Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, November 22, 2013


Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr): Vroom! by Barbara McClintock

From My Shelf

Indiana University Press: God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America by Elizabeth Lenz

Bunim & Bannigan: David Lazar by Robert Kalich

November 22, 1963: Where Were You? What Are You Reading Now?

Certain moments are so deeply ingrained in our memories we can forget they are not just personal; they belong to history. If you're old enough to remember the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, you probably know where you were on November 22, 1963.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of JFK's death, publishers have released dozens of new titles. Here are a few that caught my attention, beginning, appropriately enough, with Where Were You?: America Remembers the JFK Assassination by Gus Russo and Harry Moses.

I've been mesmerized by two books that feature striking news coverage from the period: The Kennedy Years: From the Pages of The New York Times, edited by Richard Reeves; and The Day Kennedy Died: Fifty Years Later: LIFE Remembers the Man and the Moment.

Other notable titles include Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis; A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination by Philip Shenon; and Jeff Greenfield's If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy--An Alternate History.

The brief Kennedy presidency is chronicled in JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President by Thurston Clarke; These Few Precious Days: The Final Year of Jack With Jackie by Christopher Andersen; Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House by Robert Dallek; and The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy by Larry Sabato.

For a more personal glimpse, correspondence is collected in Letters of John F. Kennedy, edited by Martin W. Sandler and photographs in Rose Kennedy's Family Album: From the Fitzgerald Kennedy Private Collection, 1878-1946, with a foreword by Caroline Kennedy.

Fifty years ago today, I was sitting in my eighth-grade classroom at a Catholic school and hearing the awful news delivered by our principal, a stern nun who'd suddenly been transformed into a distraught woman. I will never forget her expression. Reading the history of this period now is at once heartwrenching... and irresistible. --Robert Gray, contributing editor


Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: More to the Story by Hena Khan


Book Candy

A Thanksgiving Book Gift?; Searching for Track 9 ¾

'Tis the season: If you'd like to start a new tradition, Christian Zabriskie, founder of Urban Librarians Unite, recommended you "give a book at Thanksgiving." And Buzzfeed suggested "20 thoughtful gifts for the bookworm in your life."

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"15 classic children's books that started as bedtime stories" were featured by Mental Floss, which noted that "before these stories ended up on your kid's shelf, they were told to children tucked in bed."

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"In a perfect world I'll live long enough to write ALL THE BOOKS." That was one of the "7 best answers from author Neil Gaiman's Reddit AMA," according to the Huffington Post.

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"Nowadays, you aren't likely to find a famous novelist shilling for their favorite brand," but Flavorwire discovered "12 vintage advertisements starring famous authors."
  
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In its latest "Movies In Real Life" experiment, the legendary Improv Everywhere sent Harry Potter (11-year-old actor Sebastian Thomas) to New York City's Penn Station in search of track 9 ¾ and the Hogwarts Express, the Huffington Post reported.


New Harbinger Publications: Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids by Hunter Fields-Clarke and Carla Naumburg


The Writer's Life

Tom Nissley: A Year Obsessed

photo: Tom Dotson

A few weeks ago I sat down with Tom Nissley over cappuccinos and mochas to talk about his book, A Reader's Book of Days (Norton, $24.95). It was the eve of his book tour, and he said it was nice to practice with someone he knew before he started. I thought it was nice to get to him before he became jaded from the usual questions (yes, I did ask him how long it took to research and write).

A Reader's Book of Days is supremely entertaining, and hands down the best gift book of the year for bibliophiles and casual readers alike. It's a collection of dates, stories, excerpts and clever illustrations that will surprise and amuse; start with your birthday, or check the index for a favorite author, and you'll soon be happily paging through.

What makes this book not just fun, but different? For one thing, Nissley wanted to "tell stories from the invented lives of fiction alongside those of the writers themselves." Thus, on June 9, the fictional Dana Franklin in Octavia Butler's Kindred disappears from her California apartment, and Charles Dickens was caught in a train wreck that haunted him for the rest of his life.

