Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, October 7, 2011


Pegasus Books: Ravenspur: Rise of the Tudors by Conn Iggulden

From My Shelf

Liveright Publishing Corporation: Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

Tarcherperigee: Holiday Must-Haves!

The Great Nobel Laureate Book Search

Yesterday 80-year-old Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature "because, through his condensed translucent images he gives us fresh access to reality," as Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, put it. 

Neil Astley, founder of Bloodaxe Books, observed that in Sweden, Tranströmer "has been called a 'buzzard poet' because his haunting, visionary poetry shows the world from a height, in a mystic dimension, but brings every detail of the natural world into sharp focus. His poems are often explorations of the borderland between sleep and waking, between the conscious and unconscious states."

One of my favorite Tranströmer works is his prose poem "The Bookcase" (translated by May Swenson), which begins:

It was brought from the dead woman's apartment. It stood empty a few days, empty until I filled it with books, all the bound ones, those bulky tomes. With that act I had let in the underworld. Something swelled up from below, mounted slowly, inexorably, like mercury in a gigantic thermometer. You were not allowed to turn your head away.


Tranströmer suffered a stroke two decades ago, which affected his ability to speak, though he has continued to write. Astley told the Independent that the author often expresses himself through music. At the Nobel ceremony, "I imagine he'll be in a wheelchair, and he will speak to people through the piano."

The scramble has begun internationally to track down Tranströmer's books. Here in the U.S., Tranströmer's English translations include The Sorrow Gondola (Green Integer), The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems (New Directions), The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer (Graywolf), For the Living and the Dead: A Memoir and Poems (Ecco) and Selected Poems: 1954-1986 (Ecco).

Maybe you already had Tranströmer's works nestled in your bookcase. If, however, you've just joined the search party, my advice is to be patient. Your quest may take a little time, but it will be well rewarded.  --Robert Gray
 


SFI Readerlink Dist: Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Bomber Command by Jason Fry, illustrated by Cyril Nouvel


Book Candy

What You Haven't Read on Your Bookshelf; Apple Crate Bookcase

Home bookshelves in the U.K. are packed with at least 80 books the owners haven't read, according to a recent study by Lindeman's wines. The Daily Mail reported that in "a bid to keep up appearances, 57% of us make sure the books on show are literary classics--even if they've never even read the first page." The research also discovered that Pride and Prejudice is the book most people lie about having read and "a fifth of men admitted to enjoying 'chick-lit' and raiding their partner's book collection."

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For those readers in an autumn apple-picking mood, how about a bookcase made from antique apple-crates?


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Wanted by Robert Crais


Great Reads

Further Reading: The Night Strangers

A lot of readers are talking about Chris Bohjalian's new novel, The Night Strangers (Crown), which includes what may (or may not) be a paranormal element. But while we'll keep what we believe hidden just as tightly as the bolts are screwed on the basement door in this book, what we found most interesting was his take something people have been writing about for centuries: how a family copes (or doesn't) with the aftermath of a tragedy or disaster.

Chip Linton is an experienced airplane pilot whose life changes forever when he is forced to make a crash landing into Lake Champlain, and 39 people lose their lives. Stricken by survivors' guilt, he and his wife, Emily, move their family (the couple have twin daughters, Hallie and Garnet) to a town in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

What is behind the new home's basement door? Why are the neighbors so odd and so obsessed with gardening? Why can't the family seem to make any friends? These are all questions that will make many readers keep turning pages--but again, seeing what happens to the Lintons as their new, supposedly safe, world changes is just as fascinating.

Other novels about families in aftermath of a tragedy:

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman deals less with intrafamily dynamics and more with interfamily dynamics, as the loved ones of John Tetherly and Becca Copaken come to terms with the death of the just-married couple in a car accident. The Tetherlys are a blue-collar Maine "townie" family in the place where Becca's richer folks spend summers. The slow dance between classes over the years after John and Becca's accident illustrates how little we talk about these things in modern America.

