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Featuring 344 Industry-First Reviews of Fiction, Nonfiction and Children's & Teen

KIRKUS VOL. LXXXI, NO.

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REVIEWS

Also In This Issue

Small Mark, Big Emotion: Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld's Exclamation Mark p. 86 Back Story: Best-seller Andrew E. Kaufman’s Path to Success p. 134

Life on the Plains: Kent Haruf's Benediction p. 14

Bob Knight

Don’t Worry, Be Pouty The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results p. 54

CHILDREN'S & TEEN

P.S. BE ELEVEN

by Rita Williams-Garcia Back in Brooklyn after her summer of discovery in San Francisco, the indomitable Delphine Gaither learns that just being 11 isn't always easy. p. 119

NONFICTION

Bunker Hill

by Nathaniel Philbrick The National Book Award winner returns with an ingenious look at the iconic battle. p. 61

FICTION

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler The author delivers a fantastic novel: technically and intellectually complex, while emotionally gripping. p. 12 Photo courtesy ESPN Images


Anniversaries: Mark Harris’ The Southpaw B Y G RE G O RY MC NA M EE

Chairman H E R B E RT S I M O N # President & Publisher M A RC W I N K E L M A N Chief Operating Officer M E G L A B O R D E KU E H N mkuehn@kirkus.com

S p r i n g t r a i n i n g i s w r a p p i n g u p, baseball season is fast upon us, and die-hard numerically inclined fans are returning to the stats gathered by the Society for American Baseball Research, puzzling out this year’s odds. The less numerate—and you’ve got to be encyclopedically geeky to remember, say, the late Stan Musial’s RBI count from half a century ago (58, if you must know)—have plenty of avenues as well, one being a revisitation of a novel published 10 years before Musial’s number was retired: Mark Harris’ The Southpaw. Harris, nee Mark Harris Finkelstein, a journalist and sometime sportswriter turned novelist and creative-writing professor, had two great subjects in his writing life: resistance to discrimination and baseball. His first novel, Trumpet to the World (1946), concerned the former, depicting the then unheard-of marriage of a black soldier to a white woman and the horrible treatment they endure. His next, The Southpaw, appeared seven years later. It concerned the latter—but with plenty of undertones of discrimination as well. In The Southpaw, Henry Wiggen, a hulking left-handed pitcher, arrives in the big city from the sticks to try his luck at signing onto a team. He throws hellish heat, and not wildly, unlike his filmic descendant, Nuke LaLoosh. (Come to think of it, Bull Durham is celebrating a birthday this year, too—its 25th.) Though naïve and sometimes stubborn, he is also willing to learn. In time, he rockets into the majors and from there to the World Series—the dream of every kid who ever pawed a mitt. But he discovers, too, that the dream of baseball stardom comes with plenty of nightmares, including the weird apartheid that figured in the baseball of the past. Says one coach of Henry’s teammates: “The Carucci brothers, they are Roman Catholics of the Italian race. . . . I do not know them. . . . They do not mix in with the rest. They stay to theirselves and sometimes I think this is best. . . . Gonzalez does not speak the language, and he is just as well off.” Against the odds, the disparate team unites and rises, and Henry, the bumpkin ingénue, matures to the point that he even finds himself “shaking the hand that busted the jaw of Ugly Jones”—a tale worth relishing, that. Harris would follow The Southpaw with three other baseball novels, of which Bang the Drum Slowly is the best known. With Bernard Malamud’s The Natural and later W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, it held a corner on the classic-baseball-lit market for decades, and nothing has come along to demote it. Indeed, only a few baseball books since command as much attention, of them celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Michael Lewis’ nonfiction Moneyball, which spawned a movie of the same name in 2011 and which afforded us the wonderful, rare spectacle of life imitating art imitating life, which will make sense once you’ve taken in Lewis’ story. Fire up the Brad Pitt film, then give both The Southpaw and Moneyball a read. Watch Bull Durham again, and Field of Dreams, too, the movie that grew from Shoeless Joe. By the time you’re finished, it’ll be that much closer to opening day.

for more re vi e ws and f eatures, vi si t u s on l i n e at kirkus.com.

Editor E L A I N E S Z E WC Z Y K eszewczyk@kirkus.com Managing/Nonfiction Editor E R I C L I E B E T R AU eliebetrau@kirkus.com Children’s & Teen Editor VICKY SMITH vsmith@kirkus.com Features Editor C laiborne S mith csmith@kirkus.com Mysteries Editor THOMAS LEITCH Contributing Editor G R E G O RY M c N A M E E Senior Indie Editor KAREN SCHECHNER kschechner@kirkus.com Indie Editor RYA N L E A H E Y rleahey@kirkus.com Indie Editor D avid R a p p drapp@kirkus.com Assistant Indie Editor M AT T D O M I N O mdomino@kirkus.com Editorial Coordinator CHELSEA LANGFORD clangford@kirkus.com Copy Editor BETSY JUDKINS Director of Kirkus Editorial P E R RY C RO W E pcrowe@kirkus.com Director of Technology E R I K S M A RT T esmartt@kirkus.com Marketing Communications Director SARAH KALINA skalina@kirkus.com Marketing Associate DUSTIN LIEN dlien@kirkus.com Advertising Sales Associate A M Y G AY H A RT agayhart@kirkus.com #

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This Issue’s Contributors

Elfrieda Abbe • Maude Adjarian • Mark Athitakis • Michael Autrey • Adam benShea • Amy Boaz • Lee E. Cart • Dave DeChristopher • Kathleen Devereaux • Bobbi Dumas • Daniel Dyer • Lisa Elliott • Gro Flatebo • Julie Foster • Peter Franck • Peter Heck • Cicily Janus • Robert M. Knight • Christina M. Kratzner • Paul Lamey • Louise Leetch • Judith Leitch • Peter Lewis • Elsbeth Lindner • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee • Carole Moore • Clayton Moore • Liza Nelson • John Noffsinger • Mike Oppenheim • Jim Piechota • Gary Presley • Lloyd Sachs • Bob Sanchez • Sandra Sanchez • Michael Sandlin • William P. Shumaker • Rosanne Simeone • Elaine Sioufi • Wendy Smith • Margot E. Spangenberg • Andria Spencer • Claire Trazenfeld • Rodney Welch • Carol White • Chris White • Joan Wilentz


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contents fiction

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

Index to Starred Reviews............................................................5 REVIEWS.................................................................................................5 Life on the Plains by claiborne smith.................................14 Mystery.............................................................................................. 31 Science Fiction & Fantasy..........................................................36

nonfiction Index to Starred Reviews..........................................................39 REVIEWS...............................................................................................39 Don’t Worry, Be Pouty: A Conversation with Bob Knight...........................................54

children’s & teen Index to Starred Reviews.........................................................69 REVIEWS..............................................................................................69 Small Mark, Big Emotion By Megan Labrise......................86 interactive e-books...................................................................121 Continuing series...................................................................... 124

indie Index to Starred Reviews.........................................................127 REVIEWS..............................................................................................127 Andrew E. Kaufman’s Path to Success............................... 134

Aaron Hartzler pens a funny and affectionate memoir of growing up in constant anticipation of the rapture. Read the review on p. 89. |

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on the web In Meg Medina’s compelling new novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, a Latina teen is targeted by a bully at her new school—and must discover resources she never knew she had. Kirkus writer Andi Diehn asks Medina about the inspiration for the new novel. One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first, Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.

w w w. k i r k u s . c o m Check out these highlights from Kirkus’ online coverage at www.kirkus.com 9 The Book of My Lives, Aleksandar Hemon’s first book of nonfiction, defies convention and expectation. His lives begin in Sarajevo, a small, blissful city where a young boy’s life is consumed with street soccer with the neighborhood kids, resentment of his younger sister and trips abroad with his engineer-cum-beekeeper father. Here, a young man’s life is about poking at the pretensions of the city’s elders with American music, bad poetry and slightly better journalism. And then, his life in Chicago: watching from afar as war breaks out in Sarajevo and the city comes under siege, no way to return home; his parents and sister fleeing Sarajevo with the family dog, leaving behind all else they had ever known; and Hemon himself starting a new life, his own family, in this new city. Kirkus writer Jenny Hendrix will interview Hemon.

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

Amy Stewart, the best-selling author of five books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, will publish a new book in March titled The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks. Every great drink starts with a plant. Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley. Gin was born from a conifer shrub when medieval physicians boiled juniper berries with wine to treat stomach pain. The Drunken Botanist uncovers the enlightening botanical history and the fascinating science and chemistry of over 150 plants, flowers, trees and fruits (and even a few fungi). Some of the most extraordinary and obscure plants have been fermented and distilled, and they each represent a unique cultural contribution to our global drinking traditions and our history. We’ve asked Stewart to reveal the strange origin of some of the world’s most beloved drinks.

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

w w w. k i r k u s r e v i e w s . c o m / i s s u e Don’t wait on the mail for reviews! You can read pre-publication reviews as they are released on kirkus.com – even before they are published in the magazine. You can also access the current issue and back issues of Kirkus Reviews on our website by logging in as a subscriber. If you do not have a username or password, please contact customer care to set up your account by calling 1.800.316.9361 or emailing customers@kirkusreviews.com.

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fiction SIDNEY SHELDON’S THE TIDES OF MEMORY

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Bagshawe, Tilly Morrow/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-06-207342-6

SOUTHERN CROSS THE DOG by Bill Cheng.......................................7 WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler.............................................................................12 THE DAUGHTERS OF MARS by Thomas Keneally............................18 A DELICATE TRUTH by John le Carré.................................................19 THE REDEEMER by Jo Nesbø, .............................................................23 THE NAMES OF OUR TEARS by P.L. Gaus........................................ 33 THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY by Mur Lafferty.................................................................................... 37 PROMISE OF BLOOD by Brian McClellan......................................... 37

A DELICATE TRUTH

le Carré, John Viking (432 pp.) $28.95 May 7, 2013 978-0-670-01489-7

The idle rich and the politically connected meet. The novel is a blend of romance and intrigue, with smatterings of from-theheadlines topicality: A middle-aged British woman who has risen to power in the government gets herself in hot water (and thus “couldn’t look at water without feeling a shudder of foreboding”), while the mates of the (perhaps) falsely accused lad on whose shoulders she has risen and nearly fallen swear that she’ll get hers. Meanwhile, across the waters, callous young men are enjoying lobster rolls while trolling on daddy’s yacht and dreaming of “satin crotchless panties.” Natch, these worlds have to meet. The writing is true to formula and makes a good simulacrum of Sheldon’s wellknown ham-fistedness: “Not only were Patel’s supporters threatening and aggressive, but the tabloid press, and in particular the Daily Mail, wittered on about the man as if he were Ghandi.” (Presumably, they’re twittering on about him as if he were Gandhi, but no matter.) Worse: “She was so nervous, her teeth began to chatter.” Worse yet: “Summer felt her tiredness lift and her misery of only a few hours ago evaporate like raindrops in the sun.” Suitable for readers with middling hopes and low expectations but much inferior to other genre peers, Patterson included.

THE KING’S DECEPTION

Berry, Steve Ballantine (432 pp.) $27.00 | May 14, 2013 978-0-345-52654-0

Berry (The Columbus Affair, 2013, etc.) mixes Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and terrorists into Cotton Malone’s eighth adventure. Malone is retired from the Magellan Billet, the U.S. Justice Department’s supersecret unit. He now owns a Copenhagen bookstore. Malone’s been summoned to Atlanta, his exwife’s home, where she’s shocked their son, Gary, with a buried secret: Malone isn’t his biological father. Gary’s angry. He wants to spend time in Copenhagen. Aware of his trip, Malone’s former Magellan boss asks him to escort a runaway street kid to |

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“Intriguing historical fiction...” from shattered trident

London. Ian Dunne witnessed a CIA agent’s death. Berry’s narrative catalyst was a real-life headline—Scotland’s release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. The CIA isn’t happy, and the British government won’t act. The Malones and Dunne no sooner have their feet on the ground in London than they’re kidnapped by agents working for Blake Antrim, of the Brusselsbased CIA special operations counterterrorism team. Antrim is scheming to use a Tudor-era conspiracy involving Elizabeth I that reflects on the current monarchy’s legitimacy to pressure the Brits to stop the release. Post–Malone kidnapping, there are escapes and evasions, all transpiring while Antrim’s crew also opens Henry VIII’s tomb in Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel. Next, hard-charging Kathleen Richards of England’s Serious Organized Crime Agency jumps into the whirlwind. Tudor-era rumors manipulating terrorist negotiations may seem realpolitik overkill, but it’s ample ammunition for Berry’s cinematic action to ricochet through castles, manor grounds and London’s Underground while involving a professor assassinated but not dead, scholarly twin sisters and Sir Thomas Mathews, the British SIS’s Machiavellian chief. Antrim’s efforts are apparently stymied by the Daedalus Society, an ancient monarchy-preservation group, but then he succumbs to a bribe. Sir Thomas dissembles, manipulates and murders; Antrim’s self-interest manifests; a secreted manuscript encoded by Robert Cecil, Elizabeth I’s confidant and secretary of state, is deciphered; Bram Stoker’s nonfiction work is cited, and Malone, the teenage boys and Richards survive more entrapments and gun battles than humanly possible. A Dan Brown-ian secular conspiracy about The Virgin Queen driving nonstop international intrigue.

SHATTERED TRIDENT

Bond, Larry Forge (432 pp.) $27.99 | May 7, 2013 978-0-7653-3147-2

Bond delivers a naval thriller on a stage that covers half the globe. China has overreached by trying to grab the tiny, resource-rich Spratly Islands and make the South China Sea its private preserve. Their submarines start sinking other nations’ merchant vessels. Some of its angry neighbors, including India, Japan and Vietnam, form the Littoral Alliance to fight China’s expansionism. Soon, war breaks out, and the United States very much wants to stay out of it—or better yet, stop it. Cmdr. Jerry Mitchell is among those tasked to interfere with attacks on shipping by placing his submarine between attackers and their targets. Still, the conflict escalates. Thousands of people die on both sides, and the conflict could go nuclear. What can the United States possibly do? Cmdr. Mitchell has the president’s ear and offers up an idea that’s either a cockamamie scheme or a brilliant tactic. This novel is rich with weapons terminology and will please any fan of naval fiction. Every nation gets its point of view in scenes that often switch back and forth quickly. There seem to be no villains, only nations with competing interests. The hero is the 6

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United States, specifically Mitchell. That’s fair enough, although with the lengthy cast of characters it’s hard for the reader to get emotionally invested in anyone else. But the tradeoff is the impressive scope and complexity of the plot. One may well hope that nations are not still such fools as to risk their existence the way they do in this story or that their salvation might lie in one brave man’s outlandish idea. But for fiction, it holds together well. Both benefits and suffers from its broad scope, as some scenes could easily be cut. Still, a highly readable yarn.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S BASTARD

Cabot, Sally Morrow/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $25.99 | May 7, 2013 978-0-06-224192-4 Cabot debuts by bringing to life Ben Franklin’s wife, lover and illegitimate son. History doesn’t identify William Franklin’s mother, but Cabot imagines a strong, courageous and intelligent woman named Anne, a refugee from ragtag Eades Alley in pre-Revolutionary Philadelphia. Anne works at Penny Pot Tavern, there meeting the charming, young Ben Franklin, up-and-coming citizen and publisher of the Philadelphia Gazette. Young Ben beds Deborah Read, a tradesman’s daughter, but is denied permission to marry. He travels to England. “I am unlikely to return to Philadelphia anytime soon,” Ben writes, and so Deborah marries a scoundrel and leaves him. Ben returns, prospers and charms Penny Pot’s Anne. That he offers her money for her desperate family seems irrelevant. Anne’s soon pregnant, but Ben reconnects with Deborah, taking her as a common-law wife. Realizing her sexuality offers money, and power, Anne entertains other men. Ben learns of William’s birth and persuades Anne to give him up, although unbeknownst to Deborah, Anne later maneuvers Ben to become William’s nanny for a short period, an affair ending badly. Lifelong tension burns between Deborah and William, exacerbated when Francis, Ben and Deborah’s son, dies of smallpox. Cabot defines colonial Philadelphia believably, captivating with her perception of Franklin as charming, intellectual and driven. This early narrative enthralls, but it makes an abrupt switch in focus as William reaches adulthood. Ben travels to England as colonial emissary. Deborah refuses to go along, but William agrees. Ben, “monogamous but not celibate,” invites Anne, but she balks. The Franklins return, with William appointed New Jersey’s royal governor. The narrative then follows the father–son conflict over William’s loyalty to the king and Ben’s support of revolution, with Anne’s story fading into the background. Cabot shines in her descriptions of colonial life, in her fictionalized rendition of Ben Franklin’s charismatic personality and wide-ranging intellect, but especially in interpreting Franklin the man through Anne, a fully-realized, memorable character. It is Anne who brings imagined reality’s magic to the narrative. Intriguing historical fiction; a laudable interpretation of colonial life.


THE ORIGINAL 1982

Carson, Lori Morrow/HarperCollins (240 pp.) $14.99 paper | May 28, 2013 978-0-06-224529-8 A debut novel that juxtaposes the narrator’s memories with thoughts of what could have been had she made a different decision back in 1982. An aspiring singer/songwriter, a rebel and a developing alcoholic, young Lisa is in love with a South American musician 13 years her senior who has achieved a certain stardom and can have his pick of beautiful women. She meets him when he comes into the cafe where she works as a waitress and admires her beauty. She knows she is one of many women in his life but thinks perhaps she will be the special one when she becomes pregnant with his child. But since he makes it clear he doesn’t want her to have the baby, she has an abortion, a decision she very much regrets 30 years later, when she decides to revisit it. Addressing the man, she writes:

“ ‘Maestro, I’m not having an abortion. Get ready. You’re going to have a child.’ And since I’m the writer of this story, and can do whatever I want, that’s what I’ll do. Go back to that day in 1982.” She goes on to invent a child she names Minnow, and over the course of the book, she tells her imagined daughter’s story as well as her own, mixing in events that did actually happen in 1982. Reality and imagination converge in this what-if tale.

SOUTHERN CROSS THE DOG

Cheng, Bill Ecco/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $25.99 | May 7, 2013 978-0-06-222500-9 A wildly ambitious debut novel—vividly imagined, frequently poetic—conjuring the Southern Delta of the first half of the 20th century as a fever dream, steeped in the blues.

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One of the most frightening songs by the bluesman Robert Johnson is “Hellhound on My Trail.” This narrative suggests an elaboration of Johnson’s classic, extended to novel length, filtered through Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. The main musician in the story is a barrelhouse piano player and voodoo shaman, peripheral to the narrative as a whole but pivotal to the life of protagonist Robert Chatham, a boyhood survivor of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. “Houses rose up, bobbled, then smashed together like eggshells. Homes bled out their insides—bureaus, bathtubs, drawers, gramophones—before folding into themselves. The people scrambled up on their roofs, up trees, clinging to one another. The water blew them from their perches, swept them into the drift, smashed them against the debris.” Through hopscotching chronology, the plot follows Robert from the apocalyptic flood through a devastating stint as the ward of a bordello (where he meets the piano player who introduces him to both the titular dog and the devil), through his adult years as an itinerant laborer, working to clear the land for a dam that promises “A Shining New South,” even as it threatens the livelihood of the backwoods Cajun trappers who give Robert’s path another detour. The author’s virtuosity occasionally gets the best of him, as when he has Robert’s not very reflective or sophisticated father remarking on an evening that finds “everything singing out the great mystery of the world” (which fits thematically but sounds more like a young novelist with an MFA). There are also passages that verge on Faulkner Lite: “The one truth God has ever given to a man. And it’s that the past keeps happening to us.” Yet it’s hard to resist the sweep of Southern history that the author conjures through the experience of his protagonist, the way he makes the devil as palpably real as the natural world that he pervades, blurring the distinction between dreams and destiny. The title suggests a mysterious piece of Southern folk art, and the novel works a similar magic. Not a perfect novel, but a strong voice and a compelling achievement.

MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN ACCRA

Coelho, Paulo Knopf (208 pp.) $22.00 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-385-34983-3

Another treacly and pseudo-profound set of pronouncements, these from “the Copt,” a Greek living in Jerusalem at the end of the 11th century. The conceit of the book is that, in 1974, Sir Walter Wilkinson discovered a papyrus manuscript written in Arabic, Hebrew and Latin. (Coelho is, if nothing else, eclectic in his cultural attributions.) This manuscript, purportedly revealing the wisdom of the Copt on the eve of the capture of Jerusalem by French crusaders in 1099, is in the form of call and response from various townspeople—Muslims, Christians and Jews. A sample setup: “And someone said: ‘When everything looks black, we need to raise our spirits. So, talk to us about beauty.’ ” This is all the opening the Copt needs to pontificate in a style reminiscent 8

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of warmed-over Kahlil Gibran: “All the beings created under the sun, from birds to mountains, from flowers to rivers, reflect the miracle of creation.” Or, “to those who believe that adventures are dangerous, I say, try routine; that kills you far more quickly.” Or, “[e]verything is permitted, if everything is accepted.” Coelho’s style is terse and epigrammatic, but despite the framing device, there’s really no narrative here, only a series of assertions that reflect the Copt’s surprisingly New-Age sensibilities. On the other hand, perhaps this isn’t so surprising since at the beginning of the manuscript, the Copt announces that he “do[es] not believe very much will change in the next thousand years.” This “novel” will appeal to those who like their philosophy predigested yet served on platters.

THE GAMAL

Collins, Ciarán Bloomsbury (480 pp.) $17.00 paper | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-60819-875-7 An adolescent boy in a rural Irish village recounts the terrible events that befall him and his closest friends, in this debut novel from an Irish author. Twenty-five-year-old Charlie McCarthy is the “Gamal” of the title—it’s a Gaelic word that means “fool.” He’s a sobbing mess with a head full of bad wiring and a case of PTSD to beat the band. Charlie is writing down the story of his adolescence at the demand of his shrink. It starts haltingly, with Charlie inserting drawings, dictionary definitions and court transcripts in lieu of narration, which is what a traumatized, poorly educated young man might do. But by the time he finds his rhythm, Charlie isn’t pulling any punches. “I seen fierce rotten things,” he writes. “Your head would be fucked if you seen what I seen. See what I see.” His story is ultimately about the fate of his only friends: James, a star-crossed lover who falls desperately in love with Sinéad, a lovely young girl with a beautiful voice. “I’ll mention others along the way,” Charlie tells us. “The story is mainly about people. And the things they do to each other.” Local rivalries, family feuds and Shakespearean tragedy all come into play in Collins’ dark story, but it’s Charlie’s haunted voice that makes it come to life. A ferocious, heartbreaking confessional with a real voice.

TIME FLIES

Cook, Claire Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-4516-7367-8 The latest novel from Cook (Wallflower in Bloom, 2012, etc.). When Melanie’s husband, Kurt, surprises her by packing up their family, including two young sons, to move from Boston to Atlanta, she copes by throwing


herself into metal sculpture, an idea inspired by the garage full of welding equipment left by the previous owners of their new home. When Kurt later leaves her for another woman, the artwork saves her sanity and attracts the attention of the charming restaurateur Ted Brody. By this time, the two boys are grown and gone and maintain no contact with their father, but they check in on their mom regularly. In the midst of these events, her best friend from high school, B.J., is nagging her to come North for the upcoming high school reunion. Melanie doesn’t want to, until she starts getting emails from a former boyfriend, now divorced, who is hoping to see her there. Melanie flies to Boston, where she sees old friends and her sister for the first time in many years. While there, she shares driving duties with B.J, which requires confronting her crippling fear of highways. When Kurt turns up at the reunion (sans other woman), Melanie considers her options, which now include the possibility of a relationship with Ted, who has a laugh she comes to love. After accompanying Melanie and B.J on their hysterical road trip, readers will feel like they’ve made friends for life. Women will like this book.

CHILDREN OF THE JACARANDA TREE Delijani, Sahar Atria (288 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-4767-0909-3

Iran-born Delijani pens a horrifying picture of life in her home country in this sad yet compelling first novel. Evin Prison provides the backdrop for Neda’s first days. Her mother, Azar, is driven through the streets of Tehran in 1983 as some of her captors take her to the hospital for the birth of her child. But their cruelty and reluctance to treat their prisoners like human beings are made even clearer by the way they stop along the way in order to grill Azar about her politics. They finally allow her to have her child at a hospital but refuse to let her rest after the birth, even though a doctor insists she must stay for further treatment. Four years later, little Omid sits in his family’s

QUESTIONS OF TRAVEL

de Kretser, Michelle Little, Brown (480 pp.) $25.99 | May 14, 2013 978-0-316-21922-8

Two travelers—a man from Sri Lanka and a woman from Australia—ultimately meet up as both their lives and their narratives intertwine. The story begins in the 1960s with Laura Fraser growing up in Sydney amid a gloomy family situation, for her mother has died and her father is emotionally remote. The only saving grace in her early life is her beloved Aunt Hester. When her aunt dies, she leaves enough money for Laura to spend some time seeing the world, and Laura’s travels take her from India to London and points in between. Concurrently, Ravi Mendes is growing up in Sri Lanka. He has Roman Catholic schooling and a technological bent, and he gets involved with an equally tech-savvy friend in the early days of the Internet. Although Laura has numerous affairs but no serious relationships, Ravi gets married to Malini and has a child. Malini has strong political convictions that lead her to expose corruption in Sri Lanka, but this passion eventuates in her being brutally killed and dismembered. Ravi is distraught but also endangered, so he immigrates to Australia. Not so coincidentally, Laura has recently resettled there, eventually getting a job—appropriately enough— as a travel editor for European guidebooks. Ravi spends his time getting accustomed to a new and alien culture, anchoring himself in websites familiar from his previous life in Sri Lanka, and Laura continues to fritter away her time with meaningless affairs, fulfilling the definition of “modern love: traceless, chilling.” Eventually, of course, and after an agonizingly long time, Ravi and Laura meet. De Kretser negotiates the fragmentation of her major characters with aplomb as well as with an aggressive but rhapsodic prose style. |

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“A nicely crafted romance...” from the handbook to handling his lordship

kitchen preparing to eat his dinner when government agents storm his home and drag his mother and father off, leaving him to the care of his aging grandparents and his aunt, who has seen two of her sisters disappear into government-run prisons. Then there are Maryam and her loving husband, Amir. Held in filthy conditions in a detention center that is part of Evin Prison, Amir dreams only of his pregnant wife’s loving arms and their beloved countryside. What he receives is anything but comforting. Facing trial, he finally meets his little daughter, Sheida, born while he was imprisoned. Switching back and forth during the years of war with Iraq and more current history, the book follows the three young people and family members as they navigate the minefield of Iranian dissent. Delijani is exceptionally talented as a writer, and the subject matter is both compelling and timely, however some of her imagery is jarring and seems out of place, and the relentlessly depressing storyline may make some readers uncomfortable. Delijani falls back on her family’s personal experience to write this searing and somber slice-of-life novel, centered around children whose parents were singled out for persecution by the Iranian government, and scores a win with her grittiness and uncompromising realism. (Author tour to Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.)

THE HANDBOOK TO HANDLING HIS LORDSHIP

Enoch, Suzanne St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $7.99 paper | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-312-53454-7

When Nate Stokes, the Earl of Westfall, is hired to track down a murderess, he knows immediately there is more to the story than he’s been told, but he never expects that hunting down the clues will turn his life—and his heart— upside down. Nate Stokes is an uncomfortable earl. After years as a successful spy under Wellington, he’s had great success taking on many different identities, but being a member of the highest echelons of society sits ill on him. One thing that helps him keep his sanity is solving the odd mystery here or there—usually tracking down lost items or people. But seeking a murderess outside the treacherous boundaries of war is a first, and when a marquis requests his services, Nate jumps at the chance. A little intuition and a great deal of luck take him to the Tantalus Club, the most famous gentlemen’s club in London, and straight into the arms of Emily Portsman, the intriguing, enigmatic figure who becomes his immediate prime suspect. Emily may be many things—brilliant, tantalizing and the first person to truly pique Nate’s interest in years—but Nate would bet his life she’s not a murderer. Good thing, too, since he just may have to. Enoch has penned a winner with this historical romance. It isn’t exactly a romantic suspense novel in the traditional sense, but it has 10

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a great deal of external tension that ratchets the internal conflicts of the characters. Nate’s difficulty in settling into the English aristocracy is handled deftly, and his sometimes-awkward attempts both to connect with and to protect his brother and Emily are sweet and tighten the backdrop of his moral struggles, while Emily’s cautious steps to freedom and trust are touching. The chemistry between Nate and Emily is intense, and Enoch does a superb job of using sex as a path to bringing them closer together, while also forcing them to question their own and each other’s motives. The resolution scene is especially fun and well-played. A nicely crafted romance that brings a spy novel sensibility to a damsel-in-distress fugitive trope, with entertaining and rewarding results.

NOTORIOUS NINETEEN

Evanovich, Janet Bantam (321 pp.) $28.00 | Nov. 20, 2012 978-0-345-52774-5

Stephanie Plum, Trenton’s gift to skip tracing (Explosive Eighteen, 2011, etc.), takes on a terrorist threatening a bridal pair, the sinister forces behind multiple disappearances from Central Hospital and the usual glut of Failures to Appear. Nobody ever said fugitive apprehension was easy, and Stephanie, accompanied by her sometime partner, Lula, the most hilariously uninhibited sidekick in mystery fiction, begins this installment by watching her pursuit of Melvin Barrel (possession with intent to sell) blow up in her face, along with her car. Luckily, there are always more FTA’s, from 50-something widow Dottie Luchek (soliciting) to state legislator Elwood Pitch (human trafficking) to homeless Brody Logan (attacking a police cruiser with a hammer). But one fugitive stands out: Geoffrey Cubbin, accused of embezzling $5 million from Cranberry Manor, who was checked into Central Hospital for an emergency appendectomy before disappearing as completely as his appendix. It turns out that he’s only the latest of Dr. Craig Fish’s patients to vanish from Central, and pint-sized security chief Randy Briggs is not amused. Over at the swanky end of town, Stephanie forsakes her main squeeze, Trenton cop Joe Morelli, to accompany Morelli’s rival, Ranger, to a reception at which his old Special Forces comrade Robert Kinsey is to speak. Kinsey and his fiancee, Amanda Olesen, have been getting anonymous threats. So has Ranger, who wants Stephanie to go undercover as a bridesmaid at the wedding. In addition to juggling her usual plus-sized caseload, Stephanie careens back and forth between the two men in her life: “Morelli was an amazing lover, but Ranger was magic.” The usual generous mixture of transparent mystery, R-rated fantasies and standup comedy—paced like a Road Runner cartoon drawn out to feature length—that makes Evanovich the gold standard of her subgenre.


A STEP OF FAITH

Evans, Richard Paul Simon & Schuster (272 pp.) $19.99 | May 7, 2013 978-1-4516-2829-6 The diary of a traveler. The young widower, Alan Christoffersen, decides to deal with his grief by planning a walk across America from Seattle to Key West. Alan wonders what the people he passes think of him and reflects that the people we encounter in our lives are like books in a library. We might not have time to read all of them, but he recommends browsing: “For every now and then, we find that one book that reaches us deep inside and introduces us to ourselves. And, in someone else’s story, we come to understand our own.” This is an apt analogy for the collection of people and their stories that Alan encounters along his journey. Midway through his crosscountry walk, Alan collapses and wakes up in a hospital learning

he has a brain tumor. His father has come out from Pasadena and takes him back home for the necessary surgery and recovery. At the hospital are two women who have prior connections to Alan, and both love him deeply. It is revealed that his young wife, who may have foreseen her own death, wanted him to remarry should she die before him, and his father, himself widowed early in life, discusses this with his son. Upon his recovery, Alan flies back to St. Louis to resume his walk East. More challenges and lessons await him. The stories collected on this journey, as in life, are left unfinished, raise many questions and, depending on what the reader brings, might provide some answers. (Agent: Laurie Liss)

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“Uneven fare...” from a perfect proposal

A PERFECT PROPOSAL

Fforde, Katie St. Martin’s (384 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-250-02429-9

Fforde’s latest is a rambling, bighearted novel in which a young Londoner becomes entangled with a wealthy American family. Sophie is a lovely girl, if a bit too easily pushed around. Her family, a group of self-centered academics, thinks she’s comparatively dim and treats her as their very own Cinderella. Her friends can’t understand why her boyfriends are needy moochers. And Sophie herself would like something more than waiting tables. She has a plan: Save enough money to take a tailoring and business course and open her own shop. But first she must look after Evil Uncle Eric while his housekeeper is away (her family insists—Uncle Eric is loaded, and they are hoping for an inheritance), and then she is off to New York to temporarily nanny for a local family. Uncle Eric proves a doll, but the nannying job falls through, leaving Sophie in New York with her transplanted friend Milly to play out scenes from Sex and the City. At an art opening, Sophie rescues a society matron about to faint. Matilda Winchester, an English war bride, is charmed by Sophie, but her American grandson, Luke, is not. Matilda treats Sophie to a day out and invites her to Thanksgiving dinner at her Connecticut house, but Luke warns Sophie not to get too close—he’s on the lookout for hangers-on. Sophie is undeterred by his rudeness and spends a lovely final week in America at Matilda’s mansion before she heads back to waiting tables and, of course, doing that favor for Matilda. As a child, Matilda stayed in a house on the Cornish coast; the house holds her happiest memories, and she wants Sophie to find it for her. Then Luke ends up in London, and the inevitable romance begins. Thinly crafted plot devices tear them apart before the same reunite them. This is a shame, as Sophie is a charmer, and real relationship problems (their differences in class, wealth, values) would have created a far richer romance if there were real jeopardy to the happiness. Uneven fare from the British Fforde, made forgivable by an appealing heroine.

WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES

Fowler, Karen Joy Marian Wood/Putnam (320 pp.) $26.95 | May 30, 2013 978-0-399-16209-1 What is the boundary between human and animal beings and what happens when that boundary is blurred are two of many questions raised in Fowler’s provocative sixth novel (The Jane Austen Book Club, 2004, etc.), the narration of a young woman grieving over her lost sister, who happens to be a chimpanzee. 12

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Rosemary recounts her family history at first haltingly and then with increasingly articulate passion. In 1996, she is a troubled student at U.C. Davis who rarely speaks out loud. She thinks as little as possible about her childhood and the two siblings no longer part of her family. But during a Thanksgiving visit home to Bloomington, Ind., where her father is a psychology professor, that past resurfaces. Rosemary recalls her distress as a 5-yearold when she returned from visiting her grandparents to find her family living in a new house and her sister Fern gone. Denying any memory of why Fern disappeared, she claims to remember only the aftermath: her mother’s breakdown; her father’s withdrawal; her older brother Lowell’s accelerating anger until he left the family at 18 to find Fern and become an animal rights activist/ terrorist; her own continuing inability to fit in with human peers. Gradually, Rosemary acknowledges an idyllic earlier childhood when she and Fern were inseparable playmates on a farm, their intact family shared with psych grad students. By waiting to clarify that Fern was a chimpanzee, Rosemary challenges readers to rethink concepts of kinship and selfhood; for Rosemary and Lowell, Fern was and will always be a sister, not an experiment in raising a chimpanzee with human children. And when, after 10 years of silence, Lowell shows up in Davis to describe Fern’s current living conditions, he shakes free more memories for Rosemary of her sibling relationship with Fern, the superior twin she loved, envied and sometimes resented. Readers will forgive Fowler’s occasional didacticism about animal experimentation since Rosemary’s voice—vulnerable, angry, shockingly honest—is so compelling and the cast of characters, including Fern, irresistible. A fantastic novel: technically and intellectually complex, while emotionally gripping.

SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY, MAYBE

Graham, Lauren Ballantine (368 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-345-53274-9

In TV-star Graham’s debut, an aspiring actress runs up against a self-imposed deadline: Make it in NYC within three years, or find another profession. It’s 1995, and Franny is about to give up on her goal. She’s come so close: acting classes with an illustrious thespian coach, a marred but memorable performance in his showcase and offers from two agents. Of these, the smoother-talking Joe Melville seems better connected than the crusty anachronism, Barney Sparks—almost immediately, Joe books Franny a bit part in a newly revived sitcom which may gain her increased attention, if it ever airs. On the romantic front, Franny has, she thinks, a long-distance relationship with Chicago law student Clark, a promising flirtation with handsome rising star James and a comfortable confidant in her roommate, Dan, a struggling screenwriter. Although her Filofax (scrawled and doodled sections of which precede most chapters) is temporarily chockablock with auditions for commercials and soap operas, there are long arid stretches spent in


front of the TV instead of on it, when she’s not temping as a catering server or striving to hold on to a cocktail-waitressing job. Finally, Joe comes through with a breakthrough role; except that it is in a zombie flick and involves nudity. Franny is perilously close to her deadline without a palpable validation of her career choice. Her fallback people, including Clark, her longsuffering father, and Dan, seem to be moving on without her. It’s make it or break it time, but as is sometimes the case in semiautobiographical novels, the story seems to meander aimlessly, as it might in real life. However, thanks to Graham’s affection for her characters as well as her authoritative exposition of the logistics of an actor’s working (or in this case, nonworking) life, readers will excuse the detours. An entertainment-industry coming-of-age story that manages to avoid many of the clichés of the genre by repurposing them to humorous ends.

THE IMPOSSIBLE LIVES OF GRETA WELLS

Greer, Andrew Sean Ecco/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-06-221378-5

NO WAY BACK

Gross, Andrew Morrow/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $27.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-06-165598-2 The latest from Gross (15 Seconds, 2012, etc.). After a spat with her husband, Wendy Gould goes to a hotel room with a man she met an hour before. She doesn’t follow through with the sex, since she realizes the betrayal she’s committing. But some unexpected things happen, and before long, there are two dead men, including a U.S. government agent. Now she is on the run because she’s falsely pegged for murder, while another agent wants her dead at all costs. But why? And what will happen when she fesses up to her husband? Another thread follows Lauritzia, a Mexican woman who’s also running for her life. The story moves along at an edge-of-the-seat pace. But a bit of tightening would have helped. If a man holds a gun to another’s head,

A woman inhabits three different selves in a time-travel novel from an author long fascinated by the manipulation of time (The Confessions of Max Tivoli, 2004, etc.). Young men are dying like flies. It’s 1985, and AIDS is rampant, especially in Greenwich Village, where Greta Wells is mourning the death of her beloved twin brother, Felix. Not only that: Her longtime lover, Nathan, has left her for a younger woman. “Any time but this one” is what Greta yearns for. Her prayer is answered, sort of, when she begins a course of electroconvulsive procedures and finds herself, an earlier Greta, in 1918. Husband Nathan is away at war (about to end); on the homefront, Greta has an admirer, Leo, a virginal actor, while brother Felix, deep in the closet, is set to marry a senator’s daughter. After her next procedure, Greta is in 1941, shortly before Pearl Harbor. Here again, she and Nathan are married, with a small son; she’s recovering from a car accident. Felix, no longer in denial, is having a secret affair with Alan (by 1985, they’ll be all the way out); when he’s busted in a gay bar, his wife will divorce him. Another day, another procedure, another time shift. Greta is just a bird of passage in these other eras, which are quite as turbulent as her own: on the national scale, war and pestilence (the 1918 flu epidemic); on the domestic scale, infidelities (both earlier Nathans were cheating on her, while Greta’s one night with Leo led to her pregnancy). Greta is monitoring two emotional upheavals, her own and those of Felix; all this leads to more confusion than enlightenment. Punches are pulled (Greta fails to confront the 1941 Nathan over his adultery), and melodrama blooms. Was all the back and forth worth it when all it yields is a small epiphany? The Confessions of Max Tivoli was more inventive and more satisfying. |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Kent Haruf

Life on the Plains By Claiborne Smith Holt, Haruf’s imagined, tiny Colorado town, to see about getting married. They want the ceremony to happen right then. Lyle asks the couple a bit about themselves: Well, I wonder where you come from. How you met each other. He comes from over by Phillips, the woman said. He grew up there. Didn’t you, Ronnie. I was born there. I’ve been other places but I come back. He works in a feedlot over there, riding pens. But he can do a lot of things. I’ve done a fair number of things so far, he said. He can fix anything you want fixed.

Photo Courtesy Michael Lionstar

the adjectives that usually appear when Kent Haruf publishes a new novel will probably appear this month as Benediction, his latest story set on the open, treeless plains of eastern Colorado, is published. “Lovely,” “honest,” “graceful,” “spare,” the reviews tend to say. “Who in America can still write like this? Who else has such confidence and such humility?” Ron Charles asked the last time Haruf had a novel out, Eventide, in 2004. It’s true that there is no one who writes like Haruf. A native of the Colorado plains, he inhabits the diction, cant, slang, and gruff, clipped phrasing of people from the rural plains so completely that his novels envelop you in their talk. Haruf doesn’t box their dialogue in quotes; he just lays it out, as in this plainspoken passage where a young couple approaches Reverend Lyle, in

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Haruf’s characters say a lot by what they leave unsaid, particularly his men, many of whom seem doubtful of the premise that conversation can be an enlightening thing. The McPheron brothers, embittered old cattle farmers who take in a pregnant high school girl who needs a home in Plainsong (1999), learn to overcome their reluctance to talk and gain a lot of kindness in the bargain. The wise, kind insight of Haruf’s previous novels are elements that have made him a best-selling writer. “When I first started writing, I wanted to put eastern Colorado on the literary map somehow,” Haruf says. “I wanted to be true to what I knew about.” Haruf left the plains, returned to teach at both the high school and college levels, and now lives with his wife in Salida, the kind of artistic, beautiful Colorado mountain town not found on the flat country he comes from. Haruf says he was “complimentary” about Holt when he started out, and he spent more time in his earlier novels describing the landscape of the plains, its unforgiving, mercurial weather and temperament. But readers who have followed Haruf’s career will see that Benediction is darker than his previous books. On the first page, Dad Lewis, who’s owned the hardware store in Holt for a number of years, receives the news on a trip to the doctor in Denver that his cancer is serious. He asks his


Benediction Haruf, Kent Knopf (272 pp.) $25.95 Feb. 26, 2013 978-0-307-95988-1

wife to drive them home. “I just want to look out at this country,” he says. “I won’t be coming out here again.” Fatalistic and stern but trustworthy and respected by the people in Holt, Dad Lewis makes decisions about his demise that unleash revealing responses in his family and neighbors. Haruf lets Dad comb through his memories, which feel as vivid as the present-day action of the novel. For readers not from small towns, who buy into the fallacy that rural lives are less eventful because there’s less to do in tiny towns, Benediction will be a revelation of incident. Drugs, sexual identity, infidelity, blackmail— supposedly big-city problems—emerge in the novel. Haruf didn’t publish a novel until he was 41, and not for lack of trying. There’s a fondness for Holt in his earlier novels. But “the longer I’ve written about it, my attempt has been to make it appear to be every town,” he now says. “What happens there happens everywhere—pregnant teenagers, lonely old men and so on—and it became important to me to tell stories that happen every place.” Benediction confronts thorny national tensions in a way his previous novels do not. Reverend Lyle, a thoughtful but querulous man, suggests to his congregation in Holt that maybeAmerica’s enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan shouldn’t be treated as enemies. Many of the church members are furious; the Reverend’s sermon induces a bitter animosity in the church, which everyone in town knows about. Haruf says he wanted to write about “the animosity in this country with people to one another and it certainly has to do with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” But his canvas is larger than that: “If somebody takes that tack, if somebody decides to take the Gospel literally, he or she is going to run into trouble.” Haruf stresses that he’s not on “some kind of soapbox about it but that’s an expansion of what people are like in small towns and I wanted to suggest the variety of people in a small town.” Haruf’s writing life has centered on one small town, but he had to get away from the Colorado plains to learn how to write about it. He attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the early ’70s but got in only after he left his wife and toddler daughter in Colorado to move to Iowa and found work as a janitor at a retirement home. His family moved to Iowa, and they lived in a “drafty old farmhouse.” He would drop off stories at the office of the Workshop, and eventually, they let him in. In his fiction, though, he kept returning home. Eastern Colorado was “the geography I cared about most and what I remember most emphatically was that part of the world,” he says. “And I will probably continue to write about that place.”

Inside Scoop

• Before he was successful enough to write full time, Haruf worked at a chicken farm in Colorado, a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, a hospital in Phoenix, a presidential library and as a janitor in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, and as an English teacher with the Peace Corps in Turkey. • Haruf attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with such other writers as Jane Smiley, Dennis Johnson, Tracy Kidder and T.C. Boyle. • Haruf has received a Whiting Foundation Writers’ Award, the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award, the Wallace Stegner Award, and a special citation from the PEN/Hemingway Foundation; he has also been a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the New Yorker Book Award. • The son of a Methodist minister, Haruf was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War.

Claiborne Smith is the features editor at Kirkus Reviews.

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“...gets the series off to a great start.” from the summer of dead toys

he’s probably not wise to give a long speech before pulling the trigger, since tables get turned that way. Will appeal to thriller fans.

THE SUMMER OF DEAD TOYS

Hill, Antonio Crown (368 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-7704-3587-5

When a teenage boy in Barcelona falls from a window to his death, whether he slipped or was pushed is but one of the gripping questions facing Inspector Héctor Salgado in this penetrating, atmospheric mystery. Set during a sweltering summer, Spanish writer Hill’s first novel centers on three friends: Marc, the victim, who hadn’t been his likable self since returning from school in Dublin; Aleix, a two-faced schemer who is in trouble with drug dealers; and the impressionable Gina, who was smitten with Marc. Héctor, an Argentinian who recently moved to Barcelona, is looking into the case unofficially after being forced to take an extended vacation: He beat up a doctor involved in a trafficking scheme that left a young girl dead. Héctor’s investigation uncovers unsettling truths about Marc’s extended family while drawing him to the boy’s mother, who abandoned him when he was a baby but, having recently re-connected with him, wants the cause of his death determined. Computers, flash drives, blogs and cellphones play prominent roles in the book, but like so many recent Spanish-language books and films, it deftly taps into the timeless fears of childhood and adolescence. While the plot is first-rate, with plausible twists and revelations, the book transcends the mystery genre with its focus on the dark secrets families keep. Marc was largely cared for by his indifferent father’s brother, a priest. Héctor himself is a divorced dad with a ton of regrets. In the end, the novel indulges in convention with its Perry Mason–like confession/summing-up. But until then, it is thoroughly compelling, with strong female characters and Barcelona playing a major role. Ending with a teaser for the next novel featuring Inspector Salgado, this book gets the series off to a great start.

AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED

Hosseini, Khaled Riverhead (384 pp.) $28.95 | May 21, 2013 978-1-59463-176-4

After two stellar novels set (mostly) in Kabul, Afghanistan, Hosseini’s third tacks among Afghanistan, California, France and Greece to explore the effect of the Afghan diaspora on identity. 16

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It begins powerfully in 1952. Saboor is a dirt-poor day laborer in a village two days walk from Kabul. His first wife died giving birth to their daughter Pari, who’s now 4 and has been raised lovingly by her brother, 10-year-old Abdullah; two peas in a pod, but “leftovers” in the eyes of Parwana, Saboor’s second wife. Saboor’s brother-in-law Nabi is a cook/chauffeur for a wealthy, childless couple in Kabul; he helps arrange the sale of Pari to the couple, breaking Abdullah’s heart. The drama does nothing to prepare us for the coming leaps in time and place. Nabi’s own story comes next in a posthumous tell-all letter (creaky device) to Markos, the Greek plastic surgeon who occupies the Kabul house from 2002 onwards. Nabi confesses his guilt in facilitating the sale of Pari and describes the adoptive couple: his boss Suleiman, a gay man secretly in love with him, and his wife, Nila, a half-French poet who high-tails it to France with Pari after Suleiman has a stroke. There follow the stories of mother and daughter in Paris, Markos’ childhood in Greece (an irrelevance), the return to Kabul of expat cousins from California and the Afghan warlord who stole the old village. Missing is the viselike tension of the earlier novels. It’s true that betrayal is a constant theme, as it was in The Kite Runner, but it doesn’t work as a glue. And identity? Hosseini struggles to convince us that Pari becomes a well-integrated Frenchwoman. The stories spill from Hosseini’s bountiful imagination, but they compete against each other, denying the novel a catalyst; the result is a bloated, unwieldy work.

HUNTING WITH GODS

Hume, M.K. Atria (528 pp.) $16.00 paper | Aug. 13, 2013 978-1-4767-1516-2 Series: The Merlin Prophecy, 3 The third volume of the Merlin trilogy follows the legendary healer up to the beginning of a new chapter in both Merlin’s and Britain’s histories. Hume, a retired academic who specializes in Arthurian literature, presents herself as uniquely qualified to follow the trail of Myrddion Merlinus (Merlin) as he returns to his homeland from Rome. This lengthy and absorbing tale will only boost that claim. The story launches with Merlin’s return and subsequent travels to reach home, but along the way he is waylaid by Ambrosius Aurelianus, the son of Constantine III and king of the Britons. Ambrosius recognizes Merlin’s value as a healer and adviser, since the slim man with long black hair that has a wide white stripe running through it also has the gift of foresight, something he has inherited from his mother’s family. Recognizing the danger of the Saxons moving deeper into the territory occupied and ruled by the various thanes (loosely translated: tribal rulers) in Britain, King Ambrosius and his brother, Uther Pendragon, wage constant warfare on their enemy. Ambrosius talks Merlin and his group of healers into helping him by serving his army on the battlefields, and the two men grow into a comfortable relationship that is threatened only by the menacing presence of the king’s cruel but devoted brother. When bad fortune overtakes them, Merlin’s life and those of his followers are changed forever.


ROCKAWAY

Historical fiction with a touch of fantasy, delivered with some rip-roaring battles and characters that are noble, memorable and unredeemable.

THE MISTRESS MEMOIRS

Hunter, Jillian Signet Select/NAL (352 pp.) $7.99 paper | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-451-41532-5

When Kate Walcott had nowhere to go, Georgette Lawson, an infamous courtesan, took Kate in, in exchange for taking care of her children and helping to write her memoirs. Now, Georgette’s past is catching up to her, mostly in the form of her first lover, Sir Colin Bocastle, and if Kate can sift through the abandonment, betrayals and murder, she may just find the love of her life. After an employer assaults and disgraces Kate, she stumbles into the carriage and household of Mrs. Georgette Lawson, a courtesan who was abandoned 13 years ago by the rake who’d promised to marry her. Recently settled into the home of Mason Earling—Georgette’s most recent lover, who is out of town—the family is startled when they are attacked by disapproving villagers, then rescued by a take-charge individual who turns out to be Colin Bocastle, the fiance who betrayed her. Colin has spent the intervening years chasing down the man he believes murdered his father—Mason. Colin is determined to force a confession and enlists the aid of a skeptical Georgette and Kate. Waiting for Mason to return, Colin spends time in the household and falls for Kate, who is clearly the sun in whose light everyone thrives. He also discovers secrets about his past, Georgette’s torrid history and facts about his family’s business that shed some new light on his father’s murder. Having been an angry lone wolf for most of his adult life, he is stunned to learn that it’s not only Georgette who feels betrayed and that perhaps, with Kate’s help and guidance, the time has come to reconcile with loved ones and heal some deep wounds. Hunter’s newest Bocastle Affairs novel is a complex, layered historical romance with a subtle mystery that informs all of the characters in unexpected ways and creates internal and external conflicts that keep the pages turning and the reader engaged. The relatively large set of characters and the complicated plot are handled skillfully, tying up all the details in satisfying ways, while creating a believable, touching romance between a wounded hero and the perfect woman to save him. A textured, intelligent plot yields a gratifying romance.

Ison, Tara Soft Skull Press (208 pp.) $15.95 paper | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-59376-516-3 A troubled woman from San Diego travels to Rockaway, N.Y., to make art and finds herself instead. Mumblecore was coined to describe a type of film often peopled with 20-something nonprofessional actors who portray inarticulate characters with low self-esteem, poor luck in love and difficulty growing up. This book is representative of contemporary fiction with similar tropes. At 35, Sarah is older than the typical mumblecore cohort—but how she struggles. When a dealer promises an exhibition, she quits her job in San Diego and moves East for the summer, taking up residence in her old friend Emily’s grandmother Pearl’s large home in Rockaway. Her plan is to escape her needy, aging parents and paint a show’s worth of pictures. Nana

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Pearl is out of the house, recovering from hip-replacement surgery, but a Sri Lankan couple, Avery and Bernadette, remain as caretakers, their cooking and too-loud talk disturbing the fragile, guilt-ridden artiste. Sarah meets older men Julius and Marty, the former an uncle of Emily. Sarah goes out with Julius, a blowhard banker, and then with Marty, a self-absorbed old rock-and-roll type recently returned to his Jewish roots. Marty invites her to Passover with his orthodox friends and to Rye, N.Y., for a reunion concert with his old band. Sarah stays briefly with her friend, pregnant Emily, wife of a banker, who lives the life of a luxurious hippie on an estate in Connecticut. The resolution is consistent with the rest of the book: It is all about Sarah’s feelings. Mumblecore fiction—a fiction of very low expectations—from Ison (The List, 2007, etc.), co-writer of the film Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.

TOGETHER TEA

Kamali, Marjan Ecco/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $14.99 paper | May 21, 2013 978-0-06-223680-7 Career, love, happiness—for Mina Rezayi, everything becomes a gently humorous negotiation between her Iranian heritage and her American hopes, between her mother and herself. Mina, who would rather be an artist than finish her MBA, flinches at the thought of another Sunday tea with a Mr. Possible. But she cannot disappoint her mother, Darya, a gifted mathematician, who, in pre-revolutionary Iran, had dreamed of becoming a professor. An arranged marriage to Parviz, whom she eventually came to love deeply, and three children, however, dashed those plans. After escaping the oppressive Islamic regime and making a home in America, Parviz works hard, earns an American medical license and brims with irrepressible optimism. He channels his enthusiastic you-can-do-it attitude into convincing Darya to start a Saturday afternoon math camp. With only two other members—Yung-Ja and Kavita—the club is the highlight of her week, and the women engage in complex mathematical acrobatics as well as competing over whose homeland has suffered the worst upheavals. Sighing with exasperation, Darya even allows Parviz to register her for a night class on spreadsheets, where she meets Sam, who’s just a friend, right? Constructing complex graphs, charts and spreadsheets, Darya evaluates potential husbands for Mina. So far, her matchmaking efforts have been thorough yet unsuccessful. But one Sunday, Mr. Dashti comes to tea. And Mr. Dashti looks strangely relieved when Mina rejects him. His unexpected reaction intrigues Mina, and she begins to dream about returning to Iran. Maybe there she could resolve her own identity crisis. To her surprise, Darya decides to accompany her. Deftly threaded memories of Iran and of the revolution’s effects on their family enrich the story as Mina and Darya gain sympathy for each other’s struggles. Sparkling dialogue and warm characters make Kamali’s debut novel perfect for book clubs. 18

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THE DAUGHTERS OF MARS A Novel

Keneally, Thomas Atria (544 pp.) $28.00 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-1-4767-3461-3

Australian novelist Keneally (Schindler’s List, 1982, etc.) turns to his native country in a time of war. Anticipating the centennial of World War I by a shade, Keneally constructs a Winds of War–like epic concerning figures whom only Ernest Hemingway, among the first-tier writers, got to: military nurses. Naomi and Sally Durance are two sisters who join the Nursing Corps in 1915 and sail off to Gallipoli, where they witness terrible things and form bonds of attachment with the wounded soldiers who suffer them; no one with a sensitive stomach will want to read Keneally’s descriptions of their wounds. Crossing the Mediterranean, they experience the further terror of being torpedoed. Keneally’s set piece, which takes up nearly a tenth of this long but economical book, is extraordinarily moving, if often quite gruesome (“Within the ambit of Lemnos floated a boat with four putrefying dead soldiers and three dead nurses in it”). Since Keneally has established soldiers and nurses alike as characters, the reader experiences their loss. Only on arriving at the Western Front do the sisters part, and there they discover “a dimension of barbarity that had not existed on Gallipoli and had been undreamed of in Archimedes,” namely the terror of gas warfare. There, too, each falls in love, which, this being a war story, cannot end well for the both; it is only the love-story element that does not entirely work in Keneally’s book, though it seems inevitable. For all that, Keneally is a master of character development and period detail, and there are no false notes there. Fans of Downton Abbey and Gallipoli alike will find much to admire in Keneally’s fast-moving, flawlessly written pages.

WEDDING NIGHT

Kinsella, Sophie Dial Press (480 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-8129-9384-4

Convinced that Richard is finally going to propose to her—after all, he has been dropping fairly obvious hints about a “big question”—Lottie has dolled herself up and begun fantasizing in Technicolor. But then, he doesn’t. What’s a

girl to do? As soon as Lottie claims she’s going back to school for her master’s degree, her sister, Fliss, knows exactly what Lottie will do, because she’s heard that line far too often. Lottie is going to do something rash, and Fliss will have to pick up the pieces. But Fliss doesn’t really have time to mend Lottie’s broken heart


“A fine exploration of growing up...” from the conditions of love

or spackle over the sure-to-be-unfortunate results of her reckless behavior, since she is currently trying to keep her job while engaged in an annoying divorce. Her estranged husband has metamorphosed into a self-righteous jerk who keeps trying to change the divorce agreement and drops their son Noah with her the very night of the hotel-industry awards ceremony, which she has not only arranged, but also will host. If only she could have had Noah without ever having married Daniel. So it’s understandable that Fliss cannot prevent Lottie from impulsively marrying Ben, her old flame, and jetting off to the Greek island of their youthful adventures. With the help of Lorcan, Ben’s business partner, who’s rather aghast at Ben’s precipitous departure, Fliss begins to orchestrate obstacles to Ben’s consummating the marriage. Author of the popular Shopaholic series, Kinsella (I’ve Got Your Number, 2012, etc.) has again created a fast-paced, hilarious comedy filled with bubbly banter and a charming cast of characters. The lovers (more self-deluded than star-crossed) are delightfully flawed, and the rivals are sweetly vulnerable. Bright, bouncy, engaging and perfect for filming.

A fine exploration of growing up, weathering heartbreak and picking oneself up over and over.

A DELICATE TRUTH

le Carré, John Viking (432 pp.) $28.95 | May 7, 2013 978-0-670-01489-7

The distinguished chronicler of Cold War espionage and its costs casts his cold eye on the fog of war and its legacy when the war sets terrorists against the mercenaries and independent contractors to whom international security has been farmed out. A colorless midlevel civil servant is plucked from the anonymous ranks of the Foreign Office, given a wafer-thin cover identity as statistician Paul Anderson and packed off to Gibraltar, where he’s to serve as the eyes and ears and, mainly, the yea or

THE CONDITIONS OF LOVE

Kushner, Dale M. Grand Central Publishing (384 pp.) $24.99 | May 14, 2013 978-1-4555-1975-0

A teenage girl endures fire, flood and the loss of her parents in this bracing, oddly uplifting debut. As this coming-of-age novel begins in 1953, narrator Eunice is living in a small Illinois town with her mother, Mern, whose affection for Hollywood movies is nearly matched by her erratic behavior and questionable taste in men. Eunice’s reprobate father is out of the picture, but when he returns for just one day to take her to a carnival, it’s transformative for her. Alas, dad is back in the shadows fast, and Mern’s boyfriends don’t last long either, signaling the grand theme of this novel: The love of others is something that always seems to slip just out of reach. A nearly biblical flood separates Mern and Eunice, putting the girl in the care of Rose, a flighty but compassionate earth-goddess type, and the knowledge about nature that Eunice picks up serves her well when she falls into the orbit of an attractive farmer named Fox—until catastrophe strikes yet again. Kushner seems to have taken more than a few lessons from Joyce Carol Oates about both crafting a novel with a broad scope and putting female characters through the wringer. But there’s also a lightness to Eunice’s narration that keeps the Job-ian incidents from feeling oppressive—she’s observant, witty and genuinely matures across the nine years in which the novel is set. Kushner makes some structural missteps—for instance, she delays revealing much detail about Fox, which dulls his character early on and blunts the impact of the novel’s climactic drama. But Kushner is remarkably poised for a first-time novelist, offering an interesting adolescent who’s possessed of more than a little of Huck Finn’s pioneer spirit. |

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nay of rising Member of Parliament Fergus Quinn, who can’t afford to be directly connected to Operation Wildlife. On the crucial night the forces in question are to disrupt an arms deal and grab a jihadist purchaser, both Paul and Jeb Owens, the senior military commander on the ground, smell a rat and advise against completing the operation. But they’re overridden by Quinn, who says, “I recommend but do not command” that Operation Wildlife be completed. Shortly after its execution, Paul, promised “[m]edals all round,” is bundled back into a plane bound for home. Sure enough, he emerges from the hushhush affair with a knighthood and the unspoken thanks of a grateful monarch. Three years later, however, he happens to run into Jeb and hears the ruined soldier tell a decidedly less glorious story of the operation that involves extraordinary rendition, a dead mother and child, and a callous coverup. At the same time, Quinn’s Private Secretary Toby Bell also becomes painfully aware of irregularities in the official record and confronts Jay Crispin, the Houston-based head of the private intelligence firm Ethical Outcomes, for answers. What he gets instead are more questions and personal danger. Resolutely keeping potential action sequences just offstage, le Carré (Our Kind of Traitor, 2010, etc.) focuses instead on the moral rot and creeping terror barely concealed by the affable old-boy blather that marks the pillars of the intelligence community.

IS THIS TOMORROW

Leavitt, Caroline Algonquin (384 pp.) $14.95 paper | May 7, 2013 978-1-61620-054-1

Two troubled families—are there any other kind in Leavitt’s novels (Pictures of You, 2011, etc.)?—grapple to cope with a 12-year-old boy’s disappearance. Ava moved to Waltham, Mass., with her son Lewis after her divorce. Although her selfish husband, Brian, left them and Ava is working for a pittance at a plumbing company to support her son, the censorious neighbors disapprove of her dating and disdain her for being Jewish; in Leavitt’s less-than-nuanced portrait, these suburbanites are virtual caricatures of 1950s anti-Semitism, sexism and anti-intellectualism. Lewis, told “not to be so smart” by his teachers, finds best friends in also-ostracized siblings Jimmy and Rose, whose widowed mother, Dot, is sort of nice to Ava. But when Jimmy vanishes one afternoon, ugly rumors circulate. Wasn’t there something, well, strange about the boy’s relationship with Ava? Or maybe Ava’s new boyfriend, Jake—a jazz musician, so clearly no good—had something to do with the boy’s disappearance. Jake can’t take the pressure and splits. Ava, Lewis, Rose and Dot are traumatized in individual ways that don’t necessarily draw them together, though Rose continues to pine unrequitedly for Lewis. Seven years later, in 1963, Lewis is a nurse’s aide in Madison, obsessively caring for others but unable to share anything of himself. Orphaned Rose teaches third 20

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grade in Ann Arbor, freaking out any time she sees a child more than a few feet from adult supervision. Only Ava, still stuck at the plumbing company but baking magnificent pies in her spare time for a local cafe, seems to be rebuilding her life, when the discovery of Jimmy’s remains forces everyone to face their unresolved issues. The mystery of what exactly happened to Jimmy is cleared up via not one, but two incredibly contrived revelations, and neither Lewis nor Rose is a vivid enough personality for readers to care much whether they’ll ever get together. A moderately interesting story told in extremely broad strokes.

APOCALYPSE COW

Logan, Michael St. Martin’s Griffin (352 pp.) $14.99 paper | May 21, 2013 978-1-250-03286-7 “Two legs bad,” might be the borrowed motto of the titular monsters of this apocalyptic look at the end of the world—were the great beasts not busy trying to kill everybody. Scottish journalist Logan stays rather deadpan in his absurdist debut, even as the animals on which we depend turn the tables on us. He is, however, quite deliberate in the creation of his deeply disturbed cast. Much of this Glasgowbased tale is seen through the eyes of British teen Geldof Peters, a boy saddled not only with the world’s most awkward given name, but also vegan hippie parents who foist things like hemp clothing upon him. Even sadder is slaughterhouse veteran Terry Borders, who believes the stench of death upon him is driving away the ladies. To jump-start the lurching plot, Logan introduces ineffectual journalist Lesley McBrien, who is competing both with her nemesis Colin Drummond and the reputation of her war correspondent father. When a secretive plot to develop a bioweapon to disrupt the food chain goes awry, the motley crew must get nimble to unravel the story, outrace the predators and escape the island. Lesley manages to ferret out the details of the story, while Terry discovers that his death-tinged aura is largely a product of his own anxiety. In one of many twists on the genre, the disease—which quickly spreads to all the other animal species—also inspires rather explicit lust as well as murderous rages. The addition of a relentless, murderous spook named Alastair Brown only ratchets up the graphic horror. There are a few funny lines, but it’s more straight-laced than you might expect. Despite a generous accolade from Discworld creator Terry Pratchett, who bestowed the inaugural Terry Pratchett Prize upon it, this zombie adventure inspires more gasps than laughs.


THE AFFAIRS OF OTHERS

Loyd, Amy Grace Picador (240 pp.) $24.00 | Aug. 27, 2013 978-1-250-04129-6

A sensitive but too understated portrayal of widowhood as experienced by a “young or youngish woman”—and, in a way, the building she inhabits. Celia is in her late 30s and, as former Playboy literary editor Loyd writes, not quite sure of herself in the world. Fortunately, her late husband prepared her for a time without him and, more important, left her with sufficient funds that she could buy a modest apartment building in Brooklyn and rent out three spaces. Being a property owner and landlord offers Celia an opportunity to channel her energies into bringing a badly mistreated building back to life, godlike: “What I could not restore, I replicated; what I could not replicate, I left simple but clean.” Life, of course, is not so easily controlled, nor are the titular “affairs of others.” Woven into the story are other deaths, as well as the brooding fact of 9/11 and the “varieties and degrees of trauma felt...even in the sidewalks.” Yet this is no Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, nothing eccentric or, sad to say, particularly memorable. Like a neat apartment, Loyd’s story hasn’t an element out of place; she writes expertly, without wasted words. Yet the affect is curiously flat: Celia is matter-of-fact and, it seems, scarcely involved in the heart of her own story; only the supporting players seem to feel much of anything, including, in a nicely written turn, anguish over the plight of the polar bears. As a result, the feel of the book overall is more memoir than novel and even then, a memoir that is merely reporting the facts. More emotional investment would have given this story, competent though it is, more life.

as a shaman and rainmaker to hit the boards in a traveling vaudeville show. Hank’s act is an Injun rain dance; the crowd is always thrilled, and his sweetheart, Nadya (the magician’s assistant), notices the streets are wet when they leave the theater. When asked to really make it rain by a desperate farmer, Hank brings a terrific storm, sealing his reputation. Hank’s earnings make it possible to buy an old walnut farm, but the effort of rainmaking takes a terrible toll: After the storms, he becomes amnesiac and debilitated and has aged beyond his 20-odd years; in a matter of months, he transforms into an old man with a stoop and silver hair. Hank’s daughter Lily has no such talents, but her son Sam has, and teenage Sam loves Gretchen. The farm could be his, but when Gretchen rejects him and confesses a one-night stand has made her pregnant (with a daughter, Amy), Sam goes to Africa as a relief worker. When tragedy befalls Sam, Gretchen tells a lie to soothe his grieving parents. She and baby Abby inherit the farm. Now, 40 years later, Abby has returned home pregnant, and the mystery man seems as if he will either crush everyone’s hopes or spin a happy ending.

THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE AND LIGHTNING

McBride, Susan Morrow/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $14.99 paper | Feb. 12, 2013 978-0-06-202728-3

Magic, and four decades of unrequited love, form the plot of McBride’s latest pajama-party read. The novel opens as a twister approaches the farm at Walnut Ridge. After Gretchen and her blind twin sisters Bennie and Trudy climb unscathed from the basement, they discover the storm hit only their property and deposited a mystery: a shaggy man who has no memory but looks an awful lot like Sam Winston, disappeared and thought dead the past 40 years. Sam is the grandson of Hank Littlefoot, a Native American born of the rez but who, as a teenager, gave up his destiny |

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“Not a page without peril...” from rapscallion

McBride’s modern romance is enhanced by the charm of the supernatural—who doesn’t love a hottie whose passion brings lightning—but that doesn’t prevent the predictability of the plotting.

