Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, March 8, 2013


From My Shelf

Tarcherperigee: The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children by Emma Johnson

Tarcherperigee: Elements of Taste: Understanding What We Like and Why by Benjamin Errett

C.S. Lewis and the Inklings

A half century after his death, C.S. Lewis remains widely read and frequently quoted. The recent film productions of three books in his Chronicles of Narnia series have introduced a new generation of fans to the Pevensie children, the White Witch and Aslan, the powerful Lion of Narnia.

British theologian Alister McGrath has written a new, compelling biography of Lewis (reviewed below) that includes a slight rearrangement of the timeline of Lewis's conversion to Christianity, based on his extensive research. While this point is of greatest interest to Lewis scholars, the book offers much for the lay reader of Lewis's work. McGrath presents a fascinating look at a man who embodied deep contradictions, and whose fame as a writer of popular books made him friends as well as enemies in academia.

Lewis's most famous friend was J.R.R. Tolkien, who joined forces with Lewis to found the group known as "The Inklings." Humphrey Carpenter brilliantly captures Tolkien's spirit in his meticulously researched study, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $15.95). A lifelong Oxford resident himself, Carpenter interviewed Tolkien's family and delved into the author's papers to provide a wealth of detail about the man who created Middle-earth. Carpenter also wrote The Inklings, a (sadly out of print) group biography of the informal literary society and their frequent evenings of drink and debate. The Inklings' meetings at the Eagle and Child pub are now the stuff of Oxford legend.

If the recent films of both Lewis's and Tolkien's works have entertained and intrigued you, of course, be sure to pick up the books on which they're based: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. Available in dozens of editions, these enduring works of fantasy reflect the deep erudition--and the whimsy--of their brilliant authors. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams


Andrews McMeel Publishing: Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #6) by Dana Simpson


Book Candy

Mother's Day Gift Books; Children's Steampunk

It's Mother's Day in the U.K. this weekend, so if you'd like to see a few early gift suggestions for the American version of this holiday in May, check out the Telegraph's "10 perfect books to give your mother this Sunday."

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Found poetry. Flavorwire showcased "10 lists that read like poems."

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Sharon Gosling, author of The Diamond Thief, picked her "top 10 children's steampunk books" for the Guardian, noting that "The definition of what actually qualifies as steampunk is a debate that continues to rumble on... For me, steampunk is the plucky adventurousness of Victorian sensibilities re-imagined with extra, fantastical machinery."

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Literary real estate listing: The childhood home of children's author Beverly Cleary, "in the Northeast Portland neighborhood that's also home to Cleary characters Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins," is on the market for $362,000, the Oregonian reported.

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DesignBoom featured the work of Dutch artist Frank Halmans, who "explores themes of domesticity and memory" with a sculptural installation series called "Built of Books."


University of California Press: A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore


The Writer's Life

Gillian Philip: Taking Dictation from Her Characters

The classical world of faery legends was "something I'd always loved from old stories," Gillian Philip wrote in an e-mail from her home in the Scottish Highlands. "They're so savage and romantic, about as far from 'flower fairies' as you can imagine." That passion fuels Firebrand, the first of Philip's novels to be published in the U.S. under her own name, and the first novel in her Rebel Angel series. (See our review below.) It's narrated by Seth McGregor, a young faery who follows his older brother into 16th-century Scotland, a deadly time and place for anyone with abilities that might be attributed to witchcraft.

In the U.K., Firebrand was published in 2010 as a young adult title, in part because Philip was already an established YA author; Tor Books, starting from a clean slate, is presenting her work to American audiences as mainstream adult fantasy. (Two sequels are already out in Britain, which Tor will roll out over the next year.) "Although Seth is a young adult for much of the book, I didn't think of Firebrand as particularly YA," Philip explained, noting that the story has some very adult situations. "To be honest, I think it suits both markets; I don't tone down my subject matter, my style or my themes for my YA readers anyway. The politics and the personal relationships seem to appeal to both readerships... and I know Seth has quite a few adult women among his admirers!"

On her website, Philip confesses that "I take dictation from the characters in my head, who spend their lives telling me what's going to happen next." That's exactly what happened with Seth, whom Philip describes as a "completely unintentional" character. "I was writing Bloodstone [the second book in the series] and needed a secondary villain to help the queen move her wicked plans along," she said, "and before I knew it the little devil had elbowed his way in and taken over the entire book. He just kept giving me seductive glances over his shoulder, and saying 'I've got an interesting past, you know,' until I had to give in and investigate his back story."

