Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, December 16, 2016


Amulet Books: Diary of a Wimpy Kid - 500 Weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List

From My Shelf

Simon & Schuster Presents A Book Club Matinee at the Ed Sullivan Theater

Hachette Books: Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Gift Books: The Natural World

Starting at the top of the world, Thames & Hudson's Mountains: Mapping the Earth's Extremes ($55) uses satellite technology to explore 13 of the world's greatest mountains, with essays about each; with 198 illustrations, it's a magnificent collection. More focused, but still breathtaking, is Alaska Range: Exploring the Last Great Wild by Carl Battreall (Mountaineers Books, $29.95). Battreall has photographed the 650-mile stretch for years--an "isolated wilderness... to be celebrated, something that needs to be preserved."

Telescoping further, University of Washington Press's Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon by Michael Engelhard ($29.95) is a celebration of this "nomad of the sea and tundra... a source of wonder and terror." As polar bears are disappearing due to climate change, wolves are thriving, at least relatively. Wolf Haven International is one of the reasons, and its story is told in Wolf Haven: Sanctuary and the Future of Wolves in North America (Sasquatch Books, $24.95). With photographs by Annie Marie Musselman and an essay by Brenda Peterson, this is a moving tribute to the wild, beautiful, haunting animals that have found sanctuary.

Author and photographer Paul Bannick showcases another haunting and mysterious animal in Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls (Braided River, $34.95). The stare of a Northern Hawk Owl perched on a burned snag, a Burrowing Owl lit by the last of the sun's rays, fleecy Boreal Owl nestlings--these amazing and fragile creatures are losing habitat, and that deserves our attention. Renowned nature photographer Art Wolfe has revised and updated, with 50 new images, Migrations: Wildlife in Motion (Earth Aware Editions, $35). From soaring Scarlet Ibis in Brazil to Pacific Walrus in Alaska to snuggling Indiana bats to Ladybird beetles, Wolfe honors animals large and small around the globe. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers


Shadow Mountain: The Lady of the Lakes by Josi S. Kilpack


Book Candy

Drinks by the Book

Columbia Room in Washington, D.C., serves "a cocktail literally made with old books," the Washingtonian reported.

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Quirk Books found some "fictional characters who deserve a cup of hot cocoa."

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"Never before have I felt so empowered to learn as I do today," Bill Gates wrote in sharing this year's version of his annual "My Favorite Books" list.

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"Starting a book club at work?" Bustle asked before sharing "7 tips for making it a success."

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Infographic of the day: Venngage featured "the Hogwarts guide to company culture."

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"Do you read like everyone else?" Buzzfeed helps you find out.


The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz


Great Reads

Rediscover: Julieta

Julieta, the Spanish film directed by Pedro Almodóvar that opens in the U.S. on December 21, is based on three short stories from Canadian Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro's 2004 book Runaway. In "Chance," "Soon" and "Silence," Munro explores the life of a single character, Juliet Henderson. Almodóvar's film turns her into Julieta, played by Emma Suárez, a middle aged woman living in Madrid who has a chance encounter with one of her estranged daughter's childhood friends. Julieta postpones a planned move to Portugal, choosing instead to try to reconnect with her daughter, who lives in Switzerland and has three children.

Almodóvar (The Skin I Live In) shifts between present day Julieta and her past self (played by Adriana Ugarte) with extensive flashbacks, revealing a tumultuous romantic history and the source of her daughter's estrangement. Julieta made its international debut at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where it received positive reviews. A movie tie-in collection of the three Munro short stories from Runaway, titled Julieta: Three Stories That Inspired the Movie ($11, 9780525434252), has just been published by Vintage and includes a foreword by Pedro Almodóvar. --Tobias Mutter

Swoon Reads: You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando


Holiday Reading

'Tis the season for Hallmark holiday movies and themed TV episodes. But there are also plenty of Christmas books to be enjoyed, preferably with a roaring fire and a cup of cocoa nearby. Sure, some of them are a little cheesy, but there are also darker options for those with a less starry-eyed perspective. Here's a mix of great Christmas titles for every holiday mood.

Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop (Morrow, paperback $14.99) by Jenny Colgan continues the lives of the characters from Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams (although it can be read as a standalone). With quirky English village characters, delicious candy all around, and Rosie trying to figure out the nuances of her new relationship, it's a pleasantly sweet story.

Charles Todd's The Walnut Tree (Morrow, paperback $9.99) unfolds at Christmas as World War One begins, and Lady Elspeth Douglas finds herself trapped in Paris. Her almost-fiancé, the gallant Alain, is off with the French army, and Elspeth feels compelled to return to England and be of service. As she attempts to reach Calais, she gets drawn into a battle and is rescued by handsome Captain Peter Gilchrist, a childhood acquaintance. The Walnut Tree is a perfect holiday tale (and a must-read for Downton Abbey fans). It conjures up a genteel era obliterated by the onslaught of war.

In Blue Christmas (Harper, paperback $11.99) by Mary Kay Andrews, it's a challenging time for heroine Weezie Foley. She's facing business competition, her boyfriend is depressed about the holidays because of bad memories, and other obstacles keep cropping up. But Weezie is determined to make this a great Christmas, and Andrews's light and breezy tone strikes just the right balance.

Mischief of the Mistletoe (NAL, paperback $15) by Lauren Willig is a historical holiday romp, featuring Mr. Turnip Fitzhugh (who was not nicknamed for his mental prowess), Miss Arabella Dempsey, teacher at a select young ladies' seminary, and some French spies who are trying to use the Dowager Duchess of Dovedale's Christmas festivities as a cover for their activities.

Miracle on 5th Avenue (Harlequin, paperback, $7.99) by Sarah Morgan starts with a cliché--a young, blonde, Christmas-loving food blogger ends up trapped by a snowstorm in the penthouse apartment of a gruff, holiday-hating mystery writer. But Morgan's clever dialogue makes the plot believable, and will have the reader rooting for Eva and Lucas to resolve their difficulties in time for a Christmas miracle.

And in Rosamunde Pilcher's Winter Solstice (St. Martin's Press, paperback $8.99), five lonely strangers are drawn together at the holidays. A grieving man, a lonely woman and a teenager on the run are among those who find affection in unexpected ways. A heartwarming story, Winter Solstice is a testament to the power of love.

Christmas Mysteries & More
Envious Casca (Sourcebooks Landmark, paperback $13.99) by Georgette Heyer is a quintessential country house mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. Curmudgeonly Nathan Herriard is killed on the eve of Christmas, and nearly all of his guests and relatives are glad he's dead, leaving Inspector Hemingway quite a puzzle to solve.

Several short stories by the late P.D. James have been gathered in a newly published collection, The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories (Knopf, $24). Some are Christmas-themed, including one starring a young Adam Dalgliesh, and fans of James's writing will enjoy this dark little holiday treat.

Martin Edwards, a connoisseur of British crime fiction, has collected 16 stories from the genre's Golden Age in his third mystery anthology, Silent Nights (Poisoned Pen, paperback $12.95). There are a few classic pieces by well-known authors, but he also includes less familiar writers. This collection will amuse and satisfy mystery lovers who like a little murder with their eggnog.

Arnaldur Indridason's Erlendur series has brought Iceland to life for readers around the world, and the third entry, Voices (Picador, paperback $17), tells the story of a hotel doorman stabbed to death in the middle of the busy Christmas rush. Erlendur, a stereotypically gloomy and introspective detective, must face his own demons amid the holiday busyness, while also solving the complicated case.

Away in a Manger (Minotaur, paperback $15.99) by Rhys Bowen stars the indefatigable amateur detective Molly Murphy Sullivan. In 1905, most women are content to stay home with their children, but when Molly discovers a pair of well-bred English children begging on the streets of New York City at Christmastime, she's determined to uncover their missing mother's fate.

Connie Willis brings a touch of the fantastic to her collection Miracle and Other Christmas Stories (Bantam, paperback $7.99). From alien invasions to secret Santas to the time-traveling appearance of the actual Joseph and Mary in search of an inn, Miracle is a wonderfully different twist on a traditional Christmas.

