Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, November 15, 2013


Workman Publishing: The Spectrum of Hope: An Optimistic and New Approach to Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias by Gayatri Devi

From My Shelf

Crown Books for Young Readers: My Journey to the Stars by Scott Kelly, illustrated by Andre Ceolin

New World Library: Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart by Scott Stabile

Tell Us a Story: New Collections for Your Reading Wishlist

Read more short stories. There, I said it. In our 24/7 plugged-in world, you might think short stories would be more popular than ever, but I'm not so sure they are. Will Alice Munro's well-deserved Nobel Prize change all that? I hope so. I'm no evangelist. Just a reader of stories.

How do I find them? Sometimes it really is as simple as a favorite writer's next book, which happened for me with Jessica Keener, who followed up her novel Night Swim with the new collection Women in Bed ("So she fled as any animal would, out of instinct, toward the scent of nurturing waters and the promise of a sweet tasting hand."). This was also true of Kevin Barry's Dark Lies the Island ("Every line had the dry inflected drag of irony--feeling was unmentionable. We talked about everything except the space between us."). His amazing debut novel, City of Bohane, won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award.

In fact, I often find great collections among prize nominees. Consider George Saunders's Tenth of December, on the National Book Award shortlist; or the NBA longlisted Fools by Joan Silber ("So, in the end, we were hypocrites for kindness. Both of us. Standing with my bouquet of orange blossoms, I thought: I'm happy but I'm in disguise. But probably many people feel that at their weddings.").

And sometimes story collections just find me, as was the case with The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg ("I imagined other people discovering the bracelet through the years and me telling each one a different story.") and This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila ("But we don't think everything is okay. Something is amiss, muddled. Years have passed since we listened to our dreams, since we were youthful enough to trust them.").

So here's my holiday reading wish for you: Find someone to tell you a few good stories. --Robert Gray, contributing editor


PuddleDancer Press: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 3rd Edition: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships by Marshall B. Rosenberg


Book Candy

Harry Potter Stamps Preview; Books for Introverts

Magic mail: USA Today featured the first of 20 designs that will be on a set of Harry Potter stamps to be released next week by the United States Postal Service.

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As Italy launches Masterpiece, a reality TV show for aspiring authors, Jacket Copy imagined "11 potential reality television shows about writing."

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"One reader, 197 books, one year to finish them all." PRI's The World interviewed Ann Morgan, U.K. journalist and author, who embarked on a year-long, intensive experiment to read a book from every country in the world.

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The Huffington Post featured "7 books that are perfect for introverts."

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Business Insider highlighted the "25 best sci-fi books of all time, according to the Internet."

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Kelcey Parker, author of Liliane's Balcony, recommended "7 great works of fiction inspired by famous architecture" for Flavorwire.


Wicked Deeds by Heather Graham


The Writer's Life

Book Brahmin: Dan Santat

Dan Santat has illustrated books by other people, including Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett, which won the Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators, and he wrote and illustrated Sidekicks, a graphic novel aimed at middle graders. He's also the creator of Disney's animated hit The Replacements. Santat's most recent picture book is Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds (Chronicle, September), for which Santat created color illustrations. He lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, a rabbit, a bird and one cat.

On your nightstand now:

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
Nanny Piggins and the Runaway Lion by R.A. Spratt (for work)
Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work) by Michael Goodwin, illustrated by Dan E. Burr
Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel
A receipt from Denny's for an order of buffalo wings at 2 a.m. (shame)
A buy 1/get 1 free coupon for Chipotle
An empty plastic SpongeBob cup (left by my younger kid)
A doily

Favorite book when you were a child:

Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff. It was the very first book I learned to read, and it became the tool I used to show grown-ups how smart and awesome I was. The magic wore off when I was eight and most people reacted with, "Yeah... I get it."

Your top five authors:

David Sedaris, Michael Chabon, Chris Ware, Malcolm Gladwell, Dr. Seuss.

Book you've faked reading:

I've tried multiple times to read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I'll get 50 pages into it but stop because I'm often so immersed in projects that I can't sit and read the book for prolonged periods of time, until it's just completely forgotten about. One time I brought the book to the beach when a woman walked by and spotted it resting on top of my backpack and said, "Great book!" to which I replied, "I know!"

