Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Doubleday Books: Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby

From My Shelf

Little Brown and Company: The Store by James Patterson

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

A Football Year

Nicholas Dawidoff's Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football (Little, Brown, $29) is an engrossing, exciting book, a classic sports narrative. Pulitzer Prize finalist Dawidoff spent the 2011 season with the New York Jets, with unlimited access to the entire franchise. Portraits of the Jets are incisive and indelible, from charismatic head coach Rex Ryan to canny safeties, quirky and excitable cornerbacks, eager rookies and players who don't make the team. Dawidoff's prose soars like a perfect pass. John Connor "blocked like a crate of bourbon"; special teams-coordinator Mike Westhoff spoke "in staccato beats of snarl"; a losing game had "burst like a pillow; there were feathers everywhere."

photo: Koren-Angell Studios

In an e-mail conversation, he answered our many questions. He writes about the team having "a mutual sense of binding purpose," but, later, all teams are "annual teardowns." We wondered, what does that do to a player? He said, "More, what does it do to the coaches who are responsible for achieving that sense of unity among players?... If your whole sense of self worth is bound up in winning or losing, you won't last long as an NFL coach. As competitive as NFL men are, it is their ability to absorb, understand and move past terrible public failure that defines them in the profession."

We had to ask him about the Miami Dolphins' problems with bullying on the team: "Former Jets players I know have said they can't imagine that happening in New York. The Dolphins' shameful incident is not typical, but such is the level of immersion in football that I can see how, almost casually, teasing might devolve into something terrible. Everybody knows when banter is affectionate or intended to express some kind of cruel power dynamic, and when it is the latter, the recipient comes to dread going to work. When all you do is work, that's a big problem." --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers


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


Book Candy

Authors' Thanksgiving Recipes; Helvetica: The Perfume

In the spirit of the season, the Airship featured "12 Thanksgiving recipes from our favorite authors," noting that "sure, they can write a fantastic meal, but can they throw down in the kitchen? Here's an entire Thanksgiving meal inspired by the authors who make us hungry."

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This is the time of year when gift books suggestions and "best of" lists begin to appear. "Holiday gift books for lovers of science and science fiction" were featured at io9. Writers and critics--including Hilary Mantel, Jonathan Franzen, Mohsin Hamid, Ruth Rendell, Tom Stoppard, Malcolm Gladwell and Eleanor Catton--"recommend the books that impressed them this year" in the Guardian. The Washington Post selected the "10 best books of the year, 100 notable works of fiction and nonfiction, 5 best photography books, 6 best audiobooks, 10 best graphic novels and more." In Canada, the Toronto Globe offered its "Globe 100 guide to the year's best books."

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For the word-obsessed people on your holiday gift list, consider Helvetica: The Perfume, which was created by Oakland creative collective Guts and Glory, which "calls this product 'the ultimate modernist perfume' with 24k gold printing on the bottle to make it look more exclusive," Design Taxi reported.

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Feeling a little peckish in a literary way? The Huffington Post shared a recipe for Brown Butter Bread Pudding Tarts, the Jane Austen version. And romantics may want to check out "Everything I knew about dating I learned from 19th Century novels. Huge mistake."

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Textual analysis and popular fiction. Slate analyzed the "favorite adjectives, adverbs and ways of starting a sentence" among authors Suzanne Collins, Stepenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling.


Matchup by Gayle Lynds


The Writer's Life

Martin Cruz Smith: Death in the New Russia

photo: Doug Menuez

Martin Cruz Smith worked as a journalist, paperback novelist and screenwriter through the 1960s and '70s, before garnering international acclaim with the publication of Gorky Park in 1981, which introduced Russian investigator Arkady Renko. Smith won the Gold Dagger and British Crime Writer's Association Awards for Gorky Park and, among his many honors, has twice won the Dashiell Hammett Award, first for Rose (1996) and then for Havana Bay (1999).

In Tatiana (see our review below), Renko becomes obsessed with the suspicious suicide of Tatiana Petrovna, a daring journalist inspired by real-life martyred reporter Anna Politkovskaya. The story exposes an underworld populated with mobsters, bad poets and outcasts who occupy the "lost city" of Kaliningrad, once the German city of Koenigsburg, in an enclave on the Baltic that Stalin made Russian after World War II. Now, in the post-Soviet era, the city's widespread corruption threatens the top levels of Putin's government.

