Library Journal

Materials Shift

IN U.S. PUBLIC libraries nationwide, the materials budget rose 2% on average in 2013. While print book spending has fallen 7% in a decade, last year it steadied at 59% of the materials budget—the same figure reported in 2012. Book budgets actually rose 1.5% overall after a three-year lag, and circulation grew 2% on average. Finally, ebook integration into the library world is just about complete, with nine in ten libraries now loaning ebooks and a range of systems in place for measuring their circulation.

These conclusions are drawn from LJ’s 2014 materials survey, which collects budget and circulation data on the wide array of holdings available in public libraries today. The survey represents every size library in every region of the country, including both library systems and independent institutions. The numbers are then weighted to mirror the public library universe by population served. The survey, which for five years has charted the growing presence of ebooks in public libraries, now goes further, reporting on ebook budgets and circulation by category, with instructive results. But first, some basics of budget and circulation overall.

Budget breakdown

We’ve come far since 1998, when LJ launched a materials survey that focused overwhelmingly on print books. Last year’s materials budgets, averaging $783,000 and ranging from $22,000 for libraries serving populations under 10,000 to $6.3 million for those serving population of one million or more, are split among more than a half dozen categories (see “Materials Budget Breakdown,” at left). Print books average 59% of the budget, followed by DVDs/Blu-rays at 12% and audiobooks (including downloadable audio titles) at 8%. The new downloadable movies category averages a scant 0.6% of the materials budget but rises closer to 2% for libraries serving populations of 250,000-plus and can be expected to grow.

Since 2009, print book budgets have inevitably fallen in favor of ­ebook dollars, with ebooks escalating from 1% to 7% of the materials budget overall and averaging closer to 10% at the biggest libraries. A third of libraries serving populations under 10,000 are ebook holdouts, but otherwise over 90% of respondents—and all respondents from libraries serving populations of 250,000 or more—report lending ebooks. Not surprisingly, ­ebook budgets are blossoming like flowers in spring rain, up 20% overall; libraries serving populations of 100,000–249,999 boast ebook budget bump-ups averaging an eye-popping 46.5%.

Print book budgets did show some resilience last year, increasing by 1.5% overall and averaging $465,000, though the biggest libraries lay claim to budgets averaging $3.2 million. Still, only 26% of respondents saw print book budgets grow, and 23% saw them shrink, with libraries serving populations 250,000–499,999 hit hardest (-2.3%) and urban and Midwest libraries registering small losses overall. With ebook budgets growing and movies, audiobooks, and music together nearly doubling their slice of the materials pie in ten years to a sturdy 24%, print book budgets are indeed getting roughed up. Word obsessives can take comfort in the idea that print books, ebooks, and audiobooks, treated jointly as alternate formats, win the materials race with 74% of the ­budget.

Circ’s up

Good news on circulation: every size library posted gains, with a 2% increase overall. Libraries serving populations of 250,000–499,999 boasted a juicy 6.5% increase. At 63%, print books still take the lion’s share of circulation, followed by DVDs/Blu-rays at 21%, audiobooks at 7%, ebooks at 4%, and music CDs/downloadables at 3%. Interestingly, audiobook circulation, once a driving force, barely budged this year and actually fell at urban and suburban libraries. Music CDs/downloadables tumbled over 5% overall after falling over 3% the year before; the category doesn’t look to be a player any time soon.

For now, DVDs/Blu-rays truly pay their way, returning in circulation nearly double what they take in funding. And their circulation keeps booming, averaging a nearly 6% jump last year despite competition from commercial lenders. Still, some libraries are feeling the pinch. “Our DVD circulation, more than half our overall circulation, has dropped considerably,” groans Jackie Davis, Anderson Public Library, IN. “Redbox and especially Netflix are eating our lunch!”

By location, rural libraries claimed the highest book circulation and suburban libraries the lowest book circulation and highest DVD circulation; by size, libraries serving populations over 500,000 have the lowest book and audio­book circulation and the highest ebook circulation. Ebook circulation has increased 1% a year since 2011, when this survey began measuring it, but no patterns emerge by location or size. Instead, ebook success seems very much a result of library and community dynamics, as suggested by conversations with respondents about circulation statistics overall.

Ebook impact

Respondents at libraries where circulation fell offer familiar reasons, including closed branches, shorter hours, and fewer materials owing to budget cuts. But several point directly to ­ebooks. Not only are ebooks affordable for consumers to purchase, especially as the economy picks up, but they’re easier to access commercially than through public libraries and faster, too; impatient readers are willing to go on Amazon rather than tarry on line at the library or wait for holds on popular titles. What’s more, say respondents, ebook use at libraries is more focused that print use, with less browsing and less impulse borrowing, and it can take real marketing muscle—not to mention “more staff expertise and flexibility,” says Celeste Stewart, Alameda County Library, CA—to bring even the strongest ebook collections to patrons’ attention.

Yet at libraries where circulation has risen, ebooks are given much of the credit. Pamela Bruner, Palm Beach County Library System, FL, for instance, points to “continued development of the downloadable ebook/e-audiobook collection and adding an ebook vendor” as reasons for her library’s circulation success. Nancy Messenger, Sno-Isle Libraries, WA, responds to the question about her library’s circulation boost with an enthusiastic “ebooks, ­ebooks, ebooks!” and then explains how librarians made that happen.

“In early 2013, we redesigned our website (www.sno-isle.org) and put e-content front and center,” she says. “Of course, a lot of our patrons were already using our OverDrive service, but adding 3M Cloud Library and putting both right up front made a difference.” That Messenger’s patrons are a tech-savvy bunch—“we’re in high tech’s backyard, just north of Seattle”—also suggests the difference community can make. Do your patrons have the latest devices? Are they wealthy enough to buy their own ebooks? These factors could determine whether the entire ebook phenomenon pushes your circulation up or down.

Print book or ebook, the materials survey reveals some intriguing information about what subjects circulate best in public libraries today. Fiction continues to boom, with print fiction currently averaging 66% of circulation and growing at a rate of 1% annually since 2011, when this survey started tracking it separately. At the smallest libraries, fiction claims 75% of circulation. Fiction is even bigger in the ebook realm, making up fully 80% of ebook circulation, as it did in 2012.

Among fiction’s various genres, mystery remains king, though its grip slipped somewhat in 2013, when 95% of respondents reported it as one of their top five fiction circulators; in 2012, its share was 99%. General fiction comes in second at 87% and romance third at 71%, though it also slipped somewhat (it pulls off 80 percent in the ebook format but is still third). The big surprises: the ever-racing thriller slowed down by a full 10%, with only 42% of respondents seeing it as a top fiction contender, and literary fiction beat out sf/fantasy by 15% to 10%. In the ebook realm, though, their roles are reversed, with sf/fantasy getting a vote of confidence from 20% of respondents; evidently, this genre’s readers like ebook technology.

Looking at fiction circulation by location raises some interesting questions. In terms of demographics, it makes sense that Christian fiction is much bigger in rural than in suburban and especially urban libraries and that Westerns have traction only in the countryside. And perhaps the rugged realities of country life explain why sf/fantasy does not appeal there. Still, why are thrillers much less popular in suburbia than in urban or rural settings, and why is mystery also hotter in those areas than in suburbia? Why do sophisticated urbanites read less literary fiction than their suburban brethren, and why is romance hottest in cities (which can get lonely)? Does YA circulate best in urban libraries because youth are concentrated there, or are more urban adults inclined to crossover reading?

Nonfiction differences

Except for the literary/sf switch, fiction book and ebook circulation are markedly similar. Not so with nonfiction. In print, cooking again takes the gold, as it has since it shoved medicine/health off the podium in 2011. In fact, with 84% of respondents claiming it among the top five circulators, cooking has the highest rating of any other nonfiction category measured in the last decade. But it ranks a mere sixth in the ebook realm, where biography/memoir comes out on top. Biography/memoir placed third in the print sweepstakes, reaching its highest standing ever.

The once hot how-to/home arts slipped sharply last year, falling nearly 20 points to fifth place; both current events/politics and business/finance/careers have fallen nearly 20 points since 2010, with current events just scraping by with a tenth-place showing in 2013 and business falling out of the top ten altogether. But while how-to barely made the ebook top ten, current events and business rank fifth and seventh, respectively, among top nonfiction ebook circulators, perhaps because the immediacy of the information they provide is well suited to the ebook format.

But perhaps not; history, ranked sixth among nonfiction print books in circulation, jumps to second place in ebook circulation, while health/medicine—how immediate is that?—slips from a print second place to an ebook third. Interestingly, though the survey counts fitness and weight-loss books with health, spinning them off shows that their circulation has soared nearly 30% in the last eight years, while traditional health/medicine titles have fallen nearly 20 points in that time. For true medical immediacy, people are evidently turning to sites like WebMD.

Despite the difference in nonfiction book and ­ebook circulation, looking at nonfiction by location reveals some interesting trends. How-to and arts and crafts are most popular in rural areas, where they likely have real application, but it’s perhaps surprising that cookbooks are by far the most popular in urban areas. More understandably, urban areas, home to so many anxious and competitive parents and their offspring, best support the college guide/test preparation category. This category just entered the top ten print nonfiction rankings in 2013, though it doesn’t show up in ebook format, where it’s not really applicable. Finally, medicine/health titles do best in suburbia. What does that say about suburban anxieties?

Tracking ebook circ

As ebook circulation explodes, so do ways of measuring it. Some libraries retrieve circulation statistics from their vendors, others from their consortia, still others from their downloadable ­materials website. When libraries circulate the whole reading device, usually only the loan of the device and not its individual titles are counted, but the staff of Fayetteville Free Library, NY, bravely survey patrons to see what they have accessed. In some cases, librarians must ­estimate. Says Nancy Simerl, Sherburne Public Library, NY. “We can count specific use of the leased or purchased materials, but we also access Project Gutenberg, which we guess at.”

The means of reporting ebook circ statistics are as diverse as the means of collecting them. Many libraries do combine ebook circulation with book circulation to get one big number, but others still report them separately. Still others report ebook circulation with media like audiobooks. At Sno-Isle, it gets complicated. Says Messenger, “We report 3M circ in a separate line but as part of our circulation; OverDrive data reports as download activity.”

However it is measured, ebook circulation is virtually certain to go up in the foreseeable future. That will inevitably bring further shifts in the materials budget. Will ebooks pull funding from books and/or audiobooks? Will DVD/Blu-ray circulation and expenditures be slowed by the Netflix roadblock or by debuting library streaming services? Will nonfiction steal some thunder from fiction? Tune in to next year’s survey to find out.

Mapping Our Worlds | What We’re Reading

Library Journal and School Library Journal staffers are doing a lot of looking back, looking inward, and looking at maps this week.

Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, Reviews, School Library Journal
This week, I’m diving back into the world of classic children’s literature. Last week, Liz and I attended a panel at McNally Jackson bookstore, where Lizzie Skurnick (Jezebel’s “Fine Lines” columnist) interviewed authors Rebecca Stead and Elizabeth Winthrop about Louise Fitzhugh’s beloved masterpiece, Harriet the Spy, which turns 50 this year (Happy Birthday, Harriet!). I’m anxiously awaiting the 50th anniversary edition, which includes essays and commentary from various authors. Spy on!
I’m also reading Maria Tatar’s Annotated Peter Pan: The Centennial Edition (Norton). It’s a large, gorgeous tome that includes essays on J.M. Barrie and annotations on just about every aspect of Peter Pan. Between these two books, I’m getting a great grounding in classic kid lit.

Shelley Diaz, Senior Editor, Reviews, SLJ
I just finished debut author Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die (HarperCollins), which is coming out in April. This fun, cinematic YA novel is a perfect crossover for adults. I’ve been calling it Wizard of Oz meets Kill Bill. It’s gory, grim, and fast-paced, and I can’t wait for the sequel (and the movie adaptation I’m sure is on its way).
I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just share the back cover copy (which is worthy of an award, it’s so good.) Plus, the protagonist’s name is Amy Gumm (as in Judy Garland’s original last name).

There’s a new girl from Kansas in Oz…
And she has a mission:
Remove
The Tin Woodman’s heart.
Steal
The Scarecrow’s brain.
Take
The Lion’s courage, and then—
DOROTHY MUST DIE.

Liz French, Associate Editor, Reviews, Library Journal
Well thanks a lot, Simon & Schuster, now you’ve done it: made me add another book to the teetering, towering book pile at the office (we aren’t even going to talk about the home version). Last week, my LJ colleagues Barbara Hoffert and Etta Thornton-Verma and I attended the educator and librarian fall preview at Simon & Schuster, where debut author Matthew Thomas was the featured speaker (or should I say reader? Anyway, I digress). Thomas read a short chapter from his Sept. 2014 novel, We Are Not Ourselves, and bingo-bango, just like that, I was hooked—on a scene with sports in it, no less. So now I’m immersed in this sprawling and magnificent novel and loving it. But I really did not need another mondo-mega-sized book to lug around on the commute to and from work! Talk about first-world problems.

