Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, June 28, 2013


St. Martin's Press: No Easy Target by Iris Johansen

From My Shelf

Tarcherperigee: Diaper Dude by Chris Pegula with Frank Meyer / The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner

Mira Books: Any Day Now (Sullivan's Crossing #2) by Robyn Carr

America's Cup: Reading Wind and Waves

Next month, some of the best sailors in the world will be in San Francisco for the Louis Vuitton Cup, which determines this year's challenger to the defending America's Cup champion, Oracle Team USA. Although the 34th quest for the "Auld Mug" has been rife with controversy over boat design (not unusual), rule changes (also inevitable) and even a recent death (quite rare), the Cup still fascinates me. To prepare, I'm currently reading and enjoying Julian Guthrie's The Billionaire and the Mechanic: How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed Up to Win Sailing's Greatest Race, the America's Cup (Grove Press).

Let the skipper's log show that I'm no sailor, despite an ignoble attempt at windsurfing during the late '80s when I was managing editor of the trade magazine Sailboard News. I did, however, spend a lot of time then with experienced sailors and surfers, who were adept at the art/science/magic of reading wind and waves.

Since book voyages are more my speed, here are some favorite wind and wave reads, with apologies upfront to those who can't, well, fathom that Moby Dick is not among them. My first literary high seas adventures occurred in high school aboard Rafael Sabatini's Captain Blood and Homer's The Odyssey. Over the years, I've booked passage on Yukio Mishima's poignantly landlocked The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea; Dava Sobel's intricate history Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time; the siren song of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels; Robert Stone's powerful Outerbridge Reach; and, for surfers, Tim Winton's small masterpiece Breath.

The ocean itself is a complex but rewarding read. In The Billionaire and the Mechanic, Guthrie notes a speech given by President Kennedy, an avid sailor, before the 1962 America's Cup. "They race against each other," he said, "but they also race with each other against the wind and sea." --Robert Gray, contributing editor


Doubleday Books: Unreliable by Lee Irby


Book Candy

Summer Road Trip Books; Three Animal Noir Titles

The Hollywood Reporter recommended "11 buzzy books for a summer road trip."

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If you're feeling a little peckish for more than a good read, Flavorwire found "10 literary restaurants for hungry book nerds around the world."

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"Badger, Bunny and Black-Cat Blues: 3 Tales of Animal Noir" were featured in the latest edition of NPR's Three Books series.

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Do you know where your favorite book characters live? Take the Guardian's fictional address quiz to "test your knowledge of those addresses where real and fictional geography collide."

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While Buzzfeed had a suggestion ("You have to see these scenes from Game of Thrones, created in Lego"), Taxi had a question: "What if Game of Thrones characters had dating profiles?"

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Tilt, a London design studio, created the OpenBook chair, "an oversized comfy seat wrapped in an empty library that you can fill with your favorite books and magazines, creating an oasis of reading in a sea of distracting electronics," Gizmodo reported.


The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger


The Writer's Life

Aifric Campbell: The Bottom Line

photo: An-Sofie Kesteleyn

Aifric Campbell's On the Floor (just published by Picador) is set in January 1991, on the eve of the first Gulf War, as London investment banker Geri Molloy is sent to Hong Kong to figure out her biggest client's plans for a certain piece of stock. Campbell was working at Morgan Stanley then, and remembers staring at the TV screens, waiting for each new development. "When you are trading live markets," she e-mailed recently, "all news is interpreted in terms of its impact on your bottom line. War is another variable--another risk factor, another trading opportunity." In this case, the war is a turbulent backdrop against which Geri's professional and personal lives simultaneously unravel, as her client, her employers and a reappearing ex-lover pull at her.

You spent 13 years at Morgan Stanley. How closely does Geri's experience mirror your own career?

Geri's world is completely inspired by my years in investment banking. I wanted the reader to step right onto the trading floor, to feel what's at stake when a deal is on the table, what it's like to be the "skirt amongst men." But she's a fictional character and her story is most definitely not mine (although we share a love of dogs and a taste for Absolut!).

How about the rules Geri and her friend Zanna come up with for making it as a woman in finance? Did you ever make up something like that during your time on the floor?

