rebecca Walker (Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence, 2007, etc.) assembles the 2312

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writings of 16 prominent thinkers in an attempt to define “Black Cool,” a phrase utilized to encompass African-American’s selfconfidence and swagger. Staceyann Chin’s “Authenticity” recounts her coming-of-age in Jamaica, during which she stumbled upon the healing powers of cool. “My newfound swagger sustained me through the rest of my teens,” she writes. “It nurtured an unyielding sense of self that served me well when I moved from Montego Bay to attend college in Kingston.” In “Geek,” Mat Johnson defines black cool by describing how it feels to lack it. A self-tagged “black geek”), he admits that “[b]lackness can be a rigid, didactic identity, with people stepping out of line facing ridicule and admonishment or worse: condemnation.” Yet Hank Willis Thomas argues that black cool needn’t be naturally possessed; it’s simply a commodity for purchase: “A crisp, clean pair of brand spanking new Air Jordan sneakers was a supreme status symbol for anyone who wanted to be cool and ‘down with the streets.’ “ Thomas takes the intangible concept of black cool and quite skillfully grounds it between a pair of Nike swooshes.” While the aforementioned essays employ personal anecdotes to spur thoughtful debate, a few of the pieces feel tonally at-odds with the rest. This is particularly true of Michaela Angela Davis’ contribution, which reads more like a fiery manifesto in which she makes clear that non-blacks can never possess “our cool ass Black style.” It’s an interesting concept, but the author’s informality and defensive tone proves less successful than the collection’s subtler pieces. Other contributors include Margo Jefferson, Veronica Chambers, Dawoud Bey and the ubiquitous Henry Louis Gates Jr., who provides the foreword. An occasionally unbalanced yet probing collection grappling with the true meaning of “Black Cool.”

THE ICE BALLOON S.A. Andrée and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration

Wilkinson, Alec Knopf (272 pp.) $25.95 | Jan. 24, 2012 978-0-307-59480-8

A tidy, methodical look into some of the perilous expeditions to the Arctic, especially S.A. Andrée’s ill-fated hydrogen-balloon expedition of 1897. New Yorker writer Wilkinson (The Protest Singer, 2009, etc.) fixes on the explorers who set out with megalomaniacal intent in search of a Northwest Passage through the pitiless frigid northern regions, such as Henry Hudson, Sir John Franklin, Fridtjof Nansen and Adolphus Greely. When Swedish patent officer and engineer Andrée first proposed his plan to reach the North Pole by hydrogen balloon, the legendary American explorer Greely denounced the proposal as not viable. In fact, Andrée believed the Arctic ideal for aircraft travel, rather than sledge, which only ran into icy impediments. He proposed taking only two other men up in the balloon, steered by guide ropes and sails and bearing many innovations, and underwritten by Alfred Nobel and the king. Liftoff from Dane’s Island had to be postponed a year |

because of unfavorable winds, but the balloon finally took off July 11, 1897, intending to reach the North Pole in three days. Once it vanished from sight, however, it took 33 years to learn more or less what happened to the men; the discovery in 1930 of their remains and diaries reveals that they did not reach the pole, but wrecked on land and died of exhaustion and cold as the winter set in. Wilkinson, ever elegant and thorough, fleshes out his account by delineating the previous expeditions of Greely and Nansen in order to get at the motivations in the minds of this “parade of fanatics heading for the deep places.” Beautifully focused and composed. (17 illustrations; 2 maps)

THE HUMAN RIGHT TO HEALTH

Wolff, Jonathan Norton (180 pp.) $23.95 | Feb. 20, 2012 978-0-393-06335-6

Guardian columnist Wolff (Philosophy/University College London; Ethics and Public Policy, 2011 etc.) poses a challenging but essential question: “How can there be a human right to health if the resources are just not there to satisfy it?” Before addressing the current global health crisis, the author looks back at Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 speech in which he asserted that the “four freedoms”—freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from fear and want—are basic human rights. In 1945, the first UN Charter included provisions for human rights, in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed and during the same period the World Health Organization came into existence. The protection of human rights became international law in 1976. This is the context for the definition of “right to health” as a human right protected under international law, although its implications are still under debate. Does it include free access to condoms and abortion, or the right of developing nations to produce affordable pharmaceuticals in violation of patents? Wolff uses the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a case study—from its discovery in 1981 to the fight over funding to support research and guarantee that sufferers have access to treatment. He writes about how international efforts to deal with the spread of AIDS to Haiti and Africa were derailed by a “catastrophic” change in World Bank policies in the 1980s, when the Bank, and the IMF, insisted that developing countries seeking aid cut back public-sector expenditures. Just as these constraints were being reversed, the World Trade Organization demanded that members cease violating patents by producing low-cost generic pharmaceuticals. While the author describes the struggle to establish the right to universal health as a work in progress, he is cautiously optimistic. A broad-ranging, insightful analysis of the complex practical and ethical issues involved in global health.

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“A nuanced, comprehensive portrait of unique man and the surrounding period, culture and political system.” from island of vice

UNHOOKED How to Quit Anything

Woolverton, Frederick & Shapiro, Susan Skyhorse Publishing (240 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-61608-418-9 A self-help therapy book aimed at stopping addictive behavior. When people think of addictions, the first things that come to mind are smoking, alcohol and drugs. But according to therapist Woolverton and New School and NYU instructor Shapiro (Speed Shrinking, 2009, etc.), anything can become an addiction if it interferes with a person living an emotionally rich, full life. The authors identify an addiction as “something that provides an escape, takes you out of yourself and your dayto-day life, and allows you to get further away from the painful feelings and emotions we would all prefer to avoid.” Using examples from his practice, Woolverton explores the multitude of habits that can easily slide into addictions—e.g., gambling, pornography, exercise and food (Woolverton discusses his own addictive behavior toward ice cream). By working through a series of tests and checklists, readers can characterize their own behaviors and determine if they are becoming addicts. The authors offer numerous solutions to each situation, ending each chapter with a numerical list of prescriptions to help readers stay on the right path. Woolverton and Shapiro pull no punches in stating that overcoming addiction is a difficult, usually lifetime commitment; the person must overcome not only the addictive behavior but also the pain behind the addiction in order for the therapy to be successful. Using the authors’ many examples of patients who have moved beyond their pain, readers will see that conquering an addiction is possible with determination and perseverance. A solid multistep system for overcoming addiction.

preacher Charles H. Parkhurst, whose efforts Roosevelt supported and broadened. The incredibly energetic Roosevelt worked long daylight hours and then, often, patrolled the streets at night, checking up on cops to see who was sleeping, drinking, whoring and otherwise neglecting his duty. Frequently accompanying and guiding Roosevelt was journalist Jacob Riis, whose pioneering photo-journalistic How the Other Half Lives highlighted the economic extremities endured by many in the city. As Zacks points out, Roosevelt had initial popular and journalistic support for his efforts at vice control, but when he began devoting many police resources (and lots of political capital) to enforcing blue laws, both the press and the public began to turn against him. Because many workers had only Sundays off, the dry-on-Sunday policy made many working men and women very unhappy. As the political sands shifted beneath him, Roosevelt redoubled his efforts, alienating more voters, and began seeking ways out of his increasingly stressful and polarizing position. Relief came when newly elected President McKinley appointed him the assistant secretary of the Navy. The author takes us inside fin-de-siècle brothels and bars, Tammany Hall and courtrooms, contentious commissioners’ meetings and cops’ barracks. A nuanced, comprehensive portrait of unique man and the surrounding period, culture and political system.

ISLAND OF VICE Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-loving New York Zacks, Richard Doubleday (448 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 13, 2012 978-0-385-51972-4

Zacks (The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805, 2005, etc.) returns with a sharply focused look at Theodore Roosevelt’s brief tenure as a New York City police commissioner. The author begins and ends with allusions to the naked goddess Diana perched atop Madison Square Garden—his symbol for the sensual interests of New Yorkers that Roosevelt was intent on controlling, if not diminishing to the vanishing point. Zacks sketches the anti-vice career of crusading 2314

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children & teens THE CRAZY CASE OF MISSING THUNDER

Abbott, Tony Illus. by Madden, Colleen Egmont USA (96 pp.) $15.99 | paper $4.99 | $4.99 e-book PLB $18.99 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-1-60684-164-8 978-1-60684-340-6 paperback 978-1-60684-298-0 e-book 978-1-60684-342-0 PLB Series: Goofballs, 1 Best friends, Mara, Kelly, Brian and Jeff are self-styled Goofball private eyes who solve unusual mysteries. A private eye has to notice everything, and narrator Jeff and his three goofy friends notice every clue, even when they don’t realize its importance. Jeff just notes it down in his trusty clue book, because you never know when something might matter. When Randall Crandall calls the Goofballs to solve the mystery of his missing horse, Thunder, they call on all their detective skills in order to find Randall’s equine buddy. Short sentences, ample white space, oversized font, silly situations and punny wordplay make this a good choice for readers just ready for chapter books. Though some of the plot twists are downright ridiculous—the Goofballs successfully turn themselves into bushes, for instance—the overall story will satisfy young mystery readers with a funny bone. Charming black-and-white illustrations dot most spreads, helping new readers follow the tricky parts. According to the illustrations, Brian is African-American, a welcome touch in a genre where kids of color are often absent. Everyone wants to be a Goofball in this little town, and readers will want to follow their cases in the future. That #1 on the spine ensures that there will be many more adventures from these goofy friends. (Mystery. 7-9)

the freedom of selecting striking photographs of children dressed in traditional clothing, theatrical costumes and masks and school and sports uniforms. Engaging, sharp photos, including a Chinese boy dressed as an emperor on the cover, young Nepalese Buddhist monks, a Japanese girl dressed in a beautiful kimono and Israeli Hasidic boys inexplicably wearing red fezzes, appear on boldly colored backgrounds. The lack of contextualizing material begs questions: Are the Israeli boys dressed up for Purim, a Jewish holiday when everyone wears costumes? The Japanese girl is probably dressed for Shichi-go-san, a holiday when 3- and 7-year-old Japanese girls and 5-year-old Japanese boys dress in traditional clothing, but the text (limited to very general short sentences such as: “Around the world, we dress up to have fun! We dance and play…” and “Dressing up means celebrating who we are…”) doesn’t reveal any supporting information. Country names appear on the photos, and there is a world map. The backmatter suggests going to folk festivals and museums, questioning adults about clothing and culture and making simple costumes and masks. Creative teachers, librarians and parents will be able to use this book to start a number of different conversations, but descriptions of the clothing and their special meanings (if only for adult users) would greatly increase this book’s value. (Informational photo essay. 4-7)

HALF-PINT PETE THE PIRATE

Bardhan-Quallen, Sudipta Illus. by Valério, Geraldo Putnam (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 19, 2012 978-0-399-25173-3 Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of zzzzzz. Half-Pint Pete sails the Seven Seas in search of treasure. Trouble is, Pete only has half a map to his name. When he comes in contact with the equally piratical Half-Baked Belle, a lass in possession of the map’s missing parts, the two decide to team up and find the treasure together. Pete’s plan to do away with Belle after the gold is uncovered flies out the window when the mission ends successfully and Pete discovers that the two of them make a perfect pair. Bardhan-Quallen presents a perfunctory, if well-scanned, series of alternating rhymes. Children with either a love or a fear of grungy pirates will find that this uniformly cheery, peg-legged crew are a far cry from the murderous plunderers of lore. The art is of a bit more interest. Brazilian illustrator Valério takes care to hide sly details in his colorful, preschool-friendly acrylics (though one wonders why precisely

WHAT WE WEAR Dressing Up Around the World

Ajmera, Maya & Derstine, Elise Hofer & Pon, Cynthia Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $16.95 | paper $7.95 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-416-6 978-1-58089-417-3 paperback By focusing this visually stunning book on “dressing up” rather than on the broader topic of clothing, the authors enjoy |

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“Beaumont’s buoyant, bouncy verse practically reads itself aloud, and it will not take long before young listeners fling themselves into the performance, chiming in with the ‘scrub-a-dub-dub!’ refrain.” from dini dinosaur

Valério absolutely had to make Pirate Belle so very pink, right down to her rose-colored eye patch). There are many pirate books out there that would best this one in terms of writing, art and general lawless glee, but this meets all the general requirements of an innocuous pirate tale for younger children. Serviceable and forgettable. (Picture book. 3-5)

MARCHING TO THE MOUNTAINTOP How Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Hours

Bausum, Ann National Geographic (112 pp.) $19.95 | $19.95 e-book | PLB $28.90 Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-4263-0939-7 978-1-4263-0945-8 e-book 978-1-4263-0940-3 PLB The intersection of the 1968 Memphis garbage strike, the Poor People’s Campaign and the last days of Martin Luther King Jr. is brought to vivid life in a fine work of history writing. Who knew that the story of garbage in Memphis, Tenn., could be so interesting, and so important? By 1968, Martin Luther King Jr.’s work had expanded beyond the social reforms of integration and voting rights to speaking out for economic justice and against the war in Vietnam. King, along with with a young activist named Marian Wright and others, was planning the Poor People’s Campaign, a march on Washington of the nation’s poor. The garbage workers in Memphis “represented exactly the sort of poor people his effort sought to help,” so off he went. This is history from the ground up, and Bausum makes good use of oral histories, newspapers, pamphlets, letters and photographs to tell her tale. Unfortunately, the fine historical narrative is undercut by the distracting design of the volume, cluttered with huge orange quotation marks throughout and photographs tinted blue, green and orange. The well-chosen photographs left untouched and the excellent writing would have sufficed for a topnotch nonfiction work. Readers will be eyewitnesses to history in this story of one fateful chapter in the Civil Rights Movement, if they can get past the design. (research notes, resource guide, bibliography, citations) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

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DINI DINOSAUR

Beaumont, Karen Illus. by Roode, Daniel Greenwillow/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $14.99 | Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-06-207299-3 A delicious bit of bathtime flummery, delivered by a dirty little dino and his oddly inattentive mother. A day’s play in the mud and sand leaves Dini covered in splotches from sneakers to cowboy hat. Into the tub he hops, but, “Silly Dini Dinosaur! / Don’t you know? / You have to take your SHOES off… / you go!” Following a repeat of this pattern for Dini’s pants, shirt and hat, Mama finishes off by scrubbing the parts he’s missed, and then it’s off to snoozeland for both. Beaumont’s buoyant, bouncy verse practically reads itself aloud, and it will not take long before young listeners fling themselves into the performance, chiming in with the “scrub-a-dub-dub!” refrain. Early-literacy skills are boosted by subtle textual cues that place the key word not only in all caps but in a color that matches the article of clothing in question. Roode complements the text with big, simple pictures filled with smiles (Dini’s accessorized by one tiny fang) and sudsy bubbles. For newly fledged self-dressers, a cogent reminder that what goes on, must come off. (Picture book. 2-4)

FIRST HERO

Blade, Adam Scholastic (176 pp.) $15.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-545-36160-6 Series: The Chronicles of Avantia, 1 This first volume in a promising new series is fizzy, fast-paced adventure all the way. When Tanner was just 7 years old, he watched as his village was attacked and his father was killed by a warlord called Derthsin. To his surprise, a great dragon named Firepos intervened and destroyed Derthsin. After the battle, Firepos stayed and began to train Tanner, who is to be his chosen rider. Eight years later, a new threat to Avantia has come in the form of General Gor, who is searching for the pieces of the infamous Mask of Death. Firepos and Tanner are shocked to learn that Derthsin, who must have somehow managed to survive the last battle after all, is behind this plan and that he intends to use the reconstructed mask to control the great beasts of Avantia, including Tanner’s dragon Firepos. Gor steals a map of the pieces’ locations, abducting one of the map-maker’s apprentices, a boy called Geffen, to help him interpret it. Tanner soon goes off on a quest with Gwen, Geffen’s twin sister, who has her own beast, a giant wolf called Gulkien, to rescue Geffen and recover the map. Will their mission succeed? Firepos’ narration in a heightened first-person is kirkusreviews.com

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interspersed throughout the third-person account, introducing transitioning readers to the linguistic style of high fantasy. A slim, easy-to-read, high-interest offering that will be an easy sell to readers just venturing into chapter books. (Fantasy. 8-12)

fly more than anything. The farm animals all tell him he can’t, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He launches himself off a stone wall, off a hill, even off a tower of other chicks. He spends all day jumping…and falling. But all this practice is not for naught—Old Gray Goose rewards Peepsqueak’s perseverance with a flight on his back, and the farm animals celebrate his ersatz success at finally flying. But Peepsqueak barely registers their congratulations; he is on the move again and this time his sights are set on the pond…. Young listeners are sure to add their own enthusiasm to readings as they join in on the many phrases that repeat throughout. Clark’s digitally colored tableaux make the most of the “flying” Peepsqueak and his soft grass landings. The other chicks express their own personalities with glasses, ties, hair ribbons and other accessories. Hard work, determination and practice do have their benefits; readers will hope to see Peepsqueak demonstrate this again in future outings. (Picture book. 2-5)

SUPERMAN VERSUS THE KU KLUX KLAN The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate

Bowers, Rick National Geographic (160 pp.) $16.95 | $18.95 e-book | PLB $25.90 Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-4263-0915-1 978-1-4263-0987-8 e-book 978-1-4263-0917-5 PLB

In 1946, The Adventures of Superman radio show took on the Ku Klux Klan in an effort to teach young listeners lessons about tolerance and standing up to bigotry. The first episode of the 16-part “Clan of the Fiery Cross” aired on June 10, 1946, to “dramatiz[e] the realities of the Ku Klux Klan to a generation of young radio listeners.” From the beginning, Superman had a social conscience, and one thread of this narrative traces the origins of Superman and his rise to stardom as a comic-book and radio hero. The other thread examines the history and mid-20th-century resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. But it’s not until late in the volume that the collision between Superman and the KKK occurs, making it seem like a work that isn’t quite sure of what it wants to be, or for whom it was written. With sentences such as, “Brown even got inside a secret subunit of the Kavalier Klub that called itself the Ass-Tearers and printed on its calling card the image of a corkscrew—its implement of choice for torturing and disemboweling its victims,” this often reads more like journalism than children’s literature. A fascinating twin narrative, though not quite the story the title suggests. (bibliography, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

PEEPSQUEAK!

Clark, Leslie Ann Illus. by Clark, Leslie Ann Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $12.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-06-207801-8

TIME TO SAY BYE-BYE

Cocca-Leffler, Maryann Illus. by Cocca-Leffler, Maryann Viking (32 pp.) $12.99 | Feb. 16, 2012 978-0-670-01309-8 Many books have mimicked Goodnight Moon, and this rendition applies much the same formula, substituting the title phrase with bye-byes and extending it through a busy day. A toddler is taken to the park, where he swings, digs and has fun, but when it’s time to go, he says, “I don’t want to leave.” The unseen adult says, “It’s time to say bye-bye,” so the child obligingly says bye-bye to the swing, the sandbox and his friend. A visit to Grandma sees a similar scenario, with bye-byes to the cookies, flowers and Grandma. Back home means eating, building and a toy parade, with subsequent bye-byes to dishes, blocks and toys. Bath time and bedtime follow with night-nights to the light, books and Mommy, with time for sweet dreams. CoccaLeffler’s sprightly illustrations are sweet but not saccharine, and their positivity is useful for adults trying to deal with “I don’t want to go” whiners. Each objection to leaving by the toddler is expressed in the first-person and printed in red. So effective is the delivery here that parents may find themselves saying bye-bye to things they’d never imagined talking to. (Picture book. 0-2)

Clark’s debut introduces readers to a plucky little chick whose determination helps him achieve his dream, no matter how impossible it might seem. From the moment he hatches, sporting a bright red shirt emblazoned with “P.S.,” Peepsqueak shows his individuality. While the other chicks take their time hatching, “[h]e was on the move!” His dreams set him apart, as well: He wants to |

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VIVALDI AND THE INVISIBLE ORCHESTRA

Costanza, Stephen Illus. by Costanza, Stephen Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (40 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-8050-7801-5 Girls and women are often the overlooked players in music history. This appealing book highlights a little-known facet of Antonio Vivaldi’s composing life. He wrote much of his music for an Invisible Orchestra made up of girls from a Venetian orphanage, who performed behind a curtain. Costanza imagines that one of the young orphans wrote the four sonnets that inspired Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” Candida is Vivaldi’s copyist, and she spends her days transcribing parts from his scores onto sheets for the musicians. His music feeds her daydreams, and she unconsciously scribbles poetry in the margins. Bright pastels in jewel tones create a patchwork of colors depicting the musical sources of Candida’s inspiration; glittering stars and shimmering light dance across the pages. In contrast, the scores are drawn on a parchmentlike background. The musical notation is accurate and clearly legible, which will satisfy readers who are themselves musicians. Less pleasing is the sporadic use of italics, which has more of the effect of a reading primer than musical ornamentation. Some are effective as emphasis, others less so: “… to great applause… Candida stepped out and took a bow.” Fluid pacing of scenes lyrically advances the story, although the characters’ outsized heads sometimes threaten to overwhelm the charm of the illustrations. Altogether, a pleasing interpretation of the creative process and the power of art to connect individuals. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4­–7)

THE LEGEND OF DIAMOND LIL

Cronin, Doreen Illus. by Cornell, Kevin Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (128 pp.) $14.99 | PLB $15.89 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-06-177996-1 978-0-06-198578-2 PLB Series: J.J. Tully Mysteries, 2 Fans of Cronin’s first J.J. Tully mystery, The Trouble with Chickens (2011), will welcome the return of retired search-and-rescue dog J.J. Tully, mother hen Moosh and her four chicks in this follow-up adventure. The plot unfolds smoothly, ensuring that those unfamiliar with the first volume won’t have trouble tracking the action, but readers are likely to enjoy the silliness even more if they’re already familiar with the continuing cast of characters. This time around, there’s a hint of romance with the sudden appearance of a lovely purebred in the neighborhood. Distracted by the dame (and prone to overestimating his own intelligence), 2318

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J.J. spends some time swapping stories with “Diamond Lil” and misreads the situation entirely. So it takes him a while to figure out the connection between the lovely Lillian and an opossum that has been sniffing around the henhouse. With a little help from last volume’s villain, Vince-the-Funnel, J.J. finally solves the mystery of Lillian’s past. Meanwhile, Moosh matter-offactly solves the possum problem, smoothing the way to a happy ending for all concerned. Cronin parodies the snappy dialogue and world-weary insouciance of classic noir detectives perfectly while keeping the text accessible for her intended audience. Cornell’s black-and-white illustrations add to the humor and expand the personalities of Cronin’s kooky crew. Here’s hoping J.J. and company find more to puzzle over pronto. (Comic mystery. 8-11)

THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE

Curtis, Christopher Paul Wendy Lamb/Random (224 pp.) $15.99 | PLB $18.99 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-385-73491-2 978-0-385-90487-2 PLB Deza Malone had a brief appearance in Curtis’ multiple–award-winning novel, Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Author Award, 2000). Now, she is the dynamic and engaging heroine of her own story. Deza takes great pride in being the best student in school and the champion of her musically gifted but challenged older brother. Although the Malones are barely surviving the Depression in Gary, Ind., Deza has a strong sense of self and hope for a better life. As she writes in her school essay, “We are the only family in the world, in my ken, that has a motto of our own! That motto is ‘We are a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful.’ I can’t wait until we get there!” Despite severe economic and racial restrictions, the strength of their familial bond remains strong, but even that connection is sorely tested when Mr. Malone returns to his hometown of Flint, Mich., seeking work. Deza, her brother Jimmie and their mother set out to find him as their situation becomes dire. With his distinctive style of storytelling that seamlessly presents the hardships and finds the humor in tough circumstances, Curtis forges the link between characters and readers. The fluidity of the writing, the strong sense of place and time combined with well-drawn characters will captivate and delight. Deza is one great heroine in her own right, a fitting literary companion to Bud Caldwell. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

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“Even when events take a dark and gut-punchingly inevitable turn, the novel remains at its heart a story of survival and of carving out space even in a world that wants one’s annihilation.” from the miseducation of cameron post

SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE

in vibrant, almost memoirlike detail. The tense relationship between Cam’s sexuality and her family and community’s religious beliefs is handled with particular nuance, as are her romantic and sexual entanglements, from a summer fling with an out, proud and smug Seattlite to an all-encompassing love for a seemingly straight female friend. Even when events take a dark and gut-punchingly inevitable turn, the novel remains at its heart a story of survival and of carving out space even in a world that wants one’s annihilation. Rich with detail and emotion, a sophisticated read for teens and adults alike. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Dale, Katie Delacorte (464 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $20.99 Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-385-74065-4 978-0-375-89972-0 e-book 978-0-375-98959-9 PLB As 17-year-old Rosie Kenning watched helplessly as Huntington’s disease consumed her mother, as the mood swings and the chorea ravaged body and soul, one question haunted her: “Will this happen to me?” The answer will change her life in ways she couldn’t possibly imagine. In the first of many unexpected plot twists, Rosie learns that there is no way she could possibly have Huntington’s, because Trudie Kenning wasn’t really her mother. Rosie was switched at birth with an abandoned baby that was sure to die. Desperate to find the mother and father she never knew, Rosie and her boyfriend, Andy, travel across the Atlantic in search of answers. The secrets and lies that they uncover will not only push their relationship to the brink but will also threaten to destroy the lives of those they have encountered along the way. An actress as well as a writer, debut novelist Dale clearly has a flair for the dramatic. Rosie’s first-person account is punctuated by narration in another, mysterious voice; leaving this narrator unidentified contributes both to the building suspense and character development. All in all, it is a far cry from the typical disease novel. It reads the way a haunted house might, with the unexpected lurking behind every door. Though in the end readers’ patience might be tried by having the rug pulled out from underneath them one too many times, they’ll be hard pressed to let Rosie out of their sight until the last page is turned. (Fiction. 14 & up)