Amanda Mastrull, Assistant Editor, Reviews, LJ
This week I started E. Lockhart’s upcoming YA novel We Were Liars (Delacorte, May 2014), which was recommended by someone here in the LJ/SLJ office. There’s a whole campaign around the book to not reveal the major plot elements, so I’ll endeavor to not do that. Especially since I’ve really enjoyed trying to figure out just what’s going on. What I think I can say is that the novel is about four friends (the Liars) who meet up each summer on a private New England island owned by the patriarch of the Sinclair family. It’s all very old money and keeping up appearances. We don’t know much about the protagonist in the beginning, except that she’s almost 18, owns “a well-used library card and not much else” (despite her family’s wealth), and has suffered some trauma that’s had lasting effects on her life. I’m completely engrossed in the suspense and mystery of this one.

Meredith Schwartz, Senior Editor, News & Features, LJ
I have just started Mars 3-D: A Rover’s-Eye View of the Red Planet (Sterling), by Jim Bell, deputy principal investigator of the Mars Science Laboratory. It comes with 3D glasses!

Etta Thornton-Verma, Editor, Reviews, LJ
Years ago I bought Katherine Harmon’s wonderful You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination (Princeton Architectural Press). It got me hooked on maps that show imaginary places and ones that could be called cartographic selfies—children’s drawings of their neighborhood, for example, that show their homes, schools, and playgrounds as dominating the space, with barely anything else labeled. So I recently picked up a copy of the somewhat similar Maps of Paradise (Univ. of Chicago) by Alessandro Scafi. It’s more academic, and I’m sometimes skimming the background details, but the maps of what various cultures over time have imagined paradise looks like, and where it is located, are fascinating. The book is also, by accident, an interesting source of early maps of the world, as some cultures thought that paradise was here on Earth.

Ashleigh Williams, Bookroom Assistant, LJ
Well, winter tried to shift toward spring for a while before rapidly changing its mind, so I thought I’d read something light and happy to warm myself up from the inside. I finished Raina Telgemeier’s Smile (Graphix), which was great, by the way, then picked up We Need To Talk About Kevin (HarperCollins). Lionel Shriver’s captivating novel about the mother of a young psychopath depicts unimaginable tragedy with an almost hypnotic lyricism. Eva’s letters to her absent husband serve as a confessional; the vulnerability, honesty, and downright ugliness that emerges as she recounts what led up to that horrifying “Thursday” keeps the reader fascinated, and even slightly disturbed, as her dry wit and unflinching self-awareness prove surprisingly relatable. Not the best way to beat the winter blues, but a definite must read whatever the season!

 

The Public Library Association Treasure Hunt | My Favorite Galleys

Alas, I wasn’t able to provide a galley guide for the Public Library Association conference this year, but that won’t keep us from hunting for galleys, will it? Aside from the intriguing works I’ll be introducing at our PLA Author Party, here are some titles I’d recommend, both from personal passion and from the conviction that they might otherwise be overlooked.

Take HarperCollins (#1837), for instance. Along with works by big-name authors like Christopher Moore and Francine Prose, I’m thrilled to see a debut book of poetry, Charlotte Boulay’s Foxes on the Trampoline. Boulay’s edgily intimate poems have appeared in places like The New Yorker and Slate and will appeal to more than just the cognoscenti. Carrie La Seur’s first novel, The Home Place, sounds as grand as its Montana setting, where the heroine returns to deal with family tragedy, and the author’s backstory adds interest. Erika Johansen is another newbie, but her ambitious fantasy, The Queen of the Tearling, promises to be a big book of the summer.

Among the exciting Minotaur titles you’ll find at the Macmillan booth (#1852), don’t overlook Jeffery Renard Allen’s richly written Song of the Shank (Graywolf), a new novel from the author of the remarkable Rails Under My Back about a 19th-century musical prodigy born a slave. Drop by the Workman booth (#1651) to pick up Gabrielle Zevin’s bookstore-based The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry—I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love this book—then proceed to Norton (#838) for Tania Malik’s Three Bargains, a debut novel about fathers and sons set in India. While you’re there, sorting through the Larry McMurtry and Richard Powers titles, you owe it to yourself to pick up Alexi Zentner’s The Lobster Kings, a King Lear–inspired tale set in contemporary Maine.

With Sam Kean’s The Tale of Dueling Neurosurgeons, a history of neurosurgery that will satisfy even the most science challenged, and Susie Jane Gilman’s The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street, a debut novel from the author of Kiss My Tiara, Hachette (#949) demonstrates some range. At Grove Atlantic (#1752), Lily King’s Euphoria, a novel inspired by the life of Margaret Mead, and Malcolm Brooks’s 1950s Montana–set Painted Horses hold sway, but don’t overlook Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State—it’s a visceral tale of social and sexual conflict set in Haiti. At Perseus Books Group (#1753), Linda Przybyszewski’s The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish offers history, fashion, and nostalgia in a lovely package. Look for a signing on 3/12 at 4:30.

Works by Sue Miller and Richard North Patterson are on tap at the Random booth (#1636), but Rufi Thorpe’s The Girls from Corona Del Mar, a debut novel bout female friendship under fire, is getting strong reviews, and Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road is absolutely mind-blowing, even for someone like me who doesn’t read much futuristic fantasy fiction.

Among the stack of 20 titles being brought by Simon & Schuster (#1537), Cara Hoffman’s Be Safe I Love You, about a troubled female Iraq War vet, has my attention now. For the future, I’ll be looking at PEN/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse’s Take This Man, a memoir about the childhood his mother invented for him, and Matthew Thomas’s big-push Irish American epic, We Are Not Ourselves.

Finally, Penguin (#1736) routinely brings a truckload of galleys, and among them are always intriguing  paperback originals that are great for libraries. The best-selling Sarah Jio’s Goodnight June is a departure whose heroine inherits a bookstore from a great-aunt who befriended Goodnight Moon‘s Margaret Wise Brown. Joel Dicker’s The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is an internationally best-selling literary thriller (it’s being published in 42 countries). And don’t miss Jennifer Scott’s The Accidental Book Club.

Sophie Hannah Does Agatha Christie, Gail Sheehy Revisits Her Own Passages, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Sept. 2014, Pt. 1

Hannah, Sophie. The New Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot Mystery. Morrow. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780062297211. $25.99. CD: HarperAudio. MYSTERY
Because only Shakespeare and the Bible outsell Agatha Christie, internationally best-selling  author Hannah must have been thrilled when the Christie estate authorized her writing a new Christie mystery—the first time it has ever done so. Given Hannah’s tendency toward twisty psychological suspense and tart wit, the choice seems good. Hannah here resurrects the beloved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who investigates the murder of three guests at the stylish Bloxham Hotel in 1920s London. Could the monogrammed cufflink left between the lips of each victim be a clue? Note that Morrow is reissuing Christie’s After the Funeral with a new foreword by Hannah explaining why it’s her favorite Poirot mystery; look for distribution on World Book Night, Apr. 23.

Hobbs, Jeff. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League but Did Not Survive. Scribner. Sept. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781476731902. $27. SOCIAL SCIENCE
Robert Peace grew up on the mean streets of Newark, NJ, raised by a mother earning just $15,000 a year while his father languished in jail. Innate intelligence and, doubtless, immeasurable drive got him to Yale, where he studied molecular biochemistry and biophysics. But as roommate and close friend Hobbs explains, Peace inevitably faced the stress of living in two very different worlds and finally feeling at home in neither. Eventually, the streets won out—and did him in.

Oliver, Lauren. Rooms. Ecco. Sept. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062223197. $25.99. PARANORMAL
Oliver has already triumphed in the YA arena with Before I Fall and the “Delirium” trilogy, all New York Times best sellers; film rights for her various titles have been sold to both Universal Pictures and Fox 2000. Her first novel for adults has already been called “a magnificent gothic fugue on the themes of longing and buried secrets” by Times critic Lev Grossman, author of “The Magicians” trilogy. After Richard Walker dies, his embittered ex-wife and two sullen children arrive at his overstuffed mansion to claim their inheritance. The house also comes with two ghosts, proper Alice and sharp-tongued, cynical Sandra, who exchange observations that no one can hear—until a new ghost appears and starts communing with Walker’s son, Trenton. With a 150,000-copy first printing.

Ford, Lita. Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir. It Bks. Sept. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062270641. $26.99. MEMOIR/MUSIC
Readers will know Ford as the former lead guitarist of The Runaways, the legendary Los Angeles band that helped open rock to women, as well as a platinum-grade solo musician; Rolling Stone once called her “heavy metal’s leading female rocker.” Few know of her horrendous marriage to a musician husband who thoroughly controlled and brutalized her, until she finally escaped—at the cost of her sons. Billed as tough, raw, and honest; with a 75,000-copy first printing.

Moran, Caitlin. How To Build a Girl. Harper. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780062335975. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062335999. LITERARY FICTION
British cultural critic Moran broke out here with 2012’s How To Be a Woman, an eye-opening look at women today through Moran’s life story that spent 18 weeks on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best sellers list and eight weeks on the ebook nonfiction best sellers list; it also won major reviews from venues like People and Slate, as well as significant NPR coverage. Her fiction debut echoes aspects of her life—e.g., joining the music weekly Melody Maker at 16 and changing her first name to Caitlin (pronounced Cat-lin)—before she went on to a nearly two-decade career as a prize-winning columnist at the London Times. Here, after an embarrassing incident on local TV, 14-year-old Johanna Morrigan decides to remake herself as out-there Dolly Wilde, ready to support her offbeat, struggling family with her writing. Soon, she’s drinking regularly, having lots of sex with various men, and writing acidulous reviews of rock bands. But can you really build the perfect girl? With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Sheehy, Gail. Daring: My Passages: A Memoir. Morrow. Sept. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780062291691. $28.99. MEMOIR
Sheehy is best known for Passages, a New York Times best seller about milestone moments in adult life that was named by the Library of Congress one of the ten most influential books of our times. Here’s a reminder that she is also a veteran journalist who has served as contributing editor to Vanity Fair for three decades, won the New York Newswomen’s Club Front Page Award seven times, and profiled everyone from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein—thus breaking ground for women in journalism. Sheehy’s memoir brings us along as she walks the streets with prostitutes to reveal the dangers of prostitution and conducts a wild affair with New York magazine creator Clay Felker that ended in a happy marriage. With a 125,000-copy first printing.

Thomas, Matthew. We Are Not Ourselves. S. & S. Sept. 2014. 640p. ISBN 9781476756660. $28. LITERARY/HISTORICAL FICTION
An epic tale about an Irish American couple and the constraints of the American dream, this first novel is benefiting from tremendous in-house enthusiasm. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a poignant, pointed read that should please a broad range of readers. Eileen Tumulty, raised by her immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in the 1940s and 1950s, is determined not to settle for one of the boisterous, glad-handing types her girlfriends adore. Serious-minded scientist Ed Leary seems exactly the right sort to carry her to the larger world, but their marriage founders as she realizes that he really doesn’t care about increasingly bigger, better homes, cars, and jobs. The portrait of a marriage and of a crucial time in American history; great for book clubs.

Eight Women Writers, from Best Sellers (Gray, Gregory) to Newcomers (Simpson, Zourkova) | Fiction Previews, Sept. 2014, Pt. 1

Crombie, Deborah. To Dwell in Darkness. Morrow. Sept. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780062271600. $25.99. THRILLER
In the latest Duncan Kincaid–Gemma James outing, Duncan investigates a lethal bombing in famed St. Pancras Station after having been transferred to the London borough of Camden from Scotland Yard headquarters. Postponed from April; with a 100,000-copy first printing and a five-city tour (Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond, and Washington, DC), plus regional appearances in New England and the metropolitan New York area.

Gray, Shelley Shepard. Joyful: Return to Sugarcreek, Bk. Three. Avon Inspire. Sept. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780062204509. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062204516. AMISH/INSPIRATIONAL
Poor Randall Beiler. He once broke the heart of lovely young Elizabeth Nolt, but now she has been hired by his brother to tend house for Randall and their younger siblings. Will love rekindle? With a 100,000-copy first printing and big promotion, including features in the From the Heart and Bookperk newsletters, Book Club Girl on Air, and AvonRomance.com.

Gregory, Philippa. The King’s Curse. Touchstone. Sept. 2014. 608p. ISBN 9781451626117. $27.99. HISTORICAL
In this final entry in the “Cousins’ War” series, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York, starts by hosting Arthur, the Prince of Wales, and his new bride, Katherine of Aragon, and ends up as a lady-in-waiting to Katherine as she marries her dead husband’s brother, Henry VIII. A phenomenally popular series; with a reading group guide and a big push at the American Library Association conference.

