Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, August 9, 2011


HarperCollins: Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern

From My Shelf

W. W. Norton & Company: Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson

Algonquin Books: Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

My Summer Reading Recommendations--Fiction Edition

Last week I wrote about word-of-mouth recommendations, and I've received many responses that I'm gathering up to share with you soon. But while I tally those, I thought I'd do some word-of-mouth recommending of my own.

My fellow book critics, bloggers and editors are, like me, elbow deep in fall galleys right now, but that doesn't do you any good when you're trying to fill a beach tote or top up your own "to be read" stack. Here's a list of my favorite novels that are out now, so you can plan some August library and bookstore choices. I've put these in alphabetical order by author surname because that is simply the only fair way to list them.

Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell: A modern, female take on Huck Finn.

The Astral by Kate Christensen: A man's midlife crisis gets him out of a rut.

The Last Werewolf by Glenn Duncan: Smart, sexy creature-rific fun.

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson: An utterly different take on the 1980s

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman: A Ghanaian boy's life in the London projects.

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante: A narrator with Alzheimer's involved in a murder.

A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano: Flannery O'Connor flirts with a married man.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: Passion and plotting in the Amazon rain forest.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: Manhattan in the 1930s is both glitzy--and sad.

Zazen by Vanessa Veselka: In a dystopian America, a young woman lives and loves.

Happy reading!


Indiana University Press: What My Last Man Did by Andrea Lewis


Bookselling News

RIP: Nancy Wake, Holocaust Heroine & Novel's Inspiration

She once killed an SS guard with her bare hands--but off duty, the "White Mouse" of the Resistance movement, Nancy Wake, always wore lipstick and a glamorous coiffure.

Wake died on Sunday at age 98 in a London hospital. Nancy Wake left her native Australia as a teenager, and wound up in France married to a wealthy industrialist, Henri Fiocca.

She chose to become a courier for the French Resistance in the early days of World War II, and when notified that the Gestapo was coming to arrest her, kissed her husband goodbye (she would never see him again; he was arrested, tortured and killed, but never gave her up to the Nazis) and made her way to London where she volunteered for the Special Operations Executive, a clandestine body formed by Churchill to train agents in guerrilla warfare against the Nazis and to bolster local resistance groups in occupied France. On the night of April 29, 1944, Wake was parachuted into the Auvergne region, where she coordinated a 7,000-strong resistance group and headed successful attacks on German forces in the area.

Nancy Wake's story inspired novelist Sebastian Faulks's 1999 Charlotte Gray; later, that book's film adaptation featured Cate Blanchett as Wake. Read more of Nancy Wake's remarkable obituary in the Guardian.

Titan Books: Relics by Tim Lebbon


McQueen Book Is King

Congratulations to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose retrospective of work by the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen drew huge crowds--nearly 600,000 people saw the show since it opened May 4--as well as all kinds of attention for the exhibition catalogue. The museum sold more than 100,000 copies of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton with contributions from Susannah Frankel and Tim Blanks at the show alone. (Distributed by Yale University Press, the $45 tome has more than 150,000 copies in print.) Elsewhere, the book has shown similar sales swagger: it has spent many weeks in the top 100 at Amazon and has been #1 in the online retailer's Arts and Photography category for much of the time since pub date. The book even warranted a mention in Sunday's New York Times Book Review's Inside the List column, a rare achievement for a museum exhibition catalogue.

After being extended by a week and after galleries remained open until midnight this past weekend--an unprecedented if fashionably late gesture--the exhibition closed yesterday. Still, for those still wanting to view McQueen's fashion creations, the book shines on. 


Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat


Book Candy: Literary Real Estate

They say truth is stranger than fiction--but sometimes truth inspires fiction, as is the case with these 10 venues that actually exist (or, in the case of the Sands Point, N.Y., mansion that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald, existed--the house has been demolished). Some are instantly familiar and recognizable, like Robert Frost's New Hampshire "Mending Wall," a low, humble stone fence, while others are surprising, like the Italian cliffhanging city of Narni, which inspired C.S. Lewis's magical land of Narnia. However, with any of these famed places, we're sure that the most surprising thing about them would be... their price tags.