Philip's previous fantasy novels have taken place in modern settings, as do the later Rebel Angels novels; she credits Seth's "intervention" with leading her to the late 16th century--knowing that he was 400 years old in our time dictated the era of his youth. The intense religious conflicts of the Scottish Reformation and the zealous hunts for witches were the perfect dramatic backdrop to Seth's story. "I'm not the world's keenest when it comes to research, but this period was fascinating--and not a little chilling," she admitted. Among her discoveries: a price list for a witchfinder's various services--"like quotes from a plumber," she marveled.

(The historical diversion was only temporary, though: "I did at one point think I might bring the other books back to the 17th and perhaps 18th centuries," Philip said, "but it just didn't feel right. I'd always seen [these characters] existing in our current world. It was kind of fun to place these ancient warriors in the 21st century, and provide them with cars and snowboards and iPods.")

Philip, who has openly "ghosted" novels under several pseudonyms, hopes to continue writing under her own name after the fourth Rebel Angels book ("provisionally called Icefall") appears next year. She has ideas for a new fantasy project, as well as a contemporary crime novel, but doesn't rule out returning to the world of Firebrand. "You know how these things are," she said. "I catch sight of a scene or a photograph and it sparks something in my head, and I realize there are more characters and more stories to be told. A young woman leaped out at me from a magazine a few months ago, and I instantly thought, 'Oh! There's a descendant of Seth if ever I saw one....' " --Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com


Southern Independent Bookstore Alliance (SIBA): Lady Banks' Commonplace Books


Book Review

Fiction

The Fun Parts: Stories

by Sam Lipsyte


The Fun Parts is precisely the type of collection one would expect from the author of novels like The Ask, a biting satire about a disgruntled college fundraiser. Together, these 13 acid-tipped stories, many of which appeared in publications like the New Yorker and the Paris Review, paint a grimly funny view of contemporary American life.

Sam Lipsyte's stories often feature wildly improbable premises that seem completely plausible in his sure hands. In "The Wisdom of the Doulas," a hapless Mitchell Malloy, who "just sort of fell into this work while stalking my ex-girlfriend," tries to become the first male birth coach in his city. Several stories revolve around protagonists in some stage of drug addiction, but that affliction seems relatively benign, more a way station to some other status than a permanent sentence. The narrator of "The Worm in Philly," planning to write a children's book about the middleweight boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler, announces he "was no longer experimenting with drugs," because he "knew exactly what to do with them." Lipsyte shows he's adept at poking fun at the absurdity of trendy names like Ewen, Juanito, Medgar and Shalom, some of the children at a day-care center in "The Climber Room," a sometimes creepy look at a middle-aged man's infatuation with a younger woman.

There isn't a lot in Sam Lipsyte's stories that will make you optimistic about the future of humanity in this "world gone berserk with misery, plague, affinity marketing." But at least he will have you laughing all the way as we stumble toward the apocalypse. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: In this collection of 13 often riotously funny stories, Sam Lipsyte takes a dim view of contemporary life.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24, hardcover, 9780374298906

Diversion Publishing: The Skeleton Paints a Picture (Family Skeleton Mystery #4) by Leigh Perry


The Carriage House

by Louisa Hall


Scarcely has The Carriage House, Louisa Hall's first novel, begun when patriarch William Adair suffers a stroke at the neighborhood tennis club. He awakes to find his three daughters--Elizabeth, Diana and Izzy--clustered around his bedside, along with his longstanding neighbor Adelia Lively. None of them, though, strike William as the "golden girls" he's adored all his life: Elizabeth is divorced; Diana has dropped out of architecture school one defense away from her Ph.D.; Izzy, who struggles with her mother Margaux's ever-progressing dementia, has become someone her father hardly recognizes at all. And while Adelia's management of the Adair family home and her efforts to save the family's historic carriage house from demolition provides a semblance of structure, the neighborhood sees her as a desperate, grasping spinster intent on installing herself in Margaux's abandoned position as William's wife.

