Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, November 4, 2011

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

A Journey with Murakami

A growing number of American readers are discovering the unusual world of Haruki Murakami, best known for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. His new book, 1Q84 (see our review below), came out last week, and was so eagerly anticipated that many bookstores opened at midnight so readers could get copies as soon as they were available.

I discovered Murakami when I first became a Raymond Carver fan and learned that a Japanese writer--Murakami--had just translated for the first time all of Carver into Japanese and that the Japanese were going crazy for it. So I read some of his stories, and they were weird--but they were also lovely and believable and incredibly well written. Then I read The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and I swear I dreamt it the whole time I was reading it. Suddenly I was living in Murakami's world, complete with people who disappear down holes.

He's like all the cool authors from when I was a teenager rolled into one: Vonnegut, Brautigan, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Irving and, of course, Carver. Almost everything you read by him is simply "boy meets girl...." And yet there's something about his writing that sucks you into his world, where you live during his usually very long books, and then you come out, back into your own world. And what's funny is that, in some way, Murakami's world is so strange and murky and beautiful that it's almost a relief to get out of it and back to the boring thick of you life. Still, it's not harsh going from one world to another: he has this incredible gift for writing that seeps into your mind and subtly changes the way you see some things.

He's an author who has a power with words, their cadence, the story, the imagination. When you read him, you ache to be that talented. That's Murakami. --Jenn Risko

Book Candy

Book Drum's Literary World Map

Book Drum has launched a crowd-sourced literary world atlas, with pop-up text and pictures to illustrate each literary setting. That is designed to answer questions like: Where might Holden Caulfield and Esther Greenwood have crossed paths? How close did Captain Corelli come to the home of Odysseus? What is a Russian doing in Cambridge? Where did Robinson Crusoe come ashore? And just how far would the Snow Goose have to fly to reach Brave New World's lighthouse?

Great Reads

Further Reading: Sherlock Holmes

As any Baker Street Irregular will tell you, reports of a new Sherlock Holmes novel, after a 125-year gap, sanctioned by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, means "The game's afoot!"

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel is by Anthony Horowitz, a British novelist and screenwriter whose own bestselling thrillers and adaptations of mystery novels (including many of Agatha Christie's Poirot series) have no doubt given him a lot of clues (yes, that pun is very much intended) about how to concoct a Holmesian tale for a previously Holmes-free millennium.

However, just because The House of Silk is the first authorized Holmes novel in over a century doesn't mean it's the only Holmes novel that was written during that time. Conan Doyle's creation is veritable catnip to contemporary authors, who have crafted some unique angles.

The Seven-Percent Solution by Nicholas Meyer was a 1970s attempt not simply to pick up Dr. Watson's pen where Conan Doyle left off, but to fill in a few gaps in the Holmesian chronology, especially that "Great Hiatus" Holmes fans deem the years 1891-1894. Meyer also "uncovered" a collaboration between Holmes and Sigmund Freud, and gives readers a sense of the real bond between Sherlock and his well-connected brother, Mycroft.

Many mystery readers were captivated by The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie R. King's 1994 series launch in which a studious young Englishwoman named Mary Russell stole the aging Sherlock Holmes's heart--but, being just 15 years old, could not immediately marry him. The tale of this unlikely couple's courtship and their subsequent Great War and Roaring Twenties adventures has given a heretofore unimagined Holmes considerable life--and romantic heat.

Sherlock Holmes, Vol. 1: The Trial of Sherlock Holmes by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Aaron Campbell is a graphic novel that uses the historic Holmes and Watson in a fresh story. Combined with this book's beautiful production (from fine paper stock to John Cassaday cover art), the excellent art and editorial mean that this team of authors has something fun and different on their hands. Will there be another one soon?


Children's; Wilderness; Memoirs of Loss; J-Students

The New York Times Book Review announced its choices for the 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2011.


"Alongside the words of such adored authors as Beatrix Potter and Munro Leaf lay simple black-and-white sketches, vibrantly hued drawings, and eccentric portraits that serve as delightful embellishment to timeless stories," Flavorwire wrote in showcasing its "favorite vintage illustrations from classic children's books."


