Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, November 11, 2016


Workman Publishing: Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades--Bastes, Butters & Glazes, Too by Steven Raichlen

From My Shelf

Knopf Publishing Group: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Counterpoint: Grace by Natashia Deón

The Complexity of 'Defining the Veteran Experience'

What I wanted to do was hopefully complicate the image of veterans of the Iraq War.... At no point did I think that I would be defining the veteran experience.... I was pretty skeptical of anybody who thought they could. --Phil Klay, 2014 National Book Award winner for his story collection Redeployment.

I didn't serve in the military, but my late father was a World War II combat veteran and three of my brothers spent, among them, more than 30 years in the Air Force. So we are, in that sense, a military family. The meaning of Veterans Day is (or, in my father's case, was) markedly different for each of these men, and they honor(ed) the day accordingly.

I respect those differences, and was reminded of them again a couple months ago when NPR featured a piece headlined "Soldiers Turned Authors Want You to Know: Our Books Don't Speak for All Vets." The works highlighted, some of which I have read and loved, are by post-9/11 vets, but the narrative voices transcend the limits of time frames.

This compact yet complex reading list includes Phil Klay's Redeployment, Michael Pitre's Fives and Twenty-Fives, Elliot Ackerman's Dark at the Crossing, Matt Gallagher's Youngblood, Roy Scranton's War Porn and the graphic novel The White Donkey, written and illustrated by Maximilian Uriarte.

"I don't think anyone is probably particularly interested in writing that offers a bunch of platitudes on the war," Ackerman, who saw combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, told NPR. "I think the best writing kind of leaves space for the reader to come to their own conclusions, because if you introduce too much of yourself, you're going to crowd out the reader."

Gallagher, who led a platoon in Iraq in 2007, observed: "These are real people being heroes, being villains, being cowards, sometimes all three of those things in the same day, because that's real life." --Robert Gray, contributing editor


Reedimagine: Zagzig Parenting: (Mis)Adventures of a Career-Driven Mom and a Stay-At-Home Dad by Kori Reed with Mike Becker


Book Candy

'Favorite War Poets'

For Veterans Day, My Poetic Side honored "our military veterans the best way we know how: by shining a spotlight on some of our favorite war poets."

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Some tempting "book and sandwich pairings" were served up by Quirk Books.

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The Verge recommended "10 provocative political novels to read after the election."

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Bustle shared "16 literary puns only readers will understand."

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Need a smile? "They may be nameless actors in generic stock footage, but there is no doubt that Stock Video Women love to read," Read It Forward noted. "Let them show you 11 of their favorite reading methods. Can you dig the funky jams?"

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Bookshelf showcased Home at Arsenale, "an abstract compact home performing as a curated library that operates as a platform for exploring the concepts of home and dwelling."


Head of Zeus: Less Than a Treason (Kate Shugak Mysteries #21) by Dana Stabenow


Great Reads

Rediscover: Lion

Saroo Brierley, born Sheru Munshi Khan, was the youngest of three brothers raised by a struggling single mother in central India. At age 5, Saroo joined one of his brothers on a train ride to the nearby city of Burhanpur, about 40 miles away. Saroo ended up on a train to Calcutta, 930 miles away, unable to remember his hometown or even his last name. Saroo survived on food scraps for several weeks, and was eventually adopted by the Brierley family of Hobart, Australia. As an adult, Saroo spent many hours scouring Google Earth hoping to find his lost family. Though half-forgotten childhood memories and satellite images, Saroo managed to find his family after 25 years of separation.