Perusing the index is a delight for the unexpected connections Nissley has found. Look up entries for Dorothy Sayers and find that in 1962, Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell were arrested for stealing 72 library books and cutting pages from 1,653 art books to decorate their flat. They also doctored dozens of library book covers and added mildly obscene jacket blurbs to... Dorothy Sayers novels.

Nissley has created a recommended reading list for each month. August brings eight titles, including The Member of the Wedding and The Guns of August, and we learn in Kitchen Confidential that Anthony Bourdain, as a boy in France, tasted his first oyster in August: "I'd not only survived--I'd enjoyed." It's gratifying to find a favorite title in his recommended reading (A Century of November), and to find a title that may prove to be a new favorite (this may finally get me to read The Moviegoer).

You have said that you wanted to write a novel; in fact, you announced it to 10 million Jeopardy viewers while on your winning streak. Is this book a detour or a change of mind?

Oh, I still want to write a novel! And I am. But there is a kind of reference book that I love--one that you actually read, that has personality, like David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film, or Bill James's Historical Baseball Abstract. The Book of Lists may have been the most formative book of my youth.

The index to A Reader's Book of Days is so much fun: day jobs, suicides, gambling; famous non-writers like Mia Farrow, or Proust's good friend Charles Ephrussi, who's connected to writer Edmund de Waal. It seems that you have everyone imaginable in there.

It could have easily have turned into "the endless index," but my editor, Matt Weiland, reined me in (while saying that it totally captures the spirit of the book). But some obvious people are not in it, since many writers don't use dates in their books (Nabokov, Kafka, Marilynne Robinson, Shirley Hazzard), and others have little documentation of their lives, so I had to settle on birth dates (Mary Oliver, Penelope Fitzgerald). It pained me to use so little of favorite authors like Hazzard and Angela Carter.

The illustrations are a treat, too.

This project turned into a "real" book when I found the illustrator, Joanna Neborsky. She created a poster called "A Partial Inventory of Gustave Flaubert's Personal Effects" that perfectly captured the everyday-ness of his life, so I knew that her art would be just the thing A Reader's Book of Days. And I got to tell her things like, "Please draw Theodore Dreiser holding two hot dogs," and she would.

How long did this take?

A very long year! I had to be obsessed to do this, and I often didn't know what actual day it was. After I did a sample week for the book proposal, I started with the obvious stuff and began spending every day in the library. I skimmed indexes with greater and greater efficiency and figured out how to make gold from the smallest of nuggets.

What are a few of your favorite critical pans?

In 1954, Edmund Wilson wrote to Vladimir Nabokov after reading Lolita: "I like it less than anything else of yours I have read.... Nasty subjects may make fine books; but I don't feel you have got away with this."

In 2012, Dwight Garner had this to say about Richard Bradford's Martin Amis: "Reading Martin Amis: The Biography is like watching a moose trying to describe a leopard, using only its front hooves."

And some surprises?

Charlotte Brontë hated Jane Austen: "If this is heresy--I cannot help it." Tolkien didn't like Dorothy Sayers (or Walt Disney, saying that he had a "heartfelt loathing" for his works).

I came across so many people popping up where you don't expect them. One of my favorite books is The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George Higgins. When G. Gordon Liddy was pardoned by Jimmy Carter, his lawyer was George Higgins, who also defended Eldridge Cleaver.

What are you reading now? What has excited you recently? Do you re-read books?

I've been too distracted to read, but now that the book is out, I'm taking the new Jonathan Lethem, Dissident Gardens, with me on my book tour. I'm always interested in Lethem, but especially in this one, which is set among Communists in the Sunnyside neighborhood in Queens, which happens to be my mother-in-law's exact upbringing.

My favorite book this year--actually, the best novel I've read in years--is The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower, an Australian author. It's a reissue from the '60s and came highly recommended at Village Books.