Yearling Books: Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar


Great Reads

Further Reading: This Beautiful Life

Helen Schulman's This Beautiful Life is a moving novel about how the events of a single night change a family forever. When 15-year-old Jake Bergamot becomes the catalyst for a younger schoolmate's sexually explicit video going viral, the choices he makes affect the choices that his parents make--and soon the carefully constructed "beautiful life" that the Bergamots have constructed is in disarray (there's a house of cards on the book jacket in case you need any clues about the outcome).

While Schulman's book is about the events of a single night, it doesn't take place entirely in that night. No wonder! The "single day" scenario isn't an easy one to pull off with panache. Three other books that use the conceit in different ways:

 

Saturday by Ian McEwan takes place in London on February 15, 2003--a post 9/11 day whose ordinariness has been forever shifted by global terror. A middle-aged neurosurgeon named Henry Perowne is woken before dawn by the sight of a fiery plane heading towards Heathrow Airport. While Henry's thoughts turn to terrorism, the events of his day show that the unease affecting First World countries can be more damaging in some ways than death and destruction.

 

One Day by David Nicholls might be a cheat--because while the action is confined to one day, it unfolds on that same day over a number of years. However, we're including it here because it is a clever and different way of looking at how 24 hours unfolds for humans. Dex and Emma meet at university in 1988, and over the ensuing 20 years we see them each July 15--sometimes together, sometimes not. No spoilers, here, but there is a major motion picture out in theaters now....

 

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf is a dreamy novel about the morning-to-evening 1920s London peregrinations of an upperclass chatelaine preparing for a dinner party. Clarissa Dalloway begins the day gazing at a skywriting plane--a scene that McEwan paid homage to in the aforementioned Saturday. If that novel primarily deals with world events through the lens of one man's actions, Woolf's deals with gender roles and the post-World War I Western world's new landscape.


HarperCollins: Curiosity House: The Fearsome Firebird (Curiosity House #3) by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester


The Writer's Life

Portrait of the Artist: Deborah Lawrenson

Deborah Lawrenson would like to correct a few misconceptions about her newly released novel, The Lantern (Harper).

"I know the book has been seen as a gothic thriller," Lawrenson said, speaking from her second home in France's Luberon, the region of Provence in which this book takes place. "It's not a thriller. It's far too slow!"

Lawrenson described her latest book, which concerns a British husband and wife living in relative expatriate isolation: "It's much more subtle than that. I might call it 'romantic suspense,' except that I think of it more as psychological suspense. It's slower than a thriller, dreamier than a thriller, and also more realistic. I feel a bit worried that people will expect full-throttle murder and ghosts and such--and that's not my book!"

Characters Eve and Dom are reserved, and are hiding feelings and worries from each other. Their French home is full of sensory pleasures, from scents to tastes to textures, yet Eve becomes increasingly worried that Dom is keeping terrible secrets from her. Lawrenson's inspiration? The classic tale Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, in which another young wife turns suspicious of her older, troubled husband.

"It's a great story, one that almost puts fingers in the mind. I've read it five or six times since I was a teenager," Lawrenson said. " What appeals to me is the quality of the writing. Du Maurier starts dreamily and then allows her plot to unfold. Not only does that appeal to me; it's something I quite happily lapse into myself."

Another element that The Lantern shares with Rebecca is a different sort of heroine. "Some people think Eve isn't a very modern heroine because she's so trusting in her marriage to a man whose history is somewhat obscure, who whisks her away to such a remote place. But I don't think of Eve as docile and subservient. There are women--men, too, but particularly women, I think--who find themselves in a situation like this and don't move on from it. "

Lawerenson says that the key to Eve's situation is that she's a bookworm. "She's not nearly as confident as she pretended to be when she took up with Dom. She's borrowed a certain amount of sophistication and she can't believe her luck in snagging such a handsome, accomplished man--but she doesn't have the experience, in the end, to confront him about his past."

This disconnect between spouses is, Lawrenson maintains, what brings her novel back to Rebecca. "What does Eve do when she feels slightly adrift? She retreats into her comfort zone, her books. The secondhand gothic overtones in her favorite books, from du Maurier to the Brontes, forms another kind of haunting. It skews her thinking about what is really going on. Like Rebecca, the emotional power that books have over Eve is the kind of effect that these books have had on millions of women."

Deborah Lawrenson's name is new to American readers, but she's published four novels in her native England, where she worked as a journalist. "When I started writing, I fell into the trap of writing about 'what you know,' and pushed out two funny, lightly satirical books about working on newspapers."

