Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, April 26, 2016


St. Martin's Press: No Easy Target by Iris Johansen

From My Shelf

Tarcherperigee: Diaper Dude by Chris Pegula with Frank Meyer / The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner

Mira Books: Any Day Now (Sullivan's Crossing #2) by Robyn Carr

Bookstore Celebration

Guy Gavriel Kay is the bestselling author of 13 novels--the latest is Children of Earth and Sky (New American Library, May 10, 2016)--and a book of poetry. In 2014 he was named to the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honor. He would like to invite you to a party.

photo: Samantha Kidd

Every author I know is a reader. The two things go together like Rowling and Harry, Ferrante and anonymity, George R.R. Martin and violent death. For many of us, a local bookstore shaped our lives. Books can do that--and a bookstore can.

Saturday, April 30, in the United States and Canada, celebrations of independent bookstores are taking place. I'm the writer spokesperson this year for the Canadian event, called Canadian Authors for Indies Day. The American one is called Independent Bookstore Day. There's swag in hundreds of stores, and across Canada about 600 authors have signed on to be booksellers during the day in over 120 indie bookstores. (Seriously, think about that!)

It is a massive book party. In a wonderful cause.

But the reward for those who stop by an indie this Saturday is deeper and wider: a bookstore in a neighbourhood enriches that community. We meet each other there, we get to know salespeople and owners, we wander in with or before a coffee, or after dinner on a spring night, and that quickening pulse beat comes as we look to discover what's new on shelves or tables. Book lovers get what I mean here. I know you do.

You also know that indies need our support these days, more than ever. They offer so much to us, to our communities, and on Saturday we all--writers and readers--can say thank you. We can tell them we know what we gain by having a bookstore around the corner or a few blocks down.

So spend part of this Saturday in your local indie bookstore. Join a party. Find authors talking up books they love. Let it be known that you, too, know how much they matter.


Doubleday Books: Unreliable by Lee Irby


Book Candy

All About Poets Laureate

Mental Floss shared "10 facts about Poets Laureate for National Poetry Month."

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For those who have immersed themselves in the first episode of Game of Thrones, Season 6, it's time for a little homework assignment. Electric Lit featured infographics detailing "the real history behind" GOT, as well as "game of books, how A Song of Ice and Fire stacks up."

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To celebrate Charlotte Bronte's 200th birthday, Bustle featured "15 gifts For Jane Eyre lovers," while a Guardian quiz asked: "Which Jane Eyre character are you?"

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"Ultimately, if you have a worldview that can be undone by a novel, let me submit that the problem is not with the novel," bestselling author John Green observed in response to the news that Looking for Alaska topped the ALA's 10 most challenged books in the U.S.

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Bookish real estate: Renowned writer Judy Blume is selling her getaway in Key West, Fla. Realtor.com noted that for $4.25 million, "you can make the author's nest your own."


The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger


Great Reads

Rediscover: 21 Nights

The world lost pop royalty last week with the sudden passing of Prince at age 57. Prince, The Artist, or the "Love Symbol" as his enigmatic emblem was sometimes called, was as prolific on stage as he was in the recording studio. In 2007, he gave 21 performances at London's O2 Arena as part of his Earth Tour, extended from 15 engagements after the first round of tickets sold out in minutes. Photographer Randee St. Nicholas captured Prince in action and behind-the-scenes, and in 2008 Atria released 21 Nights, a coffee-table book with these photos and poetry written by Prince. The book also included an exclusive CD, Indigo Nights, featuring live, after-show sessions recorded at the nearby Indigo club.

Just a month before his death, Prince and publisher Spiegel & Grau announced that a memoir, tentatively titled The Beautiful Ones, would be published in 2017. So far, the publisher has not commented on the fate of the book. --Tobias Mutter


Counterpoint: Grace by Natashia Deón


The Writer's Life

Sylvain Neuvel: The Internal World Mirrored in the External

photo: James Andrew Rosen

Sylvain Neuvel is a translator and a linguist from Quebec who has a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Chicago and works as the director of translation services at a Montreal company. He is also a software engineer with a personal passion for robotics and space travel. Sleeping Giants (Del Rey, April 26, 2016) is his first novel.

