Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, January 20, 2012


Melville House Publishing: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer

From My Shelf

Workman Publishing: Treat Yourself!: How to Make 93 Ridiculously Fun No-Bake Crispy Rice Treats by Jessica Siskin

Tarcherperigee: Ignore It! by Catherine Pearlman / Gentle Discipline by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

Handselling

"Handselling." It's a word beloved by booksellers, because it's one of the things they do best--recommending books from a personal perspective. Publishers' reps use a variation: "This book is a good handsell." That means the book (usually) has a modest print run but is worthy of extra attention; with enough, it will break out of the pack, especially if it becomes an indie favorite, like Matterhorn, Mudbound, Water for Elephants, The Time Traveler's Wife, Shadow of the Wind....

There are many ways to handsell a book: via conversations, e-mails, social networks. A good friend e-mailed this to me about The Snow Child, a novel by Eowyn Ivey due out February 1: "What a stunning debut. It has the magic of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, the poetic nuances of Sylvia Plath and Dylan Thomas, the wild spirit of Jack London, and the deep warmth of a single-malt Scotch. Most of all, it gave me the sense that despite a bleak world, magic can still appear when we least expect it and when we need it most.... I can't think of a more perfect novel to usher in the winter season with. It deserves to melt the hearts of many readers." How could I not immediately read it? I did, and he was right.

Nationally syndicated columnist and author Leonard Pitts, Jr., raised the bar for handselling in his January 15 editorial for the Miami Herald, "The New Jim Crow Alive and Thriving." He recommends Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow (now out in paperback from the New Press), which he called a "troubling and profoundly necessary" work. The book has an "explosive argument. Namely, that the so-called 'War on Drugs' amounts to a war on African-American men and, more to the point, to a racial caste system nearly as restrictive, oppressive and omnipresent as Jim Crow itself." Pitts believes in this book so much that he will send 50 readers a copy, purchased with his own money, if they promise to read it. That's all. That's a powerful handsell. --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness


Counterpoint Press: A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton


Book Candy

Book Coffee Table; Literary Siblings; Libraries & Librarians

Instead of a coffee table book, what about a book coffee table? asked California Home & Design. For her Book Tables, Lisa Finster "takes people’s favorite and different sized books and precisely fits them between panels of poplar--much like putting together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle."

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The "9 Coolest Literary Siblings" were showcased by BestOnlineColleges.com, which observed: "Great writers throughout the ages have had a field day with the sibling dynamic. And there are so many variations on this theme it's almost hard to know where to begin."

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For fans of both libraries and films, Buzzfeed featured a "supercut" of "Libraries on TV and in the Movies."

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And i09 featured "20 heroic librarians who save the world," observing: "If information is power, then there's no hero mightier than a librarian."


Sports Illustrated Books: The Football Fanbook: Everything You Need to Become a Gridiron Know-It-All by Gary Gramiling and the Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids


The Writer's Life

What a Life: Patricia Schultz Travels Everywhere

The first thing we did before meeting Patricia Schultz for lunch was to see what she had to say about Seattle. As the author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, 2nd edition (Workman), she has the experience and the authority to stamp her imprimatur on a place. Score! We work in the area she wrote about--Pike Place Market--and we picked a restaurant she cited: Etta's. But, we wondered, does she really have the experience to be so definitive? We did some back-of-the-envelope calculations: 25 years as a travel journalist, 1,000 places, plus 200 more for the second edition (with no previous destinations deleted)....

The first 1,000 Places to See was about dreaming of perfection: exotic places, romantic places, lovely places. The second edition is more factual and specifically detailed without, hopefully, losing the magic, because, Schultz said, "travel is magic." She slashed and condensed, deconstructed the first book, added color photographs and the aforementioned 200 more places, and merged some single destinations together to form a larger travel experience. And then the fact-checking began. Not only is Schultz determined to find the best places in the world, she wants the information to be most accurate, too.

Schultz has indeed visited most of the destinations she writes about; for the 20% she hasn't seen, she's selected well-researched destinations that have been vetted and visited by trusted friends and colleagues.