Saroo's story, and his emotional reunion, became an international media sensation. Saroo chronicles his improbable journey in A Long Way Home: A Memoir, first published in 2014, which is the basis for the film Lion, opening November 25. Dev Patel stars as Saroo, alongside Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother and Rooney Mara as Saroo's girlfriend. The film's premiere at the Toronto Film Festival garnered good reviews. On November 1, NAL published a movie tie-in edition of Saroo's book with the same title as the film ($16, 9780399584695). --Tobias Mutter


ReedPop: BookCon Tickets & Information


The Writer's Life

Curt Menefee: 'A Self-help Book Wrapped in Sports Stories'

photo: Brian Paulette

Curt Menefee is the longtime host of Fox NFL Sunday and was a sports reporter for SportsDesk on the MSG Network and WNYW, the Fox flagship station in New York. Menefee grew up an ardent sports fan in Atlanta, loving the Braves, Falcons, Hawks and Flames. His grandmother Juanita took him to his very first professional sporting event--a Braves vs. Pirates game at old Fulton County Stadium. Menefee wanted to be a professional athlete, but a serious knee injury at the age of 15 sidelined him and set him on a course toward a career in sports media. In Losing Isn't Everything (see our review below), Menefee explores notable sports figures who wound up on the losing side of memorable moments in sports history.

Why a book on losing?

I've always tried to find a different angle to tell a story, whether as a local reporter, calling games as a play-by-play announcer or in the studio at Fox. The one thing that virtually all sports contests have is a winning side and a losing side, and I've often wondered how "losing" affected someone who was at the top of his/her game as he/she went forward in life. Why were some able to bounce back from adversity, while others struggled? I'd had several chances to speak and interview people who'd lost monumental sporting events and saw that this would be a great topic to explore: the overall effects of being known for failure.

Why did you present the stories in book form rather than as a TV documentary?

First of all, these stories lend themselves to long-form storytelling--not only to provide the details of the events, but to give the necessary background and perspective that each subject employed in trying to cope with loss. Secondly, in a couple of cases, my contact with the athletes/coaches to ask for their participation in this project was the first time I'd ever spoken with them. I needed to build trust before getting them to truly open up. That was best achieved by sitting and talking in familiar settings with a recorder running, rather than lights, cameras and the formalities of video documentation that might make them feel more guarded in providing, often quite personal, details.

The stories in the book are so varied.

As a sports fan, I was intrigued by so many classic moments that have occurred in arenas and on fields over the last 50 years--and not just in football. It really came down to which individual stories had lessons in them that all could learn from... and it was important to me that the subjects "got" what the project was about. I never wanted the book to be about "what happened and how did you lose," but rather more toward what can be learned from coming up short in life's big moments.

How did you choose which subject to feature in each particular story?

First, I chose the sporting event that I wanted to spotlight... then I tried to find the person who was in the eye of the storm that changed history. For example, in the case of the '86 Red Sox, fielder Bill Buckner has been blamed--for 30 years--for losing a tough World Series. Yet, if you look at what actually happened, he never should have been involved. The Boston pitcher, Calvin Schiraldi, blew a one-run lead in the 8th inning of Game Six, and a two-run lead in the 10th, after getting two outs. Then, Schiraldi completely fell apart. The game should have been over before the ball ever rolled toward Buckner.... If Boston had won that game, and then Game Seven of the World Series, no one would even remember the Buckner play at all.

You also focus some stories on coaches and managers.

Yes, as I went along in gathering research, I felt it was important to include their perspectives as well--to find out what it was like when a coach or a manager made a decision that led to a loss. That's why Ron Washington, the manager of the Texas Rangers who was one strike away--twice--from winning the World Series, was important to include. As was Pete Carroll, coach of the Seattle Seahawks, whose call to throw a pass (that was intercepted), rather than try to run it in for a touchdown in the closing minutes of the Super Bowl in 2015, will be forever scrutinized--right or wrong.

Were your subjects eager to speak with you?

Some understood the goal of the book right away, others took a bit of cajoling. By the end of the initial interview--which I always tried to limit to two hours of face-to-face time--they all "got it." Obviously, some of the more personal stories involving struggles took some trust-building, and follow-ups were needed. In fact, each person granted us a minimum of three interviews, not to mention various e-mails and text messages to clear up points from time to time.

What was the greatest challenge and/or reward in writing this book?

The greatest reward was believing that I'd made a contribution to the legacies of the sports figures featured in the book. History labeled them as "losers" simply because they didn't win a major sporting event. Yet, if you look at what some subjects have faced--the way their lives have been impacted by "failing," and how some have found a way to move forward--you know that they are anything but "losers." Each has dealt with some of the toughest "workplace" adversity, which all happened on a very big--and a very public--stage... recorded for all time. The biggest challenge was making sure I told the stories true to each unique circumstance, focusing on coping processes, while also tying in common themes.