As a linguist, you're obviously someone who loves working with words and language. Have you always been a writer as well?

I've been writing for as long as I can remember. What form that took has changed a lot over time. I sold comic books to the neighbors to buy candy when I was a kid. I published some poetry when I was 17. Horrible. I worked as a journalist for local newspapers. I co-wrote a screenplay for a TV show, in French. It was optioned, so we made a bit of money, but they never made the show. I didn't always try to make a living out of it. The first full book I wrote was for a girl. It's interesting to write for just one person. I wrote all sorts of things as part of whatever job I had (I've had a lot), published a fair amount of linguistics papers. This is my first novel.

The idea for Sleeping Giants came about because of my son. I wanted to make a toy robot for him--he loves robots--but he wanted to know everything about it before he said yes. He wanted a story to go with it, and I didn't have one. We were watching Goldorak (Japanese anime, it was really big in Quebec) when I started thinking about what would happen if we found some giant alien artifact in real life. I started writing, my son got his toy, and I got a book.

Why write an alien story where the aliens never show their faces?
 
I wanted Sleeping Giants to feel as real as possible. In movie terms, what I had in mind were things like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact, The Abyss--not Aliens. I loved Aliens, but this had to be about humans, how we deal with that discovery, not them.

To me, there was a Cold War-esque quality to the novel--the threat of mass destruction, the world-destroying weapon. Are you a fan of mid-20th-century science fiction? Did you have any particular guiding influences in crafting this story?

I probably wouldn't go that far back, but there's a lot of the '70s and '80s in this book. Michael Crichton, things like The Andromeda Strain (okay, that's 1969, but I read it later). That vibe you're getting might be some Tom Clancy. I read plenty of his books when I was younger, and it seems to have left a bigger mark than I thought. I see a lot of The Hunt for Red October in it, I noticed while I was writing. The submarine scene was my way of paying homage. There's at least one quote from the movie in there as well for the really hardcore fan.

Sleeping Giants is told through a series of interviews, e-mails, journal entries and memos. What led you to this style of storytelling?

I love epistolary novels. The format adds realism to the story, and it fit well with what I was trying to do, but there's more to it than that. I read Les Liaisons Dangereuses when I was 11 or 12, and it just blew my mind. Here is a book where just about everyone is lying to everyone, all the time. Even when they want to tell the truth, they're bending it, twisting it out of pride, or shame, or some twisted sense of honor. In some way, the real story--the one you leave with when you finish the book--isn't in the book. You put it together yourself when you figure out the characters, their motivations. Sleeping Giants isn't based on deception, but I wanted to give the readers the satisfaction of figuring some things out on their own. As a reader, I really appreciate when I'm given that opportunity.

What can you tell us about the mysterious voice who acts as an interviewer and a supreme commander throughout much of the book? Do you have a character in mind behind the voice?

I have plenty of things in mind but he would kill me if I shared any of them. He's probably my favorite character. He's the glue that binds the team and the book together. This is a man (it is a man, there's a "he" in there somewhere) with a lot of pressure and a lot of responsibilities. He's very professional. He doesn't let emotion get in the way of things, or so we're meant to believe. He's a very complicated person. Of all the characters in the book, he's the one I really want to have a drink with, many drinks. I love his sense of humor.

There is a lot of fascinating stuff about bodies in this book. The "sleeping giant" of the title is a dismembered humanoid machine. Several characters undergo drastic physical changes as the plot progresses. Was this a conscious preoccupation?

For someone who absolutely loathes metaphors in real life, I do put a lot of them in my writing. This is a search for truth, about the world and about ourselves. It's also a search for things, giant metal body parts. It's a puzzle we're trying to put together. The characters evolve, they undergo some changes, inside and out. I like symmetry, for the internal world to be mirrored in the external world. I think it makes for stronger imagery.

Why write this book in English? Have you ever written or considered writing in French or any other language?

It's refreshing to be asked that question from an Anglophone. I'm really proud of my heritage. I speak French at home. Work is about half and half. This was really about choosing the right tool for the job. Oil versus watercolor, that kind of thing. There are certain things I feel more comfortable writing in French. This felt English to me.

Are there plans to have the book published in French, and if so will you be involved in the translation?