Geri's rulebook for Wannabee Female Bankers is a send-up of what was an overwhelmingly male corporate culture, and like all satires it contains a few home truths. In the 1980s and '90s there were very few women in finance, and the atmosphere on trading floors was often part locker room, part racetrack. A robust sense of humour and a razor-sharp wit were essential survival skills.

What was your path from investment banking to creative writing?

I've been writing since I was a kid, all through college and my time at Morgan Stanley. I wrote because I was a reader, because it has always seemed like the most natural thing to do. But my decision to seriously focus on publication didn't come until I got offered a place in the University of East Anglia Creative Writing programme in 2002. I'd had a very happy and successful career in banking and it was time to take some real risk, to see if I could do what I'd always dreamt of: write stories that people would want to read.

The M.A. programme provided a structure and a healthily competitive environment--and the chance to get read and mentored. I went on to do a Ph.D. in Critical and Creative Writing and wrote my first novel, The Semantics of Murder, about the unsolved murder of a brilliant mathematician at UCLA in 1971.

After that novel and The Loss Adjustor, what prompted you to draw upon your investment banking past for On the Floor?

In fact, I started writing this book while I was on the floor at Morgan Stanley--and I worked on it during my M.A.--but it took a long time to get it right!

Yes, you've mentioned that you'd lost and found this story a few times before it was complete. Can you elaborate?

In 2007, I was at Yaddo and 50,000 words into this novel when I was "hijacked" by what I thought was the voice of a new character in the book. That voice was so insistent and so compelling that I had to put my financial novel aside and write The Loss Adjustor.

The other reason that On the Floor took a long time to finish was that is was technically challenging. I wanted to write a book insiders would find authentic that would also be accessible to readers who knew nothing about finance. So, no dumbing down or oversimplification. I was trying to capture the spirit of the era that gave us Bonfire of the Vanities, Gordon Gekko, American Psycho AND cast a long shadow of foreboding.... It was the beginning of everything that would unravel with a vengeance in 2008.

In a post-50 Shades of Grey world, any story about a wealthy man trying to psychologically dominate a younger, attractive woman faces inevitable comparisons. But you've been trying to tell this story for a lot longer--and, too, there's nothing romanticized in the portrayal of Felix. What's your take on him?

What fascinates me about Felix and Geri and the 50 Shades dust storm is Freud's old question: "What do women really want?"

Geri is a highly successful and gifted young woman who allows herself to be manipulated by all the men in her life: her boss, her ex-lover and her client. Why? This was what intrigued me about her, this was why she kept me awake at night.

The relationship between Felix and Geri is based on the complex power relationship between a salesperson and their client. Felix is her meal ticket; he is the reason for her career success. Geri is also his human experiment, his lab rat, and Felix forces her to make the decision that will shape her destiny. --Ron Hogan


Counterpoint: Grace by Natashia Deón


Book Review

Fiction

In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods

by Matt Bell


In his first full-length novel, In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, Matt Bell (Cataclysm Baby) shatters narrative convention to deliver an allegory with the compelling power of mythology.

Two newlyweds build a house on a faraway shore. Together, they create their home, which the wife furnishes with objects she sings into existence. For a time, all is full of promise as they fish in their lake, keep house and expect the birth of their first child, which the husband desires above all things.

However, when the baby comes early, stillborn and deformed, the husband does the unthinkable and swallows it. The fetus remains in his body, taking on a stilted life of its own and becoming the inner voice of the husband's doubts as pregnancy after pregnancy fails. With every miscarriage, the wife sings more stars out of the sky, until finally the sky is dark save for two moons, one natural, one sung into being by the wife, who intends to crash it into the earth if she loses another child.

With doom literally hanging over their heads, the couple undertakes one last gestation that spells disaster not only for their marriage but also for the balance of life in the woods, where a mysterious and powerful bear reigns supreme over all creatures. To restore equilibrium to the land and his love, the husband must journey deep into the earth where his wife now hides.

