Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, June 24, 2014


From My Shelf

Little Brown and Company: The Store by James Patterson

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

The Only Summer Slides Are at the Pool

With school dismissed, it's time for pure pleasure reading. Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Day, illustrated by Lisa Brown (reviewed below), will send youngsters scurrying for scraps of wrapping paper, crayons and paintbrushes to make their creations. For additional inspiration, dip into Lois Ehlert's The Scraps Book.

Children will start toe-tapping and beat-bopping with I Got the Rhythm by husband-and-wife team Frank and Connie Schofield-Morrison (reviewed below). You can't dance without music, so pick up The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra by Chris Raschka. Haven't heard of Sun Ra? Many of his recordings are now available on YouTube, and Raschka's illustrations sway to Sun Ra's sounds.

Gather the family around The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sís, the picture-book biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, then reread The Little Prince and note how many of the facts about the pilot's life made their way into the classic. If you have a child who loved to get lost in Harry Potter, give him or her The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove. The maps, time warps and parallel worlds will keep the pages of this thick book flying. Do you have a reader who's not so committed? The Cabinet of Curiosities by Stefan Bachmann lets readers dip in and out of 36 spine-tingling tales.

For kids on the cusp of adolescence, This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki speaks to precisely where they are. The smart, funny narrator of Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McMahon addresses love between sisters, friends and, yes, potential romance. Did you miss The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau? Summer is the time to start this dystopian trilogy. And finally, a book for you and your teen: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Three cousins, one best friend, a grandfather worthy of Lear with an island off Massachusetts as his kingdom. Let me know what you think. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness


Doubleday Books: Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby


Book Candy

Fault in Our Stars Quiz; Literary Tattoos

Pop quiz: "The Fault in Our Stars movie has finally opened... But how well do you know John Green's book? Test your skills right here!" the Guardian noted. The paper also offered the "top 10 books to read now you've finished The Fault in Our Stars."

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It's lit tattoo time again: Noting that "not all of us bookworms, however, possess the level of decisiveness needed to join our lives with one literary tattoo for life," the Huffington Post featured "18 gorgeous temporary tattoos that will--for a couple days, at least--show everyone how much you love reading." And Mental Floss revealed "12 tattoos inspired by famous books."

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Bustle featured "We Were Liars and 8 other books you'll love if you were shocked by the twist in Gone Girl."

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"Flora and fauna escape the confines of over 1,000 repurposed books," as featured by Colossal.

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All aboard! NPR Books offered a "reading list for riding the rails."

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Attention, muggle tourists: Buzzfeed highlighted "17 hidden gems Harry Potter fans should look for in Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando."


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


The Writer's Life

Ridley Pearson: Creating More than Joyrides

Ridley Pearson is the author of more than 48 novels, divided almost equally between suspense and young adult adventure. Over the years, his work has been published in two dozen languages, and has been adapted by network television and for the Broadway stage. He recently concluded his middle-grade Kingdom Keepers series with The Insider; his most recent novel, The Red Room (reviewed below), continues his Risk Agent international thriller series for adults.

While doing research for a book he published in the early '90s, Pearson took an in-depth tour of an FBI field office. As he and his guide came upon a bank vault, Pearson asked what it was--possibly an armory or a property lock-up? The guide had Pearson turn away so he could covertly key in a code and open the door. Pearson recalled, "When the vault door swung open, there was a bare bulb, a table, a chair and a man sitting there. I walked in, shook his hand, and walked out. To this day, I have no idea what that dude was doing in there, but that became the idea for the vault at the beginning of The Red Room."

Pearson's research experiences have provided him with a wealth of knowledge and story ideas, but sometimes it's the inadvertent experiences that make it into the books. That was the case for the beginning of the Risk Agent series. After teaching creative writing in China for a year, Pearson returned, intending to continue his Walt Fleming series about a sheriff in Sun Valley, Idaho. But when his agent asked if he could use any material from his time in Shanghai, he jumped at the chance. "I was a great fan of the early Follett and Ludlum novels, even Arthur Conan Doyle," Pearson said. Having been steered away from his espionage work to traditional procedurals by his early editors, the author was excited to turn back to the style that originally attracted him to the crime genre.