RAPSCALLION

McGee, James Pegasus Crime (464 pp.) $25.95 | May 15, 2013 978-1-60598-427-8 Bonaparte at war with England provides a backdrop for McGee’s (Hawkwood, 2012, etc.) third Matthew Hawkwood saga. A Bow Street Runner, “Hawkwood’s world was one of ill-lit streets, thieves’ kitchens, flash houses, rogues and rookeries.” Think Regencyera FBI, or England’s Texas Rangers. Hawkwood’s been summoned by his wily, taciturn boss, James Read, to meet Capt. Ludd. England is housing French prisoners of war in “prison hulks” moored in rivers and harbors. Prison hulks are derelict vessels; conditions aboard are ugly, malodorous and unsanitary. Ludd says too many prisoners are disappearing, and he’s lost two lieutenants who were attempting to discover the escape routes. Read sends Hawkwood to learn the fate of the missing investigators. With gut-wrenching descriptions of the rotten conditions aboard the hulks, McGee plunges readers into the action. Hawkwood is relegated to the Rapacious, where Rafalés and Romans—so called because they wear blankets like togas— rule the bottommost decks, led by a wicked albino Corsican named Matisse. Hawkwood, posing as an American officer fighting for the French, befriends a French officer, a privateer captain named Lasseur. Lasseur and Hawkwood challenge Matisse. Matisse dies. Lasseur and Hawkwood are threatened with the noose, but they’re spirited off the hulk by a French underground group. Hawkwood and Read are likable, familiar characters developed over several volumes, but Lasseur is onedimensional. Nevertheless, McGee’s narrative profits from ample research, and the yarn rapidly gallops off to the wild coastal lands sheltering free traders—smugglers. A handsome widow shelters the pair before they take refuge in an abandoned abbey, the redoubt of the blackguard Morgan, a well-described smuggler king, who threatens the pair into helping hijack gold meant for the Iron Duke’s troops. Hawkwood and Lasseur make more than one hairbreadth escape, rescued at the end by another well-developed regular character, Nathaniel Jago, Hawkwood’s old sergeant who’s now sometimes on the wrong side of the law. McGee’s talent and research lend plausibility to the rollicking adventure. Not a page without peril, whether from pistol, blade or rogue.

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ELDERS

McIlvain, Ryan Hogarth/Crown (304 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-307-95569-2 In which Mormon missionaries take positions, some contrary, dark and violent. Elder McLeod is a brooding young man with the natural tendencies of a juvenile delinquent; about the first thing we learn about him is that he is inclined to make “a half show of resistance” about all things, not least the work he’s doing. So why is he sweating his way through “the close, crucible heat” of Brazil? Therein hangs part of ex-Mormon writer McIlvain’s smart if anticlimactic yarn of a not-so-quiet American who, on his required mission as a newly minted Mormon “elder,” butts up against a real elder, an older Brazilian named Elder Passos who has very different ideas of how the world works and who’s in charge than McLeod. Passos is earnest and dogged, not inclined to give up. And he loves a good challenge, including the one set before him and his missionary partner by a lively and willing young woman and her much less pliable husband, who, when confronted with the prospect of converting, counters that if she wants to be religious, she should go to Mass more often. There’s more to it than all that, of course, and Josefina—she of the cutoff jeans “and the legs in them”—poses a crisis of conscience for McLeod that will lead to some spirit-shattering moments as he and Passos wrestle like Jacob and the angel. McIlvain, a recent Stegner Fellow, does a fine job of setting up the multifaceted conflict that guides his swiftly paced novel, and if the resolution seems both incomplete and hurried, the writing is assured and often quite funny, as when McLeod, grappling for the Portuguese necessary to acquire the services of a hooker, comes up with a biblical equivalent that has his provider proclaim, happily, “I’m your harlot.” You won’t look at those young, white-shirted Mormon men on their bicycles in quite the same way again.

GAMEBOARD OF THE GODS

Mead, Richelle Dutton (464 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-525-95368-5 Series: Age of X, 1

Mead’s latest series centers around a bleak future in which organized religion is controlled by the government following the global incursion of a deadly disease. Dr. Justin March has been exiled to Panama, a lawless territory by comparison to his home country of the Republic of United North America, which is headquartered in Canada. March was booted from his job as a servitor to the government


and forced to live mostly by his wits and the protection offered by local thugs. But March has always yearned to return to his homeland and resume his former life, so when a delegation from RUNA Internal Security pops up offering him a chance to return if he can solve a mysterious string of homicides, he jumps at it. March bargains to have his also-banished sister, her young son and the brilliant teenage daughter of a local family who has been kind to him also return to RUNA, but he’s not prepared for the constant supervision provided by a gorgeous, but deadly, female soldier, one of the nation’s most elite killers. The two share a recent history that gets in the way of their professional relationship. There’s also a little bit more to the story, since March has had premonitions that the woman may figure prominently in his immediate future. As March and Mae, his bodyguard, travel in an effort to solve the case, the clock ticks down, and March realizes that if he doesn’t succeed, he’ll be sent back to Panama. Mead’s first book in this series is a huge, messy story that tends to be more confusing than illuminating. The author fails to offer much insight, leaving readers to puzzle it all out; many times, the effort simply isn’t worth it. While Mead’s many fans may rejoice in the appearance of her new series, this complicated and often unsatisfying tale raises many more questions than it answers.

ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE UTOPIA EXPERIMENT

Mills, Kyle Grand Central Publishing (432 pp.) $26.99 | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-446-53989-0 In the latest of Covert-One operative Lt. Col. Jon Smith’s adventures, Mills (The Ares Decision, 2011, etc.) uploads Ludlum’s superagents into augmented reality. Merge makes supersophisticated iPhone apps resemble No. 2 pencils and scrap paper. A microphone in a molar cap and two studs in the skull enable a deceptively plain plastic box of circuits and software to seamlessly interface with the human brain, displayed through virtual icons and made functional by thought processes. Merge is the brainchild of Christian Dresner’s Dresner Industries. The behavioral science behind Merge is the work of Dresner’s friend, psychologist Gerhard Eichmann. Both are refugees from authoritarian Communist East Germany. Dresner is a Steve Jobs–Howard Hughes amalgamation; Eichmann is the weird-scientist cliché. Dresner releases Merge to the masses and then offers a tailored version exclusively to the U.S. military. Covert-One op Smith, a combat-experienced medical doctor, is assigned to lead the test. And Merge works, providing hyperawareness and seamless battlefield communication and proving so powerful in a real-world test that a group of desk jockeys outfights a special ops team. Covert-One chief Fred Klein, undercover at Anacostia Seagoing Yacht Club but with on-call access to President Sam Castilla, is cautious. Martin Zellerbach, Smith’s psychologically troubled childhood friend and wizard computer

geek, is entranced. CIA operative Randi Russell isn’t sure. She’s found evidence that Merge has been tested in an Afghanistan village, with the subjects thereafter slaughtered by mercenaries. Smith and Russell soon run afoul of Maj. James Whitfield, leader of a secret Pentagon group allied with the military-industrial complex. Smith also discovers that Dresner Industries has financed tests in a secret human experimental North Korean laboratory. Mills rockets the action around the world. Mills offers an interesting new premise for actionadventure, albeit with the resolution one tick less than satisfying.

THE REDEEMER

Nesbø, Jo Knopf (416 pp.) $25.95 | May 10, 2013 978-0-307-59585-0

Rarely does a mystery novel succeed on so many levels, as the intricate plotting explores psychological and theological dimensions that go deeper than standard notions of good and evil. As a literary stylist as well as a master of mystery, Nesbø (Phantom, 2012, etc.) has established himself as the king of Scandinavian crime fiction, a genre that became an international sensation in the wake of the posthumous success of Stieg Larrson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and its sequels and film adaptations). Yet, tracing the publishing trail of Nesbø and his series featuring the intuitive alcoholic Harry Hole requires some detective work of its own. This is actually the novel that precedes The Snowman (2011), the work that launched Nesbø internationally as a bestselling author, and the sixth Harry Hole novel overall (the first two have yet to be published in the United States). It may also be the best, or at least the richest, in its evocation of a sinister plot involving the Salvation Army during the Oslo Christmas season. The rape of one Salvation Army teen by another sows the seeds for all the complications that follow, yet it takes most of the novel for the reader to be certain of the identities of the rapist and victim, as the very notion of identity defies easy resolution throughout. With its themes of forgiveness and redemption, and the difference between the two, the novel presents every one of its characters as a flawed human being, unable to separate into categories of good guys and bad guys. In fact, the title character is a shadowy contract murderer, and redemption also serves as a euphemism for a junkie’s fix. As one initially peripheral character who proves crucial tells Hole, “You’ve discovered that guilt is not as black-and-white as you thought when you decided to become a policeman and redeem humankind from evil. As a rule there’s little evil but a lot of human frailty. Many sad stories you can recognize in yourself.” Ultimately, a story with a lot of pieces to its puzzle hurtles toward a climax that is not merely sad, but tragic. Perhaps not the best novel for a Nesbø initiate, but those with an affinity for the darkest and most literary crime fiction will want to get here as soon as they can.

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STOLEN

Palmer, Daniel Kensington (416 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-7582-4666-0 In Palmer’s follow-up to Helpless (2012), an unseen killer with a penchant for twisted games forces John Bodine, creator of a popular online game, to commit a series of crimes. If John doesn’t follow instructions, his ailing wife, Ruby, will die. A few years ago, John, 29, survived a harrowing ordeal in the mountains of Tibet: He had to cut the safety rope of a fellow climber and watch him plummet to his death during an avalanche or have everyone in their group die. But now, Ruby and John are supremely happy together—until he discovers a cancerous growth on her foot. Desperate for help after their insurance company refuses to cover the superexpensive drug she needs, he pulls off an elaborate scheme that involves hacking into the policy of one of his online game subscribers and moving into a new apartment under the name of the subscriber and his wife and receiving their benefits. Then, a man identifying himself as the subscriber calls and threatens to expose them unless John plays a game that first involves stealing expensive scarves from a department store, then escalates to robbing a liquor store and setting fire to a warehouse. Along the way, the killer, who follows John’s every move with hidden microphones and cameras, brutally murders a female neighbor of his, abducts Ruby’s mother and then Ruby herself. Is John’s cop friend, a Tibet survivor, the tormentor? Palmer keeps things moving, but his lazy plot contrivances catch up with him. The reader, who is usually several steps ahead of John, won’t have much trouble identifying the baddie. Suspending disbelief is a more difficult challenge. Never dull, but feels more forced with each outlandish scene. (Agent: Meg Ruley)

MENDING THE MOON

Palwick, Susan Tor (336 pp.) $24.99 | May 14, 2013 978-0-7653-2758-1

Readers who haven’t indulged in comic books since Archie and Jughead first strolled the halls of Riverdale High may find it difficult to relate to Palwick’s (Brief Visits, 2012, etc.) newest novel, a mixture of the serious and the absurd. Melinda Soto, loving mother and cherished friend, is murdered while on vacation in Mexico. Her adopted son, Jeremy, and her friends manage their grief in varying ways. Jeremy, who drops out of college and finds work in a coffee shop, suffers from survivor’s guilt and feels suffocated by his mother’s friends; college professor Veronique has a meltdown in her classroom; Henrietta, a priest, finds solace in her faith; and gentle Rosemary, a 24

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volunteer chaplain at a local hospital, does her best to provide support to Jeremy and her friends while coping with her husband’s illness. But Melinda’s circle are not the only people affected by the tragedy: Following the brutal attack, murderer Percy Clark flies back to his parents’ home in Seattle and commits suicide, leaving behind his own grieving family. His mother, Anna, reaches out to Melinda’s loved ones and seeks to reconnect with her son by reading Percy’s collection of Comrade Cosmos comics. The brainchild of a group of inventive beer pong–playing college students, the comic books have spawned a cult following, which includes Jeremy Soto. Cosmos is a champion of order who appears when disaster strikes a community, and then, once he organizes rebuilding efforts, he returns home to care for his own broken family. The current storyline involves a convoluted plot about Archipelago Osprey and her pet scorpion. When she commits an outrageous act and becomes a fugitive from justice, she blames Cosmos for all her woes. Entering into a pact with the Emperor of Entropy, Archipelago heads for a big showdown at a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament just as Melinda’s friends and Jeremy pile into a van to attend Percy’s memorial service. The serious thread—Palwick’s exploration of the different emotional journeys individuals face when confronted with inexplicable loss—is intelligent and expressive, but when the narrative veers into comic-book mode, the absurdity of the story overwhelms any attempt to meld the two. Although inventive, the plot holds little appeal for readers who’ve never been interested in attending Comic-Con.

RED MOON

Percy, Benjamin Grand Central Publishing (544 pp.) $25.99 | May 7, 2013 978-1-455-50166-3 Percy tries his hand at horror in his latest novel. Here, he envisions a world divided between those infected with a disease that turns them into lycans and those who are disease free. Patrick climbs aboard a plane headed to his mother’s as his military father leaves for an assignment. After takeoff, a lycan wreaks havoc, killing everyone in the cabin area except for Patrick, who hides under a pile of dead bodies. Dubbed “Miracle Boy” by the media, the teen tries to live down his instant fame but seems destined instead to be haunted by it. Meanwhile, lycan Claire witnesses the terrifying murder of her parents and flees ahead of the mysterious avenging agency that seems dedicated to killing off the lycan population. A man with questionable character who may or may not run for president, a woman married to a lycan ringleader and a lycan rebel round out the large cast of characters in this novel about the struggle between the lycans and their uninfected counterparts. At stake: the lycan nation’s place in society and a country that was once theirs and the toll the escalating war between the two is taking. The smaller story follows the growing romance between Patrick and Claire. Running with gore—almost every page drips


“...a Little Prince for grown-ups...” from montaro caine

blood—and soaked in violence, the book switches back and forth between characters. Percy elbows his way into the horror genre, adding literary polish along the way, but this tale rambles on much too long, with page after page of superfluous detail. Percy leans toward colorful and obscure terms or word usages that will propel many casual readers to pause and pull out their dictionaries, often with unsatisfying results. Percy births an interesting concept that he then submerges in a writing style that is both affected and self-consciously literary.

MONTARO CAINE

Poitier, Sidney Spiegel & Grau (320 pp.) $26.00 | May 7, 2013 978-0-385-53111-5 In his ninth decade, the legendary actor and civil rights activist Poitier adds novelist to his resume. It’s an old story: A parent or relative dies, and a young person is inspired to go into medicine to find a cure. Not so, on the face of it, with Montaro Caine, Kansas City–born, whose father departs the planet unexpectedly. Fast-forward 45-odd years, and Montaro is now CEO of the Fitzer Chemical Corporation, “a multinational mining company based in New York,” and fleetingly reflects on the fact that “he had lived nearly two decades longer than his father had.” But only fleetingly, for Montaro is chasing after cosmic truth on a more ambitious scale—or at least after a strange object that is brought to his attention, a coinlike thing that is made of a metal unknown to humankind and that, as we learn, bears an astral view of constellations as seen from another part of the universe. Shades of Kal-El, Batman? Asks an MIT metallurgist, “[D]o you know of any civilization in which these objects could have been constructed?” The quest soon implicates a wide-ranging cast of characters, including a doctor who has delivered a baby girl in whose tiny hand one of the objects was found. Montaro is single-minded in his pursuit but also humane, unlike some of the corporate types who are onto the scent, and though he’s a busy chap, he always has room for philosophical discussions on such things as “[p]redetermined behavior versus free will.” Poitier occasionally wanders into mushy and preachy territory, but in the main, his story retains a detective-story feel with a satisfying and not entirely foreseen resolution. A pleasant surprise, elegantly written and keenly observed. Think of it, in a way, as a Little Prince for grownups, without the aeronautics.

THE LAVENDER GARDEN

Riley, Lucinda Atria (416 pp.) $15.00 paper | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-4767-0355-8

It’s time for privileged but uncertain Frenchwoman Emilie to find herself, but to do so, she must first fall impulsively in love, uncover her family’s wartime history and come to grips with the neglected chateau she has inherited. Riley’s (The Girl on the Cliff, 2012, etc.) multiple storylines offer the reader a narrative combo in this tale of self-confidence–lacking, only-child Emilie de la Martinières, whose mother’s recent death has left her with sole responsibility for the family’s Provençal estate. The house story soon morphs into a romance as Englishman Sebastian Carruthers enters Emilie’s life, offering conveniently valuable help in dealing with the overwhelming responsibilities now facing her. But is Sebastian up to no good? Things turn a little gothic after Emilie’s marriage to Sebastian and temporary move to his remote, cold home in England, which is shared with Sebastian’s smarter but misunderstood brother, Alex, a man with a complicated history who is now confined to a wheelchair after an accident. But there’s more. Sebastian and Alex’s grandmother knew Emilie’s father; in fact, both served in the French Resistance, and their story emerges episodically as Riley deftly, if flatly, juggles her plot strands to reach a surprisingly anticlimactic conclusion. A value-for-money saga, solid but lifeless and missing a lavender garden.

CALL ME ZELDA

Robuck, Erika New American Library (352 pp.) $16.00 paper | May 7, 2013 978-0-451-23992-1 Yet another addition to what is becoming a gracious plenty of novels and biographies focusing on the Scott-Zelda relationship. Robuck’s strategy is to create a firstperson narrator, Anna Howard, who is Zelda’s nurse at Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in Baltimore when Zelda is hospitalized for schizophrenia in February of 1932. Although Zelda is reluctant to open up to her doctors, she becomes more comfortable confiding in Anna some of the complex inner workings of her relationship with Scott. At first, Anna is an occasionally reluctant repository of Zelda’s outpourings, for she’s suffering from the loss of her husband during the Great War and the death of a beloved daughter from pneumonia, but soon, everyone at the clinic is relying on Anna for advice about the best treatment for Zelda. Anna encourages Zelda to write (she’s working on Save Me the Waltz) and to extend herself by writing memoirs recounting her turbulent |

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and toxic relationship. We meet Scott as well, of course, and find he can be charming and seductive as well as boozy and vindictive. (If he’s not the greatest narcissist in American literature, he certainly comes close.) He inflicts great pain on Zelda by belittling her talents as a writer while at the same time cribbing some of her diary entries wholesale for Tender Is the Night. Eventually, Anna quits the clinic and becomes Zelda’s private nurse when the Fitzgeralds take a house north of Baltimore. Anna and Zelda’s relationship deepens to friendship and occasionally evinces a quasi-erotic quality on the part of Anna even as she develops a love relationship with Will, the best friend of her late husband. Although Robuck occasionally succumbs to a cloying sentimentality, she usually succeeds in skirting the soapopera aspects of her subject matter.

THE PERIPATETIC COFFIN And Other Stories Rutherford, Ethan Ecco/HarperCollins (240 pp.) $13.99 paper | May 7, 2013 978-0-06-220383-0

A debut collection of eight stories that run the literary gamut, from seafaring parables to domestic realism, with the quality of the stories varying as well. The opening, title story relates the adventures of “the first underwater vessel commissioned for combat by the Confederate State of America,” a Civil War submarine “that has failed—spectacularly—almost every meaningful test it has been given...the underwater equivalent of a bicycle strapped to a bomb with the intention of pedaling it four miles through hostile waters to engage an infinitely better equipped enemy….” “The Saint Anna” offers another unlikely seafaring tale about a ship ice-bound in the Arctic during the last gasps of czarist Russian rule, leaving those onboard split over whether to stay with the ship, where they’ve been trapped for a couple of years, or try to walk to wherever on the ice: “Each group is conscious of what abandonment means: they are leaving us to our death and we are letting them walk to theirs.” Like a Beckett fable of nothingness and bleak faith, the story suggests that “[t]here’s no explanation of what’s happening to us except that it’s happening.” The final story, “Dirwhals!,” replaces endless ice with endless sand, and unbearable cold with unbearable heat, in its diary of a man who has fled his family and abandoned his sister to serve on “a slow moving factory, an ungainly vessel that serves as both a hunting ship and a one-stop bio-processing plant,” as if Melville’s Ishmael has found himself sandlocked. Amid stories that inhabit parallel dimensions of history, in a geography of the imagination, many of the rest are contemporary family realism, often involving a boy of the same generation as the author undergoing some sort of rite of passage. In “Camp Winnesaka,” a battle between rival summer camps escalates into rockets and casualties, with a subtext that evokes Weapons of Mass Destruction. The longest story, “John, For Christmas,” 26

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is the most melodramatic, as a troubled adult son exposes the strains in his parents’ seemingly strong marriage. The author seems well-read, and he aspires to the highest literary standards, but some of these stories seem more significant in their inspiration than their execution. (Author appearances in Minneapolis, New York, Portland and Seattle)

ORKNEY

Sackville, Amy Counterpoint (224 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-61902-119-8 A lyrical novel heavy with mythological overtones. Richard, a professor of Romantic and Victorian literature, has just taken a bride 40 years his junior. For their honeymoon, she wants to go somewhere—anywhere— by the sea, so she closes her eyes, sticks a pin on a map and opens them to find she’s “chosen” a remote island off northern Scotland. Coincidentally, this is near the area where she was born, but when Richard presses her about her family and her childhood, she becomes distant and elusive. Richard’s particular area of academic interest and expertise is folklore, especially phantasmic and elusive women like La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Undine and Vivien (lover of Merlin). Richard’s wife, who remains unnamed, also seems to partake of this spectral reality, for even though she’s 21, she has pure white hair and a wraithlike appearance. The novel chronicles the roughly two weeks of their honeymoon, as Richard finds himself alternately bewitched and puzzled by his new wife, who spends much of her time watching the tempestuous sea even though she’s afraid of its power and can’t swim. She’s also haunted almost nightly by vivid and disturbing dreams of water and being drowned. Although Richard could not be characterized as blissfully happy, he is deeply in love with his enigmatic wife. At the end of their honeymoon, however, the inevitable happens—she disappears mysteriously, seemingly absorbed back into the natural world which she’s both alienated from and attracted to. Sackville writes like a dream (in all senses), conveying both the uncanny power of love and the inscrutable heartbreak of loss.

DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HEELS

Scott, Kathryn Leigh Montlake Romance (310 pp.) $12.95 paper | $9.99 e-book Mar. 26, 2013 978-1-611098860 978-1-611093759 e-book

When Meg Barnes, a Hollywood icon of a certain age, loses everything to her con-man husband, she decides to track him down to get it all back—or at the very least her self-respect,


“Spargo writes with animation and fervor...” from beautiful fools

her reputation and maybe even a chance at the love of her life. Not long ago, Meg Barnes had it all. A popular star of a famous mystery series from the past, she lived the high life until the day she received a phone call from Paul, her husband, telling her he’d been kidnapped. After gathering everything of value she can find to get him back, she is devastated when he never returns, then even more tormented when she realizes everything she believed about him was a carefully crafted fantasy. Now, after a year away from Tinseltown, Meg is back for pilot season, older, wiser and ready to figure out what happened to her ex and all the money he scammed in his infamous real estate con. While auditioning, she runs into an old friend who is convinced he saw Paul in San Diego. The hunt is on. Complicating things are Meg’s lawyer and friend Sid, who seems to know more than he should; his wife, Carol, who is determined to get Meg back into the Hollywood fold; and Jack Mitchell, the FBI agent who keeps digging into all of their business and who is way too handsome. Meg doesn’t know who to trust or where to go, but she’ll find loyal allies in unexpected places as she forges a new life for herself from the ashes of her old one. This is the first novel by Scott, who starred in the original Dark Shadows series, and the author’s knowledge of the world of Hollywood is evident in the background details throughout the book, offering a fun, sly behind-the-scenes tour of a world most of us know little about. Despite a few weaknesses in the plot and some minor uneven spots in pacing and characterization, the book is an enticing, witty romp; a sparkling Hollywood-set tale that will entertain and satisfy.

NOTE TO SELF

Simone, Alina Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (256 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-865-47899-2 Unemployed woman meets man on the Internet in this forceful, scabrous satire-cum–morality tale. This is a remarkably assured debut from Simone, a singer and the author of a collection of essays (You Must Go and Win, 2011). When we learn on the first page that Anna Krestler has been collecting spam, and on the second that she has been let go from a midtown law firm named Pinter, Chinski and Harms, the satiric fix is in. Anna lives in a world where, “It hardly seemed possible that a person who didn’t exist on the Internet could exist at all.” That this might be our world is terrifying. Adrift in Brooklyn, Anna rooms with Brie, a perpetual intern who Googles herself the morning after parties to see what kind of time she had. Anna’s dear friend Leslie, married, with a young daughter and struggling to have a second child, has found the straight and narrow high road, traveling from business school to a job at the consulting firm McKinsey, with stops for yoga and Third Wave Coffee. Leslie volunteers as Anna’s life coach, but Anna needs more help than Leslie can provide. When Anna responds to a Craigslist ad

for a film intern, she meets the charismatic but evasive Taj, an experimental filmmaker. Taken with him, her new opportunity and her new self, she plunges into a life that even her mother can surmise is not what it seems. This is the punch line of every joke about the Internet, and Simone puts sting in that punch. The title is the weakest part of the book: It doesn’t do justice to the wickedness, the folly and the abject narcissism of the main character, and character is fate. Witty, wicked and occasionally too clever. If Simone writes songs half as well as she writes fiction, expect her to become a household name.

BEAUTIFUL FOOLS The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald Spargo, R. Clifton Overlook (368 pp.) $26.95 | May 2, 2013 978-1-4683-0492-3

Yet another addition to the spate of novels about Scott and Zelda, this one concentrating less on the toxic and more on the loving side of their relationship. Spargo has an unconventional take on the Fitzgeralds here. Except for a brief introduction set in 1932, when Zelda is first hospitalized for schizophrenia, the novel takes place in April of 1939, on their extended vacation to Cuba. “Vacation” is, however, a circumlocution, for two personalities as intense and brittle as Scott and Zelda can’t ever be said to kick back, relax and temporarily forget about their “normal” lives, for there is no normal. Scott is deep into (and taking a break from) his illicit affair with Sheilah Graham, and Zelda is between hospitalizations, hoping for some kind of therapeutic epiphany with Scott. In Havana, Scott quickly finds a simpatico drinking buddy in the form of the darkly charismatic Matéo Cardoña, though Zelda is less impressed and worried about his influence over Scott. After a tragic knife fight in a bar, Cardoña tries to cover for Scott and Zelda, who have witnessed the event, for he wishes both to protect and to assert greater power over them. Cardoña is less than pleased when the Fitzgeralds take off for a resort away from Havana and develop a friendship with a newly married couple: Spaniard Aurelio, wounded in the Spanish Civil War, and his French wife, Maryvonne. Their friendship quickly develops an almost erotic quality, as Maryvonne is both flirtatious and seductive with Scott, but Zelda begins to come undone when they visit a Cuban fortuneteller who hints that Scott has been unfaithful to Zelda—and Zelda takes the seer at her word, pressing Scott for details. Spargo writes with animation and fervor, a style conducive to the heat generated by his subjects.

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FIRST SIGHT

Steel, Danielle Delacorte (384 pp.) $28.00 | Jul. 16, 2013 978-0-385-33830-1 The latest from best-selling author Steel. Timmie O’Neill is a youthful 48-yearold woman who rose from humble beginnings to create and run a successful fashion company for the past 23 years. Her life is all work, almost no play and, since the death of her only child and subsequent divorce 11 years earlier, no real love. Since she travels so often to Paris for the prêt-à-porter shows, a friend gives her the name and number of a physician there just in case she needs one. Her appendix bursts, requiring surgery at the American hospital in Paris, where the good doctor meets her. The ambulance triggers memories of the childhood tragedy that left her an orphan at 5, requiring a hand to hold and a sympathetic ear, which the doctor offers. She tells him the story of the car accident that killed her parents, the years in the orphanage as one prospective family after another returned her until she walked out on her own at 16, started work as a waitress and began making clothing on the side. Decades later, when her fashion company brings in a fortune, she donates $1 million to nuns who open an orphanage that she not only supports financially, but in other ways, visiting the children and often joining them for the holidays that she would otherwise spend alone. The doctor, who is going through his own heartaches trapped in a loveless marriage, is drawn to her. The path to her destiny is filled with convoluted peregrinations, but Timmie keeps on and ultimately achieves what she wants and deserves. A novel about love, in all its heartbreaking and splendid forms.

THE FAINTING ROOM

Strong, Sarah Pemberton Ig Publishing (264 pp.) $15.95 paper | May 14, 2013 978-1935439-76-9

Strong (Burning the Sea, 2002) presents a disturbing and erotic narrative about the lives of an oddly matched married couple who host a teenage girl for the summer. Ray Shepard is a prominent architect who marries Evelyn, a former circus employee/manicurist with a dark past, after he meets her while both attend a show under the big top. Evelyn’s arms and torso are heavily tattooed, and she keeps her skin hidden from Ray’s colleagues and friends; but Ray is sexually aroused by the images and colors beneath her long sleeves and buttoned-up collars. Evelyn knows she doesn’t fit into Ray’s privileged world and believes that his peers are more judgmental than her naïve husband realizes. Her clumsy 28

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attempts to adapt end in failure and resentment on her part, but Ray innocently believes that once his colleagues and friends get to know his wife, they’ll understand exactly why he married her. Enter Ingrid, a rebellious teenager who’s been suspended from a nearby boarding school for the summer after being caught with alcohol. Unconventional and emotionally isolated, she’s drawn to the flawed couple and becomes a pivotal participant in their dysfunctional world. Ingrid and Ray set up office in a room once called the fainting room, and she types for him while he works on a book about architecture. They soon discover common ground—a passion for hard-boiled detective stories—and Ingrid begins to construct her own fictional character, Detective Slade, a tough, observant character who comes to life as she tries to cope with her own uncertainties. Ray is disturbed by his increasing sexual attraction to Ingrid, and Ingrid’s titillated by her feelings for Evelyn. An increasingly murky and uncomfortable tale, Strong’s characters are complex and disturbing. Evelyn’s past attempts to fit in with her circus family are as darkly amusing as her attempts to be the perfect homemaker. Ray’s conventional upbringing, and his one early attempt at outright rebellion, contrasts well with Ingrid’s character, so full of feelings of alienation and anger. A deliciously creepy and intense story.

THE BURGESS BOYS

Strout, Elizabeth Random House (336 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 26, 2013 978-1-4000-6768-8

Two squabbling brothers confront their demons, their crumbling love lives and a hate crime case that thrusts them back to their Maine roots. The titular boys of this follow-up to Strout’s Pulitzer-winning 2008 short story collection, Olive Kitteridge, are Jim and Bob Burgess, who are similar on the surface—lawyers, New Yorkers—but polar opposites emotionally. Jim is a high-wattage trial attorney who’s quick with a cruel rejoinder designed to put people in their place, while Bob is a divorcé who works for Legal Aid and can’t shake the guilt of killing his dad in a freak accident as a child. The two snap into action when their sister’s son in their native Maine is apprehended for throwing a pig’s head into a mosque. The scenario gives Strout an opportunity to explore the culture of the Somalis who have immigrated to the state in recent years—a handful of scenes are told from the perspective of a Somali cafe owner, baffled by American arrogance, racism and cruelty. But this is mainly a carefully manicured study of domestic (American and household) dysfunction with some rote messages about the impermanence of power and the goodness that resides in hard-luck souls—it gives nothing away to say that Jim comes to a personal reckoning and that Bob isn’t quite the doormat he’s long been thought to be. Speeding the plot turns along are Jim’s wife, Helen, an old-money repository of white guilt, and Jim and Bob’s sister, Susan, a hardscrabble repository


of parental anxiety. Strout’s writing is undeniably graceful and observant: She expertly captures the frenetic pace of New York and relative sluggishness of Maine. But her character arrangements often feel contrived, archetypal and predestined; Jim’s in particular becomes a clichéd symbol of an overinflated ego. A skilled but lackluster novel that dutifully ticks off the boxes of family strife, infidelity and ripped-fromthe-headlines issues. (Author tour to Boston, New York, Miami, Chicago, Denver, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.)

LOYALTY

Thoft, Ingrid Putnam (416 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-399-16212-1 Thoft’s debut novel introduces a new female private investigator operating out of Boston who often rebels against her wealthy, overbearing and successful family. Josefina “Fina” Ludlow works as a PI for the family law firm, which specializes in medical malpractice. Her father, Carl, the firm’s top lawyer and family patriarch, is both self-consciously stylish and disapproving of his only daughter, especially since Fina flunked out of law school. Her three brother—Rand, Scott and Matthew—are all lawyers who work alongside their dad in the family firm. When Rand’s wife, Melanie, doesn’t return home one day, Fina and her family are plunged into an investigation and public relations nightmare that ends up involving a normally discreet call-girl service, a gaudy and overbearing female investigator with the Boston police, and Fina’s niece, Melanie’s and Rand’s daughter, Haley, a beautiful but troubled kid whose parents have been too busy fighting with one another to pay attention to her needs. In Fina, Thoft crafts a not particularly original female investigator: She’s beautiful, she can fight, she has sex with lots of good-looking men, she wolfs down junk food, often employs poor judgment and bucks the establishment. Although Fina has the occasional astute turn of phrase, many of her techniques read like they are straight out of a private investigator’s manual, and most of the action fails to ring true. Thoft’s writing is clean and crisp, though, and she weaves the story together without too many stutters, although few readers will fail to figure out key plot twists fairly early in the action. She also commits the mistake of incorporating relentless descriptions of both the clothing and hairstyles of the various characters. As for Fina, while Thoft works hard to make her flawed and interesting, mostly she comes across as rash, sloppy and neither moral nor particularly good at what she does. Thoft’s first effort provides a competent storyline that, while it fails to break new ground, promises to improve over time.

SEARCH PARTY Stories Of Rescue

Trueblood, Valerie Counterpoint (256 pp.) $15.95 paper | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-6190-2149-5 An uneven collection that contains a few outstanding examples of the art of the short story. To say the collection is uneven is to recognize that the best stories are so strong that the average stories suffer by comparison. It is in the title story, the longest of the collection and packed with enough action for a novel, that the dispassionate narrator attends to several characters in a drama that, summarized, is a hit parade of woe: a lost child, madness, sudden death, suicide. “The Magic Pebble” is exceptional too. The strands of a life unraveled by illness are inspected separately. The narrator, a radio host, talks to and of the people around her on a charter flight to Lourdes (she is doing a story) of her son’s difficulties at school and of the first trip she made after in-patient chemo. This little vacation to Lake Powell goes horribly wrong, and we wonder why Trueblood is not writing stories of fishing or whaling, so superb are her observations of icy, unforgiving water. She excels at the vignette. “Downward Dog,” “The Stabbed Boy” and “Street of Dreams” are no more than four pages each, and yet they insinuate themselves with a minimum of detail—they resonate. The weaker narratives are clotted; there is an excess of observation, action, explanation. This is true of “Guatemala” and “The Blue Grotto,” where the end seems another, less effective, iteration of the powerful end of “Search Party.” Trueblood (Mary or Burn, 2010, etc.) is a writer to follow.

WRECKED

Walker, Shiloh Berkley Sensation (320 pp.) $7.99 paper | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-425-26445-4 When Abby’s fiance dumps her weeks before the wedding, her best friend Zach wonders if it’s finally time to risk everything and tell her how he really feels. Best friends Abigale Applegate and Zach Barnes were child stars of a hit sitcom in the ’90s. Now in their early 30s, the two have left Hollywood behind for good, relocating to Tucson where Abby runs her own catering company and Zach owns a tattoo parlor. Abby attempts to control her life to the smallest detail, but her Grand Plan is derailed when her fiance dumps her. At first devastated, Abby comes to understand that she feels more disappointed that the plan failed than upset that Roger left her. Zach gives Abby a freestyle-approach journal, encouraging her to relax and live life a little more spontaneously. Abby comes up with a new goal list that includes some |

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out-of-the-box tasks, one of which is to have a torrid affair. But once she sets the goal, she is disconcerted to realize the person she’d most like to fill the role of wild lover is none other than her best friend, Zach. Zach is happy to oblige, since he’s secretly been in love with Abby as long as he’s known her. The chemistry between them is suddenly scorching, but how do you explain to the girl you love that you want forever when it seems she’s asked for a quick, hot fling? And has Zach jeopardized the very special something they already have for an uncertain chance at everything he wants? Walker’s newest stand-alone title is compelling and will especially satisfy fans of the best-friend-risks-it-all-forlove storyline. There are a number of details that add interesting texture and layers to the plot—the free-form journal, for instance, as well as Abby and Zach’s past as child stars—though some of these elements might have been fleshed out more and will occasionally leave the audience feeling as if some loose ends remain untied. Also, occasional egregiously vulgar language may turn some readers off. Overall, though, a successful romance and a good read. With its touching best-friends-to-lovers arc, the novel is both sexy and poignant.

SHE RISES

Worsley, Kate Bloomsbury (432 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-62040-097-5 In a notably ambitious British debut, an 18th-century English dairymaid leaves home to enter a world of secrecy, survival and forbidden love. It’s young Louise Fletcher’s good character and willingness that rescue her from a life of rural drudgery and transform her into a lady’s maid. Employed by Capt. Handley to tend his pretty second daughter, Rebecca, who is about to make a good marriage, Louise moves to the port town of Harwich, where she quickly falls under willful Rebecca’s spell, even risking her life to save her mistress when she falls ill with smallpox. Both women survive, but Rebecca loses her looks and her marriage prospects. Then the two women become lovers. Louise’s story alternates, chapter by chapter, with that of her brother Luke, who was “pressed”—forced—into the English Navy for a brutal life of fighting, flogging, hard work and danger, from which he eventually makes a violent escape. Worsley’s richly atmospheric twin tales capture the flavor of the era, especially the limited options for women, and the passion of illicit love. After an impressive late plot swerve, she reunites her lovers, but their future is bittersweet and pervaded by the call of the sea. Despite excessive length and some overly ornate period language, this unusual, seductive period tale of love and transformation creates its own memorable world.

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THE THIRD SON

Wu, Julie Algonquin (320 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-61620-079-4 Wu’s debut convincingly depicts a third-born son’s struggle to overcome his feelings of worthlessness and insecurity as he journeys from Taiwan to America in pursuit of freedom and accomplishment. Saburo’s father is a prominent businessman and politician, and the family reaps the benefits of his position in Japanese-occupied Taiwan. Eight-year-old Saburo realizes that, as the third son, he’ll never attain an exalted position within the family; in fact, he’s the family’s scapegoat. Each day when he returns home, he’s beaten, berated and accused of causing his younger brother’s death, and although the young boy inwardly questions why he’s the object of so much hatred, he accepts his treatment. In the midst of a World War II air raid, Saburo saves a girl’s life. He’s immediately smitten by Yoshiko’s beauty and frequently dreams of her, but many years pass before they meet again. The intervening years harbor a new era in Taiwan: Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists are the ruling force in the country, and those who oppose their policies face death. Meanwhile, Saburo has suffered further misfortune and abuses. He’s denied the educational opportunities his other brothers are given and must work to educate himself; he’s bitten by a venomous snake; and he almost dies of malnutrition when his mother denies him a fair portion of the family’s rations. When Saburo and Yoshiko cross paths again, she’s not only more beautiful than he remembers, but she’s also the object of his oldest brother Kazuo’s desire. Saburo’s Uncle Toru, a guiding influence in his life, encourages his nephew to pursue his dreams, and Saburo finally takes his advice to heart. His persistence wins Yoshiko over (although it increases Kazuo’s hatred toward him) and provides Saburo with the impetus to work toward his educational goals. Against all odds, he becomes the student from his county to receive a coveted invitation to study in the United States. Although he must leave Yoshiko and his infant son behind, Saburo makes the journey and faces new challenges— including his loved ones’ illnesses, the threatening presence of Chinese agents who monitor his moves, racism, and decisions about his personal and professional future. Each obstacle serves to strengthen Saburo’s resolve to become a financially independent and emotionally strong husband, father and person. Wu presents an alluring story that hits all the right emotional buttons and maintains readers’ empathy from the first page to the last.


“A contemplative yet discordant collection...” from lotería

LOTERÍA

would be, if undead brows furrowed—by problems in the Quarter. It’s clear that whoever shaved the pate of Rusty, the werewolf who runs cockatrice fights, has practiced on other werewolves, whether they’re Hairballs like Rusty, who remain always lycanthropes, or the Monthlies they’re feuding with, like troublemakers Scratch and Sniff, who turn wolf only under the full moon. When randy young vampire Ben Willard is murdered and his organs harvested, panic runs through the Quarter. A lesser shamus would forget his commitments to Archibald Victor, who wants Tony Cralo’s Spare Parts Emporium to replace the defective spleen and brain they sold him; to Steve Halsted, Dan’s dirt brother, whose ex-wife Rova, the world’s worst beautician, won’t let him visit his son because he’s a zombie and demands more child support even though he’s undead; and to Esther, the harpy waitress at Ghoul’s Diner who can’t get rid of a bad-luck charm a disgruntled wizard left her as a tip. Not Dan, who not only perseveres with each case, but manages to knit several of them together as neatly as witches Mavis and Alma Wannovich patch Dan’s diverse bullet holes after every round of his investigations. Dan (Unnatural Acts, 2012, etc.), who’ll clearly do anything for a laugh, seems to be having the time of his afterlife. The result is like an early, funny Woody Allen film with zombies, ghosts, vampires and werewolves.

Zambrano, Mario Alberto Harper/HarperCollins (240 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-06-226854-9 A young Mexican-American girl recounts the heartbreaking dissolution of her entire family. This debut novel from former professional ballet dancer Zambrano, written from the point of view of a tween girl who has inadvertently become a ward of the state, smacks a bit of experimental fiction, largely due to its deliberate construction. It is a journal written by 11-year-old Luz Castillo, who refuses to speak to others. Instead, she shuffles and reshuffles a deck of Lotería cards, a Latin American game of chance featuring 54 macabre representations of various objects or animals. With each flip of the card, Luz reveals some little memory, painstakingly rendered, about her family. It’s a slowly told tale delivered in short, ambiguous chapters. “I’m not a piece of news in the Chronicle she can just pick up and read,” Luz complains. “It’s not like that, not black and white. If anything it’s like a telenovela with a ranchera in the background playing so loud you can’t even hear your thoughts anymore.” Over time, Luz reveals the story of her deeply dysfunctional family—the mother that abandons her children and her Papi who drinks heavily and flies into such a rage over a sexual indiscretion that he breaks Luz’s arm. And then there is Estrella, Luz’s motherly older sister who lies at death’s door in the ICU of a local hospital, her fate even more uncertain than her little sister’s. The broken tale and imaginative first-person narration lend weight to this curious novel. It’s an impressive first step for an artist exploring a new medium. A contemplative yet discordant collection of stories about where life’s scars originate.

DOUBLE WHAMMY

Archer, Gretchen Henery Press (306 pp.) $14.95 paper | May 14, 2013 978-1-938383-36-6 A jackpot job turns into snake eyes when a casino investigator gets caught in a case of mistaken identity. Biloxi, Miss., isn’t a long way from Davis Way’s hometown of Pine Apple, Ala., but she hopes it’s far enough to help her forget her double-crossing ex, Eddie. Relocating for a security investigation job at the Bellissimo Resort and Casino is the smartest thing Davis has done for some time. The job gives her free room and board, as well as an extensive wardrobe, to do things that come easy to her: digging up dirt on casino computer programs and employees alike. After a few successful missions, Davis’ new employers are ready for her to tackle more serious cases, revealing that there was much more to her hiring than she originally suspected. Now Davis is in real trouble. Evidently one of the reasons for her employ is none other than Eddie, a man she had the misfortune to marry twice. Davis realizes that her connection to Eddie isn’t the only thing her employers are trying to exploit when she winds up in the middle of a case of mistaken identity and headed to prison. Her dreamboat absentee landlord, Bradley Cole, may be her only hope of keeping her jail cell from becoming her home. Archer’s debut provides more evidence for the adage that bigger isn’t always better. The small-scale mysteries thrown Davis’ way have more charm than the finale, which gets confusing in its complexity.

m ys t e r y HAIR RAISING

Anderson, Kevin J. Kensington (288 pp.) $15.00 paper | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-7582-7738-1 A serial scalper threatens to ignite a full-scale war between two bands of werewolves in Dan Chambeaux’s Unnatural Quarter. And there’s much, much more. Now that Death Warmed Over, the first volume based on his adventures, has been published by the ghostwriter Linda Bullwer, aka Penny Dreadful, Dan ought to be one happy fella, since even posthumous fame is welcome to a zombie detective. But his brow is furrowed—or it |

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JAMAICA PLAIN

Campbell, Colin Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (384 pp.) $14.99 paper | Apr. 8, 2013 978-0-7387-3583-2

Perps and the public beware: A maverick cop is on the job, and on the loose, in Boston. Yorkshire copper Jim Grant has a mantra running through his head on a loop—“Keep out of trouble”—when he crosses the pond to interrogate Boston prisoner Freddy Sullivan about a burglary on Grant’s home turf. Instead, in short order, Grant hooks up with a pretty fellow traveler for a quickie at an airport hotel and brawls with some street thugs because he just can’t help it. He arrives for the interview with a bit of an edge; he and Sullivan have a history and trade insults before getting down to it. Things take a strange turn when Sullivan tearfully pleads with Grant to have him extradited back to England, and an even stranger turn when someone rolls a grenade into the interrogation room. The subsequent explosion shortens the questioning but lengthens Grant’s stay in Beantown. His Boston contact, Detective Sam Kincaid, helps Grant in his search for truth and revenge. Grant and Kincaid aren’t surprised when they trace the incident to the IRA, but they’re unable to prevent Sullivan’s death. On the plus side, Grant gets real traction with the help of John Cornejo, a like-minded Marine. The two-fisted trio blazes through a high-end cathouse, a respectable-looking shell company called Delaney Enterprises and countless toughs only too eager to fight them. Grim and gritty and packed with action and crackling dialogue, the latest from Campbell (Blue Knight, White Cross, 2009, etc.) opens a new series called A Resurrection Man.

SILENT VOICES

Cleeves, Ann Minotaur (320 pp.) $24.99 | May 7, 2013 978-1-250-03358-1 The U.S. introduction to that scruffy, tactless, unloved loner, middle-aged Inspector Vera Stanhope. Struggling to get in shape at the Willows Health Club, DI Vera Stanhope, of the Northumbria Police, heads from the swimming pool to the steam room, where she discovers a dead woman curled up in a corner, a victim of strangulation. Social worker Jenny Lister had at least three excellent reasons to get murdered. First, she evidently had a secret lover. Second, she may have seen the person pilfering the staff lockers. Third, she was once involved with the Elias Jones case, in which a young tot’s mum drowned him in a bid to retain her man’s love. The case also caused Connie Masters, the caseworker Jenny supervised, to be pilloried by the press and fired. Coincidentally, 32

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Connie is now living in Jenny’s small village, where social arbiter Veronica Eliot seems determined to make her life hell. With her customary lack of grace, Vera is soon antagonizing witnesses and relying on her second-in-command, young Sgt. Joe Ashworth, to smooth matters over. Jenny’s daughter Hannah and Veronica’s son Simon, who agreed to defer their marriage at their mothers’ insistence, may be above suspicion, but everyone else is fair game—particularly Danny Shaw, a student working as the Willows’ janitor, until he too is strangled. Tedious interrogations reveal age-old parent–child brouhahas, one of which will eventually jeopardize Connie and her daughter and force Ashworth into the role of hero. It’s easy to admire Vera’s brainpower but hard to overlook her mean-spirited management style. Still, her adventures, of which this is the fourth, have been a hit on British television, and readers devoted to Cleeves’ tales of Jimmy Perez (Blue Lightning, 2010, etc.) will want to give Vera a try.

SIX YEARS

Coben, Harlan Dutton (368 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-0-525-95348-7 Six years after the summer girlfriend he’s convinced is the love of his life throws him over to marry someone else, a shocking series of revelations draws a Massachusetts professor back to her. “Promise me you’ll leave us alone,” Natalie Avery demanded of Jake Fisher after her wedding to surgeon Todd Sanderson. And for six years Jake’s done exactly that. But the news of Todd’s death rekindles his desire to see Natalie again. What could be the harm, now that she’s been widowed by the robbers who shot Todd to death? When he travels to their home in South Carolina, however, he walks into mystery and denial. Todd’s widow isn’t Natalie, but someone named Delia. Natalie’s sister Julie Pottham denies knowing anything about Jake. So do Cookie, the Kraftsboro Bookstore Café owner who served Jake and Natalie all those scones, and Rev. Kelly, who officiated at the wedding. In fact, there’s no record that Natalie and Todd were ever married at all. An anonymous email telling Jake, “You made a promise,” grieves Jake but doesn’t deter him from his search. Neither does a close encounter with a pair of killers who want to know where Natalie is and are certain Jake can tell them. Up till now, Jake’s nightmare is as infernally all-absorbing as Dr. David Beck’s in Tell No One (2001). But the discovery of a clue that begins to unravel the mystery also sends the tale spiraling past the bounds of plausibility, even for a thriller, until Jake’s quest for the truth entangles benevolent conspiracies, hired killers, multiple disappearances, the Mafia and all the people besides Natalie that Jake has held nearest and dearest. Like Jeffery Deaver, veteran Coben (Stay Close, 2012, etc.) is a magician who’s a lot more fun to watch when you don’t know how he’s fooling you.


UNDEAD AND UNDERWATER

Ravenbank as the Faceless Woman. Lately, it seems that Gertrude’s ghost has a lot to answer for. Five years ago, Australian massage therapist Shenagh Moss, the wild beauty who’d thrown over married event manager Oz Knight in favor of Ravenbank owner Francis Palladino, was found dead under very similar circumstances, presumably the victim of another ex-lover, Craig Meek, who’d recently been released from prison just in time to attack Shenagh and die in a lorry accident. Hannah’s friend Daniel Kind, who’s evidently the most famous academic historian in the Lake District, soon takes a professional interest in the legacy of the Faceless Woman. But it takes the shocking murder of her best friend, much-married Terri Poynton, to drag Hannah into the case. Once again, there’s an obvious suspect—Terri’s violent ex-boyfriend Stefan Deyna—but this time Hannah and Daniel both wonder if he’s really guilty and wonder too if either of the earlier killers was ever correctly identified. The ensuing investigation is more routine than usual for the detecting pair (The Hanging Wood, 2011, etc.), but Edwards does an impressive job of linking the three murders across the long years.

Davidson, MaryJanice Berkley (352 pp.) $15.00 paper | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-425-25332-8

Three stories highlight connections between supernatural worlds, all of them tied together by one shoe-obsessed vampire queen. The latest in the Betsy Taylor vampire series consists of three novellas chronicling the exploits of the vampire queen and those near and dear to her. Super, Girl! introduces Hailey Derry, a superheroine trying to live her own life while maintaining her secret identity. When her company hires the likable Jamie Linus, Hailey imagines ways that her normal life might somehow incorporate a man (yes!), but menacing messages suggest that her romantic interest may be onto her, forcing her to expose her double life. In Undead and Underwater’s unlikely pairing, half-human, half-mermaid Dr. Fredrika Bimm is forced to work with Betsy when a mutual acquaintance is threatened. While the danger behind the threat is real, there may be even greater danger when the two powerful supernatural beings meet. Can they set aside their differences to solve the case—and do they even want to? In Incomer, the Wyndham Werewolves have a new alpha who appears to be under attack during her first day on the job. Lara Wyndham, who already has the stress of wondering whether her old family friend Jack Gardner will make a play for her now that she’s in charge, doesn’t have time to deal with dead things showing up on her doorstep. This trio starts strong, but the frequent involvement of past characters leads to obfuscation only a die-hard fan would love or understand. Davidson would be well-served by taking notes from her characters, who sometimes complain about “nauseating endless speculative continual monologues.”

THE NAMES OF OUR TEARS

Gaus, P.L. Plume (256 pp.) $15.00 paper | May 28, 2013 978-0-452-29819-4 The shooting of a teenage girl rocks the Amish community of Holmes County, Ohio. Maybe it isn’t just the fine Coblentz chocolate that sends Mervin Byler on his seventh trip this spring to the widow Stutzman’s shop in Walnut Creek. On his way, he encounters the unimaginable: the body of 19-year-old Ruth Zook, shot through the head and lying beneath the hooves of her terrified horse. Just back from the Amish settlement of Pinecraft, near Sarasota, Ruth has spent the past two days in her room, speaking to no one but Emma Wengerd, the shy, haunted child adopted by the Zooks after her family died in a buggy accident. Sheriff Bruce Robertson (Harmless as Doves, 2011, etc.) is desperate for a lead, but the Zooks close ranks. Even local pastor Cal Troyer fails to reach Emma, who can’t cry and can’t pray, but can only sit wordlessly, too angry at God to speak. When fish start to die from the cocaine Ruth dumped from her suitcase into the Zooks’ pond, Robertson knows that it’s drug dealers he’s looking for. But even when Fannie Helmuth, another Amish girl, confesses that she too brought a suitcase full of drugs back from Pinecraft, he has little to go on. All Fannie knows is that she gave the suitcase to an angry-looking woman with dark hair. Frustrated, the sheriff sends Deputy Ricky Niell to Florida to find Jodie Tapp, the young Mennonite waitress who gave Fannie her suitcase. But even if he finds her, can Jodie help the Holmes County Police identify a murderer over 500 miles away?

THE FROZEN SHROUD

Edwards, Martin Poisoned Pen (286 pp.) $24.95 | $14.95 paper | $22.95 Lg. Prt. Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4642-0105-9 978-1-4642-0107-3 paper 978-1-4642-0106-6 Lg. Prt. A trio of murders spanning nearly a century poses an unusual challenge for DCI Hannah Scarlett of the Cumbria Constabulary’s Cold Case Review Team—especially since one of the corpses is anything but cold. Locals still tell the story of how Gertrude Smith, the Scottish lassie whom builder Clifford Hodgkinson hired and seduced and his jealous wife, Letitia, bashed to death on Halloween soon after World War I, roams the grounds of |

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“...an offbeat procedural.” from free fall

Once again, Gaus probes the tension between the selfreliance of the Amish world and the urgencies of the English world with depth and sensitivity.

FREE FALL

Grabenstein, Chris Pegasus Crime (320 pp.) $25.00 | May 15, 2013 978-1-60598-475-9 Sea Haven detectives Ceepak and Boyle (Fun House, 2012, etc.) investigate the murder of a 94-year-old dentist who has a very pretty nurse. There are two good reasons that Danny Boyle can’t believe that Christine Lemonpolous tried to strangle her nighttime employer, Shona Oppenheimer—and they become even clearer to him when she changes from her nurse’s scrubs into a T-shirt. Straight-arrow Detective John Ceepak also believes Chris’ claim that Shona attacked her, and so John’s mother, Adele, putting her inherited millions to good use, hires Harvey Nussbaum to defend Chris. Harvey gets Shona to back down but realizes that he may have a harder time getting Chris off the hot seat when Arnold Rosen, her daytime employer, drops dead after she hands him a cyanide-laced pill. Arnie’s daughter-in-law, Judith, who’s also Shona’s sister, is screaming for blood, while Arnie’s sons David and Michael fight over who’s more deserving of their father’s love and his money. While Ceepak and Boyle try to track the poison to its source, Ceepak is distressed to learn that Sinclair Enterprises has hired his no-account dad, now a certified Free Fall technician, to run its StratosFEAR ride. Ceepak senior hopes to serve himself a cut of Adele’s moolah. Will Sea Haven have to trade in its status as a summer funland for the title of dysfunctional family capital of New Jersey? Ceepak and Boyle’s eighth blasts the energy of a tilt-awhirl into an offbeat procedural.

DEAD, WHITE, AND BLUE

Hart, Carolyn Berkley Prime Crime (288 pp.) $25.95 | May 7, 2013 978-0-425-26077-7

A sexy homewrecker gets hers. Despite the blistering temperatures and the glut of tourists, mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling and her problem-solving spouse, Max, are enjoying summer on Broward’s Rock, S.C. The Fourth of July dance at the country club is an event to remember, not just for the fireworks in the sky, but also for the scenes caused by Shell Hurst. A beautiful Hollywood starlet who broke up wealthy Wesley Hurst’s first marriage to Vera, she stirs up trouble at the dance, then vanishes from the scene 34

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in her green Porsche. Only her stepdaughter is concerned that she’s disappeared. When she asks Max for help, he’s reluctant to get involved, but a few discreet questions are enough to indicate that no one’s seen Shell since she walked away from the dance. There are certainly plenty of suspects, since Shell was having an affair with at least one of the island residents, and Wesley wants a divorce so he can remarry Vera. Annie’s mother-in-law and her two mystery-solving friends are out of town but keep after Annie and Max to find the body. Before they succeed, another corpse turns up when a waiter from the club is found drowned. Even after the duo finally puzzle out where Shell’s body is, they still have a long way to go to pin down a calculating killer. Annie and Max (Death Comes Silently, 2012, etc.) tackle multiple suspects and clues reminiscent of the classic mysteries offered at their bookstore. Their fans will enjoy rooting among the suspects in preparation for a denouement straight out of Agatha Christie.

THE GOLDEN EGG

Leon, Donna Atlantic Monthly (284 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-8021-2101-1 Commissario Guido Brunetti, the second-sharpest member of the Venetian Questura, investigates the death of a man who barely had a life to begin with. Brunetti’s wife, Paola Falier, rarely intrudes into his professional life, but she can’t help being distraught at the death of the boy who helps out at her dry cleaner’s, even though he’s not a boy—he turns out to be over 40—and she doesn’t know his name. Davide Cavanella, a deaf-mute who may have been mentally disabled as well, apparently swallowed a handful of sleeping pills because they looked like candy, then choked in his own vomit. More interesting than any questions about his death, however, are questions about Davide’s life. Why has this obviously disabled person never made a claim on any of the government programs designed to help him? For that matter, why has he left no paper trail at all? Brunetti (Beastly Things, 2012, etc.) doesn’t believe Ana Cavanella’s story that her son’s papers were stolen years ago, but he’s brought up short by the alternative: that there never was any official record of his existence. Aided by Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta’s subversive secretary, Signora Elettra Zorzi, the sharpest mind in the Questura, Brunetti turns over all the stones of Venice in his search for Davide’s roots. The clues that link the dead man to the wealthy Lembo family won’t surprise readers familiar with the pervasive corruption Leon’s unearthed in Venice past and present (The Jewels of Paradise, 2012). But they’ll savor the pleasures of dialogue as elliptical in its way as Henry James and a retrospective shock when they finally appreciate the import of the tale’s unobtrusive opening scene and its sly title.


ORIGINAL SKIN

relies on the irascible former sheriff who happens to be his daddy, his assistant deputy, Lurch, and a self-taught tracker who doubles as the owner of Dave’s House of Fry to make sense of deer and elk stampeding in the snow so that he can figure out where all the bank’s money is hidden. On the way to a solution, four more will die, lies will be bandied about, and a little old lady librarian will have the time of her life reconnoitering a crime scene. A wispy second-rate effort from the usually accomplished McManus, who tries this time for quirky but has to settle for preposterous.

Mark, David Blue Rider Press (448 pp.) $26.95 | May 2, 2013 978-0-399-15865-0 A police detective’s curiosity discloses a connection between some nasty cases. Alas for DS Aector McAvoy’s lovely gypsy wife and two small children:The shy, ginger-haired Scot’s boss, Detective Superintendent Trish Pharaoh, who runs the Serious and Organized Crime Unit, calls him away from his family because she needs his help with a series of murders and tortures caused by a fight for control of the local marijuana trade between the Vietnamese gangs who currently run it and a ruthless group trying to take over. Their patch, the East Yorkshire city of Hull and vicinity, has suffered for years, since the time when it was home to a profitable fishing fleet. McAvoy finds a cellphone that makes him return to the death of Simon Appleyard, a young man involved in kinky sex groups—a death that had been written off as a suicide. Soon after Pharaoh gives McAvoy permission to check out Appleyard’s death, she winds up in the hospital after she’s attacked by dogs belonging to someone connected to the new gang. Although McAvoy would rather be home with his young family, his sense of justice pushes him forward. Unfortunately, his investigation leads to some powerful local politicians who are risking their careers by indulging in sexual behavior as risky as Appleyard’s. While McAvoy and Pharaoh cautiously investigate the powerful politicians and the dangerous drug lords, Appleyard’s best friend, a young woman who joined him in the dark world of no-holdsbarred sex, is targeted for death. McAvoy’s second (The Dark Winter, 2012) is an excellent police procedural featuring sex, violence and complex characters who are quirky but likable.

EVERY BROKEN TRUST

Rodriguez, Linda Minotaur (304 pp.) $25.99 | May 7, 2013 978-1-250-03035-1

Doing a favor for a friend forces Skeet Bannion to investigate her friends and neighbors for murder. When Skeet opted out of her highstress job with the Kansas City Police Department, she left behind her charming ex-husband and her alcoholic father. Now chief of campus police at Chouteau University, Skeet is trying to adopt teen Brian Jameson, make new friends and pursue a relationship with local police chief Joe Louzon. Skeet reluctantly allows her friend Karen to use her house to host a welcome party for the new law school dean. The party takes a turn for the worse when assistant U.S. attorney Leonard Klamath shows up drunk and tells Karen that her husband Jake, whose death was ruled an accident, was actually murdered. The party goes on, but later, Karen phones from the university library to say that she’s been attacked and Leonard murdered. The normally calm Karen is now desperate to avenge her husband’s death. She’s certain that the killer is his former boss, George “Mel” Melvin, now an aspiring politician with a wealthy second wife and a deeply troubled daughter. No sooner does Skeet reopen the case than she and several former police colleagues turn up some troubling information. Mel’s wealthy backer Walker Lynch may be involved in human trafficking. Skeet is pursued by Lynch’s aide, Terry Heldrich, a dangerously attractive man with a mysterious past. And Jake turns out to have been having an affair with a former nun. With Karen a target for murder, Skeet has little time to unravel a complex case. Skeet’s second outing (Every Last Secret, 2012) showcases a strong, intelligent woman with a difficult past that keeps returning to haunt her.

THE TAMARACK MURDERS

McManus, Patrick F. Skyhorse Publishing (176 pp.) $24.95 | May 1, 2013 978-1-62087-634-3

Bo Tully, the mostly honest sheriff of Blight County, Idaho, tracks a quartet of bank robbers. How many men does it take to rob a bank? One to stuff the money into a trash bag; one to drive the getaway car; one to cause a diversion on the escape route; and one to mastermind a plan that goes off without a hitch—unless you consider a rifle blasting one of them to smithereens on Chimney Rock Mountain to be a problem. When he’s not tossing arch innuendos in the direction of his curvaceous secretary, a bodacious FBI agent, a toothsome medical examiner and the unhappy wife of a possible suspect, Sheriff Tully (The Huckleberry Murders, 2010, etc.) |

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THE KING’S JAR

Shea, Susan C. Top Five Books (288 pp.) $14.00 paper | May 1, 2013 978-1-938938-04-7 A green-eyed detective, an overly protective, rich ex-husband and a dashing TV celebrity compete for smartmouthed, foolhardy Dani O’Rourke’s attention. Cadging funds to underwrite the Devor Museum’s new installation to house the King’s Jar, a 2-foot-tall sub-Saharan African antiquity found in Kenobia and donated to the San Francisco museum by billionaire Fritz McBeel, falls to staffer Dani O’Rourke. As she’s juggling plans for a gala dinner at New York’s posh Pilgrim Club for wealthy and politically connected dignitaries while soothing the curator’s catalogue challenges, a terrible tragedy occurs: The King’s Jar goes missing from the vault it had been stored in at Warefield University. Almost as dreadful, if rather less mourned, scholar Rene Bouvier, who’d been charged with overseeing the safety of the artifact, lies bashed to death in his university lab. Stepping up to find the jar and the killer, Dani is stymied by conflicting directives from McBeel and his second wife, Jamie, who disagree on whom the jar belongs to, a matter further complicated when Kenobia’s ambassador, Keile Obarri, seems to threaten Jamie and argue with Fritz at the Pilgrim Club. Then Dani finds Jamie strangled in her tony office. Instead of high-tailing it out of the place and calling the cops, she pockets a key and a note partially hidden under Jamie’s body. The green-eyed detective warns her to behave. Her ex-hubby rushes back from the Bahamas to protect her. The television celebrity seals his lies with a kiss. Lawyers, a former wife, and rumors about life, death and bribes in Kenobia will surface before Dani can curl up with her cat, Fever, for a restorative nap. Like Murder in the Abstract (2010): wickedly funny about professional fundraising; very arch about chubbiness and romance; and labored in its attempts to make all the plot holes disappear.

THE NIGHT DETECTIVES

Talton, Jon Poisoned Pen (234 pp.) $24.95 | $14.95 paper | $22.95 Lg. Prt. May 7, 2013 978-1-4642-0132-5 978-1-4642-0134-9 paper 978-1-4642-0133-2 Lg. Prt. Would a pretty ex-hooker strip herself naked, handcuff herself, then vault over a married john’s 19th-floor balcony and willingly kill herself? Grace Hunter—Scarlett to her clients—listed her 60-plus rich and powerful lovers’ addresses, cells, social security 36

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numbers and, when available, net worth on an encoded flash drive and tucked it away when she gave up the game in favor of pregnancy and marriage to an old beau, sweet but slightly nerdy Tim. Then she left her baby at home, disrobed, manacled her hands behind her and leapt to her death from a former client’s trendy apartment. Suicide or murder? The cops opt for the former, but Felix Smith appears on the doorstep of a pair of private eyes and wants them to investigate. Before Smith’s car even pulls out of their parking lot, he’s riddled with bullets from an AK-47, leaving former sheriff Mike Peralta and his guilt-ridden sidekick, former history professor/deputy sheriff David Mapstone, with a dead client on their hands and a $5,000 retainer to be earned. Off they head to San Diego, where Phoenix philanderers stash their mistresses. Mapstone interviews Tim, who also wants the ex-lawmen to find out what caused Grace to leave him and their baby. Like their first client, Tim is quickly dispatched, his fingers broken, his throat slit, a Claymore mine sitting in his lap. The private eyes are tailed, shot at, lied to. They call in their exes, Sharon and Lindsey, for psychological and tech support and some midday canoodling. They reconnect with a Vietnam vet and munitions expert pal of Peralta’s. They learn about white supremacy groups working out of desert strongholds. After threats, beatings, shootings and more lovemaking, they live to fight another day. The partnership of secretive, pensive Peralta and anguished, impetuous Mapstone (South Phoenix Rules, 2010, etc.) is intriguing, their love lives less so. But NRA aficionados will go nuts.

science fiction and fantasy TARNISHED

Held, Rhiannon Tor (352 pp.) $24.99 | May 21, 2013 978-0-7653-3038-3 Werewolf Andrew Dare and his mate, Silver, face new challenges in this sequel to Silver (2012). Previously, former pack enforcer Dare was badly injured tracking and killing the fiendish creature that had tortured his mate, Silver, by injecting her with silver. As a result, Silver’s wolf self is dead and her human body crippled. Though not fully healed, Dare faces new challenges: from vengeful Sacramento, whose psychotic rapist son Dare executed; and from Rory, Dare’s former alpha, for leadership of the Roanoke pack. This time, weak, treacherous Rory has formed an alliance with the Spanish pack of


“...hip, knowing and sometimes hysterically funny....” from the shambling guide to new york city

and acute observation: The result is irresistible.

Dare’s dead wife. Worse, the Spaniards have kept Dare’s daughter incommunicado and fed her vicious lies about what really happened. Silver, however, in overcoming her physical handicaps and psychological trauma, has gained an alpha’s ability to face down physically fit and stronger males through sheer force of personality. Dare’s lone ally, John, once again alpha of Seattle, has a problem too. His mate, Susan, is human, and humans traditionally are excluded from Were business and relationships. Silver decides to tell Susan what she needs to know, since John won’t, and let Susan make her own decisions about her standing among the Were. Once again, the plotting’s mostly on a psychological level, and what holds the reader’s interest are the interactions between individuals and among packs and how Held guides the conflict away from masculine snarling and growling toward less obvious but equally effective feminine dominance—wolves in formal dress, if you like. Series fans will—well, they’ll wolf it down.