If you're looking for a book to enjoy as a family, you can't go wrong with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (HarperCollins, paperback $5.99) by Barbara Robinson, with illustrations by Judith Gwyn Brown. The hilarious hijinks of the terrifying Herdman children (the scourge of the neighborhood), and their shenanigans during a Christmas pageant will keep both you and your children laughing.

And, finally, for a timeless holiday option for all ages, the Christmas stories from the assorted Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder have been gathered into one volume entitled A Little House Christmas Treasury (HarperCollins, $14.99). Perfect for a family read-aloud, the nostalgia created by the Ingalls family's Christmas traditions are bound to give the most peevish of relations a Christmas Carol-esque transformation.


Other Press: Is It All in Your Head? by Suzanne O'Sullivan


Book Review

Fiction

Swing Time

by Zadie Smith


It's the rare novelist who can build a world so convincing that it's difficult to leave and reenter reality after having become so thoroughly enmeshed. They're the writers who win Nobel prizes and are still anthologized years after their deaths. They woo jaded critics and laypeople alike. They're writers like Zadie Smith, author of NW, White Teeth and most recently Swing Time.

Named for the 1936 musical starring Fred Astaire (who dons blackface during one pivotal scene), the novel centers on the mostly uneasy relationship between Tracey, a talented dancer, and her friend, the narrator, both of whom persevere with varying levels of success against the tide of their low-income London neighborhood. The novel's dealings with race are as subtle and artful as its prose; the reader witnesses both girls' attempts at forging identities amidst a variety of insults and snubs, absent fathers and well-intentioned mothers, yet Smith never wields these themes bluntly. The novel's most artful component is her ability to insinuate all manner of existential questions without verging on the moralistic or all knowing. As these women persist, their paths forking, the reader too feels fractured by the many ways reality can fulfill or defer a dream.

Spanning decades, musical genres, dance styles, continents and myriad personas, Swing Time is an ambitious, all-encompassing novel that devours its audience, swallowing all other truths in its perfectly constructed reality. Let the kettle sing, let the phone rattle; the novel's sharply rendered characters and forward-charging plot are as elegant and human as a dance. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer

Discover: Swing Time follows the lives of two young Londoners and their obsession with dance, through dreams fulfilled, deferred and reimagined.

Penguin, $27, hardcover, 464p., 9781594203985

Thomas Nelson: The Angels' Share by James Markert


The Whole Town's Talking

by Fannie Flagg


Fannie Flagg's sprawling and intricately plotted saga The Whole Town's Talking chronicles the founding of a small Missouri farming community called Elmwood Springs and, over the next 140 years, follows the quirky and endearing townspeople through their lives, deaths and beyond. Yes, beyond. When the town's inhabitants die and are buried in Still Meadows cemetery, their conscious existence continues and they (like the characters in Thornton Wilder's Our Town) watch and comment on the activities that continue in the living world.

Three of Flagg's previous novels were set in Elmwood Springs (including Can't Wait to Get to Heaven), and longtime fans of her uplifting fiction will appreciate discovering the backgrounds of many of their favorite characters, including plain-talking Elner Shimfissle, her social climbing sister, Ida, and Ida's nervous daughter, Norma. There are also numerous new and endearing characters, including town founder Lordor Nordstrom; his mail-order bride, Katrina; schoolteacher Lucille Bremer, who becomes the official greeter to new arrivals at Still Meadows cemetery; and the town's Peeping Tom, Lester Shingle, who has to wait decades to discover who murdered him.

Flagg is a natural storyteller who fills her novels with offbeat characters, complex plotting and generally upbeat messages. As she writes, "It takes time and a lot of suffering, but sometimes, when you least expect it, life has a strange way of working out." The Whole Town's Talking is a real crowd-pleaser: an exuberant, ambitious and plus-sized novel (more than 400 pages) that is filled with warmth, sentimental nostalgia and hilarious Southern sass. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: An exuberant and ambitious feel-good saga chronicles nearly a century and a half of a town's quirky inhabitants and its very active graveyard.

