Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, September 27, 2011


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

Maester Martin's Milestones

The past week was another big week for a publishing phenomenon that has taken a few Shelf Awareness editors--and millions of others--on an epic reading journey.

First, at the Emmys, Peter Dinklage won best supporting actor in a drama series for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister in HBO's series based on A Game of Thrones, the first volume of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga. Dinklage's Tyrion, aka the Imp and the Dwarf, is one of the best-read characters in the books, saying at one point, "A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." (Tyrion is also delightfully droll, sharp-eyed, humorous, fatalistic and hedonistic.)

Then last week publisher Bantam announced that A Game of Thrones has sold one million copies in the past six months, roughly since the HBO series began and drew in many new fans. Next, Amazon said that Martin is the 11th author to sell a million e-books in the Kindle Store. And A Dance of Dragons, the fifth volume in the series, released in July after a long wait, continues to burn up the bestseller lists. Altogether the series has 11.8 million copies in book, e-book and audio versions in print.

Based loosely on the War of the Roses, A Song of Ice and Fire is a sprawling tale set in a world like medieval Europe and Asia and features complex flesh-and-blood characters, few of whom are pure good or evil. The material is simultaneously earthy and mystical. And Martin is an expert in moving the story along--with twists that shock the reader.

One college-age friend called A Song of Ice and Fire "medieval porn." Another described Martin as "America's Tolkien." Again and again, we've encountered fans who say with a bit of surprise that they never read fantasy but somehow have gotten hooked on Martin's universe.

This phenomenon will only get bigger--the second season of the HBO series is filming and there are at least two more volumes to look forward to. We dare you to join the legions and drink some of Martin's literary dreamwine.

Happy reading! --John Mutter


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


Book Candy

Imagine: The Princess Bride Monopoly Game

An imaginary Monopoly game crafted in honor of the 24th anniversary of the film adaptation of William Goldman's novel The Princess Bride was featured by Flavorwire, which noted: "If like us, you enjoy nothing more than randomly quoting The Princess Bride in everyday conversation ('Is this a kissing book?' 'Anybody want a peanut?' 'Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.'), then we think you’re going to be pretty excited by this Monopoly game tribute to the swashbuckling classic."


Matchup by Gayle Lynds



Melville House Publishing: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer



Counterpoint Press: A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton


Great Reads

Further Reading: Iceland

If you're a fan of the Scandinavian mysteries that have been growing in popularity lately, you may want to check out a new thriller, Operation Napoleon by Arnaldur Indridason (Minotaur), with a plot that has roots in World War II but takes place in modern-day Iceland.

This week, rather than suggesting books that are similar, we're recommending other books with Icelandic authors that are all quite different. A brief word or three on Iceland's literary heritage: between the justly famed Eddic and Skaldic poetry (early writings, filled with myths and stories of warriors) and the Sagas (medieval stories that were largely based on historical fact), and the modern Icelandic literary renaissance, there were several centuries of almost no indigenous literature.

However, once the nation came into its own in the 19th and early 20th centuries, literary culture flourished in Iceland--and continues to do so, even after the economic downturn of the past few years, which has devastated the country's important travel and tourism industry, but not the spirit of its singular people.

 

For writing the extraordinary Independent People, Halldor Laxness won the 1955 Nobel Prize for Literature. Laxness wrote a sort of Jane Austen-like gem that demonstrates that any interaction between human beings can illuminate something of the human condition. Instead of the English middle- and upper-middle classes, Laxness's turf is Icelandic sheep farmers, specifically one Bjartur of Summerhouses, who wishes for nothing more and nothing less than to own his own flock.

While Olaf Olafsson is writing decades later than Laxness (in fact, the novelist and TimeWarner senior executive wasn't born until 1962), his literary concerns are often based on his nation's past. In The Journey Home, Olafsson's narrator Disa has crafted a good, quiet life in London--but her World War II experiences, as well as her Icelandic past, threaten to overwhelm the façade she's protectively constructed in the present.

