Library Journal

Graphic Novels for African American History Month

“The Comic Book That Changed the World” was what congressional aide and graphic novelist Andrew Aydin (coauthor, March) titled his master’s thesis. In 1957, an interfaith peace group called the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) published a comic book on Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Bus Boycott—Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story—to spread the message across the South about nonviolent civil rights activism. The comic was distributed widely and inspired future Congressman John Lewis during the 1950s and afterward, most recently leading him to collaborate with Aydin on March (see review below). Yet the work has had influence far beyond the United States. A Spanish-language version has inspired nonviolent social action in South America, and an Arabic translation helped fuel recent Egyptian activism. The comic book is online here, and FOR has partnered with March publisher Top Shelf to offer reprints for $5 starting in May. March itself has received wide acclaim and below joins 18 other recent titles that should appeal to your patrons.

Axe, David (text) & Tim Hamilton (illus.). Army of God: Joseph Kony’s War in Central Africa. PublicAffairs. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9781610392990. pap. $14.99. CURRENT EVENTS/HISTORY
A charismatic Acholi Ugandan spurred by “visits from spirits,” Joseph Kony has led his Lord’s Resistance Army of rebels since the mid-1980s in countless brutal raids against civilian villages. Throughout Uganda, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic, Kony’s disciples have raped and kidnapped thousands of young people and children, forcing them to serve the rebels and become killers themselves. Army of God provides vignettes about the history, victims, victimizers, and would-be saviors in Kony’s sweep of terror, with detailed source notes. See War Brothers, below, for a fictionalized account from a young victim’s perspective. For teens and adults.

Bollers, Karl (text) & Rick Leonardi & Larry Stroman (illus.). Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black. New Paradigm Studios. 2013. 141p. ISBN 9781939516015. pap. $16.99. F
Former parajumper medic Watson is a hulking Afghanistan war vet, while ex-programmer Holmes sports dreadlocks, fedora, brilliant deduction ability, and a photographic memory. Set in Harlem, this breakthrough vision of Arthur Conan Doyle’s duo succeeds with fine writing, dead-on art, and moody coloring. For high school age and adults. (LJ 1/14)

Bowers, Chad & Chris Sims (text) & Scott Kowalchuk (illus.). Down. Set. Fight! Oni. 2014. 144p. ISBN 9781620101162. pap. $19.99. F
“Fearless” Chuck Fairlane threw away a promising football career when he started a huge brawl after a winning game by punching the losing team’s mouthy mascot. He had reasons, though—mostly having to do with his no-good father. Now years later as a high school coach he’s being targeted for a bruising by costumed mascots from all over. Is it just payback or something more complicated? Crack FBI Agent Molly Harrison would sure like to find out and so would Chuck. With plenty of action, tongue-in-cheek humor, and a message about honesty, this graphic novel would appeal especially strongly to young men, teen and older.

Brockett, V.J. (text & illus.). Gesso Squad: The Graphic Novel. Vol. 1: 1,000 Star Demons and a Rain God. CreateSpace. 2013. 154p. ISBN 9781491090138. pap. $19.50. F
A series of graphic novels for tweens designed to teach multicultural art history, the Gesso Squad’s escapades are up to seven volumes. “Gesso” is a white paint mixture used as an under layer for artwork and serves as an apt name for this group of high school students with powers whose adventures relate to art and artifacts. Anthropomorphic animals, aliens, and oddball demons complicate the lighthearted stories. Brockett’s colorful, simple art is likely to inspire DIY creativity, and all books have discussion questions keyed to chapters.

Brooks, Max (text) & Caanan White (illus.). The Harlem Hellfighters. Broadway: Crown. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780307464972. pap. $16.95. F/HISTORY
They ended up fighting for France because the American Expeditionary Forces refused to use them. After training in South Carolina where they suffered much racism and discrimination, the first African American troops to fight in World War I were sent to Europe but put to work as stevedores and day laborers. Only when the overwhelmed French army begged for help did the United States release the all-“colored” 369th regiment for combat—under the oversight of the French command. Ultimately, one of the fiercest and most decorated units of the war, they earned the nickname “Harlem Hellfighters,” from the Germans, not the Allies. Brooks (World War Z; The Zombie Survival Guide) based the lightly fictionalized and heavily researched account on both true events and real-life people. White’s stark black-and-white artwork gives the violence the immediacy of a newsreel. For high school age and adults. (LJ 3/15/14)

Johnson, Jemir (text) & Luis Sierra & Winston Blakely (illus.). Blind Corners. 2013. 102p. ISBN 9780981827834.
Johnson, Jemir Robert (text) & Luis Sierra & others (illus.). Five Shots. 2008. 100p. ISBN 9780981827803.
ea. vol: Creative Elamentz Studios. pap. $6.95. F
Jocasta “Jay” Nova can read minds, which does help with her private eye business, but it hurts like hell. She’s also a dead shot and wire-taut both mentally and physically. These street lit short story collections drop Jay and her partner Randy into familiar urban territory: deals gone sour, crime syndicates, missing people, deceptions unmasked, the wrong secrets falling into the wrong hands. In Jay’s world of hip-hop noir, violence isn’t the best answer but usually the only one. While the black-and-white art as well as the print quality can be inconsistent, Jay succeeds as a kick-ass heroine who works both sides of the law and wades through danger like it’s just dirty water. For adult fans of urban crime fiction.

Lewis, John & Andrew Aydin (text) & Nate Powell (illus.). March. Bk. 1. Top Shelf. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9781603093002. pap. $14.95. MEMOIR/HISTORY
Artist Powell blogged that Congressman Lewis “is the sole surviving member of the ‘Big Six’ of the Civil Rights movement…was integral in the historic marches from Selma to Montgomery, and generally helped smack institutionalized white supremacy in the nuts and changed the face of 20th-century American Society.” Lewis’s personal journey took him from unpaved back roads in 1940s Alabama to the halls of Congress and Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration. Two more volumes are coming, and a teacher’s guide is available. A hero’s story with nuanced, evocative art. Great for teens and adults and fine for tweens as well. (LJ 7/13)

McKay, Sharon E. (text) & Daniel Lafrance (illus.). War Brothers: The Graphic Novel. Annick Pr. 2013. 176p. ISBN 9781554514885. pap. $18.95. F/CURRENT EVENTS
Fourteen-year-old Jacob is sent to a Ugandan seminary school, to prepare for university enrollment with a major in mathematics. But Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army guerrillas murder the school’s teachers and kidnap the youngsters, forcing them to join the rebels and kill—or be maimed or killed themselves. Jungle hazards like lions and crocodiles threaten them as well. Jacob struggles to keep his humanity and eventually escapes with several other children, although their horrific experiences will forever haunt them. But thousands more child soldiers in Africa and elsewhere remain victims and will be murdered or become murderers. Based on McKay’s award-winning YA novel, which in turn is based on real-life accounts of Ugandan children, and drawn with evocative, somber art, this graphic novel is for teens and up. (SLJ 3/13)

Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour. TwoMorrows. 2012. 192p. ed. by Jim Amash & Eric Nolen-Weatherington. ISBN 9781605490328. $39.95. GRAPHIC ARTS
Although he died at the young age of 38, artist Baker built a solid reputation in the 1940s and 1950s for drawing gorgeous, adventurous women, dynamic action stories, and romance comics. Baker redesigned Phantom Lady, an early crime-fighting heroine said to be the inspiration for Watchmen’s Silk Spectre character. He also penciled It Rhymes with Lust, a so-called “picture novel”  more than 100 pages long before “graphic novels” became commonplace. This tribute volume includes essays, interviews, plenty of illustrations, several complete stories, and an annotated checklist of Baker’s oeuvre.

Mauer, Marc (text) & Sabrina Jones (illus.). Race To Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling. New Pr. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9781595585417. pap. $17.95. CRIMINAL JUSTICE
This adaptation of Mauer’s complex book cuts to the main points about disparities and toxic effects of U.S. imprisonment practices since the 1970s. A number of prisoners and their sentence lengths have greatly increased, although incarceration may be an unjust and ineffective remedy in many cases. Moreover, an “us vs. them” vision has contributed to racial inequalities throughout the correctional system. Current trends do suggest a promising shift toward better sentencing plus increased programs in crime prevention and reentry counseling. Back matter includes resources for donating books to prisoners and connecting with prisoner pen pals. Mauer is executive director of the Sentencing Project. Skillful black-and-white visuals from Jones (Isadora Duncan; contributor, Wobblies!; Studs Terkel’s Working) add clarity and vividness to complex issues. Tweens, teens, and adults interested in social issues will all learn from this. (LJ 3/1/13)

Ollmann, Joe (text & illus.). Science Fiction. Conundrum. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9781894994750. pap. $18. F
Author/artist of the painfully hilarious Mid-Life, Ollmann introduces a younger couple who are doing fine—maybe—until Mark becomes convinced that he was abducted by aliens as a child. Suddenly the pair hit a huge obstacle. As Mark spirals down into paranoia and Sue into unbelieving despair, we see that the story is a parable. Life can hit you with something totally alien from what you expected. How do you keep going? Ollmann provides no solution but plenty of food for thought. The bold, sepia-enhanced art supports his uncanny and unprettified skill at depicting relationships.

 

Parent, Dan (text & illus.). Archie’s Valentine: A Rock & Roll Romance. Archie Comics. (Archie & Friends All-Stars). 2014. 104p. ISBN 9781936975334. pap. $10.99. F
Suppose Archie Andrews chooses not Betty or Veronica but the sassy Josie McCoy, bassist and head of the high school band Josie and the Pussycats. In this alternate “let’s imagine” window into the Archie universe, the pair fell in love because Josie’s band shared a multicity tour with Archie’s band (see The Archies & Josie and the Pussycats, 2011). Now the musical couple tie the marriage knot and face the dramas of rock-band life, reality TV, and new daughter Star—who lives up to her name. For tweens and up.

Piskor, Ed (text & illus.). Hip Hop Family Tree. Vol. 1: 1970s–1981. Fantagraphics. 2013. 112p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781606996904. pap. $24.99. MUSIC
Once upon a time in the 1970s, platter-jockeys playing LP records for parties began mix-mastering the instrumental “breaks” to please beat-happy crowds. Soon emcees started superimposing verbal showmanship and rhyming over the instrumentals. These innovations were slow to find backing in the recording industry—even some of the artists thought that appeal came only from live performances. But they were wrong. Piskor tells this history in primary-color art recalling 1970s comic books and includes portraits of a hundred hip-hop artists and supporters. (LJ 11/15/13)

Tarantino, Quentin (text) & R.M. Guéra & others (illus.). Django Unchained. Vertigo. 2013. 264p. adapted by Reginald Hudlin. ISBN 9781401241933. $24.99. F
A freed slave packing serious heat to save his wife from an evil plantation owner: What could be more compelling, or more—sad to say—American? Hudlin adapted Tarantino’s untrimmed original script rather than the film itself, so there are parts here that didn’t get into the movie that may attract those who have seen it as well as those who have not. There’s also blood-soaked savagery, sex, and plenty of snappy dialog. Older teens and up. (LJ 1/14)

Teitelbaum, Michael & Lewis Helfand (text) & Sankha Banerjee (illus.). Martin Luther King Jr.: Let Freedom Ring. Campfire. (Heroes). 2013. 88p. ISBN 9789380028699. pap. $11.99. BIOG
This straightforward and realistically drawn biography follows Dr. King from his protected childhood in a Southern black middle-class neighborhood, through the much nastier dilemmas of living in the 1950s segregated South, and to his education and growing maturity. Grounding himself in the teachings of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he rose in the civil rights movement to lead both blacks and whites in a series of effective protests that brought the racial climate of the United States much further from its slaver legacy. At least three other graphic biographies pay tribute to King: Ho Che Anderson’s lengthier, more nuanced, and more adult King: A Comics Biography, Arthur Flowers & Manu Chitrakar’s lyrical and artistically unique I See the Promised Land, and T.S. Lee’s The Martin Luther King, Jr. Story, styled for elementary school–age readers. Teitelbaum and Helfand’s biography works for middle school through adult audiences.

Whitley, Jeremy (text) & Emily Martin (illus.). Princeless. Bk. 2: Get Over Yourself. Action Lab Entertainment. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9780985965242. pap. $14.95. F
Spunky Princess Adrienne has escaped her tower imprisonment by dressing as a knight and persuading her guardian dragon—a fellow female—to be her getaway steed. Now she’s off to rescue her sister Princess Angelica from another tower. But the beautiful Angelica has turned into a major league diva with a whole village of admirers, and she doesn’t want to give up their adulation. Moreover, the girls’ father-the-king has sent a whole bunch of knights after Adrienne, while their mother-the-queen has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. With exuberant full-color art, Whitley and Martin’s tongue-in-cheek adventures of girl power and skullduggery will appeal to kids and adults, too. Whitley has several more volumes lined up as the plot gets darker and even more interesting.

Whittenberger, Mike (text) & Delia Gable (illus.). A Ninja Named Stan. Arcana. 2012. 102p. ISBN 9781771350020. pap. $14.95. F
Stanley Kidderick bills himself as a “ninja PI,” but he’s not very good at either ninjaing or private investigating. And Officer Andrea Zuwowski hasn’t exactly hit her professional stride at the NYPD. But good intentions plus inventiveness plus mutual attraction give the couple the edge over the crooks—who aren’t real savvy themselves. This slapstick urban rom-com will appeal to mid-teens and up. Light violence, occasional bawdy references, and salty language.

For more Short Takes of graphic novels for African American History Month:

2013: http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2013/01/books/graphic-novels/from-diapers-to-steampunk-graphic-novels-short-takes/

2012: http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2012/01/collection-development/stories-beyond-black-and-white-25-graphic-novels-for-african-american-history-month/

2011: http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/newslettersnewsletterbucketbooksmack/888719-439/short_takes_27_graphic_novels.html.csp

2010: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6713282.html

2009: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6637203.html

 

Time Machines, Human Beings, Wimpy Kids, Wives| What We’re Reading

School Library Journal/Library Journal staffers confront scary monsters both real and imagined, wimpy kids, wives by the boatload, preconceptions, and murder this week. Tune in and see what we’re reading! 

Sarah Bayliss, Associate Editor, News & Features, SLJ
With my son home sick and rereading the entire “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series (Amulet), I’ve been revisiting the excellent misadventures of antihero Greg Heffley, sidekick Rowley, and their merry (?) gang. Seasonal incident from Cabin Fever (bk. 6, 2011): Greg is hired to clear snow from a neighbor’s driveway and decides to save himself some time by melting the snow with a sprinkler, resulting in a sheet of ice.
I heard that author Jeff Kinney originally saw an adult audience for these books, and really, it’s unfair for them to be relegated to the kids’ section. Comic relief especially welcome during flu/Arctic vortex season.

Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, Reviews, SLJ
This week finds me reading not books…but the media! Somehow, 1992 is repeating itself, and Woody Allen and Mia Farrow are the hot topics of the day. There have been tons of articles about the allegations that Allen molested his adopted daughter Dylan, now 28, at age seven. Among the pieces of note: Dylan Farrow’s open letter in the New York Times on Nicholas Kristof’s blog, describing the alleged incident; Woody Allen’s recent New York Times op-ed responding to the letter; Robert Weide’s defense of Allen in the Daily Beast; a Salon piece on the nature of abuse allegations in general; and a Slate piece on the issue of trying a case in the court of public opinion. It’s been a busy week.

