Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, May 24, 2013


Doubleday Books: Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby

From My Shelf

Little Brown and Company: The Store by James Patterson

Vintage Books & Anchor Books: Reading Group Center Book Club Giveaway

Power Walking

Rachel Joyce's debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, tells the story of an aging man who decides to walk to the post box to send a letter to a dying friend; he passes one box, then the next, and soon finds himself walking across all of England to hand-deliver this letter to the other side of the country. Armed with little more than yachting shoes and his own determination, his walk becomes about more than just delivering a letter. As he pushes himself past his physical limits, his walk becomes a path to self-discovery, during which he comes to terms with his past and rediscovers a zest for life he thought he'd lost for good.

This restorative power of walking has been the subject not only of fiction, but of several memoirs. Bill Bryson's entertaining A Walk in the Woods invites readers to accompany the humorous writer as he rediscovers America by hiking the Appalachian Trail. More recently, Simon Armitage walked the 256-mile Pennine Way, bisecting England from the Midlands to the Scottish border in 19 days. He recounts his journey in his memoir Walking Home, sharing tales of his occasional companions, a litany of odd English place names and coming to a surprisingly satisfying conclusion.

Robert Macfarlane is another avid walker, though perhaps more academic in his pedestrian pursuits. In The Old Ways, he provides a lyrical account of walking ancient paths across the world, from England to the Himalayas. While Macfarlane's walks range farther than most readers' might, his meditation on walking as a way of knowing oneself will inspire even the most non-athletic among us to head out for a stroll as spring comes to town. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm


Nation Books: Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi


Book Candy

Annotated First Editions; Literary Makeup and Tats

"Musings from the margins": British authors including J.K. Rowling, Hilary Mantel, Philip Pullman, Nick Hornby and Ian McEwan have annotated their own first editions, which will be auctioned at Sotheby's this week to support English PEN, the Guardian reported.

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This weekend's release of the action movie The Fast and Furious 6 inspired Quirk Books to imagine a children's book that might have inspired the profitable franchise's latest sequel: "To get you pumped for an awesome, pulse-pounding 130 minutes of pure excitement, here are some samples from The Fast and Furious 6 Children's Story and Adventure Book. Because all roads lead to this! (They really don't)."

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Eva Sernin Pernas's lit-inspired makeup was showcased by Booklicious.

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Tat test. "Good literary tats never go out of style. Or do they?" aked Buzzfeed to introduce its ink quiz: "Can you guess these literary tattoos?"

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Ireland's newest postage stamp "features an entire short story written by a talented Dublin teenager," the Journal reported, adding that the stamp was commissioned in 2010 to celebrate Dublin's permanent designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.

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A bookcase that "suspends books on threads" was featured by Design Taxi, which featured Bloom, a bookcase shaped like a weaving loom, that was designed by Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay of Raw Edges.


Matchup by Gayle Lynds


The Writer's Life

Khaled Hosseini: The Threads That Connect Us

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. The Hosseinis sought and were granted political asylum in the United States, and in September 1980 moved to San Jose, Calif. In March 2001, while practicing medicine, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner. His debut went on to become an international bestseller, as did his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, in 2007. Together, the two books have sold more than 10 million copies in the United States and more than 38 million copies worldwide. Hosseini’s third novel, And the Mountains Echoed (reviewed below), was just published by Riverhead.

Emotional intensity and hardship are hallmarks of Khaled Hosseini's novels of Afghanistan, and his third novel, And the Mountains Echoed,is no exception. A diverse cast of characters, located around the world and in varying times in history, deliver a wide range of human experience. The common denominator that binds together all these stories is Afghanistan, specifically an impoverished village and a mansion in Kabul.   

And the Mountains Echoed begins in the Afghan village of Shadbagh, with the strong bond between a brother and sister as children. Hosseini explained that his idea for the book began with these children: "I wrote the second chapter first, because the very first thing that came to mind was image of a man walking across the desert pulling a wagon with a little girl in it, and there's a boy trailing them. I no idea where they were going, or who they were. As I wrote that story, I started to become aware of other voices, other characters demanding for their stories to be told. So I kept pursuing these different characters because they were all connected to that first story--I followed the ripples in that first story. I like to think of it as voices gradually building into a choir until they become like one voice."