LOVETORN

Daswani, Kavita HarperTeen (256 pp.) $17.99 | PLB $18.89 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-0-06-167311-5 978-0-06-167312-2 PLB When her father lands a job in the United States, Shalini’s family relocates from Bangalore, India, to Los Angeles. Her father loves his work, and her little sister, Sangita, dives happily into middle school, making friends and discovering a gift for swimming. But like her mother, Asha, shy Shalini is miserable in high school, where her foreign manners and dress target her for ridicule. She shares her unhappiness with Vikram, her fiancé back home (they’ve been engaged since Shalini was 3 years old); he offers her support and encouragement by phone. Culture shock takes a toll on everyone, especially Asha, who succumbs to clinical depression. Shalini’s upbringing has given her few coping skills beyond passivity until she meets Renuka—South Indian by heritage, but born and raised in the U.S.—who urges her to be proactive and stand up for herself. Taking Renuka’s words to heart, Shalini begins to turn things around. But the joys of being an L.A. teen bring complications. How will her attraction to Toby, a gifted musician in the school orchestra, affect her relationship with Vikram? Daswani, whose fiction includes the teen novel Indie Girl (2007), portrays a contemporary immigrant family and community with empathic insight and humor. Straddling two very different worlds, Shalini remains authentic and appealing throughout her metamorphosis. (Fiction. 12 & up)

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST

Danforth, Emily M. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (480 pp.) $17.99 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-06-202056-7 Set in rural Montana in the early 1990s, this lesbian coming-of-age story runs the gamut from heart-rending to triumphant, epic to mundane. The story opens just after Cameron’s first kiss with a girl and just before the life-changing news that Cameron’s parents have died in a car accident. Cam is 12 when readers first meet her, but several years pass over the course of the book’s nearly 500 pages. Carefully crafted symbols—a dollhouse into which Cam puts stolen trinkets and mementos, the lake where her mother once escaped disaster only to die there 30 years later—provide a backbone for the story’s ever-shifting array of characters and episodes, each rendered |

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“[R]eaders, especially those with family or friends with similar challenges, should find this book reaffirming and poignant.” from riding out the storm

DINOSAUR MARDI GRAS

de Las Casas, Dianne Illus. by Gentry, Marita Pelican (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-58980-966-6

Wedding two topics with kid appeal— in this case dinosaurs and Mardi Gras— does not always result in a winning combination. The stanzas in de Las Casas’ latest offering are written in the cadence of the famous song “Mardi Gras Mambo” that fills the streets of Louisiana every year during carnival season. Each stanza ends the way the song lyrics do, with the phrase “Down in New Orleans.” While this promising strategy should have readers bopping their heads and singing the words out loud, the awkward rhythm and rhyme cause the tale to fall decidedly flat. Take, for example, what should be a rousing finale: “T-Rex waves goodbye until next year / The happy crowd chants a carnival cheer / It’s a jumping Dinosaur Mardi Gras / Hooray for all the jaws and claws.” Additionally, the multisyllabic and difficult-to-pronounce dinosaur names that pepper the text don’t exactly trip off the tongue, a fact that would make sharing the story with groups of children a challenge. What’s more, Gentry’s watercolor illustrations feature what appear to be angry and confused creatures barreling down New Orleans streets. All are bedecked with beads, and some sport eyeglasses, crowns, umbrellas and boots, but their expressions, for the most part, don’t suggest that they are enjoying this experience. Unfortunately, quality titles about Mardi Gras for young readers are scarce, and this one doesn’t fit the bill. (Picture book. 4-7)

RIDING OUT THE STORM

Deans, Sis Henry Holt (176 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-8050-9355-1

If your brother is “mental,” what does that say about you? The only thing 14-year-old Zach wants for Christmas is to visit his older brother Derek. The catch: Zach is in Maine, and Derek now lives in a mental institution in New Jersey. But with his trusty grandfather in tow, Zach makes the long bus pilgrimage during a snowstorm, encountering a punkedout older girl along the way. Once “Purplehead” shares her troubled past, will Zach reveal his own secrets? In first-person narration with ample flashbacks, Zach struggles to understand Derek’s stormy bipolar illness, retracing his brother’s unpredictable swings from charming flirt to self-harming wild-man. Zach also ruminates on his own worst fears (“I might wake up some morning and be just like him”), even as he rejoices in his newfound relationship. Deans (Rainy, 2005, etc.) weaves in social commentary via the family’s 2320

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financial struggles with That Thievin’ Insurance Company, which have forced them to make Derek a ward of the state. Although told in an energetic, sympathetic voice, the story occasionally suffers from predictable and underdeveloped action. Still, readers, especially those with family or friends with similar challenges, should find this book reaffirming and poignant. And few writers have the same passion for exploring the lives of the poor as Deans. Both compassionate and amusing, with memorable characters, if a bit light on plot and heavy on message. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-16)

IN THE SEA

Elliott, David Illus. by Meade, Holly Candlewick (32 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-7636-4498-7 This third pairing of Elliott’s reductive poems and Meade’s bold woodcutand-watercolor illustrations dives deep to explore sea creatures, from tiny shrimp to the mighty blue whale. Elliott’s poems are short and pithy, often combining elegant metaphor and child-friendly diction. “Five fingers, / like a hand, / the starfish shines / in a sky of sand.” He doesn’t shy from big words that expand children’s imaginations and vocabularies: An octopus is “an eight-armed apparition.” Humorous touches pleasantly conjure Douglas Florian’s poetry. The puffer fish is “A trickster. / A clown. / A magician. / A buffoon. / One minute / she’s a fish; / the next, / she’s a balloon.” Meade’s pictures combine appropriately watery washes with black-inked woodcuts. She conjures the “before” and “after” capabilities of said puffer fish, and her Moray eel undulates fearsomely. Not every spread is completely successful. “The Clown Fish” riffs on inter-species symbiosis, but Elliott stumbles with the possessive phrase “its enemies”—inviting confusion as to whether anemone stings its own enemies, or the clown fish’s. Meade’s shark, possibly a great white, prominently sports stylized throat grooves that more resemble several species of whale. This mix of clever poems, handsome art and well-chosen typography, despite a few minor flaws, will function equally well for bedtime sharing and early-learning settings. (Picture book/poetry. 3-6)

THE BUTTERFLY CLUES

Ellison, Kate Egmont USA (352 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Feb. 14, 2012 978-1-60684-263-8 978-1-60684-268-3 e-book An engaging mystery starring a teen girl with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Wandering in an unfamiliar Cleveland neighborhood, Lo, who’s recently lost her brother, happens dangerously kirkusreviews.com

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IN TOO DEEP

close to a shooting. When the next day’s paper reports the murder of a 19-year-old named Sapphire in the house Lo visited, Lo finds herself compelled to find out more. Her journey takes her to Neverland, a seedy neighborhood where runaway teens and other misfits make their homes. There, she meets a boy, Flynt, who calls her pretty but may be lying about his connection to the dead woman, and ventures inside Sapphire’s house and the strip club where she worked. As Lo becomes more deeply entangled in the mystery and begins to attract the attention of the murderer, her repetitive behaviors are ever-present: She taps her thigh in numbered patterns, whispers the word “banana,” steals objects and arranges them, then rearranges them in her room. Though Lo’s behaviors sometimes slow her down and embarrass her when others notice, this is no problem novel: The behaviors are simply a part of her experience, to which some characters react with hostility and others with tenderness and understanding. Lo encounters hints and artifacts relevant to the case a bit too often to be believed, but the mystery is well plotted, with danger escalating and information revealed at a consistent pace. A pleasing mix of realism, tension, intrigue and romance. (Mystery. 14 & up)

Grace, Amanda Flux (240 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Feb. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-2600-7 A girl gets caught in a lie she didn’t tell but doesn’t have the courage to correct in this suspenseful, well-written problem novel. Samantha wants to spark some romantic interest from her best friend and secret heartthrob Nick, so she makes a play for popularitymagnet Carter. He rebuffs her, but someone sees her leaving his bedroom in tears and jumps to the false conclusion that Carter assaulted her. Sam doesn’t hear about the resulting rumors until she returns to school. Soon she feels too overwhelmed by social pressure to deny them. Sam finds many opportunities to confess the truth, but she can’t bring herself to exonerate Carter. Grace makes Sam’s dilemma plausible for quite some time, then at last allows her to privately confess but still find a reason to continue the charade. Complicating matters, Sam knows that because of the deception, she’s likely to lose Nick, who finally has declared his love for her. Although Sam’s cowardice in the face of her moral difficulty may frustrate some readers, the author effectively maintains tension as her heroine acts like a villain, and her villain is falsely accused. The story pulls no punches in its resolution, and neither does Sam in her judgment of her own actions. Honest and constantly interesting. (Fiction. 14 & up)

BEWITCHING

Flinn, Alex HarperTeen (336 pp.) $17.99 | PLB $18.89 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-06-202414-5 978-0-06-202415-2 PLB This entertaining twist on “Cinderella” centers on a centuries-old witch who sometimes helps her friends. Kendra’s family died in the plague in 1666, the year she discovered she was a witch. Throughout the centuries, Kendra occasionally uses her powers to aid people, but not always to good effect. So Kendra hesitates when she meets Emma, a girl tormented by her new stepsister, Lisette. Lisette, the Cinderella character in the story, turns out to be the evil one, with dorky, bookish Emma the victim. Gorgeous, talented Lisette cares for no one but herself and successfully, it seems, steals Emma’s beloved stepfather’s affections, her jewelry, her clothes, her room and her car, and she seems to have her sights set on Emma’s new boyfriend. Kendra, however, recounts several stories of magic gone bad, and isn’t sure she ought to intervene. When finally she does, the story takes a delightfully surprising twist. Flinn throws in retellings of “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Little Mermaid” and “The Princess and the Pea,” along with the overriding Cinderella scenario, and she keeps the narrative moving along in sprightly fashion. It all adds up to plenty of fun that should appeal to many readers, particularly those who will delight in seeing the familiar tales in their new clothes. It’s often touching, with an undercurrent of wry comedy, some history and a bit of a moral thrown in, as in any good fairy tale. Clever and enjoyable. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

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ZEKE MEEKS VS. THE PUTRID PUPPET PALS

Green, D.L. Illus. by Josh Alves Picture Window Books (128 pp.) $15.99 | paper $5.95 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-4048-6803-8 978-1-4048-7223-3 paperback Series: Zeke Meeks,

Readers who prefer an easier-toread option to the Wimpy Kid series will find Zeke Meeks’ comic responses to the tribulations of life as a third grader amusingly familiar. Silly Bands are a thing of the past for Zeke and his buddies. Fueled by relentless television commercials, a new craze has infiltrated his school: Puppet Pals. Puppet Pals are collectible finger puppets, complete with their own paraphernalia, which keep Zeke’s friends busy during class, on the playground or after school. Zeke is left to play with—shudder—the kissing girls at recess because everyone is busy with puppets. Hilarious first-person narration gets the details of third-grade life right: the illogic of fads, the power of trend setters and the lengths some kids will go to belong. This chronicle of the arc of a gradeschool obsession is funny, and readers will laugh when thinking |

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about the trends that are undoubtedly racing through their schools. Brief paragraphs, familiar, humorous situations and frequent cartoon illustrations make this especially easy to read and will lead to laugh-out-loud moments for second- and thirdgrade readers. Short, choppy sentences and an excess of silly will put this in the same category as Captain Underpants: painful for teachers and parents to listen to, but this book is not for them. Zeke has a good chance at becoming a popular fad for new readers. (Fiction. 7-10)

THREE LITTLE PIGS

The Brothers Grimm Illus. by Watts, Bernadette NorthSouth (32 pp.) $16.95 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-7358-4058-4

A candy-colored version of the classic tale completely lacks teeth and claws. The three little pigs’ widowed mother sends them out into the world to make their way. The first, carrying his guitar on his back, begs a kind man for the straw he carries and builds himself a nice little house. The wolf comes by, the predictable conversation ensues and the piggy escapes. The second pig carries his brushes and papers, asks a kind man for some sticks and builds a place with an easel en plein air. The house has a convenient back door, so he too escapes when the wolf does his thing. The third pig, carrying his tools, is clearly into construction; his carefully built brick house (bricks a gift of a third kind man) is gorgeous. The wolf tries the chimney, is smoked out and runs away, the third pig collects his mom and siblings and they live happily ever after. Sunny colors and lots of cute details make for pleasant page-turning: Pig number two sits reading a version of Little Red Riding Hood in the last scene, possibly trying to track down the latest venue of the wolf. Devoid of energy, but greeting-card pretty. (Picture book/ fairy tale. 4-6)

GIRL MEETS BOY

Halls, Kelly Millner--Ed. Chronicle (204 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-4521-0264-1 This conceptually unique collection of short-story pairings by a constellation of teen-literature stars explores a variety of relationship types as the respective male and female involved in each one experience them. In the first, a witty teen seeking to stop cheating on his girlfriends is drawn into a messy sexual relationship with a troubled (but hot) girl who is an abuse survivor. In another, a likable, tough girl muscles in on a bully who is harassing the object of her crush. In the third, a gay 17-year-old agrees to an in-person 2322

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meeting with an online-chat buddy in a tale both sad and sweet. Two separate stories examine the strain felt by couples of different ethnic backgrounds as they struggle with prejudice and familial expectations. Finally, a boy re-encounters someone with whom he’s long been enamored, only to discover she’s undergone a transformation. Common themes—that are less about gender-based perceptions than they are about teens struggling to be seen and loved for who they truly are—knit these stories together. Each of the authors excels at creating vibrant, sympathetic, honest characters with voices that will appeal to older teens, male and female alike. A superb offering—and therefore a shame that its cover design of a boy and girl in a clinch makes it look like a run-of-the mill romance, which may limit its appeal. (Short stories. 14 & up)

MISS MINGO WEATHERS THE STORM

Harper, Jamie Illus. by Harper, Jamie Candlewick (40 pp.) $15.99Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-7636-4931-9

A class hike to the weather observatory turns out to be more educational than anticipated for Miss Mingo and her eclectic group of students. The steep trail has many kids complaining early on, while others display their adaptations for dealing with the rising temperature: Panda drapes herself over a tree branch, and Hippo appears to be sweating blood. Meanwhile, Frog tries to draw out the new student by asking for Groundhog’s expert (NOT!) opinion on the wild changes in weather they are experiencing— dark clouds, hail, rain, a sudden drop in temperature and even a snowstorm! But the students and their teacher all demonstrate a resourcefulness and degree of cooperation that are admirable. Miss Mingo’s rescue of her smallest students is sure to stick in readers’ minds for its pure originality. Harper keeps the flow of the narrative going while at the same time presenting additional facts (via a slightly different typeface) that round out readers’ understanding of the story. Children will learn how to estimate temperature from a cricket’s chirping and the facts behind frizzy hair. Harper’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations marvelously convey emotion as well as personality, from Groundhog’s shy manner to the rather princesslike Alligator. The appealing story and wide array of weather facts make this a breath of fresh air to round out and add interest to weather units that are heavy in nonfiction titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

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“A middle-schooler writes a kids’ novel; an author writes an engaging, amiable read—and, presto, a tale about a boy nicknamed Houdini turns out magical.” from the amazing adventures of john smith, jr., aka houdini”

ANGEL OF THE BATTLEFIELD

paralleled by a Japanese translation but extended by Japanese exclamations in the pictures and explanatory notes at the end. An airy flight of imagination, bi-cultural as well as bilingual. (Picture book. 6-8)

Hood, Ann Illus. by Kwasny, Karl Grosset & Dunlap (192 pp.) $16.99 | paper $7.99 | Jan. 24, 2012 978-0-448-45471-9 978-0-448-45467-2 paperback Series: The Treasure Chest, 1

JAMMY DANCE

Janni, Rebecca Illus. by Dockray, Tracy Farrar, Straus and Giroux (40 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-374-33680-6

Time travel loses its way in a maze of clichés, product placements and a slow-

moving plot. In modern Newport, R.I., fifth-grade twins Felix and Maisie are unhappy with all the changes in their lives. Their parents’ divorce has forced them to move to the servants’ quarters of Elm Medona, a huge historic mansion owned by distant relatives, far from the bustle of their former life in Manhattan. The twins discover the Treasure Chest, a room filled with artifacts that (eventually) transport them to the young Clara Barton’s farmhouse in 1836. It takes nearly 100 pages to get back in time, and once there, the drama slows even more. Meeting Clara and realizing some 175 years have passed seems pedestrian to these modern children. The first thing they want to do is to teach Clara to play baseball. There is little tension, even when they are uncertain as to how they might return to their own lives. Odd-seeming dropping of brand names and overly long descriptions of place further slow the narrative. While the children have an artifact to offer the young Clara, it’s hard to see why it matters and how it might change history. This homage to the Bobbs-Merrill Childhood of Famous Americans series of highly fictionalized biographies falls flat. (map, historical note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Going to bed doesn’t rank high on most children’s lists of favorite activities, and Janni and Dockray’s attempt to transform the nighttime routine into a rollicking good time is something of a snooze. Aided by their parents, a brother and sister end their bath and go through the steps of drying off, putting on their jammies, brushing hair and teeth and so on, until they go to sleep. The text is characterized by forced, rhyming verse that will likely leave parents stumbling to read it aloud—for example, “Don’t you know, takes two to untangle— / Mom’ll dance from any angle,” and “Dad is callin’, ‘Little folks-a. / Time to do the p.j. polka!’ “ Equally undistinguished art awkwardly eschews rules of anatomic proportionality and fails to settle in a particular style: Pictures are sketchy and loose in some elements and more controlled and representational in others, resulting in uneven execution. As the book ends, the siblings share the same bed even though the text has them “[s]nuggled close inside [their] beds.” This final misstep provokes confusion in an already flawed overall package. With the glut of sleepy-time stories out there, this offering does not bring much new to the bedside table. (Picture book. 1-4)

SORA AND THE CLOUD

Hoshino, Felicia Translated by Hisa, Akiko Illus. by Hoshino, Felicia Immedium (36 pp.) $15.95 | Dec. 27, 2011 978-1-59702-027-5

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF JOHN SMITH, JR., AKA HOUDINI

Johnson, Peter Harper/HarperCollins (176 pp.) $15.99 | Jan. 24, 2012 978-0-06-198890-5

A cloud carries a delighted lad over a city and an amusement park, past kites and fireworks, then on to dreams. A fearless climber since toddlerdom, young Sora (Japanese for “Sky”) takes on a tree one day and finds a smiling, pink-cheeked cloud in the branches. Clambering aboard, he floats over streets and other sights before drifting off to sleep—dreaming of puddles as the cloud floats through a rain shower and of digging in sand after a seagull’s cry—and then gently coming back to Earth. Adding Japanese decorations to kites and other details, plus occasional touches of subtle humor (when Sora looks down at a busy playground his “Look! Ants!” is not a figure of speech), Hoshino illustrates this idyll with delicately colored paper-collage and paint scenes featuring semitransparent figures in harmonious compositions. Likewise, her poetic narrative (“From way, waaay, waaaay up in the sky, / fireworks whisper like the soft pitter-pattering of your heart”) is not only |

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A middle-schooler writes a kids’ novel; an author writes an engaging, amiable read—and, presto, a tale about a boy nicknamed Houdini turns out magical. When your name is John Smith, you need to have something going for you. What this 13-year-old—alas, no relation to the dude of Pocahontas fame—has is a fascination with the master escape artist. After an author’s visit to his classroom, John creates a novel, formed from the very novel kids are reading, and devises a series of lists to guide him. He also relies on adventures with his two best buds; a misunderstood Vietnam vet and his pit |

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bull; and the neighborhood bully. By turns poignant and downright hilarious, Houdini’s story/novel is delivered in a voice that’s wonderfully authentic. Johnson expertly handles real male middle-school friendships, issues and angst and doesn’t avoid some tough contemporary realities: Domestic troubles, the prospect of Dad losing his job and the pain arising from his older brother going missing in Iraq are handled realistically but sensitively. In the end, Houdini realizes that writing has changed him and altered his perspective on people and life. Readers will feel the same way. And just try to get kids not to make their own lists or attempt their own novels. (Fiction. 9-12)

THE IRON KNIGHT

Kagawa, Julie Harlequin Teen (399 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Oct. 25, 2011 978-0-373-21036-7 Series: The Iron Fey, 3 The base of any good love triangle is the epic bromance between rivals. Meghan Chase’s quest ended after her three requisite volumes drew to a close in The Iron Queen (2011), but her suitors were left behind. Meghan’s iron kingdom is poisonous to fey such as her beloved Ash and best friend Puck, so the boys wander the Nevernever in search of magic to turn Ash human. As they taunt witches, fight Thornguards and travel the River of Dreams, Ash remembers the friendship he once shared with his rival. Before the death of their shared first love, Ariella, Ash and Puck were the best of friends. Is it a blessing or a curse that Ariella seems not to be so dead after all? She’s the seer who’ll lead the questers to the Testing Grounds, where Ash (too coldly competent to be fully likable) will be proven worthy of Meghan. This series ender suffers from an awkward blend of high-falutin’ and prosaic: Our hero, full name Ashallayn’darkmyr Tallyn, complains when Puck “struck me upside the head.” Tension between Ash and Puck drives this Boys’ Own adventure. “If Puck was dead,” Ash muses, “my world would become as cold and lifeless as the darkest night in the Winter Court.” For fans who want complete closure or angsty manly friendships. (Fantasy romance. 12-15)

THE DARLINGS IN LOVE

Kantor, Melissa Hyperion (320 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-4231-2369-9 Series: The Darlings, 2

“The Darlings”—Jane, Natalya and Victoria—return in this tumultuous tale of first love (The Darlings Are Forever, 2011). Having successfully navigated the transition to high school, the best friends 2324

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now face their first serious relationships. Natalya gets a second chance at love when former crush Colin suddenly reappears in her life. Actress Jane embarks on a new romance with her stunning but mysterious co-star, Simon, while Victoria happily continues dating Jack. However, the façade of these seemingly perfect relationships soon starts to crumble, as love, like life, quickly becomes complicated. Kantor consummately conveys both the heartache and joy of first love. As the trio moves through the peaks and valleys of their relationships, they emerge slightly heartsore but infinitely wiser. Through the girls’ dating dilemmas, Kantor contemplates such topics as honesty, personal integrity and the importance of maintaining one’s own identity within a relationship. The strength of the tale lies in the girls’ steadfast, mutual support: Their friendship endures through advice given and not taken, remaining solid when things go awry. While the girls may struggle with the complexities of life and love, readers will be confident that this resilient trio will prevail. (Fiction. 13 & up)

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE

Klauss, Lucas Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (416 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-1-4424-2388-6 A debut novel tackles big issues— faith and love—with mixed success. Philip has been looking for answers since his mother died, although he’d never say that, since he can’t talk about her. When he meets an “unconventionally hot” girl who has serious faith, he essentially follows her to church. Much remains unsaid between chapters, while needlessly meaning-laden chapter closers imply closure or answers that never come. Philip’s relationship with church and faith ping-pongs back and forth with lots of epiphanies, while his romantic relationship goes nowhere. Subplots include friendship, Philip’s initially contentious and sometimes awkward relationship with his track coach/spiritual leader, Philip’s relationship with his father and his struggle to come to terms with his parents’ split and his mother’s death. There are bright moments, but characters fall flat (including Philip), and the novel caroms among too many issues to ever truly delve into anything. The evangelical church Philip’s crush attends reads like a list of stereotypes, and it sometimes seems that under the surface pot shots are being taken, although the kindest character in the book is one of the church-group kids: just one more element that remains unresolved. Overall, a valiant attempt that falls short of the mark. (Fiction. 13-16)

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C H I L DR E N

& TE E NS

Bookshelves of Doom: Favorite Teen Books of 2011 B Y LEI LA ROY

Although we’ve still got all of December before 2012—another whole month of book releases and reading said book releases—the Best of 2011 Season is in full swing. What with that extra month, I’m hesitant to create my own comprehensive Best of List yet, but here are a few of my Favorites of 2011:

Most Welcome New Trend (or, at least, I hope it’s a trend):

Author Who Most Deserves a Year Off:

Gothics. The popularity of the paranormal genre seems to have led to a resurgence in Gothic titles. At first, with titles like 2009’s Splendor Falls and last year’s Beautiful Creatures, the Gothics appeared to be just a cog in the paranormal machine, but this year, they’ve come into their own with stories that feature narrators with questionable sanity spending lots of sleepless nights listening to creaky floors in drafty old houses haunted by unspeakable evil.