A Rip in Heaven: The Memoir of Murder and Its Aftermath by Jeanine Cummins is a remarkable examination of a true crime: in 1991, Cummins's 19-year-old brother and two female cousins were attacked on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis. The girls were raped and then all three were pushed off of the bridge and left for dead. Tom Cummins survived, and was for a time a suspect. Jeanine Cummins writes not a paean to her family, but a truer tribute: as much of the truth as possible.

In the classic Thomas Hardy novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, young Tess makes many a mistake and is also the victim of many a wrong. However, the tragedy here is not necessarily of Tess's making, something that Hardy signals in his title: it is her father John's hubris at believing that changing his name from Durbeyfield to D'Urberville will somehow change his and his family's fortune. Almost everything that happens to Tess because of that overreach affects her family as well.


Bonhomie Press: The Murderer's Maid: A Lizzie Borden Novel by Erika Mallman


The Writer's Life

Portrait of the Artist: Anne Enright

Anne Enright found literary acclaim on this side of the Atlantic with the release of her novel The Gathering, which won the 2007 Man Booker Prize. In that book, Enright explored the legacy of what might now be termed "Old Ireland": a place where, sadly, family loyalty and obedience to the Roman Catholic Church sometimes trumped the needs and safety of children.

In her new book, The Forgotten Waltz (October 3, 2011, W.W. Norton), Enright has left "Old Ireland" behind: this Dublin romance takes flight during the "Irish Tiger" 1990s, when the country's economic boom was fueling changes in social mores. However, more than that, Enright said, her protagonist Gina, who leaves a stable marriage after a whirlwind affair, "believes she just couldn't help it. She didn't do it on purpose!"

Enright explained that she wanted to set the idea of a lack of consequence in personal behavior against the same in the financial atmosphere. "Another thing you have to understand in America is that this is a matter of degree," she noted. "While Gina may be thinking that times are terribly good, what she describes when she talks about her place is really a very ordinary home. In Ireland, people's quality of life was not very good for a long time."

The era of ease and possibility that reigned for some years led, Enright thinks, to "faulty self-absolution on the part of people like Gina and Sean, her lover. It's not that I think there are hordes of saints in Ireland. I don't meet noble people, or write about them."

Gina and Sean are certainly less than noble. After meeting at Gina's sister's house, they begin an adulterous relationship that seems as neatly checklisted as a contractor's to-do list: drunken one-night stand to starry-eyed hotel trysts to tear-sodden afternoons. The comparison to a contracting checklist is not accidental, since the only thing Gina and Sean's friends, family and colleagues seem to care about more than drinking and sex is home remodeling. Tearing out the old and plastering it over with the new, Enright seems to be saying, is a not unsensible approach when the old ways have sustained so much damage.

However, there's structural damage, and there's plain cosmetic fixes. Enright knows that Gina's is "a very girlish approach to love. My title is about the dance of sexual love and its essential ungraspability--it does go away sometimes in long relationships, it does return, it does change tempo. Gina doesn't understand that, or maybe she doesn't want to. Is she a bunny boiler? For sure! She could have become one."

Gina doesn't go down the bunny-boiling road because two things happen. First, her mother dies, leaving her in an empty sort of grief. Second, Sean has a daughter named Evie who is somehow "not right"--and who (no spoilers here) winds up living with Gina and Sean, much to the former's consternation.

"Well, it's the scale of it, isn't it," Enright said. "With children, it's never as simple as making over a bedroom or changing out a carpet. The scale of it terrifies both Gina and Sean. Will it be there, Evie's 'problem,' for the rest of their lives? My answer is yes." She continued: "Motherhood is quite a spiritual state, and yet also an incredibly visceral one. And while Sean's not truly cognizant of what his daughter needs, Gina's great mistake is not realizing how much he loves his daughter. It changes all of their lives."