Smith lives in Marin County, Calif., in a close-knit community where the bestselling author has been known to dress up for Halloween. We talked about his previous books, literary influences, his musician parents and Tatiana at his home, which is decorated with pictures from his many visits to Soviet and post-Soviet Russia.

Many composers and musicians did all kinds of work for hire, much like the kind of writing--from westerns to even a vampire story--you published before Gorky Park.

A friend of mine described it as "industrial strength fiction," which meant pulp fiction. You could establish what your story is very quickly, and you had to have a strong plot and strong character. That's true whether you are doing pulp fiction or Jane Eyre.

In 1981, creating a Russian character in Gorky Park was considered daring, especially by a writer who admittedly knew nothing of Russian culture or literature. What do you think of it now?

I didn't feel I had a choice; it was simply a matter of doing the obvious.

I was sent to do a book about an American detective who shows the Russians how a real cop works. So it was totally out of the blue for everyone. I kept praying that this very obvious idea would not dawn on anyone else--someone better equipped or a better writer or steeped in the Russian culture. So, I just plowed ahead.

Whether a Renko novel or a standalone--like Rose, which is about female miners--your books tend to confront an issue.

I find it makes the writing more interesting to have an issue to write about--whether it be women who work in coal mines or Russian dissidents or Japan's apology for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It really comes down to looking at things in history and events from another point of view. We are not the be all and end all--there are other points of views that are as valid as ours.

What are some of your literary influences?

The Wall Street Journal has a column that asks writers to name five of their favorite books, and I talked about five books I liked a great deal--they were all examples of Russian humor, which is so dark.

One is called Mastering the Art of Soviet Cuisine by Anya Von Bremzen--it is quite a good book, period, as a memoir, but it has these touches that are purely Russian, like how to drink vodka by pinching your nose so that you don't get any oxygen mixed in with the spirits. I thought, this was done as advice with the full expectation that you would be drinking vodka.

Tell us how the life and murder of Anna Politkovskaya inspired Tatiana.

I was very much taken with her story and her end and how everyone expected her to be martyred. I certainly would not have written the book without her in my mind's eye all the time, because she was astonishingly brave and very human.

About the same time I was getting interested in Anna Politkovskaya, I became aware that there was this enclave--Kaliningrad--a separate piece of Russia apart from Russia that was pinched against the sea by Lithuania and Poland.

And then I came upon this other complication that I liked, which was the history of amber and the role amber played in the history of Kaliningrad. I had no idea that 95% of all the amber in the world comes from this one little place.

And then I have always been interested in Russian poetry, so I thought it would be nice to have a poet in there--not a very good one, but a poet.

And then I thought I'd add the complication of the time bomb in Arkady's head, which has been there for a couple of books.

Those who are up on Renko know that the biological father of Zhenya, Renko's surrogate chess-hustler teenage son, shot the investigator in the head and that the bullet is lodged dangerously in his brain. Now that you have been diagnosed with Parkinson's, does that change the way you write about Renko?

It changes your attitude toward the passage of time, because you feel there is a little bit of a time limit on yourself.

I didn't go public with it [Parkinson's], because there are plenty of people in the world who have worse and they are all around. It's sort of like handing people a bag that's heavy and full and you can't see what's in it. People don't know what to do with it. They say, now that I know Smith has Parkinson's, does that mean anything for me?

What has it meant to you in terms of your writing?

I have the most incredible support system in the world. I've got Em, who is willing to write what I dictate.

Em is Emily, your college sweetheart who became your wife. Have your dictated to her before?

It started with this book and it's very different. First, it takes incredible patience on Em's part. And it takes some patience on my part. If I don't think of anything for five minutes, you have no idea how long five minutes can be. So, I dictate and she types. You do what you have no choice avoiding.

If you were going to start out today, what kind of writing would you do?

I think I chanced on a genre that was reaching its peak--this literary thriller. I'd rather not begin again; I'd rather have parallel careers--like John Banville. I really have to admire how well he writes and doesn't lower his standards.

Tell us about your Halloween costume this year.

I had about two seconds to come up with a costume--so I put on my bathrobe and slippers. I was a "writer." But. If you were really up to seeing it, I was Kingsley Amis, whom I identify with not only as the writer of Lucky Jim, but also Everyday Drinking--just the title alone goes along with Mastering the Art of Soviet Cuisine.

