Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, June 14, 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

Handselling in the Office

Our CFO adamantly avers that he is not a reader ("I pretty much skipped the whole literature thing in my education; film is a different matter"). And yet, D.J. can be persuaded by extravagant praise to read books. For instance, he just saw the movie Silver Linings Playbook and remembered that I couldn't stop talking about the book when it was published. He looked up the review from 2008 and bought the book. He said, "The contrast of deliberately simple language about complex emotional turmoil is really mesmerizing, and made me laugh while [envisioning] what such a journey is like."

Last year, I was going on and on about The Song of Achilles, a brilliant retelling of part of The Iliad, about the love between Achilles and Patroclus. The Iliad? D.J. said. Really? Mythology and all that stuff? But he trusted me, and in turn raved about it, then sent it to his mom. "I couldn't be less interested in the stated subject matter, but thought the writing exquisite without being inaccessible to a literature dolt. The descriptions of the greatness of Achilles told by one completely marginal to the powers of the day were so moving and swooning, and I'm probably a softy for any love story."

This year the raving was about The Son, a book that our publisher, Jenn Risko, practically forced everyone to read. An epic novel about the making of Texas, it's a bloody, violent and engrossing tale, arguably the novel of the year. D.J. "piggybacked it on Lions of the West, which really helped with the Mex/Tex historical context and the wrestling with large questions of conquest and power in the American West. The detail of the landscape and outdoor life grabbed me. The book was addictive and transported me to a place and time long lost, while leaving lingering big-picture questions of civilization."

Handselling. It's not just for bookstores. Evangelize wherever you are. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers


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


Book Candy

Kids' Classics, Under Surveillance; Books Starring Cats

This week's international headlines prompted Atomic Books, Baltimore, Md., to re-imagine a few children's classics in a world under surveillance.

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Flavorwire recommended "10 great books starring cats."

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This may be the only quiz in history for fans of Arrested Development and poetry: "Half Machine, Half Monster: A Frank O'Hara or Buster Bluth Quiz."


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


Great Reads

Now in Paper: June

City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (Graywolf Press, $15)
Limerick-born Kevin Barry's first book, the story collection There Are Little Kingdoms, won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. His debut novel, City of Bohane--which recently won the IMPAC Dublin award--is set in a dystopian polyglot 2053 Ireland and is filled with language that reads like a perverted hybrid of A Clockwork Orange and Trainspotting. Readers can enter City of Bohane anywhere and enjoy the language and the descriptions without worrying about the fierce and destructive story.

Goldberg Variations by Susan Isaacs (Scribner, $16)
Susan Isaacs has created a perfect setup: Gloria Goldberg Goldberg Garrison (born Goldberg, married to Joe Goldberg, changed her name to Garrison) is looking for someone to take over Glory, Inc., her beauty makeover business. At 79, narcissistic Gloria is friendless, cranky, imperious, hyper-critical and unrepentant. Three grandchildren are summoned to her estate so she can look them over and offer one of them her fortune. Things do not go as planned.

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (Vintage, $15.95)
Dave Eggers plunges into the contradictions of Saudi Arabian life with Alan Clay, a one-man consulting firm traveling to King Abdullah Economic City to demonstrate a teleconference system to 85-year-old King Abdullah. When Alan accidentally sleeps late on the morning of his first royal appointment, he hires Yousef, a student driver, to rush him to the tent to await the no-show king. Yousef is a delightful comic creation; the bonding between sad, blundering Alan and cheerful Yousef becomes the heart of the novel.

The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye (Unbridled Books, $15)
Peter Geye's story of early settlers on the shores of Lake Superior is sprinkled with archaic language and immigrant Norwegian, but stay the course and you'll find a novel rich in character, moving back and forth in time between the orphaned Odd Einar Eide's difficult birth and his last hours ice fishing with his motherless son as the spring thaw rips a spider web of cracks across the big lake beneath them.

The Malice of Fortune: A Novel of the Renaissance by Michael Ennis (Anchor, $15.95)
Stieg Larsson and CSI meet Renaissance Italy in Michael Ennis's ambitious novel, in which Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli team up to investigate a series of grisly murders. All the victims are women; all are horribly mutilated. Anyone might be the next victim, including the beautiful golden-haired courtesan Damiata, with whom Machiavelli has fallen in love. The story occurs within a framework of historical events involving the notorious Cesare Borgia, and contains innumerable twists that culminate in a memorable, suspenseful conclusion.