Anyone who reads The Forgotten Waltz will understand Enright's next statement about her work and characters. “What happens to them? It's an interesting question to consider." Despite the failures of Ireland's economy, despite the mistakes Gina and Sean have made, despite whatever faiblesse is in Evie (an adolescent at the novel's present-day finish), rather than being haunted by the past, they are moving forward into some sort of future.

"Look," Enright said emphatically, "There are 10,000 people unemployed around me in Dublin. The government owns the banks. The future does not look overly bright. But my character Sean has actually righted some things. Will Gina do the same? I don't know." --Bethanne Patrick


Crown Publishing Group: American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee


Literary Lists

Poetry for Children; Books by TV Characters; Affairs in Literature

Yesterday was National Poetry Day in the U.K., and John Agard, author most recently of Goldilocks on CCTV, joined the celebration by choosing his top 10 poetry books for children for the Guardian, noting that doing so "is no easy task. It's a bit like having a party and deciding to invite no more than ten friends."

Flavorwire celebrated with a couple of poetic lists of its own, including "10 poems everyone needs to read" and "favorite poems about movies."

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Paying tribute to Leslie Knope/Amy Poehler's guide Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America, the Atlantic explored the parallel publishing universe of the "books by TV characters," noting that there is "something genuinely surreal about reading a real guide to a fake town that was 'written' by a fake person."

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NPR's Miranda Kennedy recommended "three books that convey the complexity of caste," observing that few works acknowledge that India's "progress toward social change has been stuttering and uneven. And it's even more unusual to find authors willing to admit that the ancient Hindu caste hierarchy still defines much about modern country. But these three don't shy away."

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Author Emily St. John Mandel offered a "pessimistic reading list" for readers of the Millions. "These are troubled times," she wrote, adding: "There are always distractions, of course, but sheer escapism is too easy. I'd like to propose something more along the lines of semi-escapism."

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"Affairs in literature: the 11 most unfaithful protagonists in books" were showcased in the Huffington Post.


Indiana University Press: UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens: What Science Says by Donald R. Prothero and Timothy D. Callahan


Book Gatherings

Book Festival: Litquake Opens in San Francisco

The 12th annual Litquake, San Francisco's literary festival, opens today with a party at the Verdi Club (2424 Mariposa St.) beginning at 8 p.m. The festival runs through Saturday, October 15, and features an immense variety of seminars, workshops and book readings--even a literary pub crawl--at sites throughout the city. Attending authors include Deepak Chopra, James Ellroy, Christopher Moore, Jane Smiley, Jeffrey Eugenides, Susan Orlean, Chuck Klosterman and Chelsea Handler. Get more schedule and ticket information at litquake.org.


Book Review

Fiction

Little Gale Gumbo

by Erika Marks


Erika Marks is not from New Orleans, but you'd never know it by the way she describes Creole cuisine. This delectable debut novel is brimming with descriptions of dishes so vibrant they may as well be characters in their own right. (Marks's husband is a New Orleans native whom she credits for the recipes she charmingly adds as a postscript to the book.)

Little Gale Gumbo centers on voodoo priestess Camille and her teenage daughters, earnest Josie and wild Dahlia, as they escape the abusive clutches of Camille's drunken husband, Charles. Their flight takes them from the French Quarter to a little island in Maine, where Camille soon falls in love with Ben, the broken-hearted single father of adolescent Matthew, and the new couple and their assorted offspring open the Little Gale Café. While Camille's shrimp pie, jambalaya and pralines are a big hit up north, the obsessive Charles eventually tracks her down, threatening the peaceful she's created with Ben.

As the bittersweet tale unfolds over a period of 25 years, Marks adds an unusual love triangle between pseudo-siblings Matthew, Dahlia and Josie. This enriches the plot and leaves you feeling sympathy for all three. No sympathy, however, can be conjured for the disturbing Charles, whom Marks describes with such disgust that you'll want to take a frying pan to his head. When Charles is murdered, you may not wonder who did it, but you'll certainly wonder why they didn't do it sooner. This work leaves you salivating for a second helping of whatever Marks is cooking up next. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: A mouth-watering debut novel that provides characters and a storyline as warm, inviting and spicy as a bowl of gumbo.

