Library Journal

The PLA Author Party with Chris Bohjalian, Bich Minh Nguyen, & More | Save the Date

All work and no play is as bad for Public Library Association attendees as it is for anyone else, which is why Library Journal is offering a PLA Author Party on Wednesday, March 12, from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Alexander Hotel, 333 S Delaware Street, Indianapolis. Yes, there will be plenty of food, drink, and talk, but there will also be six authors, both well established and just emerging, whom I’m pleased to have the opportunity to interview.

Our six authors include Adi Alsaid, whose tender, mischievous YA crossover title, Let’s Get Lost (Harlequin Teen, Aug.), concerns four teenagers nationwide all linked by Leila and her bright red car. Alsaid, who was born and raised in Mexico and spent as much time writing fiction at the University of Nevada as he did earning his marketing degree, has come a long way since the small-press publication of his first novel, Somewhere Over the Sun.

In Pioneer Girl (Viking, Feb.), Bich Minh Nguyen—author of Short Girls, an American Book Award winner and an LJ Best Book—brings together two unlikely themes: America’s venture in Vietnam and the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. First novelist Nickolas Butler sets Shotgun Lovesongs (St. Martin’s, Mar.) in small-town Wisconsin, drawing on his own background and his Iowa Writers’ Workshop skills to offer a “warm and absorbing depiction of male friendship” (LJ 12/13). Another first novelist, Jacinda Townsend will speak about Saint Monkey (Norton, Feb.), which follows two teenage African American girls as it “portrays life in the Jim Crow South and Harlem’s heyday with startling immediacy” (LJ 1/14).

Two New York Times best-selling authors will also be making an appearance. Chris Bohjalian, whose last few novels visited the past, can tell us why he’s doing something intriguingly different by looking into the near-future in Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands (Doubleday, Jul.), which features a teenage girl in hiding after nuclear meltdown decimates the area where she lives. Shelley Shepard Gray continues her exploration of the Amish life in Thankful: Return to Sugarcreek, Book Two (Avon Inspire, Feb. 2014).

I hope that’s whetted your appetite. Start planning now; you can register for the party here. Meanwhile, don’t miss these two Association of American Publishers events, both at the Indianapolis Convention Center: Best in Debut Authors, Thursday, March 13, 10:45 a.m.–12 p.m. Room 103–104 (RSVP here for headcount only), and Mystery Authors Revealed, Friday, March 14, 10:45 a.m.–12 p.m, Wabash Ballroom 3 (RSVP here for headcount only).

Amy Bloom, Robert Galbraith, Mary Gordon, John Scalzi, & More | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Aug. 2014, Pt. 3

Bloom, Amy. Lucky Us. Random. Aug. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781400067244. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812996005. CD: Penguin Random Audio. LITERARY
Bloom, a New York Times best-selling author as well as a National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, here offers a tale of two half-sisters. It’s the 1940s, and Iris is dreaming of Hollywood, so she heads west with the much younger Eva in tow. Soon they’re back East amid upper-crust Long Islanders; then Iris must head to London, and Eva grows up quickly. The narrative is anchored by a cross-country road trip both touching and hilarious. With an 11-city tour to Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Nashville, Miami, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Portland (OR), Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Cumming, Charles. A Colder War. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781250020611. $26.99. ESPIONAGE
Here’s another in New York Times best-selling Cumming’s edgily elegant works, perfect for those wanting a contemporary spy thriller in the vein of Le Carré and even for those who don’t. In the second Thomas Kell book, three recent recruits by Western intelligence—a military official and a nuclear scientist from Iran, plus a journalist critical of Turkey’s government—all meet unfortunate fates. Then M16’s veteran agent in Turkey perishes in a mysterious plane crash, and disgraced agent Tom Kell is pulled back in the fold to dig out the mole evidently buried somewhere.

Galbraith, Robert. The Silkworm. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Jun. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780316206877. $28. THRILLER
As we all know, Galbraith’s first Cormoran Strike novel won great reviews but not great sales until it was revealed that Galbraith was actually J.K. Rowling. Wouldn’t you know a famous novelist is at the heart of this second Strike outing. When Owen Quine disappears, his wife assumes that he’s on one of his little escapades and asks Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike discovers, Quine has just finished a novel full of nasty portraits of people he knows, and one of them may have wanted to finish him off. Just announced but out in June.

Gordon, Mary. The Liar’s Wife: Four Novellas. Pantheon. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780307377432. $25.95. LITERARY
Past and present, Europe and America meet in this collection of four novellas from the incandescent Gordon. Simone Weil faces her death in New York City, Thomas Mann makes a difference to an American high school student, an American graduate student flees to Italy after a disastrous love affair, and a slippery-tongued Irish charmer shows us how to live. Just like a great Gordon novel times four; grab the reading group guide.

Jewell, Lisa. The House We Grew Up In. Atria. Aug. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781476702995. $24. CONTEMPOPARY WOMEN
The abundantly popular British novelist, who rejects the term chick lit, returns with a touching tale of a family in meltdown. The Bird family members—vibrant hippie mom Lorelei, dreamy dad Colin (note the Harry Potter glasses), daughters Meg and Beth, and the cute blond twins Rory and Rhys—live happily in a sunny little Cotswolds cottage. Then one Easter tragedy strikes, the family is torn apart, and only when the children are adults do the Birds try to reckon with what has really happened to them. With a reading group guide.

Scalzi, John. Lock In. Tor. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780765375865. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466849358. SF
When a virus blasts the nation, leaving most sufferers only feverish, a handful with acute meningitis, and an unfortunate one percent so completely locked in that they can’t speak or even move, scientists come to the rescue with two initiatives. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” that allows the locked-in to interact with others. The other involves the discovery that a few folks have brains receptive to being controlled by others, allowing the locked-in to hop aboard and use the bodies of these people as their own. Now doesn’t that sound dangerous? Hugo Award winner Scalzi does it again.

Woodroof, Martha. Small Blessings. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781250040527. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466835887. CD: Macmillan Audio. LITERARY
Woodroof may be a debut novelist, but she’s got a big audience already. As an NPR producer, she’s already launched a ten-part NPR.org Monkey See story on the experience of publishing a book. English professor Tom Putnam lives with vulnerable, withdrawn wife Marjory, whose condition has been aggravated by the knowledge that Tom had a fling with a visiting poet years ago. Things start looking up when Marjory warms to Rose, newly hired at the campus bookstore—but then the poet returns to town with the ten-year-old son Henry never knew he had.

The Nixon Tapes, Perlstein on the Rise of Reagan, & Women in the U.S. Army | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Aug. 2014, Pt. 3

Brinkley, Douglas & Luke Nichter. The Nixon Tapes. Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2014. 608p. ISBN 9780544274150. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780544277373. HISTORY
Surprisingly, the last of the nearly 4,000 hours’ worth of tapes made by President Nixon was released only last August, and very little of this material has been transcribed and published. CBS News Historian Brinkley (e.g., The Wilderness Warrior) and Nichter, an associate professor at Texas A&M University and former founding Executive Producer of C-SPAN’s American History TV, have selected, edited, and annotated key passages from the tapes with topics ranging from negotiating with North Vietnam to managing the reelection campaign. The book will be released, along with accompanying digitized audio recordings, on the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation. Obviously important; with a 50,000-copy first printing and an author tour that will include New York, Washington, DC, Houston, and Austin.

Gay, Roxane. Bad Feminist: Essays. Harper Perennial. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780062282712. pap. $15.95. SOCIAL SCIENCE
Salon columnist, PANK coeditor, and Rumpus essays editor, with 9,600 followers on Twitter and 85,000 followers on Tumblr, Gay is a young cultural critic to watch. And she’s just put herself on the map with a debut novel, An Untamed State, about a young Haitian woman examining her assumptions after a violent kidnapping. Smart readers cannot afford to miss these essays, which range from socially significant art (Girls, Django in Chains) and feminist issues (abortion) to politics (Chris Brown) and why Gay likes pink. With a 30,000-copy first printing and some intense publicity for a nonfiction paperback original.

Greenspan, Ezra. William Wells Brown: An African-American Life. Norton. Aug. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780393240900. $29.95. BIOGRAPHY
William Wells Brown grew up on the Western frontier with Daniel Boone as neighbor, but as a slave his life was a universe away from Boone’s; often, he was rented out by his masters to steamboat captains along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. After escaping to freedom, he became a veritable Renaissance man, speaking persuasively on the antislavery circuits in both America and Great Britain; writing travelog, history, plays, and fiction (e.g., the now-honored Clotel); practicing medicine; running for office; and more. Greenspan, the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of English at Southern Methodist University, brings Brown to light for contemporary readers.

Perlstein, Rick. The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. S. & S. Aug. 2014. 800p. ISBN 9781476782416. $37.50. HISTORY
In the 1970s, after Watergate, after the horrors of the Vietnam War, after revelations of CIA malfeasance, America seemed humbly ready to readjust its sights. Then along came Ronald Reagan, and against all odds flag waving was back in fashion. What happened? Here’s insight from Perlstein, author of the New York Times best-selling Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, who ultimately asks us to reconsider what it means to be American.

Swafford, Jan. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph. Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2014. 992p. ISBN 9780618054749. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780544245587. BIOGRAPHY/MUSIC
Winner of the PEN/Winship Award and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, Swafford’s Ives is a wonder of music biography; the author, who teaches at Boston Conservatory, re-created the very sounds surrounding Ives in childhood to help us understand his daring music making. Here, Swafford offers a study of Beethoven, ten years in the making, that investigates the ideas tumbling through the air in Enlightenment-era Bonn so that we can see how Beethoven and his music was shaped. With a 25,000-copy first printing.

Thorpe, Helen. Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War. Scribner. Aug. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781451668100. $28. BIOGRAPHY/MILITARY
Author of Just Like Us, a Washington Post Best Book, journalist Thorpe had the good idea to show what it means to be a woman in the army today by following three women deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. More women than ever are serving in the U.S. armed forces, but they are still isolated in an essentially male culture. Here we see them working hard, resisting unwanted attention, confronting the death of friends, sometimes countering stress through drinking or illicit affairs, and staying in touch with friends and family back home. One woman must also endure serious injury. With a four-city tour to Boulder, Denver, New York, and Washington, DC.

SF/Fantasy (Hobb, Lord) & Literary Fiction (Earley, Kunstler) | Fiction Previews, Aug. 2014, Pt. 3

SF/FANTASY
Goodkind, Terry. Severed Souls. Tor. Aug. 2014. 528p. ISBN 9780765327741. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429948449. FANTASY
Fresh from The Third Kingdom, Seeker of Truth Richard Rahl and his wife, Mother Confessor Kahlan Amnell, have more adventures. All those Legend of the Seeker fans will want.

Herbert, Brian & Kevin J. Anderson. Hellhole Inferno. Tor. Aug. 2014. 528p. ISBN 9780765322715. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429948227. CD: Macmillan Audio. SF
Here ends the “Hellhole Trilogy,” with the people of Hellhole and the shadow-Xayans teaming up against those nasty rogue Xayans. Lots of Comic-Com promotion.

Hobb, Robin. Fool’s Assassin. Del Rey. Aug. 2014. 688p. ISBN 9780553392425. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780553392432. FANTASY
FitzChivalry Farseer is presumably in his grave, but actually he’s living quietly as Tom Badgerlock in the countryside with his beloved Molly. It’s just that he misses the Fool. Hobb returns to her popular Fitz and the Fool series, which kicks off a repackaging of her nine backlist titles.

Lord, Karen. The Galaxy Game. Del Rey. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780345534071. pap. $15. SF
Having won multiple awards for her debut, Redemption in Indigo, Lord leapt from small-press publishing to the big time with The Best of All Possible Worlds, a Buzzfeed Best Book. In her third book, the nephew of Best’s heroine skips about the universe with an intergalactic sports team. Pitched to the Ursula K. Le Guin/China Miéville crowd of literary sf readers; Lord’s Afro-Caribbean background adds interest.

Tepper, Sheri S. Fish Tails. Morrow. Aug. 2014. 512p. ISBN 9780062304582. $26.99. SF
Locus Award winner Tepper turns out her 35th novel, which shows us popular characters Abasio and Xulai (e.g., A Plague of Angels) traveling through a barren land trying to persuade the populace to adopt their sea-dwelling ways. Good idea, since rising water will soon overwhelm the planet.

Weeks, Brent. The Broken Eye. Orbit. Aug. 2014. 688p. ISBN 9780316079921. $28. FANTASY
In this third in the Lightbringer series, Gavin Guile is not only in chains on a pirate galley but has lost his skill at drafting. His son Kip is on his own—bad news with the emergence of The Broken Eye, an order of assassins. Weeks’s Night Angel trilogy has sold over two million copies worldwide.

LITERARY READS
Cantero, Edgar. The Supernatural Enhancements. Doubleday. Aug. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780385538152. $26.95. LITERARY/GOTHIC
When a young man of undefined European descent inherits an estate in the leafy Virginia woods from a cousin he never knew he had, he gets a lot more than he bargained for—and so does the reader. The cousin has dispatched himself in the same manner (and on the same date) as his father, and the maze in the garden is partly sealed. Spanish cartoonist Cantero blends the mores of yesteryear with the latest technology to create a decidedly different ghost story.

Earley, Tony. Mr. Tall: A Novella and Stories. Little, Brown. Aug. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780316246125. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316246118. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316322805. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. SHORT STORIES
The author of the heartfelt Jim the Boy, which has sold more than 170,000 copies across all formats, returns with a story collection whose characters range from a bride in the secluded mountains intimidated by a looming neighbor, a widow who is sure she’s encountered the Southern version of Bigfoot, and the ghost of Jesse James. Southern charm; with a five-city tour to Oxford, Raleigh, Nashville, Atlanta, and Asheville.

Kunstler, James Howard. A History of the Future: A World Made by Hand Novel. Atlantic Monthly. Aug. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780802122520. $24. LITERARY
It’s not every novelist who regularly speaks at TED conferences, but it’s not every novelist who forthrightly addresses environmental crisis and the fate of the earth. In this third in Kunstler’s “World Made By Hand” series, we return to the post–oil for fuel world of Union Grove, NY, on Christmas eve, as Robert Earle’s son Daniel returns home to inform guests around the tree that the nation has split into three tense and uncertain regions

Lan Cao. The Lotus and the Storm. Viking. Aug. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780670016921. $27.95. LITERARY
In 1997, Cao triumphed with the debut Monkey Bridge, a multi-award finalist that even Michiko Kakutani admired. Now she’s returned with another story illuminating our experience in the Vietnam War. Living in an insular Vietnamese American community with her father, a former South Vietnamese commander, Mai uncovers unsettling truths about what really happened to her family during that war.

Manko, Vanessa. The Invention of Exile. Penguin Pr. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781594205880. $26.95. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Trust Penguin Press to offer historically informed fiction. Early 1900s Russian immigrant Austin Voronkov is a happily married father of two in Bridgeport, CT. But after tripping over his English while countering accusations that he attended an anarchist gathering, the family must flee first to revolutionary Russia, then Mexico—where Austin remains, in daily touch by letter, after the rest of the family is allowed to return home.

Row, Jess. Your Face in Mine. Riverhead. Aug. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781594488344. $27.95. LITERARY
One of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists and a Pushcart and PEN/O. Henry Prize winner, Row should draw attention with a discussion-worthy premise. Home in Baltimore, Kelly Thorndike is greeted by an African American man he doesn’t recognize—since friend Martin was a skinny Jewish kid in high school who’s had “racial reassignment surgery.” Now he wants to spill his identity.

Weatherwax, Annie. All We Had. Scribner. Aug. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9781476755205. $24. COMING OF AGE
The 2009 winner of the Robert Olen Butler Prize for Short Fiction, sculptor/painter Weatherwax now offers a debut novel. On the road looking for a better life, tween-aged Ruthie Carmichael and her devoted but marginalized mom, Rita, end up in a nowhere town called Fat River, where Rita works at the local diner and Ruthie befriends the transgender waitress Peter Pam.

Hampton Sides on Arctic Catastrophe, Paul Ryan on His Political Vision, & More | Nonfiction Previews, Aug. 2014, Pt. 3

Dolnick, Edward. The Rush: America’s Fevered Quest for Fortune, 1848–1855. Little, Brown. Aug. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780316175685. $28. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. HISTORY
As the Edgar Award–winning author of The Rescue Artist and a former chief science writer at the Boston Globe, Dolnick has intriguing credentials for writing this study of the Gold Rush, which tracks a cast of characters as they dream big, take the risky cross-country trek, and end up in cities gone wild. A rags or riches story.

Finebaum, Paul & Gene Wojciechowski. My Conference Can Beat Your Conference. Harper. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062297419. $26.99. SPORTS
The Southeastern Conference has the largest stadium and television audience of any college football conference, Finebaum’s daily radio show anchors ESPN’s new SEC Network, and the Paul Finebaum Radio Network made its home station, WJOX, the second-highest-rated sports station in the country. All of which means that sports fans will want this book. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Merkin, Daphne. The Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Importance of Handbags, and Other Cultural Inquiries. Farrar. Aug. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780374140373. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374711924. LITERARY ESSAYS
A former staff writer for The New Yorker, cultural critic Merkin looks at celebrity in our relentlessly techno-linked world, grounding her discussion of how much we obsess about sex, money, and gorgeousness with context ranging from the Brontë sisters to Brando’s appeal. Smart readers will enjoy.

Ryan, Paul. Where We Go from Here: A New Path to Prosperity. Twelve. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781455557561. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781455557585. CD/downloadable: Hachette Audio. POLITICAL SCIENCE
Whatever your political stripe, if you want insight into the impact of conservatism today, you’ll want to investigate this book from Ryan, staunch Republican, U.S. representative for Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district, and chair of the House Budget Committee. A big focus on economics.

Schneider, Peter. Berlin Now: The City After the Wall. Farrar. Aug. 2014. 336p. tr. from German by Sophie Schlondorff. ISBN 9780374254841. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374712105. CURRENT EVENTS
Berlin is a world-class city, and what makes it special—even more than the up-all-night clubs or vibrant artistic scene—is the enterprising spirit of its ever-shifting community. So says Schneider, a sometime resident who has written nearly two dozen books (e.g., The Wall Jumper) and has taught at leading universities in this country. So expect fluid writing.