Sjón, who may be best known for writing some of his countrywoman Bjork's lyrics, is the same age as Olafsson--but writes as if he were born in a different universe. His works include novels, short stories, children's books and poetry, as well as song lyrics and film scores. His novel The Blue Fox is set in late 19th-century Iceland and touches on elements of nature, myth, magic, religion, difference--all in just 112 pages. --Bethanne Patrick


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


Literary Lists

Fall Books; Book-Based Songs; Lost Tomes; Twitter Feeds

Flavorwire offered its take on seven of the "most exciting new books coming your way this fall," noting that the "best way to cope with the changing of the seasons is to confront them head on, you know, so put on a sweater, brew a hot beverage, and curl up with some of these books."

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Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" was, of course, one of the Guardian's "10 best songs based on books."

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Smithsonian.com featured the Top 10 Books Lost to Time, those "great written works from authors such as Shakespeare and Jane Austen that you'll never have a chance to read." Among the lost tomes are Homer's Margites, Shakespeare's Cardenio, Jane Austen's Sanditon and Herman Melville's The Isle of the Cross.

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Online College Courses offers "50 Addictive Twitter Feeds for Bookworms," which includes @ShelfAwareness! The list is divided by category: authors, booksellers, publishers, bloggers, etc.


Mixed Media

Literary Animation: Reading The Simpsons

"From The Bell Jar to Moneyball, from Gore Vidal to Tom Wolfe, countless books and authors have guest-starred on America's longest-running sitcom," the Atlantic's Jared Keller wrote to introduce his "Visual History of Literary References on The Simpsons."

He is referring primarily as fans know, to Bart's sister Lisa, "precocious bookworm and perennial conscience of the family, who laments that she's destined for a life without friends or, even worse, a life confined to 'grown up nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he's kissed more boys than I have.'

"My appreciation for Lisa's bookishness led me and Michelle Legro of Lapham's Quarterly to create the Lisa Simpson Book Club, a single-serving Tumblr devoted to Lisa's ever-expanding catalogue and the best literary references in the show's history.


Book Review

Fiction

Lost Memory of Skin

by Russell Banks


In a morally intricate, labyrinthine plot, Russell Banks (Cloudsplitter; Continental Drift) takes on an unpopular subject, pedophilia and attempts to humanize it. The Kid is a registered sex offender, living with other offenders beneath a causeway in southern Florida--one of the few places that is more than the legally mandated 2,500 feet from an area where children might gather.

The Kid is 22, an ignorant but not stupid loner, who got caught in a sting after showing up at the home of a girl who admitted online to being 14. He came bearing beer, condoms and pornographic DVDs. Earlier, the Kid had been given a general discharge from the army for distributing porn to his fellow soldiers, which he had done in the hope of making friends. Good choices have been at a premium.

Then the Professor arrives; hugely fat, tall and imposing, he sees the Kid and the other inhabitants of the causeway as research subjects. A sociologist, he theorizes that organization and responsibility will change their lives, so he helps them form committees to tidy up and dig a latrine. It works for a while, until a hurricane blows through and wipes out their shelters. The Professor takes the Kid home, where he discovers that his wife and the children have left him.

He has interviewed the Kid about his life, a sad tale about a neglectful mother and absent father, and now he asks the Kid to interview him, to produce a DVD to leave for his wife after his imminent death. There follows a story about the Professor's past, just bizarre enough to be true; as he says, "The world is full of people who aren't who or what they say they are." Another recurring theme is spoken by the Writer: "We just have to choose what to believe and act accordingly, Kid."

There is nothing uplifting about this tale; indeed, it is an indictment of knee-jerk reactions to offenses that are vastly different yet receive the same harsh punishment. Although it is slightly polemical and occasionally preachy, you will keep reading because Banks knows how to tell his story. --Valerie Ryan

Discover: A young sex offender, the Kid, gets hooked up with the Professor, who is bent on rehabilitating homeless sex offenders.

Ecco Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9780061857638

Broken Irish

by Edward J. Delaney


Edward Delaney's background in the teaching and practice of journalism (the Denver Post, the Colorado Springs Gazette) underlies his fiction; his writing is muscular and taut. Broken Irish moves between a cast of characters in alternating chapters and shifting points of view that average two or three pages in length, giving the story momentum as it unfolds.

