Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, May 25, 2012
From My Shelf
Listening to Every Word
We've been talking a lot about audio books at Shelf Awareness lately. One of us has a temporarily wonky eye and will be trying a few books on CD. Another had an unsettling experience listening to The Last Werewolf while driving to work: there are more than a few scenes that are not something you want to be listening to with your windows open at a stoplight. Which made us wonder about audio narrators: Can they actually voice some of the sexier (or gorier) scenes straight through the first time? Or do they sometimes balk, like Ellen DeGeneres reading Fifty Shades of Grey. And what about listeners?
While reading a Chelsea Cain thriller, for instance, you might want to gloss over torture scenes (this reader sure did), but with audio, every slice and nick must be listened to. No turning away from that, or from a poorly written seduction scene. But should we read every word an author writes? Every sentence has been (we hope) carefully constructed, every word chosen with care. Who are we to cavalierly scan a page? With audio, we become fully committed to the text.
The first time I listened to an audio book, I was on a three-hour drive home and needed to read my latest book club novel. I stopped at Powell's Books in Portland, purchased the unabridged CDs, and settled in for a pleasant multitasking trip. It didn't occur to me that listening to a book takes a lot longer than reading it. Needless to say, after three hours and two CDs, I still wasn't finished. My next attempt at driving a long distance and listening to a book was a disaster. What I soon discovered was that when the publisher said "unabridged," they really meant it: the reading included the footnotes in their entirety. I switched to Alan Jackson and Adele before my coffee got cold. --Marilyn Dahl, reviews editor, Shelf Awareness
Fifty Shades of Popularity; Bookshelves; Electric Books
Fifty Shades of Grey state by state: Goodreads created a "Fifty States of Grey" infographic showing that while "readers are most concentrated in the the Tri-State and New England," ratings indicate that the "Southern and Plains states like the book more than the rest of the country."
The Hold on Tight adjustable bookshelf is a finalist in the Dwell Live/Work Design Contest, Laughing Squid reported.
Decoist offered "20 bookshelf decorating ideas" and asked the all-important interior design question: "What if decorating your bookshelf were as important as decorating the living room?"
"25 awesome minimalist book covers" were showcased by Flavorwire, which wrote: "There's something so satisfying about the minimalist style--modern design is often hectic and showy, and while that can be beautiful, we tend to agree with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who said 'A designer knows that he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.' "
Electric literature: Apartment Therapy introduced designer Dave Hakkens's Plugbook, which is tome-shaped, hides cables and provides two outlets.
Further Reading: Espionage
If there's anything we know about spies, it's that they hide, they hide in plain sight, in the most everyday places--possibly the tailor plying her needle in a quiet shop, the dapper man sipping wine at a restaurant table, even the mom at the playground with her two small sons.
In Maria Duenas's sweeping novel The Time in Between, Sira Quiroga leaves her homeland of 1940s Spain and her job in her mother's dressmaking atelier to travel to Morocco with a handsome lover. Soon finding herself alone and pregnant with no friends, no money and no way to return home, Sira begins rebuilding her life. When she opens her own couture dressmaker's shop in Tangiers, she begins catering to the wives of international diplomats who visit Morocco, armed with concealed guns and better-concealed secrets. Sira must deftly navigate the crosscurrents of political intrigue and international style, as she begins hiding coded information in her sketches of the latest fashions.
Set in the same era but in a far different place, Mark Mills's The Information Officer centers on Major Max Chadwick, an Englishman stationed on Malta during World War II with the duty of maintaining Maltese support for the British. Despite constant bombings and a surplus of broken-down aircraft, Chadwick's job is going well, until a series of local young women turn up dead. Trying to hide the murders from the public while searching for the killer, Chadwick also must keep under wraps his affair with a married woman, whose submarine officer husband is a prime suspect.
Kate Moore, the protagonist of Chris Pavone's debut The Expats, is a former (or so she thought) CIA agent who jumps at the chance to move to Luxembourg with her husband and two young sons, thinking she'll finally have a normal life. But she quickly grows bored with her new routine, not to mention suspicious of a few friends in the expat community. Meanwhile, her husband's job may involve more than maintaining electronic security for banks, but can she be sure?