I might have to resort to the audiobook.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I often give lectures to art schools and writing conferences about becoming a professional author and illustrator, and I often find myself referencing the 10,000-hour rule and being prepared for opportunities that are presented to you. I get a little out of hand telling people to do 10,000 hours of something until they are awesome at it, not realizing that it's like telling someone, "Just devote your life to something non-stop for about three to five years."

That's not quite the answer most people want to hear when they want to be published as soon as possible.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I'm obsessed with good book cover design. I'll often repurchase books if a cover is designed really well, or at least keep a jpeg of the cover somewhere in a reference folder on my desktop. I've bought many books for their brilliant covers, and the simple answer to that question is anything designed by Chip Kidd. However, I most recently bought A Hologram for the King, written by Dave Eggers and designed by Jessica Hische.

Book that changed your life:

This is an embarrassing answer. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with death, to the point where I was always thinking about the end of my life and worrying about how my life was going to end. It might be due to the fact that my father was a doctor, and whenever I got sick he would put me on medication. I was a pill-popping kid. There was a pill for everything. Can't sleep? Take this. Constipated? Take this. You remember back in grade school when a cold would be making the rounds to all your fellow students and you eventually got it, too? I was the kid who was still sick weeks after everyone had fully recovered because my body was so filled with antibiotics that my immune system was completely shot. Then I went off to college where I read The Last Days of Socrates. It sounds corny, but once I read his reason for why he wasn't afraid to die, I became a completely different person. The logic for how Socrates broke it all down just made sense to me. I stopped pill-popping (which was also due to the fact that I took a basic biology class and realized that you can't fight off a cold using antibiotics because a cold is a virus). I got healthier. I stopped worrying about death. I started enjoying life. All from that one book.

Favorite line from a book:

"So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane." --Looking for Alaska, John Green

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

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. The chapter in which he's trying to tell off his pretentious French teacher in broken phrases is hilarious.


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


Book Review

Fiction

Lies You Wanted to Hear

by James Whitfield Thomson


It's not often an author in his mid-60s publishes a debut novel that proves worth the wait. But that's what James Whitfield Thomson has done with Lies You Wanted to Hear, a haunting piece of fiction that will bring a lump to your throat. Whitfield Thomson's anguishing tale is told so thoughtfully that it leaves readers in the unusual place of trying to determine right from wrong.

The romance begins innocently enough. Good guy cop Matt meets the intriguing and sexy Lucy and falls hard. Despite her being hung up on her cad of an ex-boyfriend, Griffin, the two marry and children follow. Although the newlyweds both adore their children (and Matt still adores Lucy), their domestic bliss is shattered when Griffin returns to steal a restless Lucy back into his arms. So far, this is hardly uncharted territory, but then Whitfield Thomson loops a twist into the mix no one will see coming, leaving readers in disbelief.

Matt, the loyal husband and loving father, begins to show a sinister side, while self-centered Lucy goes from a faithless wife to someone with whom every reader can identify. Whitfield Thomson performs this sleight-of-hand so deftly, he might as well be a magician. Wrenching to read, but nearly impossible to put down, Lies You Wanted to Hear is hopefully the first of many more reads by an untapped author as he enters the prime of his life. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: A surprising triumph from a first-time author that will resonate long after readers have devoured it.

Sourcebooks Landmark, $14.99, paperback, 9781402284281

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


Rustication

by Charles Palliser


It has been more than a decade since Charles Palliser's last novel, The Unburied, and Rustication returns to that book's setting in the coastal town of Thurchester. The title describes the act of being expelled from a school or compelled to reside in the country. Both definitions may be applicable to 17-year-old Richard Shenstone, who leaves Cambridge in December 1864 for his family's new home in a "benighted backwater" of a "wind swept marshland." Unknown to Richard, his father has recently died, and his mother and sister aren't particularly pleased to see him. His mother even calls him Willy at first. Why?