The stories are steeped in fact and offer psychological insights.

Well, I have no psychology background, just a deep curiosity in human nature and behavior. I'm a grown up version of the little kid who constantly asks "why?" all the time.

Who do you hope reads this book?

I'm most honored by those who've said that they aren't sports fans, but loved the book. I truly believe that this is a self-help book wrapped in sports stories. It's about how we all face the challenges of adversity in life and the battle to overcome those challenges.

Did you learn anything surprising?

The biggest surprise for me was how honest and open each participant was in sharing deeply personal details with me. Several of them went into some dark places after their public loss. For them to relive those details and share them with me for publication was an honor that leaves me forever indebted to them.

What's your favorite sport?

I love all sports, but the NFL and World Cup Soccer are my favorites. I've been to the championships of every major sport in the U.S., but nothing ever compares to the three World Cups I've attended--all as a fan. Nothing compares!

Does not having first-hand experience playing professional sports affect your broadcasting career?

I believe it allows me to look at sports and ask the questions that everyday fans would ask if they could sit in my chair. I don't assume that folks at home automatically understand the terminology or circumstances that those around their respective sports take for granted.

Care to offer a prediction of who will play in Super Bowl LI in 2017?

Well, my preseason prediction was Arizona and Pittsburgh. I think I'm going to be off on the Arizona part. If I'm forced to right now, I'd say Seattle and Pittsburgh. A rematch of Super Bowl XL in 2006. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines


DK Publishing: Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia by Adam Bray, Cole Horton, and Tricia Barr


Book Review

Fiction

Faithful

by Alice Hoffman


Since the night of the car accident that left her best friend Helene in a coma, Shelby Richmond doesn't believe she deserves to live. Though her physical injuries are minor, Shelby drifts through her days in a state of agonized, drug-addled limbo, paralyzed by the events of that night, feeling both unworthy and unable to start living a life beyond the accident. Alice Hoffman (The Marriage of Opposites) unfolds the slow, rich, heartbreaking story of how Shelby finds her way in Faithful, her 26th novel for adults. 
 
Shelby hides out in her parents' basement, emerging occasionally to meet a high school acquaintance turned drug dealer. Ben, an amateur philosopher, becomes Shelby's boyfriend and her ticket out of their hometown; when the two move to Manhattan together, Shelby begins working at a pet store and, to her surprise, finds herself truly caring for the animals she tends. Visits from Shelby's stalwart mother, the no-nonsense friendship offered by Shelby's coworker Maravelle and her children, and postcards from a mysterious "angel" who witnessed Shelby's accident also help to tug her forward. 
 
Back at home, there are rumors that Helene, lying still in her hospital bed, has acquired mystical healing powers. People travel from miles away to beg for Helene's help, but Shelby knows her friend can't offer the one thing she craves: absolution. Bittersweet and luminous, Hoffman's novel is a testament to the quiet power of small gestures and gradual redemption. Hoffman's characters may struggle to believe in themselves, but they find strength--and give it--in their refusal to give up on each other. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Alice Hoffman's luminous, bittersweet novel follows a young woman struggling to find her way after a shattering car accident.

Simon & Schuster, $26, hardcover, 272p., 9781476799209

Henry Holt & Company: The Unbreakable Code (Book Scavenger #2) by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman


Agnes

by Peter Stamm, trans. by Michael Hofmann


A former accountant, Swiss novelist Peter Stamm (All Days Are Night; Unformed Landscape) writes with the economy of a clean balance sheet--or perhaps with the declarative reticence of Hemingway, whose A Farewell to Arms makes a minor appearance in Stamm's short 1998 novel, Agnes, available in the United States for the first time. With his spoiler-alert opening sentences, "Agnes is dead. Killed by a story," Stamm establishes his crisp, no-nonsense style. A laconic, self-centered Swiss writer, the narrator lives alone in an unadorned Chicago high-rise and spends his days in the library. In its reading room, he meets Agnes, a Ph.D. candidate in physics and cello player in a chamber group. They share a cigarette, coffee and conversation on the library's steps and, after a few dinners out, become lovers. Impulsively, she asks him to write a story about her: "It would be like having my portrait painted."
 