Unfortunately, while those two books did fairly well, the author's third, a "black comedy," didn't. "It was a combo of its not being a great book and my publishers being sold and the new owners dropping half of the list." Lawrenson laughed heartily. "I think they probably would have sold more copies if they'd simply dropped a couple of cases of the book from the top of Random House!"

"The first three books would have been better off in a drawer, but I learned how to write a book," Lawrenson said. "It just wasn't the kind of book I wanted to write! Finally, I sat down to write that book--and couldn't get my agent or any other to sell it. They couldn't figure out if it were a commercial book or a literary book. Finally, I got so cross I published it myself."

Lawrenson did a very good job with The Art of Falling--so good that Random House bought the rights and sold it well, which led to the deal for The Lantern here in the U.S. However, she wants anyone with authorly ambitions to hear her words on another misconception: that of instant success through self-publishing.

"There was a big difference with my own self-publishing efforts, you see," she explained. "I had been published three times already, and I knew in my heart that the book I self-published was a better book than those first three. I knew what to do. There's a great deal of information out there, but there's still no substitute for experience." --Bethanne Patrick

 

 


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Greatest Story Ever Told--So Far: Why Are We Here? by Lawrence M. Krauss 03.21.17


Literary Lists

Women's Fiction Favorites

For the Seattle Times Lit Life summer reads series, Seattle Public Library reader services librarian Linda Johns recommended her women's fiction favorites, noting that one of her "favorite kinds of stories (and a favorite part of life) is the geography of friendship, where unexpected circumstances and simple proximity forge some of the strongest relationships imaginable



Mixed Media

Hunger Games Sequel Release Date Set

Lionsgate will release Catching Fire, its adaptation of the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, on November 22, 2013, Variety reported.

"The magical thing about the Hunger Games trilogy is that the books have such a vastly broad appeal," said Joe Drake, co-COO of Lionsgate and president of its Motion Picture Group. "The stories truly offer something for everyone, and the period around the Thanksgiving weekend is such an opportunity for families and friends to make an event of going to the movies."

The Hunger Games, the initial film in the series directed by Gary Ross, will be released on March 23, 2012.


Book Review

Fiction

Becoming Marie Antoinette

by Juliet Grey


Becoming Marie Antoinette, Juliet Grey's debut novel, recounts Maria Antonia's transformation from youngest archduchess of Austria into Marie Antoinette, dauphine of France. Grey tells the story from the perspective of Marie Antoinette herself, capturing the innocent and anxious voice of a young child in Austria, and developing it along with the character into a teenaged girl about to become one of the most powerful women in the world.

Grey's novel is grounded in the era, and the extensive research shines through on its pages. From interesting tidbits about life at Versailles (nobles relieved themselves in the halls) to rich and vivid descriptions of the court life, clothing and styling of the French royalty in the 18th century, Grey is diligent in representing this rarified world. She also shows us Maria Antonia's step-by-step makeover into a queenly figure, which included 18th-century orthodontia, careful recording of bodily functions and strict language instruction.

Though certainly not an original subject--histories and novels about the doomed queen abound--Grey has taken a well-known story and breathed life into it. The first in a planned trilogy, Becoming Marie Antoinette sets up both the history and personality of this intriguing figure in a suitably elaborate and extravagant manner. Lovers of this era will delight in the detail to be found here and look forward to more from Grey on the next chapters of Marie Antoinette's short but captivating life. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A lusciously detailed novel of Marie Antoinette's rise to power and the decadent, extravagant lifestyles of 18th-century Versailles.

Ballantine, $15, trade paper, 9780345523860

The Hangman's Daughter

by Oliver Potzsch, trans. by Lee Chadeayne


This book takes readers to a grim time in history--16th-century Germany, where ignorance and fear led to many witch burnings. Hangman Jacob Kuisl, is one of the few who doesn't believe in witches; however, his job--an inherited position--requires a keen knowledge of herbs and techniques to cause as well as relieve pain, because he's also the town torturer and executioner. A man of contemporary sensibilities, he has taught his daughter, Magdalena, to read, and drinks himself comatose several days before every execution.