PROMISE OF BLOOD

McClellan, Brian Orbit/Little, Brown (560 pp.) $23.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-316-21903-7 Series: Powder Mage, 1 First of a fantasy trilogy, sort of a French Revolution with wizards; McClelland’s debut packs some serious heat. “The Age of Kings is dead...and I have killed it” declares Field Marshal Tamas, having overthrown the self-indulgent and utterly uncaring monarch who not only bankrupted the state of Adro and left his people starving, but intended to sell what was left to powerful, warlike and covetous neighbor Kez. Tamas, a powder mage, one who eats or snorts gunpowder in order to gain magic powers, slaughtered the monarch’s royal cabal of Privileged mages and now proceeds to guillotine the remaining aristocracy, feed the people and set up a ruling council. He asks Adamat, a retired police inspector with a perfect memory, to discover what the mysterious Kresimir’s Promise might mean. Tamas must still deal with assaults by royalist fanatics, power struggles among his supposed allies (the church, workers unions and mercenary forces), and his own disaffected son Taniel, a powder mage and master marksman. Taniel’s companion is Ka-poel, a young, mute barbarian female whose powerful magics are unlike those of other mages. Julene, posing as a hunter of Privileged, turns out to be something else altogether. Mihali, possibly quite mad in claiming to be the son of a god, indeed proves to be a master chef, evidently with the ability to conjure food out of thin air. If that’s not enough, Adamat discovers there’s a traitor among the ruling council. And then the Kez attack. This is a stew of splendidly diverse and flavorsome ingredients, outstanding action sequences and well-handled, relentless if sometimes overelaborate plotting, despite some worrisome indications than McClellan hasn’t fully thought all the concepts through. A thoroughly satisfying yarn that should keep readers waiting impatiently for further installments.

THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY

Lafferty, Mur Orbit/Little, Brown (368 pp.) $15.00 paper | May 28, 2013 978-0-316-22117-7

From the author of Playing for Keeps (2008), a comedic fantasy about monsters and New Yorkers—and, as residents will be unsurprised to learn, monsters who are New Yorkers. Fresh from the North Carolina train wreck that was her previous job—she was seduced by her boss, and his wife, a cop, found out—Zoë Norris hopes for a gig as a travel book editor in New York. She finds what seems to be the ideal job, but business owner Phillip Rand proves extremely reluctant to hire her despite her excellent credentials. Why? Well— she’s human. Phil, it turns out, is a vampire, and among the other employees are an incubus, a water sprite, a death goddess and several zombies who keep a supply of brains in the office refrigerator—they’re a little slow but OK unless they get hungry. Zoë can’t help but wonder what other “coterie” are out there. Werewolves? Ghosts? “Banshees? Now everything about Britney Spears made sense.” Not to mention Granny Good Mae, a homeless bag lady who for some reason terrifies the coterie. Then Phil hires a construct (a Frankenstein’s monster) as head of CR (that’s Coterie Resources, Zoë being the sole human). What Zoë finds horrible and suspicious is that the new guy wears the head of an old college boyfriend. As things rapidly get out of hand, Zoë will learn just how hard it is to resist a hungry incubus and the pivotal role played by the employees of the city’s Public Works department—you will never look at those figures in reflective vests and hard hats emerging from mysterious dark apertures in the same way again. The hip, knowing and sometimes hysterically funny narrative, interspersed with excerpts from the guide of the title, lurches along in splendid fashion. Combine wit, style |

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TUNNEL OUT OF DEATH

Nasir, Jamil Tor (304 pp.) $25.99 | May 7, 2013 978-0-7653-0611-1

Nasir revisits familiar territory (The Houses of Time, 2008, etc.) in this venture into alternate realities on the etheric plane. In a future where everything has been privatized and the government has mutated into a sinister embodiment of |

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the military-industrial complex known as USAdmin, private investigator Heathcliff Ransom, “endovoyant,” puts his ability to interpret psychic emanations and roam around on the astral plane to work on behalf of well-heeled clients. Hired to locate the consciousness of comatose, elderly Margaret Biel by her would-be heirs, Heath finds her in Italy, in an etheric world where she’s occupied a new, young and beautiful body. Worse, he watches as she murders her companion only to find that his own consciousness now occupies the dead man’s body—except that he isn’t dead. Then he falls through a terrifying aperture into further adventures, among whose elements are USAdmin, a mysterious organization called Backward and a possible artificial intelligence, Amphibian. Somebody, meanwhile, attacks and kills everybody at Heath’s offices back in Maryland. Then Heath learns how to switch back and forth between himself as Heath and his new body, Michael. Later still, everybody— including Heath/Michael—somehow gets transformed into virtually immortal androids. What? Why? How? Don’t ask—not only is it unclear which reality is which, or how they’re related, but the protagonist deliberately avoids investigating any of the numerous puzzles—in fact he’s not even curious. So why should readers be? Still later, we slide away into crepuscular, quasi-religious metaphysical nebulas. A futile and self-indulgent exercise in so-whattery.

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nonfiction ANATOMIES A Cultural History of the Human Body

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: OUR LIVES, OUR FORTUNES, AND OUR SACRED HONOR by Richard R. Beeman......................................................................... 40

Aldersey-Williams, Hugh Norton (320 pp.) $26.95 | May 27, 2013 978-0-393-23988-1

EXTRA SENSORY by Brian Clegg...................................................... 44 THE DISPENSABLE NATION by Vali Nasr.........................................59

A literary exposition of the body by an English science writer. Aldersey-Williams (Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements, from Arsenic to Zinc, 2011, etc.) traveled, did extensive research and even dissected cadavers in an anatomy class to get a feel for what humans are like, inside and out. The result is a historical telling of how bodies have been viewed by cultures old and new. At various times, the body was seen as a world to be explored, with parts named by their discoverers. With Descartes came the concept of the body as machine, with a separate soul. Occasionally, the body was viewed as an ideal, measured to fit inside a circle or square, or of such perfect design as to reflect divine creation. Not until Shakespeare’s time, following Vesalius’ anatomy treatise in 1543, did “anatomizing” take off in earnest, helped by laws dictating that after hanging, criminals’ bodies were to be dissected. Such a law enabled Rembrandt to paint The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, which actually shows a dissected right forearm on the left arm of the cadaver. There weren’t enough bodies, however, hence the advent of grave robbers. Female bodies were also in short supply, and murders of pregnant women may have figured in the production of the first atlas of fetal development. In format, Aldersey-Williams moves from the lore of the body, skin and bones as a whole, to major areas like the stomach, brain, blood, head, face and sense organs, providing a rich repertoire of folklore, humor, literary and art references for each. He ends with speculations on “extending the territory” with prostheses, hybrid creatures, robots, an increase in life span, and so on. You’ll still need an anatomy textbook to grasp all the body’s parts, but this book is a lovely, lively complement.

THE ENLIGHTENMENT by Anthony Pagden..................................... 60 BUNKER HILL by Nathaniel Philbrick................................................61 THE SECRET HISTORY OF VLADIMIR NABOKOV by Andrea Pitzer...................................................................................61 THE VILLAGE by John Strausbaugh................................................... 64 OUTLAW by Michael Streissguth.........................................................65

THE VILLAGE 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village

Strausbaugh, John Ecco/ HarperCollins (640 pp.) $29.99 Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-06-207819-3 978-0-06207820-9 e-book

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“A welcome addition to a rich, indispensable field of scholarly study.” from our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor

WHAT THEN MUST WE DO? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution

OUR LIVES, OUR FORTUNES, AND OUR SACRED HONOR The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776

Alperovitz, Gar Chelsea Green (224 pp.) $27.95 | $17.95 e-book | May 1, 2013 978-1-60358-491-3 978-1-60358-504-0 e-book

Beeman, Richard R. Basic (480 pp.) $29.99 | May 7, 2013 978-0-465-02629-6

Any cure for America’s economic plight lies deeper than politics as usual, argues an author who believes that a fundamental, radical, systemic transformation offers the possibility of an economic corrective. Alperovitz (Political Economy/Univ. of Maryland; America Beyond Capitalism, 2004) argues that a faulty sense of history underlies what little faith remains in economic progress through conventional politics. For those who would categorize the New Deal as a political triumph, he counters that it had “a very, very unusual context…in large part made possible by a massive global Depression” and led to “postwar achievements [that] were in significant part made possible by the ongoing impact of a massive (and highly unusual, global-scale) war and its extraordinary aftermath.” In short, great change spawned by great crises, not the working of the political process. The economic disparity between the rich and the masses has since gotten much wider, with no indication that politics can even address the situation, let alone improve it, as the decline of labor unions has left the power of corporate wealth unchecked and unchallenged. Yet the author believes he “offers a reasonably hopeful sense of the future, and a strategy aimed at possibly getting there.” Such hope lies in “the democratization of wealth,” through employee-owned companies, regional co-ops, the systemic transformation of the banking and health care industries into public utilities and an emphasis on “what has often been called the triple bottom line (emphasizing people and planet in addition to profit).” And if such radical restructuring causes some to scream about socialism, he counters that “socialism—real socialism, not the fuzzy kind conservatives try to pin on Barack Obama—is as common as grass…in the United States.” Alperovitz’s conversational style avoids academic jargon while making complex issues easy (some might say too easy) to digest, but he’s not likely to convince those of the conservative persuasion that a more hopeful future involves more collective action and government consolidation.

To create this lively study of the main players of the two Continental Congresses, Beeman (History/ Univ. of Pennsylvania) draws on his wealth of research from his previous, award-winning works, Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (2009) and Patrick Henry (1974). The author concentrates on the fascinating human contrasts among the delegates, from the fiery Bostonians, including the Adamses, to the loyalist New Yorkers, as they brought with them their provincial biases and sincere and honorable hopes for fair, just government, but mostly a desire for reconciliation with the British crown. Indeed, Beeman’s leitmotif throughout his fluid study of the events of the key 22 months is the frank reluctance on the part of the delegates to make that rupture, as Pennsylvania lawyer John Dickinson would eloquently argue in moving speeches opposing independence up until the decisive vote of July 2, 1776. While Virginia’s “son of thunder” Patrick Henry harangued the delegates on the second day of the first Congress with an appeal to their “American” rather than regional identities, the others were not yet ready to renounce the British constitution, hammering out successive appeals to the king, despite the hardening of British sympathies against them. From voting on the banning of British imports and exports to appointing George Washington as commander of the Continental Army to the selection of little-known Thomas Jefferson to the committee to write a declaration of independence to the publication of Thomas Paine’s incendiary Common Sense, Beeman elegantly moves through the deeply compelling process of how these motley characters fashioned government as an agency for the people. A welcome addition to a rich, indispensable field of scholarly study. (illustrations throughout)

PEKING TO PARIS Life and Love on a Short Drive Around Half the World

Bennett, Dina Skyhorse Publishing (276 pp.) $24.95 | May 1, 2013 978-1-62087-800-2

A road-trip memoir from an author who has “a love-hate relationship with adventure.” Why did a woman who suffers from carsickness, has no sense of direction and hates roughing it accompany her husband on a grueling five-week, 40

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7,800-mile rally through China, Mongolia, Russia and Europe? After selling their software company and settling on a ranch in Colorado, Bennett and her husband, Bernard, grew restless. After two decades of marriage, they had “grown nonchalant about our togetherness. We needed a new project, something that would pull us off our separate paths and merge us into a team again.” At a lunch stop for the Colorado Grand classic car tour, Bernard had a chance encounter that offered up a challenge: a 35-day race following the silk route taken by Genghis Khan on the centenary of the original Peking to Paris Motor Challenge. All they needed was determination, money and a classic car. So began a two-year project to find, rebuild and drive the perfect prewar automobile. They settled on a 1940 GM LaSalle two-door coupe, affectionately named Roxanne. But the rebuild took longer than expected, and Bennett and Bernard had no chance to road test the work and learn the nuances of GPS navigation. This led to a structural problem that plagued them throughout the journey. While Bennett longed to see the landscape and experience the local culture, they ended up driving 10 hours per day and spending their off days in various garage bays. “This trip is all about driving and not about the journey,” she lamented. Yet her writing captures the beauty of the austere landscape, changing social dynamics with other teams and the nuances of her shifting relationship with her husband. A fun ride, worth the trip.

the frat mentality in the American Pie series, was detestable but funny, whereas Bolen, by this account, lacks the latter attribute. “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” So quoth Dean Wormer in Animal House, where the frat boys sometimes went to class. Someone tell Bolen.

LINCOLN DREAMT HE DIED The Midnight Visions of Remarkable Americans from Colonial Times to Freud Burstein, Andrew Palgrave Macmillan (336 pp.) $28.00 | May 21, 2013 978-1-137-27827-2

An acclaimed historian dives headlong into the dreams of some iconic Americans. Had Burstein (History/Louisiana State Univ.; Madison and Jefferson, 2010) written a book about a small

TOTAL FRAT MOVE

Bolen, W.R. Grand Central Publishing (272 pp.) $18.99 | Jan. 15, 2013 978-1-4555-1503-5 Steve Stifler writes a book…with his elbows. If you’re wondering what your Greekpledged son or daughter is up to at school, this is your guidebook—and you won’t be happy with how your tuition money is being spent. If your son is like Bolen, then he’s drunk and obsessed with bagging at least a 7. (Bolen’s peers will understand.) If your daughter is like one of Bolen’s hookups, then she’s not a woman but a “slampiece” who, if she wishes to succeed, will have “two trophy-worthy tits.” The unnamed campus on which Bolen’s book is set, one that, by appearances, is somewhere on the Gulf Coast, is awash in cocaine, bourbon and vomit; whether classes are actually taught there is anyone’s guess, but to judge by this woeful treatise, it’s an activity of quaternary importance at best. So is the world outside the frat house, the milieu of “tiny Asian women in a Malaysian sweatshop sewing shoes” and other such unworthy, unpinned members of society. To call this portrait of “Greek” life obnoxious is to risk understatement, but the ideal reader will be similarly allied with a fraternity, will be a braggart about sex, will not have sex without the assistance of alcohol, will not spend a waking hour without a beer, will own a large flat-screen TV and will have only the slightest shred of selfawareness. Readers without these qualities will want to pass. Suffice it to say that Stifler, that preternaturally perfect exemplar of |

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“Carlson has taken full advantage of abundant material to deliver a vivid chronicle of two working Civil War reporters and their spectacular odyssey.” from junius and albert’s adventures in the confederacy

selection of famous people and their documented dreams, it would have been much more interesting than this book. The author provides an occasionally intriguing but mostly tedious history of how dreams were interpreted throughout the 19th century in the United States and the changes in the importance they were afforded. Often, dreams were discounted as just superstition or a result of indigestion. They reconciled the past with the present and anticipated the future, usually reflecting the journey of life. Thomas Jefferson thought of dreams as fallacious, inconsequential thoughts. Still, there were those who studied and lectured on dreams—e.g., Jefferson’s friend Dr. Benjamin Rush, though he thought of them as a low grade of delirium. There were also those who collected dreams, notably Ichabod Cook, who interviewed countless people. Many of his acquaintances came to him often with their dreams. Does knowing someone will listen increase the animation in one’s dreams? The evolution of dream importance and interpretation may be an interesting topic for many readers, but the narrative here is too scattershot. Other significant figures profiled by Burstein include the titular Lincoln, John Adams, Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, Thomas De Quincey and Louisa May Alcott. Readers who believe dreams are predictive will likely enjoy this book, which is really only saved by the author’s talent as a writer. Burstein should drop the dream interpreting and stick to the history of our forefathers.

rats in which the incidence of cancer was significantly higher for those fed a diet high in animal protein. Campbell dismisses the failure of medical and scientific journals to publish papers that he has written over the years, attributing this to biased peer review and financial pressure from doctors, the pharmaceutical industry, and dairy and livestock producers. While his earlier book had impressive sales figures, he complains that the media has failed to showcase his work. A spirited but unconvincing defense of Campbell’s earlier work.

JUNIUS AND ALBERT’S ADVENTURES IN THE CONFEDERACY A Civil War Odyssey Carlson, Peter PublicAffairs (288 pp.) $26.99 | May 28, 2013 978-1-61039-154-2

A rollicking story of imprisonment and escape during the Civil War seems a stretch, but journalist Carlson accomplished a similar feat with a Soviet premier in K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America’s Most Unlikely Tourist (2009), and this is another entertaining, occasionally gruesome account. The author describes how New York Tribune reporters Junius Brown and Albert Richardson covered the war for two years until Confederate artillery sunk their boat as they tried to sail past Vicksburg, Miss., to join Gen. Grant’s forces in May 1863. Confederate troops rescued the survivors. As civilians, they were paroled in Vicksburg until Confederate officials, knowing the two worked for the abolitionist newspaper, reconsidered. Protesting loudly, they traveled with other POWs by train across the South to Richmond to spend nine months in the notorious Libby and Castle Thunder prisons, furiously pulling strings for their release, sharing the soldiers’ experiences but shielded from serious privation by an apparently steady source of money. In February 1864, they were sent to the far worse Salisbury camp in North Carolina, where they watched with horror as Union prisoners, with no shelter and little food, died by the thousands. Finally escaping in December, they walked more than 300 miles, hungry and freezing, through snowy mountains to Northern lines in Tennessee, aided by a surprisingly large number of Union sympathizers, black and white. Being journalists, they had plenty to say about their exploits. Carlson has taken full advantage of abundant material to deliver a vivid chronicle of two working Civil War reporters and their spectacular odyssey.

WHOLE Rethinking the Science of Nutrition

Campbell, T. Colin BenBella (352 pp.) $26.95 | May 7, 2013 978-1-937856-24-3

Campbell (Emeritus, Nutritional Biochemistry/Cornell Univ.; The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, 2005) elaborates on the themes of his earlier book and the 2011 documentary film Forks Over Knives. In 1980, the author began a study with Chinese scientists to investigate how the transformation of the Chinese diet in the aftermath of the stringencies of the Cultural Revolution affected the health of a sample of 100 Chinese families living in two different rural counties. A comparison with mortality statistics 20 years earlier showed a significant increase with the introduction of more protein in their diets. While admitting that these conclusions (taken from the original China study) are based on correlations and do not establish causality, Campbell does base his dietary recommendations on those conclusions. He claims that the adoption of a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle can prevent 95 percent of all cancers, nearly all heart attacks and strokes, and even reverse severe heart disease. The author cautions against the use of dietary supplements and multivitamins and rejects the potential of targeted drugs as well as traditional medical remedies such as chemotherapy and radiation. He attempts to buttress his conclusions by referring to experiments conducted on 42

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PRISONER OF ZION Mormons, Muslims and Other Misadventures

revivalist, reactionary or radical, but they were the leaders of the hour, for better or worse, defining the direction of ideological currents up until the present. With the United States mired in political cynicism, an energy crisis and stagflation, the Soviet Union took advantage of a loosening of détente by bolstering its strategic presence in Afghanistan that was to help pull down the entire communist structure. In Iran, the people demonstrating against the hated shah rallied behind Khomeini, returning from long years in exile, radicalized and resolved to harness the popular discontent in an Islamic Republic. Similarly, in China, with the death of Mao Zedong, newly rehabilitated warrior Deng recognized the need to direct the pent-up pressures from the Cultural Revolution in a gradual leaking of private enterprise that unloosened decades of communist orthodoxy and unleashed economic growth. Meanwhile, the unlikely conservative leader Thatcher sailed to power by repudiating the postwar consensus on the British welfare state and embracing a merciless economic refurbishment involving monetarism and privatization. Another popular movement, among beleaguered Polish miners, got an enormous boost from the visit of the new pope,

Carrier, Scott Counterpoint (256 pp.) $16.95 paper | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-61902-121-1

A collection of essays centered on the author’s experiences of encountering religious fanaticism among the Taliban in Afghanistan and Mormons in Utah. In November 2001, journalist and NPR radio producer Carrier (Journalism/Utah Valley Univ.; Running After Antelope, 2001) traveled to Afghanistan to report on the Taliban and the diverse factions and ethnicities vying for power in the midst of the American invasion. From Carrier’s perspective, growing up with the Mormon community of Utah prepared him for encountering instances of religious fanaticism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He compares his personal experiences with the Mormon community and some of the more notorious incidents related to Mormonism (i.e., the Elizabeth Smart case) with his experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, rather than placing the blame on religion, the author states that he only takes issue with the belief that God has a chosen people to whom he gave land, since this removes land and liberty from another. The comparison between Mormons in Utah and Muslims in Afghanistan is blurred when the chronological sequence of essays discusses the breakup of his marriage, his investigation of sex trafficking in Cambodia alongside a woman with whom he formed a volatile personal relationship and his struggles with taking a teaching position at a public university in Utah. Carrier draws examples from his personal life to make the argument that when dealing with fanaticism, in any form, acting out of fear will only worsen the problem. Mostly engrossing stories of travel interspersed with historical vignettes and the author’s private struggles to argue for a move away from persecution of believers.

STRANGE REBELS 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century

Caryl, Christian Basic (400 pp.) $28.99 | May 7, 2013 978-0-465-01838-3

In a highly focused work, Foreign Affairs deputy editor Caryl finds that the year 1979 engendered a remarkable crop of history-changing leaders. The author defines a counterrevolutionary as “a conservative who has learned from the revolution.” This befits the leaders he profiles here—Deng Xiaoping, Margaret Thatcher, Ayatollah Khomeini and Pope John Paul II—who emerged from the fires of the turbulent 1970s. They were, alternately, called |

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“Solid writing, remarkable details and the addition of Bulger’s fairly recent capture make this a worthy addition to the literature of the mob.” from whitey bulger

WHITEY BULGER America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that Brought Him to Justice

John Paul II, formerly their own Karol Wojtyla, who lifted the fear from the long-subjugated masses of Eastern Europe. As ably shown by Caryl, the events of this cataclysmic year would continue to bear fruit for years to come. An astute assessment of the efforts of a group of historic newsmakers.

Cullen, Kevin; Murphy, Shelley Norton (496 pp.) $26.95 | Feb. 11, 2013 978-0-393-08772-7

EXTRA SENSORY The Science and Pseudoscience of Telepathy and Other Powers of the Mind

A well-researched book claiming to be “the first complete and authoritative account” of the life of criminal James

“Whitey” Bulger. From his Boston childhood to his current home in a prison cell, Boston Globe reporters Cullen and Murphy follow their subject through every documented moment in his life. Bulger is a true “Southie” character, his name well-known to residents of the mostly Irish neighborhood before gentrification. After starting as a petty juvenile criminal, he moved quickly to auto theft and then bank robbery, landing himself in prison. Bulger even did a stint in Alcatraz before earning enough good-behavior time to end his sentence more than a decade early. When he returned to Boston, the criminal underworld was ripe for the picking; rather than going straight, he went to the top of what some called the Irish mob—with the support of the FBI. The authors can’t quite decide if they want to let the story become personal. They work hard to refer to themselves in the third person but make it clear what they think of their subject and his accomplices. Maintaining distance was a mistake, as personalizing their involvement could make the book stronger, with more palpable tension and the consequences of attracting Bulger’s attention more real. Still, Bulger’s crimes and partnerships are so compelling that the pages almost turn themselves. Moments of insight into his mind make the book sparkle—e.g., the scene when he’s finally caught and refuses to kneel. The authors explain, “Whitey’s biggest concern, he later said, was that there were oil stains on the garage floor where he was standing.” Solid writing, remarkable details and the addition of Bulger’s fairly recent capture make this a worthy addition to the literature of the mob.

Clegg, Brian St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $25.99 | May 21, 2013 978-1-250-01906-6

Prolific British science writer Clegg (Gravity: How the Weakest Force in the Universe Shaped Our Lives, 2012) takes ESP seriously but resists the temptation to add to the prolific genre that appeals to enthusiasts (“Of course, there are charlatans, BUT…”). Actions such as clairvoyance or telekinesis must obey physical laws. The author finds none that apply, but believers often propose mysterious forces unknown to science, and Clegg does not deny the possibility. Establishment scientists have been investigating ESP for more than a century. Clegg delivers a detailed account of figures from J.B Rhine (1930s) and Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff (1970s), whose work was supported by the CIA. He does not neglect colorful figures such as Uri Geller, who, even though his feats flabbergast every lay observer and too many scientists, was no magician; professional performers can duplicate his tricks. Genuinely distressed, Clegg points out that ESP researchers have been sloppy about including controls and keeping an eye on subjects to prevent cheating; they routinely announce positive results, which are never dramatic (such as moving an object) but statistical (guessing more cards than expected), and other researchers attempting to duplicate them always fail. In a surprisingly optimistic conclusion, the author writes that some phenomena, particularly telepathy and remote viewing, may have a basis in reality and suggests experimental approaches with rigorous controls to prevent both subject and experimenter from cheating. Clegg accomplishes the impressive feat of persuading readers that ESP might exist, while delivering a delightfully astute examination of the current evidence, which remains frustratingly feeble.

DAILY RITUALS How Artists Work

Currey, Mason Knopf (304 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-307-27360-4

A journalist and editor debuts by converting his blog (Daily Rituals) into a book that does precisely what its titles promise. Although Currey begins with Auden, he does not end with Zola (who does not appear); instead, he offers an idiosyncratically arranged collection of snapshots—scores of them—that show us how various writers, painters, musicians, choreographers and architects 44

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go—or went—about their days. Some are unremarkable. They get up and go to work for a set number of hours at a desk every day. But many are as eccentric as you would expect—and hope. William H. Gass writes best when he’s angry. Nabokov wrote in pencil on index cards and sorted them later. Schiller loved the inspirational smell of rotting apples. Some (Plath, Munro) learned to work while raising children. Some were night owls— Kafka, Proust, Samuel Johnson. B.F. Skinner—no surprise—conditioned himself to observe strict routines. Gertrude Stein and Richard Wright liked to write alfresco. Thomas Wolfe fondled himself while writing standing up. Proust and Capote wrote in bed. Some—Twain, Abbey—had little structures on the property where they could avoid distractions. Quite a few of the artists found ways to boost their energy—from the companionship of coffee to the buzz of Benzedrine. Alcohol was a reward for some at the end of the stint. And many of them found exercise a necessity. Oliver Sacks likes swimming; Dickens walked for three hours in the afternoon (myriads of these artists had walking routines); Twyla Tharp worked out for two hours every morning. The sequence is fun to follow and figure out—some are easy, some not: Martin Amis follows father Kingsley; Henry James follows brother William; Charles Schultz follows Anne Rice? The message? There is no preferred way—only the ways that work. An enjoyable book to dig into here and there. (27 photos)

work on protecting langurs, for example, has expanded greatly since Drollette’s previous visit. Besides trying to uncover the effects of Agent Orange and other chemicals dumped on Vietnam during the war, the author exposes the massive illegal marketing of wild animal parts much in demand for use in Asian medicines. Drollette also reports on efforts to protect turtles in a lake in Hanoi and of the work of Hawaii’s National Tropical Garden in preserving rare plants. These accounts are certainly informative, but they seem misplaced here. The book’s principle flaw is that at times it reads more like a patchwork of previously published feature articles than a single cohesive work. Generally well-researched and -written, but somewhat unfocused and repetitive.

GOLD RUSH IN THE JUNGLE The Race to Discover and Defend the Rarest Animals of Vietnam’s “Lost World” Drollette Jr., Dan Crown (336 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-307-40704-7

A science journalist’s on-the-ground observations about the threatened wildlife of Vietnam and efforts to discover hitherto-unknown species and to protect rapidly disappearing ones. In his debut, Drollette chronicles his experiences in Vietnam, describing not a mineral gold rush, but a biological one. He interviewed wildlife biologists currently working there, quotes earlier researchers and delves into the history and present conditions of the once–war-torn country. His primary focus is the Endangered Primate Rescue Center, run by Tilo Nadler, a German zoologist, and his Vietnamese wife. A prologue sets the scene, describing the rare mammals recently found in Vietnam and raising questions for which Drollette seeks answers: How did they survive there? What will happen to them under such present stresses as economic progress, population growth, deforestation and poaching? The author first visited Vietnam in 1998, an experience that he briefly covers in the first part, but his return more than a decade later provides the book’s core. He finds that Vietnam’s unique and once-hidden animal life is now vulnerable to exploitation, and their numbers are dwindling; there are, however, signs of progress that give hope: Nadler’s |

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“Meaner would have been funnier; fresher could have been more insightful.” from across the pond

ACROSS THE POND An Englishman’s View of America

who tracked down and saved Europe’s artistic heritage, this time focusing on Italy. During World War II, Hitler and Göring led the greatest looting operation of the 20th century. Nazi Germany justified its practice of absorbing art treasures of Western Europe and Russia as spoils of war—but Italy was an ally. After the destruction of Naples by the fleeing Germans, the leader of the Kunstschutz, the “art protection” unit, was ordered to Italy to guard her works of art. Instead, art was removed from carefully arranged hiding places in the countryside and taken to the north for “protection.” The author focuses on the work of art professor Dean Keller and art historian Fred Hartt of the American Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section. These two men, who had overwhelming passion for Italy and her enormous artistic heritage, chased into cities before the fires of war had barely cooled, designating which areas were to be protected until secured. It was only through Keller’s work with a team of army engineers, fresco specialists and Italian military that we are able today to see the frescoes of Pisa’s Camposanto, blown off the walls by Allied bombs. Both men worked their way up the peninsula from Sicily, but their concentration was in Tuscany. Curiously enough, they were aided by Gen. Karl Wolff, the SS leader in Italy—whether it was his love of art or self-protection as the end of the war loomed is a matter for debate. Edsel’s knowledge and appreciation of art amplifies this celebration of the unheralded group of men who ensured the safety of Italy’s greatest treasures. (60 illustrations; maps)

Eagleton, Terry Norton (192 pp.) $24.95 | May 6, 2013 978-0-393-08898-4

An occasionally illuminating book, but more often an attempt to pass clichés and stereotypes as insight, by a prolific academic whose stabs at humor might play better in his native England. In case his American readers might otherwise take offense, Eagleton (The Event of Literature, 2012, etc.) explains, “As befits a puritan race, Americans tend to make a sharper distinction between what is serious and what is not. There is sometimes more need of a shift in tone to signal that what you are saying is meant to be frivolous, light-hearted or just plain silly.” So, when he proceeds to observe that “there is, to be sure, a lot of obesity elsewhere on the planet, but nobody is as mind-warpingly, transcendentally enormous as an enormous American,” some readers may decide that he’s just being lighthearted, while others could suggest that he is belaboring the obvious. Eagleton does so throughout a short book that seems longer, one that suggests to the few who haven’t reached such conclusions on their own that there are strains of hypocrisy and foolish jingoism underlying the country’s celebration of all-American ideals and values. To Europeans, he writes, “Suggesting that the Almighty has a special affection for your nation would sound as absurd as claiming that he has a special affection for gummy bears.” More often, the author sets his sights lower than the heavens, such as the differences in American and English diction: “The British use the rather beautiful word ‘children’ far more often than Americans do, who tend to prefer the ugly, demeaning monosyllable ‘kids.’ It is surprising that a nation so scrupulous about political correctness should be content to regard its offspring as small smelly goats.” Oh, and “an Englishman who gets through twenty fags a day is not necessarily a promiscuous homosexual.” Now living in Dublin, the professor also has plenty to say about the Irish. Meaner would have been funnier; fresher could have been more insightful.

LEADING THE WAY The Story of Ed Feulner and the Heritage Foundation Edwards, Lee Crown Forum (464 pp.) $27.50 | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-7704-3578-3

Bird’s-eye view of the right-wing powerhouse that brought us Reaganomics, the Contract with America and the tea party. Heritage Foundation fellow Edwards is given to both statistics and theory. Nominally a study of now-retired founder Ed Feulner, his book exemplifies several truths of politics, one of which, as California Democratic politician Jesse Unruh once remarked, is that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” So it is, and the Heritage Foundation receives gifts from corporations and individuals alike that add up to an $80 million per year operating budget, larger than any other think tank of right or left. Feulner’s life is illuminating in this tale of money and power. He began his career as a pro–Vietnam War activist from Chicago who helped win a congressional seat for a hard-right candidate once Don Rumsfeld—yes, that Don Rumsfeld—vacated it and who later served up much of the Reagan administration’s policies on matters fiscal, domestic, military and diplomatic. Edwards is, of course, biased in his hagiographical approach both to Feulner and to other heroes of the rightist cause,

SAVING ITALY The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis Edsel, Robert M. Norton (464 pp.) $28.95 | May 6, 2013 978-0-393-08241-8

Edsel (The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, 2009, etc.) continues his work chronicling the small band of artists and art historians 46

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BEG A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals

whereas his favorite epithet for anyone to the left is “radical.” In the case of Barack Obama, it’s “radical” but also the rather more elaborate “a resourceful Machiavellian” who’s “formula was “money + organization + ideology + media + political success.” Despite the author’s obvious bias, the Heritage Foundation is undeniably influential, and political operatives of any stripe will gain insight into how the place works courtesy of these pages. (8-page b/w photo insert)

Freedman, Rory Running Press (192 pp.) $18.00 | May 1, 2013 978-0-7624-4954-5 978-0-7624-4956-9 e-book

The well-turned ground of humans behaving inhumanely toward animals is turned again, without any significant updates. Co-author of the best-selling Skinny Bitch series, Freedman draws readers’ attention to the many iniquities animals suffer at the hands of humans. They are legion, and many people have altered their lives to distance themselves—or actively fight against—the many abuses: factory farms, poorly run circuses and zoos, rodeos, dog racing, bull fighting, slaughterhouses, stock pens and the behind-the-scenes cruelty visited upon animals used for print advertising, TV commercials and shows,

BAD BOY My Life On and Off the Canvas

Fischl, Eric with Stone, Michael Crown (320 pp.) $26.00 | May 7, 2013 978-0-7704-3557-8

A celebrated contemporary American artist, now in his 60s, paints his life and offers a review. Fischl, whose striking painting Bad Boy (1981) provides the title, teams up with veteran journalist Stone to tell the story of his unlikely discovery of his passion for art, his rise to celebrity in the 1980s and his adjustment—not always amiable—to the arrival of the next generation. Fischl begins with an epiphany occasioned by a 1986 traffic incident. He realized he had lost control of his life (booze, cocaine) and did not like “the miserable, belligerent guy I had become.” Time for a rebirth. But first he takes us back to his childhood, advancing swiftly to the mid-1960s, when he discovered that art was the only endeavor he wished to pursue. Throughout, Fischl surrenders pages to other players in his story—family members, friends and colleagues—and allows them to relate their version of events. It’s a novel strategy, but unfortunately, most of them just shower praise on the artist—it all grows rather cloying. Fischl describes his love affairs, his life with (and eventual marriage to) artist April Gornik, his screw-ups and triumphs and his relationships with fellow artists, dealers and buyers. He pauses continually to talk about his philosophy of art and specific works, describing their origin (he says he never knows what he’s going to do until he’s done it), their execution and their not-alwayspositive reception. His sculpture Tumbling Woman for 9/11 had a hostile reaction and was removed from its site. Generally generous and self-deprecating, he does attack some of his successors, among them Damien Hirst, whose work he calls “shallow.” Best for the discussions of his own work; worst for the gushing offered by some of his contributors. (Two 8-page fullcolor photo inserts)

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THE PRINCE OF PARADISE The True Story of a Hotel Heir, His Seductive Wife, and a Ruthless Murder

and movies. The author makes many solid, if shopworn, arguments, but in the less blatantly cruel areas, her thought can be muddied or mixed: “I think there is something arrogant about spaying and neutering animals...until we have a better solution to the horrific problem we created, I will spay and neuter my companion animals and encourage others to do the same.” We are also informed that, “P.S. Unfixed animals spray stinky piss all over the place.” Freedman provides some interesting and depressing statistics (more than 100 million animals worldwide “are subjected to nightmarish experiments every year” and 27 animals died during the filming and production of The Hobbit), as well as a helpful list of nonprofit organizations that help animals (not just PETA, but the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary and the Stray Cat Alliance), but she paints with a broad brush—e.g., condemning all zoos when there are plenty of humane versions around the world. A big-hearted and well-meaning rehash of vital but hoary arguments urging decency toward animals.

Glatt, John St. Martin’s (480 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-250-03572-1 978-1-250-03573-8 e-book

Investigative reporter and true-crime vet Glatt (Love Her to Death, 2012, etc.) turns his attention to the story of a rich playboy’s gruesome murder. The author isn’t content simply recounting the tempestuous relationship between Ben Novack Jr. and his wife, Narcy, and how it ultimately led to his death. He explores Novack’s childhood at the Fontainebleau as well as the design, construction and sordid history of the Miami Beach hotel. Readers will be regaled with stories of Sinatra’s escapades, possible mob ties, Novack Sr.’s business acumen and the long-standing argument over who had the idea for the curved architecture. All this history adds color to Novack Jr.’s early life and provides important perspective on his personality. But some of the color—particularly when the plot has moved past his time at the hotel—just seems out of place. After his father lost the Fontainebleau, Novack Jr. started a business and became a millionaire in his own right. Early on, he married his second wife, Narcy, and insisted on a severe prenuptial contract which stipulated that if the two divorced, she would walk away with only $65,000. Prosecutors, family members, the author and a jury all believed this was her motive for murder. According to Novack’s will, she would inherit his multimilliondollar fortune if he died while they were still married. Glatt goes into great detail explaining the plot Narcy and her brother used to get the fortune, including killing Novack’s mother so that none of his money would go to her after his death. Though the narrative is mostly smooth, the detail can be overwhelming, and the thread occasionally gets lost in the minutiae of failed car repairs, costume changes and other unnecessary bits. Though not always polished, the writing is generally solid, and the story is interesting enough to keep most true-crime fans happy. (8-page b/w photo insert)

CHILDREN OF THE DAYS A Calendar of Human History Galeano, Eduardo Translated by Fried, Mark Nation Books/Perseus (432 pp.) $26.99 | May 1, 2013 978-1-56858-747-9

In trademark telegraphic style and with familiar themes, Uruguayan social critic Galeano (Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone, 2009, etc.) serves up a book of

days for our time. As readers of the Memory of Fire series and his other books will know, Galeano is nigh-on obsessed with the European conquest of America and the bad behavior that accompanied it, to say nothing of the way in which one American nation in particular has repaid the favor by bullying the rest of the world ever since. While his first entry in this calendar is deceptively gentle (“we ought to acknowledge that time treats us rather kindly”), his second harkens to the year in which that conquest began, 1492, when the Jews and Moors were also expelled from Spain and their holy books destroyed in the belief that “Fire was the only fate for words born in hell.” Galeano can be a softie, as when he gurgles over Mozart’s effect on newborns (playing his music is “the best way of telling them, ‘This is your new home’ ”), but mostly, his tone is arch and indignant. The author is perhaps overly fond of the one-sentence paragraph (“Every two weeks, a language dies”), but the structure suits the urgency he conveys. As the book progresses, the order becomes ever more apparent, even as the brief essays skip over continents and centuries. Americans will note, but perhaps not appreciate, his fondness for soccer, rebellion of most varieties and sententious declaration (“In the Age of Almighty Computers, drones are the perfect warriors”). A cynic might say that it’s more of the same-old preaching to the choir, but Galeano’s many readers will surely find this secular calendar appealing. (12 b/w illustrations) 48

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY HUNGERS

González, Rigoberto Univ. of Wisconsin (128 pp.) $19.95 | $12.95 e-book | May 6, 2013 978-0-299-29250-8 978-0-299-29250-8 e-book Sweet and sad but generally tender vignettes about a poet/professor’s coming-of-age as a gay Mexican immigrant. González (English/Rutgers-Newark; Mariposa Gown, 2012, etc.) revisits some of the same territory as his American Book Award–winning Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa |


“Due to the fact that Texas is thriving while much of America struggles, it might be wise to consider what Texas is doing right.” from big, hot, cheap, and right

(2006), though this is not a flowing narrative but more like a scrapbook of short pieces, both prose and poetry, few of them longer than a page. As the title suggests, “hunger” provides the thematic thread, not only for food (his family was poor) and later for sex, but also for identity, connection and acceptance. “I was afraid of my hungry gay body,” he writes, though he didn’t realize his sexual orientation until his experiences with an early girlfriend made it obvious to her and to him. His father had mocked him because he was fat, gentle and nonathletic. A Christmas photo spurs memories of his impoverished upbringing that remind him of many others: “At the time of the photograph, I didn’t notice the tree going hungry in the back, its plastic branches spaced apart like bones on a ribcage. The tinsel drooping like strings of saliva. An anemic rosary of Christmas lights. My brother and I knelt in front of the tree, our striped shirts compensating for the dearth of gifts beneath it.” Later, he writes with writerly self-importance of his life as an author: “ ‘What do you write about?’ he asked, and I answered, quite simplistically, ‘Life,’ offering the man I was going to sleep with that night a bouquet of yellow flowers instead of thorns had I admitted, more truthfully, ‘Death’ or ‘Violence’ or ‘Pain,’ as in the horrors that writers will inflict on people who ask for them.” The literary sensibility speaks more broadly to the human condition, as the author relates the particularities of his own experience through shards of memory.

His “horizontal democracy” notion is that there are no leaders; groups attempt to reach consensus with only a “facilitator”— one who does not contribute or comment but just moves things along; everyone has the veto power. The groups eschew formal voting and divide into smaller units for nettlesome problems and decisions. The author even offers advice for how to deal with disruptive folks who just won’t get with the program. Resolutely, proudly left wing/radical/anarchic with an exuberant optimism that usually keeps the tendentious text aloft.

BIG, HOT, CHEAP, AND RIGHT What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas Grieder, Erica PublicAffairs (288 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-1-61039-192-4

“I wanted to write a book that would help people come to terms with the existence of Texas,” writes Texas Monthly senior editor Grieder of her debut. Few states would seem to be in need of such treatment, but Texas is a truly controversial place. The author readily concedes that Texas has its shortcomings—dreadful weather, minimal government services, high poverty and incarceration rates, and a tendency to cronyism—and notes that “Texans themselves seem to go out of their way to offend everyone as much as possible.” In this brisk and sassy counterweight to recent book-length complaints about Texas, however, Grieder challenges common prejudices about the state and insists that Texas is a better place than people expect: “that’s why several million people have moved here since the beginning of this century.” Indeed, the economic success of Texas over the past few decades is undeniable. Grieder explains how the “Texas Model”—“low taxes, low regulation, tort reform and ‘don’t spend all the money’ ”—evolved from the state’s origins as a frontier republic and is supported by an electorate that is pragmatic, fiscally conservative and socially moderate. She also delivers an extensive, perceptive analysis of the state’s politics—how it turned Republican in the 1990s and the prospects for a growing Hispanic population to bring it back into the Democratic column. The author attributes much of the state’s prosperity to its constitutionally hobbled government and pro-business populist attitude. Texans “never developed the habit of expecting much from their government,” she declares, but have instead looked to business and private entities to fill the gap. However, just as these attitudes arise from the state’s idiosyncratic history, so they are unlikely to transplant easily elsewhere—nor does the author suggest that they will. Due to the fact that Texas is thriving while much of America struggles, it might be wise to consider what Texas is doing right.

THE DEMOCRACY PROJECT A History, a Crisis, a Movement Graeber, David Spiegel & Grau (352 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-8129-9356-1

A professor and social activist for Occupy Wall Street rehearses the history of OWS and of democracy and argues for a more “horizontal” approach to political

decision-making. Graeber (Anthropology/Goldsmiths College, Univ. of London; Debt: The First 5,000 Years, 2011) describes himself as an anarchist with a small a. He proceeds by moving through the pasture of democratic history and dispatching one sacred cow after another. Among his points: The Founding Fathers didn’t really want democracy; the American economy is designed to keep everyone in debt; organizations with leaders—and with top-down management—can never be democratic; the media are clueless yet wield enormous influence; capitalism doesn’t work; the current American political system is hopelessly corrupt and needs a revolutionary change. Such a change, he argues, was the Occupy movement, in which he was deeply involved, though not, of course, as a leader. Graeber’s text is a mixture of social and economic history, rages against the machine, political judgments (he’s deeply disappointed in President Barack Obama, whom he calls “a moderate conservative”), Q-andA–style rhetoric and even some professorial pronouncements. |

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THE CHILDREN OF HENRY VIII

Haass points out that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan account for “15 percent of the debt accumulated since 2001” and that “imperial overstretch is, at most, a contributing cause of America’s economic predicament.” Since no power, or combination of powers, represents an existential threat, and great power conflict is unlikely for the foreseeable future, the author concludes that there is an opportunity to restore the sources of foreign power through rebuilding domestically: Restore solvency, encourage domestic energy production and the growth of trade and investment, rebuild domestic infrastructure, and focus on education in citizenship. Haass also notes that there would be further consequences for foreign policy as resources were increased to meet internal as opposed to international challenges—e.g., the current focus on the Middle East and large-scale land wars would need to be reassessed. The author advocates caution in pursuing doctrinal goals, such as the promotion of democracy, arguing that outcomes should not be artificially predefined or constrained by any single path or sequence of events. He hopes “abstractions and optimism do not overwhelm assessments of national interests and realities.” Lessons learned from the recent past and presented thoughtfully as a viable new course.

Guy, John Oxford Univ. (272 pp.) $27.95 | Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-19-284090-5

Guy (Thomas Becket, 2012, etc.) exhibits his flair for narrative and historian’s credentials in this detailed account of Henry VIII’s four children. The lesser-known fourth child was his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, whom he loved “like his own soul.” It is surprising there weren’t any more, as any courtier would “lay down his wife for the king.” The problem of succession was foremost throughout Henry’s reign, and he refused to designate either young Henry or his daughter Mary in the hope that he would one day have a legitimate son. After his break with the church and the birth of Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Elizabeth, Mary lost her household, her royal titles and her status in the succession. Henry made no move to educate his daughters, feeling that women shouldn’t rule and needed no training. Luckily, Mary’s mother and Elizabeth’s governess were able to secure teachers to fill this gap. After Edward was born to Jane Seymour, Henry relented and reinstated his daughters but did not re-legitimize them. Prince Edward and Henry Fitzroy both died as teenagers, curiously enough of the same bronchial pneumonia. The author doesn’t dwell on these men, likely due to the fact that there is little correspondence about them. Mary’s reign was mercifully short, marked by plots on Elizabeth’s behalf. Only the intercession of Mary’s husband, Philip of Spain, saved Elizabeth from the axe. Guy ably illustrates how difficult the constant changes were to Elizabeth and how her cleverness enabled her to withstand and absorb the lessons of adversity. Great for fans of Henry and especially Elizabeth. (14 b/w halftones; 11 color plates)

ARMING MOTHER NATURE The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism Hamblin, Jacob Darwin Oxford Univ. (272 pp.) $29.95 | May 7, 2013 978-0-19-974005-5

Hamblin (History/Oregon State Univ.; Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age, 2009, etc.) explores how ideas about human intervention altering the environment have changed over time. Current preoccupations with fossil-fuel emissions, carbon release and global warming are quite recent. Within the last 50-60 years, scientists and military planners have been working to master large-scale environmental effects, like changing the heat balance between the sun and the Earth or modifying the just-discovered Van Allen radiation belts. “Numerous ideas for creating catastrophic events through natural processes were presented, especially using hydrogen bombs as triggers,” writes the author. Proponents of such military interventions, like theoretical physicist Edward Teller, downplayed dangers to the global ecosystem, on the grounds that the energies deployed by humans were not large enough in scale to effect balances in the long run. Others, like Nobel Laureate Frederick Soddy, worried that decaying radioactive elements from H-bomb tests would ionize the atmosphere and affect global weather. Hamblin shows how successive U.S. presidents have expressed concerns about lack of knowledge and have sponsored treaties, as Richard Nixon did, regarding the banning of environmental modifications. John F. Kennedy, writes the author, “was diplomatically astute enough to see that the rest of the world did not see the

FOREIGN POLICY BEGINS AT HOME The Case for Putting America’s House in Order Haass, Richard N. Basic (192 pp.) $24.99 | May 1, 2013 978-0-465-05798-6

Council on Foreign Relations president Haass (War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars, 2010, etc.) makes the case for “a new approach to domestic and foreign policy.” The author states from the outset that the United States “must restore the domestic foundations of its power” if it is to continue to act successfully abroad. He argues for a rebalancing of issues that bridge domestic and foreign policy. The U.S. could then operate under more realistic premises, less ready to deploy military force “in large-scale, military-dominated experiments.” 50

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THE GREAT WAR A Combat History of the First World War

earth as America’s scientific playground.” Following the careers of scientists and their associations enables the author to document how the collaboration between scientists and the military continued to shape environmental thoughts and environmental sciences after the Cold War, even while the effects of nuclear weaponry were pushed aside. A well-written and -documented challenge of some of the assumptions on both sides in the debate about global warming.

Hart, Peter Oxford Univ. (544 pp.) $34.95 | May 1, 2013 978-0-19-997627-0

Just in time for the centennial of World War I, a look at the major campaigns and battles, with a heavy emphasis on the Western Front. Imperial War Museum oral historian Hart (Gallipoli, 2011, etc.) uses firsthand accounts of the action to give his narrative immediacy. The sources range from frontline enlisted troops to the commanders in chief and national leaders, primarily English, French and German, echoing the author’s contention that the war was essentially decided on the Western Front. While he eyes the larger political agendas driving events on the battlefield, for the most part, Hart looks at the war through the views of those doing the fighting. So, for example, the Italian campaign features commentary by Rommel, a junior officer at the time. The book is broken into chapters looking at the action on a specific front, mostly organized chronologically. Campaigns Hart considers “sideshows”—Gallipoli, the Middle East, Italy, etc.—receive briefer chapters of their own. Hart does not minimize the courage or sacrifice of the troops in these actions, but he makes clear his view that they were distractions from the real work being done in France and Belgium. As a result, he is critical of the performance of the British in the early stages of the war, and he minimizes the impact of America’s entry. Germany, he argues, had to start the war when it did or else abandon its imperial ambitions. As a result, it was weaker militarily than it might have been. Hart also suggests that the French were primarily responsible for holding the line until the British, and eventually the U.S., could help turn the tide. The Germans, on the other hand, recognized early that their only hope was for a knockout blow—one they were never able to deliver. A good history of the war that questions some widely held opinions. Probably not the first thing to read, but anyone interested in the war will find it a valuable supplement. (16-page b/w insert)

THE SAVIOR GENERALS How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars that Were Lost, from Ancient Greece to Iraq

Hanson, Victor Davis Bloomsbury (256 pp.) $28.00 | May 14, 2013 978-1-60819-163-5

An instructive series of portraits of five military outsiders called in to turn defeat into victory. Admittedly arbitrary, pro-Western and biased toward fighters of the “good” wars, these minibiographies by accomplished military historian Hanson (Obama: The Dream and the Reality, 2012, etc.) jump rather jarringly from the ancient world (Themistocles at Salamis 480 B.C.) to the American Civil War (William Tecumseh Sherman marching on Atlanta), without much in between. In all of the struggles, Hanson spotlights the unglamorous backgrounds of these generals, called in when the more upper-echelon leaders had failed; they were able to inspire the rank and file, think “outside of the box” and display unusual cool-headed mettle. Moreover, in retirement, they were often misunderstood, ill-appreciated and even abused. Hanson calls them “fireman,” leaders “asked to extinguish the conflagration that others, of typically superior rank and prestige, have ignited.” For example, in the panic to abandon Athens to the invading Persian King Xerxes, the Athenian lowborn general Themistocles stood like Charles de Gaulle against the invading Germans, as the author compares him, without any legitimacy but fighting words and a cunning plan to make a stand at Salamis despite an overwhelming Persian naval force. In 100 days, Matthew Ridgway, called into Korea in December 1950 after the sudden death of Gen. Walton Walker, turned around the defeatist mentality of the American troops, securing Seoul from the Chinese and North Koreans, restoring the 38th Parallel and convincing his bosses not to penetrate further into Korea. Gen. David Petraeus, too, was able to take a losing scenario in Iraq and employ a counterinsurgency success. However, resentment often hounded the generals in later years. A highly selective chronicle of elaborate eleventh-hour heroics by unconventional thinkers and men of action.

CLEARLY NOW, THE RAIN A Memoir of Love and Other Trips Hastings, Eli ECW Press (280 pp.) $17.95 paper | May 1, 2013 978-1-77041-077-0

A candid, bracing memoir of love, addiction and self-destruction. When readers first meet Hastings (Falling Room, 2006), in the middle of the 1990s, he comes across with a bit of posture: a hepcat, we are to |

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“A valuable addition to the popular literature of the Civil War, well-conceived and packaged.” from the civil war in 50 objects

understand, like Richard Fariña’s Gnossos Pappadopoulis. But forgive him; he was fresh out of high school and about to be flayed by love and death. At college that autumn, he met Serala, a woman from the south of India, a rose with a full complement of thorns, a smoky romanticism and a whispery deepness that speaks of experiencing too much too soon in life. Hastings doles out her character as if skating backward, looking over his shoulder for the next patch of thin ice. There will be many, for Serala nursed and then fully blossomed into addiction and was seduced by suicide, which lurked even after her failed second attempt, when she realized that “we don’t get any stronger, we just become better liars.” Her story is as biting and claustrophobic as Nicolas Cage’s in Leaving Las Vegas, but it is drawn with great affection. Hastings became both her friend and her lover, and he is brutally honest in his assessments of her flaws and of their relationship. He also relates the many other travails he experienced during these years, including the many adventures abroad and on road trips at home, as well as a slew of other fraught relationships—familial and romantic—as Serala moved, now like a shadow and now a devouring presence, in and out of his life. “She enabled years of pleasant fog for me, some of which I regret,” he writes. As elemental, lyrical and cringe-inducing a love story as they come.

little-commemorated episodes such as the valiant charge of 14 New York dragoons against a much larger Confederate force (it did not end well for the dragoons) and the effect of the Union blockade on school primers in the South. A valuable addition to the popular literature of the Civil War, well-conceived and packaged.

OPERATION DAMOCLES Israel’s Secret War Against Hitler’s Scientists, 1951-1967

Howard, Roger Pegasus (368 pp.) $27.95 | May 15, 2013 978-1-60598-438-4

A British investigative journalist offers an intriguing, somewhat circuitous look back at the Mossad’s attempts to thwart the Egyptian missile program. In response to Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s paranoid efforts to bolster his military program in the late 1950s, the equally paranoid Israeli foreign intelligence service kicked into high vigilance, planting operatives in Cairo and even carrying out intimidation and assassination attempts against the key German scientists recruited to the Egyptian missile work. Howard (The Oil Hunters: Exploration and Espionage in the Middle East, 2008, etc.) uses his expertise and research on Middle Eastern defense issues to piece together this complex, shadowy story. In the first part of the book, the author backtracks into the deep-seated history of Arab-Israeli hostility, focusing on the pan-Arab liberation movement led by Nasser, his mistrust of Western leaders born out by the Suez Crisis of 1956, and his resolve to build up the Egyptian military to ward off Israeli attacks and galvanize his own power base among the Arab states. The goal was to build long-range ballistic rockets, and Nasser’s trusty deputy chief of air force intelligence, Gen. Isam Khalil, was sent to Zurich and elsewhere to try to lure some “specialist engineers” to the Egyptian cause. The scientists were disgruntled Germans, specifically ex-Nazis, who were all offered sweet deals to live and work in Cairo beginning in July 1960. Meanwhile, Mossad, led by the legendary Isser Harel, had to find some suitable operatives to infiltrate the EgyptianGerman community, such as the highly convincing Wolfgang Lotz. Ultimately, both sides erred fatally: Harel’s Operation Damocles proved clumsy and politically driven, while the Egyptian rockets lacked a guidance mechanism, which undermined their accuracy. A well-paced narrative as chock full of mysterious revelations as a good spy thriller. (10 pages of b/w photographs and maps)

THE CIVIL WAR IN 50 OBJECTS

Holzer, Harold Viking (416 pp.) $36.00 | May 6, 2013 978-0-670-01463-7

A modern dean of Civil War studies offers an illuminating account of the conflict as reflected in material culture. Holzer (Lincoln on War, 2011, etc.), working through the archives of the New-York (always with the hyphen) Historical Society, unearths treasures, if sometimes grim ones. The first, for instance, is a set of manacles made for a child slave, which serves to establish the incontestable fact that, at least for the North, the war was “somehow about slavery,” as Lincoln said; it also affords Holzer the opportunity to relate that, well after the war ended, some former slaveholders still treated their former property as bonded to them. He closes the book with a copy of the Thirteenth Amendment, outlawing slavery in the United States— which, Holzer pointedly notes, was not ratified in Mississippi until 1995. Elsewhere, the author writes of Northern vexillomania—i.e., the passionate embrace of the Union flag in public demonstrations in New York and other cities following the fall of Fort Sumter. He also notes that “not every New Yorker volunteered to fight for the Union, or even support the Union cause,” and he follows with the tale of one who died in combat on April 14, 1865—which is to say, after the surrender at Appomattox. Holzer’s choice of objects is spot-on, and the anecdotes they occasion are even more so, particularly when he turns to 52

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TEN TREES AND A TRUFFLE DOG Sniffing Out the Perfect Plot in Provence

leads readers up to the edge, then abjures specifics. Not that there aren’t scads of sound, if generalized, opinions about getting something done well—e.g., narrow your concentration, focus, get to the point, get to the heart: “If today your company doesn’t know what its ONE Thing is, then the company’s ONE Thing is to find out.” Success is geometric, not linear. You must embrace chaos, find a supportive environment, block out your time, be committed, accept responsibility and have no regrets— some failure is a given. Pay attention to scale; both the big picture and the small focus are important. Perhaps the best piece of advice is to find a mentor: “No one succeeds alone. No one.” Yet the nub is elusive; “here’s how you get to the answer” is in short supply. So much is circular (“the only actions that become springboards to succeeding big are those informed by big thinking to begin with”), tautological or disconnected: “When you make faster decisions, you’ll often be the one who makes the first decisions and winds up with the best choices.” Encouraging bones of advice worth gnawing on, but absent substantial meat to sink your teeth into. (2-color text with 34 illustrations)

Ivey, Jamie Skyhorse Publishing (240 pp.) $24.95 | May 1, 2013 978-1-62087-635-0

Delectable account of how an ex-lawyer took up truffle hunting in Provence after fleeing the drudgery of an office job

in England. Ivey and his wife left London “determined to experience a better quality of life” in rural France. Together, they built a wine business and dreamed of the seemingly impossible: owning a home in a place where only rich Parisians and celebrities like “Brad and Angelina” could even consider buying property. After a real estate agent showed them an affordable piece of land that came with its own oak tree truffle patch, the couple knew they had come home at last. The cat-loving Ivey then began his search for a “hypoallergenic” canine that he could train to be a champion truffle sniffer and good family pet. That quest led him to Snuffle, a petit chien lion puppy that his wife was convinced looked more like a rug than a dog. As Ivey and his equally cat-loving wife began to adjust to life as canine owners, they faced a string of house-building challenges, from financing to construction, since both were outsiders to the closed world of the Provençaux. Even Snuffle seemed reluctant to cooperate when his master began training him to become a truffle dog. The more Ivey became involved in the hunt for “black diamonds,” the more he bore witness to the back-stabbing, secretive and sometimes even deadly world of trufficulture. Despite the many frustrations and frequent encounters with sometimes-bewildering behaviors and customs, Ivey and his wife both emerged wiser about human nature and happily endowed with a home and truffles to spare. Good fun for gastronomists and travel buffs alike.

TIGER BABIES STRIKE BACK How I Was Raised by a Tiger Mom but Could Not Be Turned to the Dark Side Keltner, Kim Wong Morrow/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $13.99 paper | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-06-222929-8

Novelist Keltner (Buddha Baby, 2005, etc.) examines her struggle to define her own identity as a Chinese-American. Shaping her memoir as a rebuttal to Yale law professor Amy Chua’s controversial and best-selling Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011), Keltner writes about her experiences being raised by a vintage Tiger Mother and her rejection of that model. Only as she reached adulthood did she realize the extent of the prejudice faced by Chinese immigrants and begin to appreciate her family. The author describes how her own mother referred to her as lazy despite the fact that by age 38, she had graduated from the University of California with a double major and published three novels while putting her husband through graduate school and then raising a daughter. Her parents immigrated to America after World War II, and they were intent on working hard to make a success of their new lives, while still holding on to Chinese traditions. Keltner wanted nothing more than to identify with her American schoolmates. In college, she studied English literature and met her husband in a Chaucer class. Even though he was white and only a schoolteacher, Keltner’s parents accepted him into the family and adored their granddaughter. Eventually, she and her husband moved from San Francisco to the less-stressful environment of Nevada City, away from the web of family obligations. The author writes with compassion, humor, love and anger about her mother’s combination of tough love and high expectations. “[N]ot every Chinese parent

THE ONE THING The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results Keller, Gary with Papasan, Jay Bard Press (240 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-885167-77-4

The founder of Keller Williams Realty outlines approach patterns for achieving great results in your work life. Keller opens with a scene from City Slickers, in which Billy Crystal turns to Jack Palance and asks him to divulge the “one thing” that is the secret to life: “ ‘But what’s the ‘one thing?’ ‘That’s what you got to figure out.’ ” This is an appropriate opening, as Keller, with the assistance of Keller Williams vice president of publishing Papasan, also |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Bob Knight

Don’t Worry, Be Pouty By Claiborne Smith

Photo courtesy ESPN Images

Something strange happens when you tell people you’re interviewing Bob Knight. Knight’s new book The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results is out this month, its provocative title jabbing fans of Norman Vincent Peale’s beloved homily The Power of Positive Thinking right in the solar plexus, where it hurts. A worried, frowning Knight, the longtime basketball coach at Indiana University and the retired coach at Texas Tech University, towers over the cover of his new book. He looks like he’s about to unleash the rapid-fire stream of invectives he is infamously known for (just go to YouTube and search for “Bob Knight’s top 10 sound bites” if you’re unaware of his potty-mouthed tendencies). It’s an effective cover design: Knight looks like he’s just itching to reveal his insight to you, if you’ll just buy the thing. It’s possible to research Bob Knight online and occasionally come across mentions of him as “Bobby 54

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Knight,” but in official citations of his name, he is Bob Knight. On his book cover and on ESPN, where he is still a featured commentator on college basketball, he is Bob Knight. When you tell people you’re calling him to ask why he wrote The Power of Negative Thinking, however, everyone you talk to says, “You’re talking to Bobby Knight?” as if they’re BFFs. I know for a fact that my mother does not know Bob Knight, but she refers to him as if she does. My brother-in-law’s father also has never met Bob Knight, but he’s got the Bobby Knight bug too. Despite all of his bitter tirades, caterwauling, mockery and generally scary behavior, people have a soft spot for the man. Certainly many of his former players do, and they suffered the brunt of his blustery force. Knight demanded more than the typical coach from his players. He wasn’t always nice about it, but he expected them to work hard, both on the court and in class. And as his new book reveals, he doesn’t pussyfoot around the truth. “I have seen all kinds of books about winning, often by athletes or business executives whose lifelong record of victories (or profits) is dubious,” Knight writes. “I haven’t seen one intelligent book yet about losing….To me a good loser is probably someone who has had too much practice at it.” Take that, losers! For all his bravado, though, Knight makes a salient point. There are too many books about winning; we live in a culture deluded by the hope that if we just believe something can happen, it will happen. Knight aims to correct that: The Power of Negative Thinking urges readers to consider their mistakes and correct them, not gloat over their successes. He professes his love of the words “no” and “don’t” in the book but not because he’s a meanie, but since concentrating on one’s shortfalls can inspire a positive re-doubling of efforts. Knight’s book is full of examples from his coaching life and will appeal to |


The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results Knight, Bob Amazon Publishing/ New Harvest (240 pp.) $25.00 Mar 5, 2013 978- 0-544-02771-8

many basketball fans eager for the razor-sharp memories Knight offers of the legendary games he coached. But Knight is a discursive writer, citing Lincoln, Sun Tzu, Shakespeare, Tennyson and Eisenhower, among others, on the power of negative thinking. “Let’s say there’s five minutes to go in the course of a game and there’s no way we’re going to lose,” Knight explains to me. “Instead of letting players rejoice, I would say, ‘Now let’s start thinking about that next game. This was a really good win for us, but what are we going to do in the next game?’ I remember very vividly that my grandmother’s favorite saying was, ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,’ and I’ve never forgotten that. I think looking at things with a negative perspective creates a much better observation for the person involved,” he says. “Then you can always investigate a little further; you can always change ‘no’ to ‘yes’ if it’s warranted. But the other way around just causes a lot of problems.” Knight’s style in the book is so cleareyed and logical, and he makes his points so relentlessly, that the book has an urgent feel to it, as if he had been waiting all these years to publish his opinions about negative thinking. Not so. “It isn’t really my opinion that’s out there,” he counters. “What I feel really good about is that I had the idea for this book and it’s being printed. I like the book myself, even if it doesn’t sell a copy. I like what I put together.” And then, like a publicist’s dream, he stays vigorously on message: “There have been so many instances in history” when negative thinking would have improved the outcome, he says. “World War I was ‘charge across the field in to the machine guns of the enemy.’ Why wasn’t somebody smart enough to say, ‘We’ll sneak around those sons of bitches and surprise them’? You know a lot of guys are going to get killed; the history of the military has been full of guys dying for no reason. ‘We’re going to be okay.’ Well, why?” In addition to “no” and “don’t,” “why” is also one of Knight’s favorite words. But he’s not going to be asking why if the book doesn’t hit the best-seller lists. He says he’s content just to have published it, which is another lesson from The Power of Negative Thinking: Underselling yourself isn’t such a bad thing, after all. “I’m like the guy who went to the cathouse and he undressed in front of the madam,” Knight says. “And she said, ‘I don’t know who you’re going to impress with that’ and he said, ‘I wasn’t thinking about impressing anyone but myself.’ ”

Inside Scoop

All kinds of people who don’t know Bob Knight feel like they do, but the chairman of Kirkus Media, Herb Simon, got to know Knight in his capacity as the owner of the Indiana Pacers. Simon says that the first thing Knight told him when they met was, “You have to get rid of the Pacemates,” the official cheerleaders for the Pacers. “They’re a distraction for the players.” These quips from The Power of Negative Thinking reveal why people have an infectious love for Knight despite his curmudgeonly reputation: • “I have a problem with calling God into play for anything competitive—whether asking, or expecting, Him to take sides. I’m familiar with the line from Paul in Philippians 4:13—‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me’—and I don’t think that advisory had anything to do with the mundane world of basketball, or any competitive sport….I also told a Catholic high school football coach one time at his banquet to get Hail Mary out of his backfield and give her a rest.” • “Tolerant people do not make good leaders. Successful leadership is being hard to please—and your players or employees or students know it.” • “You have to understand one thing: I’ve always operated under the theory that if Abraham Lincoln couldn’t please all the people all the time, I couldn’t, either.”

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THE BIG, BAD BOOK OF BEASTS The World’s Most Curious Creatures

rules the home with an iron fist of fury,” she writes. Anything but a Tiger Mother herself, she lavishes love and attention on her daughter. A quirky reflection on the modern immigrant experience and hyphenated ethnicity in America.