Shenk, Joshua Wolf. Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs. Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780544031593. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780544032026. PSYCHOLOGY
Quick, find a buddy. Shenk, New School professor and author of Lincoln’s Melancholy, looks at pairs—think George and Ira Gershwin, Marie and Paul Curie, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak—to show that working in tandem can release the creative juices. We all want to up the innovation ante; with a 50,000-copy first printing.

Sides, Hampton. In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the U.S.S. Jeannette. Doubleday. Aug. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9780385535373. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385535380. HISTORY
The author of such best sellers as Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, Sides writes history that gets the pulse going. Here, he recounts the voyage of the U.S.S. Jeannette, a U.S. Naval expedition aimed at discovering the North Pole and funded by the New York Herald owner who also backed Henry Morton Stanley’s trip to Africa. Sailing from San Francisco in 1879, the ship quickly became trapped in ice and drifted for nearly two years before suddenly splintering—which left the crew abandoned in a frozen wasteland 1,000 miles north of Siberia.

Five Suggestions for African American History Month | Wyatt’s World

While there are many ways to learn and celebrate, honor and remember, for readers one of the best is through the pages of fiction and nonfiction. Here are five titles for African American History Month—all of which trace the past while commenting on the present.

  • White Girls by Hilton Als (McSweeney’s).
    In this wide-ranging collection—its topics include Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and Flannery O’Connor—Als offers readers a mashup of film, music, literature, and art writ large. Through assured prose and a personal voice, the collection of essays and other forms of writing also mines a landscape of gender, race, sexuality, and culture.
  • The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson (Amy Einhorn: Putnam).
    In this deft and expressive novel set in the late 1940s, Regina Robichard, a lawyer working for Thurgood Marshall, travels to Mississippi to find out what happened to an African American World War II vet who has been murdered. She is drawn to the case, in part, through an attachment she has to a novel she loved as a child, whose author instigated the investigation.
  • March. Bk. 1, by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin (text) & Nate Powell (illus.) (Top Shelf). The first of an expected trilogy, this visual memoir of Congressman Lewis covers his childhood through the lunch counter sit-ins of 1959. The stunningly rich black-and-white artwork is realistic yet inspirational in design and is presented in a variety of dynamic panel layouts.
  • Foreign Gods, Inc. by Okey Ndibe (Soho).
    Faced with troubles everywhere he turns in New York City, Nigerian-born Ike decides to return to his homeland and steal a statue of a god worshipped in his village for centuries. His scheme is to sell it to an art dealer in New York. Nothing goes as planned in this wrenching novel of the immigrant experience, cultural alienation, and abiding loss.
  • Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury USA).
    Achingly sad and brilliantly achieved, Ward’s memoir of five men she has known who have died—through drugs, accidents, and despair—is a resonant chronicle of how racism, poverty, and the staggering odds of ever beating both take their toll. Ward details her life, and the lives of the men—including her brother—in crystalline prose.

 

Finalists Announced for Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

The Los Angeles Times announced finalists in ten categories for the 34th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, to be awarded April 11 at the University of Southern California’s Bovard Auditorium. The awards ceremony serves as a precursor to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (April 12–13), now in its 19th year and its fourth at the University of Southern California. The finalists’ list is wide-ranging, with satisfyingly little overlap in evidence between the Times finalists and finalists for either last fall’s National Book Awards (NBA) or the forthcoming National Book Critics Circle Awards (NBCC). Of the few overlap titles, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being (Viking) has also been nominated for the NBCC’s fiction award, while Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (Knopf) is the one book acknowledged by all three award givers.

Ozeki’s title, a meditation on time that cuts between past and present, Japan and Canada, is joined by other adventuresome titles in the fiction category, including two from Graywolf: Percival Everett’s novel Percival Everett by Virgil Russell, an edgy look at identity, and Susan Steinberg’s Spectacle: Stories, linked stories about women confronting grief. Two more story collections, Jamie Quatro’s I Want to Show You More (Grove) and Ethan Rutherford’s The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories (Ecco), were nominated for the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Also up in First Fiction: Jeff Jackson’s Mira Corpora (Two Dollar Radio), a runaway’s story with street cred; it’s had Best Book acknowledgement from Slate, Flavorwire, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and more. The one big-publicity, big-publisher name in first fiction is NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names (Reagan Arthur: Little, Brown).

The mystery/thrillers list offered a debut in Richard Compton’s Hour of the Red God (Sarah Crichton: Farrar) but went veteran with John Grisham’s Sycamore Row (Doubleday) and Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling (Mulholland: Little, Brown), whose author is better known as J.K. Rowling. This category has a real international feel, with Irish author Gene Kerrigan’s Gold Dagger winner, The Rage (Europa), and Ferdinand von Schirach’s German best seller, The Collini Case (Viking), joining Compton’s Kenya-set Hour of the Red God and Galbraith’s England-set The Cuckoo’s Calling. With fiction including Daniel Woodrell’s The Maid’s Version (Little, Brown) and first fiction Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest, about a woman’s mysterious and troubled past, the suspense at this year’s awards ceremony comes not only from wondering who will win.

Three history finalists—Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman’s FDR and the Jews (Belknap: Harvard), Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (Harper), and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (S. & S.)—focus on 20th-century world history. But with Glenn Frankel’s The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend (Bloomsbury USA) and Alan Taylor’s The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832 (Norton), American history was not neglected.

The biography list tends to the arty, with Benita Eisler’s The Red Man’s Bones: George Catlin, Artist and Showman (Norton), Irish novelist Edna O’Brien’s Country Girl: A Memoir (Little, Brown), and Deborah Solomon’s American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell (Farrar) among the finalists. Current events range from New Orleans (Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, Crown) to Motor City (Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy, Penguin Pr.,) and include both Wright’s Going Clear and David Finkel’s NBCC-nominated Thank You for Your Service (Sarah Crichton: Farrar).

With the poetry finalists ranging from Joshua Beckman’s The Inside of an Apple (Wave) to debut author Lynn Xu’s Debts & Lessons (Omnidawn) and nary a big house in sight, the Book Prizes can be commended for uncovering fresh voices, as well as for singling out science and technology as a separate category. This year’s finalists highlight our concern for Earth’s fate, with both Annalee Newitz’s Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction (Doubleday) and Alan Weisman’s Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? (Little, Brown) making the cut. The rise of neuroscience is highlighted by Matthew D. Lieberman’s Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect (Crown) and Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld’s Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience (Basic).

This year’s Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will also honor Susan Straight with the 2013 Robert Kirsch Award, a lifetime achievement award, and John Green with the Innovator’s Award. Straight, a Book Prize finalist in 2006 for A Million Nightingales and an NBA finalist in 2001 for Highwire Moon, was praised by Times book critic and awards emcee David L. Ulin as “a Southern California original and a tireless supporter, and creator, of our literary culture.” Librarians will generally agree that Printz winner and Nerdfighters purveyor Green, known for his YA fiction and encouragement of online reader activism, deserves recognition for his cutting-edge work. A full list of finalist and further details can be found at the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes site.

Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, February 21, 2014

Week ending February 21, 2014

Sex Scene: Media and the Sexual Revolution. Duke Univ. Mar. 2014. 488p. ed. by Eric Schaefer. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780822356424. $99.95; pap. ISBN 9780822356547. $29.95. FILM
Schaefer (visual media studies, Emerson Coll.; “Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!” A History of Exploitation Films, 1919–1959) edits a collection of 14 essays by various academics and experts in the fields of journalism, gender and sexuality issues, film history, and GLBTQ studies that investigate the promotion of sex in media. While the work is similar to titles such as Rodger Streitmatter’s Sex Sells! The Media’s Journey from Repression to Obsession, it creates a niche in its selection of topics. The book deals with common themes in film studies such as gender, economics, and censorship but also addresses the commodification of sex and the demand it created. Although the title suggests that the essays deal with the radical notions of sex in media, it commonly describes the nudity and sex as commonplace in various outlets. The collection also deals with legal and social opposition to the mainstream exposure to sex, but its forte is the role of publishing and the press in the “sexual revolution.”
Verdict Recommended as a core title for collections dealing with sex and media, historical studies of the U.S. film industry, porn studies, media and/or sexual studies. Individuals interested in studying mass media, film, popular culture, and television would also find the book of value.—Kimberley Bugg, Brooklyn

Swaab, D.F. We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer’s. Spiegel & Grau. 2014. 448p. illus. index. ISBN 9780812992960. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780679644378. MED
Research into the function of the human brain has advanced rapidly over the last 30 years, and new discoveries are occurring at a rapid clip. This book by Swaab (neurobiology, Univ. of Amsterdam) provides an overview of the discoveries of this research for the general reader. The range of topics covered is vast and encompasses the development of obesity and Alzheimer’s disease to homosexuality. Swaab’s insistence the we “are our brains” mars the book and leads to simplistic and exaggerated claims about the relationship between neuroscience and religion and the claim (which has little to do with neuroscience) that humans would be better off without religion. More scientifically literate readers will be frustrated by the book’s lack of footnotes and references to the empirical studies upon which Swaab bases his argument.
Verdict Despite its flaws, polemical tone, and occasional reductionism, this is an interesting and engagingly written book on discoveries in brain science for general readers.—Aaron Klink, Duke Univ., Durham, NC

Xpress Reviews: Audiobooks | First Look at New Books, February 21, 2014

Week ending February 21, 2014

Carr, Robyn. The Hero. (Thunder Point, Bk. 3). 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 9¾ hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781464012709. $102.75; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
When Devon McAllister takes her young daughter and flees the cult she’d been part of for the past seven years, they are picked up and adopted by Raleigh, the crusty bartender at Cooper’s Bar and Grill in Thunder Point, OR. Even though Devon is just looking for a place to escape and be invisible, she finds much more than that, including an unexpected romance with widowed high school football coach Spencer Lawson. Consistent volume, disk change notices, and thought repetition at the beginning of each disc complement Therese Plummer’s clear, distinct, nicely paced narration.
Verdict The latest of Carr’s “Thunder Point” series (after The Newcomer), this title will appeal to Carr’s fans and romance listeners in general.—Laurie Selwyn, formerly with Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX

Dent, Jim. The Kids Got It Right: How the Texas All-Stars Kicked Down Racial Walls. 8 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 8½ hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470377977. $102.75; digital download. SPORTS
Dent (The Junction Boys) mixes sports with social history in this engaging true story of the 1965 Texas all-star high school football team that traveled to Hershey, PA, to take on a local squad. Owing to the trailblazing efforts of its head coach, NFL legend Bobby Layne, the Texas team featured for the first time three black players, including Jerry LeVias, who roomed with star white player Bill Bradley (not to be confused with the basketball player and politician). Dent focuses on these two teenagers’ unlikely but eventually strong friendship, chronicling how they overcame racial prejudice by learning to trust and respect each other both on and off the field. Dent blends several participants’ recollections into his well-researched narrative, crafting an inspiring but unsentimental story well worth telling. Narrator Brian Hutchison excels at depicting both exciting game action and quieter off-field moments.
Verdict Recommended to gridiron fans of all ages who want more from sports stories than just scores and statistics.—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia

Fielding, Helen. Mad About the Boy. (Bridget Jones, Bk. 3). 10 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 11½ hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804148788. $40; 10 CDs. retail ed. Random Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. F
True to character, Bridget continues to bumble and stumble forward, sideways, and oftentimes backwards in her disheveled life. In this installment (after The Edge of Reason), Bridget, now in her early 50s, is mourning Mark Darcy, the love of her life, and raising two small children on her own. At the same time, friends and family encourage her to get back into the dating scene. The format is familiar: Bridget’s second-by-second reckonings of perceived major events in her life—Twitter account activity, texts received (or not received) from romantic prospects, weight loss and gain, number of calories taken in, number of bags of shredded cheese consumed, number of nits (lice) found in her and her children’s hair, and how many people she and her children have infected—all detailed in unfortunate half-sentences that seem to mirror her scattered thought processes. Only a true Bridget Jones devotee could enjoy this book and the tired punch lines that miss their mark. The author seems to have overlooked the possibilities of a mature, fully aware Bridget Jones who has grown up to become an interesting, functioning, believable person. Narrator Samantha Bond does an adequate job in her delivery of the material, with a pleasing, posh British accent.
Verdict Recommended only where there is patron demand.—Laura Brosie, Abilene, TX

Jewell, Lisa. Before I Met You. 13 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 15 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470395131. $72. F
Betty’s grandmother Arlette has just died, leaving behind a will that awards most of her estate to a woman no one in the family knows, someone named Clara Pickle. There is a one-year deadline for them to find Clara, so Betty decides to relocate from remote Guernsey Island to London, where Arlette had lived in her youth, to try to locate Clara. Jewell alternates between the 1920s, describing Arlette’s experiences in London, and the 1990s, where Betty is on her own in a small flat, with a famous rock star as a neighbor. During her quest, Betty learns much about Arlette’s life, including her affair with a jazz musician. Narrator Jane Collingwood capably narrates this character-driven novel with a slow-to-develop plot.
Verdict Recommended for fans of British and women’s fiction.—Mary Knapp, Madison P.L., WI

Palin, Michael. The Truth. 7 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 8½ hrs. Tantor Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781452616094. $39.99; 1 MP3-CD. 7 CDs. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Former journalist Keith Mabbut gets an offer to write the seminal biography of the iconic and elusive environmental activist Hamish Melville. He takes the job, finds Melville, gains his trust, and writes the book. Then his troubles begin. His publisher demands more dirt on Melville—and shows Keith where to find it. In his search for the truth about his subject, Keith discovers that truth is subject to interpretation. Palin (Brazil) captures the struggle between truth and justice on one hand and power and influence on the other. His story is both compelling and entertaining. Well read, with distinctive character voices, by Alex Jennings.
Verdict Recommended to listeners who enjoy general fiction titles.—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence

Palmer, Daniel. Stolen. 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 11½ hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2013. ISBN 9781624068270. $59.99; 2 MP3-CDs. library ed.; digital download. F
In Palmer’s (Helpless) latest, John Bodine, an online gaming software engineer, and his very ill wife, Ruby, are victims of an anonymous psychopath. When the Bodines realize their insurance coverage won’t cover Ruby’s drug prescription needs, John goes to desperate, at times hard-to-believe lengths to save Ruby’s life as their puppet-master nemesis forces the couple to perform more and more objectionable and dangerous illegal acts. Peter Berkrot’s gritty tone complements this suspenseful tale, although his attempts at a Boston accent are uneven. The author’s efforts to parallel the situation the Bodines are facing with John’s earlier climbing tragedy and John’s musings on how much he loves Ruby and can’t live without her feel redundant at times, but readers who love action with suspenseful new twists and settings will enjoy this book.
Verdict Recommend to fans of thrillers.—Susan Herr, Bulverde/Spring Branch Lib., TX

Ripley, Amanda. The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way. 7 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 7½ hrs. Tantor Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781452616117. $39.99; 7 CDs. retail ed.; 1 MP3-CD. library/retail eds.; Playaway digital; digital download. ED
This well-considered, fact-based book by Ripley (The Unthinkable) examines the factors contributing to the United States’ poor global educational performance. A great deal is conveyed about the American educational system by comparing it to that of other countries, particularly South Korea, Finland, and Poland, that rank higher on an international test called PISA. Those three countries’ school systems are also considered through the experiential lens of three American exchange students. Cultural differences aside, Ripley found that success boiled down to one element: rigor. When educators created high expectations and “a serious intellectual culture in schools, one that kids can sense is real and true,” children responded with innate drive and grit. Narrator Kate Reading’s serious, sonorous tone is spot-on.
Verdict Of limited application for parents, this title is of primary interest to teachers and educational professionals.—Douglas C. Lord, New Britain P.L., CT

Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, February 21, 2014

Week ending February 21, 2014

Ashby, Ruth (text) & Ernie Colón (illus.). The Great American Documents. Vol. 1: 1620–1830. Hill & Wang. Apr. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9780809094608. $40; pap. ISBN 9780374534530. $20. HIST
Uncle Sam leads the reader on a tour of the United States’ foundational documents in Ashby’s (Caedmon’s Song; Rocket Man: The Mercury Adventure of John Glenn) new graphic history primer. The 20 items presented here cover the time of the Pilgrims’ arrival in the New World to the tense period preceding the Civil War. Although some pages are wordy to the point of clutter, Colón’s (Che: A Graphic Biography; The 9/11 Report: The Graphic Adaptation) illustrations help greatly in clarifying concepts and adding dashes of drama and humor to the work. A helpful suggested reading list for students wishing to take the next step in their research is included.
Verdict An effective and engaging introduction to some of the key documents that shaped our nation. Highly recommended for middle and high school collections as well as readers looking for a quick-reading survey of American historical highlights.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

Druckmann, Neil (text) & Faith Erin Hicks (text & illus.). The Last of Us. Vol 1: American Dreams. Dark Horse. 2013. 112p. ISBN 9781616552121. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781621158134. SF
Druckmann (creative director, The Last of Us video game) and Hicks (webcomic Demonology 101) have penned a prequel to The Last of Us video game, which takes place in a postapocalyptic world inhabited by zombies known as the “infected,” victims of a parasitic fungal outbreak. The reader is introduced to a younger Ellie, a personality known from the video game, attending her first day at a military boarding school. Early on, Ellie befriends the adventurous Riley, who sneaks out of school on covert excursions into the city. During Ellie and Riley’s first foray outside the institution walls, they run into a rogue group known as the Fireflies roaming the city. Unexpectedly, Ellie discovers the Fireflies’ leader Marlene knows Ellie, knew Ellie’s mother, and reveals guardian-like responsibility for orchestrating events in Ellie’s life. Hicks also contributes the artwork, which emotes an unsettled edge, with dark tones and close-ups that show the characters’ emotion.
Verdict Familiarity with the video game is going to clarify some of the details of this prequel. Likewise, readers will find the abrupt ending frustrating unless they pick up the electronic game. Recommended to fans of this popular video game.—Scott Vieira, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