Hosseini's goal was that this approach would result in a unified narrative, "one sweeping story, that when you add all the parts together, you get one story."

Part of the novel is set in 1950s Kabul, which Hosseini depicts as sophisticated and cosmopolitan. "That's Kabul as I know it," Hosseini said, referring to his move from Kabul as a child. "Today's Kabul, to me, is a strange place. My memories of Kabul are vastly different than the way it is when I go there now. My memories are of the final years before everything changed. When I grew up in Kabul, it couldn't be mistaken for Beirut or Tehran, as it was still in a country that's essentially religious and conservative, but it was surprisingly progressive and liberal. My family was a part of the sector of a Western sensibility, where women were outspoken and opinionated and dressed how they liked, drank alcohol, drove cars, wrote poetry, taught in universities. That was my experience of Kabul, not the horrible distortion that the Taliban have made of it."

The distortion, unfortunately, has been the reality of Kabul for the past 30 years, and as such it is the only depiction of the capital that most Western readers would recognize. For that reason--to present a less familiar and more poignant side of Afghanistan--Hosseini chose not to dwell on politics and religious oppression in And the Mountains Echoed, as he has in his previous novels. "Of my three books, this one is probably the most politically neutral," he said. "This time I just wanted to write stories about Afghan people that didn't necessarily revolve around extremism and zealotry--I set out to write something more personal, intimate, and human. I didn't want to follow my own steps again, and instead wanted to write about something different, to have a conversation about Afghanistan with a focus on the characters' motivations, rather than on their oppression."

The immigrant experience haunts this novel, and Hosseini acknowledges that these depictions are inspired by his own life--and that the experience is all the more wrenching when the country of origin is in a state of catastrophe. "I have been unbelievably fortunate in my life, and come from a place that has been unbelievably unfortunate," he said. "When I go to Afghanistan, I realize I've been spared due to a random genetic lottery, by being born to people who had the means to get out. Every time I go to Afghanistan I am haunted by that. On the one hand there's the sense that I'm home, and a visceral emotional connection to where I was born. At the same time, I feel like an outsider--I've been away for too long, missed out on so many experiences that others have had. I don't feel like I belong there."

The themes Hosseini wishes readers to take from the book are varied: "This novel encompasses so many different things, is so broad in view and vision, that it's hard to point to one thing," he said. "I would like people to have an appreciation for what happened to women under the Taliban, as in A Thousand Splendid Suns. I hope they get a sense of how connected we all are. One of the things novels should do is shine a light on those parts of us that are common, the fibers that connect all of us. They should convey the sense that we're all connected, coming from the same tree, sharing common roots. Nothing happens in a vacuum in life: every action has a series of consequences, and sometimes it takes a long time to fully understand the consequences of our actions."

Some of the most emotionally difficult sequences in And the Mountains Echoed concern the suffering and debilitation of illness. "One of the themes in this book is the end of life, loss of faculty, physical decay, characters as victims of the passage of time," Hosseini noted. "This is something that I have witnessed on two levels: as a professional physician, I saw a lot of people lose their dignity, independence and a way to look after themselves, and the responsibility for them always fell on someone. And I experienced it in my own life. I'm 48 now, and in the last 10 years a number of people I know have been ill and died. How difficult life can be and the idea of death and illness--which has a real space in my own life--inevitably has informed some of the writing of this book." --Ilana Teitelbaum, book reviewer at the Huffington Post


Melville House Publishing: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer


Book Review

Fiction

Americanah

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah pulls readers into its well-crafted, richly observed universe and makes us witnesses to stories that feel true and stay with us long after the final page. The people in Adichie's (Half of a Yellow Sun) novel are people we know; its places are as intimate as home.

Americanah begins just after 30-something Ifemelu's impulsive decision to return to Nigeria after 13 years in the United States. Framed by Ifemelu's visit to an African hair braiding salon in preparation for the move, the story moves seamlessly between present and past, unfolding into an elegant, multi-continental epic that spans two decades.