Largo, Michael Morrow/HarperCollins (464 pp.) $18.99 paper | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-06-208745-4

THE CARTOON INTRODUCTION TO STATISTICS

In the great tradition of the bestiaries of yore, Allied Artists researcher/ archivist Largo (Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages, 2008, etc.) parades the real, the extinct and the imagined for our shivers and delectation. The author delivers plenty of the usual suspects—griffins, harpies, basilisks, trolls, manticores, the phoenix, mermaids, etc.—as well as fun parvenues—e.g., the Ahuizoti, which was chronicled by Columbus and supposedly had “five hands, with one growing from the end of its tail.” Other interesting entries: the bonnacon, a flatulent European buffalo, which, when frightened, “released a thunderous fart…a sulfur-smelling gas that became flammable and scorched a wide path as far as 100 yards from the beast’s rear end”); the albatross, which can fly for 10 years (true); the Goliath bird-eating spiders, which are as big as personal-pizza platters and actually devour birds; the Mongolian death worm, which “can discharge a harsh yellowish spit that is highly acidic, capable of melting metals and said to be instantaneously lethal to humans”; and the always-fascinating Komodo dragon, whose mouth “is literally a cesspool of biotoxins, containing more than fifty poisonous bacterium, including the deadly staph.” And more: The shock of an electric eel runs to 600 volts, the lantern shark glows in the dark, and the leafy sea dragon looks remarkably like a piece of seaweed. Archival and some contemporary artwork accompanies the entries, most suitably cringe-inducing. However, Largo doesn’t dig very deep here and makes little effort to explain, say, why the bear possesses mysterious significance to so many people or the beaver totemic value. Much remains in shadow, and some readers will wish for more background. Broad rather than deep, but still an entertaining and occasionally enlightening read—perfect for the coffee table or bathroom. (b/w art throughout)

Klein, Grady; Dabney, Alan Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (240 pp.) $17.95 paper | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-8090-3359-1 A gentle, pleasantly illustrated induction into the strange world of bell curves

and chi squares. If you’re numerate enough to comprehend statistics, then is a cartoon approach to the subject necessary? Sure. As graphic artist Klein (The Cartoon Introduction to Economics, 2012, etc.) and Dabney (Statistics/Texas A&M Univ.) note, statistics are everywhere—in sports, finance, government, the weather and just about every aspect of life—and knowing how to make use of them affords us the ability “to make confident statements.” Turning to standard deviations, sampling distributions, probabilities and all the other stuff of the statistician’s art, Klein and Dabney ably show how these “confident statements” are put to use, among others, by politicians, who extrapolate from the numbers to make policy decisions. There would seem, in that regard, to be a 90 percent likelihood that one of the politicians they lampoon is the balloonlike Newt Gingrich, who is no stranger to confident if errant statements of presumed fact. One central fact to which the authors return often is that “the more averages you pile up, the more normal-shaped the pile tends to become,” that normal shape being, yes, the bell curve, “the most beautiful shape in all of statistics.” Though the results are likely to yield that normal shape regardless, then, this is one reason careful statisticians prefer large and random samples. There is some inevitable simplification here—as they note, “in practice…conditions are often more complex”—but Klein and Dabney give a smart, enjoyable overview of this most useful branch of mathematics. Well-suited to middle and high schoolers as well as to adults seeking to brush up their statistical skills without breaking a sweat.

THE POWER SURGE Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America’s Future

Levi, Michael Oxford Univ. (304 pp.) $27.95 | May 1, 2013 978-0-19-998616-3

How far-reaching transformations in United States energy sources and production techniques may be affecting the country and world. 56

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“Refreshingly free of self-serious dogmatism, the author’s study of other religions shows how it deepened his commitment to his Christian faith.” from god’s other children

Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow for energy and the environment Levi (On Nuclear Terrorism, 2009) discusses the significance of what happened between September and December 2008, when the government’s energy forecasters began projecting a significant reduction in energy imports. In a broad-based approach, the author demonstrates how they were reflecting the surfacing of two technological tendencies that had been under way for several years. Since fuel reserves were laid down in geological time and the existence of shalebased reserves is well-known, extraction potentials involve both pricing and the technology needed for recovery, and horizontal drilling and the fracturing of the shale beds (fracking) have provided the means—all while international prices have increased. Levi addresses the arguments of environmentalist opponents while underlining the significance of what some consider to be “the energy equivalent of the Berlin Wall coming down,” with very large gains expected in the years ahead. He traces on-the-ground effects in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the lives of local citizens are being transformed, for both good and bad, and addresses international issues as well—e.g, Russia’s gas supply policy to Europe. Levi also takes up the question of global warming, and he provides useful summaries of efforts to develop hybrid and electric cars, comparing their energy costs with their traditional counterpart. He reviews the power generation of different technologies, and his history of peak-oil scares, first noted in 1909, is particularly interesting. Calm, reasoned and balanced, presenting arguments and evidence, not wish lists and beliefs. (10 b/w illustrations)

also met a Muslim woman who became his wife. Though she converted to Catholicism, her family did not immediately accept her choice. Malkovsky shares how his witness and participation in Hindu and Muslim rituals such as burials and weddings have deeply moved and impressed him, adding yet another rich layer to the expression of human spirituality that can be understood and embraced by all. In a long chapter on yoga, the author takes aim at opponents of the practice, called “demonic” by some Catholics and Protestant evangelicals. For Malkovsky, yoga imparted a rigorous control over the body and a “healthy dualism” compatible with Christianity. Refreshingly free of self-serious dogmatism, the author’s study of other religions shows how it deepened his commitment to his Christian faith.

THE BUSINESS OF BABY What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Before Their Bottom Line

Margulis, Jennifer Scribner (368 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-4516-3608-6

Investigative journalist Margulis (co-author: The Baby Bonding Book for Dads, 2008, etc.) contends that corporate interests are putting the lives of mothers and children at risk in order to increase the bottom line. “Most hospitals have a financial incentive to do as many interventions as possible and deliver women as quickly as possible,” writes the author. The American medical profession ranks so poorly when it comes to maternal and infant mortality that mothers are four times more likely to die during pregnancy or in childbirth than in Bosnia; compared to Irish or Italian women, the death rate is seven times higher. Similar shocking statistics hold for children. The U.S. ranks 49th among industrialized nations regarding infant death rates. While recognizing the importance of factors such as the higher number of older American women pregnant with their first child, the use of fertility drugs leading to multiple births and lack of universal health care, Margulis focuses on the one-size-fits-all, high-end medical care offered to middleand upper-income women despite their age, their ability to pay or their expressed preferences. To substantiate her charge that the medical system puts the interests of “large companies…ahead of the best interests of the mother and her baby,” the author gives examples of women being warned off natural childbirth by obstetricians and urged instead to induce labor using hormones; or better yet, from the standpoint of doctors and hospitals, opt for a Caesarian section. Margulis also examines the claim that overuse of ultrasound to test fetal development and routine administration of megadose vaccinations may contribute to autism, and she finds fault with supplementary bottle-feeding and the overuse of diapers, which causes an unnecessary delay in potty training.

GOD’S OTHER CHILDREN Personal Encounters with Faith, Love, and Holiness in Sacred India

Malkovsky, Bradley HarperOne (256 pp.) $25.99 | May 7, 2013 978-0-06-184068-5

An American Catholic theologian offers a candid memoir about his unusual spiritual journey and a plea for ecumeni-

cal tolerance. A checkered path led the author to his present calling as professor of comparative theology at the University of Notre Dame, as he recounts in these personal essays. Raised in upstate New York, Malkovsky drifted into the Catholic Church via the anti–Vietnam War movement and moved from monastic life to the study of theology in Germany, where he began to learn about liberation theology and “God’s preferential option for the poor.” His interests in the Hindu-Christian dialogue took him to the University of Pune, India, where he frequented the Christa Prema Seva Ashram and immersed himself in the study of Sanskrit. Malkovsky’s years in India profoundly influenced his sense of spirituality—by practicing yoga and meditation, being healed by an Ayurvedic physician, and observing closely the lives of the extremely poor and disenfranchised—but he

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Somewhat extreme views that are nonetheless worthy of close consideration by parents.

to distinguish between demerits born of “shenanigans” and those born of violations of honor, he admits that “low academic, disciplinary, and physical training scores” at West Point threatened to end his career before it began—though his transgressions were nothing compared to the shock against the honor system that the Vietnam-era inflation of body counts entailed. He survived, made significant improvements and fulfilled his goal of joining the Rangers, then began his steady rise through the ranks. His elevation to high command came with the Iraq War, which he recounts with acronym-studded yet illuminating detail, as when he writes that even though there was considerable division among the insurgent groups in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s fall, they still fought “within [al-Qaida leader] Zarqawi’s strategic framework.” McChrystal is cautious when writing of both allies and enemies alike, though he notes approvingly that among the British forces’ leadership was a clear opponent of the war “whose unvarnished critiques of the Coalition’s campaign could be uncomfortable but necessary antidotes to the too-often insular world of military high command.” It was, of course, a series of reported critiques of his commander-in-chief that ended McChrystal’s term; he writes of this without rancor while insisting that the Rolling Stone reporter got it wrong. Less revealing than it might have been, though, between the lines, McChrystal offers plenty of evidence of the fraud and folly of Afghanistan. Likely to be a must-read on the Metro line to the Pentagon.

HOMEWARD BOUND Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity

Matchar, Emily Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $26.00 | May 7, 2013 978-1-4516-6544-4

A well-researched look at the resurgence of home life. Educated and progressive Americans are turning their backs on corporate life, writes Matchar, and moving toward a “more eco-conscious, family-centric, DIY lifestyle.” She feels this “new domesticity” trend is a “shift that has [the] potential to change the American cultural and political landscape.” So why are more and more women and men embracing practices that our grandmothers used to do by rote and which our feminist mothers turned their backs on? Matchar examines the sudden uptick and interest in canning and preserving food, knitting, home-schooling and homesteading. Backyard chicken farms in urban areas, knitting and canning groups, and the explosion of blogs that provide minute details on how to live off the land are just a few of the arenas she explores. It seems many career-oriented women and men are simply not happy in their hectic, overly long days at the office and long for something simpler. Americans are tired of the rush and bustle of the ever-increasing work week, and many prefer to turn down high salaries in order to know the food they eat is from their own garden, the subjects their children learn are actually what they are interested in, and the local and global environments are better for their efforts. This new domesticity isn’t necessarily a rejection of what the feminists fought for but a collaboration of old and new styles of living that embraces the best of both worlds—modern-day technology blended with the older wisdom of our pioneer forefathers and mothers, making a harmonious environment for all. Offers intriguing insight into the renaissance of oldfashioned home traditions.

THIEVES OF BOOK ROW New York’s Most Notorious Rare Book Ring and the Man Who Stopped It

McDade, Travis Oxford Univ. (304 pp.) $27.95 | Jun. 3, 2013 978-0-19-992266-6

Vivid account of an organized gang that victimized public and university libraries in the late 1920s and early ’30s. Rare-book dealers on Manhattan’s famed Book Row along lower Fourth Avenue almost inevitably were offered material of questionable provenance, writes McDade (The Book Thief: The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman, 2006), and they didn’t always turn it down. But three booksellers—Charles Romm, Ben Harris and Harry Gold—actually recruited freelance thieves into their own crooked network. The Romm Gang became so adept at stealing rare volumes and scrubbing off the marks that identified their institutional owners that by 1930, it was sitting on a cache of thousands of books that had to be carefully moved into the market so as not to attract attention. The gang finally overstepped on January 10, 1931, when it hit the Reserve Book Room of the New York Public Library and boosted first editions of The Scarlet Letter, Moby-Dick and an exceedingly rare early collection by Edgar Allan Poe, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. NYPL special investigator G. William Bergquist tracked the Poe to Gold but wasn’t able to prove the bookseller

MY SHARE OF THE TASK A Memoir McChrystal, Stanley Portfolio (464 pp.) $29.95 | Jan. 7, 2013 978-1-59184-475-4

A steely jawed if by-the-numbers memoir of military life—one that, readers may recall, ended in political imbroglio. McChrystal, a military brat like so many career officers, came close to being the class goat early in his years of service. Though he takes pains 58

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“The dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies pens an insider account of the Obama administration’s diplomatic fecklessness in the greater Middle East.” from the dispensable nation

WHY MEN FAKE IT The Totally Unexpected Truth About Men and Sex

had it until he got a lucky break. In Boston, police nabbed two of its key suppliers, who gave Bergquist enough information to persuade New York’s finest to raid Gold, Romm and Harris. The latter two were caught red-handed with stolen books and got jail sentences, but Gold apparently was tipped off in time to hide any incriminating evidence. It took a sting operation organized by Bergquist to retrieve the Poe volume and nail the slipperiest and most brazen member of the Romm Gang. McDade, a rare-books curator at the University of Illinois College of Law, does a nice job of capturing the colorful personalities involved, as well as the morally ambiguous nature of the rare-book trade. A treat for true-crime fans and bibliophiles alike. (6 b/w halftones)

Morgentaler, Abraham Henry Holt (320 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-8050-9424-4

Are most men predominantly defined by penis size and sexual prowess? A seasoned sex doctor clears the air. Morgentaler (Urology/Harvard Medical School; Testosterone for Life: Recharge Your Vitality, Sex Drive, Muscle Mass, and Overall Health, 2008) believes male sexuality is a subject few people ponder and still more seem unconcerned about. Mired in misconceptions, the subjects of sex and masculinity can be heady reading material, but the author simplifies these outwardly complicated truths into a four-part study exploring orgasms, gender development (the author describes his surgery on a hermaphrodite), erectile abilities and challenges, and a quite humorous closer on the prominence of penis size. His engaging study of the intricacies and nuances of the male sex is greatly personified with pages of case studies and personal profiles. After arguing that testosterone levels do indeed impact a man’s energy levels but are not the sole catalyst for determining how good a husband and father a man will be, he addresses crucial issues such as performance anxiety and male image perception. He also doesn’t shy away from the knotty topics of transgenderism and asexuality. In a knowledgeable, sophisticated voice, Morgentaler notes that his clinical research has not only enlightened and improved countless men’s lives, but it’s enriched his own understanding of the male species. While empirical evidence shows that some men do indeed fake orgasms, there’s also proof that in their quest to be “great partners,” they’ve only acted in their “own interest in order to keep [the] relationship going.” A fascinating and gender friendly discourse on the ups and downs of the male libido.

THE FRACTURING OF THE AMERICAN CORPORATE ELITE

Mizruchi, Mark S. Harvard Univ. (370 pp.) $35.00 | May 7, 2013 978-0-674-07299-2 978-0-674-07536-8 e-book

An expert in sociology and organizational methods challenges the view that business has too much influence on government. Mizruchi (Sociology and Business Administration/Univ. of Michigan; The Structure of Corporate Political Action, 1992) argues that somewhere between the second Nixon administration and the first Reagan administration, the American business community began to go seriously off track. The author claims that business has abdicated responsibility for developing and advocating practical solutions to national, as opposed to purely sectional, interests. His view will perhaps come as a shock to those accustomed to the ideological divides of our current political landscape. Mizruchi shows how, in the past, businesses had been prepared to cooperate with both government and labor organizations in the common pursuit of national objectives. The New Deal was not the beginning of government involvement in business. Rather, government organized the corporate form to facilitate its purpose of canal construction and then railroad expansion. World War I was a highwater mark of government involvement, and business under Eisenhower was not ideologically averse to the continuation of the New Deal. Mizruchi takes up the question of interlocking directorates as indicative of the formation of corporate elites and discusses how financial institutions and groups have affected particular sectors like manufacturing and trade groups. The author traces two opposing conceptions of the corporation in economic theory and law: the free market theory, which accords primacy to transactions, freely determined between individuals, not corporations, and the view that a corporation is an organization with rules and goals of its own. Emphasis on shareholders’ returns has strengthened the first and undermined the capacities of the second through weakening management. Intriguing reading for an academic audience. (6 graphs; 3 tables)

THE DISPENSABLE NATION American Foreign Policy in Retreat Nasr, Vali Doubleday (336 pp.) $28.95 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-385-53647-9

The dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies pens an insider account of the Obama administration’s diplomatic fecklessness in the greater Middle East. Drawing from his decades of scholarship and specifically from his two-year tenure as senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke, the president’s special adviser to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nasr (Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What it Will Mean for Our World, 2009, etc.) accuses the |

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Obama White House of lacking any strategic vision for the Middle East and abandoning diplomacy and economic engagement in favor of shortsighted, tactical maneuvers driven by domestic politics and opinion polls. He charges the administration with preferring the advice of the military and intelligence agencies over its own foreign policy experts, a misguided approach that has bewildered our friends in the region and needlessly antagonized our enemies. He fleshes out his indictment with chapters devoted to Afghanistan, where talks with the Taliban were never seriously considered; Pakistan, where we failed to develop any strategy to end that country’s double-dealing; Iran, where sanctions and blustering war talk bid fair to turn that nation into a version of North Korea; and Iraq, where our withdrawal has done little to lessen sectarian animosities that threaten to reignite. Nasr blasts the administration’s failure to capitalize on the genuine opportunity offered by the Arab Spring, where we’ve cheered from the sidelines the fall of dictators with no real plan to help assure that what follows will be an improvement. The author insists he’s writing more in sorrow than in anger, fearful that this broadside will be employed as a “political bludgeon,” but it’s likely that critics—and, perhaps, especially supporters who expected the wielding of “smart power” under Obama— will happily seize on this picture of a foreign policy in disarray. An informed, smoothly argued brief that will surely rattle windows at the White House.

Englishman cannot possibly live twenty-four hours with a Frenchman who commands.” For sheer strange reading, there are ambassador Sir Thomas Roe’s depictions of Eastern courts in “The Mogul’s Birthday” and John Bell’s elaborate “Hunting with the Emperor K’Ang Hsi,” recording a long day of killing everything from hares to tigers. Plenty of shipwrecks, from the Arctic to Virginia, round out the adventures. O’Brian’s fans and armchair travelers will naturally gravitate to this eclectic work.

THE ENLIGHTENMENT And Why It Still Matters Pagden, Anthony Random House (528 pp.) $32.00 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-1-4000-6068-9 978-0-679-64531-3 e-book

Pagden (Political Science and History/UCLA; Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West, 2008, etc.) demonstrates the breadth and depth of his knowledge and his impeccable research of the period we refer to as the Enlightenment. Lest readers are daunted in trying to follow the deep thoughts of the great writers of the 18th century, the author gently explains each outlook, theory and proposal. This was the century of philosophy, but it was also the century when the science of man—i.e., social sciences—came into being. It was Gottfried Leibniz’s “best of all possible worlds.” Seeking to define men and their relationships with nature, and especially with each other, led to this scientific revolution; it was an intellectual process, a philosophical project and a social movement. The figures of the period were a combination of skeptics, epicureans and stoics seeking to build a cosmopolitan world of diverse people with common interests. Pagden impressively illustrates the significant discussions that took place as these scientists, historians and other intellectuals tried to fathom man’s nature and subject dogma to reason. Many readers will wonder at what they would give to be present at Baron d’Holbach’s Paris dinner table with Hume, Diderot, Rousseau, D’Alembert and even Ben Franklin as they discussed religion and a nature-centered universe. These storied men of letters dutifully studied the ages of man in his journey from the beginnings of agriculture to the right of property and division of lands. Pagden serves as a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide through this “particular intellectual and cultural movement.” A book that should be on every thinking person’s shelf— the perfect primer for anyone interested in the development of Western civilization. (8-page photo insert)

A BOOK OF VOYAGES

O’Brian, Patrick—Ed. Norton (368 pp.) $25.95 | May 20, 2013 978-0-393-08958-5

A curiously engrossing collection of travel writings from the 17th and 18th centuries, collected by the deceased author of the Aubrey/Maturin series. The writings, grouped in a somewhat forced fashion by travels pleasant, unpleasant or exotic, preserve their antiquated spelling and stylistic flourishes, providing readers both challenge and hilarity. The purpose of the collection is to inform and edify, as well as entertain and titillate, yet some extracts are so fantastic—such as the description of the queen’s jewel-laden outfit in “The Nabob’s Lady” (1745) or the decision by the starving crew in “The Distresses of the Unfortunate Crew of the Ship Anne and Mary in the Year 1759” to cast lots to eat one passenger in order to support the rest—that they stretch credulity. Lady Craven’s percolating letters to her second husband, the Margrave of Anspach, recording her extensive travels from Vienna to the relatively unknown Crimea, form a marvelous account of provincial and courtly mores, as well as a reflection of her egotism. Dr. Gemelli-Careri’s descriptions of carnival in Venice (“Travels Through Europe,” 1686) are ironical and pedantic. Philip Thicknesse gives some precious “General Hints to Strangers Who Travel Through France”—e.g., “Never let a Frenchman with whom you live, or with whom you travel, be master. An 60

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“A rewarding approach to a well-worn subject, rich in anecdotes, opinion, bloodshed and Byzantine political maneuvering.” from bunker hill

WHEN VARIETY WAS KING Memoir of a TV Pioneer: Featuring Jackie Gleason, Sonny and Cher, Hee Haw, and More

points out that American colonists were the freest, mostprosperous and least-taxed subjects of the British Empire and perhaps the world. A century and a half of London’s salutary neglect had resulted in 13 nearly independent colonies. Trouble began in the 1760s when Parliament attempted to tax them to help pay for the ruinously expensive victory in the French and Indian War. Unexpected opposition handled with spectacular clumsiness by Britain guaranteed trouble. Among Massachusetts’ resistance leaders, most readers know John Hancock and Samuel Adams, but Philbrick concentrates on Joseph Warren, a charismatic young physician, unjustly neglected today since he died at Bunker Hill. His opposite number, British Gen. Thomas Gage, behaved with remarkable restraint. Despite warnings that it would take massive reinforcements to keep the peace, superiors in London goaded him into action, resulting in the disastrous April 1775 expedition to Lexington and Concord. They also sent a more pugnacious general, William Howe, who decided to expel colonial militias, now besieging Boston, by an uphill frontal attack on their entrenched lines, a foolish tactic. British forces succeeded but suffered massive casualties. It was the first and bloodiest engagement of the eight years of fighting that followed. A rewarding approach to a well-worn subject, rich in anecdotes, opinion, bloodshed and Byzantine political maneuvering.

Peppiatt, Frank ECW Press (300 pp.) $26.95 | $17.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-77041-157-9 978-1-77041-029-9 paper

Longtime comedy writer/producer Peppiatt (1927–2012) looks back on his life as one of the busiest men in TV history. Born in Canada just as the Roaring ’20s abruptly segued into the Great Depression, the author graduated from the University of Toronto and, after graduation, much to his father’s chagrin, took a menial job at a local radio station. From there, he gradually worked his way into writing scripts for radio. By 1952, he was a TV writer for the fledgling Canadian Broadcasting Company. By 1958, he and his writing partner John Aylesworth were in New York writing for popular singer/show host Steve Lawrence. During the next 20 or so years, Peppiatt and Aylesworth crisscrossed the country from New York to LA, writing and producing one variety show after another, including Sonny and Cher, the Steve Allen Show, Hullabaloo and even the countrified TV smash Hee Haw. Peppiatt was the classic raised-in-the-Depression workaholic, but he eventually had to choose between marriage to his work or to his wife—of course, it didn’t help that his first wife was a jealous harpy who resented his success even as she embraced its fruits. Banal domestic turmoil aside, though, there are plenty of memorable moments here, especially when Peppiatt finds himself having to deal with drama queens like Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Cher, Doris Day and others. Peppiatt’s prose is conversational and classy, although, disappointingly, there are few clear examples of his professional comedic style. A simple but often fascinating look at TV history through the eyes of one of the medium’s seminal figures.

THE SECRET HISTORY OF VLADIMIR NABOKOV

Pitzer, Andrea Pegasus (352 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 13, 2013 978-1-60598-411-7

Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977) always claimed that art and politics don’t mix, but this new biography suggests his own art tells a different story. In her first book, Pitzer focuses on one of the lingering mysteries about Nabokov: How could anyone so acquainted with the horrors of the Soviet Union (which killed his father) and Nazi Germany (which killed his brother) be so detached from the real world in his work? Born in the twilight of Czarist Russia, Nabokov fled the post-revolutionary landscape and spent years making his name among the émigré writers in Berlin, where he would also be forced to flee, with his Jewish wife and their young son, as Hitler came into power. Arriving in America and landing a teaching position, Nabokov focused on his writing and, as some saw it, forgot the past; he never spoke out against injustice, signed petitions, made speeches or even voted. While Solzhenitsyn was suffering in a Soviet prison camp, Nabokov was crafting an intricate novel about a middle-aged pervert’s passion for a 12-year-old “nymphet.” Yet, according to Pitzer, in his own imaginative way, Nabokov was bearing witness to the horrors he knew. Drawing on new biographical material and her sharp critical senses, Pitzer reveals the tightly woven subtext of the novels, always

BUNKER HILL A City, a Siege, a Revolution

Philbrick, Nathaniel Viking (400 pp.) $32.95 | May 7, 2013 978-0-670-02544-2

National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Philbrick (Why Read Moby-Dick, 2011, etc.) will be a candidate for another award with this ingenious, bottom-up look at Boston from the time of the December 1773 Tea Party to the iconic June 1775 battle. Independence Day rhetoric extols our forefathers’ battle for freedom against tyranny and unfair taxation, but the author |

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THE ETHICAL BUTCHER How Thoughtful Eating Can Change Your World

keen to shine a light where the deception is not obvious. She suggests that Humbert Humbert, Lolita’s predatory narrator, is a Jew who has been destroyed by what he experienced during the war years. Hermann in Despair, the title character of Pnin and Kinbote in Pale Fire—all bear similar psychic wounds, victims of history who sometimes become villains. Though no substitute for Brian Boyd’s definitive twovolume biography, this is a brilliant examination that adds to the understanding of an inspiring and enigmatic life.

Reed, Berlin Soft Skull Press (224 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-59376-505-7

Part food memoir and part an argument for supporting sustainable, locally sourced organic food. Reed traces his transition from vegetarian to vegan to meat-eating whole-animal butcher in political and philosophical terms, rather than on moral grounds. His resistance to meat grew out of his knowledge of the “horrors of the meat industry.” But his love of food eventually led him to a job as a butcher’s assistant in a Brooklyn gourmet food shop, where he realized that he wasn’t going to change the food industry by abstaining from animal products. Little by little, he began to eat meat again while learning everything he could about whole-animal butchery, how farm animals are raised and the sustainability of fish. For readers accustomed to delivering meat to their tables from packages, his descriptions of the butchering process are a graphic and reverential reminder of the once-living creatures we are eating. Reed’s ethical butcher creed includes procuring locally sourced meat from responsible farmers who treat animals humanely; using local, in-season, natural foods with no soy or corn byproducts or genetically modified organisms; providing access and education about traditional farming through community events; and supporting fair labor and environmental practices. To get his message across and close the gap between farmers and consumers, he organized Ethical Butcher projects, such as farm-to-table dinners, across the country. He devotes a good part of the book to guidance and resources for readers interested in community-supported agriculture and organic food practices. The author liberally uses loaded terms, such as “Big Food” and “greedy,” which puts an emotional spin on an otherwise reasonable point of view, and he can be preachy and dogmatic at times. However, he insists readers make their own decisions. A provocative, personal look at food production and locally sustained agriculture that may change the way readers decide what to put on their plates.

THE ANATOMY OF VIOLENCE The Biological Roots of Crime Raine, Adrian Pantheon (496 pp.) $35.00 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-307-37884-2 978-0-307-90778-3 e-book

Neurocriminologist Raine (Criminology, Psychiatry and Psychology/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Crime and Schizophrenia, 2006, etc.) asserts that “revolutionary advances into brain imaging are opening a new window in the biological basis of crime.” The author emphasizes the importance of biology, along with environment, in shaping the individual. He reprises genetic evidence of a predisposition to criminal behavior and the identification of polymorphisms of genes controlling enzymes that regulate neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Brain scans and autopsies show physiological differences in the structure of different regions of the brain, possible effects of brain damage incurred during birth or before as a result of the environment within the womb or from subsequent child abuse. These correlate with a history of violence and different criminal behaviors, making it possible to differentiate the brains of impulsive killers from those of serial killers. Studies of psychopaths show dampened activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that normally alerts us to danger, and signs of stress, such as perspiring, are absent. Individuals with this psychophysiology are not primarily motivated by risk avoidance but by the rewards. “Different biological, psychological, and social risk factors can interact in shaping either violence or self-sacrificing heroism,” writes the author, who makes the controversial conclusion that despite considerations of civil liberties, as neurocriminology develops over the next few decades, preventative incarceration will become an increasingly attractive option. Underlying Raine’s presentation is his stated conviction that socially ameliorative measures in dealing with a rising tide of crime will prove ineffective. While Raine explicitly rules out any notion that biology is destiny, and the implication that criminologists such as himself are modern-day eugenicists, his questionable political conclusions are sure to be controversial, especially in the context of the current debate on guns and the prevention of violence. (8-page full-color insert; b/w illustrations throughout)

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MOTHERHOOD, RESCHEDULED The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It Richards, Sarah Elizabeth Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $25.00 | May 7, 2013 978-1-4165-6702-8

Freelance journalist Richards chronicles how five single women attempted to take charge of their own fertility. |


The author challenges the “cultural stereotype of…Clock Tickers”—women who have reached their mid-30s without becoming mothers. Some of these women are now buying time by freezing their eggs. They have failed to find the right partner, frequently postponing marriage to pursue a higher education and a career. While menopause is not yet an issue, the viability of their eggs, with respect to quality and quantity, is increasingly problematic. Egg-freezing technology was initially developed in the 1980s for cancer patients facing radiation treatment, and it is now coming into use for storing donor eggs as a means of obviating moral consideration about freezing embryos. Although over the years the technology has improved and the potential success rate is now higher (although it is still only 30 percent), the results are best for eggs harvested from women under age 35. In alternating chapters, Richards takes up the thread of her own story and that of four other women in similar situations: their decision to freeze their eggs as a precaution; the search for a potential husband who shares their desire for children; dealing with the physical and financial cost of the procedure; and successes and failures of pregnancy after implantation. She writes movingly about the vicissitudes of online dating and the pain of the breakup of a loving relationship with an ambivalent partner, as well as the anguish many women feel when contemplating a childless future. For a childless woman, Richards writes, egg freezing is “an act of love for her future family,” even though older motherhood is not the most desirable option. A page-turner in which each of the stories is different but compelling.

of spirituality and a drive to tell her story of IVF so that other women would not feel the whirlwind of emotions that she felt before her pregnancy. Röhm openly tells her story of her fertility issues. Thanks to modern science, there are ways to combat aging, but the author encourages women to listen to their bodies; there really is a biological clock ticking inside that does slow and stop. Waiting for the “opportune” time to have a child might not be the most prudent decision. An authentic look at the inability to conceive a child and an alternative route to pregnancy.

OWSLEY AND ME My LSD Family

Stanley, Rhoney Gissen with Davis, Tom Monkfish (260 pp.) $15.95 paper | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-9833589-3-0 In this bio about the man responsible for the highest-quality LSD, the subject keeps his distance from both the reader and the author. As the acid king and the sonic mastermind behind the Grateful Dead’s live sound, Owsley “Bear” Stanley (1935–2011) was a major figure in San Francisco hippiedom, worthy of his own biography, though often relegated to supporting-player status in accounts of the era. This memoir can’t quite serve as a corrective, since the author wasn’t the partner to the man known to all as Bear as she would have liked to be. She took his last name after the two had split, when she left the psychedelic life for dental school and wanted to have the same name as her son that he had fathered. And they were never really together when they were together, because he had another girlfriend who had been around longer and took priority. When the author asked that other woman for help with the book, she replied, “Oh, God, no. I don’t want to recall the little that I think I can remember.” Memory is a key issue in this book, written with the late Tom Davis, for the author leaves little doubt that she was usually tripping, while often simultaneously having sex or dancing the night away, leaving readers to wonder how she could possibly take the notes for direct quotations that can run for a paragraph. Bear, we learn, looked “like a hippie Dracula” and “saw his role as a psychedelic Prometheus.” He abhorred alcohol but ate red meat and enjoyed indiscriminate sex (though he could be jealous when his partners behaved similarly). The author, who worked for both Bear and the Dead, learned that “free sex was fraught with danger.” A memoir that reveals more about the author than her subject, while challenging the truism that if you can remember the ’60s, you weren’t there.

BABY STEPS Having the Child I Always Wanted (Just Not As I Expected)

Röhm, Elisabeth with Adamson, Eve Da Capo Lifelong/Perseus (256 pp.) $24.99 | May 1, 2013 978-0-7382-1663-8 An honest memoir about infertility and parenting, written with the assistance of veteran co-author Adamson. At 34, former actress Röhm (Nerissa, 2010) “lusted” to have a child. But this “baby lust,” she writes, “didn’t come out of nowhere. It arose out of a long and complex history of lusts woven together into a story that became my own.” She had a successful acting career and a steady boyfriend, and it seemed logical to finally heed the demands of her body and begin the baby-making process. Unfortunately, her body had made adjustments of its own and had aged prematurely: “My eggs, at thirty-four, looked more like the eggs of someone who was forty-four.” Swallowing her pride and shame, Röhm embarked on the stress-filled and expensive road of in vitro fertilization. She and her partner were lucky, producing a child on the first try. With motherhood came a new awareness of her own childhood and the difficulties her mother had endured to raise her as a single parent. The author gained a new love of life, a sense |

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“The author of Sissy Nation and other cultural criticisms and histories returns with a long, loving and thoroughly researched look at what he calls ‘a zone of rogues and outcasts from the start.’ ” from the village

MORE THAN THEY BARGAINED FOR Scott Walker, Unions, and the Fight for Wisconsin

The Inside Story of the Reagan Revolution, 1986) tells “the real story [of]…how the nation’s conservative party fostered the great fiscal breakdown now upon the land, and got away with it.” The author laments the failure of officials to permit the financial collapse of 2008 to run its course. “Had this attack been allowed,” he writes, “hundreds of billions in long-term debt and equity capital that underpinned the Wall Street–based speculation machines would have been wiped out.” It also would have “implanted an abiding 1930s style generational lesson about the deadly dangers of leveraged speculation.” The author insists that such an outcome would have been “a good thing” as well as “profoundly therapeutic,” but Stockman fails to offer convincing refutation of the argument that things would have gotten out of control. He chastises Bernanke, Geithner, Paulson and others as agents for Wall Street’s financial power, but the author’s narrow focus on finance does not adequately address the real threat of a plunge into a depression worse than that of the 1930s. However, Stockman performs a real service when he debunks the myths that have been associated with Reagan’s conservatism and promotes Eisenhower’s fiscal and military conservatism. Two such myths, which provide the framework for this massive work, are specifically highlighted. First is his analysis of “where the Reagan Revolution’s fiscal math hit the shoals,” leaving a legacy of permanent “massive deficit finance” and the legend that “deficits didn’t matter.” Second, he traces the roots of perennial deficits back to Roosevelt’s decision to take the country off the gold standard in 1933 and Nixon’s ending of the dollar-to-gold convertibility in 1971. Stockman forcefully conveys enormous amounts of knowledge, but some assertions will be found to be contentious.

Stein, Jason; Marley, Patrick Univ. of Wisconsin (332 pp.) $26.95 paper | $16.95 e-book Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-299-29384-0 978-0-299-29383-3 e-book

An in-depth narrative of the recent battle over the rights and future of Wisconsin’s public-employee unions. The 2010 elections put Republicans in control of Wisconsin, a state in severe budgetary crisis. The new governor, Scott Walker, proposed a budget-repair bill that would severely reduce the influence of the state’s public-employee unions on state and local budgets, in large part by eliminating their collective bargaining rights. The Republicans’ conviction that this assault on union power was necessary to save the state from fiscal ruin, and the Democrats’ equally passionate conviction that they would not permit working people to be stripped of hard-won rights, set the stage for a colossal, no-holds-barred confrontation. The Senate’s Democrats decamped for Illinois, and in the full glare of international publicity, Wisconsin descended into months of high-stakes legislative maneuvers, litigation, recall elections, and huge, raucous demonstrations inside and outside the state capitol, in the course of which “the institutions of the state…at times seized up and ceased to work,” demonstrating “how thin a line could separate a vibrant, respected democracy from illegitimacy and chaos.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters Stein and Marley deliver an impressively objective account of the struggle, ably describing the objectives and tactics of each side in a confident and engaging style. At times, however, amid the tussle du jour, readers may lose sight of the parties’ larger objectives. This may be the definitive history of exactly what each side did to the other during these momentous months: Portions of the resulting law are still before the courts, and it will be years before a sober evaluation of the effect of the legislation on Wisconsin, its unions and its budgetary processes can be undertaken. The authors wisely do not attempt one. A steady, authoritative account of an intensely emotional public-policy conflict.

THE VILLAGE 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village Strausbaugh, John Ecco/HarperCollins (640 pp.) $29.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-06-207819-3 978-0-06-207820-9 e-book

The author of Sissy Nation: How America Became a Nation of Wimps and Stoopits (2008) and other cultural criticisms and histories returns with a long, loving and thoroughly researched look at what he calls “a zone of rogues and outcasts from the start.” Strausbaugh begins his chronological Village tour in the 17th century, when the Indians, Dutch and English were contesting for Manhattan. But once might prevailed, the area— which was indeed once a separate village—evolved initially in the post-Revolutionary era as something fairly upscale: summer retreats for the wealthy. Later, Paine and Poe were there, as was Walt Whitman, who took Emerson for a drink at Pfaff ’s. As the decades proceeded, the author necessarily focuses on key

THE GREAT DEFORMATION How Crony Capitalism Corrupts Free Markets and Democracy

Stockman, David A. PublicAffairs (784 pp.) $35.00 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-58648-912-0

Former Michigan congressman and budget director for the Reagan administration Stockman (The Triumph of Politics: 64

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“A biting, in-depth chronicle of Nashville’s most tumultuous era told through the voices of iconic artists who used their music to accomplish significant changes in the music industry.” from outlaw

A biting, in-depth chronicle of Nashville’s most tumultuous era told through the voices of iconic artists who used their music to accomplish significant changes in the music industry. (50 photos)

individuals, events and places. The many African-Americans who once lived there emigrated to Harlem; the 1911 Triangle fire propelled social change; liberals and radicals arrived, including Lincoln Steffens and Emma Goldman. Writers and artists proliferated, and soon it was a hotbed for small theater productions. Susan Glaspell and Eugene O’Neill mounted early shows there; later came Albee and Shepard. Publications and publishers came, too—The Little Review, Village Voice, Evergreen Review, Grove Press. Strausbaugh charts the music history of the area, from jazz to folk (Bob Dylan will not like his portrait here) to rock. Early and/or sordid death is a theme—from Phil Ochs and Dave Van Ronk to Lenny Bruce. The author spends a lot of time on the emergence of the Village as a battleground for the LGBT communities—from actual clashes (Stonewall) to the desperation of AIDS. He seems saddened by the gentrification of the Village—at the impossible prices and rents that exclude the creative and contentious bohemians of yesteryear. Fine social history humanized with a sort of paradiselost wistfulness. (Two 16-page b/w photo inserts)

IF IT’S NOT ONE THING, IT’S YOUR MOTHER

Sweeney, Julia Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4516-7404-0

A funny look at being an adoptive parent. Former Saturday Night Live comedian Sweeney brings comic relief to yet another celebrity memoir on adopting and raising a family. After numerous unsuccessful relationships, the author decided she didn’t need a man in order to have a child; she planned to adopt and find a husband later. She gathered her energy and applied to receive a Chinese girl, entering into motherhood much “like a golden retriever running after a ball.” Sweeney was hooked on motherhood, but years later, when opportunity opened up an extended window of alone time—no child, no husband—the author was “giddy” with excitement. She reveled in the down time and spent her four weeks writing this memoir, which reminisces about her childhood, finding a suitable nanny during her daughter’s childhood, her failed relationships and life as a working mother (the author has written several one-woman shows). Her thoughts swirled around the complexities of educating her daughter about human anatomy and sex: “it’s like having a waste treatment plant right next to an amusement park. Terrible zoning…. Like your nose and your mouth…they’re both close to each other on your face, but you wouldn’t stick a bean sprout up your nose.” Sweeney also explores same-sex marriage, immigration, prejudices, death and dogs, and she pays homage to her own mother, aunts and friends who are parents, all the while wobbling on the tightrope of allowing her child to become her own person while influencing her in subtle but significant ways. Laugh-out-loud moments blended with honesty and despondency.

OUTLAW Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville

Streissguth, Michael It Books/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-06-203818-0 An exposé of Nashville’s revolutionary musical period in the late 1960s, when it was overtaken by the renegades of song. Told through the lens of three of the most genre-defying voices to hit country music since its inception—Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson—author and documentary producer Streissguth (Communications and Film Studies/ Le Moyne Coll.; Always Been There: Rosanne Cash, The List, and the Spirit of Southern Music, 2010, etc.) delivers an intense account of Nashville’s musical evolution, when artists, particularly Jennings, Nelson, Kristofferson and Johnny Cash, increasingly became “servants of the songs, who chased the music the way it sounded in their heads.” The author educates fans and insiders by delving into the disarming reality of these notorious superstars, delivering anecdotes of performances, drugs and misfortune. At times, the exhausting ego-driven accounts of the musicians’ careers can be a tad much, but they do not undermine Streissguth’s well-orchestrated narrative. Perhaps the most critical truth is the fact that although these men were brilliant, they had to work constantly and consistently to make it in Nashville. “Kris recalls artists who had big hits with his songs urging him to quit Hollywood,” writes the author. “The implication, of course, was that his well had run dry.…‘It was as if I was spending so much creative energy on the wrong thing, performing and movies, that my songwriting was suffering.’ ” However painful their careers might have been at this time, the impact they still hold within the industry is awe-inspiring.

THE END OF SAN FRANCISCO

Sycamore, Mattilda Bernstein City Lights (200 pp.) $15.95 paper | Apr. 15, 2013 978-0-87286-572-3

An outspoken, gender-ambiguous author and activist reflects on her halcyon days as a wild child in San Francisco. The powerful opening chapter of Sycamore’s (So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, 2008, etc.) deeply personal portrait finds the author (then “Matthew”) alternately sobbing at her father’s deathbed and |

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demanding acknowledgment of the sexual abuse he’d visited upon his only son. It’s a raw, sobering scene that sets the tone for this introspective chronicle charting Sycamore’s zany gay youth zipping from one coast to the other in the heady 1990s. Sartorially eccentric with pink dyed hair, the author spent her restless youth commanding a “secret world” drugging and dancing in gay nightclubs and then cruising for men online and in sex clubs from San Francisco to Boston to New York City. She writes of becoming gleefully seduced by the gender fluidity of San Francisco’s house music–powered club scene circa 1992 and participation in AIDS activism with ACT-UP. Her efforts to create a San Francisco counterculture with political activist movement Gay Shame only reiterated how much she’d outgrown the Bay Area. There are moments when Sycamore’s youth captivates with unapologetic, stream-of-consciousness tangents about bygone club life or street hustling, while in other spots, she is poetic and tender, as in describing her own exasperation with gay attraction, wishing sexual desire would “become something else like lying in the grass and holding the sky.” Delivered in a free-form, associative writing style, Sycamore’s effort to exorcise the demons from her past is blunt, dynamic and original. A blisteringly honest portrait of a young, fast and greatly misunderstood life.

and “black America’s demands about identity, the past, Africa, and slavery.” America’s obsession with racial categories was tailor-made for interest in heredity, which has led to eugenics. The last few decades have also witnessed a flowering of genealogical societies and an explosion of profitable genealogical businesses, with both legitimate practitioners and hucksters cashing in. Weil convincingly delineates the fact that origins matter; they fill many needs, from the noble to the nasty.

THE CENTRIST MANIFESTO

Wheelan, Charles Norton (128 pp.) $12.95 paper | Apr. 19, 2013 978-0-393-34687-9

A pragmatic argument about moving politics away from polarities and toward the moderate middle, where the author feels most voters find themselves and most solutions can be negotiated. The word “manifesto” typically generates more passion, but it’s hard to rouse excitement when espousing a shift toward the center. Yet it’s central to the argument by Wheelan (Public Policy/Dartmouth Coll.; Naked Statistics, 2013, etc.) that rabble-rousing emotionalism is part of the problem in American politics, where candidates in both parties feel that they must throw red meat to the extremists who are more involved in the nominating process than they are reflective of the citizenry at large. Contrary to analyses that see the country as increasingly polarized, the author suggests that most Americans are far more moderate and that they can find agreement on plenty of issues where two-party politics continues to find stalemate or gridlock. “The challenges we have to deal with as a nation are entirely manageable,” he writes. “The key is to mobilize America’s inner pragmatism.” The strategy focuses on the Senate, where a handful of centrist legislators from swing states or a tradition of electing representatives from both parties could become power brokers, essential to the sort of compromise that reflects most Americans. Though third-party candidates haven’t typically fared well, Wheelan argues that the difference here is that the centrists will come from the common-sense middle rather than the radical fringes. Leftists will have trouble swallowing his antipathy toward unions, while conservatives will find his positions on the environment and gay marriage suspect. But as he works his way through flash-point issues to consensus on abortion and guns, he strives for a rationality that all but ideologues can embrace. It’s a sign of the times that this sensible plea for moderation can seem so radical.

FAMILY TREES A History of Genealogy in America

Weil, François Harvard Univ. (250 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-674-04583-5 978-0-674-07634-1 e-book

A genealogy of American genealogy. L’Académie de Paris chancellor of universities displays both thoroughness and grounding as he stakes out the contours of his American genealogical culture into four distinct periods, with successive dominant meanings and touchstones. The pre-revolutionary experience was caught up with social status, with a “desire to become part of a transatlantic imperial establishment,” a moral and religious exemplarity that manifested itself in ancestral portraits, gravestones and family silver. But this old-regime mindset was radically eclipsed after the revolution; it was too much at odds with “postrevolutionary America’s future-oriented egalitarianism.” Antebellum America democratized the practice of genealogy, taking its cues from the growing significance of the family, the nascent shaping of a national tradition, and the urge for self-knowledge and stability, as seen particularly in the African-American community. Weil then shifts to the years following the Civil War, when blacks sought to reunite their families and whites sought to heal the country’s wounds via nationalism and ancestry, but “at the expense of racial equality.” During the middle of the 20th century, the interest in genealogy was fueled by the Atomic Age and its attendant anxiety and fears for our collective memory, underscored later by the publication of Roots, 66

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“A tender memoir of love and redemption.” from the lost daughter

VIETNAM A View From the Frontlines

The author unravels Turner’s motives behind his involvement with the United Nations, his anti-nuclear stance, and his love of buffalos and prairie dogs, and he probes Turner’s troubled family history through his early years as a striving businessman and media tycoon, revealing little-known facets of Turner’s complex life. Wilkinson constructs his narrative around interviews with Turner, his family and the multitude of individuals who have dealt with Turner. But the heart of the story chronicles Turner’s evolving environmental consciousness, spurred on by his purchase of Hope Plantation in South Carolina in 1976. In 1987, he purchased his first ranch in Montana. Today, his “portfolio of land covers fifteen ranches, five plantations in the Deep South, a coastal barrier island, a trio of estancias in Argentina’s Patagonia, a scattering of residential retreats, and an office building…in Atlanta.” Turner’s famed buffalo herd now stands at around 56,000 animals, making it the largest ever maintained by one person. Under the auspices of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, a wide variety of at risk-species have gained protection on Turner’s private holdings, and he has lent support for wildlife research around the globe. “[His] lands function as fountainheads of life,” Wilkinson writes. Turner’s burgeoning social and environmental ventures are based on his belief in the “triple bottom line,” a combination of “financial balance sheets, protection of the environment, and benefits to local and larger communities.” A well-wrought portrait of a visionary side of Ted Turner that may be unfamiliar to many readers.

Wiest, Andrew Osprey Publishing (304 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-1-84908-972-2

From the testimony of combat veterans and their families, a military historian assembles a unique oral history of America’s most controversial war. As the Greatest Generation recedes, Wiest (History/Univ. of Southern Mississippi; The Boys of ’67: Charlie Company’s War in Vietnam, 2012, etc.) offers the sobering reminder that their children who fought in Vietnam, “the 18-yearolds drafted in 1965 will turn 66” in 2013. He readily concedes that the individual stories preserved here are only tiny pieces of the war’s vast puzzle, but taken together, they help explain the military service of a million, largely working-class boomers. Eschewing a chronological or a “big events” presentation, the author takes us through chapters of the Vietnam experience as they unfolded for each man. Wiest groups his soldiers’ stories in sections devoted to their prewar lives, their arrival at various induction centers, their weeks of basic training and their entry into the theater of war. The author follows up with passages on their acclimation to Vietnam, where all learn the dangers of booby traps and mines, the terrors of combat, the hospital trials of the wounded, the changing attitudes prompted by the war’s brutal realities, the exhilarating flight out of Vietnam and the sometimes-rocky re-entry into civilian life. Now, decades after the most searing experience of their lives, these soldiers recall a war likely soon to receive a new burst of attention by a second generation of historians. Sprinkled throughout are interviews with stateside relatives, left behind to raise children, worry about their family members or, worse, receive the dreaded telegram informing them of a soldier’s death. No reader can expect to understand America’s most vexing war through this book alone, but none can comprehend it fully without factoring in these firsthand accounts. A smartly composed, affecting memory album of the draftees and volunteers whose service and sacrifice for so long went unacknowledged. (First printing of 7,500)

THE LOST DAUGHTER A Memoir

Williams, Mary Blue Rider Press (320 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-399-16086-8

A tender memoir of love and redemption. Born during the civil rights movement to Black Panther Party parents, Williams (Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, 2005) grew up in a tough neighborhood of Oakland, Calif., where “the world was caught up in a swirling storm of violence, revolutionary zeal, sexual freedom, and creative expression.” Her father was in and out of prison, her mother struggled with alcoholism, and her older sister became a prostitute, so when Williams was raped, she felt it was almost destiny, that she “had been subtly groomed to be a victim all [her] life...I believe I experienced a feeling almost of relief, that this unavoidable event had finally caught up with me.” Then actress and activist Jane Fonda stepped in and gave the bright 16-year-old girl a new life. And for 30 years, Williams avoided looking backward to her birth mother and rough beginnings. She worked in Morocco, Tanzania, Antarctica and Alaska. She hiked the Appalachian Trail and mingled on movie sets with Fonda’s co-workers. And yet, she never felt quite at peace, as she was still full of repressed anger over the neglect and abuse she received as a child. She struggled “to keep the beast caged” and

LAST STAND Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet

Wilkinson, Todd Lyons Press (368 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-7627-8443-1

Journalist Wilkinson (Science Under Siege: The Politicians’ War on Nature and Truth, 1998) explores the back story of Ted Turner’s evolution from media mogul and devotee of Ayn Rand to the most successful and influential green capitalist in the world. |

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FROZEN IN TIME An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II

writes of her feelings in her 40s, “I was an emotional chimera of a two-year-old and a sulking teenager, extremely sensitive to even the most benign criticism or perceived insult.” Her anger went outward toward everyone, including Fonda, who had provided so much for Williams. However, Williams’ anger could only last so long before she realized she needed to change. In heartwarming prose, the author explains how she eventually reunited with her siblings, their children and finally her birth mother. A compassionate tale of soul-searching and family love. (16-page full-color insert)

Zuckoff, Mitchell Harper/HarperCollins (432 pp.) $28.99 | May 1, 2013 978-0-06-213343-4

An intrepid journalist joins a real-life Arctic search team seeking details about “three American military planes that crashed in Greenland during World War II.” Zuckoff ’s (Journalism/Boston Univ.; Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II, 2011, etc.) complex narrative involves the fates of three downed missions to Greenland in late 1942, juxtaposed with the events of the modern-day search effort, led by an exploration company in August 2012 and joined by the author. As a result of the many competing strands and characters, some confusion in the details ensues—though maps and a cast of characters are included to help orient readers. The original lost cargo plane, which contained five American servicemen, was part of the wartime Operation BOLERO’s so-called Snowball Route from the U.S. to Britain; on November 5, 1942, it crashed on an ice cap near the southeast coast of Greenland. Due to terrible winter storms, the plane’s radio messages grew increasingly weak, making it impossible to locate the plane for the subsequent B-17 bomber that took off days later on a rescue mission. Carrying nine crew members, the B-17 hit a whiteout and crashed into a glacier. The broken-off tail section remained intact, allowing the survivors to take shelter, but one man had already fallen through an ice bridge, another grew delusional and another had his feet frozen. In order to rescue this batch, a Grumman “Duck” plane was launched, carrying pilot John Pritchard and radioman Benjamin Bottoms; despite rescuing some of the survivors, the Duck vanished in a storm, remaining unclaimed until Lou Sapienza’s expedition of 2012. Much of the blow-by-blow narrative concerns the plight of the crews, as well as the elaborate outfitting for the Duck Hunt. An exhaustively layered but exciting account involving characters of enormous courage and stamina. (b/w photos throughout)

HOUSEWIFE SUPERSTAR! Advice (and Much More) from a Nonagenarian Domestic Goddess

Wood, Danielle Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (224 pp.) $15.00 paper | May 21, 2013 978-0-86547-889-3

A biography of Marjorie Bligh, the “grand dame of the [Australian] house-

keeping scene.” Novelist Wood (Creative Writing/Univ. of Tasmania; Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls, 2007, etc.) and Bligh were both born in Tasmania, and both worked as journalists. At the time of Bligh’s birth in 1917, Tasmania was an impoverished rural farm area. Her father died when she was 3, and at 14, she began working as a live-in servant. For the next seven years, until her first marriage to a farmworker, her employers trained her in household arts. After marriage and the birth of two sons, she stayed at home, adapting her skills to a modest budget and showcasing them at local fairs, where she bagged most of the prizes. Of necessity, suet took the place of butter and lamb brains substituted for oysters in her recipes, while she artfully recycled clothing and household items. In the late 1950s, Bligh began a career as a freelance journalist, writing about household hints for the local press. This led to a regular column in the women’s page and the publication of her first book in 1965. A new marriage was followed by an update of the book in 1973. After his death, she remarried and wrote an additional five books, including an autobiography. Interspersed throughout this biography are quaint excerpts from Bligh’s household tips. Bligh was not a woman who embraced the life of a stay-at-home mother, but a woman who made a profession out of her housewifely skills at a time when few other options were available to her. A feminist sidelight on a region and way of life unfamiliar to a modern American readership.

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children’s & teen WALKING THROUGH A WORLD OF AROMAS

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Almada, Ariel Andrés Translated by Brokenbrow, Jon Illus. by Wimmer, Sonja Cuento de Luz (24 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-84-15619-48-2

GIANT DANCE PARTY by Betsy Bird; illus. by Brandon Dorman....................................................................72 DOLL BONES by Holly Black.............................................................. 73 REVENGE OF A NOT-SO-PRETTY GIRL by Carolita Blythe............ 73 MARY WRIGHTLY, SO POLITELY by Shirin Yim Bridges; illus. by Maria Monescillo....................................................................74 THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET by Nancy J. Cavanaugh........................................................................76 MISSING MOMMY by Rebecca Cobb...................................................78 RAPTURE PRACTICE by Aaron Hartzler.......................................... 89 DARK TRIUMPH by Robin LaFevers.................................................. 92 SEE ME DIG by Paul Meisel...............................................................100 DARIUS & TWIG by Walter Dean Myers...........................................101 EVERYONE CAN LEARN TO RIDE A BICYCLE by Chris Raschka................................................................................105 SUGAR by Jewell Parker Rhodes.......................................................106 THE MEANEST BIRTHDAY GIRL by Josh Schneider........................109

Like Water for Chocolate for the picture-book set. In this gentle tale, Annie is born blind but in time learns to navigate the world not through touch or memory, but smell. This talent serves her well in the kitchen, where her talent extends to creating meals that evoke fond memories and bring folks out of funks. When a melancholy young man named Julian comes to her for a cure for his lethargy, it becomes clear that the solution to his problem isn’t the cooking but the cook herself. And when Annie finds their conversations solve Julian’s problems, not her creations, she decides to make him something special. Though the tale is arguably an irresponsible and romanticized vision of blindness (a child might easily misunderstand why it is that Annie only opens her eyes at the very end), Almada’s magical realism tips the story into the realm of fable. Wordier than your average picture book, the translation is still light on its feet and enjoyable to the ear. Better still are Wimmer’s effervescent illustrations, which dance about the text, bringing it fully to life. Though the abrupt ending will raise more questions than answers, this is a grand story wrapped up in delicious packaging. (Picture book. 4-8)

RUMP by Liesl Shurtliff...................................................................... 111

TILLIE PIERCE Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg

BLUEBIRD by Bob Staake................................................................... 112

Anderson, Tanya Twenty-First Century/Lerner (96 pp.) $25.95 e-book | $34.60 PLB | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4677-1057-2 e-book 978-1-4677-0692-6 PLB

MOJO by Tim Tharp...........................................................................114 STUNG by Bethany Wiggins...............................................................119 P.S. BE ELEVEN by Rita Williams-Garcia.......................................119

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An insightful perspective on one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War seen through the eyes of a 15-year-old girl. Tillie Pierce was a normal teenager for her time, but she became an unlikely heroine when the Civil War literally came to her backyard in Gettysburg. Tillie and other women and girls like her found themselves trapped during this critical three-day

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battle in southern Pennsylvania in July 1863. Compensating for a lack of training with extraordinary courage and compassion, Tillie and other Gettysburg citizens helped save the lives of countless wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. Anderson wisely relies heavily on Tillie’s own words in the narrative. Her eyewitness observations are vivid and compelling: “The approaches were crowded with the wounded, dying and dead. The air was filled with moanings, and groanings. As we passed on toward the house, we were compelled to pick our steps in order that we might not tread on the prostrate bodies.” Archival images, including photographs and prints, add critical visuals, while occasional sidebars flesh out some details. Particularly helpful are the maps that occasionally orient readers. Tillie’s words bring the sights, sounds and smells of a civilian and teenager experiencing war straight to today’s readers in a way a retrospective account cannot. (source notes, suggestions for further reading) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

THE SHADOW GIRL

Archer, Jennifer Harper/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-06-183460-8 978-0-06-220300-7 e-book An 18-year-old and her imaginary friend investigate her parents’ dark secrets. Lily’s been home-schooled all her life, but she’s not lonely. She has friends: loyal Wyatt, punky Sylvie and Iris, the invisible girl who’s been speaking to her since she was 4. Aiming for college, Lily is ready for her life to change, but it changes too much when her father dies in a terrible accident. Friction worsens between Lily and her grieving, elderly mother as the tragedy exposes secrets Lily needs to understand. Why were her parents always so secretive? Why are there photos that look like Lily’s in places she’s never been? Why is there a hidden violin in her father’s workshop— and why is Lily convinced she would be able to play it? Clearly it has something to do with her father’s secret past in bioengineering; Lily has frightening and inexplicable memories of scientists. Meanwhile, an attractive stranger, new to their tiny mountain town, is courting Lily. Is Wyatt’s seething distrust mere jealousy, or does the stranger have nefarious plans? While the premise is science fiction, the science itself is hand-wavy. With the coming-of-age and love triangle taking center stage, rather than the science or its ethics, a nicely paced reveal of Lily’s mystery devolves to an anticlimactic, feel-good conclusion. Promising start, disappointing conclusion (Science fiction. 13 & up)

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IT’S NOT FAIRY

Asquith, Ros Illus. by Asquith, Ros Frances Lincoln (28 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-84780-236-1 Rhymed and subversively, hilariously funny, this British import might well spark discussion while amusing mightily. The It’s Not Fairy looms on the title page, with lavender, toes-turned-up sneakers, torn-paper wings and a pale blue face. Mary complains when Billy gets ice cream but she just has a pear, and Billy does the same when Mary wins a costume prize and he does not. “IT’S NOT FAIR!” Their parents threaten them with the It’s Not Fairy, but…Dad carries on when he does dishes and no one helps, and Mum when she does all the housework with no help. “IT’S NOT FAIR!” The It’s Not Fairy, enraged by all the whining, announces she is going to just eat everyone up (on the menu: Fried Father with PAmesan). The horrified children placate the fairy by making a list of all the ways they are going to help each other and their parents to make life a little more fair. When the It’s Not Fairy grouses that now she has nothing to eat, everyone complains and carries on until they collapse in an affectionate heap. Even the fairy. A recipe for It’s Not Fairy Cakes is included, chopped-up fairy optional. The illustrations are wild and squiggly and full of wonderful patterns, and the typeface joins in with the fun. May not end complaining altogether, but it’s sure to get a lot of laughs. (Picture book. 4-8)

IT’S A MITZVAH, GROVER!

Balsley, Tilda; Fischer, Ellen Illus. by Leigh, Tom Kar-Ben (24 pp.) $16.95 | $6.95 paper | $12.95 e-book Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7613-7562-3 978-0-7613-7563-0 paper 978-1-4677-0992-7 e-book Can a book do its job too well? The story is basic enough: Grover and his Israeli friends want to clean up a playground. Moishe Oofnik refuses to help them, because he’s a grouch. (He lives in a trash can like Oscar, his American cousin on Sesame Street.) But Moishe is more than willing to accept the discarded trash from the play area. He even weeds out the items that aren’t garbage. “Recycling is a mitzvah!” Grover says, to Moishe’s chagrin. “Moishe, you are doing a mitzvah.” Oddly, though, the simple plot is interrupted, halfway through the book, for a lesson in color theory. As the Muppets paint the swing and slide, they talk about the colors they’ve chosen. Mahboub has picked yellow, “like sunflowers, loquats, lemons, and grapefruit.” Mahboub goes on to explain that yellow and blue make green. The characters even teach some Hebrew words. Doing a mitzvah is helpfully—if not quite

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“Toothy and unkempt, with wild eyes and a temper tantrum of a roar—‘I wanna go camping NOW!’—Stewart fully embodies a preschooler who has not yet mastered the art of waiting.” from this monster cannot wait!

correctly—translated as doing “something nice for others.” It’s hard to fault a book for teaching too many valuable lessons. But after four straight pages, the lecture on colors turns into a distraction. Still, talking about colors is perfectly in character for Muppets. (Grover’s friends come from Shalom Sesame, set in Israel.) And when readers take a look at the seesaw, painted in rainbow colors, they may forgive everything. Mitzvahs galore for Muppet lovers. (Picture book. 2-6)

WHITE LINES

Banash, Jennifer Putnam (304 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 4, 2013 978-0-399-25788-9

nothing works. Then Stewart realizes that if he could just make the end of the story come faster, camping would come faster too! Crumbling the fourth wall for readers, he reaches down to tug at the corners of the pages, while eagerly ripping another completely in half. Fortunately, Stewart’s parents are not amused and make him tape the book back together. Toothy and unkempt, with wild eyes and a temper tantrum of a roar— “I wanna go camping NOW!”—Stewart fully embodies a preschooler who has not yet mastered the art of waiting. Barton’s sprawling, hand-lettered text and its buoyant placement match the urgency of Stewart’s desperation. Patience is certainly a virtue, and one that is difficult to learn. For youngsters working on self-control (a school-readiness skill), Stewart does…eventually…learn that good things come to those who wait. (Picture book. 3-5)

Despite the title’s obvious drug reference, this is less a scare-’em-straight story than a memoirlike account of a lost club kid navigating 1980s New York’s underground parties. At 17, Cat lives in an apartment in New York’s East Village, away from her physically and emotionally abusive mother and her distant father. She spends some time at school and some with her pre–club-scene friend Sara, but her home is Tunnel, the club where she throws a regular party. By the time readers meet Cat, she has begun to weary of the scene and its drug-heavy lifestyle; in fact, despite a few joyous flashbacks, it is initially difficult to understand the club scene’s appeal. Patient readers, however, will see Cat’s life slowly unfold through the flashbacks, painful conversations and a constant cycle of parties and exhaustion. The prose and dialogue are largely evocative, though some of the imagery comes out overwritten (“The early winter sky outside the window is a leaky ballpoint pen”). The characters are diverse and carefully drawn, from Cat’s friend and fellow club kid Giovanni to her frightening employer Christoph, and the overall mood is intense without ever aiming for shock value. Subtle, sad and, eventually, hopeful. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

THIS MONSTER CANNOT WAIT!

Barton, Bethany Illus. by Barton, Bethany Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 18, 2013 978-0-8037-3779-2

Stewart, from This Monster Needs a Haircut (2012), is going camping for the first time, and he (literally) cannot wait. The camping trip is five whole days away. That is agony for such an impulsive and excitable monster. (Even on the title page, he’s already urging readers to “Just read the book already!”) In the hopes of speeding things up, Stewart paints the clocks, changes the calendar and even builds a time machine—but |

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“Viewers who linger over each scene will be rewarded with small birds, flowers and other background details, plus all sorts of enticing found objects.” from when we go walking

NONNA’S BIRTHDAY SURPRISE Lidia’s Family Kitchen

Bastianich, Lidia Illus. by Graef, Renée Running Press Kids (56 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7624-4655-1

The chef and television personality makes another charming foray into family and food history (Nonna Tell Me a Story, 2010). Nonni Lidia welcomes her five grandchildren into her kitchen to discover that they want to make dinner for their great-grandmother Nonna, who is 92. Lidia tells them about growing up in Istria in Italy, where her family grew or raised much of their food, and the joys of eating by season. At the local farmers’ market, Nonni Lidia gives each child some money and tells them to buy what seems good to them. With the lovingly described tomatoes, basil, cheese and asparagus the children buy, they come home to make pasta primavera. There is something of an overuse of the word “special,” and exclamation points are sprinkled about with abandon. Still, Lidia’s exhortations about seasonal, fresh and healthful eating and her celebration of the sensuous joys of touching, tasting and experiencing food are evocative and winning. The 18 recipes at the back are excellent; they are aimed at adults and accompanied by a sensible list of what kids can do to assist in preparing each one. Graef ’s illustrations are rosy, and the people, animals and foodstuffs are depicted with plump, round edges; all are washed in the golden light of memory. Grazie! for this warm celebration. (Picture book/cookbook. 6-10, adult)

THE ULTRA VIOLETS

Bell, Sophie Illus. by Battle, Chris Razorbill/Penguin (256 pp.) $12.99 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-59514-603-8 The tongue-in-cheek origin story of hypersparkly, girl-power superheroes. In a rather extended prologue, second-graders Iris, Cheri, Scarlet and Opaline’s sleepover party at the laboratory their mothers work at goes awry when they are splashed by a volatile, mysterious chemical. Shortly after, the foursome is broken apart by parental moves and new schools. Four years later, the group reunites just in time for the chemical’s alterations to their DNA to be made manifest. Artistic Iris has grown purple hair and has the ability to change things’ colors; Cheri has super math powers and can telepathically communicate with her beloved animals; tough tomboy Scarlet gains super dance powers. But while her friends bond over trying out their new superpowers, shy Opal feels left out, as her abilities are slow to develop. Meanwhile strange, mutated creatures are attacking 72

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the town, and they’re connected to the mysterious “bio-cosmetic” company BeauTek. BeauTek is located in the vacant Mall of No Returns, whose storefronts parody chain stores and feature labs, not merchandise, run by a six-inch-stiletto–wearing madwoman. The main storyline meanders past subplot after subplot, taking far too long to get started. The chatty, pun-filled narration will engage readers but only partially makes up for the padded length. Battle’s illustrations give a cartoony, Powerpuff Girls vibe that meshes perfectly with the voice. Girls will overlook its flaws to find a superhero story written for them. (Adventure. 8-12)

WHEN WE GO WALKING

Best, Cari Illus. by Brooker, Kyrsten Amazon Children’s Publishing (32 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-1-4778-1648-6 Family strolls down Rambling Road in every season turn into treasure hunts for 5-year-old Wendy. And what treasures she finds! As other family members simply point out animals, a plane passing overhead and other sights (Abe the toddler is big on colors), everything else—from a wagon wheel to a broken kite, from loose letters and numbers to a pencil that works and a clock that doesn’t—goes in her collecting bag. The trash and litter are scrupulously brought to the dump, but what will she do with all the rest? When winter snows bring a (temporary) stop to outdoor walks, she assembles a “Rambling Road” in her room, inviting her appreciative clan in for a visit. Muted colors and smiling, softly rounded figures add cozy notes to Brooker’s paint-and–photo-collage illustrations. Viewers who linger over each scene will be rewarded with small birds, flowers and other background details, plus all sorts of enticing found objects. A tempting invitation to turn any walk into an equally fruitful ramble, even if the treasures are gathered only by eye rather than by hand. (Picture book. 4-6)

GIANT DANCE PARTY

Bird, Betsy Illus. by Dorman, Brandon Greenwillow/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-06-196083-3 Lexy lives to dance, but she dreads those terrifying recitals. Somehow all the joy she feels in dancing deserts her entirely when she is on a stage in front of an audience. She freezes like an ice pop. All her efforts at overcoming this phobia fail, so she quits dance school. She decides to take a totally different approach by becoming a dance teacher, since they don’t have to perform. But in spite of great advertising and preparation, not a single pupil appears. The tale leaves

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the realm of the ordinary by introducing a group of fuzzy giants who truly love to dance, begging Lexy to teach them. Soon, they are leaping and step dancing and doing the twist. But at their recital, they turn into matching ice pops. Lexy leaps onto the stage, dances with joy and thaws the giants, who join her in a rip-roaring, crowd-pleasing spectacle, and, voila, stage fright is over for all of them. Strong, action-packed language and syntax that speaks directly to readers keep the tale flowing at a brisk pace and make the fantasy elements completely believable. Lexy is a charmer, full of pep and verve and enthusiasm, fully realized in Dorman’s large-scale digital illustrations as she sprightly cavorts through the pages. Sheer joy. (Picture book. 3-8)

DOLL BONES

Black, Holly McElderry (256 pp.) $16.99 | May 7, 2013 978-1-4169-6398-1 A middle-grade fantasy dons the cloak of a creepy ghost tale to deliver bittersweet meditations on the nature of friendship, the price of growing up and the power of storytelling. The lifelong friendship of Zach, Poppy and Alice revolves around their joint creation, an epic role-playing saga of pirates and perils, queens and quests. But now they are 12, and their interests are changing along with their bodies; when Zach’s father trashes his action figures and commands him to “grow up,” Zach abruptly quits the game. Poppy begs him to join her and Alice on one last adventure: a road trip to bring peace to the ghost possessing her antique porcelain doll. As they travel by bus and boat (with a fateful stop at the public library), the ghost seems to take charge of their journey—and the distinctions between fantasy and reality, between play and obligation, begin to dissolve....Veteran Black packs both heft and depth into a deceptively simple (and convincingly uncanny) narrative. From Zach’s bitter relationship with his father to Anna’s chafing at her overprotective grandmother to Poppy’s resignation with her ramshackle relations, Black skillfully sketches their varied backgrounds and unique contributions to their relationship. A few rich metaphors—rivers, pottery, breath—are woven throughout the story, as every encounter redraws the blurry lines between childishness and maturity, truth and lies, secrecy and honesty, magic and madness. Spooky, melancholy, elegiac and ultimately hopeful; a small gem. (Fantasy. 10-14)

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REVENGE OF A NOT-SOPRETTY GIRL

Blythe, Carolita Delacorte (336 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-385-74286-3 978-0-307-97845-5 e-book 978-0-375-99081-6 PLB Disregard the awkward and misleading title. This exhilarating, generous-hearted tale with a smart, funny, caustically observant protagonist is about so much more than revenge: distinguishing what matters from what doesn’t, taking risks, making mistakes and paying for them. Faye, 14, and her troubled, abusive mother, a domestic worker, live in Brooklyn. It’s 1984; adrift and at risk, Faye engages in petty crime with two other girls. While robbing an elderly white woman rumored to have once been a movie star, Faye knocks her to the floor. Later, Faye can’t stop thinking about her. Has Faye killed her? Is that why her life’s going badly? Two days later, Faye returns, finding the woman still on the floor but alive, and she chooses to help her. A frail friendship is born. Taking conscious action nurtures Faye’s self-respect, expands her horizons and transforms her relationships. Her actions affect others, causing them to take action that affects her, insights prompting forgiveness and understanding. She realizes she’s been applying the same superficial judgments— good-looking equals better—she objects to when applied to her. (Like Siobhan Vivian in The List (2012), Blythe explores issues of physical appearance in rare depth.) Some mistakes aren’t fixable, Faye learns, but she’ll keep trying to fix them anyway. Solidly grounded in the gritty realities of daily life, Faye’s discoveries feel earned. A compelling and believable journey. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

TAKEN

Bowman, Erin HarperTeen (368 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-06-211726-7 978-0-06-211728-1 e-book Debut author Bowman takes readers on a suspenseful trek through a dystopian landscape. Gray has reached the age of 17 in a primitive town that’s defined by what happens to boys on their 18th birthdays: They are Heisted away, never to return. Gray is frustrated by the community’s calm, resigned acceptance of the boys’ shocking fate, so after his brother Blaine’s Heist, he determines to go over the massive wall that contains the town to search for the explanation for their grim existence. Unexpectedly, his almost-a-girlfriend Emma follows him. On the other side of the wall, they are both

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“Understated and sunny itself, this picture book subtly prescribes behavior appropriate for situations dire and everyday. So, um, well, will you give it a read...please?” from mary wrightly, so politely

captured—or possibly befriended—by the Franconian Order, which runs the modern, water-starved city of Taem. The story they are told is quickly contradicted by other information they discover, leading to the pressing need to identify possible helpers who might oppose the brutal followers of Frank or the rebels (including attractive Bree) who operate outside the city. The story is told in Gray’s first-person narration, with occasional conveniently found documents to supplement back story that he can’t provide. While suspense is often palpable, other times, plot elements don’t fully add up—the Heists are conducted with helicopters (that no one sees because they’ve been drugged), and Emma remains safe but unfaithful in Taem after Gray escapes—diminishing the impact for discerning readers. In spite of a few flaws, readers will eagerly await the next installment. (Dystopian adventure. 12-18)

HE’S BEEN A MONSTER ALL DAY!