Mythic elements give the characters in Bell's allegory a trace of the godlike even as they battle with a very human dilemma: how to sustain an unwillingly childless marriage. With searing, epic symbolism, Bell's debut novel wrings beauty from pain. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, Latah County Library District; blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: An allegorical epic about a couple whose magic cannot give them the one thing they want--a child--explores human love and loss via mythic symbolism.

Soho Press, $25, hardcover, 9781616952532

Knopf Publishing Group: The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve


The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

by Andrew Sean Greer


In Andrew Sean Greer's contemplative, reflective fourth novel, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, narrator Greta, a woman in her 30s, tells us early on that she longs to live "in any time but this one"--1985. Her beloved gay brother, Felix, has died of AIDS, and Nathan, her boyfriend of 10 years, has left her for another woman. Distraught and depressed, she turns to electroconvulsive therapy treatments. And then, like Dorothy clicking her magic shoes, Greta intones, "I wish it not to have happened.... Any time but this one," and she's gone.

It's October 1918. Felix, still gay and deeply closeted, is alive; Greta's married to Nathan, but he's at war. This world is kinder, gentler--idyllic, even. She loves it here and thinks: "The impossible happens once to each of us." Yet, just as in The Confessions of Max Tivoli, in which Greer lets Max woo his love in three time periods, here, too, he gives Greta more than one chance at the impossible.

Waking up one day, she discovers that it's November 1941. She's married to Nathan and they have a son. Felix is alive, too. In each period, Greta is always at her home in New York City, aware of being from the future and accepting each of these worlds.

The traveling continues, back and forth, with Greta learning from each visit, trying to make the right choices and the right decisions each "time." Greer's use of time-traveling doesn't dwell on the scientific complexities; this lovely, enchanting novel's focus is on relationships, family, friends and the liabilities of love and loss. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: Andrew Sean Greer's fourth novel asks this question: Knowing what we know now, if we could live in another time and place, would we truly love and live differently?

Ecco, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062213785

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire


Mystery & Thriller

The Shadow Tracer

by Meg Gardiner


Skip tracer Sarah Keller, the protagonist of Edgar-winner Meg Gardiner's The Shadow Tracer, has just nabbed an elusive target when she hears her five-year-old daughter, Zoe, is at the hospital after a school-bus accident. Zoe is deemed fine--until doctors make a shocking discovery, one that causes Sarah to take her daughter and run. She keeps running, both from a trio of killers who want Zoe for nefarious reasons and an FBI agent who wants to use the girl and Sarah as bait. Sarah gets help from a U.S. marshal and a nun, but she knows it's up to her to save her child.

Readers will go on the run with Sarah, too, because the story hits the ground at 60 mph and keeps revving from there. Sarah is a believable combination of everywoman and someone who uses her skip-tracing skills to keep Zoe and herself off the grid. There's a delicious hint of sexual tension between her and Marshal Lawless (yes, Lawless), whom she alternately needs and hates.

The action scenes are fun, especially one involving a baby in the back of a pickup truck; one can almost imagine Gardiner laughing with glee while writing it. The denouement in an airplane junkyard is highly suspenseful and cinematic, too. But none of this would matter if not for the characters, equally vivid whether they're bad or good or somewhere in between. Combined with the blistering pace, The Shadow Tracer is a thriller that fans should not skip. --Elyse Dinh-McCrilllis, freelance writer/editor, blogging at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: Meg Gardiner takes a departure from her popular Evan Deleaney series in a relentlessly paced thriller with vivid characters and action scenes.

Dutton, $26.95, hardcover, 9780525953227

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Goliath Stone

by Larry Niven, Matthew Joseph Harrington


Mash up high-tech science fiction with social commentary and what do you get? A novel like The Goliath Stone, the latest collaboration between Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington (who also contributed to Niven's Man-Kzin Wars XI).

In the year 2052, Dr. Toby Glyer is using illegal nanotechnology of his own to cure those who can afford to pay him. May Wyndham, heiress to the Wyndham aerospace corporation--and a darn good rocket scientist--approaches Glyer for his help in deploying a space vehicle to stop an asteroid hurtling towards the Earth.

