Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, June 15, 2012
From My Shelf
'Long May You Run'
I was in New York last week for the annual BookExpo America publishing extravaganza. It's an exhausting yet exhilarating overload of new and upcoming titles, a place where you can often spot trends. One that's picking up: books about musicians of a certain age. (So far this year: When I Left Home by Buddy Guy, My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman, Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock 'n' Roll and, in July, The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s.) Here are some good bets for the fall--reserve your copies now.
Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young (Blue Rider, October). A memoir that is definitely not linear. Patti Smith said "It's intimate... like talking with a friend."
I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons (Ecco, September). Simmons, a well-known name in rock journalism, had "unparalleled access" to the elusive singer/songwriter.
Who Am I by Pete Townsend (Harper, October). A candid memoir by one of rock's iconic performers (and erstwhile book editor); at 608 pages, it should be revealing.
Life Is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett by Tony Bennett (Harper, November). I know nothing other than this is a book by Tony Bennett; therefore, it will be wonderful.
A Woman Like Me by Bettye LaVette and David Ritz (Blue Rider, September). A classic soul singer, an R&B legend, LaVette has finally become as famous as she deserves to be.
Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand by William J. Morris (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October). The climb to fame, the formative years. Streisand before she became a legend.
Mick Jagger by Philip Norman (Ecco, October). Continuing the trend of big books, this weighs in at 624 pages, written by the author of Shout! (The Beatles) and John Lennon, among others.
Elvis Presley: A Southern Life by Joel Williamson (Oxford, December). Southern historian Williamson weaves the drama of Presley's career with the social upheavals of post-World War II. --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness
Writers' Retreats; Gigantic Bookshelf; Filmed Short Stories
After searching the world's literary "nooks and crannies," the Huffington Post found several "famous writers' retreats: the rooms where classics were created."
A Brazilian apartment "defined by a gigantic bookshelf" was showcased by Apartment Therapy, which noted that the dwelling's "defining feature is the expansive, wrap-around bookshelving, holding everything but the kitchen sink."
Pop quiz: The Guardian asked, "How much poetry do you know by heart?"
Flavorwire discovered "10 wonderful short films based on famous short stories."
Now in Paper: June
Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister (Berkley, $15)
Gathering to celebrate their friend Kate's triumph over cancer, six women each agree to take on a life challenge--chosen by Kate. In return, she agrees to go whitewater rafting with her daughter, though the idea has always terrified her. Although Kate was the one fighting a deadly disease, her friends have their own demons to conquer--and each woman's test fits her perfectly, drawing out long-buried reserves of adventure, creativity, bravery and love.
Moondogs by Alexander Yates (Anchor, $15.95)
Benicio Bridgewater wants to repair his relationship with his absentee father; he agrees to come to Manila so they can spend some quality time together. But the father never shows--he's been kidnapped by a dimwitted cab driver, assisted by his even-less-clever brother and a retired cockfighting rooster. Then there's Efrem Khalid Bakkar, a solider with supernaturally accurate aim who's been recruited into an elite squad of equally magical commandos. Add realistic emotional crises into a jam-packed novel of quirkiness for a crazy ride.
The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje (Vintage International, $15)
This is a masterfully told literary voyage into the memories of family, friends, strangers, all living together in a great writer's imagination. Ondaatje's 11-year-old narrator, Michael, is sailing from Sri Lanka to England, where he will join his divorced mother. He begins his great adventure aboard the Oronsay, where he meets the quiet and thoughtful Ramadhin and the exuberant Cassius, a past schoolmate. Like Chaucer, Ondaatje tells tales about people brought together on a trip (who they are, what secrets they keep), the children thus learning about adults and life "simply by being in their midst."
The Fatal Touch by Conor Fitzgerald (Bloomsbury USA, $16)
This second intricate and rip-roaring Commissario Alec Blume novel is an intricate, satisfying crime novel set in Rome, with a quirky, engaging detective training a new assistant, Caterina, in the ways of homicide investigation, starting with the death of an Irish art forger with a fondness for drink. As with Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti series, set in Venice, the pleasures of this novel go beyond the usual police procedural into the fascinating nuances of contemporary Roman life.