Brennan-Nelson, Denise Illus. by Moore, Cyd Sleeping Bear Press (32 pp.) $14.99 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-58536-827-3

A mother’s descriptive complaint sets her misbehaving preschooler to imagining the enjoyment of the crude mischief of a monster’s life. Transforming himself into a scaly-skinned, green-faced ghoul, this boy begins to growl and grumble, sneer and scowl. He befriends the pet monster under his bed and makes general mayhem. This little guy revels in the grime of the gooey, slimy mud, loudly revving up his monster trucks and staying up all night, unafraid of the dark. But without manners and basic courtesy (please and thank you), he realizes that playing solo is disappointingly unpleasant. “Being a monster isn’t so great. / I’m going home—hope it isn’t too late….” Cozy in bed, sweetness returns him to a brown-haired, smooth-featured, sleepy little human. Moore’s soft-toned, gentle and whimsical cartoon drawings in pencil and watercolors easily complement the smoothly readable, rhyming text. Much like Sendak’s beloved Max, this child needs some time to exercise his outrageous thoughts before coming to terms with his own self-control. The comparison to Max is so obvious the book can’t help but suffer from it, but it makes its own small rumpus. This young monster’s journey could inspire some selfreflection on those cranky, crabby days. (Picture book. 3-5)

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ECHO

Brewster, Alicia Wright Dragonfairy Press (291 pp.) $14.95 paper | Apr. 25, 2013 978-0-9850230-2-7 Proving character-driven science fiction is not an oxymoron, Ashara Vinn pulls readers into her world on page one and never lets go. It’s a world in trouble: Earth-Two, long settled by humans, will end in 10 days. Calling up all elemental practitioners to help, the Council elders have averted catastrophe only by repeatedly rewinding time back 10 days before the end. With each rewind, they become weakened echoes of their original selves. Now in the fifth rewind, their efforts focus on eliminating the Mages—formerly human “ether manipulators” whose elemental energies have consumed their humanity—causing the crisis. Drafted as an Ethereal, Asha’s pleased but perplexed—she’s shown no powers so far. Why is Loken, the non-Ethereal guy who dumped her last year, leading her training group? Her fellow trainees are far ahead, having had years to develop their powers, but after a slow start, Asha connects stunningly with hers. A Mage killed her younger brother, so she’s eager to go after them. She’s more conflicted about the largely peaceful Believers who worship the two suns as gods and oppose the intervention. Fully realized characters from Asha to the walk-ons lend their intense authenticity to the plot, which straddles the line between fantasy and science fiction, and deflect attention from the rubber science. This world has depth, mirroring the memorable characters who populate it. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

MARY WRIGHTLY, SO POLITELY

Bridges, Shirin Yim Illus. by Monescillo, Maria Harcourt (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-547-34248-1 Mary Wrightly’s so soft-spoken and well-mannered she sometimes gets overlooked, but when her polite passivity almost allows the perfect birthday gift for her baby brother to slip away, she pipes up. Vibrant pastel drawings on cardboard (with discreet digital retouching) delight with crinkly textures and radiantly rich pinks, reds and blues. Rounded inset scenes appear alongside full-bleed pages, adding visual interest to a simple story about a trip to the toy store. Empathetic illustrations successfully evoke little Mary’s suppressed voice and her mounting anxiety as each toy she selects is snatched up by a more aggressive shopper. Mary’s wide face beseeches with diminutive (almost recessed) eyes, nose and mouth, appropriately modest features for a shy girl who shrinks inward. At last, her great assertion comes with an enlarged font and an immense close-up of

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her moon face in an open-mouthed shout. Children who feel unheard when mommy chatters on the phone or when daddy clicks on the computer know exactly how mute Mary feels as she tugs on her mother’s arm, hoarsely asking for help landing the gift. Every child will enjoy joining in on this book’s irresistible refrain, repeated throughout: “Mary Wrightly, so politely.” Understated and sunny itself, this picture book subtly prescribes behavior appropriate for situations dire and everyday. So, um, well, will you give it a read...please? (Picture book. 3-6)

ANTHEM FOR JACKSON DAWES

Bryce, Celia Bloomsbury (256 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-59990-975-2

A movingly told British import about a teen girl with cancer treads some familiar ground. When Megan arrives at a children’s hospital to receive her first round of chemotherapy, she immediately meets Jackson Dawes. The only other teenager in the hospital wing, Jackson is quirky, mischievous, charismatic and great with children. He immediately insinuates himself into Megan’s life by popping into her hospital room. His company at first irritates, then delights her. As Megan’s illness begins to distance her from her school friends, she finds comfort and companionship in the cancer ward’s kind nurses and lovable children. She finds it especially in Jackson, who comforts her with Jamaican storytelling and helps cut her hair when it starts to fall out. The thirdperson narrative voice is evocative and observant, and Megan’s changing relationships with friends, family and fellow sufferers are compelling. It is difficult, however, to read a contemporary teen cancer story without recalling John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which masterfully dismantled cancer-related clichés. Here, many of the tropes Green addressed are left unexamined: A noble Cancer Kid remains full of life until the very end; a death is made easier by platitudes and the knowledge that the dead person’s family has contributed to other children’s fight against the disease. Sentimental but uncritical. (Fiction. 12-18)

STOLEN MAGIC

Burgis, Stephanie Atheneum (400 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4169-9451-0 Series: Kat, Incorrigible, 3 Romance, intrigue and scandalous magic among the mostly highborn in Regency England. Kat’s out of sibling projects with Elissa married and Angeline soon to be; |

even her scapegrace brother, Charles, has reformed. Kat’s enemies have delayed her initiation into the Order of the Guardians that expelled her mother for practicing witchcraft, even though—or perhaps because—she unmasked a highborn traitor among them. She’s waiting for a portal to reach the Golden Hall, having sacrificed hers to save Charles. Angeline’s wedding to Frederick Carlyle at Hepworth, his family’s stately home in Devon, soon provides scope for Kat’s talents. En route, a suspicious accident overturns their carriage, yet Papa’s oddly uncomfortable when the Marquise de Valmont comes to their rescue. Attempts to sabotage the wedding continue at Hepworth. Is Mrs. Carlyle responsible? She’d prefer Frederick marry his cousin, Jane. When the Order’s portals are stolen, the unspeakable Lady Fotherington suspects Kat, whose own suspicions center on the angry, mysterious boy who’s been following her. Though Kat’s longing for the mother she never knew sounds a note of gravitas, the now-too-familiar characters and predictable plotting call for freshening. A final plot twist that moves the series action beyond lives of the rich and titled could do the trick next time around. Kat’s fans will want to hang on for Book 4. (Historical fantasy. 10 & up)

WORLD FOOD ALPHABET

Caldicott, Chris Illus. by Caldicott, Chris Frances Lincoln (28 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-84780-284-2

A globe-spanning gallery of terrific food and food-related photographs is paired to a text that is not so terrific. Presented to promote the universality and dietary importance of fresh fruits, veggies and grains (and fish, but other meats not so much), Caldicott’s sunny scenes range from bountiful displays in open-air markets to views of cooks and farmers hard at work. Some, such as an alcove bursting with fresh and jarred olives in Morocco and a dazzling bouquet of zucchini flowers in Venice qualify as out-and-out food porn. Others, such as a quartet of photos featuring one kitchen in London and three others in Rajasthan, offer intriguing insights into different methods of food storage and preparation. The accompanying commentaries, however, are threaded with bland platitudes and writing that is awkward or even nonsensical: “This man in Durban, South Africa, has so many [tomatoes] to sell that he has time to read a book between customers.” Furthermore, the author wrongly claims that potatoes “cannot be eaten raw,” covers the same topic in “W is for Water” and “J is for Journeys,” and neglects to provide tantalized readers with leads to more detailed information about the issues, customs and practices he mentions. Caldicott is a fine photographer—a writer, not so much. (Informational picture book. 5-9)

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“…no matter what the parents think, children will want to read it again and again, and that makes it a classic for them.” from biscuit in the garden

BISCUIT IN THE GARDEN

Most of Card’s fans will agree with writer John Brown’s assertion that trying to winkle out a literary work’s “true meaning” kills it, but this tribute may have some appeal to readers with an analytical bent. (thumbnail author bios) (Literary criticism. 16 & up)

Capucilli, Alyssa Satin Illus. by Schories, Pat Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | $3.99 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-06-193505-3 978-0-06-193504-6 paper Series: Biscuit

THE ELITE

This book will not only make children want to garden, it will make them want a dog and a bird, too. The Biscuit books are spectacularly good at getting children to read, but, surprisingly, they also teach grown-ups how to read them. They’re missing the usual cues that help adults make sense of a text. For example, there are no quotation marks. This makes passages of dialogue very accessible to beginning readers but a puzzle to their parents. In some scenes, most of the dialogue is either “Woof, woof!” or “Tweet! Tweet!” Readers can imagine that the book is teaching them to talk to animals. There are children’s books that are classics because they speak equally to children and adults. This book is not one of them. The plot is slight: Biscuit spills birdseed in the garden. Birds flock happily around him. But no matter what the parents think, children will want to read it again and again, and that makes it a classic for them. The simplicity of the story makes it work, as it has since the beginning of the series: Dog. Birds. Garden. And, with patience, adults can learn to enjoy it as well. (Early reader. 3-5)

ENDER’S WORLD Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender’s Game

Card, Orson Scott--Ed. Smart Pop/BenBella (304 pp.) $14.95 paper | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-937856-21-2

A chorus of writers and military experts weigh in on why Card’s Ender’s Game (1985) is a work of genius. They make cogent arguments. Strategist John F. Schmitt provides an account of the novel’s significant role as a model for the Marine Corps’ “Maneuver Warfare” battle approach, and there’s a perceptive discussion between writer David Lubar and his daughter, a high school teacher, about how Ender’s situation and responses speak to teens. Songwriter Janis Ian meditates on how Ender (and others) are underestimated because they’re short, and Card’s frequent coauthor Aaron Johnston agrees, dubbing Ender a “short Clint Eastwood” (but with compassion). Other contributors recall with awe their first encounters with the story, offer detailed analyses of Ender’s psyche and Card’s writerly technical chops, demonstrate that Ender is a classic mythic hero, or mull over the nature and costs of victory. Card provides an introduction (not seen) and, between each essay, answers to frequently asked questions about the story and its characters. 76

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Cass, Kiera HarperTeen (336 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-06-205996-3 978-0-06-205998-7 e-book Series: Selection Illéa’s Selection pool of potential princesses has been reduced from 35 to six (The Selection, 2012), and the competition’s getting tense. Among the six is feisty, iconoclastic America. If Prince Maxon Selects her, as he swears he wants to, she and her lowborn family will rise to Ones in Illéa’s caste system. America is finally ready to say yes when her best friend is eliminated from the Selection with upsetting violence after being found in flagrante with her illicit boyfriend. How can America imagine marrying the future head of such an unjust government? Suddenly, former love Aspen seems attractive again. Love triangle re-established, Cass sends America’s emotions lurching back and forth between Aspen and Maxon for the rest of the book. Life at the palace is periodically punctuated by episodes of violence, as various rebel factions break in and then fall back. The mischievous Northern rebels steal books; the scary Southern ones leave threatening graffiti. Twenty-first-century readers will wonder at the monumental ineptitude of the palace guard. Cass tries to compensate for the virtually nonexistent worldbuilding of the first book with occasional infodumps and excerpts from the diary of Illéa’s founder, secretly lent to America by Maxon. As in the first book, though, the thoughts a well-formed dystopia ought to provoke are buried by the bitchy politics of the Selection and the teeter-totter of America’s yearnings. Vapid, but at least it reads fast. (Dystopian romance. 12 & up)

THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET

Cavanaugh, Nancy J. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (320 pp.) $12.99 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4022-8106-8 An 11-year-old home-schooled girl who longs to live like everyone else learns that her strange life with her father may be weird, but it’s also wonderful. Ratchet, whose real name is Rachel, lives with her father, a “crazy environmentalist,” who believes that he has a God-given mission to

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save the Earth. In consequence, Ratchet, who lost her mom when she was 5, wears thrift-shop clothing and helps her father repair cars in their driveway. This makes her both an able mechanic and a magnet for the derision of the neighborhood kids. Ratchet longs to go to school, to buy cute clothing and, most significantly, to make a friend. In a book that is full of surprises, it turns out that assisting her protest-junkie father in his court-ordered community service as a go-cart–building instructor is the catalyst she needs. This is how she will find female helpers and role models, make a friend and even save a little piece of the world. The story has a gimmick; it consists entirely of entries in the language-arts notebook Ratchet uses to record her home-school assignments. At first it seems artificial, with observations that are too on-the-nose. But as the novel’s unexpectedly multifaceted plot comes together, it becomes increasingly compelling, suspenseful and moving. Triumphant enough to make readers cheer; touching enough to make them cry. (Fiction. 9-13)

THE TRIBE: HOMEROOM HUNTERS

Chapman, Clay McLeod Disney Hyperion (304 pp.) $16.99 | May 7, 2013 978-1-4231-5221-7 Series: The Tribe, 1

In the opener of the Tribe trilogy, Spencer Pendleton welcomes the chance to start anew at Greenfield Middle School. It’s an “overblown rumor” that he burned down his old school. Most of the school is still standing, minus a couple of classrooms. Now, though, he hopes to stay on the straight and narrow, with the help of his inhaler and latest meds. But on Day 1, he has his first confrontation with bully Riley Callahan and his Cro-Magnon cronies. On Day 2, Riley sends Spencer toilet diving. Then Spencer almost gouges out his teacher’s eye with a pencil, is involved in a cafeteria food fight and has a chat with the assistant principal. When he’s recruited by the Tribe, a mysterious “underground ring of runaways” hiding out in the school, he might have found a way to survive. But, though the Tribe is more than capable of doing battle with school bullies, Spencer realizes they’re a tyrannical clique in their own way, and he’s too independent-minded to be a loyal follower. He will have to find his own way to survive. The first-person narration effectively conveys Spencer’s internal struggles, and the clever “Ghost Stories” interspersed toward the end of the volume offer fascinating back stories for the Tribe’s members. An engaging, over-the-top tale with much to say about how schools treat individuals and outsiders. (Fiction. 10-14)

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THE EXPULSION OF SUN WU KONG

Chen, Wei Dong Illus. by Peng, Chao JR* Comics (176 pp.) $9.99 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-89-94208-51-0 Series: Monkey King, 7

The Monkey King comics need to be read as a series. This assertion will surprise anyone who starts with Volume 7, as the story couldn’t be more self-contained: The Monkey King fights monsters and wins. Readers who started at the beginning of the series, though, will be shocked at Sun Wu Kong’s transformation. He was an untamable rebel, and now he’s a loyal disciple of the priest San Zang. He’s so loyal that he continues to guard his master’s life even after San Zang has banished him. The Monkey King may have been tamed, but nothing can stop him from fighting monsters—even when the monster is disguised as a young woman offering food or a prayerful old man. The monsters are, as always, the best part of the story. There’s a dragon with two heads and a dragon who looks like a horse. But the scariest creature of all is the White Bone Goblin. She’s a masterpiece of design, with long, twisting horns and an outfit made of human bones. Younger readers will crawl under the bed. The Monkey King books can be read as a portfolio of demons and dragons, or they can be read as a psychological study of someone gaining wisdom and compassion. However they are read, they’re terrific adventure stories for anyone willing to climb out from beneath the bed. (character guide, synopsis, thematic essay) (Graphic classic. 8-16)

THREE KINGDOMS

Chen, Wei Dong Illus. by Liang, Xio Long JR* Comics (176 pp.) $9.99 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-89-94208-89-3 Series: Legends from China, 1 An alliance of warlords forms and collapses in this graphic adaptation— the first of 20 volumes—of a renowned 700-year-old Chinese historical novel. Set against the chaotic collapse of the Han Dynasty about 1,700 years ago, the opener introduces the three wandering warriors Bei Liu, Yu Guan and Fei Zhang, who will play central roles in later episodes. Here, they associate themselves with Cao Cao (another major player), a warlord who has joined with 16 peers in a hopeless effort to stop Han general Zhuo Dong from setting himself up with a puppet emperor. Claiming to use a classic style, the illustrators create finely drawn, delicately colored panels of, usually, facial close-ups and men in exotic armor; martial

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sound effects and dialogue appear in jagged balloons. While there is action aplenty, aside from occasional scratches, there are no wounds and very little blood to be seen. The graphicpanel chapters are interspersed with prose recaps, historical summaries, character introductions, maps, a dynasty chart and side drawings. Western readers unfamiliar with the original novel or the historical events on which it is founded will find it next to impossible to keep the teeming cast straight, particularly as the plot is a patchwork of melodramatic confrontations and sudden scene switches. Still, a sprawling, brawling and, with an effort, immersive epic. (Graphic classic. 11-14)

POCO LOCO

Chua, Maria; Krause, J.R. Illus. by Krause, J.R. Amazon Children’s Publishing (32 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-4778-1649-3 Poco Loco the mouse may be a little nuts, but he’s got some great ideas, too. One morning, after using his Cuckoo Clock–Coffemaker and his Shower-Bed, Poco Loco is making breakfast (fluffy blueberry waffles) on his Waffle Iron–Weather Forecaster when he receives a forecast for mal tiempo (bad weather). The barnyard animals troop outside for a breakfast picnic despite Poco Loco’s repeated warnings. When a sudden gust of wind catches his trusty paraguas (umbrella) and sweeps Poco Loco into the air, his friends panic. Gallo (rooster) tries to help: “ ‘¡Ay, Poco Loco!’ / Gallo runs! / Gallo jumps! / Gallo grabs tight— / …and Gallo takes flight!” Gato, Cerdo and Vaca (cat, pig, and cow) all try to save their friends, until all are flying through the air hanging on to Poco Loco. When the rain comes and they all slip off, it’s a good thing Poco Loco is a genius! He saves the day with his helicóptero-paraguas! Husband-and-wife team Krause and Chua’s debut is an ebulliently silly bilingual barnyard tale with a glossary up front and plenty of prompts for Spanish words in the text and pictures: When Gato speaks, he meows, and Poco Loco’s umbrella is quite obvious when he tells everyone to get under his paraguas. The bright, stylized cartoon illustrations are just what one would expect from a designer who works on the Simpsons TV show. ¡Ay, Poco Loco! We hope to see you again soon. (Picture book. 3-7)

BAD UNICORN

Clark, Platte F. Aladdin (432 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-4424-5012-7 Harry Potter meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid in an initially witty debut that ultimately collapses. Seventh-grader Max Spencer isn’t athletic, clever, brave or particularly kind, and he sure isn’t popular. But he is the long-lost heir of the arch-sorcerer who created the Codex of Infinite Knowability, which only Max can read. Inaccessible in our magic-free dimension, the Codex’s powerful spells are coveted by the mages of other realms; to retrieve it, they enlist the most vicious flesh-devouring monster known: Princess the Destroyer, the eponymous bad unicorn. The setup cleverly skewers common fantasy tropes, and delightfully gruesome vignettes of mayhem add extra spice. Though wildly uneven, the gags fly so rapidly that some are bound to provoke snickers. Unfortunately, Max has been rendered as such a convincing loser that it’s hard to root for him as a hero; his friends are shallow clichés and offensive stereotypes, and the remaining characters are merely walking punch lines. Identifying target readers isn’t easy; the protagonists’ ages (and the proclivity for crude humor) suggest a middle school audience, who will be baffled by plot twists relying upon the mechanics of ’80s-style arcade and tabletop games (let alone by the Al Gore jokes). The clunky, stilted prose is littered with $20 vocabulary. And when the many rambling discursions eventually converge to a genuinely gripping climax, too many storylines are simply dropped, apparently forgotten. Like a comedian repeating the same joke louder each time: at first funny, then annoying; finally, just sad. (Fantasy. 10-14)

MISSING MOMMY A Book About Bereavement Cobb, Rebecca Illus. by Cobb, Rebecca Henry Holt (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-8050-9507-4

Told from a young child’s point of view, Cobb’s moving story respectfully explores the complex emotions a little one may experience while grieving the loss of a parent. On a rainy day, they said goodbye to Mommy. Unsure where she went, a small child searches for her under the bed, behind the couch, among the blades of grass. Some things are found—a purse, which brings a grief, raw and deep; a sweater-turned-lovey, which holds memory and reassurance. Emotions wash over the child: fear, anger, guilt, loneliness. Each is sensitively described and depicted, 78

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“Slonim’s textured oil paintings, with visible brush strokes, evoke childhood, nature and the tender relationship between a father and son, adding to the scenes described in the text instead of mirroring them.” from the deer watch

as the small child sits alone under a barren tree, stomps toy trains and tries—with tears—to fix past mistakes. What’s more, the strength of family, as they grapple with their shared grief, is tenderly illustrated. The artwork, done in a primary palette, skillfully emulates the innocence of a child’s drawings, and the compositions, with symbolic swaths of empty space, adeptly capture the child’s sense of loneliness. Appealing, effective and authentic, they perfectly illuminate the text, as the family finds solace, warmth and healing through the sharing of stories and memories. Accessible and tender, this story gives young children a voice and shows how to hold the memory of a loved one close. (Picture book. 3-7)

THE DEER WATCH

Collins, Pat Lowery Illus. by Slonim, David Candlewick (32 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-7636-4890-0

A slow start to the story and the odd line breaks won’t keep readers from being mesmerized. It’s another summer at the beach house, and a boy’s father has promised that he will at last see a deer. The two head out early, searching the dunes and the marsh grass, finding traces of wildlife but no deer. A working bulldozer keeps deer away from the road, but the conservation land holds promise. The narrator knows he must keep still and quiet, but it is a mighty battle against his body, which has the wiggles. In the end, their patience is rewarded by a vision so awesome that the boy has trouble putting it into words—“the memory would never leave— / … / our two worlds crossed / for just a magic while.” In an odd mix of childlike voice and adult sensibility that nonetheless entrances, lyrical sentences capture the scenery in words: “…There / was a pond, a shiny mirror / full of trees all upside down / and water lilies right side up.” Slonim’s textured oil paintings, with visible brush strokes, evoke childhood, nature and the tender relationship between a father and son, adding to the scenes described in the text instead of mirroring them. While each individual part may not be spectacular, the sum has a quiet majesty and beauty that begs to be shared one on one. (Picture book. 3-7)

A DAY AT THE FARM

Cordier, Séverine; Lacroix, Cynthia Translated by Quinn, Sarah Illus. by E.H.R. Schober; Cordier, Séverine Owlkids Books (48 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 15, 2013 978-1-926973-76-0

As well as identifying all the buildings and different parts of the farm, the kids get to hang out with the animals, feeding ducks and chickens, collecting eggs, picking tomatoes, milking the cow, picking fruit, petting a donkey, playing in the hay, driving a tractor and stopping for a relaxing country picnic. The brightly colored pages illustrating their inevitable adventures (stepping in the muck; being chased by a goat) are interspersed with cleanly drawn vocabulary pages showing pond animals and plants, fruits, vegetables, crops and farm machinery. Neatly done, although not outstanding among the vast number of picture books with similar intent, this picture book feels a bit like paint by numbers, and some parents may be prone to an extra yawn or two at bedtime. However, the flat, bright colors and clear, readable text will be attractive to the very young. Parents and children will like the board book’s rounded corners. Folks in rural areas should be aware that one picture shows a child sitting on an untacked pony’s back. This farm book doesn’t make it to the top of the haystack. (Picture book. 2-4)

THE BOOK BOAT’S IN

Cotten, Cynthia Illus. by Lessac, Frané Holiday House (32 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8234-2521-1

A pleasing historical tale about a boy willing to work hard for what he desires most—a book. “One sunny day, Jesse King and his pa drove into town.” The year is 1835 in an agricultural area. Children will immediately notice colorful barges in the canal. The one that excites Jesse is Mr. Edwards’ book boat, which comes through occasionally. Inside, Jesse quickly spots a red book: his favorite, The Swiss Family Robinson. Jesse longs to own it, but Pa cannot afford it and suggests Jesse might earn the money. The text is laced with dialogue featuring homey turns of phrase, revealing Jesse’s passion for stories and capturing the warmth between the characters. Naïve folk-art–style paintings in bright gouache reflect Jesse’s hopeful, eager nature. Although simply rendered, the facial expressions speak volumes. Jesse cheerfully labors throughout the week at a store, a stable and more, illustrating what life was like in the 19th century. (An author’s note explains the history of floating libraries.) When the book boat comes back, Jesse finds the red book is gone, but Mr. Edwards has a solution. Jesse’s pride of ownership and the closing scene of Jesse writing his name and the year in his very first book will resonate with book lovers of all ages. (Picture book. 4-8)

Three cute Caucasian kids pull on their brightly colored rain boots and head to the car for a trip to the farm with Mom and Dad. |

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“Schmid codes Peanut and Fifi by shape: Everything Peanut is rounded (body, head, ponytails, the ball), while everything Fifi is angular (face, ponytails, triangular dress with lightning bolt).” from peanut and fifi have a ball

DINOSAUR ZOOM!

text, the children are depicted running, playing and otherwise putting all those body parts through their paces. Sharing this jolly, cheeky ode with little ones will produce some giggles while helping to instill an appreciation for the wondrous human body and all its necessary parts. (Picture book. 2-6)

Dale, Penny Illus. by Dale, Penny Nosy Crow (32 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-7636-6448-0

This gleeful mashup of dinosaurs and things-that-go will surely rev up some noisy participation when it is read aloud. Dale returns with rhythmic text and vibrant watercolorand-ink illustrations in her second dino romp (Dinosaur Dig, 2011). A first glimpse of the cover featuring a fiery-hued dinosaur behind the wheel of a blue convertible hurtling at great speed through the desert establishes that this is not your typical dino book. The beginning of the book sets a pattern in which a particular-colored dinosaur steers a certain vehicle in a specific terrain on their way to a big event. An Ankylosaurus drives a minivan, a Stegosaurus pilots an old pickup truck, and so on. (Interestingly, Welsh artist Dale mounts some steering wheels on the right and some on the left of the various cars.) Children will have fun spotting the various presents tucked away on these pages, building a little suspense and foreshadowing the party to come. The language rumbles along with sound effects: “Green dinosaur rattling. Rattling down the hill. Down the hill with a heavy load. Chug! Chug! Chug!” Soon, almost all have arrived to unload and decorate. They are “hurrying to get ready….Quick! Quick! Quick!” Once all that is done, the group hides in the trees to surprise the littlest dinosaur for his birthday. Readers will be tickled to learn that dinosaurs appear to like pizza, cookies and cake, just as they do. From start to finish, this cleverly constructed and welldesigned title is a winner. (Picture book. 3-6)

I LOVE YOU, NOSE! I LOVE YOU, TOES!

Davick, Linda Illus. by Davick, Linda Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (32 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4424-6037-9

A bubbly celebration of the human body. In upbeat, musical verse, children declare their love for their hair, their toes and everything in between. The text is funny, silly and sometimes irreverent, as in the following: “I love you nose, / though there’s no doubt / that when you sneeze / some stuff comes out.” Davick is careful to leave no body parts out of the raucous celebration. Take, for example, the following verse: “I love the parts / my friends don’t see: / the parts that poop, / the parts that pee,” which is accompanied by an illustration featuring a profile view of a smiling girl reading a big, red book while perched on a toilet, with roll of toilet paper in reach. The computer-generated illustrations feature solid backgrounds and close-up images of smiling, ethnically diverse children with pleasing, if generic, cartoonlike expressions. In support of the 80

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PEANUT AND FIFI HAVE A BALL

de Sève, Randall Illus. by Schmid, Paul Dial (32 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 18, 2013 978-0-8037-3578-1

Playful shapes and deft use of white space illustrate a fresh and funny tale about sharing. Peanut sits on the floor, gazing lovingly at her new ball. Enter Fifi, who wants that ball. She tries grabbing; she tries politeness. “But Peanut didn’t want to share.” Fifi proposes several imagination games for which the ball is, naturally, required. From “Basketball?” to “Dough! It’s bread dough and we’re bakers and we’ve got to knead it and push it and pound it,” Fifi cajoles and Peanut refuses. “Not dough,” Peanut replies. “Just a ball.” The cream-colored backgrounds are clean and spacious, placing sharp focus on the girls. Schmid codes Peanut and Fifi by shape: Everything Peanut is rounded (body, head, ponytails, the ball), while everything Fifi is angular (face, ponytails, triangular dress with lightning bolt). Even a hilarious paper-airplane message—“Dear Ball, Wanna Play?”—is sharply triangular, and the reply—the airplane crumpled up, with “No” written on it—is roundish. Pale blues and oranges sit inside bold black outlines. Bits of rhyme nestle into the text: “It was brand-new. It was bright blue.” Fifi’s final power play briefly orchestrates a painful turnabout, but a page claiming “The end” is only teasing, and the real end sees Peanut and Fifi contentedly off into outer space—together. Humorous, realistic and cheerfully free of didacticism. (Picture book. 3-5)

HOW FAR DO YOU LOVE ME?

Delacre, Lulu Translated by Betancourt, Verónica Illus. by Delacre, Lulu Lee & Low (32 pp.) $11.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-60060-882-7

A simple question enables the author/illustrator to travel around the world in her poetic and visual answers. Starting on a Vieques, Puerto Rico, beach, a mother answers the question posed by her son and tells him her love ranges to places as far-flung as the glaciers of Antarctica, the Ladakh Himalayas and the Great Barrier Reef. Delacre uses her

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soft pastels to depict such images as the sinuous natural forms of a desert in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, where a woman in traditional dress cradles an infant, and the text reads: “I love you to the crests of the desert / where the wind sweeps sand from the dunes.” As the book comes full circle, the original mother tucks her son in and asks, “And how far do you love me?” He answers, “I love you to the moon!” On the last page, in a beautiful, deep night sky, the question appears in different languages in original scripts (with no transliterations or pronunciations, a missed opportunity). Although the place names on each double-page spread can be difficult to read, that information is also provided on a map at the end. Small and reminiscent of the emotional feel of The Runaway Bunny, this is an intimate bedtime book with a global theme. (Picture book. 3-6)

WILD SONG

Eagland, Jane Stoke Books (70 pp.) $6.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-7811-2182-5 Anna lives on a rocky island off the coast of Scotland, and that is all she knows. Anna knows no one but her father, her father’s assistant, Max, and Biddy and Jasper, the cook and handyman. Her father, who spends his time in his study working out mathematical formulas, has kept most knowledge of the outside world from her, although she studies mathematics, and someone (she thinks it is Max) leaves her forbidden books to read. Embodying the trope of a stranger washed up on the shores of an isolated place, a boy named Rob is discovered one day, broken and nearly drowned, by Max. Anna is kept from Rob, too, but she is stirred by his presence and wants to know more—about everything. Written in the simple language of this high-interest, low-vocabulary series, there is little nuance or subtlety in the storytelling. Stark images of the waters, the sounds of the islands and Anna’s longing to learn lead readers through to an end—or possibly a new start. The lack of closure is irritating, but the romance of the tale even in this abbreviated form is compelling. (Fiction. 10-16)

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DODSWORTH IN TOKYO

Egan, Tim Illus. by Egan, Tim Houghton Mifflin (48 pp.) $14.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-547-87745-7

Timing is everything. Imagine this classic slapstick scene: Two repairmen have to carry a pane of glass across a busy street. Car after car whizzes past and, somehow, swerves around them. The whole scene is about waiting for the glass to break. Egan’s latest Dodsworth book is a lot like that. “We should be on our best behavior here,” Dodsworth tells his duck. He warns the duck not to play ball around priceless vases. He warns the duck not to play with a bottle of ink. “The duck,” the text notes, had always wanted to play with ink.” The duck does not crash into the pottery. The duck doesn’t spill any ink, and a server in a restaurant tells Dodsworth, “Arigato. Your duck is very well behaved.” As in classic slapstick, though, something has to give. At the climax of the story, the duck swings on a rope, springs off an awning and knocks over a tub of goldfish. It’s worth the wait. When the duck bounces across a row of drums, precisely in time to the music, it’s a very satisfying moment. But the scene really works because of what happens next: The duck walks quietly across the courtyard and hands a toy to a little girl. She had thought it was lost forever. That, too, is worth the wait. The poetics of restraint could not be better displayed. (Early reader. 6-9)

ORANGUTAN

Eszterhas, Suzi Photos by Eszterhas, Suzi Frances Lincoln (28 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-84780-316-0 Series: Eye on the Wild Laying on the cute with a shovel, Eszterhas tracks an orangutan from birth to maturity in photos and anthropomorphic commentary. Clambering over her distracted mother and often looking directly out at viewers, the hairy little imp shows plenty of personality as she suckles, learns to feed herself and gradually releases her tight hold on her parent’s long red hair. Though the big, clear photos are all taken in the wild, the author’s narrative frequently uses simile and metaphor to draw parallels with human behaviors with lines like “Mom is like an acrobat and uses her long arms to swing from branch to branch,” and “On the baby orangutan’s first birthday climbing lessons begin.” The young primate ultimately becomes independent (“she loves to hang out with friends”), but when she finally has a baby of her own, she will introduce it “to her mother—Grandma orangutan.” Eszterhas uses the same approach in the simultaneously publishing Sea Otter, but with less of the “awww, gee” factor

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since the mother and baby otters are so intertwined in the photos they’re hard to tell apart. Both volumes end with fact pages. Both also feature jacket flaps that partially cover stunning endpaper photographs. Long on visual appeal, but the connections between animal and human behavior are too tightly drawn. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

OY FEH SO?

Fagan, Cary Illus. by Clement, Gary Groundwood (40 pp.) $17.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-55498-148-9

backyard garden. Subsequent pages show the family gathering first green veggies, then a veritable rainbow of yellow peppers, purple cabbage heads, rosy radishes, red tomatoes, orange carrots, purple eggplants and even brown potatoes. After romping about for a bit, they go inside, dry, off and clean up, and then Grandpa and the children cook up a pot of his famous rainbow stew. The final page of the book even offers readers a recipe to try out—an enticing possibility after reading a story that positively revels in family togetherness and good food. The typeface of key words changes color as the rhyming text carries readers through the day, reflecting the theme. A treat. (Picture book. 2-6)

ZOMBIES DON’T FORGIVE

Weekly Sunday visits from their two aunts and one uncle are so disagreeable that three children take steps to alter the atmosphere through some harmlessly exaggerated imitation. Each Sunday afternoon the family guests arrive, heavily plop themselves on the living room furniture, and make negative, complaining and resigned statements. “Oy,” says Aunt Essy. “Feh,” says Aunt Chanah. “So?” says Uncle Sam. “That was all they ever said!” Despite the children’s parents’ attempts to make pleasant conversation or the children’s enthusiastic play-acting performed for the guests, the reaction is always the same uncongenial three words. Ink-and-watercolor illustrations depict Essy, Chanah and Sam with unflattering caricatures of stereotypical adult Jewish characters, with clownishly large noses, slouchy, overweight bodies and unsmiling faces. In exasperation, the children each take a role and comically mimic their aunts’ and uncle’s behavior, forcing laughter and recognition. This mishpocheh now redeems itself with a newfound willingness to tell family stories and loving childhood memories; the palette here modulates from muted tones to bright, sunny colors. While the amusing scenario may prove to be more a nostalgia trip for adult readers than something today’s kids will immediately recognize, they will appreciate the overall sentiment even if they miss the Yiddish essence. Nu? (Picture book. 5-7)

RAINBOW STEW

Falwell, Cathryn Illus. by Falwell, Cathryn Lee & Low (32 pp.) $17.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-60060-847-6

Fischer, Rusty Medallion Press (350 pp.) $9.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1605426-36-5 Series: Living Dead Love Stories, 2 The emphasis is on revenge rather than romance for teenage zombies struggling to keep the living part of living dead. Following the final battle of Zombies Don’t Cry (2011), protagonist Maddy runs away from her hometown with fellow zombies (and love interests) serious Dane and ex-jock Stamp, hoping to avoid capture by the Sentinels, who enforce the zombie laws. They settle in Orlando, blending into the human world while earning their livings as monsters in a cheesy horror stage show. In the few, off-page weeks between novels, Maddy and Stamp break up—so for this story installment, the love triangle is replaced by Maddy and Dane’s will-they-won’t-they. As for Stamp, he seems to have moved on well and dates a long line of living girls, although he has to keep it casual in order to maintain their secret and avoid accidentally turning one of the girls undead. But when Stamp ends up getting serious with a girlfriend, Maddy and Dane pick up on serious red flags. The more they investigate the mysterious Val, the more they suspect there is something seriously wrong with her. Maddy and Dane find themselves in the cross hairs of a revenge plot while the Sentinels close in—until Maddy launches a daring revenge scheme of her own. The occasionally sloppy continuity doesn’t detract from the fast plot and unexpected twists. Popcorn fun for the brain-munching set. (Horror. 14 & up)

Vibrant multimedia collage harkens back to Falwell’s Feast for 10 (1993), this time with a homegrown feast for four in a concept book about colors rather than counting. Three African-American children visiting their grandfather are disappointed when they awaken to a rainy day, but Grandpa doesn’t keep them cooped up indoors. Instead, they all don rain gear and go outside with baskets to harvest vegetables from a 82

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“A splendid starter tale that will prepare children for the many more-complex versions that await.” from little red riding hood

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

Ford, Bernette Illus. by Knight, Tom Boxer/Sterling (32 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-907967-38-2

A solid retelling of the familiar fairy tale geared for younger children. Ford hews to the basic plot most everyone can tell in their sleep: Little girl wears red hood all the time, is sent to Grandma’s with a basket of goodies and multiple parental warnings, ignores warnings and talks to wolf, etc. For all its familiarity and easy reading level, the text holds itself to a high standard. The “big, bad, wicked old wolf ” “slink[s]” out of the woods; Little Red Riding Hood stops to “dilly-dally”; the woodsman investigates the “commotion” inside Grandma’s house. Understated humor keeps the tone light: “Although it was a little dim inside, [Little Red Riding Hood] could see that her grandmother looked a bit strange.” The canonical dialogue between Red and the wolf is preserved, though parents uneasy about the traditional ending will be happy to find that this wolf has a zipper in his belly through which Grandma exits bloodlessly. Knight’s watercolors are bright and cheery, the figures defined by thick, confidence-inspiring black lines. They vary from double-page spreads to vignettes that align themselves on the large white pages with the text, which is set in a comfortably large font with lots of space between the lines, making this a good bet for beginning readers as well. A splendid starter tale that will prepare children for the many more-complex versions that await. (Picture book/fairy tale. 3-6)

THE WARD

Frankel, Jordana Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (480 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-06-209534-3 978-0-06-209536-7 e-book A society built atop a catastrophestricken United States of America, a feisty heroine torn between guys, an evil government—stop us if you’ve read this already. Frankel’s debut posits a scientifically implausible future in which the Wash Out has transformed New York City and New Jersey into the United Metro Islets. Manhattan is several stories underwater—boardwalks, suspension bridges and amphibious vehicles stand in lieu of streets—and under quarantine due to the Blight, a contagious, cancerlike and always fatal disease. Orphaned drag racer Ren is 5 feet of sexy trouble: Under duress, she works for the police state searching for “fresh” (water) and spends her earnings on her Blight-stricken “sister” Aven, whom she met in an orphanage (a relationship much described but never brought to life). When she finds fresh with amazing healing |

powers, she lands in the middle of a centuries-old battle over Minetta Brook, currently playing out between the governor and ancient Lenape guardians. Ren must fight both sides if she wants to save herself, Aven and the hundreds of sick people in the Ward, all while dreaming about more-than-meets-the-eye Derek and fighting the first hints of attraction to brainy Callum. The checklist of what makes commercial teen dystopias may be complete here, but the clumsy writing and nonexistent worldbuilding prevent this subpar clone from making a splash. (Dystopian romance. 12-16)

SPIRIT’S CHOSEN

Friesner, Esther Random House (496 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | $20.99 PLB Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-375-86908-2 978-0-375-89991-1 e-book 978-0-375-96908-9 PLB In this sequel to a story set in medieval Japan, a girl continues to struggle with being the princess of a defeated village and an exceptional shaman at the same time. In Spirit’s Princess (2012), the aggressive Ookami clan attacked Himiko’s village and dragged off Noboru, her little brother, and others to slavery. Mad with grief, Himiko’s mother becomes subject to the death penalty when she attacks a child. To save her mother’s life, Himiko decides to travel to the Ookami village and free Noboru. The venture does not succeed, but Himiko’s connection to the spirit world helps her to rise to the point where she can challenge Lord Ryu, the Ookami’s belligerent and autocratic chieftain. Friesner’s characterizations work nicely, especially Kaya, Himiko’s self-confident huntress friend; Rinji, the insecure temporary shaman; Lady Sato, Ryu’s caustic mother; and bombastic Ryu himself. The author runs into difficulty, though, with the sudden emotional shifts she forces on her characters whenever the plot requires a friend to become an instant enemy. Characters shift from love to hatred and from friendship to belligerence, usually abruptly and with no transitional period. Still, the rather slowmoving but suspenseful story gives readers an intriguing view into a fascinating society of the past, even as it takes Himiko’s spirit world seriously. Interesting if flawed. (Historical fantasy. 12 & up)

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“High-concept science, rapid-fire but sometimes sloppy writing, stiff dialogue, shallow characters, and plenty of action: old-fashioned science fiction indeed, dressed up to appeal to a modern audience.” from the silver dream

THE SILVER DREAM

Gaiman, Neil; Reaves, Michael; Reaves, Mallory Harper/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $18.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-06-206796-8 978-0-06-206798-2 e-book Series: InterWorld Don’t be fooled by Gaiman’s name on the cover: This is a slightly pedestrian if not unsatisfying bit of science-fictional fluff. InterWorld started as a television concept by Gaiman and Reaves, and the first volume (InterWorld, 2007) harked back to the golden age of science fiction, when the science was mostly made-up jargon (and not entirely logical), and the characters showed a tendency toward tropes. This second volume continues where the first left off, compounding the liabilities of the first by mixing a middle-grade tone uneasily with some older content: The teens who make up most of the InterWorld organization are, in the end, child soldiers, and they are woefully underprepared for death, which comes calling. Joey Harker (he’d rather be called Joe now that he’s 16) finds himself once again at the center of things when the mysterious Acacia Jones shows up during a mission gone wrong. She’s not an alternative version of Joey (of which there are many), and she knows an awful lot. Meanwhile, the newest Walker (navigator of the multiverse) is everyone’s darling, and Joey must grapple with jealousy and the first stirrings of romantic interest, even as everything, literally, falls apart. High-concept science, rapid-fire but sometimes sloppy writing, stiff dialogue, shallow characters, and plenty of action: old-fashioned science fiction indeed, dressed up to appeal to a modern audience. (Science fiction. 10-15)

UNNATURAL CREATURES Short Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman, Neil with Headley, Maria Dahvana--Eds. Harper/HarperCollins (480 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-06-223629-6 978-0-06-223630-2 paper 978-0-06-223631-9 e-book

and other older classics to Peter S. Beagle’s eerily elegant “Come Lady Death,” Avram Davidson’s chilling closet fantasy “Or All the Seas with Oysters,” a Chrestomanci tale from Diana Wynne Jones and artfully discomfiting contributions from younger writers (including the co-editor). Each opens with a small, dark, fine-grained image of a creature or partial figure that sets an appropriately ominous tone for what follows. Light on new material but solid choices overall—recommended for daylight reading only. (author bios) (Short stories. 10-14)

THE OTHER COLORS An ABC Book Gates, Valerie Photos by Cutting, Ann Sky Pony Press (56 pp.) $14.95 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-62087-537-7

A small, square art project of a volume, attractive and even lovely, but probably not for children at all. This is an alphabet book. Each opening has a huge letter facing a photograph, and under the letter, a description of half a dozen words or so describes the image. The “alliterations,” as the text is called, all begin with an unusual color name—the titular “other colors”—that describes the background and the object pictured; each word begins with the same letter—no exceptions. Some of these words are easily assimilated: “Azure abalones always attract adoring admirers” places the variegated abalone shell on a bed of azure with glassy spheres around it. There’s ecru, mauve, periwinkle and wisteria, among others, each with an artistically manipulated photograph. The image is fancifully saturated with the color, as “Harlequin hedgehogs” (it’s a shade of green, at least according to the book) match their grassy landscape. “Byzantine” is a deep berry color, and “Fandango” is a deep pink. None of these colors is defined except by the images, so it is hard to know how true they are, and some of the lettering on the paler colors disappears entirely. Reading the words aloud is fun, but the whole is more like an artist’s book than an abecedary for children. Pretty enough but perhaps a little self-indulgent. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

NIGHT HUNGER

Gibbons, Alan Stoke Books (50 pp.) $6.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-78112-179-5

Gaiman gathers 16 stories featuring magical beasts and monsters—dangerous ones, mostly—as a benefit volume for a creative writing program, 826 DC. The Newbery winner contributes his name and selection duties, a short preface, quick introductions to the tales and a previously published short—an homage to R.A. Lafferty featuring a captured phoenix and a jaded group of epicures—to the project. Other entries, all but three of which are reprints, range from Frank R. Stockton’s “The Griffin and the Minor Canon” 84

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Cursed with a ravenous nighttime appetite, will John hurt the ones he loves? Sixteen-year-old John had a fight with his girlfriend, Andrea, at a school dance. After she stormed off, he started talking to Beth, the dark, disheveled, |


athletic new girl. One thing led to another, and they were kissing; then Beth bit him hard on the neck. After that, the dreams started. Dark, disturbing dreams accompanied by “night hunger.” John eats everything he can get his hands on at night. When the French teacher turns up horribly murdered in the woods, Beth is the only student not distressed. She starts stalking John, showing up at his house at odd hours. On the night of a party on the full moon, John and Beth both become monsters. Will he be able to protect Andrea and save the town from whatever Beth is…and whatever he has become? Prolific British children’s and YA author Gibbons’ entry in this high-interest, low-vocabulary series is a first-person tale told in simple, declarative sentences and a conversational style. A slick cover, short chapters and cliffhanger chapter endings make for a good Hi-Lo title, but not necessarily good fiction. Reads like preteen-authored Twilight fanfic; only worth it for its intended purpose. (Horror. 11-17)

SPY CAMP

Gibbs, Stuart Simon & Schuster (336 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-4424-5753-9 Having survived his first year at the CIA Academy of Espionage (Spy School, 2012), 12-year-old Benjamin Ripley is looking forward to heading home for an assassin-free summer vacation with his family and old friends. That was the plan

anyway. Instead, Ben is headed to Spy Camp, a “wilderness education facility,” and the nefarious organization SPYDER is once again hot on his trail. The title of the novel is a bit misleading, as Ben hardly spends any time at the Happy Trails Sleepaway Camp for Boys and Girls. On the day he arrives, Ben receives a mysterious letter from SPYDER offering him the opportunity to lend his “special skills” to their efforts or be killed. And if it weren’t for 15-year-old Erica Hale, Ben’s secret crush and the “savviest spy-to-be” at Spy School, Ben would likely be facing certain death. Gibbs’ screenwriter roots are evident in the explosive action sequences as Erica assumes responsibility for saving Ben and dashing SPYDER’s evil plans. Unfortunately, Ben is often overshadowed by Erica’s fearlessness and superior spy skills. Readers may find themselves scratching their heads every now and again over who is the true protagonist and whether or not Ben has what it takes for a future in espionage. Still, the quirky cast of characters, witty dialogue and high-stakes action make for an entertaining read that will likely satisfy adrenaline junkies. (Adventure. 8-12)

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TIPTOE JOE

Gibson, Ginger Foglesong Illus. by Rankin, Laura Greenwillow/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $17.99 | May 1, 2013 978-0-06-177203-0 “Tiptoe fast, // tiptoe slow. / Say hello to Tiptoe Joe.” Big bear Tiptoe Joe sneaks through the forest in his red high-top sneakers. Why so quiet? “Donkey, Donkey come with me. / I know something you should see.” Donkey clop clops after Joe, and they continue through the woods. They pick up Rabbit, who follows: thump, thump. They come upon Turkey, who follows: flap, flap. As they progress, they find…Moose (thud, thud), Owl (swish, swish) and Beaver (slap, slap). “Tell us, tell us. Tiptoe Joe. / What’s the secret? Let us know,” they repeatedly implore. With each animal added, the group becomes more and more curious. They follow him up his mountain and…“Tiptoe, tiptoe, softly creep. // Here’s my secret, fast asleep”—his two baby cubs. Gibson’s rhythmic text with its repetition and onomatopoetic accents makes for a great readaloud and a good bedtime story. Audiences will memorize it quickly and be “reading” it to themselves before long. Rankin’s watercolor illustrations of slightly anthropomorphized animals (each animal has one piece of clothing à la Joe’s shoes) are charming in their enthusiasm (Joe) and their curiosity (the rest of the forest denizens). This beguiling, cumulative woodland tale will make a great addition to bedtime routines. (Picture book. 2-5)

SHADOW ON THE SUN

Gill, David Macinnis Greenwillow/HarperCollins (432 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-06-207335-8 978-0-06-207337-2 e-book In this fast-paced sequel (Invisible Sun, 2012, etc.), ex-Regulators Durango and Vienne are at it again in a race against time on a dangerous Martian landscape. Shocked to have learned that his father heads up the enemy forces who captured him at the end of the previous book, wisecracking teen soldier Durango fights to escape the clutches of his evil dad and to reunite with his exassassin sidekick and love interest, Vienne. Meanwhile, Vienne seeks seclusion in a hidden monastery until she’s offered a gig transporting fugitives through enemy territory with a team of thuggish hoodlums. Gill’s work flips back and forth between the two adventures, punctuated by odd breaks of gibberish that at first read like unintelligible computer coding. Readers will eventually deduce that the code is actually connected to Durango’s artificial intelligence, Mimi, whose presence is so strong in this book she’s almost a secondary character. The rest of the narrative flows easily, and the action races along with plenty of

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld Small Mark, Big Emotion By Megan Labrise Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld stand out, period. The New York Times best-selling team behind Duck! Rabbit! and three other children’s books has worked in close collaboration for six years—and in the industry, that makes them a bit anomalous. “My perception, anyway, is the author and the illustrator never meet or talk or collaborate, which to me is just odd, and the extent of Amy and my collaboration is unique to anyone else I work with,” says Lichtenheld. Rosenthal and Lichtenheld both live in Chicago, famous for advertising and improv comedy. The way they work resembles both: to pitch, to workshop, to bandy ideas back and forth, to hone and to finalize the best-possible product.

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Their highly anticipated latest is Exclamation Mark. Its yolk-yellow hardcover blazons the eponymous main character, a dot smiling beneath the bold black plume that distinguishes him as much more than your run-of-the-mill period. Although his resembles the friendly faces of his period friends, that vertical dash sets him apart. At first, he does his best to conform by concealing it: by lying down to make a dash, by twisting it up like a corkscrew. But when a curvy question mark unleashes a salvo of interrogatives, the exclamation point finally finds out what that vertical line is all about: It gives him the power to holler “Stop!” The arresting idea for the story came from Rosenthal. A mother of three, she’s often asked by fans if her children inspire her work, and in this case, that’s

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spot-on. “More often, it’s just everything around is inspiration in life—it’s hard for me to pinpoint where an idea came from. But in this case it was exactly a child of mine who generated this epiphany: My eldest, my son is an exclamation mark. It really meant something to me, it felt powerful, and I started to write the words,” says Rosenthal. “He stood out from the very beginning,” the book begins. Rosenthal bounced the idea off of Lichtenheld, and together, they decided that the introduction of the question mark was the crux. The question mark enables the exclamation point to discover his own uniqueness. Once that type was set, the narrative flowed at remarkable speed. With the conception complete, Rosenthal and Lichtenheld beheld the emergence of the main point. “The other characters are never rejecting him. Other periods are very neutral or accepting, but his quandary is really self-imposed, which is a really nice little nuance to the message,” Lichtenheld says. “The world isn’t picking on us. The world might not even be aware that we feel odd.” Rosenthal agrees: “This story was pure, it was just about him and his journey. He’s not being bullied; he’s just confused like most people are on the path to adolescence. It’s about finding your way.” Not only isn’t he bullied, he is celebrated by the others for his uncovered abilities. “Isn’t he something?” asks the question mark. “There was never any question in our minds,” chorus the periods. The winning idea emerged from sessions over doodle-strewn tables in a Chicago coffeehouse. While, nominally, Rosenthal is the writer and Lichtenheld the illustrator, the lines blurred when it came to making Exclamation Mark a success. “When Tom and I work together it’s kind of like the labels fall away,” Rosenthal says. “Sometimes I’m the one doodling and Tom’s the one typing,” (although Rosenthal says that Lichtenheld’s writing abilities far surpass her drawing). The book was crafted without a specific educational agenda—a fact that will be apparent and enticing to kids, who don’t like to be preached to. Young readers look for a compelling story, and Rosenthal and Lichtenheld aim to coax one from an image, a word, any little bit of inspiration to take and run with. “We have this mind meld. I think we get |

excited about the same things: a simple little twist of a line or a tiny word,” says Rosenthal. Both are big fans of books like CDB! by William Steig, those that play with language and seamlessly weave words with visuals. “Art is there in service of the idea, not just to be a pretty picture,” says Lichtenheld. For that matter: why not Exclamation Point? “ ‘Mark’ felt softer than the word ‘point.’ ‘Point’ felt... pointy. It worked out well: to go off and make your mark,” says Rosenthal. “The fact that it’s a person’s name, that’s kind of a little bonus,” he adds. From the title to the fonts, the dialogue to the familiar penmanship-paper background, all small touches are in the service of inspiring and encouraging the reader to marvel. “This terrain is one big exclamation mark for us,” says Rosenthal. “We could just keep on gabbing about all this stuff.” Megan Labrise is a freelance writer and columnist based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @mlabrise.