He describes his attraction with detachment: "I couldn't claim it was love at first sight, but she interested me and took up my thoughts." Gradually his story of their relationship moves from the past to a prediction of the future. When Agnes becomes pregnant, they argue about abortion and then separate. After her spontaneous miscarriage, they reunite. Agnes wants to know where their relationship will go--how the story will end. He shares his trouble crafting it: "Endings are always difficult.... Life doesn't go in for endings, it goes on." But then, as we know from the first sentence, it doesn't for Agnes. Stamm's spare parable of love, literature, freedom and loss is a bittersweet story of the power of story. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: In spare and dispassionate prose, Swiss novelist Stamm's early novel is the narrator's story of a love affair with a woman who asks that he write a story about her, a story whose ending causes him difficulties.

Other Press, $18.95, hardcover, 160p., 9781590518113

Delacorte Press: The Explorers: The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress


Thus Bad Begins

by Javier Marías, trans. by Margaret Jull Costa


Javier Marías takes his novel's title, Thus Bad Begins, from Hamlet's words to his mother ("Thus bad begins and worse remains behind"), setting the story in Madrid in 1980, when Spain hovered on the verge of legalizing divorce.
 
Eduardo Muriel--a Spanish film director approaching his 50s, with an Errol Flynn moustache and an eye patch--needs a young personal assistant like 23-year-old Juan de Vere to keep him on his frenetic shooting schedule, which he traditionally dictates while lying supine on the floor. One day Muriel asks Juan what he would do if a lifelong friend were not as he had always believed him to be.

This question launches a plot involving spying, lying, trickery, manipulation, eavesdropping and secret motives that stretch back to the unspeakable crimes of the Spanish Civil War. The mystery surrounds a confounding scene of marital degradation that Juan secretly witnesses--one of sheer malice that Muriel inflicts on his adoring wife, Beatriz.

Marías embeds bristling humor and a wealth of parenthetical insights and wise observations within page-long sentences and extended paragraphs. He playfully manipulates these into a tantalizing plot, one that often slides laterally as it inches toward the next incident, every word or action considered in detail. Out of dozens of subplots that Marías teases, the ones that actually fuel the novel are well chosen and gripping. The secret behind the Muriels' miserable marriage is suitably horrific, and the 445-page novel's conclusion is graceful, fair and hugely satisfying. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: A Spanish film director's marriage-gone-wrong begs questions about telling the truth in love.

Knopf, $27.95, hardcover, 464p., 9781101946084

Chronicle Books: Happiness Is... 200 Things I Love about Mom/Dad by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar


Cabo de Gata

by Eugen Ruge, trans. by Anthea Bell


In this slim, unassuming novel, Eugen Ruge (In Times of Fading Light) experiments with form and style, setting a plot of quietly tortured self-exploration in an austere Spanish village. Cabo de Gata is almost minimalist in its events, but expert detail fills out a story larger than its circumstances. In Anthea Bell's translation from the German, the unnamed narrator's voice suits him perfectly.
 
In Berlin in the years just after the Wall came down, Ruge's narrator feels stuck. He has a good-enough if meaningless job; his ex-girlfriend calls only to ask him to help care for her daughter; he suspects the punks in the ground-floor apartment stole his bicycle. He sees the rest of his life rolling out in front of him in mind-numbing routine, doomed "like the undead" to empty repetition. And so he leaves. 
 
Indecision about where to travel pleases rather than alarms him: he seeks the unknown, "for the sake of experiment," because he is also an aspiring novelist. He chiefly wants someplace quiet and warm, and so flees to Cabo de Gata, a town in Andalusia promised by the travel guides to offer "a breath of Africa." 
 