Out of direct human control, the nanos in the spaceship evolve quickly, and the resulting artificial intelligence begins to interpret the initial instructions according to its own agenda, putting Earth back into peril. Meanwhile, Glyer also discovers that a former employee, science fiction writer and all-around genius William Connors, has used the same nanotechnology to remake all of humanity--eradicating illness and old age, making it impossible for women to become pregnant unless they reach orgasm and rewiring the human brain for optimal function. Is the looming asteroid or the complete change of life as we know it the more terrifying development?

This rollicking, near-future tale of intrigue, social commentary and high-tech space travel maintains a burning pace from start to finish. The Goliath Stone is a seamless read from a master of the genre and an exceedingly promising newcomer. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Which is worse: an asteroid full of unknown artificial intelligences on a collision course with Earth or a hyper-intelligent superman with a nanotechnology virus?

Tor, $24.99, hardcover, 9780765333230

Biography & Memoir

Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives

by David Oliver Relin


It's easy to become frustrated about global inequity, but the heroes of David Oliver Relin's Second Suns waste no time on frustration. Geoff Tabin is an American doctor with superhuman energy and an addiction to scaling perilous peaks who spends his spare time treating the blind in the developing world. Sandhuk Ruit left his family in one of Nepal's poorest regions when he was still a young child to attend boarding school in Delhi. After studying medicine, he was offered lucrative jobs abroad. Yet he refuses to abandon his roots, volunteering his services for the many in Nepal who cannot afford medical care.

Both doctors work for the Himlayan Cataract Project, and both are the sort of individuals that leave us wondering what we are doing with our lives. What saves Second Suns from feeling overly righteous, though, is Relin's ability to humanize his subjects, flaws and all. Ruit feels, as many of us do, a deep commitment to his hometown; that his hometown happens to be lacking in basic services is simply something he must factor into his commitment. Tabin is inherently compelled to stretch his potential to its ultimate limits, be it on the face of an uncharted cliff or in finding those places where modern medicine is most lacking. These are men whose lives deserve the exquisite storytelling abilities of David Oliver Relin, the co-author of Three Cups of Tea. --Annie Atherton, intern at Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this joint biography, completed before the author's death in 2012, two doctors, Nepalese and American, team to treat cataracts in the world's poorest patients.

Random House, $27, hardcover, 9781400069255

The Looking Glass Brother: A Memoir

by Peter Von Ziegesar


Juxtaposed with Peter von Ziegasar's childhood memories of summers with his family at Long Island's Peacock Point, The Looking Glass Brother tells the gritty, dirty, drug-infused story of his schizophrenic stepbrother, known as Little Peter. A vagabond, Little Peter roams America, searching for something--but he's never quite sure what that something might be. A musical prodigy, he's unable to maintain a job and, after a horrific accident, his life turns ever downward. They were out of touch for years, von Ziegasar writes, and then "Little Peter's sudden reappearance in my life threw a monkey wrench into what had been for me a prolonged and unaccustomed state of equilibrium."

From outward appearances, the two brothers are complete opposites. Von Ziegasar is no stranger to illicit drugs, though, and he carefully films and videotapes his stepbrother's chaotic lifestyle of living on the streets and in homeless shelters, fueled by an odd sense of curiosity and freedom. When von Ziegasar becomes a father, memories of the difficult relationship he had with his own father resurface, adding a layer of despondency to this love/hate saga. Detailed descriptions of luxurious days at Peacock Point and the almost crazy way Big Peter strives to understand Little Peter and help him get into rehab, find work and build a life will leave readers wondering when they popped down the rabbit hole in this gratifying look at two brothers thrown together by circumstances beyond their control. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Brotherly love brings together the affluent and the homeless in this touching memoir.

St. Martin's Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9780312592981

History

The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England

by Ian Mortimer


In The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England, Ian Mortimer tells readers what they could expect to find if they visited that era: what they would eat, where they would live, how they would travel. Like modern travel guides, he discusses language, currency, units of measurement and polite behavior. If the physical details of everyday life were all that Mortimer considered, though, this would be no more than another "daily life in" account of Elizabethan England. The extraordinary aspect of the book is the way he uses those details to illuminate ideas central to the Elizabethan world view, from the intersection of science, religion and magic to a new sense of history and new ideas about England itself.