Schultz generally doesn't visit the same place twice, but she is dogged about finding the finest of any site. She thoroughly researches a spot before she travels, and then talks to everyone she can collar there about what to see and do, from taxi drivers to waiters to people on the street. One place she returns to again and again is Italy; indeed, the book devotes 50 pages to that country (compared to France's 38). She quotes Robert Browning: "Open my heart and you will see, engraved inside of it, 'Italy.' " (She noted that some countries actually count the number of pages they get, and the tourism authorities will ask her why they only got two pages to their neighbor's three.)

But still. 1,000 places? That's quite a bucket list for anyone, even a travel writer. It seems daunting but, Schultz said, the guide is not meant to create performance anxiety; rather, she wants to encourage people to see the wealth available to them, or to discover a theme to travel, like author's homes or fresh bread comparisons or golf courses or gargoyles. Open the book randomly to find Elmina Castle in Ghana, Hua Hin resort in Thailand, Himeji Castle in Japan, Colca Canyon in Peru, the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg. That will start you planning.

1000 Places to See Before You Die is a dream book with practicalities--a perfect mix, and Patricia Schultz is the perfect guide. She calls herself the Queen of Carpe Diem, with a joyous laugh. Perhaps this is the year we all need a little more of her carpe diem attitude. Perhaps the mystical, romantic Li River in Guilin, or the enchanting Portuguese town of Sintra, or jazz and BBQ in Kansas city? --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness

How about seizing the day by entering the 1000 Places to See Before You Die "See Spain from the Inside" Sweepstakes? Enter online to win a nine-day trip to Spain for two (including airfare). No purchase necessary. Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, 18 years or older. All entries must be received by March 31, 2012.


Virtuonica: White Hot Truth: Clarity for Keeping It Real on Your Spiritual Path from One Seeker to Another by Danielle LaPorte


Literary Lists

Confessions; Popular Math; Things to Worry About

For her NPR piece headlined "Rebel Memoirs: Three Confessions from the Edge," Marion Wink noted that her recommendations show "confessional writing at its best, forging a rare connection between writer and reader."

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Ian Stewart, author most recently of 17 Equations that Changed the World, chose his top 10 popular mathematics books, noting that while the term "popular mathematics" might seem like a contradiction in terms, it's also "what makes the genre so important: we have to change that perception. Mathematics is the Cinderella science: undervalued, underestimated, and misunderstood."

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The Huffington Post featured "12 Books You NEED on Your Bookshelf," describing them as "those spines that add a touch of class to a room, or might provoke a fascinating conversation."

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Lists of Note showcased a letter F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in 1933 to his 11-year-old daughter, which ended with "a list of things to worry about, not worry about, and simply think about."


Windy City Publishers: Katharine Lee Bates: From Sea to Shining Sea by Melinda M. Ponder


Mixed Media

Movies: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Coriolanus

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, opens nationally today. Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Max von Sydow, James Gandolfini and Thomas Horn star in this story of a nine-year-old searching New York for the lock opened by a key belonging to his father, who died on 9/11. A movie tie-in edition is available from Mariner ($14.95, 9780547735023).

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Coriolanus, a modern reimagining of Shakespeare's play, opens today, too. Ralph Fiennes directs and stars as the title character, a Roman soldier banished from the city for his extreme political views. Also stars Gerard Butler, Brian Cox and Jessica Chastain. The official companion is Coriolanus: The Shooting Script (Newmarket Press for It Books, $19.95, 9780062202574), which includes the screenplay, a foreword by Fiennes, introduction and scene notes by screenwriter John Logan and 21 film stills and behind-the-scenes photos.

 


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan


Book Review

Fiction

Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea

by Morgan Callan Rogers


Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea begins with a deeply emotional jolt: Carlie Gilham goes missing during a weekend trip, leaving her daughter Florine to face adolescence in a hardscrabble Maine fishing community during the 1960s. Did Cassie meet an unthinkable fate? How does Florine move forward without knowing if she should feel bereaved or just abandoned? For all the situation's potential for existential angst, though, Morgan Callan Rogers's debut novel is not moody or weighty. It is, instead, a languidly paced, absorbing coming-of-age story with an enticing sense of time and place and a likable heroine whose singular circumstances give way to the more universal strains and awakenings of growing up.