However, it was important that character still play a prominent role in his work. Pearson credits his editors for keeping him on track: "I have two women editors who are aware of my desire to maintain characterization and not just turn these things into shoot-'em-ups." In fact, it was one of those editors, Christine Pepe, who encouraged Pearson to develop balanced protagonists for the Risk Agent series, which stars independent security contractors John Knox and Grace Chu. Pearson says creating that balance has been a juggling act: "It took nine drafts of Choke Point [2013] to get to where both characters were being dealt with in equal balance."

John Knox is based on private contractors working in Iraq, while Grace Chu is an amalgam of the female students Pearson taught while in China. The two have a bit of a yin and yang relationship driven by their cultures, as Grace observes in The Red Room, equating Knox's "much-heralded American ability to create and innovate with her own tendency toward rote technical skills."

In addition to his human characters, Pearson believes, "Setting has to be a character. You can't write the book and say, 'this could be Indianapolis or Denver or wherever.' You owe it to the reader to make the setting that important." And in order to make the setting authentic enough for readers, he needed to personally see and experience the places in his novels... until Choke Point. "I went to Amsterdam for less than a week, and I took my assistant with me. We shot umpteen zillion photographs, but on the last day my assistant's iPhone was stolen and we lost all the research."

Crushed, he returned home with no idea how he could re-create everything that was lost. The experience became a turning point in Pearson's writing career: "I came home and found out Amsterdam is on Google Street View! I revisited everything we saw in Amsterdam, and then I went through home-shot YouTube videos and visited virtually with the families who created them. The ability to virtually research a place shocked me."

But that isn't the only way he's researched a location. Pearson knew he needed to set The Red Room in Istanbul and had a trip all planned, but "just before I was set to leave, an American woman was killed on the streets, so I ended up not going." Determined to make things work, he rescheduled his trip, but then riots broke out in Turkey. So he returned to Google. But this time he was thwarted. Istanbul is not on Google Street View. He had to settle for the photos and videos he could find--until he read Museum of Innocence. According to Pearson, "Orhan Pamuk is such a phenomenal writer that I was right on the streets of Istanbul." He coupled that with his own extensive travel experiences to craft an exceptional setting for his new novel.

As Pearson learned on his most recent research trip, sometimes visiting a location provides you with more than just a feel for the environment. In Nairobi, Kenya, the location for his next Risk Agent novel, he discovered his last three months of planning and outlining would have to be thrown out. He said, "The story I want to write is so deep and I wasn't playing it out in enough levels. I was painting the story in two dimensions when it should be eight or nine."

One of Pearson's goals with the social issues he weaves into his books is to show all sides of a conflict, all the shades of gray. But in this new story, he says, "the world that it's in is so many shades of gray, I won't be able to illustrate them all."

In The Red Room, he let Grace Chu and John Knox help muddy the story waters for him: "Where I would normally speculate, I let the characters do it. Grace and Knox roll over a rock and their discovery gives them multiple options. They choose one and find another rock that presents new options and so on." It's this "rock rolling" that helps build the suspense and mystery of the plot as well.

When Pearson reads a book, he says, "It can't just be a joyride. I want to learn something I didn't know before or come out of the book curious about something." And his hope is that he provides that for his own readers: "One thing I've learned by writing about Disney [his Kingdom Keepers series is set in Disney theme parks]--every attraction tells a story. The imagineers spend months or even years writing the story through images, signs and so on. Many people never notice it, but they experience it."

Pearson points out that "striving for [more than a joyride] and accomplishing it are two different animals. It's what I aim for." And again, he sings the praises of his editors in helping him hit his mark and ensuring he creates the best book he can. In turn, he credits his music writing background for helping him learn the value of his editors. "As a songwriter, you learn that the bass player's idea about what he should sound like is as important as your idea. I want the help. I want to collaborate. I'm aware I make mistakes."