What's next?

A stand-alone. I think Venice, but I don't want to say too much. When you're excited about something, it's very easy to start talking about it and you can talk yourself right out of a book. --Bridget Kinsella


Melville House Publishing: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer


Book Review

Fiction

Stella Bain

by Anita Shreve


Stella Bain, Anita Shreve's 17th novel, is set before and during World War I and focuses on the eponymous protagonist's amnesiac confusion and her struggle to reclaim a life forsaken in a quest for justice.

We meet "Stella" in a field hospital on the French coast in March 1916, suffering from shrapnel wounds and memory loss. Recovering from her injuries, she adopts her name with no memory of who she really is or why she has volunteered as a nurse's aide with the Royal Army medical team. She has an American accent and no understanding of France or England. Well enough to travel, she decides London might offer clues. Arriving ill and aimless, she's rescued by a kind-hearted doctor and his wife.

Stella's fortunes turn as Dr. Bridge helps her search for her past. Her determination is rewarded when an American sees her and calls her Etna Bliss--at that moment, her memory is restored. But a bigger battle looms. She recalls what drove her to leave New Hampshire and abandon her life as a mother and wife of an abusive, power-seeking academic to volunteer at the front.

Stella/Etna is a talented, independent woman ahead of her time, and Shreve maintains the tension as Etna wages a legal battle, establishes her career and regains a family. Stella Bain spares no details in its homage to women who had to fight for justice--it's a well-crafted and engrossing story from one of the country's most established novelists. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: An American woman volunteers as a British army nurse during the Great War, seeking justice and redemption from her past.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 9780316098861

Counterpoint Press: A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton


Sense & Sensibility

by Joanna Trollope


Many contemporary novelists have tried to continue the story of Pride & Prejudice, but none have quite reached the heights of the original. Joanna Trollope takes a different approach, reinterpreting Sense & Sensibility in much the same way as Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet. In appealing to modern audiences while keeping true to the spirit of Jane Austen, she largely succeeds.

Trollope's sense has the appearance of the logical and industrious, while sensibility becomes artsy, liberal-minded passion. The settings of Norland and Barton remain largely the same, but the Dashwood sisters are now smart, 21st-century versions of their Austenian counterparts, well-versed in the intricacies of social media. Less so the men: while the jovially magnanimous Sir John Middleton and the self-serving John Dashwood are exact replicas of their characters, Trollope has reduced Willoughby to a cold-hearted, two-timing Casanova and promoted veteran Bill Brandon to a love-struck do-gooder with a heart of gold, absent his darker mood swings. Edward Ferrars, whom Hugh Grant played with such bumbling aplomb in the movie, appears even more incompetent in matchmaking in Trollope's reimagining, while brother Robert receives a stereotypically gay makeover as a flamboyant interior designer.

Diehard Janeites will likely find travesty in Trollope's faithful rendition of Austen's cleverly constructed storyline; the prose is not as crisp and Trollope relies more on interior soliloquies to communicate class divides. Yet Trollope works just enough magic into her modernization to recommend readers back to Austen's masterpiece. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: A remarkably fresh contemporary reinterpretation of the Jane Austen classic.

Harper, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062200464

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


Fractures

by Lamar Herrin


The politics and economics of alternative energy are filtered through one family's story in Lamar Herrin's Fractures. In a small town above the Marcellus Shale, retired architect Frank Joyner may be the last holdout against the oil-and-gas companies looking to set up derricks and release the natural gas contained in the shale's deep underground pockets. The potential environmental impact of hydrofracking and the disruptiveness of drilling operations haven't deterred many of Frank's neighbors from leasing their land to a developer, and his public statements of ambivalence haven't endeared him to some of them.

Although the decision to lease the Joyners' hundred acres to a gas company ultimately rests with Frank, members of his family are on both sides; whatever choice he makes is likely to alienate someone. The Joyners have some experience with that, however, which becomes apparent as Herrin explores their complicated relationships. There's obviously love between them, but the hurts and hostilities simmering underneath become clear as the novel moves toward its stunning, tragic climax.