Philip Connors, author of Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout, selected his top 10 wilderness books for the Guardian. "My list is mostly comprised of books I've read recently as I grappled with how to write such a book in the 21st century, as we've come to understand, rather starkly, that all of life on Planet Earth is affected by global phenomena. Wilderness books once focused on how an encounter with wild nature altered the human soul and human consciousness; now, they tend to ruminate on how wilderness has been altered and diminished by human tools and patterns of consumption."


The release this week of Joan Didion's Blue Nights inspired Flavorwire to compile a list--Magical Thinking: Our 10 Favorite Memoirs of Loss--because the book "got us to thinking about other wonderful examples of memoirs in this genre, which just seems to get more and more popular, despite its inherent sadness."


"The 50 best books for journalism students" were featured by, which observed that this discipline is an appealing major, "especially since the industry currently exists in a fascinating transition state, offering up opportunities for them to pioneer some exciting new trends and techniques once the school slaps degrees in their hot little hands."

Movie: Killing Bono

Killing Bono, based on the memoir by Neil McCormick, opens today. Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan star as Irish brothers and aspiring rock stars who watch former school friends become U2. Includes the late Pete Postlethwaite's final performance.

Book Review



by Haruki Murakami, trans. by Philip Gabriel, Jay Rubin

The plot of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84--originally released in three volumes in Japan, but published as a single, sprawling novel for American readers--defies easy summarization, but here are some starting points: a young woman in Tokyo with the unlikely name of Aomame ("green peas") starts noticing little details that make her wonder if she's slipped into a parallel universe. (The Japanese word for the number 9 is a homonym for the letter Q, as in "question mark.") In another part of the city, an aspiring novelist named Tengo is hired by an editor to rewrite a 17-year-old girl's weirdly compelling fantasy so it can be submitted for a literary prize; the story is connected to the religious cult from which the young girl escaped seven years ago. Meanwhile, Aomame, who secretly murders men who commit domestic violence and sexual abuse, has just been assigned her next victim: the leader of that cult.

"This is starting to sound like science fiction," Aomame thinks to herself early on--even before she notices a second moon in the sky--and at least one of 1Q84's obsessively specific music references is almost certainly an Easter egg for Philip K. Dick fans who find the novel's metaphysical themes familiar. It's a subtle clue, though, and blends in invisibly with the other musical fixations--from Bach to Louis Armstrong--and the meticulous detailing of the meals characters prepare for themselves (a Murakami trademark). Some passages get bogged down in expository dialogue, and other scenes might earn Murakami a spot on this year's Bad Sex in Fiction shortlist. When 1Q84's central concepts click, though, it becomes as weirdly compelling as the fictional story that sets everything in motion, and as you learn more about the tenuous threads that bind Tengo and Aomame, you may find yourself rooting for them to find each other. Don't worry about all the questions left unanswered; accept Murakami's strange, unsettling world knowing you'll be able to find your way back much more easily than his characters. --Ron Hogan, founder of

Discover: A huge novel, bursting with weirdness, and a quirky love story between two people who barely know each other.

Knopf, $30.50, hardcover, 9780307593313

Say You'll Be Mine

by Julia Amante

Julia Amante's (Evenings at the Argentine Club) latest protagonist, prickly California winery owner Isabel Gallegos, is as smooth as a good wine and an expert at dining (and wining) potential buyers. She's also on the brink of selling her thriving business for millions when she learns that she's inherited three young orphans due to the death of an Argentinean relative. The notion of being a surrogate mother is unthinkable, so she immediately attempts to transfer custody to their rough-necked uncle, Ramiro. In a choice some may find baffling, however, Isabel takes the children back to America for a several-months' long vacation, with the understanding they will eventually be handed over to Ramiro. Except she doesn't tell the kids that.