Jane Austen. Over the past few years, her stories have been zombified and vampirized, modernized, rehashed and retold. To be fair, some have been truly creative and some have been hugely fun, but this year, after reading one too many tepid modernizations of Sense and Sensibility, I’m demanding a moratorium on Austen retreads for AT LEAST a year. Authors, please. I beg you. She needs a break, and so do I.

Best Series that Continues to Fly Under the Radar:

Most Welcome Comeback: Franny Billingsley, with Chime: Twelve years after The Folk Keeper, Billingsley burst back onto the scene with a vibrantly original, gorgeously frightening, darkly hilarious and romantic read starring a narrator whose voice is somewhat reminiscent of Merricat Blackwood from Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Like the rest of this year’s National Book Award finalists, it lost out on some much-deserved attention due to the Shine/Chime mix-up. The coverage of the awards—and even the announcement of the winner at the NBA ceremony itself—largely focused on the mistake, rather than on the honored books. While the ever-lovely YA community understandably rallied around Shine and Lauren Myracle—who was put through an emotional wringer few of us could imagine—it’s time to give Chime its due. It was easily, easily, one of the best books I read this year, and I predict that in a decade, it will have deservedly achieved status as a modern fantasy classic.

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FROST

Marianna Baer

Highlights include: Kate Cann’s Morton’s Keep duology, Possessed and Consumed (a cross between Barbara Michaels and The Dark is Rising); Marianna Baer’s Frost (shades of du Maurier’s Rebecca!); and Tighter, Adele Griffin’s outstandingly excellent reimagining of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. Speaking of retellings...

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Elizabeth C. Bunce’s Thief Errant. In it, a female street rat/thief is dragged into complex political intrigue and a war between religion and magic, solves mysteries, regularly ignores the protestations of her better judgment and instincts for survival and finds romance in more than a few corners. In Liar’s Moon, Bunce continues her chronicle of Digger’s exploits, but rather than settling into anything remotely predictable, she switches up the setting, the genre, the tone AND finishes the book on a whopper of a cliffhanger/twist. We’ve got at least a year to wait for Book Three, and that’s plenty of time for me to continue nagging everyone I know (and some I don’t) to give these books a try. Finally, while we’re all experiencing genre/trope exhaustion in one realm or another, it’s always impressive when certain titles are able overcome that fatigue by being supremely enjoyable. For example: Proof that Paranormal Can Still Be Fun: Blessed (and the rest of the series), by Cynthia Leitich Smith Ditto Dystopia: Divergent, by Veronica Roth Ditto Post-Apocalyptic: Blood Red Road, by Moira Young Ditto Fairy Tale Rewrites: Entwined, by Heather Dixon

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“Imagine a 40-foot wall of molasses turning a harborside neighborhood upside down.” from the great molasses flood

THE GREAT MOLASSES FLOOD

Kops, Deborah J. Charlesbridge (112 pp.) $18.95 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-348-0

Imagine a 40-foot wall of molasses turning a harborside neighborhood upside down. It was a hopeful time in Boston. The worst of the Spanish influenza was over, World War I had just ended and Babe Ruth had helped the Red Sox win the World Series the previous fall. But on January 15, 1919, in Boston’s North End, on a sunny, warm day, the molasses tank in the neighborhood blew. More than 2,300,000 gallons of molasses, weighing 13,000 tons, flowed down the street, uplifting houses, twisting railroad tracks and killing 21 people. Fallen elevated train tracks, dead horses, collapsed buildings and crushed cars made the areas look as though a tornado had come through. The smell of molasses in the neighborhood didn’t fade until 1995, though the memory of the event has. Using firsthand testimony from the 40-volume transcript from Dorr v. U.S. Industrial Alcohol, the hearings that followed the event, Kops has done a fine job of resurrecting the story and recreating the day through third-person stories of the actual players. Had she retained some of the first-person accounts, she may have lent her narrative greater immediacy, but it is nevertheless an intriguing read. A useful map, abundant archival photographs and sidebars offering historical context complement the lively prose. A fascinating account of a truly bizarre disaster. (index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

SHOWOFF

Korman, Gordon Scholastic (256 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-545-32059-7 978-0-545-39312-6 e-book Series: The Man with the Plan, 4 Intrepid man-with-a-plan Griffin is up to his old tricks in his fourth outing, accompanied by a cast of patient middleschool best friends, all on a mission to save an overly energetic dog. After Savannah’s gigantic Doberman, Luthor, inexplicably trashes a public appearance by show dog Electra, resulting in an unfortunate tail injury to the valuable beagle, Electra’s owner sues her family and she’s forced to relinquish her beloved pet to the animal shelter. Classmates Griffin and Ben bring the dog home, which is not too difficult since Griffin’s parents are touring Europe, trying to sell a quirky new invention. All the boys need to do is hide Luthor in Griffin’s garage, train him, win a dog show championship and then turn the money that will pour in afterward over to Electra’s owner. If this scheme sounds 2326

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highly improbable, well, that’s half the fun. Eventually, they end up at the world’s grandest dog show, with Luthor competing for the championship—if only they can thwart the wily criminal who’s trying to upset their efforts. This tale stands alone well, with marginal character development taking second place to the narrative’s nearly believable twists and turns. Ample dogshow details will appeal to pet enthusiasts. A bumpy, plot-driven ride that moves along at a brisk pace, enthusiastically catapulting toward a potentially disastrous and hilarious conclusion. (Fiction. 8-12)

QUEST FOR THE SECRET KEEPER

Laurie, Victoria Delacorte (384 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | Feb. 12, 2012 978-0-385-73861-3 978-0-375-896560-9 e-book Series: Oracles of Delphi Keep, 3 The third episode in Laurie’s muddled Oracles of Delphi Keep series adds two more children with super powers, bringing the total to five of the prophesied seven (plus One) who will save the world from the satanic Demogorgon. Following one of a series of obscure prophecies left by an ancient seer, Ian, with his fellow orphans of “the United” and adult chaperones, arrive in Paris on a rescue mission just as the invading Nazis do. There they hook up with more cast members—notably Adrastus the Secret Keeper, a Phoenician soldier charged with depositing the prophecies and various items of magical gear in hidden places for the United to seek out. The children survive bomb attacks, fend off Caphiera the Cold and Atroposa the Terrible (two of Demogorgon’s four evil offspring) and return without much difficulty to England. Then it’s off to Berchtesgaden to round up Wolfgang, an abused lad who can read and control people’s thoughts (except when inconvenient to the plot), and battle Demogorgon’s minions some more. The author fills in some background with flashbacks but mostly assumes that readers will have a general picture of the quest and characters from past volumes. As before, she relies heavily on oracular visions, overheard conversations and coincidental meetings to move events along, and she seldom strays far from conventional gender roles for her characters. A confusing tangle of myth and history, slow going to boot, despite corpses and bombs aplenty. (Fantasy. 10-14)

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SHADOW’S EDGE

finds herself baking and dispensing Love Muffins and Cookies of Truth with hilarious results. As Rose bakes her way out of trouble, she must choose between Lily and her own family. A heroine with baking in her blood and a zany plot liberally sprinkled with humor blend into fun family adventure. Blackand-white spot art highlights story elements. Lighthearted bliss. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Lipinski, Maureen Flux (312 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Jan. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-3037-0 Sixteen-year-old Leah Spencer isn’t just the new kid at Westerville High, she’s an unwilling Créatúir Shaman, desperate to shed her responsibilities to the “Other Realm” and live the life of a normal Texas teenager. Unfortunately, the mystical beings aren’t prepared to let her go off with the star quarterback without a fight. After a series of murders in the Other Realm drive the Light and Dark Créatúir to the brink of war, Leah reclaims her role as Shaman. With the help of her three sisters and one kickass homecoming queen, Leah learns to embrace her gift and harness the power of the elements to restore peace. Written from Leah’s perspective, Lipinski’s debut teen novel boasts all the right ingredients: cheerleaders and football players, teen romance, danger and fantasy. However, the recipe falls flat. The often-shocking descriptions of the mystical creatures often feel gratuitous, like cheap, gross-out gags with no real link to the story. In addition, while Leah uncovers a connection between the construction site for the new football field and a passageway to the Other Realm, this key plot element is never satisfactorily explored. The combined effect of these distractions and unanswered questions will likely leave readers scratching their heads as Leah races to save the day just a little too conveniently in the last quarter of the novel. Pass. (Fantasy. 12-15)

JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE

Lloyd-Jones, Sally Illus. by Endersby, Frank Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-06-201476-4

The newest entry into the glutted daddy/mommy-loves-his/her-little-one market is as sweet as all the rest but fails to distinguish itself. Little Red Squirrel and his dad are out “playing in the big wood.” Daddy calls to his child, “Did I tell you today that I love you?” “Because why?” responds Little Red Squirrel, then proceeds to engage in all sorts of cute, squirrel-ish behavior to answer his question. Does daddy love him because he’s fast? Because he’s good at finding berries? Because he’s “strong and can do such High Climbing?” Because he’s so “ABSOLUTELY brave?” And on and on. It’s all undeniably adorable, but just about everything about this book, from the dialogue-driven interaction, naming convention and dad-gets-the-last-word bedtime snuggle, smacks of Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram’s now-classic Guess How Much I Love You? Endersby’s illustrations feel just as derivative as Lloyd-Jones’ text. Varying full-bleed, double-page spreads with vignettes, he creates a setting nearly identical in palette and feel to the Nutbrown Hares’ evening romp. The gently anthropomorphized faces and body language recall the earlier parent-child duo as well. Heck, even the typeface does. For a fresh treatment of this ever-popular theme, opt for What’s Special About Me, Mama? by Kristina Evans and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (2011), or take a look at the new pop-up version of Guess How Much I Love You? (2011). Skip this clone. (Picture book. 3-7)

BLISS

Littlewood, Kathryn Katherine Tegen/ HarperCollins (384 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-06-208423-1 Twelve-year-old Rose and her siblings stir up trouble in Calamity Falls when they experiment with some old family recipes after their parents leave the Bliss bakery in their hands. Ever since she saw “her mother fold a lightning bolt into a bowl of batter,” Rose has known “her parents made magic in the Bliss bakery.” Their secret recipes, guarded in the Bliss Cookery Booke, have discreetly averted many catastrophes in Calamity Falls. Next to her gorgeous brother Ty, her funny brother Sage and her adorable sister Leigh, dependable Rose feels invisible, but she longs to be a “good baker wizard.” When her parents go away, Rose is left in charge of the Cookery Booke and warned to let no one open or move it. Immediately, a mysterious stranger named Lily arrives, announcing she’s a distant cousin who’s come to help with the bakery. Rose suspects Lily really wants the Booke, but she falls under Lily’s insidious influence and |

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LISA LOEB’S SILLY SING-ALONG The Disappointing Pancake and Other Zany Songs Loeb, Lisa Illus. by O’Rourke, Ryan Sterling (24 pp.) $14.95 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-4027-6915-3

Songs for singing around a campfire—or anywhere, with s’mores! Loeb makes no pretense to hide her fondness for summer camp. Her previous children’s album (Camp Lisa, 2008) |

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contained many camp favorites, while her non-profit, The Camp Lisa Foundation, helps underprivileged kids experience the joy of sleeping under the stars. Here, Loeb offers a songbook to go along with her musical adventures. Comprised of four original songs and six camp standards, each tune has the lyrics playfully displayed. Loeb includes small introductions (often camp memories), activities, recipes and hand motions to act out. With swirls aplenty and florid script, O’Rourke creates a decidedly mod interior. A Hanna-Barbera–esque Loeb, complete with cat’s-eye glasses, is front and center. Children will bop to the snappy beat of “I’m a Little Coconut” and delight in the topsy-turvy “Opposite Day.” And who doesn’t like to croon the (seemingly) endless “Found a Peanut”? Nostalgic reminiscences join inventive, musical songwriting in this inclusive package. Purportedly for kids, but adults will find their share here as well. (author’s note, CD) (Nonfiction. 4-8)

THE POLAR BEAR SCIENTISTS

Lourie, Peter Houghton Mifflin (80 pp.) $18.99 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-547-28305-0 Series: Scientists in the Field, For six weeks each summer, scientists in helicopters chase, dart, capture and tag polar bears on the southern Beaufort Sea near Barrow, Alaska, as part of a long-term study of their behavior. With photographs and real-time description of two such captures, Lourie (Arctic Thaw, 2007) details the searching, tracking, tranquilizing and hands-on measuring and marking that are part of this exciting field work. Some photographs serve as page backgrounds; others are insets with extensive captions. The busy design interferes with the immediacy of the author’s account, interrupting it with sidebars and pictures of other trips. Before meeting the two scientists and pilot whose adventures lie at the center of this tangle, readers are introduced to other players: the mechanic who follows the field work in real time on his computer in Barrow and the former and current heads of the project. Between the chapters are four conversations with Dr. Steven Amstrup, former lead scientist, including two about global climate change. The book concludes with a page of polarbear facts. Readers may give up trying to follow the narrative argument and concentrate on Lourie’s stunning pictures of this remarkable creature and its beautiful, icy world. With more emphasis on the science work than the scientists, this entry in the usually excellent Scientists in the Field series disappoints. (glossary, suggested books and websites, sources, index). (Nonfiction. 10-14)

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FROG AND FLY Six Slurpy Stories

Mack, Jeff Illus. by Mack, Jeff Philomel (40 pp.) $12.99 | Mar. 15, 2012 978-0-399-25617-2

Frog meets fly, with predictable results—at least the first five times. Drawn in one or two big, very simple cartoons per page, each episode features a popeyed fly engaging a jovial frog in a brief exchange. “Nice to meet you.” “Nice to eet you?” “No. Nice to meet you.” This is followed by a climactic, terminal (for the fly) “SLURP!” and punch line: “No. Nice to eat you!” In later encounters, the frog actually toys with its intended victim: “Why did you kiss me?” “I kissed you because I love flies!” (with ketchup, as it turns out). The green guy gets it in the end when a nighttime slurp snags not the agile insect, but a silhouetted “frog-slurping bear.” Newly fledged readers should be amused by the early-Muppet– style humor and will agree that the frog receives just deserts in the end. The comic-book pacing keeps each separate “chapter” fresh and funny, and the sunny palette keeps the tone light, even as the fly gets snaggled, over and over. Nature red in tooth and claw, though splashes of ketchup are the closest thing to visible gore in these sly vignettes. (Picture book. 4-6)

KINDRED SOULS

MacLachlan, Patricia Katherine Tegen/ HarperCollins (128 pp.) $15.99 | PLB $16.89 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-0-06-052297-1 978-0-06-052298-8 PLB This spare first-person account of a boy coping with his grandfather’s death beautifully portrays something rare and surprisingly valuable: the opportunity to grieve for a loved one even while he is still alive. Jake and 88-year-old Billy are “kindred souls.” They live on a farm that their family has owned for generations; in fact, Billy was born in a sod house he remembers fondly, the ruins of which still exist on the property. This is an intense, rewarding read: Readers see Billy directly through Jake’s young eyes; there is no omniscient voice explaining that Billy is reaching the end of his days, and that’s why he is sometimes childlike himself. Some may realize the inevitable early on; Jake’s mistaken confidence in Billy’s immortality—”I don’t worry about him dying. He will live forever. I know that,” and “And Billy is going to live forever,” are representative thoughts—foreshadows the inevitable. Jake and his siblings undertake a remarkably ambitious project: They rebuild the sod house; Billy moves into it, and he eventually passes away there. The joy the children take in the effort, along with the knowledge that kirkusreviews.com

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“The descriptions of Marley’s—aka DJ Ice—DJ sessions are near euphoric, and music fans will love learning about the artists he blends for the dance floor.” from dj rising

they have enabled someone they love to finish out his days at peace—at home—comforts. It’s rare to find a children’s book that deals so well with death as part of life, offering kids an effective approach to coping with sadness that incorporates humor, love and joy. (Fiction. 8-11)

She dreamed of soaring, of touching the sky, and when Coach Abbott invited her to enroll at Tuskegee to train with the Tigerettes, she saw her dreams come closer. She traveled with the Golden Tigerettes and later set a high-jump record at the Olympic Trials. At the Olympics, the American women had no medals going into the final event, the high jump. It was down to two women, and Alice won, setting a new Olympic record. Velazquez’s oil-on–watercolor-paper illustrations capture the long-legged grace of Coachman and the power of her jumps, most dramatically her Olympic medal–winning jump in a closeup double-page spread against an Impressionistically rendered crowd in the background. A solid introduction to a lesser-known sports heroine. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

DJ RISING

Maia, Love Little, Brown (304 pp.) $17.99 | Feb. 6, 2012 978-0-316-12187-3 From Coltrane to disco to old-school hip-hop, an energetic tale of a teen disc jockey’s struggle to reach the top. Sixteen-year-old Marley DiegoDylan is one of the only kids in his elite high school on financial aid. His father died a few years back, and his mom spends her days strung out on heroin in front of the television. Marley fights to keep everything together, but he dreams of becoming a star DJ. His career surges when he lands a substitute gig at a local club. Soon he’s spinning vinyl at the hottest clubs. When his mother’s situation take a turn for the worst, however, he’s reality-checked back into his old life and must choose between his dreams and his old responsibilities. Maia’s first teen novel balances true-to-life urban teenspeak, well-drawn characters and a plot that often seems too good to be true. The descriptions of Marley’s—aka DJ Ice—DJ sessions are near euphoric, and music fans will love learning about the artists he blends for the dance floor. The novel itself feels just as glossy as the DJ sequences and lacks much of the realistic grit that other works embrace, such as Coe Booth’s Tyrell (2006). Still, readers will relish reading about Marley’s rise to fame despite his harrowing situation. A new voice worth watching. (Fiction. 14 & up)

STEALING MAGIC

Malone, Marianne Illus. by Call, Greg Random House (256 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Jan. 24, 2012 978-0-375-86819-1 978-0-375-89872-3 e-book 978-0-375-96819-8 PLB Series: Sixty-Eight Rooms, 2 Mystery abounds once again in the miniature Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. Though their first adventure is over (The Sixty-Eight Rooms, 2010), Ruthie and Jack still possess the magical key that can shrink them down to fit into the tiny rooms at the museum. They know they should return it, but it’s difficult to walk away from that kind of power. Suddenly, objects start disappearing from the rooms. There is also a real-life art thief striking the city. Could the two be connected? Having established the magical premise in the first volume, this story jumps right into the action—but one would be hard pressed to say the narrative is action-packed. In this light read that tumbles along pleasantly enough, the pair also visit the World’s Fair in 1937 Paris, meeting a girl who may not escape the horrors of World War II, as well as the antebellum South, where they meet a young enslaved girl. These junkets provide a hint of tension but are quickly, and neatly, resolved, leaving readers poised for the next comfortable outing. A blend of magic, history and mystery for patient readers who want to catch the crook but don’t necessarily need a good chase. (Fantasy. 8-12)

TOUCH THE SKY Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper

Malaspina, Ann Illus. by Velasquez, Eric Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-8075-8035-6

Malaspina’s free verse tells the story of how Alice Coachman went from her Georgia hometown to the 1948 London Olympics, becoming the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal. “Sit on the porch and / be a lady,” Papa would scold young Alice. But Alice preferred racing down the road, “Bare feet flying, / long legs spinning, / braids flapping / in the wind.” She’d play basketball with the boys at recess, make her own highjump bar with rags tied to sticks and practice, practice, practice. |

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GETTING OVER GARRETT DELANEY

McDonald, Abby Candlewick (336 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 24, 2012 978-0-7636-5507-5

A story about creating one’s own identity is as common as a cup of joe but this is a bolder brew than most. The natural sweetener: Love is on the horizon for Sadie. In a comedic and candid first-person narrative, Sadie recounts how she has been “madly, hopelessly, tragically in love with Garrett,” her BFF, for two years believing that, eventually, the Gods of Unrequited Crushes would smile on her. But Garrett’s confession of love never comes, and Sadie is shaken by the taunt of one of Garett’s exes: “you’re his own personal groupie.” Heartbroken, Sadie takes a job as a barista and comes up with a 12-step program, which cleverly punctuates the book, to wean herself from Garrett. But withdrawal is realistically tough, and Sadie hits rock-bottom when, in a hilariously manic scene, she sprawls face-down on the floor at work just to take a call from him. Sadie needs a support group. Enter the Totally Wired crew, a colorful cast worthy of the big screen, to help. The book is chock-full of high- and low-brow references, and a new world opens up to Sadie as she explores unfamiliar ideas and activities. Plain Janes and lovelorn teens will appreciate the sound self-help tips and be inspired by the stronger, deserves-better Sadie who emerges, ready to give love another chance. (Fiction. 12 & up)

BEST SHOT IN THE WEST The Adventures of Nat Love

McKissack, Patricia C. & McKissack Jr. , Fredrick L. Illus. by DuBurke, Randy Chronicle (136 pp.) $19.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-8118-5749-9

On a train out of Denver in 1902, two old cowboys reminisce about the Old West. Nat Love is now a Pullman porter on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, but he was once “Deadwood Dick,” a famous cowboy, every bit the equal to western heroes Bat Masterson, Calamity Jane, the Earps and Wild Bill Hickok. As a porter, he suffers rude treatment and racist comments, but when William Bugler boards the train, the “[w]orld’s best shooter and [the] world’s best scout” recall old times, and Bugler (an invented character) convinces Nat to write down his stories for his Kansas City newspaper. The remainder of the graphic novel is Nat’s stories—his life as a slave in Davidson County, Tenn., his work as a cowpuncher and his 20 years of adventures in a world that 2330

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no longer exists. The text is complemented by acrylic-and-pen full-color illustrations (seen only in black-and-white for review), in which DuBurke uses his experience as a comic-book artist to capture the dramatic energy of line and gesture, just right for a gun-slinging hero. A perfect use of the graphic format to celebrate the life of a legendary American. History that’s fun to read…and important. (authors’ note, illustrator’s note) (Historical fiction. 10 & up)

DEAD TO YOU

McMann, Lisa Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-1-4424-0388-8 Nine years have passed since Ethan Manuel de Wilde stepped into a stranger’s car and disappeared. Now 16 and restored to his family, Ethan begins to settle down into this new life. His brother only vaguely remembers the day of the abduction, and his parents had a new child shortly after he vanished. There are some gaps in his memory, of course, but Ethan reconnects with his childhood best friend and new crush, Cami, and adapts to school. But when his younger brother Blake starts obsessing over Ethan’s flawed memories, Ethan’s facade of normality cracks, and he starts to look for a way out. McMann’s narrative is layered and emotional, with constant questions about family dynamics, identity and reconciliation. While an amnesia-based plot risks a quick foray into formula, this resists, balancing the fractured nature of Ethan’s recollections nicely with the character’s development. The sibling rivalry builds secondary tension and suspense, especially as more and more gaps appear in Ethan’s anecdotes. While the romance between Ethan and Cami is a bit forced, the love between Ethan and his little sister Gracie is genuinely touching. An updated abduction novel for a generation that has never seen a missing child’s face on a milk carton. (Suspense. 13 & up)

GEORGE WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY A Mostly True Tale

McNamara, Margaret Illus. by Blitt, Barry Schwartz & Wade/Random (40 pp.) $17.99 | PLB $20.99 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-375-84499-7 978-0-375-94458-1 PLB This potentially amusing blend of story and historical fact feels a bit strained. “When George Washington went to sleep Friday night, he was six years old. When he woke up on Saturday, he was seven.” Eager to observe his birthday but thwarted throughout the day, George studies with older brother Augustine, spends a bored kirkusreviews.com

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few minutes heaving rocks across the Rappahannock, helps his father prune the cherry trees with disastrous results and finally celebrates at dinner with his loving family. The boy’s concerns about a seemingly forgotten birthday will resonate with young readers, and Blitt’s signature caricature style in watercolor is lively and droll. McNamara offers both facts and myths—presented in bordered inset captions—about the grownup George that relate to her fictional account of his seventh birthday. For example, as George crosses an icy creek carrying the remains of the cherry tree (“Hope I never have to do this again”), the caption reveals that in fact he had to cross the Delaware many times “in one of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War.” The author offers a first-person narrative in Washington’s voice, “George Washington Tells the Truth,” following the picture-book story. Overall the connection between the boy and the future general and president is labored and tenuous, and it may well baffle young readers unfamiliar with most of those stories. (Picture book. 7-10)

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PIG PIG MEETS THE LION

McPhail, David Illus. by McPhail, David Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $15.95 | $9.99 e-book | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-358-9 978-1-60734-080-5 e-book Series: Pig Pig MacPhail’s penchant for pigs hasn’t ebbed, as he proves in adding another Pig Pig tale to his series; this one incorporates a grammar device. The front endpapers and the double-page spread before the title page wordlessly set up the scene with visual clues as Pig Pig’s mother picks up the morning paper with the headline “Lion Escapes” just as the lion climbs a tree outside Pig Pig’s room. The lion jumps on Pig Pig’s bed, they run downstairs into the kitchen and romp through the living room, and all the while his (blissfully) unaware mother fixes his breakfast. Each