Random House, $28, hardcover, 432p., 9781400065950

Mystery & Thriller

In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper

by Lawrence Block, editor


Celebrated crime writer Lawrence Block has assembled a beguiling volume of stories, all taking inspiration from the paintings of American realist painter Edward Hopper. Each story begins with a short introduction to the contributor and a full-color reproduction of the specific Hopper painting. The stories create vibrant, compelling worlds from Hopper's on-canvas work, each one a peek into complex human relationships.

While Stephen King's "The Music Room"--as twisted a tale as any in the volume, with kidnapping and murder on offer--may be the most high-profile piece in the collection, it's definitely not the only good one. Many of the stories have a strongly feminist stance, perhaps intentionally and ironically at cross purpose with the original painting or the artist himself. Megan Abbott's "Girlie Show" is told from the perspective of Pauline, who poses nude for her painter husband. She overhears him talking about the burlesque show with an embarrassed, hushed reverence and realizes that what he's painting may not quite match her own body. The ensuing visit to the theater where the girlie show takes place leads Pauline to an empowering moment, which is depicted in the Hopper painting.

Other entries in this collection are more fantastical, less tethered to reality. Craig Ferguson's "Taking Care of Business" uses Hopper's South Truro Church as the backdrop for a bit of a ghost story, itself anchored by the church, its congregants and a preacher's fondness for marijuana.

In Sunlight or in Shadow shows off exceptional talent with 17 superb short stories based on superlative Hopper paintings, all inspired pairings of artist and writers. --Rob LeFebvre

Discover: Lawrence Block edits an astounding anthology of short fiction riffing on the paintings of Edward Hopper.

Pegasus Books, $25.95, hardcover, 288p., 9781681772455

Food & Wine

Mincemeat: The Education of an Italian Chef

by Leonardo Lucarelli , trans. by Lorena Rossi Gori , Danielle Rossi


In Mincemeat: The Education of an Italian Chef, debut author and chef Leonardo Lucarelli chronicles a haphazard career in professional kitchens throughout Italy, working long hours amid inept sous chefs, illegal dishwashers and unscrupulous owners, and lots of sex and prodigious amounts of drugs. It's not the first version of this story we've seen, but it's one of the most personal and heartfelt.

Lucarelli is not a celebrity chef; he freely admits to stumbling into his profession. Born to hippie parents in India and raised in Umbria, he went to college to study anthropology and started throwing dinner parties for friends. He lucked into his first real restaurant job with a chef who didn't examine his résumé too closely. After that, Lucarelli careened from one failing restaurant to another, gradually honing his skills and his tolerance for drugs and alcohol.

If there is a theme in Mincemeat, it's the accidental nature of fate. Lucarelli goes wherever chance and opportunity take him, knowing that, at his level, a chef's skills are fungible. His writing is genial and breathless; he veers between ardent stoicism and comic indignation. The people he writes about are what give the memoir shape and make it--and his career--meaningful. He lovingly describes friendships with a care and attention usually reserved for lovers. That's what makes Mincemeat sing. Lucarelli's sensitivity and sincerity sets him apart, and will keep him in good stead if he continues to write. --Zak Nelson

Discover: With sensitivity and sincerity, Lucarelli tells of his seemingly chaotic life as a chef.

Other Press, $25.95, hardcover, 320p., 9781590517918

Biography & Memoir

Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File

by John Edgar Wideman


Writing to Save a Life by John Edgar Wideman (Sent for You Yesterday, Philadelphia Fire) is a heartfelt and emotionally bruising mix of journalism, memoir and fictional vignettes that tackles the relationships between fathers and sons, familial and societal wounds, and racial injustice in the United States. The lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, for wolf whistling at a white woman, serves as the starting point. Till's mother famously permitted an open casket funeral for her son, and Wideman would remain haunted by a Jet magazine photograph of the young man's battered face at the funeral.

While researching the Till case many years later, Wideman discovered that Louis Till, Emmett's father, was arrested and hanged for rape and murder in Italy during World War II. This set Wideman off on a multi-generational, multi-continent journey that touches on his relationship with his father. He traveled to France to visit Louis Till's gravesite, and after reviewing Till's court martial records, which he received after countless false turns, Wideman reaches the conclusion that Till the elder was probably railroaded. He ties Emmett's tragic case to the wider ramifications for people of color in a tragically flawed justice system while also meditating on his fraught and wounded relationship with his father: "Why couldn't I say then what I would say now--you're always part of the picture, Dad. Picture is you, me, both of us and this whole precarious family in the sh*t together."