Yes, it will be published in French. We're up to 13 or 14 languages so far (I love that I forget the exact number). I'm also a translator, so pretty much everyone I know asked me why I didn't want to translate it myself. It's time I don't have, so I didn't really give it much thought. More importantly, I enjoy writing, but being done with a book feels really good. Books are big. The idea of writing the same one twice, it's just--no.

Can readers look forward to another installment in the saga?

I hope they do. I'll be done with book two at my end when this one hits the shelves. I don't know when Del Rey will want to release it, but it's definitely coming. I started toying with book three not long ago. There'll be at least three. I'm really excited about where this series is going. --Emma Page, bookseller at Island Books in Mercer Island, Wash.


Knopf Publishing Group: The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve


Book Review

Fiction

King Maybe

by Timothy Hallinan


In Timothy Hallinan's fifth Junior Bender mystery, the Los Angeles burglar is having a run of bad luck. "If--as some ironic people used to say as they flashed air quotes--life was a box of chocolates, someone had sat on the box." First, two goons trap Junior during a burglary, determined that he won't make it out of the house alive.

Some fancy footwork and quick thinking help him evade the goons, but more trouble is waiting for Junior once he's in the clear. Hollywood has-been producer Jake Whelan harbors a beef with Junior. In order to set matters straight, he demands Junior break into the office of King Maybe, the studio exec who makes or breaks people in Tinseltown. But when the seemingly easy job is turned on its head, King Maybe might just break Junior.

To top it off, Junior's daughter has boy trouble and he's on the outs with his girlfriend, Ronnie. Part burglar, part cupid, Junior will have to up his game if he has any hope of making it through the week alive.

Timothy Hallinan (The Fame Thief) is a gifted writer with a knack for blending vivid settings, exciting plots, dynamic characters and clever humor to create captivatingly complex stories. From a lively description of a low-rent hotel room to the insightful development of Junior and Ronnie's relationship, King Maybe is distinctive and refreshingly original. It would probably be fitting to crown Hallinan the caper king. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: Professional burglar Junior Bender is forced to break into the offices of the Hollywood mogul known as King Maybe--who nearly breaks him.

Soho Crime, $25.95, hardcover, 9781616954321

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire


Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice

by Curtis Sittenfeld


What if Jane Austen set Pride and Prejudice in contemporary Cincinnati? In Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld (PrepAmerican Wife) turns an iconic comedy of manners into a sly and entertaining social satire and story of loves lost and found.

The broad outlines of the characters and plot are immediately recognizable in this retelling, though the novel is wholly a Sittenfeld original. Liz Bennet is a magazine writer in New York who returns to Cincinnati to help care for her father after his heart attack. Jane, the eldest sister, is a yoga teacher undergoing in vitro fertilization treatments; Mary is pursuing her third online master's degree; and Katie and Lydia spend all their time working out at a trendy gym and following the Paleo diet. Mrs. Bennet engineers an invitation to a Fourth of July picnic so that the sisters can meet erstwhile reality television star Chip Bingley and his friend Fitzwilliam Darcy. Liz and Darcy naturally take an immediate dislike to each other, while Jane and Chip's instant mutual attraction is complicated by Jane's circumstances.

Sittenfeld's satirical edge animates a familiar plot that lags only in a somewhat forced episode that sets up the grand finale, with Jane and Liz on a reality television show. Eligible is otherwise so entertaining that one might easily miss its bigger themes--the futility of judging others based on appearances or social proprieties, their color, gender, circumstance or secret passion for bowling. Finding love means learning not to be judgmental--but then Darcy asks, when love comes, "Who cares what anyone else thinks?" --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Curtis Sittenfeld skewers contemporary dysfunctions in this deliciously entertaining retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Random House, $28, hardcover, 9781400068326

Movie Stars

by Jack Pendarvis


The phrase "movie star" connotes an unattainable being, so distant and awe-inspiring that it shares a name with a celestial body. In Jack Pendarvis's story collection, the focus instead is on the normal mortals who orbit these icons, whose trials and tribulations are as absurd as they are unglamorous.