NAL, $14, trade paper, 9780451234650

Conquest: A Kydd Sea Adventure

by Julian Stockwin


Note to fans of swashbuckling sea adventures: If you're tired of re-reading C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey series, you simply must dive into the Thomas Kydd sea adventures penned by their fellow Englishman Julian Stockwin. Conquest, the 12th installment in the series, picks up where its predecessor left off, at the British victory at Trafalgar, beginning a new episode in the history of England's imperialistic ambitions.

It's 1806 and as captain of the frigate L'Aurore, Kydd is off on an expedition to take Cape Town from the Dutch and to secure the rich trade routes to India. Accompanying him is his friend and confidential secretary, Nicholas Renzi. Kydd and his crew anticipate the Dutch will fight hard for this important territory and will be ready for action. They surrender easily, though, leaving Kydd and his force to maintain order in a harsh African environment. Things become complicated when Renzi gets into serious trouble and Kydd risks both his ship and his career to help him.

Conquest is a fun read. The prose is functional, the plot fast-moving, the action intense. The characters are fairly simple, but it all works well, and like a good soap opera you'll find yourself eagerly awaiting the next episode. Stockwin is especially good on the technical details of sailing, and he knows his history, too. (For landlubbers who don't know a plain sail from a goose-winged, there's a handy glossary.) --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: Another exciting adventure from the newest master of the British sea tale--beware, Kydd's tales can be addicting.

McBooks Press, $24, hardcover, 9781590136263

Mystery & Thriller

The Great Leader

by Jim Harrison


Simon Sunderson, newly retired as a Michigan State Police detective and still mourning the divorce that had "blown a three-year long bomb crater" in his life, decides to devote himself to tracking down the Great Leader, the head of a tiny cult created to satisfy his lust for adolescent girls.

Sunderson's Ahab-like quest takes him from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the Arizona/Mexico border to Nebraska's lonely, beautiful sandhills. Along the way he drinks too much, overindulges in the local cuisine (a Mexican breakfast dish that features tripe is one of his favorites) and pines for both his ex-wife, Diane, and his nubile next-door neighbor, 16-year-old Mona, whose skill with computers lands her a job as computer illiterate Sunderson's assistant.

Though the ex-detective's frequently shambling pursuit of the cult leader provides the novel's narrative momentum, Harrison's complex, appealing, if obviously flawed protagonist is the essence of the story's true pleasure: "Life moment by moment is so unforgiving," Sunderson muses in one of his many moments of pained reflection, "and I'm a slow study." Telling someone he's "investigating the evil connection between religion, money, and sex," Sunderson, an avid student of history, spends plenty of time pondering those elemental subjects, alongside the pure joy of fishing for brook trout in a fast-running stream or the mysteries of Native American ritual. He's a cynic, who's spent "forty years as a janitor trying to clean up the culture's dirt," and yet he's capable of drawing others to himself in a meaningful ways.

It's possible to enjoy The Great Leader as a detective story but even more so as an exploration of one man's wounded psyche. Though he's been writing for a long time, Jim Harrison's latest leaves no doubt he still has much that's fresh, entertaining and thoughtful to say. --Harvey Freedenberg

Discover: Jim Harrison's ample talents are on display in this story of a retired detective's strange pursuit of a decadent cult leader.

Grove Press, $24, hardcover, 9780802119704

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Revisionists

by Thomas Mullen


"If history is written by the winners, what happens when everyone has lost?" Coming from a future society rebuilt from the ashes of apocalyptic wars in the 21st century, Agent Zed is a man "unstuck in time." The government of his era is desperate to preserve the past from seditious factions who would subvert time travel technology to rewrite history. Zed's job is to protect previous Events, however horrific, that have led to the "Great Conflagration." In this he plays loyal soldier--until his last mission, when he becomes entangled in the lives and time of the people on his beat, amid the paranoia of post-9/11 Washington, D.C.