Liz French, Associate Editor, Reviews, LJ
Books are my time machine. I so love reading about fashions and décor of the past, not to mention old movies (film being one of my most treasured nonfiction “beats” as a book review editor at LJ). Right now I’m wallowing in the Seventies, browsing through The ABC Movie of the Week: Big Movies for the Small Screen (Rowman & Littlefield) by Michael McKenna. For those of you who are too young to remember, the ABC Movie of the Week (aka “MOW”) was a genre-changing phenom of the 1970s. Starting with one a week (then progressing to biweekly, then even more frequently), the network aired original 90–minute, made-for-TV movies that often addressed issues of the day. A lot of famous stars and directors were involved in these MOWs, including Steven Spielberg (Duel), Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen (who played lovers in 1972′s That Certain Summer), William Shatner, Hope Lange, Andy Griffith, Tom Bosley, Ida Lupino, James Caan, Karen Black, Michael Douglas, Lee J. Cobb, and many others.
Many of the MOWs became pilot episodes for series: The Night Stalker and its sequel The Night Strangler morphed into a short-lived but excellent series starring Darren McGavin as a rumpled tabloid reporter hunting down possibly supernatural baddies. Kolchak: The Night Stalker* wasn’t on long, but it became a cult favorite, influencing X-Files creator Chris Carter when he was a youngster. So thank you for that, MOWs! And thanks (I guess) for pilots of The Six Million Dollar Man and Starsky and Hutch as well.

*Oh noes! Just read a Forbes newsbyte saying Johnny Depp bought the rights to Kolchak and is contemplating a big-screen remake. Wasn’t Dark Shadows reboot enough?

Amanda Mastrull, Editorial Assistant, SLJ
This week I finished Kathleen Hale’s No One Else Can Have You (HarperTeen). A colleague here in the LJ/SLJ office told me how much she loved the novel, so I intercepted a spare copy on its way to the general freebie shelf. The story begins just after Kippy Bushman’s best friend Ruth is found gruesomely murdered in the cornfield by Kippy’s house in Friendship, WI. The inept local police immediately pin the crime on a convenient suspect, which prompts Kippy to channel her inner Nancy Drew (though she’d no doubt much prefer a comparison to her idol Diane Sawyer), and she starts searching for answers in this strange, wonderful book. It’s a great read by debut author Hale, who combines a murder plot with dark humor and small-town Midwestern satire. You betcha I recommend it.

Kiera Parrott, Editor, Reviews, SLJ
I’m about halfway through The Riverman (Farrar) by Aaron Starmer and I’m completely enveloped by this world. Imagine some of the kids from Freaks and Geeks and their daily struggles just to make it through junior high. Then throw in a fantastical world called Aquavania where time is funny, kids with true imagination can create anything they want, and a deeply villainous entity called the Riverman is murdering them one by one. This is the story that confronts likable slacker Alistair. He’s trying to determine if the wondrous and terrifying tales that his friend Fiona tells him are real or if they are a cry for help from a truly troubled girl. This young adult novel is more than a mystery/fantasy/coming-of-age story. Interwoven through Starmer’s narrative are deeply philosophical questions about the nature of truth and the veracity of memory. I’m not sure where it’s going, but I can’t put it down.

Meredith Schwartz, Senior Editor, News & Features, LJ
I’m reading Drunk Tank Pink and Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, by Adam Alter (Penguin). It’s an accessible and fascinating summing-up for a lay audience of research on how environmental stimuli and cultural cues we don’t even consciously notice can significantly influence our behavior: from blue lights reducing crime to yin-yang logos leading us to predict more changes in the weather and the stock market, as well as some more disturbing effects of lingering unconscious racism, sometimes with deadly consequences. It also addresses cultural differences and how not everyone reacts the way those raised in WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) societies typically do. I’m particularly enjoying those moments when I mentally question the causal reasoning presented, only to find a page or two later that the experimenter had the same caveat and ran another test to check. Yay scientific method!
It’s making me want to design follow up experiments like mad, and I can already feel the specific information slipping out of my brain, to be replaced by a vague general sense that little things would make a big difference if only I could remember which ones and how. But those are problems with me, not the book. So far my only minor quibble is that footnotes or notes at the end of the chapter would be more useful than pages of endnotes ganged up at the back of the book: I hope they’ve added hyperlinks in the text itself to the ebook version.

Etta Thornton-Verma, Editor, Reviews, LJ
Yesterday I finished Alice LaPlante’s A Circle of Wives (Atlantic Monthly). Like her Turn of Mind, it has a neat ending twist, and is compelling, but I preferred that book. Wives features its own interesting characters—three spouses of the same man, who meet for the first time at his funeral, and the female detective who becomes obsessed with investigating the man’s death. But the main character in Turn of Mind, a woman with Alzheimer’s who doesn’t know whether she committed murder or not, was the best depiction of mental illness from the sufferer’s point of view since Sylvia Nasar’s A Beautiful Mind, and absorbed me that much more. Next up is some nonfiction: I’m reviewing Gillen D’Arcy Wood’s Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World (Princeton Univ., May) for LJ, so will be reading it with my post-its and pen in hand.

Reviewers of the Year 2013

Susan G. Baird formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL

“I can think of almost nothing more enjoyable than being read to! That’s why I love reviewing audiobooks,” says Baird, who adds, “I want to share excellent books presented by outstanding narrators with audio buffs and those who might be new to the audiobook experience.”

I chose Susan as my reviewer of the year for a number of reasons: her enthusiasm and evangelism for the format, her dependability, and the amount of thought and care she puts into her reviews. While many reviewers have genres or nonfiction subjects they prefer, Susan is happy to review anything related to Asia, especially China. There were a wealth of titles that fell under that umbrella this year, which gave her the opportunity to review memoirs (On the Noodle Road), pop fiction (Crazy Rich Asians), thrillers (The Shanghai Factor), and history (Empress Dowager Cixi), among others.—Stephanie Klose

Sally Bissell Fort Myers, FL

What does an editor (or any reader) want from a review? Not just a neat encapsulation of a book’s contents and value but a real conversation in print. And that’s what I get every time from Sally Bissell, reviewer extraordinaire, who takes each book as a special challenge and delivers something intelligent, witty, luminous, thoughtful, hypnotic, penetrating, lusciously written, and spot-on—something, that is, that makes me think. Sally gives each assignment her full attention, and whether she turns in an insightful rave or a pointed critique—she’s not afraid to topple giants and can do so convincingly—I always want to go back to the book and read or reread it, then call her for an extended chat. Sally, who went on a dream trip to Africa a few years back, has been especially helpful as a reviewer in the burgeoning area of African literature, where other reviewers might not feel sure enough to tread. Though she’s recently retired from South County Regional Library, Estero, FL, I’ll never let her resign from LJ. So pay special attention to her reviews—and for double the reading pleasure, catch her blog, Read Around the World, at readaroundtheworld-sallyb.blogspot.com/ as well.—Barbara Hoffert

Kristi Chadwick Emily Williston Memorial Library, Easthampton, MA

“Send it on!” These are the words I most frequently hear from Kristi Chadwick whenever I ask her if she’s willing to tackle a new book. Kristi, director at the Emily Williston Memorial Library in has covered a wide range of books at LJ since she first started reviewing in 2011, including genre fiction as well as cookbooks and food-related titles. Kristi approaches every assignment with an upbeat and positive attitude, whether it’s a work on fermentation, making your own soda, or even beekeeping. While I’ve only worked with her a few months, it’s easy to see why she’s such a beloved member of the LJ roster. Kristi responds, “It has been such a pleasure to review for Library Journal and expand from genre fiction to nonfiction titles in topics that are near and dear to me personally.”—Mahnaz Dar

Graham Christian Pelham, MA

Overseeing book reviews in religion—and the attendant “Spirituality & Religion” column (formerly titled “Spiritual Living”)—became part of my job almost five years ago, a responsibility that started me working with my 2013 reviewer of the year, Graham Christian. It began with a blunder: in my first email to him, I called him “Christian” instead of Graham, a gaffe that did not appear to amuse him. He’s kept me on my toes ever since, a position I enjoy, not simply because it makes me a couple of inches taller but because it keeps me learning. There is no greater pleasure than working with reviewers who are deeply familiar with their reviewing territory yet convey that learning lightly in elegant and incisive evaluations of the books that LJ sends them. Graham began reviewing for LJ in 1996, and his territory for those first years was poetry. (To this day, LJ editor Barbara Hoffert speaks sadly of the loss of Graham from her category.) Graham’s own background reflects his humanist and spiritual strengths. He was head of monograph acquisitions at the Andover-Harvard Theological Library of the Harvard Divinity School for ten years. Graham has gone on to complete his MSLIS from Simmons and last year received his PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Under his purview, the quarterly “Spirituality and Religion” column is responsive to reading trends in public libraries and to the special concerns of theological, parish, and academic readers. It is owing to Graham that the column, under one reviewer’s oversight, can live and breathe as it does. Thank you, Graham!—Margaret Heilbrun

William Gargan Brooklyn College Library

A librarian at Brooklyn College since 1979, Bill has been a reviewer of literature for LJ since 1985. His expertise is the Beat Generation, but he’s taken on other assignments from me, too. In essence, Bill personifies LJ’s corps of reviewers—he’s smart, reliable, passionate about literature, and always good for an informed review. He recently reassured me that I had “the right reviewer” for a 700-page volume of Ernest Hemingway letters before he submitted a starred review (LJ 9/15/13) that proved it. Bill is a part of the large LJ family of reviewers who make our job as editors, among many things, rewarding; you have made my first year memorable. Thank you so much.

Bill responds, “For nearly 30 years now, it’s been my pleasure and privilege to review for LJ. During that period, I’ve completed over 200 reviews, most focusing on the Beats, the Lost Generation, and the Harlem Renaissance. Once in a while, however, I get a surprise in the mail, a wonderful book I might not have read otherwise, like Gary Soto’s A Summer Life (LJ 7/90) or Thomas Froncek’s Home Again, Home Again: A Son’s Memoir (LJ 6/1/96). The opportunity to read the latest books in my field keeps me current; the chance to explore works by less familiar writers keeps my mind engaged. Reviewing is its own reward, but it’s always fun when someone at the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference or BookExpo recognizes the name on your badge and stops to chat about your reviews. And especially gratifying is that rare instance when an author writes not to complain but to commend you for getting it right.”—Annalisa Pesek

Joan Greenberg Warminster, PA

The marvelous, dependable, and exceedingly erudite and creative Joan Greenberg has been reviewing video programs for LJ since 1989. After roughly 160 reviews, here’s what she has to say:

“I owe my long and happy relationship with Library Journal to two people. Hilma Cooper, director of the Cheltenham Township, PA, library system when I was a branch manager, was an LJ book reviewer and suggested that I submit my application. Since my writing at that time was largely confined to reports to my library board, press releases, and grant proposals, writing reviews sounded like an interesting challenge. My background, which includes a graduate degree in broadcasting, made reviewing video programs a good fit. The idea of having my words published in a national professional journal was also, I confess, very appealing.”

“Bette-Lee Fox has been improving on those words (thank goodness) for the past 25 years, and I highly value the relationship we have developed over that time. I love opening those boxes from her to see what’s new! My professional experience has largely been in smaller public libraries with limited funds, and with each review I am mindful of whether the program is worth the expenditure from an already-stretched library budget. As someone who has had the opportunity to produce television programs, I am also sympathetic to the challenges of turning out a first-rate production. The downside is that every movie or TV show that I watch for pleasure seems to set off an automatic “review response,” and I start composing in my head as I watch the credits roll!” —Bette-Lee Fox

Jane Henriksen Baird Anchorage P.L., AK

When Jane Henriksen Baird, acquisitions librarian at the Anchorage Public Library, AK, signed up to review genre fiction for LJ in 1998, she was hoping to get SF/fantasy titles but instead cheerfully reviewed novels set in biblical Israel (India Edgehill’s Queenmaker), mythological Greece (Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles), medieval England (Bernard Cornwell’s The Archer’s Tale), and colonial Mexico (Colin Falconer’s Feathered Serpent). Fortunately, these were all her favorite historical time periods. Because Jane quickly proved to be such an excellent writer and a thoughtful critic, I turned to her when we expanded our best books coverage to include genre fiction; since 2011, Jane has annually picked the year’s top historical fiction titles. But Jane is not completely stuck in the past. She recently praised Pierce Brown’s Red Rising (LJ 9/15/13), a much-buzzed-about debut sf thriller, and draws on her Alaskan roots to review novels set in her home state (Brian Payton’s The Wind Is Not a River). When she’s not writing for us or SLJ (since 2007), she is performing in local theater productions such as Nunsense. A multitalented librarian indeed! Reviewing for LJ, Baird notes, “certainly has made me more aware of the importance of reading critically and reviewing honestly, as much of my job involves selecting materials based solely on others’ reviews.”—Wilda Williams

Thérèse Purcell Nielsen Huntington Public Library, NY

Thérèse Purcell Nielsen, a reference librarian in the Adult Services department at the Huntington Public Library in Long Island, NY, brings grace, humor, and erudition to her memoir reviews for LJ, which are published every other month online. A former litigator who quips, “I got a chance to take a do-over and became a librarian in midlife (I hope it is midlife),” she makes me laugh every time we communicate. Thérèse began working with LJ fairly recently—in 2010, she and several other librarians e-interviewed a mystery author for the magazine—but she’s done a lot in that timespan. She was part of LJ’s reference librarians roundtable at ALA Midwinter 2012 and has occasionally held down the fort as the only memoir reviewer. Thérèse’s sense of humor filters into her reviews, especially her column introductions, and her main theory about reviewing memoirs, that it’s not a “referendum on the writer’s life, it’s all about the story,” is intelligent and compassionate, just like her writing. It’s a pleasure to work with someone who’s so wise and patient—must be all that time answering “odd questions” at the reference desk.—Liz French

Brian Odom Birmingham, AL

Brian Odom is a reference machine. His current job, as an archivist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, makes it apt that he’s a tireless science reviewer for LJ and SLJ, but he also reviews reference and trade history publications for us and test-drives (flies?) databases for SLJ, too. His considered reviews touch upon the aspects of the work that are most important to librarians (what if a set is excellent but it’s available in works your library already owns? You’ll know it from Brian’s review). “It’s an honor to be recognized for doing something I find so enjoyable,” says Brian.

LJ editor Margaret Heilbrun says, “First I thought that Brian Odom was my secret treasure, one of those wonderful reviewers who make your editorial life a dream in so many ways. Would I share him? No way. Turns out I was late to the game. He was already reviewing videos for Bette-Lee Fox, who is very fond of him as well. He was reviewing materials for School Library Journal, too. Here’s to you, Brian! May I still think of you as my secret?”—Henrietta Thornton-Verma

Talking with Pierce Brown About His LibraryReads Top Pick, Red Rising

When Pierce Brown graduated from college, his heart’s desire was to study magic at ­Hogwarts. So one might expect his debut novel to recall Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. Instead, Red Rising is an entertainingly disturbing dystopian tale set on Mars, where a rigidly hierarchical society keeps Reds slaving beneath the soil under the pretense that they are building for a future the dominant Golds already enjoy. What happened on the way to the magic show?

“I did write a couple of fantasies,” said Brown in a phone interview, “but I had just gotten off working on a political campaign and was interested in issues of governance and politics.” Brown, whose studies in economics and political philosophy show up in the novel’s well-wrought concern with class structure, government control, and media power, didn’t start with the idea of sf but instead wanted “to create a character with drive.” A 16-year-old Red named ­Darrow becomes a rebel when his beloved wife, Eo, is executed. Still, he’s not entirely persuaded when he’s drafted by the dangerous Sons of Ares to help topple their overlords. He’s frightened by what he’s ­becoming.

“We’re all afraid of losing ourselves,” explains Brown, who understands the feeling. He moved seven times during childhood owing to his mother’s job and found himself always adjusting to a new school and new friends while pining for the settled past. He deftly portrays a conflicted ­Darrow, entering the fray but “worried what Eo would think. That’s how you make a tragic hero. Darrow rages against himself, much like Achilles.”