One White Dolphin by Gill Lewis, illustrated by Raquel Aparicio (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ages 8-12)

"Each night I have this dream. Each night the white dolphin waits for me." Gill Lewis writes about the dreamer, Kara Wood, a child struggling with loss of her mother, who continues to love and care about her family and friends and the creatures that populate the sea. This life-affirming novel gets its depth from well-drawn characters such as Kara's father, her cousin Daisy, and Felix, a boy who has cerebral palsy. But the satisfying climax and believable ending come about because of Kara's indomitable and generous spirit.

Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers (Plume, $16)
Morgan Callan Rogers's debut novel begins with a deeply emotional jolt: Carlie Gilham goes missing during a weekend trip, leaving her daughter Florine to face adolescence in a hardscrabble Maine fishing community during the 1960s. Did Cassie meet an unthinkable fate? Should Florine feel bereaved or just abandoned? For all the situation's potential for existential angst, the tale is not moody or weighty. It is, instead, a languidly paced, absorbing coming-of-age story with an enticing sense of time and place and a likable heroine whose singular circumstances give way to the more universal strains and awakenings of growing up.

The Uninvited by Liz Jensen (Bloomsbury USA, $16)
When adults say "children are the future," it's usually a hopeful acknowledgement; in British novelist Liz Jensen's The Uninvited, it is a warning--and a terrifying inevitability. Hesketh Lock, a brilliant anthropologist with Asperger's, is dispatched to investigate a bizarre series of cases of corporate sabotage. These cases converge with a second alarming phenomenon: children around the world are attacking and killing adults, and Lock must confront a nightmarish global phenomenon in this smart, genre-bending thriller.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (Vintage, $15)
We know Mary Ann Schwalbe will die of pancreatic cancer, and we mourn her from the opening pages. When her son, Will, offers to accompany her to appointments and treatments, he starts an waiting-room conversation with a familiar question: "What are you reading?" Thus, their book-club-for-two was born. This story of the two years of Schwalbe's mother's illness is an homage to her remarkable life and their shared passion for books.

Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen (Broadway Books, $15)
In a stunning and sobering account of growing up next door to the nation's biggest radioactive threat, Kristen Iversen tells the intertwined stories of her father's alcoholism and Rocky Flats, Colo.--for almost 40 years, the secret source of the plutonium "pits" at the center of hydrogen bombs. Iversen weaves her lucid, heart-wrenching memoir of a family struggling to keep itself together with a keen exploration of nuclear havoc. Together, the two tales create a powerful account of coming of age under a mushroom cloud.

Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death by Bernd Heinrich (Mariner Books, $15.95)
Naturalist Heinrich explains in fascinating detail that death is just a continuation of the life cycle, as the death of one animal provides life for other species--like Nicrophorus beetles that bury dead mice as a food source for their larvae. He also raises moral and philosophical concerns about the role humans have played in the death cycle, considering the effects of our "deliberate removal of carcasses that have, throughout evolutionary history, been left to return to the earth."

The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy (Simon & Schuster, $16)
Actor-turned-writer Andrew McCarthy's memoir of the convoluted travel adventures he took in a misguided attempt to find comfort in settling at home is a fascinating character study, offering a glimmer of McCarthy's insight into his own fairly antisocial, overly sensitive personality issues as they play out across the drama of his relationship and subsequent marriage in Ireland to his current wife, D. He recounts his struggle to balance his desire for an engaged family life with an equally intense longing for solitude with candor and self-awareness.


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


Book Review

Fiction

Time Flies

by Claire Cook


Claire Cooke (Must Love Dogs) has built a brand writing light-hearted women's fiction blending kernels of the absurd and comedic in compulsively readable combinations. In Time Flies, she delivers again with the story of Melanie, a middle-aged (and recently divorced) metal sculptor with a highway driving phobia who is goaded by an old friend to attend their high school reunion in Massachusetts. 

Melanie, who had uprooted herself and her two sons to accommodate her husband's job years before, has no desire to leave suburban Atlanta and revisit the past. She is content to stay home and literally cut up her king-size marital bed with a chainsaw in order to harvest the springs inside for a new artistic creation. "I'm not famous, I didn't turn into a knockout, my husband left me," she tells her relentless friend. But when an old high school flame, Finn Miller, e-mails to ask if Melanie will be attending the reunion, their flirtatious correspondence--and the fact that Melanie doesn't exactly remember him--is enough to pique her interest and change her mind.