Like Jane Austen's Persuasion, The Carriage House is a finely detailed exploration of human relationships amid the loss and rediscovery of oneself. None of the Adairs, in a sense, know who they are; they know only that everything they thought they knew about themselves and one another has collapsed--and, like the carriage house, must be rebuilt if it cannot be saved. Hall's writing is astonishingly clear and sure-footed, with turns of phrase that display her experience as a poet but never drag the reader out of the plot, and her compassion for her characters is profound. A warm and well-written debut. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: A stunning first novel that navigates personal relationships and neighborhood politics with grace and wit.

Scribner, $26, hardcover, 9781451688634

Spiderline/House of Anansi Press:  The Couturier of Milan (Triad Years #3) by Ian Hamilton


The Retrospective

by A.B. Yehoshua


In The Retrospective, A.B. Yehoshua uses an aging Israeli film director, Yair Moses, as a fictional stand-in for himself and his writing (A Woman in Jerusalem, Mr. Mani et al.). Moses is invited to Spain for a retrospective of his films. He and his muse, Ruth, who is frequently in his films, agree to attend. The movies shown, many of them early efforts, are reminiscent of stories Yehoshua has written.

Seeing his early films causes Moses to ponder his youthful choices. Were they his, or were they strongly influenced by Shaul Trigano, his scriptwriter, or the cameraman, Toledano?

In their hotel room, Moses sees a picture, entitled Caritas Romana, that shows a young woman breastfeeding her father. He is instantly reminded of the rift between himself and Trigano, which ended their collaboration. Trigano wanted Ruth, playing a young woman who has just given her child up for adoption, to encounter a beggar on the street and breastfeed him. Ruth refused to play the scene, Moses supported her decision and Trigano quit.

Now, Moses recognizes the richness of what Trigano was trying in the scene--with its erotic overtones, including the taboo of father-daughter sexuality. Returning to Israel, he seeks out Trigano in the hope of reconciliation.

Trigano is hostile and insulting, wanting nothing to do with Moses. Finally, he agrees to an uneasy truce, but first Moses must pay the price Trigano exacts. What follows is an exploration of memory, morality, friendship and creativity that brings Yair Moses to a fuller understanding of himself and his motivations--in sum, a retrospective not just of his work, but also his life. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: An aging Israeli film director goes to Spain for a retrospective of his work and finds there an examination of his life, his relationships and his artistic choices.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, hardcover, 9780547496962

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Lilac Lane by Sheryl Woods


How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

by Mohsin Hamid


As in his fiendishly clever and biting The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid's How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia combines extremely lean prose and a wry sense of irony to create a dramatic monologue with a wickedly satirical vision of modern times.

None of the characters are named. The central character--who's writing a self-help book called How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia--gives the other figures in his story simple labels: pretty girl, leader, matriarch, master. His how-to-succeed guide turns out to be exceptionally rich in the savage ironies of poverty. The narrator's brother is slowly killing himself working without a mask as an assistant to a spray painter, while his schoolteacher really wants to be an electricity meter reader, because of the greater prestige, graft opportunities and higher wages.

Starting with a night job as a DVD delivery boy, the narrator makes his way up the economic ladder while courting the girl of his dreams with movie rentals. Hamid can be a biting satirist, but he also knows how to infuse his characters with genuine warmth and pathos, and never reduces them to mere symbols in a brutal capitalist fable.

Hamid's novel is a vision of a new, very modern kind of civilization designed for the have-plentys, where the have-nothings survive amid electrical outages and contaminated water in a society that accepts hugely divergent inequality as normal. Hamid has a vast compassion for the wretched, and his story, horrifying in its casual description of abject lives, is a cry for compassion cloaked in a savage smile. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: A wickedly satirical, yet compassionate vision of economics and modern civilization.

Riverhead, $26.95, hardcover, 9781594487293

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Firebrand

by Gillian Philip


Seth MacGregor, a young, half-feral faery, contends with the unfamiliar and dangerous world of 16th-century Scotland in Firebrand, the gripping first installment of Gillian Philip's Rebel Angels series. Unwanted by his mother, Seth comes to live with his father's clann, where he is greeted with an indifference that serves to feed his anger and resentment. When his half-brother, Conal, takes an open interest in his well-being, however, Seth begins to grow in the estimation of the clann.

The Sithe (as the faeries are known) are separated from the world of full mortals by a magical barrier called the Veil; to be exiled to the other side of the Veil is considered a grave punishment. Through a twist of fate and intrigue, that is just what happens to Seth and Conal. Although they attempt to live peacefully in exile among mortals, life is perilous for two supernatural creatures who stick out like sore thumbs to 16th-century witch hunters.