Kellerman, Faye. Murder 101: A Decker/Lazarus Novel. Morrow. Sept. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780062270184. $26.99. CD: HarperAudio. THRILLER
Having abandoned work at the LAPD for the slow lane at upstate New York’s Greenbury Police department, Peter Decker is finding things a little too quiet—until the Tiffany panels at the local cemetery’s mausoleum are replaced by forgeries and a coed at a high-end local college ends up dead. Postponed from July; with a 150,000-copy first printing.

Lynn, J. Stay with Me. Morrow Paperbacks. Sept. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780062294807. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062294814. ROMANCE
Brandon, a soldier devastated by his experiences in Afghanistan, meets Calla, scarred by the fire that kills her siblings, and the rest is romance. The first two books in Lynn’s New Adult “Wait for You” series were both New York Times best sellers, so great expectations—and the 100,000-copy first printing—aren’t unreasonable.

Miller, Karen. The Falcon Throne. Orbit. Sept. 2014. 528p. ISBN 9780316120081. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780316235563. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316402859. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. FANTASY
Australian author Miller launched herself in 2005 with The Innocent Mage, which has since sold over 175,000 copies; she’s also won Aurealis and James Tiptree, Jr. awards for her work. In this first in a reportedly bloody new series, various heirs battle for the crown of Harcia, a kingdom sundered years ago by jealous royal brothers. With a 30,000-copy first printing; note the special introductory hardcover price.

Simpson, Alice. Ballroom. Harper. Sept. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780062323033. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062323064. POP FICTION
The work of internationally known artist Simpson has always been inspired by dance—she’s the daughter of a vaudeville dancer—so it’s no surprise that her fiction debut is set in a ballroom. The past-its-prime New York City dance hall of the title features several persevering patrons, including Sarah, 40 years old and yearning for love; perennial bachelor Joseph, who’s trying to catch Sarah’s eye; and aging dance instructor Harry, who adores Ballroom dance star Maria, an ambitious woman with dreams of her own. With a 30,000-copy first printing.

Zourkova, Krassi. The Wildalone. Morrow. Sept. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780062328021. $25.95. OCCULT & SUPERNATURAL
In her first year at Princeton and homesick for her Eastern European homeland, Thea Slavin becomes involved with the handsome, ambiguous Rhys and his equally enticing brother, Jake, who introduce her to a mythic underworld shaped by Greek mythology and dominated by the Samodivi, or Wildalones. These forest witches of Bulgarian folklore ensnare men, and Thea is ensnared by their story, even as she learns something frightening about her family. Bulgarian-born first novelist Zourkova herself studied at Princeton before graduating from Harvard Law School; it’s not known whether there are any Samodivi in her past. With a 50,000-copy first printing and a big promotional push.

Current Issues from Military Contractors to Educating At-Risk Youth | Nonfiction Previews, Sept. 2014, Pt. 1

Banks, David with G.F. Lichtenberg. Soar: How Boys Learn, Succeed, and Develop Character the Eagle Way. 37 Ink: Atria. Sept. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781476760957. $26.99. SOCIAL SCIENCE
In 2004, Banks received permission to build an all-boys public school in New York City’s marginalized South Bronx, arguing that a rigorous blend of college prep–style instruction and community mentoring could effectively channel the competitiveness and peer concerns of young minority males and move them forward. The success of the Eagle Academy for Young Men fits right in with President Obama’s newly announced “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.

Daniels, Cora & John L. Jackson Jr. Impolite Conversations: On Race, Politics, Sex, Money, and Religion. Atria. Sept. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781476739113. $25.
Daniels (Black Power Inc.), a contributing writer for Essence whose work has been widely published, and cultural anthropologist Jackson, the first-ever Richard Perry University Professor of Communication and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, exchange views in alternating chapters on the hot-button issues of race, politics, sex, money, and religion. They promise unsettling opinions often expressed in private but rarely in public, so be prepared.

Denevi, Timothy. Hyper: A Personal History of ADHD. S. & S. Sept. 2014.  304p. 9781476702575. $26. PSYCHOLOGY
Today, four million children are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and promptly medicated. Denevi was diagnosed in the 1980s at age six and prescribed medication that caused a psychotic reaction, which took some time—and several different treatments, some bizarre—to reverse. Here, Denevi discusses his personal struggles with hyperactivity while detailing the history of its diagnosis (it was first recognized in the late 1800s and has since been blamed on everything from bad morals to government conspiracy) and the sometimes questionable drugs used to treat it. An important topic, just coming to the fore.

Galbraith, James K. The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth. S. & S. Sept. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781451644920. $26. ECONOMICS
The Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, Galbraith contends that our inability to reinvigorate the stalled economy worldwide stems from the misapprehension that we can return to the status quo of 1950s–2000s, perceived as an era of flourishing growth save for some bumps in the 1970s. In fact, growth has been uneven since that decade, and factors like increasingly expensive resources and the labor-saving results of the digital revolution mean that we must plan instead for modest growth. Bound to make some people mad.

Hagedorn, Ann. The Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced Our Security. S. & S. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781416598800. $28. POLITICAL SCIENCE/INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
A former Wall Street Journal staff writer, Hagedorn (Savage Peace) here reports on the rise of private military and security companies, tapped by the Bush administration when it faced a prolonged Iraq War without enough troops. Now these outside-the-boundaries soldiers don’t just assist U.S. forces, whom they eventually outnumbered in Iraq, but replace them upon withdrawal, guard U.S. embassies, assist in counterterrorism and homeland security, and more. Dangerous? Yes; what if one of these international companies pitted itself against U.S. troops?

Biblio-Maker Spaces: Books as Objects of, and Inspiration for, Art | Wyatt’s World

Green screens and deluxe printers seem to get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to libraries and creativity, which is a pity as those tools are a bit late to the game. Books, as both objects and resources, have been offering inspiration for some time now. Here are five titles that make that point.

  • Art Made from Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed ed. by Laura Heyenga with Brian Dettmer & Alyson Kuhn (Chronicle).
    The printed page offers more than stories and information; it also offers the material of art, as the 27 artists featured here prove. From installations to wearable objects, the range of works is as impressive as the techniques used to create them.
  • The Artist’s Library: A Field Guide by Laura Damon-Moore & Erinn Batykefer (Coffee House).
    Forget 3-D printers, what about listening to the Dewey “frequencies” of books? That idea is just one of the many highlighted in this groundbreaking investigation of the intersection of libraries and creativity. While you wait for the book to be published in May, visit the Library as Incubator Project website behind it all. [Pssst. It's a secret, but the authors have been chosen LJ 2014 Movers & Shakers for their work with LaIP.]
  • The Repurposed Library: 33 Craft Projects That Give Old Books New Life by Lisa Occhipinti (Stewart, Tabori & Chang).
    Enjoy being wowed? Curious of what to try yourself? Then turn to Occhipinti’s workbook of 33 projects suitable for many skill levels, from book-bookshelves to ornaments to vases to mobiles.
  • BiblioCraft by Jessica Pigza (Melanie Falick: STC Craft).
    A treasure trove of information and designs, Pigza’s book guides readers through the resources of libraries and then suggests 20 projects (some shared by other makers) to try for themselves. While not only focused on printed volumes, Pigza makes the point that collections inspire and can lead to such creations as antiquarian animal votive holders. The author is also the New York Public Library (NYPL) reference librarian guide in the very wonderful online-only miniseries Design by the Book. Check out episodes one, two, three, and four here.
  • Adventures in Bookbinding: Handcrafting Mixed-Media Books by Jeannine Stein (Quarry: Quayside).
    Making a codex from hand is an abiding pleasure, and there is no need to keep the stitches hidden behind the spine. Stein shows how to sew a book and create fabulous objects. She offers projects suitable to those starting out as well as a gallery of examples to encourage further explorations.

Oscar-Worthy? | DVD Reviews of 2014 Academy Award Nominees

The Academy Awards will be presented this Sunday, March 2, and not the least of the honors (as far as LJ is concerned) is the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature 2014. Among the five nominees are these two films, which LJ’s reviewers feel are worthy of major accolades. What did the academy voters have to say? Tune in on Sunday night.

Cutie and the Boxer. color. 82+ min. Zachary Heinzerling, Cine Mosaic prod. w/Little Magic Films, dist. by Anchor Bay Entertainment, www.anchorbayentertainment.com. 2014. DVD UPC 013132609201. $24.98; Blu-ray UPC 013132609225. $29.99. Rated: R. ART-GENERAL
Japanese neo-Dadaist Ushio Shinohara came to New York in the 1960s and became a rising star in the art world. A few years later, Shinohara, 41, married Noriko, a 19-year-old art student. At the beginning of the film, Shinohara is celebrating his 80th birthday, and he and his wife still live in Brooklyn, where they practice their art and struggle to pay their rent. The camera follows them as they go about their daily lives, having meals together, creating their art, and getting ready for exhibitions. Shinohara moves between two art forms: the “boxing” technique in which he literally punches paint onto canvases with boxing gloves and creating cardboard sculptures of motorcycles. The heart of the film, however, lies with Noriko, who put her artwork on the back burner as she raised their son and acted as assistant, secretary, and cook to her beloved Ushio. Now, with more time on her hands, Noriko begins to paint a series of cartoon-like characters, “Cutie and Bullie,” based on their lives together. VERDICT This film, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, is a touching portrait of two artists whose love, devotion, and commitment to their work and to each other have surpassed both professional and marital hardships. Highly recommended for all audiences.—Phillip ­Oliver, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence (LJ 3/15/14)

Dirty Wars. color. 86+ min. Richard Rowley, Civic Bakery & Big Noise Films, dist. by IFC Films, www.ifcfilms.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9780788617201. $24.98. SDH subtitles. POLITICS/MILITARY AFFAIRS
In order to report objectively on military operations, journalists must risk leaving the comfort of embedded status, where they may regularly forward military press releases to their editors, or report on their participation in highly controlled combat missions. On one such trip outside the “green zone” investigating an incident in Gardez, Afghanistan, Jeremy Scahill (Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield; Blackwater) and filmmaker Rowley found Navy Vice Admiral William McRaven, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), observing the sacrifice of a sheep in partial reparations for the collateral damage deaths of civilians during a raid for which JSOC denied responsibility. Their further exploration of JSOC, the command that assassinated Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, uncovers a secret organization that kills when and where it wishes, responsible only to itself, reporting only to the President of the United States. VERDICT This Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature is a chilling, excellently filmed and documented look at our military morality and the impact of covert operations on our international reputation. Adult material; highly recommended.—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH (LJ 3/1/14)

When Fiction Meets Fact: Stieg Larsson & Olof Palme

Prime Minister Olof Palme Photograph:John Wahlbaerj/EPA

Today marks the 28th anniversary of the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, gunned down on a Stockholm street by an unknown assailant as he walked home from the movies with his wife. Although one man was convicted of the crime, he was later released on appeal, and the case remains unsolved. Now a Swedish newspaper reports that Stieg Larsson, the late best-selling author of the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and an investigative journalist specializing in extremist right-wing groups, left 15 boxes of files connected to his own probe into the crime. His suspect: Bertil Wedin, a Swede with ties to apartheid-era South African security forces. The left-wing Palme was a vocal critic of the white South African regime.

Author Stieg Larsson

While police say Wedin is not a suspect, the newspaper’s own investigation pulled up another name,  identifying Alf Enerström, a doctor and right-wing opponent of Palme. Enerström, who could have stepped out of a Larsson crime novel, spent time in a psychiatric hospital after shooting a policewoman and was investigated closely by the police but always maintained an alibi that his then-partner now disputes.

Whether or not Larsson’s findings prove correct, the unsolved murder remains a tantalizing and haunting  puzzle for Swedish writers to try to solve. Just published this month is Leif G.W. Persson’s Free Falling, As If in a Dream: The Story of a Crime, the final volume in a trilogy exploring the Palme assassination and its aftermath. Reviewer David Keymer praises Persson’s “meticulous reconstruction of the investigation of a highly sensitive case, long since past but now reopened. More than any other series of police procedurals today, Persson’s exceptional novels show how cops actually pursue a difficult investigation, the thousands of steps and missteps that occur en route.”

 

Science Fiction/Fantasy Reviews | February 2014

Although it may have cooled a little from its height of popularity, urban fantasy remains a huge part of the speculative fiction landscape, and since we have such a bumper crop reviewed this month, I wanted to take a closer look at why it is popular with readers.

The books that fall into this category usually share a contemporary setting that is our real world but different. Magical powers, mythical beings, and horrifying monsters might be all around in an urban fantasy. The appeal for many readers is that combination of the familiar and the fantastic.

Sometimes the knowledge of super­natural creatures is limited to a small group of people, as in Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series (Broken Homes) about a police constable/wizard apprentice and Mur Lafferty’s fun series (Ghost Train to New Orleans) about an editor of supernatural travel guides. Sometimes the monsters are out of the closet (e.g., Patricia Briggs’s latest Mercy ­Thompson book, Night Broken), and the tension comes from humans and others interacting. Some titles, such as Anne Bishop’s Murder of Crows, twist and alter our world, and that can be a big draw for readers who wonder about how our reality would be different with fantasy creatures in control.