Spurrier, Simon (text) & Tan Eng Huat & Paul Davidson (illus.). X-Men Legacy. Vol. 2: Invasive Exotics. Marvel. (Now!). 2013. 136p. ISBN 9780785167181. pap. $15.99. SUPERHERO
X-Men Legacy: Invasive Exotics is a mind trip, which is fitting considering main character Legion is a psychologically complex person. The son of Professor X and sometime X-Men villain, David Haller (aka Legion) is in love with Blindfold, who can see into the future. Haller sees a vision where he is the cause of the end of life on the planet. The only way to stop it is by suppressing his mutant genes. Also, a major Marvel villain might be manipulating the whole thing. Haller is best known for being the catalyst to the first Age of Apocalypse event during the 1990s X-Men books. The story does a great job of pacing the reader and bringing a newcomer up-to-date with convoluted history that follows most X-Men plotlines. Spurrier’s dialog, especially with Haller, contains humor mixed with anger and confusion. Huat and Davidson’s art is also good, capturing the surreal landscape that accompanies Haller’s trips into his head.
Verdict In this fun, exciting read, the characters can be funny; Haller plays the in-over-his-head and master planner very well, with the plot taking a couple of twists in the end. Recommended for those who love sf and stories of overcoming adversity and, of course, X-Men fans.—Ryan Claringbole, Coll. Lib. at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

Symons, Kel (text) & Mark A. Robinson & Nathan Stockman (illus.). I Love Trouble. Image. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9781607068488. pap. $16.99. Rated: M. ACTION/THRILLER
This graphic novel is a riot—of imagery, emotion, and something approaching a story line. Antihero Felicia discovers while on a crashing plane that she has the ability to teleport, thereby saving herself from certain death. Her unlikely survival surprises her philandering boyfriend and allows her to steal famous paintings for kicks. She’s subsequently recruited by a shady multinational corporation to be a sassy assassin. Also, she has a monkey for a conscience. This collection walks just along the edge of all this puzzling action. We don’t understand Felicia’s work or motives, and we don’t really need to. Writer Symons’s narrative plays second fiddle to Robinson’s art, which is presented in full color, graffiti-like, rough, and visually dirty. It has much in common with, and arguably owes a debt to, Jamie Hewlett’s work for the band Gorillaz, all slouch and scowl and madness. From issue to issue, the artwork gets progressively less busy and more readable without losing its energetic edge.
Verdict A loosely sketched story set within a riot of colorful and angry art, I Love Trouble draws the reader in slowly but surely. For traditional comics fans looking for a visually challenging change of pace.—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, February 21, 2014

Week ending February 21, 2014

Coben, Harlan. Missing You. Dutton. Mar. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780525953494. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698148635. F
NYPD detective Kat Donovan has learned to live without a romantic partner. She doesn’t even miss it, since it’s been over20 years since she really cared about someone. Besides, she loves her job and that’s more than a lot of people have, right? But when her well-meaning best friend Stacy buys her a year’s subscription to an online dating service, adding, “Who knows, you might meet Mr. Right,” Kat decides to give it a shot. At first it seems like just another profile like so many of the other profiles on the dating site, but she can’t stop staring at the picture. The man in the bears an uncanny resemblance to her high school sweetheart, Jeff—the only man to whom she ever gave her heart. Then a young man asks Kat to help him find his missing mother, who was also a member of the dating site. Worse, the woman may also have a link to Jeff. Things start to spiral out of control as Kat struggles to connect the dots and solve a mystery that has hit entirely too close to home.
Verdict Coben (Hold Tight; Live Wire), the best-selling master of suspense, has written another twisty ripped-from-the-headlines page-turning stand-alone that could be his best yet. This one will be flying off your shelves; order multiple copies. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/13.]—Cynthia Price, Francis Marion Univ. Lib., Florence, SC

Griffiths, Elly. The Outcast Dead. Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2014. 372p. ISBN 9780547792774. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780547792804. MYS
Griffiths’s sixth Ruth Galloway mystery (after A Dying Fall) opens with the forensic archaeologist attending an annual memorial service for the unknown dead of Norwich, England: “the bodies thrown into unmarked graves, the paupers, the plague victims, forgotten, unmourned….” But one of those outcast dead, whose remains Ruth uncovered during a dig at Norwich Castle, may be the notorious Mother Hook, hanged in 1867 for the murders of five children. Now her discovery has propelled the reticent Ruth to appear on the TV show Women Who Kill with her publicity-seeking boss and a very attractive American historian who believes Mother Hook to be innocent. At the same time, DCI Harry Nelson, Ruth’s former lover and the father of her toddler daughter, is investigating a mother whose three infants died under suspicious circumstances. His case is further complicated when a kidnapper dubbed the Childminder snatches two children.
Verdict Griffiths’s leisurely paced mystery is more of a character study than a pure whodunit; she sprinkles plenty of red herrings that lead nowhere and the ending feels a bit rushed and forced. The novel’s strength lies in the author’s sympathetic exploration through her lead protagonists’ complicated personal lives of the nature of parenthood and family life. And she sets it all against the stark beauty of Norfolk’s salt marshes. [A March 2014 LibraryReads pick.]—Wilda Williams, Library Journal

Littlefield, Sophie. House of Glass. Mira: Harlequin. Mar. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780778314783. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781460327067. F
Some of us look on our past fondly, while others would just as soon forget that they had a past and live only in the present. Jen Glass falls into this latter category, having driven with her sister Tanya to their hometown to make sure their past, i.e., their estranged father Sid, was really dead. Jen’s life is pretty good now. Married to a nice guy, with two kids, they live in the suburbs of Minneapolis. Sure, Ted has been laid off and her 15-year-old daughter is doing typical teenage girl things, but, all in all, Jen is lucky. One evening, though, this great life comes to a screeching halt as two men force their way into the Glasses’ home and take them hostage.
Verdict Littlefield (Garden of Stones; A Bad Day for Sorry) has written quite the page-turner that keeps readers guessing. How will the family survive? Did Ted set this up? Is it one of Sid’s old pals coming to exact justice from Jen? Those who like thrillers with satisfying conclusions should find this an engaging read.—Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH

Lynch, Sarah-Kate. The Wedding Bees: A Novel of Honey, Love, and Manners. Morrow. Feb. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780062252609. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062252616. F
Sweet-natured Sugar Wallace attracts troubled strangers the way flowers attract her honey bees. Fifteen moves in 15 years have taken her around the country; her latest stop is an East Village studio apartment in New York on the top floor of a walk-up, perfect for her hive. Also in residence are five souls in need of Sugar’s good listening and gentle heart and a healthy dose of something special from her hive. Sugar has repeated this pattern many times to a satisfying conclusion, but it’s different now. She must learn how to accept as much help as she’s been giving, or the consequences could cost her everything. Individual and collective secrets build into dramatic moments and allow the happy results for all to taste even sweeter in the end.
Verdict This charming novel by a New Zealand writer (Dolci Di Love; Blessed Are the Cheesemakers) mixes such original touches as bee lore, New York City charms, and the protagonist’s traditional Southern upbringing into a gently appealing tale. Above all, it’s the endearing characters who will draw readers in and the various conflicts that keep the pages turning. A perfect escape from winter’s chill. [Library marketing.]—Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH

Robuck, Erika. Fallen Beauty. NAL. Mar. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780451418906. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101615638. F
Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was a tragically beautiful figure of the Jazz Age, and in Robuck’s latest historical novel, Millay becomes a foil for her fictional protagonist. Edna, who enjoys wild parties and sexual trysts, has fallen for Laura, a quiet seamstress living in a small New York town near Millay’s Berkshire estate, Steepletop. After having a daughter out of wedlock, Laura constantly frets over how she is viewed by the townspeople. Her desire to placate others keeps her from befriending the reckless poet and pursuing new romances, despite her personal longings. When Edna asks Laura to sew the costumes for her upcoming reading tour, the young mother must decide whom to please, herself or others.
Verdict Fans of Robuck’s Hemingway’s Girl and Call Me Zelda will notice a similar narrative device, a fictional woman’s connection to a historical literary figure. Here readers form an immediate intimacy with both Laura and the poet because their individual narratives are woven into a single story. Full of drama with every turn of the page, this compelling novel will delight fans of romance, historical fiction, or women’s fiction.—Shannon Marie Robinson, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH

Xpress Reviews: E-Originals | First Look at New Books, February 21, 2014

Week ending February 21, 2014

Baker, Miranda. Girl Trouble. Samhain. (Come Again, Bk. 4). Mar. 2014. 95p. ebk. ISBN 9781619220829. $3.50. EROTIC ROMANCE
Kat St. James is a major celebrity, a high-profile actress living life with fame, fans, and plenty of fun. Underneath the glamour, though, is a wounded soul—a soul that yearns for the one person society would not allow her to have: Bonita Pritchard. Her high school best friend–turned–lover and obsession is a secret that Kat hides to maintain her celebrity status, but the love and sex are too powerful to resist. Bonita is her true submissive; each finds completion in the other’s desires. Together they explore each other’s bodies, as they realize that they are perfect halves to a complete whole.
Verdict Fans of Baker’s may recognize the sex shop—Come Again—as we return in this fourth installment in the series (after Hook Up). This tale follows sex shop owner Bonita and her longtime love Kat as they eschew fame and fortune for true love. Kinky and red hot, this tale is for those who want their romance explosive and explicit!—Judy Taylor Garner, Strayer Univ. Lib., Glen Allen, VA

Kelley, Inez. The Place I Belong. Carina: Harlequin. (Country Roads, Bk. 2). Feb. 2014. 162p. ebk. ISBN 9781426898006. $2.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Zury Castellano is determined to protect Black Cherry Falls and the surrounding canyon from any type of destruction, even after Hawkins Hardwood, a lumber company, legally acquires part of the canyon from the state. Hawkins’s PR guy Jonah Alcott is the lucky man left to deal with the fallout of Zury’s protests, editorials, and campaigns against the firm. After Jonah tries to see Zury’s point of view and show her the company’s goodwill, the two slowly begin to compromise and realize other benefits of working together. But Zury’s desperation to keep her home pristine may have already set tragic plans in motion.
Verdict The Place I Belong has well-developed characters, an interesting and timely plot, and a good pace to keep readers on edge throughout. While it is the middle book of author Kelley’s “Country Roads” trilogy, it is more of a companion to Take Me Home than a sequel, with familiar characters appearing for a few pages but nothing more. Kelley keeps the romance hot, while not letting it overshadow the strengths of the characters. A certain mistake on Zury’s part might upset and dismay readers, but it does appear to play into the upcoming final title of the trilogy, helping to connect the books further. A fun read revolving around an interesting issue.—Kellie Tilton, Univ. of Cincinnati Blue Ash

Kennedy, Elle. As Hot as It Gets. Samhain. (Out of Uniform, Bk. 10). Feb. 2014. 271p. ebk. ISBN 9781619221338. $5.50. EROTIC ROMANCE
Navy SEAL Jackson Ramsey has seen every one of his buddies find the woman of their dreams (including teammate Dylan’s happy ménage). Jackson has discovered that he’s tired of watching his friends’ happiness and is ready to find some of his own. When he meets Mia Weldrick, he’s sure he’s found the right woman for him. Mia is intelligent and intriguing, and she challenges him at every turn—and she turns him on. The only problem is that Mia is way too busy with her gardening career and her guardianship of her teenage brother even to think about dating. And since her sexual experiences have been blah so far, she doesn’t think she’s missing much, until she meets Jackson, and her libido suddenly lights up like a Christmas tree. Jackson has to find a way to woo Mia, not just into bed but into a realization that relationships can work and that she and he belong together. After watching her mother marry (and divorce) ten times, Mia needs a lot of convincing, but Jackson is definitely up to the task.
Verdict As Hot as It Gets lives up to its erotic romance categorization. This “sex into love” romance includes hot, kinky sex but doesn’t neglect the romance. For those who have read all “Out of Uniform” titles (e.g., The Heat Is On; Hotter Than Ever), it provides a glimpse into the lives of the couples featured in earlier entries but also works well as an introduction to the series. Recommended for those who like their romances on the “extra-steamy” side.—Marlene Harris, Seattle P.L.

Lin, Jeannie. The Jade Temptress. HQN: Harlequin. (Lotus Palace, Bk. 2). Mar. 2014. c.384p. ISBN 9781460327081. $4.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
When Lady Mingyu, one of the most sought-after elite literary courtesans in the Lotus Palace, is summoned by powerful General Deng to his residence, her worst fears are that he will want to “redeem” her to become his concubine. But when she finds him brutally murdered and knows she’ll be considered a suspect, she has no choice but to seek out Wu Kaifeng, the one man who can help her but who has every reason to distrust her. Caught up in a nightmare of unbridled ambition and political intrigue, Mingyu and Kaifeng struggle to unravel the mystery, pinpoint the killer, and stay alive as they come to terms with their growing passions in this cleverly plotted, deliciously romantic story.
Verdict The Tang Dynasty and the shadowy world of the pleasure district of Changan come to life in a story that is sure to enchant. With insight, colorful descriptions, and a plot twist that most readers won’t expect, Lin’s latest takes fans on another fascinating foray into the exotic world first introduced in The Lotus Palace. Another compelling, memorable, well-researched tale; highly recommended.—Kristin Ramsdell, emerita, California State Univ.–East Bay

Packard, Alison. Catching Heat. Carina: Harlequin. (Feeling the Heat, Bk. 3). Feb. 2014. 267p. ebk. ISBN 9781426897788. $3.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Angela works in the front office for the Sacramento Blaze baseball team, but she’s determined to stay far away from the players. Her father, who played professional baseball, broke her mother’s heart and taught Angela that athletes are not to be trusted. But there is one player whom she just can’t resist. J.T. has had his eye on Angela since he met her, but she has always given him the cold shoulder. Then one passionate night, Angela can no longer resist him—and she winds up pregnant. As J.T. works on proving to Angela that not all athletes are irresponsible cheaters, Angela begins to learn that the rewards of love are greater than the risk of being hurt.
Verdict Packard has created a nice cast of secondary characters, the stars of which are J.T.’s large and loving family. They provide some comic relief and are integral to Angela’s journey to trust J.T. Packard (Love in the Afternoon; The Winning Season) will keep readers returning to her series to see which other characters are paired off next. A solid purchase.—Lizzy Klinnert, Barrington Area Lib., IL

Best Sellers: Medicine, February 20, 2014

July 2013 to date as identified by YBP Library Services

  1. Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice
    Scrinis, Gyorgy
    Columbia University Press
    2013. ISBN 9780231156561. $32.95
  2. Interest Groups and Health Care Reform Across the United States
    Gray, Virginia
    Georgetown University Press
    2013. ISBN 9781589019898. $29.95
  3. Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction
    Farmer, Paul
    University of California Press
    2013. ISBN 9780520271975. $90
  4. Bioethics: The Basics
    Campbell, Alastair V.
    Routledge
    2013. ISBN 9780415504096. $95
  5. Comrades in Health: U.S. Health Internationalists, Abroad and at Home
    Birn, Anne-Emanuelle
    Rutgers University
    2013. ISBN 9780813561219. $85
  6. Spirituality in Hospice Palliative Care
    Bramadat, Paul
    State University of New York Press
    2013. ISBN 9781438447773. $70
  7. Routledge International Handbook of Qualitative Nursing Research
    Beck, Cheryl Tatano
    Routledge
    2013. ISBN 9780415673563. $225
  8. Medical Encounters: Knowledge and Identity in Early American Literatures
    Wisecup, Kelly
    University of Massachusetts
    2013. ISBN 9781625340566. $80
  9. Contemporary Debates in Bioethics
    Caplan, Arthur L.
    Wiley-Blackwell
    2014. ISBN 9781444337136. $99.95
  10. People with Disabilities: Sidelined or Mainstreamed?
    Schur, Lisa
    Cambridge University Press
    2013. ISBN 9781107000476. $99
  11. Handbook of Qualitative Research in Communication Disorders
    Ball, Martin J.
    Psychology Press
    2014. ISBN 9781848726420. $160
  12. Beyond Evidence-Based Policy in Public Health: The Interplay of Ideas
    Smith, Katherine
    Palgrave Macmillan
    2013. ISBN 9781137026576. $90
  13. Health and Wellness in the Renaissance and Enlightenment
    Byrne, Joseph P.
    Greenwood
    2013. ISBN 9780313381362. $58
  14. Philosophy of Epidemiology
    Broadbent, Alex
    Palgrave Macmillan
    2013. ISBN 9780230355125. $85
  15. Health and Healing After Traumatic Brain Injury: Understanding the Power of Family, Friends, Community, and Other Support Systems
    Muenchberger, Heidi
    Praeger
    2013. ISBN 9781440828867. $48
  16. Classrooms and Clinics: Urban Schools and the Protection and Promotion of Child Health, 1870–1930
    Meckel, Richard A.
    Rutgers University
    2013. ISBN 9780813562407. $75
  17. The PKU Paradox: A Short History of a Genetic Disease
    Paul, Diane B.
    Johns Hopkins University
    2013. ISBN 9781421411316. $24.95
  18. Biological Relatives: IVF, Stem Cells, and the Future of Kinship
    Franklin, Sarah
    Duke University Press
    2013. ISBN 9780822354857. $94.95
  19. Health Analytics: Gaining the Insights To Transform Health Care
    Burke, Jason
    John Wiley
    2013. ISBN 9781118383049. $60
  20. Pesticides and Global Health: Understanding Agrochemical Dependence and Investing in Sustainable Solutions
    Dowdall, Courtney Marie
    Left Coast Press
    2014. ISBN 9781611323047. $89

What’s in a Name? | African American Fiction (and More)




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Urban fiction dialog weighs in on the rough side laced with insults and profanity. There’s also name calling to challenge a rival or just to be a hater. While male characters are quick to pull pistols in a fight, women enter frays with cut-to-the-bone verbal insults. Here are examples from this month’s selections.

  • Badass chick
  • Bodacious sista
  • Bougie heffa
  • Fast-tailed heffa
  • Filthy whore
  • Heffa
  • Jezebel
  • Miss Thang
  • Moody-ass bitch
  • Queen from da hood
  • Rebound chick
  • Riffraff
  • Scumbag
  • Thang-thang
  • Whore mongering piece of gutter trash
  • Whoring bitch

PICK OF THE MONTH

Collins, S.K. Wide Open. Strebor: Atria. (Strebor on the Streetz).  Feb. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781593095529.  pap. $14. F

Ezeekial Harris manages to get fired from his McJob at Staples and hates not having money to spend on his girlfriend Chelsea. On the other hand, Chelsea is too busy clubbing around Washington, D.C., and sexing up major drug dealers while playing ol’ Zeek for a fool. He doesn’t get the message, and the poor boy finds himself scrapping together $4.95 for a “Think of You” card while Chelsea enjoys a romp in bed with Zeek’s high school enemy, Rodney.  Finally realizing Chelsea is not all that, Zeek sets out to salvage his ego by becoming a major player in the drug game and making bundles of money.  Every businessman has goals, and Zeek accomplishes his by eliminating the competition with cold-blooded precision. Soon he’s moving major product while enjoying daily sexual servicing from scads of women. But empires flush with stacks of money and flashy cars can be destroyed by little things like jealousy or lies. As the tattoo on one of Zeek’s woman’s neck states, “Only Time will Tell.” VERDICT This author’s fast-moving debut tale doesn’t spare readers from wild action in the streets and in the bedroom. Authentic street talk, hot sex and cold-blooded killing plus a nifty ending will satisfy readers of hard-core urban fiction.