Much of the detail in Philip's writing is concerned with the business of building the worlds of the Sithe and 16th-century Scotland, and she handles this deftly, with a riveting, well-balanced writing style. While the backdrop is painted vividly for the reader, the overall action and pace of the story are not compromised by description. All this, combined with three-dimensional characters and the complexity of their relationships, makes for a well-rounded, meaty reading experience. Philip's exciting new series promises an engaging story with cross-genre and multigenerational appeal. --Sarah Borders, librarian at Houston Public Library

Discover: The engrossing, action-packed first book in a series sure to delight fantasy fans.

Tor, $24.99, hardcover, 9780765333223

The Mapmaker's War

by Ronlyn Domingue


"This will be the map of your heart, old woman." So begins The Mapmaker's War--part legend, part romance, part fairy tale and part (fictional) memoir. Aoife, the narrator, tells the story of her life to herself--and thus to us as well--from the beginning, recalling a wild childhood spent adventuring in the forest and her unlikely apprenticeship to a skilled mapmaker. She recounts her first encounter with the Guardians, a peaceful people on whom she inadvertently brings a war, her discovery of a dragon--and a hoard of treasure with it--and her eventual exile from her own land. She also remembers her attempts to rebuild her life, reconstructing a person from the broken pieces left behind in her homeland.

The Mapmaker's War, Ronlyn Domingue's second novel (after The Mercy of Thin Air), is a testament to storytelling in its own right, placing epic fantasy at the heart of the everyday in a way that makes the magical seem as real as the mundane. Aoife's story is riddled with pain as she loses her family, her husband, her children and her sense of self, but it's also filled with resilience. The second-person narration may take some getting used to, but it ultimately succeeds in bringing readers deep into Aoife's story. The Mapmaker's War is, as Aoife writes in the beginning, the map of her heart as she tries to find her place in a world, persevering against all obstacles to understand who--and why--she is. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: In an epic fantasy setting, an old woman looks back at her momentous life, remembering the events that shaped her identity.

Atria, $23, hardcover, 9781451688887

Biography & Memoir

My Mother's Wars

by Lillian Faderman


The price paid for a misspent youth differs wildly--some mortgage a promising future, some age into maturity unscathed--but the recompense for immature life choices seems especially cruel for Mary Lifton, the subject of My Mother's Wars. Lifton, a Jewish garment industry worker who emigrated to New York City from Latvia, suffered from a crushing guilt in her later years, convinced that her indulgence in the pleasures available to a working girl in the city frittered away the opportunity to bring the rest of her family to America and save them from the Holocaust.

Lillian Faderman (Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers) slips gracefully into Lifton's skin, reconstructing, reimagining and meticulously reanalyzing to produce an intimate and searching biography of her mother--and the doomed affair from which Faderman was conceived. This is a beautifully told story of a complex but winning heroine, full of rich period detail, from Lifton's arrival in 1914 to her city life in the '30s. Yet as Faderman lingers appreciatively over her mother's sensual nature and her inability to know, really, how badly things are going in Europe, she is also screaming through history at her mother to wake up.

Of course, Faderman wrenchingly acknowledges that if her mother hadn't made her particular foolish choices, she herself never would have been born. The impossibility and inevitability of looking back in this way make My Mother's Wars a haunting and mesmerizing story of an all-too-human young woman whose world was crushed by an overwhelming evil that gave no quarter or second chances. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: An acclaimed historian and scholar probes her mother's remorse over failing to bring the rest of her Latvian family to America before the Holocaust.

Beacon Press, $25.95, hardcover, 9780807050521

With or Without You

by Domenica Ruta


Voyeuristic tales of addiction and woe with all the literary value of a classified ad seem impossible to escape. This book is an exception. Trust us when we say that there is nothing trashy or gratuitous in Domenica Ruta's memoir. Her energetic, graceful voice transforms a train wreck of childhood abuse, addiction, and recovery into a stylish, glittering metal sculpture.