Fans of the dystopian novel can rejoice. If Thomas Mullen (The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers) lacks the gravitas of the genre giants, he brings a fresh, modern voice to the chorus, with clean, clipped prose cutting straight to the philosophical quandaries at the story's core. Conceptually The Revisionists is an unlikely pairing of Back to the Future and Blade Runner. Zed, like McFly, struggles to understand his impact on history; like Deckard, he is haunted by the violence of his work. And Mullen, like Phillip K. Dick, relies not on sci-fi props to propel the plot but rather the slow unraveling of the characters' sanity as, one by one, their illusions are shattered. In his adroit handling of contemporary sociopolitics and his omnipotent, double-thinking state of "Perfect Present," Mullen also reflects Orwell: The Revisionists sounds a warning that 1984 may still await us. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A new world where time knows no constraint and history has slipped its moorings, as created by the inventive Thomas Mullen.

Mulholland Books, $25.99, hardcover, 9780316176729

Frail

by Joan Frances Turner


In the post-zombie world of Frail, being human is a liability. Seventeen-year-old Amy believes herself to be the last pure human--a "frail"--in a world of ex-zombies and ex-humans, both infected by a secondary plague that changed the already changed world of the zombie apocalypse. It was bad enough when there were just zombies, undead flesh eaters, slowly devouring the humans. Now the "exes" rule the world--fast, strong, self-healing, immortal and brutal.

Frail is the second book in a planned trilogy; the first book, Dust, described the world from the perspective of the undead zombie. In this book, we get a terrifying glimpse of a life where humans are no longer the top of the food chain. Amy's life is saved, several times, by an ex-human named Lisa, and a fragile--one might say frail--friendship is formed. When they are forcibly recruited into a new town where humans are treated as slaves or pets, Amy and Lisa begin to look for ways to change the status quo. The plot resolves in several satisfying scenes while creating more satisfying ambiguity.

The tone is gritty and the prose gets more ethereal as the story moves forward; the end of the book introduces some beings with seemingly supernatural powers, but manages to stay firmly rooted in the bone and sinew and blood of the human experience. Amy's adolescent voice is strong and clear throughout the novel, allowing readers to come in close to the inner workings of a frail human being who has been through too much and who may in fact have to experience much more. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer & editor

Discover: A gritty and personal post-zombie novel with a clear-voiced, strong female narrator and a fresh new perspective on a saturated genre.

Ace Books, $24.95, hardcover, 9780441020706

Romance

Season for Temptation

by Theresa Romain


Theresa Romain makes her historical romance debut with this tale of two sisters, one suitor and a scandal the ton won't soon forget.

James, Viscount Matheson needs to marry quickly if he's to restore his family name after the sensational end of his sister's marriage. Luckily he's already found the perfect bride in the person of striking and poised Louisa Overton. Perhaps their courtship played out more like a business transaction than a romance, but with his family's reputation on the line, James is unconcerned with the luxury of true love. His practical approach works at first, but then a visit to his intended brings him face-to-face with her beautiful, impetuous stepsister Julia. Suddenly, James finds himself betrothed to one sister but in love with the other. For free-spirited Julia, it's also love at first sight, but how can she ever be with James without breaking Louisa's heart?

Although the plot may sound spicy, its execution is surprisingly sweet natured. Julia loves James from afar, unaware that Louisa does not want to marry at all, and James struggles to make the best of his engagement to Louisa in spite of his attraction to Julia. Readers wanting a bit of British cattiness will still find it here, though, in the form of the sisters' indomitable aunt. Modiste fittings, social gaffes, and chapter titles such as "In Which Plum Pudding Is Vulgar" round off this fun, frilly debut that is sure to go straight to Regency fans' hearts. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries

Discover: A tale of two sisters, one suitor and a scandal the ton won't soon forget.

