Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, July 19, 2013


Random House Books for Young Readers: The Door Before (100 Cupboards Prequel) by Nathan D. Wilson

From My Shelf

Harper: The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen

Oxmoor House:  Ball Canning Back to Basics: A Foolproof Guide to Canning Jams, Jellies, Pickles, and More by Ball Test Kitchen

Fall Books: Angels, Demons and a Saint

Last week we featured the first list of the fall titles we're looking forward to (Chris Priest, our marketing manager, points out that Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Bleeding Edge, is set in 2001, not 2011. I plead non-existent typing skills). And so to our second list:

Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann (Penguin Press, November 5). From the authors who brought us the bestselling Game Change, about the 2008 presidential election, this one promises to be even better (perhaps depending on your politics).

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink (Crown, September 10). A stunning examination of one of the most shocking and complex stories to come out of Hurricane Katrina--the deaths of 45 patients at New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center in the days following the storm.

Guests on Earth by Lee Smith (Algonquin, October 15). Evalina Toussaint, the orphaned child of an exotic dancer in New Orleans, is admitted to Highland Hospital in Asheville, N.C., at the age of 13. One of her fellow patients is Zelda Fitzgerald, just one of a supporting cast of memorable characters.

Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams (DAW, September 3), is the second Bobby Dollar novel, following The Dirty Streets of Heaven. Dollar is an angel advocate for souls caught between heaven and hell. His girlfriend, a demon, is captured by the nastiest demon in the underworld. "Why does an angel have a demon girlfriend? Well, certainly not because it helps my career." Urban fantasy with a wry laughtrack.

Havisham by Ronald Frame (Picador, November 5). In a prelude to Great Expectations, Frame imagines how a young woman turned into a crone clothed in the tattered dress for a wedding that never happened.

Hild by Nicola Griffith (FSG, November 12). In seventh-century Britain, a brutal, changing, fascinating world, young Hild begins her journey to becoming St. Hilda of Whitby. Prepare to be pulled into an intriguing time and place.


Crown Publishing Group: The Windfall by Diksha Basu


Book Candy

Literary Pseudonyms; Films About Writers

Following the revelation that J.K. Rowling used the pseudonym Robert Galbraith to write The Cuckoo's Calling, the Guardian posed a literary pseudonyms quiz.

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"Lost and Found: 5 Forgotten Classics Worth Revisiting" were selected by Parul Sehgal for NPR. She wrote that this summer she is "reading and recommending books that have been restored to us, that have been reissued, reimagined or--in one instance--presumed lost and discovered for the first time."

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Hot enough for you? You're in good company. Just check out "Bookstore Cafe Authors in Shorts."

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How ambitious are your summer holiday plans. Flavorwire suggested "50 places every literary fan should visit."

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Vox Talk showcased its choices for the top five films about writers, noting that "writers are often crazier than their characters because of their odd personality tics, unrequited romances and their own disease--writer's block."

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Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha trilogy, offered her picks for "top 10 childhood reads" in the Guardian, noting that "a few of the books that I adored as a kid don't often make it into interviews."


Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers: The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman


Great Reads

Now in Paper: July 2013

Ancient Light by John Banville (Vintage International, $15)
Banville readers have met Alexander Cleave before, in the novel Eclipse. This time, the stage actor is invited to star in a movie, which sets in motion a search for some ancient light that might illuminate his past. Is there any difference between memory and invention? Booker Prize winner John Banville probes this question in exquisite prose.

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books, $15)
In the eighth book in the Inspector Gamache series, he and his protégé Jean-Guy Beauvoir investigate the brutal murder of a prior within the isolated and mysterious monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. It's a haunting tale of religious passion, and Penny creates an elaborate and intricate mystery, weaving together various plots in a thematic tapestry that mirrors the complex chants she writes of so beautifully.

A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn (Atria, $15)
Since 2009, when Quinn introduced detective Bernie Little and his canine partner Chet in Dog on It, the duo has cracked every case--but not, as Chet reminds us, without their share of close calls. Chet--lovable, devoted, wily, brave—doesn't talk; he's a thinking (and hilariously unreliable) narrator, so the reader sees the big picture even if Bernie doesn't. This time, the trouble-prone movie star they're assigned to keep straight while he's filming in town leads them down shady alleys, into the desert and to more than one unsolved murder.