Raised in a working-class Italian neighborhood in Danvers, Mass., north of Boston, Ruta grew up knowing she was an outsider. "In an extended family where people stumbled--and stumbled proudly--over three-syllable words," Ruta discovered she alone had an insatiable hunger for the written word. In no hurry to enter the phase of womanhood that requires makeup and hot rollers, Ruta didn't make a splash with her peer group, either. Finally, above all, no one else had a mother like Kathi Ruta. To say that Kathi, a drug user and dealer, parented her young daughter irresponsibly is an understatement. On the other hand, Kathi also fervently nurtured Ruta's interest in the arts and culture, laying the foundation for her future career as a writer.

Follow Ruta as she walks down the dark trail her mother blazed for her and comes to the realization that if she is to survive, she must travel her own road. Though sometimes the subject matter makes reading difficult, Ruta's talent makes putting the book aside impossible. The story of a vulnerable young girl's misadventures will open readers' hearts, but it is her eventual transition from darkness to hope that will steal them. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: An intimate memoir of abuse, addiction and recovery that never stoops to self-pity, about a woman’s struggle to reconcile her love for her mother with her need to carve her own path in life.

Spiegel & Grau, $25, hardcover, 9780812993240

C.S. Lewis--A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet

by Alister McGrath


Like his most famous creation--Aslan, the Lion of Narnia--C.S. Lewis looms large in the popular imagination. An Irishman who spent most of his life in England, Lewis was also a literary scholar who gained fame as a popular theologian and writer of children's fantasies, as well as a confirmed bachelor who entered an unusual marriage late in life. Theologian Alister McGrath (The Twilight of Atheism) presents an accessible, clear-eyed portrait of Lewis and his contradictions, starting with his Irish childhood, his troubles at boarding school and his close relationship with his brother Warren ("Warnie"). He then concentrates on Lewis's time at Oxford University, where he spent most of his academic career.

Some fans may already be familiar with the highlights of Lewis's life, including his conversion to Christianity, his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien and the wartime radio broadcasts that later became Mere Christianity. However, McGrath's extensive research into Lewis's correspondence provides fascinating detail, as well as a slightly altered timeline of his faith conversion that will be most interesting to Lewis scholars but is still compelling for the casual reader.

McGrath veers enjoyably into literary criticism with two chapters devoted to The Chronicles of Narnia, asserting, rightly, that these novels, Lewis's most enduring work, embodied many of his key ideas about the nature of the universe. The last chapter provides keen observations on the continuing popularity of Lewis's books and the man himself, half a century after his death. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: An accessible, clear-eyed portrait of C.S. Lewis--his life, work, conversion to Christianity and his contradictions.

Tyndale House, $24.99, hardcover, 9781414339351

Wave

by Sonali Deraniyagala


Sonali Deraniyagala was enjoying the day after Christmas 2004 surrounded by her family; her parents were in a nearby hotel room, her two young sons playing with new toys, her husband in the bathroom. Suddenly, they were running for their lives as the devastating tsunami of 2004 swept across the Sri Lankan landscape. Deraniyagala, awash in a whirlwind of water and mud, surfaced to find herself utterly, incredibly alone--her entire family wiped out.

Wave is the visceral, frank and gut-wrenching tale of the aftermath, as Deraniyagala struggles to cope with the emptiness and chaos that is her new reality. "For three years, I've tried to indelibly imprint 'they are dead' on my consciousness, afraid of slipping up and forgetting, of thinking they are alive," she writes. "Coming out of that lapse, however momentary, will be more harrowing than the constant knowing, surely." Afraid at first of the memories that will surface if she returns to their London home or revisits old haunts in Sri Lanka, the author drinks herself into oblivion each night. As the years pass, however, Deraniyagala notices that simple things like a certain angle of light or a sarong or the sound of a child's laugh allow her access to her memories without so much pain, enabling her to provide readers with an intimate look at the people she holds so dear. Wave is a potent, unforgettable testament to the extraordinary powers of love and grief. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: An incredible memoir of endurance against overwhelming loss and the emotional aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in one woman's life.

Knopf, $24, hardcover, 9780307962690

Children's & Young Adult

Navigating Early

by Clare Vanderpool


In her second novel, Newbery Medalist Clare Vanderpool (Moon Over Manifest) treats readers to an inspiring coming-of-age odyssey set in the backwoods of Maine, just after World War II. She crafts a story about finding one's way through landscapes both mythical and real, while learning the true meaning of friendship.  