Mortimer's interpretation of Elizabethan England is richer and darker than the familiar "golden age" of poetry, drama, seafaring and expansion. Elizabeth's Anglican compromise was under attack from both Catholics and more radical Protestants. A growing population and poor harvests overburdened medieval structures for dealing with the poor. Violence was pervasive, from official acts of torture to alehouse knifings. Comparing Elizabeth's England not only to the present but also to its medieval roots (which he wrote about in a previous time traveler's guide), he presents the period as one of uncertainty, contradiction and change.

The past is indeed a different country; Ian Mortimer is a reliable guide. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: A fellow of the Royal Historical Society takes an unusual approach in this complex, and occasionally disturbing, introduction to Elizabethan England.

Viking, $27.95, hardcover, 9780670026074

Essays & Criticism

Stay, Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine

by Simon Critchley, Jamieson Webster


In the lively and thoughtful Stay, Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine, the husband-and-wife team of philosopher Simon Critchley and psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster engage closely with the text of Shakespeare's play in brief, conversational chapters, unpacking its many layers and interpretations.

They argue that Hamlet's tragedy rests on his inability to bridge the gap between thought and action, starting with his failure to avenge his father's death, and show that this gap reappears throughout the play. Hamlet can do "nothing" despite his anguished plotting; he is paralyzed by the horror of life's wrongs. They examine very different interpretations of the play by such "outsiders" as James Joyce, Hegel, Freud and Melville, considering issues of historical context; whether it celebrates Christian redemption; the nature of tragedy; and the problem of nihilism. In a particularly intriguing analysis, they question whether Ophelia, equally battered by loss and madness but never losing her ability to love or desire or act, is more the play's hero.

Critchley and Jamieson's take always feels fresh, in part because they address a range of interpretations, many of which they are unafraid to challenge. On Freud and psychoanalytic criticism, they write, "It is not a matter of putting Hamlet on the couch... but rather to hear something in Hamlet that allows us to put psychoanalysis on the couch and to the test." Erudite, witty and probing, Stay! Illusion offers new insights into a literary touchstone while deepening our appreciation for its complexity and its enigmatic core. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: A passionate, insightful take on Hamlet by the authors of The Book of Dead Philosophers and The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis.

Pantheon, $25, hardcover, 9780307907615

Across the Pond: An Englishman's View of America

by Terry Eagleton


In Across the Pond, Terry Eagleton joins the list of British citizens who have offered trenchant observations on how the former colony is doing now that it's had a chance to grow up. This is a mostly generous and often humorous look at the foibles of the U.S., its pleasure heightened by Eagleton's pointed comparisons to his homeland and to Ireland, where he now lives.

The spirits that animate Eagleton's brief book are those of Alexis de Tocqueville, that "supreme observer of American mores," and Henry James, "who knew both civilisations from the inside and never ceased to compare them." Eagleton, who's taught at several American universities, draws on the writings of the diplomat and the expatriate novelist for a lightning fast survey of some of our most prominent cultural touchstones. He starts with the sometimes inexplicable language differences that divide the English spoken here from its British counterpart, puzzles over our nation's fraught relationship with money ("There is an enormous amount of generosity in the States, but not much of it extends to the financial sphere") and decries a political system in which he claims "the diversity of political options hardly rivals up to the variety of candy bars."

Whether it's Americans' persistence in the face of adversity or our willingness to innovate and experiment, Eagleton agrees we have much to celebrate. Though he's critical of the "constant moralising, sermonising and cheer-leading of American society," the tone of this lively study is mainly one of restrained admiration for "this kindly, violent, bigoted, generous-spirited nation." Yet each observation that will make an American reader square his shoulders with a pride is quickly followed by another that may cause a squirm of uneasy recognition. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: British literary critic Terry Eagleton (author of the recent How to Read Literature) offers a spritely portrait that captures the chiarascuro quality of the American soul.

W.W. Norton, $24.95, hardcover, 9780393088984

Children's & Young Adult

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

by Chris Grabenstein


Fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society will flock to this fun-filled intellectual puzzle constructed by Mr. Lemoncello, a gamer who prized his local librarian.