I do re-read books; I think it's one of the great pleasures. I love the experience so much, it became one of the reasons to go to grad school. I carry around The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark and The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard. They are inspirational. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers


Sleeping Bear Press: Nian, the Chinese New Year Dragon by Virginia Loh-Hagan, illustrated Timothy Banks


Book Review

Fiction

Monument Road

by Charlie Quimby


Charlie Quimby is a songwriter, playwright and journalist. Monument Road is his debut novel, and it's a beauty.

Leonard Self's beloved wife, Inetta, has died of cancer; she made him promise that, a year and a day after her cremation, he would take her ashes to Artists Point, her favorite overlook, and scatter them to the wind. He is doing that today, and has decided to throw himself off with her.

For a year, he has been making arrangements for the truck, the dog, the 260 acres of Colorado that he has known forever. Leonard has become reclusive since Inetta's passing. Those who know him, however, are vigilant and caring. When he drops off the dog with one of Inetta's friends, she becomes suspicious.

In gorgeous prose, perfect for the mood of the story, Quimby takes us on this sad pilgrimage with Leonard, showing us all the lives that Leonard has touched. Leonard and Inetta took in boys who needed a place to work and sort out what was next. Inetta's brother, Elliott, was one. Noticing he had been in a fight, Leonard pointed this out to Inetta. "He's been in a lot of fights," she said quietly. "And he always will. He's going to play too large for a small town." She left Leonard to figure out that enigmatic statement--and we find out much later what she meant.

By story's end, we have come to care immensely about this taciturn, withdrawn man who has spent the past year trying to stave off "the darkening." Monument Road is rich with landscape, character and event. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: A must-read for anyone interested in story, style and a big-hearted, even-handed tale of life.

Torrey House Press, $16.95, paperback, 9781937226251

Rp Minis: Dancing with Jesus: Bobbling Figurine by Sam Stall


Death of the Black-Haired Girl

by Robert Stone


Robert Stone's fiction has consistently chronicled the troubled souls of this troubled world, from Vietnam (in the National Book Award-winning Dog Soldiers) to Jerusalem (Damascus Gate). Death of the Black-Haired Girl, only his seventh novel in nearly a 50-year career, is set in 2004 on a classic New England college campus. The novel's focus is beautiful, smart Maud Stack and her lover and professor, Steven Brookman. When Brookman's wife tells him she's pregnant again, he abruptly dismisses Maud, ending their affair with professorial rationalization: "She's here to grow up. She has to learn a few things, and one of them is that everything comes to an end."

The spurned Maud finds little help from her roommate Shell, a talented actress with a crackpot, abusive ex-husband. The school counselor, ex-nun Jo Carr, can't connect with Maud either; she has her own nightmare visions after years nursing the Indians of South America. Her father, Eddie, an emphysematous alcoholic ex-cop, is too full of self-pity and grief over the loss of his wife to help his daughter.

Angry with Brookman and the world, Maud writes an inflammatory campus newspaper story against anti-abortion protestors. When Maud is killed by a hit-and-run driver while shouting down Brookman outside his cozy faculty house, Stone's plot shifts into crime novel territory. Was the driver a vindictive anti-abortionist? Did Brookman push her into the path of the car? Can the town cops investigate without prejudice against the privileged academics?

As with all Stone's fiction, the complex characters here are all wounded, but each has his or her own forgivably human story. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Through the story of a professor-student affair at a small New England college, Stone continues his search for compassion and meaning in a world with too little of each.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, hardcover, 9780618386239

The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky

by Kent Nerburn


Kent Nerburn's The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo rounds out a trilogy that began with Neither Wolf nor Dog and The Wolf at Twilight. This time, Nerburn finds himself waking repeatedly from a relentless dream in which the Ojibwe elder who had helped him track down the young sister of a now-elderly Lakota man reappears, pointing Nerburn to the ghost of the young girl, an ominous brick building and a field of dark, looming shapes he cannot quite make out.