Slow Apocalypse by John Varley (Ace, $7.99)
Dystopian novelists are often less interested in how the world fell apart than in exploring the grim, desolate landscapes left behind. John Varley (a multiple Hugo and Nebula award winner) has thought a lot about the early stages of collapse, though, and his precise details make Slow Apocalypse read like a play-by-play end times scenario as he chronicles one family's mental and emotional adaptation to their disastrous conditions.

Something Red by Douglas Nicholas (Atria Books, $16)
In his first novel, Douglas Nicholas channels a fiercer beast than his usual poetic muse, producing a remarkable variation on the perennial werewolf tale. Set in 13th-century England, the novel chronicles the journey of a boy named Hob, and three companions, as they are stalked by something terrifying in the wintry forest. There are moments written with such startling beauty that they imbue the larger story with a kind of perverse joy, making this coming-of-age story not simply a matter of fear and necessity, but of strength and love.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (Anchor, $15.95)
Ian McEwan hasn't written a novel with a female protagonist since Atonement. In Sweet Tooth, he shows once again that he can inhabit the female voice completely. Serena Frome has a job with the British intelligence service MI5; one day, because she is a "literary type," she is recruited for a special project that aims to co-opt writers with leftish tendencies and steer them away from anti-Western bias. McEwan's reflections on 1970s England and intelligence capers all come together to make one really good spy novel.

You & Me by Padgett Powell (Ecco, $13.99)
Padgett Powell (Edisto) is back with You & Me--a Southern nod toward Vladimir and Estragon, those two great talkers in Waiting for Godot. Call it absurdist, call it experimental fiction, postmodernist; whatever it is, just sit back and enjoy the ride. In endless dialogue, the pair talk about the definitions of words they like (trepanning); they expound on girls and women lost and found; inevitably, they begin to feel the horizon shortening and decide that they must "live every day of our lives as if it's the last day of our life. Let's see: that's LEDOOLAIITLDOOL. It sounds like a Mayan god." But don't be fooled into thinking that this is a trivial book. Stay with it and the payoffs are marvelous.

The Joy Brigade by Martin Limón (Soho Crime, $14.95)
Sergeant George Sueño is a military police officer in the Korean DMZ. In The Joy Brigade, he is sent to North Korea on a mission that will test every bit of his strength and intelligence. The year is 1972: Kim Il-Sung is looking to retire, but he wants to invade South Korea and reunite the Korean nation before handing power over to his son. To prevent this, Sueño must find an ancient map that details the tunnels under the DMZ.

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard (Harper Teen, $9.99, ages 13-up)
Zombies and voodoo and corsets! Oh my! From the sounding of "the Dead alarm" on the first page, readers will be awakened to an 1876 Philadelphia replete with animated corpses, irresistible romance and a game of intrigue. Eleanor Fitt, a proper high-society girl, must enlist Spirit-Hunters to rescue her brother from a necromancer. Handsome Daniel Sheridan is a low-society boy, a Spirit-Hunter who can expel the spirits of the Dead. The tensions between them will please romance readers, while Daniel's clever inventions will appeal to fans of steampunk.

Island of Silence: The Unwanteds, Book Two by Lisa McMann (Aladdin, $6.99, ages 8-12)
In this game-changing sequel to The Unwanteds, the tables are turned on the once privileged Wanteds (from the regulated land of Quill) in favor of the Unwanteds (from the innovative land of Artimé). Unwanted Alex Stowe is asked to train as the leader of Artimé; he is hesitant to accept--it would mean a lifelong battle with his twin Aaron, a Wanted prodigy demoted after the deadly conflict in the first book. As Aaron rises from his fall from grace, and Alex steps up as a leader, readers won't want to miss the action.

