Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, September 11, 2015


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

Surf's Up, Miss Marple!

In December 1987, I was flying back from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, where I'd spent the week covering a World Cup windsurfing competition for Sailboard News. My seatmates on the Air France flight were both lifelong surfers, one the editor of a California windsurfing magazine and the other a freelance photographer. Charting a course northwest, their eyes seldom left the window as they scanned the chain of islands far below for notable wave breaks.

Agatha Christie, 1922 (photo: British Museum of Surfing)

I thought of those guys recently after reading about an Agatha Christie photo exhibition in London marking the 125th anniversary of her birth. According to the Guardian, among the show's attractions were "photographs of her surfing on to an idyllic Muizenberg beach in South Africa."

Tell me the truth. When you think of surfing, who comes to mind first: the Beach Boys or Agatha Christie? And yet, Christie "was something of a pioneering and diehard wave-rider," as the Guardian noted a few years ago. Miss Marple's creator and her first husband "may been among the first Britons to learn how to surf standing up."

As a reader at least, surfing has been on my radar ever since I worked for that windsurfing magazine. In recent years, I've read several fascinating books about the sport and lifestyle, including William Finnegan's Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life; Chas Smith's Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell; and The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey. Tim Winton's Breath is my favorite surfing novel.

In her autobiography, Christie writes that while staying in Hawaii she "learned to become expert--or at any rate expert from the European point of view--the moment of complete triumph on the day that I kept my balance and came right into shore standing upright on my board!"

I'm not a surfer, but I understand the learning curve. And I'll never forget that image of my colleagues gazing out a jet window, reading the waves. --Robert Gray, contributing editor


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


Book Candy

Lit Tats; Book Club Golden Rules

"Awesome" lit tattoos: Bustle displayed "15 awesome tattoos inspired by your favorite literary characters." And Design Taxi featured "awesome tattoos inspired by novels that your inner bookworm will love."

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"Sate your literary appetite: the seven golden rules of setting up a book club," brought to you by Stylist magazine.

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In her Between the Lines column for the BBC, Jane Ciabattari suggested 10 books to read in September.

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The Lockhart, a new Harry Potter-themed bar that "Potterheads will recognize as a reference to the vain Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," opened last weekend in Toronto, Entertainment Weekly reported.

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"Dan Pauly's charming Storybook style shacks" were showcased by Boing Boing.


Matchup by Gayle Lynds


Great Reads

Now in Paper: September

Nonfiction

City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death, and the Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai (PublicAffairs, $16.99)
In City of Lies, British-Iranian journalist Ramita Navai lifts the traditional Iranian chador to expose the diversity and chaos of Iran's capital. She uncovers the story of modern Tehran with all the drama of a good novel, and her subjects are religious fanatics, prostitutes, drug dealers, political prisoners, transgender radicals and skinny-jeaned, Chuck-Taylored teens.

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado (Berkley, $16)
When Linda Tirado responded to an online forum question--"Why do poor people do things that seem so self-destructive?"--she had no idea her explanation would go viral and result in her first book, Hand to Mouth. This wry, frank depiction of life as a member of the working poor is a frightening reality from which many Americans are just one misfortune away.

The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books by Azar Nafisi (Penguin, $17)
Inspired by a young Iranian man who believed Americans don't truly care about books, Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran) considers if the privileges Americans enjoy insulate them from the world's great literature, particularly their own. Nafisi explores this "republic" and its connection to American identity through close readings of three classics: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) by Christian Rudder (Broadway Books, $16)
Rudder combines existing work with his original research, analyzing information from social media and other websites, and organizes his findings into three main categories: the data of people connecting, the data of division and the data of the individual. A book based on statistics could easily be dry and boring, but not with Rudder, a consummate storyteller, at the helm.