 

Chase, Naomi. Betrayal. Dafina: Kensington. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780758284372. pap. $15. F
Some readers probably hope Brandon and Tamia will make it as a couple in the third installment of Chase’s Exposed series (Exposed; Deception). Other folks may grow annoyed with Houston attorney Brandon Chambers’s irritating dithering between Cynthia Yarbrough (who may be carrying his unborn child) and former porn star Tamia Luke. Brandon is engaged to Cynthia but lusts for Tamia. Get on with it dude! Make a decision!  The problem is Dominic Archer, another gorgeous guy that Tamia sleeps with who has her “cursing and chanting during sex.” That’s the basis of the story—will Tamia and Brandon find everlasting love?  Or will they stray to other sexual partners? Their path to love (or more accurately—lust) is a twisty one with many erotic encounters that prove angry sex is just as good as make-up sex.VERDICT The will-he-or-won’t-he back and forth by Brandon becomes tedious, but toe-curling erotic scenes ease the boredom.  Fans of the series will be satisfied with the rousing ending as Team Cynthia and Team Tamia square off in a winner take all showdown.

Ellis, Shelly. Another Woman’s Man: A Gibbons Gold Diggers Novel. Dafina: Kensington. May 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780758290380. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758290991.
Dawn Gibbons is 37 years old, married twice, and is more interested in running an art gallery than romance. But this third Gibbons sister can’t avoid falling in love like her siblings Stephanie and Lauren (Can’t Stand the Heat; The Player and the Game). Wealthy Herbert Allen appears at an art showing informing Dawn he’s her biological father. Dawn recovers from her shock to immediately cast her eyes on Herb’s lawyer, sexy Xavier Hughes. Too bad Xavier is engaged to Dawn’s newly discovered half sister Constance, but the Gibbons girls are known to get their hustle on with grace and style. Soon enough Xavier and Dawn are sneaking longing glances at each other with Dawn ignoring the warning voice in her head not to get involved. Dawn also forgets the Gibbons rule of putting family first and men somewhere between shoes and handbags VERDICT  Fans of the first two books will slide comfortably into Ellis’s familiar style that has an-easy-to-spot ending. Yet, Dawn’s trials on the way to find true love are totally enjoyable, making the final outcome more of an affirmation than a surprising twist. Realistic voices and interesting sidebars mark this story as a solid addition to all romance collections.

Hilton, Erica. Bad Girl Blvd. Melodrama. 2014. 274p. ISBN 9781620780237. pap. $14.99. F  

A good girl breaks bad in Hilton’s (Dirty Money Honey; Wifey: I Am Wifey. Part 2) tale of greed, betrayal, and bloody revenge. Luca Linn, a nice girl with a high-pitched little girl voice, is totally in love with Nate, who is Brooklyn’s major heroin dealer. Nate’s also a playa and is sexing up Luca’s best friend Naomi. Tech savvy Luca has captured the nasty deed on a surveillance camera but decides to keep Nate’s betrayal a secret. That is until Nate is gunned down in a fouled-up drug deal. Sensing an opportunity to reinvent her life, Luca dons a pink wig, hikes up a short skirt, and takes over Nate’s heroin business. She boldly struts her stuff and pulls in serious cash by renaming her heroin product “Bad Girl.” The drug takes Brooklyn by storm, and soon enough anyone who has crossed Luca receives brutal payback in gruesome torture scenes.  This is one girl who has to have it her way. VERDICT  Pure street cred is all over this story with several cringe-worthy torture scenes. It can be argued that there’s too much going on, especially during the convoluted path to a chopped ending that promises a sequel. However the alluring title, a tough-as-nails female gang, and rousing sex scenes will generate high demand. 

Morrison, Mary B. If You Don’t Know Me. Dafina: Kensington. Apr. 2014. 245p. ISBN 9780758273055. $24;  ebk. ISBN 9780758273109. F

Morrison piles on extra helpings of soap opera-esque drama in this final entry of her “If I Can’t Have You” trilogy (I’d Rather Be With You; If I Can’t Have You). There’s more than a lovers’ triangle going on in Houston, and with so many hookups relationships land somewhere between a pentagon and heptagon. The saga of Roosevelt “Chicago” Debois continues as he’s torn between hot mistress Sindy Singleton and his wife Madison. The question that’s on everyone’s mind is, “Who is the father of Madison’s son Zach?”  Is it Chicago or delusional stalker Granville Washington?  Not complicated enough?  Morrison inserts several side piece women who love sexing up the fellas plus creepy arranged sales of women to a Dubai billionaire who demands virgins. At one point Chicago realizes women can be distractions. Ya think? VERDICT There’s a rushed feel to this novel that veers off into unrelated tangents with little or no setup. Readers unfamiliar with the previous titles will quickly become lost in the many overly complicated story lines. Still, hot, hot, hot sex scenes will draw interest for erotica fans.      

Count Your Chickens | Urban Farming & Homesteading

Whether it’s because people are trying to supplement store-bought items, get “in touch with the land,” or simply seek a healthier lifestyle, urban farming has seen an increase recently. Sparked by the “local movement,” farming and homesteading has spread from rural and suburban areas to urban lots and rooftops. While once left to cultivate the occasional pot on the balcony, urban farmers now can reap a much larger yield than ever before, in a space much smaller than the average agricultural venue. Over the last few decades, the do-it-yourself movement has also brought farming, animal husbandry, and food preservation into the cities, sparking a new age of shrinking your global footprint while enlarging the pantry.

A crop of new ventures

Urban farming was similar to stealth-bombing: no one knew where it was going to hit until you saw the explosion—usually of vegetables. However, the expansion of community farming, either by residents or through municipal involvement, is becoming more acceptable. The trend continues beyond just growing food: the existence of rooftop beehives, miniature cows and goats, and ordinances allowing chickens in large urban cities such as Los Angeles and New York proves that this is more than a passing fad. Detroit has made news as some ponder the idea of turning deserted lots into community garden space, bringing new life—and produce—to a struggling city.

Permaculture is a system of sustainable agriculture, bound into much of the organic methods of gardening and farming in urban areas. Homesteaders can use permaculture to create an interconnected system that is low maintenance, energy efficient, and sustainable through the generations. Centers exist nationwide, and many two- and four-year colleges now have classes and degrees in permaculture design, usually within a horticulture program. Yet readers who want to implement permaculture on a small scale, even without devoted study, can find many resources devoted to the topic.

Harvesting resources

The amount of material on homesteading and urban farming that is available in libraries will depend on the interest of patrons and the community. In areas where community supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers’ markets are already entrenched, there will be personal interest in the topic as well. Libraries that promote services and programs about gardening may find the expansion into other areas of urban homesteading popular. Some libraries are now offering seed collections: patrons “borrow” seeds in the spring to grow in their own or in community gardens and are encouraged to return some of the seeds to share the following season. Libraries also initiate programs on how to raise chickens, organic gardening, and sustainable agriculture. Even if your local community does not allow the keeping of chickens or other livestock, the interest from surrounding areas may be enough to warrant purchases for the collection.

Starred () titles are essential for most collections.

General Homesteading Guides

The Backyard Homestead. Storey. 2009. 367p. ed. by Carleen Madigan. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781603421386. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603425148.

How much food can you get from a quarter of an acre (or less)? With chickens, goats, fruit and nut trees, and a garden, you can put your backyard to work for you.

Coyne, Kelly & Erik Knutzen. The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City. expanded & rev. ed. Process Media. (Self-Reliance). 2010. 330p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781934170106. pap. $17.95; ebk. 9781934170212.

Self-sufficiency in the city is possible. Coyne and Knutzen cover projects in gardening, preserving, and urban animal husbandry that will help people take a more active role in their food, health, and environment.

Emery, Carla. The Encyclopedia of Country Living. 40th anniversary ed. Sasquatch. 2012. 928p. illus. index. ISBN 9781570618406. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781570618413.

This encyclopedia was first published in 1969, and its author has continued to add content through this latest edition, making it one of the most comprehensive resources available today. (LJ 6/1/03)

Fox, Thomas J. Urban Farming: Sustainable City Living in Your Backyard, in Your Community, and in the World. Hobby Farm. 2011. 416p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781933958934. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781935484837.

Moving from the big picture (the whole world) to the backyard, Fox gives readers a tour of urban agriculture and the tools to create a farm in the city.

Permaculture & Gardening

Bartholomew, Mel. All New Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space. 2d ed. Cool Springs. 2013. 272p. photos. index. ISBN 9781591865483. pap. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781610587334.

This classic reference for small-space gardening is updated for beginner and expert gardeners alike and includes evaluating space, creating a soil mix, vertical gardening, and controlling pests. (LJ 11/1/11)

Falk, Ben. The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach. Chelsea Green. 2013. 304p. illus. index. ISBN 9781603584449. pap. $40; ebk. ISBN 9781603584456.

A comprehensive look at regenerative perma­culture, Falk’s manual highlights many of the strategies used at his own research farm. This in-depth look at self-­reliance shows how to develop a homestead for the present and the future.

Gough, Robert & Cheryl Moore-Gough. The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds: 322 Vegetables, Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, Trees, and Shrubs. Storey. 2011. 311p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781603425742. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603427081.

Highlighting the simple cycle of “plant, grow, save seeds, repeat,” this organized reference offers an abundance of information on collecting, saving, and distributing seeds for future seasons. (LJ 11/15/11)

Hemenway, Toby. Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. 2d ed. Chelsea Green. 2009. 313p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781603580298. $29.95.

Touting the message that permaculture works with nature, Hemenway’s revised edition expands into urban permaculture. Tables, charts, and images detail how to create this interconnected system. (LJ 9/1/01)

Holzer, Sepp. Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening. Chelsea Green. 2011. 232p. photos. index. ISBN 9781603583701. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603583831.

An intensive look into Holzer’s 100-acre farm in Austria, considered one of the world’s most consistent examples of permaculture.

Jasko, Robin. Homesweet Homegrown: How To Grow, Make, and Store Your Own Food, No Matter Where You Live. Microcosm. 2012. 127p. illus. ISBN 9781934620106. pap. $9.95.

From growing to preserving your own food, this book is full of information on irrigation systems, homemade seed tapes, and DIY rain barrels. Lively illustrations give this compact guide a zine-like appearance.

Kemp, Juliet. Permaculture in Pots: How To Grow Food in Small Urban Spaces. Permanent Pubns. 2012. 193p. illus. ISBN 9781856230971. pap. $14.95.

Kemp demonstrates how low-impact practices can still produce a high yield of food, even from the minimal space of balconies and container gardens. A month-by-month guide for starting your potted garden.

McGee, Rose Marie Nichols & Maggie Stuckey. McGee & Stuckey’s The Bountiful Container: A Container Garden of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Edible Flowers. Workman. 2002. 432p. illus. index. ISBN 9780761116233. pap. $17.95.

For those whose urban gardening is confined to pots, this comprehensive volume covers the basics of space, soil, and seeds.

Trail, Gayla. Easy Growing: Organic Herbs and Edible Flowers from Small Spaces. Clarkson Potter. 2012. 208p. photos. index. ISBN 9780307886873. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9780307953254.

Trail’s third book on urban gardening highlights organic gardening in small spaces, e.g., balconies, rooftops, and community spots, creating urban oases with delicious ­results.

Animals & Beekeeping

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals. Storey. 2011. 353p. ed. by Gail Damerow. illus. index. ISBN 9781603429696. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603426978.

Rabbits, chickens, and sheep, oh my! Space-conscious homesteaders will enjoy learning how to raise a multitude of farm animals on as little as a tenth of an acre.

Conrad, Ross. Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture. rev. ed. Chelsea Green. 2013. 274p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781603583626. pap. $34.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603583633.

This revised edition of Conrad’s organic beekeeping title offers advice for natural hive management for both personal and small-scale commercial use. (LJ 6/1/13)

Crowder, Les & Heather Harrell. Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health. Chelsea Green. 2012. 176p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781603584616. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603584623.

Top-bar beekeeping “allows bees to build combs as they would in their natural environment” and complements organic methods of hive management. Covers raising queens to processing honey and beeswax.

English, Ashley. Keeping Chickens with Ashley English: All You Need To Know To Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock. Lark: Sterling. (Homemade Living). 2010. 135p. illus. index. ISBN 9781600594908. $19.95.

This beginner’s guide to acquiring and raising chickens includes recipes for your results (eggs)! English’s personable tone makes the information accessible; with plans for chicken-related projects. (LJ 3/1/10)

Flottum, Kim. The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden. rev. & updated ed. Quarry: Quayside. (Back Yard). 2010. 208p. illus. index. ISBN 9781592536078. $24.99.

Flottum (editor, Bee Culture magazine) brings beekeeping into the backyard with this handbook on keeping hives and harvesting their products. New material on natural beekeeping and “extreme urban beekeeping” will satisfy readers in most ­locations.

Schneider, Andy G. & Brigid McCrea. The Chicken Whisperer’s Guide to Keeping Chickens: Everything You Need To Know…and Didn’t Know You Needed To Know About Backyard and Urban Chickens. Quarry: Quayside. 2011. 176p. photos. index. ISBN 9781592537280. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781610581424.

Radio personality Schneider compiles his “Chicken Whisperer” knowledge on urban chickens into one concise volume.

Preserving & Producing

Costenbader, Carol W. The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest. rev. ed. Storey. 2002. 347p. illus. index. ISBN 9781580174589. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603429177.

Designed for busy folks who want to preserve produce from the market or their garden, this easy-to-use illustrated reference covers all kinds of preservation methods.

Farrell, Michael. The Sugarmaker’s Companion: An Integrated Approach to Producing Syrup from Maple, Birch, and Walnut Trees. Chelsea Green. 2013. 314p. photos. index. ISBN 9781603583978. $39.95.

Combining traditional skills and modern technology, Farrell documents how sugaring can be a personal and profitable journey. With essentials on tapping, sap collecting, processing, and marketing. (LJ 10/1/13)

Topp, Ellie & Margaret Howard. The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Delicious Recipes To Use Year-Round. 2d ed. Firefly. 2007. 376p. photos. index. ISBN 9781554072569. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781770854192.

For those who aren’t stocking a huge larder, this book on making spreads, condiments, vinegars, and freezer preserves will save time and space. Recipes included. (LJ 1/90)

Weingarten, Matthew & Raquel Pelzel. Preserving Wild Foods: A Modern Forager’s Recipes for Curing, Canning, Smoking, and Pickling. Storey. 2012. 256p. illus. index. ISBN 9781603427272. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603428910.

Learn about a wide range of preserving techniques for foods grown in your garden, tapped in the forest, or foraged from the urban landscape. (LJ 4/1/13)

Memoirs

Carpenter, Novella. Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. Penguin Pr. 2010. 288p. ISBN 9780143117285. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101060179.

Carpenter, the daughter of two nature-­loving hippie parents, transforms a vacant lot next to her Oakland home into a farm. The amusing exploits of both the neighbors and the animals show that farm life can exist within the city. (LJ 6/1/09)

Friend, Catherine. Hit by a Farm: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Barn. De Capo. 2006. 240p. ISBN 9781569242988. pap. $14.95.

Children’s author Friend and her partner Melissa purchase a farm in Minnesota, filling it with chickens, goats, sheep, and a host of successes and failures. (LJ 4/1/06)

Kingsolver, Barbara & others. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Harper Perennial. 2007. 370p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780060852566. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780061795831.

Moving from Tucson, AZ, to Southern Appalachia, Kingsolver and her family resolve to spend one year eating only locally grown food. (LJ 4/1/07)

Toensmeier, Eric & Jonathan Bates. Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City. Chelsea Green. 2013. 234p. photos. index. ISBN 9781603583992. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603584005.

Two single men take a chance on an urban lot in Holyoke, MA, chasing their dream of creating a “permaculture paradise” and meeting the women with whom they will share it. (LJ 4/15/13)

Watman, Max. Harvest: Field Notes from a Far-Flung Pursuit of Real Food. Norton. Mar. 2014. 223p. ISBN 9780393063028. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393243161.

One man’s revolt against the “pink-slime cheeseburger” turns into a quest to create real food. Watman’s successes and failures illustrate that the path to crafting food is not always a smooth one.

Woginrich, Jenna. One Woman Farm: My Life Shared with Sheep, Pigs, Chickens, Goats, and a Fine Fiddle. Storey. 2013. 208p. illus. ISBN 9781603427180. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603428675.

Author Woginrich chronicles four seasons on her upstate New York farm. Written in diary style and beautifully illustrated.

Magazines

Mother Earth News. bi-m. $19.95. Ogden Pubns., motherearthnews.com. ISSN 0027-1535.

One of the best-known magazines for rural living covers topics ranging from agriculture to animals to green construction.

Permaculture Magazine. q. $36. Permaculture, permaculture.co.uk.

Based in Britain, Permaculture offers an international view of self-reliance. The magazine covers global climate issues and ecofarming and features personal stories on creating a sustainable home and garden.

Urban Farm. bi-m. $19.97. Urban Farm. urbanfarmonline.com.

“Sustainable city living” is the motto of this magazine that focuses on hot topics such as gardening, urban livestock, and community sustainability. Information about individual and community initiatives and a lighter tone make this accessible for beginning and skilled urban farmers.

Apps

Pickin’ Chicken Breed Selector App. (Version 1.1.5) itunes.apple.com/us/app/pickin-chicken-breed-selector

This app highlights over 75 breeds of chickens. Search results are based on layers versus meat breeds, size, egg color, and more.

DVDs

Fermentation Workshop with Sandor Ellix Katz. 110 min. Chelsea Green, chelseagreen.com. 2010. ISBN 9781603582667. $34.95.