The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals by Jenny Brown with Gretchen Primack (Avery Trade, $16)
There are many books about our broken food production cycle and the ethics of agribusiness, but they rarely provide an intimate look at the creatures that suffer within the system. Not so with Jenny Brown's memoir, which traces her path to animal activism from the special bond she shared with her cat, Boogie, to her work as an undercover filmmaker exposing abuse in Texas stockyards to the creation of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.

Paris, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin (Picador, $15)
Rosecrans Baldwin has been "anaphylactic for France" since childhood. The mere thought of France's ancient buildings, its endless cafes or the sea of faces in the Metro stations give him an immediate shortness of breath and tightness in a chest that's about to explode for joy. If Baldwin had a textspeak abbreviation for his Francophilia, it would read OMG PARIS. Until he moves there, anyway. Baldwin's book puts a lot of French fantasies to rest--and replaces them with realities worthy of true love.

The Richard Burton Diaries edited by Chris Williams (Yale University Press, $22)
At one point in the early 1960s, Richard Burton thought about giving up his acting career to become a writer. "Not for a living, not for money," he clarified years later. "I wanted to write because I sought for some kind of permanence, a cover-bound shot at immortality." Turns out he is a writer: The glimpses of celebrity life are entertaining, but it's the eloquence with which Burton shares his innermost thoughts that makes The Richard Burton Diaries endure.


Akashic Books: Me by Tomoyuki Hoshino


The Writer's Life

Book Brahmin: David Nickle

David Nickle grew up in and around Toronto, where he still lives and works, for the most part as a journalist covering city politics--and as a novelist and short story writer. He's the author of three and a half novels (the half-novel being The Claus Effect, which he and Karl Schroeder co-authored) and a story collection, Monstrous Affections. His first two solo novels were Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, and Rasputin's Bastards. His new novel, The 'Geisters (ChiZine Publications, July 9, 2013), is the story of a young woman struggling to control the poltergeist that has haunted her since she was a child—and a group of powerful men who want to control them both. David Nickle blogs at The Devil's Exercise Yard.

On your nightstand now:

There is always a stack--these days, both e-book and paper. The current e-book is The Rook, Daniel O'Malley's wonderful first novel of a secret history of magical goings-on in U.K. intelligence work. On paper, it's Robert Shearman's fantastic and witty story collection, Remember Why You Fear Me. I'm also dipping toe in a collection of Daphne du Maurier's more macabre stories, Don't Look Now.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I came upon this novel after reading baskets-full of Enid Blyton novels, which I also adored--particularly Blyton's notion of clever children just like me, going off to remote places without their parents, and outmaneuvering smugglers, pirates and foreign secret agents with nothing but their wits and maybe a bit of string. I learned to read on Blyton books and probably imprinted on them in an unhealthy way. Were it not for Lord of the Flies, I think I would have happily loaded my Grade Four class onto a seaplane, crashed it on a desert island and let the cleverest survive. Goldman's thin novel of wild-pig-gods, broken eyeglasses and very bad boys really did me a service, highlighting some of the less obvious flaws in that plan. It was also a much better yarn than Blyton ever spun, and that's saying something.

Your top five authors:

Joe R. Landsale, Madeline Ashby, Stephen King, Michael Chabon, Stephen Millhauser.

Book you've faked reading:

That's a tough one. I'm usually pretty honest about having abandoned books, because I abandon so many of them--even ones that I find a lot to like in. I'm a slow reader and easily distracted by almost anything. That said: I've definitely held conversations with people about Neal Stephenson's extraordinarily good, and really quite long novel Cryptonomicon, in which I haven't volunteered the fact that I may not have made it quite to the end. Is that faking? I guess it is.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Albert Sánchez Piñol's Pandora in the Congo. I actually discovered this Catalan author's work through his first English-translated novel, Cold Skin. Pandora in the Congo is the more substantial follow-up: a wonderful, Edgar Rice Burroughs–inspired adventure that follows put-upon manservant Marcus Garvey (the other one) deep into the Belgian Congo, and from there eventually into a hollow earth populated by pale giants and infused with strange eroticism. There is murder, and romance, and a very put-upon turtle who learns to live life without a shell, about as well as any of us would.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Del Rey paperback edition of Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson, back in the late '70s. The cover had such promise: a bunch of Tolkienesque heroes battling something awful and glowing and yellow on a narrow stone bridge over a river of lava. How could that go wrong, for an imaginative boy looking for straightforward other-world-fantasy adventure that doesn't involve leprosy, rape and chronic depression? How indeed... So yes. These days, I may pick up a book because of its cover. But I buy it after at least having read a few pages.