The challenge with Say You'll Be Mine is to make readers care about such a self-centered protagonist. Just as you begin to lose interest in Isabel completely, Amante introduces her ex, the lovable Nick, who happens to be dynamite with the kids (and still madly in love with Isabel). This plot device brings forth a softer side to the chilly Isabel, leading readers rooting for her to melt already and snap up the second chance for a husband and family she's been given. Amante wisely leaves you guessing until the last pages of the book as to whether Isabel can get out of her own way for once and reclaim the children from the determined Ramiro.

Say You'll Be Mine proves that mothers aren't born--they're made. Amante knows this from experience; an addendum to the novel details her own role as an adoptive mother to her two children. Amante spent a year in Argentina when she was in her late teens. She clearly adores the country, and this sentiment shines through in this pleasing tale. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: What happens in this Latin-flavored tale when a winery owner suddenly inherits three children.

Grand Central Publishing, $13.99, trade paper, 9780446581639

The Daughter She Used to Be

by Rosalind Noonan

The blood of the Sullivan family has run NYPD blue for two generations. Those who didn't become cops married them--or, like youngest daughter Bernadette, went to law school. When patriarch James "Sully" Sullivan reached mandatory retirement age, he opened a coffee shop just across the street from his old precinct house, and the Sullivans' Queens home continues to be filled with police officers and police talk.

That talk comes home in a very different way when an unfortunate encounter and a case of mistaken identity provoke a mentally fragile ex-convict--released from prison just days earlier--into a shooting spree in Sully's coffee shop, killing three police officers. In the aftermath, Bernadette comes to realize that her ideas about justice may not be the same as those of the rest of her family, and that leads her to reconsider both her career and her relationships.

Rosalind Noonan's (In a Heartbeat) The Daughter She Used to Be is both an engrossing family saga and a suspenseful legal thriller. Noonan covers a lot of narrative ground, with a large cast of characters whose situations involve morally complex issues--justice, racism, abortion, grief--as well as knotty family dynamics. There's so much going on that some threads aren't fully followed through, but Sully and Bernadette's shifting father/daughter relationship remains at the core of the story. This novel would fuel some great book-club discussions, facilitated by the helpful readers' guide provided. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

Discover: A tragic crime forces a policeman's daughter to re-examine her ideas of right and wrong.

Kensington, $15, trade paper, 9780758241689


Until There Was You

by Kristan Higgins

Chick lit and romance readers alike will adore the latest from two-time RITA winner Kristan Higgins (My One and Only). Wry, charming and packed with giggles and tears, Until There Was You will leave fans satisfied and send new readers scrambling for Higgins's backlist.

Posey Osterhagen has never forgotten gorgeous bad boy Liam Murphy. How could she, when he unwittingly broke her 16-year-old heart? That's not to say she hasn't moved on in the last 15 years, but a life split between managing her architectural salvage firm and helping out at her family's restaurant is merely satisfying, not thrilling. Then Liam, now widowed with a teenage daughter, comes back to town.

Since his wife died, Liam's main concerns are raising Nicole and staving off the panic attacks that he might lose her like he lost her mother. Romance is the farthest thing from his mind, until he's blindsided by an out-of-the-blue attraction to Posey's offbeat sense of humor and her kissable lips.

Higgins offers readers an endearing and realistic heroine in Posey, a tiny woman with a big heart and a smart mouth. Liam's desire to protect his daughter will steal readers' sympathies even as his refusal to let her grow up makes them long for Posey to talk sense into him. With a host of lovable characters, hilarious dialogue and the message that family is what you make of it, Until There Was You will leave you smiling long after the last page. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries

Discover: Hilarious, endearing Posey Osterhagen and the gallant ex-bad boy who loves her.

Harlequin, $7.99, mass market, 9780373776115

Food & Wine

Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden: 150 Festive Recipes for Bringing Family and Friends Together

by Bradley Ogden

For many home cooks, holiday dinners mean the same recipes each year--cherished family favorites (or ironclad traditions) made the way Mom used to make them. But for those seeking to create their own traditions, or wanting a twist on, but not a total departure from, the standby dishes, Bradley Ogden presents a collection of holiday recipes old and new.