Author of the popular Wild Fermentation, Katz demonstrates fermentation techniques and discusses the history and benefits of the process. An extended interview with Katz touches on food security and social justice through food production and preservation.

Holistic Orcharding with Michael Phillips. color. 300 min. Chelsea Green, chelseagreen.com. 2013. ISBN 9781603583961. $49.95.

Fruit orchards can benefit larger farms and smaller homesteads alike. Phillips leads viewers through four seasons of orcharding, including grafting and pruning techniques, developing a beneficial ecosystem, and caring for trees in an organic and holistic way.

Homesteading for Beginners. 4 vols. color. Homesteading Prods. c/o Amazon.com. $99.95.

Follow the Harrison family as they present a variety of homesteading skills, including gardening, baking, and animal husbandry.

A Lot in Common. color. 76 min. Bullfrog Films, www.bullfrogfilms.com. 2003. ISBN 9781594584435. $275. Public performance.

Meet the neighbors in a Berkeley, CA, neighborhood as they convert a vacant lot into a community garden and outdoor art venue. Intergenerational families, a single mom, and a local psychic band together— and fight one another—but forge a community much stronger than it started.

Top-Bar Beekeeping with Les Crowder and Heather Harrell. color. 50 min. Chelsea Green, www.chelseagreen.com. 2013. ISBN 9781603584807. $14.95.

New Mexico beekeeper Crowder shares his decades of experience in developing best practices for working with bees in top-bar hives. Les and Heather Harrell (Top-Bar Beekeeping, see above) discuss hive management, how to harvest and process honey and beeswax, and other techniques to provide noninvasive and holistic bee care. (LJ 1/14)

Truck Farm. color. 48 min. Bullfrog Films, www.bullfrogfilms.com. 2011. ISBN 9781594588211. $250. Public performance.

As filmmaker Ian Cheney plants a garden in the only available area—his grandfather’s old pickup—he surveys garden space, access to fresh produce, and urban farming. This amusing and insightful movie highlights urban farming in New York City.

WEBSITES

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
afsic.nal.usda.gov

Resources for sustainable food systems, including aquaculture, alternative livestock, and organic gardening. Suitable for urban farming and homesteading.

American Beekeeping Foundation
www.abfnet.org

This national website is membership-­oriented but contains lots of information on beginning beekeeping, national events and classes, and legislative actions to protect honeybees.

American Community Gardening Association
www.communitygarden.org/about-acga

Covering two countries, this nonprofit assists with networking and information about the community gardening movement. A database of community gardens, information about seminars and education, and networking.

Mother Earth News
www.motherearthnews.com/

While noted for the Mother Earth News magazine, this robust site is reference-­worthy. Articles and blog links include discussions and facts on homesteading, livestock, gardening, sustainability, and renewable energy.

Urban Agriculture & Improving Local, Sustainable Food Systems
www.epa.gov/brownfields/urbanag/index.html

Information on creating a sustainable urban agricultural project or community garden. Links to grants, documents on soil contamination cleanup, and garden design.

The Urban Farming Guys
theurbanfarmingguys.com

A 501c3 nonprofit, these Urban Farming Guys also focus on aquaponics, alternative energy, and sustainable technologies. n

Kristi Chadwick is Director, Emily Williston Memorial Library, Easthampton, MA. When not in the library, she cans a terrific strawberry jam and dreams of having chickens and bees some day. An LJ 2013 Reviewer of the Year, Chadwick can be found talking ebooks, collection development, libraries (and sometimes chickens) on Twitter (@booksNyarn), Tumblr (booksyarnink.tumblr.com), and on her blog, Books, Yarn, Ink and Other Pursuits (booksyarnink.com)

Finalists Announced for 19th Annual Audie Awards

The Audio Publishers Association (APA) today announced the finalists for the 19th annual Audie Awards. The winners will be announced on May 29, 2014 at the Audies Gala in New York. The finalists include an eclectic mix such as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir My Beloved World, narrated by Rita Moreno (Random House Audio/Books on Tape); Roald Dahl’s beloved Matilda, narrated by Kate Winslet (Penguin Audio); and F. Scott Fitgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby, narrated by Jake Gyllenhall (Audible, Inc.). This year also sees a new category being honored: erotica.

Below are the finalists, with links to LJ coverage and, in some cases, to publisher excerpts.

AUDIO DRAMA

The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman; Narrated by Ellen Kushner, Nick Sullivan, Neil Gaiman, Simon Jones, Katherine Kellgren, Robert Fass, Richard Ferrone, and Tim Jerome; SueMedia Productions for Neil Gaiman Presents/Audible, Inc.

Hollywood Said No! by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross; Narrated by Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, and a full cast; Hachette Audio

Marvel Civil War by Stuart Moore; Narrated by Richard Rohan, Richard Cutting, Tim Getman, James Keegan, Kimberly Gilbert, and a full cast; GraphicAudio

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens; Narrated by Joe Holgate, Henry Goodman, Bill Sykes, Geoffrey Palmer, Roy Hudd, Finty Williams, and full cast; Tyndale House

Screaming with the Cannibals by Lee Maynard; Narrated by Ross Ballard II; MountainWhispers.com Audiobooks

War of the Worlds by M.J. Elliott and H.G. Wells; Narrated by The Colonial Radio Players; The Colonial Radio Theatre on the Air

BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR

[sic]: A Memoir by Joshua Cody; Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini; Audible, Inc.

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence; Narrated by Simon Vance; Tantor Media
Hear a Sample at Tantor’s Facebook page

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai; Narrated by Archie Panjabi; Hachette Audio

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor; Narrated by Rita Moreno; Random House Audio/Books on Tape

World on a String by John Pizzarelli and Joseph Cosgriff; Narrated by John Pizzarelli and Joseph Cosgriff; Audible, Inc.

BUSINESS/EDUCATIONAL

The Everything Store by Brad Stone; Narrated by Peter Larkin; Hachette Audio

The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance by Russell D. Roberts; Narrated by Kirby Heyborne; Audible, Inc.

Leadership Secrets of the Salvation Army by Robert Watson; Narrated by Bob Souer; eChristian

Leading Apple with Steve Jobs by Jay Elliot; Narrated by Richard Davidson; Audible, Inc.

Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan; Narrated by Jonathan Davis; Audible, Inc.

Without Their Permission by Alexis Ohanian; Narrated by Alexis Ohanian; Hachette Audio

CHILDREN’S TITLES FOR AGES 8-12

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park; Narrated by David Baker and Cynthia Bishop; Full Cast Audio

Magic Marks the Spot: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates by Caroline Carlson; Narrated by Katherine Kellgren; HarperAudio

Matilda by Roald Dahl; Narrated by Kate Winslet; Penguin Audio

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes; Narrated by Bahni Turpin; Brilliance Audio

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt; Narrated by Lyle Lovett; Simon & Schuster Audio

CHILDREN’S TITLES FOR AGES UP TO 8

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan; Narrated by Katherine Kellgren; Live Oak Media

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds; Narrated by James Naughton; Weston Woods

The Dark by Lemony Snicket; Narrated by Neil Gaiman; Hachette Audio

Hooray for Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke; Narrated by Mutiyat Ade-Salu; Recorded Books

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson; Narrated by Forest Whitaker; Weston Woods

Stink and the Freaky Frog Freakout by Megan McDonald; Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat; Brilliance Audio

CLASSIC

Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody; Narrated by Lisa Reneé Pitts; Tantor Media
Hear a Sample at Tantor’s Facebook page

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Narrated by Simon Vance; Brilliance Audio

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; Narrated by Dan Stevens; Audible, Inc.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal; Audible, Inc.
See LJ‘s Best Audio of 2013

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Narrated by Armando Duran; Blackstone Audio Inc.

EROTICA

Carrie’s Story: An Erotic S/M Novel by Molly Weatherfield; Narrated by Shana Savage; Audible, Inc.

Fallen Too Far; by Abbi Glines Narrated by Jennifer Bronstein; Audible, Inc.

The Killer Wore Leather by Laura Antoniou; Narrated by Lauren Fortgang; Audible, Inc.

Release Me (The Stark Trilogy) by J. Kenner; Narrated by Sofia Willingham; Random House Audio/Books on Tape

This Man; by Jodi Ellen Malpas Narrated by Edita Brychta; Hachette Audio

Wuthering Nights by Emily Bronte and I.J. Miller; Narrated by Joy Pratt; Hachette Audio

FANTASY

Kill City Blues by Richard Kadrey; Narrated by MacLeod Andrews; HarperAudio

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch; Narrated by Michael Page; Tantor Media
Hear a Sample at Tantor’s Facebook page

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson; Narrated by Michael Kramer; Macmillan Audio

Swords of Waar by Nathan Long; Narrated by Dina Pearlman; Audible, Inc.

Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe; Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki; Blackstone Audio Inc.

FICTION

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King; Narrated by Will Patton; Simon & Schuster Audio

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker; Narrated by George Guidall; HarperAudio

The Good House by Ann Leary; Narrated by Mary Beth Hurt; Macmillan Audio

The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler; Narrated by Tavia Gilbert; Tantor Media
Hear a Sample at Tantor’s Facebook page

Jacob’s Oath by Martin Fletcher; Narrated by George Guidall; Macmillan Audio

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman; Narrated by Neil Gaiman; HarperAudio

HISTORY

C.C. Pyle’s Amazing Foot Race by Geoff Williams; Narrated by Robertson Dean; Tantor Media
Hear a Sample at Tantor’s Facebook page

Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King; Narrated by Peter Francis James; HarperAudio

Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff; Narrated by Mitchell Zuckoff; HarperAudio

The Hour of Peril by Daniel Stashower; Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini; Macmillan Audio

Nero’s Killing Machine: The True Story of Rome’s Remarkable 14th Legion by Stephen Dando-Collins; Narrated by Robert Fass; Audible, Inc.

One Summer by Bill Bryson; Narrated by Bill Bryson; Random House Audio/Books on Tape

HUMOR

How I Slept My Way to the Middle by Kevin Pollak with Alan Goldsher; Narrated by Kevin Pollak; Brilliance Audio

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris; Narrated by David Sedaris; Hachette Audio

Someone Could Get Hurt; by Drew Magary; Narrated by Drew Magary; Penguin Audio

The Stench of Honolulu by Jack Handey; Narrated by Jack Handey; Hachette Audio

Still Foolin’ ’Em by Billy Crystal; Narrated by Billy Crystal; Macmillan Audio

INSPIRATIONAL/FAITH-BASED FICTION

Icecutter’s Daughter by Tracie Peterson; Narrated by Stina Nielsen; Recorded Books

Illuminations by Mary Sharratt; Narrated by Tavia Gilbert; Tantor Media
Hear a Sample at Tantor’s Facebook page

A Story of God and All of Us by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey; Narrated by Keith David and the Authors; Hachette Audio

Truth-Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock; Narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir; Zondervan

Unveiled: Tamar by Francine Rivers; Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat; Recorded Books

INSPIRATIONAL/FAITH-BASED NON-FICTION

Break Out! by Joel Osteen; Narrated by Joel Osteen; Hachette Audio

Called to the Fire by Cheston M. Bush; Narrated by David Cochran Heath; eChristian

Grace Happens Here by Max Lucado; Narrated by Wayne Shepherd, Kate Rudd, and Luke Daniels; Brilliance Audio

Keeping Hope Alive by Dr. Hawa Abdi; Narrated by Robin Miles; Hachette Audio

Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle; Narrated by Melanie Shankle; eChristian

LITERARY FICTION

Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett; Narrated by Amy McFadden; Brilliance Audio

The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan; Narrated by Kate Udall, Erik Bergmann, Jason Culp, and George Guidall; HarperAudio

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt; Narrated by David Pittu; Hachette Audio

The Son by Philipp Meyer; Narrated by Will Patton, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Shepherd, and Clifton Collins, Jr.; HarperAudio

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin; Narrated by Meryl Streep; Simon & Schuster Audio

White Dog Fell from the Sky by Eleanor Morse; Narrated by Carla Mercer-Meyer; Tantor Media
Hear a Sample at Tantor’s Facebook page

MULTI–VOICED PERFORMANCE

Ender’s Game Alive by Orson Scott Card; Narrated by a full cast; Audible, Inc.

The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman; Narrated by Ellen Kushner, Nick Sullivan, Neil Gaiman, Simon Jones, Katherine Kellgren, Robert Fass, Richard Ferrone, and Tim Jerome; SueMedia Productions for Neil Gaiman Presents/Audible, Inc.

Snowbound by Richard S. Wheeler; Narrated by Brian Hutchison, T. Ryder Smith, Robert Ian Mackenzie, James Colby, Cellest Ciulla, Scott Sowers, et al.; Recorded Books

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher; Narrated by Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, January LaVoy and Marc Thompson; Random House Audio/Books on Tape

World War Z: The Complete Edition by Max Brooks; Narrated by Max Brooks and full cast; Random House Audio/Books on Tape
See LJ‘s Best Audio of 2013

MYSTERY

Death and the Lit Chick by G.M. Malliet; Narrated by Davina Porter; Dreamscape Media, LLC

The Enemy of My Enemy by Richard Bard; Narrated by R.C. Bray; Richard Bard

Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen; Narrated by Katherine Kellgren; Audible, Inc.

He’s Gone by Deb Caletti; Narrated by Cassandra Campell; Tantor Media
Hear a Sample at Tantor’s Facebook page

Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman; Narrated by Judy Kaye; Macmillan Audio

Unleashed by David Rosenfelt; Narrated by Grover Gardner; Listen & Live Audio

NARRATION BY THE AUTHOR or AUTHORS

Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington; Narrated by Grace Coddington; Random House Audio/Books on Tape

I, Rhoda by Valerie Harper; Narrated by Valerie Harper; Simon & Schuster Audio

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff; Narrated by David Rakoff; Random House Audio/Books on Tape

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman; Narrated by Neil Gaiman; HarperAudio

Shirley Jones by Shirley Jones; Narrated by Shirley Jones; Tantor Media
Hear a Sample at Tantor’s Facebook page

Still Foolin’ ’Em by Billy Crystal; Narrated by Billy Crystal; Macmillan Audio

NONFICTION

Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill; Narrated by Sandy Rustin; HarperAudio

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell; Narrated by Malcolm Gladwell; Hachette Audio

The End of Nature by Bill McKibben; Narrated by Jeff Woodman; Audible, Inc.

The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti; Narrated by L.J. Ganser; Audible, Inc.

Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel; Narrated by Arthur Bishop; Macmillan Audio

ORIGINAL WORK

Ender’s Game Alive by Orson Scott Card; Narrated by a full cast; Audible, Inc.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.; Narrated by Dion Graham; eChristian

METAtropolis: Green Space by Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear, Karl Schroeder, Seanan McGuire, Tobias S. Buckell, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ken Scholes; Narrated by Dion Graham, Robin Miles, Mark Boyett, Scott Brick, Allyson Johnson, Sanjiv Jhaveri, Jennifer Van Dyck, Jonathan Davis; Audible, Inc.

Pete Seeger: The Storm King by Pete Seeger; Narrated by Pete Seeger; Hachette Audio
See LJ‘s Best Audio of 2013

Rip-Off! by John Scalzi, Jack Campbell, Mike Resnick, Allen Steele, Lavie Tidhar, Nancy Kress, and Gardner Dozois; Narrated by Wil Wheaton, Scott Brick, Christian Rummel, Jonathan Davis, Stefan Rudnicki, and L.J. Ganser; Audible, Inc.

Thirteen by Scott Harrison and others; Narrated by Barnaby Edwards et al.; Spokenworld Audio/Ladbroke Audio Ltd

PACKAGE DESIGN

The Canyon by Jack Schaefer; Narrated by Eric G. Dove; Dreamscape Media, LLC

Clockwork Angels: The Watchmaker’s Edition by Kevin J. Anderson; Narrated by Neil Peart; Brilliance Audio

The Ernest Hemingway Audiobook Library by Ernest Hemingway; Narrated by Various; Simon & Schuster Audio

NPR Laughter Therapy by National Public Radio; Narrated by Audie Cornish; HighBridge

Sold by Patricia McCormick; Narrated by Justine Eyre; Tantor Media
Hear a Sample at Tantor’s Facebook page

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells; Narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi; Random House Audio/Books on Tape

PARANORMAL

Ever After by Kim Harrison; Narrated by Marguerite Gavin; HarperAudio

Inferno by Sherrilyn Kenyon; Narrated by Holter Graham; Macmillan Audio

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy; Narrated by Benjamin Percy; Hachette Audio

Reviver by Seth Patrick; Narrated by Ari Fliakos; Macmillan Audio

Warbound by Larry Correia; Narrated by Bronson Pinchot; Audible, Inc.

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

Dream More by Dolly Parton; Narrated by Dolly Parton; Penguin Audio

Fitness Confidential by Vinnie Tortorich; Narrated by Vinnie Tortorich; Pistachio Press

Get the Guy by Matthew Hussey; Narrated by Matthew Hussey; HarperAudio

Happy This Year! by Will Bowen; Narrated by Will Bowen; Brilliance Audio

The Secret to Success by Eric Thomas; Narrated by Charles Arrington and Eric Thomas; Eric Thomas

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero; Narrated by Jen Sincero; Tantor Media
Hear a Sample at Tantor’s Facebook page

ROMANCE

The Darkest Craving by Gena Showalter; Narrated by Max Bellmore; Audible, Inc.

For My Lady’s Heart by Laura Kinsale; Narrated by Nicholas Boulton; Hedgehog, Inc.

Kissing under the Mistletoe: A Sullivan Christmas by Bella Andre; Narrated by Eva Kaminsky; Oak Press LLC

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks; Narrated by Ron McLarty and January LaVoy; Hachette Audio

The Wanderer by Robyn Carr; Narrated by Therese Plummer; Recorded Books

SCIENCE FICTION

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold; Narrated by Grover Gardner; Blackstone Audio Inc.

Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry; Narrated by Ray Porter; Macmillan Audio

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood; Narrated by Bernadette Dunn, Bob Walter, and Robbie Daymond; Random House Audio/Books on Tape

The Martian by Andy Weir; Narrated by R.C. Bray; Podium Publishing

Protector: Foreigner Sequence 5, Book 2 by C.J. Cherryh; Narrated by Daniel Thomas May; Audible, Inc.

Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson; Narrated by Graeme Malcolm; Hachette Audio

SHORT STORIES/COLLECTIONS

The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers; Narrated by David Ledoux, Joe Barrett, Therese Plummer, Kevin Pariseau, Suzanne Toren, Edoardo Ballerini, and Barbara Rosenblat; Audible, Inc.

The Cage Keeper and Other Stories by Andre Dubus III; Narrated by Andre Dubus III; Blackstone Audio Inc.

Nine Inches by Tom Perrotta; Narrated by William Dufris, Andi Arndt, Tom Perrotta, and Rupert Degas; Macmillan Audio

Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash; Narrated by Alexander Cendese, Robert Petkoff, Prentice Onayemi, Christian Baskous, and Phoebe Strole; HarperAudio

Sherlock Holmes in America by John L. Lellenberg et al.; Narrated by Graeme Malcolm; Audible, Inc.

We Live in Water by Jess Walter; Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini and Jess Walter; HarperAudio

SOLO NARRATION — FEMALE

Heartburn by Nora Ephron; Narrated by Meryl Streep; Random House Audio/Books on Tape

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor; Narrated by Rita Moreno; Random House Audio/Books on Tape

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill; Narrated by Kate Mulgrew; HarperAudio

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin; Narrated by Meryl Streep; Simon & Schuster Audio

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen; Narrated by Katherine Kellgren; Audible, Inc.

SOLO NARRATION — MALE

Dimension of Miracles by Robert Sheckley; Narrated by John Hodgman; Audible, Inc.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King; Narrated by Will Patton; Simon & Schuster Audio

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; Narrated by Dan Stevens; Audible, Inc.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt; Narrated by David Pittu; Hachette Audio

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz; Narrated by Johnny Heller; Recorded Books

Warbound by Larry Correia; Narrated by Bronson Pinchot; Audible, Inc.

TEENS

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell; Narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra; Listening Library

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal; Narrated by W. Morgan Sheppard; Listening Library

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick; Narrated by Noah Galvin; Hachette Audio

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein; Narrated by Sasha Pick; Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Viva Jacquelina by L.A. Meyer; Narrated by Katherine Kellgren; Listen & Live Audio

THRILLER/SUSPENSE

The Book of Obeah by Sandra Carrington-Smith; Narrated by Dave Fennoy; Cherry Hill Publishing

The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer; Narrated by Scott Brick; Hachette Audio

The Hit by David Baldacci; Narrated by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy; Hachette Audio

Suspect by Robert Crais; Narrated by MacLeod Andrews; Brilliance Audio

Sycamore Row by John Grisham; Narrated by Michael Beck; Random House Audio/Books on Tape

Finalists for two special awards, Distinguished Achievement in Production and Audiobook of the Year will be announced in April.

Post–Valentine’s Day Books | What We’re Reading

Library Journal and School Library Journal staffers wear their hearts on their collective sleeves this week with love poems, historical fiction, updated Austen, married millennials, delayed Didion gratification, and boy bands that make us swoon.

Ian Chant, Associate Editor, News & Features, LJ
This week, I’m (finally) reading Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem (Farrar), which is, of course, stupid excellent, as I have been informed by countless people over the course of what is now entirely too many years. No, I don’t know what took me so long to get around to reading this incredible collection of essays, profiles, and meditations. Yes, I feel like kind of a dummy over it. Look, can we just move on, please? I’m embarrassed enough already.

Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, Reviews, SLJ
I love you, Beatles! Oh yes, I do. With the 50th anniversary of the Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show just past us, I’m reading yet another book about the four: Larry Kane’s When They Were Boys (Running Pr.) As a young journalist in 1964, Kane traveled with the boys and now discusses what they were like as teens and how that influenced their eventual fame.

Shelley Diaz, Senior Editor, Reviews, SLJ
I’m reading a small bilingual edition of Pablo Neruda’s love poems, tr. by Donald D. Walsh (New Directions). I’m writing notes on them before I give it to the hubby. Here’s one of my favs:

Our love was born
outside the walls,
in the wind,
in the night,
in the earth,
and that’s why the clay and the flower,
the mud and the roots
know your name.

Kate DiGirolomo, Editorial Assistant, LJ
Have I become obsessed with Rainbow Rowell? Well, yes. Unabashedly, yes. This time I’ve devoured Landline (St. Martin’s), my first foray into her fiction for adults. Neal and Georgie’s marriage is on the rocks–he’s taken the kids to his mother’s for Christmas in Omaha (Alone. Again.) and she’s stayed behind in LA to score the career opportunity of a lifetime. Except Neal isn’t taking any of her calls, which sort of puts a damper on Georgie’s “big break” thing. Well, I should say one present Neal isn’t taking any of her calls, because in 1998 Neal is certainly very chatty. Did I not mention that Georgie discovers that her childhood home phone is actually some sort of magical link to the past? Well, it is, and Georgie is on the line with past Neal, who is one week away from proposing to past Georgie. It’s the ultimate chance to fix her marriage–or stop it before it happens at all.
Rowell is the perfect author for millennials. There’s something to her writing that makes you feel like it’s okay to be an adult who doesn’t want to fully give in to actually being an adult. Everything I’ve read is a sigh of relief and the realization that there are others who are too snarky, too ambitious, too hapless, too lost; and while they are admittedly fictional others, I’ve found my people with Rowell’s characters. Not to mention Landline contains the perfect amount of parenthetical writing (well-used parenthetical writing is my favorite writing)! It truly pains me to know that I only have one more of her books left. Rainbow, write me more!

Francine Fialkoff, Library Consultant/Editor, LJ
I am belatedly reading Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic (Random), another gorgeous book from the author of Let the Great World Spin, et. al. It, too, is episodic—not as smoothly linked as that one—but the stories and language read true. McCann conjures Frederick Douglass on tour in Ireland in 1845–46, condemning slavery and fundraising for the cause at a time when the Irish face famine and endure a lack of freedom under British rule. Much later, in 1998, there is former Senator George Mitchell brokering a peace agreement in Northern Ireland in a conflict whose origins date back well before the 19th century. There are other interconnected stories, too, with spot-on and heartbreakingly real people. I’m a mystery and thriller addict, but McCann draws me away every time.

Liz French, Associate Editor, Reviews, LJ
What a lovely assignment from LJ pop fiction editor Willy Williams: Val McDermid’s modern take on Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (Grove). I was a little hesitant: would crime writer Val be able to do justice to Jane’s gothic novel? Well, I needn’t have worried a whit; the book is sprightly, charming, very socially on-target, and hilariously updated. McDermid successfully transports the characters to the era of Facebook, texting, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and her depiction of the good-hearted heroine, Catherine “Cat” Morland, is a thing of beauty.
Cat loves to read vampire and werewolf stories—paranormal fiction—and when she goes to stay with the Tilney family in their ancestral manse, her imagination goes into overdrive. It’s the perfect way to introduce a gothic element into a modern story. Here’s Cat, driving to the abbey with Henry Tilney, the dashing, handsome younger son of General Tilney. She’s totally crushed out on Henry and he’s ribbing her a little about the family home and her expectations:

Henry shook his head. “And are you ready for all the horrors that a house like that has to offer? As well as an iron constitution, are you fearless? Are your nerves up to it?” He dropped his voice to a ghoulish pitch. “Can you handle sliding panels, priest holes, secret passageways hidden by ancient tapestries?”
Cat laughed. “What, you think I’d be scared so easily? You don’t know me, Henry Tilney. Besides, there’ll be lots of people in the house. It’s not like it’s been standing empty for years and we’re coming back to face down the old ghosts—which is what it would be if this was really a horror movie.”
“No. We do have electric light nowadays. No more feeling our way down the hall, lit only by the dying embers of a wood fire. And we’ve emerged from that period where we had to sleep on animal skins on the floor in rooms without windows or doors or furniture. But Mrs. Danvers, our elderly crone of a housekeeper, does like to keep to the old ways. She insists on making our attractive young female guests sleep in the west wing all alone while the rest of us retire to the east wing with its flush toilets and hot water and wifi.”
“Mrs. Danvers?” Cat squeaked.

Amanda Mastrull, Editorial Assistant, SLJ
This week I’m rereading William Levitan’s translation of the letters of Abelard and Heloise in The Letters and Other Writings: Abelard & Heloise (Hackett). I first came across the correspondence between the 12th-century monk and nun in an amazing seminar I took in college. For some backstory: Peter Abelard was a philosopher and Heloise his student. The pair had an affair, which led to a pregnancy and marriage. Abelard sent Heloise to live at the convent where she grew up, and her enraged uncle, thinking Abelard abandoned Heloise, castrated him. Both then took religious vows. The letters that they wrote to each other in the time following are an interesting, spirited read. Heloise is fascinating, openly writing about her love of Abelard and inability to commit to a religious life. This is from the Third Letter:

During Holy Mass itself,
when prayer should be its purest,

unholy fantasies of pleasure so enslave my wretched soul
that my devotion is to them and not my prayers.

But in every circumstance throughout my life,
as God knows well,
I have feared an offense against you
more than any offense against him,

and I have sought to please you more than him.
It was your command, not love for him, that brought
me to put on this habit of religion.

Though circumstance separated Abelard and Heloise in life, they’re likely* buried together in France.

*More on that from the always reliable Wikipedia.

Perfect 289s | Books for Dudes

At first glance, you’d think that the number 289 isn’t anything special. What can it signify? The area code for Southern Ontario? An engine block size? DDC for “Other denominations & sects” under “Christian denominations”? The square of 17? It’s all these things, but it’s so much more.

But 289 is indeed a very special number. It’s Books for Dudes’s favorite number because it’s the perfect number of words for a book review. All eight reviews below have 289 words.

These perfect-number-of-words reviews cover some pretty awesome books of the fiction and nonfiction types. You know that special kind of nonfiction that reads like fiction? We have three of those this month—Emilio Lussu’s classic A Soldier on the Southern Front, Walter Kirn’s Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade and Carol Shaben’s Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story.

Additionally, two others are that kind of fiction that can almost be read as nonfiction—E. Michael Helm’s excellent “Of Blood and Brothers” books and Rachel Pastan’s Alena. And you know what? We have Chelsea Handler’s supremely enjoyable book about her one-night stands called My Horizontal Life, which I posit is actually in both of those categories.

By the way, this edition of BFD includes the February 2014 “romance that dudes won’t like admitting they kind of like”—Tim Schaffert’s sweeping The Swan Gondola.

Lastly, consider doing these three things someday: 1.) Look at a bayonet—knowing for what purpose it is designed; 2.) Collect your wits; 3.) Count your blessings.

Handler, Chelsea. My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands. Bloomsbury USA. 2005. 213p. ISBN 9781582346182. pap. $11.38.  Memoir
Despite reviewing Chelsea, Chelsea, Bang Bang a few years back, I don’t know anything about this attractive lady other than that she’s on a TV show I’ve never seen and that she’s pee-soaked-underwear, snot-out-your-nose, abs-hurt-from-laughing funny. Handler’s knack for relating life stories lies somewhere between a super-funny seventh grader talking smack on the bus ride home and David Sedaris relating his experiences going to speech therapy and summer camp (and where else besides Books for Dudes would a Sedaris/Handler literary comparison pop up?). True to the title, this is Handler’s chronicle of heartlessly bagging one-night-stand trophy men. She also isn’t shy about bedding some real losers—and tells of multiple failures. For her male counterparts, there are few entrance requirements other than buying her hefty amounts of alcohol and having good bodies. And while some readers might feel a bit squeamish about Handler’s braggadocio, it is quite clear that she is in charge of her own damn sex life, thank you (you can go back to reading 50 Shades of Being Unimaginatively Dominated now). Though Handler’s situations (e.g., she’s banging a male stripper named “Thunder”) provide funny enough material, it’s her little observations that elevate this to spit-take levels (e.g., she honestly doesn’t know—and isn’t interested in—Thunder’s real name). With no pretensions, even fewer literary aspirations, and zero fear of judgment, Handler winningly delivers just what she aims to: laughs. Though “hot” and “funny” are quite subjective terms, dudes everywhere can all agree that, like Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler is broilingly hot and superfunny. VERDICT If you don’t laugh within the first ten pages, put this tile down and return to your Anna Quindlen. Handler’s forthcoming Uganda Be Kidding Me will, no doubt, be similarly charming.

Helms, E. Michael. Of Blood and Brothers: Book One. Koehler. 2013. 282p. ISBN 9781938467516. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781940192017. F
Helms, E. Michael. Of Blood and Brothers: Book Two. Koehler. Mar. 2014. 274p. ISBN 9781938467509. pap. $17.95.  F
This superbly enjoyable historical fiction features a simple and quite skilfully written story centered on family, the Civil War, and lost love. In 1927 Northern Florida, rookie reporter Calvin Hogue stumbles upon the two elderly Malburn brothers, who fought on opposite sides of the Civil War. It’s easy to get the two talking, but not together. Daniel, the older brother, and Elijah don’t speak to each other, but each tells Hogue his life’s story over the course of many meetings that the reporter dutifully transcribes into a weekly newspaper series. The two ended up on opposite sides inadvertently when young Elijah was captured and forced to work for the North as a scout. He eventually, and reluctantly, led a raid on his home valley of Econfina. The books chronicle seven intense years, from battles in Georgia to Reconstruction in Florida. The genuine, homespun voices Helms uses for the brothers (e.g., “Laying there under that hot sun I soon got powerful thirsty”) work perfectly as they potently recount harrowing battlefield experiences (e.g., “A yell went up like the bowels of Hell had busted open and ten thousand screaming demons was set loose”) and tell of sadnesses—including both falling for the same girl. The chronicle continues into the 1870s after Daniel returns home on foot from a Northern POW camp and Elijah is branded by some as a traitor. The young, excitable Hogue is also a well-drawn character; he coughs through sips of offered moonshine and obsesses about honoring the two brothers with the “whole story.” Helms’s steady intensity and pace keep the three narratives on track with little frittering away of precious pages. Both books are quick and pleasurable reads. VERDICT Helms’s (Proud Bastards) fiction carries the ring of truth.

Kirn, Walter. Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade. Liveright: Norton. Mar. 2014. ISBN 9780871404510. 272p. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780871407337. crime
I’ve read me some Walter Kirn in the past, but in no way I was ready for this, a work for which the phrase, “The truth is stranger than fiction” was coined. Page one tells readers, straight out, what it’s about: ” …I volunteered to drive a crippled dog from my home in Montana…to the New York City apartment of a rich young man, a Rockefeller, who had adopted it.” Wow, so, um…why? Well, Kirn explains, “It felt like a noble gesture at the time, and I was in the mood for an adventure.” Hmph. Though Kirn “…found him instantly annoying; a twee, diminutive hobbit of a fellow whose level of self-amusement seemed almost delusional,” this rich dog-adopter had a lot of charisma. For some reason the two developed an occasional friendship that lasted 15 years. Turns out that this Rockefeller—whose name was actually Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter—was an impostor of magnificent proportions. Eventually, Rockefeller/Gerhartsreiter was found out and his story unraveled. Not only a swindler, R/G was also a kidnapper and a murderer. As Kirn attends his trial in LA, he reflects on how this revelation shook up his world, about the concept of identity, and on what this giant duping said about himself. Kirn loosely concludes that, like R/G, he too is an impostor of sorts as a writer, someone who “…turns his life into material, and if you’re in his life, he uses yours, too.” R/G’s story was made into a (really bad) movie with Eric McCormack called Who Is Clark Rockefeller? VERDICT Good luck putting this down. The thing about Kirn is, even if you’re not terribly interested in the story, he’s such a good writer that you’re compelled to continue.

Lussu, Emilio. A Soldier on the Southern Front. Rizzoli ex Libris. Mar. 2014. 288p. tr. from Italian by Gregory Conti. ISBN 9780847842780. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780847842797. MEMOIR
Lussu was a lieutenant in the Sassari Brigade, a special group of madmen who all came from Sardinia (that’s an island off Italy’s knee, Chumley). I can’t vouch for his soldiering skills, but as an author he shows intelligence, thoughtfulness, and self-effacing modesty. It’s clear from the outset that he is not merely Italian but an Italian soldier. He also manages to convey the universal weariness of an infantryman in simple, sometimes prosaic, terms while imbuing some of the narrative with unusual lyricism. Lussu and his men yearn to be “liberated” from the “ferocious promiscuity” of assaults and eagerly anticipate rear deployment when they “…would finally be able, in our hours of idleness, to lie out in the sun, or sleep under a tree, without being seen, without being awakened by a bullet in the leg.” In the meantime, though, the Austrians are firing good-Christ-those-are-HUGE 305mm and 420mm siege guns. Battles sound terrible, replete with friendly fire and experiences such as, “tornadoes of earth, rocks, and body fragments flew up into the air, way high up, and fell back down far away.” Lussu’s keen observational eye takes in the big picture, including drunken commanding officers and a general with the same ‘cold and rotating’ eyes Lussu knows from “the mental hospital of my hometown.” He contrasts a raving “…commander of the Alpini groups, ready to die” with his own boss’s attitude on the matter: “He can start dying by himself. That’s his business.” Though difficult to compare with a contemporary memoir, say Sean Parnell’s Outlaw Platoon (2012) or Gary O’Neal’s American Warrior (2013), Lussu’s somehow seems more epic. VERDICT Part lyrical Italian mojo, part authorial descriptive genius, part 100-year-old stoicism, this eminently readable book UNgraphically describes the infantry experience.

Pastan, Rachel. Alena. Riverhead: Penguin Grp. USA. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781594632471. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698141605. f
Pastan’s novel, a pastiche of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca,offers a very linear plotline and an unnamed heroine (that’s kinda cool). Miss Thing is a bright, eager youngster/ingénue originally from the Midwest who becomes an art curator and lands a job in NYC. She’s soon pressed into service at a big art show—the Biennale—in Venice. It’s her first trip abroad and she’s simultaneously entranced by the art and repulsed by her ladyboss’s boorishness. She meets a special dude—Bernard Augustin, who she sees as having a “… big head with … cropped salt-and-pepper hair floating like a grim moon over that surging sea of well-dressed humanity.” She learns a little about him, concluding that he is someone to whom others don’t compare well; a man among “…a rank jungle full of monkeys and mosquitoes.” The book describes their lifelong, mixed personal and business relationship. Pastan excels at nailing sensations, such as when Little Miss arrives in New York City: “the air smelled of urine and of burning. A fizzing started up inside me like bubbles rising a beer bottle when you prise off the top. It wasn’t fear. Or rather, it wasn’t only fear. It was amazed delight, excitement, glee, and a thrilled horrified prickling as though my skin were being scoured off, leaving me raw and new.” In Venice she ditches the hungover boss, “a loose, lumpy package on top of the spread, snoring in light, congested bursts like a little dog” and enjoys herself, of course meeting Bernard while so doing. And again, with a light touch, Heroine observes his elemental sex; he is flushed, straightened, growing, vibrant. WOooOOoOOoooooooOOOh! VERDICT This isn’t every dude’s cup of tea, but it will appeal to readers who enjoy interesting, well-written—and damned sexy—literary fiction.

