Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, June 29, 2012

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

Wisdom & Wit

Nora Ephron, novelist, humorist, essayist, journalist, playwright, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and movie director, died on June 26. She was 71.

She will be sorely missed.

I first read Ephron's essays in the collections Crazy Salad and Wallflower at the Orgy. In her famous "A Few Words About Breasts," she said she was tired of women with big breasts complaining about them; they were being disingenuous--who wouldn't want an impressive bosom? She also wrote about an unacknowledged issue in the women's movement: the divide between beautiful women and the rest of us. She was funny about it, but while being smart and entertaining, Ephron was also incisive--a chronicler of life's truths wrapped in wit. She wrote about the contents of purses, Watergate, the Pillsbury Bake-Off, divorce, celebrity, pulling larger truths from the particular. In the past decade, she tackled maintenance.

"It's sad to be over sixty," she admitted in I Feel Bad About My Neck. Ephron had no truck with aging gracefully; she dealt with her neck issues by wearing cashmere turtlenecks, and devoted much time and money to her hair. Later, in I Remember Nothing, she took on memory loss: "I thought it might be fun to write a book about what I remember, and what I've forgotten. I still feel bad about my neck, but I feel even worse about the fact that huge bits of my life have gone slip-sliding away, and I thought I'd better write them down while I still had a sense of humor about it all."

Nora Ephron fans have their favorite quotes. One of mine is from her novel Heartburn:

"My mother was a good recreational cook, but what she basically believed about cooking was that if you worked hard and prospered, someone else would do it for you."

And this lovely line (Ephron said once that her religion was butter) spoken by Paul Child to Julia in the movie Julie & Julia:

"You are the butter to my bread, you are the breath to my life."

--Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

Book Candy

'If You Love to Read'; Book-Inspired Cakes; Bookcase with a Ladder

The New York State Reading Association celebrated the joy of books with a wonderful, Adele-ified music video titled "If You Love to Read.'


Whether they are mouth-watering may be debatable, but the "jaw-dropping book-inspired cakes" discovered by Booklicious are definitely eye-catching.


"J.D. Salinger was the entertainment director on a Swedish luxury liner." Mental Floss revealed the early jobs of 24 famous writers.


Bookcase of the day: featured a bookcase with "a ladder that pulls out immediately. This bookcase is made from warm, unique South American hardwoods.... while closed, ladder sits flush and rungs align seamlessly with lower shelves."


Fairy Fictions; San Fran Authors; Strange Apocalypses

Graham Joyce, author of The Silent Land, chose his top 10 fairy fictions for the Guardian. "In these fictions, magical and impossible content tends to be offered in a more naturalistic mode of storytelling," he wrote. "The effect for the reader is that of riding a shuttle between natural skepticism and open credulity."


CBS-5 recommended "4 must-read San Francisco authors," noting that "these writers reflect the diversity of the Bay Area and its literary traditions." Speaking of those traditions, Flavorwire posted "Allen Ginsberg's suggested reading list."


Nuclear war, zombies and alien attacks aside, Flavorwire noted that there "are many more--and many stranger--ways that our planet could be destroyed," and offered "10 of the strangest apocalypses in literature."


Mental Floss found "11 authors who hated the movie versions of their books."

Anthony Heilbut: An Apollo Theater Education

I was a fan who knew too little, a 14-year-old rock-and-roller, when I first went to the Apollo Theater. I acquired some great memories--a pugnacious Jackie Wilson, a still ingenuous Diana Ross. But then some usher took pity, and said, "Kid, you think this blues is something? You need to see our Gospel Caravans." I took his advice, heard the greatest music in the land, and my life changed for good. 

The gospel of the late '50s was a small miracle, holding within it most of the elements that would later capture the world. At the Apollo, you could hear Sam Cooke with his quartet, the Soul Stirrers, setting down a pattern for all the soul singers who followed him out of the church. Or the leading female group, the Famous Ward Singers. Their namesake, Clara Ward, would inspire Aretha Franklin and the many women who sing like her. But the group's real lead, Marion Williams, would have a cross-sexual impact, when her style was copped by Little Richard and all those men--from James Brown and Sam and Dave--who own him as their father.

It wasn't simply the great singing. The physical carriage was shocking. Back then, vocal groups held themselves very straight, with perfect, metronomic posture. These days, background singers in any form hang loose, swaying individually to the beat as they hear it. Gospel, through its rock and soul disciples, has relaxed our bodies. More than that, it has showed a way to group ecstasy. I used to marvel at the gospel "saints," dancing, running, jumping for victory, sometimes even rolling in the aisles. Secularize all that, and this spiritual rejoicing becomes, well, moshing.