With so many balls in the air at any given time, you'd think something would fall. But Pearson says it keeps him fresh, "Generally I work on thrillers all morning, take a very short lunch, then work on everything else in the afternoon." After finishing up work in the morning, he's excited to get back to his middle-grade book in the afternoon and, at the end of the day, he looks forward to starting back in the next day on his thriller.

He also uses an unusual hobby to keep his mind clear: he climbs trees! Pearson assures us it doesn't hurt the trees, but the activity itself is "playful and joyful and freeing. You can't be thinking about anything else or you'll wipe out. I love it because it takes me right into NOW. You're totally in the now and you come out of it very refreshed."

And if he isn't refreshed enough, his contact with his fans provides another source of inspiration. Talking about his young readers, he says, "There's nothing like that connection--to see the light and connection in a child's eye. It makes you get up in the morning." He's found social media provides that connection as well. A young girl who was suicidal but found hope in the Kingdom Keepers bestowed a precious gift on Pearson when he heard the story through his social media channels. "It's such a privilege to be published. You don't do anything without your readers."

And, in return, Ridley Pearson gives readers the gift of story. That's a pretty good trade. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts


Matchup by Gayle Lynds


Book Review

Fiction

Flying Shoes

by Lisa Howorth


Flying Shoes, the delicious first novel from Lisa Howorth (co-founder of Square Books in Oxford, Miss.), parses a chaotic week in the life of Mary Byrd Thornton, a scatterbrained mother of two. Unsettled by a call from a Richmond, Va., police detective wanting to reopen the decades-old unsolved murder of Mary Byrd's young stepbrother, she must revisit that event just as a freak ice storm rattles through her bucolic Mississippi college town. Planes are grounded, roads are iced over, her husband, Charles, is late returning from a business trip, and her would-be lover and would-be novelist friend, Jack, campaigns for her to meet him at a local bar. Her handyman is too hopped up to drive the icy roads, so her only safe ride to Richmond is with a long-haul trucker dispatched by her always-reliable gay friend, Hubard Mann Valentine, Jr.

This may sound like the makings of some kind of Southern gothic nightmare, and in many ways it is. However, in Howorth's able hands, it's more Barry Hannah than Larry Brown--more funny, character-driven storytelling with crackling dialogue than whiskey-fueled violence and mayhem. She gets Charles and Mary Byrd's marriage down cold, but also has a keen ear for handyman Teever's earthy vernacular and carousing Jack's cynicism.

The title comes both from a Townes Van Zandt song and from Mary Byrd's son's fascination with the winged sandals of Roman god Mercury--"if you didn't like something, or something bad happened, you would just fly away." Mary Byrd knows better: you can't fly away from your troubles, your family tree or your Delta roots. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A bookseller's funny, compassionate first novel tracks a week in the life of a Mississippi woman confronting a 30-year-old family tragedy.

Bloomsbury, $26, hardcover, 9781620403013

Melville House Publishing: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer


The Quick

by Lauren Owen


James Norbury and his sister, Charlotte, live in an old, spacious Yorkshire house. Except for a few employees, the children are alone; Mother is dead, Father is usually away. One day he returns, only to die soon after. It's now that Lauren Owen's first novel, The Quick, really gets going, perfectly rendering the rich and moody gothic world of late-19th-century London.

Years later, after graduating from Oxford, James goes to London. He fancies himself a nascent poet, staying in to work on his writing while his roommate parties and drinks. On his way to deliver a copy of his finished play to Oscar Wilde, James is stopped by a stranger who claims to be an "admirer." The man picks up James as if he were a piece of paper: "This won't take a minute." James felt cold, then as if he was away from himself, and finally alone.