Ogden, who owns a dozen restaurants in California and Las Vegas, knows how to cover every course, from warming drinks and savory appetizers to hearty main courses and rich desserts. Each section suggests several menus and notes on planning, preparing and setting an attractive table. There are also useful techniques, such as carving a turkey, and a page or two of non-cooking helpful hints (like the list of hangover remedies).

This is not a timesaving or low-calorie cookbook; the focus here is on fresh, local ingredients (when possible), unexpected flavor pairings and making enough to feed a crowd. Cooking, rather than writing, is Ogden's strength; though his chapter introductions are basic at best, it's the recipes and photos that will entice readers to try something new. Some dishes, such as Steak Chili with Black Beans or Roasted Harvest Squash Soup, can move easily into your winter staples rotation, and you may be tempted to make a batch of his pumpkin cookies (with lemon cream cheese frosting!) long before Thanksgiving. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A collection of classic recipes--and new twists on old favorites--for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

Running Press, $30, hardcover, 9780762439157

Biography & Memoir

Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York

by James Wolcott

The latest in a long line of memoirs about being young in New York, Lucking Out chronicles the rough-and-tumble 1970s from the perspective of Vanity Fair cultural critic James Wolcott. He's divided the decade into roughly three sections, recounting his relationship with film critic Pauline Kael; his time among the punk rockers at CBGB; and his take on the decade's enthrallment with both sex and dance.

Readers of Wolcott's columns will recognize his distinctive voice--enamored with culture both high and pop, intellectual but just a tad flip--in Lucking Out. He roves from subject to subject, lighting on various movies, music and novels while leaving room for plenty of inside scoop. We hear about characters populating the Village Voice, Kael's tiffs with thinkers and moviemakers, and personalities from bands like the Ramones and the Talking Heads. It's a portrait of a time and place that should thrill readers who enjoyed Patti Smith's Just Kids.

But this isn't just a collection of gossip or "I was there" moments. Relatively personal anecdotes--like returning home to a burgled apartment and registering not surprise, but worry for his cat's safety--speak volumes about the 1970s. Such stories may not reveal the internal dynamics of CBGB or Kael's clashes at the New Yorker, but they offer the kind of endearing, revealing detail that makes a memoir. And, of course, there's the entertaining once-upon-a-time quality of watching someone progress slowly through the ranks, struggling confidently upward in a media hierarchy that's long gone. --Kelly Faircloth, freelance writer

Discover: An entertaining insider's account of the creative energy that seethed throughout New York's messiest decade.

Doubleday, $25.95, Hardcover, 9780385527781


by Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher has made a cottage industry of her addictions--think Wishful Drinking--and has no inhibitions about sharing. After rehabs and the death of a good friend--in her bed while she was in it, but he was gay so there was nothing going on--she was having troubles again and submitted to Electroconvulsive Shock Therapy. Fisher's only complaint about it is that it zaps the memory, although that isn't apparent from this memoir.

The underlying theme of the book is "celebrity." Fisher grew up around stars, with lots of fuss surrounding her parents and, of course, the scandal of papa Eddie Fisher deserting Debbie Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor, Reynolds's best friend. Taylor's late husband, Mike Todd, had been Eddie's best friend, so it was a cozy swap. Not so much for Fisher, who longed for a relationship with her father, which she finally achieves when he is dying, drug-addicted, addled and asking her to bring him a prostitute. This is not a pretty picture and the author spares us nothing.

She chronicles her friendship with Michael Jackson, who asks her for pictures of her little girl, which she doesn't find alarming. She can forgive him anything because he was always a "celebrity." She is less forgiving of Teddy Kennedy, with whom she has dinner when she is on a date with another senator, Chris Dodd. Kennedy asks her personal questions, starting with: "Will you be having sex with Chris tonight?" She parries and thrusts, which apparently no one ever did with Kennedy, and is applauded years later by the other couple at the table, neighbors of Ethel Kennedy.