Ifemelu's decision baffles her family and her American boyfriend. After all, she's an American citizen with a brilliant (and lucrative) blog on race in America who's just completed a fellowship at Princeton. But there was "no bold epiphany and there was no cause," Adichie writes. "It was simply that layer after layer of discontent had settled in her, and formed a mass that now propelled her" home. There is also the anguish of homesickness and the reverberant ache of her first love, Obinze--who has also come back to Nigeria after making his fortune abroad.

Eventually, Ifemelu does return home, where she must reckon with Nigeria's transformation into an oil-rich, globalized country--and with her own undeniable transformation into an "Americanah."

Americanah isn't just a Nigerian novel, or an American novel, or an immigrant story--although it's all of those. It's a character study, a love story, a book about being black and about being a woman. It's a story of becoming, and each page is a revelation. --Hannah Calkins, blogger at Unpunished Vice

Discover: Acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie returns with a masterfully crafted novel about a brave, whip-smart woman returning to Nigeria after years in the U.S.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 9780307271082

Counterpoint Press: A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton


And the Mountains Echoed

by Khaled Hosseini


Like the ripples of a pebble falling into a lake, the decision of an Afghan villager to give his daughter to a wealthy couple for adoption will have an impact from the 1950s to the present day, from Kabul to Paris and San Francisco--while, simultaneously, the cataclysmic takeover of Kabul by the Taliban will have even more deeply felt repercussions. In And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini presents a multitude of windows into the souls affected by these events. The novel's rich kaleidoscope of images coalesces around one theme: the powerful legacy of family ties within the maelstrom of history.

Unlike Hosseini's previous novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, And the Mountains Echoed never lingers with one point-of-view character. Instead, he links multiple narratives together by blood or circumstance, tying them to a single mansion in Kabul and a desolate Afghan village. Hosseini's remarkable talent for engendering empathy for his characters is in full force; the opening sentences of each section introduce a distinct personality and worldview that draws the reader in, whether he's writing about the village boy who loses his treasured sister to adoption, their shy stepmother with a terrible secret in her past or the adopted daughter herself and her attempts, as a well-heeled Parisienne, to grapple with her Afghan identity. In later years, the narrative crosses the Atlantic to touch upon the experience of Afghans living as immigrants.

The thread connecting all of these stories is Afghanistan, but it is also the seismic shifts of identity created by war and emigration. Readers get a glimpse of a cosmopolitan, culturally brilliant Kabul--and feel the tragedy when the curtain of fundamentalism and violence descends. --Ilana Teitelbaum, book reviewer at the Huffington Post

Discover: Hosseini's vividly rendered characters cross paths with each other over more than half a century, their stories coalescing around a Kabul mansion and an Afghan village.

Riverhead, $28.95, hardcover, 9781594631764

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan


The Fainting Room

by Sarah Pemberton Strong


Part romance, part mystery story-within-a-story, Sarah Pemberton Strong's The Fainting Room will charm readers with its wistful account of three lost souls who find each other.

Partially-tattooed lady Evelyn escaped her old life as a circus performer with an abusive ex-husband and married wealthy architect Ray Shepard, but she's now feeling out of place and under pressure to fit in with Ray's upper-crust friends. Ray, meanwhile, is struggling in a job that suppresses his creativity. When they hear about Ingrid, a blue-haired 16-year-old with nowhere to go for the summer, Evelyn suggests they take in the girl, secretly hoping the distraction will help her marriage.

At first, Ingrid charms them both, giving Evelyn the companionship she's been missing and putting Ray back in touch with his long-lost passion for writing noir detective fiction. However, the idyll begins to fall apart when Ray realizes he's falling for the too-young Ingrid, and Ingrid begins to fall in love as well--with Evelyn. As she ferrets out the secrets her hosts keep--the truth about Evelyn's first husband and the trouble at the heart of the Shepards' marriage--Ingrid discovers her alter ego, Detective Slade, a tough-talking identity that allows her to protect her vulnerable heart.

Strong (Burning the Sea) gently explores the dysfunction of a marriage with too many secrets through a story about the entangled lives of damaged people who cannot help each other until they heal themselves. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A story about a mysterious former circus performer, her staid architect husband and a blue-haired teenager who finds herself caught in their crumbling marriage.