Rogers, a native to the shipbuilding city of Bath, Maine, paints a picture of a comforting--if insular--world where Florine's friends and their families have lived intertwined with each other for generations. But Florine's family life crumbles as her lobsterman father eventually slips back into a relationship with an old girlfriend and her grandmother begins to show signs of age, even as the dynamics of her own lifelong friendships shift with burgeoning sexualities. The memory of her mother, and the mystery of the disappearance, haunt Florine but also shape her in unexpected ways. What will keep readers engaged to the end is not the ultimate fate of Florine's mother, but Rogers's well-drawn portrait of how a traumatized girl will become a woman. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: An expansive, abundantly detailed coming-of-age story set amid tragedy on the coast of Maine.

Viking, $26.95, hardcover, 9780670023400

First You Try Everything

by Jane McCafferty


Divorce can appear almost routine--an expected life stage--from the outside. Jane McCafferty's First You Try Everything, an arresting case study of a disintegrating relationship, uses an insider perspective to show how the splitting of conjoined lives can seem like the world itself rent in two. Evvie and Ben were outside-the-mainstream kindred souls in their 20s, the kind of urbanites who owned a food cart and eschewed the daily grind of the straight life. But now, as they've hit middle age, Ben has found fulfillment in an office job and Evvie's mood swings and her lost-cause obsessions grate on him. Evvie, for her part, can feel Ben slipping away but can't fathom the concept of separation from her soul mate until she is tragically forced to confront reality.

McCafferty's astonishing accomplishment is to flesh out, in alternating perspectives, the panic, the hope (and false hope) and the ways a shared history brings a couple like Ben and Evvie both intimacy and suffocation as they approach diverging paths. Once the reader has absorbed the universal nature of the couples' dilemma, McCafferty shifts her laser-like focus to their uniqueness, delving into the childhood pain that makes a normal life attractive to Ben and the quirky instability that makes Evvie choose a radical, outrageous plan to win Ben back.

First You Try Everything is a deeply felt, harrowing novel and a thought-provoking reminder that, as commonplace as divorce has become, an oft-occurring tragedy is a tragedy nonetheless. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: A stunningly intimate examination of a relationship's dissolution.

Harper, $24.99, hardcover, 9780066210629

The Evening Hour

by Carter Sickels


With a measured touch, A. Carter Sickels tells the story of Dove Creek, W.Va., a town where most families either die off or leave for bigger cities, selling their small homesteads to the mining conglomerates decapitating the nearby mountains and pushing the refuse back into the hollows. Those who stay wind up working at Wal-Mart, the local bars and cafes or in the brutal mine pits--while their old folks stay in the nursing home until their money runs out.

Cole Freeman is a survivor--a local whose father left before his birth and whose "sinful" mother was banished by his grandfather, a tongue-talking, snake-handling preacher with a sixth-grade education. In Sickels's sure hands, Cole's story is told without rancor or histrionics. Raised by his grandfather, Cole learns resilience with a "we'll figure something out" attitude that leads him to a job as an aide at the nursing home. He cleans up after the incontinent, talks to the demented and watches over the residents' diets and meds. But he also learns how to steal their keepsake jewelry, meager cash and extra Xanax or Oxycontin to sell to the bored, dead-ended young people still in town.

Cole is no ordinary drug dealer; he repays the old people for their pills and never takes what they truly need. He sensitively cares for his frightening grandfather and supportive grandmother who still live at home. And he doesn't sells drugs to family. It is Sickels's great compassion for his characters that distinguishes this fine first novel. --Bruce Jacobs

Discover: A richly drawn story of West Virginians trapped between indifferent mining conglomerates and a dead-end town.

Bloomsbury, $16, paperback, 9781608195978

Mystery & Thriller

Breakdown: A V.I. Warshawski Novel

by Sara Paretsky


Breakdown marks 30 years of Sara Paretsky's novels about private investigator V.I Warshawski in a way that more than lives up to the expectations of her many fans. All Warshawski was planning on was fulfilling a promise she made to find the missing members of a book club for tween girls run by her cousin Petra. The girls were acting out rituals from the book in a derelict cemetery on a rainy night to summon the undead: all still within the realm of Warshawski's  everyday routine. Then the discovery of a body near the scene of the ritual, with a length of rebar through its heart, brought this simple job into the realm of murder.