Hilarious potholes abound on the way to memory lane as Melanie journeys to Massachusetts, where she faces her fears while reconnecting with old friends dealing with their own life challenges. The pièce de résistance, however, is the reunion itself, as past and present riotously collide and give birth to an ending as heartfelt as it is hopeful. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: In Cook's latest, a jilted middle-aged woman reluctantly attends her high school reunion and surprisingly discovers her future.

Touchstone, $24.99, hardcover, 9781451673678

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


The Lullaby of Polish Girls

by Dagmara Dominczyk


Like Anna, the heroine of The Lullaby of Polish Girls, Dagmara Dominczyk is the child of a Solidarity activist; she, too, immigrated to the U.S. from Poland at a young age, went to theater school and became an actress. But, if Dominczyk hasn't reached far for the foundations of this novel, she hasn't let the unreal tone of Hollywood destroy her sense of authenticity, either.

Anna begins taking annual summer trips to Kielce, Poland, at the dawn of puberty and is absorbed into a large group of friends to whom her American-ness is irresistible. Two of them become instant, intense confidantes: Justyna is the flirty rebel of the group; Kamila the self-deprecating scold. Early adulthood causes them to drift, what with Anna's budding career in film and television, Justyna's surprisingly happy marriage and Kamila's troubled one. But the murder of Justyna's husband causes each of the women to reevaluate their lives, drawing them back to Kielce and to the unbreakable connection they forged as girls.

This debut novel is a frank but loving character study of three young women who experience--in their hard-living Polish way--the universal pangs of love, sex and maturation. Dominczyk credits Judy Blume as an inspiration; indeed, The Lullaby of Polish Girls often feels like a Polish-flavored Summer Sisters. Like that book, it is an intimate tribute to female friendship--and, with Dominczyk's film background, well poised for a movie version. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: A frank and loving character study of three friends, two Polish and one Polish-American, whose teenage friendship endures after adult love and loss.

Spiegel & Grau, $25, hardcover, 9780812993554

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


Mystery & Thriller

Black Star Nairobi

by Mukoma Wa Ngugi


Sinister from the outset, Mukoma Wa Ngugi's Black Star Nairobi opens in the thick interior of the Ngong forest, where an unknown corpse has been devoured by wild beasts, and detectives Ishmael and "O" share a joint while considering the body. The sequel to Nairobi Heat, Wa Ngugi's second novel takes place in Kenya's capital, where the private investigators strive to connect the corpse with a nearby hotel bombing. Despite their sobering occupation, the two men enjoy an amiable life outside of work. O's wife is close with Ishmael's girlfriend, and the four enjoy nights of banter and intellectual debate. Then a horrific incident makes their lives inseparable from their work, as their small case is tied to a network of international actors. 

Readers will recognize common thriller plot elements, such as white-collar corruption and a female computer hacker. What sets Wa Ngugi apart is his grasp of global politics--undoubtedly the outcome of having written a range of nonfiction pieces on the subject. In Black Star, the Kenyan presidential elections--divided along ethnic lines--occur alongside 2008's U.S. presidential primaries, in which Barack Obama is brought to the fore. These events hold particular significance to Ishmael, a Kenyan-American ex-policeman. While political issues drive the plot, it is ethical uncertainty that gives the novel its core. When one must kill to survive, is it possible to maintain a moral code? What distinguishes cop from criminal? And if a great justice is one's goal, can small injustices be committed along the way? --Annie Atherton, intern at Shelf Awareness

Discover: A Kenyan-American detective and his Kenyan partner take on a global network of criminals in the sequel to Nairobi Heat.

Melville, $15.95, paperback, 9781612192109

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


Lost

by S.J. Bolton


As Lost begins, 12-year-old Barney and his friends are concerned about the local killings of boys around their age in south London. They obsessively monitor a Facebook page named Missing Boys to see the latest updates on the police investigation. Someone who posts regularly seems to have info before the cops do, and Barney is startled one day when this mysterious person turns out to know personal details about him, too, including where he lives.

Detective Constable Lacey Flint lives next door to Barney and is on leave (following the events of S.J. Bolton's previous novel, Dead Scared). Lacey notices Barney is often left alone at night by his single dad, so she watches after the boy and sometimes keeps him company. She suspects he knows something about the murders that he's not telling her, and though she's not technically on the job, Lacey is determined to prevent Barney from being the killer's next victim.