Movie Stars' primary appeal lies in its deviation from and playfulness with conventional ways of storytelling. With abrupt interjections, bizarre plot twists and anticlimaxes, Pendarvis, who writes for the TV show Adventure Time, imbues his characters with hilarious quirks and outlandish flaws. The gullible protagonist of "Cancel My Reservation" falls for a friend's lie that he has cancer, then proceeds to search for the perfect gift at a Bob Hope paraphernalia auction; the son in "Frosting Mother's Hair" dates a gold-digging B-list actress and severely burns his mother's scalp in a hapless dye job. Most entertaining, though, are Pendarvis's sentences, the lovechild of Mad magazine and Proust. In "Your Cat Can Be a Movie Star," the narrator observes of Scarlett Johansson, "[she] is a person so soft and creamy, resembling nothing so much as a nourishing bowl of oatmeal."

With its focus on human foibles, Movie Stars manages to be both dark and winsome, humorous and heartbreaking. Beneath the absurdity, these characters' failures sometimes hit too close to home. It's a pain that hurts so good, a distorted mirror in which reality is both funnier and more heightened than the world we know. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer

Discover: Movie Stars tracks the lives of mostly normal people in a series of off-kilter and darkly humored short stories.

Dzanc, $15.95, paperback, 9781938103452

Mystery & Thriller

Design for Dying

by Renee Patrick


"Hollywood is lousy with beauty queens." After being crowned Miss Astoria Park of 1936, Lillian Frost headed for Los Angeles to break into the movies, only to settle for a recurring bit part as a department-store salesgirl. But when fellow aspiring actress Ruby Carroll--Lillian's frenemy and former roommate--turns up dead in an alley, Lillian steps into a new walk-on role: amateur detective. As she digs into Ruby's murder, Lillian gains an unlikely co-star in costume designer Edith Head. Renee Patrick (the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team) turns in a sparkling debut performance in Design for Dying.

Determined to catch Ruby's killer, Lillian travels around the city to interview Ruby's friends, colleagues and (often unsavory) paramours. Her visits to Edith at Paramount Pictures allow Patrick to slip in cameos by various Hollywood luminaries, including Barbara Stanwyck and Billy Wilder. Edith's no-nonsense direction on the case, and a little help from a handsome police detective, put Lillian closer to a solution--but not before she's in danger of losing both her day job and her life.

Lillian's first-person narration glitters with show-business metaphors, such as a morning when "the dawn light was still in rehearsals" and "coffee black enough to be accessorized by diamonds." The mystery's solution is both clever and cinematic, and the denouement leaves room for a planned series. For readers who love Hollywood, high fashion, strong women and witty dialogue, Design for Dying is a thoroughly entertaining first act. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: This sparkling debut mystery set in 1930s Hollywood features Edith Head as an unlikely detective.

Tor/Forge, $24.99, hardcover, 9780765381842

Biography & Memoir

Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia from My Italian Mother-in-Law

by Katherine Wilson


Katherine Wilson meant to move to Italy for just a few months when she took a post-college internship at the United States Consulate in Naples in the late 1990s. But she soon met a young man named Salvatore, and as their relationship blossomed, his elegant mother, Raffaella, and their boisterous Neopolitan family welcomed Katherine with open arms. Raffaella taught Katherine to cook, and Katherine and Salva married. They still live in Italy with their children.

Only in Naples is the story of Katherine's transformation from uptight, perpetually dieting American girl (including intriguing glimpses into her privileged childhood) to much more relaxed, food-loving Italian wife. Full of mouth-watering descriptions of food, hilarious examples of quirky Neapolitan culture (it's the "oxygen" that makes you feel heavier when you're on a ski weekend, not the ridiculous amounts of food consumed afterward), Only in Naples also lends insight into the differences between American and Italian childrearing. It is part travel guide, part foodie memoir, and is sure to appeal to armchair travelers and Italian food-lovers alike, with its rich descriptions of the gestures and traditions essential to life in Naples, and recipes for Neapolitan classics like insalata di polipo (octopus salad) and parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmesan).

Doing for Naples what Ann Mah's Mastering the Art of French Eating did for Paris and Luisa Weiss's My Berlin Kitchen did for Berlin, Only in Naples offers a vibrant look at the food and people that make up a great Italian city. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Part travel guide and part foodie memoir, Only in Naples highlights an often overlooked Italian city.