The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell (Berkley, $15)
David Rowell's first novel unfolds on June 8, 1968, the day of Senator Bobby Kennedy's funeral, focusing on the passage of his funeral train as seen by six unrelated, "ordinary people," each of whom is fighting a personal inner battle as well as expecting or dreading the passing of the train through their lives. Each character is aware that seeing the Kennedy train pass is a group event; none of them experiences that moment physically alone. Yet all six find that they are isolated within their own minds in a way that merely gathering in a crowd cannot remedy. The Train of Small Mercies captures the individual yet quintessentially human experience of grief.
Nobody's Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History by Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce with Daniel Paisner (Grove Press, $15)
On June 2, 2010, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was pitching a perfect game until the top of the 9th, when Cleveland rookie Jason Donald hit and raced for first. Galarraga tagged him out, but Donald was called safe by umpire Jim Joyce. As both men tell their stories, we get a thrilling, emotionally complex revisit to that legendary game, complete with the satisfying back story of the careers (and psychologies) of the pitcher and the umpire who shared a first-base call that made history.
Machiavelli: A Biography by Miles J. Unger (Simon & Schuster, $16)
Niccolò Machiavelli became a world-famous author, founder of modern political science and was vilified by the Catholic Church as the finger of Satan--not bad for an underpaid government clerk in Renaissance Florence. Achieving such notoriety is no mean feat, and Miles Unger chronicles the twists and turns of Machiavelli's life with flair. As Machiavelli treads his path, we feel we are back in Renaissance Florence amid all its intrigue and tumult.
The Writer's Life
Robert Goolrick: Going Home
After a decades-long advertising career and a memoir (The End of the World as We Know It), Robert Goolrick leaped into fiction in 2010 with A Reliable Wife, the tale of a mysterious mail-order frontier bride. His second novel, Heading Out to Wonderful (Algonquin), opens with another stranger with a secret, a man who arrives in the tiny town of Brownsburg, Va., in 1948 with a suitcase full of money. [See our review below.]
Your first novel, A Reliable Wife, was a pretty big success. Did you struggle with Heading out to Wonderful?
I think you hope always that you'll write a better book, so of course the pressure increases on yourself then. But I think it's purely internal pressure. I didn't feel any pressure from the external world. You just hope to write the best book you can. And you hope that your second novel is better than your first novel. That's about it.
But also, in this case, it was difficult because it's a true story. I wanted to tell the story honestly and honor the people whose story it was, because I knew some of them. So it was very important to me to get it right in that respect.
Why relocate them the events to Virginia?
The actual story took place in Greece, and I set it in Virginia because I grew up there and because I wanted to go back and write sort of a love letter to my childhood and to the countryside in which I grew up. So the town of Brownsburg--there's a real town of Brownsburg, although it's greatly fictionalized in the book--and that whole countryside that's in the book is very familiar to me, the people and the music, and all of that. It's very beautiful, and it's very much a part of my character.
So I moved out of New York and moved back there in order to be closer to the source of the material, at least as I was writing about it.
Are you planning to stay?
For the moment. Well, I thought I was going to leave New York for a year, but that was three years ago, so it looks like I'm going to be here for a while.
Your first book, a memoir, The End of the World as We Know It, dealt with the subject of your childhood, then A Reliable Wife was set elsewhere. What was it like coming back to that place?
Well, there was a lot of culture shock involved, leaving New York and getting used to rural life again. And the first year was horribly lonely, and I had nothing but me and my work, because when you're a writer, you don't go out to work. So it's very hard to meet people.
But now I have great friends and I have a wonderful life. I find there comes a point in your life where, as wonderful as New York is, you just don't need it any more for a while.
I also realized there was going to be sort of a fuss made about A Reliable Wife, and I didn't want to be one of those people in New York who just spend their entire lives going to literary cocktail parties. I wanted to focus on the work. I'm not young, and so it's very important to me to focus more on the work than on being the author of the work.
Tell us a little about your next novel.
It takes place in 1969, and it's about something that's always fascinated me. In 1969, I was 21 years old, and two remarkable things happened that summer--the worst thing that happened to my generation and the brightest thing that happened to my generation. And those are that on August 15 of that summer, the Manson murders happened. And four days later, the festival of Woodstock began. So it's sort of about the convergence of those two events in the culture. --Kelly Faircloth, freelance writer
Father's Day Recos; Summer Reads; 'Badass' Cormac McCarthy
Happy Father's Day! Flavorwire recommended "books to give every kind of Dad on Father's Day," with options "for adventurers and film geeks, science fiction lovers and history buffs, and every kind of dear old dad in between."