Paretsky, known for her support of liberal causes, delivers an incisive indictment of the vicious state of contemporary American politics in Breakdown, with a tightly plotted story that features a left-supporting, foreign-born, billionaire Holocaust survivor and a conservative pundit with a 24/7 televised bully pulpit from which to spew his twisted half-truths. (It's no great mystery who Paretsky has in mind in either case.) Paretsky’s masterful treatment of immigrant issues, Chicago society, even teenage readers' devotion to a certain vampire series propel Breakdown from a merely excellent detective mystery into the realm of social commentary. As Warshawski treads carefully through unforeseen plot twists, encountering a number of herrings (not all of them red), this enthralling page-turner is guaranteed to keep fans reading late into the night. --Judith Hawkins-Tillirson, proprietress, Wyrdhoard books, and blogger at Still Working for Books

Discover: V.I. Warshawski once again saves the day, exposing the ugly truths of Chicago society and U.S. politics.

Putnam, $26.95, hardcover, 9780399157837

The Chalk Girl

by Carol O'Connell


The little girl in Central Park has red hair, starry blue eyes and a dazzling smile; she reminds people of an elf or a fairy, and tells stories of blood raining out of the sky and an uncle who turned into a tree, and demands hugs from everyone she meets. The fairy tale halts abruptly, however, with the discovery of a body in a tree, hogtied and seemingly dead. And it's not the only one. Coco, as she calls herself, presents a perplexing mystery. Where did she come from? Who does she belong to? Where did she get the strange explanations for the blood on her shirt and, most important, what kind of a witness will she make, if the NYPD ever manages to solve the homicides?

Detective Mallory, the protagonist of nine previous novels, is just back from three months of unauthorized down time and is none too stable herself; she and Coco may have more in common than meets the eye. But the case quickly grows bigger than a wandering child and a series of well-planned murders. Conspiracies and deceits connect Coco with the upper echelons of political power in the city, from high society to the DA's office, even the police department--and Mallory's investigation will reveal a chilly tale of torment stretching back 15 years. Unlike the spritely Coco, though, Mallory is a terrifying force to be reckoned with. Her methods are cold, merciless and conniving; her colleagues doubt she even has a heart. If nothing else, Coco's tormenters can expect justice at Mallory's hands. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pages of julia

Discover: Carol O'Connell's Mallory returns to take on a case with nonstop twisting intrigues.

Putnam, $25.95, hardcover, 9780399157745

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Shadows in Flight

by Orson Scott Card


The Shadow Saga is a parallel telling of the events depicted in Orson Scott Card's classic Ender's Game and its sequels; starting with Ender's Shadow, this series focuses on Julian "Bean" Delphiki, a secondary character in Ender's Game whose military genius came out in the course of brutal training. As Shadows in Flight begins, Bean is in a spaceship hurtling at a time-dilating speed with three of his children, Carlotta, Ender and Cincinnatus. All four of them are victims of a genetic modification that, although it grants them incredible intelligence, also afflicts them with gigantism and a severely truncated lifespan. With only a few months left to live, Bean tries to raise his highly intelligent six-year-olds, searching for both a cure and a home for them.

Narrative is less important in Shadows in Flight than in previous volumes of the series. There is a plot that revolves around finding a habitable planet for the children, and a discovery with far-reaching implications for the Ender's/Shadow universe, but the truth of the story is far more internal. This is a story of ideas, of morality, of parenting and tough choices, told with Card's familiar warmth and love for the human race. It's a must read for fans of the series; the story will be tough to jump into without reading earlier Shadow Saga books. Bottom line: Orson Scott Card proves himself a master storyteller yet again. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A master SF storyteller plumbs the depths of space travel, alien encounters and the human heart.

Tor, $21.99, hardcover, 9780765332004

Power Play

by Ben Bova


Ben Bova, author of more than 50 novels and nonfiction books, has written a modern-day technothriller in Power Play. Dr. Jake Ross is an astronomy professor at a big university who is reluctantly recruited as a science adviser to Senate candidate B. Franklin Tomlinson. Tomlinson needs an issue to win the election, and Jake comes up with MHD, or magnetohydrodynamics, an extremely efficient electrical production technology in development by university researchers.

Jake mixes with politicians, public relations specialists, engineers and mob-connected wise guys, trying to stay afloat in a rough sea of politics and interpersonal relationships. (All parties hurl mud here politically; no one is left unsullied.) He's attracted to Glynis, a graduate student working with another professor, but still winds up seduced by a PR flack connected to the campaign. Meanwhile, the engineer in charge of the MHD rig in the nearby coal mining town is also interested in Glynis, warning Jake off.