Wideman concocts a heady literary brew from straight reportage of court transcripts, fictional vignettes of an imaginary version of Louis Till and powerful memories of his own journeys. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: John Edgar Wideman has written a searing study on the power of familial relationships, race and injustice.

Scribner, $25, hardcover, 208p., 9781501147289

Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses, and Liberation of Joan Rivers

by Leslie Bennetts


Leslie Bennetts (The Feminine Mistake) explores the peaks and valleys in the life of Joan Rivers, the heralded, often outrageous comic who paved the way for other women in show business. Rivers was an "insatiable overachiever" who defied her parents' expectations for a traditional life and relentlessly pursued a comedy career despite a long list of naysayers who felt Rivers lacked talent. She wanted "to make people laugh so she could feel loved in return." With fearless courage, Rivers battled her way to the top, plummeted time and time again and forged comebacks on ever grander scales.

Drawing from interviews with friends, fellow comics, rivals and Rivers's own words, the narrative probes the comic's insecurities, her tastes in decorating and entertaining, her love life and often contentious marriage, her fiery relationship with her daughter, her unmerciful ribbing of Elizabeth Taylor, and her many plastic surgeries. Rivers's rift with Johnny Carson precipitated the devastating heartbreak of midlife catastrophes, which inspired her to reinvent herself completely. Insightful, entertaining anecdotes bolster--and often dispel--stories manufactured by Rivers herself, which furthered a 60-year career that included an Emmy and a Grammy Award, a Tony nomination, reality TV programs, bestselling books and a successful QVC clothing and jewelry line. Beyond building a billion-dollar brand, Rivers generously lent her support to AIDS patients and many others. This fascinating, well-researched portrait of a comedic legend--a "vastly influential trailblazer" and "business powerhouse"--will appeal to Rivers's fans and also earn her new ones. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: This is an intimate, enlightening and entertaining biography of comedic icon Joan Rivers.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 432p., 9780316261302

The Purple Diaries: Mary Astor and the Most Sensational Hollywood Scandal of the 1930s

by Joseph Egan


In 1936, actress Mary Astor was embroiled in a nasty, headline-grabbing custody battle with her second husband, Dr. Franklyn Thorpe, over their young daughter. Thorpe stole two 200-page ledgers that Astor used as diaries to detail her amorous adventures in Hollywood and the numerous affairs she, Thorpe and many Hollywood's luminaries were conducting. Leaking pages from these diaries to the press, Thorpe threatened to ruin Astor's career by exposing her ongoing affair with married playwright George S. Kaufman. Many film studios also feared that revealed intimate details could tarnish the images of her friends and costars, including MGM head Irving Thalberg and his wife, Norma Shearer. Joseph Egan's meticulously researched and compulsively readable The Purple Diaries re-creates the two-month court hearing and simultaneous media frenzy through diary excerpts, vintage reporting, court transcripts and new interviews.

Astor emerges as a complex and fascinating person. "Brought up to be hard on herself, she was equally hard on those around her," writes Egan. While neither warm nor nurturing, she was willing to risk her livelihood to prevent her daughter from being raised the way that had stunted her own childhood. Egan does an outstanding job of revealing the emotional background behind each player's actions, never creating villains in this drama.

The Purple Diaries is a fascinating piece of Hollywood detective work, a character study of a forward-thinking and sexually liberated woman and an examination of the tabloid press. Egan takes an 80-year-old scandal and brings it to life with compassion and psychological insight. Film buffs will find The Purple Diaries irresistible. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: The Purple Diaries revisits Mary Astor's 1936 scandalous child custody case and her sexually explicit diaries that threatened to ruin her career.