The narrator tells his story from a distance, from a much later time in which he hints that he has been very successful, and he pointedly chooses not to consult notes or check his facts ("I could Google it," he writes, but he doesn't.) On the surface the odd story of a troubled man haunting a Spanish town, Cabo de Gata also poses questions about life's directions and perspectives. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: This clever, stylish novel follows a German man's quietly tortured self-exploration in a Spanish village.

Graywolf Press, $14, paperback, 120p., 9781555977573

Mystery & Thriller

The Hidden People

by Alison Littlewood


While attending the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London in 1851, Albert Mirrals meets his beautiful cousin for the first time. When she begins to sing a popular tune being played on an organ, he is struck by the splendor of her voice. Although he is obviously affected by Lizzie's innocence and purity, his father know she's uneducated and not a suitable candidate for marriage. The group hastily parts ways and Albie doesn't think much about Lizzie until 10 years later, when he hears of her murder at the hands of her husband. Determined to discover why the man committed the crime on such a pure creature, Albie travels to the small, rural town of Halfoak, where traditions run deep and the advance of the new sciences and technologies unveiled at the Great Exhibition have yet to appear. 
 
What he discovers is a town full of myths and superstitions, where the local folks are wary of strangers and conduct their business in time-tested ways that push the boundaries of reality. When his wife unexpectedly arrives in the village to share his prolonged stay, Albie begins to question his own life and ponder whether the villagers actually know more than he first surmised. 
 
In a slow and methodical way, Alison Littlewood (The Cold Season) has produced a dark fantasy world where gossip, rumor and supposition have been creatively blended with the introspective musings of a man who suddenly must question everything--and everyone--around him. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: When a young woman is murdered, her cousin's investigation into her death opens a doorway into a world of superstition.

Jo Fletcher Books, $26.99, hardcover, 368p., 9781681442938

A Very Pukka Murder

by Arjun Raj Gaind


His Highness the Maharaja Sikander Singh, king of Rajpore, a small kingdom in northern India, is bored. The New Year's festivities put on by the English weren't enough to rouse Sikander, but the news that Major William Russell, in charge of the English forces in Rajpore, was found apparently poisoned on the first morning of 1909, does.

Russell, the English Resident, was a hard man, and the curious Sikander soon discovers that he was not alone in disliking him. Sikander and the Resident's servants felt the lash (sometimes quite literally) of his racism, but even the Resident's fellow Englishmen seem to have many motives to wish him dead. He thwarted ambitions, preyed on defenseless women and angered many important people.

It will take all of Sikander's cunning to solve the crime; his status as Maharaja allows him to go where other Indians are not permitted and to ask the questions that the English are too prim to pose.

Arjun Raj Gaind, an Indian comic book writer, has written a delightfully intriguing mystery as his first novel. A Very Pukka Murder captures the spirit of the British Raj--with its appalling racism and indolence--while still letting the legacy of Sikander's ancestors represent India's glorious past. Sikander knows that his penchant for crime solving isn't pukka (proper), but he can't stop himself, and the reader will cheer his indefatigable inquisitiveness on. Armchair travelers, mystery readers and history lovers are sure to enjoy this interesting twist on life in the British Empire. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A Very Pukka Murder is set in India in 1909, starring a curious and dilettante Maharaja who solves mysteries as his hobby.

Poisoned Pen Press, $26.95, hardcover, 338p., 9781464206436

History

The Spy Who Couldn't Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI's Hunt for America's Stolen Secrets

by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee


The Spy Who Couldn't Spell is the dramatic nonfiction story of the pursuit, capture and conviction of United States spy Brian Patrick Regan. Based on his 2010 article in Wired, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee's first book is both an engaging thriller and a timely peek inside the machinations of the U.S.'s security bureaucracies. Regan was a master sergeant analyst with the semi-secret, multibillion-dollar-budgeted National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), where his high security clearance gave him access to the complete infrastructure of the U.S. satellite surveillance apparatus and to the top secret Intelink intranet database used by the country's intelligence agencies. In the late 1990s, he accumulated more than 20,000 pages of documents, CD-ROMs and videotapes with details of the entire U.S. air defense and surveillance systems, and then secreted them out of his restricted-access building in a gym bag with the intent to sell them to "Axis of Evil" countries--or whomever would pay. When a confidential informant intercepted a Regan packet on its way to the Libya consulate, FBI Special Agent Steve Carr was assigned what became the biggest case of his young career.