Impressively, Brown has created a faraway future society that will resonate with anyone recalling the fall of the Berlin Wall or Arab Spring protestors. Like many ­dystopias, Red Rising presents extreme control, imaginable to us because we see government overreach worldwide and because the utter turmoil of the Middle Ages, says Brown, is far, far away. “True chaos is a lot scarier than too much control,” he asserts, “but we can’t understand that fear.”

The brutal reign of the Golds makes comparative chaos seem welcome, but, argues Brown, “Look at what happens in history when slaves become masters; it can be ugly.” The rebellion Darrow helps launch may or may not make the world a better place. Even he wonders, as Brown makes us ponder whether humanity is inherently evil, social change necessarily violent, and hierarchy (and hence group ­hatred) inevitable.

Brown wisely acknowledges that he may have different answers to these questions in a few years, then plunges ahead. Comparing himself to a mid-19th-century romantic, he says, “We are equal parts angel and demon; our faults and our willingness to overcome make us interesting.” He points to current LGBT triumphs as evidence that social change can be peaceful, though in ­Darrow’s world, where evil has won, there will be blood. And given free will and necessary self-interest, “percentages in society are inevitable. We are a combative species, but we can evolve.”

The relentlessly absorbing Red Rising is made most enjoyable, Brown believes, by “readers not knowing what’s happening next. It’s the familiar Luke Skywalker story but twisted and darker.” Avoiding false world building and refusing to hide behind sf’s sometimes overdone verbiage and “weird names that are hard even for me, and I love fantasy,” Brown has delivered a tale that, with the next books in the trilogy, will just keep rising.

 

Prepub Alert is taking a break on February 17 and will return on February 24.

From Lev Grossman to Susan Vreeland | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Aug. 2014, Pt. 2

Grossman, Lev. The Magician’s Land. Viking. Aug. 2014. ISBN 9780670015672. $27.95. CD: Penguin Random. Audio. FANTASY
When he’s not reviewing books for Time, Grossman writes engrossing fantasy that has won him the 2011 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best New Writer from the World Science Fiction Society. Here’s the conclusion to a trilogy that started off by sending Quentin Coldwater to Fillory, the magical land he thought existed only in his childhood books. Now he’s back at Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic, having been expelled from Fillory, and with Brakebills undergraduate Plum goes on a mission that unearths old friends, new secrets, and a spell that could create a newer, better Fillory. In our dreams! With an eight-city tour.

House, Richard. The Kills: Sutler; The Massive; The Kill; and The Hit. Picador. Aug. 2014. 1024p. ISBN 9781250052438. $35. FICTION/MILITARY
Though classed as military fiction, this four-in-one work is described by the publicist as John le Carré meets Roberto Bolaño, cinematic in a Syriana kind of way, and one of those rare thrillers to get long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Plus, the author has had two short, moody novels published in the innovative “High Risk” series from Serpent’s Tail. So this is not your average contractors-in-Iraq book. In fact, it only starts out with contractors in Iraq, then leads us across continents, with some dark doings in Naples and a vanished German diplomat as part of the mix. A gritty, kaleidoscopic read, not for the faint of heart; originally published in four separate volumes and as an innovatively enhanced ebook in Great Britain.

Joyce, Graham. The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit. Doubleday. Aug. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780385538633. $24.95. SUSPENSE
England, 1976: it’s the hottest summer in memory, so why does the family of college student David object to his job at a beach resort, however rundown and tacky? Because David’s biological father disappeared there 15 years earlier. The family’s concern seems borne out by the weird events David experiences, including visions of a man with a rope and the plague of ladybugs infesting the town. Then things get really scary. Joyce has a good following here and the O. Henry, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy awards to his name, but the publisher thinks that this erotic and darkly supernatural work is the one to break him out.

La Seur, Carrie. The Home Place. Morrow. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780062323446. $25.99. lrg. prnt. CD (POD)/downloadable: HarperAudio. THRILLER/FAMILY LIFE
An environmental lawyer in Billings, MT, who has earned a private pilot’s license, a Yale law degree, and a doctorate in modern languages from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, La Seur has a backstory as interesting as her debut novel. Heroine Alma Terrebonne, who hates Montana’s cold winters and small-town ways, returns home reluctantly when her sister is found dead, supposedly from exposure after wandering off drunk from a party. That doesn’t much surprise Alma, given Vicky’s party-hard ways, but meeting her orphaned niece gives Alma some other ideas. With an impressive 100,000-copy first printing.

Little, Elizabeth. Dear Daughter. Viking. Aug. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780670016389. $26.95. SUSPENSE
Imprisoned for reputedly killing her mother, former celebrity darling Janie Jenkins is released after ten years and starts hunting for the real killer. Her search leads her to remote South Dakota and the realization that her high-profile philanthropist mother’s past was far different—and far less lovely—than she imagined. A big debut with an eight-city tour, foreign rights sales to over a dozen countries, and rights optioned by Sony Pictures Television.

Vreeland, Susan. Lisette’s List. Random. Aug. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781400068173. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812996852. CD/Downloadable: Penguin Random Audio. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Since the elegantly conceived The Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Vreeland has written a string of best sellers that typically blend art and history with strong character study, and her new book is no different. At the time of the Vichy regime, a young Parisian ends up in Provence, caring for her husband’s grandfather. Through the works of Cézanne, Pissarro, Chagall, and Picasso, she uncovers the glories of Provence despite wartime hardships. Not just art history, this book evokes key ethical questions, including the currently timely question of art stolen during World War II. With a West Coast tour.

Prepub Alert is taking a break on February 17 and will return on February 24.

 

Andrew Cuomo, the Mona Lisa, & Fashion Kings Alexander McQueen & John Galliano | Barbara’s Nonfiction Picks, Aug. 2014, Pt. 2

Cuomo, Andrew. All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life. Harper. Aug. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780062300089. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062300096. POD: Harper Audio. MEMOIR
Cuomo isn’t just the 56th governor of New York, as well as a former New York attorney general and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He’s also the son of a governor, and he’s had some telling ups and downs on his way to Albany. So this memoir will discuss not just politics but family and duty, setbacks and successes, as Cuomo considers what his zigzag trajectory has taught him. Only a local tour (the guy’s busy), but there’s a one-day laydown on August 5.

Franks, Lucinda. Sweetheart, Gone To See the President: An Unconventional Marriage. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. Aug. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780374280802. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781429949279. MEMOIR
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Franks has maintained radical beliefs since her college hippie days, having broken laws by doing things like bloodying draft files. Her husband, the renowned former New York County district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, should be shocked. Instead, for 35 years, they’ve had the intensely close marital union revealed here. Franks also discusses pertinent cases from Morgenthau’s files, including his discovery of a terrorist cell that eventually became al-Qaeda headquarters. Too bad the CIA didn’t believe him.

Hales, Dianne. Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered. S. & S. Aug. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781451658965. $28. BIOGRAPHY/HISTORY
Who’s Lisa Gherardini, you might ask? She was a woman of Renaissance Florence whose life (1479–1542) spanned a particularly fascinating and tumultuous time in history. You know her best as the Mona Lisa, painted by the great Leonardo da Vinci. Her story is told by Hales, who was given an honorary knighthood by the president of Italy in recognition of her best-selling La Bella Lingua. Just a regional tour, but I bet this book will attract attention.

Jauhar, Sandeep. Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician. Farrar. Aug. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780374141394. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781429945844. MEMOIR/MEDICAL
Not just a memoir of Jauhar’s work as director of the Heart Failure Program at a Long Island, NY, hospital, this critique does for our health-care system what the author’s best-selling eye-opener, Intern, did for the hospital residency: it gives us an insider’s view of some harsh and enduring realities that cry out for reform. Jauhar focuses on the cronyism, needless tests, and treatment of one patient by multiple specialists, leading to big bills and a fractured health-care picture, all part of the push to cover costs and stave off malpractice suits. Important reading as we debate health care.

Rosbottom, Ronald C. When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940–1944. Little, Brown. Aug. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780316217446. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316217453; lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316365987. lrg. prnt. HISTORY
Currently holder of the Winifred Arms Professorship in the Arts and Humanities at Amherst College, Rosbottom draws on memoirs, diaries, letters, archives, interviews, and even posters, photographs, films, and fiction to offer this thoroughgoing account of German-occupied Paris during World War II. Not a huge first printing, surprisingly; the ongoing interest in both Paris and World War II should make for broad appeal.

Thomas, Dana. Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. Penguin Pr. Aug. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781594204944. $29.95. BIOGRAPHY
For 15 years the European cultural and fashion correspondent for Newsweek in Paris, now a contributing editor for T: The New York Times Style Magazine and author of the best-selling Luxe, Thomas parallels the lives of leading fashion designers Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, both shy gay men from inner-city London who upended the fashion world starting in the 1990s. Then in 2010 McQueen took his life, and Galliano imploded a year later in a soused anti-Semitic tirade. What does the unmaking of these fashion kings tell us about couture—and culture?

Prepub Alert is taking a break on February 17 and will return on February 24.

 

Summer Chillers from C.J. Box, Chelsea Cain, Kathy Reichs, & More | Fiction Previews, Aug. 2014, Pt. 2

Adrian, Lara. Crave the Night: A Midnight Breed Novel. Delacorte. Aug. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780345532633. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780345532640. Downloadable: Penguin Random Audio. PARANORMAL ROMANCE
This latest “Midnight Breed” story depicts the doubtless doomed passion between Nathan, an elite warrior trained only to kill, and Jordana, privileged member of a prominent Breed family and promised to another man. Pushed back from February 2014.

Armstrong, Kelley. Visions: A Cainsville Novel. Dutton. Aug. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780525953050. $26.95. FANTASY
In the first Cainsville novel, Olivia Taylor-Jones was on her way to redeeming her birth parents, accused of being serial killers. But she stumbles on some trouble in this second installment when a dead woman shows up in her car, dressed just like her. Most fans are buying into this departure from Armstrong’s “Otherworld” series.

Box, C.J. Shots Fired: Stories from Joe Pickett Country. Putnam. Aug. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780399158582. $26.95. CRIME/STORIES
Ten short stories from the multi-award-winning Box, all Western-themed and several featuring Joe Pickett, Wyoming game warden and beloved Box character. Pickett must confront a nasty landowner and answer a radio call about “shots fired”; others stories include “The End of Jim and Ezra,” about two trappers fighting to survive in frigid 1835. With a national tour.

Cain, Chelsea. One Kick. S. & S. Aug. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781476749785. $25.99. THRILLER
Cain forsakes (at least temporarily) her New York Times best-selling Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series for a new series starring Kick Lannigan, kidnapped at six, rescued at 11, and trained by her abductor in bomb making and other interesting skills she’s since augmented. Now she’s helping on a missing child case. With a national tour.

Downie, Ruth. Tabula Rasa: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire. Bloomsbury USA. Aug. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781608197088. $26. MYSTERY
In this latest in the New York Times best-selling series starring Roman medicus Gaius Petreius Ruso, Ruso and wife Tilla, a native of Roman-occupied Britain, are administering to those doing the dangerous work of building Hadrian’s Great Wall when Ruso’s new clerk vanishes.

Ewan, Chris. Dead Line. Minotaur. Aug. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781250047076. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466847446. $26.99. THRILLER
A specialist in hostage negotiation, Daniel Trent is ready to talk to whoever kidnapped his fiancée. Alas, his chief suspect has also disappeared. Ewan is a No. 1 best-selling author in the U.K. recently voted one of America’s favorite British authors in a Huffington Post poll.

Fossum, Karin. I Can See in the Dark. Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780544114425. $25. MYSTERY
Tough for Riktor: he’s been accused of a crime he didn’t commit, but he has committed another crime he’s now trying to hide. From the author of the Inspector Konrad Sejer crime series, which won a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, but crossing over into psychological suspense.

Griffin, W.E.B. with William E. Butterworth IV. Deadly Assets: A Badge of Honor Novel. Putnam. Aug. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780399171178. $27.95. ACTION & ADVENTURE
Even as 27-year-old Homicide Sgt. Matt Payne investigates the murder of a reporter, he’s accused of murdering the head of Philadelphia’s Citizens Oversight Committee, which had been investigating shootings by police—with Payne a particular target. Griffin knows his Philadelphia police stuff!

Hoag, Tami. Cold Cold Heart. Dutton. Aug. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780525954545. $27.95. THRILLER
Internationally best-selling thriller author Hoag offers a stand-alone featuring TV news reporter Dana Nolan, who escaped from a serial killer but still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and the consequences of a brain injury sustained during her abduction. Is that why everyone looks suspect when she reopens the investigation of her best friend’s disappearance after high school graduation?

Hurwitz, Gregg. Don’t Look Back. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780312626839. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466848733. THRILLER
On a supposedly idyllic rafting and hiking tour in Oaxaca, Mexico, Eve Hardaway spots a dangerous-looking man flinging machetes at something indistinct, then discovers the camera and pill bottle of a woman who has disappeared. Looks as if she’s in for an unpleasant tête-à-tête. From a CWA Steel Dagger and two-time ITW Best Novel finalist.

Indridason, Arnaldur. Strange Shores: An Inspector Erlendur Novel. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781250000408. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466849549. MYSTERY
Near Iceland’s gelid fjords, Inspector Erlendur is hunting for traces of two people who vanished long ago: his brother, lost in a snowstorm, and a young woman who left a sense of betrayal in her wake. From a CWA Golden Dagger Award winner.

Jance, J.A. Remains of Innocence: A Brady Novel of Suspense. Morrow. Aug. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780062134707. $26.99. lrg. prnt. CD: HarperAudio.  THRILLER
A woman cleaning her dying mother’s house discovers a veritable hoard of hundred dollar bills, which she traces back to Cochise County, AZ, where Sheriff Joanna Brady is puzzling over the death of a family friend. What’s the connection? With a one-day laydown on July 22 and a 150,000-copy first printing.

Kallentoft, Mons. Autumn Killing. Atria. Aug. 2014. 464p. ISBN 9781451642674. $25.99. THRILLER
So far, Kallentoft has sold more than 1.5 million copies of his books in 26 languages—and this is only the third in the Malin Fors series. When the cold-blooded new owner of Skogså Castle is found floating in the moat, Swedish police superintendent Fors investigates.

Krueger, William Kent. Windigo Island. Atria. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781476749235. $24. MYSTERY
Residents of the Bad Bluff reservation blame a mythical beast called the Windigo when the body of a teenage Ojibwe girl washes up on an island in Lake Superior. But private eye Cork O’Connor thinks that rampant sex trafficking is the explanation. With a seven-city tour to Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Madison, and Phoenix.

Maron, Margaret. Designated Daughters. Grand Central. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781455545285. $27. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. MYSTERY
In her 19th mystery, Judge Deborah Knott investigates when her dying Aunt Rachel is smothered to death in hospice and eventually encounters the Designated Daughters, caregivers who are on a rampage when one of their members is cheated by a con artist. From the 2013 Mystery Writers of America Grand Master.

O’Dell, Tawni. One of Us. Gallery. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781476755878. $25. SUSPENSE
When Dr. Sheridan Doyle returns to his blue-collar mining-town roots, he finds a dead body near the Lost Creek gallows where resistant Irish miners had been executed years ago. Investigating with a famed local detective brings him close to perilous family truths. You know O’Dell as author of the Oprah’s Book Club pick Back Roads.

Patterson, James & Michael White. Private Down Under. Grand Central. Aug. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781455529780. pap. $16. CD/downloadable: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Private, first in a series about an exclusive detective agency, has netted 1.2 million in sales across all formats; the trade paperback original Private London sold more than 250,000 copies in a year. In this new trade paperback original, the agency’s just-opened Sydney office investigates the murder of someone close to the Deputy Commissioner of New South Wales Police. With a 400,000-copy first printing.