In an effort to rid himself of the dream, Nerburn heads to northern Minnesota to speak to the Ojibwe woman Mary. At first, he writes off the dream as simply a psychological manifestation of his guilt at failing to share with Mary the information he had uncovered with her help. As events unfold, however, the author realizes that the dream is much bigger than his guilt--and, in fact, much bigger than himself.

Part memoir and part novel, The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo introduces hints of the Lakota and Ojibwe "old ways" in a manner that reveals extraordinary insights into the human heart without betraying their source. While Nerburn's forays as a visitor to Indian cultures aren't without missteps--some of which are recorded in the tale itself--he approaches his source and its people with great respect. The result is a deeply human tale about conquering fear and the revelation that the deepest truths are often found in the smallest, quietest places among us. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: A gentle yet powerful lesson on the complexity of the human heart.

New World Library, $15.95, paperback, 9781608680153

Biography & Memoir

By the Book: A Reader's Guide to Life

by Ramona Koval


Veteran Australian broadcaster Ramona Koval pairs life experiences with good literature in By the Book. Struck at a tender age by the sight of her Polish immigrant mother "lost" in the books she read to improve her English, Koval realizes in kindergarten that reading "was the key that opened the door to secret lands, strange places and the worlds behind other people's eyes."

Koval's intellectually libertine mother and a lenient local bus librarian permitted the future journalist precocious access. After tiring of the kids' section, 10-year-old Koval checks out Franz Kafka's The Trial; two years later, she asks her mother to buy her a copy of an "interesting" book she has only heard about--The Kama Sutra (this one Mama reads first). As an adult, Koval ranges through many subjects and develops a passion for science and books about explorers. One of the more extended scenes in this brisk memoir describes Koval's reading-inspired dog-sledding trip in the Alaskan wilderness.

After 16 years as the host of Australian Broadcasting Corporation's The Book Show, Koval has a knack for conveying the essence of a book without spoiling it. She also recounts key exchanges with interviewees as diverse as Grace Paley, Oliver Sacks and Paul Theroux.

Like-minded existential readers may want to use By the Book as a source of suggestions: Koval appends an extensive list of all the books that mattered to her, from Roald Amundsen to Colette to Halldór Laxness to The Little Red Hen. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

Discover: An "auto-bibliography" catalogues the books that have sustained, molded and inspired an Australian broadcaster's life and career.

Text Publishing, $22.95, hardcover, 9781922079060

Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself: A Man and His Dog's Struggle to Find Salvation

by Zachary Anderegg


Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself is a hero's journey on multiple levels. Zak Anderegg's memoir begins with the discovery of a nearly lifeless puppy abandoned more than 350 feet at the bottom of a slot canyon an hour outside Page, Ariz. Anderegg, a former Marine sergeant and experienced canyon climber, rescues the dog, naming it Riley, for the "life of Riley" he intends to provide.

In the process, he recalls his own childhood of abuse, presented in flashbacks. Anderegg grew up outside of Milwaukee; his parents divorced soon after his birth and were unable to provide the love he needed. As a result, he was often victimized by his classmates, eventually finding self-confidence and self-worth in the Marines and becoming "self-reliant to a fault"--and well-qualified to perform the dangerous and courageous rescue of Riley, which allows him to face his own demons and confront his own fears. (The actual rescue is a grueling ordeal, though, and readers will be grateful for the photo of Anderegg and a healthy Riley on the cover, promising a happy ending.)

"I started typing on my laptop, simply talking about this dog I rescued," Anderegg writes, "but as I wrote, I slowly realized how many parallels existed between what happened to Riley and what had happened to me as I was growing up." His hope is to reframe how society looks at bullying and no longer to accept this behavior as normal. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: When a Marine finds and rescues a dying puppy, together they're able to recover from past abuse and learn to forgive and trust in a brighter future.

Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95, hardcover, 9781626361706

Philomena: A Mother, Her Son and a Fifty-Year Search

by Martin Sixsmith


When Philomena Lee became pregnant as an unwed teenager in 1950s Ireland, she was sent to a convent for "fallen women," where she did manual labor for three years before being forced to sign away her parental rights. Her son, Anthony, was then offered for adoption to an American couple in exchange for significant donations to the Catholic Church. His new parents renamed him Michael Hess; he grew up to become a Republican lawyer, serving as chief legal counsel during the George H.W. Bush administration.

Originally published in 2009 as The Lost Son of Philomena Lee, Martin Sixsmith's Philomena draws on interviews and documents to tell the story of Lee and her son and the Irish Catholic Church's profiteering from forced adoptions to American families. Sixsmith then reconstructs the American life of Michael Hess, who grew up uncertain of his self-worth and his right to be happy. Michael spent years questioning his sexuality, his role in the government and his place in his family as he tried in vain to locate his mother in Ireland. Philomena can at times feel bogged down by these details, leaving readers wondering where Lee has gone in the midst of Michael's story. When it finds its focus, however, it is a powerful testament to the strength of the bond between mother and child. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: The true-life story of an Irish boy given up for adoption and the decades-long attempts to reunite mother and child, soon to be a motion picture starring Judi Dench.

Penguin, $16, paperback, 9780143124726

Psychology & Self-Help

The Tell: The Little Clues That Reveal Big Truths About Who We Are

by Matthew Hertenstein


In the lively and likable The Tell, psychologist Matthew Hertenstein synthesizes findings in behavioral and neuroscience to show that the mind filters clues from the most ephemeral and unwitting of facial expressions and behaviors to make predictions about someone's trustworthiness, leadership ability and likelihood of marital success or failure--even the possibility that certain infant behaviors presage developmental disorders such as autism. His goal, he says, is not to make us better predictors, but to make us better observers.

Hertenstein (The Anatomy of Touch) calls these clues "tells" and he looks at a range of them to determine which behaviors are predictive and where we routinely get them wrong. For example, attachment styles in infants reflect their mothers' sensitivity and responsiveness to their babies' emotional signals, with lifelong consequences for those children's odds of forming secure bonds or developing a range of psychopathologies later in life. Other personality characteristics are genetically determined; Hertenstein explores the relationship between innate and environmental factors in personality development and discusses where intervention can be effective.

Physical appearance and behaviors also drive our predictions about someone's intelligence, leadership ability or suitability as a mate, with varying degrees of accuracy. All of these predictions have profound consequences, from job interviews to the outcome of elections. Sorting through which tells are relevant and which are not--or at least, recognizing that we are often wrong--is vital to avoid harmful social policies like racial profiling. Hertenstein offers some specifics, though he warns against the pitfalls of a prescriptive approach.

The subject is fascinating, and The Tell succeeds as an engaging tour through current work in the science of behavior. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: In a charming look at the power of the human mind, a psychologist shows that we routinely make big decisions about the people around us based on small clues.

Basic Books, $26.99, hardcover, 9780465031658

Performing Arts

Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion

by Robert Gordon


In 1961, amateur fiddle player Jim Stewart and his sister, Estelle Axton, proprietor of Satellite Record Shop, launched a record company in Memphis, Tenn. Jim had an ear for music; Estelle knew what would sell. Soon, musicians like Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn--the core of Booker T and the MGs--began recording for Stax, and the label, founded by two white middle class siblings, took off on a 15-year run feeding the musical soul of black America.

While Robert Gordon's (author of the Muddy Waters biography Can't Be Satisfied) documentary film (also titled Respect Yourself) is full of great Stax music, his book provides much more detail about the label's history, along with the role of the notoriously segregated Memphis in the civil rights movement. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in the city in 1968, Stax recording star Otis Redding had just died; soon after, the company's distribution relationship with Atlantic Records ended and it lost the rights to its backlog of hit records.