Fiction

The Emerald Light in the Air by Donald Antrim (Picador, $16)
All seven short stories in this collection deal with the domestic: couples, husbands and wives, fidelity (or not) and personal failings. In polished prose that's analytical, sharp and concise, Antrim reveals the weaknesses in these fragile characters, who are unable to make simple decisions.

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (Picador, $16)
Wolf in White Van tracks backward in time through the life of Sean Phillips, a mid-30s survivor of a horribly disfiguring accident who now lives an introspective, hermetic life managing the players in an elaborate mail-order fantasy game he created during his hospital rehabilitation. It's a story that's labyrinthine but compulsively readable--like a Tom Cruise movie with brains.

Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge, $7.99)
An eviction, a cold case and a suspicious confession stir up trouble in Truth Be Told, Hank Phillippi Ryan's third mystery featuring ace reporter Jane Ryland and police detective Jake Brogan. Ryland juggles a murder investigation, a real-estate scam and the possibility of a relationship with Brogan.

J by Howard Jacobson (Hogarth, $15)
J is a dystopian novel that imagines a futuristic Britain radically altered by a cataclysmic event referred to cryptically as WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED. This is a major novel, a rare work that makes readers think as much as feel--and the feelings that it invokes are uneasy ones.

Gutenberg's Apprentice by Alix Christie (Harper Perennial, $15.99)
German scribe Peter Schoeffer has achieved a modicum of success at the university in Paris, but when his foster father summons him home to Mainz, Peter never dreams that his life and career will be transformed. Instead of continuing as a scribe, Peter begins an apprenticeship studying a brand-new art under a mercurial, passionate man: Johann Gensfleisch, better known as Gutenberg.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (Riverhead, $17)
Sarah Waters has crafted a period domestic drama that mines class differences, then added an illicit love affair between two women. They are happy in their clandestine tryst, until their lives are transformed by a murder and its aftermath, which threatens everything they hold dear. The Paying Guests should establish Waters as one of Britain's best contemporary storytellers.

The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan (Picador, $16)
Set in the emptiness of east Montana, Kim Zupan's debut novel, The Ploughmen, is the story of 77-year-old serial killer John Gload and Deputy Sheriff Valentine Millimaki. Gload is in jail awaiting trial. Recently hired, Val is stuck on third shift to guard Gload and try to coax him to divulge where he buried his many victims.

Malice by Keigo Higashino, translated by Alexander O. Smith (Minotaur, $15.99)
A bestselling novelist is found dead inside his locked office, and police detective Kyochiro Kaga quickly zeroes in on the prime murder suspect and gets a confession, though he finds some details in the story at odds with the evidence. Worse, the killer refuses to give a motive, and without one, Kaga doesn't think he can get a conviction.


Melville House Publishing: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer


Book Review

Fiction

The Wake

by Paul Kingsnorth


The Wake is a singular debut novel by Paul Kingsnorth (One No, Many YesesReal England), set in England immediately following the Norman invasion of 1066. Its first-person narrator is a landowner named Buccmaster, who has lost everything to the attack: his family, his home, his land and his privilege. He takes to the fens and woods, with revenge in his heart and an intention to drive the French from his land and all of England. There he becomes one of the guerrilla fighters known as green men, whose chapter in history is little known.

What makes this powerful story distinctive is Kingsnorth's decision to write the story in what he calls a "shadow tongue," an Old English hybrid of the author's invention, made slightly more understandable to the modern reader. (Hint: try reading aloud, to hear cognates and the rhythm of the speech.)

The Wake is an ambitious novel in its themes and scope, in addition to its unusual linguistic decisions. As the English folc in his story become disconnected from their land, they lose their freedom: "if the frenc cums and tacs this land and gifs these treows [trees] sum frenc name they will not be the same treows no mor." As an impassioned defense of the natural world and people's responsibilities toward it, the novel acts as a metaphor for modern times. Buccmaster's personal narrative is a lesson in pride and its dangers, a glimpse of another culture in its own language. Kingsnorth's captivating first novel is thought provoking, multi-faceted and intriguingly rendered. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: A novel of resistance to the Norman Invasion, told in a hybrid of Old English.