Like all good spy novels, these three books lead readers on a dizzying dance as they obscure, camouflage and finally reveal the truth, while tackling important questions of love, career, loyalty and who can truly be trusted. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
The Writer's Life
Craig Johnson: Books into TV
On Tuesday we interviewed Craig Johnson about his latest mystery, As the Crow Flies. Johnson also had time to talk to us about his Walt Longmire novels being turned into a television show for A&E. The network has ordered 10 episodes, premiering June 3, starring Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire, Katee Sackhoff as Vic Moretti and Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear.
How involved are you in the television series?
Well, it's kind of funny because all the other writers that I've spoken to pretty much said that, yeah, they will write you a check and then they will say "see ya" and that'll be the end of that, you won't hear from them again. Maybe you'll recognize what's on television when it comes on. And my experience was something completely different than that.
I think a lot of it had to do with the executive producers--Greer Shepherd, who was the big executive producer for The Closer and Nip/Tuck, and John Coveny and Hunt Baldwin. All these people that are involved with the show, they've really done good work. They were really concerned about making sure that they got the area right. It even got to the point where they hired my buddy Marcus Red Thunder as another creative consultant and brought him there for the filming of the pilot.
So I think it's all according to who you're working with, and I was very lucky to land with some really incredible people. They kept me in the loop throughout the entire process. They sent me DVDs of the actors that they were looking at for the roles, which is just crazy--they don't ever do that. They were two weeks into the process, and I get a phone call from them and they said, "We're having a real problem cutting your first book, The Cold Dish, down to 45 minutes." I said, "You are? My first draft was over 650 pages long. I can understand that. "
They said we had to come up with some other ideas, because if we get a go for this, it'll be 10-12 episodes for the first season. I've only written eight books. What they were wanting to do was take bits and pieces from the books and then elaborate from those to make the episodes. So I discussed with them which pieces would work in that kind of a format. Then they wrote the scripts and sent them for me to go through and change things, tell them about stuff, add things, or whatever, then ship them back to them. Then they brought us down there for the three weeks that they filmed the pilot episode.
Where did they film the pilot?
They filmed it down near Las Vegas and New Mexico and in Santa Fe, where they had sound stages and crews and that kind of stuff. They filmed it in March, which was kind of funny because when they were gonna go for the pilot, they sent Chris Donahue to Wyoming and Montana to scout locations, and he looked at them for a minute, and he goes, "When does this pilot take place, what time of year?"
They said late in the spring. He goes, "Well, have any of you ever been to Wyoming or Montana in March?" Nobody in Los Angeles could say yes, so he had to explain to them that it looked like a lot of things but it didn't look like early spring in March.
We flew down and spent the three weeks with them during the filming process. It was very interesting. It was very weird. You have something in your head for eight or nine years and all of a sudden there it is. I guess the closest way that I can describe it is like if you had a houseplant on your kitchen table for eight years and you came down to breakfast and it started talking to you. It was very wonderful but very weird all at the same time. But yeah, it's been a hoot to be involved as closely with the process as I have been, but it was something I certainly didn't anticipate in any way, shape or form.
It sounds like a lot of fun, though.
Yeah, it was. It's a really interesting cast. Really incredible people. Robert Taylor is playing Walt, Lou Diamond Phillips is playing Henry. Katee Sackhoff is playing Vic.
That's amazing right there.
Yeah, yeah. And Katee's a hoot. She's absolutely a hoot. We've been Twittering back and forth and all this kind of stuff. But she loves her character, and Robert loves his character, and Lou loves his character. It's kind of nice to have a cast that reads, because they all ran out and bought all the books. It's been very interesting to me, because I don't know how often that happens. It's very nice.
Sounds like an intelligent cast, which is helpful.
It is. Which is always what you hope for, right? --Rob LeFebvre
photos via AETV.com
I'm coming out to the world: I just read--or should I say devoured--The Hunger Games. I can't continue to hide behind the more intellectual books on my nightstand. If people ask me what I'm reading these days, I quickly tell them 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami but simply forget to mention that I have secretly read each of the Hunger Games books, each in one sitting.