Zebra, $6.99, mass market, 9781420118957

The Rose Garden

by Susanna Kearsley


In The Rose Garden, Susanna Kearsley (The Winter Sea) channels Mary Stewart, presenting her readers with an evocative romance set on the Cornish coast. As the novel opens, Kearsley's heroine, Eva, is reeling from the death of her older sister, Katrina. Hoping to lay her sister to rest in the place that meant the most to her and to take some small measure of comfort herself, Eva returns to Trelowarth House, the Cornish estate where they spent their summers as children. When she begins hearing and seeing things that aren't there, she assumes that the stress and grief are bringing on hallucinations. But when reality melts around her and is replaced by 18th-century smugglers and Jacobite sympathizers, Eva runs out of logical explanations.

Kearsley paints vivid pictures of both picturesque modern Cornwall and the romantic and dangerous Cornwall of the 1700s. Her characters are slightly less well drawn, however. The modern bunch are pleasant but mostly forgettable, while Eva herself is ever so slightly bland. All the color and personality seems to have been saved for the 18th-century characters. The romantic interest, smuggler Daniel Butler, is entirely lovely, and his nemesis, Constable Creed, is a chilling and sadistic villain, though slightly underdeveloped. The real jewel, though, is the cantankerous Fergal, who poses as Eva's brother and engages the reader's attention so completely that he steals even the scenes he's not a part of. Throw in a few time travel plot twists and The Rose Garden makes for a truly entertaining read. --Judie Evans, librarian

Discover: An alluring romance in the Mary Stewart mode, set in 18th-century Cornwall.

Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.99, trade paper, 9781402258589

Current Events & Issues

Worm: The First Digital World War

by Mark Bowden


In November 2008, the Conficker worm appeared and began spreading through computers across the globe, forming a massive botnet capable of wreaking digital havoc. Its creator was unknown and its purpose unclear, and a top-notch security team was assembled to stop it. Journalist Mark Bowden (Black Hawk Down) turns what could have been an arcane report into a crackerjack tale--Worm is accessible and compelling despite its somewhat technical subject matter.

The opening chapters provide a history of computer viruses that should be required reading for anyone whose job involves an Internet connection. Then, having provided the necessary background for cyber-security novices, Bowden segues into the story of the team that gathered to fight Conficker, which is even more fascinating. Security experts from around the country coalesced into what they began calling the Cabal and started tracking the virus, trying to get ahead of the black hats and quarantine the aggressive worm. That's when the inevitable interpersonal drama and infighting began, even as they tried desperately to get the federal government's attention. Bowden's respect for these guys comes across loud and clear; he frequently compares them to the X-Men. The story is also terrifying: the Cabal fighting Conficker didn't win so much as their antagonist went quiet. What's more, Worm illustrates the difficulty of keeping a virus contained in a world where the large majority of computers run Windows and not enough people download security patches. --Kelly Faircloth, freelance writer

Discover: A fast-paced, surprisingly thrilling chronicle of the race against a digital menace.

Atlantic Monthly Press, $25, hardcover, 9780802119834

Health & Medicine

Invasion of the Body: Revolutions in Surgery

by Nicholas L. Tilney, M.D.


In our technologically advanced age, patients choose to undergo a myriad of surgical interventions at an astounding rate: 85,000 elective surgeries are performed in American hospitals and clinics every day. Yet, few patients likely understand the remarkable innovations that have led to the sophisticated procedures executed by today's surgeons. For those who want to explore the fascinating history of this medical specialty, Invasion of the Body: Revolutions in Surgery is the perfect starting point.

Dr. Nicholas Tilney is a transplant surgeon affiliated with Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He has written in the past about his medical specialty, including the acclaimed Transplant: From Myth to Reality. In this latest work, he focuses on the broader spectrum of surgical revolutions that have shaped his specialty. He covers, in thorough, yet accessible style, a range of topics: pharmaceutical advances in anesthesia and anti-infective agents; the creation of teaching hospitals and recognition of surgery as a distinct specialty; the influence of trench warfare on surgical techniques; the evolution of organ transplantation; and current conditions in surgical training. Dr. Tilney's final chapters discuss issues in modern medicine that will continue to affect both those who practice surgery and those who undergo it.