What finally won me to gospel was its emotional range. This, despite the fact that I remain moved but thoroughly unconvinced by its theology. I learned that gospel could touch all emotional bases one night at the Apollo. As a novelty attraction, the sponsors had hired a professional actor named Gilbert Adkins to recite a faux-naif sermon called "The Creation." His performance struck me as grandiose, but the Apollo audience was not used to Broadway, and they experienced it as a treat.

On the last night, Fred Barr, the promoter, summoned Adkins back to the stage and handed him a large bouquet of flowers, the gift of a group of church ladies who had attended every show. The actor was overcome. "You know," he said--and you could only reckon the difficulties of being a black actor in those days--"my mother told me something that has stayed with me down through the years. She said, 'Boy, you can go a lot of places. But folk don't have to love you.' "

He shook his head and left the stage. But the moment was not complete. Suddenly young people all over the Apollo rose to their feet and started to shout. Some singers onstage got the spirit as well. The dancing continued for 20 minutes, as ushers dashed around the floor, snatching the bodies of men and women overcome by memories too deep for words. It was black church at its highest, and there had been nary a mention of Jesus. --Anthony Heilbut, author of The Fan Who Knew Too Much: Aretha Franklin, the Rise of the Soap Opera, Children of the Gospel Church, and Other Meditations (Knopf)

Book Brahmin: Anthony Swofford

Anthony Swofford's first memoir, Jarhead, was adapted into a 2005 film directed by Sam Mendes. He's also the author of the novel Exit A and his writing has appeared in Harper's, the New York Times Magazine, the Guardian and Slate. Swofford's new memoir, Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails, was published by Twelve on June 5, 2012. He lives in upstate New York with his wife, the writer and photographer Christa Parravani, and their daughter.

On your nightstand now:

The Good Father by Mark O'Connell; The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene; Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown; Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore; Cathedral by Raymond Carver; Gandhi: A Very Short Introduction by Bhikhu Parekh; Fortunate Son by Lewis B. Puller, Jr.; The Battle for Spain by Antony Beevor.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I Want to Be a Fireman by Carla Greene. I read anything I could get my hands on, including my older sister's books--she had better taste. The fireman book is my only childhood book I still have possession of, and for a reason I can't figure out, it sits next to Escoffier in the dining room cookbook shelves.

Your top five authors:

Joan Didion, Don DeLillo, Julio Cortázar, Tim O'Brien and Joy Williams.

Book you've faked reading:

I faked reading Moby Dick for about 15 years until I read it over three days while sitting from noon to 4 a.m. at my favorite dive bar in Manhattan, Peter McManus at 19th Street and 7th Avenue. Now I fake having read Don Quixote and all of Dostoevsky except Notes from Underground and the first 50 pages of The Gambler.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar.

Book you've bought for the cover:

A Doubleday paperback of Stendhal's The Red and the Black with a cover drawing by Andy Warhol and a paperback of 'Til Death by Ed McBain with a troubled woman in a nightgown on the cover.

Book that changed your life:

Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar. I had heard from teachers and writers that "if it works, it works" when attempting to explain innovation in prose writing. But only after reading Hopscotch did I know what that meant and begin to understand that with prose anything is possible.

Favorite line from a book:

"War is the poetry of men, by which they seek to gain attention and relief throughout their lives" --from Thomas Bernhard in Gathering Evidence. Bernhard was combative and ornery and had witnessed the ravages of war as a young boy in Germany.

I'll include a second if you don't mind: "But this too is true: stories can save us." Tim O'Brien wrote this in The Things They Carried, which I first read as a college student, a few years out from my own war. I didn't believe him at first, and then I started to write, and now I believe him, and we all must.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner. Like Hopscotch, Absalom, Absalom taught me the power of finely rendered prose.

Your favorite cookbook:

The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His 24-hour "Donnie Brasco" pork shoulder is transcendental.

Book Review


A Hologram for the King

by Dave Eggers

A Hologram for the King is a plunge into the contradictions of Saudi Arabian life. It centers on Alan Clay, a one-man consulting firm traveling to King Abdullah Economic City as a representative of Reliant, the largest IT supplier in the world, to demonstrate a holographic teleconference system to 85-year-old King Abdullah himself. Alan is frustrated at every turn by broken promises and canceled meetings, while doubting his 54-year-old self (the rest of the IT team are all under 30) and worrying about an ominous lump on his neck.

When Alan accidentally sleeps in on the morning of his first royal appointment, he hires Yousef, a student driver, to rush him to the tent where he and his IT engineers await the no-show king. Yousef is a delightful comic creation, always knowing more than he's expected to know, able to spot the difference between jet lag and a hangover, full of opinions ("You fry anything, it tastes right"), always checking under the hood of the car, though he doesn't know exactly what a car bomb looks like. The bonding between sad, blundering Alan and cheerful Yousef becomes the heart of the novel.