When I think about my own book, Perfect Chaos, a memoir about having bipolar disorder, I always return to the question, "What are you going to do next?" "Write a real book," something fictional, something hard.
But what makes my own book something I don't consider "real" or hard, for that matter? It was a difficult book to write; one full of my darkest, scariest thoughts as I battled my way out of suicidal depressions and psychotic states. What makes me think that this is not something to be as proud of as a contemporary fiction piece? What makes us value certain types of writing over others? Perhaps it's my late arrival as an English major. I'm left feeling that I fall far behind whenever "the classics" come into play. Perhaps it's the fact that I just don't like to read what everyone else is reading. But I ask myself, if everyone was furiously reading Shakespeare would I read him in secret as well? What's wrong with being a writer that everyone wants to read?
So today I am coming out to say that I am a book snob who read The Hunger Games and loved it. I'm now going to read what sounds interesting, and even fun. I am going to count myself as a real author and maybe even read Harry Potter. --Linea Johnson, author, with Cinda Johnson, of Perfect Chaos (St. Martin's)
Summer Reading Recos; Pre-K Reading; Fave Picture Books
With the arrival of Memorial Day Weekend, beach reads season officially launches:
"Booksellers know how important a good story is--one that reaches out, pulls you in and keeps you reading late into the warm summer night," noted NPR's Morning Edition in featuring 15 handpicked summer reads from "our go-to independent booksellers": Lucia Silva of Portrait of a Bookstore, Studio City, Calif; Daniel Goldin of Boswell Book Co. in Milwaukee, Wis.; and Rona Brinlee of the BookMark in Atlantic Beach, Fla.
Jennifer Weiner shared her summer reading list with Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life book blog.
USA Today featured its Summer Books Preview.
It's never too early to feel overwhelmed with books to-be-read. Education.com recommended "50 books your child should read before kindergarten."
Here's a great way to start an argument. Flavorwire suggested "10 epidemically overrated books" while cautioning: "Now, keep in mind that this isn't a list of bad books--it's a list of good books that (to our minds) just seem to get more accolades than they deserve."
"Pirates, monsters and a very naughty dog" are among the characters who made the Guardian's list of "family favorite picture books."
by Leni Zumas
Sometimes gory and thoroughly stunning, Leni Zumas's debut novel,The Listeners, is a book concerned with the fraught relationship between psyche and flesh.
Once a rising punk rock star with the promise of a major record deal, Quinn is in her mid-30s, broke and languishing in obscurity. Her life is defined by two tragedies: the roadside disaster that destroyed her deepest friendship and her career, and the violent death of her younger sister 20 years before. Bodily intact but profoundly traumatized, she can no longer listen to music, and she marks her days with shifts at a failing bookstore, smoke breaks and obligatory dinners with her parents and brother. Quinn, who discovered her sister's body while their mother's pancakes smoldered on the stove, sees blood in every meal.
Like her lost sister, Quinn also has synesthesia--food and music not only mark her various traumas but send her into intense sensory overload. This is torture for Quinn, but gives Zumas the opportunity for wildly inventive descriptions. "My melodies were blue or silver or bruise," she remembers of her color-directed performances. "Like runny fabric they bled behind my eyes." Others are more subtle, as when Quinn poignantly remembers her sister's aptitude for smelling "on a book the reaction of the last person to read it."
The energy of these phrases lend a vital spark to the story as Quinn weaves dizzily between past and present. There's a twisted sort of hope in there, too, among the pain and loss. But should you pick up The Listeners (and you should!), expect both a wrenched gut and a rent heart. --Hannah Calkins, blogger at Unpunished Vice
Discover: Vivid, synesthetic prose electrifies a viscerally powerful debut novel about an ex-punk rocker navigating the ever-reverberating tragedies of her life.