Urban fantasy is also a big blending genre, with books often including mystery plots and romantic story lines. Unlike epic or high fantasy in which series often involve long story arcs spread across multiple books, urban fantasy series often have self-contained narratives, with only the main characters and the setting carrying through from book to book. From funny and silly to dark and scary, there is a lot of tonal range in these titles, which means there is always something new to try. In this month’s works, werewolves, wizards, vampires, and more lie in wait to feed readers’ hunger for this popular subgenre.

Bishop, Anne. Murder of Crows: A Novel of the Others. Roc: NAL. (Others, Vol. 2). Mar. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780451465269. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101637944. FANTASY

Living among the shifters, vampires, and earth elementals known as the Others is a dangerous proposition for humans, but Meg Corbyn is no ordinary mortal. As a cassandra sangue Meg can see the future when her skin is cut. In 2013’s Written in Red, Meg had just escaped from the compound where young women with her abilities are held captive and cut for the benefit of rich and powerful men. In this sequel, Meg has earned her place in the Others’ Courtyard but still struggles with the urge to cut herself. Everything points to a violent confrontation between the Others, who control most of the world, and the smaller human population, who must never forget that they will always be prey to the powerful natives. VERDICT Bishop excels at creating irresistible dark worlds, but this series avoids some of the baroque excesses of her popular “Black Jewels” universe while still having that startling otherness and a touch of sensuality. Her alternate America in which the natural world belongs to the Others and humans are interlopers is fascinating.

Briggs, Patricia. Night Broken: A Mercy Thompson Novel. Ace: Berkley. (Mercy Thompson, Vol. 8). Mar. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780425256749. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101638835. FANTASY

Coyote shape-changer Mercy Thompson has endured a lot to get to her happy ending of a loving marriage to alpha werewolf Adam Hauptman, but all it takes is one manipulative ex-wife to wreck ­Mercy’s peace. When Christy, Adam’s former spouse, calls begging for help and sanctuary from a vicious thug who beat her, it arouses the pack’s protective instincts, but having Christy in the house is not going to be easy for Mercy. Things get complicated when it is discovered that Christy’s bad date is actually an enraged and powerful entity that will stop at nothing to get her back. VERDICT This is one of the best series in urban fantasy, with a heroine who continues to grow and yet always remains true to herself. The pages fly by with action, emotion, and even some satisfying new information about Mercy’s relationship with trickster god ­Coyote, her father.

Lafferty, Mur. Ghost Train to New Orleans. Orbit. Mar. 2014. 352p. ISBN . pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780316221153. FANTASY

In the first book of this series (The Shambling Guide to New York City) Zoe Norris took a job at Underground Publications editing an unusual series of books: travel guides for the zombies, vampires, and other supernatural creatures, collectively known as the “coterie.” Her initiation into the secret world of the monsters living in the shadows continues as Zoe decides that the second guide they release will be for New Orleans, a haven for many coterie. The trip to the Big Easy is harder than expected as some of Zoe’s coworkers are waiting for her to fail and her boyfriend is coming along to find a cure that will prevent him from turning into a zombie. Zoe is also concealing that she is one of a very rare group of human coterie that can speak to the spirit of cities, and New Orleans has been waiting for a citytalker just like her. VERDICT Funny, smart, and original, this outing, with its appealing characters and unusual take on urban fantasy tropes, is a delightful addition to the series.

Price, Daniel. The Flight of the Silvers. Blue Rider. Feb. 2014. 608p. ISBN 9780399164989. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101620045. SF

Moments before the world ends in a crush of white and chaos, six Americans are saved by mysterious strangers who clamp silver bracelets on their wrists. Though they witness the horror of the apocalypse, the survivors are protected by their jewelry and transported to an alternate America. In this new reality, the six “Silvers,” so called for their bracelets, find that they have strange powers to manipulate time. Now the six—an actress, her widowed sister, two teenagers, an artist, and a homeless ex-prodigy—must figure out why they were saved by the frightening and elusive Pelletiers. As the Silvers bond into a new family, they discover that they are not the only humans with power over time, and some of those others are gunning for the Silvers. Now the race is on, not only to escape their enemies but to figure out the motives of the Pelletiers and to prevent another coming apocalypse. VERDICT This first volume in a planned trilogy is fascinating sf; Price’s (Slick) strong, engaging characters and fast-moving plot will keep readers on their toes. Highly recommended for fans of apocalyptic and dystopian fiction.—Jennifer Beach, Cumberland Cty. P.L., VA

SPOTLIGHT

VanderMeer, Jeff. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. Abrams. 2013. 352p. illus. ISBN 9781419704420. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781613124635. COMM

There are plenty of books on the market about fiction writing and each has its own take on what will help you get from blank page to completed novel. But ­VanderMeer (Finch; The Steampunk Bible) has done something new here. His guide hits all the topics a how-to book should cover—description, point of view, dialog, characterization, etc.—and can be used by writers of any kind of fiction as an instruction manual for constructing narrative. Where it differs is that VanderMeer aims to engage the imagination that is core to the work of sf and fantasy writers. Further distinguishing this title from other writing guides is its lavish presentation. The volume is simply gorgeous. Stuffed with full-page artwork and sneaky little decorative flourishes, it is a book that will feed the imagination even as it imparts practicalities. V­anderMeer, who is himself a three-time World Fantasy Award winner and Nebula nominee, also pulls in essays from luminaries in the speculative fiction field such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Charles Yu, Lev ­Grossman, and Neil Gaiman, which greatly enhance the work. Special credit is also due to Jeremy Zerfoss, who was the main artist for this project. VERDICT Because it is so layered and filled with text, tips, and links to online extras, this book can be read again and again by both those who want to learn the craft of writing and those interested in the process of others.

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS OF NOTE

Aaronovitch, Ben. Broken Homes. DAW. (Peter Grant, Vol. 4). Feb. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780756409609. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698143715. FANTASY

Peter Grant is still learning the ropes as both a police constable and as an apprentice to England’s last official practicing wizard, DCI Thomas Nightingale. Their department, the Folly, catches all the cases in London that have a whiff of the supernatural about them, and one recent case seems to point Peter and Nightingale to the trail of the rogue magician they have been chasing, known only as the Faceless Man. ­VERDICT The minutia of police work combines with a unique take on a secretly magical London for one of the more original urban fantasy series around. This fourth volume (after 2013’s Whispers ­Underground) meanders a bit, and one could wish for a little more character growth from the wisecracking Peter, but once the action picks up, it races to an exciting finish.

Green, Chris Marie. Only the Good Die Young: Jensen Murphy, Ghost for Hire. Roc: NAL. Feb. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780451416995. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101600825 FANTASY

When Jensen Murphy was murdered 30 years ago, she became a spirit caught in a loop, reliving her own death until medium Amanda Lee breaks her out of the cycle. Amanda has her own agenda for wanting a ghost at her beck and call, but Jensen first has to get used to her spectral life. ­VERDICT This first volume in a new series is a little rough around the edges, but those looking for a different kind of urban fantasy heroine might want to give it a try.

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Check These Out

Christopher, Adam. Hang Wire. Angry Robot. Feb. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780857663177. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780857663184. FANTASY

Connolly, John & Jennifer Ridyard. Conquest. Emily Bestler: Atria. (Chronicles

of the Invaders, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9781476757124. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781476757148. SF

Elliott, Will. The Pilgrims. Tor. (Pendulum Trilogy, Vol. 1). Mar. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780765331885. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429944939. FANTASY

Hambly, Barbara. The Kindred of Darkness. Severn House. Mar. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780727883421. $28.95. horror

Harrison, Kim. The Undead Pool. Harper Voyager. (Hollows, Vol. 12). Mar. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780061957932. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062300157 FANTASY

QUOTABLE

“ ‘On reflection,’ Crake said to Frey as they huddled behind an upturned table, ‘this wasn’t one of your better plans.’ ”—Chris Wooding, The Iron Jackal

Kiernan, Caitlín writing as Kathleen Tierney. Red Delicious. Roc: NAL. Feb. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780451416537. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101594834 FANTASY

McKiernan, Dennis L. Stolen Crown. Roc: NAL. (Mithgar, Vol. 9). Feb. 2014. 512p. ISBN 9780451419880. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101624616. FANTASY

Priest, Christopher. The Adjacent. Titan. Apr. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781781169438. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781781169445. SF

Schroeder, Karl. Lockstep. Tor. Mar. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780765337269. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466833364. SF

Smythe, James. The Echo. Morrow. Feb. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062287281. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062287304. SF

Sprunk, Jon. Blood and Iron. Pyr: Prometheus. (Book of the Black Earth, Vol. 1). Mar. 2014. 430p. ISBN 9781616148935. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781616148942. FANTASY

Wooding, Chris. The Iron Jackal. Titan. (Tales of the Ketty Jay, Vol. 3). Mar. 2014. 496p. ISBN 9781781167960. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781781167984. FANTASY

Additional SF/Fantasy

Brashares, Ann. The Here and Now. Delacorte. Apr. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780385736800. $18.99; ebk. ISBN 9780307976154. SF

newsworthy

In December, the Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA) announced Samuel R. Delany as its 2013 pick for the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award, which recognizes an author’s lifetime achievements in the genre. Delany is the author of many beloved works including Nova, Babel-17, and Dhalgren and has been honored numerous times in his career with both the Nebula and Hugo awards. Delany will receive the award at the Nebula ceremonies in May. For librarians and readers looking for a who’s who in sf to get a grounding in the genre, the list of past Grand Masters (sfwa.org/grandmaster) is a great place to start. For fans wanting to revisit favorite titles and new readers curious to explore this master of provocative speculative fiction, Open Road Media has just released nine of Delany’s titles as ebooks, including the aforementioned works and his Hugo Award–winning literary memoir, The Motion of Light in Water. For the full list, see openroadmedia.com/samuel-r-delany.

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is the latest well-known genre author to veer from the traditional publishing process by using Kickstarter to support her efforts to write a new fantasy novel. With authors both new and old looking hard for fresh ways to get their books in front of readers, crowdfunded efforts such as Kickstarter campaigns are gaining steam. Scarborough and others are especially interested in these alternate publishing paths when they want to write further books in series that have cooled off for their publisher. In her press release for the campaign, Scarborough explains, “When I spend the time to create a new world, and then my publisher tells me after three titles set in that world that it’s time to move on, I feel like a little girl who built a sand castle only to have her big brother knock it down. With indie publishing, my sand castles are not destroyed after all.”

Scarborough set (and exceeded) her modest goal of $5,000 for The Dragon, the Witch and the Railroad, which will be a new entry in her traditional fantasy series “Songs from the Seashell Archives.” Those supporters who help fund campaigns with services like Kickstarter often get bonus content or “rewards” from authors for their support, forging a new kind of connection between creators and consumers. With most self-publishing, an author still has to front the expenses of time, editing, and production without any guarantee of sales. In contrast, many creators are attracted to campaigns on services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to find out if anyone would buy their intellectual or creative product before they invest the time and resources. As crowdfunding matures, expect to see more authors using it to help gauge interest in a project before they even put pen to paper.

Megan M. McArdle has worked in collection development in public libraries for ten years and is currently the Adult, Teen, and Collection Development Manager for Berkeley Public Library, CA. She is a past chair for the Reading List Council (American Library Association’s award for genre fiction) and currently serves on ALA’s Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends Committee. Megan has a book due out from ALA Editions in 2014 on readers’ advisory for genre-blended books

Romance Reviews | February 15, 2014

THE APPEAL OF IMPERFECTION What is it about the physically wounded or damaged hero or the disabled or not-quite-beautiful heroine that attracts readers, as more of these characters seem to be doing lately? Apparently, someone got the message that romance devotees don’t want to read about only “perfect” people, e.g., all those breathtakingly stunning, talented women and strong, drop-dead gorgeous men who have everything going for them. As much as that kind of perfection is admired, individuals who are a little bit flawed and somewhat impaired—just like the rest of us—yet come out on top are much more interesting and their stories more heartening. Here are few titles where imperfections are the perfect thing.

Brockmann, Suzanne. Do or Die. Ballantine. (Reluctant Heroes, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 576p. ISBN 9780345543790. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780345543806. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Ex–Navy SEAL and convicted jewel thief Ian Dunn went to prison in order to keep his family safe from the mob. When a shadowy government agency offers him his freedom in exchange for his help in rescuing a pair of kidnapped children and won’t take no for an answer, he does the only thing he can—he kidnaps attorney Phoebe Kruger and sets out to protect his family (and stay alive himself) in the fallout that is sure to come. Between avoiding the mob, finding the kids, and dealing with his growing feelings for Phoebe, Ian has his hands full. ­VERDICT Hard-hitting, fast-paced, and superbly plotted, this nonstop thriller will leave fans breathless and is a flawless start to Brockmann’s new series. Brockmann (Headed for Trouble) divides her time among Siesta Key, FL, New York, and Boston. [See Prepub Alert, 9/15/13.]