Random House, $27, hardcover, 9780812998160

History

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts

by Joshua Hammer


The name "Timbuktu" has long evoked mystery and wonder: a remote African city of camels and gold. For librarian and archivist Abdel Kader Haidara, Timbuktu's treasure exists in a different form: an astounding collection of ancient Islamic manuscripts, including scientific treatises and romantic poetry, representing "five hundred years of human joy." When Islamic militants took over Timbuktu in 2012 and threatened to destroy the "subversive" manuscripts, Haidara and his colleagues staged a daring rescue operation. Journalist Joshua Hammer chronicles the parallel stories of Haidara's career and Mali's political unrest in his fourth book, the wonderfully titled The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu.

Hammer (Yokohama Burning) begins his narrative with Haidara, the son of a well-known teacher and scholar who spent his early career traveling throughout Mali, visiting village chiefs and families who kept their treasured volumes in steamer trunks and secret storage rooms. Over time, Haidara built libraries and conservation centers in Timbuktu, where he and his colleagues were able to collect, catalogue and restore thousands of manuscripts. But when warring groups of militants began fighting for control of Timbuktu, Haidara feared for the safety of both his family and his libraries.

The salvage operation--as precarious and fraught with obstacles as any Hollywood heist--involved moving more than 350,000 manuscripts hundreds of miles downriver to Bamako, Mali's capital. A moving story of quiet heroism and a fascinating glimpse into a country little-known in the U.S., The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu will appeal to historians, bibliophiles and those who love a good heist narrative. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: When warring militant groups take control of Timbuktu, Mali, a band of librarians stages a daring operation to rescue thousands of ancient Islamic manuscripts.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 9781476777405

Political Science

Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics

by Ari Rabin-Havt, Media Matters for America


While researching his previous book, The Fox Effect, co-written with David Brock, Ari Rabin-Havt, host of Sirius Radio's The Agenda, repeatedly questioned the origins of what he sees as lies and propaganda filtering through Fox News. As he argues, "Lies do not simply appear and take hold. They must be developed, introduced, and nurtured into the public discourse." Rabin-Havt's research into various falsehoods indicated the existence of a profitable industry doing just that on behalf of those willing to pay for it. He called this business Lies, Incorporated. Bestowing the name on his book, Rabin-Havt examines the origins of some of the most significant deceptions muddying the current political waters.

Through meticulous examinations of issues such as climate change, immigration reform and gun control--issues where scientists and other researchers have publicly debunked the lies preventing progress, lies that continue to cling to the important conversations and debates--Rabin-Havt theorizes that Lies, Incorporated is a result of "a political culture where ideological victory, not progress, is the ultimate goal. Where what is good for my country plays second fiddle to what is good for the bottom line of my clients."

Well-researched and documented, Lies, Incorporated presents hot button topics with diplomacy and tact. It won't likely convince every reader to relinquish the stronghold on their ideologies--Rabin-Havt himself says, "it is far easier to ignore the truth than to confront the failure of your argument"--but it is convincing motivation to scrutinize closely the evidence on which one's beliefs are based beliefs and hold the political media accountable for reporting practices. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: The author posits that a big business exists to manufacture "lies" when the evidence doesn't support clients' ideology.

Anchor Books, $15, paperback, 9780307279590

Children's & Young Adult

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse

by Brian Farrey


Brian Farrey's (The Vengekeep Prophecies series; With or Without You) haunting middle-grade fantasy explores a peaceful monarchy where all the subjects are perpetually happy. Yet, within its borders, there's a shadowy bog called Dreadwillow Carse, a nasty swampland that smells of "spoiled milk and olive juice" and feeds on sadness.

On the morning she is officially named Queen Ascendant by her dying mother, 12-year-old Princess Jeniah is warned never to enter Dreadwillow Carse, or the monarchy will fall. But Jeniah believes that to be a proper queen she must understand the threat posed by the Carse. Her mostly inscrutable tutor says she is "too strangely clever for her own good."

Nearby in Emberfell, a young girl named Aon Greenlaw, the only one among the ever-merry villagers who feels grief, finds herself drawn to the Carse's gloom. Her mother left long ago, and when her father disappears, too, Aon feels more broken than ever. When Aon and Jeniah meet by chance, they hit it off, "weaving a web of promises and whispers." They make a deal: Aon will explore the Carse in Jeniah's stead, if the princess will find her father. But when Aon doesn't return from her mission, Princess Jeniah must decide whether to go in after her, and risk the welfare of the monarchy.