NPR's On Point show offered suggestions for "great summer reads" from host Tom Ashbrook and guests Jessilynn Norcross, co-owner of the McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich.; Maggie Galehouse, book critic for the Houston Chronicle; and David Ulin, book critic for the Los Angeles Times.
Inspired by the recent news that a movie version of Guinness World Records is in the works, the Huffington Post suggested "9 other reference books we'd like to see adapted."
He "dislikes semi-colons and exclamation points." Thought Catalog listed "10 reasons why Cormac McCarthy is a badass."
Book Brahmin: Peter Farris
On your nightstand now:
A holstered Springfield XD 9mm, an alarm clock and a cat that goes by the name of Icky.
On the floor of your office now:
The To-Be-Read stacks are making it hard to walk in here. From where I'm sitting I can see UpGunned by David J. Schow--a superhumanly good postmodern gun porn satire with a wink and a nod to Donald Westlake's Parker series. One of the best novels I've read this year. I can also see nature writer/TV show host Steven Rinella's American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon; the Dorothy Allison memoir, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure; A Single Shot by Matthew F. Jones; The Damage Done by Hilary Davidson; The Night Train by Clyde Edgerton; Into the Web by Thomas H. Cook; and Satan Is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers by Charlie Louvin with Benjamin Whitmer... which my old man finally returned to me.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Has to be a tie between I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and The Call of the Wild by Jack London. Although I can remember being real young and thinking it didn't get any better than Nancy McArthur's The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks.
Your top five authors:
Flannery O'Connor, Harry Crews, Larry Brown, Cormac McCarthy and Jack London.
Top five authors you'd want to get drunk with:
James Crumley, Joseph Wambaugh, Eudora Welty, Barry Hannah and William Gay.
Book you've faked reading:
Book you're an evangelist for:
I consider At the End of the Road by Grant Jerkins not only a fantastic literary thriller but one of the finest novels ever set in the state of Georgia. Thanks, praise and a strychnine toast should also go to John Rector, Frank Bill, Duane Swierczynski, Tom Franklin and Ron Rash for delivering truly inspired fiction upon us over the past few years.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Back in my thrash metal skater punk middle school days, I asked my Dad to get me Brian Lumley's Necroscope because the cover said: "You will like this." And I absolutely did.
Book that changed your life:
Without a doubt: Joe by Larry Brown. That novel showed me the possibilities. If I can write publishable fiction half as good as Joe, I'll be one satisfied author.
Favorite line from a book:
"I can understand why people jump off bridges."--from Facing the Music by Larry Brown.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews had about the same impact on me that Joe did. My paperback copy is underlined all to hell. I just flipped to the last page and saw this marked: "He fell into the boiling snakes, went under and came up, like a swimmer breaking water. For the briefest instant, he gained his feet. Snakes hung from his face." I don't think there are words to describe how I felt when I finished Feast of Snakes, other than the despair of knowing there is absolutely no way you can write something as good. But you've got to try anyway.
by John Lanchester
Set during the financial implosion of 2008, John Lanchester's (The Debt to Pleasure) Capital uses an omniscient perspective and very short chapters to dip into the lives of an array of residents and workers along Pepys Road, a fictional street in a comfortable South London neighborhood. Into this multi-racial, multi-class study, Lanchester inserts an Iris Murdochesque plot twist, as each home owner is targeted by postcard photos bearing the typed message, "We Want What You Have."
The astute narration, touching on everything from the vodka preferences of Polish house painters to the grassroots politics of detention centers to the clauses in soccer phenom contracts, lends a reassuring air of novel verité. Lanchester cleverly uses the poison-pen postcards to explore the issues of personal expression and police surveillance in times of resentment and paranoia; the resolution exploits more than one skein of the narrative and contains a credible nod toward a real-world individual.
The chief bonus of reading Capital is gaining Lanchester's insight into the diverse ways in which modern Londoners strive to cope with property value insanity, unpredictable employment and evolving multiculturalism (it's a credible Baedeker of current British society). The novel dramatizes the personal side of the high-finance folly Lanchester explained so well in his nonfiction book I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay (2010). As Capital both shows and tells, life in London in the early 21st century is a far broader and more complex picture than bowler hats, brollies and Burberry macs. --Holloway McCandless
Discover: A reportage-style novel that captures the economic and racial diversity of waning-boom London through the residents of a single road.