Bova uses his comfort with science and technology to inform the fast-paced story, stopping rarely for more than a cursory examination of the supporting characters. The science behind MHD is compelling, showing how important energy is to our society on a local and national level. Overall, Power Play is a well-written novel of practical science with a nice overlay of thriller fiction for non-science fans. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A solid technothriller with political and social overtones from an old hand in the science fiction genre.

Tor, $24.99, hardcover, 9780765317865

Nonfiction

Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing

by Peter Elbow


The passage of No Child Left Behind in 2002 was meant to improve American public school students' chops in several core subjects. A decade later, many experts doubt this or any other reforms have succeeded in teaching kids to write. Some insist that our children aren't learning to write at all--or worse are writing "onli in txt msgs lol."

In Vernacular Eloquence, Peter Elbow notes that the reason many people don't write is because writing scares them. Schools teach writing as if it's hard, and turn it into a high-stakes endeavor. "Everybody knows" writing is harder than speaking, often precisely because it's not speaking; it's communication in a language nobody actually uses in daily life. It doesn't have to be this way, though: Elbow argues that much of what is good in speech--its directness, its clarity, its "flow"--can be applied to writing.

Vernacular Eloquence spends its time equally between building Elbow's arguments as to why the best parts of speech can and should be harnessed for writing and explaining how teachers, parents and students can do so. Elbow bases both sections on his experience as a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, teaching writing to students who often arrived with a fear that they couldn't put pen to paper effectively--even though they could speak eloquently.

By encouraging students to "speak onto the page," we can escape the fear of writing and the stilted voice that fear creates. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Literary Cricket

Discover: A friendly guide to writing that's as easy as speaking--literally.

Oxford University Press, $19.95, paperback, 9780199782512

History

Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty

by John M. Barry


In most American high school history classes, Roger Williams is summarized in a single sentence, if at all: after being booted out of Massachusetts for insufficient conformity with the Puritan vanguard, he founded Rhode Island on the principle of religious freedom. That reductive description, however, elides over his significant contribution to our understanding of religious freedom and the separation of church and state--a contribution John M. Barry explores in careful detail in Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul.

Born in England in 1603, Williams spent his formative years taking notes for noted lawyer and parliamentarian Sir Edward Coke, exposing him to the hottest political debates of the day. He arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631, soon becoming a pastor to the colony's emerging Puritan churches. Unlike his neighbors, however, Williams believed that government ought not to consult any church in making its decisions and, furthermore, that government had no business regulating affairs of conscience or belief. Banished from the Bay, he founded Providence Plantation in 1636, constructing its government on the theory that people could participate in their own state-related affairs but that their church affiliation, or lack thereof, was nobody's business.

Barry relies heavily on period sources, but saves the reader the trouble of dealing with the 17th century’s casual relationship with spelling by quoting them only lightly. Instead, the author’s own straightforward voice and obvious fascination with his subject carry the content, making Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul as highly readable an exploration of the colonial foundations of the understanding of state power that shaped the U.S. Constitution as it is balanced and thorough. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Literary Cricket

Discover: An engaging discussion of a religious maverick's contributions to the political philosophy underpinning the U.S. Constitution.

Viking, $35, hardcover, 9780670023059

Current Events & Issues

In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age

by Patricia Cohen


"What is the prime of life," Plato ruminated in The Republic: "twenty years in a woman, thirty in a man?" My, my, how times have changed. As Patricia Cohen observes, for the first time, "middle-age men and women are the largest, most influential, and the richest segment in the country. Floating between 40 and 64, they constitute one-third of the population."

In Our Prime is a fascinating biography of the "idea of middle age" in American society. Cohen's comprehensively researched account draws upon books, articles, newspapers and magazines to gauge shifting attitudes toward middle age from the late 19th century to the present day. She explains how scientific work from the 1890s to the 1920s convinced us that a series of distinct phases in life was biologically determined--it was "as natural as teething."

After World War I, the cult of youth and physical virility, as promoted by people like body builder Bernarr Macfadden, took over. It wasn't until the 1960s and '70s that sophisticated psychological studies and an increase in the value placed on physical well-being combined to make middle age the new "prime." From there, capitalism feasted on baby boomers like a ravenous hawk. Thanks to the influential work of social scientists like Erik Erikson and Bernice Neugarten on adult development, middle age became more "respected." Now, as Cohen points out, thanks to science and wiser doctors and patients, people between 55 and 75 constitute in many ways the new "middle age." It's a time of "extravagant possiblities." --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A thoughtful inquiry into why today's older "middle agers" are in the prime of their lives.