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short sentence includes a preposition highlighted in blue: “the chair tipped OVER”; “The lion wanted to sit BESIDE Pig Pig.” When Pig Pig asks if he can keep the lion, his mother answers no, but they can visit him in the zoo. The back endpapers show two zookeepers knocking at the door and the lion jumping out the bedroom window. McPhail’s familiar style in pen, ink and watercolor is playfully infectious (notice the cat’s reactions). Kids will giggle at the striped-pajama–clad Pig Pig’s silly antics in this latest escapade. (Picture book. 2-5)

DITCHED A Love Story

Mellom, Robin Hyperion (288 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-4231-4338-3

Zany comedy dominates this romp through the prom night from Hell. When Justina literally finds herself lying in a ditch beside the road at the end of prom night, she hobbles to a nearby convenience store to get help. There she tells her sad tale to the clerk and a sympathetic customer. Justina and prom date Ian have remained just friends, and each seems a safe prom date for the other. Justina yields to her mom’s wishes and wears a thrift-shop dress with everything dyed blue to match. Mellon tells Justina’s story using various stains on the dress as a framework for introducing increasingly crazy episodes. The emphasis stays on comedy as Justina’s tale of the night progresses, such as how she missed the chicken Marsala dinner and eventually including an incident involving a three-legged Chihuahua. Throughout, Justina receives cynical advice about men from her convenience-store audience, but a thread of real romance lurks just below the surface. Has Ian really ditched Justina, or is he caught in a similar comedy of errors? In any comedy readers can trust that everything will come out all right in the end, and that it will be a fun ride getting there. The author displays a well-developed touch for the absurd. For readers with a funny bone that needs a tingle, this should hit the spot. (Comic romance. 12 & up)

ARCADIA AWAKENS

Meyer, Kai Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (464 pp.) $17.99 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-06-200606-6 When a Romeo and Juliet mobster romance just isn’t enough. A year after a terrible experience, 17-year-old Rosa Alcantara is leaving home. She’s left Brooklyn for Sicily, where she will be joining her sister in the family business: organized crime. An unlikable petty thief, Rosa thinks 2332

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she’s prepared for joining Cosa Nostra. But there are reasons beyond the Mafia to fear her ancestral home. Her attraction to Alessandro Carnevare, the scion of a rival (and stronger) Mafia house, can only get her into trouble. Both the Alcantaras and Carnevares are hiding an unbelievable secret. Alessandro, like the rest of his family, has a feline form: a monstrous panther. Meanwhile, Rosa discovers that the Alcantaras transform into enormous snakes. The shapeshifting makes for a more deadly rivalry—or a more twisted romantic pairing. On top of everything else, there’s a kidnapped mob schoolgirl, a murdered mother, an attempted coup, family betrayals, a tragic lesbian relationship and whispers of a conspiracy, all told in choppy, infelicitous prose. (It’s possible the clunkiness of the prose may be laid at the feet of the unidentified translator from the German.) A smaller subset of plot threads might have allowed room for Rosa to grow into a more than just a survivor. Paranormal romance jumps the weresnake. (Paranormal romance. 14-16)

GETTING SOMEWHERE

Neff, Beth Viking (448 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 19, 2012 978-0-670-01255-8

Four girls facing time behind bars choose to spend their incarceration on an experimental group farm in the middle of nowhere. Each of the four girls arrives at the home with her own story, prejudices and hurts. Jenna, the observer, attempts to figure out her new housemates, like a puzzle she is trying to solve. Cassie, who would prefer to fade into the background, hides a desperate secret. Sarah, the street-wise cynic, wants to believe that this is not just a dumping ground for lost causes. Lauren, defiant and angry, wants nothing more than to go home even if it means taking down the whole program with her. The trio of directors, while well-meaning, has their own secrets. With narration that is filtered through the perspectives of each of the four girls, Neff ’s debut seeks to untangle the broken lives of all seven of the inhabitants of the farmhouse. The potentially meaningful story is hamstrung by vague characters, a meandering plot and purple prose. Cassie is angry “[a] t the dark that won’t swallow her up as it once did, that, instead, spits her out night after night onto the ground, shivering with the truth. What to do with it?” Attempts at true revelation are drowned by familiar tropes and forced drama. A story that fades before it can ever find its stride. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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“Brief entries arranged in mostly chronological order read seamlessly so that fact and fiction meld in a cohesive whole.” from no crystal stair

NO CRYSTAL STAIR A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller

Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux Illus. by Christie, R. Gregory Carolrhoda Lab (192 pp.) $17.95 | $12.95 e-book | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-7613-6169-5 978-0-7613-8727-5 e-book

Lewis Michaux provided a venue for his fellow AfricanAmericans to have access to their own history and philosophy at a time when the very idea was revolutionary. Michaux’s family despaired of him, as he engaged in petty crime and was obviously headed in the wrong direction. He began to read, however, and discovered a connection to the writings of Marcus Garvey and others, and he determined that knowledge of black thinkers and writers was the way to freedom and dignity. With an inventory of five books, he started his National Memorial African Bookstore as “the home of proper propaganda” and built it into a Harlem landmark, where he encouraged his neighbors to read, discuss and learn, whether or not they could afford to buy. His clients included Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni. Nelson, Michaux’s great-niece, makes use of an exhaustive collection of interviews, articles, books, transcripts and FBI files, filling in the gaps with “informed speculation.” Brief entries arranged in mostly chronological order read seamlessly so that fact and fiction meld in a cohesive whole. Michaux’s voice blends with those of the people in his life, providing a full portrait of a remarkable man. Copious illustrations in the form of photographs, copies of appropriate ephemera and Christie’s powerfully emotional free-form line drawings add depth and focus. A stirring and thought-provoking account of an unsung figure in 20th-century American history. (author’s notes, source notes, bibliography, index) (Fictional biography. 12-18)

WHOA, BABY, WHOA!

Nichols, Grace Illus. by Taylor, Eleanor Bloomsbury (32 pp.) $15.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-59990-742-0

An irrepressible, biracial baby crawls toward trouble at every turn, only to hear the titular refrain from safety-conscious family members. Translucent watercolors and loose lines capture the postures and behaviors of this busy child in a most convincing manner. The cycle of mild tension and relief repeats itself as he dumps and explores the contents of mother’s purse, ascends the bookcase or proceeds toward the dog food. Each time, the tot’s trajectory is diverted before disaster strikes. Nichols’ blend of informal and precise rhymes—within a pattern of gerunds |

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describing the baby’s actions, followed by declarative sentences voicing the reprimands—yields a lively patter that scans reasonably well (if not always perfectly): “Climbing / up Grandpa / like a / mountaineer / Grabbing / at those glasses / he likes to wear… ‘Whoa, / Baby, whoa! / You sure like doing that / but without my glasses / I’m blind as a bat.’ “ Humor is transmitted through the images as visually challenged Grandpa addresses the dog, while Baby sports the senior’s spectacles. The rhythm is supported through the use of a larger and darker type for accented beats. Words wobble, and letters are formed unevenly, mirroring the endless motion of the protagonist. Readers will be delighted to hear a new response when Baby takes his first steps. As in Helen Oxenbury’s world, this home offers a stimulating environment where an endearing explorer employs his senses to learn and grow. (Picture book. 1-3)

MATTHEW MEETS THE MAN

Nichols, Travis Illus. by Nichols, Travis Roaring Brook (176 pp.) $14.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-1-59643-545-2 Fourteen-year-old Matthew Swanbeck takes on “The Man” in this humorous slice of high-school life. The Man is “Authority. Cops, parents, teachers, bosses, old people. The Man is the system of control that keeps its fat thumb pressed down on your freakin’ head to make sure you don’t have too much fun,” according to Matt’s older friend Sully, “the oldest junior in the history of Franklin High School.” But this is no angry young man–versus–the establishment story; Matt’s simply a good-hearted high-school kid out to navigate the treacherous waters of coolness, which is difficult when you have no money, you’re in the marching band, your friends are all computer geeks and you’re just naturally the kind of kid who pays extra for recycled toilet paper when rolling a friend’s house. But Matt has a new girlfriend, takes her to homecoming and even starts up a new rock band, so all is not uncool. Nichols expertly captures Matt’s nerdy, quirky and frequently funny adolescent voice and embellishes the text with black-and-white cartoonish illustrations, lists, diagrams and handwritten letters, a satisfying one-two punch of story and illustration. A light-hearted tale of a likable kid trying to be cool and survive high school at the same time. (Fiction. 11-14)

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“O’Connor expertly captures both the dramatic action and each character’s distinct personality—Demeter in particular, with her big hair and temper to match, is a real piece of work…” from hades

GEORGIA IN HAWAII When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased

Novesky, Amy Illus. by Morales, Yuyi Harcourt (32 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 27, 2012 978-0-15-205420-5

An appealing and slightly humorous portrayal of O’Keeffe’s artistic vision and determination, along with a peek at the Hawaii of over half a century ago. During her several-weeks sojourn in the Hawaii Territory in 1939, Georgia O’Keeffe painted some of her most lovely work. Though it was the Hawaiian (later Dole) Pineapple Company that underwrote her trip in exchange for a painting of a pineapple, O’Keeffe refused to paint the picked fruit the company offered. She did not actually paint a pineapple until she returned to New York, and readers may be able to find her pineapple painting hiding in the pages. But, as Novesky tells here, O’Keeffe discovered flowers, landscapes and Hawaiian feathered fishhooks that captured her artist’s eye. Morales’ luscious full-page illustrations—digitally assembled edge-to-edge acrylic paintings—seem to glow softly in scenes filled with rich colors and that create an intimate relationship between the figure of Georgia and her surroundings. Labeled illustrations of nine different Hawaiian blossoms cover the endpapers. In one striking spread, a canvas close up shows Georgia’s just-painted waterfall, with a feathered lure and a shell hanging from the corners, while just beyond Georgia, a striking black lava formation reaches into the ocean. Morales captures Georgia’s intelligent and occasionally formidable look; she also captures what O’Keeffe saw, gracefully echoing, not reproducing, O’Keeffe’s work. Accessible, unfussy and visually charming. (author’s and illustrator’s notes; sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

HADES Lord Of The Dead

O’Connor, George Illus. by O’Connor, George Neal Porter/First Second (80 pp.) $16.99 | paper $9.99 | Jan. 31, 2012 978-1-59643-761-6 978-1-59643-434-9 paperback Series: Olympians, 4 A tempestuous mother-daughter relationship makes up the centerpiece of O’Connor’s latest carefully researched and simultaneously fresh and funny Olympian portrait. Snatched down to the Underworld in the wake of a screaming fight with her mother Demeter (“Butt out of my life!!” “You ungrateful brat”), raging adolescent Kore (meaning, generically “The Maiden”) initially gives her quiet, gloomy captor Hades a hard time too. After grabbing the opportunity to give herself a thorough makeover and changing her name to Persephone (“Bringer of Destruction”), though, she takes charge of her 2334

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life—so surely that, when offered the opportunity to return to her remorseful mom, she lies about having eaten those pomegranate seeds so she can spend half of each year as Queen of the Dead. O’Connor expertly captures both the dramatic action and each character’s distinct personality—Demeter in particular, with her big hair and temper to match, is a real piece of work—in easy-to-follow graphic panels. Effortlessly folding in other familiar and not-so-familiar tales of figures associated with his title character, he opens with an eerie guided tour of Hades’ realm, closes with fact boxes about each of the major players and in between ingeniously preserves the old tale’s archetypal quality without ever losing sight of its human dimension. An outstanding addition to a first-rate series. (notes, study questions, resource lists) (Graphic mythology. 8-14)

WONDER

Palacio, R. J. Knopf (320 pp.) $15.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $18.99 Feb. 14, 2012 978-0-375-86902-0 978-0-375-89988-1 e-book 978-0-375-96902-7 PLB After being homeschooled for years, Auggie Pullman is about to start fifth grade, but he’s worried: How will he fit into middle-school life when he looks so different from everyone else? Auggie has had 27 surgeries to correct facial anomalies he was born with, but he still has a face that has earned him such cruel nicknames as Freak, Freddy Krueger, Gross-out and Lizard face. Though “his features look like they’ve been melted, like the drippings on a candle” and he’s used to people averting their eyes when they see him, he’s an engaging boy who feels pretty ordinary inside. He’s smart, funny, kind and brave, but his father says that having Auggie attend Beecher Prep would be like sending “a lamb to the slaughter.” Palacio divides the novel into eight parts, interspersing Auggie’s first-person narrative with the voices of family members and classmates, wisely expanding the story beyond Auggie’s viewpoint and demonstrating that Auggie’s arrival at school doesn’t test only him, it affects everyone in the community. Auggie may be finding his place in the world, but that world must find a way to make room for him, too. A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder. (Fiction. 8-14)

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THE HUMMING ROOM

loose and scrunched as it depicts Prelutsky’s vast company of players: Gludus, Wiguanas, Appleopards and Flamingoats. Welcome, heart-gladdening poems that never come amiss. (index) (Poetry. 5-10)

Potter, Ellen Feiwel & Friends (192 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-312-64438-3

A young orphan finds herself in a remote mansion that hides many secrets. Roo’s childhood has been traumatic; she is ill-fed, ill-clothed and too small for her age. She spends much of her time hiding in cavelike spaces, with her ear to the ground listening intensely to the movements within the Earth. When her drug-dealing parents are killed, she is sent to live with an uncle on an isolated island—Cough Rock—in the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York. The local inhabitants are earthy and superstitious and seem to hark back to an earlier time. Her uncle stays away for months at a time. A newly discovered cousin screams and cries and rarely leaves his room. There is also a mysterious, longneglected garden that calls to her. The characters and events are nearly exact counterparts to those found in the classic The Secret Garden. Potter intentionally evokes the earlier work, capturing its bittersweet emotions and fey qualities. But it is not a clone in modern dress. The author has created a fresh tale with a strong-willed heroine. Though Jack is no Dickon, Roo might be more likable than Mary Lennox. An homage to a cherished classic that can work as a companion piece or stand alone as a solid, modern tale for young readers in the 21st century. (Fiction. 9-12)

I’VE LOST MY HIPPOPOTAMUS

Prelutsky, Jack Illus. by Urbanovic, Jackie Greenwillow/HarperCollins (144 pp.) $18.99 | PLB $19.89 | Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-06-201457-3 978-0-06-201458-0 PLB

THE UNRULY QUEEN

Redmond, E.S. Illus. by Redmond, E.S. Candlewick (32 pp.) $15.99Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-7636-3445-2

A nanny—Mary Poppins’ acidic cousin?—outwits a spoiled fusspot using reverse psychology. On the title page, a maid kneels, scrubbing at a dark line vandalized onto wallpaper. Turn the page and find a girl lengthening the line with her pencil as she roller skates along. She looks back toward the maid wickedly. A passel of servants at her mercy, Minerva von Vyle brings her pink pony indoors and graffitis a punk hairdo and bikini onto her father’s military portrait. Beef Wellington is thrown: “Now bring me a plateful of candy instead… / and don’t even think about mentioning bed!” “[F]ifty-two nannies in fifty-two weeks” depart; the 53rd shrewdly crowns Minerva “the Unruly Queen.” Will Minerva’s castle have a fancy throne? Nope, she’ll rule over “a dark distant place known as Petulant Peak,” which is beset by beasties and where, worst of all, “[n]obody’s going to care anymore” about her. Cowed, Minerva runs to the bathtub. Scrubbed and meekly abed, she’s permitted to decline the Unruly crown—though nanny’s final threat is far from comforting. Rollicking verse, stumbling only occasionally, lends a playful air to the otherwise foreboding mood. In pen and ink, Redmond gives her stylized, exaggerated figures barbs and sharp edges everywhere. Tertiary, unsaturated green and purple watercolors balance out the busy pages. For readers in the mood for a little menace. (Picture book. 4-6)

TOO PRINCESSY!

Prelutsky is back to make your day better, even if it’s already a good one. Here come 103 more poems from the master of silliness; the guy must dream in poetry, his output is so steady and strong. And he is everywhere in the poetic world. He tackles grief—a young gent on the afternoon his hamster died: “It was a poor, unpleasant pet / That I should probably forget. / It never had a proper name… / I miss it deeply, all the same.” He introduces a disarmingly honest goblin—”I have an awful odor, / An unattractive voice. / I’m nasty and annoying / By nature and by choice.” He effortlessly turns a haiku conundrum: “All evening I sing, / Happy on a lily pad, / Celebrating spring.” He hands readers new words, little gems, for them to play with— ”easy to abhor” or “Some unsavory subterfuge”—or lets them watch as he turns a world on its head: “…I thought I made an error once— / But I was just mistaken.” Urbanovic’s black-andwhite artwork displays a comfortably free hand, roving between |

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Reidy, Jean Illus. by Leloup, Geneviève Bloomsbury (32 pp.) $12.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-1-59990-722-2 The superpink cover’s a bit of a pink (red) herring for those seeking a princess or anti-princess theme, but this sibling of Too Purpley! (2010) and Too Pickley! (2010) has a field day showcasing one hilariously realistic way that kids reject toys. “I am bored!” announces a pigtailed girl, lying upside down on the floor with an emoticon frown. From there until the penultimate page, the text is made exclusively of rhyming explanations for why this toy and that toy aren’t worth her playtime. They’re “Too jolly, too jumpy, / too diggy, too dumpy!” (jolly and jumpy are a jack-in-the-box and a wind-up bird on a trampoline, |

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diggy and dumpy are a steam shovel and a dump truck) or “Too goopy, / too gluey, // too Marsy, / too mooey!” (goopy is modeling clay, gluey is collage crafts, Marsy is a telescope and mooey is—natch—a riding cow). What’s wrong with a puzzle? “Too piecey.” A wagon? “[T]oo zoomy.” Bright colors and high visual energy match the quick verse. Listeners will enjoy the scansion; observers will be tickled that as hard as this girl clings to her indefatigable determination to be bored, she’s actually having a quite a romp. Leloup slyly shows her relishing most of the toys— albeit briefly—before tossing them aside. Adults won’t be surprised at the only object she stamps with approval, and kids will want re-reads. (Picture book. 2-5)

A MILLION SUNS

Revis, Beth Razorbill/Penguin (400 pp.) $18.99 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-1-59514-398-3 Series: Across the Universe, 2 Opening soon after the bleak ending of Across the Universe (2011), this captivating middle volume takes Godspeed’s 2,763 residents through commotion, twists and game-changers. Sixteen-year-old Elder (he refuses the title Eldest, despite being the ship’s leader now) learned in the trilogy opener that Godspeed’s weakened engine offers no chance of planet-landing for many decades. But Elder’s been studying physics, and he’s newly skeptical. Confronting the Shippers who physically run Godspeed begins a string of surprising reveals, and so does a set of clues left by a cryogenically frozen rebel. Among this population that’s been shipborn for generations, Earthborn Amy sticks out like a sore thumb (in race-coded ways that are troubling when examined closely). Amy wants off the 10 square miles of this metal-walled spaceship. The environment (levels; elevators; fields under a solar lamp; crammed stacks of city buildings) gives the plot (food hoarding, rape, riots, revolution) an acute tension. Amy and Elder alternate narrating in first person. Their voices aren’t distinct, their actions and characterizations frustrating in many ways, but it hardly matters: Revis’ shining brilliance is the fierce tension about survival (is Godspeed deteriorating? can people survive terrorism inside an enclosed spaceship?) and the desperate core question of whether any generation will ever reach a planet. Setting and plot are the heart and soul of this ripping space thriller, and they’re unforgettable. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

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FANGBONE! THIRD-GRADE BARBARIAN

Rex, Michael Illus. by Rex, Michael Putnam (128 pp.) $15.99 | Jan. 5, 2012 978-0-399-25521-2 Series: Fangbone, 1 A lackluster graphic-novel offering for the young-male reading set, full of gross-outs, slapstick humor and out-of-this world adventures. In the far-away world of Skullbania, fledgling barbarian Fangbone has to suffer the injustices of being little: He gets no respect, no one listens to him and the elders mock him with humiliating requests (“Pick the spider eggs out of my armpit!”). When he volunteers to guard the Big Toe of the detested overlord Drool, he is sent with it to the safety of our world by a powerful Skullbanian sorcerer. Fangbone ends up in class 3G, an unfortunate and uncoordinated motley crew who desperately needs help to win their upcoming beanball tournament (it’s “like dodgeball, but the balls are smaller and you throw harder”). Fangbone—who has a wickedly advantageous barbarian throwing arm—needs an army, and the two groups find each other to be extremely beneficial. The illustrations are done in a drab yellow and gray palette and wind their jaundiced way through this predictable plot distinguished by expected formulaic silliness. This series opener offers little novelty—readers will have seen similar tropes explored in Captain Underpants or Jarrett Krosoczka’s Lunch Lady series. The expected blend of boogers, barbarian battles and beanballs may hold some appeal for young boys seeking hijinks over highbrow literature. (Graphic fiction. 9-12)

CHOPSTICKS

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse Illus. by Magoon, Scott Disney Hyperion (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 24, 2012 978-1-4231-0796-5 This companion to the well-loved Spoon (2009) is equally charming. When one member of a pair of chopsticks suffers an accident, both learn that friendship can benefit from separation. Full of visual and verbal puns, with a supporting cast of the familiar Knife, Fork and Spoon, the plucky chopsticks learn that sticking together sometimes requires venturing out alone. Encouraged by his injured friend to get out and go, the healthy chopstick discovers hidden strengths by joining in a game of pick-up sticks, helping Spoon with the pole vault, testing cupcakes for doneness and conducting a cutlery band. When the friend recovers (and “[f]eels fantastic(k)!”), the two find that being apart “had made each of them even stronger”—and furthermore they find many new things they can now do together. kirkusreviews.com

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“Rossi grounds her worldbuilding in language, creating idioms for the Dwellers and Outsiders that add texture to their respective myths…” from under the never sky

“Toasted” by their friends, they conclude with a rendition of “Chopsticks,” with Magoon’s clever drawings hitting all the right notes. Most picture books that deal with a separation between friends focus either on healing after an argument or getting by after a friend has moved away. This is refreshing in its lighthearted, upbeat treatment of the value of occasionally going one’s own way. Who knew there were so many lessons to be learned from a cutlery drawer? (Picture book. 4-8)

UNDER THE NEVER SKY

Rossi, Veronica Harper/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 3, 2012 978-0-06-207203-0 Debut author Rossi creates a dystopian world in which a teenage girl loses her home but finds truth, love and identity. Aria has grown up in a Pod, where life is highly regulated and technology has eliminated many of life’s pains and inconveniences. Dwellers lead sheltered, insulated lives in the Pod, enjoying protection from the often treacherous and always unpredictable Aether forces in the sky. They also revel in endless virtual joy rides accessible through devices all Dwellers have. Rossi seamlessly intertwines Aria’s journey with that of Peregrine, a teenage boy who has grown up outside of a Pod, an Outsider, in what the Dwellers consider perilous wastelands where humans live without the gadgets Dwellers depend upon. Ruling authorities banish Aria from the Pod, and Rossi nails the feat of offering dual perspectives from Aria and Perry as they help one another on separate quests that turn out to have unexpected connections. Though an Outsider and what Dwellers consider a savage, Peregrine, who possesses preternatural gifts and comes from a ruling family in his tribe, earns not only Aria’s respect and admiration, but also her heart. Rossi grounds her worldbuilding in language, creating idioms for the Dwellers and Outsiders that add texture to their respective myths; her characters are brave and complex and her prose smooth and evocative. Inspired, offbeat and mesmerizing. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

GOODNIGHT, DRAGONS

Roth, Judith Illus. by Lemaitre, Pascal Disney Hyperion (40 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 14, 2012 978-1-4231-4190-7

A small boy states that he is “called to tame dragons” and proceeds to do so in a question-begging flight of fancy. He knows there are real dragons because he has dreamed of them, sleeping under a chestnut tree in the forest. He has his |

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tools and traps and tricks; he has a plan. He calls to the dragons, who come belching flame and stomping, but he wraps them in soft blankets, settles them in the clover and takes out his tools (pot and milk and chocolate) and soothes them into sleep. “Everyone needs a cuddle. Maybe dragons more than most,” says the boy. As the tale winds down, boy, dragons and many small creatures (duck, frog, rabbit, dog, bat, hedgehog, etc.) sip their hot chocolate and settle in. Although the time of day seems like naptime rather than bedtime earlier, the moon comes up as the boy snuggles under his blanket on the tummy of a dragon. The spare, soft pictures, with their slight lines and rounded shapes, seem to belong to a much less fanciful story; the dragons look a bit like Moomins, round-faced and pastel-colored. One could, perhaps, see the dragons as personified fears or bullies or other childhood terrors, conquered by the brave wielding of chocolate, but one could also see a slightly unfocused and underimagined bedtime story. You make the call. (Picture book. 4-7)

THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME

Rothenberg, Jess Dial (288 pp.) $17.99 | Feb. 21, 2012 978-0-8037-3720-4

When Brie’s heart literally breaks, killing her, she must go through the five stages of grief before moving on in the afterlife. Brie leaves behind a loving family, three best friends and a first boyfriend whose declaration that he didn’t love her caused the bizarre heart event that offed her. Under the guidance of the annoying-but-hot Patrick, she explores the afterlife, haunts her ex-boyfriend and works her way through the D&G Handbook (D&G stands for “dead and gone”). It’s Patrick who tells her that her first task in the afterlife is to work through those five classic stages: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance. Brie is a likableenough narrator, when she’s not being vengeful. But Rothenberg’s afterlife is irritatingly undefined for one that comes complete with a handbook. Rules seem to be applied more for narrative convenience than any adherence to complete concept, and the twist that drives the climax, while satisfying in an It’s A Wonderful Life kind of way, comes out of nowhere. Moreover, her progress through the stages of grief becomes muddied by her continued interactions with the living world. Yes, she’s angry, but it’s hard to tell whether she’s angry at dying or at her exboyfriend. Gabrielle Zevin’s Elsewhere (2005) stands out as far better treatment of a similar concept. Interesting idea, not-so-great execution. (Fiction. 13 & up)

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“Courtesy goes a long way, even with a T. Rex.” from suppose you meet a dinosaur

PETER IS JUST A BABY

Russo, Marisabina Illus. by Russo, Marisabina Eerdmans (32 pp.) $16.00 | Jan. 31, 2012 978-0-8028-5384-4

A precocious big sister is unimpressed by her baby brother in this slice-of-life picture book on sibling dynamics. Russo’s cheery gouache paintings depict a world of anthropomorphic bears in which the unnamed narrator rattles off her own accomplishments, comparing baby Peter unfavorably to herself. Doting parents and a Francophone grandmother shower love on both cubs, and Grandma even teaches her French. She uses her bilingual vocabulary to order apple pie à la mode and later to convey her dismay when chicken pox prevent her from attending a birthday party: “Quel dommage!” She expresses this same sentiment when ruefully recalling how she’d wished for a baby sister, not a brother, but by book’s end, Peter turns 1, and his big sister imagines all of the things he’ll be able to do as he gets older. While lacking in drama and not breaking much ground in the well-worn new-baby arena, it is refreshing to see a title that stretches the emotional range of the older sibling in such stories. This little girl is not wracked with jealousy; she’s just a little disappointed and unimpressed by her brother since he’s “just a baby.” For families who are just as happy to do without sturm und drang in their new-baby books, this is just the ticket. (Picture book. 4-6)

STELLA BATTS NEEDS A NEW NAME

Sheinmel, Courtney Illus. by Bell, Jennifer A. Sleeping Bear Press (160 pp.) $9.99 | paper $5.99 | Jan. 15, 2012 978-1-58536-185-4 978-1-58536-183-0 paperback Series: Stella Batts, 1 In the first of a new series, thirdgrader Stella realizes she really needs a new name, since the class bully has started calling her “Smella,” following an unfortunate (and stinky) accident on a field trip. That’s not the only reason that Stella wants to change her name; she’s also frustrated because she doesn’t have a nickname. She and her best friends decide to choose new names that seem more appropriate to their interests: Candy! Willa becomes Caramel, Lucy’s new name is Truffle and Talisa is Kit Kat. But Stella surprises everybody when she chooses the name of a bookstore for herself—Scheherazade, or Sherry for short. After a few days of name changing, described in Stella’s autobiography, she realizes it’s hard to remember everyone’s new names, including her own. When she hears that her parents chose Stella especially for her, that’s sufficient reason to give up her new one. Featuring 2338

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large print and cheery black-and-white illustrations on almost every spread, this would be an easy sell for girls just transitioning to chapter books. While nothing of great significance happens, it effectively portrays the minor ups and downs of typical suburban elementary-school life, neatly captured in Stella’s ageappropriate first-person narration. A pleasant, good-humored early chapter book with the effervescence—and substance—of a soft drink. (Fiction. 5-9)

SUPPOSE YOU MEET A DINOSAUR A First Book of Manners

Sierra, Judy Illus. by Bowers, Tim Knopf (40 pp.) $16.99PLB $19.99 | Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-375-86720-0 978-0-375-96720-7 PLB

Courtesy goes a long way, even with a T. Rex. In a grocery store with understandably stunned-looking, wide-eyed shoppers looking on, Bowers sets up a series of encounters between a small girl with pigtails and a very large (and clumsy) green dino sporting pink-sequined glasses. Sierra provides rhymed prompts: “Commotion in the produce aisle! / The dinosaur upsets a pile / Of apples, and they roll away. / If you pick them up, what will she say?” Correct responses (“Thank you”) in large, bold type follow. Though some of the exchanges are problematic, as the child seems to be in the store alone—in one meeting, the dino offers her some snack food and in the checkout line gives her money when she runs short—the situations all engender a set of polite phrases from “Hello, I’m pleased to meet you” to “Excuse me,” “No, thank you” and the ever-useful “I’m sorry” that will come in handy in any setting. Take socialization skills to the next step with Sesyle Joslin’s timeless, Sendak-illustrated What Do You Say, Dear? (1958, 1986) and What Do You Do, Dear? (1961, 1993). Shall we encourage offspring to be more polite? Yes, thank you. Perhaps they will stay that way. (Picture book. 4-6)

THE BOY WHO CRIED ALIEN

Singer, Marilyn Illus. by Biggs, Brian Disney Hyperion (48 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 20, 2012 978-0-7868-3825-7

A prairie fire of wordplay engulfs Singer’s otherwise silly tale of visiting aliens. Young Larry is a known liar, so no one believes him when he says an alien spaceship has landed in a nearby lake. “How corny, quaint, and uninspired. / I can’t be fooled by stuff that tired,” says someone who looks like he might be the mayor. And so, let the wordplay begin. Singer’s poetic architecture is highly variable—from long lines (which kirkusreviews.com

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can be a bit of a slog) to short lines where words fly like popcorn (“ ‘Nonsense— / They’re jokesters, / hoaxsters. / Those fakes cannot / harm me…’ / ‘Holy pastrami— / call out the army!’ “) to unsyncopated stutter steps. Even the aliens get in on the rhyming, their cockamamie verbiage—”Lel’w peek ruo eyes npeo / dna esu ruo tiws”—turning out in the end to be anagrammed English. The story, which involves Larry getting to know the aliens and learning that their planet admires the art of quality fibbing, plays second fiddle to the narrative pyrotechnics, and the words, in turn, tend to outshine Biggs’ artwork. While the characters have their measure of personality, mostly via gaping mouths, flapping tongues and beady eyes, the colors are fairly anemic, making the story even less substantial. Inventive, musical rhyming pulls this effort, while the story and illustrations watch from the sidelines. (Picture book. 4-8)

CHRONAL ENGINE

Smith, Greg Leitich Illus. by Blake, Henry Clarion (192 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 20, 2012 978-0-547-60849-5

A Back to the Future–style romp through time, though with more loose ends than a bowl of spaghetti. Hardly have teen twins Kyle and Emma and their younger brother (and narrator) Max arrived for a stay at their reclusive grandfather’s Texas ranch than the old man announces that he’s about to have a massive heart attack, shows them a working time machine in the basement and sends them out to a nearby paleontological site where they find fossilized sneaker prints among the dinosaur tracks. Then a stranger grabs Emma and vanishes in a flash of light—leaving the remaining sibs and a ranch hand’s bowwielding daughter Petra to zoom in a Volkswagen Beetle back 70 million–plus years to the rescue. Not only does the late Cretaceous landscape turn out to be well stocked with crocodilian Deinosuchus and other toothy predators, a human gent falsely (as it turns out) claiming to be a refugee from 1919 steps out of the bushes to guide the others to the evidently dino-proof frame house in which Emma is being held. Everyone steams back to the present on the kidnapper’s motor launch, which is also fitted out as a time machine. Showing blithe disregard for potential paradoxes, the author sheds enough light on his byzantine back story to ensure that the protagonists will be taking more trips through time and closes with notes on dinosaurs and on the history of “Robinsonades.” Action and enthusiasm aplenty, but, like most timetravel tales, not much for internal logic. (recommended reading) (Science fiction. 10-12)

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THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

Smith, Jennifer E. Poppy/Little, Brown (256 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 2, 2012 978-0-316-12238-2 A smartly observed novel rises above its apparently easy structure. Although her mother has made peace with the situation, Hadley is still angry and hurt that her father left them for an Englishwoman. Rebooked on the next flight after missing her plane to London, where she’s to be a bridesmaid in their wedding, Hadley is seated next to the English boy who helped her in the terminal. He comes to her rescue again after she confesses she suffers from claustrophobia. A good-looking Yale student, Oliver is smart, funny and thoughtful, though evasive about the purpose of his trip. Their mutual attraction is heightened by the limbo of air travel, but on arrival, they’re separated. With just minutes to get to the wedding, Hadley—resentful, anxious, missing Oliver and above all jetlagged—makes her way to the church and the father she’s avoided seeing for a year. Narrative hooks and “meet cutes” often seem designed to distract from less-thancompelling content. Here, the opposite pertains. Its one-day time frame and “what are the odds?” conceit bookend a closely observed, ultimately moving tale of love, family and otherwise. Yes, many teens face more compelling problems than those of a smart, attractive daughter of affluent and loving, if estranged, parents; but Smith’s acute insights make Hadley’s heartache and loss as real as the magical unfurling of new love. (Fiction. 12 & up)

GOOD NIGHT, LAILA TOV

Snyder, Laurel Illus. by Ishida, Jui Random House (32 pp.) $17.99 | PLB $20.99 | Mar. 27, 2012 978-0-375-86868-9 978-0-375-96868-6 PLB The wonder of the natural world becomes more meaningful through active engagement with it. A young family’s camping vacation makes two significant overnight stops, one at the seaside and one further inland in a lush green field. As parents set up tents, brother and sister feel the hot sand, marvel at the wide waves, breathe in the salty air and hear the wind’s English/Hebrew whisper of “good night, laila tov.” Similarly, while parents plant new tree seedlings in the field, children gather berries, are awed by field mice, surprised by bees and ultimately fall asleep to the rhythmic pattern of rain that mimics the “good night, laila tov” message. Bright, often full double-page scenes in deeply rich, opaque hues on textured paper bring out the natural essence of this |

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sweet bedtime piece told in lilting rhyme. “We drove out to the oceanside. / The sand was hot. The waves were wide. / Tall grasses swayed. The salty air / Was soft and still and everywhere.” The continual assurance of its repetitive refrain, found on every other page, complements the theme of caring for nature’s beauty. Though the Judaic concept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, is not explicitly stated within the text, it pervades the whole. A wholesome and gentle story that’s pleasant and soothing for little ones of all faiths, though it will have extra resonance in Jewish households. (Picture book. 2-4)

A BIG BOY NOW

Spinelli, Eileen Illus. by Lloyd, Megan Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-06-008673-2 Spinelli and Lloyd celebrate the self-confidence that arises from a child’s achieving the milestones of growth, including the ups and downs of riding a bike sans training wheels. With a little bunny narrating, the first half of the book focuses on all the things he can do now that he is a big boy. From getting dressed and doing chores to feats of skill on the playground and being kind, he certainly does seem to be maturing. And parents are sure to appreciate the things Spinelli highlights: cleaning up after himself, pitching in and especially putting others first—his guest gets the first turn, he is a good sport and he shares with his little sister. The second half of the book describes the bunny’s bumpy road to learning to ride a twowheeler. He starts off well enough, but a wobble leads to a fall and some skinned appendages. A pep talk from Mom soothes his bruised self-confidence, while some practice helps him to success. Created with scratchboard and a spring palette of watercolors, Lloyd’s bunny characters are exuberant and upbeat. And while their range of emotions is rather limited (the bunny smiles even when washing dishes and making his bed), they successfully convey both pride and self-confidence. A nice addition to the “growing up” books that not only deals with an obstacle to overcome, but features a main character that is slightly older than most in this genre. (Picture book. 4-8)

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THE WOODEN SWORD A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan

Stampler, Ann Redisch Illus. by Liddiment, Carol Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-8075-9201-4

An old Jewish folktale set in Afghanistan tests the faith and character of both a wealthy shah and a poor man. In old Kabul, the good shah leaves his lavish home disguised as a servant to discover whether the people of his country are “sad or happy, rich or poor, foolish or wise.” In the poorest part of town, he encounters a young Jewish couple happily welcoming the Sabbath. Impressed with their attitude despite their humble circumstances, the shah questions the man’s livelihood and decides to secretly challenge his never-failing faith by creating a series of decrees that will hamper the man’s ability to earn “puli,” or money. Each time, though, the former shoemaker succeeds in finding new work as a water carrier, woodcutter and royal guard. When, as a guard, the young Jew is made royal executioner and must cut off the head of a thief, both faith and wit save the day, and the shah finally understands the Jew’s true ability to wisely carve out his path in life. Detailed, gently humorous paintings reflect the colorful richness of the Afghani traditional rugs, robes and turbans set against sandy mountainous backdrops. This tale of perseverance and confidence is told with well-researched authenticity and offers a positive view of this war-torn nation. (author’s note) (Folktale. 5-8)

THE BOY ON CINNAMON STREET

Stone, Phoebe Levine/Scholastic (240 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-545-21512-1 978-0-545-39316-4 e-book Something terrible happened to seventh-grader Louise’s parents, and only the kindly ministrations of an unknown admirer can pull her back from her insulating—suffocating— layers of denial. Louise lives with her quirky grandparents, vividly depicted by Stone (The Romeo and Juliet Code, 2011) as they strive to relieve the girl’s obvious suffering. She’s given up gymnastics, turned away from most of her peers and cut herself off from the devastating truth of her past. But some friends continue to reach out to her, especially her overweight best buddy, Reni, and Reni’s tall seventh-grade brother, Henderson. After Louise discovers a note—”I am your biggest fan”—that seems to have been left by pizza–delivery boy Benny, she develops a shaky sort of crush on this all-but-unknown person. Her emotional fire is eagerly fueled by Reni’s frustration with her own safely unrequited kirkusreviews.com

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“Pencil-and–digitally painted illustrations portraying an air-guitar performance and choreography for the multigenerational family back-up dancers truly amp up the fun.” from so you want to be a rock star

fixation on Justin Bieber. The true identity of Louise’s biggest fan is gradually, achingly revealed, along with a gentle, loving exploration of the characters of these admirable, young teen protagonists. Readers of Louise’s self-deprecating, sometimes funny first-person account will figure out the terrible thing that has happened to Louise, and a young man’s role in her redemption, long before she does, just adding to the building suspense. An outstanding tale of love, loss and the true power of friendship. (Fiction. 10-14)

in their room drawing pictures and imagining all the amazing things rock stars get to do, the author poses them such questions as, “Do you have an awesome sound system with cordless microphone?” Each question initially flummoxes the twosome, but the text guides them (and readers) in what to do: “Well, can you make your hand into a fist and sing into that? Try it.” Pencil-and–digitally painted illustrations portraying an air-guitar performance and choreography for the multigenerational family back-up dancers truly amp up the fun. Kids will giggle with grown-ups at the appropriately over-the-top plans for superstardom (a TV show, a “you-movie” and a theme song) that are consistently translated into actions younger ones can practice or participate in. Great for a rocking storytime and budding performers of all kinds, while quieter audience members can sit back and enjoy the show or get lost in the many colorfully designed guitar picks on the endpapers. Encore! (Picture book. 4-7)

TIME SNATCHERS

Ungar, Richard Putnam (336 pp.) $16.99Mar. 15, 2012 978-0-399-25485-7

A promising premise—mad scientist recruits children to steal treasures from humanity’s past—isn’t enough to carry a contrivance-ridden plot, poor characterization and a near-total lack of internal logic. Dispatched by a cruel, vicious quantum physicist named “Uncle,” Caleb spends his days traveling to past eras to fetch collectibles, from an ancient Chinese vase to the first Frisbee, for sale to nebulous clients in the 2060s. Ungar never bothers to explain such details as why such thefts don’t radically change the past or where the copies of artifacts that Caleb and his fellow thieves leave in place of the originals come from. He also casts his protagonist as Uncle’s most successful agent but has him either fail completely or require significant help from allies every time. The author also abandons a set time limit on trips to the past and other internal rules when convenient, adds magical elements such as a pill that wipes only memories necessary to the plot and, for romance, forcibly hooks up his rude, sullen, naïve, inarticulate, jealous and often unwashed teen with Abbie, a beautiful, smarter and far more competent young agent. This mess falls flat even if read as a sendup. (Science fiction. 11-13)

THE CROWFIELD DEMON

Walsh, Pat Chicken House/Scholastic (368 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-545-31769-6 978-0-545-39229-7 e-book It’s late winter, 1348, and although William brought peace three months ago by freeing an angel from a deathlike limbo (The Crowfield Curse, 2010), mystery and danger stir again. Will’s provisions at Crowfield Abbey are meager and physical comforts nonexistent, but he works hard and takes solace in companionship with three friends: Brother Snail, a frail, elderly monk; Shadlok, a glowering fay bonded to William though a curse; and a small, tender, talking animal known as a hob, called Brother Walter because his real name mustn’t be known. Something’s terribly wrong on the Abbey grounds. Walls are cracking, and the church tower crashes to the ground, throwing stone everywhere. While helping a stonemason clear a side chapel, Will uncovers a buried wooden bowl. Symbols and Latin reveal that the bowl ensnares a demon. Raum was once an angel but fell from grace; now he’s escaping the bowl, bent on vengeance against the Abbey and hunting Will’s pure soul. Alchemy to rebind Raum to the bowl fails, and he’s free, placing Will in the monks’ nightmares so they turn on him, burning nearby cottages, wreaking deadly havoc. Walsh’s sensory setting is cold and rainy. Will’s character is likably sturdy; he’s a hero, but a quiet one. This appealingly atmospheric historical fantasy melds Christianity and magic with conviction; eager readers will hope for another sequel. (Historical fantasy. 9-12)

SO YOU WANT TO BE A ROCK STAR

Vernick, Audrey Illus. by Edmunds, Kristie Walker (40 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 978-0-8027-2092-4 The title strikes the right note, landing somewhere between a taunt and an invitation. Those intrigued will be rewarded by a wicked good time created by new picture-book partners Vernick and Edmunds. Getting the autograph of a studded-leather-jacket–clad rocker with an impressively spiky Mohawk wows an enthusiastic blond-haired boy and his older brunette sister. As they sit |

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“A dark, wild ride.” from partials

WHEN BLUE MET EGG

Ward, Lindsay Illus. by Ward, Lindsay Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 2, 2012 978-0-8037-3718-1

Egg is a snowball that was inadvertently lobbed into Blue’s wintery nest by a bundled-up child in Central Park. But Blue doesn’t know that. “ ‘My, you’re early. How did you get here?’ asked Blue. / Egg was quiet.” Blue decides to put Egg into her orange bucket and go find its mother. So begins a lovingly rendered wintertime amble through New York City, from downtown views of the Statue of Liberty to Columbus Circle to a gatefold spread of the Brooklyn Bridge in snowy January. The Chrysler Building on the cover immediately sets the stage— a clever mash-up of skyscrapers comprised of cut-up scraps of old paper, equations, postmarks and charts. Blue carries Egg to the boathouse, to hot-dog stands (Egg isn’t hungry), to skyscraper tops… no mom in sight. In time, Bird grows attached to her silent “friend”—the image of Egg-in-bucket wearing opera glasses at Madame Butterfly is priceless—and all is well until April comes, the weather warms and Egg starts to shrink. One sunny morning in the nest, Egg disappears completely. (Spoiler: Egg melts, the bucket crashes to the ground below, Blue sees a puddle with a pink flower in it and thinks Egg has bloomed.) For a more gruesome story of “egg loss,” see Mini Grey’s Egg Drop (2009). A bittersweet tribute to New York City, tinged with deep loneliness and self-delusion. (Picture book. 3-6)

THE BOOK OF BLOOD AND SHADOW

Wasserman, Robin Knopf (448 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $20.99 Jan. 10, 2012 978-0-375-86876-4 978-0-375-89961-4 e-book 978-0-375-96876-1 PLB Here’s something refreshing: a religious-historical thriller with a nifty Mobius strip of a plot— think Nancy Werlin channeling Dan Brown—serving up shivery suspense, sans fangs or fur. Battered by family tragedy, high-school senior Nora has been sleepwalking through life in her chilly New England town. Knowing her facility in Latin, Chris and his roommate, Max, talk her into helping translate letters relating to Edward Kelley, a prominent 16th-century alchemist. Sidelined into working on his daughter’s letters, Nora learns of the Lumen Dei (the alchemical MacGuffin), sought down the centuries by religious fanatics. Pairing up, Max and Nora form a bond with Chris and his girlfriend, Adriane, that’s severed when Chris 2342

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is brutally murdered. Adriane, the only witness, is catatonic, and Max has vanished, leaving Nora on her own until Chris’s cousin Eli arrives to collect Chris’s effects and keep an eye on her. A cryptic message from Max sends Nora, joined by the semi-recovered Adriane and stalked by Eli, to the mean streets of Prague. The teen designation feels less content- than market-driven. While depictions of violence and sexuality are more muted than the title suggests, Nora’s sensibility, casual independence and vocabulary are entirely adult. A classy read that repays reader effort. (historical note) (Thriller. 12 & up)

PARTIALS

Wells, Dan Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (480 pp.) $17.99 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-06-207104-0 Teens battle human extinction in a post-apocalyptic thriller. In the year 2076, Kira Walker’s one of the last humans. Eleven years prior, a war against genetically engineered humanoid weapons called Partials abruptly ended with the release of a weaponized virus that killed most humans. Kira is a medic intern working in the maternity ward, where, despite the doctors’ best efforts, there has yet to be a single infant born with its parents’ immunity. While the Senate attempts to prevent extinction through the Hope Act—legislation commanding all girls 18 or older to be pregnant or trying to conceive—quantity has not yielded a surviving infant, and the oppressive rule births a resistance movement, threatening their small civilization. Kira’s determination to discover a way to save her species is intensified through her adopted sister’s pregnancy. But with all human aspects of the virus thoroughly studied, Kira and a small band turn to a less orthodox way of gaining biological information— the immune Partials. Their covert mission starts a chain reaction, uncovering secrets revealed through political dealings, medical pathology and paramilitary action sequences. The rollercoaster plot takes precedence over character at times, and the generally realistic world occasionally strains credibility. The rushed ending promises a sequel, progressing the story enough that readers are certain to return. A dark, wild ride. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

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A PICNIC OF POEMS IN ALLAH’S GREEN GARDEN

of the investigation as well as the ups and downs of a romance. Under scrutiny, however, little holds up. Alex asks herself repeatedly if the ends (catching cheaters) justify the means (snooping through other students’ belongings), but a tidy resolution despite Alex’s snooping undermines the question. The premise that school administrators refuse to acknowledge student wrongdoing remains hard to swallow: Why on Earth aren’t the administrators afraid of parental lawsuits? Slick, but, like a student on Anderin, less impressive when the effect wears off. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Wharnsby, Dawud Illus. by Adams, Shireen Kube Publishing (44 pp.) $22.95 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-86037-444-2

Purposeful and saccharine-sweet, these poems on religious and secular topics take on new life on the accompanying CD. Wharnsby, a musician, has an appealing folk style, but the poetry on the page sounds forced and often trite. To interest young children in diversity, he writes such lines as “People are a lot like candy! / There’re [sic] all so different and dandy.” Describing “Piles of Smiles” that have been hidden away, he laments: “Someone misplaced the key, / causing global tragedy.” The poems range from the personal “I had a Chirpy Chick,” in which the narrator focuses on love for a pet and love for her grandmother, to a didactic poem entitled “The Mosque.” Typographical mistakes abound, with the use of “their” for “they’re” in the poem “Prayer” and in the example above, among others. Vibrantly colored flowers and plants, echoed in the handsome prayer rugs that illustrate “Prayer,” curl their way around multiracial children and adults. Most adult women wear hijab, as do some girls. With more and more Muslim families in North American communities, there is certainly a need for books of this type. Unfortunately, as with much other religious poetry collections for children, the message takes precedence over the words. The more engaging musical version is available separately through iTunes and other distributors. You won’t hear the typos. (Poetry. 5-9)

REPLICATION: THE JASON EXPERIMENT

Williamson, Jill Zonderkidz (304 pp.) $15.99 | Jan. 1, 2012 978-0-310-72758-3

An imaginative science-fiction premise and a well-drawn, affecting character struggle to overcome heavy-handed religious proselytizing in this uneven sus-

pense tale. A mad, unethical scientist, assisted by sane, unethical scientists, runs a secret underground facility that experiments on boys who are clones of the mad scientist. The boys face death at age 18, believing that they will be fulfilling their “purpose” of saving mankind. The aptly named Martyr would like to see the sky before he dies. When the scientists refuse his last wish, Martyr escapes, eventually teaming up with Abby, the daughter of one of the scientists, to fight the evil Dr. Kane (read “Cain”). Abby, as a committed Christian, tries to save, both religiously and literally, her new friend. In Martyr, Williamson creates a standout character. His complete innocence, perfect sincerity and humorous misunderstandings of the modern world easily endear him to readers. Far less successful, the one-dimensional Abby blends in with standard-issue young heroine types. The author pushes her political views into the story, describing one highly stereotypical character as a “liberal extremist” when he supports embryonic stem-cell research. This complements her portrayal of the scientists, who apparently don’t view the matured clones as truly human. Suspense scenes become difficult to follow as she frequently jumps from one scene to another. However, Martyr’s final action gives readers an uplifting and important lesson. For committed conservative Christian audiences. (Christian science fiction. 12 & up)