Twelve years ago, the library in Alexandriaville, Ohio, was demolished to put up a parking ramp. A young Luigi L. Lemoncello had taken solace there as a boy, learning everything he could. Now an eccentric billionaire who made his fortune designing games of all kinds, he wants to give back to his hometown by creating a state-of-the-art library, complete with a Wonder Dome, holograms and a story corner with audio-animatronic goslings that recite Mother Goose.

Grabenstein (the John Ceepak Mystery series) begins with a premise similar to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, except that instead of a Golden Ticket, a dozen 12-year-olds will gain access to Mr. Lemoncello's Library for a sleepover if they write a winning essay. The story unspools mostly through the eyes of kind Kyle Keeley, the third of three sons whose only chance to outdo them is in games. The author also shines a spotlight on the other 11 peers undergoing the test. At each stage, the children get a chance at games and prizes, and sometimes the rewards are for moral fiber rather than the "right" answer. The grand prize will go to the child who finds a way to escape the library. Well-read readers will appreciate the many favorite titles integrated throughout the narrative, but all readers will enjoy seeing what Mr. Lemoncello has cooked up next. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A fun-filled, suspenseful intellectual puzzle, designed by a gamer, that will appeal to fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Random House, $16.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 9-12, 9780375870897

Proxy

by Alex London


Alex London is better known as C. Alexander London, author of the Accidental Adventures series for the middle grade crowd. But here he crashes onto the YA scene with a futuristic spin on Sid Fleischman's Newbery Medal–winning The Whipping Boy.

In an unfair society where civilization is far from free, 16-year-old orphan Sydney Carton (named after the character from A Tale of Two Cities) has amassed 18 years of debt, owed to the Xelon Corporation. Syd is a proxy to Knox, a rich patron he's never met; he was contracted as a child to accept all of Knox's punishments until he turns 18. When Knox crashes a stolen car, killing the passenger, Syd must pay the price for Knox's crimes: theft, trespassing, destruction of property and homicide. Eventually, Knox is confronted with the boy who was not only tortured for Knox's crime, but who also had his debt extended for another 16 years in a work colony. For once, Knox decides he owes Syd, and must save his life.

Writing in a third-person narrative from both characters' perspectives, London weaves in unexpected romance, high-tech gadgetry and provocative subthemes about imprisonment and bullying. This ambitious thriller hits an emotional chord when Knox experiences true guilt for the first time as it dawns on him that Syd is a fellow human being, undeserving of his beatings. A big twist and heroic ending will leave readers eager for more. --Adam Silvera, Paper Lantern Lit marketing assistant and former bookseller

Discover: A futuristic world in which one boy serves as a proxy for another's punishments.

Philomel, $17.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 12-up, 9780399257766

Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton

by Meghan McCarthy


Meghan McCarthy's (Seabiscuit: Wonder Horse) picture book biography describes an inspiring young woman for any era, but especially for the period in which she lived.

"While most girls played with their dolls," the author begins, "Betty Skelton played with her metal plane." It's the Depression, and "airplanes were still very new... and exciting." Young Betty and her family lived near a navy base where she could view the planes up close. "Betty yearned to know more. She wanted to touch the sky," writes McCarthy. By the time Betty turns 16, she is flying solo.

McCarthy sticks to the facts, yet crafts a lyrical narrative: "As Betty grew bigger, so did her dreams." Betty wants to make flying her vocation. But only men could be commercial pilots in the 1940s. So she became an aerobatic flier instead, and broke an altitude record (29,050 feet--higher than Mount Everest). From there she moved on to jet-powered cars (and broke the women's record with 315.74 mph) and boat jumping: "She'd conquered the sky, the land, and the water. What would be next?" Skelton became the first woman to train for the space program. Although she was not one of the Mercury 7, Betty proved that she had "the right stuff."

McCarthy's mix of full-page illustrations and comics-style vignettes keeps the tone light while also emphasizing the importance of Skelton's ground-breaking achievements. Meaty backmatter offers a sampling of Skelton's clever quotes, a time line and suggestions for further reading. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A picture book biography of a ground-breaking woman of the air, sea and land.