Three boys of an orphan gang are found murdered, each with a crude tattoo of what must be a witch's mark on their backs. The boys used to visit kind Martha Stechlin, the town midwife. Martha is jailed and will be tortured to make her confess to evil and name her confederates, because witches always work with other witches. In fact, some 70 years earlier, a local witch craze brought some 60 women to their deaths. Other disturbing events--the burning of a warehouse and the destruction of a new leper house--are attributed to the incarcerated Martha.

Martha's immediate burning would be more than a convenient political expediency for the town's aldermen--it would solve everything. That they know she is innocent is beside the point.

This work seamlessly merges brutality and compassion, and its elegant plot, appealing characters and satisfying conclusion will keep the reader wide awake and turning pages well into the night. --Judith Hawkins-Tillirson, proprietress, Wyrdhoard Books, and blogger at Still Working for Books

Discover: Sympathetic characters and elegant plotting will draw the reader into the world of this novel set in 16th-century Germany and keep the pages turning well into the night.

Mariner , $18, trade paper, 9780547745015

The Magician King

by Lev Grossman


In The Magician King  Lev Grossman delivers the sequel that his 2009 novel The Magicians practically demanded, and delivers it with verve. This new book takes up the story of Quentin Coldwater two years into his reign as one of the rulers of the land of Fillory, the fictional kingdom summoned so vividly to life in The Magicians.

King Quentin embarks on a journey to the farthest reaches of his realm and finds himself consumed by a sometimes perilous quest ranging across the "multiverse" (including some unexpected, unsettling trips back to Earth) to find the Seven Golden Keys he must gather to save Fillory from ruin. Grossman ably draws on the same store of fantasy lore, from Narnia to Middle Earth, that formed the core of the first novel, and he leavens the homage with winks in the direction of pop culture icons like Monty Python and Bruce Willis.

The parallel, and more absorbing, plotline of Grossman's novel tells the story of Julia, Quentin's high school friend who failed the entrance exam to Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy years earlier. Through painstaking effort in a series of "safe houses" (reminiscent of crack houses), inhabited by a bizarre assortment of would-be magicians, she cobbles together the tools she needs to perform the magic Quentin had acquired in the "safe orderly system of Brakebills." Grossman manages to infuse the story with provocative explorations of the nature of heroism, the presence of magic in the "real" world and the eternal human quest for happiness and fulfillment.

In a recent Wall Street Journal profile on authors of literary fiction who've turned to fantasy and science fiction, Grossman asserted, "We are the mainstream. Literary fiction is a subculture." While that point is open to debate, if he and his colleagues keep turning out novels of this quality they'll doubtless attract a new cadre of avid readers. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: In a sequel to The Magicians, Quentin Coldwater and his Brakebills compatriots return to the land of Fillory for a daring quest.

Viking, $26.95, hardcover, 9780670022311

Chike and the River

by Chinua Achebe


More than 40 years ago, when Chinua Achebe's daughter started preschool in Nigeria, the internationally famous author of Things Fall Apart discovered that all the school texts for African children were written by Westerners. To right this imbalance, Achebe created Chike and the River, first published as a pamphlet in 1966, the story of a Nigerian boy who overcomes fear and poverty to cross the mighty Niger.

Eleven-year-old Chike leaves his small Nigerian village to live with his uncle in the larger town of Onitsha on the banks of the Niger River. Despite his mother's warnings about the river, Chike longs to cross it in a ferry, but doesn't have a shilling to buy a round-trip fare. The plot unfolds through one mishap after another, as every plan to secure the money fails him. Accompanied by two school friends, bad boy Ezekiel and good boy Samuel, Chike avoids stealing and deceit, but when he finds a six-pence--half the fare--his hopes are dashed when he's cheated by the local magician, Professor Chandus.

Chike succeeds in crossing the river, only to find that he's missed the last ferry home and is trapped on the other side. Too late he discovers that the lorry where he's hiding is being used by small-time thieves to commit a robbery, and finds himself in the dangerous position of being the only witness to a crime.

Winner of the 2007 Man Booker International Prize, Achebe has a lean style to his prose, and the novel works just as well for adults as for children. Chike is a perfect little Everyman in his struggles. Without a single slip, this succinct reading delight is a slice of life that depicts hardship realistically as a likable young Nigerian boy learns the tough lessons of life and graduates with honors. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle

Discover: A Nigerian boy struggles to cross the Niger River in this gripping and appealing 1966 tale for both middle readers and adults by the author of Things Fall Apart.