Preston, Douglas & Lincoln Child. The Lost Island: A Gideon Crew Novel. Grand Central. Aug. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781455525775. $27. CD/downloadable: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
In this third Gideon Crew thriller, our hero discovers a lost civilization—just as Preston helped do recently on an expedition to Honduras, which uncovered magnificent ruins of a city deep in the rain forest. Expect one Gideon Crew novel and one Pendergast novel each year from this enterprising team.

Quinn, Spencer. Paw and Order: A Chet and Bernie Mystery. Atria. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781476703398. $25. MYSTERY
When Bernie visits his reporter girlfriend in Washington, DC, he manages to get himself arrested, even as Chet cozies up to a Washington bigwig (as only a dog can do) and lands himself and Bernie in the midst of international conspiracy. Great narrator: Chet really thinks like a dog.

Reichs, Kathy. Bones Never Lie. Bantam. Aug. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780345544018. $27. CD:  Penguin Random Audio. SUSPENSE
In her 17th outing, forensic anthropologist Temperance “Tempe” Brennan moves in a new, undisclosed direction, though we do get to meet her much-referenced mother. Look for the splashy acetate cover over a preprinted case.

Robards, Karen. Her Last Whisper. Ballantine. Aug. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780804178266. $26. CD: Penguin Random Audio. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Enough with the fieldwork; serial killer expert Dr. Charlotte (“Charlie”) Stone just wants to return to her research. But an agent friend’s sister seems to have fallen prey to the not-fairytale-like Cinderella Killer. From the hugely best-selling author; promotion at Romance Writers of America 2014.

Todd, Charles. An Unwilling Accomplice. Morrow. Aug. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780062237194. $25.99. CD: HarperAudio. lrg. prnt. MYSTERY
Home on leave, World War I Battlefield nurse Bess Crawford is asked to escort a wheelchair-bound soldier to Buckingham Palace. But first he vanishes, and then he’s accused of murder. Todd’s An Unmarked Grave won the Sue Feder Historical Macavity award in 2013 and was the first Crawford mystery to make the New York Times best sellers list.

Prepub Alert is taking a break on February 17 and will return on February 24.

 

 

Thinking Inside the Box | Music Matters

Good box sets should be more than a collection of “the hits” appended with unreleasable odds and ends. The best are madcap and eclectic, reflecting the passions of the compiler—think of Lenny Kaye putting together the seminal garage-rock compilation Nuggets in 1972, coining the term punk rock in the process. Also, they are the perfect way for libraries to venture into pop music’s wilder regions, allowing the enterprising collection development librarian to represent obscure subgenres without shelling out cash for limited-press releases. This column excludes boxes that focus on a single artist or concert and zero in on collections that are somewhat broader in focus and a little more outré.

Anthology of American Folk Music. Smithsonian Folkways. 1997.

This is a testament to the wonders of early American popular songcraft and the strange vision of its compiler, Harry Smith, who gathered this sprawling collection of folk songs from his own massive record collection. Bob Dylan, in particular, took careful note.

Broken Flag: A Retrospective 1982–1985. VOD. 2012.

Broken Flag was one of the first and best of the “bedroom labels” that sprang from the early 1980s noise underground. Run by Ramleh’s Gary Mundy, the label was an early home to the likes of Controlled Bleeding, Ramleh, Maurizio Bianchi, and the New Blockaders and set an aesthetic/sonic tone for noise music that persists to this day.

Def Jam Recordings 25th Anniversary Box Set. 2009. Def Jam.

The hip-hop label Def Jam was started by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin in a New York City dorm around 1984 and is a tribute to the power of stubborn artistic vision. Performers include Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Rihanna, Ghostface Killah, and Jay Z.

Factory Records: Communications 1978–1992. WEA/Rhino. 2009.

Pioneering UK postpunk label Factory prided itself on creativity over commerce, which explains both its eventual bankruptcy and how it was able to attract so much incredible talent (New Order to Durutti Column to Happy Mondays and A Certain Ratio).

Grind Madness at the BBC. Earache. 2010.

In his legendary “Peel Sessions,” British DJ John Peel let bands of all stripes run roughshod over the BBC studios. This amazing collection of full radio sessions features seminal metal/grindcore acts Napalm Death, Godflesh, Carcass, and Extreme Noise Terror, among others.

The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records. Impulse. 2006.

As the artistic home of John Coltrane for the last six years of his life, Impulse was the natural spot for the more adventurous jazz players to let their imaginations run free. Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Saunders, Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Keith Jarrett, and Count Basie are all here.

I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America 1950–1990.

Light in the Attic. 2013.

Don’t miss out on this collection of self-released sonic tapestries. Laraaji and JD Emmanuel are already undergoing critical reappraisals. Hints of psychedelia, drone, and ambient abound. Who knew the tapes in the incense store were this good?

Los Nuggetz: 60’s Garage and Psych from Latin America. Rockbeat. 2013.

This new compilation draws copious inspiration from the “Nuggets” series of garage rock archaeology and cheekily swipes the name (sort of) for its multidisc survey of forgotten Latin American/Hispanic garage rock, freakbeat, and psychedelia.

One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found. Rhino. 2005.

The likes of the Ronettes, Dusty Springfield, the Shangri-Las, Carol King, Irma Thomas, and Leslie Gore are represented on this wondrous collection, all giving voice to the eternal ache that underlies young love with the sweetest, most heavenly voices and arrangements. But there are razor blades in this candy.

Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound. Numero. 2013.

A laserlike focus on microgenres and small regional scenes is deployed to utterly fantastic effect in this sonic trawl through the futuristic Minneapolis electro-funk-soul scene where a young Prince Rogers Nelson learned his chops in the late 1970s.

Rockin’ Bones: 1950s Punk and Rockabilly. Rhino. 2006.

If you think the 1950s lacked a certain edge, assault your ears with this mammoth collection of snotty, disrespectful-teenage-delinquent tuneage from the time that old folks mistakenly call the “good ol’ days.” Ain’t nothing wholesome about Kip Tyler or the Phantom.

Twenty Years of Dischord. Dischord. 2002.

Washington, DC-based Dischord Records has long been the confrontational conscience of American punk rock. Communally run, idealistic, ethical, and DIY til death, this label has birthed some of the best and loudest alternative music of the last several decades: Minor Threat, Fugazi, the Make-Up, Lungfish, Rites of Spring.

Matthew Moyer, Reference Librarian, Popular Media Department, Jacksonville Public Library, FL. He is a 2012 LJ Mover & Shaker

Xpress Reviews: Audiobooks | First Look at New Books, February 7, 2014

Week ending February 7, 2014

Dietrich, Karen. The Girl Factory: A Memoir. 7 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 8½ hrs. Tantor Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781452615783. $34.99. 7 CDs. library ed.; digital download. MEMOIR
When Dietrich was eight years old, an employee at the Anchor Glass factory where both her parents worked went on a shooting spree at the workplace, killing four others before shooting himself. Dietrich is a lonely, unpopular girl who early on has a preoccupation with her body and sexuality and an inclination toward ritual and routine. Cassandra Campbell’s deliberate, rhythmic tone accentuates the feeling of melancholy that permeates Dietrich’s account, which spans the 14 years from the shooting onward. When a shocking medical file comes to light late in the work, listeners may be disappointed to see the life-altering revelations it contains folded neatly into the narrative; however, it is likely a realistic portrayal of Dietrich’s reaction after so many years of secrecy.
Verdict Recommended for those who enjoy coming-of-age memoirs.—Erin E. Forson, Columbus, OH

Delaney, Rob. Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. MP3 digital download. library ed. unabridged. 4 hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804128452. $38; MP3 digital download. retail ed. Random Audio; Playaway digital. (no CD edition.) MEMOIR
Stand-up comedian Delaney tells humorous stories from his life in his self-titled, self-narrated, self-deprecating, and lengthily subtitled work. His stand-up work makes him a natural narrator, and the nature of the stories is such that they would be much more difficult to listen to if they were told by someone else. Delaney begins with a drunken (and failed) attempt to cross between telephone poles by shimmying across the telephone lines and ends with a car accident that left him with four incapacitated limbs and rapid moves between jail, the hospital, and a halfway house. His life goes downhill and then is rebuilt during his recovery. Delaney maintains a sense of humor the whole time, inviting the listener to laugh with him at his folly. Delaney is vulgar and hilarious; the disasters in his life are carefully selected to maximize his own spectacularly idiotic choices while minimizing the damage to others who feature in his tales.
Verdict Highly recommended for Delaney’s fans or anyone looking for a raunchy laugh.—Tristan M. Boyd, Westbank Community Lib., Austin, TX

Fainaru-Wada, Mark & Steve Fainaru. League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth. 12 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 14½ hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804128193. $45; 12 CDs. retail ed. Random Audio; digital download. SPORTS
Brothers Fainaru-Wada (Game of Shadows) and former Washington Post reporter Fainaru here investigate the NFL’s concussion crisis. Listeners will learn of the shockingly long era of football where doctors were “handling ankle injuries better than brain injuries.” The actions of the executives, doctors, researchers, and players involved in the off-the-field research and denial are chronicled masterfully. Well-reasoned comparisons of the NFL to another multi-billion-dollar industry that denied health problems related to their product, Big Tobacco, will leave fans saddened and angered. This book will change the way its listeners experience football. David Lawrence’s narration has a conversational feel and is a very easy listen.
Verdict A must for football fans.—Sean Kennedy, Cleveland Marshall Coll. Law Lib.

Franzen, Jonathan. Strong Motion. 18 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 21 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 97810480518124. $49.97; 18 CDs. retail ed.; 2 MP3-CDs. library/retail eds.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Franzen (Freedom) published this, his second novel, in 1992, well before his prize-winning work The Corrections. Despite Scott Aiello’s fine narration, the stories within stories and sprawling nature of this novel make the audiobook a challenge at times. Franzen juggles plotlines dealing with environmentalism, abortion, dysfunctional families, and capitalism as his hero, Louis Holland, and Louis’s girlfriend, Renee Seitchek, work to discover what is causing a series of earthquakes in Boston. Franzen make a good effort, but eventually the novel falls apart under the weight of all he has packed into it.
Verdict Recommended for listeners interested in Franzen’s early work. [“Franzen may push an occasional metaphor too far, but distractions fade in the face of fine characterizations in a context of science grounded in history with well-integrated social messages,” read the more positive review of the Farrar hc, LJ 11/15/91.]—Wendy Galgan, St. Francis Coll., Brooklyn

Grodstein, Lauren. The Explanation for Everything. 8 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 8½ hrs. HighBridge Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781622312511. $32.95; 8 CDs. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Rick Adamson provides the perfect voice for Grodstein’s study in love, loss, and faith. Atheist Andy Waite, reeling from the death of his wife through the actions of a drunk driver, has thrown himself into caring for his two daughters and his work as a professor of biology. He’s trying his best, but Andy can’t take his late wife’s place in the girls’ lives, particularly while he struggles with his own grief. He reluctantly agrees to advise evangelical student Melissa on her intelligent design independent study. Melissa begins to babysit for his children and becomes important to Andy and the girls before the two of them become involved intimately. Along the way, Andy begins to question his atheism, his life’s work, his lack of forgiveness, and his inability to let anyone in. Andy’s internal drama is superb.
Verdict Grodstein captures the face of grief in Andy’s struggle to find comfort and move on. The secondary characters are well drawn and add interest to the story. Recommended. [“This engaging, and provocative novel is hard to put down,” read the starred review of the Algonquin hc, LJ 9/1/13.]—Judy Murray, Monroe Cty. Lib. Syst., Temperance, MI

Kent, Kathleen. The Outcasts. 8 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 9½ hrs. Hachette Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781611134193. $30; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Hoping to build a new life for herself, Lucinda Carter escapes from a Texas brothel and runs to a Gulf Coast bayou to meet her buried treasure–hunting lover. At the same time a Texas lawman moves east tracking a merciless killer. Painting a portrait of a woman determined to start over, Kent’s (The Heretic’s Daughter) 19th-century action-packed Western includes drawn guns and various debts owed and paid. Actress Ellen Archer’s pleasing, professional reading includes distinct, nicely paced speech and a voice range and timbre that easily accommodate both male and female characters.
Verdict Will appeal to Western, historical fiction, and Kent fans. [“Kent has built a well-paced story, filled with twists and turns that will surprise most readers,” read the review of the Little, Brown hc, LJ 7/13.]—Laurie Selwyn, formerly with Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX

Ward, J.R. Possession. (Fallen Angels, Bk. 5). 12 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 14 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470390181. $123.75; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
The latest entry in Ward’s series (after Rapture) is not a pivotal book, although there is a battle for a soul. Fallen angel Jim Heron is so distracted by Devina, the demon, and by the soul of the young college student whose murder he couldn’t prevent that he forgets the soul for which they are currently playing. Eric Dove does a credible job of sliding beneath the skins of the characters. Devina, who’s obsessed with owning stuff, is suitably spoiled and haughty. Jim and the other fallen angels are stressed and defeated, the way soldiers sound as they describe the daily impact of war. Ward’s writing style is too similar to her “Black Dagger Brotherhood” books but without the outrageousness that makes that series a success.
Verdict Fans will want, popularity will likely demand purchase, but it’s not a hand-sell for first-time listeners of the author.—Jodi L. Israel, Birmingham, AL

Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, February 7, 2014

 Week ending February 7, 2014

Del Conte, Anna. Gastronomy of Italy. 3d ed. Pavilion. 2013. 608p. illus. index. ISBN 9781862059580. $45. COOKING
The second edition of Del Conte’s classic reference divided history, terminology, ingredients, and recipes into separate sections. This beautifully redesigned and updated third edition returns to Del Conte’s original A–Z organization and provides excellent cross-indexing of terms within individual entries. Home cooks may be disappointed by the changes (there is no recipe index), but researchers and historians will be thrilled. Entries with corresponding recipes are denoted by spoon icons; all the recipes contain U.S. and metric measurements.
Verdict Highly recommended for culinary history and reference collections. New full-page color photographs make this especially coffee table–worthy for Italian food lovers.—Lisa Campbell, Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor

Feldstein, Ruth. How It Feels To Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement. Oxford Univ. 2013. 296p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780195314038. $29.95. SOC SCI
Seeking to emphasize the importance of popular entertainment to the narrative of the civil rights movement, Feldstein (history, Rutgers Univ.; Motherhood in Black and White) considers the impact that a group of black female entertainers brought to the campaign. With analysis grounded in the legacy of Lena Horne as the first crossover black female entertainer in American popular culture, Feldstein argues that Horne’s move into civil rights activism in 1963 provides the turning point for five other prominent black female entertainers—Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, and Cicely Tyson—to engage that legacy and use it to form their own identities as political performers. Close analysis of the women’s performances highlight the ways in which the intersection of race and gender was at the core of their activism and the reception of their message to a public that by turns embraced and shunned them.
Verdict This book fills a narrow gap left by other biographies of black female performers, providing a direct link between the development of the civil rights movement and the role of these particular women within it. Fans of late 20th-century American history and popular culture and readers in African American studies will find this an captivating read.—Kathryn Wells, Providence P.L.