Set in Boston--Southie in particular--in the late 1990s, the book gives the reader a sense of foreboding, of a society disintegrating. Delaney writes lucidly about the struggles of these characters in a community that neither supports nor actively ruins their intentions, but is a kind of wilderness where what you choose to expect of others, even if it's good, will likely result in disappointment. One man struggles with a drinking problem and a reason for living, expecting no improvements; a teenager moves in with her thug boyfriend, expecting only the best; a mother copes (or, more accurately, assiduously avoids coping) with the loss of her husband and the complete withdrawal of her son, expecting that going through the simple, basic motions of life will shine some light on what needs to happen next. There's a fair amount of that in this book--the faith, conscious or not, that change will happen on its own accord, that mere people have little hope of shaping their own outcomes. The drama of people reaching that conclusion, or its opposite, lends Broken Irish its power--a great story that reaches into a reader's life and makes us reconsider how autonomous we really are. --Matthew Tiffany, counselor, writer for Condalmo

Discover: A tightly plotted work of fiction that poses important questions about people, fate and community, wrapped in a compelling story.

Turtle Point Press, $18.50, trade paper, 9781933527505

The Barbarian Nurseries

by Héctor Tobar


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar's second novel tackles the ambitious goal of characterizing Southern California's multicultural schizophrenia and achieves it admirably.

Araceli is quietly comfortable in her role as housemaid to the Torres-Thompson household in Orange County, one of three Mexican domestics; but when the gardener and nanny are suddenly dismissed, she is puzzled to find herself expected to care of three children she considers strangers. Worse, she wakes up one morning to find both her employers gone with their baby--leaving her alone in the house with two young boys. In desperation, she sets off with them on a daunting trek through diverse and unfamiliar Los Angeles to try to find their estranged paternal grandfather.

Tobar creates an intriguing juxtaposition of cultures, as the Torres-Thompson children are thrust into a huge, unfamiliar, multiethnic city. Most observations are from Araceli's perplexed, amused, lyrically bilingual perspective. At other times, we look through the boys' eyes, with all the wonder of the new, including evidence of poverty they've never before encountered. The older boy (age 11), in particular, has a unique way of clinically interpreting new experiences through books he's read, imbuing the world with fantasy. The adventure with the boys is a comedy of errors--Araceli becomes suddenly famous as a symbol of racial politics, and her fate depends upon forces outside her control.

The Barbarian Nurseries is a beautifully written, contemplative and thought-provoking view into Southern California's diversity and contradictions, as well as a fascinating and well-presented story. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pages of julia

Discover: A deceptively quiet story, with swift currents running deep beneath its surface, considers the fate of an unprepared Mexican housekeeper in Orange County left to care for her employers' young children.

Farrar Straus & Giroux, $27, hardcover, 9780374108991

Mystery & Thriller

Feast Day of Fools

by James Lee Burke


Hackberry Holland (from Burke's 2009 Rain Gods) is a small-town Texas sheriff with a big-time past--as a politician, a lawyer for the ACLU, a whoremonger, an alcoholic and a prisoner of war in Korea. He feels worn and battered. He cares for his staff, and he loves his young chief deputy with all the conflicted angst of an old man who should know better. He has a history with the main antagonist, Preacher Jack Collins, a self-educated killer with a complexity that belies his obvious sociopathic tendencies.

The story begins in the desert with a grisly torture by an ex-CIA operative named Krill and his bestial sidekick, Negrito. The plot unfolds slowly at first, picking up the pace as important elements fall into place and the characters are developed. There's Anton Ling, a woman who gives succor to immigrants from across the Mexican border, who herself has a mysterious past and deeds she wishes to atone for. Reverend Cody Daniels, founder of the Cowboy Chapel, with shady ties to the bombing of an abortion clinic, is a menacing and pitiable character with his own complex mix of needs and hopes.

No one ends in this book the way they began--each growing, changing or dying as the plot slams its way to the conclusion--and readers are all the better for it. As the 30th book in James Lee Burke's highly regarded oeuvre, Feast Day of Fools takes readers on a spiritual journey of redemption with a careful and insightful look at the human heart with its capacity for violence and self-delusion as well as its ability to love and to hope. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A deep, almost spiritual look at humanity's need for redemption as well as its capacity for evil, projected on the hot desert of small-town Texas, written by a master of his craft.