Told in the alternating viewpoints of Jeniah and Aon, this vivid, philosophical tale investigates what part sadness plays in defining a person, the cost of happiness achieved at the expense of others, and the importance of finding enough courage to make wise choices. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: In this haunting middle-grade fantasy, Princess Jeniah puts the monarchy at risk when she enters the Dreadwillow Carse, a dark, mysterious swamp that blights the otherwise harmonious realm.

Algonquin, $16.95, hardcover, 245p., ages 8-12, 9781616205058

Chimpanzees for Tea!

by Jo Empson, illus. by Jo Empson


The cupboard is "a bit bare," so Vincent's mom sends her son off in his handmade soap-box derby car with a shopping list: "a Bunch of Carrots, a Box of Rice, some Tasty Cheese, a Big Firm Pear, a Can of Peas" and he must "hurry home in time for tea!" Of course, when the list blows away, he worries his memory of it will, too, so throughout his journey he repeatedly chants the list.

The chanting doesn't quite work. As Vincent and his race car roll past the circus, he picks up a trapeze in lieu of the requested "Can of Peas," and later, a "Big Furry Bear" instead of a "Big Firm Pear" and a "Box of Mice" instead of a "Box of Rice." Various local characters--including a French artist whose paint splatters marvelously into the air and onto a field of wheat--greet Vincent and his expanding menagerie. But Vincent can't stop for hellos, he has to "rush to the shops." In time his very loaded-up car looks like a parade float, all delightful chaos as white mice spill out of their box and the chimps cavort with the trapeze artist. (One of the many visual punch lines is that a blue bird has the flyaway shopping list in her beak the whole time.) Everyone's invited in for a gleeful tea, much to the shock of Vincent's mother.

British author-illustrator Jo Empson (Rabbityness; Never Ever) brings her wonderfully freewheeling, kinetic style to this lively read-aloud that will have youngsters giggling and shouting out the correct items from the list. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: When Vincent goes out for groceries, his shopping list blows away and he ends up with chimpanzees instead of peas.

Philomel, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-7, 9781101996218

Humor

An Unreliable History of Tattoos

by Paul Thomas, illus. by Paul Thomas


British cartoonist Paul Thomas's An Unreliable History of Tattoos is as eccentric as the art form-cum-lifestyle choice that it (rather flippantly) seeks to celebrate. Presented as something between a lovely hardcover art book and a graphic novel, Thomas's irreverent opus tells the heavily fictionalized story of tattoos from their supposed inception in the Garden of Eden to their equally false apotheosis as elaborate illustrations cheekily inked on the skin of various British royals. It's an absurd, silly, slightly profane trip that fuses highbrow and lowbrow humor with Monty Python-esque glee.

Thomas's art is both lovely and charmingly brash. Cartoonish figures appear inked onto the pages like tattoos themselves, surrounded by elaborate swirls of intentionally gaudy primary colors. Panels are packed with tiny details including frequent jokes on popular Brit-comedy punching bags such as David Beckham or the right-wing party UKIP. One need not be an Anglophile, however, to appreciate the appeal of panels showing naked, tattooed Vikings charging onto the shores of the British Isles, one Norseman asking, "Fancy a whodunit?" while a fleeing woman cries, "Uh-oh! Nordic noir."

Thomas notes at the beginning of his "history" that "the sheer ubiquity of tattoos has reduced their ability to shock." In some ways, he seems determined to reclaim that shock value with bawdy jokes about Queen Elizabeth's sex life and equally brazen illustrated close-ups of inked unmentionables. In other words, An Unreliable History of Tattoos is the kind of coffee-table book you get for a cool, tatted-up aunt. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: An Unreliable History of Tattoos is a heavily fictionalized account of tattoos from humanity's biblical beginnings to the present, with charmingly garish art and an absurdist sense of humor.