At church, he meets the Rector Quance's family and the Lloyds. He wastes no time wheedling himself into this social world, as well as admiring the young women, including Betsy, the family's servant. There's some talk about a Shenstone scandal. People begin receiving badly misspelled, vile, threatening letters, animals are mutilated and eventually there's a murder. Richard records all this in his journal, as well as his opium and alcohol use and his womanizing.

As the variant narrative lines begin to spread out like a spider's web--per Palliser's usual charming penchant for narrative confusion--Richard's journal-voice changes. Though not as long nor as complicated as Palliser's most famous work, The Quincunx, Rustication is a hugely enjoyable, atmospheric journey into the rich, damp, gothic world of late 19th-century England. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: The long-awaited return to the meticulously detailed, yet always mysterious, gothic world of Charles Palliser's Victorian-era fiction.

W.W. Norton, $25.95, hardcover, 9780393088724

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


Havisham

by Ronald Frame


Miss Havisham is one of the most famous of Charles Dickens's characters: jilted at the altar, she isolated herself within her mansion, wearing her wedding dress the rest of her days (until it catches fire, killing her). Using the few "biographical" clues strewn about Great Expectations, Ronald Frame turns this supporting cast member in Pip's story into a completely realized character in her own right, including a first name: Catherine.

In Havisham, she tells her story. After her mother's death in childbirth, she is raised by her father, a wealthy Kent brewer. Father watches over her carefully, raising her as a proud "Havisham," worthy of an upper-class life. To help foster this, he sends her to Durley Chase to live with Lady Chadwyck and her children, which Catherine loves; she feels like "a flower that's had a dark time growing, opening at last to the sun."

Durley Chase is a place of poetry, dances, balls, fine clothes. It begins to turn Catherine into a bit of a snob. After a brief attraction to young "W'm" Chadwyck, she meets Charles Compeyson. He's charming, witty and, unlike W'm, has a bit of the bad boy in him. Catherine falls for him, and soon she's on a "silken halter." Compeyson loves to gamble and Catherine helps him with his many debts; he plays her perfectly. As readers of Great Expectations know all too well, the promised marriage never occurs, and Miss Havisham self-destructs. Years later, only Estella (and Pip) can "save" her ruined life.

Frame provides much entertainment as we plunge into the believable "life" of this mysterious, forlorn woman. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: If you love Great Expectations, you'll bask in the light of Ronald Frame's detailed and atmospheric tale about the dark and tragic Miss Havisham.

Picador, $26, hardcover, 9781250037275

Mystery & Thriller

Purgatory

by Ken Bruen


Ken Bruen is an Irish treasure. His noir protagonist Jack Taylor is an ex-cop from the Galway Guard wrestling with a host of addictions. Among his few friends are Stewart, a drug dealer turned Zen master, and Ridge, a tough, gay sergeant of the Guard. In Bruen's nine previous Taylor novels, Jack's been around, been jacked up and beaten down, but has remained "always the hard arse" and "a cocktail of self interest, self-doubt, and of course self-harm." As he says, "That doesn't make me bad so much as Irish."

In Purgatory, a serial vigilante killer using the pseudonym Oscar Wilde sends cryptic notes to Taylor trying to get him to help in eliminating Galway's unpunished criminals freed by shady defense lawyers. But Taylor doesn't bite. Instead, he takes on a simple investigation into a church statuary theft and reluctantly accepts a lucrative assignment from Reardon, an expat American dot-com billionaire who's out to buy all the city's depression-priced property and suspects an employee of selling information to his competition. On the wagon, but with frequent lapses, Taylor lets Stewart pursue the vigilante while he pursues Reardon's attractive, smart-mouthed American assistant, Kelly. But violence won't leave Taylor alone: Ridge is beaten nearly to death and Stewart pushes his vigilante hunch one shotgun blast too far. And Kelly... well, she turns out to have a psychopathic past and an obsession with Oscar Wilde.

Bruen's dazzling Irish storytelling voice has its roots in the descriptive wit of Robert Parker and the lowlife dialogue of George V. Higgins. In Purgatory, Ken Bruen brings his A game. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In perhaps the best novel of his Jack Taylor series, Ken Bruen pits the troubled Galway private investigator against an American billionaire and his entourage.