Book that changed your life:

I want to say "the first one I wrote." It's a glib answer, but for a writer, or this writer at least, it really is the honest one. I've read many, many books over the years, and the good ones, at least, have made as many impressions on me. But ultimately, while life might be imagined within the covers of books, it's lived beyond them. As a writer, I was certainly encouraged and inspired by Stephen King's early work--particularly Salem's Lot and The Shining, and the Different Seasons novella collection. John Irving has shown me how to delve deep into family and place with books like The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men made me tear up something awful, and showed me how to pull heart-strings.

But for a life-changing book.... I had to go write that one myself.

Favorite line from a book:

"The sky over the port was the color of a television, tuned to a dead channel." --William Gibson, at the beginning of Neuromancer.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

A tie: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and The World According to Garp by John Irving.


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: If There's No Tomorrow by Jennifer Armentrout


Book Review

Fiction

Ten Things I've Learnt About Love

by Sarah Butler


In disparate parts of London, two stories begin that, as Sarah Butler's debut novel progresses, become steadily intertwined. One is about 28-year-old Alice, who returns to Hampstead Heath from a trip to Mongolia just in time to see her father before he dies. Alice has never fit in with her hardheaded, practical family; now she has to find a way to navigate the complexities of dealing with her two sisters, Cee and Tilly, who will never understand her need to escape London.

Meanwhile, on the streets of the city, Daniel wanders aimlessly, homeless for years, haunted by memories of the woman who left him and the daughter he has never seen. Daniel's entire being is focused on someday finding his daughter, though he has nothing to go on except her name. It is only when he sees a funeral announcement in the newspaper that Daniel suddenly sees his chance and begins his trek to stately Hampstead Heath.

Perhaps the greatest strength in the novel is Butler's gift for detail, her depiction of the very different worlds of the two protagonists. With a sure hand, she guides the reader through days in the life of a homeless man--the places where he can take shelter, the people he meets, the way he is perceived. In Alice's world, Butler explores the intimate topography of grieving and loneliness; ironically, Alice is just as cut off from human companionship as Daniel. When Alice agrees to sell her father's home, clearing the house of its many memories, she creates a void that can be filled only with the promise of a future. What that future may hold, and whether Daniel can ever have a place in it, is the central question explored in this book. --Ilana Teitelbaum, book reviewer at the Huffington Post

Discover: The intertwined stories of Alice, a wandering 28-year-old returned to London for her father's death, and Daniel, a homeless Londoner who also wanders, searching for the daughter he has never seen.

Penguin Press, $26.95, hardcover, 9781594205330

The Rest of Us

by Jessica Lott


Jessica Lott's The Rest of Us is the story of Terry, a photographer in New York whose life is jolted by seeing the obituary for Rhinehart, one of her college professors, a Pulitzer-winning poet with whom she had fallen in love. Then, just as suddenly, she runs into Rhinehart--still, in fact, very much alive--and the chance reunion after 15 years leads to a renewal of their relationship.

Rhinehart struggles with his history and protracted writer's block while Terry begins to realize her long-dormant artistic aspirations, guided by Rhinehart's estranged wife, Laura, an art collector who takes an interest in her work and introduces her to the New York art scene with its power brokers, celebrity and influence. In an ironic twist, it is in part Terry's neurotically self-involved friend Hallie who helps her negotiate the differences between love, purpose and seduction.