Ig Publishing, $15.95, paperback, 9781935439769

The Boleyn King

by Laura Andersen


In the wake of The Tudors and Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Laura Anderson delivers in her debut novel a glamorous royal drama--but The Boleyn King offers a refreshingly offbeat, counterfactual take on the familiar story.

What if Queen Anne had not miscarried in 1536 and thus not been executed? Anderson invents a male heir--the charismatic, 17-year-old William--who experiences his first taste of unbridled power as the novel begins. Threatened by both the continental nobility and his Catholic half-sister, Mary, William is determined to prove himself as a ruler. Rather than lean on advisers twice his age, the young king relies on a close group of friends that have grown up with him.

While The Boleyn King pivots on Europe's political tensions, it is just as much about friendship as it is about ruling a kingdom. Anderson's characters are innocent and prideful, their lives fraught with all the surging affections and restless energy of adolescence. The difference, of course, is that they must navigate these feelings while governing a country. Tudor England was an era in which the young and inexperienced were still granted dizzying power, and Anderson captures this atmosphere insightfully. The Boleyn King is the first book in a trilogy that promises to be inventive and entertaining. --Annie Atherton, intern at Shelf Awareness

Discover: A debut novelist imagines what might have happened if Anne Boleyn had borne Henry VIII the son he wanted.

Ballantine, $15, paperback, 9780345534095

Out of Their Minds: The Incredible and (Sometimes) Sad Story of Ramón and Cornelio

by Luis Humberto Crosthwaite, illus. by Francisco Delgado


Luis Humberto Crosthwaite's Out of Their Minds, a novel first published in Spanish in 2001, is a motley collection of fictional interviews, dreams, dialogues and sketches. It's centered on Ramón and Cornelio, a couple of bored kids in Tijuana with a bajo sexto and an accordion. Then God speaks to Cornelio, offering to write his songs for him, and the duo known as los Relampagos de Agosto (a sly reference to Jorge Ibargüengoitia's satiric The Lightning of August?) takes off.

Greeted onstage by screaming women throwing underwear, their world explodes in undreamed-of decadence and groupies. Fast forward a few years, though, and Ramón and Cornelio's lives are sadly riddled with drugs and superficiality. Unsurprisingly, the two lifelong friends no longer see eye to eye, and the rock-and-roll lifestyle has dimmed their fire. Where they used to lie awake at night and discuss the perfect girlfriend (she must have pretty feet), now their wives have left them and Ramón talks to his accordion instead.

In the ever-shifting perspective of this strange world, where God worries about producing fresh material ("he doesn't want to be judged as a repetitive God, with few ideas") while a friend of Cornelio dies over and over again, the duo's career arc clearly references the Beatles--but places them in Mexico's norteño music scene. Wry, lyrical and frequently funny, the story of Ramón and Cornelio is indeed incredible and sometimes sad; but the music plays on and we continue to revel in it. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A bizarre and entertaining tale of two Mexican norteño musicians guided by God--and the price they pay for their fame.

Cinco Puntos Press, $14.95, paperback, 9781935955566

Mystery & Thriller

Little Green: An Easy Rawlins Mystery

by Walter Mosley


Walter Mosley left readers hanging at the end of Blonde Faith, as Easy Rawlins plunged to a certain death. Easy returns from the dead in Little Green, but he's a changed man living on what can only be borrowed time--and it takes a mission from his friend Mouse to bring him fully back to the land of the living. Barely able to leave his bed, he embarks on a search for the titular "Little Green," a bookish young black man who disappeared while tripping on acid. Easy is a hip Ulysses as he voyages through late-1960s Los Angeles with its hippies, drugs, racist cops--and a little murder and fighting thrown in for good measure.

From his roots as a returning World War II veteran to his career as an aging private investigator in the tumultuous 1960s, Easy's personal timeline has enabled Mosley to guide readers through the 20th-century African-American experience over the course of 12 novels. This mystery is the next leg of our journey through the shifting tides of race relations, as always with Easy's steady hand on the helm. And Mosley is never one to paint his characters, whatever their race, in broad strokes; his portraits are always tempered with the nuance of personal experience. If the whole picture reveals hard truths, they serve only to help us better understand our world. Like Easy, Mosley's "kinda nice comes from a place people like it rough." That's what keeps his fans coming back for more. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: One of our finest mystery writers brings back a familiar protagonist to reveal the black and white realities of the psychedelic 1960s.