Paula Wiseman/S&S, $16.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 4-8, 9781442422629

Reference & Writing

Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read

by Brooks Landon


In Building Great Sentences, based on a popular lecture series of the same name, University of Iowa English professor Brooks Landon takes the position that complex "cumulative sentences" are generally more effective than their simpler counterparts--defining "effective" by the way those sentences give readers information. Landon anticipates the howls of protest from those who take Strunk and White's "Omit needless words" as their mantra, reminding the reader that Strunk qualified his own three-word sentence by stating he didn't mean all sentences should be short--only that every word should "tell."

Having established that "simple and direct" does not mean simplistic and short, Landon demonstrates how to build effective complex sentences, looking at questions of rhythm, suspense, surprise and balance. He devotes a chapter to "tweaks and tighten-ups" and considers what happens when long sentences go bad. While his own sentences are occasionally heavy, he uses examples from the masters--including Johnson, Dickens, Faulkner, Woolf and Hemingway, the patron saint of simple and direct--to illustrate the ways in which adding words can improve sentences. Each chapter ends with open-ended writing exercises designed to illustrate the ideas explored therein.

Even readers who remained unconvinced by Landon's central argument will come away from Building Great Sentences with a clearer understanding of how sentences work and an appreciation for the sentence as the building block of great prose. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: The guilty pleasure of complex sentences, and why we need to use them.

Plume, $16, paperback, 9780452298606

The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger
The Red Hunter
by Lisa Unger
ISBN-13: 978-1501101670
Touchstone
04/25/2017


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Lisa Unger
The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger
 

To develop the characters in The Red Hunter, you studied a book about cases of children very different from their parents. How hard was it to write that relationship?

“Claudia’s relationship with her daughter evolved naturally for me,” Unger says, admitting she drew from her own experiences to authenticate the mother/child bond. While her daughter, Ocean, is younger than Raven, the bond is forged by a deep understanding. “So much of the person you are as a parent has to do with the child. With Ocean, I trust her. She’s honest and smart and spunky. Which makes it easier for me to be less the over-protective, semi-paranoid parent I thought I would be. She’s fully aware of the darkness in the world . . . The part of my brain I use for writing is not the same part that helps my daughter with homework. I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing. My husband likes to joke that he’s number four—after Ocean, the dog, and the writer, but that’s not quite true. As a writer, I’m engaged, always striving to do better and be authentic as I can be. And I have those same goals as a wife and a mom.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

ALSO FEATURED ON THE the big THRILL…
 The Lost Order by Steve Berry The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles Elementary She Read by Vicki Delany

Dangerous Ends by Alex Segura

THE LOST ORDER by STEVE BERRY: In the latest thriller in his New York Times-bestselling series, Berry’s creation, former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone, takes on the Knights of the Golden Circle, a clandestine—and dangerous--organization that amassed billions in gold and silver, little of which has ever been found. Read more at The Big Thrill.

THE DAY I DIED by LORI RADER-DAY: The award-winning author of PRETTY LITTLE THINGS tells the story of a handwriting expert who, when called to use her expertise on a note left behind at a murder scene in the small town she and her son recently moved to, finds her life ripped open. Find out more here.

MISSISSIPPI BLOOD by GREG ILES: In the final installment in the award-winning Natchez Burning trilogy, Penn Cage sees his family and his world collapsing around him when his father, once a paragon of the community that Penn leads as mayor, is about to be tried for the murder of a former lover. Learn more at The Big Thrill.

ELEMENTARY SHE READ by VICKI DELANY:  In the first in a delightful new series, Gemma Doyle is the owner of a bookstore in Cape Cod that specializes in all things Sherlock Holmes. Like the great fictional detective, Gemma, a transplanted Englishwoman, uses heightened powers of deduction to root out evil intentions and solve murders. Visit The Big Thrill for more. 

DANGEROUS ENDS by ALEX SEGURA: When Florida P.I. Pete Fernandez wades into a case that no one wants, exonerating a police officer convicted for murdering his wife, Pete finds himself in the crosshairs of Los Enfermos, a bloodthirsty gang of pro-Castro killers and drug dealers looking to wipe Pete off the Miami map. Read more here.

  

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