Master and God
by Lindsey Davis
Lindsey Davis, perhaps best known as the author of the popular Falco series, has written a sweeping standalone novel about the reign of Emperor Domitian in 1st-century Rome, giving voice to some of the more far-flung players in the empire's political drama.
Davis is audacious in crafting the narrative of Master and God, juggling several perspectives (including one memorable chapter told from the point of view of a housefly). She is, however, most successful when focusing on her hero and heroine: Gaius Vinius Clodianus, a disfigured and grudgingly noble Praetorian Guard in the service of the emperor, who finds himself sharing living space with the savvy and independent Flavia Lucilla, hairdresser and occasional confidante to the ladies of Domitian's court. They are brought together on the eve of a devastating fire, and both witness the ensuing violence as Domitian's initially promising rule degenerates into madness.
Davis brings her historical setting to vivid life with language that is engaging, despite occasionally feeling somewhat anachronistic. The scope of the novel is ambitious, but nicely balanced by the intimacy and nuance of the relationship that develops between the main characters. Within this complex and speculative historical novel, Lindsey Davis has created a surprisingly delicate love story. The result is an intricately crafted narrative that will please fans of multiple genres. --Judie Evans, librarian
Discover: An intricate portrait of political mastery and madness in ancient Rome, with a delicate love story at its center.
by Neil Abramson
First-time novelist Neil Abramson is a partner in a Manhattan law firm, married to a veterinarian. He has written a book that centers on a Manhattan lawyer married to a veterinarian. Before you roll your eyes, take pause. Unsaid is told from the point of view of the lawyer's wife, Helena. Who is dead.
Abramson has incorporated a single element of fantasy (the whole work is narrated by Helena's ghost) into a story that otherwise reads very realistically. The technique is effective: Helena has an opinion on matters as the story unfolds and her omniscient presence allows readers to witness different scenes simultaneously.
Helena's brokenhearted husband, David, grieves for his departed wife as he struggles to care for her beloved menagerie of animals, keep his high-powered career and retain his sanity. When a former colleague of Helena's turns to David for help regarding an extremely gifted chimpanzee, it's a pivotal moment that turns the whole story on its ear. David, fueled by the memory of his dead wife's passion for animals, begins a quest to save this unusual chimp from a battery of torturous experiments such as being injected with HIV, operated on without anesthesia and ultimately killed.
Whether or not you've ever had a pet, and regardless of your feelings about animal rights, you'll be fascinated by the insights offered here and moved to tears at the conclusion of this novel. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend
Discover: A tearjerker debut of a novel that examines the relationship between humans and animals and raises absorbing questions about animal rights.
Heading Out to Wonderful
by Robert Goolrick
Robert Goolrick's Heading Out to Wonderful uncovers secrets in a small town in this unforgettable story of lost and displaced souls in search of identity, acceptance and belonging. In 1948, Charlie Beale, an attractive, athletic, 39-year-old loner and World War II veteran, wanders into Brownsburg, Va., a quiet community in the Shenandoah Valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He carries with him only two suitcases--one packed with all of his worldly possessions, including a set of butcher knives, the other stuffed with money. Offered a job by the local butcher, Charlie is befriended by the shop owner's family, including his precocious five-year-old son, Sam (who tells the story, looking back from the perspective of many years). Charlie and the boy instantly bond, but when Charlie's path intersects with Sylvan Glass, the stunning teenage bride of the richest man in town, life for the three main characters will be forever changed by the ache and storm of love.
Charlie longs to put down roots while Sylvan, trapped in a loveless marriage, tries to carve out a persona for herself via images of captivating Hollywood starlets--and Sam, drawn away from his safe and secure familial environment, bears witness to the all-consuming relationship of the star-crossed lovers. Goolrick (A Reliable Wife) masterfully ratchets up the tension, while evocative sensory detail and spiritual overtones infuse the emotional landscape of a powerful, climactic novel that seeks to define and explore the meaning of love and goodness. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: An unforgettable novel about a love affair that rocks a small Virginia town in 1948.