Simon & Schuster, $26.99, hardcover, 9781451643114

The End of the Wasp Season

by Denise Mina


Tartan noir fans rejoice! Denise Mina (Still Midnight) returns to gritty Glasgow with the second installment in her Alex Morrow series.

A young woman wakes up in the middle of the night to find two strange teen boys in her bedroom; she tries to escape but, in a case of mistaken identity, the boys brutally murder her. Det. Sgt. Alex Morrow arrives to investigate, but the crime baffles her, as does the large amount of cash found under the victim's dining room table. Meanwhile, the lead perpetrator evades justice but is slowly dragged into a figurative prison after his father commits suicide, leaving him in charge of his helpless mother and problematic sister.

The author of the popular Garnethill trilogy, Mina again showcases her skill in creating detailed police procedurals and injecting them with characters' everyday struggles. This time, she explores family ties and what we will and won't do for blood relatives. Familial relationships underscore every aspect of the story, from the murder motive to Morrow's personal life to the victim's life choices. Parent-child relationships reverse, siblings struggle to find common ground, and a false lead connects a suspect to Morrow's family in a surprising way. However, the family drama never overshadows the murder plot, and the ghoulish crime scene and procedural details will please genre fans. Best of all, Mina is able to show the killer and his family in a light that will have readers torn between pity and the desire for justice. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries

Discover: A chilling Tartan noir novel from the author of the Garnethill trilogy that explores the ties that bind and break families.

Reagan Arthur Books, $25.99, hardcover, 9780316069335

The Assassin in the Marais

by Claude Izner


In the first few pages of The Assassin in the Marais, a dizzying array of characters are introduced. It soon becomes clear, however, that here in Paris, in 1892, there's a murderer who thinks he is God's emissary hunting for a strange goblet and that the staff of a small bookstore may be the only people able to stop him.

The goblet was stolen from Mr. Kenji Mori, the business partner of bookseller and amateur photographer Victor Legris. Then Antoine du Houssaye, a noted naturalist who had recently stopped by the bookstore asking for Mori, turns up dead.

Victor is now certain that something is afoot and that the missing goblet must be linked to the death of du Houssaye. Victor and bookshop assistant Joseph Pignot set off to find the object--a task that requires them to crisscross Paris interviewing wealthy aristocrats, rag and bone men, antiques dealers and bartenders alike. What they don't notice is that the emissary, astride a newfangled bicycle, is following them wherever they go. Each of them are distracted by complications in their love lives, but as the bodies keep piling up, Victor, Kenji and Joseph realize they must hurry to unmask the killer before they themselves are at risk.

Claude Izner (a pseudonym used by bookseller sisters Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefèvre) has written a quick-paced, historically authentic mystery with engaging and believable characters. It will leave readers waiting with anticipation for the fifth in the series to be translated into English. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: 1890s Paris: full of authors, artists, new inventions--and a murderer.

Minotaur, $25.99, hardcover, 9780312662158

The Crossing

by Serita Jakes


Serita Ann Jakes, Christian speaker and wife of Bishop T.D. Jakes, makes her fiction debut with The Crossing.

Claudia Campbell, a preacher's daughter, is haunted by the murder of her friend and teacher, B.J. Remington. Ten years ago, Claudia, B.J. and other students were on a school bus when a masked gunman climbed on board and shot B.J. Claudia keeps reliving the moments on the bus and is suffering from increasingly frequent panic attacks.

Claudia's husband, Victor, an assistant district attorney, decides to reopen the case in an attempt to give his wife closure. Teaming up with suspended cop Casio Hightower, another student from the bus who handles his own trauma by beating his girlfriend, Victor begins re-interviewing suspects.

Claudia is already struggling with her faith after a miscarriage and some shocking revelations about her mother and cannot handle the information that Victor is discovering. She begins to distance herself from everyone, instead wallowing in her memories of B.J.

B.J. herself narrates the beginning of each chapter in flashbacks to her dying moments. She mourns the fact that she didn't make certain things right, but finds peace in talking to Jesus as her life ebbs. Some of the other victims of the attack also manage to find such peace, but the lives of some will end before Victor finds the murderer.