Gates, Robert M. Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. Knopf. 2014. 618p. photos. index. ISBN 9780307959478. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780307959485. AUTOBIOG
The title of this inside-the-beltway memoir is telling: Gates, who worked in eight different presidential administrations, focuses on his duty to serve. He recounts his tenure as defense secretary (2006–11) under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama as entailing not only the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but also battles with Congress and the Pentagon. Gates argues that Congress looks best from a distance; he found testifying before congressional committees frustrating at best, and he sought to protect the interests of the Pentagon while at the same time trying to reform the largest bureaucracy in the federal government. His memoir is also moving in several passages as Gates recounts his attendance in war zones and at military hospitals and funerals. His candor and humanity are most on display when he writes of the emotional toll he suffers when composing condolence letters to fallen soldiers’ loved ones.
Verdict If you read only one book by a Washington insider this year, make it this one. It should be savored by anyone who wishes to know more about the realities of decision-making in today’s federal government. Highly recommended for all readers, especially those interested in the U.S. presidency, public policy, and national security.—Stephen Kent Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, ID

McQuiddy, Steve. Here on the Edge: How a Small Group of World War II Conscientious Objectors Took Art and Peace from the Margins to the Mainstream. Oregon State Univ. 2013. 326p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780870716256. $24.95. HIST
During World War II, many conscientious objectors (COs) were excused from military service but were required to do other kinds of service for the duration. They were usually assigned to civilian public service (CPS) camps, often administered by religious organizations. These camps were places to store discomfiting personalities out of the disapproving public eye. The men would build roads, plant trees, farm, or do other manual labor—50 hours a week with no pay. McQuiddy (writing, Lane Community Coll.) focuses on Camp #56 in Waldport on the Oregon coast, which had a creative bunch of misfits known as the Fine Arts Group who generated poems, plays, music, and art in between their labors. The author details these fractious outcasts from many primary sources. As he traces their days at the camp, his narrative is slow to build steam, but it expands well as he relates these men’s postwar pursuits. Many, e.g., poet William Everson and printer Adrian Wilson, moved into the underground arts movements of the 1950s, testing the limits of artistic and political theater and fronting a counterculture movement that revolutionized the American artistic scene.
Verdict Useful for tracing the origins of the social changes of the 1950s and 1960s, while reminding us of another side of World War II service. Recommended for collections on 20th-century social and cultural history.—Edwin Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS

Markgren, Susanne & Tiffany Eatman Allen. Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career. Information Today. 2013. 240p. index. notes. ISBN 9781573874793. pap. $39.95. PRO MEDIA
Markgren (digital services librarian, Purchase Coll., SUNY) and Allen (director, library human resources, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) have offered the advice column “Career Q&A with the Library Career People,” now found at librarycareerpeople.com, for over ten years. Here, they’ve organize a selection of their advice along the trajectory of a librarian’s career divided into three parts: setting the stage (job search, cover letter, résumé, and interviewing), staging your own set (networking, presenting, job change, job flexibility, and alternative jobs), and finishing stage (stepping into management, following trends, collaboration, and retirement). They also conducted a survey to gather thoughts, comments, advice, and experiences from others, presenting this information throughout the book in “Voice of Experience” sections and Q&As at the beginning of each chapter. Sections need not be read consecutively.
Verdict Both professional and paraprofessional librarians will gain insights from this book no matter where they are on their career path. Strongly recommended also for library school students.—William Garrett, Troy Univ. Lib., AL

Robertson, Chad. Tartine Book No. 3: Modern, Ancient, Classic, Whole. Chronicle. 2013. 337p. photos. index. ISBN 9781452114309. $40. COOKING
Acclaimed baker and Tartine Bakery cofounder Robertson’s third cookbook is as visually impressive as its predecessors, Tartine and Tartine Bread. Its recipes, however, are far more challenging, providing spare instructions and assuming considerable technical knowledge. Robertson breaks up chapters of intriguing and innovative breads, crispbreads, and pastries (e.g., sprouted quinoa kamut bread, lemon-poppy-kefir pound cake) with accounts of baking-related travels in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Austria, France, and Mexico.
Verdict Like Hanne Risgaard’s Home Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and Pastry, this cookbook will expand readers’ knowledge of flours and flavor combinations. Since most recipes require something hard to find or time-consuming to produce, this book is best for advanced bread bakers.—Lisa Campbell, Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor

Xpress Reviews: E-Originals | First Look at New Books, February 7, 2014

Week ending February 7, 2014

Arend, Vivian. Baby, Be Mine. Samhain. (Thompson & Sons, Bk. 2). Feb. 2014. 177p. ebk. ISBN 9781619220416. $4.50. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
This second title in Arend’s “Thompson & Sons” series (Rocky Ride) continues the story of five siblings living in small-town Canada. Gage Jenick and Katy Thompson share a wonderful night of lovemaking that each has secretly desired for years. The next day, Gage leaves for a temporary job out of town, and Katie suffers memory loss after a car accident. Two months later, Gage returns thinking they’ll pick up where they left off, and a pregnant Katy has a lot of unanswered questions. Unfortunately, the book is too short to show any real character development. Gage is haunted by a violent family past, but he doesn’t hesitate to dive headfirst into a relationship with Katy once she becomes single. Readers must take the author’s word that Katy is more assertive in taking control of her life after the accident, because we hardly see Katy before it.
Verdict Small-town romance fans will enjoy this quick, fluffy read, but they likely will quickly forget about it. An optional purchase where Arend’s books (e.g., High Seduction) or the subgenre is popular.—Lizzy Klinnert, Barrington Area Lib., IL

Dodge, Lola. Belle Fury. Samhain. (Manhattan Ten, Bk. 3). Feb. 2014. 113p. ebk. ISBN 9781619222670. $3.50. PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Belle Fabian, world-renowned prima ballerina, is finally dancing in her dream role when a superpower that has been locked inside her awakens. After her uncontrollable power nearly destroys New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, she flees in panic, certain that she will never be able to dance again. Ryan Lamborne, aka Red Ruin, has been sent by the superhero collective the Manhattan Ten to bring in Belle and train her to use her powers. An undeniable attraction begins between them, but Belle’s life is in crisis as her dream of a dancing career comes crashing down and she tries to fit into a new world of superheroes and superpowers. Can Ryan convince her that she can have it all, including his love? This third title in the “Manhattan Ten” series is a short but satisfying read. Dodge writes in a light and personable way, and although the story is mostly about Belle coming to terms with a new life, the romance is effective and sweet.
Verdict Light, sensual content and a heartwarming story make this novella an ideal read for romance and paranormal lovers.—Jennifer Harris, Southern New Hampshire Univ., Manchester

Grant, Cat & L.A. Witt. The Only One Who Matters. Samhain. (Only One, Bk. 2). Mar. 2014. 183p. ebk. ISBN 9781619220508. $4.50. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE; M/M ROMANCE
After his SEAL career is ended by a bullet, Sr. Chief David Flint tries to cope with not only his new life as a civilian but with sitting idle as his lover, Lt. Commander Josh Walker, is repeatedly deployed. Having fought alongside the younger man, David knows all too well the danger that Josh will be in while he’s away, but he doesn’t want to force Josh to choose between a career he loves and their relationship. Josh doesn’t know how to reconcile with David; even their physical closeness cannot mask their growing emotional distance. When one more mission brings their problems to a head, Josh and David must determine whether their relationship will survive. However, that decision may be out of their hands, for this time when Josh walks out the door, he may not survive to walk back through.
Verdict Grant and Witt’s sequel to The Only One Who Knows showcases the dynamic of military couples and the emotional strains on those left behind. Hot sex, interesting supporting characters, and a balanced plot will hit the mark for romance readers.—Kristi Chadwick, Emily Williston Memorial Lib.., Easthampton, MA

Petrova, Em. Somethin’ Dirty. Samhain. (Country Fever, Bk. 4). Feb. 2014. 217p. ebk. ISBN 9781619218338. $5.50. EROTICA/CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN WESTERN ROMANCE
Twenty-five-year-old Nola Brady is just passing time working as a receptionist for her optometrist father while saving money to head to Nashville to realize her dream of becoming the next country crooner bombshell. Forty-two-year-old Griffin Turner is busy running his ranch, being a single parent to his four-month-old daughter, Lyric, and now supporting his mom as she battles breast cancer. The two connect at karaoke night, though neither is looking for a permanent relationship. A steamy clench in the parking lot alludes to the possibility of an all-consuming passion, but Griffin resists and they go their separate ways. When Nola answers a help wanted ad for a nanny, she is surprised to discover that Griffin placed it. Having been unsuccessful at getting Griffin out of her mind after he rebuffed her, Nola can’t resist the lure of the delicious cowboy and his beautiful baby, not to mention that the money will help her to realize her Tennessee dream. Before long, Nola and Griffin are a couple in all ways. While Griffin’s thoughts turn to how to keep from losing Nola to a music career, she is fighting the urge to forget about Nashville and stay right where she is. Would the sacrifice be too great? Or is something old, something new, something borrowed, and a pair of blue cowboy boots in Nola’s future?
Verdict Petrova’s fourth installment in her Wyoming-set “Country Fever” titles (after Hard Ridin’), in which the cowboys are lookin’ for love and always up for Somethin’ Dirty, is a solid addition to the series. Readers who enjoy both Western romance and explicit erotica will go for the author’s most recent offering.—Lisa Jordan, Gardner Neighborhood Lib., Johnson Cty. Lib., KS

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life | Books for Dudes

It’s that special time of year when your New Year’s resolutions are either starting to shape up nicely or have suffered complete annihilation. If it’s the former, congratulations! Your success and self-control are an obvious ploy to humiliate and provoke the rest of us! If it’s the latter, join we who woke up on 1/1 still drunk from the night before with a headache and some new, unexplained abrasions. Either way, take heart—today is the first day of the rest of your life and Books for Dudes staff have found some amazing titles to keep you company along the way.

Both Richard Powers’s Orfeo and Alan Lightman’s Accidental Universe are deeply satisfying reads, while for pure escape you really can’t go wrong with Matthew Klein’s No Way Back. If you’re a librarian, teacher, or parent (or maybe all three?) BFD urges you to read Raising Boy Readers, which provides an excellent blueprint for raising smart kids.

In sum, if your 2014 “fresh start” isn’t smelling so fresh, these titles can help get things moving.

Bacharach, Jacob. The Bend of the World. Liveright: Norton. Apr. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780871406828. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780871408143. F
Peter Morrison lives in Pittsburgh and he’s that distinctly American breed of youngish adult floating in a perpetual late adolescence. You know the type: pushing 30, earning good pay in a make-believe job (he’s a “manager of customer analytics and spend processes”), not possessing a surplus of ambition. His girlfriend, Lauren Sara, seems even more lackadaisical about life. Pete’s quite smart, noting at one point that “…the office only crushes your soul if you’re dumb enough to bring it to work,” but he needs something to push him onward and upward. That something comes from a couple of very different sources, the first being his best friend Johnny—a total crackpot conspiracy theorist who claims secret knowledge about batshit-crazy occultism, drugs, and ghost governmental systems. On the other end of the spectrum, Pete is drawn to a mysterious, sophisticated older couple new to town. In them Pete sees maturity and what “the future” might possibly look like. As per the union contract on all coming-of-age novels, there’s mandated plots involving UFOs and a Sasquatch. VERDICT Bacharach is a keen observer adept at making the mundane feel remarkable. Dudes who want an immediate shot in the arm when cracking the spine of a book should be aware that this is like a keg of beer with a slow tap—the fun is there, but it comes out slowly.

Blair, Peggy. The Poisoned Pawn. Penguin. Mar. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780143189763. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780143179993. f
Did you read Blair’s 2012 The Beggar’s Opera? If not, you’d better be bringing a lotta gumption, Chumley. See, PP is set immediately post-BO, so if you don’t know the 411 you’re SOL. Having said that, it just takes a little longer—and more gumption—to find the plot here. Or, rather, the four different plots—and four different narrators—on offer within the first few pages. The main story of this police procedural set in 2006 Cuba centers on capable, dependable detective Ricardo Ramirez, who is haunted by the ghosts of his unsolved cases. At the same time that Ramirez is sent to Toronto to collect a priest found with ch!ld p0rn on his laptop (no graphic descriptions, no airsickness bag needed), a bunch of apparently unrelated poisonings of Cuban women occurs. Why? How? It’s Ramirez’s job to find out before the Canadian government issues a travel ban for Cuba, which would affect the island nation’s economy and which Ramirez’s Castro-esque governmental ministers really don’t want. So he’s busier than a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest. Luckily he is assisted by a charming dwarf pathologist named Hector Apiro—an obvious homage to author Martin Cruz Smith’s Professor Andreev. Pastiches of other stories create an enjoyable, if disjointed, larger picture. In contrast to the grim murders and glimpses of life in hardscrabble Cuba are moments of quiet hilarity[1], as when Ramriez sees one of his ghosts, a two-weeks-dead, cigar-smoking woman; “The old woman had managed to squeeze her rather large rear end into [a] small swivel chair.” VERDICT While this is an interesting and thoughtful read, it really can be a jumble to follow if you haven’t read the first book [Starred review, LJ 1/1/14].

Guinn, Matthew. The Resurrectionist. Norton. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780393239317. $25.95; pap. ISBN 9780393348811; ebk. ISBN 9780393240610. f
Guinn’s well-written, well-conceived first novel flips back and forth in time between current- day USC and the beginnings of its distant parent institution, the Carolina College of Medicine and Physic, during the  late period of American slavery, in 1857. In the present, an ex-addict med school student named Jacob is working as a PR flack for the school’s administration. While there are many similarities between the students of Ye Olden Times and now, today’s medical trainees seem to have cadavers aplenty to practice upon; Jake sees “…the dead bide the time patiently, like a silent cast awaiting the first act.” Back in the mid-19th century, however, corpses weren’t so easy to come by. Only when the school’s faculty sees tuition-paying medical students walking out do they acknowledge that “…small mammals simply will not do for a proper anatomy course.” So they up and employ a “school slave” named Nemo Johnston to, erm, “procure” corpses for the doctors-in-training. When the bones of these cadavers, all African American, are discovered discarded like so much gauze and catgut in the basement of a campus building, Jacob is in on the PR play to make it all go away quietly. If Jacob is the book’s guide, then Nemo stars as the titular “resurrectionist.” A skillful, intelligent man also pressed into service as the school’s butler, Nemo is equally comfortable with a mop and a surgeon’s scalpel; his personal history and growth is surprising. VERDICT This solid, fast-paced human drama offers a well-written look at the machinations behind running a medical school today and in the past.

Klein, Matthew. No Way Back. Pegasus. Apr. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781605985442. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781605985879. f
Klein’s crisp, original voice is all at once peppy, funny, snappy, and darkly humorous and this thriller—his first since the cool Con Ed (2007)—is first person–narrated by likable turnaround executive Jim Thane. He’s the guy you bring in to replace your incompetent CEO when your company (say, a software maker) is losing beaucoup money (say, upwards of $3M a month) and you can’t make it stop. Jimmy is bright and genuinely motivated to redeem himself after bottoming out, derailed by booze, drugs, and gambling. This is apparently his 12th or 13th attempt to kick-start his life; his boss describes it as “last stop on the Loser Express.” Jimmy puts it more bluntly, confessing that “Desperate suggests more dignity than I actually had. Pathetic might be a better word.” But the clock is ticking; he has about seven weeks before the company, Tao, folds. He concludes that Tao is “like a high tech grease trap—all drippings, no meat,” and the deeper he digs, the weirder things get. Why did the former CEO disappear? Why can he still sell Tao’s software when it is obviously defective? Is that a Russian Mafia–looking guy living next door, is that a Cyrillic tattoo on the secretary, is this really an FBI agent? Klein does a masterful job of upholding Jimmy’s rationalizations for the reader—right up to the bitter end. Refreshingly, and unlike many thriller authors out there[2], Klein assumes intelligence on the part of his readers. VERDICT Thoroughly enjoyable and compelling from start to finish.