THE RIVALS

Whitney, Daisy Little, Brown (352 pp.) $17.99 | Feb. 6, 2012 978-0-316-09057-5 Now president of the Mockingbirds, Themis Academy’s underground justice society, Alex Patrick investigates a student prescription-drug ring. The drug in question is Anderin, a fictitious ADHD medication that works “like steroids for the brain.” The student body votes that cheating is a crime against all students, and Alex and the organization follow a set of contradictory leads. Although the original Mockingbirds (2010) presented the underground group’s procedures as a wondrously comprehensive set of checks and balances, the sequel sees Alex floundering both practically and ethically. Believably, the stigma and doubt from previous year’s rape trial still cling to Alex, and both her internal struggle and other students’ hostility are portrayed with compassion and nuance. The story is ultimately driven by plot, and the author effectively shuttles readers through the twists, turns and double-crosses |

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BABY BEAR SEES BLUE

Wolff, Ashley Illus. by Wolff, Ashley Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (40 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-1-4424-1306-1 Inspired by the mother bear and cub in Blueberries for Sal, Wolff creates a gentle story for toddlers that introduces colors and images from the natural world. Between awakening in the den and cuddling down for the night, Baby Bear’s day is full of new experiences and prescient questions. “A glow creeps in. / ‘Who is warming me, Mama?’ / asks Baby Bear. / ‘That is the sun,’ Mama says.” Page turns effectively deliver the color lessons: Silhouetted against the golden light of dawn, “Baby Bear sees yellow.” The cub sees green oak leaves waving, smells fragrant red strawberries, and hears the growl of thunder against a stormy gray sky. Wolff ’s lovely compositions feature inked linoleum block prints that render those bears a strikingly deep, matte black. Lush, washy watercolors illuminate the scenes—colors in the downpour’s puddles reflect a rainbow. Curious Baby Bear is 100-percent toddler, and Wolff skillfully captures both the bear-ish (the mother’s prodigious claws and small, lipid brown eyes) and the human (smiles, tender looks and, well, dialogue). Small children notice small things, and plenty of tiny creatures—grasshopper, frog, mouse and more—await their discovery. Imbued with a spirit of exploration, fostered by parental protection, Baby Bear’s colorful adventures will enrich repeat bedtime read-alouds. (Picture book. 2-5)

kirkus board books roundup

There’s a lot of interaction in these ABCs. Each letter of the alphabet (both upper- and lowercase) receives its due in golden and dark type on blue backgrounds; the uppercase letters are die cut, allowing the yellow to peek through and creating a physical as well as visual shape. Arrows and numbers outline tracing steps for tactile emphasis, and compact flaps hold recognizable drawings of items with the

With such insipid names as “Little Fat Bug,” “Little Speckled Bug” and “Little Big-Eyed Bug,” a group of unspecified insects ventures out from their blanket home into the great outdoors. Annoyed with one another, these companions search for new friendships. It’s no shocker they find their new acquaintances below standard: The bee’s stinger carries painful implications, while the ant receives judgment for an unwelcoming appearance. Rather 15 december 2011

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This bedtime routine offers textured objects of interest for the very young. Panda Noodle prepares for sleep sans drama. He splashes in the tub and enjoys a final drink; he holds his beloved stuffed animal to lull him into slumber. Easily viewable touch-and-feel items offer a variety of sensations, from toothpaste’s sticky gel to a toy’s soft wool. His age is unclear; the picture of him on his back with bottle suggests infancy, though he’s able to get himself into bed without much assistance and brushes teeth independently. Brief, repetitive text maintains an unwavering positivity, though the final remarks, made directly to readers, may be just wishful thinking. “Noodle loves to snuggle / with a soft, fluffy sheep. // And just like Noodle, / you love to sleep!” Bright, geometric shapes keep visual pacing brisk; Noodle’s oversized head and wide eyes are a constant through the varied design to the final page, which features a mirror for audience perusal. Noodle Loves to Cuddle follows the same structure, as the youngster plays independently and then enjoys a satisfying hug with Mama. If only preparing for rest was always this easy in real life. (Board book. 1-3)

Birkett, Georgie Tiger Tales (26 pp.) $7.95 | Sep. 1, 2011 978-1-58925-872-3

Alemagna, Beatrice Illus. by Alemagna, Beatrice Phaidon Press (40 pp.) $12.95 | Aug. 1, 2011 978-0-7148-6238-5

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NOODLE LOVES BEDTIME

Billet, Marion Illus. by Billet, Marion Nosy Crow/Candlewick (10 pp.) $7.99 | Sep. 1, 2011 978-0-7636-5876-2 Series: Noodle,

A IS FOR APPLE

BUGS IN THE GARDEN

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quickly, the individuals realize that all relationships are not without risks. The lengthy text labors with forced dialogue, and the plot lacks any hint of subtlety. “Because, you see, in the blanket, just as in the rest of the world, you’ll never be able to find new friends if you’re not brave enough to get to know them.” A collection of yarns, buttons and sequins makes up every stitch of the embroidered, felted characters within textured, mixed-media scenes. The vacant expressions of the bugs make for a ghoulish impact. The grass will always be greener on the other side of this garden. (Board book. 3-4)

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“Prolific Boynton’s trademark format, ample white space and squiggly lines, adds delightful personality, from Pookie’s bunny slippers to his wish for superhero flight.” from little pookie

appropriate initial letters. Lifting the flap reveals an additional item. “Pp is for pig / and pear // Qq is for Queen / and quilt.” The selections wholly occupy their defined spaces (the picture of the yacht resembles a toy sailboat more than an impressive vessel). The companion, Count with Me, compiles numerals 1 through 20 in a similar format, along with simple addition problems at the end. The format allows for significant developmental breadth; younger children may focus on manipulating the squares while an older audience emphasizes problem-solving and writing. Varied applications from A to Z. (Board book. 2-6)

The rich, warm colors of clothing and home design contrast effectively with confectioner’s sugar–white backdrops. In a soft push toward independence, the little one leads the activities until evening sets in; then, she watches her frozen wonderland from the comfort of her house and finally settles down to sleep. Here’s hoping this darling tyke will return with the change of the seasons. (Board book. 1-3)

CUBE BOOK

Bruin, Jessica Tundra (48 pp.) Nov. 22, 2011 978-1-77049-325-4

LITTLE POOKIE

Boynton, Sandra Illus. by Boynton, Sandra Robin Corey/Random (18 pp.) $5.99Aug. 9, 2011 978-0-375-87175-7

Based on the flimsy format alone, this collection does not deserve another look. Six individual offerings depict numerous wild animals and reptiles. Each page covers one species, with a review of the habitat, eating habits and physical attributes through brief first-person statements. The text adds a few details without much depth or context; the polar bear shares, “I like to eat cod, salmon, birds, dolphins, baby sea lions, and other small mammals.” Vocabulary without explanation misses the mark for the young audience, as words like temperate and nectar lack definitions. The individual groupings follow a loose organization; large cats comprise one of the small books, and sea creatures fill another. Corners form a three-dimensional cube as they connect like puzzle pieces. The shapes are difficult to place together and must be forced to fit. The photographs on board backing quickly peel away from their edges during the first viewing. With no support for the spine, material easily rips and disintegrates. Assembly required, but it’s not worth the effort. (Board book. 3-4)

Mama lists 11 of Little Pookie’s special attributes. The youngster’s characteristics range from picky eating habits (watch those peas, please!) to a love of the outdoors. His brief responses add contrast to his mother’s assertions. He gives an enthusiastic “Yes!” to dirt and grime, but his mother’s comment that he enjoys baths receives a half-hearted “maybe” that says it all. His mom describes his favorite activities with pride. “You like the piano, though the keys are so high.” Pookie’s age-appropriate interests are spot-on; his father’s oversized shirt trails on the ground when he plays dress-up. Reading a familiar story summarizes the love between mother and little one. Brisk pacing highlights spare rhymes that focus on the young ham’s individualized preferences. Prolific Boynton’s trademark format, ample white space and squiggly lines, adds delightful personality, from Pookie’s bunny slippers to his wish for superhero flight. Kids will delight in meeting this tiny porker with a huge personality. (Board book. 1-4)

BISCUIT’S ABCS

Capucilli, Alyssa Satin Illus. by Schories, Pat HarperFestival (16 pp.) $6.99 | Aug. 30, 2011 978-0-06-162518-3 Series: Biscuit,

SNOWFLAKE BABY

Broach, Elise Illus. by Doerrfeld, Cori Little, Brown (14 pp.) $7.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-316-12926-8

Toddlers’ puppy pal Biscuit returns with a lift-the-flap smorgasbord. Upper- and lowercase letters cover 26 flaps, one per, with a corresponding alphabetized item or phrase underneath. Light, cheery spreads depict the amiable animal engaged in typical doggy behavior; he thrives playing outside, and feline buddy Puddles makes several appearances. Some spot illustrations add additional interest; there’s a picture of a duck near the Dd, while Biscuit digs voraciously underneath. The adorable dog remains the star throughout. “H is a heart on Biscuit’s new sweater, / and also for a hug, the bigger the better!” There are some expected, non-canine connections (U for umbrella, X for xylophone). Rhyming phrases move the text fairly steadily toward Biscuit’s well-deserved slumber. Biscuit appears engaged throughout as he peers into the flaps or serves as an active

Who knew a day out in the cold could be so cozy? A cheerful young girl takes her little puppy into the snowy outdoors. The cherry-cheeked toddler totters forward in bulging snow-pants and an oversized coat. A lift-the-flap format extends her fun, while smiling woodland creatures add a heaping spoonful of sweetness. Energetic word choices enliven the wintry day. “Peekaboo!” calls the youngster as she surprises a squirrel as she emerges from her snow fort with her new bunny friend. Spare phrases rhythmically scan with slight variation. “Snowman baby / button eyes / snow drop baby / cold surprise!” |

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“An intriguing slant on the garden, from roots below the earth to the insect inhabitants above the ground.” from counting in the garden

CHARLIE HARPER COLORS

participant. With a quick turn of his head, the little dog interacts with both his beloved owner and the natural world he encounters. Likely to breed more fans for this hard-working pup. (Board book. 1-4)

Harper, Charley Illus. by Harper, Charley Ammo (24 pp.) $9.95 | Sep. 1, 2011 978-1-9344-2954-9

BIBLE STORIES

Elliot, Rachel Illus. by Sido, Barbi Priddy Books (30 pp.) $12.95 | Aug. 16, 2011 978-0-312-51089-3 Lengthy Bible stories struggle to inspire. Beginning with Creation, repetitive statements and unnecessary details bog down the narrative. The focus emphasizes God’s relationship with His chosen people, spanning from Eden through David and Goliath and Moses to Jesus. The Nativity transitions into New Testament retellings, focusing on Jesus’ miracles as an adult with his feeding of the 5,000. The account of the crucifixion and resurrection glosses over the Christian belief in salvation. “Jesus’ death and rebirth are remembered at Easter. It is a very special time when people give thanks for his wonderful life and his wise words.” Brightly colored spreads lack any tinge of nuance, with the same vacant-eyed expressions found on each stock figure. Cookie-cutter characters lack any originality in presentation; physical and stylistic differences are lacking. The decidedly Western slant depicts angels in white robes and wings. A read-aloud CD recalls a traditional lecture in its drawn-out delivery. No reason to rejoice with this dismal contribution to a child’s religious repertoire. (Board book. 3-5)

WHO’S MY CUPCAKE?

Guest, Elissa Haden Illus. by Fedotova, Marina Little Simon/Simon & Schuster (16 pp.) $6.99 | Jul. 26, 2011 978-1-4424-2051-9 Pet names have never been sweeter. Cuddly babies decked in fairy wings flutter about as an unseen narrator reviews a variety of endearing terms. Questions rapidly flow from one to the next. “Who’s my snow pea, / my pudding, / my funny gumdrop?” Appropriate page breaks naturally blend each syrupy description. A plethora of favorite sweets fill out the verses in twos and threes. The obvious answer to the repeated questions creates an expected response. The diaperclad babes (overwhelmingly fair-skinned) interact directly with their descriptions; one girl rides a slice of honeydew like a rocking horse, while a button-nosed redhead throws her arms around a gigantic pumpkin. The padded cover and sturdy pages allow for easy manipulation and repeated readings. Details add warm elements throughout, from the cinnamon spice sprinkled as a heart in the beverage to the whimsical lollipop garden. These adorable fairies demonstrate that love’s all you need, though an extra cup of sugar helps. (Board book. 6 mos.-2) 2346

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A geometric wonderland fails to delight in this specific format. Wildlife artist Harper’s recognizable designs create a kaleidoscope of vibrant images. Some spare selections feature characters representative of his work with the natural world (birds play a predominate role). “Two girls swimming in blue water” appears an odd choice for the targeted age group. Their waiflike appearance—they wear flimsy black bikinis and have pointed faces, thinning hair and hands fading into nonexistence—seems positively witchy. Changing colors of type coordinate with the featured hues. The text definitely plays second fiddle to the images. “Yellow leaves, orange leaves, red leaves and more!” is disappointingly unclear; “[a] tan-colored car and a secret experiment” tantalizes without providing any meaning; “[t]wo colorful birds on pointy green leaves” simply describes what viewers see. The distinctively retro designs are busy and chic, but hopelessly out of sync with the audience’s developmental needs. For adult readers, type the same shade as the background makes for a difficult read. Visually refreshing, but a bad fit for this young audience. (Board book. 2-4)

COUNTING IN THE GARDEN

Hruby, Emily Illus. by Hruby, Patrick Ammo (24 pp.) $14.95 | Sep. 1, 2011 978-1-9344-2970-9 An intriguing slant on the garden, from roots below the earth to the insect inhabitants above the ground. This green-thumbed gardener, with wooden limbs, red-circled cheeks and angular nose, counts how his garden grows, from one to 12. After a new group of items is enumerated (thistles, earthworms and sunflowers included), the following double-page spread displays its impact on the spacious outdoors. There’s charm in the disproportionate perspective; the onion towers over the individual while he peers down, dwarfing the turnips growing below. Retro geometric shapes enhance the angled beauty. The quiet text benefits from spare descriptions. “Six sweet strawberries, hanging from vines // Seven slippery snails, with different colored shells.” By alternating between counting text and wordless spreads, the book allows for moments of calm transition. Gardeners will grouse at the indiscriminate inclusion of items regardless of season (tomatoes and tulips?), but there’s no denying the striking visual impact. A concept fully ripe for the harvest. (Board book. 18 mos.)

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THIS NEW BABY

GO, BABY, GO!

Jam, Teddy Illus. by Johnson, Virginia Groundwood (22 pp.) $8.95 | Sep. 1, 2011 978-1-55498-088-8

Janovitz, Marilyn Illus. by Janovitz, Marilyn Sourcebooks (24 pp.) $7.99 | Sep. 1, 2011 978-1-4022-5937-1

A provocative musing on the transformative power of parenthood. A nostalgic energy informs this lyrical lullaby to a newborn babe. Spacious watercolor scenes convey a tangible softness as the open-mouthed child nestles with Mama. Spoken from the parents’ perspectives, haunting rhymes invest a tremendous amount of love into soothing, abstract reflections. “This new baby sleeps in my arms / like a moon sleeping on a cloud.” Both male and female caregivers caress and rock their little one while lilting design elements, in Matisse-inspired spreads, add a spacious quality. While most images present a quiet intensity, one striking page depicts the fist-clenched baby in a full-blown cry; the text indicates the interdependent relationship between parent and child. “[M]y new baby’s cry / chases old ghosts / back into the shadows.” Undeniably beautiful, but also undeniably for parents rather than children, who will nevertheless enjoy the cuddling that comes with the reading. (Board book. 6 mos.-3)

An active toddler flies through a messy day of play. Caregivers will recognize from the slightest twitch the warning signs of a babe moments away from tantrum. “Out to the garden / QUICK / QUICK / QUICK!” Released from the confines of the stroller, the youngster explores. The tot builds blocks with gusto, stirs some mud pies and even shares snacks with the pets before busyness gives way to relaxation. Wavy lines support the growing intensity, while active verbs maintain the spirited pacing. The happy child commands readers’ attention with oversized head, off-kilter, wide-set eyes, cowlick and lopsided smile. The rhythmic text encourages participation with its enthusiasm. “On with the hose / Off with the shirt / Baby’s little tummy gets a / SQUIRT / SQUIRT / SQUIRT!” The ministering adult is present only through indication; the diaper-clad star investigates the great outdoors with refreshing abandon. Here’s to the sheer willpower of a baby on the run. (Board book. 6 mos.-3)

LITTLE AMERICA

ME! ME! MINE!

James, Helen Foster Illus. by Brett, Jeannie & Monroe, Michael Glenn & Urban, Helle Sleeping Bear Press (20 pp.) $7.95 | Jul. 1, 2011 978-1-58536-179-3 It’s unlikely little ones will garner much appreciation for the U.S. of A. from these trivial riddles. Rhymes cover a gamut of iconic (and not-so-iconic) images associated with the United States of America. The design is developmentally unfortunate for the audience, with a riddle on the right-hand page of each spread. Each page turn reveals the answer and begins the set-up for the next example, creating a disconnect between riddle and image. Although visual clues indicate a riddle’s answer—an eagle’s wings appear around the box of text that contains the verse, for instance—it doesn’t work for a boardbook audience. Clichés abound (apple pie, cowboy), while a tour of landmarks provides only a superficial overview. Phony enthusiasm is the order of the day. “Its pretty flowers / smell so sweet / this thorny flower / can’t be beat.” (And since when has the rose been a symbol of the United States?) The necessary superficiality results in an experience almost devoid of meaning; the focus on the White House, for example, skips any mention of the country’s Commander in Chief. “In Washington, D.C. / you’re sure to see / this special house / and a cherry tree!” More a sure-fire flop than a patriotic primer. (Board book. 3-4)

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Katz, Alan Illus. by Lemaitre, Pascal Little Simon/Simon & Schuster (16 pp.) $7.99 | Jul. 12, 2011 978-1-4169-8993-6 Bossy Rocky Dachshund refuses to share when he plays. This demanding dog demonstrates he’s not a team player at school or at play. His poor manners extend to his home as he bullies his brother, forced to share his room with only a corner of its contents (“just one inch,” to be exact). When called to be generous, Rocky flaunts his selfishness with a whiny taunt. “Can’t you see? / It’s all for me / ‘Cause I don’t care! / I just won’t share!” In a humorous twist, the hound’s sense of entitlement reaches new heights when Rocky demands control over the written word. “When Rocky heard about this book / he said ‘It’s mine, and you can’t look!’ / In fact, dear friend, you’ve him to thank— / he made us leave the next page blank.” His mama corrects his behavior for good when she allows him ownership over all the chores, resulting in a change of heart. Didacticism aside, there’s far too much text in each spread and busyness to the images to get the message across to the board-book audience. Expanded to a 32-page picture book and writ with a lighter hand, it might work; as it is, it’s a bust. (Board book. 2-4)

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WHERE IS BABY’S YUMMY TUMMY?

FEELINGS

Levine, Julia Pimsleur Illus. by Levine, Julia Pimsleur Abrams (10 pp.) $8.95 | Aug. 1, 2011 978-1-4197-0018-7 Series: Little Pim,

Katz, Karen Illus. by Katz, Karen Little Simon/Simon & Schuster (14 pp.) $6.99 | Aug. 2, 2011 978-1-4424-2165-3

This peek-a-boo provides a stellar examination of the human body. An encouraging voice calls for the location of each sweet and cuddly body part. Beginning with the toes, each gentle question follows a consistent rhyming format. From feet “good enough to eat” to a nose “as pretty as a rose,” tykes of various ethnicities play an active role in their exploration. The perspective zooms in on the jovial babes, giving them every inch of each page. Katz’s signature solid spreads incorporate clean patterns with light details. The strategic flaps placed in different corners use objects commonly found in daily life (blanket, teddy bear) to fully hide each featured choice. The coy text playfully calls for audience participation. “Where is baby’s tushy / that’s soft and smooshy?”; a naked behind peeks from underneath a diaper when the flap is pulled down. The final example highlights the youngster’s entire form. An affectionate celebration of self-discovery. (Board book. 6 mos.-2)

This familiar name in language instruction turns out lackluster stories for a toddler audience. Little Pim plays outside and meets a caterpillar. Correlating colored type indicates the panda’s varied feelings in English, Spanish and French, with pronunciation. The corresponding page features three photographs of individual children; lifting flaps or pulling tabs reveals two of the youngsters acting out the specific emotion (always a boy and a girl to depict the variations), while the third child is a decoy. The clunky phrases follow a straightforward but uninspired presentation. “The caterpillar leads Little Pim back to his tree! / But then she disappears. / Where did his new friend go? / Little Pim feels sad / triste [TREES-teh] / triste [treest].” The small type makes easy reading a challenge. The companion Colors follows much the same format as Little Pim looks for different-colored balloons for a celebration. These interactive elements allow for easy exploration, though the wooden tone dampens enthusiasm in both selections. Unfortunately, Little Pim’s day is bland no matter how you say it. (Board book. 2-4)

LITTLE BLACK BOOK

Khatami, Renée Photos by Dwight, Laura Random House (14 pp.) $8.99 | Jul. 26, 2011 978-0-375-87235-8

I RUFF YOU

An intriguing examination of the shades of black. Clear photographs depict objects associated with a color often overlooked. The interaction between image and text creates some interesting parallels; a young African-American girl grabs for a cat mask while its animal counterpart studies her competition nearby. Some sparkly stars offer some shine, but overall, the emphasis addresses the complexities of darkness in all its variations. An element of surprise provides some punch (a bunny is featured at the beginning, while a bat is in the magician’s hat). The narrator’s childlike voice has a pleasing authenticity; velvet is described not as formal clothing but as “dress-up disguises.” The focus shifts from the tangible with a gentle whisper: “and black is… a sparkling night sky high above… all that! / Sweet dreams.” Touch-and-feel details include the cat mask’s whiskers (firmly anchored to the page) or the baby rabbit’s soft fur. Scratch-and-sniff licorice smells genuine. There’s a lot to explore away from the hues of the rainbow. (Board book. 6 mos.-3)

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Magsamen, Sandra Illus. by Magsamen, Sandra LB Kids/Little, Brown (14 pp.) $7.99 | Sep. 13, 2011 978-0-316-07005-8 Man’s best friend expresses unrestrained adoration for its puppy. This ode to affection relies on familiar phrases to depict the heartfelt relationship between parent and pup, substituting “ruff ” for the feeling abundantly expressed. “I ruff your precious ears / and your sweet little nose. / I ruff your little fingers and teeny-tiny toes.” Alone until the final spread, the little dog receives a gentle nuzzle in a joyous reunion. “I will always and forever / ruff you, you YOU!” Varied solid backgrounds and occasional colored, faux-sewn type emphasize the powerful emotion. The pooch’s slight smile remains constant. Dashed lines outline the dog’s extremities, including the oval-shaped patch over the eye and a heart-shaped nose. Not visible on the page, the ears extend above the physical book as furry, bendable fabric, allowing easy manipulation for small hands. Beyond puppy love, these sweet rhymes convey the full extent of acceptance. (Board book. 1-3)

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“There’s folksy flair throughout as black backgrounds showcase animals comprised of intricately detailed patterns on shells and fur.” from hush little turtle

CLACKERS: PENGUIN

HUSH LITTLE TURTLE

Nash, C. Illus. by Rinaldo, Luana Robin Corey/Random (14 pp.) $5.99 | Sep. 13, 2011 978-0-375-87121-4 Poor design and bland text sinks this bird dead in the water. This little penguin enjoys exploring with friends. Donning an adorable knitted pink hat (and nothing else), this snuggly tyke enjoys some independence before her parents prepare her for bed. The voice is relentlessly saccharine. “Penguin loves to play!” Uninspired sentences wade along, punctuated by forced cheer (“Wheeee!”; “Cowabunga!”). Rounded, smiling characters embody sheer cuddliness, but there’s no depth in this slight romp across the ice. Layout choices are constrained by the book’s small, penguin-shaped trim. Though the text reads horizontally, loosely shaped foam pages present a vertical outline of the webbed-foot youngster. There’s a hole for small fingers to grasp in the top corner. Thick foam backings work well with the miniature format and allow the spreads to “clack” together. Unfortunately, the binding prevents most scenes from opening fully. This tiresome novelty sinks instead of swims. (Board book. 1-3)

Rinck, Maranke Illus. by van der Linden, Martijn Lemniscaat USA (24 pp.) $8.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-935954-06-4 Restless Turtle can’t fall asleep. Under the dark night sky, a group of friends rests cozily in their sleeping bags—except for Turtle. Though his pals are quick to offer suggestions to help him snooze, warm milk, a lullaby and rocking provide no relief. The techniques to placate him cross species boundaries, to often humorous effect; Octopus’ suggestion that the reptile stuff a pacifier into his mouth is sheer delight. Turtle’s own idea for napping satisfaction requires some creative planning on his pals’ part but finally turns restlessness into relaxation. The dialogue successfully captures the good-hearted banter, and repetitive statements enhance the deadpan fun. “Turtle turns over. Again. And again, and again, and again. ‘Oh great,’ he sighs after a while. ‘Now I’m all tangled up.’ “ There’s folksy flair throughout as black backgrounds showcase animals comprised of intricately detailed patterns on shells and fur. Bat’s polka-dotted face, striped body and flowered wings are representative of the ebullient design. Stay awake for these fantastic friendships. (Board book. 2-4)

TRUCK PARTY!