Dare, Tessa. Romancing the Duke. Avon. (Castles Ever After, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780062240194. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062240163. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

With a name like hers, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight should have been headed for romance. Instead, left destitute by the death of her author father, she is heading for a surprise inheritance from her godfather and her last hope—a moldering property in Northumberland, Gostley Castle. But the castle is not empty. An angry—and nearly blind—Ransom William Dacre Vane, Duke of Rothbury, insists that the property is his and Izzy can’t stay, setting the scene for a passionate, touching, sometimes hilarious romp that has surprises at every turn. An undaunted heroine who believes in love, a wary hero who doesn’t, and a supporting cast like none you’ve ever seen practically spring from the pages of this refreshing, heartfelt tale and skillfully propel the plot to its breathtaking, satisfying conclusion. ­VERDICT Humor, whimsy, and joy overflow as a most unlikely pair find their happy ending in this fairy tale–come–to–life, the first of what promises to be another addictive series for Dare (Any Duchess Will Do), who lives in Southern California.

Jeffries, Sabrina. When the Rogue Returns. Pocket. (Duke’s Men, Bk. 2). Feb. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781451693485. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451693522. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Ten years earlier, newlyweds Isabella and Victor Cale’s lives were shattered when treachery and distrust (and some stolen royal jewels) drove them apart and out of each other’s lives. For years, Victor searched for Isa and for years she hid. Now, as an investigator for Manton’s Investigations, Victor heads to Edinburgh to look into the background of a local nobleman’s intended. Of course, the respectable widow, an expert paste jeweler, turns out to be Isa, and suddenly both their worlds change as they come to terms with what really happened a decade ago. VERDICT Plot twists galore, a pair of appealing, conflicted protagonists, and a cadre of delightful secondary characters make this a perfect addition to ­Jeffries’s “Duke’s Men” series. This beautifully crafted romance reveals the gradual but exquisite renewing of a broken relationship; sure to become a keeper for the author’s many fans. Jeffries (What the Duke Desires) lives in Cary, NC.

Lerner, Rose. Sweet Disorder. Samhain. (Lively St. Lemeston, Bk. 1). Mar. 2014. 324p. ebk. ISBN 9781619219731. $5.50. REGENCY ROMANCE

Widowed and the happily independent writer of Improving Tales for Young People, Phoebe Sparks is not about to marry again, especially not simply to make someone a “freeman” in time to vote locally in the upcoming parliamentary elections. But then wounded war veteran Nick Dymond shows up at her door, charged by his lady mother with marrying Phoebe off to ensure his brother Tony’s election, and Phoebe learns that the reputation of her teenage sister is about to be ruined if Phoebe doesn’t wed appropriately. Admirable, complex, immensely likable protagonists are complemented by a diverse cast of beautifully realized secondary characters (a pert, flirty maid and a delightfully starchy valet named Toogood are especially diverting) in a smart, literate, Regency-era tale that bypasses general ton glitter for village drama (and a dash of scandal) and drops readers into a refreshing, insightful mix of family dilemmas, business and political machinations, and social class differences that won’t disappoint. VERDICT Graced with sharp, realistic detail, lively wit, wry humor, and a sexy, erotic edge, this well-written story will leave fans anxious for their next visit to Lively St. Lemeston. Lerner (A Lily Among Thorns) lives in the Seattle area.

Woods, Sherryl. Home to Seaview Key. Mira: Harlequin. (Seaview Key, Bk. 2). Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780778315896. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460325278. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Nearly drowning is not normally the best way to meet men, but when Abby Dawson Miller is rescued from the surf by paramedic Seth Landry, she can’t deny the attraction. Newly divorced Abby is back in town to make a fresh start and recover the part of herself she’s lost. She’s definitely not looking for love. Neither is Seth. Matchmaking friends, Abby’s plans to develop her family’s property at Blue Heron Cove, a few meddling busybodies, and a host of other issues keep life simmering and the action on track in a story that is both realistic and romantic. ­VERDICT Warm, poignant, and satisfying, this second title in Woods’s “Seaview Key” series is an exceptional read. New York Times best-selling author Woods (Seaview Inn) divides her time between Key Biscayne, FL, and ­Colonial Beach, VA.

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A LITTLE BIT CHALLENGED

Burrowes, Grace. The MacGregor’s Lady. Sourcebooks Casablanca. Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781402268724. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402268731. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

A LITTLE MORE PERFECT

Carr, Robyn. The Chance. Mira: Harlequin. (Thunder Point, Bk. 4). Mar. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780778315995. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460326992. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Dawson, Delilah S. Wicked After Midnight. Pocket. (Blud, Bk. 3). Feb. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9781451657913. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451657937. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

Ekholm, Marion. Just Like Em. Harlequin Heartwarming. Feb. 2014. 393p. ISBN 9780373366651. pap. $6.50; ebk. ISBN 9781460328309. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Fennell, Judi. What a Woman Wants. Berkley Sensation. (Manley Maids, Bk. 1). Mar. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780425268292. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101625477. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

London, Julia. The Trouble with Honor. HQN: Harlequin. (Cabot Sisters, Bk. 1). Mar. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780373778454. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781460327098. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Maxwell, Cathy. The Bride Says No. Avon. (Brides of Wishmore, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 371p. ISBN 9780062219251. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062219268. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Shalvis, Jill. Once in a Lifetime. Forever: Grand Central. (Lucky Harbor, Bk. 9). Feb. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781455521135. pap. $6; ebk. ISBN 9781455521142. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

A VALENTINE TREAT

Leigh, Allison. Once upon a Valentine. Harlequin Special Edition. (Hunt for Cinderella, Bk. 11). Feb. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780373657933. pap. $5.50; ebk. ISBN 9781460325650. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Second Time Around

Jackson, Lisa. Midnight Sun. Severn House. Mar. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780727883438. $28.95. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Kelly, Carla. Reforming Lord Ragsdale. Sweetwater: Cedar Fort. Mar. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781462112241. pap. $8.99; ebk. ISBN 9781462110209. REGENCY ROMANCE

Macomber, Debbie. Country Bride. Severn House. Mar. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780727883483. $28.95. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Spindler, Erica. Longer Than. Severn House. Mar. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780727883568. $28.95. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Kristin Ramsdell is Librarian Emerita, California State University, East Bay. She is the author of the romance section of What Do I Read Next? A Reader’s Guide to Current Genre Fiction (Gale, annual) and Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre. 2d ed. (Libraries Unlimited, 2012)

Christian Fiction Reviews | February 15, 2014

In February, many people’s thoughts turn to romance. This column’s selections include some wonderful choices for readers of romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance, including Lisa Wingate’s latest, Wildwood Creek, Robin Lee Hatcher’s A Promise Kept, and Sadie’s Secret by Kathleen Y’Barbo.

For the less romantically inclined, Ted Dekker’s Eyes Wide Open will have fans of psychological thrillers on the edge of their seats until the very last page. Finally, for those readers who love to learn about the lives of biblical characters, Brock and Bodie Thoene’s Take This Cup, the second in the “Jerusalem Chronicles” series, will enthrall them with the tale of the life of Nehemiah and the cup Jesus Christ used at the Last Supper.

Debut of the Month

Bradley, Patricia. Shadows of the Past. Revell. (Logan Point, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780800722609. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441212269. CF
Twenty years ago when Taylor Martin was a child, her father left suddenly without explanation, and she has since struggled to understand why God would allow this to happen. Now a college professor and criminal profiler, Taylor gets a lead on her father’s whereabouts and goes home to Logan, MS, to investigate. But she soon realizes she is being stalked. She meets author Nick Sinclair, the brother of the student she believes may be her pursuer. Nick’s wife was murdered several years ago, and Nick is trying to find his brother, who is the only family he has left. VERDICT Winner of a 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award and a finalist for the 2012 Genesis Award, this is a fantastic first novel of thrilling suspense. The nonstop action and the sympathetically drawn characters’ narrow escapes will keep readers mesmerized. The gripping tension also makes Bradley’s title a winner with fans of Iris Johansen and Mary Higgins Clark.

Dekker, Ted. Eyes Wide Open. Worthy. (Outlaw Chronicles, Bk. 1). 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781617952739. pap. $14.99. CF

Friends Christy Snow and Austin Hartt are teen orphans trying to figure out who they are and where they belong. The two meet regularly in an abandoned part of an old hotel, now a psychiatric hospital, to commiserate about their lives. One day, Christy falls through a trapdoor at their usual spot and calls Austin for help but leaves an incomplete message before her phone dies. Mistaken for an escaped patient, the teen ends up in a ward in the hospital. Austin comes to her rescue and is detained as an escapee as well. What ensues is a series of wild twists and turns, in which it is very difficult to ascertain what is reality. Nothing is as it seems, and anything can happen—and does. VERDICT Hold on for the ride of your life with this first installment in suspense master Dekker’s new series. This fast-paced adrenaline rush will keep readers trapped until the end. For fans of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island.

Hatcher, Robin Lee. A Promise Kept. Thomas Nelson. 2014. 304p.
ISBN 9781401687656. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401687663. CF

Allison Kavanagh lost her faith in God when her husband of 20 years walked out, shattering her life and dreams. But when she inherits her great-aunt Emma’s house in Kings Meadow, ID, Allison tries to pick up the pieces of her faith. Settling into her new home, she discovers a wedding dress, photographs, and a lifetime of Emma’s journals in the attic. Within their pages, Allison finds out that Emma’s long-held secret mirrors her own. Will Allison learn to trust that God will answer her prayers in His own way and time as He did with her aunt? ­VERDICT Narrated alternately by Emma and Allison, Hatcher’s latest is an uplifting and heartwarming story about the power of faith to set people free from the pain of their pasts. Fans of the author’s previous books (A Bride for All Seasons; Hearts of Gold) will enjoy this story of two women separated by a generation who share the same strong beliefs in God. Recommended where ­Tracie Peterson’s books (All Things Hidden; The Miner’s Lady) are popular.

Putman, Cara C. Shadowed by Grace: A Story of Monuments Men. B&H. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781433681783. pap. $14.99; ebk ISBN 9781433681790. CF

Rachel, desperate to save her dying mother, signs on as a photographer with a newspaper to take pictures of the atrocities happening in Italy during World War II. Secretly, she is hoping to find the artist father she never knew so he can help fund the treatment to save her mother’s life. In her 17th novel, ­Putman (Captive Dreams) has done an amazing job of bringing the grim realities of World War II to the page. She captures well the hidden stories of those who were sent to Europe to save the art and antiquities that were stolen or almost destroyed during the cataclysmic battles. The author also paints a beautiful love story, while illustrating that faith in God’s plan, even in the direst of circumstances, can bring believers through any situation. VERDICT This wonderfully written inside look at a less-familiar story about World War II will be a great tie-in with the movie The Monuments Men starring George Clooney and Matt Damon, set for release this month.