Mysterious Press, $24, hardcover, 9780802126078

Singularity

by Steven James


With Singularity, Steven James (Placebo; The Pawn) returns to his series of thrillers starring the illusionist Jevin Banks, pitting Banks and his team against a secret conspiracy involving human experimentation and narco-trafficking that threatens the future of humanity.

Secret experimentation in artificial intelligence and human consciousness at Plyotech has begun spinning out of control. The first victim is Emilio Benigno, a young magician whom Banks has been mentoring. After Emilio dies during an illusion gone wrong in the Philippines, Banks finds a USB drive in his belongings containing enigmatic information that implies Emilio was mixed up in matters way over his head.

Banks and his devoutly religious assistant/girlfriend, Charlene, return to their home in Las Vegas. With the help of their hacker friend Fionna and her four homeschooled children (who are also hackers), they start investigating Emilio's death and the mysterious--and morally questionable--research a murderous man who calls himself Akinsanya is implementing at Plyotech.

James skillfully weaves together widely disparate elements in Singularity, from Area 51 conspiracies to magic tricks to prostitutes to discussions on the nature of creation and what exactly it means to be human. The book moves at a rapid pace, as Banks and his associates race to stop the dangerous forces at work. Fans of techno-thrillers, Christian fiction and magical mysteries will all be intrigued by Singularity. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A thriller that pits a team of magicians against an evil corporation experimenting with human consciousness.

Revell, $14.99, paperback, 9780800734268

The Hunter and Other Stories

by Dashiell Hammett; edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett


In a follow-up to 2012's The Return of the Thin Man, Mysterious Press compiles another batch of largely unpublished Dashiell Hammett fiction in The Hunter and Other Stories. As Julie M. Rivett, Hammett's granddaughter, says in an afterword to the collection, these pieces "offer fresh glimpses into Hammett and his shifting worldview--as a reflective, enigmatic man who toggled between poverty and wealth."

"This volume includes some of Hammett's finest short fiction," Rivett and her co-editor, Richard Layman, assure us, and for work the author left in his drawer, they are surprisingly good. "The Kiss-Off" is particularly noteworthy. This screen treatment became the basis for City Streets (1931), starring Gary Cooper and Sylvia Sidney, of whom Hammett said, "She's good, that ugly little baby, and currently my favorite screen actress."

The first four stories reveal Hammett's experiments in the treatment of crime, including the title story, "The Hunter," in the mold of the Continental Op stories. The next group deals with his longstanding interest in the ways men struggle to find a purpose in their lives, while the stories in the third section explore what he called the "relation between the sexes," revealing strong sympathies toward the female characters.

Hammett always said his fiction dealt with people: "It's up to readers to try to figure out what in the name of God they're about, if anything." --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: This book consists of unpublished stories and rarely seen work from Hammett's Hollywood years, in what may be the final cache of writing from the noir pioneer.

Mysterious Press, $25, hardcover, 9780802121585

No Man's Nightingale

by Ruth Rendell


Retired Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford returns in No Man's Nightingale, the 24th book in Ruth Rendell's mystery series. Wexford's former deputy Mike Burden, now a chief inspector himself, requests his help on a case involving the strangulation murder of Sarah Hussein, the vicar of Kingsmarkham.

Hussein--not only a female priest but a biracial, single mother--has no shortage of detractors, and a hate crime becomes the natural conclusion. As Wexford continues to investigate, however, Hussein's past and her daughter's paternity spark possible alternatives to the hate crime theory.

Meanwhile, a somewhat unrelated plot line causes Wexford angst. Much to his chagrin, his housekeeper, Maxine Sams, loves to talk, and while bragging about her son, she unknowingly imparts details of a crime to Wexford. He's left with no alternative but to report it.

While No Man's Nightingale is ostensibly about the mystery of Sarah Hussein's murder, the novel centers on Wexford's acclimation to his new stage in life. He's cognizant of the differences in his interactions with people connected to the investigation; he's aware of his relationships with his wife and family and how retirement affects those relationships. Rendell depicts Wexford's challenging transition with humanity and aplomb. Long-time Wexford fans and new readers alike will identify with his experiences.