Anchor Books, $10, trade paper, 9780307473868

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari

by Fabio Geda, trans. by Howard Curtis


When Enaiatollah Akbari was 10 years old, on the night his mother was forced to abandon him in Pakistan, she made him promise her three things: that he would never do drugs, never raise a weapon against another human being and never steal. The harrowing adventures that follow in this superb little novel are based on the true story Enaiat told to author Fabio Geda in Turin at the end of his perilous, five-year odyssey through Iran, Turkey and Greece, all the way to Italy.

The novel opens in Quetta, Pakistan, where his mother is forced to leave Enaiat in a crowded warehouse of people waiting for traffickers to help them emigrate. He and his mother fled their village when it fell under Taliban control. Enaiat's life-and-death adventures are narrated in a matter-of-fact, childlike way, without being cloying or sensational. He goes from working for a hostel keeper to braving the bazaar working for a shoe seller, and is rescued from a group of Pashtun boys who steal from him by a group of Hazara youths who become his allies and friends.

Determined to keep his three promises to his mother, young Enaiat manages to survive. He crosses treacherous mountains and endures a three-day journey packed with 50 other children into a truck bed's secret false bottom, sealed in total darkness. He's shuttled from crowded warehouses to underground garages jammed with illegals, chased by wild boars, and forced to cross the turbulent sea from Turkey to Greece with four other boys in a dinghy with a hole in it. He stows away on a Greek freighter for three days without food or water to arrive finally in Italy, the land where, at last, people treat him kindly. --Nick DiMartino, Nick’s Picks, University Book Store, Seattle

Discover: A gripping novelization of 10-year-old Enaiatollah Akbari's five-year odyssey from Afghanistan through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Greece to freedom and a new life in Italy.

Doubleday, $22.95, hardcover, 9780385534734

Mystery & Thriller

The Accident

by Linwood Barclay


When Glen Garber's wife, Sheila, is killed in a drunk driving accident, he's shocked and disbelieving when he learns that she was the drunk driver. Suddenly a single father, he struggles to reconcile Sheila's final act with what he knew of her, but things just keep getting stranger. One of Sheila's best friends is killed in another bizarre accident right after yelling at Glen's eight-year-old daughter, Kelly, for overhearing a phone call.

The intrigue mounts. Glen receives threats and inexplicable instructions from Sheila's friends; someone shoots out Kelly's window; and a sinister figure with ties to organized crime pays a visit to the Garber household. Glen's contracting business, already in financial trouble, may be on its way to becoming another victim. The background and setting are über-current, with small-town families struggling to survive a recession, tricky sub-prime mortgages and home foreclosures. Unsure of the local police department, Glen is forced to undertake his own investigations. Is someone trying to destroy his business? What questionable sideline dealing was Sheila involved in? And who or what, exactly, killed her?

Glen, a competent builder but a decidedly amateur investigator, is most importantly a loving father. After all the dust settles, this heart-pounding thriller is surprising family-oriented. Barclay's (Never Look Away) fast-paced, twisting plot keeps the reader guessing at who the good guys and the bad guys are. Allegiances shift. Glen isn't sure who can be trusted; and while we stay a step ahead of him, the ending still comes with a shocking crash. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pages of julia

Discover: A relentlessly paced thriller in which a man has to turn detective to protect his little girl and determine the truth behind his wife's death.

Bantam, $25, hardcover, 9780553807189

Dominance

by Will Lavender


Alex Shipley is a professor at Harvard when she's summoned back to her alma mater, Jasper College, for a murder investigation. In 1982, Alex took a special class taught by Professor Richard Aldiss--via video feed from his prison cell. Aldiss had been convicted of the murders of two female grad students, women whose bodies were found bloodied by axe blows and covered with novels by a reclusive writer named Paul Fallows. In his class, Aldiss hopes that his students will solve the murders and clear his name.

The only way to do this is by using Fallows's two published novels and to master a mysterious game called "the Procedure"--which you can't master until you've been invited to play. Through Alex's investigations in the course of the class, she cleared Aldiss of murder. But now there's been another murder; could Aldiss have actually been guilty?

Will Lavender (Obedience) unfolds his puzzling thriller by shifting between 1994 and the present, telling the story through the limited third-person perspective of Alex Shipley. By alternating the time periods, Lavender builds the suspense, creating cliffhangers and then switching back to the opposite time. He provides just enough information to lead the reader to the edge of the cliff and then throws in a twist.