The Lola Quartet
by Emily St John Mandel
Following her acclaimed Last Night in Montreal and The Singer's Gun, Emily St. John Mandel's The Lola Quartet is another engrossing tale of things not being what they seem, exploring questions of identity, family and the near-impossibility of being the person you want to be.
Before high school graduation in Sebastian, Fla., the Lola Quartet--Daniel on bass, Gavin on trumpet, Sasha on drums and Jack on sax--is playing one last gig. Tonight, Anna, Sasha's half-sister and Gavin's girlfriend, floats a paper airplane down to Gavin. On it is written "I'm sorry." He doesn't see her again for 10 years.
Gavin gets a degree in journalism at Columbia and goes to work for a newspaper. But his girlfriend has a miscarriage that causes their breakup, then he's caught writing fraudulent copy and loses his job. Maxing out his credit cards, he gets a call from his sister, who's seen a child who looks just like Gavin.
Gavin moves back to Florida to look for Anna and his putative daughter, concluding that she disappeared because she was pregnant. If that were all there was to it, there might be a happy ending. He tries desperately to find Anna, meet his child and assume responsibility, but no one will help him. His former bandmates are involved, and there's a "plan" that Gavin knows little about.
Mandel keeps the reader wondering if there is any hope for a recapture of the harmony the quartet once shared as Gavin attempts to get it right. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.
Discover: A quartet of musicians and friends breaks up after high school and falls apart in every way possible.
by Alessandro Baricco , trans. by Ann Goldstein
Emmaus is a short, haunting philosophical novel by Alessandro Barrico (Silk) about the friendship of four good Catholic boys who make up a popular church band and volunteer at a poor people's hospital. Red-haired, sexually aware Bobby isn't afraid to experiment with drugs. Reserved Luca, the nameless narrator's best friend, has a mortally ill father and a family that eats in silence. The Saint has a faint beard, says grace before meals and doesn't exclude the priesthood as a vocation.
Each in his own way is fascinated by Andre, a free-spirited girl whom they see in a compromising position with another boy in his car. Andre was born at the same moment her sister drowned in the backyard pool, and, 14 years later, Andre jumped off a bridge and survived. Barrico begins the story with the death of Andre's father, then loops back to the beginning and takes 90 pages to return to the scene in the prologue and repeat it, this time with the reader knowing all the characters involved.
Baricco's sentences are elegant and stately, a profound meditation on how little we know each other and how we normalize the tragic.
Vulnerable, unwary, believing in goodness, these four inexperienced boys with very deep secrets are sideswiped by the girl who drives them all crazy, fracturing their friendship. Now she's pregnant, and the finger of fatherhood points at one of them. Out of that possible paternity will come drug addiction, a suicide, a homicide and the painful wisdom about life that hits so hard when you're 18. --Nick DiMartino, Nicks Picks, University Bookstore, Seattle
Discover: A friendship among four Italian Catholic boys is destroyed by the girl they all love.
by Anne-Marie Kinney
Iris Finch is working in an office, but she's not privy to the product or service being offered; her boss seems harried, then panicked, then confident, and may have cut a trap door into the floor behind his desk. She's unsure about other employees--when they might show up, whether they still work there, whether they ever did. Her relationships are limited to a friend who keeps pushing blind dates and a brother who bore witness to a tragic accident in childhood and is forever escaping through trap doors of his own. Across the hall from Iris's office suite, another office has--maybe--been coopted by one man, who is living there and converting the space into something entirely un-office-like.
In Radio Iris, Anne-Marie Kinney corrals this heady mix of mysterious circumstances into a first novel with aplomb, as Iris finds comfort in the small details of her existence, even as that existence unravels. Some of the confusion is resolved, to varying degrees, while other questions leads to more mystery. Whether read as a parable about the modern workplace, an "Alice in Wonderland" fable or a portrait of an existential crisis that starts within Iris but spreads outward, the conclusion is as haunting as could be. --Matthew Tiffany, counselor, writer for Condalmo
Discover: Fans of David Lynch's films will appreciate how Iris Finch's world crumbles around her, literally and figuratively, in this intoxicating debut novel.