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Mapes, Creston. Poison Town. David C. Cook. (Crittendon Files). Feb. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781434704870. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780781411233. CF

Pura, Murray. London Dawn. Harvest House. (Danforths of Lancashire, Bk. 3). Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780736958875. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9780736958882. CF

Samson, Lisa. Runaway Saint. Thomas Nelson. Feb. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781595545466. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401689919. CF

Thoene, Bodie & Brock Thoene. Take This Cup. Zondervan. (Jerusalem Chronicles, Bk. 2). Mar. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780310335986. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780310336006. CF

Amish Corner

Chapman, Vannetta. Murder Simply Brewed. Zondervan. (Amish Village Mystery, Bk. 1). Mar. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780310326168. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780310325802. CF

Romance lite

Coble, Colleen. Butterfly Palace. Thomas Nelson. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781595547835. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401690076. CF

Eden, Sarah M. Longing for Home: Hope Springs. Shadow Mountain. (Hope Springs, Bk. 2). Feb. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781609078102. pap. $15.99. CF

Ferrell, Miralee. Wishing on Buttercups. David C. Cook. (Love Blossoms in Oregon, Bk. 2). Feb. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780781408097. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781434707482. CF

Mitchell, Siri. Love Comes Calling. Bethany House. (Against All Expectations, Bk. 7). Mar. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780764210365. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441263544. CF

Wingate, Lisa. Wildwood Creek. ­Bethany House. Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780764208249. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 978144126355. CF

Y’Barbo, Kathleen. Sadie’s Secret. Harvest House. (Secret Lives of Will Tucker, Bk. 3). Feb. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780736952156. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9780736952163. CF

Christine Sharbrough is Head of Reader Services, Chelmsford Public Library, MA. She loves Christian fiction for the diversity of stories within the genre

Xpress Reviews: Audiobooks | First Look at New Books, February 28, 2014

Week ending February 28, 2014

Hayder, Mo. Ritual. (Jack Caffery/Flea Marley, Bk. 3). 10 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 12¼ hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2013. ISBN 9781629230429. $59.99; 10 CDs. retail ed.; 1 MP3-CD. retail ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Disturbing and bloody African rituals seem to be increasingly part of Bristol’s modern criminal landscape in Hayder’s series third book (after Birdman and The Treatment). Maverick DI Jack Caffery and police diver Flea Marley discover a pair of recently amputated hands, buried in what seems to be a ritualistic manner—their introduction to this sinister trend. As they investigate, Flea struggles to find new ways of dealing with the deaths of her parents in a diving accident the year before. Both Jack and Flea are tough and appealing characters, both of whom are balancing their policing skills with their personal demons. Reader Andrew Wincott brings skill and verve to a variety of British dialects.
Verdict Recommended.—Kristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, IA

Jess-Cooke, Carolyn. The Boy Who Could See Demons. MP3 digital download. retail ed. unabridged. 10½ hrs. Random Audio. 2013. ISBN 9780385367998. $20. (no CD edition.) F
On the fourth anniversary of her young daughter’s suicide, renowned child psychiatrist Dr. Anya Molokova begrudgingly accepts a new case. Ten-year-old Alex Connelly saved his mother from her fourth suicide attempt, and his only friend is a 9,000-year-old demon named Ruen. Anya is brought in to evaluate his mental stability. Alex’s story unfolds through his diary entries and Anya’s narrative. Ruen and Alex talk frequently, and their relationship teeters precariously from friendship to betrayal as Ruen manipulates Alex into performing acts of physical violence. As Anya explores Alex’s past, linking his mother’s suicide attempts with the terrorist activities of his father, she tries to figure out how to help him while questioning the physical reality of demons herself. This is a tense, psychological drama that pulls the reader in, exposing the mind’s fragility as Anya and Alex deal with their demons. Anya’s scenes are read by the author, whose voice changes in tone and depth as she narrates her experiences with Alex and her memories of her daughter, Poppy. Alex is read by Bruce Mann; his childlike Irish accent is clever and endearing but also heartbreaking, as he releases the feelings of fear and need in his relationship with the spirits he encounters.
Verdict Recommended for listeners who enjoyed Emma Donoghue’s Room or other suspenseful tales with young characters written for adults.—Laura Brosie, Abilene, TX

Lu, Marie. Prodigy. (Legend, Bk. 2). 8 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 10 hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2013. ISBN 9781629230108. $59.99; 8 CDs. retail ed. Penguin Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. F
After an environmental and societal collapse, what remains of the United States has been divided into three warring factions in the northwest quadrant of the country. Wounded and hungry, June and Day have escaped the Republic’s grasp and boarded a freight train bound for Las Vegas to enlist the help of the Patriots once again. Patriot leader Razor strikes a deal with June and Day that guarantees them help in finding Day’s younger brother as well as safe passage to the Colonies. In return, June and Day must agree to take part in an elaborate plan to assassinate the new Elector to the Republic. At the zero hour, June acquires information that sets her on a course to derail the assassination, leaving Day to handle the fallout and question her loyalty. Narrators Steven Kaplan and Mariel Stern successfully build a vivid dystopian image of postapocalyptic life. Using several tones and inflections for different characters, the narrators carry listeners on an exhilarating wave of nonstop action and suspense.
Verdict This fast-paced sequel to Legend is an emotionally charged story that will captivate and delight young adult readers and adults who enjoy YA titles with crossover appeal.—JoAnn Funderburk, South Garland Branch Lib., TX

Mazzetti, Mark. The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth. 10 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 11¾ hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470364670. $123.75; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. POLITICS
Detailing dozens of black ops that the War on Terror has carried out in foreign countries since 9/11, this first book from New York Times journalist Mazzetti is crackerjack. Painstakingly thorough reporting details assassination campaigns by the CIA, the Department of Defense, and the White House in Afghanistan and similar missions in lesser-known conflicts in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Evidence about America’s proclivity to hunt actively enemy kingpins is persuasive, providing ample material for listeners prone to critique. Where other books detail singular events, this constructs a picture of de facto American “policy” from many stories and also explains how the United States has eclipsed its former passive operational style. Narrator Richard Ferrone’s even-toned gravity is an appropriate choice.
Verdict With a cast of thousands and a wide span in geography and years, this demands engaged listeners; a good option for history buffs, military aficionados, and those interested in the interplay between politics, national security, and action.—Douglas C. Lord, New Britain P.L., CT

Schwegel, Theresa. The Good Boy. 10 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 12 hrs. Macmillan Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781427229397. $39.99; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Chicago police officer Pete Murphy’s professional and personal lives are both in turmoil. A past scandal derailed his career, and he now serves as a K9 officer, handling his dog, Butchie. The questionable arrest of a gang member and the subsequent lawsuit reopen past wounds. Meanwhile, financial problems have forced his family to sell their home and move into less desirable surroundings. Pete’s marriage is on shaky ground, and his teenage daughter has become involved with a young man with ties to gang members. Throughout all these problems, Pete’s intelligent son, Joel, goes largely unnoticed by the family. However, after witnessing a shooting at a party, Joel and Butchie go on the run. Pete is determined to find them, even if it means risking an encounter with gangbangers bent on revenge. Reader Luke Daniels does an excellent job.
Verdict This very compelling work combines a crime story with the examination of a troubled family. Recommended to all listeners.—Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ. Parkersburg Lib.

Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, February 28, 2014

Week ending February 28, 2014

Bemis, Max (text) & Jorge Coelho (illus.). Polarity. Vol. 1. Boom! Studios. 2013. 112p. ISBN 9781608863464. pap. $14.99. F
Writer Bemis, founder and lead singer/songwriter of the band Say Anything, is bipolar and a comics lover. In this three-way satire of hipsterdom, superheroes, and mental health medicine, Tim Woods is a bipolar artist being treated by Dr. Mays. Problem is, under treatment he makes boring art. But while manic, Tim feels that he has artistic superpowers. And, as he learns, he really does! Dr. Mays is not what he seems either and not in a good way. If the ending seems standard—Tim masters his problems, decks his therapist, and gets the girl—the trip is decidedly original. Artist Coelho delivers Tim’s adventures and altered states with just the right synthesis of arty psychedelia and goofy realism. Minipanels of text and art float over whirlpools of detritus, mirror images change color, and an enemy’s head explodes into a beautifully composed sunburst of tissue. However, Tim’s crush Lily seems underdeveloped as a character.
Verdict Similar to Joe the Barbarian, the Daniel Boom books, and Level Up, this lively adult sf tale makes an apparent problem into an advantage. Gen Y’s, especially fans of twisted superhero stories, should find it hilarious, if perhaps uncomfortably critical.—Martha Cornog, Philadelphia

Bohemians: A Graphic Anthology. Verso. Apr. 2014. 207p. ed. by Paul Buhle & David Berger. ISBN 9781781682616. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781781682623. HISTORICAL BIOG
Buhle (founder, Radical America; editor, Radical Jesus) and New York City–based Berger edit and contribute a few scripts to this broad collection of prominent and not-so-prominent Bohemian individuals. Buhle begins with an introduction that distinguishes the denizens of a particular Eastern European district from the colloquial use of Bohemian as a term for artistic, social, and political rebels. Although Bohemian enclaves existed in many European and American cities, the editors concentrate on the fertile metropolis of New York through the 1950s. Biographies cover such luminaries as Walt Whitman, Victoria Woodhull, Alfred Steiglitz, Gertrude Stein, Josephine Baker, and Woody Guthrie. Free love and homosexuality appear alongside anarchism, socialism, and communism, but it is the wide variety of creative forms from various artists including Hilary Allison, Mark Crilley, and Sabrina Jones, among others, that take center stage. Literature, poetry, photography, and painting feature prominently, as do jazz and dance, but journalism and even Yiddish puppet theater make an appearance. As befits an anthology, the imaginative styles of these black-and-white comics are also quite varied but each skillfully executed.
Verdict This collection is both a visual treat and an edifying look at alternative culture that should appeal both to comics fans and students of “bohemia.”—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

Goldman, Dan (text & illus.). Red Light Properties. Vol. 1: Previously-Haunted Real Estate. IDW. 2014. 204p. ISBN 9781613777411. pap. $19.99. F
Goldman (Shooting War) skillfully manipulates his digital art to demonstrate that experience is shaped by one’s single and unique perspective—never to be completely understood by any other person. Jude, certified phenomenologist, with Cecilia, licensed real estate broker, run the Miami-based paranormal exorcisms real estate business Red Light Properties and have come to an impasse rooted in misunderstanding and distrust; it could mean the end. Goldman’s transmedia style amplifies Jude’s special gift, and the presentation of Jude’s connection to the deceased is beyond psychedelic. Cecilia can’t connect to Jude and doesn’t understand his almost violent experiences with death and his viewpoint of the magic of life. With honesty built from their love and flaws, Jude and Cecilia can, one hopes, move forward, save their marriage and family, and develop their business to its fullest potential.
Verdict Goldman’s illustrations of the raw and beautiful partnership Jude willingly has with the departed and loitering is for mature readers. Still, Red Light Properties is different and special and a worthy addition to a well-developed collection. Recommended for adults seeking funky graphic novels about life, love, success, and ghosts.—Teresa J. Potter-Reyes, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX

Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, February 28, 2014

Week ending February 28, 2014

Grovier, Kelly. 100 Works of Art That Will Define Our Age. Thames & Hudson. 2013. 320p. illus. index. ISBN 9780500239070. $50. FINE ARTS
In a marvelous combination of aesthetic sensibility, poetic imagery, and charming wit, art critic and poet Grovier (cofounder, European Romantic Review) examines what particular works of art have to say about our times and about ourselves. Many of the images have echoes of the past, while still managing to be of their own time and, perhaps, of the future. Not all the images cited will resound with all readers, but the great value of the title is the meticulous discussion of each artwork’s power to create myths and ideas: to expand and investigate this phenomenon without passing judgment. Grovier raises profound questions: What will survive after we are gone? What will posterity think of our age? How will we be seen as a culture? The excellent illustrations include Christo’s vision of orange flags in Central Park, Christian Boltanski’s orderly arrangements of clothes in the vastness of Paris’s Grand Palais, and Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull, as well as the art of Marlene Dumas and the swaying structures of Ernesto Neto’s Leviathan Thot. This is at once a major look at contemporary artworks and a personal investigation of the self-image provoked by them.
Verdict A thoughtful view of the role of art in our society and its reflection of our culture both collective and personal. This title is a major addition to the literature of art criticism and philosophy.—Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York

Ingrid Bergman: A Life in Pictures. Schirmer/Mosel. 2013. 528p. ed. by Isabella Rossellini. photos. filmog. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9783829606608. $129.95. FILM
Few performers were as lovingly scrutinized by the movie camera as Ingrid Bergman (1915–82), who photographed perfectly from all angles. This huge “visual biography” features hundreds of rare and candid photos of Bergman’s life and career, many culled from the actress’s personal archive. The book includes details of her childhood years in Sweden and her pursuit of an acting career there, until she caught the attention of American movie moguls, particularly producer David O. Selznick. The book also covers her affair with famed war photographer Robert Capa and an adulterous relationship with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, which scandalized America and led to her ten-year estrangement from Hollywood. While the book doesn’t mask Bergman’s flaws, it does credit her for intelligence, a tireless work ethic, and a strong love of family and loyalty to friends.
Verdict This tome features an appreciation from actress Liv Ullmann (who starred with Bergman in one of her last films, Autumn Sonota) and a rare, in-depth 1970s interview with the actress. Readers looking for a fuller treatment of the star should consult Bergman’s autobiography, or several other book-length biographical treatments. This book is recommended for all Bergman’s legions of fans—if they can lift it.—Stephen Rees, formerly with Levittown Lib., PA

McKenna, Rachael Hale. The New York Dog. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Mar. 2014. 168p. illus. ISBN 9781617690907. $29.95. PETS
McKenna (Smitten; 101 Salivations: For the Love of Dogs) has a well-established brand in animal photography, with work that includes greeting cards, calendars, and posters. This collection of portraits moves from France (The French Dog) to the United States in celebration of New York’s pooches. A foreword from Georgina Bloomberg, featured with her five rescue dogs, sets the tone of dedication to the city and its canine inhabitants. While some humans are included with their pets, the focus is on the animals in their environments. From Valentino and Geisha in Manhattan to Oscar in Queens, the dogs’ stories are as varied as New York’s neighborhoods. The author also takes readers through the seasons, with cityscapes in sunshine and snow, and various settings from hard concrete streets to the city’s parks to posh apartments. McKenna worked on this project with the Humane Society of New York and plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to the organization.
Verdict Readers who like the author’s other books will enjoy this look at one of the country’s most celebrated cities and its lesser-known locales and residents.—Meagan Storey, Virginia Beach