A longtime staff writer for Science, Bhattacharjee extensively researched court and other public documents, and conducted numerous interviews with Carr and Regan's colleagues and family. He tells a story that would make a kickass movie. Once Regan's stolen documents were recovered, Carr discovered that their potential damage to United States defense was worse than anyone imagined: "an intelligence disaster on an unparalleled scale, potentially undermining the U.S. military for decades." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: With great suspense, The Spy Who Couldn't Spell tells the fascinating story of a contemporary spy and the team that caught him.

New American Library, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9781592409006

Psychology & Self-Help

What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars

by David Wood


David Wood was raised a Quaker, did civilian service during the Vietnam War, and became a war journalist after his first assignment to a war zone in 1977. He has been a war reporter for 30 years. In his first book, What Have We Done, Wood argues that we have failed to prepare our military troops adequately for the moral shocks and dissonance of war, not supported them during their service and neglected to care for them when they return.

"Moral injury" describes the emotional reactions that come with reflection after someone returns from war to safety. "Sorrow, remorse, grief, shame, bitterness and moral confusion--What is right?--signal moral injury, while flashbacks, loss of memory, fear, and a startle complex seem to characterize PTSD." Wood focuses on the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because they were our first major conflicts fought entirely with an "all-volunteer" military, which "meant that those who chose to stay home mostly remained ignorant of who served and why." Rates of mental illness, suicide and violent crime among active troops and veterans have soared during these wars.

These matters are not a problem only for our military, however. "What is the accountability of those who engineered the wars? Of the politicians who pushed for and funded the fighting year after year? Of those of us who silently accepted the rationales for war, voted for those in power, and paid our taxes? ...Perhaps we are morally injured as well and, like so many combat veterans, are reluctant to peer into that darkness." What Have We Done offers readers the chance to do so. --Sara Catterall 

Discover: A veteran war reporter examines the relatively recent understanding of moral injury as a literal combat wound.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 304p., 9780316264150

Sports

Losing Isn't Everything: The Untold Stories and Hidden Lessons Behind the Toughest Losses in Sports History

by Curt Menefee, Michael Arkush


Host of Fox NFL Sunday Curt Menefee and co-writer Michael Arkush (Rush!) present an in-depth examination of pivotal instants in the lives of 15 athletes, coaches and managers who have been on the losing side of memorable moments in sports.
 
Menefee and Arkush profile a range of familiar names and incidents: Boston Red Sox pitcher Calvin Schiraldi gave up the final game of the 1986 World Series to the New York Mets. Craig Ehlo of the Cleveland Cavaliers allowed Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls to score the winning shot in the '89 NBA playoffs. Lou Michaels, a placekicker from the Baltimore Colts, missed a field goal that cost the team the '69 Super Bowl. Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis made a split-second decision at the finish line of the 2006 Winter Olympics that banished her from gold. In the fourth round of the 1991 U.S. Open, Aaron Krickstein played his heart out against veteran tennis icon Jimmy Connors, but it wasn't enough. With one strike away from winning the 2011 World Series, Ron Washington, manager of the Texas Rangers, made a fateful decision. Underdog French golfer, Jean Van de Velde choked in the home stretch of the 1990 British Open. And runner Mary Decker literally fell short at the 1984 Olympic Games.
 
Every riveting, heartrending profile offers a well-chronicled history into events that led up to the dramatic moment that changed everything, along with a fascinating analysis of how each affected athlete sorted through complicated emotions and moved on--or didn't--after the fact. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: Riveting stories document the pivotal career losses that changed athletes' lives.

Dey Street Books, $26.99, hardcover, 272p., 9780062440075

Children's & Young Adult

Roland

by Nelly Stéphane, illus. by André François


Nelly Stéphane (or Nelly Gensbourger) was a 1950s French novelist. André François, illustrator of Little Boy Brown and more than 60 New Yorker covers, has been called "the greatest French graphic designer of the 20th century." Together they made the picture book Roland, first published in 1958, the invigorating story of a French schoolboy who has the power to create living, breathing things with just a pencil and a word.
 