Al Bell, a former DJ, began rebuilding the Stax catalogue, a process that accelerated after he bought out Estelle. With breakout singer Isaac Hayes, early Stax stars Eddie Floyd and Rufus Thomas still around, and the newly signed Staples Singers topping pop charts, Bell got a distribution deal for Stax with Columbia, but the business ultimately unraveled in a series of lawsuits and financial scandals.

In Respect Yourself, Gordon chronicles the exciting rise and ugly fall of his hometown music giant with a historian's rigor, a journalist's persistence, a filmmaker's scope and a musician's swing. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Memphis native Robert Gordon explores the rise and fall of the legendary Stax Records label during the civil rights era.

Bloomsbury, $30, hardcover, 9781596915770

Audio

The Paris Architect

by Charles Belfoure, read by Mark Bramhall


Like most Gentiles in the Nazi-occupied Paris of Charles Belfoure's debut novel, Lucien Barnard has no great love for Jews. Strapped for cash, however, the architect accepts commissions to design hiding places for Jews in exchange for considerable sums of money and the promise of lucrative building contracts. But when one of his hiding places fails, he is no longer able to keep his emotions separate from his work, and finds himself drawn into a dangerous game of two-timing the Germans: working for them by day, designing spaces against them at night.

Along with the architectural details that reveal Belfoure's own pre-literary architectural career, the historical details of The Paris Architect bring to life the terrible and terrifying atmosphere of the occupied city, from neighbors turning each other in to the Gestapo to the brutal public murders of Jews and their protectors.

The novel's supporting cast is vast and varied, but narrator Mark Bramhall gives each voice enough differentiation to make Lucien stand apart from the crowd of characters. His portrayal of Lucien's emotional experience transforms a despicable, unlikable character into the unlikely protagonist of an adult coming-of-age tale, staring down his own cowardice and greed in the face of human kindness. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A heartfelt, if sometimes brutal, portrayal of life in Nazi-occupied Paris--and an architect who tried to make a difference.

Random House Audio, $40, unabridged, 9 CDs, 11 hours, 9780804190817

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence

by Rick Hanson


For the cost of a single therapy copay, the audiobook of Hardwiring Happiness provides seven-and-a-half hours of psychotherapeutic advice designed to help listeners overcome the brain's tendency to pay more attention to negative experiences than to positive ones. As neuropsychologist Rick Hanson (Buddha's Brain, Just One Thing) reads his Hardwiring Happiness, he offers plenty of metaphors and autobiographical examples to illustrate his points.

In the early chapters, Hanson explains that in the days of marauders and predators, pleasurable experiences had to matter less to the brain than possibly life-ending negative experiences. Now that most of us are less vulnerable to imminent demise, this evolution-honed negative bias is not necessary for survival. Additionally, the pace of modern life distracts us from sufficiently appreciating our positive experiences. Hanson provides mental exercises designed to alter the brain's structure by teaching it to retain more joy and store up resilience. The claim that practicing these exercises changes the brain's neural "hardwiring" is difficult to assess from the research Hanson cites, but nurturing one's ability to absorb the positive seems like an excellent mental health skill.

Hanson's narration style is relaxed and clear, and though he has a tendency to repeat concepts, the repetition is probably therapeutic. If you divide the chapters into mini (one-sided) talk therapy sessions, at the very least you'll find yourself embracing the positive elements in your day more consciously. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

Discover: A neuropsychologist's advice on how to retrain your brain to emphasize the positive.

Random House Audio, $40, unabridged, 7 CDs, 7.5 hours, 9780804128131

Children's & Young Adult

The Living

by Matt de la Peña


In Matt de la Peña's (Mexican WhiteBoy) compulsively readable thriller, a new disease attacks and runs rampant through the poor population in the U.S. on the border of Mexico, and a tsunami threatens the lives of passengers and crew on a luxury liner.