Included among her reminiscences is really funny encounter with Liz Taylor, which started with Fisher insulting her at an AIDS benefit and ended with Taylor inviting Fisher to a party at her home and pushing her in the pool. That somehow pulls down the wall between them; Fisher's long resentment of Taylor dissipates. Eddie Fisher, his daughter concludes, was a charming, handsome rake: "The world was his shower and he used women for soap." --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: Carrie Fisher revisits her addictions, shock therapy, friendships with celebrities and good moments with her father.

Simon & Schuster, $22, hardcover, 9780743264822


Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest

by Wade Davis

In Into the Silence, Wade Davis (The Wayfinders, The Serpent and the Rainbow) portrays several attempts to climb Mount Everest during the 1920s within the context of the state of the British Empire after the First World War. With the benefit of new access to primary sources, he begins with visceral descriptions of the Great War in all its horrifying violence, as seen through the eyes of several players in the later Everest drama, and then follows these men through the postwar numbness of a Britain that had lost the bulk of a generation. Davis makes a convincing argument that the assault on Everest was "the ultimate gesture of imperial redemption."

George Mallory was the star of three successive attempts to summit a mountain that was at the time a complete mystery--its weather patterns and geography entirely unknown, the cultures that surrounded it viewed by the British with a misguided paternalism. Along with a host of fellow climbers, adventurers and scientists, Mallory was driven toward an accomplishment that the nation came to grasp as an outlet for its frustrations and a hopeful liberating triumph. While he was the principal character in the eyes of his contemporaries and in history, the other explorers also receive well-deserved and detailed attention in Davis's account.

Into the Silence is a book about mountaineering and a respectable adventure epic with all the alpinist details, but it's also so much more: a heartbreaking portrayal of war; the story of more than a dozen individuals whose lives were rocked by a war and a mountain; and finally, a history of a nation watching its own imperial era come to an end. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pages of julia

Discover: An epic history of adventure and adversity, of one man and a nation's quest for redemption.

Knopf, $32.50, hardcover, 9780375408892


Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself

by Julie Klam

Julie Klam, whose first book was the bestseller You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness, has written another warm and moving book, illustrating how dogs bring out the best in us.

At its heart, the story is a family drama, with a revolving cast of dogs with various ailments, maladjustments and general animal disorders. Where others might shy away, Julie forges ahead to rescue the dogs that make themselves known to her, with (almost always) full support from her family.

One sweet dog is tethered to a street sign with no owner in sight, another is deemed unadoptable because of "fecal incontinence" (Julie says YES!) and still another pup is found in New Orleans with a mayonnaise jar stuck on its head. All of these dogs, and others, make their way into Julie's life, with the consent of her husband and daughter, and sometimes other family members called for reinforcement.

At no point in this extremely engaging book does Klam delve into melodramatic dog tales--she never wallows or excessively pulls our heartstrings. If she did, she could never manage to do what she does so well--foster rescue dogs over and over, diligently finding suitable homes for them without clinging to them. That's how much she loves the dogs.

Lest we think of her as the world's greatest dog rescuer, she lets us know that her own three dogs misbehave woefully and hilariously. The comic relief is welcome. Klam breaks down and finally sends her babies to doggy boot camp, only to have them return and stare her in the eye as they poop on the floor once again. And she loves them even more. --Susan Weis-Bohlen, breathe books

Discover: A funny and touching memoir about saving dogs that not only helps Julie Klam save herself, but offers deeply moving lessons in unconditional love that can save us as well.

Riverhead, $22.95, hardcover, 9781594488283

Children's & Young Adult

Tuesdays at the Castle

by Jessica Day George

The Castle Glower is no ordinary castle. It sprouts rooms, shifts staircases and grows hallways. But Castle Glower is no enchanted Hogwarts either; rather, it lives and responds to the needs of its kingdom, and no one understands the castle like Princess Celie. While the king is hearing petitions and teaching his son, Rolf, to rule, and the queen is off doing queenly things with her eldest daughter, Lilah, Celie clamors through secret passageways in her quest to map the castle's many rooms and additions.