Exclamation Mark Rosenthal, Amy Krouse; Lichtenheld, Tom Scholastic (56 pp.) $17.99 Mar 1, 2013 978-0-545-43679-3

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last-minute saves, narrow escapes, fiery explosions and smartalecky one-liners. This sequel doesn’t stand alone, and Gill inserts just enough left turns and red herrings to keep seasoned series readers guessing. Still, it’s inevitable that someone as daring and brazen as Durango will always come out on top in the end—the fun’s in the watching. A refreshingly nondystopic sci-fi adventure. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

LIGHT

Grant, Michael Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (432 pp.) $18.99 | $19.89 PLB | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-06-144918-5 978-0-06-144919-2 PLB Series: Gone, 6 With the world outside the FAYZ in sight and stakes rising, characters take drastic actions for survival and redemption. As the barrier has become clear, the FAYZ kids gain an audience, creating anxiety about performance as they worry about how they will be perceived by the adults in the normal world. Kids now communicating with their parents and the media have renewed hope that the end of the FAYZ is near, and they act accordingly. Others deduce that Gaia is up to something big, the endgame, now that the gaiaphage has taken a human form. They restructure leadership so Sam and Caine can team up to try to stop Gaia before it’s too late. Sure enough, Gaia can feel little Pete weakening without his physical form and plans to doom the human race once Pete fades enough for the barrier to fall. But first Gaia must prevent Pete from taking a physical form again by trying to slaughter his potential hosts—the FAYZ kids. However, Gaia must kill judiciously, as the powered kids’ link to the gaiaphage is revealed and explained. The answers to the FAYZ mysteries sometimes come in less-than-graceful exposition, but dedicated series readers will be more concerned with satisfying their curiosity. Multiple chapters of aftermath wrap up the series better than an epilogue could. A bloody, action-packed reward for the series’ loyal fans. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

THE FLAME IN THE MIST

Grindstaff, Kit Delacorte (464 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $20.99 PLB Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-385-74290-0 978-0-307-97914-8 e-book 978-0-375-99083-0 PLB Jemma’s always been out of step with her family. She dreads Mord-days, when the Agromonds make Offerings to demonic entities, and she resents the sentient Mist that keeps 88

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the sun from Anglavia. On the eve of her 13th birthday, she learns those feelings are well-founded. With her two mind-reading rats and a mysterious book from her old nurse, Jemma flees Agromond Castle—hotly pursued—into the Mist-shrouded forest. There she encounters the usual assortment of helpers and hinderers, including her friend Digby. While her book provides clues to her past and future, her adventures teach her courage and fortitude. Sturdy, downto-earth Jemma’s an endearing heroine, but the evildoers (here Grindstaff ’s in good literary company) are more vivid and individuated than the good folk, who share a bland, interchangeable identity. Pacing is slow—getting Jemma out of the castle takes 90 pages, and she retraces her steps so often her hero’s journey feels more like a commute. The tone ranges from whimsical humor (Jemma misses the castle fare: stale bread and sour milk; comfort food is what you’re used to) to solemn high fantasy, but when the evil expands to widespread infanticide, the lighter tone jars. Debut missteps shouldn’t bother young readers though, and the frequent flashes of charm and originality scattered throughout bode well for future ventures. (Fantasy. 9-12)

NANA’S SUMMER SURPRISE

Hartt-Sussman, Heather Illus. by Graham, Georgia Tundra (32 pp.) $17.95 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-77049-324-7

Cousins on either side of the puberty divide find common ground in Nana’s surprise birthday party. The narrator of this tale is a youngish boy who has to contend with his blossoming cousin Hortense during a stay one summer at the family lakeside cabin. The visit might once have been cause for joy—monkeying around on the tire swing, swimming and building sand castles, picking berries, sharing a room— but that is either inappropriate or off the table, since Hortense is now a young lady (with airs to boot, though that theme is not developed, unless using a blow-dryer sums it up). Hortense doesn’t want to have much to do with the no-name narrator, until out of the blue she says, “I know I haven’t been playing with you as much as you’d hoped. And I’m sorry. But I have an idea.” The idea is to throw Nana a birthday party, which the narrator turns into a surprise party, to everyone’s delight. The story is too glancing to develop much sympathy for any of the characters—“I’m not impressed,” is the narrator’s refrain, along with “gross!”—and the narrator is too young to delve meaningfully into Hortense’s changes. The artwork, on the other hand, is a lovely display of chalk pastel; even if the characters look like Claymation gnomes, the colors look like they are lit from within, giving a fairy-tale quality to the work. A paper-thin piece of work, which makes leaving an impression near impossible. (Picture book. 4-8)

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“[Hartzler’s] story emphasizes discovery more than rebellion, and the narrative is carefully constructed to show and not judge the beliefs of his family and their community.” froms rapture practice

RAPTURE PRACTICE

Hartzler, Aaron Little, Brown (400 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-316-09465-8

An eye-opening, autobiographical account of growing up waiting for the rapture. Since birth, Hartzler has been taught that any day, Jesus could scoop his family off to heaven. To prepare, his mom leads his youth group in a song called “Countdown,” in which they sing “BLASTOFF!” at the tops of their lungs and jump as if they’re being taken into the sky. Religion shapes every aspect of Hartzler’s life, but love is also at the heart of his work. That’s what’s at stake when he starts making left turns in both his activities and his belief system in high school. He sneaks to movies his parents would never approve of, illicitly listens to popular music, and plans wild, drunken parties. He has his first kiss, and eventually he begins to think that he might like boys (but that’s not the main point). His story emphasizes discovery more than rebellion, and the narrative is carefully constructed to show and not judge the beliefs of his family and their community. That said, he’s constantly under close surveillance, and readers will wince in sympathy as they experience his punishments for what they might deem trivial actions. Hartzler’s laugh-out-loud stylings range from the subtle to the ridiculous (his grandmother on wearing lipstick: “I need just a touch, so folks won’t think we’re Pentecostal”). A hilarious first-of-its-kind story that will surely inspire more. (Memoir. 14 & up)

HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS

Haskell, Merrie Harper/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $16.99 | $10.43 e-book | May 28, 2013 978-0-06-200816-9 978-0-06-220842-2 e-book A delightful middle-grade fantasy falters only in its excess of exuberance. Matilda, the 13-year-old princess of a tiny medieval fiefdom, has been lame since birth; consequently, her people consider her “cursed” and fear she will remain unwed. Tilda refuses to show any hurt; after all, she’d rather retire to a convent and write great treatises anyway. But when her only friends, her handmaid Judith and the disgraced squire Parzifal, rescue her from a kidnapping plot, Tilda decides that, rather than return home, the trio should instead begin researching her first work: a Handbook for Dragon Slayers. Dragons, however, prove to be the least of the perils ahead of her….Haskell’s sophomore outing is another clever, witty and empowering tale, fluently melding historical fact and legendary material. Tilda is a splendid heroine: Wry, intelligent, sensitive and stronger than she thinks, she conceals her pain behind icy |

stoicism and discounts her courage and compassion as foolishness. Judith and Parz seem to be charming and supportive companions, although readers scarcely get to know them. There are simply too many intriguing characters and too many dramatic encounters for any to be explored satisfactorily. Tilda is held prisoner no less than three different times, and she faces down supernatural threats, from dragons to the Wild Hunt to an evil sorcerer, all on the way to an epiphany that completely alters her self-perception and goals. While suffering from a surfeit of events and ideas, still a truly terrific read. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)

MUSTACHE BABY

Heos, Bridget Illus. by Ang, Joy Clarion (40 pp.) $16.99 | May 14, 2013 978-0-547-77357-5

Outlaw or lawman…the mustache will reveal the truth! “When Baby Billy was born, his family noticed something odd: / He had a mustache.” When they ask the nurse what it could mean, she answers that they’ll have to wait to “see whether it turns out to be a good-guy mustache or a bad-guy mustache.” At first, Billy’s a cowboy, protecting his cattle (teddy bear) from attack (by the family dog) and caring for injured animals (his torn bear). Obviously a good-guy mustache! He becomes a “ringleader. A Spanish painter. A sword fighter. And finally… / A man of the law.” But as he grows into toddlerhood, his mustache begins to curl at the ends and becomes a bad-guy mustache! After some cat burglary, “cereal” crime and train robbery (including the track), he’s caught and thrown in jail (a barred crib). After ages, his mother busts him out, and his parents explain that everyone has “a bad-mustache day” every once in a while. Heos’ simple and silly metaphorical tale of the terrible twos will definitely entertain parents and children older than Billy. Twos will, at least, giggle over every page of the digitally created, jewel-eyed, cartoon illustrations, with their mix of Saturday-morning slapstick, dramatic comic-book angles and mustachioed babies. Occasional badness has never been so good. (Picture book. 3-6)

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THE LOCKET’S SECRET

Heyne, K. Kelley Pauline Teen (176 pp.) $8.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8198-7484-9

Having suffered a tragic loss and been forced to leave behind her best friend when her family moves from Washington to Wisconsin seeking a fresh start, home-schooled Carrie retreats |

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“Emily Post herself could not come up with a more proper set of guidelines for entertaining a visitor from the Cretaceous.” from tea rex

into a fantasy world in which her alter ego, Princess Caritas, embarks on a dangerous journey to save her family from an evil mercenary. Though the premise of Heyne’s first middle-grade novel is promising, offering readers a story weaving together threads of Carrie’s real life with her escapist daydreams, the novel ultimately falls flat. The fantastical Caritas is a much more appealing character than Carrie, who spends most of the novel moping and reluctantly interacting with her family and new acquaintances. Though her grief is perfectly understandable, her self-imposed isolation combines with her tepid expression of her own emotions to make it difficult for readers to invest themselves in her journey. While readers may believe that Caritas’ mission is somehow an extension of Carrie’s own plight, the connection between fantasy and reality is disappointingly weak. The juxtaposition fails to offer them any meaningful insight into Carrie’s quest to make peace with her loss or her new circumstances. In the end, even home-schooled, Catholic readers like Carrie will likely be turned off by the heavy-handed, didactic narrative. (Fiction. 9-13)

DIG, DOGS, DIG A Construction Tail

Horvath, James Illus. by Horvath, James Harper/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-06-218964-6

A dozen dogs and one black cat work hard to build a playground in this amusing story that will please kids who love excavators, cranes and dump trucks. The dogs wake up in their dormitory as the sun rises, and after breakfast, they’re off to the construction site in their heavy-duty trucks. Each type of construction equipment and its function is described in the rhyming text as the dogs dig a huge pit and excavate a dinosaur bone. As the day goes on, the dogs work cooperatively to construct a playground complete with a dinosaur-bone display, landscaping, trails and a duck pond. Computer-generated, cartoon-style illustrations show cheerful canines and lots of activity at the site, but these dogs are pros, as their heavy equipment is carefully researched (and they always wear their hard hats). The entire construction process is conveyed in an energetic manner that is both entertaining and educational. The crew is identified by name on the endpapers, from Duke, the “top dog” boss, to Jinx, the black cat mascot. No new ground is excavated here, but these cheerful canines build up a charming bond with their intended audience. (Picture book. 3-6)

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CHOSEN AT NIGHTFALL

Hunter, C.C. St. Martin’s Griffin (400 pp.) $9.99 paper | Apr. 23, 2013 978-1-250-01289-0 Series: Shadow Falls, 5

The Shadow Falls series concludes, but not before the protagonist’s constant confusion over her ex-boyfriends is drawn out as long as the author can manage to stretch it. Kylie, who could teach a graduate seminar in indecisiveness to Hamlet, has taken the length of several books to discover just what type of supernatural being she is. She spends this one in ceaseless internal debate over her main heartthrob, the werewolf Lucas. In Whispers at Moonrise (2012), Lucas went through a sham engagement ceremony with another girl, and Kylie just won’t forgive him even though she knows he’s her soul mate. Meanwhile, Derek still loves her, so she’ll have to deal with her feelings for him, too. Hunter takes short breaks from the emotional turmoil to deliver a contrived, sitcom-worthy episode about pregnancy tests. She really hits the mark with a nifty, blood-drenched, sword-wielding, severed-head–carrying girl ghost who wants Kylie to kill someone. But alas, that imaginative plotline takes up only about one-tenth of the book, finally resolved in an exciting fight scene that’s quickly dispensed with so readers can get back to the important content: boyfriendgirlfriend relationships. The author delivers it all with the required romance-writing conventions of sentence fragments, adjectival adverbs and italics, although it is still of a higher quality than much in the romance genre. What a tedious mess. Fans will, of course, adore it. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

TEA REX

Idle, Molly Illus. by Idle, Molly Viking (40 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-670-01430-9 Emily Post herself could not come up with a more proper set of guidelines for entertaining a visitor from the Cretaceous. Except for opening and closing invitations, the text is made up entirely of words of sage advice, while the illustrations tell the riotous story. Cordelia and her teddy-clutching younger brother host a polite, if not entirely trained, T-Rex at their tea party. At first, things go well, with the toothy guest shaking hands all around and devouring cakes and treats. The party quickly disintegrates, however, when the hostess’ hat proves to be the only possible adequate teacup, the teddy barely escapes several dire fates, and some raucous dancing leads to a busted home. Fortunately—and properly—the T-Rex makes sure to return the invite, and our young heroes party with all their favorite dinos. Idle

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makes full use of the ironic juxtaposition of meat-eater against tea etiquette, mining the humor of it for all it’s worth. Created by surprisingly bright colored pencils, each scene glows. Idle’s smallest details are where the true pleasure lies, as when the hostess bores her guests with talk of begonias, and the T-Rex surreptitiously checks the watch on his tiny little wrist. Sure to be enjoyed by tea-party enthusiasts, and even dino fans with no use for a teapot will find themselves drawn to this clever tale of a not-entirely-civilized beast of the past. (Picture book. 4-8)

TWO SHY PANDAS

Jarman, Julia Illus. by Varley, Susan Andersen Press USA (32 pp.) $16.95 | $12.95 e-book | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4677-1141-8 978-1-4677-1146-3 e-book When little ones are very timid, it can take some time to form a friendship. Panda lives at Number 1 Bamboo Gardens, right next door to Pandora at Number 2. He longs to say, “Please come over and play!” but for some reason, whenever he sees her, he runs away instead. Next door, Pandora isn’t having much fun either. She can’t seesaw by herself, and throwing a ball to nobody makes her sad. Then, one winter’s day, it starts to snow. Panda rushes outside to make some snowballs, which he throws over the fence to Number 2. When Pandora doesn’t respond, Panda gets worried. What if she feels poorly or has gone away? In truth, she’s been inside the whole time, but she has the same worry about Panda. “Two very worried pandas / Wondered if they might / Be brave enough to go next door / And say, ‘Are you all right?’ ” They open their doors to check, colliding midway. An instant bond is formed. Together Panda and Pandora build a snowman, bounce up and down on the seesaw, dance on their ice skates and read storybooks. Best of all, they promise to be friends “[f]orever and ever.” Pandas make adorable stand-ins for little children, as Varley’s friendly watercolor illustrations attest. Sweet tonic for skittish young listeners. (Picture book. 3-5)

MY HOMEWORK ATE MY HOMEWORK

Jennings, Patrick Egmont USA (224 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-1-60684-286-7

An amusing, fast-paced tale about an irrepressible drama queen who has to cope when she doesn’t get the starring role in the class play. Zaritza Dalrymple, 11, wants nothing more than to be an actress. So naturally, she’s thrilled about the upcoming visit of a theater troupe that will be helping her |

class stage a production of Calamity Jane. But to be allowed to participate, Zaritza must hand in her math homework assignments, which means she actually has to do them, an option she had barely considered. When she gets this show-stopping news, Zaritza immediately leaps into action, first telling her teacher the class ferret ate it, then trying to copy her friend’s homework, then attempting to con her shy, supersmart classmate, Eden Sumarta, into doing it for her. Alas, all ruses fail. Not only that, but the introverted Eden, a girl who never projected past the footlights in her life, is cast as Jane. After some guilt tripping from her parents, Zaritza, who initially would have liked to break Eden’s leg, begins helping her. The girls develop an unlikely alliance, and much to her surprise, Zaritza begins to root for her success. The climactic performance is suspenseful fun, and Zaritza, who becomes more appealing as the novel progresses, even learns a life lesson or two. Humorous, enjoyable and light. (Fiction. 8-12)

GOLDEN

Kirby, Jessi Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $16.99 | May 14, 2013 978-1-4424-5216-9 The chance discovery of a private journal leads 17-year-old Parker Frost on a journey in which she finds out as much about herself as about the mystery she is trying to solve. Parker is a serious, hardworking high school senior whose goal up till now has been to fulfill her ambitious divorced mother’s dream of a scholarship to Stanford. Reading the journal written 10 years earlier by a girl who supposedly perished with her boyfriend in a grisly accident, Parker finds clues in a painting that suggest that Julianna may still be alive. Some detective work leads Parker to the Kismet cafe, where Josh, aka Orion, works, the man Parker now believes to have been Julianna’s true lover 10 years ago. Encouraged by her best friend and her longtime crush, Parker agrees to ditch school and try to find Julianna. A drive to the small hippie town of Harmony turns up the art gallery where the woman Parker believes is Julianna lives under the ironic name of Hope. Although her romantic plans fall apart, Parker learns an important life lesson. In her final dramatic career move, she takes the “road less traveled,” mirroring the words of her namesake and favorite poet. Parker tells her story in the now-omnipresent present tense, unfolding it at a leisurely pace consistent with its theme of self-discovery. A satisfying counterpoint to conventional romantic teen fiction. (Fiction. 12-17)

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1 2 3 LITTLE DONKEY

Kromhout, Rindert Translated by Nagelkerke, Bill Illus. by van Haeringen, Annemarie Gecko Press (20 pp.) $14.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-8775-7934-9 A counting book and a cautionary tale, translated from Dutch. Anthropomorphic animals appear fully clothed, in bright outline, on solid-color pages, each of which faces its number and text. “1 / shopping bag / Look what Mama’s brought!” appears opposite Mama, carrying a full pink-striped tote that coordinates with her green-striped gown and hood (shaped nicely to accommodate her ears). The protagonists are Little Donkey in blue coveralls (and eared hood) and Bobby, a little bovine in red pants. The two find 3 bags of treats, and 4 eyes gaze pleadingly at Mama, who puts the treats on top of 5 kitchen shelves. But the two find a ladder with 7 steps, with predictable results (8 hooves flying). Mama soothes them both with 10 kisses. The pictures are clear enough so that children can count the treats and hooves and even the 9 tears themselves. Very young children will probably not find the shapeless outfits or Little Donkey’s and Bobby’s tails odd, but slightly older children might. Little Donkey’s cover image is a raised and shiny figure, and the effect of the flat but saturated color backgrounds (including hot pink endpapers) makes for some engagement. Sweet and definitely out of the ordinary. (Picture book. 3-6)

LUMPITO AND THE PAINTER FROM SPAIN

Kulling, Monica Illus. by Griffiths, Dean Pajama Press (32 pp.) $19.95 | Apr. 15, 2013 978-1-927485-00-2

A sweet-natured story about a real little dachshund (lump means “rascal” in German) who won Picasso’s heart. Kulling based this simple picture book on the real-life pet of Life photographer David Duncan. This diminutive dog was dominated by the Duncan’s Afghan, Big Dog. One day, Duncan and Lump (there’s only room for one small dog) motor down to the south of France in a zippy sports car for a shoot of the renowned artist. Picasso and the dog bond immediately, and Duncan decides that the little dog would be happier as part of a bustling household that includes a friendly big dog named Yan and a frisky goat called Esmeralda. Lump soon becomes the painter’s beloved little “Lumpito.” The prolific painter later includes his doggy companion in many works, including his studies of Las Meninas, the famed Diego Velázquez painting of the Spanish court (the original also features a dog in the foreground). Disappointingly, no explanatory backmatter is included to supplement the brief text, missing the opportunity 92

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to add much-needed depth and detail to this fascinating and appealing story drawn from fact. Despite the notable textual limitations, Griffiths’ lighthearted paintings charm. In some, the little dachshund seems heroic, nearly life-sized—quite a feat when he is sharing a story about a painter who most agree was himself larger than life. A delight for dog lovers, if not particularly useful in arts education. (Picture book. 4-7)

DARK TRIUMPH

LaFevers, Robin Houghton Mifflin (400 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-547-62838-7 Series: His Fair Assassin, 2 An assassin with a will of steel fights her way through deadly palace deceptions, sickening sexual servitude and baffling assignments from her convent, becoming a major player in Brittany’s 15th-century resistance of French occupation. Readers last glimpsed Sybella through Ismae’s eyes (Grave Mercy, 2012), serving in the entourage of d’Albret, a bloodthirsty Breton noble. Unknown to Ismae, Sybella is d’Albret’s daughter, raised in a household in which her kindest brother demanded sex from her and their father murdered wife after wife. Now Sybella’s a trained assassin, serving Mortain, the god of Death. In a castle that d’Albret stole from Brittany’s steadfast 13-year-old duchess, Sybella waits to see a marque on d’Albret’s body so she can kill him with Mortain’s grace. Living there requires a soul-breaking dance of flirtation and survival, and she is never safe. Is Mortain her real father, and has he rejected her? When an unexpected assignment arrives—a rescue, shockingly, not an assassination—it requires all of Sybella’s physical and emotional strength and stealth, plus the use of her sterling assassin skills in active battle. LaFevers weaves the “crazed, tangled web” of Sybella’s life (including her tortured past) with force, suspense and subtle tenderness. The prose’s beauty inspires immediate re-reads of many a sentence, but its forward momentum is irresistible. An intricate, masterful page-turner about politics, treachery, religion, love and healing. (map, list of characters, author’s note) (Historical fantasy. 14 & up)

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MY HAPPY LIFE

Lagercrantz, Rose Translated by Marshall, Julia Illus. by Eriksson, Eva Gecko Press (136 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-8775-7935-6 A chapter book about childhood depression paradoxically delivers a very happy reading experience. |


“With their silly black hats, boots, mustaches and eyes, the spindly green beans actually do look menacing enough to steal the show.” from how martha saved her parents from green beans

Dani can’t sleep the night before school starts, and with good reason. Will she like it? Will she be forced to spend all her time learning? Luckily, she makes a new best friend on Day 2. Dani and Ella sit together at lunchtime, choose each other for partners, establish the Night Club (an ambitious name for sleepovers) and even wear two halves of one heart necklace. Nothing can come between them, except, all of a sudden, “thousands of streets and roads” between Dani’s town and Ella’s new house, where she has to move with her family. Dani is no stranger to loss; her mother died when she was younger, but when she loses Ella, her happy mood succumbs to depression. New hamsters help. New friends help. But what really helps is the promise of a visit. Acclaimed Swedish writer Lagercrantz applies exactly the right amount of whimsical childhood observation and attitude to a serious exploration of a very young, broken heart. Eriksson’s pen-and-ink illustrations supply a simple yet wholly engaged context for these small, brave characters. A sweet read for both children and their parents, who may be grateful at the reminder of the emotional complexity lurking behind their children’s smiles. (Fiction. 6-10)

HOW MARTHA SAVED HER PARENTS FROM GREEN BEANS

LaRochelle, David Illus. by Fearing, Mark Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 18, 2013 978-0-8037-3766-2

A little girl who never eats green beans resorts to extreme measures when a mob of rogue beans kidnaps her parents in this twisted take on cleaning your plate. Martha’s parents serve green beans for dinner every Tuesday and always tell her how good they are for her. But Martha knows green beans are really bad. “Very bad.” She’s vindicated when a “gang of mean green beans,” with “black beady eyes and long curly mustaches” and wearing “cowboy hats and sharp pointy boots,” swaggers into town, terrorizing anyone who’s ever advocated eating green beans. After the dastardly beans kidnap her parents, Martha’s initially elated to be on her own, but by morning, she misses them. When she finds the beans holding her parents hostage, Martha threatens to eat the beans if they won’t let her parents go. The beans don’t take Martha seriously, as she’s never eaten a green bean in her life. Will Martha hold her nose and eat the beans, or will she let the bad beans rule? Dramatically comic illustrations rely on bold colors as well as exaggerated gestures and facial expressions to heighten the absurd. With their silly black hats, boots, mustaches and eyes, the spindly green beans actually do look menacing enough to steal the show. A must for picky eaters. (Picture book. 5-8)

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IN THE TREE HOUSE

Larsen, Andrew Illus. by Petricic, Dušan Kids Can (32 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-55453-635-1

A tale reminiscent, but falling short, of John Rocco’s 2012 Caldecott honor book, Blackout, depicts a boy longing for time with his big brother. First-person, retrospective narration recounts how, when the family moves to a new house, the boys build a treehouse with their father. A happy summertime ensues, with the brothers ensconced in their treetop perch, playing cards and reading comics. When they try to stargaze, though, city lights obscure the starlight. A year later, the little brother forlornly explains that this summer his elder sibling would rather hang out with friends than spend time with him. “So now I’m king of the castle. I can do whatever I want up here,” reads text accompanied by a picture showing him as anything but happy about this prospect. Then a blackout occurs, and stars are suddenly visible. Neighbors pour into the street, using candles and flashlights and sharing ice cream before it melts. Best of all, the big brother ascends the treehouse ladder to play cards and look at comics by flashlight again. Even when the lights return and neighbors go inside, the brothers keep playing in the treehouse. The strongest illustrations follow the lead of the darkened cover art, but the book never achieves the visual brilliance of Rocco’s more distinguished work. A melancholy story of changing relationships rather than a celebration of the excitement of a blackout. (Picture book. 3-6)

WHO IS AC?

Larson, Hope Illus. by Pantoja, Tintin Atheneum (176 pp.) $21.99 | $14.99 paper | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-4424-6540-4 978-1-4424-2650-4 paper This origin story of an unlikely teen superhero will have readers begging for more. Lin is not happy about her family’s move to tiny, college-town Barnhurst. She whiles away the summer before her sophomore year writing a fantasy zine. Meanwhile, geeky Trace, manager of the copy shop where Lin produces her zine, is trying to romance unhappy, well-to-do Mel, who pours out her heart on her blog. One evening, a masked robber holds up the copy shop; in trying to call 911 on her cellphone, Lin activates a mechanism that transforms her into a superhero, complete with costume, spear and signature shower of flower petals. It seems to have been engineered by a shadowy figure at a faraway keyboard, who also has an interest in Mel, whom he turns into a physically manifesting digital troll. Larson gets a lot right with this story: Lin is an

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“As with the first in his post-apocalyptic, near-future series, Lebbon wastes some intriguing worldbuilding on superficial characters who have a near-total lack of discernible motivation.” from reaper’s legacy

enormously likable protagonist, and both her unhappiness and her literary aspirations are easy to understand and relate to. Secondary characters—in particular Lin’s family—are satisfyingly complex. Pantoja’s black-and-white panels take on purple accents with the introduction of fantasy elements; their muscular lines ably complement Larson’s characterizations. But the story itself is all setup with no conclusion, and a sophisticated digital-dangers theme doesn’t get enough space to develop coherently. The story needs sequels; if they are provided, readers will want to return to Lin and Barnhurst for more. (Graphic fantasy. 12-16)

THE LOOP

Lawson, Shandy Disney Hyperion (208 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-4231-6089-2 Two teenagers relive their violent deaths over and over when they find themselves stuck in a time loop. Ben and Maggie have met cute hundreds of times; they just don’t remember. Ben experiences strong déjà vu when he accidently spills iced tea on himself after crashing into Maggie on a mall escalator in New Orleans. That innocent encounter leads to attempted murder, 24 hours on the lam, an envelope full of racetrack winnings and a final showdown in a dirty storeroom, where they are shot in cold blood by the same criminal over and over for their misbegotten cash. Each time the teens attempt to change the circumstances that spell their demise, they are thwarted by the machinations of fate, which keeps placing them in the bullets’ paths. Is escape possible, or are Ben and Maggie doomed to repeat the worst day of their lives forever? While the initial premise is captivating, the tendency of all the characters to explain exactly what is happening and why at any given moment in unimaginative dialogue quickly becomes monotonous. Ben’s and Maggie’s characterizations are thin, and the rules and origin of the loop itself are vague and unconvincing. But the short chapters, straightforward storytelling and slim size may make it attractive to some. Clever idea, flawed execution. (Fiction. 12 & up)

REAPER’S LEGACY

Lebbon, Tim Pyr/Prometheus Books (234 pp.) $17.95 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-61614-767-9 Series: Toxic City, 2 Now that Nomad the supermutant has left a seed of power in Jack, will his growing superpowers be enough to save his family and what’s left of post-apocalyptic London? In a London devastated by the release of Evolve, a chemical that killed most of 94

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the population but gave amazing powers to the survivors, Jack, Jenna and Sparky try to find Jack’s father, the deadly mutant Reaper, in order to enlist his help in rescuing the rest of Jack’s family from the clutches of Miller and his Choppers. Meanwhile, Jack’s friend Lucy-Anne searches for her lost brother by trekking through the dangerous streets of the city with Rook, a troubled boy who can control flocks of birds. Jack unites the Irregulars (survivors with weaker powers) with the Superiors (his father’s powerful minions) in an assault on Camp H, the holding facility where mutants are dissected when captured by Miller. Will they succeed? And will all be destroyed if Lucy-Anne and Nomad meet? They’ve both dreamed destruction. As with the first in his post-apocalyptic, near-future series, Lebbon wastes some intriguing worldbuilding on superficial characters who have a near-total lack of discernible motivation. What could have been brainless fun is further hobbled by amorphous “powers” and logic-defying plot devices (the government’s fail-safe is a nuclear bomb under London? That’s going to save the country from the mutants?). For fans who can’t be persuaded to read something better. (Post-apocalyptic adventure. 12-14)

ELVIS AND THE UNDERDOGS

Lee, Jenny Illus. by Light, Kelly Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $16.99 | May 14, 2013 978-0-06-223554-1 978-0-06-223577-0 e-book

Lee’s debut novel, a quirky if formulaic take on bullying and friendship, falls short in its description of the partnership between Benji, the narrator, and Elvis, his talking service dog. Benji Barnsworth suffers from a host of ailments and faints under stress—which happens often, since he’s Billy Thompson’s favorite bullying target. When Benji has a seizure, he trades his new helmet for a service dog: a huge Newfoundland with a smart mouth. Elvis isn’t exactly man’s best friend, but his presence allows Benji to befriend Taisy, an overwhelmed athlete with an ex–football pro father, and Alexander, a “human GPS” with a photographic memory. Benji’s witty, slightly cynical voice and close family support are the most believable aspects of an otherwise implausible book. His friends are caring but stereotypical; Asian-American Alexander’s intellect borders on caricature, and Taisy’s relationship with her father follows sitcom formula. The service-dog aspect reads like an afterthought. Even Benji’s doctor uses “service dog” and “therapy dog” interchangeably despite their different functions, and Benji is unable to say what training Elvis received, which seems remarkably incurious, given their relationship. Elvis’ job is so unclear that he could just as easily be an ordinary dog dispensing tough love. Ultimately, the thin plot is far-fetched, even for a story about a talking dog, and readers aware of the true role of service animals will be annoyed by the inaccurate portrayal. (Fiction. 8-12)

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MANICPIXIEDREAMGIRL

Leveen, Tom Random House (256 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-375-87005-7 978-0-307-97576-8 e-book 978-0-375-87060-6 PLB Nothing gives a boy moral superiority like being awkwardly aroused by the least popular girl in high school. Tyler’s friends call him “jerk,” “idiot,” “dick” and “asshead.” Could he possibly be that bad? Is it that much of a problem that he’s been dating sweet Sydney Barrett for years while crushing hard on friendless Becky Webb, shunned by everyone else in school for being the town slut? In a narrative that interleaves exposition-heavy flashbacks with his present (wasted in the park, drunk on butterscotch-pudding shooters), Tyler describes the history of his relationship with Becky. Perhaps that should be his nonrelationship, because he has spent years being unkind to Sydney while gazing dreamily at Becky’s tattoo from across the cafeteria. Tyler’s tortured overtures to Becky would be more believably redemptive if he didn’t share in his classmates’ double standard of shaming, needing to find a reason for Becky’s sexual activities before he can find her worthy. Tyler, apparently, deserves a medal for choosing not to have meaningless sex with a suffering friend; what a hero. If Becky actually were a manic pixie dream girl, there’d at least be some whimsy breaking up the dragging, selfcentered, deeply unkind angst. (Fiction. 14-16)

YOU CAN DO IT!

Lewin, Betsy Illus. by Lewin, Betsy Holiday House (32 pp.) $14.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8234-2522-8 Series: I Like to Read

Channeling the can-do attitude of a certain little engine, Lewin’s alligator comes out on top with some help from his friend and despite the bullying of another gator. Limited, repetitive text invites new readers to adopt the same spirit of determination about reading that the protagonist alligator does about swimming when he confidently tells his friend, “I can win” after they spy a sign reading “Big Race Sunday” posted on a tree. His self-assurance is challenged by a bigger, scowling alligator wearing a red cap, who snarls, “No, you can’t.” Bickering leads to the bully shoving the littler gator, and then a spread showing the friend (who wears a pink bow on her head to distinguish her from the others), who says, “Yes, you can.” She encourages her friend as he practices for the race even while the antagonist continues to say “CANNOT,” and our hero perseveres. When the day of the big race arrives, the |

good guy does finish first, rejoicing, “I did it!” dripping wet and wearing his first-place medal, while his proud friend looks on. Throughout, Lewin’s restrained watercolor-and-ink artwork matches the control of the text, providing ample, white resting space for the eyes while delivering engaging and expressive characters. Subtle shifts in the placement of speech balloons provide humor while helping children decode. A winner of an early reader. (Early reader. 5-7)

DOMINATION

Lewis, Jon S. Thomas Nelson (288 pp.) $14.99 paper | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-59554-755-2 Series: C.H.A.O.S., 3 Colt McAlister leads Phantom Squad of the CHAOS Military Academy in the fight against the Thule, lizardlike aliens who are attempting to destroy humanity in this alternate world that borrows heavily from comic-book conventions. Colt has had the blood of the Thule injected into him in the hopes of making him the legendary Betrayer, and he is expected to be the savior of all mankind. The times are dire, as Thule attacks are increasingly frightening, causing thousands of casualties and leaving ruin behind them. The now-familiar action is flavored with a touch of Hollywood, as Colt is asked to be a showman with his jet-pack agility cadets. There’s an evil villain mastermind, a town that is not all it seems and bullying of the good alien who is an ally, along with many other familiar tropes. Most notably, the bullets that fly fast and furious never seem to do much damage— with the obvious exception of the bully, of course. Danielle and Oz, buddies from previous adventures (Invasion, 2010, and Alienation, 2012) still have Colt’s back. Colt’s romance with Lily stays in the background, except as a reminder of the path of virtue when other hotties tempt him; Colt’s grandfather, Murdoch McAlister, continues to have remarkable connections and prescience. All in all, readers of the series will find this title fitting in perfectly with their expectations. An unillustrated comic disappointingly lives up to type. (Thriller. 10-15)

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LAUREN YANOFSKY HATES THE HOLOCAUST

Lieberman, Leanne Orca (256 pp.) $12.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4598-0109-7

A Jewish teen who has decided to become “un-Jewish” experiences a soulsearching junior year. Lauren found herself with a newly formed nonreligious identity after |

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questioning her Jewish education, her father’s profession as a Holocaust historian and her discomfort with Judaism’s commemoration of centuries-old persecution. After eight years of Jewish day school, Lauren convinced her parents to let her attend public high school, where she has strengthened friendships with some of the gentile kids from her neighborhood. But these kids are changing too, and some of their new interests (Bible study group and the smokers’ crowd) leave Lauren lost in a teen world in which she is unwilling to participate. When she comes across a group of her male peers playing war games as Nazis, Lauren’s discomfort with her own reaction creates powerful psychological turmoil, which is complicated when she dates one of the boys. Lauren’s Judaic background includes her grandmother’s Holocaust past, in which 11 family members perished. Lieberman, known for her edgy, provocative Jewishthemed novels, Book of Trees (2010) and Gravity (2008), creates another strong female protagonist, whose characterization of Judaism as a religion “about loss, grief and persecution” will raise eyebrows with both Jewish and non-Jewish readers. A thought-provoking exploration of a teen’s evolving ideals. (Fiction. 13 & up)

EXILE

Lim, Rebecca Disney Hyperion (288 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-1-4231-4520-2 Series: Mercy, 2 The second installment in the paranormal-thriller series Mercy draws readers into fast-moving scenes, introduces unpredictable characters and further refines the series’ underlying celestial mythology. The novel reintroduces the fallen angel Mercy, who separated from her lover, Luc, due to an unrevealed transgression and is doomed to flit between Earth and the unknown with no control over her destination. When on Earth, Mercy inhabits a human body, becoming “a rough facsimile.” In this installment, Mercy subsumes Lela Neill, a Melbourne college student who is helping to care for her terminally ill mother while making ends meet by working at a local coffee shop. As with previous inhabitations, Mercy fumbles at first, figuring out her host’s personality, daily routine and so on. Unlike previous “soul-jackings,” though, Mercy is able to remember past experiences—in particular, those from the first book in the series, Mercy (2011)—that may be able to reunite her with Luc, although humans seem to keep getting in her way. Building on a complicated mythology that was set out in the first book, this is not for series newcomers. Nor is it for readers looking for a light escape, as violence against women is one of its themes. A page-turning sequel that moves this series forward; it should please fans of the first. (Paranormal thriller. 15-18)

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YES, LET’S

Longstreth, Galen Goodwin Illus. by Wicks, Maris Tanglewood Press (32 pp.) $15.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-933718-87-3

Tag along on a family’s hiking trip as they enjoy (mostly) the great outdoors and (almost always) each other. Longstreth and Wicks have created an Everyfamily that most readers will be able to identify with, even if they have never been on a family hike. The language helps: Every sentence, save the final one, starts with “Let’s,” bringing readers into the adventure. Early one morning, four children tiptoe in to wake their parents (and dog) for a day of hiking through the woods to the river. As in reality, not everything goes perfectly; what matters are the interactions, and there are plenty as the family members enjoy swimming, playing games, building boats and dams, exploring, having lunch and pursuing their own interests. While the rhymes don’t always work (“cards” with “far”), Wicks’ illustrations are standouts. She captures the family’s every thought and feeling, from the teenage girl’s defiance over exchanging her pink flats for hiking boots to the mother’s horror at her youngest son’s hands at lunchtime. (The oddly applied noses may distract some, though.) The kids are nicely individuated: The oldest boy has his ever-present yo-yo, the youngest one is always losing or dropping something. But best of all are the small details. Not only are there endpaper checklists of animals, hiking gear and groceries to find, but very observant readers will notice a whole other subplot going on in the illustrations. Ready the backpacks—this is sure to inspire many a family. (Picture book. 3-8)

STRANGER THINGS

Lubar, David Illus. by Loveridge, Matt Scholastic (96 pp.) $4.99 paper | $4.99 e-book | $15.99 PLB May 1, 2013 978-0-545-49602-5 978-0-545-49685-8 e-book 978-0-545-49601-8 PLB Series: Looniverse, 1 Logic takes a little too much of a flyer for this series opener to hold together. Considering that Ed has three identical friends named Quentin and a little brother, Derwin, who attends the Albert Camus Primary School, readers might be forgiven for thinking that his life seems strange enough. After finding a coin in the grass labeled “STRANGE, STRANGER” on both sides, though, suddenly Ed’s plagued by peculiarities. One sister concocts a real locomotive at dinnertime from turkey and “wheels” of cranberry sauce, another leads a swarm of mice around the living room after listening to the “Pied Piper” story, and Derwin

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“Detailed descriptions set cinematic scenes and reflect careful research of the times and place.” from the incredible charlotte sycamore

exchanges a list of a thousand words for a tall, thin neighbor’s picture (get it?), among other mystifying events. Ed learns from the proprietor of the New Curiosity Shop that unless he can pass the rapidly eroding coin off to a “Stranger,” the world will fall into mediocrity. In an ending that may be appropriately absurd but will leave readers feeling betwixt and between, Ed realizes that he has to bestow the coin on…himself. Part of the publisher’s new Branches line of chapter books, this title is ostensibly aimed at 5- to 7-year-olds, but the obscure (to the age group) literary references and general tone skew it to well-read older elementary students. Despite the comical cartoon illustrations on every page, this setup volume is just possibly too clever to give its target audience any reason to read on. Now there’s an existential dilemma. (Fantasy. 7-10)

MR. FLUX

Maclear, Kyo Illus. by Stephens, Matte Kids Can (32 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-55453-781-5 In this homage to the 20th-century art movement known as Fluxus, a boy named Martin resists the invitation of his artistic, bowler-hatted neighbor to embrace an unknown in his young life: change. Taking his cues from the adults around him, he refuses Mr. Flux’s gift of a box of “change,” explaining that “change is upsetting, and we like things just the way they are.” But with Mr. Flux’s encouragement, Martin tries out a few new things and eventually comes to appreciate his neighbor’s fluid way of seeing art in other than the usual ways. Marcel Duchamps’ Fountain appears (on a pedestal!) on one page as an example of art that might not be recognized by people “busy making sure everything stayed the same.” Stephens’ angular, quirky and slightly abstract illustrations convey both the sense of play and the curious lenses for experience that the Fluxus movement celebrated. Maclear does not entirely avoid the pitfall of exhortation rather than inspiration, telling readers that changes take place in Martin’s life and neighborhood and stating that the “most surprising change was in people’s thinking” without further explanation. Nevertheless, this is a friendly introduction to a lighthearted aesthetic and an antidote to the belief that standards (in art or anything else) are fixed or immutable. (Picture book. 4-8)

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THE INCREDIBLE CHARLOTTE SYCAMORE

Maddison, Kate Holiday House (288 pp.) $17.95 | Apr. 15, 2013 978-0-8234-2737

Can the bites of mechanical dogs induce artificial rabies? Charlotte, the 16-year-old daughter of Her Majesty’s royal surgeon, and her two friends are attacked and severely wounded by a pack of the vicious beasts while out on an illicit nighttime lark. With Peter and Jillian severely injured, she must defy her father by secretly studying his medical books and use her cunning and courage to discover the cause and cure before the symptoms cause death. While lemons temporarily alleviate the pains, an antidote is needed. Maddison weaves the proprieties and improprieties of late-Victorian courtly life (especially as applied to young women), Charlotte’s unwanted arranged marriage and her inventions into the rapidly paced plot. Detailed descriptions set cinematic scenes and reflect careful research of the times and place. All of the story threads—romance, cloud covers of rabid bats, a plot to kill the queen—are as skillfully drawn together as a surgeon’s stitches. Black-and-white spot drawings at the beginning of each chapter foretell the key component for the next episode. This steampunk novel has it all: deceptions, a brainy and courageous girl, violence, inventions and mystery set in Victorian England. Charlotte’s tale is indeed incredible—in a good way. (Steampunk. 10-15)

MISTER WHISTLER

Mahy, Margaret Illus. by Bishop, Gavin Gecko Press (32 pp.) $18.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-877467-91-2

This sprightly, whimsical tale will induce plenty of giggles and start toes to tapping. Mister Whistler is dreaming of singing and dancing when a phone call from his great-aunt awakens him; she needs him to come over right away. As he puts on each article of clothing, his feet keep dancing. They dance all the way to the train station, where he buys a ticket. But when he needs it, he can’t find it, so he proceeds to take off each item of clothing, all the way down to his underwear, trying to find his ticket. But all the while he’s disrobing and dancing, he’s clenching the ticket in his teeth! Other passengers toss coins in his discarded hat. He dons his clothes and boards the train only to lose the ticket again—but he buys one with the money he made. The artwork perfectly plays out the capriciousness of the comic story. Bishop clearly had fun designing the clothes: polka-dot boxers, blue checked trousers, a harlequin waistcoat (also the pattern on the endpapers) and big green coat with a fur collar. Mahy’s inimitable

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“This book has one surefire selling point: No adult will be able to stand it.” from yuck ’s pet worm and yuck ’s rotten joke

sense of whimsy informs the plot, and her rock-solid sense of rhythm invests her prose with musicality: “He felt in his big coat pockets. Right? No! Left? No! Top left? Ah! Good!” This romp fits in beautifully with Mahy’s other wacky picture books; pair it with Song and Dance Man for a lively read-aloud. (Picture book. 4-7)

MOM GOES TO WAR

Martín, Irene Aparici Illus. by Carretero, Monica Cuento de Luz (24 pp.) $15.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-84-15503-20-0

Great intentions yield few rewards in this well-meaning, plodding explanation of breast cancer for kids. A king and a queen call their sons in for a consultation. The queen reports that there is a rebellion underway, but it’s not in the kingdom. The rebellion is of breast-cancer cells, and the battlefield her body. Using martial terminology, the queen is able to answer her sons’ questions and calm their fears, walking them through the entire process of this “war.” Unlike similar books for a younger crowd, this title eschews avoiding frightening topics and uses an unusual approach to make the discussion about fighting cancer both straightforward and appealing. Sadly, troubles abound. Martín loads the book down with excess text, overloading readers from the start. The conceit—royal family, war terminology of many eras—lends itself to mixed metaphors. Most worrisome, at no point do the words “radiation” or “chemotherapy” appear. Instead faux treatments with names like “Scalpozap” and “Extermamide” muddy the issue. Silly, simplistic art adds little to the narrative, sometimes making things worse by displaying frighteningly huge syringes and pills. A good idea drowns in unnecessary excess. (Picture book. 4-8)

PLANET ARK Preserving Earth’s Biodiversity

Mason, Adrienne Illus. by Thompson, Margot Kids Can (32 pp.) $18.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-55453-753-2 Series: CitizenKid

Numerous sidebars expand on ideas in the main text. Mason concludes with descriptions of individuals and organizations and the work they do as modern-day Noahs. Practical advice is offered to readers, suggesting simple, everyday things they can do to be good environmental citizens. Thompson’s warm, expressive illustrations are appealing and complementary to the text. Failing to include a list of websites and suggestions for further reading is an unfortunate oversight, especially given the book’s emphasis on individual action—how are kids to find further direction? An engaging and reasonably practical introduction to environmental stewardship. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

YUCK’S PET WORM AND YUCK’S ROTTEN JOKE

Matt and Dave Illus. by Baines, Nigel Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster (112 pp.) $15.99 | $4.99 paper | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4424-8150-3 978-1-4424-8149-7 paper Series: Yuck, 2

This book has one surefire selling point: No adult will be able to stand it. Middle-grade boys are always at war with someone. Yuck, for example, hates his parents because they keep asking to see his report card. He hates his sister, Polly, because she’s always tattling on him. He hates his teacher because she won’t let him wear smelly socks. But Yuck loves worms. He can hide a worm in his sister’s spaghetti during the family dinner. A worm, it turns out, is the ultimate weapon. Yuck has learned to hypnotize his pet worm by playing a recorder. “Go and annoy Polly,” Yuck says. Fortunately, the worm speaks English, so Yuck can play a whole series of tricks. Well, actually, it’s the same trick over and over: The worm disguises himself as a hair ribbon. The worm disguises himself as a drinking straw. The second story in the book is just as repetitive. Yuck plays one prank after another and blames Polly and her friend Lucy each time. Middle-grade boys won’t object. They may see each prank as a battle in an ongoing war. Yuck is clever enough to win victories that boys almost never see in real life. Parents might think of the book as therapy. It will help their children survive the battles they fight every day. (Chapter book. 7-10)

The latest title in the CitizenKid series offers children an accessible, informative introduction to the importance of biodiversity and the need to protect it. Mason frames the narrative with an image of Earth as an ark and readers as potential modern-day Noahs who can help preserve the world’s biodiversity. She explains in clear, engaging prose such concepts as species, habitats, ecosystems, food chains, conservation, invasive species, overexploitation, global warming, extinction, captive breeding and fair-trade commerce. 98

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GANDHI A March to the Sea

McGinty, Alice B. Illus. by Gonzalez, Thomas Amazon Children’s Publishing (40 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4778-1644-8 McGinty’s gentle, poetic picture book, awash with sunrises, salt, sand and sensory images, tells an intense present-tense story of Mohandas Gandhi’s 24-day march to the sea in 1930 in search of freedom and peaceful change for the people of India. The bespectacled, contemplative face of Gandhi that appears on the front cover of the book sets the mood for the story, emphasizing his determination. His goal is to challenge 200 years of British rule by breaking the law prohibiting Indians from collecting salt from the sea. His march changes more than just the attitudes of the British. Gandhi sometimes walks alone and at other times leads throngs of people from a variety of castes. When he reaches out to the untouchables and even washes in their well water, “[d]isgust and fear / brew like storms / in the villagers’ watching eyes.” Remaining undeterred and true to his faith, Gandhi marches on. Gonzalez’s rich mixed-media illustrations shift perspectives often to focus on the important elements in each scene: Bare feet and dirty white trousers hint at the difficulty of the journey; faceless crowds that melt into the horizon suggest the size of Gandhi’s following. An imperfect marriage of text and illustrations sometimes creates confusion more than clarity, as when elaborately dressed female dancers suddenly appear on the road with the walkers. Despite this, the book tells a story worth remembering. This walk with Gandhi is time well-spent. (Picture book. 6-12)

ELMER AND THE BIRTHDAY QUAKE

McKee, David Illus. by McKee, David Andersen Press USA (32 pp.) $16.95 | $12.95 e-book | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4677-1117-3 978-1-4677-1118-0 e-book Series: Elmer the Elephant

When a birthday bash becomes a cliffhanger—literally—it’s Super El to the rescue. Elmer, the patchwork elephant, is hanging out with his cousin Wilbur and some of the other animals when he hears a strange sound in the distance. Nearby, a neighboring herd of bright pink elephants is celebrating the 100th birthday of their oldest member, whose name, appropriately, is Old. The herd intends to stomp once for every year of Old’s life. But the tribute causes a quake after only a few stomps, imperiling the isolated Old on a narrow pillar of rock. Rose, the littlest of the pink elephants, runs to Elmer and his friends for help. Sounds like a job for Super El, a small gray elephant in a bright yellow suit and |

red trunks with matching red mask. He happens to be listening and springs into action. (Luckily, he can fly.) Super El grabs Old by his wrinkled trunk and lifts him to safety just as the rock pillar collapses. The herd gives Super El its deepest thanks, and he gives Rose a thrilling ride in the air. McKee’s patchwork pachyderm is just an extra in this colorful jungle yarn, but Elmer does get the last wise words. Fun for fans of elephants in general and Elmer in particular. (Picture book. 3-6)

SYLVA AND THE FAIRY BALL

McNamara, Margaret Illus. by Denos, Julia Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (109 pp.) $15.99 | $4.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-06-222802-4 978-0-06-222801-7 paper 978-0-06-222803-1 e-book Series: The Fairy Bell Sisters, 1 The first installment in a chapterbook series chronicling the adventures of Tinker Bell’s younger sisters. While Tinker Bell is off in Never Land with Peter Pan, her younger sisters enjoy their own fairy lives on Sheepskerry Island. Sylva, Tinker Bell’s second-youngest sister (youngest being baby Squeak), is looking forward to her birthday, as once she is 8 fairy years old she will be allowed to attend the Fairy Ball. She’s crushed when the fairy queen, Mab, schedules the ball for the day before her birthday. Poor Sylva tries to come to terms with having to stay home with baby Squeak while her other sisters go to the ball, but her efforts to help her sisters prepare go awry. Finally, the night of the ball comes, and through the window, Sylva witnesses a large band of trolls heading straight for Queen Mab’s palace and the ball. Sylva must (after securing her alsotoo-young-for-the-ball friend to watch Squeak) make the difficult decision to break the age rule and save the fairies from the trolls, who seek to steal the fairy magic. The narration is sweet and gentle—verging on too sweet—but Sylva’s proactive personality makes her an engaging character for readers to follow. Good intentions and heroism wrapped in a dainty package for girls who can’t get enough fairies. (glossary of baby Squeak’s language, cake recipe, music) (Fantasy. 6-9)

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ROSY AND THE SECRET FRIEND

pup stands up to the ghosts with a big bark. But there’s another danger looming: the clawlike tines on the bucket of a tracked excavator appear to threaten the dogs, until excavator and dogs find that they can all dig in the sand together, side by side. Using just a few words and extremely short sentences, Meisel delivers a funny story with a real plot containing several surprises. His cartoon-style illustrations in watercolor with pen-and-ink and pencil details capture the canine personalities and create deliciously spooky (but not really scary) villains in the pirate ghosts. New readers will dig this. (Early reader. 5-8)

McNamara, Margaret Illus. by Denos, Julia Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (115 pp.) $15.99 | $4.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-06-222805-5 978-0-06-222804-8 paper 978-0-06-222806-2 e-book Series: The Fairy Bell Sisters, 2 Fairy Rosy Bell strikes up a forbidden friendship with a human child. In August, the Summer People—human vacationers—arrive at their vacation cottages on Sheepskerry Island. They bring loud noises, trample fairy gardens and are dangerous; when humans discover fairies, they chase them off and leave them homeless. Rosy intends to follow the rules and avoid the Summer People, but then she overhears an injured little girl’s parents hoping the island’s magic will cheer up their daughter. Overwhelmed by compassion, Rosy sneaks into Lulu’s room to tidy up, accidentally wakes up Lulu and is spotted. The two strike up a hidden friendship, meeting and passing notes in secret. Lulu is a Peter Pan fan who loves hearing about Rosy’s big sister Tinker Bell, and in return, she shares her grandmother’s stories about visiting the island back when fairies played with Summer Children. But Lulu, not content to be a secret, wants to meet the rest of the Fairy Bell sisters. When a big storm rolls in, Rosy must confess her friendship and enlist the other fairies to help her rescue Lulu, who is on the beach and has lost a crutch. In return, Lulu has the Summer Children help rebuild the fairy homes destroyed by the storm. The story’s sweetness is tempered by the friendship’s secrecy. Not the subtlest book, but girls who love fairies won’t care. (how to make a fairy house, glossary of baby Squeak’s language) (Fantasy. 6-8)

SEE ME DIG

Meisel, Paul Illus. by Meisel, Paul Holiday House (32 pp.) $14.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8234-2743-7 Series: I Like to Read

BIG RIVER’S DAUGHTER

Miller, Bobbi Holiday House (208 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8234-2752-9

Never heard of Annie Christmas or Mike Fink? Miller calls upon her storytelling voice to weave anecdotes from folklore about these two larger-than-life characters into a novel, casting a river pirate’s daughter at the helm of this eddy of an adventure. When the great earthquake of 1811 causes the Mississippi to run backward, River Fillian’s father is killed in a fire, leaving her alone with just his carved spyglass. Annie Christmas takes her under her wing, along with her nine sons (all with “C” names: Cully, Cam, Coby, etc.), and together they set off to find Blackbeard’s treasure, buried by Jean Lafitte. They pick up historical and legendary figures along the way, including Mike Fink, and River rescues a young tiger, which becomes her protective sidekick. A passel of scoundrels pursues them through the swamps and bayous around New Orleans. This strong-girl-heroine tale is abundant in descriptions of river life, but the colloquial language tends to impede the narrative flow, and although it’s an adventure, it’s almost too packed with action for the pages to contain it. The cover depicts River and her tiger in a lighthearted moment, suggesting a “prettified story,” which River assures readers it’s not. “There you are and there you ain’t.…[T]hat’s life on the raggedy edge.” A breakneck tale that never quite catches its breath. (author’s note, bibliography) (Adventure. 9-12)

HAMMER OF WITCHES

In this gem of an early reader, a cast of cavorting canines find more than they expected when they start digging—namely a scary bear, buried treasure, pirate ghosts and heavy construction equipment. Meisel follows his first title in this series (See Me Run, 2011) by using the same dog characters and limited first-grade-level vocabulary for kids just beginning to read on their own. This time, the endearing dogs dig up a huge box buried in the sand after the bear chases them away from the forest. In a surprise twist that will tickle young readers, the enormous chest contains not gold coins, but the ghosts of pirates who chase after the dogs until one brave 100

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Mlawski, Shana Tu Books (384 pp.) $17.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-60060-987-9

An engaging, magical adventure set against the historical backdrop of Columbus’ westward voyage. Young Baltasar, a converso (a Spanish Jew converted to Catholicism), relies on his wits to distract the village bully by |


“Darius and Twig’s conversations are both lyrically poetic and endearingly heartfelt as they fight to forge a brighter future than the limited options they see before them.” from darius & twig

telling an amusing tale. Soon after, Bal discovers his storytelling has magical properties when he summons a monster to ward off the Malleus Maleficarum, witch-hunting Inquisitors after Bal’s father. Intent on escaping and finding the father he thought dead, Bal is hired as translator on none other than the Santa Maria, captained by Columbus himself. The voyage takes Bal on the uncharted seas of Columbus’ famous voyage and into adventures that include sea beasts and secrets from Bal’s own past. Though keeping track of all the Spanish-named seamen can be a challenge, Mlawski’s central characters—Jinniyah, a genie Bal summons, and Catalina, a fellow storyteller, in addition to Bal himself—are imaginative and well-developed, and her swashbuckling pace and intriguing plotting keep readers at seat’s edge. This story is told entirely from Bal’s perspective, but by placing him on the Santa Maria and inside the Caribbean villages the expedition visits, Mlawski invites young readers to see the familiar Columbus story from another perspective—and to consider the power of stories to shape perception in everyday life. Backmatter includes a helpful author’s note and pronunciation guide. Though set in the 1490s, this provocative blend of fantasy and history offers loads of contemporary appeal. (Historical fantasy. 11-15)

HOME SWEET ROME

Moss, Marissa Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (192 pp.) $12.99 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4022-66096 Series: Mira’s Diary, 2 Time-traveler Mira returns in a perilous mission involving the Renaissance, the Inquisition and banned books. When Mira receives another postcard from the past, she knows her mother—who continues to journey through time in an attempt to prevent a disastrous, potential future event—needs Mira’s help. This sequel follows the established format of the previous tale (Lost in Paris, 2012): Mira must decipher messages left by her mother regarding a historical person and event while moving in and out of various moments in time. Transported to Rome in 1595 during the Inquisition, Mira determines that she must aid Giordano Bruno, a scholarly monk soon to be condemned for heresy. Before long, Mira is masquerading as a boy, transcribing Bruno’s book for a prominent cardinal and mingling with the painter Caravaggio. Moss’ elaborate descriptions evoke Italy during the Renaissance era, detailing the architecture and the art as well as providing small vignettes of everyday life. She also introduces another element of intrigue to the series when Mira discovers Bruno is a fellow time traveler. Devastated after witnessing Bruno’s execution, Mira feels compelled to preserve Bruno’s ideas for the future, devising a daring plan to save his writings. Mira’s latest quest leaves readers pondering what other discoveries in the past await this dauntless time traveler. (author’s note, bibliography) (Fantasy. 10-14) |

DARIUS & TWIG

Myers, Walter Dean Amistad/HarperCollins (208 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $18.89 PLB Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-06-172823-5 978-0-06-220925-2 e-book 978-0-06-172824-2 PLB A beautifully written story of friendship and the strength required to rise above limiting circumstances. Darius is a writer. Twig is a runner. Best friends since they were 9, the two 16-year-olds struggle with growing up in Harlem and, even more so, with making a better future for themselves. Through Darius’ poignant first-person narration, readers will sympathize with his feelings of hopelessness and being trapped in a life he doesn’t want, though Twig’s success on the track gives him faith that he might one day succeed as a writer. Darius also finds solace imagining himself as a falcon named Fury, soaring far above all of the problems that plague him. But the challenges Darius faces are constant and threaten to pull him back to earth—from bullies to his depressed mother and absent father to his own feelings of being overwhelmed, especially as the consequences of his past choices threaten his future. Darius and Twig’s conversations are both lyrically poetic and endearingly heartfelt as they fight to forge a brighter future than the limited options they see before them. Set in opposition to the bullies who make their lives difficult, Darius and Twig exemplify true friendship—two people who have been fortunate enough to find each other, who encourage one another and push each other to do their best—and the life-altering difference having a true friend can make. Myers at his impassioned best. (Fiction. 13 & up)

DRAUPADI The Fire-Born Princess Nagpal, Saraswati Illus. by Manu Campfire (112 pp.) $12.99 paper | Apr. 2, 2013 978-93-80741-09-3 Series: Campfire Mythology

This graphic adaptation of the Mahabharata would be easy to conceptualize as a math problem. The original Indian poem has 100,000 stanzas. The graphic novel is 112 pages long. So the panels are covered with dense blocks of text like this one: “Since Dhritarashtra was reluctant to hand over the kingdom to Yudhishthira, Bheeshma and Vidura urged him to divide the kingdom so that the Pandavas and the Kauravas could live in peace.” Readers might have been satisfied with less Mahabharata per page. Any one of the incidents that make up the story could have been turned into a full-length graphic novel.

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“JD’s voice rings true, as does his occasional bonehead decision-making and his tentative steps toward empathy.” from rotten

There are battles and disguises. There’s a funny, and strangely moving, sequence in which Draupadi finds herself married to five brothers. When the book simply tells an adventure story, it’s captivating. The artwork, helpfully, is stunning. The colors nearly glow. The book includes everything a reader could want but not right away. The prologue has hundreds of words about lines of succession that lie between them and the story. Children who stay with the book will find war, romance, gambling and political intrigue. But the first chapter or two may feel a little too much like a math test. (character guide, family tree) (Graphic classic. 9-14)

THE NEW ARRIVAL

Nastanlieva, Vanya Illus. by Nastanlieva, Vanya Simply Read Books (36 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 27, 2013 978-1-927018-13-2 The new arrival in the neighborhood is Sam the homeless hedgehog, who has set off, Dick Whittington–style, with a bundle on a stick, to make his place in the world. He soon finds the perfect home inside a hollow tree in a forest, with plenty of fruit to eat and cozy surroundings, but there’s only one drawback: He’s lonely. He searches and searches but can’t find any friends. He writes a lot of notes that he pins to trees with his broken quills. The animals find them and welcome him into their fold with open paws. A tired plot and somewhat clumsy narrative are alleviated by Nastanlieva’s charming colored-pencil–and-watercolor illustrations, which use a muted palette of browns and olives to give a traditional feel. Visual variety is added by alternating the color spreads with striking monochromatic illustrations to convey a storm and nighttime. Curious readers might wonder how Sam manages to write the notes, since the artwork gives no clue. This is just a quibble, though, as the illustrations have enough liveliness to keep children engaged and reveal to them what Sam misses for most of the story: The seemingly deserted woodland is full of potential friends. The animals’ speech is integrated into the illustrations, making a game of hide-and-seek for readers. Charming, if not refreshingly original. (Picture book. 2-5)

UNBREAKABLE

Norris, Elizabeth Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (496 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-06-210376-5 978-0-06-210378-9 e-book What do you do for a follow-up when your heroine has already saved the universe? You invent a new crisis, of course. After the events of Unraveling (2012), Janelle Tenner is dealing with the 102

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wreckage left behind and mourning the departure of her boyfriend, Ben, to the universe he came from. But she can’t enjoy even this relative stability, since Taylor Barclay, the annoying Interverse Agency operative from the last book, is back, seeking her help. A human-trafficking ring is snatching innocents from across the multiverse—including her best friend—and Ben is suspected of involvement. If she doesn’t help Barclay, all of Ben’s loved ones, herself among them, will be killed by the IA in just a few days. This allows the book to use the same countdown graphic that was so effective in the first, but, ghastly as human trafficking and state-sponsored torture are, they just don’t have the same consuming nature as the end of the universe. Moreover, in keeping Ben offstage for much of the book, Norris, perhaps unwittingly, sets up an intriguing chemistry between Janelle and Barclay that makes the Janelle-Ben romance a whole lot less compelling. Gigantic narrative flaws notwithstanding, Janelle remains a likable, kick-ass heroine, and the conclusion sets up an ongoing situation that promises smoother execution in the future. Whether readers will tolerate the contrivances of this book along the way is another matter. (Science fiction/thriller/ romance. 14 & up)

ROTTEN

Northrop, Michael Scholastic (256 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-545-49587-5 978-0-545-49589-9 e-book Sixteen-year-old Jimmer “JD” Dobbs returns from a summer “upstate” and struggles to get his bearings at home and stay out of trouble. But trouble finds JD. His mother has adopted a seriously mistreated rescue dog, figuring JD and the dog “could both get new starts.” But JD knows that “clean starts are a frickin’ myth,” that the past has a way of following them. JD names the Rottweiler Johnny Rotten, after the lead singer of the Sex Pistols. He’s JR for short, with a head the size of a cinder block and the amazing ability to leap through the air like the sharks he saw on Air Jaws, snatching biscuits and partially devouring them before landing. However, JR bites Jimmer’s friend Mars, and Mars’ mother decides to sue, putting at risk the Dobbs’ house and the life of the dog. Readers may well wonder why no information about JD’s clearly euphemistic summer “upstate” is forthcoming, but the novel is cleverly orchestrated, and his secret is eventually revealed as he looks for a way to save the dog he has come to love. JD’s voice rings true, as does his occasional bonehead decision-making and his tentative steps toward empathy. A fine portrayal of a boy, a dog and the ties of friends. (Fiction. 12-16)

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THE HOW-TO BOOK Shortcuts and Solutions for the Problems of Everyday Life

Oliver, Martin; Johnson, Alexandra Zest Books (124 pp.) $10.99 paper | Apr. 23, 2013 978-1-936976-34-8

THE DEEP, DEEP PUDDLE

When you can’t ask Mom or Dad how to do something or to do it for you, this may be the ideal book to have handy. Oliver and Johnson offer explicit, easy-to-understand, stepby-step instructions on how to do 50 essential tasks that include packing a suitcase, popping pimples and folding a fitted sheet. The tasks are divided into five categories: “Everyday Essentials,” “Looking (and Smelling) Good,” “Get to Know Your Kitchen,” “Clean Up Like a Pro” and “Do It Yourself.” Some of the tasks covered seem almost quaint. How many teens are likely to need to iron a pair of pants or own a pair of shoes in need of shining? Others skills, such as organizing closets and drawers, removing stains, mending a seam and sewing on a button—not to mention basic first aid—will come in handy for teens away at summer camp, left home alone or going off to college. Detailed diagrams accompany many of the instructions. A useful guide to handling everyday tasks and problems. (Nonfiction. 12 & up)

TAFFY SALTWATER’S YUMMY SUMMER DAY

Paraskevas, Michael Illus. by Paraskevas, Michael Random House (40 pp.) $16.99 | May 14, 2013 978-0-307-97892-9

Taffy Saltwater and her friends set out to build the most spectacular sand castle ever. When Taffy and her animated stuffed bunny, Rigby Rabbit, and two-legged beach ball, Rollo, arrive at the beach, they are greeted by the sights, sounds and crowds of the boardwalk. When the wind blows Rollo and the beach umbrella far away, Taffy and an ever-growing posse ride the enormous, animate blow-up toy, Bob the Sea Monster, far away from the crowds to where Rollo has come to rest. When this gaudy troupe—which includes Mr. Footer the Hot Dog Man, Edna the Lemon-Ice Lady and Chris the Lifeguard—makes it to the unpopulated beach, they finally build their castle, and it’s a beauty. On each page, three little human boys watch all the action, finally hopping on the blow-up monster and helping with the eventual castle building. No explanation is given for their presence, leaving readers to wonder who they are and why they join Taffy. The absence of caregiving adults also strikes an odd chord. Occasionally, some of the words in the text are printed in oversized font, but there is no apparent rhyme or reason to this. Supersaturated colors and a cartoonish style add to the fantastical |

elements of the story and make the bustle of the boardwalk even busier—and a bit more sinister—than life. A muddled and not particularly pleasant tale of a day at the beach. (Picture book. 3-6)

Parker, Mary Jessie Illus. by Zemke, Deborah Dial (40 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 18, 2013 978-0-8037-3765-5

Looking for a counting book that makes a splash? When an impossibly deep puddle forms in the middle of a busy city street, a shaggy dog falls in and sinks to its mysterious depths. Then two stray cats wander too close and fall in too. Three squirrels, four pigeons and five children follow suit, and then six tourists, seven taxis, eight street vendors and nine robbers! Luckily, 10 police officers appear, bringing 11 tanker trucks and 12 workers with hoses that suck up all the water. The count then reverses, with 12 workers packing up the 11 trucks, 10 police officers arresting the robbers and so forth. Finally, the shaggy dog emerges, shaking the water off his coat and starting a brand new puddle in the process. This otherwise ordinary counting story distinguishes itself with a bit of plot and a rich, precise vocabulary, making it appropriate for a wide range of ages. Soft watercolor illustrations with lots of blues and yellows depict the chaos in exacting detail. Children will enjoy poring over these illustrations, especially the one in which all of the people, animals and objects sink into the puddle. Many beguiling details, such as a cat pinching its nose and a robber grabbing for dollar bills, are there for the spotting. Kids will be happy to dive right in, whether it’s shared in a lap or as part of a group. (Picture book. 3-8)

HEDGEHOG’S MAGIC TRICKS

Paul, Ruth Illus. by Paul, Ruth Candlewick (32 pp.) $12.99 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-7636-6385-8

In story and artwork as delicate as milkweed floss, Paul tells the story of young Hedgehog’s tribulations as a budding magician. A little hedgehog gathers his friends—Mouse, Rabbit, Raccoon, Duckling, an unidentified creature in Bermuda shorts (possibly an Antipodean possum) and a handful of extras—for a magic show. The show consists of Hedgehog’s disappearing/ reappearing act—evidently, and sadly, his strong suit. He enlists the help of his friends. Look, here is Mouse. Drape her under the handkerchief and, abracadabra! Um, look, Mouse is still here. Then he tries to make Rabbit appear out of a hat by yanking on his ears. “Ouch,” says Rabbit. Duckling decides against

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volunteering for the disappearing box. Hedgehog is crushed. But shortly, his friends return with a wheelbarrow. Abracadabra! From under the handkerchief a cake appears, from which Mouse jumps out. Unbeknownst to Hedgehog, who is mirthfully rolling around at Mouse’s shenanigans, the others eat the cake. “I think I made the cake disappear,” he gasps, and only the worst killjoy would contradict him. The word that pertains here is dear. The story has a sweetness that can’t be denied, and the artwork is both delicate, as if painted on bone china, and transporting: For all its etherealness, you could take a bite out of the cake. A lovely lesson: If at first you don’t succeed...then count on your friends to help get it right. (Picture book. 3-5)

VOTE The Theory, Practice, and Destructive Properties of Politics

Paulsen, Gary Wendy Lamb/Random (144 pp.) $12.99 | $9.99 e-book | $15.99 PLB May 13, 2013 978-0-385-74228-3 978-0-307-97452-5 e-book 978-0-375-99053-3 PLB Kevin knows the buzzwords that will surely get him elected student-body president; it’s unfortunate that he’s running for the wrong reason. Kevin’s gotten into trouble before (Crush, 2002, etc.). In this fourth, funny outing, he navigates the mostly self-created obstacles of eighth grade. This time, having achieved a first date with his new girlfriend, Tina, he realizes that a new student, goodlooking Cash Devine, is running unopposed for student-body president—and capturing lots of attention in the process. That just doesn’t seem right to Kevin. After all, he’s the one with all of the natural leadership ability, and he knows, somehow, all of the ins and outs of campaigning. However, he might not know quite as much as Cash’s campaign manager, Kevin’s clever rival, Katie. The strength of this effort comes from the surfeit of hyperbole that Kevin effortlessly churns out in his rarely self-critical but frequently amusing first-person narration. Each chapter title offers yet another pithy rule for aspiring politicians: “The True Politician Deftly Sidesteps Problems That Might Arise from an Overabundance of Truth,” for example. Many of these “rules” seem unlikely to arise from the brain of an eighth-grader however, making this a little less credible than others in the series. Still, especially for kids who have watched recent elections, Kevin’s brand of campaigning is readily recognizable. (Fiction. 10-14)

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THE BOY AND THE AIRPLANE

Pett, Mark Illus. by Pett, Mark Simon & Schuster (40 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4424-5123-0

In this wordless title, a tousled boy in overalls receives a present that changes his life. The opening depicts the protagonist holding the box on the recto; his gaze follows a leg disappearing from the verso. Once unwrapped, the red ink of the new toy—the titular airplane— contrasts with the muted, lightly flecked, taupe, green and gray backgrounds. Pacing is controlled through subtle changes in these colors, modulating from four varied, vertical panels on a page to unified double-page spreads. After cavorting with a curious bird (which remains a comforting presence throughout), the child launches the plane and watches it land on the roof. Neither ladder, lasso, pogo stick, nor hose offers a solution, but inspiration falls from a tree in the form of a maple seed “helicopter.” The boy plants the seed next to the house, and decades pass; finally, the tree’s growth allows retrieval. The now-plump, bearded man revels in his toy once again but then pauses, reflectively. The narrative comes full circle as he exits empty-handed stage right, while a girl across the gutter holds a present. Recalling both the ingenuity of Oliver Jeffers’ Stuck (2011) and the sense of foreboding in Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji (1981), Pett’s winsome caricatures enact a quietly provocative drama certain to raise questions about the value of patience, the burden of ownership and the ethics related to this instance of “re-gifting.” (Picture book. 4-10)

THE SYMPTOMS OF MY INSANITY

Raf, Mindy Dial (384 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 18, 2013 978-0-8037-3241-4

A teenage hypochondriac with large breasts learns to deal with life’s pressure and find self-acceptance in this realistic debut. Izzy is running out of time to complete her art portfolio, her ever-expanding chest is the brunt of ogling and inappropriate jokes, and her mother’s rare stomach cancer has probably returned. Naturally, the high school sophomore assumes that her body’s idiosyncrasies must be a sign of a developing disease. There’s still some hope for Izzy when popular basketball player Blake shows an interest in her. His affection is a ruse for a hazing prank, however, and when a cellphone photo of Izzy’s bare breast goes viral, she becomes known as “Boobgirl” around school. Her internal questioning of the incident exemplifies what many teenage girls feel about sexual expectations and misguided culpability in sexual assaults. What could be tragic events for Izzy are tempered by her self-deprecating humor, plenty of female support and a

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“The man’s elongated head bows toward the girl in Chagall-like studies of empathy, while her bow-shaped mouth and black braids convey a cute that’s never cloying.” from everyone can learn to ride a bicycle

chance for real romance. While some readers may be angered over the basketball players’ complete escape from accountability and prosecution, the focus of Izzy’s story is on female solidarity, particularly for women to stop being judgmental of one another. And Izzy does get her own justice in the end. A female Woody Allen for the teenage set. (Fiction. 13 & up)

EVERYONE CAN LEARN TO RIDE A BICYCLE

Raschka, Chris Illus. by Raschka, Chris Schwartz & Wade/Random (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-375-87007-1 A little girl in a ginormous blue-striped helmet chooses a bike, practices lots and, aided by a patient, daddy-esque (perhaps granddaddy-esque) guy in a green tie, learns to ride. The gentle text (in elegant Bodoni Old Face) offers pithy encouragement. “Let’s go! / Watch everyone ride. / They all learned how. / Come on, let’s give it a try. / Training wheels are helpful. They keep you from tipping over.” Raschka’s watercolors, in a palette of green, blue, gray, ocher and red, convey humor and movement in economical, expressive vignettes. On one spread, the girl gazes at many riders: twins on a tandem bike, a woman in a red swimsuit, a cat riding in a back-fender basket and a man in Hasidic garb, payos flying. On another, no fewer than 11 spots show the girl wobbling and zooming, sans training wheels; the green-tie guy alternately steadies her course and flies behind in pursuit as she improves. The man’s elongated head bows toward the girl in Chagall-like studies of empathy, while her bow-shaped mouth and black braids convey a cute that’s never cloying. Some compositions are encased in softly rounded rectangles; others pop against the creamy matte ground. The paper’s minute gold flecks lend a lovely, subtle sparkle to the bright, thin washes. A wry, respectful ode to a rite of passage that’s both commonplace and marvelous. This is one fun ride! (Picture book. 3-6)

RENEGADE

Reeves, Amy Carol Flux (360 pp.) $9.99 paper | Apr. 8, 2013 978-0-7387-3262-6 Series: Ripper, 2 This sequel to Ripper (2012) takes readers back to Abbie Sharp’s late-Victorian London. Previously, Abbie learned that she inherited her psychic powers from her late mother and that the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti was her father. Doing charity work at first promoted and then reluctantly tolerated by her snobbish grandmother at the |

Whitechapel Hospital, she spurned the advances of sweet Simon St. John, accepted those of mercurial William Siddal, discovered an aptitude for medicine and single-handedly took out an evil cabal of immortal alchemists—all but one. Now she finds herself plagued by visions of a dreadful lamia, a man-eating monster that’s half woman, half serpent. She also stumbles upon horrific acts of cannibalism in London’s cemeteries. Could the remaining member of the Conclave be responsible? Well, duh. Reeves’ story hits all the expected formula notes, including resurrecting the love triangle among Abbie, Simon and William. It also makes a waggish reference to Dickens and more labored ones to other English classics. But it’s conveyed in such incompetent, faux-Victorian prose it’s hard to imagine readers persisting to the exceptionally silly conclusion—which, heaven help them, sets up further sequels. Commas fling themselves about with little regard for grammatical rules, appearing where they don’t belong but going AWOL where they should be, and malapropisms abound—sometimes multiple times on a page. An insult to all readers, teen or otherwise. (Paranormal historical fiction. 13 & up)

ODESSA AGAIN

Reinhardt, Dana Illus. by Regan, Susan Wendy Lamb/Random (208 pp.) $15.99 | $10.99 e-book | $18.99 PLB May 14, 2013 978-0-385-73956-6 978-0-375-89788-7 e-book 978-0-385-90793-4 PLB Odessa Green-Light discovers a loophole in time. Now she can fix all kinds of things, especially the de-hyphenation of her family. In her first book of middle-level fiction, young-adult author Reinhardt (The Summer I Learned to Fly, 2011, etc.) offers the wistful tale of fourth-grader Odessa Green-Light, who, stomping in anger on the floor of her attic bedroom, discovers a loophole that allows her to travel back in time one day. What Odessa most wants is to re-hyphenate her family, getting Dad to remarry Mom. She soon finds that each time she jumps, she loses one hour of the previous day. So she has 24 chances to fix things, like the bangs haircut that was a big mistake, farting in front of the boy she like-likes or beating her brother to a $100 bill he finds first. The power Odessa initially feels at having a second chance soon diminishes; she realizes she cannot change what really matters. Realistically drawn, Odessa is a believable, likable kid on the brink of growing up, struggling with family changes. Regan’s black-and-white spot illustrations are unexceptional. With humor as well as depth, this is an endearing story of a spunky girl who realizes that life gets more, not less, confusing as she grows up. (Fiction. 8-12)

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“[Rhodes’] prose shines, reading with a spare lyricism that flows naturally. All Sugar’s hurt, longing, pain and triumph shine through.” from sugar

SUGAR

A slender romp that will tempt reluctant readers in particular to bite. (Horror/humor. 11-17)

Rhodes, Jewell Parker Little, Brown (288 pp.) $16.99 | May 7, 2013 978-0-316-04305-2 Rhodes’ book elegantly chronicles the hope of one 10-year-old girl seeking a bigger world in post–Civil War America. When Chinese laborers arrive, Sugar finally believes in a world beyond River Road Plantation. In 1870, five years after the Emancipation Proclamation, many former slaves remain on their plantations—only now working for a bleak slave wage. Sugar was born into slavery on a sugar plantation and still lives there, feeling constricted and anything but free. To the complicated relationship she enjoys with the plantation owner’s son, Billy, is added another, with newly arrived “Chinamen” Bo/Beau and Master Liu. Most Americans are aware of the brutality of slavery, but few stop to consider that the abolition of slavery created a new turmoil for former slaves. How would they make a living? Rhodes exposes the reality of post–Civil War economics, when freed slaves vacated plantations, leaving former slave masters with a need for labor. In doing so, she illuminates a little-known aspect of the Reconstruction Era, when Chinese immigrants were encouraged to come to America and work alongside ex-slaves. Her prose shines, reading with a spare lyricism that flows naturally. All Sugar’s hurt, longing, pain and triumph shine through. A magical story of hope from Coretta Scott King Honor winner Rhodes. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

THE CURSE BOX

Richardson, E.E. Stoke Books (60 pp.) $6.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-7811-2176-4 Highlighted by an exploding slime monster and a face-off between gangs of vampires, this British import will draw both chills and chortles. With his father away on the Continent, 17-year-old Tony Kim is in charge of the family magic shop, which deals in the real thing. When he is distracted by a speed potion that has grown into a corrosive, sluglike club, a disguised vampire steals a box holding a deadly ghost snake. Tony reluctantly sets out to track it down. Tony’s investigation trots along past visits to the spooky lairs of local vampires and several broad clues to a helter-skelter subterranean climax—capped by the even more shocking sight of rival vampire gang leaders Malik and Sophie snogging. The humor carries through to the writing: Short, spread-out paragraphs of terse prose are punctuated by hilariously lame spellcasting (“Ghost, your bones are in the ground, / Buried long and deep. / You should be where they are found, / Go back there and sleep!”). 106

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10 PLANTS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD

Richardson, Gillian Illus. by Rosen, Kim Annick Press (132 pp.) $24.95 | $14.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-55451-445-8 978-1-55451-444-1 paper

A collection of stories that will enlighten readers on the fascinating and often tragic history behind the blue jeans they wear, the French fries and chocolate they consume, and the pepper and sugar they use for flavor. Richardson presents brief but informative overviews of the impact 10 plants had upon history and civilization. The only plant readers may be completely unfamiliar with is cinchona, the bark of which is used to produce quinine for malaria. How cotton affected the slave trade, how papyrus enabled the wide dissemination of knowledge, how rubber revolutionized transportation, and how pepper—or the control of its trade—provoked wars are among the stories told. A superfluous fiction scenario begins each chapter and is followed by informational text about the plant, its historical background and now-familiar applications. The tea chapter is representative, leading off with “Edward” at the Boston Tea Party and then tracing tea’s spread from China and Japan to Europe, exploring its role in the opium economy, describing its processing and explaining its social significance. Color illustrations serve more of a decorative than explanatory purpose. Readers who took these plants for granted before may well not do so anymore. (maps, bibliography, suggestions for further reading) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

STEAM TRAIN, DREAM TRAIN

Rinker, Sherri Duskey Illus. by Lichtenheld, Tom Chronicle (40 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-4521-0920-6

“Through the darkness, clickety-clack... / coming closer, down the track...” The night train is arriving; it carries an unusual cargo and an even more surprising crew. Darkly lit pastel illustrations reveal monkeys, kangaroos, an elephant and various other animals, all of whom are ready to load freight appropriate to their eating habits, anatomy or abilities into a variety of different, named railroad cars. Rhymed text full of onomatopoeia describes the monkeys packing bananas, monkey bars, hula hoops and a sock monkey into the boxcar. Kangaroos toss balls into the hopper, and elephants squirt different-colored paints into tankers.