When Roland is banished to a classroom corner, he draws "a long tiger" on the wall and says, "Crack!" A real tiger materializes and stretches to its full length, like a parade dragon, to greet the teacher. Dismissing all the students but Roland for recess, the teacher scolds the young tiger-maker: " 'See to it that you don't say "CRACK" again.' " It gets worse. When Roland pets his friend Isabel's fur coat and says "CRACK!" the coat turns into "many little fur animals" who run away. She accuses him of theft, "So the police took Roland to prison." One of the little fur animals that Roland magicked helps the boy escape while the guard is sleeping. The surreal story becomes more and more absurd (dancing dolls, donkeys and swordfish!) and eventually circles back to tie up a few loose ends... but not at all tightly, thank goodness.
 
François's splendid illustrations with their expressive dots and bold brushstrokes in black, mustard and blue are as extraordinary as Roland himself. There are plenty of children's books about the power of imagination, but few as much fun--or as gorgeous--as this one. A treasure. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A French schoolboy gives life to animals when he draws them and then says "CRACK!" in this delightful re-issue of a 1958 favorite, illustrated by André François.

Enchanted Lion, $17.95, hardcover, 36p., ages 4-8, 9781592702046

Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse

by Catherine Reef


Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) had "a face not easily forgotten," wrote Reverend Osborne in 1854 of the determined 34-year-old British nurse in charge of Scutari's (now Istanbul's) mammoth Barrack Hospital in Turkey. It was a face "with an eye betokening great self possession," he added. Nightingale needed to be self-possessed. The Crimean War was raging, soldiers were wounded and dying, and she described the foul British army hospital where she was stationed as "the Kingdom of Hell." Nightingale became internationally famous for these years of wartime service, but "the Lady with the Lamp" (she often visited suffering soldiers at night with her Turkish candle lantern) returned to England in 1856 and for years continued her work to improve "the modern profession of nursing," wartime medical care, public health in India, the conditions of British workhouses and much more.
 
Educated, cultivated and curious, Nightingale was a rebel in her time. In mid-19th-century England, "a pretty, accomplished daughter of a man with means" was expected to stick around the house, obeying either father or husband. At the heart of seasoned biographer Catherine Reef's Florence Nightingale is the story of a girl, then woman, caught between her ambitions and her family's expectations, who fought her whole life to do something that mattered... and excelled at it. Abundant color and black-and-white illustrations--including 19th-century cartoons, family portraits, paintings, sketches and photographs--illuminate Nightingale's family life in Victorian England as well as her travels to Italy, Egypt, Greece, Turkey and beyond. 
 
Florence Nightingale's name has become synonymous with "caring nurse" around the world and this cleanly designed, vividly spun, meticulously researched and sourced biography shows readers why. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Veteran nonfiction author Catherine Reef explores the life and work of British nurse Florence Nightingale in this fascinating illustrated biography for middle-grade readers.

Clarion, $18.99, hardcover, 192p., ages 11-up, 9780544535800

You in Five Acts

by Una LaMarche


Una LaMarche's fourth young adult novel, You in Five Acts, has crossover appeal for adult readers who may know her from her hilarious memoir, Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer.
 
Set in Janus Academy, a prestigious Manhattan performing arts school, You in Five Acts follows five seniors--friends with one semester left to secure futures in competitive fields. LaMarche frames the novel in acts, each narrated by one of the five. The countdown to graduation begins January 6, but tension is set in the "Overture" with Diego confessing, "I swore I'd never let you down. I didn't know then it was a lie." Each of the friends directs his or her story to another: ballerina Joy to her longtime friend Diego, a "straight-boy ballet dancer"; privileged, beautiful but frenetic actress Liv to Dave, a charismatic new transfer from Los Angeles with acting cred; Ethan, a playwright from Staten Island who feels geographically excluded from the Manhattan crowd and harbors an unrequited love for Liv; Dave to Liv; and Diego to Joy. Their well-meaning parents provide support, and always lurking is Diego's cousin and antithesis, Dante, who deals drugs.
 