The pace of No Man's Nightingale mimics Wexford's new life and the minor storylines cause the main plot to be looser, but those who appreciate multi-layered puzzles and complex characters are sure to enjoy themselves. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A vicar's murder has retired inspector Wexford investigating racists, rapists and fantasists.

Scribner, $26, hardcover, 9781476744483

Biography & Memoir

American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell

by Deborah Solomon


Magazine cover art is not the ubiquitous phenomenon it once was. "Illustrators," as Norman Rockwell would have put it, are largely left only with the ironic platform of the New Yorker, and Rockwell didn't do "irony" unless it was a gentle, playful irony. While many other mid-century American artists dazzled critics with nothing more than their "abstract expressions," Rockwell and his huge audience saw more in boys (and sometimes girls) being boys, whether at war, at the ball field, at prayer or at the dentist's office.

Deborah Solomon's American Mirror is neither nostalgia nor revolutionary revisionism. Solomon is a pro whose biographies of Jackson Pollock and Joseph Cornell remain definitive studies, and she takes a fresh look at a man who transcended his complicated and troubling inner life to achieve a commercial success that allowed him to live, if not a "Norman Rockwell life," at least a full and reasonably satisfying one. When Breaking Home Ties (his 1954 Saturday Evening Post cover depicting a rural workingman father sending his scrubbed-up son off to college) sold at Sotheby's for $15 million in 2006, Rockwell at last joined the highest ranks of his contemporaries--although he probably would have preferred to be named to the Baseball Hall of Fame (which he was, in a way: two of his baseball-themed Post covers now hang prominently in Cooperstown). Through his art, Rockwell did as much as anyone to create an "American mirror" reflecting an ideal to which both recent immigrants and native-born citizens could aspire. Would that we might have such an ideal again. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Following her definitive biographies of Jackson Pollock and Joseph Cornell, Solomon brings her careful research and easy prose style to a different sort of American icon.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28, hardcover, 9780374113094

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him

by David Henry, Joe Henry


Before there could be Ice-T or Chris Rock--maybe even before there could be Barack Obama--there had to be Richard Pryor. A skinny black kid born in Peoria in 1940, Pryor was raised in a brothel by his grandmother after his parents divorced. He did his first standup comedy for his sixth-grade classmates, punctuating the jokes and stories he'd heard around the whorehouse with the dynamic facial and body expressions that became his trademark style for the rest of his over-the-top career. Years later, brothers David and Joe Henry taped Pryor off their television, laughing along to the voice and attitude that gave them the confidence to get out of Akron and follow their own dreams in the film and music industries.

While the Henrys acknowledge Pryor's genius was not his words but how he presented them, Furious Cool quotes extensively from his films, records, memoirs and TV appearances. And though his comedy was rife with obscenity, sex and drugs, it was the frequent use of one word that made white audiences squirm and black audiences cheer, and, perhaps, propelled Pryor to fame (and infamy). As the Henrys point out, the reason today's "audiences and middle American hip-hop listeners are well versed in the N-word's variant spellings and nuanced meanings" can be traced back to Pryor's routines--"[but] no matter how much white people might praise or pay him, Richard Pryor knew that, behind his back, he would always be a n****r."

We forgave Richard Pryor's profanity, addictions and womanizing because he made us laugh--and made us think. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Two white brothers inspired as teens by Richard Pryor's often raunchy social satire team up to write his biography.

Algonquin, $25.95, hardcover, 9781616200787

Religion

Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests

by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove


In 2003, social activists Jonathan and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove visited war-torn Iraq as part of an American peace-making delegation. When friends of the couple were nearly killed, then saved by local Muslims in a town called Rutba, the experience inspired the Wilson-Hartgroves in their own walk of Christian faith. They returned to the United States and moved with their children to a neighborhood in Durham, N.C., where, as "white outsiders" in an African-American community, they set out to embody Jesus' sentiment about "welcoming strangers." They opened their home, which they called Rutba House, to anyone who needed help--day or night. This included welcoming those fleeing abusive relationships, released prisoners, war veterans, addicts and drug dealers looking to make a fresh start, urban scavengers and street workers. The couple's decade-long experiment was rooted in their faith and trust that God's grace would lead them in their mission of hospitality.