Diversion Books, $16.99, paperback, 300p., 9781682302996

Science

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World

by Steven Johnson


In his previous book, How We Got to Now, Steven Johnson examined the evolution of six inventions. In this follow-up, Wonderland, Johnson analyzes six entertainment categories, tracing the progression of simple elements of amusement or pleasure, such as shopping or illusion, into complex world-changing systems, like the Industrial Age or moving pictures. He calls it the "Hummingbird Effect." Johnson explains, "Everyone knows the old saying 'necessity is the mother of invention,' but if you do a paternity test on many of the modern world's most important ideas or institutions, you will find, invariably, that leisure and play were involved in the conception as well." To illustrate his point, he takes his audience on a winding trip through their DNA.

Using strong storytelling skills punctuated by frequent illustrations, Johnson presents fascinating history and science with captivating anecdotes and explanations. He explores beyond straightforward motivations like money or wealth, often trudging through devastating atrocities such as war and slavery, to show that simple delight and pleasure can lead to major historical and cultural changes. For instance, the European taste for spices prompted colonial exploitation, resulting in new forms of cartography and water travel.

From fashion to games, Wonderland demonstrates that observing play in current culture has the potential to open a window onto future innovations. This provocative journey promises to spark readers' curiosity, with Johnson's assortment of delights keeping them wondering what will be next. It will also have readers pondering their own pleasures, theorizing about changes the hummingbird's wings might provoke several centuries from now. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: Steven Johnson shrewdly traces how leisure and play have led to major historical and cultural innovations.

Riverhead Books, $30, hardcover, 336p., 9780399184482

A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves

by Walter Alvarez


Big History, as the name suggests, is not a field for compartmentalized ideas. It is a relatively new academic discipline that seeks to unite various branches of physical sciences with the liberal arts. Together, it posits, the humanities and sciences like biology, cosmology, physics and chemistry can give us a fuller picture of what geologist Walter Alvarez calls the "human situation." Think, for example, of a historian's compartmentalized view of any one historical period. Not only is this limited in the scope of history, but it also ignores the geological forces that shape human activity, and the physics, chemistry and cosmology behind the creation of those geological features. Big History seems on some level like a never-ending train of "why" questions, but it results in a fascinatingly full understanding of our world.

In A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves, Walter Alvarez, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of T. Rex and the Crater of Doom, uses Big History to understand the human situation better--how we got to where we are, and what "here" really is. If that sounds broad, that's because it is. A Most Improbable Journey starts at the Big Bang and narrows from there into four sections: Cosmos, Earth, Life and Humanity, closing on Homo sapiens and the astronomically incredible events that created the world and the universe as we know it. A Most Improbable Journey is a fun, fast read that will guide readers to untold other lines of inquiry. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: A geologist delivers this broad, breezy survey of the universe and humans through the multidisciplinary approach of Big History.

W.W. Norton, $26.95, hardcover, 256p., 9780393292695

Children's & Young Adult

Silo and the Rebel Raiders

by V. Peyton


British author V. Peyton's Silo and the Rebel Raiders is the witty, rousing tale of a cunning boy adventurer, set in a carefully crafted, vividly described dystopian United Kingdom, hundreds of years after the Great Catastrophe that wiped out 21st-century technology.

Ten-year-old, web-footed Silo Zyco of the island marshes--outcast, possible orphan and "Thirteenth Chronicle Keeper for the Islanders"--is a "restless, ambitious" seer who dreams bigger than a bleak, predictable lifetime of eating eels... perhaps even "a glorious career in the Capital." When the Capital's visiting inspector discovers Silo's "rare and precious" psychic abilities, the boy is recruited by the government to help "see" the past's most coveted secrets, "the source of the Ancients' power." Silo quickly learns the "grim, fortresslike" Capital is a much darker place than he imagined, his fellow child seers (even the friendly ones) are suspicious, and the titular "rebel raiders" may be more friend than foe. His "glorious career" proves to be neither.