Doubleday, $25.95, hardcover, 9780385535984

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Human Division

by John Scalzi


In The Human Division, John Scalzi extends and enriches his popular Old Man's War series with a collection of rousing tales of adventure across known space. The novel--originally serialized and distributed electronically in weekly installments--takes place after the events of The Last Colony, in which the people of Earth discover that they are part of a larger (and not super-friendly) universe, information the Colonial Union has withheld as it maintains Earth as a source of soldiers and colonists.

The Human Division is structured as a set of self-contained short stories, easily understood on its own yet contributing to an overall narrative arc that's frequently (but not exclusively) centered on Colonial Defense Forces Lieutenant Harry Wilson, who's been assigned to provide technical support to Ambassador Abumwe and her staff. This group, though it's generally assigned to bottom-of-the-barrel diplomatic missions, consistently performs well under pressure, and soon the "B-Team" finds itself thrust into ever less predictable or winnable situations.

Scalzi's stories are typically fun, full of clever bits of wordplay and structure, and rocket along like any good space opera should. It's not until the final few chapters that the entire story comes together, making a brilliant kind of sense and engaging a humanistic sense of pathos. What they find out about the real politics behind the galaxy-spanning conflicts sets the stage for the next book in the series, one that can't come soon enough. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: An experiment in electronic distribution leads to a ripping good space opera with social commentary that solidifies John Scalzi's reputation as heir to the Heinlein throne.

Tor, $25.99, hardcover, 9780765333513

Food & Wine

The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue

by Daniel Vaughn


Self-proclaimed barbecue snob Daniel Vaughn embarked on a series of road trips around Texas, stopping at every barbecue place he found along the way. With his photographer friend Nicholas McWhirter, and occasionally another friend or two, he spent 35 days and 10,343 miles on the road. Together, they ate at an astounding 186 barbecue joints. The Prophets of Smoked Meat details their journey through Daniel's words and Nick's pictures, bringing to life the wide variety of meat, pitmasters and restaurant workers in the Texas barbecue world.

Vaughn explains that Texas barbecue actually comes in four distinct styles: hill country style (which uses direct heat), east Texas style (featuring hot links and sweet sauce), south Texas style (centered on barbacoa) and central Texas style (low and slow cooking, no sauce).

Daniel and Nick offer brief takes on the places they eat--dry brisket, perfect ribs, smoky sausages, etc.--and provide a bit of the history about many of the small towns where barbecue traditions have been passed down for decades.

Whether you read it as a travelogue, a cookbook or a restaurant guide, The Prophets of Smoked Meat is sure to appeal to lovers of barbecue and lovers of Texas in general. The gorgeous pictures and short and snappy restaurant reviews keep the pages turning. But fair warning: reading this book practically requires excessive snacking. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Part road trip memoir, part barbecue restaurant criticism, this is for Texas lovers and barbecue fanatics alike.

Anthony Bourdain/Ecco, $29.99, hardcover, 9780062202925

Science

The Philadelphia Chromosome: A Mutant Gene and the Quest to Cure Cancer at the Genetic Level

by Jessica Wapner


When David Hungerford and Peter Nowell first detected a mutation in the chromosome of a chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patient in 1959, they had no way of knowing this singular discovery would change cancer treatment 50 years later. Christened the "Philadelphia Chromosome," Hungerford and Nowell's find set off a search for the genetic origins of cancer, spurring the development of molecular genetics and leading to laboratory methods and techniques that isolated and identified the genes responsible for a variety of deadly cancers.

Science journalist Jessica Wapner's The Philadelphia Chromosome draws upon extensive research and her own interviews with the clinicians and scientists involved to tell this story. She explains how the mutation led to further discoveries: viruses could transform healthy genes into cancerous ones; protein products such as tyrosine kinases could fuel cancer; molecules that targeted the production centers of these proteins could reverse the disease's progression. She also recounts how a group of dedicated researchers and oncologists defied pharmaceutical industry skeptics and professional colleagues to introduce personalized medicine in the form of targeted cancer therapy, giving hope to terminally ill patients.