BABY ANIMALS

Salzano, Tammi Illus. by Wood, Hannah Tiger Tales (20 pp.) $7.95 | Sep. 1, 2011 978-1-58925-865-5

Priddy, Roger Priddy Books (10 pp.) $7.99 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-0-312-51333-7 Series: Turn and Learn,

The cheerful cover may entice truck enthusiasts, but bland text will only disappoint. The relentlessly positive tone is set for the beginning, as smiling vehicles plan a birthday surprise for their friend. With no roadblocks to preparation, the gang all pitches in. Their work best suits their talents: Car Transporter drives in guests, for instance, and Tow Truck hauls the cake. Colorful balloons and sunny skies reinforce the buoyant ambiance. Pastel confetti further ups the cheer. Thick pages and the substantial trim size encourage toddlers to explore, but the text fails to energize the almost nonexistent plot. The stilted dialogue plods: “‘Wow!’ says Little Truck. ‘Thank you! You are great friends!’” There are really no surprises in this party planning. Ice Cream Truck (no jaw-dropper here) brings the ice cream, and Street Sweeper and Garbage Truck clean up the mess. No need to RSVP, as this party’s a snooze. (Board book. 1-3)

A movable wheel provides a matching game of adorable animals. Eight selections include both traditional pets and more exotic fare, representing various habitats. The photographs have clearly been chosen to rev up the aww factor. Clear questions encourage participation (“Can you find a cute kitten?”), prompting readers to turn the wheel until the right animal appears through the die-cut oval window. Grooves and arrows assist smaller fingers with manipulating the circle independently. There are visual clues to assist readers, as changing colors correspond to each individual page. The cutout features a complete (though miniature) version of the featured selection. Brief sentences provide slight additional information, doing little to extend the concept. “Lion cubs have paws and claws. / They love adventures and exploring.” Backgrounds make the clear, closeup photographs pop, capturing the individual strands of fur and the gleam in their eyes. Overall, briefly interactive, but not much more. (Board book. 2-4)

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“The results may elicit some giggles; the stocky body of the thundering elephant joined with the ladybug’s appendages or frog’s flippers can’t help but amuse.” from funny feet

FUNNY FEET

MY FACE BOOK

Slegers, Liesbet Illus. by Slegers, Liesbet Clavis (16 pp.) $9.99 | Sep. 1, 2011 978-1-60537-089-7

Star Bright Books Illus. by Star Bright Books Star Bright (12 pp.) $5.95 | Oct. 15, 2011 978-1-59572-285-0

No set of feet is exactly alike. Mix-and-match pictures of seven animals (and one insect) and their feet create some unusual combinations. Thick, black lines delineate each animal against a contrasting background. The bottom third of the drawing occupies a separate, split page, allowing to swap an animal’s feet for a different set of pins. The left side features a solid-colored background for the text; a new color introduces each character. Rather ho-hum dialogue begins with the appropriate sound, then discusses another attribute, ending by drawing readers’ attention to the feet. “BAAA, says the sheep. / ‘See my warm woolen fleece! / My feet are small hooves. / Can you find me some different feet?’ “ The results may elicit some giggles; the stocky body of the thundering elephant joined with the ladybug’s appendages or frog’s flippers can’t help but amuse. Companion titles Funny Tails and Funny Ears follow a similar set-up; sturdy flaps suit these particular puzzles. The ability to play matchmaker provides some solid entertainment. (Board book. 18 mos.-3)

MY THINGS THAT GO

The ubiquitous cheerful yellow face receives a series of makeovers. Smiley morphs into numerous modes of transportation. With broad expressions, these grins appear on various parts of the equipment, from the bicycle’s wheels to the train’s engine. Rescue vehicles (police car, fire truck) vroom onto the scene in traditional colors of red, blue and gray. Headlights, wheels and propellers anthropomorphize with exuberance. The small trim size keeps all the focus on details; Smiley appears as an ice cream on a cone, and the license plate on the school bus reads SMIL3Y. The familiar golden head changes color and shape, and characters crowd the final scene. Bold labels provide the only text until the final statement captures a sense of ownership. “These are MY THINGS THAT GO!” My Animal Friends follows an identical format, providing bubbling balloon wings for butterfly accents or elongated ears and buck teeth for a bunny. Slight, bright fare. (Board book. 6 mos.-2)

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MY FIRST WORDS AT HOME

Star Bright Books Illus. by Star Bright Books Star Bright (20 pp.) $6.95 | Oct. 15, 2011 978-1-59572-281-2

The Smiley Company Illus. by The Smiley Company Little Simon/Simon & Schuster (16 pp.) $5.99 | Aug. 16, 2011 978-1-4424-0801-2 Series: Smiley World,

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Ten babies sport a gamut of expressions. Clear, close-up photographs of individual children address both their emotions and their actual behavior. The miniature trim size focuses readers’ view squarely on the tots’ faces and shoulders. Clothing is an afterthought, often not in view. There is ethnic and physical diversity; the open background emphasizes the individual, and there are no overwhelming clues as to the geographic location or economic background. Small font depicts the one word indicative of each toddlers’ feelings. Most two-page sequences may be viewed as a pairing of opposites; one side depicts “silly” while the next choice demonstrates “serious.” Eyebrows, noses and mouths display pleasure or unhappiness without guile and with verve; “awake” shows a laughing youngster, eyes twinkling and leaning forward in glee. Straightforward selections encourage smiles. (Board book. 3 mos.-2)

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A visual dictionary provides a detailed glimpse into home life. Tiny photos (more than a dozen per double-page spread) set on white space highlight objects found in each room of a traditional Western house. The small text under and around each image labels materials regularly in use (many appliances exude a retro feel) to items less likely to be part of a toddler’s vocabulary (colander, anyone?). The examples are easily identifiable, and many relate directly to a youngster’s experience (potty in the bathroom, ball in the backyard); other choices have no direct connection to their assigned location (dog in the living room). Label text and trim are color coordinated by room, standing out against the stark backgrounds. There is a dual functionality to living spaces; the bedroom provides room for babe with crib and teddy as well as an older mattress, alarm clock and organized closet. Comprehensive, but the overwhelming quantity sacrifices an appropriate, baby-friendly design for abundant substance. (Board book. 18 mos.-3)

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FIRST TIME: HOSPITAL

SNUG

Stockham, Jess Child’s Play (24 pp.) $5.99 paperback | Mar. 1, 2011 978-1-84643-336-8 Series: First Time,

Thompson, Carol Illus. by Thompson, Carol Child’s Play (32 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Feb. 1, 2011 978-1-84643-373-3

Children sick and injured find the assistance they need. There’s a relaxed atmosphere at this hospital, with little sense of urgency or need for immediate treatment. The exception to this is an introductory scene in the waiting room. “How long will we have to wait to see a doctor?” With a reassuring focus on minor ailments, the book allows youngsters to clearly communicate as they improve. Comfort from family and staff calms fears; parents play an active role during procedures. Due to the absence of quotation marks, distinguishing the voices in conversation can be a struggle, as dialogue sometimes seems to jump randomly. At times, the speech seems artificially formal. After waking from surgery, a girl asks, “I still feel very sleepy. Please may I have a drink?” Other series entries focus on similar experiences in unfamiliar locations (vet, dentist and doctor). There’s nothing sterile in these spacious spreads; ethnically diverse cartoon characters interact within bright, welcoming backgrounds. Overall, the reassuring message does the job it sets out to do. (Board book. 3-5)

Diverse children demonstrate joy in security. With satisfying stretches and snuggles, toddlers cuddle pets, clothing and one another. Brief phrases set up natural page turns, while a buoyant conclusion gathers it all together. “As snug as a fox / in hand-knitted socks, // As snug as a cat / curled up on a mat. // As snug as a hug… // A hug is SO snug!” The adorable tots, with no temper tantrum in sight, interact with people and the natural world through the ebb and flow of the seasons. Their distinct senses of style convey individual personalities; youngsters don colorful knit hats, and a polka-dotted pink wheelchair adds pizzazz. Quiet watercolors calm, while dark, colored swirls add interest to mixed-media scenes. Squiggly lines and tissuepaper patches add depth through textured layers. A comforting celebration in an oversized format. (Board book. 1-3)

ON-THE-GO TIME

Verdick, Elizabeth Illus. by Heinlen, Marieka Free Spirit (24 pp.) $7.95 | Nov. 1, 2011 978-1-57542-379-1 Series: Toddler Tools,

YAWN

Symes, Sally Illus. by Sharratt, Nick Candlewick (24 pp.) $7.99 | Dec. 1, 2011 978-0-7636-5725-3

From one tired tot through an impressive array of animals, a mighty yawn passes along. With his head tipped back and eyes closed, Sean lets it all out. A dramatic, face-dominating, circular cut-out carries the yawn from the little boy to a scraggly feline. The fight against rest continues as bird, fish, mole and more struggle to stay awake. Finally, level-headed Nellie, of the sensible elephant variety, gathers up the gang for some much needed shut-eye. There’s nothing quiet about this path to relaxation. Crisp rhyming pairings in an upbeat rhythm maintain a brisk pace; Symes keeps things from going too fast with artful placement of her consonants. The end of each phrase sets up each natural page turn. “Mole gave a yawn / then rested from her dig. / Guess who she gave it to. / A snorty, snouty… // … pig.” Exaggerated expressions capture each pronounced sleepy sigh. With such an enthusiastic call to participate, Wynken, Blynken and Nod stand no chance here. (Board book. 1-4)

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Self-help for toddlers when running errands gets tough. An exuberant mother motivates her young children to prepare for a day out on the run. Mom believes preparation is key: Her little ones must use the potty, get a snack and buckle their car seats before their trip to the grocery store. When sugary snacks prove too tempting, the parent’s clear instructions simmer down the youngsters’ fuss before it becomes a full-blown temper tantrum. “If you’re sad or mad / take deep breathes. / Ready, set? / B-re-a-t-h-e / in and out / and in again./ That’s how you / calm down.” With the youngsters’ emotions under control, a quick trip to the library is in order. There’s wisdom in the suggestions provided both in the text and lengthy parent’s note (as when Mom involves them as SUPER HELPERS in the process). Unfortunately, the preachy dialogue makes Mom’s agenda clear. “Listen, follow along, / and even lend a hand!” The colors are bright and the design faintly retro, characters’ expressions are fixed in wooden smiles, and there’s little visually to extend the storyline. Too much didacticism to go down smooth. (Board book. 2-4)

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CANDY 1 TO 20

Wolf, Laurie & Abrams, Pam Photos by Wolf, Bruce Chronicle (20 pp.) $8.99 | Sep. 21, 2011 978-1-4521-0293-1 Sometimes it’s fun to play with your food. Colorful candy bites form numerals one to 20 against open white backgrounds. The visual presentation depends on a variety of tantalizing treats. Clearly defined numerals are the only text; each candy selection is strategically placed and recognizable. Five gummy worms make up the 5; 19 M&Ms comprise the 19. Even the cover uses several types of sugary delicacies to form the title. Crisp photos allow readers to see the shiny foil on chocolate kisses and each strand of licorice. Often multiple colors are found, either from candy to candy or within the candy itself, providing additional visual variety. There are a lot of options in the choices presented, though the lack of labels keeps the focus on the numerals, rather than acting as an advertising vehicle for the candy (even the “m”s of the M&Ms are faint and hard to see, abetting the transformation of the familiar into the sweetly surprising). Mouthwatering. (Board book. 1-4)

R

Editor’s Correction: In the November 15 issue, the publisher

of one of the Best Children’s Books of 2011 was identified incorrectly. The Watcher, by Jeanette Winter, was published by Schwartz & Wade/ Random House, not Simon & Schuster. We apologize for the error.

This Issue’s Contributors # Kim Becnel • Elizabeth Bird • Louise Brueggemann • Ann Childs • Julie Cummins • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Elise DeGuiseppi • Lisa Dennis • Brooke Faulkner • Laurie Flynn • Diane B. Foote • Omar Gallaga • Judith Gire • Carol Goldman • Melinda Greenblatt • Linnea Hendrickson • Heather L. Hepler • Megan Honig • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Laura Jenkins • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • Megan Lambert • Peter Lewis • Wendy Lukehart • Joan Malewitz • Hillias J. Martin • Jeanne McDermott • Kathie Meizner • John Edward Peters • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger • Shana Raphaeli • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Melissa Riddle Chalos • Ronnie Rom • Leslie L. Rounds • Ann Marie Sammataro • Dean Schneider • Chris Shoemaker • Karyn N. Silverman • Meg Smith • Robin Smith • Karin Snelson • Rita Soltan • Jennifer Sweeney • Deborah D. Taylor • Corinna Underwood • Monica D. Wyatt • Melissa Yurechko

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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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AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY

Adair, Donna Gruber CreateSpace (283 pp.) $14.99 paperback | $3.99 e-book Jun. 17, 2011 978-1463517434 A captivating generational tale of one family’s pioneering travels during America’s 19th-century westward expansion. Based on the adventures of the reallife ancestors of Adair’s husband, the story begins in 1805 with a wagon train traversing dangerous mountain terrain from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to Ohio in search of a plentiful land. Adair masterfully weaves pivotal events of the 1800s such as slavery, Bleeding Kansas and the Pike’s Peak gold rush into the lives of the Adair family as they venture from Virginia to Ohio, Indiana and Kansas. Adair, a former English teacher, has crafted a perfect mix of action, tragedy and romance. Main character Ben Adair’s courtship of his betrothed Ann is awkward and endearing. Adair doesn’t shy away from the graphic brutality of Native American war parties on the Santa Fe Trail and bloody carnage on the battlefields of Shiloh, Bull Run and Gettysburg. The perils of farming and the unrefined wilderness are both enticing and dangerous as the Adairs encounter fires, locusts and crop-eating squirrels. Although they are a tight-knit bunch, the extended family find themselves on opposing sides of critical issues of slavery, religion and the Civil War. Adding extra tension is Ben’s involvement in the Underground Railroad, which results in tragic consequences. The underlying theme throughout is the hope of a promised land. For settlers it’s the fertile, uncultivated soil of new territories. For the runaway slaves, it’s the freedom of the North, and for Confederates it’s the Dixie way of life. At times it’s tough to keep track of relations in the ever-expanding Adair clan, but the story remains centered around Ben as he matures from a brave 9-yearold to the upstanding patriarch of the Family. With 2011 marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, Adair’s novel is a fitting, rousing tribute to the courage of ordinary families who made extraordinary sacrifices.

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“Chamberlin beautifully captures the depth of Rayah’s awakening to her heritage...and deftly intertwines the narratives of her mother and grandmother to create a multigenerational saga of love, betrayal, faith and legacy.” from the woman at the well

SCENT OF SKIN

Akbay, Ercan Translated by Gürol, Meral Bolak eraSMuss (421 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Oct. 16, 2011 978-1466323124 Akbay’s novel transcends a traditional genre to include elements of love story, crime mystery and science fiction. In his fourth book, set in Turkey, Akbay (What Time is It, Mr Wolfe, 2009, etc.) recounts the love story between a play producer (who is never named, as it is revealed later, with good reason) and Eda, a divorced patron of the performance. The producer has had many affairs during his marriage, but recognizes quickly that this one will be different. He is infatuated with Eda but constantly questions whether she feels the same, leading to an exploration of themes such as how well one can ever know another person and the resulting insecurities that arise from suspicions of lies and secrets. The crime mystery narrative thread is established early on, but true to Akbay’s unique storytelling technique, there is the added intrigue of determining not only who is the guilty party, but also whether a crime was committed at all. Interwoven with these themes are descriptions of the producer’s “dreams” of the Sick Man, set in the future and “beyond Earth.” Akbay creates another world that, in many ways, mirrors contemporary society and the producer’s life, and these chapters serve as an analytical tool to understand the producer’s inner thoughts. These later chapters also help to tie together the seemingly disparate threads of the story. As a result, Akbay is able to weave together all of these narratives into a logical, compelling tale, in part by using more than one point of view. He writes the love story in the first person, while the science fiction chapters are written in the third person, clearly establishing settings in the different worlds. Akbay demonstrates an adept ability to take a complicated story and craft a universal, relatable narrative.

THE WOMAN AT THE WELL

Chamberlin, Ann Epigraph (378 pp.) $27.00 | $9.99 e-book | Jul. 31, 2011 978-1936940097 Chamberlin (Gloria, 2005, etc.) breathes life into the ancient Arabic world in this epic historical novel of one girl’s tumultuous search to discover her past. One scorching summer day, 12-yearold, blue-eyed Rayah participates in a rousing water fight with her aunts and cousins at their home in the desert oasis of Tadmor. When her small cousin, Bushra, slips and lands head first on the mosaic floor, all believe her dead. Rayah prays over the body, and something miraculous happens; underneath her hand, the skull fragments of Bushra’s head fuse and life suddenly fills the toddler’s body. For Rayah, this new, unknown power only 2354

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fuels her desperation to uncover the truth of her ancestry. She finds unwelcome answers from Sitt Sameh, the woman with the same blue eyes as Rayah, who lives in the harem, yet has no family connection. Sitt Sameh confirms what Rayah doesn’t want to hear: she is Rayah’s mother and carrier of a dangerous secret. But it’s the arrival of a eunuch scribe that demolishes the sanctity of Rayah’s world. His master is Khalid ibn al-Wal?d, the Sword of God. This mighty conqueror is Sitt Sameh’s father and Rayah’s grandfather. The scribe begins reading Khalid’s memoirs, and as Sitt Sameh fills in the details, Rayah learns the astonishing story of her sacred lineage, of blue-eyed women who rode into battle, of the men who loved them, and of the jinn, beings of fire and smoke who helped them. Readers should be prepared to immerse themselves so completely into the ancient Middle East, with its exotic spices, silken veils and hot, desert sands, that leaving it is akin to reemerging into the modern world like Rip Van Winkle. Chamberlin beautifully captures the depth of Rayah’s awakening to her heritage, both emotionally and spiritually, and deftly intertwines the narratives of her mother and grandmother to create a multigenerational saga of love, betrayal, faith and legacy. Impeccable research and haunting, poetic language create a lush tale to be lingered over and savored.

SERIOUSLY FUNNY

Eastaugh, Graham AuthorHouse (230 pp.) $14.49 paperback | Oct. 26, 2010 978-1452053547 Laugh-a-minute collection of short rhyming verse for adults. It would seem that Eastaugh has never met a situation he couldn’t laugh about—or versify, for that matter. This assemblage of more than 200 poems, capturing a decade’s output, treats no subject as sacrosanct and suggests that the best way to tackle life’s biggest challenges is to poke holes in them until they’ve been cut down to manageable size. A few jabs in your own ribs, just to keep yourself honest, rounds out the jester philosophy. Eastaugh roams widely across subjects as varied as the circle of life, loneliness, pop culture, the nature of happiness, generation gaps, sex, drinking, nostalgia, racism and, naturally, the ever-shrinking size of mobile phones. In fact, the quirky, comedic plot twist, usually involving diving precipitously from lofty subjects to land unceremoniously on the grossly mundane, may be the literary device he has most completely mastered. He evinces a flair for sketching out what appear to be sweet, innocent scenarios only to jolt the reader (and often the narrator) with some jarring juxtaposition at the last moment—lovemaking that transforms to cannibalism; a beautiful woman who, post coitum, turns out to be a mustachioed man; an attempt to borrow a book that ends up in an uncomfortably thorough medical exam. Eastaugh gleefully subjects his narrators to a feverishly imaginative variety of harrowing, hilarious situations that bespeak some level of

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evil genius. Employing a simple, singsong rhythm of iambs and anapests and a strictly regular rhyme scheme, Eastaugh plays off nursery rhyme and greeting card forms to sing songs scatological and sexual, a very successful formal technique, at least until he wants to treat a serious subject. His one-register voice is the one weak point here. Poems about the mysteries of existence, the darker side of human nature and the challenges and indignities of his multiple sclerosis too often fail to generate pathos, sounding, as they do, exactly like his sillier pieces. As funny and subversively socially conscious as they may be, these poems are sure to offend nearly as many as they delight. Eastaugh pulls few punches, in his subject matter and in his handling of that subject matter, and, in this fashion, resembles perhaps no one more than the comedian Louis C.K. For those bold enough to brave the wicked irony, though, the payoff is well worth it. A delightful bit of mischief and verbal horseplay.

HOW TO $AVE BIG ON WORKERS’ COMPENSATION With Insights From Leading Industry Experts Friedlander, Adam Friedlander Group (152 pp.) $9.95 paperback | May 11, 2011 978-0615442297

Putting a positive spin on workers’ compensation. Friedlander is president of Friedlander Group, a company that specializes in workers’ compensation. As such, he has a vested interest in getting companies to have a positive perception of this often-maligned form of insurance, which he says can be a “lightning rod” as well as a “political football.” Friedlander’s approach in this well-written, helpful book is to focus on what employers can do to minimize workers’ compensation claims in the first place. He believes that by creating a “culture of caring,” employers can effectively save money on workers’ compensation, because “that culture will maximize your productivity, efficiencies, and profits.” His basic premise is that employees and management who work collaboratively to eliminate unsafe acts and conditions will see claims go down and, as a result, profits will go up. On the surface, this seems almost simplistically obvious, but Friedlander supports his argument with an explanation of how “experience modification”—the manner in which an insurance company modifies an employer’s workers’ compensation premium by its claims experience— actually has a much greater impact on cost than the premium. Shopping around for low premiums, writes Friedlander, might save a company 10 to 20 percent, while “experience modifications range from up to a 40 percent discount to a 100 percent additional premium,” so the real cost to the employer is hidden in the claims filed by its employees. As a result, focusing on safety and employees’ well-being is the real way to manage workers’ compensation costs. This revelation alone makes the book valuable, along with several eye-opening interviews with workers’ compensation experts. Employers will gain insight into such key issues as claims |

and premium fraud, abuse of the system, loss control and reducing the cost of claims. Friedlander includes an “Appendix,” which is essentially a sales pitch for his company, and two of the interviews are with his own employees. Though self-serving, they don’t detract from the core content. A thoughtful book that could actually save employers some serious money.

THE PIG & ME A Memoir

Frucci, Lindsay Square Hill (328 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Jul. 7, 2011 978-0615428222 A plucky woman’s charming story about her crash course in the small-business world as she builds a food company from the ground up. Frucci and her husband, Paul, aren’t strangers to financial ruin. After facing bankruptcy and a foreclosed home, the couple is re-establishing the life they’ve lost in an attempt to regain their economic equilibrium. Frucci is selling real estate while her husband, who briefly left the corporate world to try out real estate development, has returned to the rat race. Unhappy with her commissions and losing out to an almost genetically imposed love of brownies, Frucci kicks around the idea of saving her waistline—and her family’s financial future—by developing a line of low-fat brownies. Without a culinary degree or any small-business experience, Frucci sets out—testing, tasting and strategizing—to create a delectable product and a rock-solid business model for her new company, No Pudge! A compelling plot and the Frucci’s preternatural good luck—she immediately stumbles upon a mentor with a career in the food industry— effortlessly carry the reader through the story. For anyone interested in the ins and outs of establishing a baking brand in the seemingly tortuous food world, the book is an excellent primer. Women maneuvering the sexual politics of bread-winning in a marriage and caring for a brood as stay-at-home business women will be able to relate to Frucci’s struggles. Still, the book could have dug deeper into the stresses and sacrifices mothers make in the face of skepticism (the most off-putting character turns out to be the doubting Paul) and their children’s needs. Ultimately, though, Frucci trudges through these complications, remaining committed to herself and her own instincts. A quick-witted, engrossing read, Frucci’s memoir bubbles with can-do, feminist moxie and the simple tenet that a great idea will never fail you.