Part Two takes us a few years back, to 1868. In his notebook, Augustus Mould writes about his friend Edmund and the exclusive Aegolius Club, which has only 52 members. He writes, too, of how Edmund can enter his mind. It's a "cold feeling," a "sickening invasion."

Eventually, Charlotte comes to London to look for her missing brother, and the tale's labyrinthine turns all start to converge. Owen's achievement here is how intelligently she pulls together her disparate plots into a believable and fantastic whole. Take the trip, if you dare, into a luscious Victorian London rendered by a gifted young British writer who seems weaned on equal parts Sherlock Holmes, Buffy Summers and Harry Potter. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A detailed foray into the world of Victorian vampires--a dark tale of the dead and the Quick.

Random House, $27, hardcover, 9780812993271

Counterpoint Press: A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton


The Mill River Recluse

by Darcie Chan


"Sometimes, what you find in a small town can surprise you," writes Darcie Chan in her debut, The Mill River Recluse. The novel centers on Mary Hayes McAllister, a wealthy, disfigured, elderly widow who inhabits a white marble mansion that overlooks the insular town of Mill River, Vt. Chan describes Mary as "a woman who knew the difference between being alone and being lonely, who wanted so much to be accepted, to have coffee at the bakery, to come face-to-face with someone she didn't know without feeling fearful." Mary's early life was marred by an event that stole her innocence and confidence, and later led to an abusive, heartbreaking marriage.

The story behind Mary's reclusiveness, which winds back to World War II, unfolds among the affairs of other Mill River townsfolk who are struggling with their own challenges and demons. This includes an 87-year-old priest, Mary's only friend and confidant; a lustful, power-hungry cop; a widower transplanted from Boston with a young daughter; a teacher battling her waistline; and the town misfit, who practices witchcraft.

Secrets and unexpected gestures of kindness shape Chan's compassionate novel that blends elements of mystery, suspense and romance. After 60 years, Mary's reclusiveness is a matter of course in town, but behind the scenes she remains attuned to the lives of those around her--"decent, hardworking people, the kind that don't have a lot but would give everything they have to a neighbor in need." Mary humbly leads this initiative, which culminates in a beautifully rendered denouement that rekindles hope for a troubled world. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A woman terrified of people touches the lives of those in her small town, where gestures of kindness are remembered.

Ballantine, $15, paperback, 9780553391879

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


Abroad

by Katie Crouch


Straitlaced Irish university student Taz travels to the Continent to study abroad for a year. She chooses Italy because she speaks Italian, and Grifonia because it has a reputation for safety, but the city's history is actually steeped in blood all the way back to its Etruscan days. Taz doesn't know about the innocent girls who have lost their lives in Grifonia over the centuries or their brutal ends.

At first, Taz studies and goes on excursions to historic sites, but soon she runs into Jenny, a classmate from back home. Jenny and her friends Anna and Luka exude beauty, confidence and money, and middle-class Taz is surprised but grateful when they draw her into their clique. Taz's free-spirited American roommate, Claire, doesn't trust Jenny. And while Taz soon learns her new friends have ulterior motives, she's just as dubious about sensual, overly familiar Claire. Taz's loyalties are further confused when she and Claire wind up with uncomfortably overlapped love lives.

While novelist Katie Crouch (Girls in Trucks) is transparently inspired by the Amanda Knox trials, her plot isn't as ripped from the headlines as readers may initially expect. Though the crime and its fallout are the climax and coda of a journey through drugs, sex and scandal, Crouch's real focus is the dark side of female friendship. Call this the antithesis of chick lit: Crouch explores the simultaneous affection and envy that characterize the so-called frenemy relationship. By turns tender, cutting and brutal, Abroad captures a fascinating vortex of toxic love. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: The bloody history of an Italian city foreshadows a college girl's year abroad with a crowd of reckless friends.