Graywolf Press, $16, paperback, 9781555977177

Counterpoint Press: A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton


The Story of the Lost Child

by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein


Like the previous novels in Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan quartet, the concluding volume, The Story of the Lost Child, is ferociously, compulsively readable. The story is laced with earthquakes and death threats, sibling betrayals and old animosities. Ferrante is a remarkable storyteller and knows just how much to tell every step of the way.

Nothing in this Neapolitan neighborhood stays the same for long. Shops close. Crime is on the rise. Friends who grew up together switch spouses like dance partners. Fiery, outspoken Lila, more mercurial than anyone, is seen as the only person capable of putting the neighborhood right. The strongest bond in Ferrante's quartet remains Lila's passionate, lifelong devotion to bookish, intellectual Elena, who is infamous after the success of her novel exposing local corruption. 

Throughout all four volumes, Lila grows and changes before the reader's eyes. As two characters who are perfect foils for each other, Elena and Lila face the erratic turmoil of their intertwined lives in consistently revealing ways. Again and again, Ferrante takes the reader back to the first novella in My Brilliant Friend, in which the two girls lose their dolls. Each time she gives the account more nuance, more background information, until the initial novella in the first volume of the quartet is seen to contain the seeds of what will follow. Ultimately the plot comes full circle back to the beginning of the quartet, the framing story of Lila's disappearance, with one final moment that brings to a perfect close one of the greatest literary achievements of the new century. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: The concluding novel of a saga about two women's 66-year friendship in a rough neighborhood of Naples.

Europa Editions, $18, paperback, 9781609452865

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


A Lesson in Hope

by Philip Gulley


Philip Gulley spent nine books exploring the ups and downs in the life of Sam Gardner, fictional pastor of the local Quaker church in Harmony, Ind. After taking a brief hiatus from the Harmony series, Gulley reintroduced Sam, his wife, Barbara, and their two sons in A Place Called Hope, in which Sam wound up as the last-minute substitute officiate at a same-sex wedding. This created quite a stir, ultimately uprooting the family from Harmony to Hope, Ind.

In A Lesson in Hope, Sam and Barbara's sons have flown the coop--one in college, one serving in the military. While Pastor Sam's focus is on managing and growing the Hope Friends Meeting Church, a 98-year-old member, Olive Charles, dies and leaves her million-dollar estate to the meeting. Everyone in the parish--and even the larger Quaker Church--has designs on how to spend the money. Sam faces a host of additional complications when Olive's long-lost niece takes legal action challenging the bequest. Add to this a member fascinated by girlie magazines, another withering from Alzheimer's. Sam flirts with temptations of his own, one son dates a Methodist, the other dabbles in Mormonism, and Sam's high-maintenance parents contemplate a move to Hope.

Gulley's continuing good-natured and humorous series examines the often-peculiar nuances and drama of contemporary small-town life, and the entertaining quirks and foibles of a memorable cast of recurrent characters who try to keep the faith--and their wits about them. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: The continuing saga of a small-town pastor as he tries to keep the peace over a million-dollar bequest to his Quaker Meeting.

Center Street, $24, hardcover, 9781455519842

Gateway to Paradise: Stories

by Matthew Vollmer


There's a certain wedge of the American South where mountains give way to idyllic college towns and tall tales give way to the ghosts that inspired them. It's the geographical confluence of truth and fiction, history and folklore, and Matthew Vollmer mines that rich terrain in Gateway to Paradise, a collection of short stories that follows disparate lives entangled in the Appalachians like vines of kudzu, tethered by secrets and stories.