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Whimsical, dreamlike imagery continues as a polar bear loads a giant ice-cream sundae onto the freezer car, while the tortoises drive race cars onto an autorack. While it’s not a strikingly original selection, a feeling of warmth and an old-fashioned nursery aura both abound here. Train and animal enthusiasts alike will enjoy the gentle action and may just drift off as the train fills up and the animals go to sleep, safely tucked in on flatbed cars that hold…beds. “Steam train, dream train... / chhhhhh...goodnight.” A solid companion to Rinker and Lichtenheld’s Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site (2011). (Picture book. 3-6)

LET’S BUILD A PLAYGROUND

Rosen, Michael J.; KaBOOM! Photos by Kelson, Ellen; Cecil, Jennifer Candlewick (32 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-7636-5532-7

National nonprofit organization KaBOOM! helps an Indianapolis community construct a playground in just one day. An empty lot, one lone rickety slide; there are plenty of places that don’t beckon children to play. But KaBOOM! gives kids the chance to create their dream playground. A swing might be a trapeze, high above the crowd. A slide could be a giant dinosaur. And what about adding a merry-go-round? Or a sand castle big enough to hide inside? Or a hot tub?! Making a new playground starts with ideas—kids don’t just list playground equipment, they let their imaginations run wild. Rosen then carefully follows the weeks of planning from fundraising to mulch delivery, even explaining the molten metal used to create the monkey bars. When the one-day build finally arrives, 214 volunteers gather to help. There is a huge sense of accomplishment and communal pride: The playground really does belong to every single person who played a part. Whispered asides to readers, including definitions and measurement explanations, are found in colorful sidebars, and full-page photographs show construction vehicles alongside the absolute glee found on children’s faces. KaBOOM! doesn’t just foster the power of play (both physical and imaginative); as seen in this book, it inspires kids to believe in change. (“imagine your own playground” prompts, author’s note) (Nonfiction. 7-11)

CANARY IN THE COAL MINE

Rosenberg, Madelyn Holiday House (144 pp.) $17.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8234-2600-3

The challenges of the coal-mining life from a working canary’s point of view. Brave little Bitty is an earnest and dedicated yellow finch slaving away in a West Virginia coal mine. But the |

increasingly dangerous conditions in the mine soon inspire him to finesse an escape from Coalbank Hollow, hoping to meet with legislators in Charleston to better the miners’ lot in life. His ambition is nothing less than to change the entire dynamics of the mining world. Bitty’s sense of social justice eventually collides head-on with the future, as mine owners contemplate replacing gas-identifying canaries with “new-fangled machinery” like the “Whatchamacallit.” In her author’s note to this debut novel, picture-book writer Rosenberg reveals that her father’s grandfather was once the owner of a coal mine (of the real Coalbank Hollow), albeit a more compassionate one than those portrayed in the book. Illuminating this complex world through the eyes of the canaries that are employed to protect workers is a charming and inventive concept. Happily, Bitty and his mates are often sweet and funny, as their lives inevitably intertwine with the human miners. But the middle of the story gets a tad mired in didactic details, slow pacing and ho-hum dialogue. Endearing and original, if a bit long and drawn-out. (Historical fantasy. 8-12)

SKETCHY

Samms, Olivia Amazon Children’s Publishing (256 pp.) $16.99 | $7.99 e-book | Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-4778-1650-9 978-1-4778-6650-4 e-book Series: The Bea Catcher Chronicles, 1 Bea’s artistic talents take on a psychic dimension when a classmate is raped and left for dead. With only three months of sobriety under her belt, Bea struggles every day with her addiction to drugs and alcohol. Moreover, her vintage clothes, wild hair and reputation put her on the fringes in her new school. Now without mind-altering substances to blunt her senses, Bea is astounded to discover that she can see into people’s thoughts when she sketches them. “I can draw the truth out of people… literally,” she marvels. When a murderer/rapist suddenly begins to terrorize her hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich., Bea’s extraordinary ability draws her into the case. One of the victims is a girl in the popular crowd at school; she was found still alive but claims to remember nothing. Bea’s impulsiveness gets her into tense situations, but her grit and hard-won experience help her piece the puzzle together. Her frequently foulmouthed, present-tense narration reveals all: her longing for “something stronger,” her alienation and her ability to use her acute understanding of the addict’s personality to gain insight into the murderer. Bea’s tough exterior and tumultuous inner life will draw readers in, and they will sympathize with her as she struggles to become her best self. Urgently paced, this teen murder mystery weaves in elements of the supernatural to draw a vivid tale of suspense. (Thriller. 14 & up)

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FEMINIST AND ABOLITIONIST The Story of Emilia Casanova Sánchez Korrol, Virginia Piñata Books/Arté Público (248 pp.) $12.95 paper | Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-55885-765-0

Despite the publisher’s description of this as a biography, it is rather a finely detailed historical novel that sticks closely to the facts of this little-known Latin American activist. Born into a rich, slaveholding Cuban family, Emilia is filled with zeal for freedom from an early age. She refuses to submit to the silent, submissive role of a woman of her time and station, rebelling against her conservative father by championing suffrage for slaves and Cuban independence from Spain. When asked while abroad to deliver contraband papers to her native island home, Emilia sees her chance to be in the thick of the rebellion against Spanish authority. Even though she would be branded a traitor and endanger her family if caught, she fearlessly accepts and carries out her mission. In the fictionalized first-person voice of her subject, Sánchez Korrol chronicles this and Casanova’s many other accomplishments: writing political essays (the first Cuban woman to do so), addressing the United States Congress as a representative of Cuban women fighting for independence, and attempting to internationalize the Cuba Libre movement. Unfortunately, although Casanova is a fascinating character, the author’s scholarly approach burdens the story with so much historical detail that the narrative fails to compel. Flawed as it is, readers may still find this portrait of the little-known, remarkable revolutionary of interest. (Historical fiction. 13 & up)

AWAKENING

Sandler, Karen Tu Books (400 pp.) $17.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-60060-982-4 Series: Tankborn, 2 Despite clumsy prose, the second Tankborn entry presents exciting new mysteries about genetic engineering, illness and rebellions. As a GEN (Genetically Engineered Non-human), Kayla ranks lowest in this caste-based society. The slightest insubordination on her part could prompt a trueborn to reset her—wipe away her soul and give her body a new personhood—or recycle her body for DNA. Driving around by lorry under the authority of a lowborn named Risa, Kayla uses her genetically strengthened arms to haul goods in and out of warehouses; she and Risa also carry information for the Kinship, a secret rebel network. This information travels inside Kayla’s annexed brain, a section inside every GEN’s brain that is accessed by hooking a 108

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datapod (painfully) to the tech-tattoo located on every GEN’s face. Sandler’s strength is suspense, elements of which include the medical mystery of a disease striking only GENs (Scratch is fatal and has bizarre properties), explosions in warehouses storing GEN food, wispy hints of a second revolt (even farther underground than the Kinship) and the web connecting it all. Unfortunately, the intriguing setup and plot are dulled by the telegraphing of some revelations miles in advance and the unsubtle, cumbersome prose that eschews simple pronouns. Longer than it should be, with a romance thread that’s dry as toast—but fans of genetic engineering and shadowy rebellions will find much to like. (map, glossary) (Science fiction. 13 & up)

THE WITCHES OF RUIDOSO

Sandoval, John Piñata Books/Arté Público (120 pp.) $12.95 paper | Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-55885-766-7 A posthumously published coming-of-age story in which an old man recounts meeting his first love in New Mexico Territory in 1895. From the moment 14-year-old Beth Delilah steps from the stagecoach into the small town of Ruidoso, 13-year-old Elijah is enraptured by her pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes (traits that are fetishized throughout the story). The two become fast friends, but Beth Delilah and Señora Roja, a local woman believed to be a witch, are at odds. Through flashbacks, readers learn that Elijah was seduced by Señora Roja into an ongoing relationship. Though the affair is over, the past makes things awkward for Elijah, who is now intimate with Beth Delilah. When the two friends find Señora Roja torturing her niece, Rosa, they resolve to help but are too late to save her from a gruesome and bloody death—an event that traumatizes them both and leads to Beth Delilah’s disappearance. The details of this remembered time and place are rendered with love, though from a distance. Even Elijah’s “horrible” dreams of Señora Roja feel fixed in amber rather than immediately horrifying. Elegant prose is a highlight in a book whose memoirlike tone and heavy nostalgia make it feel like an offering for adults, not teens. (Fiction. 17 & up)

UH-OH, DODO!

Sattler, Jennifer Illus. by Sattler, Jennifer Boyds Mills (32 pp.) $15.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-59078-929-2 A clueless little dodo stumbles into several adventures. Dodo is excited to be with his mother on a special walk with a surprise destination, and he is ready for anything. He sings

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“Throughout, Schneider’s multimedia illustrations employ the same humorous, expressive line seen in his Geisel Award–winning Tales for Very Picky Eaters (2011), delivering a remarkable package.” from the meanest birthday girl

as he goes, waking some baby birds. The funny-shaped rocks he collects include an egg that breaks and a turtle, shell and all. He is friend to all until he encounters a skunk who is definitely not interested. He scares himself when he mistakes a totally different bird for his mama. Finally, his mother shows him a place that overlooks a wide-open expanse filled with color and beauty. On the long walk home, Dodo is happy but exhausted, and he finds comfort and reassurance as he sleeps cradled in mother’s soft feathers. Dodo is sweet and clumsy, filled with good intentions and wide-eyed innocence in his best of all possible worlds. Sattler employs the sparest of text and repeats the title phrase, “Uh-Oh, Dodo,” after every misadventure. Acrylic-and–coloredpencil illustrations depict a bright, lush landscape filled with exotic flora and fauna. Grasshopper is a lovely surprise character, a very loyal friend and companion who accompanies and helps Dodo at every step of the journey but is never mentioned in the text. A charming, cozy read-aloud with lots of visual interest. (Picture book. 2-5)

THE BIG BALLOON

Scheffler, Axel Illus. by Scheffler, Axel Nosy Crow/Candlewick (32 pp.) $12.99 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7636-6372-8 Series: Pip and Posy Bright, brief, undeniably cute but still rather bland, Pip and Posy’s (The Scary Monster, 2012, etc.) third adventure involves a mishap with a red balloon. Vibrant gouache hues paint the everyday world of these two animal friends. “Pip had a…balloon of his very own. He liked it a lot.” He shows it to Posy, and off they go on a walk. As they admire toys in a store window, “by mistake, Pip let the balloon go!” They chase after it until it pops on a sharp tree branch in the park. Pip is crushed: “He cried and cried and cried.” Toddlers and preschoolers will relate to Pip’s unfortunate turn of events and his ensuing tears. When Posy has the inspired idea to blow bubbles, Pip emerges from his misery and has some fun; they do not mind when they pop, “because that’s what bubbles are supposed to do!” Simple text constructed with a controlled vocabulary and presented in a large font may make this a decent choice for new readers as well as a read-aloud for toddlers, even though the relative lack of story and pat ending limit its overall appeal. A mild, recognizable adventure for toddlers. (Picture book. 2-5)

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THE MEANEST BIRTHDAY GIRL

Schneider, Josh Illus. by Schneider, Josh Clarion (48 pp.) $14.99 | May 7, 2013 978-0-547-83814-4

Little Dana needs big lessons in kindness more than any birthday present— unless a present can teach her something, that is. She starts her special day wearing her favorite dress and eating her favorite breakfast, and then, because it’s her birthday “and she could do whatever she liked,” she teases a boy named Anthony. She calls him “ickaborse” and pinches him, and she eats his dessert after her own at school. She later receives many gifts at her party, but none compares with the present Anthony brings after her guests depart: “a big white elephant.” Dana is overwhelmed by the gift’s specialness and is determined to prove her worthiness of the creature, since, as she tells other children, “Not everyone deserves an elephant.” Her dogged efforts result in exhaustion, and with it, Dana becomes a target for another mean girl’s teasing. When audible hunger pangs plague her after she gives up her breakfast to the voracious elephant, for example, “Gertrude called her Grumble-Guts on the bus.” The chagrined Dana talks with Anthony, who generously reminds her about Gertrude’s coming birthday party, and it seems she’s found another birthday girl who deserves an elephant. Throughout, Schneider’s multimedia illustrations employ the same humorous, expressive line seen in his Geisel Award–winning Tales for Very Picky Eaters (2011), delivering a remarkable package. A gift of a book for new readers. (Early reader. 6-9)

LENNY CYRUS, SCHOOL VIRUS

Schreiber, Joe Illus. by Smith, Matt Houghton Mifflin (288 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-547-89315-0

A middle school science genius chooses an unusual way to get the girl. Lenny Cyrus isn’t your average 13-year-old. Growing up with two science geniuses for parents, Lenny is more comfortable with lab rats than his peers. So when it comes to winning the affections of Zooey Andrews, Lenny doesn’t settle for any of the usual tactics. Instead, he devises a plan to shrink himself down to the size of a virus and, with the help of his best friend Harlan, go inside Zooey and literally change her mind. Told from the alternating perspectives of Lenny, Harlan and Zooey, the story offers plenty of humor and action, but what really sets it apart are the complex emotional layers that add depth and a heightened sense of urgency to Lenny’s quest.

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“Warm and appealing watercolor-and-gouache illustrations show a young girl’s family together as they light and hang lanterns, watch the glowing moon in the night sky, drink steaming tea and eat delicious mooncakes.” from mooncakes

Though Lenny’s purported mission is to slip into Zooey’s system unnoticed, what he truly wants more than anything is to be seen by Zooey and, perhaps even more importantly, to be seen by his own parents. Lenny, Harlan and Zooey each have their own distinct and engaging narrative voices. It’s especially refreshing to see that the object of Lenny’s affections is a strong, smart young woman. While Schreiber does a good job keeping things light, some of the science-speak can feel a bit overwhelming. Here’s hoping readers won’t be daunted by it, since there is so much here to enjoy. (Science fiction. 9-13)

OPPOSITES

Schubert, Ingrid; Schubert, Dieter Illus. by Schubert, Ingrid; Schubert, Dieter Lemniscaat USA (32 pp.) $17.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-9359-5426-2 Disparate beasts frolic in a variety of landscapes, all to demonstrate myriad combinations of opposite pairs. A dozen two-page spreads illustrate simple antonyms: big and small, hide and seek, naughty and nice, and more. The pictures are full of mischief. In treating wet and dry, for example, the left-hand, “Wet” page features various animals coping with a rainstorm. One raccoon finds shelter under a giraffe, while another frolics on the riverbank. A small frog high-steps with a big umbrella, and a squirrel and mole huddle under large green leaves. On the “Dry,” right-hand page, a panda suns on a beach towel, a family of ducks swim in a pond with a frog lazing on the mother’s back, a rhino dozes under a tree, etc. “Up” and “Down” includes a seesaw, a tall tree and tall, broad rocks with a tightrope stretching from one to another. Oh, yes, and an elephant’s trunk poking up like a periscope from a hole. Compositionally, these spreads are not for beginners; although the gutter clearly defines the division between opposites, the illustrations typically depict one landscape, and the many animals scattered across them require fairly sophisticated eyes. Good fun for older preschoolers and early-elementary children eager to flex their conceptual muscles. (Picture book. 4-7)

MOONCAKES

Seto, Loretta Illus. by Benoit, Renné Orca (32 pp.) $19.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4598-0107-3 “Tonight the moon shines like a polished pearl, round and fat.” The Chinese Moon Festival is a time to celebrate family, and this year is no exception. Warm and appealing watercolor-and-gouache illustrations show a young girl’s family together as they light and hang lanterns, watch the 110

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glowing moon in the night sky, drink steaming tea and eat delicious mooncakes. Tonight the girl is allowed to stay up late and listen to her parents tell the tales of characters who inhabit the moon, including a wise and protective woman named Chang-E, a selfish woodcutter known as Wu-Gang, and the kind and sharing Jade Rabbit. Each briefly told tale is a sparkling jewel that contains a valuable lesson about trust, generosity or willpower. The framework of a family celebration is effective and satisfying here, and listeners will enjoy curling up with their parents, learning about or re-experiencing some of the holiday traditions, hearing the funny and comforting stories, and perhaps even drifting off to sleep. An author’s note points out the significance of the holiday and explains that “[e]ven relatives who are unable to be with their families can look up at the dark sky and know that their loved ones are watching the same moon.” Lovely. (Picture book. 3-8)

THE THREE TRICERATOPS TUFF

Shaskan, Stephen Illus. by Shaskan, Stephen Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (32 pp.) $16.99 | $14.99 e-book | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4424-4397-6 978-1-4424-4398-3 e-book This version of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff ” will satisfy dinosaur lovers who just cannot get their fill of their favorite prehistoric beasts. “Once upon a time, sixty-eight million years ago…” lived the three Triceratops Tuff brothers: Stanley, Rufus and Bob. Food is pretty scarce, so they go out in search of something to eat. They find lots of vegetation, but it’s on the other side of a valley inhabited by an intimidating T-Rex. Hungry, naïve Stanley is not daunted, even when the giant carnivore approaches him and announces that dinner is served. Told about the bigger brother, the T-Rex tells Stanley to “scram, squirt!” Nervous Rufus’ experience is just the same. And when the largest brother confronts the toothy monster, the always tough Bob has something in mind that doesn’t involve becoming a meal. With the T-Rex taken care of, “at last, dinner was served…” for all the herbivores. Shaskan’s dinos are delightfully individualized, though the T-Rex is so stylized as to possibly be unrecognizable. However his teeth and posture certainly get his message across, while his slang-y speech adds another dimension to the tale. Ferny fronds, a smoking volcano in the background and a mosquito that buzzes through most scenes complete the prehistoric package. Dino lovers will be charmed; others may want to stick with the more traditional goats, like those of Mary Finch’s 2001 title. (Fractured fairy tale. 3-7)

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RUMP The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

Shurtliff, Liesl Knopf (272 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-307-97793-9 978-0-307-97795-3 e-book 978-0-307-97794-6 PLB Shurtliff turns the Rumpelstiltskin tale on end, providing the heartbreaking yet humorous history of the manikin’s dilemma. When he is born, his mother only manages to say part of his name before she passes: “Rump.” His name becomes the source of teasing, and while Rump can appreciate the humor— sometimes—he is concerned. His name is his destiny; how can he grow when he does not know his full name? To his surprise, Rump also discovers he can spin straw into gold—a curse, since when Rump trades the gold, he must accept whatever is offered. Using a crisp, cheeky tone and with the back story meticulously built, the landscape mapped out and the characters in place (including some nods to other fairy-tale denizens), Rump’s romp begins. The miller is greedy and worsens the situation when he tells the king that it is his daughter who spins gold. Rump tries to save her, but she is frustratingly fatuous and makes terrible trades (a baby!). Witches do not offer much advice, other than “Watch your step.” When Rump learns that he must find a “stiltskin” to break the curse, it may also be the clue he needs to figure out his name. In his moment of triumph, children will want to dance alongside the unlikely, likable hero. As good as gold. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 8-12)

SEYMOUR SIMON’S EXTREME OCEANS

Simon, Seymour Chronicle (60 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4521-0833-9

temperature differential between El Nino and La Nina is “50° to 100°F” is off by a factor of 10 or more (though the Celsius equivalent provided in parentheses is not). A weak alternative to the author’s widely available single-subject titles. (index, no bibliography, downloadable teacher’s guide requires sign-up) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

GET READY FOR WAR

Simone, Ni-Ni; Abrams, Amir Dafina/Kensington (448 pp.) $9.95 paper | $7.55 e-book | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-7582-7355-0 978-0-7582-7533-2 e-book Series: Hollywood High, 2 Four hundred pages of posturing lead nowhere in a second volume featuring four starlet frenemies at elite Hollywood High. Even though London, Rich and Spencer can barely stand one another, they decide they have to stay nominally friends since each knows too much about the others. (Heather, whose point of view was represented about equally with the other girls’ in the first volume, spends much of this sequel in rehab, and her segments appear only haphazardly.) Despite their ostensible truce, however, the three girls spend most of the novel verbally and physically fighting with one another, their mothers and the boys in their lives—including one particularly over-the-top moment in which Spencer pulls out a pair of nunchucks in the school’s cafe. Readers who enjoy a well-turned insult may get some pleasure out of the seemingly endless ways the girls find to call one another and their enemies fat, ugly, slutty and, in one particularly uncomfortable case, Asian. After several hundred pages, however, even clever put-downs get stale. Although there is some buildup to a climactic party, the story ends on a cliffhanger with no party in sight. More tedious than scandalous. (Fiction. 14-18)

THE BOYFRIEND APP

A slapdash survey of oceanic science from the prolific veteran. Surfing over topics he’s covered in his plethora of previous books, Simon offers general remarks about seas, waves, tides, storms, undersea mountains and volcanoes, sea life and climate change. As ever, the many big, clear nature photographs deliver delicious eye candy, but the author’s long-standing aversion to captions sometimes can leave readers frustrated or puzzled: What, for instance, is that gelatinous blob next to the whale shark, and why is the discussion of Arctic sea ice illustrated with two photos of a receding glacier on land? His proofreading could have been done with more care too, as one cut-and-pasted picture’s internal label includes an unexplained reference to “ASTER” (an Earth observation satellite), and his claim that the water |

Sise, Katie Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-06-219526-5 978-0-06-219528-9 e-book What starts as a geek-girl romantic comedy turns into an implausible techno-thriller. When Public, an Apple-like tech giant responsible for social networking site Public Party and the omnipresent buyPhone, announces an app-building contest for high school students, computersavvy Audrey creates the Boyfriend App to match users with potential dates. After the app successfully pairs her fashionblogger cousin Lindsay with Audrey’s fellow geek Nigit, Lindsay

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promotes it via Twitter to her audience of thousands. (Luckily for Lindsay, ostensibly religious Nigit doesn’t seem to mind when she treats Hindu deities as fashion inspiration). After a brief setback, Audrey discovers a hidden functionality in buyPhones that turns the app into a high-tech love potion: Press a button and point it at a boy and he adores you. (Female users can also point it at a girl, but the only student to do this is a highly stereotyped exchange student whose kiss is portrayed as humiliating.) Public’s reaction to Audrey’s hacking their phones is suspenseful and engaging, but there are plot holes aplenty. Why does no one else question how the app works? How can every student afford a buyPhone? More disturbing, the ethical implications of users “apping” boys into kissing them are left almost completely unaddressed. Ultimately, too hard to swallow, with too many unanswered questions. (Fiction. 13-16)

CLAUDE IN THE CITY

Smith, Alex T. Illus. by Smith, Alex T. Peachtree (96 pp.) $12.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-56145-697-0

This British import mixes outlandish adventures (or possibly very vivid dreams) with intentionally juvenile jokes to create a zany first (U.S.) entry in a series for transitioning readers. The episodic plot follows two days in the life of Claude, a talking, beret-wearing dog, and his best friend, a sentient, independently mobile sock named Sir Bobblysock. On the first day, Claude and his friend visit a cafe, enjoy a shopping spree in a hat shop and finish up with a trip to the art museum, where Claude inadvertently foils a robbery. On the next, they take a trip to the hospital since Sir Bobblysock is feeling poorly. While there are no comics or superheroes, some of the wordplay (the doctor’s name is Ivan Achinbum) as well as the display of underwear (both men’s and women’s) in numerous illustrations may remind readers of the perennially popular Captain Underpants series. Smith’s text varies from short, simple declarative sentences typical of early readers to longer, more complex sentences and paragraphs that feature sophisticated vocabulary and concepts. The digitally created artwork resembles pen and ink with pencil shading, and the palette is limited to black, gray and red with coral accents. This color scheme gives the illustrations a distinctly retro feel, while Claude’s vague resemblance to both Underdog and Snoopy creates a cartoon vibe. Quirky and cosmopolitan Claude’s audience on this side of the pond is likely to be limited, but it may well also be quite enthusiastic. (Fiction. 7-9)

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NIGHT SOUNDS

Sobrino, Javier Translated by Amado, Elisa Illus. by Urberuaga, Emilio Groundwood (36 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-55498-332-2 The animals of the rain forest settle down for sleep, but they are disturbed by the sounds of the night in this cumulative story. Orangutan responds first to the “WUAAaah WUAAaah WUAAaah.” “Why are you crying, little one?” he asks of the young creature lying in an old box. It snuffles and says, “Because…hic…hic, because I’m cold.” Orangutan brings a blanket and the hope that warmth will bring peace and quiet. But 10 minutes later, there’s crying again. Tapir brings a bowl of fresh water to the thirsty little one. And so it goes on, as the awakened animals become increasingly cranky. Finally, not comforted by what the animals have brought, the little one admits he wants his mummy. Tiger comes back riding on the mother elephant, and the now-revealed, very large baby gets a kiss “that can be heard all over the forest.” Everyone settles down, but then: “WUU WUU WUUUuu.” The animals are really upset this time, but the little elephant knows it is a child crying in the village and shouts, “THAT CHILD MUST HAVE A KISS!” Watercolor, ink and crayon pictures are bright and textured, and despite their interrupted sleep, all the animals are smiling. The bear balancing the tray of honey sweets and mango on its back is particularly fetching. Bedtime desires are gently portrayed and gathered up until it is indeed sleepy-time in this cuddlesome import. (Picture book. 3-7)

BLUEBIRD

Staake, Bob Illus. by Staake, Bob Schwartz & Wade/Random (40 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-375-87037-8 One little boy, one little bird and one big city come together in a wordless fable of friendship, school, loss and comfort. Readers see the bluebird first, following the boy as he walks to school. Like a guardian angel, the bird watches the boy, even while his classmates mock him. Soon, the bird and boy become friends, returning home from school together, playing hideand-seek, stopping at a bodega and sailing a boat in a pond. A run-in with a group of thugs leads to the bird’s demise. Blues and grays are the colors of this urban world, allowing Staake’s design to tell the story. Horizontal and vertical panels are interspersed with full-page spreads, encouraging the reader to slow down and experience the story. Though the volume is wordless, there is some environmental text on the signs of the city, which points to how the boy might feel about his life. Each sign is nearly generic: Gotham Café, Circus, The Steadfast Independent Books. Color changes, from blue to near black to white to

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“…the endearingly droll [dog’s] comic facial expressions and exaggerated body language convey bewilderment, determination, frustration, disappointment, boredom, anticipation, fear and euphoria as he spends a day with his ball.” from ball blue again, allow readers to feel every emotion, including the devastating climax and the begs-to-be-discussed ending, which is punctuated by eight birds of many colors escorting the boy and the bluebird into the clouds. Like nothing you have seen before. (Picture book. 6 & up)

TOO SMALL FOR MY BIG BED

Stewart, Amber Illus. by Marlow, Layn Barron’s (32 pp.) $14.99 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7641-6587-0

Stewart tenders a piece of puff pastry that wishes nothing more than to send its readers to slumberland. This book, with its handsome artwork but thin-as-gruel text, may find its readers snug asleep in bed, but purely unintentionally. The bald intent here is to instruct: If you sense your mother’s nearness when you wake late in the dark of night, you will feel her loving protectiveness, close your eyes and find your way back to sleep. To be kind, if your child is a committed spiritualist or a Zen adept, this may work, but most adult readers will find themselves muttering, “As if.” The mother and cub spend the day flexing the cub’s newfound abilities—jumping in the grass, climbing the rocks—and the mother, in the refrain, reminds the cub that he is doing it “all by yourself ”: the unsubtle hint that he is not sleeping by himself yet, is he? These reminders give way to the mystical. “If you keep your eyes closed, and I am quieter than the smallest cricket,” asks Mommy, “then how do you know I am near?” Eventually it works for the cub, though that grassland still looks mighty dark and deep. The illustrations, however, are an eyeful: mixed-media confections that catch the smoky-purple hills and tawny grasslands where these tigers roam (though, in reality, most tigers prefer the Asian forest). A didactic pipe dream. (Picture book. 3-5)

HOW I MET MY MONSTER

Stine, R.L. Scholastic (160 pp.) $6.99 paper | $6.99 e-book | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-545-41800-3 978-0-545-51017-2 e-book Series: Goosebumps Most Wanted, 3 Goosebumps “most wanted” monsters return in all-new tales intended to terrify. Twelve-year-old Noah “Bean” Bienstock is frightened of monsters, and he’s been having awful dreams of a huge, dark beast dragging him underwater. He’s so bothered by the dream that he sees monsters everywhere: running down the street, in the school’s pool, even in his best friend’s apartment. He knows they’re real, and he’s sure they’re after him. Could Monroe, the new kid in Sternom House |

Apartments, be the monster? Could it be Harlan, the bully who takes Bean’s lunch money every day? Why isn’t Bean’s best friend Lissa more helpful? Why aren’t his parents more supportive? Is he going crazy? When the dream changes, and the monster tells Bean he’s next, Bean really wigs out. Stine’s new Goosebumps subseries recycles monsters that starred in the original volumes. The writing is repetitive and formulaic, but it’s a formula that has worked for over 20 years: silly/scary covers with only a few frights inside, chapter-ending cliffhangers resolved in the first few sentences of the next chapter and a twist ending. Bean’s first-person narration is full of hyperbolic, goggle-eyed mugging and lots of horrifying italics! Nothing new to see here; for hard-core fans only. (Horror. 8-12)

BALL

Sullivan, Mary Illus. by Sullivan, Mary Houghton Mifflin (40 pp.) $12.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-547-75936-4 The single word “ball” comprises the text of this visual chronicle of a day in the life of a dog and his ball. An unnamed, roly-poly pooch lies curled on a little girl’s bed with a ball in his mouth. As the girl wakes up, she yells, “BALL,” and enthusiastically tosses it. To the dog’s utter joy, the girl continues tossing the ball while she dresses, but, alas, she leaves him alone with his ball when she heads off to school. Failing to entice the meditating mother, the puzzled baby and the freaked-out cat to play ball, the dog finally takes a nap on the girl’s bed, dreaming wild dreams about his ball until the girl returns from school—just in time to play ball all over again. As the day progresses, the word “ball” reappears in bubbles above the dog’s head with variations in punctuation, size and typeface, reflecting his mood and emphasizing his obsession with the round toy. Subdued illustrations, executed in pencil and digitally colored in pale hues, carry this story, allowing the eye to zero in on that all-important bright red ball and the endearingly droll dog, whose comic facial expressions and exaggerated body language convey bewilderment, determination, frustration, disappointment, boredom, anticipation, fear and euphoria as he spends a day with his ball. Deceptively simple little winner for dog lovers. (Picture book. 4-8)

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“[Tharp] harnesses loser teenspeak like no other author, and Dylan drops several quotable one-liners that teen readers will totally respect.” from mojo

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Swenson, Jamie A. Illus. by Walker, David Farrar, Straus and Giroux (32 pp.) $16.99 | May 28, 2013 978-0-374-30868-1 A nighttime thunderstorm results in a crowded bed when a little boy welcomes his pets to snuggle up with him and his teddy bear in this cumulative, rhyming story that is reminiscent of The Napping House but falters a bit in its pacing. As the storm begins, the boy is reading his book when his dog jumps into bed for some comfort as the thunder booms outside. Then a kitten, a guinea pig, a frog, a parrot and even a snake cram themselves into the boy’s tiny bed. There’s clearly no room when the boy’s sister demands to clamber in as well, and despite her brother’s protestations, she “jump[s] in with elbows flying,” and the bed breaks. In a rather abrupt ending, the other characters all disperse without notice, and the boy snuggles into his broken bed with only his teddy bear and book as the moon and stars shine in a clear night’s sky outside of the window. The quickness of the page turn from the bed breaking to this resolution throws off the pacing of the story, and the curious absence of any parents or other adult caregivers in the story may give some children who are familiar with fears about thunderstorms pause, despite the sweet softness and gentle palette of the illustrations. A good but not great good-night picture book. (Picture book. 2-6)

THE DREAM BIRD

Süphandagi, Lale Illus. by Akdag, Ibrahim Tughra Books (56 pp.) $14.95 paper | Apr. 15, 2013 978-1-59784-282-2 In three teaching tales originally written in Turkish, a golden bird affords each of a trio of modern Muslim children dream glimpses of a different “Prophet.” Answering young Shakir’s prayer to see Muhammad, the bird carries him to the radiant house of Muhammad’s birth, to the hills where “Halima suckled and cared for him,” over the Ka’ba and on to Medina. There, the Prophet, his face “bright like the moon” (but not directly seen in the naïve-style cartoon illustration), is “helping his friends build Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, the Prophet’s Mosque.” The dream ends atop the “Mountain of Light,” where the Qur’an was revealed. Subsequently, Marwa is vouchsafed views of Isa (the baby Jesus), who proclaims, “Without a doubt, I am a servant of Allah. Allah gave me a book and made me a Prophet. He ordered me to be kind to my mother.” Marwa and readers then see him grow up to feed the hungry (with loaves and what looks like squab rather than fishes) and heal a blind 114

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man. In the final story, Umar sees Musa (Moses) abandoned on the Nile, rescued, “chosen as a Prophet,” given the “Holy Book Tawrat (Torah)” atop an unnamed mountain and parting the sea, “by the permission of Allah.” The narratives are bland, the figures and locales in the art generic—but Muslim and non-Muslim children alike may find the perspective illuminating. (Picture book/religion. 5-8)

MOJO

Tharp, Tim Knopf (288 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-375-86445-2 978-0-375-89580 e-book 978-0-375-96445-9 PLB An Oklahoma City high school loser becomes an amateur detective. Sixteen-year-old Dylan Jones has no game. He’s pudgy, wears semi-ironic band T-shirts and a porkpie hat, and has a Wimpy-like affection for hamburgers. He gets no respect from his peers until he discovers the body of fellow student Hector Maldonado in a Dumpster near the school. His resulting investigation gains him some notoriety, but soon the douchebags at his school dub him “body bag” instead of hero. Dylan then vows to regain his mojo by putting his sleuthing skills to use to search for a wealthy missing teenage girl from the other side of town. There, he and his BFF Audrey are caught up in a web of deception, lies, cruelty, murder and juicy hamburgers. There’s not a damn thing wrong with Tharp’s third offering: It’s dead-on. Characterizations are pitch-perfect. He harnesses loser teenspeak like no other author, and Dylan drops several quotable one-liners that teen readers will totally respect. They’ll also love the two best friends who help him along the way: Audrey, who finds her first girlfriend on the fancier side of the tracks, and impulsive, loudmouthed, lovable Randy, who always gets Dylan into trouble. Finally, Tharp’s plotting moves swiftly and succinctly; he injects just the right number of left turns and amount of humor to keep his readers guessing and laughing. Flawless fun. (Mystery. 12 & up)

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OLIVER’S TANTRUMS

Todorov, Boriana Illus. by Todorov, Vladimir Simply Read Books (34 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 27, 2013 978-1-897476-67-3

Photorealistic, vibrantly colored, sometimes-disturbing images tell an amped-up story of sibling jealousy. Like Max in Where the Wild Things Are, neglected big brother Oliver seeks revenge on his family through an imaginative encounter; he takes as his vehicle three animated fuzzy balls, quaintly named Basil, Cedric and Rasmus, he finds in a box in the attic. Each Tantrum, when thrown hard at his longsuffering mother, transforms itself into a truly scary monster and inflicts near-biblical punishments of flood, food and toys gone mad. Fortunately Mom is tough and can stand up to all this bad treatment. She confronts Oliver’s demons wearing various uniforms—hazmat suit, firefighting gear, full armor. Finally she lowers her sword, opens her visor and explains to him that she loves him and didn’t mean to ignore him. The hyperactive Oliver is somewhat mollified by this, and together, mother and child conquer the dreadful Tantrums by putting the now-harmless balls back in their box. In a hint of things to come, however, little sister Polly is seen discovering the Tantrums for herself. Illustrator Vladimir Todorov’s background in animated movies is clearly evident in the high quality of the airbrushed photographic artwork, which almost seems to pop off the pages. In one particularly memorable image, a monster made of spaghetti leers at Mom with olive eyes and a particularly nasty-looking pepperoni tongue. Definitely a book aimed at high-energy boys. (Picture book. 3-8)

AS FAST AS WORDS COULD FLY

Tuck, Pamela M. Illus. by Velasquez, Eric Lee & Low (40 pp.) $18.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-60060-348-8

A tribute to her father, Tuck’s school desegregation story highlights an African-American boy’s triumph in a typing tournament. Mason Steele (the fictionalized version of Tuck’s father, Moses Teel Jr.) is a 14-year-old who helps his father’s civil rights group by writing letters for them. Impressed and grateful, the group presents him with a manual typewriter, which proves useful when Mason and his siblings desegregate a public school in their home state of North Carolina and encounter overt hostility and discrimination. He nevertheless excels and earns the honor of representing his school in a countywide typing tournament—a position racist administrators grant him to avoid trouble with the Board of Education after he scores highest in |

his typing class. The other competitors choose electric typewriters, but although he realizes that he will lose time, Mason selects a manual typewriter, later saying “[I]t reminds me of where I come from.” And he wins. The victory’s drama seems woefully understated, however, especially since Velasquez’s accompanying oil paintings never show the children typing, instead depicting moments before and after the competition. And yet, although he lacks celebration from those outside his family, Mason is proud, knowing “his words typed on paper had already spoken for him—loud and clear.” A warm, if understated, title about the struggle for equality. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

ADVICE TO LITTLE GIRLS

Twain, Mark Illus. by Radunsky, Vladimir Enchanted Lion Books (24 pp.) $14.95 | Apr. 12, 2013 978-1-59270-129-2

Crisply satirical and a little subversive, Twain’s short, acerbic sendup slyly exhorts little girls to take a calculating approach to manipulating friends, broth-

ers and elders. Originally published in 1867 as a sketch in his collection The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories, Twain’s advice acknowledges the not-all-sugar-and-spice nature of girls (thereby skewering the gender-driven double standard of his time) by suggesting expedient alternatives for getting what they want: “You ought never to take your little brother’s ‘chewing-gum’ away from him by main force; it is better to rope him in with the promise of the first two dollars and a half you find floating down the river on a grindstone.” Radunsky’s mixed-media illustrations incorporate 19th-century clothing, attractive calligraphy and scribbled, blotchy ink sketches to evoke both the period and the disarming playfulness behind Twain’s excoriation of manners. The intended audience for this handsomely designed clothbound edition is unclear, as the humorist’s irony will evade most young children and a fair number of adults. Those who do get it will relish it. An elegant curiosity for admirers of Twain, Radunsky or both. (Picture book. 6 & up)

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FRIENDS

get into their respective restrooms; the boy stands with his legs crossed. Informative as well as reassuring, this is ideal for prepping kids for their first flight (and maybe adults as well). Fasten your seat belts and sit back and relax; this clever book should fly off the shelves. (Informational picture book. 3-6)

van Hout, Mies Illus. by van Hout, Mies Lemniscaat USA (32 pp.) $17.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-9359-5423-1 With only a dozen or so words and spectacular images, van Hout captures the landscape of friendship for toddlers through teens and beyond. The colors are jewel-bright on black pages, and each opening shows a pair of figures, usually a larger one and a small one, and a single word. They are animals or monsters or little gnomelike creatures, but they are all vibrantly alive. “Play” features a yellow four-legged guy in a striped sweater, and clinging to his ear and having a splendid time is a small teal poppet with horns, a tail and a ruffled scarlet dress. “Bore” finds a huge purple creature flat on his back with all four feet and tail in the air; splayed on his tail in a boneless posture of inertia is a small green-clad one. “Tease” finds a little yellow guy in a green dress shamelessly poking the nose of a very bristly beastie, while “fight” has creatures close in size tangled in jagged fury. There is crying and making up, embarrassment with very red cheeks and perfect “trust,” as a tiny figure balances on one foot on the blue snout of a creature with a great many teeth. Like the earlier Happy (2012), this conveys emotional heft and arresting images in an appealing, child-size package. (Picture book. 3-8)

FLIGHT 1-2-3

van Lieshout, Maria Illus. by van Lieshout, Maria Chronicle (40 pp.) $14.99 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4521-1662-4 Get ready for takeoff and some counting fun. This charming companion to Backseat A-B-See (2012) uses a counting concept to describe the phases of preparation for an airplane trip. A family of three with a boy wearing a yellow cap provides a narrative throughline for readers. “When taking a flight, what do you see? / 1 Airport / 2 Luggage carts / 3 Check-in desks” and so on, including escalators, trash cans and security officers. Following 10 gates are 100 fastened seat belts, 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers), 33,000 feet (10,000 meters), a “million places to explore”—and “[o]ne happy meeting.” The digital illustrations depict the scenes with graphic shapes, universal signs and simplified white silhouettes similar to those seen on restroom signs for people; only the protagonist family and some key figures such as airline personnel are given any individuality at all. Humorous, graphically clever details abound. The trash cans are seen in cross section, filled with illegal items such as water bottles, scissors and baseball bats. Eight men and nine women line up across the spread from left to right waiting to 116

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THAT’S MINE

Van Zeveren, Michel Illus. by Van Zeveren, Michel Gecko Press (32 pp.) $18.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-8775-7927-1 Exactly what’s inside that little egg left unattended in the mighty jungle? A small green frog peeks out from some leaves at a white egg about his own size. “That’s mine!” he declares. A split second later, a long brown snake hisses its way into the picture from above, claiming the egg for himself. Then an eagle flies down with the same assertion. Before he can fly away with the egg, a lizard comes to take it. They fight, and the egg flies through the air. It bounces off the head of an elephant, miraculously not breaking. The elephant reacts with an enormous “Ouch!” When the angry pachyderm turns to ask to whom the egg belongs, each animal passes the buck, the lizard to the eagle to the snake and, finally, back to the little frog. The elephant politely returns the egg, to the chagrin of the others, who leave. Readers may find themselves chagrined, too, at the sudden deflation of tension. What gives? A second later, the egg starts to crack; inside is not a baby frog, but a crocodile. She does look like the frog and rushes towards him with open arms, crying “Mine!” With the exception of the cute little frog, Van Zeveren’s text and pictures are both eminently forgettable. A long, drawn-out setup that leads to a punch line so understated many kids won’t get it. (Picture book. 3-6)

FROGGED

Vande Velde, Vivian Harcourt (208 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-547-94215-5 Princess Imogene wonders whether she is as good as she should be when she reads that a princess ought to be as good as she is beautiful in The Art of Being a Princess, a gift—a hint?—from her mother. She is, and more. For moments later, when a rude frog claiming to be a prince asks her to kiss him, Imogene ignores her revulsion, puckers her lips and…turns into a frog!—a consequence he neglected to mention. Imogene will not consider putting someone else at risk, except maybe the unscrupulous actor who refuses to take Imogene home, instead making her the talking-frog star of his

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“The irony of a wilderness-fearing squirrel that lives in the wilderness is especially funny in a camping-avoidance context, and the ending is nothing less than sublime.” from scaredy squirrel goes camping

traveling show. Imogene is afraid she will never be unfrogged. Uneducated, boy-crazy Luella, a member of the troupe, may be Imogene’s only hope. Readers will be quickly immersed in the story. Chuckle-worthy chapter headings torn from the aforementioned etiquette book paired with snarky commentary keep children apprised of Imogene’s status. Concise, sassy prose feels comfortably modern yet stays true to an earlier time. Characters emerge through conversations and actions, especially Luella, who, in contrast to Imogene, allows for observations about class, education and the role of women. Interestingly, it is Luella and Imogene’s mother who effect the rescue. A fine addition to the canon of fractured fairy tales. (Fantasy. 8-12)

MY LIFE AFTER NOW

Verdi, Jessica Sourcebooks Fire (304 pp.) $9.99 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4022-7785-6

A now-rarely-discussed topic—a teenager with HIV—receives sensitive but flawed treatment in this debut novel. Lucy’s suburban life is picture-perfect: good friends, a boyfriend, a bright future. But when her boyfriend cheats on her, she gets cast as Mercutio rather than Juliet, and her fathers let her pregnant, drug-addict mother stay with them, Lucy decides it’s time to be someone else. A night of drinking and dancing at a Manhattan nightclub ends with Lucy going home with a guy and having unprotected sex. Inevitably, Lucy contracts the HIV virus from the encounter. Her diagnosis sends Lucy into a tailspin, through good and bad doctors, a new friend and a new boyfriend. After some struggle, she’s gained some hard-won equilibrium, only to be threatened by an old enemy. Lucy’s journey toward accepting her diagnosis is realistically handled, complete with highs and lows. There are perhaps too many AIDS statistics interrupting the story, and too many coincidences and pat story elements are present: One unprotected sexual encounter leads to HIV, and a muffed stage sword fight causes Lucy to bleed, among others. It all starts to verge on problem-novel status. Nevertheless, given the strength of Lucy’s development and the paucity of novels currently written about suburban teens with HIV, the flaws can be overlooked by readers. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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SCAREDY SQUIRREL GOES CAMPING

Watt, Mélanie Illus. by Watt, Mélanie Kids Can (32 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-894786-86-7 Series: Scaredy Squirrel

The world’s most timorous rodent returns for another nonadventure. Scaredy Squirrel has no desire to go camping—“the rugged wilderness” is just too darn scary. Why, out in the wilderness he might encounter quicksand, the Three Bears, penguins and zippers, among other perils. So he resolves to enjoy camping vicariously, via his new television. But electrical outlets are few and far between in the woods, and it looks like Scaredy will have to venture out through the wilderness to a nearby campground to plug in. He assembles his survival kit (“really long extension cord,” cement, dictionary and fan), dons his “wilderness outfit” (zipper-free), makes a plan, plots a route, does some calisthenics and, when conditions are right (sun = go; volcanic activity = cancel), sets out. All’s going well until—gasp— a penguin (a mini-golf fixture) appears in his path! Scaredy does what he does best: panics and then plays dead. When he wakes, it’s to a glorious sunset and the realization that the wilderness may not be so bad after all. Watt and Scaredy hit all the right notes, hewing to the now-familiar formula. While the execution may no longer be startlingly original, that’s not what Scaredy or his fans are after. The irony of a wildernessfearing squirrel that lives in the wilderness is especially funny in a camping-avoidance context, and the ending is nothing less than sublime. Welcome back, Scaredy. (Picture book. 4-8)

NO BATH, NO CAKE!

Weinert, Matthias Translated by Wilson, David Henry Illus. by Weinert, Matthias NorthSouth (48 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7358-4112-3 This Swiss import may lack the customary “Arrs” and “Mateys” of the pirate genre, but its heart is in the right place. When the pirates of the good ship Mary Anne discover that they’ve been invited to a little girl’s birthday party, they’re thrilled. But the beckoning cake and fizzy drinks are waylaid when Pete, the pirate parrot, informs them that they are unfit for civilization. At his insistence, they bathe, buy fine clothes, purchase an appropriate present and wrap it. Weinert’s ink-andwatercolor illustrations make the most of the situation, reveling in the pirates’ pre-reformation grunge and the absurdity of their cleanup. Canny readers may see where this is going, particularly after the birthday girl proves skeptical of squeaky-clean

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“Jenna’s confusion and her determination to sort out her understanding of both herself and her history come through clearly and sympathetically.” from whatever doesn’t kill you

pirates. Sadly, the pirates’ delight is punctured almost entirely by birthday-girl Polly’s remarkable rudeness. Not only does she tell them that they look stupid, but the ungrateful little wench tosses their carefully planned present out of her home. What should be a refreshing example of girls who like pirates instead leaves a bad taste in readers’ mouths. Though a visual treat, it’s only for those who can’t get enough yo-ho-hos and bottles of rum. (Picture book. 4-8)

WHATEVER DOESN’T KILL YOU

Wennick, Elizabeth Orca (208 pp.) $12.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4598-0083-0

UNDER THE LIGHT

A girl struggles to understand the lasting effects of her father’s murder on her family. Growing up in Ontario, social misfit Jenna has hated Travis Bingham all her life. Travis shot and killed her father when she was a baby. She blames him for her mother’s mental illness and her family’s poverty. When she learns that Travis has been released from prison, her friends urge her to confront him. Breaking with her longtime friends over the issue, Jenna finds herself befriended by a popular girl, who drags Jenna to the mall and uses her shopping sense to get Jenna a whole new wardrobe and haircut, jolting Jenna into a new perspective on herself. She begins to uncover unsettling clues about her family’s past. When Jenna finally does meet Travis and gets him to talk about the past, an entirely new history opens up, calling into question many of her former beliefs. Wennick keeps her prose flowing nicely, and her characters come across as real people with strengths and flaws. Jenna’s confusion and her determination to sort out her understanding of both herself and her history come through clearly and sympathetically. A solid, affecting coming-of-age tale. (Fiction. 12-16)

MISS MAPLE’S SEEDS

Wheeler , Eliza Illus. by Wheeler , Eliza Nancy Paulsen Books (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 4, 2013 978-0-399-25792-6 Wheeler has a graceful way with the petals and fronds of her imaginary landscape but a harder time with the logic and metaphor of the story. Miss Maple lives in a cozy home in a tree with a winding staircase that leads to her door. She rides on a blue bird, traveling all summer to rescue “orphan seeds that got lost during the spring planting.” She brings them home and scrubs them clean before taking them on field trips so they can learn how to live in proper soil and avoid weeds. All the while, she repeats the 118

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refrain that “the world is big and you are small.” She tucks them up all winter and tells them stories; in the spring, she sends them off with love and then starts all over again. The pictures are green, gold, peach and many shades of blue; Miss Maple herself wears voluminous layered skirts and a big willow hat. The plants and flowers invite repeated viewings. But if this is a fable for the care of lost little ones, the whole seed idea does not work. If it’s not, what is it? Children might enjoy the round, tiny lady as she reads to her seeds by firefly light or sets them afloat from her leaf boat, but a far better choice would be Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden, by Edith Pattou and illustrated by Tricia Tusa (2001). (Picture book. 5-7)

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Whitcomb, Laura Houghton Mifflin (256 pp.) $17.99 | May 14, 2013 978-0-547-36754-5 Teens overcome troubled lives through metaphysical and spiritual opportunities in this poetic sequel. After being humiliated by her zealot father and unsupportive mother, Jenny drifts away, leaving her body open for Helen, a 130-year-old ghost still mourning her untimely death. A ghostly companion to creative people, Helen seizes the opportunity to become corporeal and connect with kindred spirit James, who occupies the body of drug-abusing juvenile delinquent Billy. Helen only uses Jenny for six days, but even the gentlest spirits can cause destruction, and Jenny unwillingly returns from an astral-projection adventure to a shattered life and ruined reputation. She seeks comfort in Billy’s company, and together they try to come to terms with their trauma and to remember their out-of-body experiences. To chilling effect, Whitcomb skillfully incorporates the unsettling and grotesque aspects of the living teens’ family lives—Billy’s abusive childhood, Jenny’s fanatical parents (like characters from a Stephen King novel)—and Helen’s disastrous death and separation from her daughter. Jenny’s and Helen’s voices are distinct and passionate, though the shifts between narrators and planes of existence can be disorienting. Jenny’s reconstruction of events revisits the same characters and setting as A Certain Slant of Light (2005) but offers further literary and elegiac contemplation of life, love and the afterlife. Life proves as haunting as death in this well-crafted ghost story. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

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STUNG

adolescent afterlife, the story morphs into a thriller when Paige discovers a vicious secret about one of her fellow spirits, which leads to an unexpectedly transcendent and moving finale. A somber tale that will make teens think twice. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Wiggins, Bethany Walker (320 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-8027-3418-1 Fiona Tarsis wakes up to a world of nightmares in this fast-paced, feverbright post-apocalyptic adventure. Her brother’s a monster, her Denver suburb’s a wasteland, and she doesn’t even recognize herself or the 10-legged tattoo on her hand. Fiona has no memory of the last four years or how the world changed, but she quickly learns how dangerous life is outside the wall. After seeking assistance from Arrin— a Fec, or sewer-dweller, of indeterminate gender and murky motives—Fiona is captured by the militia and seems destined for a short and painful life in a laboratory. Or worse—like all vaccinated children, Fiona bears the mark, and she could turn into a ravening beast at any moment—but she is also a female in a barren and depopulated world. Fiona loses her innocence but not her hope as she dives into chase scenes, gun battles, gladiatorial fights and a tentative romance with her rescuer/captor Dreyden Bowen. Wiggins (Shifting 2011) muses on the dangers of science and medicine and deftly maps out the chain of events that has led to catastrophe, creating a violent world vastly different from ours but still recognizable. With a stirring conclusion and space for a sequel, it’s an altogether captivating story. Readers will gladly be bitten by this bug. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

ABSENT

Williams, Katie Chronicle (184 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8118-7150-1 Three dead teens “[s]ettle in for the world’s longest detention” in this melancholy ghost story. Paige Wheeler died at 17 when she fell off the roof of the school during a misguided science experiment. Now trapped on the school grounds as a ghost, Paige spends her time drifting the halls with Brooke and Evan, two other ethereal teens. Paige is troubled by the rumor that she jumped instead of fell, and when she discovers she can inhabit the body of anyone who is thinking about her, she tries to use the ability to clear her name. But many of the attempts backfire, especially when it comes to making her best friend Usha paint a memorial mural of her or getting her “secret” hookup Lucas to admit that he and Paige were together. Paige’s regret that she accepted less than the very best for herself will be a sobering reminder to readers not to take opportunities and relationships for granted. “What if I hadn’t wasted my time—myself—on a guy who was only around for kisses in the trees?” Mostly a moody meditation on |

P.S. BE ELEVEN

Williams-Garcia, Rita Amistad/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $16.99 | $17.89 PLB | May 21, 2013 978-0-06-193862-7 978-0-06-193863-4 PLB Readers will cheer the return of the three sisters who captured hearts in the Newbery Honor–winning One Crazy Summer (2010). The sequel finds sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern returning to their Brooklyn home, full of excitement about visiting their mother in Oakland, Calif. The girls, especially Delphine, are also eager to begin a new school year. However, home is a little different: Their father has a girlfriend, the teacher Delphine had been eagerly expecting has exchanged places with one from Zambia, and their beloved Uncle Darnell is returning home from Vietnam. But their favorite singing group, the Jackson Five, is coming to town, too. With the help of their father’s girlfriend, Miss Hendrix, the girls set out to save to attend the concert. Through all of their experiences, Delphine uses her new connection with her mother to understand things, questioning, challenging and reaching for a mother’s guidance. Whenever she pushes a bit too hard, Cecile’s tart, repeated advice to “be eleven”—even when she turns 12—resonates. Williams-Garcia’s skilled writing takes readers to a deeper understanding of Delphine as she grows up and is forced to watch her family take a new shape. Disappointments are not glossed over, even when they involve heartbreaking betrayal. This thoughtful story, told with humor and heart, rings with the rhythms and the dilemmas of the ’60s through characters real enough to touch. (Historical fiction. 9-14)

WIND, RAIN, SNOW

Yildirim, Rabia Illus. by Yildirim, Rabia Tughra Books (54 pp.) $14.95 paper | Apr. 15, 2013 978-1-59784-284-6 Published first in Turkish in 2008, this picture book from an Islamic publisher takes a look at the higher purpose of winds, raindrops and snowflakes. Yildirim’s illustrations have the retro colors and aesthetic of 1950s early readers. Lines are swirly, and every raindrop, snowflake, tree and child wears a smile. Each of the three chapters ends with a prayer from the children, praising Allah for the

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wind, rain and snow. Each is also followed by a play activity of great simplicity (for rain, children can, with mother’s permission, take a basin outside and watch it fill with water). The personification of the weather—wind, raindrops and snowflakes each with little faces—has a raw and simple charm that is also evident in the text. Strong Wind knows that in autumn he must blow hard, informing all of the coming winter, but he is reduced to tears when the raven’s nest is destroyed because the raven did not prepare it for the change of seasons. The other winds remind him that he did his duty, and the fault was raven’s. The last raindrop rescues a white daisy: “I will have a long life!” she says. The pine tree fears the weight of the snow, but the snowflakes remind him that almighty Allah gave him the perfect shape to hold snow and that the melting snow will benefit all. This is very much a teaching story, with an emphasis on the “teaching” part; despite its didacticism, it’s welcome in its representation of a belief system not seen often enough in American children’s books. (Picture book/religion. 5-8)

JEWISH FAIRY TALE FEASTS A Literary Cookbook Yolen, Jane —reteller; Stemple, Heidi Illus. by Shefrin, Sima Elizabeth Crocodile/Interlink (200 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-56656-909-5

Veteran storyteller Yolen and her daughter Stemple combine Jewish folklore with culinary tradition in this selection of tales and correlating recipes sure to enhance a Jewish family’s celebrations. These 18 stories reflect a wide representation of Jewish beliefs and oral history, springing not just from Eastern European Yiddish-speaking lands, but also from the Middle East. “The Pomegranate Seed” (misspelled in the table of contents) is originally from Morocco, and “Rifka and the Magic Pitcher,” a “Red Riding Hood”–type story comes from Iraq. Yolen carefully documents her research and her rationale for retelling each chosen tale. A combination of fabric collage art and paint creates bold, almost abstract figures for both story characters and recipe ingredients. The oversized, glossy-paged volume is divided into four sections: Brunch, Soup, Main Courses and Dessert. Two Israeli recipes, shakshuka (an egg-and-tomato breakfast dish) and pomegranate couscous, give a little Middle Eastern zing to the more familiar offerings, such as challah, noodle kugel and matzo balls. Several of the holidays are also represented: Purim with hamantaschen, Shavuot with blintzes and Hanukkah with latkes. Recipes are kid friendly. More valuable as an entrée to Jewish literature than as a cookbook, but the recipes are a nice bonus. (Folklore/cookbook. 7-10)

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THE PROGRAM

Young, Suzanne Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (416 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-4424-4580-2 As a teen-suicide epidemic sweeps the nation, Sloane and her friends struggle with depression from which the only release is death or The Program. Every day the teens pretend that they’re not “infected” in order to avoid being seized by The Program. This government-sanctioned treatment returns high schoolers to the community after stripping them of their memories and making them vacant versions of their former selves. With raw emotion, 17-year-old Sloane relates the story in three parts. In the first, Sloane and her boyfriend, James, cling to their intense love while their friends commit suicide or are taken away. There’s nowhere to hide as Sloane and James try and fail to keep themselves from The Program. The stomach-churning second part follows Sloane in treatment, where her memories are plucked and her body violated, and her only friend is playing both sides. Finally, Sloane is re-introduced to her school and family. She retains one key memory, which leads her back to fear, pain and love. How this epidemic began and whether The Program is a sinister conspiracy is left unanswered, but despite weak worldbuilding and a bleak plot, Sloane’s quest for survival and individuality is a tribute to the tenacity of the essential self. For lovers of dystopian romance, this gripping tale is a tormented look at identity and a dark trip down LostMemory Lane. (Dystopian romance. 14 & up)

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“Music lovers will enjoy this melodic story, which is a good thing, since they’ll likely not forget the tune anytime soon.” from cat doorman’s little red wagon

interactive e-books THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE

Begin, Maryjane--Adapt. Illus. by Begin, Maryjane Demibooks $3.99 | Jan. 14, 2013 1.0; Jan. 14, 2013

An iPad adaptation of Begin’s traditional book adapting Goethe’s classic poem. Most kids will think more about Mickey Mouse than about Goethe when they hear the title. This rendering certainly isn’t as showy and sparkly as the Fantasia version. But it does feature a similar storyline, which of course involves a massive flood and an army of anthropomorphic brooms. The book’s illustrations have a classic medieval fairy-tale vibe, with the sorcerer looking like a cross between The Wizard of Oz’s Cowardly Lion and a blueeyed, blond-haired Sunday School Jesus. The images are lasersharp and colorfully—almost too much so—vibrant; despite animations, human figures are quite wooden. In a legacy of its print beginnings, pictures typically illustrate the text that was presented on the previous page. Certain words or phrases— indicated by a golden color—produce small, quick animations to enhance the story. The musical score is impressive; it’s unfortunate that neither the credits nor the developer’s website offer any information about it. Begin’s take on the narrative is solid but shallow. At one point, the sorcerer tells his young female apprentice that someday she’ll understand why, “The hard work of a Sorcerer is not the same as that of an apprentice.” By the end of the story, she’s enlightened, but readers are left in the dark about that particular plot point. All at once beautiful, garish and a bit prosaic. (iPad storybook app. 6-10)

CAT DOORMAN’S LITTLE RED WAGON

Bright, Julianna Illus. by Bright, Julianna Night & Day Studios $2.99 | Jan. 23, 2013 1.0.0; Jan. 23, 2013

Sing along with the classic children’s tune as a giggly girl gathers provisions for a picnic with her friends. Writer/artist/musician Bright has adopted the moniker “Cat Doorman” for her children’s work and here employs her talent trifecta to create this adaptation of the traditional children’s song. She has modified the lyrics to fit her musical storyline and also created the book’s vibrant, childlike illustrations. The app begins with an adorable little girl pulling her wagon to the first screen. Readers are invited to place an instrument (a guitar, |

a piano or a full band) into the wagon, which determines the accompaniment. There’s an animated staff of music at the bottom of the screen that offers musical notation of the melody. From there, the girl visits the bakery, the dairy, an orchard and a garden, where—with the help of readers—she will collect food for her picnic. Each stop offers ample opportunity to hone finemotor skills, and little fingers can also find interactive opportunities along the way. The musical mix is well-done, and the three-part harmonies soar (Doorman enlisted members of the Decemberists and the Corin Tucker Band to help round out the band.) The only thing missing is a way to skip around between scenes, as there are absolutely no shortcuts from beginning to end. Music lovers will enjoy this melodic story, which is a good thing, since they’ll likely not forget the tune anytime soon. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

HERMES

BumpBump Books BumpBump Books $1.99 | Jan. 4, 2013 1.0; Jan. 4, 2013 As might be expected for a god, Hermes’ beginnings are far from ordinary. Born at dawn, he eats nonstop and grows prodigiously—as the uncredited text reads, “The day of his birth was exceptionally trying for his poor mother.” Bored by nightfall, he slips out of the cave and straightaway happens upon a herd of “lovely cows,” which he steals before butchering and eating two of them. “Woe unto Hermes,” though, as those lovely cows just happen to be Apollo’s. As apology, Hermes presents Apollo with the first lyre—partly made from the horns of one of Apollo’s dead cows. Illustrations are largely watercolor with some collaged-in elements, most notably a cherubic Victorian face that cleverly belies Hermes’ naughtiness. The app is minimally interactive, opting for subtle animation and sound effects over finger taps in a way that prioritizes the story. The text is exceptionally well-synced to both pleasingly accented narration and page turns, but there is no advanced navigation or options. At the end of the story, children are rewarded with the opportunity to drive Hermes around in a bumper car, bashing the developer’s other characters (Bluebeard, Baba Yaga and Punch) and revealing satisfyingly puerile jokes with each crash. Its greatest liability is the absence of any kind of source note to contextualize the myth for children not already familiar with it. A pleasantly understated alternative to the many frenetic apps on the market. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

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“That perennial favorite, the mechanics of excretion, is well and alimentarily served by this app…” from all about poop