Bolton is adroit at ratcheting up tension in a story that's hard to stop reading despite its creepiness and unsettling plot points. Lacey is difficult and abrasive, but more likable than if she were glossy or bland. The sexual chemistry between her and Detective Inspector Mark Joesbury is tantalizing and could use a bit more attention, but it's okay, too, if Bolton wants to keep fans in suspense for a little while longer. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, writer and editor blogging at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: A creepy, suspenseful tale involving preteen boys being abducted and murdered in south London.

Minotaur, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250028563

The Kill Room

by Jeffery Deaver


After a three-year absence, Jeffery Deaver's dynamic duo of crime scene investigators, Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs, return in The Kill Room, the 10th book in the series (following The Burning Wire), which addresses some of the most timely and controversial subjects the criminalists have ever dealt with. In an exciting and thoughtful examination of how far government can go, Deaver introduces a new government agency: NIOS, the National Intelligence and Operations Service.

Robert Moreno, born in the U.S., hates capitalism's exploitation of Latin and South America. When intelligence suggests he has ordered an attack on an oil company's headquarters in Miami, NIOS director Metzger orders a kill. Moreno is shot in his Bahamian suite from long range by a contract sharpshooter. The so-called attack, however, was nothing more than a "protest." An assistant district attorney asks Lincoln for help; she wants to prosecute Metzger (and the federal government) for murder.

Here's where the trademark Deaver narrative takes off. Chapters alternate between Rhyme and his task force versus his brilliant, sadistic nemesis--an assassin who loves to cook as much as he loves wielding his treasured knife, an expensive Kai Shun Premier with a nine-inch blade that he uses on animal and human flesh alike.

Deaver doesn't disappoint. Against a grave and complex legal backstory, he unwinds an elaborate narrative with believable, intriguing characters and fascinating CSI-like investigative aplomb. Even though the villain seems a bit too Hannibal Lecter-like, he's a worthy and intriguing adversary for the ever-brilliant Rhyme. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A compelling and provocative thriller ostensibly inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki and the controversy surrounding drone assassinations.

Grand Central, $28, hardcover, 9781455517060

Food & Wine

Eating on the Wild Side

by Jo Robinson, illus. by Andie Styner


In today's supermarkets, farmer's markets and backyard gardens, one can find hundreds of varieties of vegetables and fruits grown for their high sweet, starch and fat contents and lack of bitterness. According to the extensive research compiled by Jo Robinson in Eating on the Wild Side, though, these varieties--distant relatives of the wild plants our hunter-gatherer ancestors forged for--are often less nutritious than those "bitter, tough, thick-skinned and seedy" wild fruits and vegetables we used to eat.

Many modern foods lack high levels of the phytonutrients that aid our ability to fight off diseases (including cancer and diabetes). Robinson's solution is to provide detailed information on more than 27 vegetables and two dozen fruits so consumers know exactly which type of plant packs the most nutrient-rich wallop. She discusses the origins of varieties, how to detect freshness and methods of storage that enhance the availability of the lycopene, resveratrol, anthocyanin and other bio-nutrients; she even offers a few recipes. From lettuce to legumes and apples to melons, summaries of the best produce to purchase provide quick reference points for shopping, storage and consumption.

"Most health experts agree that the healthiest diet is one that is high in fiber and low in sugar and rapidly digested carbohydrates," Robinson writes. Eating more fruits and vegetables is wise advice. This entertaining and informative guidebook shows us why it's true--and which types are the best to add to our diet. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: New research reveals the most nutrient-rich varieties of fruits and vegetables.

Little, Brown, $27, hardcover, 9780316227940

Biography & Memoir

The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines

by Shohreh Aghdashloo


From the cliffhanger opening, Shohreh Aghdashloo's memoir leads readers from the red carpet of Oscar night 2004 back through the opulence of her Iranian childhood, the turmoil of revolution, her flight to the West and her acting career. The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines is one woman's straightforward account of the upheaval in Iran and her determination to overcome its impact on her life.

Blessed with security and love, Shohreh rejected her parents' hopes that she'd study medicine to follow her dream of acting. At 19, she married an artist who supported her goal. Their blissful days during the "Persian Spring," when Iran was thriving, ended with the rise of Khomeini. When her outspoken resistance to the Islamic revolution put her family in danger, she fled. (Eventually, she and her husband divorced; she would not return to Iran, and he would not leave.)