Friendships, romance and pressures overlap, as the final performances approach. As Liv's drug use escalates, her choices affect the quintet and foreshadow the novel's end. The fifth and closing act is also Diego's, dated May 13, and its culmination envelops readers within the angst, passion and vulnerability of young adults with lofty goals and complex emotions. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: Five performing art students in New York City approach graduation and the launch of their careers with anxiety complicated by their intertwined friendships.

Razorbill, $17.99, hardcover, 352p., 9781101998939

Performing Arts

The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1963

by Ed Ward


If you're a boomer who grew up with ears glued to the radio, many of the musicians, bands, songs and late-night DJs mentioned in Ed Ward's The History of Rock & Roll will be familiar. But even for the uninitiated, what makes this history so enlightening and entertaining is the background detail that musicologist, journalist and NPR rock historian Ward (Rock of Ages) brings to the party. In a colloquial, conversational voice, he recounts stories of rock's roots and branches--biographical tidbits about its musicians, tales of business shenanigans among recording labels and promoters, and deep dives into the mutations and evolution of the songs. Going back to early field slave chants, gospel and country blues, Ward picks his way through the players who gradually put these influences together into what was first called "race music" and became rhythm and blues, and ultimately rock 'n' roll--the birth of which he credits to Roy Brown's 1947 jump blues song "Good Rocking Tonight," which Elvis covered in 1954 and helped put rock 'n' roll on the commercial map.
 
Much of rock history has been explored in more detail, but it takes a methodical and opinionated aficionado like Ward to tell the whole story. Like a knowledgeable raconteur arguing top-10 lists with buddies around a table, he really does seem to know everything--jukebox hits, regional labels, girl groups, teen idols, TV dance shows--including rock's underbelly of payola, racism and plenty of disturbing the peace. And this is only the first volume. Stay tuned. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Ward knows his rock 'n' roll, and this comprehensive history is as entertaining as it is informative.

Flatiron Books, $35, hardcover, 416p., 9781250071163

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Kids Buzz

Proof of Lies
by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Dear Reader,

How far you would go to save the only person you have left?

PROOF OF LIES is an adrenaline rush that transports the reader from clam chowder in Boston to a boat chase through the dark canals of Venice. My goal was to capture the places I’ve traveled so vividly fans would research airfare to Tuscany. I also wanted to create a family drama so emotional fans would cry and cheer for Anastasia Phoenix.

Even if your world isn’t full of superspies and clandestine organizations, by the time you reach the dramatic ending you’ll be wondering—who would you risk your life for?

For a chance to win a signed copy, email diana.wallach@yahoo.com.

Bookishly yours,

Diana Rodriguez Wallach

 

Buy this book

KidsBuzz: Proof of Lies by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

PUBLISHER: Entangled Publishing

PUB DATE: March 2017

AGE RANGE: 12 and up

TYPE OF BOOK: YA Thriller

ISBN: 9781633756083

PRICE: $9.99

 

Spirit Quest
by Jennifer Frick-Ruppert

Dear Reader,

What if you found a book that combined adventure and history—a way to bring the past to life? Spirit Quest is the story of an Algonquin boy as he grows from child to young adult.

I got the idea to write Spirit Quest while studying the history of the North Carolina coast. I conducted historical research into the lost colonists and native peoples of the Southeast. This book follows the Native American people who met the first English explorers of America. It is the coming-of-age story of Skyco who must learn not only the practical skills of hunting, fishing, and starting a fire, but also the importance of community, connection to ancestry, and the natural linkages in the web of life.

Email me at jfrickruppert@gmail.com to enter to win one of five signed copies!

 

Jennifer Frick-Ruppert

 

Buy this book

KidsBuzz: Spirit Quest by Jennifer Frick-Ruppert

PUBLISHER: Amberjack Publishing

PUB DATE: April 18, 2017

AGE RANGE: 9 - 12

TYPE OF BOOK: Middle Grade Fiction

ISBN: 9781944995119

PRICE: $15.99

 

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