Lautner, Robert. Road to Reckoning. Touchstone. Feb. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781476731636. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476731650. f
Though the style and dialog of this takes a little getting used to, those pushing through the first ten pages or so will be rewarded with an interesting tale from an unusual era—1837 westward expansion. Thomas Walker, 12, lives with his father in New York City. He’s remarkably mature, probably like most adolescents then, so when his father takes a job as a traveling salesman for the brand-new Colt revolver company selling the “Improved Revolving Gun,” Thomas tags along to help out. Soon after embarking on their first trip, the two run into a band of outlaws who steal their possessions and murder Thomas’s father. Left to fend for himself, Thomas latches onto Henry Stands, an ex-Ranger and grumpy-old-man-in-training. Though he’s initially reluctant to chaperone the boy, the kid’s stubborn toughness grows on Stands, and the boy proves to be Stands’s equal mentally and physically (e.g., on the agony that must be his virgin ass after days in the saddle, he only notes, “My rear had become raw bone”). And what would a Western—even one set in the East—be without a showdown? The author proves masterful at slipping in unusual words (“surcingle”: the wide strap that helps keep blankets or equipment in place on a horse) and crafts genuine period dialect and rhythms of speech, which sound formal to contemporary ears. VERDICT Great stuff. Lautner manages character maturation sans the usual sentiment associated with wide-eyed narration. It’s also a superior historical novel offering an unexpectedly keen window to a dim corner of American history: I mean, Martin Van Buren was president.

Lightman, Alan. The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew. Pantheon. 2014. 176p. ISBN 9780307908582. $24.; ebk. ISBN 9780307908599. SCIENCE
Lightman, a physics professor at MIT, has a brain roughly twice the size of an average person’s; fortunately for humankind, he has sworn to only use his powers for good. He starts this fantastic collection of previously published essays by relating how he met the Dalai Lama at MIT, and it’s exactly this kind of cross-pollinating of the spiritual world with the scientific one that exemplifies this title. “Science,” he writes, “does not reveal the meaning of our existence, but it does draw back some veils.” Much veil-pulling ensues, and like über-dude Isaac Asimov, the good professor focuses on explaining/exploring various topics within cosmology and physics, like dark energy. Mind-boggling facts appear; “If the theoretically possible values for dark energy were marked on a ruler stretching from here to the sun, the value of dark energy actually found in our universe … (10 -8 ergs per cubic centimeter) would be closer to the zero end than the width of an atom.” This title will infuriate intelligent design advocates, for Lightman holds, per the title, that “we are an accident.” And yet the writing is a real and searching investigation at the crux of science and faith. Where else might you read the spiritual version of the second law of thermodynamics—the “arrow of time”—explicated in a way that includes toupees and Botox? VERDICT Part philosophy, part science, this little book is a big fat pleasure to read. Carefully chosen words are always wonderful, and these have the bonus of embiggening your brain.

Offerman, Nick. Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living. Dutton. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780525954217. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698138322. bio
Hubris: (h)yo͞obris/. Noun. Excessive pride or self-confidence. Offerman is best known for his role as Ron Swanson on NBC’s Parks and Recreation.[3] In PYOC Offerman proves himself to be a nice guy who respects his parents, loves the Chicago Cubs, and assumes the mantle of a self-made, blue-collar dude in a world of spoiled Hollywood brats. But while decent guys with good work ethics and affection for family should feel perfectly free to write autobiographies, it doesn’t obligate dudes to read them. Offerman takes special pleasure in describing how very ordinary he is; it’s tedious. Readers sit through the alternating scorn and fondness for growing up in rural Minooka, IL; how teenage Nicky felt like an outsider for enjoying Bukowski; and how he was half of a two-man break-dancing team. Weirdness like a lusty praise of weed is counterbalanced by bits that make complete sense, such as the satisfaction of working alongside his adored dad and uncles. “For one of those impossibly proficient men to deem my work a ‘nice job’ filled me with more satisfaction that any A-plus grade I ever received in school,” he writes. Big O drops names, describes every freaking role he ever got (e.g., the plumber on Will and Grace)—including theater—and casually dispenses advice about various topics (e.g., maps), in appropriately-titled asides (e.g., “Know Your Ass from a Hole in the Ground”). It’s fine, but to slog through 352 self-absorbed pages of reiterating to readers how lucky he is…no. VERDICT Reading more like a bunch of transcripted tapes, this needs hella more funny.

Powers, Richard. Orfeo. Norton. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780393240825. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393242683. f
Orfeo (the title taken from Monteverdi’s opera) follows Peter Els, a retired avant-garde composer, a “…quiet, older bohemian in the American Craftsman at 806 South Linden,” whom no one considers anything other than mildly eccentric. Ensorcelled by Mozart’s Jupiter at age eight, Peter sees music in all things, especially people and nature. And let me tell you, he’s like the Jimi Hendrix of the clarinet—ain’t no stopping him. Powers’s joyously descriptive wordiness magnificently animates Peter; this is a true person, not merely a character. As he matures, Peter discovers his life’s quest: revealing “…something magnificent and enduring [that] hid under music’s exhausted surface.” A huge imprint of sadness is made on teenage Peter when his Eurydice dumps his clarinet-playing ass. Unifying the fast-forwards and rewinds that track his life, readers come to understand his love of chemistry and microbiology as another aspect of his intellectual intensity. And that’s just when it gets deliciously weird: when Peter combines the two with experiments involving bacterial cultures, this “…gaunt, monkish man…[with]…rimless glasses and plaid work shirt pilled around the collar” triggers a nationwide manhunt led by Homeland Security. VERDICT Powers skillfully weaves together and makes understandable two fields that get pretty far up their own asses in terms of complex, theoretical impracticality. For a book with such an upsetting premise—on so many levels—this is a soothing, evocative read in which characters inhabit intellects and ideas as much as they do the earth. It’s a wild, imaginative read for dudes looking to eclipse car chases/explosions/WWII history.

Sullivan, Michael. Raising Boy Readers. Huron St., dist. by IPG. 208p. ISBN 9781937589431. $19.95. parenting
This game-changer of a professional book quickly cuts to the chase: most boys need “to be allowed to read in volume at whatever level is comfortable for them while their brains develop at their own pace.” Sullivan’s cogent, thoughtful observations incorporate refreshing doses of real-world common sense, such as that “…for all that we teachers and librarians try to do, parents and families have so much more effect on developing readers.” While the author refers to boys generally, he’s careful to note that no boy (or girl) is typical, further, the tactics he recommends (e.g., read aloud to children) will work for both genders and that placing stress on a boy to read or overemphasizing reading often backfires. Instead, Sullivan recommends relaxing and modeling reading behaviors. And his advice to parents of good readers is, basically: leave them alone. The author is also eager to point out the importance of nonfiction to boys and is highly critical of America’s “test-and-punish” educational culture (created by governments keen to simply rack up so-called ‘improvements.” Those interested in this topic will also find food for thought in Amanda Ripley’s 2013 The Smartest Kids in the World. Indeed, a concise argument is made that “grade-level reading is a pointless and arbitrary standard and relies on the Brain Lag effect,” wherein boys’ brains develop later and thus they read about 1.5 years later than girls. In addition to five wonderful introductory chapters, Sullivan’s annotated book lists (e.g., Christian fiction, ghost stories, etc.) are priceless. VERDICT Amazingly readable, understandable, and direct advice. Anyone can get a lot from this, most of all teachers and librarians.

[1] Ramirez describes his wife in terms familiar to any man married more than six months: “The use of ‘always’ and ‘never’ was a particularly bad sign. It meant Francesca was not going to raise a specific complaint that Ramirez might respond to, but rather a collection of grievances she’d stored up over time.”

 

[2] See Strategic Moves, featuring Stone Barrington, by Stuart Woods.

[3] But really, isn’t being a notable TV actor somewhat akin to being the prettiest girl at the Party of Ugly Chicks?

David Haskell on The Forest Unseen | Tantorious

Tantorious is a monthly podcast series featuring interviews with well-known authors, hosted by Allan Hoving and presented by Tantor Audio.

David George Haskell is a professor of biology at the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee. His book, THE FOREST UNSEEN: A Year’s Watch in Nature, reveals the secret world hidden in a single square meter of forest.

 

 

Excerpts from the audio interview:

Q: In your book, you visit a single patch of forest daily for almost a year to trace nature’s path through the seasons. Where did the idea for this originate?

A: The idea came from two different strands in my life. Part of what I do as a scientist, a biologist and a teacher is go out in the woods and study, and then share that knowledge with my students through classes. I’ve been looking for years for a way to tell this story in a non-textbook format – in a way that would be a little more compelling.

Q: What do you hope the listener takes away?

A: One thing would be just a collection of interesting and fascinating stories from the forest — an opening into the richness of the world. Another is to share some of the wonder that I find: how much we are connected to the other species, even when we don’t think we are. The key that gets you in the door is attention.

Listen to a sample of the Tantor audiobook edition of The Forest Unseen, narrated by Michael Healy.

Subscribe directly to the Tantorious podcast via iTunes or RSS feed:

Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, February 7, 2014

Week ending February 7, 2014

Cook, Jude. Byron Easy. Pegasus. 2014. 496p. ISBN 9781605984919. $25.95. F
Can you handle 500 pages of clever complaining? How about if the narrator is a British minor poet, likely drunk, and on a train back to his mother’s house with all his worldly possessions? He mostly wants to tell us how awful his wife, Mandy, was and is. Even if you have patience with young men complaining about women, the overexcited vocabulary here can get tiresome: There were bookshelves of erudite criticism, Expressionist prints on the walls, scripts cracked open on stolen university armchairs, racks of fine wine, the Telegraph crossword done as a flat on a Sunday morning, and (the really impressive thing) real Sumatran filter coffee.” The childhood remembrances are a bit easier. Cumulatively, however, there’s a tonal difference in the novel that makes it fall short of both the winning charm of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and the grotesque lovesickness of a Humbert Humbert.
Verdict If this debut novel were half the size, or twice as humane (or even crueler), then this reviewer could recommend it. Now, however, he’d move to the other side of the train to get away from the ranting.—Travis Fristoe, Alachua Cty. Lib. Dist., Gainesville, FL

Everett, Lily. Shoreline Drive. St. Martin’s Paperbacks. (Sanctuary Island, Bk. 2). Feb. 2014. 303p. ISBN 9781250018397. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466808102. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Sanctuary Island, off the coast of Virginia, lives up to its name for most of the residents who call it home. Large-animal vet Ben Fairfax has been growling and cranky there since relocating from his FFV upbringing in Richmond. According to Ben, holding people at arm’s length while he treats their livestock will keep his life and his heart in one piece. So how did Meredith Preston make her way inside his armor and under his skin? Reformed bad girl Merry brought her own issues to the community when she and her older sister, Ella, showed up last year to reconnect with their long-estranged mother, Jo Hollister (Sanctuary Island). But Merry doesn’t have men on her radar. Her sole focus is her four-month-old son, Alex. Ben can’t get enough of the tiny boy, even as he continues to scowl at Alex’s mother. Will a marriage of convenience serve Ben’s purposes and bring the woman he can’t stop thinking of within his grasp?
Verdict This very sweet follow-up to Everett’s series opener keeps multiple romances moving forward as it throws animal and human roadblocks in their way. A charmer that deals with enough emotion to keep readers riveted to these island stories.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Heivoll, Gaute. Before I Burn. Graywolf. 2014. 336p. tr. from Norwegian by Don Bartlett. ISBN 9781555976613. $26. F
Here’s a true story, or at least a rendering thereof, of a 1970s arson case in southern Norway. It doesn’t involve just a single torching—building after building burn in a month. Heivoll’s novel, an international best seller, gives us a narrator who was just a child at the time of the fires, and he retells the story 30 years later: “It has pursued me for thirty years although I have never known exactly what happened or indeed what it was all about…. The story had been there like a shadow until the moment I decided to write it down.” The narrative opens dramatically with several stabbings, and the characters—friends and neighbors like Olav, Kunt, and Joanna—are odd but not without their charms. Heivoll’s fablelike tone is assured, and his sentences roll whittled in a Hemingway style.
Verdict Despite these assets to the story, most readers will either acquiesce or roll their eyes at the fever pitch and labored first-person voice. Given the current appetite for Scandinavian thrillers, though, this book should find an ample, willing audience.—Travis Fristoe, Alachua Cty. Lib. Dist., Gainesville, FL

Hall, Emylia. The Swiss Affair. Mira: Harlequin. Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780778314653. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781460325353. F
Hadley Dunn’s life has been rather ordinary and unremarkable until she goes abroad to study in Lausanne, an alluring and elegant Swiss city. Not only does she embrace the excitement and possibilities that a new and foreign environment can offer, she also meets a beautiful and captivating friend named Kristina, a handsome but off-limits literature teacher, and a sophisticated but cautious older man. All of them help Hadley experience life in ways she never had before through first-time adventures and friendships, literature, and worldly culture. However, when an unfortunate accident happens, the lives of these friends are permanently changed. Hadley will learn to question what she thought she knew as well as the people she has grown to know and love. Has anything she’d been told by her friends, most especially by Kristina, been the truth, or has Hadley’s young heart been tricked and deceived?
Verdict Hall’s (The Book of Summers) enthralling and beautifully written novel mixes a captivating coming-of-age story with mystery, romance, and tragedy. Hadley’s journey of self-discovery will appeal to both the new adult demographic and more mature readers.—Anne M. Miskewitch, Chicago P.L.

Maxwell, Cathy. The Bride Says Maybe. Avon. (Brides of Wishmore, Bk. 2). Feb. 2014. c.384p. ISBN 9780062219275. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062219282. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
In her second title in “The Brides of Wishmore” series, Maxwell continues the story of Lady Tara Davidson, introduced in The Bride Says No. As that book ends, Lady Tara had run away from marriage to a man she didn’t love and was heartbroken over the marriage of the love of her life to another. Now she’s back at the family home trying to live down the scandal of her failed nuptials and figure out what her next steps will be. According to her father, the Earl of Tay, her only choice is to marry Breccan Campbell. Breccan has bought up all of Tay’s debts, and unless Tara marries him, he will collect what is owed and send their family into penury. While Tara’s initial reaction is to run away, again, she ends up making a deal with Breccan. Once she has a child, she can return to London. In the meantime, though, she will live with him at Wolfstone and perhaps fall in love?
Verdict Maxwell (The Devil’s Heart) is aiming to show Tara’s emotional journey from a spoiled, somewhat immature young woman into an adult who has learned what love truly is. While she doesn’t fully succeed, she does write with a light enough touch to appeal to fans of Julia Quinn and Sabrina Jeffries.—Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI

Storace, Patricia. The Book of Heaven. Pantheon. Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780375408069; ebk. ISBN 9780307908698. $26. F
Set aside your previous understanding of the Old Testament and consider these questions: Could there be another heaven? Could Eve’s experience on Earth have been different from what has been recorded? Are there stories hidden within far-away constellations where the travails and strengths of women are celebrated? Poet and memoirist Storace (Dinner with Persephone) posits these ideas in her mystical, lyrical, fascinating new book. Helping to tell the story are four symbols—the Knife, the Cauldron, the Paradise Nebula, and the Lover’s Cluster, each a constellation of stars that illuminates tales of love, motherhood, betrayal, and persecution. Could these universal experiences, combined with the summoning up of an inner strength, lead to a personal knowledge of the Divine?
Verdict It is a fine author who can create stories that open one’s mind to alternative views of entrenched archetypes. In a lyrical, feministic, fictional version of Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, this is a marvelous, thought-provoking book for readers who enjoy mythologies that reach down into one’s soul. Highly recommended.—Susanne Wells, Indianapolis P.L.