MR. PUNCH IN THE ESCAPE

BumpBump Books BumpBump Books $1.99 | Jan. 5, 2013 1.0; Jan. 5, 2013

A distinctly peculiar app retells a grisly Victorian puppet show. Readers meet the clownish Mr. Punch in jail. To Punch’s disingenuous narration (and accompanied by objective stage directions), constable Jack Ketch erects a gibbet and prepares to hang the criminal. “What a handsome tree he has planted just opposite the window, for a prospect!” Punch rhapsodizes. Ketch tries to lure Punch into the noose and then commits the cardinal error of any trickster’s victim: Out of frustration, he demonstrates and does himself in. Punch gloats; story ends. The text, uncredited and unglossed, seems to come from a 19th-century puppet-show script by John Payne Collier; the illustrations feature a photo-collaged image of what appears to be a Punch puppet. It’s artfully done; the watercolor illustrations exaggerate the buffoonery of Ketch and his minions, and the kazoo accompaniment couldn’t be more appropriate. But with no credits and no notes of any kind, it’s hard to imagine who it’s for. Scholars of Victorian literature and culture may find it a pleasing bagatelle. Modern children are the apparent audience, judging by the appended bumper-car game that reveals corny dialogue balloons upon successful collisions. Unfamiliar as they are with the show’s conventions, though, what they are to make of it is anyone’s guess. Punch and his partner Judy drew enthusiastic audiences in the 19th century; his appeal to the 21st is likely to be considerably smaller. (iPad storybook app. 14 & up)

ENDLESS ALPHABET

Callaway Digital Arts Callaway Digital Arts Jan. 24, 2013 1.0; Jan. 24, 2013

Googly eyed cartoon letter-monsters scatter and can be nudged back into order to form words in this hyperactive vocabulary builder. Preceded by a swipe-through index that provides the only alternative to going in strict alphabetical order, the words—which run to lively choices like “lick,” “hilarious” and “cooperate”—appear one to a screen. Once a viewer settles on a word, a passing herd of cartoon monsters kicks the letters away from their outlines. The letters develop eyes and sound themselves out as they’re dragged back into their places, and reassembling the word opens a second screen in which more monsters demonstrate its use. A speech-balloon icon in one corner, unintuitively labeled “Word,” activates a short, voiced definition (“When you DEMOLISH something, you break it on purpose”). Big sound effects, loud colors and 122

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sudden quick movements give the whole exercise a feel of gleeful unrestraint, reminiscent of Sesame Street at its most frenetic. The app as reviewed offers just 32 terms, but more are promised at unspecified intervals (and, at least potentially, cost), and a screen headed “Information For Parents” contains, so far, only links to a technical assistance page and social media. Promising, though the navigation needs tweaking, and the glossary is still in an early stage. (iPad alphabet app. 4-7)

ALL ABOUT POOP

Hayes, Kate Illus. by Vaughan, Brenna Pinwheel Books $1.99 | Dec. 21, 2012 1.0; Dec. 21, 2012 That perennial favorite, the mechanics of excretion, is well and alimentarily served by this app from Hayes and Vaughan. With its youthful, rhyming voice-over—“Speaking of food, that’s where it starts— / poop, I mean (and also farts)”—it gives the topic frank fun that conveys the naturalness of the process without stripping away its comic strangeness. The actors here are a boy and his dog (and of course the poops), who usher users stem to stern from mouthful to flush, stopping at every station along the way: esophagus, belly, intestine, toilet, cesspools and sewage lines. The body parts are situated and identified but not explored in any depth. Each page—there are 19—has one or more opportunities for engagement, sometimes opening up another page for greater explication, sometimes just allowing the dog to bark or the intestine to rumble; all is movement, as it were. One page is devoted to a gallery of poop shapes and another to the passing of gas—the accompanying sound effects are a hoot (flarp! squeep! pwip!). Tips (don’t play with poop, wash your hands) and trivia (herring communicate via flatulence, elephants poop 300 pounds a day) close out the proceedings. Blunt and easeful—like having an older sibling give you the scoop. (iPad informational app. 4-8)

MOOMIN AND THE LOST BELONGINGS

Kaarla, Riina; Kaarla, Sami Spinfy $1.99 | Jan. 27, 2013 1.0.2; Jan. 27, 2013

New Moominapps are always welcome, but this one’s not quite ready for prime time. Each of the nine series characters (plus a cat on a nonverbal instruction screen) that Moomintroll meets on a stroll has lost something, from Moominpappa’s top hat to Snufkin’s flute. Touching bushes, rocks or other details in the very simple cartoon scenes reveals the item (on later visits,

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it will be hidden somewhere else), which can then be dragged to its proper place. Butterflies and other details likewise respond to taps or tilts. Swiping a corner activates page turns forward or backward, but those turns are unusually slow, and there is no quick way either to skip pages or to start over until reaching the thumbnail index at the very end. Furthermore, an icon with a “T” opens a box of text—but the narrator goes on to read additional lines that do not appear on the screen in either the audio or silent modes. Should future updates improve the navigation, add the complete text and correct the huge typo on the title screen, this will be a Moominmust. (iPad storybook app. 4-6)

KOTO GO WEST

Light Sleepers Light Sleepers $2.99 | Dec. 19, 2012 1.0; Dec. 19, 2012 A poorly written story about a canine sheriff who investigates loud noises. The title of this app is a little confusing. Is Koto, the broom-toting sheriff pup, going west (in which case there would be an “es” attached to “go”)? Or is the title a command (which would make it, “Koto! Go West!”)? Either way, Koto is at the mercy of an overbearing, disembodied narrator who continually commands him to investigate noises and shush them. In each instance, the narrator thinks she knows what’s making the racket; in each case, she’s wrong. For example, what she thinks is a shrieking eagle hunting for squeaking mice in the kitchen turns out to be a whistling teakettle. Suspected rattlesnakes are simply boot spurs, spinning in the wind. In terms of interaction, there’s not much here, unless tapping words to trigger narration or advancing pages qualifies. The pages in which Koto springs into action are beautifully animated, and his expressions are endearing. However, the screens between animated pages are static and silent, even though they’re full of phrases like, “Can you feel it? / The air is trembling with shaking noises.” The story ends with the narrator encouraging Koto to have some fun, now that he’s wasted his entire day chasing her whims. Koto is both terribly cute and terribly written. He’d do well to drum up some writing help for his creators. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

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THE BUGABEES

Recob, Amy Illus. by 64 Colors Amy Recob $4.99 | Nov. 9, 2012 1.1; Dec. 31, 2012

Food allergies need not give you the blues when you’ve got friends like the Bugabees. Based on a print book of the same title, the app tells the story of eight bug friends, each with individual food allergies, and what can happen when exposed to nutritional no-nos. Cricket is allergic to peanuts. Beetle is allergic to milk. Caterpillar is allergic to wheat. On the list goes, covering the most common food allergies found in children. Brightly colored illustrations create a community of friends at home, school and play. Page by page, the Bugabees flit about with plenty of interactive options, and through an informative quiz at the end of story, readers can learn more about food allergens. Parents will especially love the fruit-and-veggie–consumption support, as well as the affirmation that food allergies need not keep children from having fun. As the rhyme goes, “queasy or itchy or yucky, / it means you’re allergic but also quite lucky” to have good friends and good times together. The rhymed text, unfortunately, is forced and bland, and the repetitive response that each character gives when offered an offending food, while a reinforcement of the rhyme and a good strategy, gets old pretty quickly: “No thank you. It’s okay. I can still have lots of fun without ____ anyway.” A serviceable if artless resource. (iPad storybook app. 4-6)

VICTOR WANTS TO PLAY

van Overveld, Mark Illus. by Bronkhorst, Tristan Verge $2.99 | Dec. 6, 2012 1.1; Dec. 6, 2012

A sweet, if a bit slight, friendship story with good design elements. Poor Victor the bat is sad and a bit lonely as he searches for friends to play with him in the middle of the night. After he’s rejected time and again by all the animals he meets, Victor finally returns home to his dark attic disappointed and tearful, only to meet a big spider who’s happy to find a new friend. Young readers will enjoy the repetition in the story, as Victor asks one animal after the other to play, and they will also relish being smarter than Victor, who asks a scarecrow and a statue of a horse to play, as well as live animals. The cartoonish illustrations are colorful and friendly, offsetting the necessarily dark palette. Easy to navigate, this app is appropriately designed for young readers. The soothing narration is well-paced and fits the story well. The interactive features are restrained, with only one or two elements per page, yet they are entertaining and take just the right amount of discovery. The

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story is a bit lengthy for young toddlers, and kindergartners may find the ending a bit abrupt, limiting its audience. Clean design and predictable story make this an enjoyable app to share with preschoolers. (iPad storybook app. 3-5)

ANIMAL ANTICS Sheriff the Tiger’s Adventure ZigZag Studio ZigZag Studio $1.99 | Jan. 10, 2013 1.0; Jan. 10, 2013

Noisy, chaotic and overstuffed, this sheriff ’s hunt for small-time, mostly furry criminals shoots itself in the foot. The Wild West town of Animaland is disrupted by several bands of “Animal Antics,” a euphemism for masked bandits causing trouble. A stumpy-looking giraffe with no neck tells Silver Star the Tiger, the town’s sheriff, that he must clean up the town. For the rest of the stroll through Animaland, readers try to pick out the “Antics” from the other animals, a constant parade of monkeys, bears, pigs, lobsters and even the odd octopus. Nothing makes much sense, and even as the narration tries to unspool the story, animal noises, scattered bits of dialogue and sound effects compete for attention. Animations never rest, and little question marks pop up and blink, offering even more visual clutter. Activating the option to introduce (poorly) written text to the story turns the page into a mess with little room to breathe. All the animals, even the ones causing the town’s trouble, have identical smiles, and the sheriff, troublingly, has eyeballs that roll around in circles. There’s a nice puzzle feature, multiple languages on offer and lots of social options to contact the developers of the app, but the story itself, if readers can get past the distractions, is lengthy and uninteresting. Despite the beguiling title, give this one a miss. (iPad storybook app. 3-7)

This Issue’s Contributors #

continuing series DAY OF DOOM

The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers, #6 Baldacci, David Scholastic (272 pp.) $12.99 Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-545-29844-5 (Thriller. 8-12)

WINNER BAKES ALL

The Cupcake Club, #3 Berk, Sheryl; Berk, Carrie Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (212 pp.) $6.99 paper Apr. 3 2013 978-1-4022-6455-9 (Fiction. 8-10)

AVENGER

Halflings, #3 Burch, Heather Zondervan (304 pp.) $14.99 Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-310-72824-5 (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

MOLLY MOON & THE MONSTER MUSIC Molly Moon, #6 Byng, Georgia Harper/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $16.99 Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-06-166163-1 (Fantasy. 8-12)

Alison Anholt-White • Kim Becnel • Elizabeth Bird • Marcie Bovetz • Connie Burns • Timothy Capehart • Ann Childs • Julie Cummins • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Dave DeChristopher • Elise DeGuiseppi • Lisa Dennis • Andi Diehn • Carol Edwards • Laurie Flynn • Omar Gallaga • Barbara A. Genco • Judith Gire • Jessie C. Grearson • Melinda Greenblatt • Megan Honig • Jennifer Hubert • Shelley Huntington • Laura Jenkins • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • K. Lesley Knieriem • Megan Dowd Lambert • Angela Leeper • Peter Lewis • Lori Low • Wendy Lukehart • Lauren Maggio • Joan Malewitz • Hillias J. Martin • Michelle H. Martin PhD • Jeanne McDermott • Kathie Meizner • Daniel Meyer • Lisa Moore • R. Moore • John Edward Peters • Melissa Rabey • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Melissa Riddle Chalos • Amy Robinson • Ronnie Rom • Leslie L. Rounds • Ann Marie Sammataro • Mindy Schanback • Mary Ann Scheuer • Dean Schneider • Stephanie Seales • Karyn N. Silverman • Robin Smith • Rita Soltan • Edward T. Sullivan • Deborah D. Taylor • Bette Wendell-Branco • S.D. Winston • Monica Wyatt • Melissa Yurechko

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PEPPA PIG AND THE MUDDY PUDDLES

Peppa Pig Candlewick Press Illus. by Candlewick Press Candlewick (32 pp.) $12.99 Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7636-6523-4 (Picture book. 2-5)

DEAD SILENCE

Body Finder, #4 Derting, Kimberly Harper/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $17.99 Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-06-208222-0 (Paranormal suspense. 12 & up)

THE STAR SNATCHER’S PLANET

The Little Prince, #5 Barichella, Thomas Adapt. by Dorison, Guillaume Illus. by Élyum Studio Graphic Universe (56 pp.) $26.60 PLB | $7.95 paper $19.95 e-book Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7613-8755-8 PLB 978-1-4677-0737-4 paper 978-1-4677-0984-2 e-book (Graphic fantasy. 9-13)

THE PLANET OF THE NIGHT GLOBES

The Little Prince, #6 Gonnard, Christel Adapt. by Dorison, Guillaume Illus. by Élyum Studio Graphic Universe (56 pp.) $26.60 PLB | $7.95 paper $19.95 e-book Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7613-8756-5 PLB 978-1-4677-0738-1 paper 978-1-4677-0985-9 e-book (Graphic fantasy. 9-13)


THE PLANET OF THE OVERHEARERS

The Little Prince, #7 Cappoccia, Héloïse Adapt. by Dorison, Guillaume Illus. by Élyum Studio Graphic Universe (56 pp.) $26.60 PLB | $7.95 paper $19.95 e-book Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7613-8757-2 PLB 978-1-4677-0739-8 paper 978-1-4677-0986-6 e-book (Graphic fantasy. 9-13)

THE PLANET OF THE TORTOISE DRIVER The Little Prince, #8 Benedetti, Hervé; Robin, Nicolas Adapt. by Dorison, Guillaume Illus. by Élyum Studio Graphic Universe (56 pp.) $26.60 PLB | $7.95 paper $19.95 e-book Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7613-8758-9 PLB 978-1-4677-0740-4 paper 978-1-4677-0987-3 e-book (Graphic fantasy. 9-13)

ZIGZAG ZOOM

Zigzag Kids, #8 Giff, Patricia Reilly Illus. by Alasdair Bright Wendy Lamb/Random House (80 pp.) $12.99 | $15.99 PLB $4.99 paper Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-385-74275-7 978-0-375-99075-5 PLB 978-0-307-97703-8 paper 978-0-307-97704-5 e-book (Fiction. 6-9)

APHRODITE THE BEAUTY

CLEMENTINE AND THE SPRING TRIP

ARTEMIS THE BRAVE

WILD PITCH

LUNCH LADY AND THE VIDEO GAME VILLAIN

EXTRA FAMOUS

Goddess Girls, #3 Holub, Joan Aladdin (176 pp.) $15.99 Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-4424-5751-5 978-1-4424-0715-2 e-book (Fantasy. 8-12)

Goddess Girls, #4 Holub, Joan Aladdin (176 pp.) $15.99 Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-4424-6139-0 978-1-4424-1184-5 e-book (Fantasy. 8-12)

Lunch Lady, #9 Kroscocka, Jarrett J. Illus. by Kroscocka, Jarrett J. Knopf (96 pp.) $12.99 PLB | $6.99 paper Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-307-98079-3 paper 978-0-307-98080-9 PLB (Graphic adventure. 7-10)

SCANDAL

Clementine, #6 Pennypacker, Sara Illus. by Frazee, Marla Disney Hyperion (160 pp.) $14.99 Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-4231-2357-6 (Fiction. 7-10)

Cal Ripken Jr.’s All-Stars, #3 Ripken Jr., Cal; Cowherd, Kevin Disney Hyperion (208 pp.) $16.99 Mar 5, 2013 978-1-4231-4002-3 (Sports fiction. 8-12)

Calvin Coconut, #9 Salisbury, Graham Illus. by Rogers, Jacqueline Wendy Lamb/Random House (176 pp.) $12.99 | $15.99 PLB Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-385-74220-7 978-0-375-99047-2 PLB 978-0-307-97427-3 e-book (Fiction. 8-12)

The Ivy, #4 Kunze, Lauren with Onur, Rina Greenwillow (336 pp.) $17.99 Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-06-196051-2 (Chick lit. 14 & up)

THE TEMPTATION

CHASING THE PROPHECY

OUT OF THIS WORLD

The Secret Circle, #5 Smith, L.J. HarperTeen (288 pp.) $17.99 Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-06-213047-1 (Paranormal romance. 13 & up)

Beyonders, #3 Mull, Brandon Aladdin (512 pp.) $19.99 Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-4169-9796-2 978-1-4169-9800-6 e-book (Fantasy. 8-12) |

Can You See What I See? Wick, Walter Illus. by Wick, Walter Cartwheel (40 pp.) $13.99 Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-545-24468-8 (Picture book. 4-8)

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indie ROLL THE DICE

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: IN SEARCH OF AND OTHERS by Will Ludwigsen.......................... 132 THE MIDDLE KINGDOM RIDE by Colin Pyle; Ryan Pyle................ 136 PLACES by Philip Shabecoff.............................................................. 138

THE MIDDLE KINGDOM RIDE

Pyle, Colin; Ryan Pyle CreateSpace (300 pp.) $19.99 paper $9.99 e-book Dec. 2, 2012 978-1468159813

Avrashow, Wayne Manuscript (430 pp.) In this hilarious, politically savvy potboiler, an aging rock star stages his biggest gig yet—a high-profile election campaign. Pushing 50, singer and perennial Rolling Stone cover boy Tyler Sloan decides that an independent run for the open Senate seat in his home state of Nevada is just the thing to cement his legacy. With sky-high name recognition, crowd-pleasing charisma and a personal fortune to spend, his chances don’t look bad. But he struggles with plenty of negatives, including a well-publicized history of drug abuse, the united hostility of the Republican and Democratic party machines, and an unequalled risk of bimbo eruptions. (Floating around somewhere is an old video of him engaging in group sex—with his GOP opponent.) Sloan plunges into the whirl of exaltation and degradation that is the modern election campaign: boning up on his cow-milking technique for a county fair, deflecting idiotic press gotchas (the direst is an accusation of vegetarianism flung at him before an audience of cattle ranchers), enduring the Girl Scouts’ heckling, patiently rebuffing every demand to sing and ducking when a Second Amendment stalwart opens fire. Almost as riotous are the backstage wranglings: Sloan’s campaign manager is wearing a wire for the Feds, his lawyer is up to his monogrammed cuff links in influence peddling, and the sexual tension with his edgy media guru is primed to explode. For all the fun it pokes, Avrashow’s novel is keenly observant in its depiction of both the public histrionics of elections and the hard-boiled dealmaking and armtwisting that go on behind closed doors. The author’s subtle, knowing prose brings out layers of complexity in characters and their motives, never reducing them or their quest to caricatures. Sloan is an intelligent, politically savvy hero, ready to compromise—although he also realizes the value of a vicious attack ad. He runs a feel-good populist campaign that promises vague “solutions” while skirting specifics, yet he retains a core of conviction that gives his politics some substance. As mired as Sloan is in the sleaze of vote-getting, readers will be eager to see him win. An entertaining, spot-on portrait of politics at its corrupt, dysfunctional, inspiring best.

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“Banzet’s wit is a WMD.” from a flowershop in baghdad

A FLOWERSHOP IN BAGHDAD

Banzet, Michael CreateSpace (348 pp.) $17.95 paper | $8.99 e-book | Oct. 3, 2012 978-1478271291 U.S. Air Force veteran Banzet reports with a proud airman’s-eye view (and some humor) on his enlistment and posting to Iraq and America’s effort to rebuild the Iraqi military in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s shattered dictatorship. Occasional salvos of fierce political op-ed—pro-Bush, anti“liberal”—pepper this robust, often humorous and thoughtful military-insider account of Air Force life and the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Banzet grew up in Montana, and after marriage, he enlisted in the Air Force. However, his entry was delayed, and before actually attending basic training, Banzet looked at a future of hopeless, entry-level civilian jobs. (However, as part of Banzet’s mission statement, he aims to overturn the stereotype of U.S. forces being demoralized youth who serve merely because no other employment opportunities beckon.) Once in the military, Banzet declares that America’s armed forces—even the grunts; especially the grunts—feature some of the best souls the country has to offer. He shores up that assertion with vivid descriptions of the work done by American (and British) troops repairing Iraq. Even as insurgents and Sunni–Shiite enmities took a toll on coalition endeavors (the bad news exaggerated by the media, the author asserts), Banzet helped lead the effort to retrain former Iraqi military members, many of whom, not long ago, were the enemy. A country’s armed forces reflect its essence, Banzet states, and while he encounters his share of martinets during his tour (including an “intel guy” worthy of Get Smart), the Saddam dictatorship had sired an especially dysfunctional military culture of sycophancy, incompetence and corruption. Banzet writes of instilling in his new Iraqi cadets an Air Force– style discipline, honor (performing duties for a greater Iraq, not out of fear) and leadership. He doesn’t excuse the POW abuse at Abu Ghraib but does emphasize that it was an exception to the rule; most Iraqis felt safer under occupying American troops. For skeptics seeking a rationale for what made Iraq such a priority target after 9/11, the book only offers a warmed-over take on Bush Doctrine, with the qualifier that Saddam’s forces were in such shambles it’s no wonder the CIA got bad info about weapons of mass destruction. Banzet’s wit is a WMD itself, and readers might guess he detests democrats even more than Saddam; fortunately, instead of talk-radio bloviating, most of the time he uses solid storytelling and eyewitness examples to maintain that the U.S. presence in Iraq was beneficial to and appreciated by the Baghdad locals he came to know. The book would nonetheless benefit from a glossary of terminology, acronyms and jargon peculiar to the Gulf wars. Action takes a rear guard to the human element in this compelling account of a soldier’s mission being accomplished.

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ONLINE EDUCATION A Practical Guide To Success In The Online Environment Bayode, Bola CreateSpace (222 pp.) $9.99 e-book | Aug. 22, 2012 978-1477474068

A guide to the increasingly complex world of online education. More and more institutions have begun offering online courses in recent years, and many people are interested in using such courses to further their education. In this self-help debut, Bayode (Onsite Dean/Strayer Univ.) draws on a decade of experience as a teacher of traditional and online classes and aims to debunk a number of online education myths, including the notion that online courses are easier or less expensive than traditional ones. In fact, online learning can be costly; students may need to pay not only for the course, textbooks and supplies, but also for a computer and special software. The author writes that he has taught thousands of students in online courses and points out that people must be highly motivated and disciplined to complete the coursework and participate effectively with other students. Bayode stresses self-discipline in nearly every chapter of this book, particularly for students who also have full-time jobs. He meticulously delineates the many challenges of online education, which can be especially daunting for students with inadequate computer skills. In an eye-opening chapter titled “Questions You Must Answer Before Taking Online Courses,” he urges readers to ask themselves hard questions about their comfort with independent learning and technology. In an intriguing final chapter, Bayode looks at the emergence of online education in developing countries and how corporations and higher-education institutions might collaborate in delivering online education in the future. A reliable, authoritative resource for prospective online students.

A TASTE FOR TRUTH

Brown, Thistle CreateSpace (360 pp.) $19.95 paper | Nov. 21, 2012 978-1477423011 A newlywed uncovers some unsettling family secrets in this debut novel. Thirty-six-year-old Anne Kinsman’s visit to her best friend Winkie near Milwaukee turns into a surprise bridal shower. Guests include her mother, two sisters and high school classmates she hasn’t seen in the 18 years since her graduation in 1964. Despite her considerable success as a fashion designer, at the party, she reverts to “Annethe-Elephant,” deflecting mean-spirited comments about her low weight and lifelong dieting. Her 55-year-old Jewish fiance,


Barry, owner of a line of upscale women’s boutiques, finds her size less troubling than her virginity, which she’s determined to cling to until after the marriage vows. Soon after the shower, the couple receives troubling news: The promiscuous Winkie is dead under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind an abusive husband and a perceptive 11-year-old girl, Anne’s goddaughter. Winkie’s death proves to be the loose thread that unwinds years of secrets. Anne’s strong narrative voice guides the story through WASP family get-togethers, newlywed clashes and office politics, offering pointed observations about relationships. “I love my father. I used to like him,” she says. She also weaves in considerable, sometimes catty, fashion commentary. Anne’s reaction after Winkie’s death is particularly well-drawn, showing the types of nonsensical thoughts that accompany the shock of death: “Ding-dong, the Winkie’s dead. Which old Wink? The Winkie-Wink.” In contrast, Barry’s family history tales, repeated more than once almost verbatim, don’t have the same ring of truth as Anne’s. However, they do echo the novel’s underlying exploration of how well you can truly know another person and what lies behind the facade of perfection. The book’s genre is a bit muddled: An early, long sex scene promises a steamy, romantic bend, while Winkie’s mysterious death hints at a possible crime or mystery thread. Neither genre is fully embraced, but as the book progresses, the distinction doesn’t matter. The excellent pacing—except for the dragging denouement containing the last of the family secrets—helps make for an easy, satisfying read. Lively writing, brisk pacing and a likable narrator fill out this promising debut.

the paparazzi’s stalking of the hot couple jeopardizes Shannon’s job, and Will makes a drastic choice to protect her. In the dark days that follow, Shannon takes advantage of John’s romantic interest. Will true love win? Shannon and Will’s speedy romance will keep readers turning the pages, while Shannon’s occasional bouts of worry over their relationship—its fast pace; an engagement after five months; the unlikely pairing of her, a newly minted lawyer, and him, a jet-setting actor—temper the fantasy with reality. The two lovebirds are surrounded by a friendly cast, but characters are largely underdeveloped. Will’s two best mates and their girlfriends are interchangeable, popping up only when needed to celebrate or console Shannon. The novel dips into soap-opera territory, especially in the final chapters, as the author races to wrap up all of her characters’ lives, which results in some over-the-top actions, such as a relationship proposal moments after a divorce is finalized. Nonetheless, Shannon’s fairy-tale life provides a delightful fantasy; Anglophiles in particular will enjoy the numerous scenes across London and the English countryside. An exciting, fast-paced love story, more closely related to romance novels than character-driven chick lit.

WOMEN I WANT TO GROW OLD WITH Grow Old Together with Courage, Health, and Attitude!

Gage Lofgren, Diane; Bhola, Margaret CreateSpace (188 pp.) $11.99 paper | $8.99 e-book Oct. 19, 2012 978-1467917445

AWAY FROM THE SPOTLIGHT Carlisle, Tamara Self (481 pp.) $5.99 e-book | Jun. 3, 2012

An unlikely couple braves the ups and downs of love in this modern-day fairy-tale romance set in Hollywood and London. Out on the town one night with friends, Shannon, a young law school student, meets a handsome British expat in what she assumes is an everyday flirtation. Quickly, though, their romance sweeps Shannon off her busy feet, as Will wines and dines her with extravagant dates, welcoming her into his lavish LA lifestyle. The only flaw Shannon can see is that Will and his friends are quick to dismiss her interest in what they do for a living. The truth is revealed when Shannon flips through a tabloid magazine and sees her new boyfriend in its pages: a famous actor with a famous actress girlfriend. A teen heartthrob and blockbuster success, Will works hard to convince Shannon that the gossip rags manufactured the romance between him and his co-star. Meanwhile, Shannon realizes that the co-worker she’s always been attracted to, John, is also in love with her. Jewelry from Tiffany’s, a magical holiday in London and a hasty-yet-heartfelt engagement keep Shannon true to Will. There’s trouble in paradise, though, when

In their first collaboration, Gage Lofgren (Change Your Child’s Behavior by Changing Yours, 1996) and debut author Bhola make a case for strong female friendships. Partly a tribute to their own friendship and partly a how-to guide, Gage Lofgren and Bhola thoroughly examine the ways in which women can benefit from female friendships. The authors do so in this simply structured, casually informative book that cites results found by researchers, such as the landmark UCLA study that revealed women release oxytocin—a chemical important to combating stress—when hanging out with their friends. The authors encourage women to create a solid foundation of female friends on which they can rely and with whom they want to grow old. The acronym and mantra of sorts GOTCHA—Growing Old Together with Courage, Health and Attitude—pops up in frequent footnotes as “GOTCHA! Moments” or quick tips on how to have and be a better friend. Most importantly, the book rewrites the very definition of friendship by debunking certain myths and pre-existing beliefs that often limit relationships. The authors, whose likability is palpable, go on to offer helpful advice to women readers on how to create and maintain such a friendship, even in middle age. With the abundance of self-help titles currently being targeted toward women who hope to find, foster or fix |

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romantic relationships, it’s refreshing to see Gage Lofgren and Bhola underscore an oft-overlooked but vital part of a woman’s life. Both authors separately fell upon hard times without having a friend to call, so they’re doing readers a service by encouraging them to find a group of friends before they find themselves in a similar situation. A compassionate, helpful book about the power of female friendships.

HOW TO MAKE TIME WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE ANY A New Approach To Reclaiming Your Schedule Garcy, Pamela D. CreateSpace (114 pp.) $9.53 paper | $9.99 e-book Sep. 23, 2010 978-1453770184

Psychologist and life coach Garcy (The Power of Inner Guidance, 2007) offers time-management strategies for those of us who claim there aren’t enough hours in the day. Garcy begins by noting that time is a construct, and unless a person is dying, the concept of not having enough time is illusory. There are 24 hours in a day; no one has more or less time than anyone else. A person’s perception of time and the choices they make throughout the day determine how productive they are. From there, most of Garcy’s advice is refreshingly practical. While her tone conveys her professional expertise, it’s also relatable. She offers examples of time-management strategies she uses at home, such as setting a timer to make a game out of simple family chores like cleaning the kitchen and even admits to occasionally merely giving the appearance of neatness by closing the door to her bedroom when she can’t get around to making the bed. Most chapters include exercises to help readers put the author’s suggestions into practice. The best inspire self-reflection by asking the reader to answer specific questions: “What do you really want to do that you’re not doing?” “What have you made the priority?” Others, such as asking readers to fill in a pie chart of how they spend their time, seem a bit too abstract to be very helpful. There are also moments when the book feels like a supplement to a larger work, as when Garcy identifies a common obstacle facing people who struggle with time management: the feeling that a substantial obligation, like a job, takes up a significant portion of the day, even though it’s at odds with personal priorities. Rather than investigating ways to address this mindset, the author refers readers to The Power of Inner Guidance, her previous book. A sensible guide to organizing responsibilities, sure to enlighten frazzled readers.

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Cover-Up How the Church Silenced Jesus’s True Heirs

Goudge, Lawrence iUniverse (398 pp.) $35.95 | $25.95 paper | $3.99 e-book May 25, 2012 978-1469787305 An exhaustively meticulous work of biblical exegesis has all the drama and conspiracy of a journalistic exposé. First-time author Goudge doesn’t waste any time announcing his controversial intention to uncover a “2000-year conspiracy of silence” designed to “keep the history of Jesus’ Jewish heirs plunged in darkness.” At the personal level, the conspiracy expresses itself as an “epic struggle” between James, brother of Jesus, and Paul, author of a systematic Christian theology. At a more doctrinal level, according to the author, the ancient tug of war is between Jesus’ fundamentally Judaic mission and Paul’s tortured gentile interpretation. Paul, more apostate than apostle, is the villain of this tale, disfiguring Jesus’ pedagogic intention in such a way that permanently drives a schism between Judaism and so-called Christianity. Along the way, the author unpacks several contentious issues with scholarly curiosity and lively prose. For example, is Jesus really a pacifist? Was he genuinely born in Bethlehem? What is the true account of Jesus’ little-known childhood and questionable parentage? What are the real origins of Christmas and Halloween? Is it correct to consider Paul a true apostle? It’s impossible not to be impressed with the sheer breadth of the author’s erudition and his unrelenting interrogation of often scant evidence. However, his thesis is so wide-ranging, he sometimes makes inferences and extrapolations that go well beyond what the text provides. For example, the explanation for Paul’s perfidy is that he was a “profoundly conflicted individual, given to violence and obsessed with ambition.” Also, since the author’s objectives make it necessary for him to accept some biblical sources as canonical and others as spurious, it would have been helpful for him to articulate a set of general interpretive principles. In fairness to the author, he acknowledges these difficulties, admitting that “we have to be careful of all texts,” that “all authors have a slant” and that the texts as we find them could be corrupt or amended. A fascinating study for anyone interested in the history of the Christian church and willing to roll up their sleeves for some fastidious scholarly analysis.


“Lincir writes with the energy of a young striker at the start of a big match.” from a soccer life in shorts

Love in a Time of War Hunter, Jeffrey Manuscript (407 pp.)

Based on a real-life couple who spent time together in Vietnam in 1970, Hunter’s debut narrative nonfiction depicts the hair-raising adventures of an admiral’s privileged son and the “firecracker” who upends his life. In 1969, Park Moorer seems to have everything going for him: a cushy life in Emory University’s Kappa Alpha fraternity, a Jaguar sports car and a rich girlfriend named Melissa. But when Park meets Jane, a 17-year-old wild child with a grifter’s tongue, he abandons Melissa and takes off with Jane on a bizarre odyssey from the Florida Panhandle through the Mississippi Delta and deep into the mountains of Oaxaca, where the couple trips on mushrooms. After a series of hallucinogenic journeys, Park refuses to go back to his “old life.” When he and Jane return to Atlanta, he signs up for a “two-year hitch” in helicopter flight school, followed by duty in Vietnam. Before he ships off, they marry. “In-country” for only four weeks and under mortar fire, Park learns that Jane is in Saigon. “I didn’t want to be a girl waiting for her man,” she tells him; from there, the couple gets into more than a few international incidents. Jane takes a job as an English teacher at an orphanage near the base where Park flies choppers as if they were his and suspiciously down the street from a bougainvillea-walled “spy compound.” But her devotion to orphaned siblings Spike and Phuong might be her downfall. Hunter writes assuredly, mixing snappy dialogue with engaging, believable characters. Told in a voice that hovers between terse military vernacular and psychedelic poetry, the language takes flight when Park swoops over the jungle or samples peyote with a scandalous European expat named Lulu, an incident that culminates in a steamy 2,000-foot-high helicopter ménage à trois. But Hunter’s most memorable contribution is the high-flying Jane, who may not be the girl Park’s parents wish he’d married, though readers will be grateful they met. Off-kilter and often satisfying, a welcome addition to Vietnam War lit.

A SOCCER LIFE IN SHORTS

Lincir, Mark Vincent Leftback Publishing LLC (84 pp.) $7.99 paper | $2.99 e-book | Jun. 15, 2011 978-0615466439 Lincir’s debut, a slim collection of reminiscences in the form of personal essays and poems, relates his love affair with the world’s most popular sport. Over 30 years, Lincir has played “thousands” of games of soccer. He’s watched and written about it religiously. For a short period, he even refereed. “Loving the game,” he

writes, “is what it’s all about.” As in most romances, there were victories, losses and lessons in humility. Traumatized by his first booking (yellow card) as an 8-year-old footballer, which was the result of a mistake made by his coaching father, he was brought to tears at the dinner table when his younger sister, also a soccer player, asked if she might see the yellow card, unable to comprehend why Lincir wasn’t actually given one. At the age of 12, he scored the game-winning goal in a tough 2-1 match; problem was, he scored in his own goal, making the car ride home with his dad and teammate Sean especially unpleasant. In his freshman year of college play, Lincir tells of scoring the perfect Pelelike “bicycle kick goal,” only to have it taken away by the ref as “dangerous play.” When Lincir writes of his minor league soccer days, he describes it as a rough road of “long drives and low per diems,” a lifestyle so cramped that getting his own room for a night felt like hitting it “big time.” Despite all of these humbling experiences, Lincir concludes that “not trying is the only disgrace.” Slight but endearingly told, the tales are jargon-rich, with references to getting “nut-megged” and the “flip-throw.” The author’s honest heart is strong and his gentle sense of humor engaging, and an assortment of black-and-white photos help bring the stories to life. Lincir writes with the energy of a young striker at the start of a big match, although his poetry adds little to the assembled snippets. Additional inspirational essays might have been a better choice. Soccer fans will appreciate these tales of life on the pitch.

THE PARADE

Lourie, Michele CreateSpace (226 pp.) $8.90 paper | $4.99 e-book Nov. 20, 2012 978-1479272105 In Lourie’s (Wizards and Warriors of Kriatha, 2012) latest novel, a mute 6-yearold observes the lives around her and tackles a mystery. The suburbs of Brisbane, a charming Australian city, might seem ordinary, but for one girl named Evie, her neighborhood in Norman Park is a parade of endless fascination. Evie temporarily lost her power of speech due to a fall which damaged her larynx. Forced into silence, the girl becomes a sharp-eyed observer, quick to see the everyday magic in the world around her. From Evie’s point of view, we meet women like Mrs. Moorhouse, a compulsive cleaner whom Evie renames “The Fadeaway Lady” due to her predilection for muted colors. She encounters Rose Harkness, a kind, generous woman who introduces Evie to her first Shakespeare play and later presents her with the Bard’s complete works as a gift; even after Evie’s sister draws and scribbles on the book’s pages, it remains “a thing of beauty” to Evie. However, the child is frightened of Mrs. Edith Diamond, a grieving widow whom the child nicknames “the Wicked Witch of the Parade.” Evie’s neighbors gossip constantly, but at least initially, it seems that they have few worries in their quaint surroundings. But when |

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Rose is suddenly accused of murder, Evie’s cleareyed observations become crucial to solving the mystery. Lourie offers a colorful, original tale, and Evie’s observations highlight the freshness of a child’s perspective. Overall, the novel delivers a highly readable, engaging story, rich with zany neighbors and an intriguing mystery. With Evie as narrator, the hidden secrets of the suburbs truly come alive. A fun, unique novel, engagingly told from a child’s perspective.

IN SEARCH OF AND OTHERS

Ludwigsen, Will Lethe Press (196 pp.) $15.00 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1590212707 Mundane reality mixes with the magical and the macabre in this scintillating collection of speculative fiction. Inspired by the pop-enigma TV anthology hosted by Leonard Nimoy, Ludwigsen’s droll yet haunting title piece sets the tone, answering the puzzling questions with a blend of mythology and cynical common sense—“[t]he creature in Loch Ness was a plesiosaur, but it died in 1976 and locals concealed the carcass”—that eventually homes in on a homicide detective’s buried secrets. In other stories, characters confront the supernatural—or actively recruit it: A realtor specializing in haunted houses and murder scenes seeks out those special buyers who might like “stigmatized properties”; a 13-year-old girl tries to quantify her dog’s dream world for a science-fair project; a cantankerous hillbilly family resists government agents who want to upload their consciousnesses into a paradise simulation; a sentient house tears lose from its foundations and embarks on an epic journey to salve its guilty conscience; and the imaginary kingdom of Thuria intrudes into several narratives, cropping up in an off-kilter scouting expedition, a mother’s psychotic break and a postmodern literary scholar’s research on an ancient coded text. Ludwigsen’s well-wrought, entertaining tales feel like a mashup of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, and his evocative, whipsmart prose steeps readers in a realism that’s mordantly funny and matter-of-fact but glimmering with whimsy and horror that leaks around the edges. The stories also work as subtle explorations of character and psychology, especially in the superb story “The Ghost Factory,” in which the spectral inhabitants of a defunct mental hospital enact the spiritual dysfunctions of modern life by fading from the world. Ludwigsen’s creepy, comic world reveals plenty about our own. Crackerjack genre yarns with real literary depth and polish.

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A DIVERSE GATHERING

Macraven, Vincent Xlibris (364 pp.) $29.99 | $19.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Nov. 29, 2012 978-1479755981 In his latest short story collection (Tales from the Mind of a Schizophrenic, 2011), Macraven spins tales of murder, religious fanatics and people on the brink of insanity. This book offers the variety of stories teased by its title, and many have recurring themes. Religion, for example, plays a part in many stories, including “Monk,” in which the titular character questions his faith. Lost souls torment a priest in “When Our Demons Come,” and in “Caught Up in the Devil,” a home invasion is believed to be the “devil’s work.” Several stories address mental turmoil, such as a schizophrenic’s internal struggle while attending a party in “A Case of Madness.” In the unexpectedly engaging “Irreversible Damage,” a psychologist discusses a patient’s years of drug abuse. But while the collection’s overall tone is bleak—most stories end in murder or imminent psychosis—Macraven keeps the book from drowning in unadulterated gloom. Several stories, such as “File 349” and “After the Fact,” have darkly humorous twists. He also judiciously handles religious issues, as when the nameless narrator of “My Rant” makes it a point to blame humanity, not God, for the world’s dismal state of affairs. Macraven’s style is often abstract but in an old-fashioned, romantic fashion reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe. Sometimes the Poe influence is overt, as in the 1832-set “Prior to My Madness,” which has a protagonist named Edgar Bellows; other times he uses it with more finesse, as in the Poe-esque opening line of “Murder”: “It was a warm Friday night when I first decided to end the life of Chet Williams.” Stories such as “Feeding,” “12:01” and “A Birthday Party” are quite unsettling, but the author surprises with the goodnatured, poignant “Longing,” featuring a widowed woman living alone, and “Henry,” about an elderly man getting lost on his drive to a doctor’s appointment. A standout, frequently profound story collection.

THE WINSHIP FAMILY McCarthy, Michael J. CreateSpace (452 pp.) $15.99 paper | $3.50 e-book Jan. 14, 2013 978-1475263022

Set in the 19th century, this novel follows the lives of Protestant AngloIrish landowners William Winship and his adopted son, James, mixing fictional characters with historical figures. Well-written with a mix of action, adventure, politics and historical detail, McCarthy’s novel throws readers right into


the action, as young William faces a duel over his fiancee. His opponent, Lord Sudbury, will, along with his family, remain a persistent nemesis to the Winships. Most of the book, however, focuses on James as he grows from boy to man. He’s actually Seamus Tobin, the son of William’s gardener. After multiple tragedies, including the deaths of Seamus’ parents and of William’s wife and son, William adopts Seamus, Anglicizes his name and sets him on the path of a proper Protestant gentleman, including stops at Eton and Oxford. James, however, has a penchant for trouble. After being caught in a basement nightclub, he’s expelled from Oxford through the Sudburys’ machinations. James opts for a military career to redeem himself, becoming an officer of the 10th Kings Lancers in India. There, he again falls in with the wrong sort, amasses debt and is drummed out in disgrace. He finally reaches his stride in the Jenkins Horse, an unconventional regiment whose members wear native garb and take on many Indian customs. While reining in his own shortcomings, he demonstrates valor in combat. Along the way, McCarthy portrays some fascinating, well-drawn characters: Oliver Locke, an outrageous dandy styled after Oscar Wilde; Reg Archer, a dashing, womanizing officer; Rajah Ali, an Anglophile Indian prince who delights in philosophical discourse; and Paddy Tierney, an Irish sergeant who speaks endlessly of taking back Ireland through land ownership. Ali and Tierney, in particular, help shape James’ budding support for Irish home rule. When James returns to Ireland, he enters politics as a Tory, but the racism of his own party and his growing respect for Charles Stewart Parnell, founder of the Irish Parliamentary Party, help solidify his political stance. James switches parties and is eventually chosen by Parnell to be his successor. What’s most impressive is the way James’ views on Irish independence develop—slowly, logically and realistically, either through significant interactions with other characters or his own observations. A few liberties taken with the facts, but an excellent choice for readers interested in Anglo-Irish history.

THE MARANN Tales of Tolari Space - Book 1

Meierz, Christie CreateSpace (252 pp.) $9.99 paper | $2.99 e-book | Nov. 5, 2012 978-1480229792 In the first in a series, Meierz’s debut, a rich sci-fi love story about a female teacher sent to a foreign planet to tutor the daughter of its rulers in various Earth languages, could be described as a spaceopera spin on Anna and the King of Siam. When the government informs high school teacher Marianne that she has been selected for a mission to the Tolari homeworld, where she will be the sole human occupant on that planet for 26 years, she hesitates, although she’s aware of the unpleasant consequences that would befall her should she ignore this “request.” Once on Tolar, a planet that houses a

humanoid species known for being technologically primitive by Earth standards, she comes to discover that things are not quite as they seem. Meierz’s novel charts Marianne’s slowly budding romance with the Sural, the Tolari leader, as well as her gradual acclimation to this new world that is perhaps not as bizarre or backward as she originally thought. Meierz writes admirably, conjuring an alien planet and culture in a manner as straightforward as it is succinct. Her assured, no-frills approach to worldbuilding makes it easy to suspend any disbelief one might have regarding the novel’s more fantastical elements. Her realistic characters and their relationships build organically. The romance that develops between Marianne and the Sural, as well as Marianne’s shift in allegiance, might not come as a surprise to any reader, and there’s a predictable, overly melodramatic revelation regarding a trauma in Marianne’s past, but Meierz captures readers’ attention through her naturalistic character development and pacing. She also makes Earth’s government truly frightening and reprehensible. A beautifully realized story that proves that politically driven space opera and tender love stories do not have to be mutually exclusive.

FROM MANGIA TO MURDER A Sophia Mancini Mystery Mickelson, Caroline Bon Accord Press (260 pp.) $12.99 paper | $2.99 e-book Feb. 6, 2012 978-0985129606

When an unpopular restaurateur is stabbed in the back at Sophia Mancini’s family dinner party, the intrepid private eye combs through her 1940s ItalianAmerican community on the hunt for the killer. Mickelson’s (Carol’s Christmas, 2012, etc.) Little Italy–set murder mystery, the first of a planned series, features a wide cast of characters: an amnesiac WWII veteran, wives hoping to be widows, sleazy gangsters and cops showing up to murder scenes in baseball uniforms. At the center of it all is Sophia, who runs a newly formed detective agency with her brother, Angelo, the amnesiac vet. They’re desperately in need of a murder case to bring in some money so they can prove to the court that Angelo’s son will be provided for. At a dinner to celebrate the Mancinis’ new business venture, the restaurant owner, Vincenzo, is murdered; everyone’s a suspect. The police don’t want Sophia snooping about, but the local mob boss, Frank Vidoni, hires her to solve the crime before the police do, since unauthorized murder in his territory damages his reputation as a crime lord. On the way to solving the crime, Sophia runs across numerous strange and memorable characters, including Eugene Gallo, Vincenzo’s bizarre business partner; Stella, Vincenzo’s wife, who had hoped he wouldn’t come home from the war; and Maria Acino, Frank’s beautiful but childish mistress, who always seems to materialize into a scene |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Andrew E. Kaufman

Back Story: Best-seller Andrew E. Kaufman’s Path to Success By Andrew E. Kaufman

I’ve always been a writer. There aren’t many absolutes in my life, but this much I’ve always known. I’m pretty sure I was a writer before I ever knew what the word meant. I feel like it’s in my DNA. After graduating with a journalism degree, I worked as a television news writer and producer, first at the CBS affiliate in San Diego and then at a station up in Los Angeles. For a time, I enjoyed it, then gradually, my writing started to feel mechanical, my creativity drained. By the time I finally got laid off, it felt more like an act of divine intervention than misfortune. I spent the next several years trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I still wanted to be a writer—I just didn’t know what I wanted to write. I also knew it was time to take the leap and follow my dream. I started my first novel, a forensic 134

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paranormal thriller titled While the Savage Sleeps, and page by page felt my passion for the written word springing back to life. Then, life threw me a curve. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office. I remember hearing the word malignant. I remember discussing treatment options—but all I could think about was, is this it? Suddenly, my priorities had shifted. It was no longer a matter of what to do with the rest of my life—it was how long the rest of my life would actually be. In the weeks that followed, I did what I’d always done when things got rough: I wrote. I kept writing, and I didn’t stop. I wrote from my hospital bed after they removed part of my kidney, and I wrote in the weeks that followed. I just kept writing. What I hadn’t realized was that I was writing my way through recovery. Those words would later be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book, and I knew they were the most important I’d ever write—not only because they gave me hope, but because they would give others hope as well. Soon after, I went back to work on the book, fully aware that my first novel could very well be my last. The thought scared me, but it didn’t stop me—in fact, now my resolve to be published was stronger than ever. But as I’d soon find out, my battle had only begun, because the road ahead was paved with pitfalls—that bitter truth revealed itself after I spent a year facing one rejection after another from just about every agent in New York and beyond. I can’t say how many there actually were, because I stopped counting at 100. Most never even bothered reading the pages I’d sent, and the ones who did implied my book would never sell. It was heartbreaking, and it was discouraging, but I refused to give up. I


The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted Kaufman, Andrew E. Thomas & Mercer (291 pp.) $14.95 Apr 23, 2013 978-1611099744

couldn’t. I’d already struggled through so much to write this novel. I wasn’t going to stop now. By June of 2010, it seemed pretty clear I was spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. Out of desperation, and as a last-ditch effort, I decided to upload my book to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Platform. By then, I figured I had nothing left to lose. I’d let the people who really mattered— the readers—decide whether my work was worthy, and whatever that decision was, I’d live with it. At least I’d know I’d given myself a fair shot. I got my answer. By September, While the Savage Sleeps began moving up the best-seller list, eventually reaching No. 1 and passing up two of Stephen King’s current releases at the time. I was surprised, and I was thrilled. My perseverance had paid off. Three surgeries later, after my health finally began to improve, I found my stride, and I kept writing. In December of 2011, I released my second novel, The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted: A Psychological Thriller. The book moved into the upper tier of Amazon’s Top 100, becoming their seventh highest selling novel out of more than a million available nationwide. It was also a best-seller in the U.K. and Germany. Within three months, my sales had pushed well into the six-figure mark, and before long, movie studios, literary agents and publishers began contacting me. It was quite a change, going from being ignored to suddenly being in demand, but it felt wonderful, and I wasn’t bitter at all; in fact, I was thrilled. This wasn’t about saying, “I showed you”—it was about finally being able to say, “I showed me.” I eventually partnered with Scott Miller, vice president of Trident Media Group in New York, as my agent. At that point, we had many options, but I ended up signing a dual publishing deal with Thomas & Mercer and 47North. And I’ve learned what has probably become one of my most valuable lessons in life: Opinions vary—they may add shape, but they will never define me, and they will never stop me.

Inside Scoop

The official description of Andrew Kaufman’s most recent thriller, The Lion, The Lamb, the Hunted, reveals why he’s become a bestselling writer and has fans eager to read his latest: A minute was all it took to turn Jean Kingsley’s world upside down­—a minute she’d regret for the rest of her life. Because when she returned, she found an open bedroom window and her 3-year-old son, Nathan, gone. The boy would never be seen again. A tip leads detectives to the killer, a repeat sex offender, and inside his apartment, a gruesome discovery. A slam-dunk trial sends him off to death row, then several years later, to the electric chair. Now, more than 30 years later, Patrick Bannister unwittingly stumbles across evidence among his dead mother’s belongings. It paints his mother as the killer and her brother, a wealthy and powerful senator, as the one pulling the strings. There’s a hole in the case a mile wide, and Patrick is determined to close it. But what he doesn’t know is that the closer he moves toward the truth, the more he’s putting his life on the line, that he’s become the hunted.

Andrew E. Kaufman lives in Southern California, along with his Labrador retrievers, two horses and a very bossy Jack Russell terrier who thinks she owns the place. His newest novel, Darkness and Shadows, is due out this year through Thomas & Mercer Publishing. |

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“The details of [Katie’s] turbulent marriage make for a gripping, heart-rending experience, which will stay with readers long after the story ends.” from unsafe harbor

out of thin air. The characters make standard detective-story fare stand out. With such a large group of people to work with, readers might expect some of the characters to blur together or messily coalesce, but that’s not the case. Everyone’s wellrealized and fully fleshed-out, with the possible exception of the extended Mancini family, who remain faithful to typical big, Italian-American family stereotypes. Despite the somewhat conventional, unsurprising plot, Mickelson’s novel remains compulsively readable and consistently entertaining. An ordinary crime story improved by a dash of Italian flavor.

UNSAFE HARBOR

Mullen, Barbara Tenacity Press (244 pp.) $9.43 paper | Dec. 1, 2012 978-0615655727 Mullen’s novel tells the disturbing account of a woman trapped in an abusive marriage. Katie O’Connell seems to have the perfect life upon marrying Jeff, a wealthy, charming man who whisks her off to Rhode Island. But she soon feels as though she married two people: loving Jeff, who’s at ease when they sail on their yacht, and the dark, angry Jeff on land, who thrusts his four children from a previous marriage onto Katie, thanking her with only biting criticism. Not long into marriage, Katie finds herself “in a constant state of readiness, one foot perpetually raised and prepared for the quick change of direction from one version of him to the other.” Jeff ’s dark moods begin to overshadow their marriage, and sides of him she didn’t know existed begin to surface. Though he had claimed to be a staunch feminist when they were dating, he suddenly decides that Katie’s career as a newspaper columnist is no longer acceptable; she must raise his children. He asserts control over their finances and blames Katie for everything, including his mood swings and angst. As the marriage descends into a tense, dangerous place, Katie finds herself losing her conviction and choosing to believe Jeff ’s apologies and promises. A cycle ensues: Jeff crosses lines of abuse that even forgiving Katie cannot tolerate, though she finds herself reconciling again as Jeff insists he’ll get help. But when Katie’s willingness to work with her troubled husband is put to the ultimate test, her resilience may not be enough. Told with a gentle touch, Katie’s story draws the reader into the desperate mind of a woman who needs to believe in her marriage. It’s every woman’s nightmare, and Katie’s determination makes her both a victim and a heroine; either way, she’s hugely sympathetic. The details of her turbulent marriage make for a gripping, heart-rending experience, which will stay with readers long after the story ends. A disturbingly believable account of a marriage gone bad.

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EUROPEAN ROCK & THE SECOND CULTURE Patterson, Archie CreateSpace (708 pp.) $39.99 paper | Feb. 27, 2007 978-0972309806

In this thick anthology of rock history, Patterson compiles every feature article and interview published by Eurock magazine. Described in the foreword as a documentation of a time in history when “the limits of imagination and what was possible sonically were stretched beyond the norm,” the anthology is organized by year, starting with 1973 and ending with 2002. Fans of European rock and electronic music will value the variety of content, from interviews with Holger Czukay to collections of mini-essays by Robert-Jan Stips. Without commentary or sidebars, the reprinted musings, essays and articles about and by musicians speak for themselves. And there’s a lot of rich information to mine; the reader may discover Klaus Dinger of the German rock scene or Heinz Strobl, also known as Gandalf, and might learn a few things about the underlying philosophies and theories that contributed to new waves of sound and sonic technology. Here, composers discuss the way they probe into their inner “soulscapes” for a truer, more authentic expression of sound, and reviewers rave about the new albums and LPs of the ’80s and ’90s. One artist, Mark Shreeve, describes music as an “undemocratic art” where many solo electronic musicians are more satisfied by developing their own ideas than by collaborating with one another. The interviews dig deep into the inspirations and motivations behind different movements, albums and periods of creation. If anything, the nostalgic experience of reading through these artifacts helps one appreciate the combination of moments, innovations and risks that created each new step of a growing musical force across a continent. For those readers interested in particular research, an index in the book’s final pages organizes all artists, bands and record labels mentioned. A fascinating aerial view of a music scene spanning three decades.

THE MIDDLE KINGDOM RIDE

Pyle, Colin; Ryan Pyle CreateSpace (300 pp.) $19.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Dec. 2, 2012 978-1468159813 Two brothers drove BMW motorcycles on a 65-day, 18,000-km loop around China, then co-authored this brisk, optimistic memoir about the trip. Ryan Pyle is a freelance photographer and journalist in China, and Colin Pyle was a currency trader in Toronto. In 2010, when the economic recession slowed Ryan’s assignments


and Colin found himself frustrated by work, they put their jobs aside and took a self-financed road trip through China. It began in Shanghai, Ryan’s new home. They traveled clockwise, to the North Korean border, west to the Mongolian border and across the Xinjiang region, south through Tibet, then east through southern China back to Shanghai. Ryan narrates most of the story, and his writing is professional and ripe with factoids about China. Colin interjects with entertaining journallike entries that address the same narrative with a rarely redundant, saltier voice: “Can you imagine checking in to a hotel room and finding there’s shit in your toilet? And when you tell them, they say ‘Flush it’! Can you even fathom that?” The charismatic, likable brothers gleefully outrun Chinese police, careen through lesser-documented parts of China and show an affinity for nonHan ethnic minorities, especially the Uyghur people. After the clutch on Ryan’s bike malfunctions, requiring maintenance in Lhasa, Tibet, the duo backtracks 500 km to ensure that they aren’t shortchanging their route. When describing sights and events, their descriptions tend to be logistical rather than florid, and, for the most part, they eschew disparaging words about the country (except when it pertains to Chinese bureaucracy). The brothers also discuss their video footage and recording sessions at length, since they plan to release a documentary film about the trip as well. Enthusiastic, archetypal travelers whose informative story is worth the ride.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED PIG OINKS And Other Love Stories Royce, William James Chanticleer Publishing (170 pp.) $25.00 paper | May 22, 2012 978-0615706634

A whimsical, unique collection of humorous takes on nursery rhymes, talking horses and chicken-fried steak,

among other topics. Royce (The Immaculate Deception, 2012) presents a quirky collection of short stories, cartoons and anecdotes that range from silly to downright deranged. It’s certainly a short story collection like no other: In one tale, a man named Murray apparently time travels to meet Jesus, who urges him to blog about the experience; Murray later becomes Jesus’ speechwriter and falls for Mary Magdalene. Another sketch features two writers discussing the fine art of the short story while completely missing each other’s points; still another depicts one man’s search for the secret behind chicken-fried steak. What happened after the dish ran away with the spoon in the “Hey Diddle Diddle” nursery rhyme? According to Royce, they didn’t live happily ever after. There’s no shortage of puns here: One character claims to be “pro-pasti” (instead of antipasti), while another character is named Byron Poehler, of The By-Poehler Review. Royce also looks at old, creepy black-and-white postcards and gives their stern characters voices, thoughts and stories all their own. At

its best, this book’s subject matter is as light and fluffy as a slice of chocolate mousse pie, and each story features concise, easily digestible prose. Royce’s eclectic collection, including song lyrics about runaway shoes, cleverly captioned cartoons about hot dogs and a short story about the last fateful days of the beloved talking horse Mr. Ed, will likely reward readers with laugher. A wide-ranging, rollicking good collection of comedic sketches.

I’m Never, Ever Wrong... but Sometimes I Can Be! Schneider Kraut, Deborah Illus. by Lemaire, Bonnie CreateSpace (70 pp.) $14.75 paper | Jul. 19, 2012 978-1469931128

A rhyming picture book that deals with self-esteem in children. Kraut’s debut introduces Sophie Sage, a young girl unfamiliar with failure. She aces spelling tests and wins every game she plays, but things change when she gets up in front of her class during their regular guessing game. Sophie has a memory lapse and forgets the name of the president whose picture she’s holding. Embarrassed, Sophie suddenly stops volunteering answers in school. An assignment to give a scary speech for Halloween leaves Sophie dreading having to speak in front of her class again. When Grandfather notices a change in behavior, he asks her what’s wrong. Sophie breaks down in tears, telling him everything. He shares a story about a time he did poorly on a geography test and explains that no one is right all the time. Once Sophie learns that it’s OK to make mistakes, she gains the confidence to give the Halloween speech; she doesn’t even worry about the few mistakes she makes while giving it. Vibrant, cartoonlike illustrations animate the text, which is a nice length for a read-aloud book. Though short enough for beginning readers, there are some words that will challenge their skills. While the rhyming text helps the story to move along at a quick pace, at times the forced rhymes sound a bit clunky. The message— that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s OK to be wrong once in a while—will be clear even to younger children, making the book a great teaching tool for parents or teachers dealing with issues of self-esteem and confidence in children. Modern, colorful illustrations and a fun tale ensure that this message never becomes too preachy.

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“A must-read for anyone interested in the environment—shouldn’t that mean everyone?” from places

PLACES Habitats of a Human Lifetime

THE SUMMER OF 1934

Varble, Wendy AuthorHouse (130 pp.) $23.99 | $14.95 paper | $3.99 e-book Oct. 19, 2012 978-1477276976

Shabecoff, Philip PLACES (282 pp.) $12.50 paper | $6.00 e-book Dec. 6, 2012 978-0615686189

Environmental writer Shabecoff ’s (A Fierce Green Fire, 2003, etc.) memoir is informed by his passionate, decades-old interest in the natural (and sometimes urban) environment— what it means to us and how humans have worked assiduously to destroy it. Each essay describes and comments upon one of the many places where Shabecoff has resided or at least visited in a long career as a writer for the New York Times. These chapters include the summer place he and his wife built in the Berkshires (“The Best Place”), the Bronx neighborhoods where he grew up, the Catskills where, every summer, young Shabecoff and his family escaped the sweltering city, and his sojourns as a journalist in Germany, Japan, Washington, D.C., and many other locales. Toward the end of his career at the Times, he became interested in ecology and continued that interest into his pseudo-retirement. Now nearing 80, he finds it’s time to look back, sometimes fondly, sometimes angrily. Shabecoff is neither a fanatic nor a purist: “I like my wilderness not too wild,” and “I believe in the sanctity of life, but I make exceptions for biting insects.” Over the years, “civilization” encroached on his Berkshire retreat, but he accepts that inevitability with good grace. He is, however, often nostalgic for the environments of his childhood. He now sees the Bronx as a dysfunctional slum, although in his childhood, it had lively ethnic neighborhoods, good schools and clean streets. Set mostly in Washington, D.C., “Every Place” tells the story of the author cutting his teeth as an environmental writer, and he describes the often bitter journalistic wrangling, beginning with the Reagan administration. There’s no love lost between him and conservative administrations whose goal was to privatize everything and give powerful industries free rein. In fact, Shabecoff—who’s rubbed elbows with numerous movers and shakers over the years—never pulls his punches, calling out those he sees on the side of the angels and those not. Readers will also enjoy 10 pages of black-and-white family photos, including Philip and Alice at their beloved Berkshire getaway, which gives the book an extra human touch. As expected from a man who’s dealt with words his whole adult life, the writing is consistently graceful, with rarely a false step. “The Last Place,” for instance, begins on an elegiac note related to mortality, then slowly builds into as bracing a jeremiad against greed and stupidity as readers are likely to find anywhere. A must-read for anyone interested in the environment—shouldn’t that mean everyone?

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Based on the reminiscences of Varble’s late husband, this young-adult novella describes a 6-year-old boy’s adventures in Simi Valley in the summer of 1934. Recounting the adventures of Johnny, son of a tenant farmer during the Great Depression, the novella is as much a portrait of Simi Valley between the world wars as it is a portrayal of a boy’s awakening to an adult world. Rich in vivid historical detail—e.g., Johnny is born on March 11, 1928, the day before Francis Mullholland’s Saint Francis Dam fails, drowning hundreds in what remains one of the state’s greatest losses of life— the novella is also a deft sketch of a rural American life that has largely disappeared. Executed with a historian’s eye, Varble draws on research and recollection to vividly evoke Johnny’s family and valley life, including a cavalcade of colorful local figures, from the voluptuous Aunt Belle, to an Okie family fleeing the “black blizzards” of the Dust Bowl (storms which tripled in frequency from 14 in 1932 to 52 in 1934), to Andy, Johnny’s father’s friend who returns from San Quentin after serving time for the murder of his wife. While the characterizations can be overly simple, the details of time and place are often riveting: the harvesting of barley, the lighting of a wood stove, California “car culture” before licenses were commonplace, the hunting of a mountain lion. In prose as simple as a Hemingway story, the novella offers young readers a glimpse of an almost unimaginably unplugged world. Brief chapters keep the book fleet-footed even as they credibly reveal crucial steps to maturity—from curiosity to desire, from loss to altruism. The reader’s awareness of fascism’s rise in Europe—and Johnny’s likely future as a soldier—lends gravity to a tale that might otherwise seem a nostalgic look back at simpler times. Dramatic skill and rich historical details make for a successful YA book, especially for readers with a particular interest in California.

THE BOY WHO PAINTS

Watt, K. Jane Illus. by Cole, Richard Cole Studio/Fenton Street Press Feb. 15, 2013 Artist Cole and writer Watt begin a fruitful artistic collaboration with their debut children’s book about a young boy who loves to paint and uses the colors surrounding him to spark his creative imagination. A precocious, nameless young boy spends all his free time painting. Problem is, all he has to paint are the drab houses that surround him in his boring country town. Fed up with his subjects, the boy resolves to throw out all of his work, but as a


yellow garbage truck rumbles toward him to pick up the paintings, he has an epiphany about the potential of color and finds his creative energies revived. The boy uses the colors he sees in everyday objects to imagine scenes more vivid than the view offered from his bedroom window. A red stop sign becomes the crimson air of a sunset; a green recycling bin inspires him to paint a lush forest floor. Enthralled with his ability to imagine a world bigger than the one that surrounds him, the boy pledges to remain a painter his whole life. All the paintings attributed to the boy are oil paintings produced by Cole, and most have a gauzy, expressive quality that aptly highlights the color being emphasized. The boy himself never appears as more than a silhouette made from sepia-tinted dictionary pages referencing art-related words. The accessible text will engage young readers and carry their attention, even though several turns of phrase may be confusing to the book’s audience of 3- to 7-year-olds. That’s just a minor quibble, though, which is overshadowed by an interesting story, attention-grabbing pictures and a noble lesson to live life colorfully. After reading this book, your kid will want a paintbrush.

the book lies in her straightforward descriptions, rather than in strong literary embellishment. Winslow is also careful not to let her gender be the primary focus of the story, but the physical and emotional demands of her work make her accomplishments that much more impressive. As she gamely puts it, “there had been few role models for women scientists, and they fell into only three categories: one of the boys, the camp wife and the mascot….I worked out to get fit enough to keep up with the pack, but not to beat anyone to the finish line.” A satisfying journey through 1970s sexual politics and the lands of the southernmost part of the Earth.

OVER MY HEAD Journeys in Leaky Boats from the Strait of Magellan to Cape Horn and Beyond Winslow, Margaret iUniverse (238 pp.) $28.95 | $18.95 paper | $3.99 e-book Oct. 30, 2012 978-1475954326

In this debut travel memoir, a pioneering female geologist explores the topography of South America and the shifting landscape of women in the sciences. Imagine a young woman with her back against a sheer rock cliff, unable to climb to safety from the reach of fast approaching, freezing waters. This is the opening to Winslow’s account of her Antarctic expeditions and her journey into both the largely uncharted territory of the region and the male-dominated field of geology. In the 1970s, the attitude toward women scientists was tolerant at best; sexism ran rampant, from doubts about female physical strength to overt sexual advances from colleagues. Winslow (Earth Sciences/City College of New York) battled these and other obstacles to become a trailblazing geologist, exploring the punishing terrain that Charles Darwin made famous. During the five excursions chronicled in the book, Winslow keeps pace with the accompanying male scientists: She climbs (and falls from) cliff faces; survives roiling seas; and even pushes the all-male crews into uncharted waters (in one case, convincing them to illegally let the scientists off on an island belonging to then-dictator Augusto Pinochet), to the point where the sailors fondly dub her Capitana Margy. Winslow admirably pairs scientific jargon with entertaining anecdotes, detailing both her field work and her experiences as a woman with precision and humor. That said, the strength of

K i rk us M e di a L L C # President M A RC W I N K E L M A N Chief Operating Officer M E G L A B O R D E KU E H N Chief Financial Officer J ames H ull SVP, Marketing M ike H ejny SVP, Online Paul H offman # Copyright 2013 by Kirkus Media LLC. KIRKUS REVIEWS (ISSN 1948-7428) is published semimonthly by Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Road, Austin, TX 78744. Subscription prices are: Digital & Print Subscription (U.S.) - 12 Months ($199.00) Digital & Print Subscription (International) - 12 Months ($229.00) Digital Only Subscription - 12 Months ($169.00) Single copy: $25.00. All other rates on request. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Kirkus Reviews, PO Box 3601, Northbrook, IL 60065-3601. Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, TX 78710 and at additional mailing offices.

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CONGRATULATIONS TO

OUR ALA HONOREES! 2013 RAINBOW LIST

2013 CHILDREN’S NOTABLE BOOKS

2013 BEST FICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS

WHAT’S NEXT

FOR 2013 AWARD WINNERS? From Caldecott Medalist JON KLASSEN & LEMONY SNICKET

From Caldecott Honor Winner PETER BROWN

978-0-316-18748-0

978-0-316-20063-9

TA K E A L OOK !

From Geisel Award Winner ETHAN LONG

From Coretta Scott King Award Winner ANDREA DAVIS PINKNEY & BRIAN PINKNEY

978-0-316-21042-3

978-0-316-07013-3

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March 15, 2013: Volume LXXXI, No 6  

Featuring 344 industry-first reviews of fiction, nonfiction and children's & teen; also in this issue: Life on the Plains: Kent Haruf's 'Ben...

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