Sarah Crichton/FSG, $26, hardcover, 9780374100360

Mambo in Chinatown

by Jean Kwok


Charlie Wong, 22, is the backbone of her small family. Her mother, a ballerina, died when Charlie was 14, so Charlie became a stand-in mom to her little sister and washes dishes at a noodle restaurant to help her father pay the bills. When she lands a new job as receptionist at a ballroom dance studio, Charlie hopes her fortunes might change. Impressed by her warm personality and natural talent on the dance floor, her employers offer her a position as instructor.

Soon Charlie is teaching and training for a competition with her handsome student Ryan. But when her little sister suddenly loses the use of her legs due to a mysterious ailment, their father refuses to let a Western doctor examine her. Certain he also won't understand her new vocation, she lies and says she works for a computer company. Charlie and Ryan are falling in love, but acting on her feelings would mean sacrificing her new career (thanks to her studio's non-fraternization policy), so she's hiding the truth at work, too.

Jean Kwok (Girl in Translation) has created a charming heroine into whose dance shoes readers can easily step. Charlie faces many of the same dilemmas that plague modern young women: balancing the demands of family and career, choosing whether or not to pursue love when it may mean giving up a fulfilling work life. Kwok has a gift for conveying the passion and sensuality of ballroom dancing in her energetic prose, so after Charlie's story ends, readers may feel inspired to sign up for their own mambo lessons. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: A young Chinese-American woman is caught between tradition and her calling of dance.

Riverhead, $27.95, hardcover, 9781594632006

Mystery & Thriller

Angelica's Smile

by Andrea Camilleri, trans. by Stephen Sartarelli


A man who collects Rolexes as a hobby awakens from being overcome with gas during the night to discover he has lost an entire gallery of art worth a fortune. This burglary opens Angelica's Smile, the 17th mystery in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series; oddly, it duplicates a burglary that happened three nights before. In both cases, keys are cleverly extricated from a summer residence and used to rob the victims' homes in Vigàta, Sicily.

It's clear a mastermind is orchestrating these crimes, daring the famous Inspector Salvo Montalbano to stop the string of similar burglaries. One of the victims is a gorgeous blonde who shares a name with the elusive beauty in the Italian Renaissance epic Orlando Furioso. In the poem, Angelica drives the hero so furioso he's ripping up trees. Poor Montalbano doesn't fare much better. Though beautiful women regularly throw themselves at him, he usually remains faithful to his steady girlfriend. This time, the inspector is reciting love poetry and concealing evidence.

Otherwise, it's delightfully familiar territory for fans of this long-running series. As usual, the plot is crowded with colorful minor characters--doormen, thugs, inept drivers, restaurant cooks, key makers, plumbers and bank clerks--all with that extra-sharp Sicilian flavor. Camilleri (Hunting Season) writes in a lean, economical, straightforward style and dispenses with plot mechanics swiftly and forgettably; Montalbano's gruff, delightful presence provides the mystery's real pleasure. With the wisdom of a writer approaching 90 in full control of his powers, Camilleri can focus on what's important: his hero facing a brief, stolen opportunity to sample the pleasures of life. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: Inspector Montalbano falls for a burglarized blonde who's as lovely--and unpredictable--as a Renaissance heroine.

Penguin, $16, paperback, 9780143123767

That Night

by Chevy Stevens


In a small town on Vancouver Island in the late 1990s, Toni Murphy can't wait to graduate from high school. Her parents disapprove of her boyfriend, Ryan, and her perfect little sister, Nicole, has started hanging around with a group of popular girls determined to make Toni's life miserable. Toni and Ryan have a plan to get away from everything, and they're so close....

Then, one night, Nicole is killed. Toni and Ryan are imprisoned and found guilty of her murder. Nicole's killer--or killers--not only took the life of their victim, but effectively Toni's and Ryan's as well, and the young love they shared: even when out on parole, they will be denied contact.

Seventeen years later, Toni is being processed out of prison when we meet her in the opening lines of That Night, the fourth novel by Chevy Stevens (Still Missing). The narrative shifts back and forth between the events of 1996, when Toni's teenaged world fell apart, and the present, with Toni newly released from prison and struggling to rebuild her life. Ryan is intent upon solving the crime they've been convicted of, but as he gets closer to the truth, Toni may be in danger--and she may not be the only one.