Biography & Memoir
Outlaw Marriages: The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples
by Rodger Streitmatter
Outlaw Marriages links 15 notable Americans by a common thread: the same-sex relationships that sustained each of them and made their work possible. It's a short book, especially given the scope of its material, but Rodger Streitmatter manages to illuminate the main theme concisely without ever selling short his subjects. Each chapter focuses on the relationship of a couple whose collaboration left a mark on American culture--even if the public was only aware of one of them--starting with Walt Whitman's long-term courtship of Peter Doyle. Other literary couples Streitmatter discusses include James Baldwin and his partnership with Lucien Happersberger, and the well-known pair Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Social reformer Jane Addams and her wife-in-all-but-law Mary Rozet Smith merit a chapter, as do actress Greta Garbo and Mercedes de Acosta and composer Aaron Copland and Victor Kraft, among several other well-known figures.
Outlaw Marriages serves less as a comprehensive biography of any of its subjects than as an overview of committed same-sex relationships and their long history in the United States (even if they have rarely been sanctioned by law). Streitmatter focuses on the support each half of these couples gave the other, as well as their romantic and erotic relationships, demonstrating that they all had a true "marriage" even if it was never committed to paper. Outlaw Marriages is a testament to the enduring power of human partnership and love, regardless of sex. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket
Discover: The married lives of 15 well-known Americans and their lesser-known partners demonstrate that "same-sex marriage" has a long practical history, if a short legal one.
Father's Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son
by Buzz Bissinger
Buzz Bissinger's twin sons, Zach and Gerry, were born prematurely. Zach suffered brain damage; Gerry did not. As an adult, Zach is an eight-year-old in a 24-year-old body, Bissinger writes. He is a savant with a prodigious memory: "Zach's memory doesn't reinforce the past. It reinforces the present, a living snapshot that never disappears." Bissinger loves his son deeply but is frustrated that he can't get as close to him as he would wish. So he (and Zach) decide to take a week-long road trip together--a father-and-son version of Rain Man--during which, as Father's Day relates, they'll bond and have adventures (and a few misadventures).
As Buzz and Zach drive from Philadelphia to Chicago, Milwaukee and Six Flags in Missouri--where they both have a blast on the rides--then on to Odessa, Tex., the setting of Bissinger's Friday Night Lights, flashbacks tell us about the problems Zach faced growing up, as well as young Buzz's own relationship with his father. Then it's on to Las Vegas and finally Los Angeles, where Gerry and Zach spend more time together. Father's Day is especially valuable because of the insights it gives into the life of an older person with brain damage. Bisssinger may not have gotten everything he hoped for out of this special trip, but he got everything he needed. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher
Discover: A heartwarming, sometimes frustrating, memoir of a father's journey to truly understanding his son.
Lefty: An American Odyssey
by Vernona Gomez , Lawrence Goldstone
From 1930 to 1942, Vernon "Lefty" Gomez was considered the glue of the New York Yankee clubhouse. Famous for his high-velocity fastball, the southpaw ace was a fierce competitor who took to the mound injured so often that he was forced to retire when he was only 33 years old. He held a lifetime record of 189-102, was the winning pitcher in the first ever All Star Game and his World Series statistics still remain among the greatest. But beyond the many athletic achievements detailed in Lefty: An American Odyssey, Vernona Gomez (Lefty's daughter) and Lawrence Goldstone (Inherently Unequal) shed light on Lefty's life off the field.
Lefty was the youngest of eight children from a poor, immigrant California ranch family who made it onto the field to play alongside Yankee superstars like Ruth, DiMaggio and Gehrig. He and his Broadway-star wife, June O'Dea, hobnobbed with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, George M. Cohan and Ernest Hemingway. "El Señor Goofo," as the public and press called Lefty, exhibited an affable, gregarious wit, yet his personal life was often riddled with hardships and loss. This thorough, well-rounded biography draws upon conversations with Lefty's family and a star-studded lineup of other interviewees to create an insightful portrait of the accomplishments and adventures, foibles and virtues of a man who lives on as a baseball legend. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: A comprehensive biography of "one of the best-known and one of the least-known" baseball superstars.