by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
Based on Sophocles' Antigone, The Watch is the story of a fierce firefight at a remote military base in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan. When the sandstorm clears, the attacking Afghans have all been killed, along with two well-liked American soldiers. Before the survivors can recover, a bedraggled figure appears just outside the base's no-cross line. She is Nizam, who has pulled her handcart down the mountain on her war-maimed feet with a shovel and shroud to properly bury her brother, a leader of the attack. From this simple scene, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya (The Gabriel Club) brings each of the key characters to complex life. Their voices, from the stilted British-taught English of the interpreter to the first sergeant's Louisiana swamp-talk, draw their individual histories, paranoia and prejudices out onto the novel's stage. Some American soldiers enlist for lack of options at home, some out of obligation, some out of idealism, some out of vengeance. Likewise, some Afghans reluctantly support the U.S. presence out of hatred for past Taliban atrocities, some for the money, some out of tribal strife. Among them, patient Nizam seems to be there only to bury her brother.
The power of Roy-Bhattacharya's novel is his understanding of all the motivations driving his players. None of their reasons is unreasonable... except as perceived by the other side. Is Nizam a decoy for an explosive ambush? Is the interpreter selfishly controlling the negotiations? Is the American captain holding the dead brother's body for propaganda purposes? And is this whole scenario run by absent American generals, Taliban elders and corrupt Afghan politicians? Perhaps the answer to all is yes. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.
Discover: Roy-Bhattacharya's brutally honest portrayal of a remote Afghan confrontation explores the complexities of America's longest war.
An Unmarked Grave
by Charles Todd
As the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic sweeps through the European trenches, the work of battlefield nurse Bess Crawford (introduced to readers in 2009's A Duty to the Dead) becomes doubly difficult: she must nurse the wounded and care for hundreds of soldiers stricken by the virus. When an orderly shows Bess the body of a murdered man concealed among the influenza victims waiting for burial, Bess plans to investigate, but falls ill before she can do so. By the time she recovers, the soldier is long buried and the orderly who reported the murder is dead, allegedly by his own hand.
Struggling to regain her strength, Bess returns to England, working in a convalescent clinic while using her father's military connections and her own contacts to glean information about the two victims and their killer. Before long, she realizes the killer is still on the loose--and that she is his next target.
Charles Todd uses Bess's father and his far-reaching network to explain improbable plot coincidences throughout An Unmarked Grave, but in the moment, each clue feels necessary, each piece of information vital. The mud-filled trenches, makeshift aid stations and crowded cities of France and coastal England provide a vivid backdrop to Bess's nursing work and her investigations. Fans will enjoy the reappearance of familiar characters such as Bess's parents and her friend Simon Brandon, even as they wonder when Bess will learn to appreciate Simon's talent for coming to her rescue.
Full of historical detail and dark family secrets, An Unmarked Grave is another fascinating installment in the story of a brave, independent heroine. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
Discover: The third installment in the adventures of WWI battlefield nurse Bess Crawford places a series of murders against the backdrop of the influenza epidemic.
Mystery & Thriller
The Skeleton Box: A Starvation Lake Mystery
by Bryan Gruley
Starvation Lake, Bryan Gruley's first book, introduced readers to a small town in Northern Michigan populated by a quirky but likable cast of characters whose passion for ice hockey was matched by a penchant for trouble. It also earned Gruley, a Pulitzer-winning former bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, a nomination for an Edgar for best first novel. The Hanging Tree helped confirm the appeal of protagonist Gus Carpenter, the editor of the local newspaper with a knack for discovering the truth through journalistic instinct.
In The Skeleton Box, the third installment in this series, the residents of Starvation Lake are unsettled by a spate of mysterious break-ins at the homes of several town elders. One of the break-ins leads to the death of the best friend of Gus Carpenter's mother; the victim is also the mother of his ex-girlfriend, Darlene. With the assistance of a new reporter who always seems to be a step ahead, Gus works to uncover the truth behind the burglaries and the murder, but his investigations unearth long-buried secrets that threaten to disquiet the town and disturb his family.
For readers already familiar with the Starvation Lake series, The Skeleton Box will not disappoint, and for those just discovering Gruley's work, it will surely impress.--Roni K. Devlin, owner of Literary Life Bookstore & More
Discover: A string of local break-ins and a murder are linked to long-buried secrets in Bryan Gruley's latest Starvation Lake mystery.
by Conor Fitzgerald
In The Namesake, his third Commissario Alec Blume novel, Conor Fitzgerald delves into the mysterious secrets of the 'Ndrangheta--an organized crime syndicate whose constituent families see it as almost a form of religion.