As the perspective shifts among several characters, including Frank, his children, Jen and Mickey, and gas-company landman Kenny Brewster, each develops complexity and are fully realized. Herrin draws an obvious metaphor between family dynamics and fracking, but it's effective--and rendered with such empathy and emotional honesty that readers may be reluctant to choose sides. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Discover: A timely novel in which a controversial environmental issue provides the backdrop to an engrossing family drama.

Thomas Dunne, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250032768

Mystery & Thriller

Tatiana: An Arkady Renko Novel

by Martin Cruz Smith


Tatiana is the seventh installment in Martin Cruz Smith's popular Arkady Renko mystery series, which began in 1981 with Gorky Park. As with many of its predecessors, the novel draws from contemporary headlines; this time, Cruz takes inspiration from the 2006 assassination of Russian journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya.

Tatiana opens in Kaliningrad, an isolated seaport town on the Baltic Sea. Joseph, a translator, is riding his bicycle when he's approached by a butcher's van. As he's seized, his notebook--the pages of which look "as if someone had poured out the contents of a typographer's box and tossed in gnostic symbols"--is tossed away.

In Moscow, the news is that Tatiana Petrovna, a fearless journalist and supporter of lost causes, has committed suicide. Renko visits her apartment, talks to a few people and becomes convinced she was murdered. He wants to examine her body, but it has disappeared. A Russian mob boss, Grisha Grigorenko, was killed just before Tatiana's death. Could the two deaths and Joseph's kidnapping be connected? Renko thinks Joseph's notebook has some answers and he enlists the help of his former ward, Zhenya, a chess master, to decode it.

Smith writes with the assured confidence of a master storyteller working with material he knows well as he draws us deeply into modern Russia's corrupt and dissolute world. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: Smith's intriguing mystery series continues as Arkady Renko probes the death of a Russian journalist who might have committed suicide and the disappearance of a diplomatic translator.

Simon & Schuster, $25.99, hardcover, 9781439140215

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Deaths of Tao

by Wesley Chu


Apocalypse is at hand, and it's up to Roen Tan and his alien companion Tao to save the day. When The Lives of Tao, Wesley Chu's comedic, action-packed debut, ended, Roen had saved and married Jill, the woman of his dreams. But as the sequel opens, Roen and Jill are separated, yet still engaged in the battle to save humanity from the alien Genjix--Roen as a renegade, Jill as a political operative in Washington, D.C.

In The Deaths of Tao, two alien factions are battling for the fate of humankind. The Prophus--the faction to which Tao belongs and which is served by Roen and Jill--aim to propel humanity's technological progress to a level at which it becomes possible to return the aliens to their home planet, from which they have been exiled. Until now, the opposing Genjix have sought to promote progress, too, but they believe warfare facilitates innovation--thus, their goal has been to incite global conflict. Now, however, the Genjix no longer want to return to their planet--they've discovered that global warming would make Earth hospitable to their kind.

Roen's desperate mission sends him to Taiwan, where myriad battles ensue as Prophus armies clash with those of the Genjix. Aided by her own alien companion, Baji, Jill strives to stop the Genjix through political channels. In the foreground of these conflicts is the bittersweet tangle of their relationship.

The Deaths of Tao preserves the caustic banter and suspenseful battle scenes that made its predecessor enjoyable, and leaves the door open for another sequel. --Ilana Teitelbaum, book reviewer at the Huffington Post

Discover: The fate of humanity hangs in the balance in a suspenseful and humorous novel replete with gun battles in East Asia and political machinations in Washington, D.C.

Angry Robot, $7.99, mass market paperbound, 9780857663320

Biography & Memoir

For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey

by Richard Blanco


A recap of the frenetic weeks between his selection as the inaugural poet for Barack Obama's second presidential term and his reading at the ceremony as well as an elaboration of how his life is reflected in the poem he read there, For All of Us, One Today is an uplifting reminder of the best of the U.S.

Blanco was the youngest of all the inaugural poets, as well as the first Latino, the first immigrant and the first openly gay poet invited to address the nation at the ceremony. As he thought about what he wanted his poem to say, Blanco asked himself: "What do I love about America?" Composing the three poems the inaugural committee required, he thought about the courage of his parents, coming from Cuba to the U.S. in 1968, the acceptance and sense of community he and his husband, Mark, felt when they moved to Maine and the place of poetry in the national consciousness.