Elliott, Christopher. How To Be the World’s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle). National Geographic. Mar. 2014. 288p. illus. index. ISBN 9781426212734. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781426212741. TRAV
Elliott, travel expert, columnist, and cofounder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, shares his knowledge in this well-organized, easily understood how-to-travel book. Covering subjects from luggage to effective complaining, he helps the travel consumer understand what factors to consider as well as the benefits and drawbacks of various options. He compares travel agents, online travel agencies, and booking directly and discusses how to find trustworthy information, both offline and online. Sidebars provide tips of what to do and what not to do. The “Problem Solved” articles recount consumer complaints that Elliott helped to solve, often when companies failed to refund travelers’ money. The author emphasizes the importance of paper trails and reading the fine print and offers invaluable details on numerous topics including cell phones, currency, insurance, health, cruises, time shares, and bus travel. Although many types of lodging are addressed, camping is not covered. An appendix provides contact information for major travel companies and organizations.
Verdict Whether you’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime vacation or you travel regularly for business, this is a book you can use.—Janet Clapp, N. Clarendon, VT

Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, February 28, 2014

Week ending February 28, 2014

Duisberg, Kristin Waterfield. After. Engine. Feb. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781938126222. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781938126239. F
New Hampshire author Duisberg’s (The Good Patient) second novel flips the familiar story of the life of a vaguely dissatisfied, well-off suburban wife and mother on its ear by having her main character, Nina, discover a lump in her breast on the first page. Readers follow 43-year-old Nina through her aggressive cancer treatment—with its attendant concerns and fears—and her efforts to maintain normal family life. The story occasionally switches perspective to Nina’s 65-year-old, German-born doctor-husband, Martin, who has an undisclosed past, and their serious-minded, obsessive, young daughter, Audrey, who has trouble fitting in with her peers. Nina’s best friend Jenny and Todd, the handsome father whom Nina becomes friendly with at Audrey’s private school, are not as fully drawn, but it’s Nina and her family’s interior struggles to understand one another’s past, present state of mind, and possible future that drive the story.
Verdict Recommend this psychological study of an upper-middle-class Massachusetts family dealing with past grief and facing present loss to readers of character-driven literary fiction by authors such as Sue Miller, Ann Patchett, and Stewart O’Nan.—Laurie Cavanaugh, Holmes P.L., Halifax, MA

Lautner, Robert. Road to Reckoning. Touchstone. Feb. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781476731636. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476731650. F
Thomas Walker learned the hard way that if a man chooses to carry a gun, he will get shot. After his father, a Colt revolver salesman, is murdered, 12-year-old Thomas aims to make his way through Pennsylvania to New York City, where his aunt will give him shelter. He latches on to big, blustery Henry Stands, a former Indiana Ranger who is initially opposed to the boy’s company. Their on-and-off journey together becomes the stuff of legend. Looking back at this troubled period of his life, having lost two sons during the Civil War, Thomas recalls his near death at the hands of a cave-dwelling cannibal, shoot-outs with his father’s killer, and many other fractious adventures. Applying the wisdom of adulthood to his suspenseful story, Thomas more than proves his mettle.
Verdict Lautner’s first novel is lively as a pepperbox, bursting with action and appeal. It is sure to become a classic in the tradition of Charles Portis’s True Grit or Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses.—Keddy Ann Outlaw, Houston

Leonard, Peter. Eyes Closed Tight. Story Plant. Mar. 2014. 300p. ISBN 9781611881141. pap. $13.95; ebk. ISBN 9781611881158. MYS
A case from his past comes back to haunt a former Detroit homicide investigator in this well-paced, tightly constructed thriller. O’Clair is comfortable in his Florida retirement running a motel in Pompano Beach, until the morning he finds a woman dead on the beach. When it happens again, O’Clair makes the connection to a past case and quickly inserts himself into the investigation. Working with his former partner at the Detroit PD, O’Clair must figure out what they did wrong the first time around, before any more women, including his much younger girlfriend, are harmed. The dialog among characters feels authentic, with no overdone prose. Leonard applies this same approach to action scenes, resulting in a thriller with a more realistic feel than many others.
Verdict While he will always face comparisons with his legendary father, Elmore Leonard, the author (Quiver; Trust Me; Voices of the Dead; All He Saw Was the Girl) continues to establish himself as one of today’s better mystery writers. Easily readable in a single sitting, Leonard’s fifth novel will appeal to fans of mystery, thrillers, and the Leonard name.—Craig Shufelt, Fort Erie P.L., Ont.

Persson, Leif G.W. Free Falling, As If in a Dream: The Story of a Crime. Pantheon. Feb. 2014. 608p. tr. from Swedish by Paul Norlen. ISBN 9780307377470. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307907851. F
Persson concludes his trilogy (Another Time, Another Life; Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End) about the assassination of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme on February 28, 1986, a case that was never solved but now is, though only as fiction. It is a meticulous reconstruction of the investigation of a highly sensitive case, long since past but now reopened. More than any other series of police procedurals today, Persson’s exceptional novels show how cops actually pursue a difficult investigation, the thousands of steps and missteps that occur en route. The detectives are competent and human, with interesting quirks; their boss Lars Martin Johannsson, chief of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, is a veritable bloodhound once he gets a notion in his head. In the process of narrating this fascinating tale, Persson makes telling comments about the pernicious influence of the police presence in Sweden and paints an uproariously funny portrait of a very bad cop—venal, xenophobic, work-averse, and a liar—who attempts to force his way into the case with disastrous consequences. (For himself, of course.)
Verdict Readers who enjoy Scandinavian crime fiction will love Persson’s climactic volume in a series that may be the best around. [Interestingly, the late Swedish journalist and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo author Stieg Larsson may have cracked the case; according to the Guardian (bit.ly/1fLJ3Sg), a Swedish newspaper recently reported that Larsson left 15 boxes of papers for the police supporting his claim that South African security forces were involved in the crime.—Ed.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA

LibraryReads: Librarians Announce March Favorites

Here’s what librarians around the country are reading and loving this month. My pick: Alice LaPlante’s A Circle of Wives, which delves into a spouse’s worst nightmare: finding out that you are an unwitting polygamist.

Interested in getting involved? LibraryReads welcomes recommendations from all public library staff members, not just readers’ advisory experts or credentialed librarians.

1. McHugh, Laura. The Weight of Blood. Spiegel & Grau. ISBN 9780812995206. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812995213. F
“The Dane family has been keeping secrets in the Ozark town of Henbane for years. An outsider steals the heart of one of the Dane brothers, and the secrets threaten to unravel. When sixteen-year-old Lucy’s friend is found murdered after being missing for a year, Lucy begins to ask questions–the answers to which may destroy her family. Atmospheric and visceral, McHugh’s story is vividly and effectively told.”—Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ 
See LJ’s starred review

2. Pavone, Chris. The Accident. Crown. ISBN 9780385348454. $26. F
“Kudos to Pavone for coming through with another captivating international suspense novel. How ironic that I couldn’t put down a book about Isabel, a literary agent who stays up all night to finish an unsolicited manuscript that’s so explosive, some will kill to keep it from being published. During the 24 hours that Isabel is on the run, readers will be on the edge of their seats. Be prepared to lose some sleep!”—Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI
See LJ’s review

3. Rieger, Susan. The Divorce Papers. Crown. ISBN 9780804137447. $25. F
“When Sophie, a loveable 29-year-old lawyer, gets roped into working on a divorce case, her life takes an unexpected turn. Though this gives her a new perspective on life, it also forces her to confront some unresolved childhood issues. Except for a few tearful, poignant moments, I had a smile on my face for the entire book. Engaging and humorous, this debut epistolary novel has become a favorite read.”—Jennifer Asimakopoulos, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL

4. Griffiths, Elly. The Outcast Dead. Houghton Harcourt. ISBN 9780547792774. $27. M
“After the bones of the notorious Mother Hook are possibly uncovered in Norfolk, forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway finds herself on the TV. Was Mother Hook truly guilty of child murder?  This is just one strand in a mystery that revolves around children and the people who care for them. One of the most addictive mystery series being written today.”—Janet Lockhart, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC

5. Oliver, Lauren. Panic. Harper. ISBN 9780062014559. $17.99. F
“A deadly high-stakes game of Panic takes place in modern-day small town America, and Oliver does a wonderful job making all of it seem real. I loved that the book didn’t take place in a post-apocalyptic future like so many titles do nowadays. Oliver is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!”—Carol Brumfield, Timberland Regional Library, Tumwater, WA

6. LaPlante, Alice. A Circle of Wives. Atlantic Monthly. ISBN 9780802122346. $25. F
“When prominent plastic surgeon Dr. John Taylor is found dead, the police investigation uncovers his secret polygamous life. As the narration alternates between Taylor’s three wives and a young female detective, the story explores the characters’ motivations and relationships. Part psychological thriller and part literary mystery, the end result is wholly captivating reading.”—Melissa DeWild, Kent District Library, Comstock Park, MI
See LJ’s review

7. Cassella, Carol. Gemini. S. & S. ISBN 9781451627930. $25.99. F
“After an unidentified hit-and-run victim is received in ICU, Dr. Charlotte Reese struggles to keep her alive, questioning how far medical technology should go to do so. Meanwhile, in an alternate story, teens Bo and Raney explore their budding friendship and attraction. Book groups will devour this compulsively readable novel with thought-provoking themes. Perfect for readers of Jodi Picoult and Chris Bohjalian.”—Robin Beerbower, Salem Public Library, Salem, OR
See LJ’s starred review

8. McBeth, Colette. Precious Thing.  Minotaur: St. Martin’s. ISBN 9781250041197. $24.99. F
“Clara and Rachel have been friends since high school. Life has intervened and they’ve grown apart, so when Clara invites Rachel for drinks to catch up, it’s a chance to reconnect. But before that can happen, Rachel is called to cover a missing girl story, and the missing girl is Clara. Was she abducted, murdered or did she simply leave on her own?  In the vein of Gone Girl and The Husband’s Secret, this is a fast read that is sure to entertain.”—Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus, OH

9. Laukkanen, Owen. Kill Fee: A Stevens and Windermere Novel. Putnam. ISBN 9780399165528. $26.95. MYS
“In the third book in this series, Carla Windermere and Kirk Stevens find themselves reunited when people around the country seem to be dying from contract hits. Young war veterans, under the influence of a mysterious man, are turning into emotionless killers. Stevens and Windermere try piecing together who’s behind the crimes, but keep falling one step behind. Reminiscent of Thomas Perry’s novels, and fast-paced.”—Lora  Bruggeman, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL

10. Kleon, Austin. Show Your Work! 10 Ways To Show Your Creativity and Get Discovered. Workman. ISBN 9780761178972. pap. $11.95. ARTS
Show Your Work! is a wonderful follow-up to Austin Kleon’s first book, Steal Like an Artist. Utilizing the same fun, graphic novel-ish type of format, Kleon gives practical recommendations about using the Internet and social media to create a community. I particularly appreciate his advice to concentrate on process, not on product, and the rest will follow. A must-read for anyone involved in the creative process.”—Rebekka Hanson, Madison Library District, Rexburg, ID

Xpress Reviews: E-Originals | First Look at New Books, February 28, 2014

Week ending February 28, 2014

Cross, Rachel. Spiraling. Crimson Romance: F+W/Adams Media. Feb. 2014. 129p. ebk. ISBN 9781440574870. $4.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Once an Olympic contender, Amy Astor is hoping to secure another contract as the ice princess on the “Enchanted” tour. This might be her last chance to work as a professional skater since her injured hip and age threatened her career. When the agent for TruAcord boy band member–turned–actor Shane Marx contacts Amy about a paid opportunity to teach Shane how to skate for a hockey player role, Amy jumps at the opportunity to obtain the media attention (and, ultimately, the eye of the “Enchanted” producers) this will procure. Likewise, Shane believes that Amy’s squeaky clean image will shape up his rep from that of a stereotypical Hollywood womanizer, which keeps costing him jobs. Behind their mutual exploitation of each other grows a real passion, but Shane’s problems might run much deeper than Amy could ever realize, and Shane learns that Amy’s clean image is anything but.
Verdict Although the timing is perfect as it coincided with the 2014 Winter Olympics, Cross’s (Rock Him) story isn’t as accomplished. There are too many unnecessary plot threads in an awkward attempt to create more tension, and though the sex between Shane and Amy is hot, it isn’t enough to carry the story to a satisfying completion.—Kara Kohn, Plainfield P.L., IL