Red Nails, Black Skates
by Erica Rand
In many ways, the sport of figure skating reinforces dominant notions of sex and gender in our society. Its categories, expected performances and scoring systems are all based on the notion that there are just two genders, "man" and "woman," that correspond respectively to the behaviors we regard as "masculine" and "feminine"--and never the twain shall meet. The lives of real human skaters, however, are rarely so simple. In Red Nails, Black Skates, Erica Rand (a professor of art and of women and gender studies at Bates College) explores the vast gray areas between our traditional sex/gender categories and the actual life experiences of many skaters--including Rand herself. In a series of essays, Rand examines costume conventions, skate boot colors and issues of sex, gender, race and class that affect who participates in figure skating's elite events and at neighborhood clubs.
A self-identified adult figure skater and queer femme, Rand reports from inside competitive figure skating, as well as from personal forays into related sports like hockey and roller derby. Although figure skating's traditional elements, training rituals and accessibility to minorities (or lack thereof) have limited its ranks to a comparative few, Rand never takes this fact as grounds for pessimism about the sport itself. Her personal love for skating shines through the essays collected in Red Nails, Black Skates, leading to an incisive yet upbeat analysis of both the sport's shortcomings and the depths of its potential. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket
Discover: The perils, pleasures, and potential of figure skating stand out in this series of essays on how sex and gender roles "work" on the ice.
Running with the Kenyans
by Adharanand Finn
Kenyan athletes completely dominate middle- and long-distance running. Wanting to understand this inimitable ability, English runner and Runner's World contributor Adharanand Finn went to Kenya to investigate and perhaps reignite his own passion for the sport. In Running with the Kenyans, he proffers a theory many readers of Christopher McDougall's Born to Run will appreciate: perhaps the Kenyans' success comes from learning to run barefoot. So Finn tries barefoot running himself, with mostly positive results, though he is chagrined to learn most Kenyan runners find the practice trite and parochial.
Finn is too clever a writer and too observant of a runner to oversimplify, though, and what he uncovers about the Kenyans is much too complex to fit in a one-size-fits-all basket. As he works on his own running struggles, he shows a sensitive eye for the Kenyan people and the countryside where he and his friends run and train. He also brings his wife and children, and their takes on Kenya offer some grace notes that don't enter into most sports narratives. Running with the Kenyans is an artfully illustrated, moving tribute to the Kenyan people and to the bliss and blisters that running brings--an inspirational tale of one runner going to the ends of the earth to recover his athletic mojo. --Donald Powell, freelance writer
Discover: Part sports memoir, part cultural appreciation, this is an inspiring and informative celebration of the art of running.
On Par: The Everyday Golfer's Survival Guide
by Bill Pennington
Bill Pennington is the author of the witty "On Par" column for the New York Times, but On Par isn't a collection of those columns. Instead, it's a separate work whose length allows him to ponder in-depth "solutions to the seemingly unsolvable" and to examine two basic tents of the game: the utter conviction that your game will get better and your ability to distort yourself into thinking you've actually gotten better.
On Par is filled with good advice that will help everyday golfers enjoy playing the game more: "good karma leads to good golf." He reminds us that golf is flog spelled backward; we absolutely must not beat ourselves up over the game. He highly recommends that all golfers take regular lessons. He teaches us about the Voldemort words; we never say shank, slice, choke, or yips. Get to the course early and just walk around, look around at the course, watch others tee off; you'll learn a lot. Keep your eyes "quiet" before hitting a putt; it really works.
If you end up with a bad partner--"the bad ones tend to stick with you longer, like a persistent grass stain you can't wash out"--focus on your game; don't let him ruin your day. Pennington is a goldmine of facts and figures about golf, like the average age when a person has their first hole-in-one--44.7. Ordinary golfers may appreciate this book the most, but golfers of all levels will find much of value here.--Tom Lavoie, former publisher and golf addict
Discover: An easy-going, fun book teaches everyday golfers how to enjoy the game and laugh at their mistakes.