Some of the novel's funniest moments are found in its study of the Ancients: the misinterpretation of football as "goatball," a bewildering book called Making the Most of Your Microwave, or talk of the "Us of Ay" ("the land of the brave and the home of the free") as a faraway place that may just be the stuff of legends. With vivacious, larger-than-life characters and a rollicking pace, Silo is a wonderfully entertaining blend of classic orphan tale, satire, heroic quest and fantasy. --Kyla Paterno, former children's & YA book buyer

Discover: In this entertaining, action-packed novel set in a dystopian United Kingdom, a 10-year-old, web-footed island boy is recruited by the Capital as a "seer."

Delacorte, $16.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 8-12, 9780399552410

A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by More Than 30 of Today's Favorite Children's Book Illustrators

by Beatrix Potter


In this splendid tribute to British legend and Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), 32 acclaimed children's illustrators, such as Brian Pinkney, Melissa Sweet, Jon Agee, Rosemary Wells and Chris Raschka, apply their formidable talents and distinctive styles to reimagine her much-loved characters.

Jon Agee takes on Mr. McGregor, the great villain of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, in a boldly graphic close-up involving bared man teeth and quivering bunny ears: "There was something strangely adorable and terrifying about a rabbit hiding in a watering can, with his ears poking out of the top," he writes. Chris Raschka notes, "How can you not like Tommy Brock? He is so thoroughly disagreeable.... Perfection is nice enough, but it can get a little boring." His delicious portrait of Potter's wasp-eating badger with the cabbage-leaf cigar (from The Tale of Mr. Tod) is watercolor-wonderful. G. Brian Karas illustrates a scene from Potter's own favorite tale, The Tailor of Gloucester, with thoroughly charming images of "the industrial and sartorial" mice. He writes, "Her stories could, with the smallest amount of imagination, be real."

Nine of Potter's illustrated stories are included here in chronological order by publication date: Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, The Tailor of Gloucester, Two Bad Mice, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, The Pie and the Patty Pan, Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Mr. Tod. "About This Book" introductions offer delightful insights into each story. Anyone who loves Beatrix Potter--and children's book illustration--will adore the beautiful, playful, lovingly curated A Celebration of Beatrix Potter. "Ducks and bunnies notwithstanding," writes Pat Cummings, "every story needs a bit of trouble." --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Thirty-two celebrated children's book illustrators reimagine characters from Beatrix Potter's stories in this celebration of the 150th anniversary of her birth.

Frederick Warne, $25, hardcover, 112p., ages 8-adult, 9780241249437

Goodnight Everyone

by Chris Haughton


Preschoolers will get sleepy--very, very sleepy--as they make their way through the darkening, night-falling pages of Goodnight Everyone by Irish designer and illustrator Chris Haughton. His vibrant collage-like illustrations in jewel-toned matte colors are immediately recognizable from his other picture books: Shh! We Have a Plan, Little Owl Lost and Oh No, George!

The sun is setting, and droopy-eyed animals, one by one, make preparations for bed. Mice, hares and deer yawn and stretch... but one wide-eyed bear cub isn't falling in line: "[W]ell, I'm not sleepy," says Little Bear, even though Great Big Bear is clearly on the verge of slumber herself. Little Bear wants to play, but none of the other animals has the energy.

"aren't you tired?" ask the deer
"oh no, no! not even a little bit"
says Little Bear

But young readers with eyes wide open will notice Little Bear's eyes are finally starting to close, too, and soon everyone is snoring and sighing, fast asleep. Mesmerizing, repetitious text ("the mice are sleepy... the hares are sleepy... the deer are sleepy") will have children fighting to swallow their own yawns. Early on, pages of increasing size reveal the widening scene, from tiny mice to massive bears and beyond to the starry sky. Endpapers feature midnight blue constellations--the southern sky at the beginning and the northern sky at the end, highlighting the bear-friendly Ursas Major and Minor, of course!

If Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon doesn't do the trick, Goodnight Everyone will surely send the most stubbornly awake off to slumberland. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: While everyone else in the forest gets ready for bed, one bear cub claims to be wide awake in this appealingly stylized bedtime picture book.

Candlewick, $15.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 2-5, 9780763690793

Humor

Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop

by Nick Offerman


Mirth, a word used often by craftsman Nick Offerman, sounds like what it means: spontaneous amusement expressed in brief laughter while enjoying the companionship of others. No matter which trade he's plying--acting (Parks & Recreation), writing (Gumption), performing live comedy or building things--Offerman exudes a childlike glee he wants everyone to share.