Invasion of the Body is a completely detailed, captivating account of the transformation of surgery over the past century. Dr. Tilney's book will appeal to the curious reader just as much as it will to those in the health professions. --Roni K. Devlin, owner of Literary Life Bookstore & More

Discover: A riveting and thorough account of the history of modern surgery, as told by an accomplished transplant surgeon.

Harvard University Press, $29.95, hardcover, 9780674062283

House & Home

SoulSpace: Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life--Creating a Home That Is Free of Clutter, Full of Beauty, and Inspired by You

by Xorin Balbes


The cutesy title might make you think this home self-help book packs more puff than punch, but the truth is (insert Liza Minelli jazz hands, if you will), it's utterly fabulous. Yes, interior designer Xorin Balbes suggests writing a love letter to your favorite piece of furniture and recommends cleansing negative energy by waving around burning sage--but there's also an abundance of sensible, easy-to-implement action steps and real-life stories of homes he's transformed.

The case studies are fascinating reminders of how much people's homes reflect who they are. One woman's bulky wedding gown gobbled up an entire closet, even though she's 10 years divorced. Another one of Balbes's clients had a baby grand dominating her entire foyer, even though she despises all things piano. Cases regarding hoarding, clutter and neglect are transformed into valuable lessons about letting go of what's not beautiful or necessary and genuinely celebrating the place we call "home."

Balbes's eight steps to home bliss guide readers through a process from "assess" to "discover" and "dream"--and none of his wisdom is exclusive to those with extra cash. His philosophy is that little things (oiled door hinges, live plants, candles) go a long way toward making a home a sanctuary. Helpful lists on everything from room-by-room color choices to green cleaning products make this a home decorating bible that works. Even people who don't know a throw from a throw rug will finish this book excited to transform their space. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: A fantastic how-to book on transforming your space that will capture the heart and soul of any home dweller.

New World Library, $14.95, trade paper, 9781608680375

Children's & Young Adult

Daughter of Smoke & Bone

by Laini Taylor


Laini Taylor (Lips Touch) once again blends romance, otherworldly beings, and the yin and yang of joy and pain, and light and dark in her latest tantalizing novel.

Karou, 17 years old, with bright blue hair and a "constellation of tattoos," lives in Prague, where she's studying to be an artist. Through Karou's sketchbook, we learn of her "secret world," populated by chimaera: Issa, a serpent from the waist down and woman from the waist up, and Brimstone, the Wishmonger with ram horns and reptilian eyes and patriarch of their patchwork family. They raised Karou as their own from age five, and Karou knows nothing else of her past. Karou buys teeth for Brimstone, and she receives scuppies (wishes) as payment from him. On one of these errands, Karou comes face to face with a seraphim. She uses the eye-like tattoos on her hands to repel the creature. But she finds she cannot kill him, just as he cannot bring himself to kill her. The rest of the novel delves into the mystery of the connection they feel, which in turn leads to a revelation of Karou's identity. They confide the legends told by the seraphim and the chimaera in order to sow seeds of hatred. The two dream of "a world remade," one large enough to contain their love.

Taylor elevates this tale beyond a story of two star-crossed lovers by exploring the ways that society demonizes "the other" and by filling her tale with captivatingly complex characters. Readers will eagerly await the planned sequel. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A novel of self-discovery filled with romance, mystery and otherworldly beings as only Laini Taylor could imagine them.

Little, Brown, $18.99, hardcover, 432p., ages 15-up, 9780316134026

Is Everyone Ready for Fun?

by Jan Thomas


By now, every child familiar with Jan Thomas's Rhyming Dust Bunnies knows that the answer to the title question is YES!--with the possible exception of the chicken whose sofa gets the brunt of a bovine trio's schemes in this hilarious picture book.