By using Alex's perspective, Lavender creates a tone of uncertainty. Alex believes her professor is innocent, but so much evidence points to the contrary. Her internal conflict increases the plot's intensity. Alex poses the question to her classmate, "What if you could read a book and treat it as a competition between you and its author?" Lavender is challenging his readers with Dominance; can you defeat the master? --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A literary game as addictive as any Vegas poker table; you won't be able to stop reading once you start.

Simon & Schuster, $25, hardcover, 9781451617290

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Conan the Barbarian

by Michael A. Stackpole


When a novel's cover features the protagonist standing bare-chested atop a mountain of skulls, sword in hand, you have a pretty good idea of what it's going to deliver, and Michael A. Stackpole's adaptation of the screenplay for the upcoming Conan the Barbarian film lives up to its promise. The story--which has broad similarities to the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, but is not a remake--begins with young Conan receiving his first training in the ways of the warrior from his father, until the day an evil warlord, Khalar Zym, comes to their village to steal an ancient artifact and kills his father. Years pass, and the young Cimmerian's desire for vengeance never cools; finally, an opportunity presents itself--along with a young woman who must be protected to thwart Khalar Zym's sorcerous schemes.

Stackpole works off the film's storyline and uses the descriptive passages to add tonal gradations to the characters, emphasizing elements like the young Conan's impatience to become a fighter or the perverse motivations of Khalar Zym's daughter, Marique. His version of the barbarian resonates well with Robert E. Howard's original conception of a cannily intelligent adventurer who could be grimly determined when pressed by circumstance. At the same time, his own voice has been well honed by years of writing epic fantasies (as well as media tie-ins for BattleTech and Star Wars), so this is no slavish imitation of Howard. If you didn't know there was a movie coming out, you could even welcome Stackpole's novel as a literary rebooting of the Conan franchise. (And who's to say we won't see some print-only sequels, at that?) --Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com

Discover: Michael Stackpole's approach to the classic fantasy character doesn't mess with what ain't broken.

Berkley Boulevard, $7.99, mass market, 9780425242063

Romance

Wicked in Your Arms

by Sophie Jordan


In her latest, novelist Sophie Jordan (Firelight) introduces us to Grier Hadley, the illegitimate daughter of a London reprobate. Having made an obscenely large fortune through his various disreputable activities, Mr. Hadley decides it is time to purchase a bit of respectability through an advantageous marriage for his daughter. While doing her rounds on the Regency "marriage mart," Grier meets, and instantly clashes with, Sevastian Maksimi, the crown prince of a small European country who is in search of a highly pedigreed bride. Their attraction is immediate, intense and incredibly inconvenient, as neither is in any way what the other is looking for.

Relying on a standard plot of romantic literature, Jordan's novel could easily have come across as hackneyed and trite, but she breathes new life into the cliché through her personable and engaging main characters. The hero of the novel, despite being the quintessential fairytale prince, feels like a real person rather than just a collection of attractive qualities. Grier veers between grudging vulnerability and a refreshingly radical eccentricity.

Though she does employ a slightly jarring climax to tie off the emotional loose ends of the story, Jordan has imbued her work with a bracing touch of maturity. The relationship between Grier and her father, whom she simultaneously disdains and wants desperately to please, is particularly well drawn. Fans of Sophie Jordan, and of romance in general, will find Wicked in Your Arms to be a worthy addition to any collection. --Judie Evans, librarian

Discover: A Regency romance that blends the enchantment of a fairy tale with grown-up emotional sensibilities.

Avon, $7.99, mass market, 9780062032997

Nonfiction

Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children

by Joel Bakan


Every parent--and consumer--should read Bakan's work, which not only aims to protect children, but illuminates what "accountability" means in the U.S.

Bakan, who holds law degrees from Oxford and Harvard and wrote The Corporation, examines how the deregulation of industries as varied as pharmaceuticals, fast food, video games and environmental health has allowed "corporations... to incite and diminish fears in ways that serve their own purposes.... parents are systematically misinformed, and our fears channeled to serve the interests of... corporations rather than those of our children" Bakan explains how marketing aimed at kids has led to addictions to pet sites and video games, the current obesity epidemic, and exposure to BPA and other chemicals that are particularly hazardous for developing bodies.