Besides Blanco's thoughts as he wove such lofty themes into his poems (which are presented in both English and Spanish), he shares light, personal anecdotes such as how his husband built an outdoor podium so that, with a snowman audience, Blanco could practice speaking in the January cold of Washington, D.C. Culminating in details of the inauguration ceremony and the public acclaim that followed, Blanco's memoir is an inspiring celebration of the United States. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: In a patriotic memoir, the poet at Barack Obama's second inauguration reflects on his life and how it shaped the poem he gave the nation.

Beacon Press, $15, paperback, 9780807033807

Business & Economics

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

by Gary Vaynerchuk


For decades, most companies have marketed while thinking only of the "right hook"--the knockout blow that will hit potential customers directly and, ideally, encourage them to buy a product or service.

In Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, however, social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk maintains that the knockout strategy isn't suited to sparring in a social media world. While customers were at one time content to accept the "right hooks" of billboards, commercials and print ads, social media has given them an unprecedented power they have seized with zeal.

Customers, Vaynerchuk notes, no longer want to listen to the message; now, they want to interact with it and spar with the messengers. The result is a world in which a series of "jabs" by marketers to draw in customers before landing the "right hook" of the sale is key. Social media channels are the way to deliver--if companies know how to handle them.

In a book that combines the best of previous books like Crush It! and The Thank You Economy, Vaynerchuk clarifies that in a social media-driven world, context matters. Communication in marketing, while vital, must also be adapted to the specific social media platforms and mobile devices on which it will be consumed. With a wealth of easily applied tips and clear examples, Vaynerchuk explains how to make the most of marketing on social media in an ever noisier world. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: A hard-hitting guide to marketing using social media.

HarperBusiness, $29.99, hardcover, 9780062273062

Nature & Environment

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

by Charles Eisenstein


Charles Eisenstein's The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible presents a brave and challenging new paradigm for living that combines a rarified spiritual vision with a pragmatic eye and scientific outlook.

Eisenstein confronts many of the prevailing myths and attitudes about life at the beginning of the 21st century, mainly focusing on the mess we've made of the environment. He calls our old methods of coping with issues a model of "separation" and says it will lead only to increased societal breakdown and personal angst. In their place, he offers "interbeing"--a world view he feels is a more accurate reflection of our own true nature.

Eisenstein's radical theory, supported by modern physics and classical Buddhist and Vedic cosmology, is that we are all at our core connected; our smallest gestures, daily activities and even our attitudes have great consequences. Eisenstein skillfully highlights the burn-out our best and brightest problem-solvers suffer when they are drawn into the maw of social engagement, and observes how contemporary snark and cool indifference limits spiritual growth and inhibits the potential for change.

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible is an uplifting vision of one possible future for mankind, if we can just slow down long enough to see the connections and embrace them. --Donald Powell, freelance writer

Discover: An uplifting vision of a spiritually nourishing approach to our modern ecological crises.

North Atlantic Books, $19.95, paperback, 9781583947241

House & Home

Knitting by Design

by Emma Robertson


Graphic designer, blogger and knitter Emma Robertson loves mood boards, bright colors, vintage fashion photos and bold knitted accessories. These elements come together in her first book, Knitting by Design, which includes 15 projects ranging from chunky color-block mittens to a slinky dip-dyed ombré tank top.

Robertson's playful esthetic and her love of color shine through in these pages, which feature design sketches and fabric swatches galore. Each pattern includes not only the basic instructions for knitting and finishing, but also "design inspiration" pages where Robertson shares her creative process through project notes and bulletin boards. Even more informative are the "trial & error" notes for each project, where the designer shows that her initial ideas go through many stages before reaching their final form. Budding designers and DIYers will especially appreciate these behind-the-scenes peeks.

While each project is explained fully, the book is intended to inspire knitters to improvise or even create their own accessories from scratch. Robertson offers plenty of helpful (albeit basic) tips on materials, techniques and craft terminology. With a breezy, accessible writing style and dozens of bright, whimsical photos, Knitting by Design infuses a traditional craft with a vivid palette of colors and a hefty dose of easygoing can-do spirit. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A collection of 15 whimsical knitted projects, accompanied by notes on the creative process and helpful design tips.