Shohreh's account of rebuilding her life in the West is matter-of-fact, but her tenacity to succeed and love for her country and family are striking. In Los Angeles, she works with and marries an Iranian playwright; together they stage successful performances to the acclaim of Iranian audiences. Meanwhile, she is a voice of Iran on a Farsi-language radio program, leading to TV roles, then movies and eventually her Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in The House of Sand and Fog.

Shohreh also covers the political history of her beloved homeland, including a last-chapter summary of current Middle East politics and a plea for freedom in the region. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: An Iran-to-Hollywood memoir of one woman's flight from the Middle East to rebuild her life in the U.S.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062009807

History

The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England

by Marc Morris


Of all the existing accounts of the Norman Conquest, the Bayeux Tapestry is at once one of the most vivid and one of the most ambiguous. Marc Morris's The Norman Conquest uses the tapestry as a starting point, addressing the ambiguities while losing none of the vivacity in its account of the pursuits of William the Conqueror and the events of 1066--creating fresh insight without oversimplifying the facts.

Morris, a medieval historian (A Great and Terrible King), begins not with 1066 and the Conquest itself, but with events leading up to that pivotal moment, portraying England as vulnerable to an arguably less-advanced Norman force despite the country's traditional strengths. Rather than retelling traditional narratives that place one side or the other as heroes and villains, Morris puts the historical record first, drawing out complex questions and highlighting the fact that what we do not know about the Conquest or its key players is as crucial to our current understanding as what we do know--and what we have surmised, theorized or simply made up in the centuries since.

The Norman Conquest vividly brings to life a major turning point in history, emphasizing the upheavals it wrought in English law, language and society--as well as other elements of English life that have remained for centuries the same. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: An exciting and well-organized foray into the Norman Conquest, and the Anglo-Saxon England it overturned.

Pegasus, $32, hardcover, 9781605984513

Current Events & Issues

Friend of the Court: On the Front Lines with the First Amendment

by Floyd Abrams


On any list of contemporary First Amendment experts, Floyd Abrams's name surely comes out on top. Since his participation in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case, Abrams has tackled free-speech crises at every level of litigation, from initial trials to hearings before the Supreme Court. Through his legal arguments, articles, speeches, debates and testimony, Abrams has played a key role in shaping American law as it pertains to free speech and has affected the treatment of free-speech rights outside the U.S. as well.

In Friend of the Court, Abrams compiles writings on the First Amendment and related issues that span his career. Among the topics tackled in the collection are national security, prior restraint, censorship and libel and slander. Although Abrams is an attorney and his writings often delve into the depths of legal arguments, many of the pieces included in the collection were created to be accessible to general audiences. And, although Abrams has refined his own position on the First Amendment over the years, a common thread links the decades of work presented here: the staunch belief that the First Amendment's free speech right, one of the most expansive such rights in the world, must be vigorously defended as essential to the preservation of all other rights and to the basic form of representative democracy promised by the Constitution. With characteristic clarity and verve, Abrams offers a clear vision of the purpose of the First Amendment and the crucial role it plays in our nation's discourse. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: A collection of essays, speeches, articles and debates from one of the country's foremost First Amendment attorneys.

Yale University Press, $32.50, hardcover, 9780300190878

Children's & Young Adult

Far Far Away

by Tom McNeal


This highly imaginative spin on the Brothers Grimm tales casts the ghost of Jacob Grimm in the role of godfather to a contemporary teenage boy.

Jacob Grimm does not understand why, upon his death, he was not immediately greeted by his brother, Wilhelm, whose death preceded his own. Instead, Jacob finds himself in a kind of purgatory for "those who are agitated and uneasy." In the village of Never Better, Jacob finds a calling in protecting 15-year-old Jeremy Johnson Johnson. Jacob narrates the novel, and Jeremy is his hero.

McNeal (co-author, with his wife, Laura McNeal, of Crooked, Crushed and Zipped) strikes an impressive balance between a small-town setting with modern amenities and a timeless quality in a society that predates cell phones and computers. Kids still play Monopoly and pull pranks, such as the one attractive and adventurous Ginger Boultinghouse convinces Jeremy to pull on the town's baker. Jeremy can hear ghosts, and McNeal exploits the comic possibilities. Jacob gives helpful hints to Jeremy on his exams and advice (which Jeremy often ignores, when it comes to Ginger). The author flaunts his bounty of Grimm facts when Jeremy chooses fairy tales as his specialty for the TV quiz show Uncommon Knowledge, and again at a much darker hour, when Jeremy, Ginger and another boy from town get kidnapped.