Wilson, Rohan. The Roving Party. Soho. Feb. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781616953119. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781616953126. F
In 1829, powerful Tasmanian bounty hunter John Batman assembles a party of nine men to decimate a local Aboriginal clan at the Governor’s behest. Batman’s motley band includes native trackers from the mainland, a miserable quartet of convicts, and Black Bill, an enigmatic Aboriginal man raised by whites since childhood. Black Bill’s single-minded vendetta against the clan’s leader, Manalargena, spurs the party in their pursuit through the brutal Tasmanian landscape, until they begin to realize that taking their quarry will require bitter sacrifices not everyone is prepared to make.
Verdict Drawing upon Australia’s gruesome history of “roving parties” created to capture Aborigines, debut novelist Wilson presents an emotionally harrowing, sometimes brutally violent exploration of cruelty and compassion in a desolate land. Wilson’s psychological insights are electric; the chilling ways in which each member of the roving party must grapple with his sense of humanity makes for particularly fascinating reading. Wilson’s novel, which won multiple Australian literary awards on its release, will appeal to readers who appreciate intricate plotting, rich character studies, and poetic depictions of nature.—Kelsy Peterson, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS

Best Sellers: Computer Science, February 6, 2014

April 2013 to date as identified by YBP Library Services

  1. The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible
    Fortnow, Lance
    Princeton University Press
    2013. ISBN 9780691156491. $26.95
  2. Crowdsourcing
    Brabham, Daren C.
    MIT Press
    2013. ISBN 9780262518475. $12.95
  3. From Literature to Biterature: Lem, Turing, Darwin, and Explorations in Computer Literature, Philosophy of Mind, and Cultural Evolution
    Swirski, Peter
    McGill-Queens University Press
    2013. ISBN 9780773542952. $29.95
  4. Too Big To Ignore: the Business Case for Big Data
    Simon, Phil
    John Wiley
    2013. ISBN 9781118638170. $50
  5. An Aesthesia of Networks: Conjunctive Experience in Art and Technology
    Munster, Anna
    MIT Press
    2013. ISBN 9780262018951. $30
  6. Phantasmal Media: An Approach to Imagination, Computation, and Expression
    Harrell, D. Fox
    MIT Press
    2013. ISBN 9780262019330. $40
  7. Software Takes Command
    Manovich, Lev
    Bloomsbury
    2013. ISBN 9781623568177. $100
  8. Mobility Data: Modeling, Management, and Understanding
    Renso, Chiara
    Cambridge University Press
    2013. ISBN 9781107021716. $80
  9. Schrödinger’s Killer App: Race To Build the World’s First Quantum Computer
    Dowling, Jonathan P.
    CRC Press
    2013. ISBN 9781439896730. $39.95
  10. Understanding Augmented Reality: Concepts and Applications
    Craig, Alan B.
    Morgan Kaufmann
    2013. ISBN 9780240824086. $59.95
  11. The Bite In the Apple: A Memoir of My Life with Steve Jobs
    Brennan, Chrisann
    St. Martin’s
    2013. ISBN 9781250038760. $25.99
  12. Quantum Error Correction
    Lidar, Daniel A.
    Cambridge University Press
    2013. ISBN 9780521897877. $110
  13. Data Clustering: Algorithms and Applications
    Aggarwal, Charu C.
    Chapman & Hall CRC
    2014. ISBN 9781466558212. $99.95
  14. Frontiers in Massive Data Analysis
    Committee on the Analysis of Massive Data
    National Academies
    2013. ISBN 9780309287784. $46
  15. Computation and Storage in the Cloud: Understanding the Trade-Offs
    Yuan, Dong
    Elsevier
    2013. ISBN 9780124077676. $49.95
  16. No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin—the Genius Who Transformed the Internet
    Raskin, Molly Knight
    Da Capo
    2013. ISBN 9780306821660. $25.99
  17. Memory Machines: The Evolution of Hypertext
    Barnet, Belinda
    Anthem Press
    2013. ISBN 9780857280602. $99
  18. Discrete Dynamical Systems and Chaotic Machines: Theory and Applications
    Bahi, Jacques M.
    Chapman & Hall CRC
    2013. ISBN 9781466554504. $89.95
  19. Componential Analysis of Kinship Terminology: A Computational Perspective
    Pericliev, Vladimir
    Palgrave Macmillan
    2013. ISBN 9781137031174. $80
  20. Intelligent Systems for Security Informatics
    Yang, Christopher
    Elsevier Academic Press
    2013. ISBN 9780124047020. $125

Q&A: Making Richard Pryor

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him explores the comedian’s early life, career, and later difficulties. Here the authors, brothers David and Joe Henry, and the audiobook’s narrator, actor Dion Graham, answer questions about Pryor and the book itself. See the review on page 46.

JH: In 2000, I wrote a song called “Richard Pryor

David and Joe Henry

Addresses a Tearful Nation,” which I recorded with the legendary jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman. The label I was on at the time was owned by Disney, and they insisted that I needed Richard’s permission to reference him in the song title. So I had to jump through hoops to actually find him.

Richard loved the song—was moved by it, I was told—and gave me permission. I was then asked by Esquire magazine to write a piece about Richard and Ornette and how writing about one led me to work with the other. Based on that, Richard and his wife asked me if I would write a screenplay based on Richard’s life. I turned to my brother, David, who is a screenwriter. I knew I needed that kind of structural help. And we spent a couple of years working on spec writing a screenplay that has yet to be produced. But it led us finally to say, “We should just write a book, because then we don’t have to wait for somebody else to decide

that it’s worth turning into a motion picture.”

DH: We weren’t trying to write the cradle-to-grave doorstop biography. We had things that we loved about Richard very deeply and really wanted to explore. We didn’t necessarily have a vision fully formed. We kind of wanted to go digging ourselves; there were things we wanted to learn about him. We touch on certain recurring themes and elements in his very complicated and very compelling life story.

Dion, what was your experience of narrating?

Dion Graham

DG: First of all, it’s a really great book, and I identified with what Joe and Dave said about how they came to uncover the book. You could sub-subtitle the book “Searching for Richard Pryor.” That’s how I came to it. I always think it’s valuable to reach out to the author or authors. They were fantastic, and it made for a magnificent piece of work.

I had extended conversations with both Joe and Dave, which were really helpful in getting insights into how they came to Richard and how they approached [the book]. One of the things I think is fascinating is—as they were saying earlier—is that it’s a little messy. The book is about Richard Pryor, but I find it’s also about [the Henrys] interacting with Richard Pryor the person, Richard Pryor the icon, Richard Pryor the soothsayer, all these different aspects of the artist, the person, and their relationship to him and his work as well.

I told Joe and Dave I was really not going to try to impersonate; I was going to “lean in” so we could hopefully catch the essence of Richard. But also, two authors have written this book. So what I hope comes through is the spirit of both of their voices and their engagement and their passion with Richard. So I just tried to be an open channel to respond to all the great and terrific and painful and hilarious and horrible and beautiful things that make up the life that they are presenting. It was a real trip to take a ride with Richard, and I hope that we did really illuminate him. I didn’t want to be corny or try too hard or hit any false notes. But Richard is so present in the book, and there are so many things that are just so potent and ring in our memory and our imagination about him. I hope that when listeners hear it, the experience is one of discovery for them, too.

Joe and David, what was it like for you to work with Dion?

JH: I think what Dion is describing is exactly why people in the business of creating audiobooks would turn to an actor. It’s not just about putting some melody to the text; it’s about being able to inhabit characters as they come to the fore—treating it like a role and not a reading. And Dion’s done that.

DH: I was very impressed with the depth of conversations we had with Dion before he began. I was impressed with how much he put himself into it. He had some probing questions and was very eager to convey what we wanted people to get out of the book. First, he wasn’t going to do the voices. Then he called back and said, “I’m going to reverse myself on that,” because there was too much to do with this to leave it at that. And that’s what you want to hear from somebody.—Stephanie Klose

Vienna Nocturne

When Vivien Shotwell was an undergraduate studying at Williams College, MA, her voice teacher assigned her the haunting aria “Non temer, amato bene,” written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for English soprano Anna ­Storace on her departure from Vienna. It immediately struck Shotwell as something special—and not simply because Mozart wrote a distinctive obbligato part for piano, which makes the piece seem as much a concerto as an aria and which he himself played at Storace’s farewell recital.

“The voice and piano line entwine in a way that is loving and sensual and seems to encompass a lot of admiration and respect,” says Shotwell feelingly of the aria, whose text means “Fear nothing, my beloved, my heart will always be yours.” “It makes you think that they might have had something deeper, because Mozart was so smart he wouldn’t have written that part if he hadn’t felt something for the singer.” Thus was Shotwell inspired to write her mellifluous debut novel, Vienna Nocturne (LJ 11/15/13), coming this February from Ballantine after a ten-year journey.

A musical affair

In Vienna Nocturne, Shotwell follows Storace from lessons as a child prodigy in London to triumph and tragedy on the Continent to a warmly, delicately imagined affair with Mozart unknown to any historian but abundantly suggested by the music. Having completed both an MA in voice performance at the University of Iowa and an Artist Diploma in opera performance at Yale, where she won the 2012 David L. Kasdon Memorial Prize, Shotwell ably conveys Storace’s artistry; her master’s degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop proves that she has the tools to tell the larger story. Like the voice and piano parts in “Non temer, amato bene,” music and writing are for Shotwell utterly entwined.

Encouraged by her parents, who own a used bookstore, Shotwell grew up a voracious reader, and through high school she was as intensely involved in acting as she was in her voice and viola studies. She fell in love with classical music and particularly opera at age seven or eight, when her father took her to (prophetically) Mozart’s The Magic Flute. But she didn’t consider a career in opera until she began studying with Williams voice professor Keith Kibler, a “huge reader who knew I was a writer,” says Shotwell.

Even as Kibler was highlighting the intriguing textual aspects of “Non temer, amato bene” for Shotwell, her creative writing teacher, distinguished novelist Jim Shepard, was helping her to understand musicality of line and the careful work of putting sentences together like the notes of a melody. (“He went through every line and cut out the florid, extraneous stuff,” explains an inspired Shotwell.) Little wonder, then, that Shotwell is puzzled when people regard singing and writing as two disparate parts of her life: “To me, they seem like one thing; each inspires the other.”

That’s not entirely surprising, as literature and music have common roots; our great, defining epics were often sung. But unlike some opera stars, Shotwell plunges into the meaning behind the music: “I have been told that I am a thoughtful kind of singer, and I do get into the text.” Shotwell can’t readily compare her writing and singing styles, but both are propulsive without rush and richly, liquidly done without excess, which nicely matches the roles she prefers. “Flashiness and fireworks don’t appeal to me as much as something quieter,” says the mezzo-soprano, who doesn’t go after ingénue roles. She reveled in a recent performance of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi (she was Romeo), and she’d sing anything by Handel.

The primacy of art

Mozart didn’t go in for flash either, emphasizing the primacy of the art over the singers’ traditional demands for showcase arias; in Vienna Nocturne, when Mozart is rehearsing Storace in the role of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, he gives her a big, splashy rondo in an inappropriate key, then offers a daring alternative to which she readily accedes. “There’s been so much opera written since Mozart that we forget how forward thinking he was,” observes Shotwell, whose novel neatly gives us a lesson in how opera was evolving in the late 1700s.

For singers (and the rest of us), Vienna Nocturne offers life lessons, too. Storace moves from living to sing, to proclaiming after terrible loss that “it did not matter if she sang; the important thing was to live,” to learning how to live and sing—all by age 21. As a painfully shy child, Shotwell found that singing gave her “the permission to be bold and take on other characters”; now there’s “hardly a better feeling than giving people pleasure, an emotional experience.” Still, she concedes, a career in voice demands hard work and toughness, and in the last two years she’s learned to relax—to live and sing. Obviously, the writing helps.

Much writing about music either betrays linguistic excess or tumbles to mere technicality, but Shotwell “wanted to be careful about making it real,” an approach that makes her work easily appreciated by those knowledgeable yet accessible to all. By letting us experience singing as Storace experienced it, by bringing us a heartbeat closer to Mozart’s music through her voice, the author succeeds. As a singer, Shotwell knows that moment of terror as the audience assembles, then the “best feeling [when] you’re singing with a good orchestra offering a great cushion of warm sound and your voice soars over it.” Now her voice is soaring in fiction as well.

Barbara Hoffert is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert

Killer Thrillers

Finder, Joseph. Suspicion. Dutton. May 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780525954606. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698158481 F

In Finder’s (Buried Secrets; Vanished) 11th heart-pounding thriller, a struggling writer desperately scrambles to pay his bills; protect his teenage daughter, Abby; and avoid a 40-year prison term. To cover tuition costs for the private school Abby loves, Danny Goodman reluctantly accepts a generous loan from Thomas Galvin, the extremely wealthy father of Abby’s best friend. After the money is wired into his account, however, the feds accuse Danny of laundering drug money and trap him into working as a confidential informant. But if Galvin and the Mexican drug cartel he’s financing suspect Danny is snitching to the feds, Danny, and quite likely Abby, will die. Trapped, our hero begins to lie, conceal secrets, and engage in increasingly dangerous and deceptive activities—until ­finally Danny decides he wants out rather than risk losing those he loves. The startling climax concludes another fantastic Finder thriller. ­VERDICT Finder fans as well as devotees of action-packed suspense have a great read ahead. The taut pacing, staccato chapters, and ingenious plot, especially Finder’s characteristically creative use of digital surveillance techniques, ­guarantee a literary thrill ride.—Jerry P. Miller. Cambridge, MA

French, Nicci. Waiting for Wednesday. Pamela Dorman: Viking. Apr. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780670015771. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101635469 F

In French’s third novel (Blue Monday; Tuesday’s Gone) featuring London psychotherapist Frieda Klein, seemingly average mother Ruth Lennox is found murdered without apparent reason. As details of her secret life emerge, the cast of characters expose a web of tangled lives. Frieda gets involved when her teenage niece befriends the dead woman’s son. The pace picks up after one of Frieda’s patients, during therapy, makes an offhand remark that leads Frieda to believe a serial killer is at work. With personal connections to DCI Karlsson, our sleuth begins obsessively investigating leads on her own, making alliances that culminate in a sorrowful and astonishing conclusion. VERDICT Demanding the reader’s full attention, this richly detailed and intricate thriller weaves the story of Frieda’s life, past and present, into a compelling and suspenseful story. Fans of Elizabeth George will appreciate French’s attention to subtlety and detail. Readers new to the series are advised to read the first two books in order to understand the ongoing plot of Frieda’s life, including the pall cast by a past attack. [See Prepub Alert, 10/20/13.]—Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL

Hayes, Samantha. Until You’re Mine. Crown. Apr. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780804136891. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780804136907. F

In British author Hayes’s (Tell Tale; Someone Else’s Son) wonderfully creepy thriller, a serial killer is targeting pregnant women and no one can understand why. The only clues lie in the killings themselves—pregnant bellies slit open, the mother left to perish—leaving the police to believe the killer wants a baby. Through the use of three female narrators—Claudia, the happily married, pregnant social worker; her nanny Zoe; and Lorraine, the harried detective and mother of two teen girls—Hayes not only delivers a splendid mystery, she offers insights into the inner lives of today’s women and mothers in particular. Society’s idea of a woman being able to “do it all” makes Lorraine barely able to hold anything together, from her investigation of the murders to raising her daughters. Claudia is in the final days of her pregnancy and worries about how motherhood will affect her life. And Zoe is obsessed with getting pregnant and becoming a mother—or is she? VERDICT Readers will find it hard to put this title down. A well-written, compelling plot, great characters, and a feminist viewpoint all add up to a satisfying read.—Marianne Fitzgerald, Severna Park H.S., MD

Perry, Karen. The Innocent Sleep. Holt. Feb. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780805098723. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780805098730. F

This debut literary thriller opens with a terrible tragedy: a sudden earthquake in the Moroccan city of Tangiers kills Harry and Robin’s only child, a young son, Dillon. Five years later, the couple have long since relocated to Ireland and are slowly becoming hopeful for their future. All seems well until Harry sees their son in the streets of Dublin—and with this glimpse, long-held secrets threaten to destroy Harry and Robin’s new life. The novel, with alternating narratives from each spouse, investigates whether Dillon is truly alive, and if so, how. The breakneck pace of the narrative, which is spiced with the ingredients of deceit, infidelity, and secret lives, forms a gripping, well-written read. Perry is a pseudonym for the Dublin-based authors Paul Perry and Karen Gillece; this is the duo’s debut project. Outside of their literary partnership, both authors have written several solo novels to much acclaim. VERDICT This novel, with a premise that taps into the fears of every parent, is an entertaining thriller that fans of Tana French and Gillian Flynn will enjoy. [See Prepub Alert, 8/9/13.]—Rebecca M. Marrall, Western Washington Univ. Libs., Bellingham

Robotham, Michael. Watching You. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Mar. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780316252003. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316251990. F

Marnie Logan’s husband, Daniel, has been missing for over a year, leaving her in financial limbo. She can’t access any of his accounts, and he has left behind a large debt, previously unknown to her, that she is expected to pay. When the debt collector is found murdered, the police turn their attention to Marnie as the last person to have seen him alive. Soon they discover a disturbing pattern: anyone who has caused Marnie harm has been paid back in spades. Her psychologist, Joe O’Laughlin, is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, perhaps risking his own life. VERDICT Robotham’s newest thriller (after Say You’re Sorry) is full of surprises. Well written and slightly creepy, it will keep readers intrigued to the final page. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/13.]—Lisa O’Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs., Winnipeg

The Sixth Extinction | RA Crossroads

As Lewis Carroll’s Alice so aptly points out, “What is the use of a book…without pictures or conversations?”