It all starts simply enough: Blume has been working with magistrate Matteo Arconti to investigate a Roman doctor's "suicide," which quickly leads them to the Megale family--key leaders in one of the branches of the 'Ndrangheta. Then a Milanese insurance adjustor, also named Matteo Arconti, is found dead outside the court buildings where Magistrate Arconti works. Blume and his girlfriend, Inspector Caterina Mattiola, quickly realize the dead Arconti was harmless, his murder a warning to the magistrate from the 'Ndrangheta.
The violent message assures Blume he and Arconti were on the right track in their investigation, so he sets out on his own to try and get to the Megale family and their burgeoning crime network in Germany. Caterina is furious at his maverick techniques, and his collaboration with the federal anti-Mafia forces, certain Blume is putting his own life at risk.
Blume's arrogance and stubbornness make him frustrating to both his fellow law enforcement agents and the criminals trying to thwart him. Fitzgerald's writing brings a realistic immediacy to Blume's complicated character, making the reader root for him to win despite his many flaws. The Namesake is both a gripping mystery and a fascinating look at organized crime in contemporary Italy. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm
Discover: A Roman police commissioner stubbornly investigates a lethal and well-organized modern Mafia, no matter the risks.
Food & Wine
People's Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn's Coolest Pop Shop
by Joel Horowitz , David Carrell , Nathalie Jordi
When Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell and Joel Horowitz decided to sell ice pops made from local, sustainable produce at a food market in New York City, they had no intention of reinventing the well-loved American treat. But soon their humble flea market stand grew into an enterprise with both permanent and pop-up shops, sales to Whole Foods and a host of wonderful ice pop recipes under their belt. The logical next step was to share the recipes with the world, and so began People's Pops, a collection of 55 recipes for ice pops, shave ice and boozy pops--and a celebration of "those refreshing little nuggets of fruit and sugar and ice, crystallized summer."
These are not your standard single-fruit-flavored ice pops, however, but seasonal creations of DIY delight. The authors begin with the basics, giving readers an overview of "pop-making fundamentals," ranging from advice on picking the best fruit (they recommend slightly overripe local produce) to the beauties of infused simple syrups and the trick to incorporating booze in pops and still winding up with a frozen product. Then, and only then, do they launch into their inspired and creative flavor combinations, organized into chapters by season. For a refreshing spring pop, try Cucumber, Elderflower and Tequila; for a summer treat, look to Roasted Nectarine and Basil; and when autumn rolls around, celebrate the last of the fresh produce with Apple and Salted Caramel. The unusual and inventive recipes in People's Pops are sure to inspire the kid in everyone to enjoy a bit of "crystallized summer" once again. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
Discover: Fifty-five unique and inspired ice pop recipes from the brains behind Brooklyn's coolest pop shop.
Current Events & Issues
Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution
by Linda Hirshman
When Barack Obama spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage last month, it was seen by many as a capstone of several years of stunning gains in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights across the U.S. But with anti-gay laws still on the books and no cessation in hate crimes, is it really time to declare Victory? Linda Hirshman may not fully convince readers the battle has been won, but her inclusive and fascinating history of "the triumphant gay revolution" is an excellent primer in what has been accomplished so far.
Hirshman is no stranger to audacious declarations--Get to Work (2006) drew sharp criticism for chastising stay-at-home moms--but this time, she's in full cheerleader mode, ferreting out brave heroes from the darkest days of gay oppression as well as hitting all the requisite subjects (Stonewall, Harvey Milk, ACT-UP, Matthew Shepard) for a popular history of gay rights. Her research and interviews bring forth many provocative ideas ripe for debate. Did the AIDS crisis and the panic that ensued slow the gains of the 1970s, or did the image of the martyred victims finally humanize gay males to the general public? Has the focus on same-sex marriage silenced the more outrageous, non-conforming voices in the movement? These issues, like her titular declaration, are likely to stir passionate debate; hopefully, the value of this sweeping and affectionate history won't be lost in the noise. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic
Discover: An inclusive, fascinating history of the gay rights movement that provides fertile grounds for passionate debate.
Children's & Young Adult
Bink & Gollie: Two for One
by Kate DiCamillo , Alison McGhee , illus. by Tony Fucile
"Tell Madame Prunely what it is you seek."
"Truth," said Gollie.
"Food," said Bink.