Terry is a reflective and observant narrator, tossing off literary references alongside vivid descriptions and critiques of the New York art scene and its poseurs as she recounts Rhinehart's story and her own. While the resulting inside peek at the rarified cultural scenes is appealing, it sometimes has the forced feel of namedropping. Yet the novel effectively conveys the enormous personal courage that true creative expression can require; its portrait of Terry's struggles are sensitive and believable. Lott's writing is lovely and lyrical, and her themes of the place of art, the changing ways we love and the people we hold close over time lend texture to an intelligent and ambitious literary debut. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: A layered and sensitive literary debut about a woman reunited with an old love as she finds her way as an artist in New York.

Simon & Schuster, $24.99, hardcover, 9781451645873

Love All

by Callie Wright


Love All, Callie Wright's debut novel, begins when Joanie Cole dies in her sleep. Bob, her husband of more than 40 years, moves in with his grown daughter, Anne, and her husband and two teenagers. Now three generations of one family are living together under one roof, and without the glue of Joanie's acceptance, patience and forgiveness to hold them together, the family begins to come apart at the seams.

Bob must fend for himself for the first time in his adult life, no longer able to rely on Joanie for company, conversation or even a late-night sandwich. Anne is forced to relive her father's multiple affairs and infidelities as she begins to question her own husband's mysterious late-night activities. Julia, Anne's 15-year-old daughter, is caught in a love triangle with her two best guy friends and finds inspiration for gossip-mongering in a battered old novel she finds among her grandmother's possessions.

At its heart, Love All is a novel about family, but it touches, too, on the challenges of marriage and loyalty and fidelity and the complexities of relationships at any age. With incredible skill, Wright's narration alternates between each member of the family to give readers a complete, if sometimes biased, view of events as they unfold. Though transitions from third to first person are not always seamless, Wright's ability to convey the thoughts and motivations of each of her characters, from widower to working mother to high schooler, is both compelling and impressive. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A debut novel that centers on three generations of a family struggling to cope with the loss of their matriarch.

Holt, $25, hardcover, 9780805096972

Mystery & Thriller

The Last Word

by Lisa Lutz


After her hostile takeover of the family detective agency in 2012's Trail of the Spellmans, Izzy Spellman is now the boss in Lisa Lutz's The Last Word, dealing with all the responsibilities and frustration that come with the position. She's working with Edward Slayter (also introduced in the previous novel), to uncover who's trying to force him out of his own company before he's ready to retire. He may not be able to fight back, however, because he's trying to keep a secret that has the potential to destroy his professional reputation.

Meanwhile, Izzy's ex-boyfriend, Henry Stone, has distressing news for her, and Izzy fears her parents' marriage might be in trouble. She starts questioning whether it was a wise move to take over the agency--or if she even wants to stay in the PI business at all.

Lutz's Spellman novels contain mysteries, but they're more character studies of the eccentric clan. Through the six books in the series, the Spellmans have evolved and grown up--well, some of them have. In The Last Word, more than ever, Izzy struggles with the idea of being a "normal" adult when the things most people do--getting married, having kids, owning a home--seem so hard for her. It's an affecting conundrum, because Izzy is aware her behavior has cost her dearly. Along with its humor, this novel has its share of melancholy, with a surprising and bittersweet ending that nevertheless feels right. Izzy may find it hard to grow up, but Lutz's writing is maturing just fine. --Elyse Dinh-McCrilllis, freelance writer and editor, blogging at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: Document #6 in Lutz's Spellman files lacks none of the humor of the previous books and takes the family of private investigators in new directions.

Simon & Schuster, $25, hardcover, 9781451686661

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Curiosity

by Stephen Kiernan


The title of Stephen P. Kiernan's debut novel, The Curiosity, represents many things: the curiosity of scientists about the central "subject," the subject's view of his new world... and how that world perceives him.

After Dr. Kate Philo and a team of scientists discover a man encased in an iceberg in the Arctic, they bring him back to their lab in Boston and reanimate him. The man wakes and tells Dr. Philo his name is Jeremiah Rice; he was a judge with a wife and young daughter before he fell overboard from an exploration vessel in 1906.

Dr. Philo becomes Judge Rice's protector and tour guide, taking him around the city, slowly falling for him along the way. But a growing faction believes it's blasphemous for scientists to mess with life and death, and some want to shut down the project. They may not have to, however, because Judge Rice's resurrection has an expiration date.