"Downtime," the first piece in the book, signals Vollmer's style--a mélange of down-and-out personas with a splash of Dixie magic--like a flare. Following the loss of his wife, dentist Ted takes his lover and receptionist, Allison, to Gatlinburg, Tenn., where they intend to drink, screw and sight-see, away from the prying eyes of their small hometown. The plan's hitch arrives in the form of Ted's ex-wife, whose drowned, barnacled corpse follows him around the hotel, seducing him despite her clammy, mottled skin.

Vollmer's best stories have a ring of truth, despite their oddity. "The Visiting Writer" lacks the high stakes and whimsy of the stories that surround it, yet its uncanny sincerity, including the mediocre hors d'oeuvres served at a university cocktail party and a famous writer's peculiarities, reflect reality through an strange mirror. "Dog Lover" disturbs more than provokes (toward the story's end the title suddenly becomes quite literal), but the rest of the collection proves winsome. Gateway to Paradise heralds the arrival of a new voice rooted in place, a place whose eccentrics and eccentricities are almost stranger than fiction. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer

Discover: These outlandish short stories centered in the Appalachian South chronicle the lives of characters as distinct and magnetic as the region they inhabit.

Persea Books, $15.95, paperback, 9780892554669

A Clue to the Exit

by Edward St. Aubyn


Edward St. Aubyn (Mother's Milk) calls A Clue to the Exit his favorite of his own novels. Originally published in 2000, it's now being reissued by Picador.

Charlie is a hack screenwriter who's just been told he has six months to live. He starts driving more carefully, even as he considers suicide, experimenting with the proper response to this news. He contacts his ex-wife about seeing his daughter; he sells his house and takes half his riches to Monte Carlo to lose it as quickly as possible. And, suddenly inspired, he sets out to write a serious novel--much to his agent's exasperation.

St. Aubyn's craft is on full display with this inward-looking work of simultaneous parody and earnestness. Nearly every line is quotable, a small but shining victory of prose. Charlie's novel, On the Train, visits with Proust and Buddha, while "a clue to the exit" references Henry James on "the human maze," but alongside serious, even wearying considerations, Charlie's story is often very funny and self-referential. A third-person narrative "is so much more personal than a first-person narrative, which reveals too flagrantly the imposture of the personality it depends on," writes St. Aubyn in Charlie's voice: A Clue to the Exit is told in first-person, while On the Train is in the third. This feedback loop is a central device. "Feeling too upset to write, I made the brave decision to write about feeling too upset."

A refined and stylish novel of cynicism and the question of death, A Clue to the Exit is a perfect sample of St. Aubyn's craft. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Edward St. Aubyn's favorite of his own novels, a clever, sophisticated consideration of death and consciousness.

Picador, $16, paperback, 9781250046031

Biography & Memoir

Good Mourning: A Memoir

by Elizabeth Meyer, with Caitlin Moscatello


Good Mourning is the story of one young woman's journey from socialite to funeral director at an elite Manhattan mortuary. Dryly funny and gossipy--names have been changed, but there are enough details to enable guessing games--Elizabeth Meyer's memoir offers reflections on growth, grieving and how modern Americans deal with death.

Raised in the privileged realm of the Upper East Side, Meyer was not long out of New York University when her father died after a lengthy battle with cancer. She threw herself into planning his funeral, working with the Crawford Funeral Home to create a meaningful event where friends and family would celebrate his life. She was surprised to discover she had a knack for it. She was even more surprised to find she couldn't stop thinking about Crawford, and she was back there soon after, talking her way into a job.

Meyer's choice to work with the dead confused her friends and family, but she couldn't shake off her fascination. Hired as a receptionist, she eagerly observed business operations, jumped at opportunities and spent her free time in the embalming room. However, her real talent was in dealing with Crawford's upscale clientele; they appreciated both her empathy and her ability to respond to their idiosyncratic needs with thoughtfully crafted farewell events.