Welcome to Readers’ Advisory (RA) Crossroads, where books, movies, music, and other media converge, and whole-collection readers’ advisory service goes where it may. In this month’s column, extinctions and their multiple causes lead me down a winding path.

Begin: 

Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Holt. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780805092998. $28. SCI
The Panamanian golden frog has all but vanished. Its doom came in the form of a fungus that was spread around the globe by human intervention, perhaps by the export of frogs for pregnancy tests, or the export of frogs for food. However it occurred, it is now sweeping through various frog populations, decimating their numbers. The few golden frogs that remain are tended to in a lab, cared for, and studied in vain. While reluctantly acknowledged, the hope is that one day they might be reestablished in the wild—a wild now blanketed with the fungus. Such stories are repeated in New Yorker staff writer Kolbert’s finely achieved and gripping account of the sixth extinction that humans have caused and are witnessing this very moment. From coral reefs to the great auk, human beings, through our unique capacity to interfere deeply in the world around us, are wiping out species. In the process, as Kolbert convincingly makes clear, we are triggering an extinction event of unknown extent that will inevitably include our own species in the fallout. In this rapidly moving account, which is rich in story, description, and reflection, Kolbert (Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change) explores past extinctions and meets experts who have their own light to shed on the future. Her smart, detailed, and clear writing, combined with her practical and forthright approach, enhances what is already a compelling story. While Kolbert ends on an upbeat note, acknowledging that the same human drive that has caused the sixth extinction is also the one that has saved the condor and the bald eagle and continues to preserve other species, it is hard to read her survey, as engrossing, engaging, and wittily written as it is, without deep feelings of loss.

Read-alikes: 

Kolata, Gina. Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It. Touchstone. 2001. 352p. ISBN 9780743203982. pap. $16. SCI
Scientific investigations are grand mysteries with many possible culprits, plenty of red herrings, and ambiguous justice. In her account of the 1918 global pandemic, science writer Kolata (Rethinking Thin) searches for the causes of a flu that swept the globe, claiming more American lives than, as Kolata frames it, both World Wars, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined. Her search for what caused the flu and its source location takes Kolata on a fascinating, thrilling, and disturbing journey: backward in time to the site of other plagues, forward in time to the possibilities that a new pandemic flu could sweep across civilization once more, and deep into what is known, and not known, about the 1918 event itself. Her clear and wide-ranging account should please Kolbert fans looking for additional examples of smart, detailed, and explanatory science writing that is both rigorous and involving. From the trenches of World War I to the modern virologists seeking answers to the cultural fall out of the Black Death, Kolata casts a wide and fascinating net and presents her findings with clarity and verve.

Quammen, David. The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction. Scribner. 1997. 704p. ISBN 9780684827124. pap. $22. SCI
Fans of Kolbert who hope to find other evocative books of science and extinction that are at once witty and profound may enjoy Quammen’s work. One of the best parts of The Sixth Extinction is that readers have the opportunity to follow Kolbert as she figures out how both to explain extinction and to study it. Readers have the same opportunity with Quammen (Spillover) as he defines island biogeography, evolution, and extinction. Taking as his subject island life, Quammen explores the biodiversity and threats only possible in such an environment—from the Galápagos to Sicily. His vivid and engaging descriptions of his expansive travels, the experts he interviews, and the wildlife he seeks, studies, and recalls all evoke the best aspects of Kolbert and create a moving, descriptive, and vivid account of the tenuousness of nature and survival.

Winchester, Simon. Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded; August 27, 1883. Harper Perennial. 2005. 464p. ISBN 9780060838591. pap. $13.99. HIST
Episodic, woven with story, riveting and expansive, Winchester’s account of the most massive volcanic eruption in recorded history may serve as a solid suggestion for Kolbert fans, as it offers the same wonderful mix of science and story as The Sixth Extinction and moves at the same engrossing pace. Indonesia’s Krakatoa erupted in 1883 and caused massive loss of life. Its shock wave circled the earth multiple times: tsunamis ravaged the shoreline, hot ash rained down on survivors, and tons of debris fell into the sea. The sound of the eruption traveled for thousands of miles, and the newly created telegraph lines spread the news even farther as people weathered the event (the dust cloud reached as far away as New York City). Winchester (The Map That Changed the World), like Kolbert, blends many different threads into this account, discussing geology and plate tectonics, cultural and religious tectonics, and volcanology. Also like Kolbert, Winchester knows how to write about hard science in fine and accessible ways.

Read-arounds: 

Alvarez, Walter. T.rex and the Crater of Doom. Princeton Univ. 2008. 216p. ISBN 9780691131030. pap. $18.95. SCI
Readers might also become interested in mass extinctions themselves. For those readers there are many works to suggest, ranging from studies of the Permian extinction, in which 95 percent of all living organisms perished—such as Michael Benton’s When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time—to this account of the event that took out the dinosaurs. Kolbert features the work of Alvarez and his father in The Sixth Extinction, and while it was controversial, even dismissed, by scientists when it first appeared, it has since been confirmed and is widely accepted. Alvarez, based on elements found in a specific clay layer, proposed that a giant object (either a comet or an asteroid) crashed into the earth 65 million years ago and triggered both immediate and long-term fatal conditions. Upon first hitting the earth, the subsequent shock wave vaporized everything in its path in a matter of seconds, a path that crossed a continent. What was left alive suffered through an Armageddon of the skies as first searing heat and then an impact winter followed. Engaging, quickly paced, and vividly described, Alvarez’s work turns the science of extinctions into gripping reading.

Greenberg, Joel. A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction. Bloomsbury. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781620405345. $26. SCI
Kolbert’s exploration of extinction offers readers many avenues to explore but the most direct is the demise of species. Suggest Greenberg’s detailed account of the loss of the passenger pigeon to readers desiring a detailed examination of one species’ swift downfall. When Elizabeth I ruled England, passenger pigeons roamed the North American skies in numbers inconceivable in the current era. Billions of birds—enough, as Greenberg describes, to eclipse the sun for three days during one flight—ranged from the Gulf of Mexico far into Canada. One hundred years ago the last known passenger pigeon, a single bird kept in a city zoo, died, wiping out the species. Their destruction, as Greenberg accounts in his lucid, mournful, and deliberate explanation, came about because humans killed them, in ways both horribly inventive and methodical. His accessible work supports Kolbert’s contention of human’s role in other species’ extinctions and, while grimmer, serves as a notable extension to her survey. Readers might also enjoy Sharon Levy’s Once & Future Giants, a more academic but still accessible account of how humans helped to usher out megafauna (among them mammoths and mastodons). Also consider suggesting Tim Flannery and Peter Schouten’s A Gap in Nature, which offers illustrations of lost animals and short accounts of their history and path to extinction.

Newitz, Annalee. Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction. Doubleday. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780385535915. $26.95. SCI
Another direction Kolbert’s writing might lead readers in is theories of life after destruction. Newitz (editor-in-chief, i09) gives a fascinating tour of the last five extinctions before turning her attention to the possible ways humans can survive the inevitable sixth. With a lively tone and an accessible approach, she details how life has continued on despite cataclysmic die-offs, including the Permian, and how humans are uniquely equipped to find a way for us and other species to survive and even thrive, after the next. Her basic contention is that we must move around—particularly off-planet—that we must adapt our thinking to futureproof as much as possible, and, in a move that will hearten all readers, that storytelling is essential to our continued existence. Her riveting blend of science and speculation pairs well with Kolbert’s work and offers a bit more fancy and hope. Suggest as well Bill McKibben’s equally gripping Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. For a completely different thought experiment—what would happen if only humans died?—suggest Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us.

Watch-alike: 

An Inconvenient Truth. color. 96 min. Paramount. 2006. DVD UPC 883929311323. $14.98. SOC SCI
This elegiac and absorbing documentary, lauded by many and pilloried by some, details the threat of global warming in an accessible, immediate, and gripping fashion. Former Vice President Al Gore is incisive and at ease as he runs through a slide show of facts, images, and projections accounting for the rise of CO2 and its consequential threat to humanity in the form of massive storms, rising oceans, species extinctions, and changes in global temperatures. Overlaid onto the slide show is an account of Gore’s political and personal history, including the contested 2000 election. Attracting great attention when it was released and winning an Academy Award for Best Documentary as well as a number of other accolades, this film will interest viewers of environmental documentaries; also consider the Leo DiCaprio film, The 11th Hour (2007).

 

 

 

Spies, Lovers, WW II | What We’re Reading

As Valentine’s Day nears, School Library Journal and Library Journal staffers are reading about love and secrets, and secret loves. Even Rosemary’s baby boards the love train this week!

Mahnaz Dar Associate Editor, Reviews, School Library Journal
This week finds me rereading Son of Rosemary (Onyx: Penguin) Ira Levin’s (sort of infamous) sequel to his hit Rosemary’s Baby. Rosemary’s awake in 1999 after about 27 years of being in a coma (thanks to the coven of the first book). Awake, it turns out that the son of Satan has grown to become a charismatic leader, advocating peace and love. Total guilty pleasure, I have to admit—lots of fun!

Kate DiGirolomo, Editorial Assistant, Library Journal
You know when you’re on the brink of finishing a book, and you become overwhelmingly sad at the idea of it being over and you want to slow down, but you can’t possibly because it’s all too perfect and you absolutely have to know how it ends right now? Yeah, that’s Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park (Griffin: St. Martin’s). The plot should feel bland (a boy and a girl sharing a bus seat) and the characters should feel pretentious (music snobbery abounds), but this book sparks with the intensity of young love and the desperate search for stability. Plus you get this awesome discussion about the sexism in comics:

“But.” Eleanor insisted, “the girls are all so stereotypically girly and passive. Half of them just think really hard. Like that’s their superpower, thinking. And Shadowcat’s power is even worse–she disappears.”
“She becomes intangible,” Park said. “That’s different.”
“It’s still something you could do in the middle of a tea party,” Eleanor said.
“Not if you were holding hot tea. Plus, you’re forgetting Storm.”
“I’m not forgetting Storm. She controls the weather with her head; it’s still just thinking. Which is about all she could do in those boots.”
“She has a cool Mohawk…” Park said.
“Irrelevant.” Eleanor answered.

On a related note, Rainbow Rowell favorited my congratulatory tweet to her on her much-deserved Printz honor for this book. I MAY have freaked out about it. A lot. So I think that basically makes us best friends now.

Liz French, Associate Editor, Reviews, LJ
After a lovely interlude with Amy Rowland’s debut, The Transcriptionist (Algonquin), about which I raved last week, I’m back to reading about one of my favorite rockers, the semi-inscrutable, definitely talented, and very self-destructive Alex Chilton, in Holly George-Warren’s biography, A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton from Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man (Viking). In this segment of hard-living Chilton’s life story, it’s the late 70s, punk has broken, and he is living in New York City, hanging out at CBGB’s and seeing all the groups you’d expect (Blondie, the Ramones, Dead Boys, Richard Hell and his various bands, Talking Heads) and playing in a band with Chris Stamey (who would later go on to form the influential band The dB’s). When he wasn’t crashing at his producer Terry Ork’s pad, Chilton would spend time with Stamey and his girlfriend at the time, Jamie K. Sims (herself a musician and founding member of The Cosmopolitans).
George-Warren sketches a quick picture:

“He had a drinking problem and was very depressed,” Ork said of Alex. “He would made humorous, sardonic comments about my homosexuality. I had suspicions that he’d had a broken romance.”
Around fellow Southerners Chris and Jamie, though, Alex was charming and friendly. “He was kind of beguiling and guileless at the same time,” Jamie remembers. “It was very general, but it was almost a coquettish quality. I watched a lot of people get infatuated with Alex. He had that effect on everybody. He really was one of the truly charismatic people. He just had a very gentle demeanor—it was partly a Southern manners thing and partly a personal thing, where he’d make people feel that he’s not discounting them. He seemed very open.”

Barbara Genco, Manager, Special Projects, LJ
I truly loved being on the 2014 Sibert Award Committee and I adored our winners! But it is great to finally have the time to read books that are out of the award’s scope of consideration. I immediately sought out a new kid’s book by librarian Ken Setterington, Toronto Public Library’s very first official Children and Youth Advocate. His Branded by the Pink Triangle (Second Story) was named a Stonewall Award Honor Book at last week’s #ALAMW14 (check out the School Library Journal review here). This powerful, approachable paperback focuses on Nazi-era targeting and persecution of homosexuals. Set apart and stigmatized, these men were forced to wear a pink triangle* just as Jews were forced to wear a yellow star. And they, along with Jews and other marginalized groups, were systematically captured, imprisoned in concentration camps, and often murdered. I find this tween/YA book to be a powerful mix of well-documented facts, first-person accounts, and deeply affecting individual stories. It also was named to the American Library Association’s GLBT Roundtable’s Top Ten 2014 Rainbow List. Strong stuff.
* The book focuses on the experiences of homosexual men, not lesbians. It also references Paragraph 175: “The pink triangle was used exclusively with male prisoners—lesbians were not included under Paragraph 175, a statute which made homosexual acts between males a crime. However, women were arrested and imprisoned for “antisocial behavior,” which included feminism, lesbianism, and prostitution, and was applied to women who did not conform to the ideal Nazi image of a woman: cooking, cleaning, kitchen work, child raising, and passivity. These women were labeled with a black triangle. Lesbians reclaimed this symbol for themselves as gay men reclaimed the pink triangle.”
Read more about LGBT symbols at Wikipedia.

Kent Turner, Assistant Editor, Reviews, SLJ
I just finished Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day (Mariner). No, it’s not about the Hollywood actress’s foray into espionage, but about a failed chicken farmer/hotelier who became “the greatest spy of World War II,” according to author Stephan Talty. As a double agent, the Spanish-born Juan Pujol was so good at fooling the Germans about when and where D-Day would take place that he was given the moniker Garbo, in honor of his acting abilities. Even Eisenhower credited Pujol for saving thousands of lives. The book also gives a solid big-picture look at the various operations of deception spearheaded by the British intelligence services MI5 and MI6.

Ashleigh Williams, Bookroom Assistant, LJ
My current obsession is The History & Arts of the Dominatrix, self-published by elusive author Anne O. Nomis. Rife with facts, statistics, and exclusive images, this book has kept me enthralled from start to (almost) finish. The accompanying photos of the classic “dom” as she evolves over time are just one of the many highlights. I’m having far too much fun making people uncomfortable on subways and in coffee shops once again!

 

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