Scribner, $25, hardcover, 9781416572893

Children's & Young Adult

We March

by Shane W. Evans


Shane W. Evans (Underground) uses minimal text and powerful images to help children experience an historic moment firsthand. He begins on the morning of August 28, 1963, and focuses on events through the lens of one family. Just before sunrise, a boy and girl and their parents get dressed and ready for the day. The family gathers with others at their church to board buses, and as the Washington Monument rises up, we discover this is no ordinary day. The children and their parents, along with 250,000 others, move together in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Evans unspools the action with impeccable pacing. The barest glow in the sky and a light in a window set the stage. Inside that lighted room, a father and mother wake their son and daughter. Evans takes his first step back from the family with a spread of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. arm in arm with several other men, under the words "We follow our leaders." Children may clearly spot the family behind them in the crowd ("We walk together").

Evans's technique of zooming in on the family and then pulling back to reveal the vast crowd serves as a motif that builds to a thrilling climax. The final two images of the boy and Dr. King mirror each other, and suggest a transference of power, not just from Dr. King to the child, but also from the child to Dr. King. A gorgeous reimagining of a momentous day's small moments. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A milestone event reimagined through the eyes of two children as their family marches on Washington on August 28, 1963.

Roaring Brook, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-up, 9781596435391

Robbie Forester and the Outlaws of Sherwood St.

by Peter Abrahams


In this updated Robin Hood story from Edgar Award–winning author Peter Abrahams (the Echo Falls series), a real-estate tycoon takes the place of evil royalty, and a scrappy seventh-grader fills the outlaw's shoes.

Robbie Forester may not be the smartest girl in her class--or the most athletic--but she's got a sharp eye, a good heart and can tell when something is up. And if businessman Sheldon Gunn and his New Brooklyn Redevelopment Project aren't up to something, she's a monkey's uncle. They're shutting down the local food kitchen, driving her favorite Thai place out of business and plotting against who knows how many others in Robbie's neighborhood. With a charm bracelet that seems determined to get her and her three new friends into (and then back out of) trouble, Robbie and her impromptu team take matters into their own hands.

Robbie is an endearing heroine with well-meaning and fairly on-the-ball parents. Abrahams draws her sidekicks in broader strokes, with more neglected home lives. Haitian immigrant Tut-Tut gets the most attention of the supporting characters and is also the source of the book's grimmest moments: he lives in the projects, lost his parents in the journey to the U.S. and is stuck with an abusive alcoholic uncle. But dysfunctional families take a backseat to the action, and there are more light moments than dark. The kids' different talents will remind readers that heroes aren't all cut from the same cloth, and the bracelet's powers keep the plot moving along with a few surprising twists and turns. --Jenn Northington, events manager at WORD bookstore

Discover: A young band of do-gooders for the 21st century, who fight injustice in their neighborhood and aren't afraid to get their hands dirty.

Philomel, $16.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 10-up, 9780399255021

In Darkness

by Nick Lake


Before Shorty was born, the houngan, a vodou priest, told his mother that her baby had "a fierce soul and would begin and end in blood and darkness."

Shorty, a 15-year-old boy from the slums of Port-au-Prince, is trapped in the ruins of a hospital following the devastating earthquake of 2010. Surrounded by darkness and the dead, with no water or food, his chances for survival seem extraordinarily slim. But in the midst of his isolation and despair, he gradually comes to realize that he isn't completely alone. In some extraordinary way, the spirit of Toussant l'Ouverture, the revolutionary who led the slave uprising in Haiti 200 years earlier, is also with him.

The author tells the parallel stories of the courageous but doomed Toussant--his struggles against the French and English, and his dream of a free Haiti--and Shorty's struggle for his own life and freedom. Lake treats readers to a novel enriched by cultural terms and rhythms, scenes both harrowing and heartbreaking, and a people who have striven, and will continue to strive against overwhelming odds. --Jane Henriksen Baird, public librarian in Alaska

Discover: Two interlinking stories with Haiti at their center--an island with a violent past and tenuous future.

Bloomsbury, $17.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 14-up, 9781599907437

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