Schaffert, Timothy. The Swan Gondola. Riverhead: Penguin Grp. USA. Feb. 2014. ISBN 9781594486098. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781594486098. f
Schaffert (The Coffins of Little Hope, 2011) starts with a stunning fragment about damaged, handsome young Bartholomew “Ferret” Skerritt crashing his stolen hot-air balloon into the home of two spinsters. The wayward Ferret is fresh off heartbreak and disaster at the 1898 World’s Fair in Omaha (which folks hoped “could unmuddy the river and uncloud the skies”). The story that follows alternates between pretty (if unpenetrating) tableaux and mildly unbelievable plot pieces that move the action forward (also backwards, sideways, down). All are firmly centered on Ferret, a romantic hustler who performs as a vaudeville ventriloquist and who feels redeemed when “the people fell for my tricks” because “they believed in magic,” if for just a moment. Unlike the keenly drawn small-time swindlers, scoundrels, and bandits with whom he associates, Ferret is a harmless, tame dreamer full of lyrical reflections and world-weariness. He has “the look of a boy a mother never could properly scold.” Ferret busily chases a girl he has fallen deeply in love with—a mysterious, if inscrutable, actress named Cecily—but must compete with tragic, wealthy William Wakefield for her hand. VERDICT Beautiful, but shallow. Schaffert’s lush style woos readers with dreamy etherealness (e.g., her eyes were the color of orange-peel tea) and offers a decidedly light plot (e.g., picking the pocket of a pickpocket). Readers will be gobsmacked by keen portraiture of life at the turn of the century, (which upstages the romance), a time when McKinley was president and “Remember the Maine” was the big huzzah. It’s also a 464-page sprawling monster that will tire readers seeking action or tight plotting (for that try Simon Rich’s brassy, brilliant The Last Girlfriend on Earth). Credit Schaffert for adeptly writing romantic, magical, and readable dreams.

Shaben, Carol. Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story. Grand Central. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781455501953. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781455545629. HIST
Like Piers Paul Read’s 1974 classic history Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors (there’s a 2005 paperback from Harper Perennial), this book deals with the survivors of a plane crash in a frozen wasteland. Also like Alive, it’s told in third-person close, an excellent strategy for conveying the compelling, life-critical decisions made by multiple people along the course of a bad, bad plane trip way the hell up in Canada one night in October, 1984. One dissimilarity, and this might be considered a spoiler: no one eats anyone else on this crash. A dutiful, but exhausted and spiritually drained pilot makes a mistake flying into High Prairie, Alberta. Of the ten people on board the small commuter plane, only four live: the pilot, a politician, a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, and the prisoner he was transporting for arraignment. Three are injured, shocked, and sort of dazed; the fourth guy—the one who holds his shit together—is, ironically, the prisoner. He winds up being responsible for the lion’s share of activities that save the rest of them. About the first third of the book describes the run-up to the crash and the personal and weather conditions contributing to it. From the moment of the crash onward, however, it’s interesting to see the men lose all semblance of status and just try their best to help each other survive and be rescued—they have to, because October in Northern Canada is deathly cold. Shaben, the daughter of the politician, also explores the next few years of their individual lives. VERDICT Vibrant without being flamboyant, honest without feeling raw, and especially exacting and forceful, this is not a book that screams for attention, but it remains riveting just the same.

Zasio, Robin. The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life. Rodale. 2011. 222p. ISBN 9781609611316. $17.20; ebk. ISBN 9781609611323. self-help
Zasio (a psychologist on A&E’s Hoarders) presents the dysfunction she specializes in treating as not as a one-in-a-million freakshow but as something that everybody does to one degree or another. Indeed, most regular people have “crap” issues (my term, not Zasio’s)—be it a closet crammed with sweaters or shelves of review copies you’ll never read (I’m talking to you, Barbara Hoffert!). As a book, Hoarders is a completely fascinating, wtf chronicle of seemingly normal people hoarding weird crap. Among many profiles are those of a nice young man who hoards crappy old blenders and toasters in the hopes of fixing and selling them and a successful businesswoman living in a craphouse filled to the brim with clothes and cat poop. However, it also provides excellent tips, advice, and suggestions for anyone willing to take a good, hard look at their crap. Even as she explains the terrible emotional anxiety hoarders experience when parting with belongings, Zasio acknowledges that we all hang onto them even if the situation never becomes acute. The difference is that hoarders are rarely swayed by logic (e.g., you really can lose this stained loveseat/80′s pantsuit/collection of Elvis shot glasses) or “need vs. want” conversations. Interestingly, Zasio also declares that it’s okay to keep crap for no good reason—as long as it doesn’t interfere with your life1. See, Dr. Z. isn’t anti-crap as much as she is pro-health, and as such she encourages readers to live without crap (e.g., ask: is it functional? Relevant to your life? etc.) because “your environment—and your mind—will feel clearer in no time.” VERDICT A real-life counterpoint to George Carlin’s caustic routine about ‘Stuff‘; Hoarders is an excellent, readable, actionable self-help book for anyone interested in de-cluttering.

Dancing with Myself | Memoir

This month has a lovely pas de deux of ballerina memoirs, and if you’re anything like me, the books will have you scrolling through YouTube pages for famous ballet sequences to really get a feel for what these dancers are writing about. My personal experience with ballet ended around age six when running around with a tutu on my head and pretending to be a lion stopped being cute. But I have always had a deep respect for the men and women in the ballet profession, bodies stretched to the breaking point, half their day spent surrounded by mirrors. I am better suited to a job whose the most difficult physical requirement is grabbing that book from the top shelf.

Copeland, Misty. Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina. Touchstone. Mar. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781476737980. $24.99. ebk. ISBN 9781476738000. MEMOIR
The ballet world, replete with “Balanchine” bodies—tall, thin, and white—may not seem like a place for a dancer who is five-foot, two-inches, curvy (by ballet standards), and black. But Copeland, despite her late start to ballet at age 13, became the third African American soloist in the history of the American Ballet Theater. Her memoir describes her childhood flitting around to the houses of her mother’s different boyfriends until the coach on her drill team encourages her to try a ballet class at the local Boys and Girls Club. It is here that her ballet teacher, Cindy, discovers her unique talent, eventually battling for custody of Copeland so she can coach her more closely, and realize her full potential as a dancer. She is a prodigy and does not let the reader forget that: putting on her first pair of pointe shoes in two months and dancing professionally in a little over a year. VERDICT Instead of rags to riches, Copeland goes from baggy shorts to leotards as she navigates the whitewashed world of ballet.

Millburn, Joshua Fields & Ryan Nicodemus. Everything that Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists. Asymmetrical. 2014. 232p. ISBN 9781938793189. pap. $16.99. MEMOIR
Joshua Fields Milburn, one half of the duo behind theminimalists.com, documented his journey into this alternative lifestyle, with surprisingly amusing endnotes written by his best friend and fellow minimalist Ryan Nicodemus peppered throughout. After the death of his mother and the dissolution of his marriage, Milburn starts eschewing material objects in pursuit of something deeper and more substantial. He gets rid of all but his most necessary possessions, leaves his six-figure corporate job in favor of writing full time, and eventually moves to Montana. These dramatic life changes inspire Nicodemus to do something similar. He packs up every single thing he owns into boxes and covers large items with a sheet. Slowly, he unpacks only the things he uses over the next 21 days. At the end, he either donates or throws away anything that is still packed. VERDICT Milburn and Nicodemus are antihoarders, and will inspire readers to take stock of their earthly possessions and question what is truly necessary to live a good life.

Peppe, Helen. Pigs Can’t Swim: A Memoir. Da Capo. Feb. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780306822728. $22.99. ebk. ISBN 9780306822735. MEMOIR
Peppe’s narrative is an unsentimental depiction of her life growing up as the youngest of nine children on a Maine farm. Frequently found on the outskirts of her siblings’ inner circle of mischief, she assumes the role of watchdog, warning her siblings when their clandestine cigarette smoking, drinking, or sex in the hayloft is about to be discovered. Meanwhile, to her parents’ dismay, she becomes a vegetarian as she cannot adjust to an environment where animals are raised to be slaughtered for sustenance without batting an eye. VERDICT For fans of Jeannette Walls, this is the story of a family on a farm struggling to stay together as they constantly teeter on the edge of poverty.

Ringer, Jenifer. Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet. Viking. Feb. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780670026494. $26.95. ebk. ISBN 9780698151505. MEMOIR
For Ringer, success seemed to come easily. At age 12, she enrolled in the prestigious Washington School of Ballet and, following that, the elite School of American Ballet in New York City. By age 18, she was dancing professionally and living in her own apartment. But just as everything started to fall into place, the pressures from working in a profession that relies so heavily on the way a dancer looks began to chip away at her. When a reviewer for the New York Times is critical of Ringer’s size in a review of The Nutcracker, her disordered eating habits become more severe, eventually getting her fired from the company. It is at this point that Ringer calls on her faith in God to bring her back to center and wade through the self-doubt that often envelops her. VERDICT Ringer’s candid description of the compulsive eating disorder that almost made her give up ballet is not only one of perseverance but also of faith: she relies on her trust in God’s plan to see her through.

Williams, Kayla. Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War. Norton. Feb. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780393239362; ebk. ISBN 9780393242928. MEMOIR
Williams, whose previous memoir is Love My Rifle More Than You, is a combat veteran who served in Iraq along with her husband, Brian. This follow-up belongs to the both of them as it describes their reentry into civilian life. After their return, they did not receive proper support from either the Army or Veteran Affairs as they struggled to deal with both post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the effects of a traumatic brain injury Brian sustained while on active duty in Iraq. Even after Brian points a gun at her, she stays true to the soldier’s creed, considers him a fallen comrade, and will not leave him. Adding insult to injury is her experience as a female veteran, frequently passed over in the eyes of civilians as they assume women are not in combat. An appendix is included with a list of resources for service members, veterans, and wounded warriors. Williams’s story will enlighten civilians about the inadequacy of health care offered to those who have served. VERDICT Essential reading for all veterans struggling with PTSD or brain injuries who feel like there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. [See Prepub Alert, 9/1/13.]

Additional Memoir

Laks, Ellie & Nomi Isak. My Gentle Barn: Creating a Sanctuary Where Animals Heal and Children Learn To Hope. Harmony. Mar. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780385347662. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780385347679. MEMOIR
At the heart of a good memoir is personality. Laks’s warmth and passion radiate from this account of her life in animal rescue. Attuned to animals from a young age, she grew to fulfill her dream of creating a sanctuary for abused animals that also helps at-risk youth. Her thoughts and feelings draw you in and make you want to find out what happens next both in Ellie’s and the animals’ lives. The softhearted can feel safe in reading it, as the book features happy endings of rescue and rehabilitation. The larger message about persevering to follow one’s dream, and the fulfillment of a life of service, is inspiring. Additionally, the author’s achievements after troubled early years provide a satisfying arc to her story. Laks brings a light touch to advocacy, even avoiding discussion of factory farming, where the vast majority of animal suffering occurs. It seems she believes that by opening our hearts to individual animals in her gentle barn, she will inspire us to carry our compassion beyond its walls. VERDICT Memoir fans and animal lovers will find this title to be a page-turner.—Leslie Patterson, Chicago P.L.

 

Editors’ Spring Picks

I was once advised not to make my hobby into my career, because that would be the end of the fun. That’s not our experience as reviews editors at LJ. We were big readers before we got here, and the never-ending stream of titles coming across our desks hasn’t dulled the fascination, nor stopped the fun, one bit. We each have our own “beat,” but books swap hands like nobody’s business, and as anyone who reads our weekly post “What We’re Reading” (see reviews.­libraryjournal.com) can tell, we don’t limit ourselves to “books for work.” Below you’ll find that among the upcoming titles we’re looking forward to, media editor Stephanie Klose, for example, recommends a crafting book, Margaret Heilbrun (who has many hats, not one of them memoir) urges you to try a pet memoir, and Liz French, whose day job is covering nonfiction, is enjoying a long-anticipated novel.—Henrietta Thornton-Verma

Millrose & memoir

My picks relate to my memories, experiences, and wishes. I suppose that’s true of most of our reading choices. First, the memory. When my brother and I were kids, my father would take us to the annual Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden—and I’m not talking about that eyesore that bills itself as “the world’s greatest arena.” I mean the previous iteration on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th streets, already a sad enough replacement for the lovely building built by Stanford White on Madison Square Park, where he was killed by his mistress’s husband Harry Thaw—but I’m getting away from my subject. The Millrose Games were (and still are) an annual track meet most famous for the running of the Wanamaker Mile, but what amused my brother and me no end was the other competitive mile, the Mile Walk.

So, for memory’s sake, I pick Mathew Alegeo’s Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport (Chicago Review, Apr.), where we learn about the provenance of race walking—pedestrianism was its etymologically natural first term. As with horse racing, pedestrianism began as a mechanism for betting: take on a wager that you can walk 100 miles in under 22 hours; or conversely, predict if Lincoln or Breckinridge will win the 1860 election, with the loser to walk from Boston to Washington in ten consecutive days to watch the inauguration. “Walking matches” started to attract large crowds and large purses of prize money. There were ­pedestriennes as well. Algeo (Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure) focuses on the amateur sport’s golden age from 1860 to 1881.

From walking quickly to sitting rather still—at a desk in a partitioned space. Nikil Saval, editor at n+1, the print and online magazine, looks at the history of such spaces in Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace (Doubleday, Apr.). He ranges far and deep as he places our experience of “the office” in full perspective—urban, architectural, social, and cultural—from its 19th-centry urban roots, through the complicit architecture of 20th-century skyscrapers, to the offices of tomorrow. Of course you’ll encounter Bartleby. And Mad Men. Yes, the movie of The Best of Everything gets a mention (although Stephen Boyd’s wondrous cleft chin is apparently deemed irrelevant), but you’ll also learn about Scientific Office Management (1917) and the Action Office of 1964. I can’t wait to dig into Saval’s book when I have leisure to read it—away from the office.

Wishes. Ever since I can remember, I’ve longed to become close friends with a smallish wild animal. It will never happen—as well it shouldn’t. Author Martin Windrow lived for 15 years with a Tawny Owl he named Mumble. She had never been a creature of the wild (he is careful to remind readers about laws protecting wild animals). She was hatched in a licensed aviary. I avoid pet memoirs because I think they’re all too sentimental, yet I’m drawn to Windrow’s memoir, The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar: Living with a Tawny Owl (Farrar, Jun.). Windrow is military editor of Osprey Publishing in the UK. If anyone can deliver a memoir about a deeply felt relationship with an undomesticated animal without turning it into treacle, I thought, it is the military editor of Osprey Publishing, who is the author of several works of history including The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vienam. (Had he been the founder of Osprey Publishing perhaps he would have named it after a different bird of prey.)

Windrow’s deeply distilled writing about his years with Mumble—she died 20 years ago—displays descriptive gifts about animals and their effects upon us that I happily compare with E.B. White’s in his essays.

And, so, with a vision of hurrying walkers racing through a maze of cubicles with owls perched above surveying the silly scene, I bring my contribution to Editors’ Picks to a close.—Margaret Heilbrun

Crafting fiction

Poor Lacey Flint. She was stalked, brainwashed, and attacked in Sharon Bolton’s three previous series installments. In A Dark and Twisted Tide (Minotaur, Jun.), she’s no longer a detective, instead having become a member of the marine policing unit and living on a houseboat on the Thames. She thinks her life will be calmer going forward, but then she finds a shrouded body in the river, a corpse that police believe was left for her. Bolton, who previously published using her initials rather than her first name, turns out dependably well-plotted, well-written crime novels that have actually made me miss my subway stop. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

That Jessica Pigza’s BiblioCraft (STC, Mar.) is beautifully designed and full of both doable and aspirational projects by some of the hugest names in the craft world (Natalie Chanin and Gretchen Hirsch, for example) would have been more than enough for me to keep an eye on its release date. But since all of the projects were inspired by holdings in the New York Public Library’s Rare Books Division and the author, herself a librarian, shares tips for navigating library collections for one’s own inspiration, I’m positively drooling. [See the review and Q&A with the author, LJ 2/1/14.]

Rainbow Rowell’s YA novels Eleanor & Park and Fangirl were on practically every year-end list of the best 2013 had to offer—including my own. I can’t wait to read her Landline (St. Martin’s, Jul.), a novel for adults, in which a television writer whose marriage is on the rocks finds a way to communicate with her husband in the past. Will she be able to head off some of their problems—or the marriage itself—before they start? Plots about people reevaluating their marriages don’t generally appeal to me, but if Rowell’s other books are anything to go by, this one will be a fresh take on the subject, with realistic characters with whom I’ll end up developing profound (though obviously one-sided) emotional connections.—­Stephanie Klose

Island lives

The setting: Ireland, post–real estate crash. Bobby Mahon always worked hard and did the right thing; when he became foreman of Pokey Burke’s construction firm he thought nothing could stop him. How life has changed. There’s no more work, and Pokey—who, Bobby now realizes, never invested his men’s money in the pension he charged them for—has taken off. Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart (Steerforth, Apr.) is the book I can’t stop talking up this season. “Ryan’s startling debut reads like a modern Irish twist on William Faulker’s As I Lay Dying,” said our reviewer John G. Matthews, so it’s no wonder this debut won book of the year at the Irish Book Awards (and if Ryan doesn’t make it worldwide, I give up). More anecdotally, I gave the title to my colleague Kathy Ishizuka, who loaned it to her husband; he won’t give it back because he needs a week, he says, to digest it before reading it again.