The initial exposition takes almost 100 pages before Judge Rice wakes up, but once he does, the story kicks into gear. The novel's biggest appeal is the poignant relationship between Judge Rice and Dr. Philo, and his excursions around the city, especially at a Red Sox game, make witty fish-out-of-(ice)-water scenarios. The ending leaves some threads untied, but the story does ask provocative questions about whether science should explore altering life's natural order, and the judge and the scientist will make readers care about the debate. --Elyse Dinh-McCrilllis, freelance writer and editor, blogging at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: An exploration, with a love story at its core, of how far science should go in altering life's natural order.

Morrow, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062221063

History

Ready for a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem for a Changing America

by Mark Kurlansky


Released as the "Freedom Summer" of 1964 began, "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas became the unlikely anthem of a generation. Written and recorded at Motown's Hitsville U.S.A., the record began as a party song but took on new layers of meaning as civil rights workers, Vietnam War protesters and other groups used it for their own purposes.

Mark Kurlansky's Ready for a Brand New Beat uses the song to explore the twin histories of the civil rights movement and popular music, which occasionally intersected but often ran on parallel tracks. He traces the history of pop music in mid-century America from jazz to blues to Elvis Presley and the rise of rock 'n' roll. He portrays Motown as a close-knit studio family (with all the infighting and tangled relationships of a blood family), centered on founder and chief producer Berry Gordy, Jr.

As the country's social and political scene spiraled into turmoil, Motown churned out romantic hits, purposefully keeping its songs separate from the country's racial upheaval. But "Dancing," with its driving beat and undertones of protest, escaped the studio's tight control. Kurlansky ably highlights the song's use by various groups agitating for change, though the book's final chapter (a laundry list of later covers of "Dancing") falls flat.

For readers interested in a new angle on the 1960s, Ready for a Brand New Beat provides both a slice of social history and a fascinating inside look at the Motown machine. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Mark Kurlansky branches out from Cod and Salt with a fascinating inside look at the Motown recording machine and the history of an unlikely 1960s anthem.

Riverhead, $27.95, hardcover, 9781594487224

The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India

by James Astill


Warning to the uninitiated: if your notion of cricket is titled English gentleman bedecked in pristine whites on immaculate country greens shouting "cheerio" and "well played," prepare for a shock. In The Great Tamasha, James Astill chronicles the simultaneous rise of Indian cricket and India's emergence as a political power, presenting through the lens of the sport the socioeconomic development of the modern state. From its aspirational if humble roots in the British rule to its most recent incarnation in the form of the Indian Premier League, Indian cricket has evolved from a pastime reserved for the privileged few to a tamasha (spectacle) enjoyed by millions.

Peppered with star-studded interviews and transcripts of historic matches, Astill's history is a boon for any fan of cricket or interested bystander. Combining supple narrative and hard-hitting journalistic styles, his prose is a pleasure to read, with frequent wry humor bringing tears to the eyes.

With a rich family heritage in the sport, as well as experience as a journalist stationed in India for many years, Astill is well suited to the subject, but it's his fandom that provides the passion for this book. Though somewhat repulsed by the "Bollywoodification" of the game and outraged at the rife corruption, ultimately The Great Tamasha offers a ray of hope for both the future of Indian cricket and its homeland. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: How India stole the game of cricket and made it a great spectacle for the masses.

Bloomsbury, $27, hardcover, 9781608199174

Essays & Criticism

The Art of Intimacy: The Space Between

by Stacey D'Erasmo


"I have noticed that the intimacy we feel as readers [of fiction] is often generated far less by characters turning to one another and saying intimate things or doing intimate things," Stacey D'Erasmo writes, "than it is by a kind of textual atmosphere, or maybe one should say a biosphere, a gallery, a zone that both emanates from the characters and acts upon them very deeply and personally." The Art of Intimacy is a perceptive look at the spaces and relationships that bind fictional characters together, using a variety of text by such authors as Joseph Conrad, Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf.