Meyer's anecdotes about funerals make Good Mourning entertaining reading: those sparing no expense, those with exclusive guest lists and for a bigamist (he got two), and cadavers that were missing organs or went missing entirely. Moreover, her insights about the business of death and how we approach it give this memoir a broader focus and unexpected depth. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Discover: Her father's death led a young woman to discover a gift, and a passion, for funeral planning.

Gallery Books, $24.99, hardcover, 9781476783611

Current Events & Issues

The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries

by Andrei Soldatov, Irina Borogan


The collapse of the Soviet Union unleashed freedom and chaos in equal measure on the Russian people. A society where information was once strictly controlled suddenly opened to the antithesis of censorship and repression--the Internet. As Western capital flooded into the new Russian Federation during the 1990s, digital networks sprouted from fledgling Internet service providers and connected Russians with each other and the world online. It was a time of turbulence, but also of optimism among the Russian intelligentsia.

Then came Vladimir Putin. The former KGB agent rose from St. Petersburg bureaucrat to Russian president by 2000. His consolidation of power meant strangling critical free media: first television stations, then print publications and, most recently, the Internet. The Red Web describes how Putin's authoritarianism has fueled blacklists banning "objectionable" websites and the ubiquitous use of SORM, a small device that allows the FSB (successors of the KGB) to monitor everything that passes through Russian servers, including e-mails and social network posts. Even foreign companies like Google and Twitter are increasingly cooperating with Putin.

Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan (The New Nobility), co-founders of security services watchdog Agentura.ru, are among those dissidents pushing back against Putin's Internet power grab. In The Red Web, they expose the history of mass surveillance in the Soviet Union, its reemergence in the Russian Federation, and how Putin's crackdown on free media fits into his overall totalitarian scheme. But, according to the authors, Putin is handicapped by his own KGB worldview, where dissident organizations can be decapitated and defeated. The decentralized power structure of the Internet may yet be Putin's undoing. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: Russian journalists expose Internet censorship and surveillance in Putin's Russia.

PublicAffairs, $27.99, hardcover, 9781610395731

Business & Economics

The Lion Awakes: Adventures in Africa's Economic Miracle

by Ashish Thakkar


"It's time to stop patronizing Africans and seeing us as victims in need of alms," Ashish Thakkar writes. "Instead of giving us gifts, trade with us, buy from us and invest in us. You will benefit from this as much as we will." Thakkar is the founder of Mara Group, an African business conglomerate with 11,000 employees, and of the Mara Foundation for emerging young African entrepreneurs. In 2014, Forbes named him one of the 10 most powerful men in Africa.

In The Lion Awakes, Thakkar tells the dramatic story of his family, Indian-Ugandans for three generations before Idi Amin exiled them to the U.K. They moved to Rwanda just before the genocide, then fled back to Uganda. There, Thakkar dropped out of school at age 15 to start an IT business. His personal story is impressive enough, but The Lion Awakes is also an investor's tour of the exploding African business scene over the past decade, full of case studies, statistics, information resources and tips for success.

Thakkar has an insider's view of small businesses, as well as luxury hotels and tech hubs. In enthusiastic, inspirational terms, he describes the political, economic and educational changes that have made this entrepreneurial surge possible. His main focus is the tech industries, but he also looks at entertainment, agriculture, fashion and architecture. And he shows how the general global recession is inspiring a wave of immigration to Africa by educated Africans, Europeans and Asians "taking a shot at the African Dream." --Sara Catterall

Discover: An exciting African economic boom driven by a creative and ambitious new generation of entrepreneurs.

St. Martin's, $26.99, hardcover, 9781137280145

The House of Twenty Thousand Books

by Sasha Abramsky


Journalist Sasha Abramsky's first book is a warmhearted, frank memoir of his bibliophile grandfather, scholar and collector Chimen Abramsky, and the extraordinary book-filled London home where he lived for 66 years.