Cullinan, Heidi. Double Blind. Samhain. (Special Delivery, Bk. 2). Mar. 2014. 350p. ebk. ISBN 9781619218895. $6.50.
Cullinan, Heidi. Special Delivery. Samhain. (Special Delivery, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 299p. ebk. ISBN 9781619218024. $5.50. LGBT ROMANCE, BDSM
In Special Delivery, Sam Keller is a nursing student in Middleton, IA, relegated to finding sexual gratification through a series of meaningless hookups. Each hookup kills his soul a little more because he remembers his mother’s hope he’d find the perfect man, and he knows she wouldn’t have understood his need to be dominated. Then trucker Mitch Tedsoe travels through town, and he and Sam connect on a level Sam has never experienced before. When Sam’s life goes downhill fast, Mitch offers him the ride of his life to glittery Las Vegas, where the secrets of Mitch’s life can be found in Randy Jansen. In Double Blind, Randy sees a desperate man playing roulette and makes a bet with his boss at Herod’s Casino about the reasons for the man’s state. Part of the bet means Randy has to get the man to admit his problems before a neutral observer, and when Randy’s observations turn out to be slightly inaccurate, he loses the bet but manages to find a new interest in Ethan Ellison, an investment broker reeling from a bad breakup. As Randy focuses more on Ethan’s problems and finding solutions, he opens up about his own life and realizes Ethan may be the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Now if he can only keep local mobster Crabtree from ruining everything.
Verdict Mitch and Sam’s relationship is awkward at first owing to their age gap and different life experiences, but the longer they are together, the closer they become, and the more the secrets are exposed and shown not to matter. Randy is portrayed as a creepy jerk in Special Delivery, but he grows up when he becomes the main character in Double Blind and the reasons for his attitude and aggressiveness come to light. The relationships between the couples are emotional and sexual, with the primary tenet being acceptance and understanding. These books were previously published but have been revised for republication and make a solid addition to any collection where Cullinan’s books are popular (Family Man with Marie Sexton; “Love Lessons” series; “Tucker Springs” series), or where the library is looking to expand its LGBT selections.—Melanie C. Duncan, Shurling Lib., Macon, GA

Morgan, Tamara. The Party Girl. Carina: Harlequin. (Getting Physical, Bk. 3). Feb. 2014. 256p. ebk. ISBN 9781426897931. $3.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Noah has retreated from society in penance for being involved with an investment scandal. He lives off the land, builds the items he needs, and has few connections to the world he left in shame. Then Kendra bangs on his door, demanding help, bloody from a mutual friend’s most recent error. While the two come together to help their friend, both will have to make some concessions if they plan to give in to the growing heat between them.
Verdict The Party Girl is the third book in the “Getting Physical” series by Morgan (In the Clear), bringing Kendra’s story to the forefront. Kendra is a confident protagonist, unashamed of success or sex, and she is an interesting foil for brooding, serious Noah. While the two suffer through self-imposed barriers, helping to heat the tension, it’s the final third of the book that really shines as the pair attempt to navigate their polar opposite worlds. An excellent addition to the series and any library.—Kellie Tilton, Univ. of Cincinnati Blue Ash

Tillery, Monica. Adam’s Ambition. Crimson Romance: F+W/Adams Media. (Emerald Springs Legacy, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 160p. ebk. ISBN 9781440570988. $4.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Adam Whitman, a handsome, successful, single L.A. businessman, travels to his family’s Emerald Tea Farm in Washington State to help his father plan for his retirement and the continuity of the enterprise. Whitman’s father wants Adam to take over the multi-million-dollar organic tea business, but the senior partners at Eco Initiatives are instead offering him a promotion and a 40 percent raise. The linchpin in the decision is Zoe Miller, Adam’s former girlfriend, whose heart he broke when he decided to go to UCLA and remain in the city. Adam knows he is willing to give up the Los Angeles prestige, but he is unsure that Zoe, who is now a successful local businesswoman, will forgive him for abandoning her after their high school romance. This is Tillery’s second novel (after Kiss Me, Kate) and is part of Crimson Romance’s five-book, multiple-author “Emerald Springs Legacy” series.
Verdict Tillery’s story lacks surprises. Issues of revenge and retaliation among small-town families are launched but falter, and the romance is unremarkable.—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL

Best Sellers: Latin American Studies, February 27, 2014

August 2013 to date as identified by YBP Library Services

  1. The Structure of Cuban History: Meanings and Purpose of the Past
    Perez, Louis A., Jr.
    University of North Carolina Press
    2013. ISBN 9781469606927. $39.95
  2. The Fate of Freedom Elsewhere: Human Rights and U.S. Cold War Policy Toward Argentina
    Schmidli, William Michael
    Cornell University
    2013. ISBN 9780801451966. $39.95
  3. Art and Architecture in Mexico
    Oles, James
    Thames & Hudson
    2013. ISBN 9780500204061. $26.95
  4. Mexico’s Once and Future Revolution: Social Upheaval and the Challenge of Rule Since the Late Nineteenth Century
    Joseph, Gilbert M.
    Duke University Press
    2013. ISBN 9780822355175. $84.95
  5. Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture
    Bahadur, Gaiutra
    University of Chicago Press
    2014. ISBN 9780226034423. $35
  6. Biography and the Black Atlantic
    Lindsay, Lisa A.
    University of Pennsylvania Press
    2014. ISBN 9780812245462. $55
  7. Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers
    Hernández, Anabel
    Verso
    2013. ISBN 9781781680735. $26.95
  8. The Stray Bullet: William S. Burroughs in Mexico
    Garcia-Robles, Jorge
    University of Minnesota Press
    2013. ISBN 9780816680627. $54
  9. Art & Place: Site-Specific Art of the Americas
    Phaidon Eds.
    Phaidon
    2013. ISBN 9780714865515. $79.95
  10. Che on My Mind
    Randall, Margaret
    Duke University Press
    2013. ISBN 9780822355786. $69.95
  11. Representing the Good Neighbor: Music, Difference, and the Pan American Dream
    Hess, Carol A.
    Oxford University Press
    2013. ISBN 9780199919994. $49.95
  12. Story of a Death Foretold: The Coup Against Salvador Allende, September 11, 1973
    Guardiola-Rivera, Oscar
    Bloomsbury
    2013. ISBN 9781608198962. $30
  13. War by Other Means: Aftermath in Post-Genocide Guatemala
    McAllister, Carlota
    Duke University Press
    2013. ISBN 9780822354932. $99.95
  14. The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman
    Kopenawa, Davi
    Belknap: Harvard University Press
    2013. ISBN 9780674724686. $39.95
  15. We Are the Face of Oaxaca: Testimony and Social Movements
    Stephen, Lynn
    Duke University Press
    2013. ISBN 9780822355199. $94.95
  16. Cultural Forests of the Amazon: A Historical Ecology of People and Their Landscapes
    Balée, William L.
    University of Alabama Press
    2013. ISBN 9780817317867. $49.95
  17. Of Beasts and Beauty: Gender, Race, and Identity in Colombia
    Stanfield, Michael Edward
    University of Texas Press
    2013. ISBN 9780292745582. $60
  18. A History of Ecology and Environmentalism in Spanish American Literature
    Devries, Scott M.
    Bucknell University Press
    2013. ISBN 9781611485158. $90
  19. Cuba Inside Out: Revolution and Contemporary Theatre
    Prizant, Yael
    Southern Illinois University Press
    2014. ISBN 9780809333080. $40
  20. Distance and Documents at the Spanish Empire’s Periphery
    Sellers-Garcia, Sylvia
    Stanford University
    2014. ISBN 9780804787055. $60

To Protect and Serve | What We’re Reading

For Library Journal/School Library Journal staffers, it’s a week of pulling that lonesome book off the shelf and finally *reading* it, taking a chance on a novel for the younger set, being vicariously Victorian, and pondering Vladimir Putin’s power.

Liz French, Associate Editor, Reviews, LJ
I just finished No One Else Can Have You (HarperTeen) by Kathleen Hale, a delightful and macabre YA book that two of my colleagues, Stephanie Klose and Amanda Mastrull, read, enjoyed, and wrote about in previous “What We’re Reading” columns (here’s Stephanie’s rave review; here’s Amanda’s). It was a hoot, sort of a mix of Twin Peaks, Fargo, Harriet the Spy, and Veronica Mars—if Veronica was a much less savvy Midwesterner. The father-daughter relationship is warm and hilarious and the “find your dead friend’s diary and read her innermost thoughts” segments were heartbreakingly good.

 

 

 

Barbara Genco, Manager, Special Projects, LJ
While pondering how I can possibly go on after the Downton Abbey Season 4 finale on February 23 I gravitated toward a few titles that just may tide me over. I have already read many of the books on the Canadian Bookseller Indigo’s “Addicted to Downton Abbeylist. Ford Maddox Ford’s Parade’s End (also a terrific BBC series featuring Benedict Cumberbatch) is a personal favorite. And I adore all of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs books. I decided to go Victorian for my post-Downton solace. I picked up Kate Hubbard’s Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household (Harper). It is perfect for “drop-in” reading—lots of detail and insiders’ accounts drawn from contemporary letters and diaries. Our LJ reviewer Elizabeth Mellett called this a “well-written and remarkably interesting account of the ‘woeful dullness’ and ‘loneliness’ of life inside Victoria’s court.” (Read the entire review here.)
I confess, I went directly to the section on Balmoral Castle in general and Victoria’s (postdeath of her beloved Albert) attachment to and very particular regard for her personal “Highland” servant John Brown. Deelish.

Amanda Mastrull, Editorial Assistant, SLJ
This week I started reading Ben Judah’s Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin (Yale Univ.). So far it’s a fascinating portrayal of how Putin rose from a modest childhood marked by KGB aspirations (his former teacher tells of the time a young Putin walked into its headquarters, asking to join) to become a key figure in Russia’s chaotic post-communist political climate. With the recent widespread condemnation of the country’s anti-gay laws, the mess that was the Pussy Riot trial, and the disillusionment that the regime faces from its own citizens, it’s at times hard to believe that Putin’s approval rating was once over 80 percent. Still, while his cult of personality was carefully cultivated (see the Atlantic’s always classic “Vladimir Putin, Action Man” post), there’s no disputing that his leadership has changed the landscape of modern Russia. I’ve still got a ways to go, but it all seems incredibly well researched by Judah, a twentysomething journalist, who traveled throughout Russia and the former Soviet republics (including the Caucasus) to write the book. I’ve had this one on my shelf for a few months and I’m glad I finally picked it up.

Meredith Schwartz, Editor, News & Features, LJ
Greenglass House
by Kate Mitford (Clarion), is a middle grade title but surprisingly accessible to adults, or at least this one. I don’t read much middle grade—I’m picky even about YA—but I was lured by the back cover blurbs into picking this August 2014 release up at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference and was not disappointed. I particularly liked that the main character has an extremely functional relationship with his parents, who are neither dead, nor absent, nor well-meaning but clueless. Yet he still has agency of his own; the things he discovers, says, and does have real-world consequences for kids and adults alike, but they never push the bounds of credibility of what a kid could or should be able to do.

It is refreshing to see a hero of color (still too rare in middle-grade titles) and to read a plotline which features an adopted kid yet avoids an overly neat ending where he finds his birth family and it turns out his blood heritage makes him special. I was also pleased to see realistic, not instant, and not always smooth development of a new friendship between kids who were thrown together, as well as a nuanced and sensitive love triangle among the adults that nonetheless did not overshadow the focus on the child protagonists. Only in its presentation of smugglers as harmless, and enforcement agents as villains and tools of big corporations, does the story ever seem oversimplified. It’s also rejuvenating to read a story set more or less in this world, or at least in a realistic analog, with minimal fantastic content (barring one touch at the end which I don’t want to spoil). Much as I love sf/fantasy, it’s nice to read about kids having adventures in a world they recognize. This title would be a great recommendation for fans of Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game.

Wilda Williams, Senior Editor, Reviews, LJ
For my subway commute, I have my Nook to catch up on old New Yorker issues, but I also like to carry a paperback with me. Just In Case. Yes I suffer from New Yorkers ‘ dreaded fear of having nothing to read, especially if they forget to recharge their e-reader’s battery and wind up trapped with 50 grumpy strangers on an overheated subway car stuck in the tunnel. But my choices are limited to slim volumes that can be slipped easily in and out of my purse. My choice this week is Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier (Penguin Classics). This novel had been sitting unread on my shelves for years, but its portability attracted my attention. And I was so glad I picked it up. At a mere 90 pages, West’s profound and moving first novel, published in 1918, packs in more wisdom and insights into the human heart than any 1,000-page tome.

Set in an isolated English country house, the story revolves around the relationships among three women and a soldier suffering from shell shock. Chris has returned from the battlefields of France, his body physically intact, but the memory of his recent past wiped clean. Kitty, his beautiful, socially prominent wife, is a stranger to him; he is shocked by his spinster cousin Jenny’s aging appearance, and he longs for his first love, Margaret, an innkeeper’s daughter who is now a frumpy suburban housewife. Through her beautifully drawn characters and elegantly succinct prose West examines England’s shifting class structures and the tension between remaining in the romantic past or returning to the awful reality of the present. By the time I finished the book, I understood the double-edged meaning of her haunting title.

 

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