In The Crossing, Jakes manages to make complicated characters believable--the tortured cop, the grieving friends, the mourning family, who are all seeking answers to their complicated questions about faith and loss. --Jessica Howard, bookseller, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

Discover: A novel of tragedy and faith, where Claudia Campbell is haunted by the murder of her friend. Can her husband find the murderer before their marriage falls apart?

Waterbrook Press, $14.99, trade paper, 9781400073030

Nonfiction

Scrap Republic: 8 Quilt Projects for Those Who Love Color

by Emily Cier


There are purely utilitarian quilts made by church basement ladies from their husband's plaid pants and there are complicated and beautiful quilts collected by textile museums as monuments to folk art traditions. Somewhere between these two aesthetics lie the eight quilt designs contained in this intriguing new collection by Emily Cier. More modern than Grandma's simple block designs but not so graphically innovative that they push through the barrier of craft into art, these designs instead represent the marriage of the young, funky, earthy sensibility that is fueling the renewed interest in the fiber arts and the time-honored tradition of making useful household items from leftover materials.

Though Cier's designs are friendly to non-expert quilters, this is not a beginning quilting lesson. Cier doesn't cover the fundamentals of quilting; she mainly focuses on the design on top. A novice would be well-advised to partner Scrap Republic with a beginner's instructional book or a mentor in order to have a solid understand of concepts like batting, binding and tying.

Cier's quilting methodology here is to gather and sort scraps of wildly disparate prints and solids by dominant color--a bucket of reds, a bucket of purples, etc.--and assemble them into patterns that somehow both overcome the visual chaos and embrace it. The results are quilts that are nontraditional and a break from the past, but beautiful and homey nonetheless. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: A collection of vibrant, chaotically beautiful quilt designs to be made from material scraps.

C&T Publishing, $16.95, paperback, 9781607052142

Biography & Memoir

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

by Susan Orlean


If you had a TV in the 1950s, you likely watched The Ed Sullivan Show, I Love Lucy, Ozzie and Harriet... and maybe The Lone Ranger, Dragnet and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. New Yorker writer and bestselling author Susan Orlean (The Orchid Thief) was just four years old when she first joined her older siblings cross-legged on the floor for the weekly episode of Rin Tin Tin, and she never forgot the brave and smart dog who always came running when Rusty gave that "Yo, Rinty" call.

With a tenacious reporter's curiosity, Orlean digs behind her childhood TV infatuation to find the long and convoluted saga of a show business dog and his trainer--a story that begins with a puppy in the battlefields of World War I and continues with an 11th generation Rin Tin Tin in Claremore, Okla. It is a story of dogs and their human companions, war, Hollywood, fortunes both made and lost and, finally, prolonged courtroom "brand" battles and no-bid eBay auctions of memorabilia.

When Orlean steps back to reflect on the passions and follies of all those touched by Rin Tin Tin, the charismatic German Shepherd who "was born in 1918 and never died," her perspective is much like that of the great dog himself: "worried and pitying and generous... as if he were viewing with charity and resignation the whole enterprise of living and striving and hoping." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kans.

Discover: The compassionate story of America's favorite dog--as much a symbol of loyalty and courage as a star of movies and television.

Simon & Schuster, $26.99, hardcover, 9781439190135

Drama: An Actor's Education

by John Lithgow


"If you hear enough applause and laughter at a young enough age, you are doomed to be become an actor," writes John Lithgow in his engaging and revealing memoir of treading the boards with style and of creating many memorable screen characters. Lithgow made his first appearance on stage at age two, but he had to wait patiently until he was 14 to deliver his first line (in Shakespeare's Henry V). He was, he reveals, not only doomed to act, but a "good boy" who wanted to please everyone--most of all, his father, who directed many drama festivals.

In addition to his father, Lithgow credits a number of other great teachers who imparted essential wisdom to him. Theater legends Mike Nichols, Bob Fosse and Donald Moffat get their due, and he does not neglect high school teachers, either. In performance, he learned by doing: if you make a pact with an audience, they will follow you anywhere; a key difference between acting for the camera and for the stage is insecurity ("insecurity is the prime currency of film acting... in theater acting, you work to overcome your insecurities"). He learned, too, that he had no business being a stagehand when he was a curtain puller for Marcel Marceau and disaster struck: the mime was not pleased, but mimes can't yell at you without destroying their stage magic, can they?