The son of prominent Orthodox rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky, Chimen rejected Judaism for another religion--Communism--as a young man. Though lacking a degree from a British university, he went on to become a leading scholar of Marxism and collector of Marxist literature. His books packed every available space in what his grandson calls the House of Books, in North London's Highgate neighborhood. By 1958, however, Chimen, disillusioned by the revelations of Stalin's atrocities and anti-Semitism, had severed his ties with the Communist Party. That repudiation ushered in the second phase of his intellectual life, as his interests pivoted to Jewish literature and Judaica.

Without a catalogue of his grandfather's library, Abramsky acknowledges that the book count reflected in his title may be imprecise, but as he describes the "staggering" number of books, it's easy to picture the "unfathomable clutter" that defined the home. The book is structured around a tour of its cramped rooms, each one "lined from floor to ceiling with shelves double-stacked with books, with just a few bare spots left in which paintings and photographs hung."

Balancing affection with a sense of awe at the story of his grandfather's fascinating life, Sasha Abramsky has produced a work that will appeal to book lovers and readers of family memoir. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Sasha Abramsky's memoir shares the story of his grandfather's passionate, book-filled life.

New York Review Books, $27.95, hardcover, 9781590178881

Children's & Young Adult

The Hired Girl

by Laura Amy Schlitz


Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs wants to write in her diary with ''truth and refinement,'' as her beloved teacher Miss Chandler suggests, but how can she when her drudging life of privy-scrubbing for her family is so terribly vulgar?

In Newbery winner Laura Amy Schlitz's The Hired Girl, Joan wants nothing more than to get an education and become a schoolteacher, as her late mother wanted. There's one hulking obstacle, and that's her father, a bitter man who calls her ''an ox of a girl.'' The year is 1911, the place rural Pennsylvania, and opportunities for farm girls are few. She vows to escape to the big city, reasoning that if she's going to live a life of servitude, she might as well at least be paid $6 a week for it. Fueled by desperation, Joan is able to flee by train to Baltimore. A romantic sort, she changes her name to ''Janet Lovelace'' and winds up in the wealthy Rosenbachs' elegant Jewish home as a hired girl, ''a kind of Gentile Cinderella.'' Janet is an aspiring Catholic, and her crash course in Judaism is not only instructive for the uninitiated, but often farcical, as when she infuriates the elderly servant Malka by unwittingly violating kosher traditions. Janet's earnest theological musings are humorously contrasted with more worldly concerns, from stylish hats to stray cats to her ardent, forbidden love for the Rosenbachs' artist son, David.

Fans of Little Women, rejoice. Joan's impassioned diary, inspired by Schlitz's own grandmother's journals, explores themes of faith and feminism, love and literature, culture and class in early 20th-century America, all the while charming readers with a vivid cast of characters. --Karin Snelson, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Newbery author Laura Amy Schlitz's deliciously dramatic diary of a Pennsylvania farm girl who escapes to Baltimore in 1911 to forge a new life for herself.

Candlewick Press, $17.99, hardcover, 400p., ages 12-up, 9780763678180

Gryphons Aren't So Great

by Andrew Arnold, James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost


The team behind Adventures in Cartooning returns for a funny and poignant comics-style tale of chivalry and friendship.

In the opening pair of horizontal panels, a knight in full armor rides a horse named Edward: "Faster, Edward! Faster!" cries the knight. Blue skies turn to a surreal yellow background as the knight shouts, "We're flying! Yee-haw!" and they sail off a cliff and splash into the water below. Knight and horse joyfully embrace and prepare to "do it again" when a winged gryphon (eagle in front, lion in back) approaches. Edward bravely tries to protect his friend from the swooping gryphon who knocks him down, but to no avail. The gryphon scoops up the knight and takes off into the sky. "I'm flying for real!" cries the knight. "This is amazing!!!" Though the rider promises his steed, "I'll be right back.... Weeeeee," a windowpane quartet of images show day turning to night as Edward waits patiently for the return of his friend.