D'Erasmo digs deep into the nuances of literature in order to find the hidden glue that links lovers, family, friends and enemies to each other and to the reader. She poetically and eloquently explains literary devices such as "the subjunctive, shared perspective, image, off-the-page implications [and] the deployment of white space" in minute detail, building layers upon layers of understanding for the reader so that what is not readily visible takes shape and form, leaving the distinct impression that the white spaces in text, as in photography or art, are just as important as the visible black spaces.

Although The Art of Intimacy is not an instruction booklet on writing intimate scenes, readers and writers will gain a deeper appreciation for the lyric need for that which is left unsaid, like the pause in a piece of music which defines the notes around it. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: An astute and informative examination of writing techniques from the author of The Sky Below and Tea.

Graywolf Press, $12, paperback, 9781555976477

Science

The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light

by Paul Bogard


Our night skies are disappearing, due to the increasing brightness and volume of man-made light across the world, but there are pockets of darkness remaining. In The End of Night, Paul Bogard takes readers from the dazzling Las Vegas Strip to national parks such as Acadia in Maine and Death Valley in California, where thousands of stars are still visible to those who look.

Bogard numbers his chapters in reverse order (from 9 to 1), using astronomer John Bortle's dark-sky scale to trace his journey from bright city skies through the glow of suburbia, to remote places where true darkness still exists. Along the way, he explores the effects of light pollution on our public spaces, our energy resources, our health and our society. He interviews people acquainted with the night, from astronomers to night-shift workers to the man responsible for Paris's carefully calibrated nighttime glow. Although he focuses mainly on darkness and light pollution in the United States, he also visits Quebec, Italy and even the Canary Islands to meet with people concerned about the inexorable spread of light.

While Bogard admits that the spread of light pollution is unlikely to stop or reverse, he holds out hope for the preservation of certain dark places, particularly the northern Minnesota lake he loved as a boy. His accessible blend of personal narrative, scientific studies, history and folklore encourages readers to explore the night--and may inspire them to turn off a few lights and go in search of the stars. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A blend of personal narrative, science and history exploring the effects of light pollution and the decline of true night.

Little, Brown, $27, hardcover, 9780316182904

Children's & Young Adult

Twerp

by Mark Goldblatt


Mark Goldblatt's (Africa Speaks; Sloth) insightful, often funny first novel for young people unspools as entries in 12-year-old Julian Twerski's (aka "Twerp") notebook for his English teacher, Mr. Selkirk. The journal serves as atonement for "the thing that happened over winter recess."

Julian's father says that when his friend Lonnie tells him to jump, Julian asks, "How high?" The adventures Julian relates confirm his father's assertion, but they also betray a reluctance on Julian's part to go along with his friend's wishes, and an empathy that Lonnie lacks. When Lonnie asks Julian to throw a stone into a group of pigeons, Julian worries that he'll hit one, which he does. Julian responds by nursing the injured bird. Julian also agrees to write a love letter on Lonnie's behalf to Lonnie's crush--even though he fears an outcome like that of Cyrano de Bergerac. In other subthemes, a new student, Eduardo, threatens Julian's status as the fastest kid at P.S. 23 in Queens, N.Y.

Goldblatt gives readers complete access to Julian's thoughts, his friends and the vacant lot they frequent, and builds suspense about the winter recess incident with Danley Dimmel. Although the events take place in 1969, the only real difference readers will detect between Julian's world and their own is the lack of technology and a reference to the Beatles. Julian's reflections will give readers food for thought: If his instincts are usually right, why does Julian make choices that go against them? Bravo! --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Twelve-year-old Julian Twerski's journal assignment leads to a self-examination and surprising results.

Random House, $16.99, hardcover, 288p., ages 9-12, 9780375971426

Dirty Little Secret

by Jennifer Echols


Country music combines with complicated family dynamics in this latest novel from Jennifer Echols (Such a Rush).