While Bakan's assertions are well-documented (he includes 85 pages of end notes), he believes we should never discount our own intuition to guide our decisions. Since "watch dogs" are dependent on the industries they monitor, he reminds us also to use common sense to guide our purchases. For example, the gaming industry may refuse to admit responsibility for an increase in school violence, but what benefit results from young, developing minds spending hours killing and mutilating humanlike avatars?

However, Bakan does not simply require his readers to rely on common sense; he provides a compelling, well-documented study into the ramifications of allowing corporations to dictate the nutrition, entertainment, education and medications our children are led to believe they "need." --Kristen Galles, blogger at Book Club Classics

Discover: A chilling study of how unregulated corporations profit from children's vulnerability.

Free Press, $26, hardcover, 9781439121207

Children's & Young Adult

Queen of Hearts

by Martha Brooks


What if you contracted tuberculosis and there was no easy cure? Martha Brooks (Mistik Lake) tells the story of one feisty teenager, Marie-Claire, who, along with her brother and sister, is unwittingly exposed to TB by a favorite uncle, and must move to a nearby sanitarium for treatment. Set during World War II and based in part on the author's experience growing up on the grounds of a TB sanitarium in Canada, Queen of Hearts paints a vivid portrait of life in such a facility before the discovery of penicillin, when "chasing the cure" meant bed rest and more bed rest.

This is not the kind of existence a girl imagines for herself when she has just attended her first dance, met a soldier leaving to fight in the war, and experienced her first kiss. Even worse, Marie-Claire and her siblings must separate, and her brother Luc's condition deteriorates quickly. Marie-Claire writes notes to her brother, and receives answers from his roommate, the young musician Jack Hawkings, also a patient in the sanitarium, for whom she develops feelings.

Marie-Claire has a tough time adjusting to life in the facility. Visitors are few, as most outsiders, including her mother, stay away. But TB or not, Marie-Claire must learn to grow up. And like most teenagers, she is curious about life and love. Is there life after TB? Is there love? From the very first page, Martha Brooks draws us into her narrative. Rich in sensory details, every word adds to this compelling picture of life on the Canada prairie. --Lynn Becker, host of the monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI, Book Talk.

Discover: A compelling picture of life on the Canada prairie during WWII, with a teenage heroine coming of age in a tuberculosis sanitarium.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.99, Hardcover, ages 12-up, 9780374342296

Between

by Jessica Warman


Jessica Warman touches on themes from her Breathless and Where the Truth Lies in a novel that powerfully explores how privilege and athleticism masked the deeper demons plaguing Elizabeth Valchar. Part mystery, part psychological study, the book begins with a bomb blast: by the end of chapter one, we learn that Liz has just turned 18, that she celebrated with six friends (including her best friend and stepsister, Josie) on her parents' boat, and that the birthday girl wound up dead in the water. Literally. And Liz narrates the story.

Another classmate, Alex Berg, who died a year earlier, joins Liz on the dock. He tells Liz that he believes they are in this purgatory-like state because they're "supposed to... gain some kind of deeper understanding." Liz was in the popular crowd, with lots of money but little love; her mother died when she was nine of complications related to anorexia, and her father married Josie's mother just months later. Alex grew up with little money but surrounded by love and faith. Why are these two thrown together?

Warman spins a spellbinding web of intrigue while simultaneously delivering searing insights about life in high school and the cruelty and negligence that often accompany a sense of entitlement. Like Samantha Kingston in Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall, Liz must confront some hard truths about herself before she can find peace. Just try to put this book down. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A spellbinding story of 18-year-old gorgeous and popular Liz Valchar who must solve the mystery of what led to her death.

Walker & Co., $17.99, hardcover, ages 12-up, 9780802721822

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Kids Buzz

Star-Crossed

by Barbara Dee

Dear Reader,

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STAR-CROSSED is a gentle comedy about a girl crushing on the girl playing Juliet.  Kirkus Reviews calls STAR-CROSSED "a sweet story of young love amid middle school theatrics."

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Happy reading!

Barbara Dee

 

Buy this book

KidsBuzz: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

PUBLISHER: Aladdin

PUB DATE: March 14, 2017

AGE RANGE: 9 to 13

TYPE OF BOOK: Middle Grade Fiction

ISBN: 9781481478489

PRICE: $16.99

 

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