Lithgow has many funny stories to tell and is adept at delivering them for full dramatic effect; he also comes across as brutally honest and wins our respect and admiration. He made a pact with us, and readers will follow him everywhere. --John McFarland

Discover: A candid, endearing memoir of becoming an excellent actor and an even better person.

Harper, $26.99, hardcover, 9780061734977

Across Many Mountains

by Yangzom Brauen


Yangzom Brauen is a young Swiss actress and political activist, born in Zurich to a Swiss father and a Tibetan mother. She grew up with undeniably Western sensibilities but a profound connection to her mother's troubled home, and her rich, complex history would make for a great memoir on its own. But Across Many Mountains is not just a personal memoir--it's a story of an extraordinary family, spanning three generations and nearly a hundred years of Tibetan history.

With deftness and compassion, Brauen tells the astonishing story of Kunsang and Sonam, her grandmother and mother, who fled across the treacherous Himalayas when Sonam was a child to escape the horrors of the Chinese invasion. Once in India, the tightly bonded pair was free from Chinese oppression but faced with poverty and terrible homesickness. Then Sonam fell in love with a young Swiss scholar, and the unlikely trio made a less harrowing escape across another mountain range--the Alps--to again begin a new life. Adjustment to life in Switzerland came with difficulties of its own, and Tibet's plight remains painful and uncertain.

Brauen's prose is unadorned but emotionally rich. Her rendering of Kunsang's early life as a Buddhist nun in a remote monastery is particularly brilliant: "The nun in charge of the morning call sent her long, lamenting melody out over the white-frosted fields.... One after another, the other nuns joined in, until a blanket of sound lay over the mountain pastures, woven from hollow yet powerful tones." That, in essence, is this book--a chorus of female voices, the shadows of a mountain range, and a long, lamenting melody. --Hannah Calkins, blogger at Unpunished Vice

Discover: Three generations of remarkable women and nearly a century of Tibetan history in this stirring, beautiful memoir of love and resilience.

St. Martin's Press, $26.99, hardcover, 9780312600136

The Man Who Lived in an Eggcup: A Memoir of Triumph and Self-Destruction

by John Gamel, M.D.


The world of medicine has many physician-writers whose works appeal equally to health professionals and interested general readers. Now, there is a new voice in this literary genre that deserves attention. John Gamel, M.D., is a professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine who's published more than 90 scientific articles. Recently he has turned his attention to creative nonfiction, and has contributed essays to notable literary journals, including Epoch, Boulevard, the Antioch Review and the Alaska Quarterly Review.

These newer works, including "The Elegant Eyeball" (which appeared in The Best American Essays 2010) have been gathered together in The Man Who Lived in an Eggcup to form a memoir of linked essays. Beginning with Gamel's decision to enter medical school, despite suffering from severe hypochondria, the chapters recall in often moving detail specific patients, teachers and colleagues that contributed to Gamel's experiences in medicine and his evolution as a physician, leading to his ultimate specialty choice of ophthalmology and his long-standing position in academia. These interactions are recollected with precise and purposeful prose, and it is clear, as suggested by the book's subtitle, that both triumph and self-destruction can manifest in doctor and patient alike. --Roni K. Devlin, owner of Literary Life Bookstore & More

Discover: A new voice among the physician-writers who explore the world of medicine from the perspective of the doctor, but with a clear sense of the experience of the patient.

Bascom Hill Publishing, $14.95, trade paper, 9781935098706

Children's & Young Adult

Ten Rules for Living with My Sister

by Ann M. Martin


"Half an hour ago my sister locked me out of her room." So begins the latest insightful and funny novel from Ann M. Martin (the Babysitter Club series; Everything for a Dog).

Pearl Littlefield is well aware that she bothers her older sister, Lexie. Pearl doesn't mean to annoy Lexie, but she's fascinated by her. At 13, Lexie has a cell phone, a key to the apartment and a boyfriend. Nine-year-old Pearl, on the other hand, has no phone, no key and a cat named Bitey. The girls must learn to get along when their grandfather, Daddy Bo, moves into the family's apartment after he is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. That means Pearl and Lexie must now share a bedroom. Pearl is determined to prove she can be a good roommate, through implementing her 10 rules.