McNeal structures the novel like a fairy tale, and the overriding sense of danger lurking like a deep forest surrounding the village will keep readers on the edges of their seats. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A 15-year-old befriended by the ghost of Jacob Grimm finds himself in a predicament to rival a Brothers Grimm tale.

Knopf, $17.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 12-up, 9780375849725

Deviant

by Helen Fitzgerald


In this YA thriller, Helen FitzGerald's (Amelia O'Donohue Is SO Not a Virgin) narrator is a 16-year-old living in an orphanage who, ironically, discovers she has a whole family when her birth mother dies.

Abigail Thom lives a hardscrabble existence in Scotland in an institution for orphans, whom she refers to as "Unloved Nobodies." Like many orphans, she's invented a fantasy mother in her head. That invention is shattered when she's informed that her birth mother is dead.

Her mother's effects contain a letter, a one-way ticket to the U.S., money--and a mystery. It turns out Abigail has a father and a sister she never knew in Los Angeles. Her mother's letter urges Abigail to find them and solve the mystery of her abandonment at birth, while also hinting there is a larger conspiracy dictating the course of all their lives. In L.A., Abigail quickly becomes close to her 18-year-old sister, Becky. Becky plays the role of the dilettante rich girl by day and takes part in an underground graffiti movement by night. The mystery hinted at in her mother's letter becomes intertwined with Becky's graffiti--and a murder. Abigail must untangle lies old and new in order to discover who she really is, and who her mother really was. --Jessica Bushore, former public librarian and freelance writer

Discover: A page-turning mystery featuring a smart heroine whose hard-won instinct for self-preservation becomes her salvation.

Soho Teen, $17.99, hardcover, 248p., ages 14-up, 9781616951399

Fifteenth Summer

by Michelle Dalton


Through the eyes of 15-year-old narrator Chelsea Silver, Michelle Dalton (Sixteenth Summer) reassures teens that it's possible to experience grief and joy at the same time.

As Chelsea travels cross-country with her two older, more beautiful sisters, she wonders if she's the only one who misses her Granly so acutely. It's the first summer they're spending on Lake Michigan in Granly's home in Bluepointe without her. In her search for solitude, walking the town of Bluepointe, Chelsea discovers a bookstore--and 15-year-old Josh, who works there with his mother, the owner.

Chelsea gets a job waitressing next door to Dog Ear, the bookstore, and she feels closer to her sisters than ever. But then Josh starts feeling responsible for Dog Ear, and thinks he can't keep up with his work and keep Chelsea, too. In the process of making peace with her grief, Chelsea grows up and helps Josh do the same. She realizes she can honor her own happiness while still feeling sorrow for the hole Granly has left, and also that by pursuing her own happiness, she honors her grandmother, too. Both Chelsea and Josh do some growing up in this charming tale of a first crush. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A fun beach read about a first crush.

Simon Pulse, $17.99, hardcover, 272p., ages 12-up, 9781442472679; $9.99 paperback 9781442472662

Humor

Dear Girls Above Me

by Charlie McDowell


More than 95,000 Twitter followers can't be wrong. When aspiring comedy writer Charlie McDowell got some impossibly noisy and airheaded upstairs neighbors, he probably never imagined that poaching their vapid lines would make him an online celebrity. Several years and a flourishing Facebook page later, McDowell is now a star in his own right--and he owes it all to the constant stream of nonsense pouring through his woefully thin ceiling.

The two party girls living above McDowell repeatedly spew lines of such stupidity (they wonder how much gluten cost before it was free) that you have to wonder if he's making it all up. McDowell swears he's not and he has even held "listening parties" so others could witness the girls rapping about sex, fake boobs and the Tic Tac diet. While it's all very comical, there's also something creepy about someone profiting off of eavesdropping on a pair of innocent dunderheads. (And how in the world do these women not realize there's a popular feed being written by their very own words?)

What McDowell incorporates into Dear Girls Above Me, though, is a touching tale about his loneliness after being dumped by his girlfriend and how the conversations upstairs get him though. There's a great subplot where he tries to force his roommate out of the closet and butts heads with his nutty landlord. Ironically, McDowell's original fiction is way funnier and more poignant than anything being generated by the girls above him. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: A hilarious Twitter feed is transformed into a charming novel of love lost and identity gained.

Three Rivers Press, $14, paperback, 9780307986337

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