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“The action flows like a brisk mountain stream interspersed with rapids.” from untraceable

BLUE FALL The Tournament

UNTRACEABLE The Nature of Grace—Book 1

Griffith, B.B. Griffith (505 pp.) $20.00 paperback | $2.99 e-book Sep. 1, 2011 978-0982481745

Johannes, S.R. Coleman & Stott (314 pp.) Nov. 29, 2011

A clandestine tournament has unforeseen consequences in this science-fiction action/thriller. Frank Youngsmith, a hapless insurance agent, is forced to investigate a doctor’s suspicious death and discovers the doctor was involved with a secret organization that operates “The Tournament,” a secret war-game-like global contest that pits six teams, each backed by their home country, against each other in a series of public no-holds-barred gunfights. The teams are known by an identifying color and comprised of three people, and each team member carries a gun loaded with a special bulletlike “diode” that shocks and incapacitates whoever is on the receiving end. Behind the scenes, Tournament officials broker huge wagers (including some that are potentially world-altering) between anonymous bidders and do their best to ensure the match-ups run as smoothly as possible. Griffith, though, shies away from detailing Tournament machinations and quickly buries Youngsmith, who opens the book as the reader’s surrogate, in the narrative. Instead, the author devotes much of the book’s first half to characterization, shifting among a series of biographical flashbacks. While this makes it difficult to gain narrative footing, it’s an entertaining way to firmly establish the book’s characters and simultaneously build the tension toward their inevitable confrontations. Much of the second half of the book is dedicated to violent action sequences, and Griffith propels the story forward by pinballing among a series of elaborate set pieces, including a commercial airplane cabin and a packed Parisian nightclub. Griffith revels in the details of his action scenes and gives readers a visceral sense of the mayhem by sticking close to his well-painted characters. But, as a result, some plot information falls through the cracks. Many of these are logistical details relating to official Tournament operations, and while some readers might balk at Griffith’s narrative choices, others will be pleased to overlook them in light of the author’s stylistic command of character-driven action. Even though certain plot elements are undercooked, the well-drawn characters and exciting action scenes make this an enjoyable novel.

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Gutsy teen Grace, who is much more at home fly fishing, hiking and tracking bears through the woods than hanging out at the mall or chasing boys, has a mission—to prove that her father is still alive. Grace’s father—forest ranger and wilderness survival expert—has taught his daughter everything she needs to know to trek through the Smoky Mountains, searching for clues to his sudden disappearance. After the police find his torn, blood-stained shirt in a local river, they, along with Grace’s mother, assume he has been killed in a tragic accident. Despite being snubbed by the local police chief, running up against the wrath of the chief of the town’s Native American reservation and alienating herself from her distraught mother, Grace is determined to prove them all wrong. The spunky sleuth goes all out to find her dad, determined not to be put off by her longtime friend and admirer Wyn or distracted by the amorous attentions of the intriguing British stranger Mo. When she inadvertently stumbles upon a dark, dangerous secret, it challenges everything Grace thought she knew about her sleepy hometown and its inhabitants. This thrilling story is a dramatic entanglement of mystery, deception and teen romance. The author has achieved a stunning, high-tension tale that takes the reader on a journey over rough terrain as it follows a young girl’s quest to find the truth and protect the sanctity of a national park and the animals that owe their survival to it. These unique, lively characters will rouse a gamut of emotions in young adult readers. The action flows like a brisk mountain stream interspersed with rapids, holding suspense to last page and then leaving an intriguing teaser in anticipation of the sequel. A riveting tale of family ties, friendship and community loyalty.

DISSECTING AMERICAN HEALTH CARE

Kamerow, Douglas B. Research Triangle Institute (160 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Oct. 10, 2011 978-1934831069 In this collection of essays, a former assistant surgeon general examines virtually every major issue in contemporary health care and U.S. public health policy. Kamerow (Clinical Family Medicine/ Georgetown University) draws on his experience as a family doctor and preventive health specialist for 20 years with the U.S. Public Health Service to address research funding, regulation, screening and immunization, health care delivery, system reform and medical ethics. The book consists of 37 columns

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“This volume succeeds on the strength of Kamerow’s command of the subject and choice of persistent issues.” from dissecting american health care

that appeared in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) and 10 three-minute radio commentaries for National Public Radio from early 2007 to mid-2011. Each is short and of nearly equal length, risking a mechanical pace. Kamerow softens this effect and achieves some flow from essay to essay by organizing them thematically. Topics run the gamut from grim—keeping semiautomatic weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill—to lighthearted—debunking holiday medical myths. A few added footnotes explain jargon suitable for his original BMJ audience, but the book would have benefited from more. Dissecting sometimes means skewering, as evident in such titles as “How to Waste a Billion Dollars,” “Our Perfectly Designed Health Care System” and “Killing Me Softly” (about the role of doctors in executions). A self-described “bleeding heart liberal,” Kamerow offers a clear point of view without abandoning fairness or engaging in petty partisan sniping. His allegiance to scientific evidence and better health outcomes prompts sharp critiques of presidents Bush and Obama, as well as Pope Benedict XVI. Columnists strive to be topical, so repackaging their work in book form is fraught with risk for timeliness and relevance. This volume succeeds on the strength of Kamerow’s command of the subject and choice of persistent issues. Most of the material, even from 2007, seems remarkably current For anyone interested in health care and its intersection with public policy and politics—and especially for those who like their reading in uniform, premeasured doses—this book fills the prescription.

EXPANAGRAMS Exciting Expanding Word Puzzles

Leong, Jesse iUniverse (98 pp.) $10.95 paperback | $9.99 e-book Sep. 8, 2011 978-1462016396 With a twist on the anagram, this book gives die-hard word-puzzlers something new. Word puzzle books run the gamut from word-searches to crossword puzzles to anagrams, and many falling somewhere in-between. Leong’s “expanagram” is an extension of the classic anagram, where to each finished anagram is added a new letter creating a new anagram. After a brief introduction, the book begins with 5-letter puzzles and proceeds all the way to the 10-letter variety. Often there are as many as six stages to an exapanagram (six letters added step-by-step to make six successive expanding anagrams). The solutions to the puzzles on each page are contained on the opposite side of that page, making game play more convenient by not requiring readers to search for an answer section. At times, though, it can happen that a puzzle has more than one possible solution; the reader might expand the anagrams through an alternate set of words and come up with a different solution than that given in the book (though this is less likely with the longer puzzles). This makes many of the puzzles |

more like a game (where there might be alternate solutions) than a rigid puzzle with one unique answer. In general, no order is followed in the words for a given puzzle, which should keep most puzzlers hard at work finding possible solutions; however, there is a chapter with themed puzzles. These “Expanagram Exclusives” are expanding anagrams that follow a given theme: sports, fruits and vegetables, insects, etc. These common-themed anagrams give these particular puzzles a classic (and perhaps more enjoyable) flavor. But with only eight of these themed puzzles, the author could have made a more robust gaming experience by expanding these special expanagrams. For those who love playing with words, this should be right up their alley.

BUTTERFLY STORM

Maxwell, Suzanne CreateSpace (292 pp.) $14. paperback | $7.99 e-book | Aug. 9, 2011 978-1461146513 An accident victim visits heaven in her dreams. In winter darkness, Angie Gabriel drives an Alaskan road with 7-year-old daughter Lucy in the passenger seat. After hitting a guardrail, Angie loses consciousness and dreams of heaven. Upon waking in the hospital, she finds her mother and ex-husband Mark by her side, but no Lucy. Before the accident, Mark and well-to-do wife Alice wanted custody of Lucy, being better able to care for her than financially strapped Angie who refused to give up her daughter. After her release, wheelchair-bound Angie goes home to live with her distant workaholic father and her mother, who sided with Mark and Alice for Lucy’s custody. During her recovery, Angie continues to dream of heaven. She moves into an apartment, undergoes physical therapy, uncovers details of her accident and a possible catalyst for racing through the night at breakneck speed. Through it all, she grows ever closer to Mark, who may be heading for divorce. And then comes a surprising revelation that changes Angie’s perspective. Although at times pacing lags, this is a charming story of a spunky woman doing her best to deal with a spate of life-altering events and ever-changing family dynamics. Between ex-spouses, old feelings often die hard, and the author does a fine job of portraying the off-and-on-again relationship of Angie and Mark. One of the book’s strengths lies in its contrast of an independent, mobile existence with a world of disability and dependence on others and how this translates into daily living, including interaction with strangers. Heaven as described herein is sparkling but never saccharine. As a character, Angie’s transformation is far from one-note and extends into various aspects of life, including self-responsibility for the effect her semihelpless state has on others. The novel’s end, although subject to interpretation, is nonetheless satisfying. Heartwarming tale of a woman’s physical transformation and spiritual journey.

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“It’s all quite strange, the blending of author and narrator in a story of such fantastic and bloody dimension...” from pastor evil

PASTOR EVIL My Calling: Conquer Evil at ALL Costs

TRAFFIC TICKETS. DON’T GET MAD. GET THEM DISMISSED. Traffic Ticket Tips, Must Knows, and Much More

McCabe, Robert AuthorHouse (169 pp.) Oct. 5, 2011 978-1467042796 978-1467042802 paperback

A unique first-person narrative about an information technology expert’s gift and his war against unpunished evil. Author and main character Robert McCabe intriguingly structures his narrative as an ambiguously true story of semimystical dimensions. A retired IT consultant, he gives a brief overview of his life, his marriages and divorce and then reveals that he has a powerful gift—that of punishing evil using his expertise with computers and research as well as his unique intuition for finding evil that has escaped the long but sometimes incompetent arm of the law. In the early ‘80s, Robert meets a Michael, a Vietnam veteran with a penchant for random acts of aggression but who also wants to join the seminary. However, Michael has recently lost his position at the local Southern Baptist church. After 25 years, Robert checks up on his old diocese and reads that Michael is now the head honcho after the mysterious deaths of several key people who would have been obstacles in Michael’s path to the top. McCabe the author deftly changes techniques here, relating some of the narrative from Michael’s point of view, and readers learn a great deal about the world that McCabe creates. Michael has been blessed since childhood with masterful telekinetic powers. These powers made him an excellent soldier in Vietnam and he has used them with increasing purpose and brutality in the intervening years. McCabe suspects as much, though isn’t aware of the extent of Michael’s powers. He calls Michael, seemingly just to catch up, and convinces him that he is the man to consult on all that is IT in his new operations, but really McCabe is on the hunt. It’s all quite strange, the blending of author and narrator in a story of such fantastic and bloody dimension, but McCabe, despite his holy charge, struggles with the morality of his quest and the potential consequences of having to kill a friend—which is the perfect moral atmosphere for a novel about justice and ambition. The novel’s ending is unusually satisfying and will lead nicely into the following installments his readers will no doubt be anticipating. An offbeat narrative whose unconventionality will entertain and dismay daring readers.

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Miller, Steven F. Vega, Alexis C. Steven F. Miller (166 pp.) $14.95 paperback | $4.95 e-book Oct. 6, 2011 978-0-615551821

Take heart, California scofflaws, from this wily treatise on the art of beating traffic tickets. The authors run TicketBust.com, an online consultancy that specializes in “Trial by Written Declaration,” a Californian court proceeding under which drivers plead with a judge by mail to dismiss or reduce their tickets. Having handled 30,000 such cases, they are bursting with tips on getting out of tickets for speeding, running reds, illegal lane changes and other moving violations. Tickets can be challenged, they note, by impeaching the policeman’s line of sight, alleging that the radar gun mistook the defendant for some other car or documenting obscured signage. Tickets from red-light cameras fall prey to countless technicalities; they are invalid if sufficient warning of the camera’s presence was not posted, if no evidence is presented that it was functioning properly or if the ticket was not mailed within 15 days. And there’s always good old lawyerly sophistry—yes, the cop saw you using your cell phone in the car, but how could he know whether you were texting someone (illegal) or just browsing the web (100 percent possibly legal, according to plausible readings of the relevant statute)? The authors’ main recommendation, though, is to pay them to write and process your Written Declaration. (They reprint samples of their work, bristling with ferocious legalese: “[I]f the People wish to convict me of violating a signal, it is their duty pursuant to VC§ 21455.5 (c)(2) (C) to first establish that the signal was installed and operating according to the law.”) Organizationally, the book is an 18-car pile-up; Miller and Vega simply downloaded the contents of their website and blog in no discernible order, with some passages repeated several times. Still, it’s a lucid browse that makes up for its promotional slant and jumbled structure with lots of detailed, useful advice on navigating the legal system, presented in straightforward laymen’s terms. An informative, readable primer on the rules—and ruses—of the road.

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“Neither resolving nor overly theorizing her experiences, Parker allows readers to glean what they will from her heartfelt story.” from a thousand voices

A THOUSAND VOICES

SPIRE

Parker, Jeri (213 pp.) Nov. 18, 2011 978-0983629405

As a young teacher, Parker is introduced to a deaf child who immediately captures her heart; they communicate with each other beyond a standard language system and forge a friendship that lasts a lifetime. Parker first met 10-year-old Carlos Louis Salazar at the Utah School for the Deaf in 1964. Deaf since infancy, Salazar charmed the 24-year-old high school teacher with his mischievousness and unique brand of communicating. In addition to signing, he learned at school the complexities of speech and how tongue, teeth and breath affect sounds. He manipulated these tools, virtually re-creating language, to suit his individuality as he connected with others. What some heard as broken speech, incorrect grammar or poor communication skills, Parker perceived as creativity bordering on brilliance. They developed a motherson relationship grounded in unconditional love that saw them through Salazar’s reckless adolescence, illness and premature death. His brief life forever changed Parker’s notion of language as a limited construct. With her rich, poetic prose that skillfully articulates nuanced emotions and thoughts, Parker does full justice to her friend’s memory. Her book transcends the ubiquitous “me” and “I” of memoir and hovers on the brink of being a compassionate cautionary tale: love as well as you can, look beyond the surface, appreciate your gifts and others’, listen and learn. Though the first chapter opens with Salazar’s death, the author doesn’t dwell on the loss. Instead, she focuses on Salazar’s singular character, his triumphs and missteps and his effect on others. Like a parent, she sometimes overpraises achievements that others might consider ordinary, yet she never excuses his forays into drugs and crime. What broadens Parker’s story from exclusively intimate to universally relatable are her numerous examples of the many ways to communicate: the doctor who limited interactions with Salazar to cold, scientific jargon; the bristly nurse who ruffled her patient’s hair to express affection. Neither resolving nor overly theorizing her experiences, Parker allows readers to glean what they will from her heartfelt story. A loving tribute to friendship that proves how one person can influence the life of another.

Safronoff, Aaron CreateSpace (358 pp.) $8.95 paperback | $7.95 e-book Sep. 17, 2011 978-1463682187 The watchful Collective, and those who oppose it, form Safronoff ’s futuristic tale of biological manipulation and the battle for individuality. In a not-too-distant future, mankind has relegated much of its need for self-motivation to the all-knowing Collective. But all that could change, thanks to former Collective officer Eve and Joshua Falken, a man who could very well undermine the Collective’s power. Safronoff’s novel offers readers a glimpse into a world buried under the weight of its technological advances, such as GEaRS biotechnology that boosts the power of the human mind and body to inhuman levels. Technology such as the Desk, which functions similar to a computer, and Glass, the equivalent of an iPhone on steroids, form commonplace hardware in Safronoff’s carefully constructed world—one in which the entire Eastern Seaboard sits under the watchful eye of the Spire, the Collective’s dark base of operations. The characters are often attributed simple titles that mark the importance of their roles, such as the unrelenting Leader. Like George Orwell’s seminal 1984, Safronoff’s tale delves into the question of personal freedom and takes it a step further. The novel owes plenty to other speculative science-fiction writers as well, particularly those of the glorious pulp era, such as Philip K. Dick’s pioneering tale Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, where everyday people struggle to understand the deeper meaning of technology. First in a planned series, the novel’s weakness comes in the form of sterile characters, predictable delivery and action sequences reminiscent of the Matrix films; too often, in fact, the novel reads as if it were written to be a film. Those who enjoy hip reads of sublime, indifferent control, bucking the system and inspired technology will find exactly what they’re looking for in Safronoff’s debut. Smartly written, cleverly paced, but wanting for passion.

THE SOUND OF CAISSONS Semsch, Suzanne Hadfield CreateSpace (569 pp.) 978-1463510749

This multigenerational epic follows heroine Julia Crockett’s journey from tomboy Army brat to military wife and beyond, from the Great Depression through Vietnam. Historical novelist Semsch (The Lees of Menokin, 2009, etc.) allows her main character to be unlikable, manipulative, overly ambitious and irresistible in the mold of Gone with the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara. “I want to be a general’s wife,” oft-abrasive Julia commands her colonel husband. Fortunately, Semsch’s deft depiction of the preteen who dreams of being a |

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h r o b b n . jo h n s t on

THE WOODCUTTER AND THE MOST BEAUTIFUL TREE

Johnston, Robb N. (40 pp.) $16.95 January 1, 2011 978-1935356158

The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree earned a Kirkus Star for its witty dialogue and colorful illustrations that evoke the majesty of the four seasons with strokes of watercolor, ink pen, colored pencil and acrylic paint. First-time author Robb N. Johnston was teaching English in Tsukuba, Japan, when he got the idea to craft a children’s book about a beautiful, cunning tree who foils a woodcutter’s efforts to chop it down. But the interview took a surprising turn when we asked the parttime writer and illustrator about his current job in Ann Arbor, Mich. Q: How did your teaching position in Japan inspire you to write a book? A: I had adult and kids classes when I was teaching. For our children’s classes we had different books to read to them and to have them read. And I noticed that the books that we were using were like Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein—all these books that I had grown up with. That blew my mind that I was using these same books on the other side of the world. There was kind of a feeling to try and become a part of that world. Q: Where did you learn to draw?

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

POSTMASTER: POSTMASTER: Send Send address address changes changes to to Kirkus Kirkus Reviews, Reviews, PO PO Box Box 3601, 3601, Northbrook, Northbrook, IL IL 60065-3601. 60065-3601. Periodicals Periodicals Postage Postage Paid Paid at at Austin, Austin, TX TX 78710 78710 and and at at additional additional mailing mailing offices. offices.

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Q: What influenced this aesthetic? A: I don’t know. A lot of people have suggested similarities with other things. People think they see a Japanese design to it, or a Russian motif; some people see a Pacific Northwest Native American kind of thing to it. For me, I couldn’t really pinpoint where the inspiration for that came from. Q: I love the woodcutter. A: He was a lot of fun. He took form on a few separate train rides to and from Tokyo from my hometown. Initially he had suspenders. He’s always been

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Q: Is he based on anyone you know? Nope. Q: What was your inspiration for the plot? A: I wanted to have the tree be the central focus. That was kind of the idea that I hit on for these circular patterns was to have them be sort of an abstract imagining of a leaf or a flower and even the four seasons seemed like a good way to be able to showcase the tree throughout the year and all these different changes that it undergoes. That was really nice because I could do a lot with color and then I wanted to include the woodcutter. From the beginning I guess it was going to be this dialogue between the woodcutter and the tree that goes throughout the four seasons. Initially, I didn’t want it to end on a Christmas note—I didn’t want it to be put in that box as being a Christmas story because I really like how each season gets its own treatment—but in the end that just seemed like a really neat way to tie it all up and put a little bit of a message in there, so I just went with it. Q: What do you do when you’re not writing? A: I work for the Natural Area Preservation Department. Our focus is ecological restoration of the green spaces here. My time is split between doing crew work outdoors and leading volunteer workdays, which is a little bit of volunteer management, volunteer coordination and education, which is a lot of fun. Q: So you know something about trees? A: My co-workers got a chuckle out of the fact that a lot of what we do is invasive species removal. We have lots of non-native trees growing in our natural areas and so when I’m not writing about the most beautiful tree, I’m cutting down trees that we don’t like. Q: So you’re the woodcutter? What if a tree asks you not to cut it down? A: I’ll know how to handle it. [Laughs] –By Devon Glenn

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A: It’s always been a hobby—a passion of mine. I took art classes all through middle and high school and I decided to get a degree in international relations when I went to Michigan State. I hoped to take art classes when I got into college, but at the time it was very difficult to get into the art program classes, like the intro classes, unless you were an art major. It’s always been something that I’ve just done on the side. When I went to Japan, the same kind of thing—I was just doodling and drawing on my own time. I started to draw these patterns and circles and designs and to think about how I could integrate those into a story.

very barrel-chested. I wanted to have really exaggerated features, but he’s undergone an evolution.


“Wiedenbach offers smart, realistic counsel on the importance of incorporating diet and exercise into everyday life.” from 101 fitness myths

soldier nearly 50 years before women are allowed to do so provides enough context to Julia’s harsh manner and choices that the reader can’t help but wait and hope for her aha moment. But while the novel’s leading lady is compelling, she is inconsistent. Julia’s Catholicism becomes a stumbling block to true love, though Semsch hasn’t established the Church’s influence prior to wielding it as a plot device. The novel’s rawest, most memorable moments involve men at war. A soldier on reconnaissance in Korea deduces the nearby enemy is Chinese because he smells garlic cooking. Another allows himself to be lured into an ambush to put a wounded horse out of its misery. Julia’s gentle brother watches a young Vietnamese boy run away and thinks “what a sad thing that a child should fear him because he was an American.” Seconds later, he is blown to bits by a grenade the boy has left at his feet. These spare, searing scenes are perfectly executed, as is Semsch’s depiction of the luxe life of officers and wives in Tehran during the early days of the Shah. The dialogue is occasionally melodramatic and characters too selfaware, as when Julia confides, “I don’t want the familiar, the things I know and trust to end.” But such lapses are outweighed by the story’s forward motion and the rare glimpse into the life and “noble calling” of the career military. The appeal of Semsch’s novel is evident at the end when, knowing great changes lie ahead for the nation and its soldiers, the reader can’t help wondering how Julia Crockett will confront them.

LIFTOFF LEADERSHIP 10 Principles for Exceptional Leadership

Shotton, Betty Beaufort (188 pp.) $24.95 | $24.95 e-book | Oct. 1, 2011 978-0825306471 Businesswoman and pilot Shotton charts a course for helping leaders reflect on their character and conduct. Each chapter represents one of Shotton’s 10 essential leadership qualities, which are illustrated through a smattering of short anecdotes and examples. To review and inspire reflection, end of chapter exercises have readers contemplating personal leadership through academic ranking and writing exercises. Although much of the book’s style and message will be familiar to readers who pursue the business self-help genre, the author’s use of flight analogies and anecdotes makes the book stand out. Flight and piloting stories are present in anecdotes, short stories and even reflected in the descending chapternumbering system that mimics a space mission countdown. The flight anecdotes succeed in piloting the reader through the text, which is much needed in this genre characteristically deficient in narrative threads. Reading the book from cover to cover is a breeze, but leaders in the C-suite who are looking for a guide they can easily scan will find the book’s subheadings nondescript. The book may prove more useful to middle managers, interested in self-reflection and aspiring toward a higher position. Another issue is that the author does more to set up her authority as an |

airplane pilot than as a leadership expert, saying in the beginning only that she is a “business leader.” Flipping to the author bio and back jacket hardly satisfy the question of what experience makes the author credible to write a book on leadership. By the back third of the book, anecdotes on the author’s leadership become more illustrative, but future editions could use some of this discussion in the prologue. Despite these shortcomings, the author’s anecdotes and end of chapter exercises will entertain and should help self-reflecting leaders better understand their current leadership style strengths and shortcomings. With engaging examples and exercises, Shotton’s book will help reflective leaders reach new heights in self-awareness.

101 FITNESS MYTHS Turbocharge your workouts to leaner and stronger faster Wiedenbach, Maik Maik Wiedenbach (152 pp.) $3.99 e-book | Jun. 19, 2011

A New York City-based certified personal trainer exposes the myths and realities of achieving overall physical fitness. Established fitness coach Wiedenbach, a 20-year weight training veteran, has produced what he calls a “no-nonsense natural” approach to muscle-building and healthful nutrition with the assemblage of 101 knowledgeable tips targeted to the novice exerciser. In the constructive introduction, Wiedenbach declares that anyone, regardless of age or gender, will see real results from a 45-minute “lifting program” performed three times a week alongside a reasonable diet regimen. This type of sensible advice populates the book’s straightforward sections on weight training and cardio, diet and nutrition, supplements and lifestyle. The author’s responses to more commonplace beliefs can be surprising, as when discussing the role genetics plays in physicality (a small one), those hard-won abdominal muscles (“a matter of proper diet”) and pre-workout stretching (best performed after exercising). Fallacies about grapefruit, protein consumption, fats and carbs, stress, protein bars, alcohol consumption and the limits of aerobic exercise are also fascinating to read. He additionally offers workout plans, a few “cheat” exercise moves and a section on the smartest choices at fast food restaurants. The author may strike an alluring, scantily clad pose on the cover (sure to entice book browsers), but he misses an opportunity to aesthetically fortify his undertaking. Whether intentional or not, the book itself is straight text on the page and devoid of charts, instructional illustrations or any type of graphic extras, which is the only disappointment in an otherwise impressive effort. In a marketplace awash in a surfeit of quick-fixes, 48-hour promised results, nutritional phenomenon and miracle muscle-building techniques, Wiedenbach offers smart, realistic counsel on the importance of incorporating diet and exercise into everyday life. Sound fitness advice delivered though a regrettably flat format.

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December 15, 2011: November 15, 2011: Volume LXXIX, No 24  

Chris Pavone delivers a highly enjoyable debut thriller with unexpected twists and turns sure to keep readers guessing; Steven Naifeh and Gr...