Eighteen-year-old narrator Bailey Mayfield is a gifted fiddle player. She and her sister, Julie, used to tour together. Julie sang melody and strummed the guitar, while Bailey sang harmony and played the fiddle. When executives at a record label discover the sisters, they decide they want only Julie. The girls' parents, fearing Bailey will ruin her sister's career, ship her off to live with her grandfather in Nashville while Julie prepares her performances and songs with strict instructions not to do anything that could draw attention to her, lest the public find out the record label ditched one sister in favor of the other.

What her parents don't plan on is Bailey's grandfather finding her a gig playing backup for an Elvis impersonator in a shopping mall. There Bailey meets Sam Hardiman, who wants to take his high school band to the big time and thinks Bailey may be the missing piece. Soon she's playing with them and trying to figure out Sam's motives: Does he like Bailey for who she is, or is he using her to push his band to the top?

Echols once again mines the complex realm of family relationships and romance, against an irresistible Nashville backdrop. Bailey's scorn towards her situation will draw in readers as she begins to discover what she values about herself and what she means to others. --Shanyn Day, blogger at Chick Loves Lit

Discover: A fiddle player estranged from her family must find her place in the music world while figuring out the true intentions of others.

MTV Books, $16.99, hardcover, 288p., ages 13-up, 9781451658033

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail

by Richard Peck, illus. by Kelly Murphy


Newbery Medalist Richard Peck's (A Year Down Yonder) offers readers a mouse's eye–view into Queen Victoria's court with this entertaining novel set in the year 1897, during the run-up to the monarch's Diamond Jubilee.

Fleeing whiskered bullies Trevor and Fitzherbert at an elite academy, the mouse narrator finds himself in the midst of the royal children's riding lessons, and he causes Princess Ena of Battenberg to fall from her horse. Mouse Minor, as he's called at school, thus becomes a rodent on the run, taking refuge in horse stalls and other hideouts. Though his tail "fell naturally into the shape of a question mark," the true mystery that haunts Mouse Minor is his parentage. He believes that if he can just get to Queen Victoria, she will have his answer.

Peck exploits the era with passing Dickensian references (for example, the narrator says of his "ancient" headmaster, "For old Chiroptera, "history was always the worst of times, never the best of times"--a nod to A Tale of Two Cities). The mouse hero's many adventures (with a kindly cat, a horse named Pegasus and a fleet of bats, among others) finally lead him to the queen and a hilarious exchange, but not to the answer he expects ("[T]he name that matters is the name you make for yourself in a life of struggle and success!" she tells him). Peck keeps the pages turning with clever turns of phrase and a race to find out the solution to the mystery of the mouse in question. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In the run-up to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, a mouse tries to solve the mystery of his heritage.

Dial, $16.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 8-12, 9780803738386

Humor

Shut Up, You're Welcome: Thoughts on Life, Death and Other Inconveniences

by Annie Choi


There are writers whose sarcasm and snarkiness are natural turn-offs. Then there are writers like Annie Choi, whose neurotic rants make us laugh in spite of ourselves. Shut Up, You're Welcome presents the Asian-American experience through the eyes of a sweet but keenly observant, potty-mouthed Valley Girl with a curmudgeonly air.

Each essay begins with a letter addressed to some large entity, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles or campers, before she turns her tirade to a specific event. Choi has an ax to grind with, among other things, musical theater, gardens, family road trips and backseat driving-mothers who pressure daughters into marriage and children. She dishes on the childhood horrors of Korean-made underwear ("like underwear made by David Lynch and Pee Wees Playhouse") and requisite holiday family get-togethers, despite the fact that her family celebrates neither Christmas or Thanksgiving, going so far as to "forget" her birth on Christmas Day.

Choi's dialogue recalls a youthful Sandra Tsing Loh, albeit with the conversational wit and wisdom of a Rory Gilmore. Her parents, speakers of broken English who confuse macaroons for the macarena, provide much of the inspiration behind her snarky discourse. These vivid recollections of a second-generation Southern California Asian adolescence heeding the perfectionist call of helicoptering parents are written with an exasperated and loving piquancy that entertains. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Witty and quirky observations of growing up Asian in California's San Fernando Valley.

Touchstone, $15, paperback, 9781451698398

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ISBN:9781496704283

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