Good Clean Fun, Offerman's aptly titled third book, mixes mirth into two of his passions--wordsmithing and woodworking. He began working with wood while growing up in rural Illinois and the craft supported him as he made his way in the acting world, ultimately resulting in the Offerman Woodshop, a woodworkers' collective in East Los Angeles. Good Clean Fun is a beautiful testament to his lifelong love affair with shopcraft that will educate and delight wood nerds, language lovers, humorists and Offerman fans.

Packed with swoon-worthy photographs, cartoons, sketches and recipes for perfect cookout fare, Good Clean Fun is more than a straightforward how-to manual. It includes projects for those who have completed 1,000 dovetails and folks who have never picked up a hammer, while offering advice on tools, safety, shop fashion, the relation of beard length to virility and shop setups for the most limited of spaces.

Most importantly, Offerman is an evangelist for community and the benefits of artistic collaboration, espousing the belief that one should "always maintain the attitude of a student." The writing is smart and clever, sprinkled with a ye olde good times sentiment as well as modern day tomfoolery, and one can't help but get caught up in the good clean fun. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A beautiful, glossy coffee-table book, Nick Offerman's Good Clean Fun includes woodworking tips and instructions for craftspeople of all abilities.

Dutton Books, $35, hardcover, 352p., 9781101984659

The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz
The Nowhere Man
by Gregg Hurwitz
ISBN-13: 978-1250067852
Minotaur
01/17/2017


an exclusive interview with bestselling author Gregg Hurwitz
The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz
 

You have a master’s degree in Shakespeare from Oxford. What lessons have you learned from his work that seem particularly relevant to writing THE NOWHERE MAN and your other thrillers?

 “One thing is that you embrace the limitations of a form in some ways in order to maximize your storytelling impact. Shakespeare wrote these highly structured, convention-bound stories. They all have five acts. A lot of these are borrowed stories, right? But the thing is, within these parameters of existing themes, within the conventions that bind the form, you can strive to do greater things. Another part of it is, the flaws in the story need to be in some ways embodied in the characters. That’s the tragic flaw within tragedy. If you just write about terrible things happening to good people, well, that’s just life. What’s dramatic is when the choices that people make bring them to particular crossroads. And it can be some little moral misstep—it doesn’t matter how big it is—but there is some sort of misstep or straying off the path that opens the door to unforeseen consequences.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

ALSO FEATURED ON THE the big THRILL…
 The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner The Old Man by Thomas Perry The Ripper's Shadow by Laura Joh Rowland The Bid by Adrian Magson

Stalked by Elizabeth Heiter

THE TWILIGHT WIFE by A.J. BANNER: The author of The Good Neighbor follows it with another tale of psychological suspense: A marine biologist who lost her memory after a diving accident begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage and cryptic relationships with people she thought were friends. Read more at The Big Thrill.

THE OLD MAN by THOMAS PERRY: In this standalone thriller, Perry tells the story of a seemingly harmless retiree in Vermont who was a hotshot in army intelligence 35 years ago, and when he learns someone wants him dead, he must reawaken those survivor instincts to contend with his fateful history. Find out more here.

THE RIPPER’S SHADOW by LAURA JOH ROWLAND: In the first of a new historical-mystery series, Rowland creates a female photographer who in 1888 Whitechapel gathers a motley group of friends to solve the crime of the century after she realizes she’s linked to Jack the Ripper’s victims. Learn more at The Big Thrill.

THE BID by ADRIAN MAGSON: When a drone expert disappears, investigators track his movements. With few clues to go on, the hunt moves from London to New York, gathering speed as they close in on a horrifying plan to kill the president and inflict total damage on an Air Force base. Visit The Big Thrill for more. 

STALKED by ELIZABETH HEITER: After a 17-year-old-year-old disappears from inside her high school an FBI profiler is called in and discovers that everyone close to the popular cheerleader has something to hide, from estranged parents, to an older boyfriend with questionable connections, to a best friend who envies her life. Read more here.

  

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