The Philadelphia Chromosome concludes as a hard-fought victory over one form of cancer, but it also brings the promise that other trailblazing cures are possible--even if they must be found one gene and one protein at a time. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Jessica Wapner reveals how the discovery of a single mutated chromosome led to a trailblazing treatment for leukemia and a variety of other cancers.

The Experiment, $25.95, hardcover, 9781615190676

Children's & Young Adult

Golden

by Jessi Kirby


In her third novel, Jessi Kirby (In Honor) weaves together mystery, romance and a coming-of-age story narrated by 17-year-old Parker Frost.

Parker is valedictorian. She's never been kissed, and she has never broken any rules. Her best friend Kat has been pushing her to do more her whole life, but something she says this time finally clicks: "When's the last time you took a chance? Or didn't do what someone else expected of you? Or did something you really wanted to, even though you probably shouldn't have?... Well, it's time. It's time to do something worth remembering." What Kat doesn't know is that Parker is in charge of mailing journals back to the seniors who created them 10 years ago. One of those journals belongs to Julianna Farnetti, who was in a tragic accident with her boyfriend their senior year. Julianna's family left town, so Parker decides to borrow the journal for a little while. This leads to the unraveling of a mystery and the forming of relationships Parker wasn't expecting.

Kirby has written another beautifully crafted contemporary novel that explores the way someone is remembered versus how they really were. Complex characters come together to solve a mystery, and the quote from poet Mary Oliver with which English teacher Mr. Kinney introduces the journal project sums up the themes of Golden perfectly: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" --Shanyn Day, blogger at Chick Loves Lit

Discover: A teen uses a journal to solve a mystery from the past, which forces her to contemplate her present.

Simon & Schuster, $16.99, hardcover, 288p., ages 12-up, 9781442452169

Astronaut Academy: Re-Entry

by Dave Roman


In a sequel just as goofy and sweet as the original book, Hakata Soy and the team at Astronaut Academy return for another semester of school in the middle of space, but love keeps getting in the way.

Soy and his friends want to focus on going to class and, more importantly, winning the Fireball championship, but someone is eating the hearts of the students. (This is less gory than it seems; students need their hearts in the same way video game characters do.) While the series launch hinted at some love stories, including romantic triangles and a heaping adolescent helping of unrequited love, here love takes the main stage. Finding love in high school is complicated enough, without the threat of having one's heart literally stolen. Scared of losing too many students, the school bans love altogether. Though the students have other things to occupy them, like Fireball and MonChiChiMon cards, they must figure out who is taking the hearts before it's too late.

Roman's use of flashbacks fills readers in on the origin stories of many favorite characters. The manga and video game references will appeal to teens, as well as many younger readers, who will love the book just as much (if they're ready for a lot of crushes and smooching). Hakata, and many of the characters, must come to terms with some painful truths, and once again Roman's deft handling hides some deep thoughts under the bubbly panels, and brings the action-packed story to a satisfying conclusion. --Stephanie Anderson, head of readers' advisory at Darien Library and blogger

Discover: The delightful second entry in a stellar series of graphic novels for teens.

First Second, $9.99, paperback, 186p., ages 10-up, 9781596436213

Miss Maple's Seeds

by Eliza Wheeler, illus. by Eliza Wheeler


This debut picture book from Eliza Wheeler makes an ideal end-of-year gift for the right teacher, as Miss Maple affirms her mission to send her seeds out into the world to blossom.

As August winds start to blow in fall, Miss Maple, donning her pink-beribboned straw hat, plants her seeds. All summer long, Miss Maple gathers orphaned seeds and prepares them "in her tall maple tree" for the following year's planting. As Miss Maple cleans the seeds, she sings her refrain, "Take care, my little ones... for the world is big and you are small." She takes the seeds on field trips, describes the rich soil of the riverbed and warns them to "stay clear of weedy characters," whose leaves mimic a hand-on-hips pose. At night, she reads by firefly light and bids the seeds goodnight.

In May, Miss Maple proclaims the seeds ready to "find roots of their own." She sends them off in maple seedling "helicopters," one at a time, within tiny thimble-size baskets. Wheeler sidesteps the pedantic by closing on a high note: "Even the grandest of trees once had to grow up from the smallest of seeds." The sentiment may be familiar, but the art is accomplished. The sky, the dryness of the land, the long shadows all telegraph August. One standout page resembles a scientist's notebook, with a drawing and clear label for each seed she's found, both usual (acorn, pumpkin) and unusual (water lily, lupine). --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The ideal gift for teachers starring a charming heroine who cultivates her seeds, then sends them off to blossom.