Chronicle Books, $24.95, hardcover, 9781452117393

Children's & Young Adult

"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

by James L. Swanson


James L. Swanson, best known for Chasing Lincoln's Killer (a YA adaptation of his acclaimed Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer), transforms a clear, unbiased account of historical fact into a thrilling, emotional experience in his latest book (an adult version, End of Days, is just out) for young readers.

Part One begins with John F. Kennedy's childhood and continues through his years in office, highlighting such important events as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Space Race. The major portion of the book is "Part Two: The Assassination." Swanson alternates between the events of Lee Harvey Oswald's life and of the Kennedys, beginning on the day the Kennedys left the White House for Dallas, Tex. The day of the assassination itself is described minute by minute. The suspense becomes nearly unbearable, even for readers who already know what happens. Swanson doesn't shy away from the more gruesome and bloody moments, nor does he avoid describing the painful days after the president's death.

The author's sympathy for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy's experience is heart-rending. Swanson makes it clear that he believes the official version of events, and confronts the conspiracy theories head-on. What makes this book special is the plethora of black & white photographs. The perfect photograph always appears just when the reader is ready for it. The excellent back matter includes source notes and an extensive bibliography broken down by subject area and introduced by a further reading section that points out the most important sources. --Angela Carstensen, school librarian and blogger

Discover: The masterful, minute-by-minute account of an event that changed the U.S. forever.

Scholastic, $18.99, hardcover, 9780545490078

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac

by Gabrielle Wang, illus. by Regine Abos, Sally Rippin


Thirteen animals race for 12 places in the Zodiac. The story may be familiar, but Gabrielle Wang's (The Garden of Empress Cassia) poetic retelling and Sally Rippin's (Mannie and the Long Brave Day) dramatic illustrations in Chinese ink and linocut make this a standout.

After the Jade Emperor's announces the "mighty race," the animals line up at the river's edge. "The waters slapped and swirled. The mountains trembled. The Jade Emperor's gong rang out." Rippin, using a limited palette of golds, grays and greens, introduces the first of the animals in a thick black outlined frame: orange-flecked and golden "Courageous Tiger," airborne, dives over green curling currents, while gray "Peaceful Rabbit" clings to a log. The Chinese character for each animal appears with the image and a line of text (and again as each crosses the finish line). Ox gets a double-page illustration in which the river seems to run off the pages, carrying on its back "Charming Rat" and "Friendly Cat" (described as "very good friends"), along with all three of their Chinese characters. Dog and Pig make their ways solo, while Lucky Rooster, Clever Monkey and Gentle Goat band together to ride a raft to the finish line. Powerful Dragon, like Ox, commands a double-page spread, parting clouds with its green serpentine tail.

A couple animals betray their companions in order to secure a place in the Zodiac (Rat and Cat are no longer friends). This enticing picture book closes with the years of the 12 animals and the characteristics associated with each. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An enticing retelling of the origins of the zodiac with illustrations that pay homage to traditional Chinese paintings.

Candlewick, $14.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 5-9, 9780763667788

Audio

One Summer: America, 1927

by Bill Bryson


Bill Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything, A Walk in the Woods) is back with a quirky history of 1920s America sure to please loyal readers and new fans alike.

One Summer: America, 1927 is the story of a pivotal year in American history. In the span of a few short months, Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, The Jazz Singer changed the movie industry, Babe Ruth hit an astonishing 60 home runs and "the crime of the century" (the murder of a man by his wife and her corset salesman lover) riveted the nation.

Bryson skillfully weaves together all of those stories, supplementing them with fascinating information on race relations, the presidency, Prohibition, business, Al Capone's domination of Chicago and the seeds for a stock market crash most people didn't see coming. These diverse subjects blend together to create a gripping composite history.

Bryson reads the audiobook of One Summer, and his rather unusual accent--he grew up in Iowa and lives in England--provides an interesting contrast to the more polished voices of professional narrators. His narration is clear, wryly delivering each line to perfection. The oft-changing topics make the 17 hours fly by, keeping the listener engaged all the way. Fans of Bryson's other books--or anyone who enjoys American history, baseball or aviation--will find One Summer fascinating. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Bill Bryson's distinctive voice enhances the audiobook edition of his excellent (and humorous) history of the summer of 1927.

Random House Audio, $45, unabridged, 14 CDs, 9780739315293

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


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Simon Toyne
 

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

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

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

ALSO FEATURED ON THE the big THRILL…
 

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

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

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

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

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

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