Ten Rules is a fun read with a relatable young narrator reminiscent of Ramona Quimby, albeit slightly older. Martin characterizes the sisters' relationship very well: readers will understand Lexie's annoyance, but also recognize that Pearl is trying not to rock the boat. As the story progresses, Martin explores more serious matters such as the sad realities of living with a grandparent with Alzheimer's without overwhelming young readers with the details of the illness. Instead, Pearl simply notes Daddy Bo forgetting more things or repeating questions. Readers of all ages will appreciate Pearl's innocence and candor and adore the love-hate relationship between Pearl and Lexie. --Kyla Paterno, retail coordinator and blogger, Garfield Book Company

Discover: Charming narrator Pearl Littlefield, who creates a list of rules to help her room with her older sister when their grandfather joins the household.

Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, $16.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 9-12, 9780312367664

A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, illus. by Jim Kay


Wasting not a word in a narrative leavened with humor, Patrick Ness (the Chaos Walking trilogy) describes the isolation that accompanies the grief, pain and anger of a child whose mother is battling a terminal illness. Every night, when 13-year-old Conor O'Malley goes to sleep, the same nightmare haunts him--the one "he would never tell another living soul about."

Conor has no one to talk to about his mother's cancer, so he summons a monster. It shows up outside his bedroom window just after midnight, at 12:07. Conor is not afraid. "I've seen worse," he tells the monster, who stands more than 30 feet tall. Much of the novel's humor results from their playful friction.

The monster tells Conor that he will tell three stories, and then Conor must tell his--he must describe his nightmare. Through the monster's stories, Conor begins to make peace with the chaos of his life. Not because the stories go the way stories often go, but because they show him that creation and destruction are part of a continuum. The boy comes to understand that the monster truly knows him and accepts him exactly as he is, and that there is no wrong way to grieve. Patrick Ness tells the truth about grief--that it is wrapped up with anger and sadness and fear, and those who do not bring it forth risk retreating into silence and isolation. That is the gift that Ness and his monster give to every reader who fears the loss of the one they love. –Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

For more on A Monster Calls, check out our Maximum Shelf.

Discover: The moving story of a boy's cathartic friendship with a monster he has summoned to accompany him through his mother's battle with cancer.

Candlewick Press, $16.99, Hardcover, 224p., ages 12-up, 9780763655594

Pets

The Chicken Whisperer's Guide to Keeping Chickens: Everything You Need to Know... and Didn't Know You Needed to Know About Backyard and Urban Chickens

by Andy G. Schneider, Brigid McCrea


If you're interested in producing your own food, you might be considering keeping backyard chickens. Sound daunting? Never fear! Andy ("The Chicken Whisperer") Schneider and Brigid McCrea have distilled the knowledge you need to select and care for your flock into this easy-to-use guide. Schneider has shared his poultry expertise for years as a radio personality and contributor to publications including Mother Earth News and Grit magazine. McCrea's Ph.D. in poultry science adds to the book's pedigree.

Filled with beautiful photographs and helpful hints, The Chicken Whisperer's Guide sets itself apart from jargony husbandry manuals by providing relaxed, straightforward information the poultry novice can use and understand. Expected topics such as how to raise, house and properly feed your flock are here, and Schneider and McCrea also explain how to find out if backyard chickens are legal in your neighborhood, and what to do if neighbors consider them poultry non grata. A chapter on popular breeds outlines their virtues and personalities, specifying which breeds lay the most eggs as well as which ones are gentle with children. A section on disease and parasites combines with peripheral information such as an identification guide to predators' tracks and a primer on common poisonous plants to help readers recognize and correct threats.

Whether you're considering chickens or have a brood already, The Chicken Whisperer's Guide will open your eyes to a world of feathered possibilities. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries 

Discover: A helpful, straightforward guide, with plenty of photographs, for anyone with chickens or dreaming of starting an urban peep.

Quarry Books, $19.99, trade paper, 9781592537280

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.

 

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