Strangers at My Door offers a collection of inspiring stories of how the Wilson-Hartgroves enriched their lives and the lives of others by founding and cultivating a community--an "extended family" of married and single people with different gifts, talents and jobs--committed to sharing and helping each other build a life together. The project was not without risks, as extraordinary acts of generosity and openness often incurred chilling disappointments and battle scars. The Wilson-Hartgroves proved relentless, however, refusing to believe anyone was beyond redemption, vowing always to focus on goodness and hope in the midst of challenges. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: The inspiring story of a Christian couple who founded a community of hospitality, hope and respite for the troubled and impoverished.

Convergent Books, $14.99, paperback, 9780307731951

Children's & Young Adult

The Silver Button

by Bob Graham


Bob Graham (A Bus Called Heaven) endows a baby's milestone with all the reverence it deserves in this outstanding picture book.

At 9:59 on a Thursday morning, young Jodie's pen hovers over the final button on the boot of the duck in her drawing, and her baby brother Jonathan "pushed slowly to his feet." Jonathan sways and tilts. Readers see him in a close-up view, focused on the family dog and Jodie's drawing as he takes his first step: "He took that step like he was going somewhere." Graham pulls back to a view of Jonathan's mother playing a pipe in the kitchen. The clock still shows 9:59 as, in the living room, Jonathan's left foot remains airborne. Graham pulls back farther still. A gull's eye–view reveals the public gardens and Jodie's block. "Sunlight hit the windows of the city and phones rang in a thousand offices and pockets." These lives so close by know nothing of Jonathan's breakthrough. Jodie is his witness: "Then down came Jonathan on his little pink knees." She tells her mother, "Jonathan's just taken his first step," as she draws that last silver button. As their mother holds Jonathan and this momentous event sinks in, the dog scratches and "the kitchen clock struck ten."

All of the meticulous details of this warm household fall away to focus on this one life-changing minute. Graham simultaneously illustrates how each life is the sum of these fleeting moments, and how important it is to pay attention so as not to miss them. Bravo! --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Bob Graham offers an affectionate record of the momentous occasion when a toddler takes his first step.

Candlewick, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-6, 9780763664374

The Shadowhand Covenant: The Vengekeep Prophecies, #2

by Brian Farrey, illus. by Brett Helquist


Jaxter Grimjinx and his family of thieves returns in a suspenseful follow-up to The Vengekeep Prophecies, in which the High Laird is being robbed and the Shadowhands ("elite thieves-for-hire") are vanishing.

Like the first book, this one opens with a spectacle: Nanni's funeral. But, as with the Festival of the Twins in the previous book, the event is an excuse to loot. It's "an old thieving tradition.... When you decide to retire, you fake your death," explains Jaxter's Da to the Dowager Annestra Soranna, and houses are robbed during the funeral. But this makes the Dowager uncomfortable. She's an upstanding citizen--and sister of the High Laird. That's not the only cause of discomfort; another is the way the conversation turns to the Sarosan plight. The Sarosans, a peace-loving people, request an audience with the High Laird and are "promptly arrested" and labeled enemies of the state. In addition, five magical relics have been stolen from the High Laird, and the Shadowhands come to recruit Jaxter, his Ma and Da to help solve the mystery of their vanishing group.

Farrey cleverly gets readers new to the series up to speed without treading water for diehard fans. Jaxter's best friend Callie and his nemesis Maloch both return, but this book stands on its own. With humor, plot twists and sly political parallels, Farrey invents a tale that will bring back readers for the third installment. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The latest tale of the thieving, warmhearted Grimjinx family as they attempt to discover what's happened to the vanishing Shadowhands.