Stevens matches the success of her previous novels with character-driven drama and a clear commitment to the particular nuances of her Canadian setting. Readers will want to keep all the lights on as That Night moves into its final acceleration. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: In this gripping thriller, a teenaged couple is convicted of murder in a small Canadian town.

St. Martin's Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250034601

The Last Taxi Ride

by A.X. Ahmad


Nobody knows a city like its taxi drivers. In New York City, the hacks are often former professionals, immigrants now willing to take a step down in order to get a leg up on life in a new country. Ranjit Singh, the protagonist in A.X. Ahmad's second novel of a projected trilogy (after The Caretaker), is one of these cabbies.

A former Indian army captain and a practicing Sikh, Ranjit lives in a Spartan apartment in Queens and works part-time security for an Indian import broker. His life is filled with boredom and regret--until he picks up Bollywood film star Shabana Shah and delivers her to the door of the luxurious old Dakota on Central Park West. The doorman later sneaks Ranjit into Shabana's apartment when she's out so he can see how his idol lives. The next day, Shabana is found dead in her living room, bludgeoned by a statue that's covered with Ranjit's fingerprints. He is thrown into the Tombs, Manhattan's notorious municipal jail, awaiting bail with little hope except his faith in his own resourcefulness and his network of fellow drivers.

The Last Taxi Ride is an immigrant's-eye view of New York City's streets and American xenophobia masquerading as a whodunit. Ahmad ably brings to life a side of the city rarely seen by those who take for granted their nannies, doormen and cabbies. With a closing hint of Ranjit's need to escape to a Sikh community in California, Ahmad suggests Ranjit's adventures will continue. A good thing; he's too engaging to let go so soon. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: A Sikh taxi driver in New York City accused of the mysterious murder of an aging Bollywood star tries to prove his innocence.

Minotaur, $26.99, hardcover, 9781250016867

The Red Room

by Ridley Pearson


The Red Room, Ridley Pearson's third installment in the Risk Agent series (Choke Point, The Risk Agent), embodies the elements of both a thriller and a mystery. Security contractors John Knox and Grace Chu are hired to broker the sale of a priceless sculpture in Turkey. Despite the significance of the art, the seller is letting it go dirt cheap; the sale is simply a cover to get John and Grace in the same room with the buyer--an Iranian academic--for five minutes. Their employer won't tell them what's really going on, so they begin a quiet investigation. The more John and Grace learn, the less they understand and the greater liabilities they become. In a high-intensity race for their lives, the partners can trust only each other and hope they make the right choices.

Pearson's tightly constructed action and expert pacing lend the novel an urgent energy. He offers the readers only the insights of his protagonists, so the disorientation and mystery surrounding the events are as real for the readers as the characters. In addition, Istanbul provides a stunning backdrop. The setting accentuates and propels the story's themes of history, cultural differences and secrecy.

As exceptional as the other elements of the novel may be, they pale in comparison to the book's true treasure--the dynamic characters. From the protagonists down to the lowliest supporting characters, each exhibits dimension and fulfills a vital role. The Red Room may be full of questions and ambiguities, but one thing's for certain: it's an outstanding reading experience. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A priceless art deal takes John Knox and Grace Chu on a deadly adventure in Istanbul.

Putnam, $26.95, hardcover, 9780399163746

Biography & Memoir

Perfectly Miserable: Guilt, God and Real Estate in a Small Town

by Sarah Payne Stuart


Sarah Payne Stuart's Perfectly Miserable is a literary memoir of real-estate lust, aspirational home ownership, the truth beneath the idyllic surface of a New England town and its iconic writers, and what it took to arrive at self-acceptance.

As a young woman, Stuart chafed against the restrictions of her hometown, Concord, Mass. She moved away, but eventually discovered she had an intense desire to return--drawn in by Concord's storybook perfection and her wish to give her children the idealized childhood she didn't have. Convinced that happiness was just one new and more desirable house away, she and her husband began a series of real-estate trade-ups.