Children's & Young Adult
by China Mieville
SF/fantasy master China Miéville's (Embassytown; Un Lun Dun) newest, Railsea, balances YA elements with classical references, yielding a novel that will satisfy a broad range of readers. The story opens as Shem, the teenaged protagonist, takes part in his first "moldywarpe" slaughter. As a doctor's apprentice on a moletrain (think Moby-Dick, but with monstrous moles instead of whales), Shem dreams of a grander future. A salvaging incident with an abandoned train sends Shem and his mates beyond the bounds of the known world. Their adventure recalls both The Odyssey and Treasure Island, liberally spiced with pirates, politics and plunder.
Miéville's trademark worldbuilding is in full force here, introducing an unsettling future in which the ground below and the air above are a dangerous, shifting morass of oversized rodents, insects and monsters that will as soon devour humans as look at them. His dramatic, playful and inventive prose is often reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark. In the book's stylized structure, ampersands take the place of "and" (including in dialogue), and periodic chapters take a bird's-eye view of the action, breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to readers. These stylistic notes can be both a selling point, as they're beautifully integrated, but also a liability, as they may pull less advanced readers out of the story. The plot itself, however, has all the action, young love and dystopic revelations that one could want out of an "all ages" novel. --Jenn Northington, events manager at WORD bookstore
Discover: A teenaged adventurer takes a thrilling journey that will captivate both young and young-at-heart readers.
Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls
by Mary Downing Hahn
Based on an actual event from her youth, Mary Downing Hahn's (Wait Till Helen Comes) latest novel probes the lingering effects of violence and shows how its survivors begin to piece together their fractured lives.
In the Baltimore heat of 1956, Nora is eager to be done with her junior year of high school so she can begin a "sinful" summer of boys, beaches, cigarettes and beer. The final day of class proves to be one she'll never forget--two girls are killed on their walk to school, and "It's as if the whole world has changed. Nothing is what it used to be. It will never be the same again."
Nora's contemplation of the horror that has beset her neighborhood crowds out her dreams of summer fun. She thinks about how she could have been the one who died; how no God would let innocent girls be murdered; how the killer is still out there somewhere. Hahn explores the thoughts and diaries of various characters in alternating chapters. She offers a complex portrait of a town in the aftermath of such a crime, as well as a glimpse into the twisted psyche of Mister Death: "He smiles at himself. The man you meet at the top of the stairs, that's who he is: the man who isn't there. The man you should pay attention to, the man you shouldn't offend. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the man who isn't there."
This haunting narrative will leave readers with a chilling sense of unease. --Julia Smith, blogger and children's bookseller emerita
Discover: A 16-year-old girl trying to make sense of a double murder in her Baltimore neighborhood.
by Cat Patrick
In her second novel, Cat Patrick (Forgotten) skillfully explores the moral implications of a government agency that resurrects children.
Daisy Appleby is killed by a bee sting, then resurrected by Revive, a top-secret drug that brings people back from the dead. To protect the Revive project from exposure, the mastermind of the drug, known only as "God," moves Daisy to Omaha, Neb., along with two agents, Mason and Cassie, who pose as her parents but treat her more like a partner than a daughter. Daisy has been Revived five times since her death at age four in a bus accident in Iowa. Ever since then, she has been bound "to a life of continued silence and make-believe."
In Omaha, Daisy finds genuine friendship with Audrey McKean and a growing crush on Audrey's brother, Matt, which causes her to take fewer risks despite her privileged access to Revive, her "protective suit through life." The first of a number of tragic turns occurs when Daisy learns that a close friend is dying from cancer--but Revive cannot be used on anyone who's suffered a gunshot wound or is a cancer victim.
Patrick's well-drawn, touching relationships bring a great deal of humanity to a science fictional setting in which the heroine has often cheated death. Revived will please teen readers looking for a thoughtful story with an unusual spin on life after death and that grapples with moral dilemmas. --Adam Silvera, assistant, Books of Wonder, New York City
Discover: Daisy has been "resurrected" by a drug called Revive for the fifth time in 15 years.