Odd-couple friends, short Bink and tall Gollie, charmed readers from the start. Series debut Bink and Gollie won the 2010 Theodor Geisel award. This three-vignette companion book takes the endearing pair to the state fair with all its dubious attractions, including the possibility of winning "the world's largest donut."
The humor of Newbery author Kate DiCamillo (The Tale of Despereaux) and Someday author Alison McGhee ranges from the unapologetically slapstick to the dryly understated. Bink and Gollie stand back to back on a city street, examining the State Fair posters that slather every available surface. Bink says, "Gollie, do you think we should go to the state fair?"
Finding Nemo animator Tony Fucile's cinematic, Jules Feiffer-like cartoonscapes effervesce with personality and contrast black-and-white with color to masterful effect. When Gollie gets stage fright at the talent show, she's a dwarfed spot of color at the end of a long b&w stretch of expectant onlookers. As color-splashed Bink and Gollie stand outside the green-cloaked Madame Prunely's fortune-telling tent (two for one special!), the wide-angle, shades-of-gray view of the state fair looks as atmospheric and emotionally charged as a David Lynch film. Bink's more impulsive, expressive self pulses with motion lines, kinetic hair and flamboyant gestures. Gollie is tidier and more contained in every possible way.
Vivacious design, winning illustrations and funny, fresh dialogue waltz harmoniously in this charming tribute to a friendship. --Karin Snelson, Seattle children's book editor
Discover: Another charismatic celebration of friendship from the creators of the 2010 Theodor Geisel winner Bink and Gollie.
A Midsummer's Nightmare
by Kody Keplinger
A Midsummer's Nightmare packs in a summer's worth of page-turning drama, the third smartly written book by Kody Keplinger (The DUFF (The Designated Ugly Fat Friend); Shut Out).
Narrator Whitley Johnson wakes up the morning after her high school graduation in a stranger's bed with her worst hangover ever. The stranger is sweet, and he asks Whitley for her number, but she dismisses the previous night as another "drunken hookup," believing she just wouldn't make a good girlfriend. Whitley packs for a summer at her TV anchorman father's condo by Kentucky Lake, away from her mother's endless tirades about his poor life choices and casual relationships. Whitley anticipates a summer of mixed drinks and advice for college from her father. Instead, she learns that he's moved to Hamilton, Ill., to lead a life better suited for his age with his new fiancée, Sylvia, and her kids, 13-year-old daughter Bailey, and her son, Nathan--the stranger from the graduation party.
Keplinger's novel explores an unorthodox relationship between almost stepsiblings through the eyes of a teen whose temperament and witticisms bring to mind Samantha Kingston from Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall--hard to love with potential for redemption. Whitley exhibits loner behavior--"friends are a waste of time"--but can reject social overtures only for so long if she's to turn this nightmarish summer around and discover her true worth. --Adam Silvera, assistant, Books of Wonder, New York
Discover: Wild child Whitley's recklessness threatens to escalate if she doesn't bury her anger and resolve her issues.
by Emmy Laybourne
Emmy Laybourne's debut novel begins at a breakneck pace and rarely lets up, as 14 students try to survive a series of cataclysmic events while trapped--or safely sequestered, depending on how one looks at it--inside a Greenway superstore in Monument, Colo.
Caught in an epic hailstorm, a schoolbus driver steers her vehicle through the glass doors of a superstore in order to keep her passengers safe. Laybourne constructs the novel as a journal written by 11th-grader Dean Grieder, whose younger brother also makes it to safety. Dean's keen perceptions quickly orient readers to the cast of characters, among them: Jake, the star quarterback; Brayden, his hothead teammate; a champion diver who's the apple of Jake's eye, as well as Dean's; and Niko, whom they call "Brave Hunter Man." Most of the action plays out among the high school kids, but Laybourne gives each character--including the young children with them--distinct personalities.
Laybourne gets the dynamics of a group trapped together just right. Love triangles emerge, Niko and Jake vie for the leadership role, and Dean embodies the conflicting impulses of wanting to stay present and alive and also wishing to check out by raiding the store's alcohol and pharmaceutical supplies. Laybourne's realistic depictions of the psychologies of her characters and the gamut of emotions that come into play in such extreme circumstances place this a cut above most entries in the dystopic genre. Readers will hope for many more from this talented author. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Fourteen students forced to take refuge in a superstore after a mega-tsunami triggers a leak of chemical weapons.