Celie's atlas proves invaluable after her parents disappear in a bloody ambush, and the royal children are forced to protect the castle and kingdom from the designs of an evil prince. Who can they trust? Are the king and queen still alive? How can they drive the prince from the castle? These are all questions the children must ask. When pranks are no longer enough to combat the prince's malevolence, Celie, Rolf and Lilah must summon all their courage and cunning to save the Castle Glower, and indeed, their very lives.

Jessica Day George (Dragon Slippers) has created a charming, adventurous story with a spirit that will appeal to fans of Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux. George is clearly at home in the fairy tale realm, but she writes for modern readers. You will find no helpless princesses awaiting rescue in her kingdoms. Instead, Tuesdays at the Castle is all the more enjoyable for the intelligent, strong characters who dwell within its pages and castle walls. --Julia Smith, blogger, and children's bookseller emeritus

Discover: The tale of a resourceful princess who strives to save castle and kingdom when her royal parents are ambushed.

Bloomsbury, $16.99, hardcover, 254p., ages 8-12, 9781599906447

My Name Is Mina

by David Almond

With his extraordinary debut for young people, Skellig, David Almond introduced the title character--perhaps human, perhaps angel, perhaps a mixture of the two--who was living in the garage at young Michael's new home. The boy soon recognizes a kindred spirit in his neighbor Mina McKee and enlists her help in tending to Skellig.

My Name Is Mina begins before Michael moves in across the street, and it takes the form of captivating nine-year-old Mina's journal. She confides the events that have shaped her, the ideas she contemplates as she perches high in her tree, her thoughts about the closed mining tunnel that compels her like Persephone to the underground. While many of the motifs reverberate between Skellig and My Name Is Mina, each novel stands entirely on its own.

The book begins with Mina's conflict with her teacher Mrs. Scullery about Mina's writing, and the situation comes to a climax when Mina must write a timed essay. "Did William Blake do writing tasks just because somebody else told him to?... And what about Shakespeare?" So Mina writes a brilliant Edward Lear–esque page of nonsense, and Mrs. Scullery calls her "an utter bloody disgrace!" in front of the whole school. That's when Mrs. McKee decides that the kitchen table may be a more fitting desk for her uniquely gifted daughter.

For Mina, the characters from books and poetry are as alive as the words of her beloved William Blake. Her bravery in seeking her own truth inspires others to find theirs. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

For more on My Name Is Mina, check out our Maximum Shelf.

Discover: Nine-year-old Mina McKee, whose creativity and passion for poetry, food and life itself are infectious.

Delacorte, $15.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 10-up, 9780385740739


by Ally Condie

Readers of Matched will lap up Allie Condie's second book in the trilogy, here told by both Cassia and Ky.

By the end of Matched, Cassia had fully embraced the notion of free will. Here she heads to the Outer Provinces in search of Ky--an Aberration who was seized by the Society in the previous book--knowing his death, along with the deaths of many other Aberrations, is imminent. When Xander, whom the Society deemed Cassia's Match, visits her, the two travel to an Archivist who tells them of a Pilot (referenced in Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar") who will lead the Rising to cross back into better days before the Society. Cassia believes Ky is the Pilot and could be their savior against the Society and an Enemy that remains a mystery.

Much like its predecessor, Crossed is written in lyrical prose ("Loving him gave me wings and all my work has given me the strength to move them," Cassia says of Ky). As the two desperately pursue one another, they often fall just short of a reunion. The novel shifts between the first-person narratives of Cassia and Ky, and despite their similar voices, both characters reveal moments of insight. Ky's chapters further expand his history growing up as an Aberration.

Crossed is an action-driven sequel, steered by characters who break the rules, form new alliances and commit to surprising paths for the upcoming final installment. --Adam Silvera, a bookseller and intern at Figment

Discover: The exciting follow-up to Matched, in which Cassia and Ky both narrate their thrilling journeys.

Dutton, $17.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 14-up, 9780525423652

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