Nobrow, $19.95, hardcover, 9781910620045

Poetry

Gilgamesh's Snake and Other Poems

by Ghareeb Iskander, trans. by John Glenday, Ghareeb Iskander


In the ancient Babylonian myth, Gilgamesh, grieving over the loss of his companion, Enkidu, and the realization of his own mortality, sets out to find the only human to become immortal, Utnapishtim (analogous to Noah of the Old Testament).

In Ghareeb Iskander's (A Chariot of Illusion) collection of poems, Gilgamesh's Snake and Other Poems, the poet laments that "long ago you loved the names for things,/ the rules of grammar and/ wordplay./ Today, however,/ Your only choice is to carry on/ so that you may set out for life's second darkness." As with the heroic Gilgamesh, loss and the expectation of future loss have robbed him of the joy of living. These losses include his homeland of Iraq (ancient Uruk to Gilgamesh), his father and his lover. To the poet, the silence he hears and the absence he feels have greater weight than oblivion. Separation is the true evil of death.

As with Gilgamesh, the poet eventually comes to terms with the inevitability of that "second darkness." "What does our poet do?/ He stands upright/ face-to-face with despair/ brimful of dreams./ He doesn't battle like Don Quixote/ and he doesn't love like Qays;/ he doesn't drink wine like Abu Nawas./ He simply/ writes poetry." He finds consolation in his art.

And what art it is: rich with broad allusions to the Old Testament, the Qur'an and ancient Babylonian and Greek myths, while maintaining a direct, sincere style. These are poems one will need to read repeatedly to extract the full richness of the work. This repetition is not a chore, but a pleasure. --Evan M. Anderson, collection development librarian, Kirkendall Public Library, Ankeny, Iowa.

Discover: A poet grapples with the collapse of his world and finds solace in his artistry.

Syracuse University Press, $14.95, paperback, 9780815610717

Power Made Us Swoon

by Brynn Saito


Born in California's Central Valley, Brynn Saito offers a second collection of poems (after The Palace of Contemplating Departure) that explores both her past and the landscape that defined it. Power Made Us Swoon's poems describe the Manzanar World War II Japanese internment camp where her grandparents met (" 'She went in with one name and came out with another,' says my cousin."). It is a desolate place of hot summers, cold winters and frequent dust storms that reflects a tragic period in her family's history--and a nadir of United States history. But in her time at Manzanar, Saito collects a small rock that becomes a zen-like voice in "Lifting the Stone," fulfilling her quest to understand--reassuring her to "go on/ blindly, seeking a life with life at the center."

Saito's mining of her history also includes more recent events. She describes car wrecks, roadside melon stands, romances and a childhood in the rural outskirts of Fresno. In "Getting Clear," she reaches for meaning in the natural world of migrating birds, asking, "How does a family learn to fly/ like that? How do they know/ the best seasons for leaving?" In other poems, the voice of her "Woman Warrior" leads her through urban life with "bridges lit with streetlights/ and smokers" and dim bars where she "found love, lost it, lost it again." These are strong poems that don't shy from the big questions. Perhaps her "W.W." says it best: "When you're a warrior it doesn't/ matter/ you must always/ wake at dawn." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In her moving second poetry collection, Brynn Saito ingeniously mines her rich family legacy and her rugged life.

Red Hen Press, $11.95, paperback, 9781597099912

The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger
The Red Hunter
by Lisa Unger
ISBN-13: 978-1501101670
Touchstone
04/25/2017


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Lisa Unger
The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger
 

To develop the characters in The Red Hunter, you studied a book about cases of children very different from their parents. How hard was it to write that relationship?

“Claudia’s relationship with her daughter evolved naturally for me,” Unger says, admitting she drew from her own experiences to authenticate the mother/child bond. While her daughter, Ocean, is younger than Raven, the bond is forged by a deep understanding. “So much of the person you are as a parent has to do with the child. With Ocean, I trust her. She’s honest and smart and spunky. Which makes it easier for me to be less the over-protective, semi-paranoid parent I thought I would be. She’s fully aware of the darkness in the world . . . The part of my brain I use for writing is not the same part that helps my daughter with homework. I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing. My husband likes to joke that he’s number four—after Ocean, the dog, and the writer, but that’s not quite true. As a writer, I’m engaged, always striving to do better and be authentic as I can be. And I have those same goals as a wife and a mom.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

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