High school student Shy Espinoza, who narrates, takes a summer job with the Paradise Cruise Lines to make money for his family back home in San Diego, Calif. Six days into the voyage, a passenger says something cryptic to Shy ("This is the face of your betrayer"), then jumps overboard. De la Peña gradually reveals a complex set of connections between the man who committed suicide, several passengers aboard the ship and Shy himself. Shy feels helpless when he finds out from his mother that his cousin now shows the same symptoms of the disease that killed his grandmother. Shy has never been exposed to the casual way in which the wealthy talk down to the crew. When a tsunami hits, Shy winds up in a damaged lifeboat with the daughter of the dead man's business partner.

The breakneck plot will draw readers in, but Shy's discoveries about how the world is skewed toward those in power, and his decisions to do the right thing, will hold their attention. Shy emerges with a clear conscience and a bittersweet understanding of where he belongs--even if he hasn't quite decided which is more destructive: Mother Nature or human nature. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Amid disasters, a teen grapples with the chasm between the classes while serving as crew on a luxury liner.

Delacorte, $17.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 14-up, 9780385741200

Invasion

by Walter Dean Myers


In this searing novel, Walter Dean Myers connects Marcus Perry, an African American who drives supplies to the front during World War II, to the next generations of Perrys who narrate his earlier books Fallen Angels (set during the Vietnam War) and Sunrise over Fallujah.

Nineteen-year-old Josiah ("Woody") Wedgewood of the 29th Infantry, who narrates, and Marcus Perry run into each other in England at the start of the novel. Back in their hometown of Bedford, Va., Woody played football for Moneta, a white high school, and Marcus played for a "Colored" school, so they'd never competed against each other, but they'd worked together at Johnson's Hardware. As with his previous novels, Myers pulls no punches. Before readers are 50 pages in, readers witness the bloodshed as Josiah and his company storm Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944--an arm (its "bloody socket still bleeding") brushes against Woody's legs, and a soldier climbs out of a burning amphibious vehicle only to be shot by Germans. The young men who survive come together into new companies, and Myers conveys the attitudes of the day through candid conversations among men like Gomez, whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in 1924, and humanizes the enemy through details such as a mass card for a German soldier's brother, discovered as they searched his corpse.

Teens will discover too many sadly similar themes running through these three well-crafted novels; the books' impact builds with each one readers complete. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Walter Dean Myers's account of the U.S. invasion of Omaha Beach and its aftermath, through the eyes of a 19-year-old soldier.

Scholastic, $17.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 12-up, 9780545384285

The Creature Department

by Robert Paul Weston


"Gleaming. Futuristic. Amazing!" That's what Elliot von Doppler and his new friend Leslie Fang think of the headquarters for DENKi-3000, the company that created the Electric Pencil with Retractable Telescopic Lens and the wireless TransMints that flood your mouth with taste ("Get your freshness direct from the web!"). Elliot's Uncle Archie invites the two for a tour but, sadly, this may be the last chance anyone will get to pay a visit: DENKi-3000, with no recent inventions and a complaining crowd of shareholders, is about to be taken over by Quazicom Holdings, which plans to shut it down.

Elliot's uncle runs the Research and Development Department. He's the only one allowed in or out--with the exception of Elliot and Leslie, and Famous Freddy Fang (Leslie's grandfather), who brings them daily deliveries of Chinese takeout. This kooky company is full of surprises. Behind the second-to-last door on the left lies the Creature Department, "where the magic really happens." The huge laboratory is filled with computers, chemistry sets and dozens and dozens of "un-human" creatures--the real minds behind DENKi-3000.

From fairy-bat to bog nymph to hobmongrels, Robert Paul Weston's (Zorgamazoo) otherworldly cast drives the plot. When Quazicom decides to get pushy, and Uncle Archie disappears, it's up to Elliot and Leslie to protect the company's future by ensuring that an awesome new invention is delivered just in time. Snappy dialogue and nifty writing ties it all together, resulting in a satisfying, fun-to-read story. --Lynn Becker, host of Book Talk, the monthly online discussion of children's books for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

Discover: A hidden laboratory run by fantastic creatures, and the two kids who must save them.

Razorbill/Penguin, $16.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 8-12, 9781595146854

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