When Jack Baker's mother dies, the 13-year-old finds himself uprooted from his home in Kansas. His father enrolls him in a boarding school in Maine, where he becomes an outsider "with nowhere to call home, at a school with no baseball, unable to row a boat straight." Then Jack meets Early Auden, a strange boy who lives in the school's basement and makes up stories about the number pi. Early understands loss: not only has he grown up without a mother, his father has died, and Early's brother, Fisher, is presumed dead after his squad was killed in France. But Early is certain that Fisher is still alive. He begins to search the woods north of the school, where he believes Fisher is waiting, lost. Jack, with a week of vacation looming, joins him on what becomes an epic and uplifting adventure.

Navigating Early starts slowly, but is intensely rewarding for those readers who persevere. As Jackie himself says, "Who would have thought that a motion-sick kid from Kansas would have embarked on a journey that included pirates, a volcano, a great white whale, a hundred-year-old woman, a lost hero, a hidden cave, a great Appalachian bear, and a timber rattlesnake--in Maine!" --Lynn Becker, host of Book Talk, the monthly online discussion of children's books for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

Discover: A coming-of-age story full of adventure and introspection, with just a touch of magic.

Delacorte, $16.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 10-up, 9780385742092

The Madness Underneath: Shades of London #2

by Maureen Johnson


In this sequel to The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson raises the stakes for Rory and the Shades.

Following the Ripper's defeat, Rory's parents have taken her to Bristol (and who can blame them?). Rory has been told by the government never to contact her friends in the London ghost police squad (the Shades) again. She's in therapy, but she can't tell anyone the real story of her attack, and she can't even befriend any ghosts because she has been turned into a human terminus (with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact). What's a girl to do?

When Rory is offered a chance to return to Wexford, she eagerly takes it, thinking that even if life can't go back to normal, at least it can be better. Instead, she sets off a chain of events that bring new villains out of the woodwork, and puts Rory and her friends in serious jeopardy. As in the first book, Johnson balances out the grisly details and extreme peril her characters face with impeccable comedic timing and a surprising new love story. But nothing is sacred and no one is safe, and the ending is a cliffhanger that will have fans on the edges of their seats yet again. --Jenn Northington, events manager, WORD bookstore

Discover: Higher stakes and new villains in this sequel to Johnson's Edgar-nominated novel The Name of the Star.

Putnam, $17.99, hardcover, 288p., ages 12-up, 9780399256615

You Can Do It!

by Betsy Lewin


Betsy Lewin (illustrator of Click, Clack, Moo) uses a limited vocabulary to deliver a resounding tale of confidence-building with dynamic illustrations.

Part of the "I Like to Read" series, the story opens with two alligator friends, one wearing a pink ribbon, looking up at a sign posted on a tree announcing, "Big Race on Sunday." One of the alligators takes up the challenge: "I can win," says a speech bubble, supported by his beribboned friend. A larger alligator in a red baseball cap tells our hero he won't succeed: "No you can't," says he. "Yes, I can," the first gator responds. His friend reiterates, "Yes, you can." Our hero begins his swim training with vigor and motivation, repeating the mantra, "Can so. Can so. Can so." After intensive training, doubts creep in: "Too slow. Too slow. Can't." His supportive friend offers him a book, How to Win, that provides a regimen of exercise and positive encouragement, even as the bullying larger gator grows more emphatic ("CanNOT!").

Lewin exploits the possibilities of simple, repetitive language to show the effect of changes in emphasis with punctuation: the hero's chant, "I can do it," versus, in the middle of the race, his self-doubt, "Can I do it?" Her pen-and-inks capture the movement and determination of the hero, with a palette as limited as the words, to keep him in focus. Young readers will soon build confidence along with the dedicated hero, to tell and retell the story. --Mollie Welsh Kruger, graduate faculty, Bank Street College of Education

Discover: An exuberant and celebratory text that speaks to the development of confidence and self-esteem through hard work.

Holiday House, $14.95, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780823425228

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Publisher:
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Pub Date:
July 11, 2017

ISBN:
9781945920196 

List Price: $2.99

 

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Buckle-up readers! Naked We Came is a tour de force of mystery, humor and intrigue. Jake Travis is on the hunt for the man who abducted his older sister, and only sibling, over thirty years ago. His vengeful quest is blocked by powerful figures. As he seeks personal closure, Jake must decide whether he is truly free of his past. 

Naked We Came is an endlessly surprising thriller replete with the wit and charm that characterizes Lane’s singular style.” --Foreword Reviews 

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