Nancy Paulsen Books, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-5, 9780399257926

Humor

The Potty Mouth at the Table

by Laurie Notaro


In the smart and witty The Potty Mouth at the Table, Laurie Notaro (The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club) takes a sarcastic stab at a variety of targets: airport security, Yelp reviewers, Antiques Roadshow and her municipal court clerk, among others. No one is safe--she strikes out at friends, family and fellow writers--but the funniest blows are those directed at herself.

The title may lead readers to believe Notaro's essays are steeped in cuss words. It's not a G-rated book, but when Notaro uses profanity, it's with a flourish that makes every word count. In one essay--which has a title that does live up to the "potty mouth" description--Notaro discovers someone is using her "bath puff" and must put a stop to this violation of the "Cootie Code." The conversation that ensues crackles with pun and innuendo, concluding with new house rules regarding bath puffs, including "Just because we sit on the same potty does not mean it's okay to put my puff on your butt."

Several essays feature Notaro's husband, who must be a great sport for tolerating her neurotic behavior and taking all the insanity in stride. (Be sure not to skip the story of how she brings yet another chair into their living room....) Essay to essay, her unpredictability will keep readers enthralled and entertained. She even saves the best surprise for last. If you're reading in public, be prepared to answer the question: "What's so funny?" --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: Another humorous collection of essays from the author of The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club highlights the absurdity of everyday life.

Gallery, $16, paperback, 9781451659399

The Boy Who Saw
by Simon Toyne
ISBN-13: 978-0062329752
William Morrow
07/04/2017


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Simon Toyne
 

In THE BOY WHO SAW and your other thrillers, there is a richness to the atmosphere, to your descriptive passages. Is that a priority in your writing? 

“I do work very hard on the language because I think it’s as much part of the enjoyment of reading as following the story and a key part of the storytelling. Writing for TV, which I did for nearly 20 years, is all about structure and dialogue so you never get to exercise your descriptive muscles as far as languages goes, which was one of the reasons I wanted to try writing novels. But whenever I describe things in my books, I always try and do it in the most efficient way possible so as not to get in the way of the story or the pace, which are paramount in thrillers. For setting, I normally make a place up so that I can have free license with it.  For this book though I felt I needed to anchor it in reality as much as possible because of the theme of learning the lessons of history, so I used a town in France called Cordes-sur-Ciel, which I know very well as I live there for some of the year.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

ALSO FEATURED ON THE the big THRILL…
 

DEADFALL by LINDA FAIRSTEIN: In the 19th in the Alexandra Cooper series, the assistant DA teams up with two police officers after the shocking killing of a major public figure, but her investigation takes her deep into the dangerous predator spheres of the city, from civic zoos to the highest offices in city government. Read more at The Big Thrill.

EXILE by JAMES SWALLOW: The bestselling author returns with his protagonist Marc Dane in an action thriller that takes readers from vicious Serbian gangs to disgraced Russian generals and vengeful Somali warlords, as Dane sees a disaster coming and struggles to be the one who can stop it in time. Find out more here.

SEEING RED by SANDRA BROWN: New York Times bestseller Brown tells a story of a TV journalist on the trail of a big story, an exclusive interview with a shadowy hero who led survivors to safety out of a bombed hotel. But getting the story puts her in greater danger than she ever thought possible. Learn more at The Big Thrill.

THE GOOD DAUGHTER By KARIN SLAUGHTER: In her new novel of psychological suspense, Slaughter delivers a cold-case file story sure to grip readers: 28 years after her mother was killed and her father left devastated in a small town, a lawyer faces violence in her town again, and memories of a shocking truth. Visit The Big Thrill for more. 

DARK LIGHT DAWN by JON LAND & FABRIZIO BOCCARDI: In this supernatural thriller about a global epidemic, a man who built a life for himself as a Navy SEAL finds himself in the middle of a rogue rescue operation leading to a sinister apocalyptic plot. Read more here.

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