Stuart's house mania is a brilliant pretext for exploring the true cost of social expectations in a WASP town where etiquette masquerades as prestige. Her mother in particular pays the price, but so do other members of the community, where long stays at a psychiatric hospital for the wealthy are routine. This is a world where people adamantly agree with one another, must look as if they have money yet care nothing for it, and are both emotionally and financially parsimonious. On a cultural level, Stuart shows the flawed people behind our airbrushed images of Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott and other literary giants from the area.

Stuart writes with a wry understanding of her younger insecure self and her excesses. It's this self-awareness that makes Stuart's memoir such a pleasure; we cheer her eventual self-acceptance and her widespread affection--for her family, her town, the writers of her youth, her younger self--in spite of imperfection. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: A warts-and-all portrait of Concord, Mass., that combines personal history with social satire.

Riverhead, $27.95, hardcover, 9781594631818

Children's & Young Adult

Emily's Blue Period

by Cathleen Daly, illus. by Lisa Brown


In Cathleen Daly's (Prudence Wants a Pet) sophisticated and inspiring picture book, budding artist Emily develops a style of her own.

When her teacher introduces Pablo Picasso, Emily sees reminders of him everywhere. Lisa Brown (How to Be) illustrates Cubism accessibly without sacrificing authenticity. "He may scoot a nose way over... or stack an eye right on top of another eye!" writes Daly, as Brown demonstrates how Picasso "liked to mix things up." A turn of the page reveals the heroine's "mixed up" room, with piles of books for reference and toys as models for Emily's still life compositions. A second theme in the book involves her parents' separation: "Emily's dad is no longer where he belongs." The book handles this sensitively, depicting how Emily attempts to make sense of the situation ("he lives in his own little cube") as well as their father's efforts to involve Emily and her little brother, Jack, in the transition, helping to pick out furniture ("Emily sees little cubes everywhere"--lamps, storage boxes, chests).

But change can be hard: Jack has a meltdown in the furniture store, and Emily refuses to use charcoal in art class ("I am in my blue period," she tells her mother). For Emily--and Jack--art is the way through this "blue period." As Emily takes to heart an assignment to create a collage of what "home" means to her, she finds a way to reconcile all the parts of her life. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Budding artist Emily uses her creativity to get through a difficult transition.

Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, $17.99, hardcover, 56p., ages 5-8, 9781596434691

I Got the Rhythm

by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illus. by Frank Morrison


Frank Morrison's (Jazzy Miz Mozetta) portrait of an irresistible heroine makes her enthusiasm infectious in this high-spirited authorial debut from his wife, Connie Schofield-Morrison.

The child's feet hardly touch the city streets as the narrator announces, "I thought of a rhythm in my mind." As she and her mother pass a teen tapping a beat on plastic drums, she says, "I heard the rhythm with my ears." The flutter of butterfly wings joins in: "I looked at the rhythm with my eyes." Everything around the girl affirms her rhythm, including the smells wafting from a cupcake vendor's cart and the sounds she creates by clapping her hands together with another child's in the park. The heroine fairly bursts with the beat she carries, and the children who surround her on the sidewalk and in the park reflect the many faces of the United States. As the two clapping partners erupt into foot tapping and finger snapping, readers see the spectators start to groove, too. "I shook a rhythm with my hips," says the narrator, as the children "shake shake" in a line dance against a realistic urban backdrop. She's swaying to the rhythm that's no longer only "in my mind" but gets passed down the line of children and soon gets caught by the adults. "I got the rhythm and you can too," says the narrator as she sashays down the street.

This husband-and-wife team celebrates the pleasures of a summer day, when everyone is outside and spontaneously unites. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An irresistible heroine who hears a rhythm in her mind and brings it to life with the help of her neighbors.

Bloomsbury, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-5, 9781619631786

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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