HarperCollins, $16.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 8-12, 9780062049315

Parrots over Puerto Rico

by Susan L. Roth, Cindy Trumbore, illus. by Susan L. Roth


The team behind The Mangrove Tree here traces the history of Puerto Rico's indigenous birds in jewel-toned collage. "Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock of parrots as green as their island home," they write.

Science and poetry rest compatibly together in Roth and Trumbore's text, as they distinguish the birds' "bright blue flight feathers" and add juicy language ideal for reading aloud: "Iguaca! Iguaca! The parrots called as they looked for deep nesting holes in the tall trees." A vertical orientation to the pages emphasizes the parrots' habitat among the treetops, and the sky-high battles against hurricane winds and predators such as the red-tailed hawk and pearly-eyed thrashers. Humans' arrival on the island--the first people in 5000 BCE--pose the greatest threat. Author and artist describe the birds' instincts to survive (mating rituals and how "each pair raised one family of chicks every year") even as humans' need for housing and farmland threatens the parrots' forests, and their numbers shrink from hundreds of thousands to just 24 parrots by 1967. The U.S. and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ("not a state, not an independent nation, but something in between," the text explains) established the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the birds.

Children will be heartened by the scientists' positive results and learning how these birds are making a comeback. An afterword with photographs of the sanctuaries, as well as a timeline and resources for further reading round out this heartening story, beautiful to behold. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The science and history of the parrots of Puerto Rico, making a comeback, in beautiful jewel-toned collage.

Lee & Low, $19.95, hardcover, 48p., ages 6-12, 9781620140048

Wicked Deeds
by Heather Graham
ISBN-13: 9780778331063
Mira Books
09/19/2017


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Heather Graham
 

This novel, WICKED DEED, takes on the riddle of the death of Edgar Allan Poe, among other things. Why do you think his fate exerts such a pull on you?

“To this day, we can only speculate on what did happen to Poe. There are hints and clues, but no definitive answers. That is something I would want to know. He was discovered in a delirious state and never did become coherent. Many believe he was taken in a voting fraud. He was wearing clothing that wasn’t his own. Others believe that, even though the trip was to bring his deceased wife’s mom (his aunt) to Virginia to live with him and his new wife, the proposed new wife’s sons went after Poe. All speculation! If I could, I’d want to smack him, of course. And then not. I, as so many people today, have loved ones who have been addicts. I’ve seen the struggle, and what torture it can be. I would want to help him—and convince him that a genius such as himself should have guarded his health and been around to create more and more fantastic stories for readers—such as me!”

 Read the rest of the interview here.

 

ALSO FEATURED ON THE the big THRILL…

A CASUALTY OF WAR by CHARLES TODD: In the latest in Todd’s World War I nurse mystery series, an English captain’s claim that he was shot on the battlefield by his own relation is disbelieved by everyone but Bess Crawford, and she sets out to learn the truth of his injury, even when her persistent questions draw danger. Read more at The Big Thrill.

THE NAMES OF DEAD GIRLS by ERIC RICKSTAD: Best-selling author Rickstad delivers a story of detectives Frank Rath and Sonja Test’s tracking a depraved killer through rural Vermont, one who killed a couple years ago and is now freed from prison and seems to be out to get their college-student daughter. Find out more here.

KEEP HER SAFE by SOPHIE HANNAH: In this domestic thriller, an English wife and mother desperate for time for herself checks into an Arizona resort, only to stumble across a girl who all of America thinks is dead in a famous true-crime scandal, but seeing her alive and with an older man causes chaos. Learn more at The Big Thrill.

THE NINJA’S ILLUSION by GIGI PANDIAN: In the fifth outing for spunky historian Jaya Jones, Jaya flies from her native San Francisco to Kyoto, Japan and comes across a master illusionist and a ninja whose murderous intentions in present-day Japan connect the deeds of a long-dead trader who was much more than he seemed. Visit The Big Thrill for more. 

BOOK OF JUDAS by LINDA STASI: When her infant son is placed in mortal danger, New York City reporter Alessandra Russo is forced to save him by tracking down the missing pages of the Gospel of Judas, a heretical manuscript unearthed in Egypt that says Judas was the beloved, not the betrayer, of Jesus. Read more here.

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