This disarming tale probes the unsettling dynamics of a third person's intrusion into a close friendship. The sequences begin humorously, but quickly tap into authentic feelings of abandonment. All ends well, however, as Edward proves himself to be a far better friend to the knight than the not-so-great gryphon. Exquisitely paced full-page images and panels toggle between horizontal and vertical sequences, maintaining the right balance between empathy and humor, outward action and internal growth. For budding cartoonists, the endpapers provide step-by-step instructions on how to draw the main characters. --Jennifer M. Brown, former children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A story told in comic-strip panels of a close friendship between a knight and his horse, and a not-so-great gryphon who gets in the way.

First Second, $14.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781596436527

The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics

by Daniel James Brown, adapted by Gregory Mone


Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat (2013), the absorbing, suspenseful account of an American rowing crew's gold-medal win at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, is "a story about growing up," says the author in his introduction to this young readers' edition of his runaway bestseller.

Brown explains that young people at his readings inspired this version, which minimizes the historical context of 1930s America and the rise of Nazi Germany to focus more on the human drama: "What they recognize in the story... is the sheer excitement of being young, having a goal, striving to accomplish that goal, and making it happen, just as the boys in the boat did." The nonfiction narrative revolves around Washington native Joe Rantz (the author's neighbor's father), one of nine young men from the University of Washington who stunned everyone, including Adolf Hitler, with their Olympics gold-medal win. It was hard work. In chapter one, readers meet Joe as freshman at the UW. He learns quickly that rowing takes "raw power, superhuman stamina, and solid intelligence." Flashbacks to Joe's impoverished, turbulent childhood (he was abandoned at 15) show he's made of tougher stuff than some wannabe rowers in their "expensive cardigans." The transcendent beauty of fine-tuned teamwork in the boat and vividly described, heart-pounding racing scenes swirl around Joe's often heart-rending personal story, always, impressively, the narrative's anchor. Black-and-white photos keep the sense of history alive throughout.

This heartening account of how nine scrappy young men persevere to win Olympic gold may inspire a few to try their oars in the water, metaphorically or otherwise. "Row!" --Karin Snelson, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A young readers' adaptation of The Boys in the Boat, an against-all-odds story of a crew of rowers from Washington State and their 1936 Olympics gold-medal win.

Viking, $17.99, hardcover, 240p., ages 10-up, 9780451475923

Poetry

Application for Release from the Dream: Poems

by Tony Hoagland


Tony Hoagland is one of those poets you want to accompany in his F150 pickup on a road trip across Texas, from his teaching gig at the University of Houston to his home in Santa Fe, N.Mex., with a 12-pack of Tecate between you, and his funny, colloquial poems providing the mixtape. Application for Release from the Dream is full of poems like a rush of fresh air. We laugh alongside his narrators grappling with old age, like in "Summer," where "A forty-year-old man stares at a wetsuit on the rack:/ Is it too late in life to dress up like a seal and surf?"

While Hoagland does more than merely dip his toe in the darkness, he never lets it swallow him whole. He looks for and finds slivers of salvation. When his wife of six years reveals in "Don't Tell Anyone" that "she screams underwater when she swims," the narrator shrugs and suggests, "For all I know, maybe everyone is screaming silently/ as they go through life."

After rambling along from one amusing, troubling experience to another, Hoagland suggests one sure path to succor from the perils of life and diminishment of aging. In "There Is No Word," he finds redemption in language:

"how, over the years, it has given me
back all the hours and days, all the
plodding love and faith, all the
misunderstandings and secrets and mistakes
I have willing poured into it."

So put your boots up on the dash, pop a cold one and enjoy Hoagland's well-crafted evocative thoughts and humor. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Tony Hoagland's poems are full of aging narrators coming to grips with their lives of misunderstandings and mistakes.

Graywolf Press, $16, paperback, 9781555977184

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


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Simon Toyne
 

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

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

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

ALSO FEATURED ON THE the big THRILL…
 

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

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

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

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

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

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