"Look! It's Chicken's sofa!" a dark brown cow yells, pointing a hoof at an alluring red loveseat. The two cow sidekicks raise their forelegs in anticipation and, with a turn of the page, we see them in various stages, airborne and in the process of landing. "PLOP," say the giant cherry-red letters perfectly matched to the sofa. And that's even before we reach the title page. Chicken pops in from the right-hand margin, with only its red comb and beak and rolling wide eyes showing.

Chicken embodies the disapproving adult and the three cows the naughty children fully aware that they're breaking the rules. "JUMP! Up and down, up and down. Let's all JUMP up and down!" says one cow, "On Chicken's sofa!" adds the instigator dark brown cow. When Chicken says "There's no JUMPING on my sofa!" the cow buddies come up with other alternatives: dancing, for instance, and wiggling. Thomas perfectly captures the boundless energy of children both physically and mentally (when it comes to inventing creative ways to bend the rules). The author-artist arrives at a delicate balance: we never get the feeling that the cows are jumping, dancing and wiggling on the couch to spite Chicken--they just can't help themselves. Chicken (and adults) can rest easy when the final idea from the dark brown cow is a... NAP! Sensational. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A comical trio of cows that disobey a chicken's wishes for how to treat its sofa--until they find an activity they can all enjoy.

Beach Lane/S&S, $12.99, paper-over-board, 40p., ages 3-5, 9781442423640

The Apothecary

by Maile Meloy, illus. by Ian Schoenherr


Maile Meloy (Liars and Saints), in her first work for young people, sets her tale of spies and magic in an unassuming flat on St. George's Street in 1952 London, an area that hasn't seen chocolate bars for years. She sidles into a story that starts big and gets bigger until 14-year-old narrator Janie Scott and her new friend, Benjamin Burrows, find themselves at the heart of a fantastical Cold War battle.

Meloy's precise historical details anchor the book nicely, yet manage not to draw too much attention to themselves. The writing is clear and dramatic in all the right places, and her pacing is fantastic. For example, in one painful scene, a truth-telling herb forces Janie to admit that she fancies Benjamin, and he in turn admits that he likes rich and pretty Sarah Pennington, and the scene stretches out at just the right, mortifying pace (as do the repercussions of those revelations).

Aimed at middle-grade readers, the book will also appeal to teens, thanks to Meloy's unusual but well-considered choice to allow the adult voice of a grown Jane Scott to tell the story. And even though Janie serves as heroine, there's enough magic and action to charm many boys.

As the plot darkens, even reluctant readers will find it hard to pull away from the intrigue. A level of storytelling this high, with Schoenherr's fabulous illustrations as chapter openers, make this book a gem indeed. --Stephanie Anderson (aka Bookavore), manager of WORD bookstore

Discover: A marvelous work of historical fiction with alchemy, action and romance in all the right places.

Putnam, $16.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 10-up, 9780399256271

The Wanted
by Robert Crais
ISBN-13: 9780399161506
G.P. Putnam's Sons
12/26/2017


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Robert Crais
 

In your long-running Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series, your characters are pulled into a dark underworld of high-stakes robbery, double-crosses, and murder.  What was the moment of inspiration for THE WANTED?

“It’s always about a character moment. In this book, I think it was the notion of Elvis realizing that he’s at a point in his life where personally all he has to show for himself is his cat. Now that in and of itself doesn’t lead to any kind of a story, but I think about these characters a lot. I mean, Elvis and Joe, the first book, was published in 1987. They’re sort of like roommates; they’re shadow figures behind the plant in my office. I guess I was seeing Elvis being in a very thoughtful, introspective mood. And his cat, who’s a main character in the book, walks in and one line came to me in that moment. And it’s Elvis saying, ‘I don’t have kids, I have a cat.’ Here’s this man, Elvis Cole, alone in his A-frame one night, and that just moved me so deeply and in that moment my heart almost broke. It’s emotional hooks like that that really go in deep for me and drive me to chase stories.”

 Read the rest of the interview here.

 

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