The Spinning Heart’s language is stunning, and its characters—the cheaters, sorry only to have been caught; the cheated, wrenching to gaze upon in their broken-heartedness; and the spectators dragged into the grimy mess—are all fully, and very memorably, realized in a spare 160 pages. In the opening chapter, for example, which is narrated by Bobby, Ryan uses almost no punctuation except periods, even in dialog, creating a flatness of tone that reflects his characters’ numbed emotions.

Steerforth’s publisher, Chip Fleischer, describes Ryan as “the real deal” and tells LJ that the author’s second book, The Thing About December, is already out in Ireland and was a finalist for novel of the year at the Irish Book Awards. It follows a year in the life of Johnsey, who inherits a farm he can’t manage, during Ireland’s boom time, which is well and truly over. The book, which the publisher says “breathes with Johnsey’s bewilderment, humor, and agonizing self-doubt,” will be on U.S. shelves in August.

Grouchy men who’ve been done in by love but just need the right woman to bring them around are a mainstay of romances. The title character in Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Algonquin, Apr.)—think Don Tillman in Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project, or Jack Nicholson’s character in As Good As It Gets—is just such a man. The love of his life has died, and he’s hiding from the world in his bookstore on Alice Island, off the New England coast, intending to live out his life in solitude (and he’s only 39). The right woman, a publisher’s rep, no less, does come along, but this novel by Zevin (The Hole We’re In; Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac) is different from most with that trajectory. The love story that ensues is a natural outgrowth of character development—and there are many rich characters here—and is so entwined with other well-developed subplots that it’s often reduced to a pleasant background detail. A.J.’s daughter is at times too precocious (learning alphabetical order at age two? Really?), but if you can overlook this minor problem, you’re in for an absorbing read that will especially tickle those who have been on the receiving end of publishers’ sales pitches.—Henrietta Thornton-Verma

Crossing over

As I examine the array of new books coming up this season, I’m engulfed in mixed emotions—amazement and excitement at all the new offerings but also a pang of sadness as I bid LJ so long and embark upon a new position at sister publication School Library Journal. Looking ahead to the young adult and children’s literature in my future, I’m particularly struck by how many great crossover titles there are, or books that slyly inhabit the border between teen and adult audiences.

Manga, horror movies, pop music, fashion, and accessories are all popular Japanese topics and trends. Brian Ashcraft and Shoko Ueda tackle all of the above—and more—through the well-known trope of the schoolgirl in Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential: How Teenage Girls Made a Nation Cool (Tuttle, Apr.). The authors explore aspects of trends such as blazers and skirt lengths and provide interviews with pop stars emulating the schoolgirl look. Whether your preferred schoolgirl is more the upstanding heroine Sailor Moon or the vengeful, weapon-wielding Gogo Yubari of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Vol. 1, you’ll come away well versed.

An even bigger cultural trend? K-Pop! Mark James Russell’s photo-heavy K-Pop Now! The Korean Music Revolution (Tuttle, Mar.) is bursting with profiles of hot new Korean pop artists: Wonder Girls, Brown Eyed Girls, Busker Busker, and, of course, Psy, best known for his YouTube-fueled smash “Gagnam Style.” This fun, colorful examination of a craze will appeal to die-hard fans looking for the latest info on their favorite groups, as well as to those merely curious about the trend.

Gene Luen Yang (Boxers and Saints) and artist Sonny Liew have written an alternate history of sorts with Shadow Hero (First Second, Jul.), a graphic novel that relates the tale of the first Asian American superhero. During the 1940s, artist Chu Hing created the Green Turtle. According to rumor, after the artist’s predictably conservative publishers nixed his plan to make the superhero Asian American, he came up with an ingenious way to skirt the issue: drawing the Green Turtle so that his face was almost never visible to the reader, allowing Hing to conceive of his hero as he wished. The comic was canceled before Hing had the chance to reveal his hero’s identity, but in this gorgeous, nostalgia-soaked work, Yang and Liew have finally gotten the Green Turtle ready for his close-up.

Yang rarely shies away from uncomfortable imagery or stereotypes, and here he again deftly examines Asian American experiences. Weaving historical context with caped crusaders and injecting his trademark humor, Yang tells the story of a young man living in 1940s Chinatown whose quest for greatness is born when his overbearing mother, recently rescued by a superhero, decides that her son’s future is in saving the world. A superlative revisiting of the Golden Age of Comics.

Before I shed the mantle of cookbooks review editor, I must highlight Ashley English’s Handmade Gatherings (Roost, Apr.), a compilation of potluck recipes by season that the book’s editor, Jennifer-Urban Brown, calls “a celebration of connecting to one another through sharing our favorite foods, our stories, and ourselves.” English merges dishes with party ideas, and having sampled her spiced apple pound cake, I can say with confidence that it’s just what readers need for parties as they look to spring and outdoor events.—Mahnaz Dar

Rebel, rebel

If there’s any theme to my three picks, it would be “transgressive.” I love reading about so-called bad girls (and oh, yes, those bad boys)—the more outré the better. They certainly make compelling characters, and reading a well-written novel (or bio) about misfits, outsiders, and outliers is the perfect “armchair rebel” experience.

It took me forever to screw up the courage to crack open Emma Donoghue’s 2010 breakout best seller, Room—I was worried that the subject matter would be too heavy and depressing. Yes, it was an intense reading experience, but what a fantastic book. I’m still thinking about it.

When I read in Barbara Hoffert’s November 1 Prepub Alert that Donoghue was writing an 1870s-set novel, Frog Music (Little, Brown, Mar.), and that a 200,000-copy first printing and a ten-city tour were planned, my heart leapt. The starred LJ review in the January 2014 issue sealed the deal: calling the book “genre-defying,” Sally Bissell dubbed Frog Music “a murder mystery, a feminist manifesto, and a human interest story” that “would likely be compared to Donoghue’s well-received Slammerkin.”

Making a note to add Slammerkin to my TBR pile, I decided to check out Frog Music—and it is very, very good. Not in the same scared-to-turn-the-page way as Room but equally as deep, thought-provoking, and complex. The lead characters—a female cross-dressing frog catcher and a French prostitute/dancer—are achingly real and flawed in all the best ways.

Like Room, this book pushes the theme of “the evil that men do,” but this time Donoghue is more balanced in her approach, and her male characters’ motivations are easier to understand. The setting is done well, too. Donoghue transports the reader to the hot, squalid, smallpox-infested streets of San Francisco during the heat wave of 1876, and she makes you care about two young women who struggle against society’s strictures.

The music business is full of rebels, both real and not so much, but indie rocker Alex Chilton is definitely a poster child for “I did it my way.” In the 1960s, he began his career literally at the top of the charts, as 16-year-old front man for the Memphis-based Box Tops. He soon tired of that life and its restrictions, however, and went on to form the seminal rock band Big Star, which (rather like the Velvet Underground) influenced many bands but was not commercially successful. In the 1980s, Chilton became something of an icon for the alternate-rock crowd, as a solo artist, trendsetter, and record producer. He died in 2010. Author Holly George-Warren, a rock journalist and coeditor of The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, was acquainted with Chilton. A Man Called Destruction (Viking, Mar.) is her biography of the iconoclastic, often contrarian and elusive musician. The first to examine Chilton solo (there have been a few books and documentaries about Big Star), George-Warren’s thorough, informative book will delight hard-core fans and anybody who likes a good downward-mobility/redemption story. This rabid fan loved it!

Speaking of iconoclastic rockers who influenced many—and of Rolling Stone contributors—I also look forward to reading Rolling Stone writer Will Hermes’s upcoming bio of the late Lou Reed, Velvet Underground cofounder and so much more, which Farrar will publish. The date is unannounced as yet, but it may be released this year.—Liz French

Love and loss

I rarely miss an opportunity to work with Avon on a project pitched by Pam Spengler-Jaffee. And I always read Eloisa James’s new books. Timing is everything, which is why I grabbed the arc of James’s latest, Three Weeks with Lady X (Avon, Apr.). In James’s A Duke of Her Own (LJ 8/09), the Duke of Villiers was a rogue who finally met his match in Lady Eleanor. Part of Villiers’s eccentricity stemmed from his acknowledgment of six illegitimate children, the oldest of whom was 12-year-old Juby/Tobias. James now, following a serious illness, a yearlong stay with her family in Paris (and a subsequent memoir), and a fairy tale series, focuses on that boy, who has grown into quite an intriguing man. It’s 1799, and Tobias Dautry, former mudlark (youngsters forced to go into the Thames to pull valuables from the muck below), is now known as Thorn. He is a successful businessman and manufacturies owner, despite his being the son of a duke. Thinking it is time to settle down, Thorn has chosen the beautiful Lady Laetitia Rainsford for his bride, as she is kind, sweet, calm, and uncomplicated, if, as Thorn remarks, “a bit of a noodle.” As a favor to Eleanor, Thorn’s stepmother, Lady Xenobia India St. Clair accepts the commission to renovate Starberry Court, the country house Thorn has purchased for his soon-to-be-betrothed. An independent woman and the daughter of a marquess, India takes on the project, even after meeting Thorn and thinking that making him over into more of a gentleman would not go amiss as well. Taking up where her “Desperate Duchesses” series left off, James has raised the stakes in this Georgian romance. The heat between our “designing” woman and our unapologetic “bastard” is delicious to behold. Well done, Eloisa, well done.

In addition to being a romance junkie, I also get lost in stories that revolve around women and the upheavals that occur in their lives. I actually sensed a theme with two recent picks of mine. Last year, I chose Jennie Shortridge’s Love Water Memory, in which a woman is found on a beach with no memory of who she is or how she got there. In Carol Cassella’s Gemini (S. & S., Mar.; starred review, LJ 2/1/14), a seriously injured Jane Doe is medevaced to a Seattle hospital after being found on a dark road. The ICU staff try to stabilize her while hoping to discover her identity. The prognosis for her recovery is not good. The story focuses on physician Charlotte Reese, her relationship with her writer lover, and the alternating story of two teens in the Olympic Peninsula town of Quentin. Oh, guess all you will—even untangling the threads of this beautiful story will not minimize the depth of the characterizations or the sweet pangs of holding on to love that may now be mostly memory. Addictive and thoroughly affecting.

Finally, I’m looking forward to Robyn Carr’s first volume of women’s fiction, Four Friends (Mira: Harlequin, Apr.), following her very successful “Virgin River” romances and the more recent “Thunder Point” titles. Also, Sarah MacLean will finish off her “Rule of Scoundrels” quartet with the unraveling of the mystery behind gaming hell owner Chase in Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (Avon, fall 2014). (Congratulations to new mom MacLean). And Victoria Alexander brings us more romantic Victorian hijinks from Millworth Manor in The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride (Kensington, May). My romantic heart, be still.—Bette-Lee Fox

Reading and pleasure

The two go together naturally, and always in the mood for more of both, I find myself constantly returning to books that once won me over, however long ago. But the past is just that, and living authors are what I want.

That said, my first pick revolves around James Joyce’s Ulysses, a novel that satisfies in every sense, so I was intrigued when I came across Kevin Birmingham’s debut The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for Joyce’s Ulysses (Penguin Pr., Jun.), an exquisite account of the 15-year struggle over the book’s publication. Told in an informed and readable narrative style, this biography of a novel wends its way through historical events, beginning with June 16, 1904, the first night Joyce spent with Nora Barnacle, which serves as the genesis of Ulysses and, to use Birmingham’s words, “hovers over everything” that happened thereafter. By 1922, when Shakespeare & Co.’s Sylvia Beach finally published the first edition, Joyce had turned the literary and art world on its head, infuriated governments across continents, and penetrated readers’ consciousness in a way unprecedented.

Birmingham shows how unprepared the world was and how grueling the book’s journey to emancipation. “We take our freedoms to read and write books for granted, and I want readers to see how difficult—and how recent—the fight for literary freedom has been,” Birmingham explained in an email, continuing, “Ulysses is canonical partly because it was contraband. Its legalization made so many things possible for the writers who followed.” “The story is important,” Birmingham said, “because of the way it changed modernism and literary freedom, but the long research process is thrilling because of a thousand illuminating details—Ezra Pound’s childhood letter to Santa Claus, a radiograph of Joyce’s bad teeth, the books, maps, and upholstery in the library where Judge Woolsey read Ulysses.” For the professor of history and literature at Harvard University, what made Joyce’s epic so maddening, even to tireless supporters such as Ezra Pound, was the sense that Joyce had lost control—a development that the world would ultimately come to appreciate. It’s not necessary to have read Ulysses to enjoy Birmingham’s battle on behalf of a genius, but those who are familiar with the work will sense the pulse of Joyce, the political exploits that impacted 20th-century censorship laws, and the revolution of art that redefined the cultural and moral fabric of a time. (See an author Q&A at ow.ly/sFi6A.)

If focusing on the events surrounding one novel isn’t enough, or is too much, Michael Schmidt (poetry, Glasgow Univ., writer-in-residence, St. John’s Coll., founder and director, Carcanet Press; Lives of the Poets) offers an eclectic variety in The Novel: A Biography (Harvard Univ., May). At 1,160 pages, this hefty volume features 350 novelists from Canada, Australia, Africa, Britain, Ireland, the United States, and the Caribbean and covers 700 years of storytelling. But Schmidt does something different: while the book is arranged chronologically, the chapters are theme-based (e.g., “The Human Comedy,” “Teller and Tale,” “Sex and Sensibility”) and follow no specific outline, blending author biographies, interviews, reviews, and criticism into fluid narratives. Schmidt’s discussion of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre not only offers an understanding of the Gothic Romance genre but also reveals lesser-known facts about Brontë’s life. In this way, Schmidt fulfills Brontë’s wish to be judged “as an author not as a woman.” This is a compelling edition for writers and other readers alike; a portrayal that is aligned with Edwin Muir’s belief that the “only thing which can tell us about the novel is the novel.”—Annalisa Pesek

Unforgettable characters

“The cell squeezed her and the air was hot and fetid…. This was the Arrivals Hall and she was a worker. Her kin was Flora and her number was 717.” This astonishing opening scene depicting the birth of a honeybee named Flora immediately sucked me into British playwright Laline Paull’s fantasy The Bees (Ecco, May), and I eagerly followed Flora’s journey as her curiosity and courage drive her ultimately to challenge her hive’s Queen. It was that immersion into a fantastic and hidden world that impelled Ecco editor Lee Boudreaux to buy the manuscript within 24 hours of it hitting her desk.

“It sounded so strange I started reading it on my subway ride home. It was the best kind of reading experience—I’d look up occasionally and it would take me 30 seconds to re­adjust to the world I was living in.” It is hard to surprise people who read for a living, but this debut novel charmed, seduced, and surprised Boudreaux.

The death of a beekeeper friend, Angie Biltcliffe, inspired Paull to write the book. “Angie spoke about ‘her girls’ with such a sparkle in her eyes that I felt for a great affection for them,” says Paull. What her bee research revealed fascinated the author: “Here was a 40,000-year-old matriarchal society that hardly changed.” Archetypal characters begin to jump out of her imagination, and Paull wrote the first draft in a feverish six weeks, fearful that someone else was penning the same story.

Fans mourned when David Downing last year ended his John Russell espionage series set in World War II Berlin with Masaryk Station, but the British author is not finished with spy fiction. Coming this May is Jack of Spies (Soho Crime), which introduces Jack McColl, a globe-trotting Scottish car salesman and budding spy, as he gathers secret intelligence for His Majesty’s Navy in the German colony of Tsingtau, China. The year is 1913, and the world is on the brink of war.

In choosing to write about World War I in his new series, Downing felt that the previous conflict was more of a game-changer. “I wanted to write a series,” he says, “that reflected the move away from conflicts between established nation states and the increasing importance of the class, gender, and colonial conflicts raging inside them.” Soho is promoting this title with a $150,000 marketing and advertising campaign; a ten-city tour, Downing’s first ever; and a large galley run (5,000 copies).

“David is an author on the verge of breaking out in a major way,” says Soho director of marketing and publicity Paul Oliver, who noted that the final Station book came close to landing on the best sellers lists. “We couldn’t put so much into [the marketing] if we didn’t think the book deserved it. It’s a little sexier than his previous series and yet doesn’t give up any of the meticulous plotting or nuanced political portraiture.”

Readers who enjoyed Tom Perotta’s Little Children will want to try Suzanne Green’s Lesson Plans (Prospect Park, May), an entertaining, funny, and thoughtful debut novel about three California homeschooling families. Publisher Colleen Dunn Bates, a big Perotta fan herself, was really drawn to the manuscript. “I sent it to two trusted outside readers who love a good suburban funny drama, and they gave me a big thumbs-up.”

An accomplished short story writer, Green had a bigger plot that couldn’t be accommodated by that abbreviated format. “I knew it would take a while to give my characters all the breadth they needed to exist on the page,” she explains. While Little Children is not a direct influence on Lesson Plans, Green loves how Perotta gives both weight and humor to the domestic world, elements that she incorporates into her own work.

The luridly dramatic cover for Joanna Higgins’s The Anarchist (Permanent, Apr.) is what first attracted me to her novel about political activist Emma Goldman and her relation to Leon Czolgosz, the Polish anarchist who assassinated President William McKinley in 1901. But I was quickly lured into the dramatic lives of these two figures of American radical politics. Higgins, having grown up on family stories about the tragic Leon, a distant cousin of her mother, originally intended to explore only the mystery of Leon’s actions. But as she researched Goldman and the anarchist movement, the writer realized that Emma was a major part of Leon’s story. “And the more I read, the more I saw emerging that quintessential American theme—the dichotomy between an envisioned ideal and the real world.”

Permanent Press copublisher Martin Shepard has high hopes for this book, the third that Higgins has published with him. “We think she’s got the gift for this sort of thoughtful writing since we first published A Soldier’s Book back in 1998.” That Civil War novel drew critical acclaim and comparisons to MacKinlay Kantor’s 1955 Pulitzer Prize–winning Andersonville. Shepard believes Higgins’s new historical epic will bring her the same readership and accolades that greeted her first novel.—Wilda Williams

Liz French is Associate Editor, Margaret Heilbrun is Senior Editor, Annalisa Pesek is Assistant Managing Editor, Henrietta Thornton-Verma is Editor, and Wilda Williams is Fiction Editor, LJ Reviews. Bette-Lee Fox is Managing Editor and Stephanie Klose is Media Editor, LJ. Mahnaz Dar is Associate Editor, School Library Journal

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