The slight narrative is driven by the effortless clarity of Eggers's spare prose. Waiting for the king to appear is like waiting for Godot, and the long stretches of inactivity transform the younger IT technicians into a ménage a trois while Alan, outsourced and outbid, begins a scary descent into alcoholism.

Unlike Eggers's more passionate works, such as What Is the What and Zeitoun, A Hologram for the King is a heartbreaking character study--a mid-life crisis set in an exotic Middle Eastern setting. --Nick DiMartino

Discover: A middle-aged salesman finds himself in Saudi Arabia waiting to demonstrate a hologram to a king who never shows up in Dave Eggers's new international take on our times.

McSweeney's Books, $25, hardcover, 9781936365746

Blackberry Days of Summer

by Ruth P. Watson

Ruth P. Watson's debut novel, Blackberry Days of Summer, has a carefree title for a book that oozes with dark secrets and violence. Taking place in the deep South as "the Great War" winds down, the tale is alternately told from the point of view of innocent teenager Carrie and 30-something sultry jazz singer Pearl.

Their narratives center on a weasel of a man, hustler Herman Camm. For Pearl, Herman is an amazing lover, awakening in her a passion that causes her to cheat on her husband. For Carrie, "Mr. Camm" is a predatory monster of a stepfather who sexually harasses Carrie at every turn.

What's amazing here is how Watson portrays the character of Herman Camm through these two women's viewpoints: his behavior is arousing to grown woman Pearl, yet frightening and just plain wrong when he forces it upon his stepdaughter. Watson's depiction of the state of women and African Americans in the early 20th-century South is also enlightening; readers might wonder why Carrie doesn't inform her mother about Mr. Camm's advances, but she is certain she won't be believed. When Mr. Camm ends up dead, you'll cheer: he deserved everything he had coming. What Pearl saw in him, though, remains a mystery--much like the question of just who it was that killed the unsavory character. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: A fresh debut novel that unearths hot dusty secrets in a small Southern town.

Strebor Books, $15, paperback, 9781593094133

Mystery & Thriller

Blessed Are the Dead

by Malla Nunn

Malla Nunn returns to 1950s South Africa in her third novel featuring Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper, following 2010's Let the Dead Lie and 2009's A Beautiful Place to Die. Blessed Are the Dead opens with the discovery of Amahle, a beautiful young Zulu girl, whose body is left covered in wildflowers on a hillside in the Drakensberg Mountains. The investigation into her death takes Cooper and his associate Constable Shabalala from the compound of a self-absorbed Zulu chief to the estate of a wealthy and socially entitled white family. Cooper must overcome criminal negligence from the corrupt local police force and violent racism from just about everyone else to bring Amahle's murderer to justice.

Nunn writes beautifully, with evocative, almost cinematic, descriptions of the landscape and of Cooper's tumultuous past. As a mixed-race detective in apartheid South Africa, Cooper occupies a difficult position, and the novel is enriched by his struggle with this fact. The nuanced relationship between Cooper and Shabalala simultaneously illustrates all of the worst facets of apartheid and celebrates the strength of character that allows Nunn's hero to disregard society's politics and live by his own code of black and white. Nunn's sensitivity and insight bring to life a lost world of tense colonialism and tribal conflict, undermined by its own false virtues. Blessed Are the Dead is a worthy companion to Nunn's previous work and will leave fans eager for the next installment. --Judie Evans, librarian

Discover: There are violent secrets buried in the gulf between opposing cultures, as Malla Nunn's series set in apartheid-era South Africa continues.

Atria, $14, paperback, 9781451616927

House Blood

by Mike Lawson

Representative John Fitzpatrick Mahoney's wife wants someone to investigate Brian Kincaid's conviction on murder charges. Kincaid's mother is a friend of Mahoney's wife; rather than deal with his wife, the Congressman assigns his chief fixer, Joe DeMarco, to look into the situation. DeMarco is none too thrilled about the assignment but figures it will be a simple case of checking a few details and confirming Kincaid is a murderer. Instead, he stumbles into an elaborate, deadly and illegal scheme concocted by a pharmaceutical mogul in order to fast-track a revolutionary new drug through the testing process and make him the wealthiest man alive.

House Blood, Mike Lawson's seventh novel starring DeMarco, exhibits sharp dialogue, a timely, multi-layered plot and well-crafted characters. Lawson's extensive knowledge of the pharmaceutical drug industry enhances the plausibility of the characters and their actions, whether for good or evil; the one emotion readers are unlikely to experience with Lawson's characters is apathy. The fine line between ethical and legal is often hard to discern, and when one is directly affected, it becomes even more difficult. Lawson carefully illustrates that burden through the various plot layers.

House Blood, while part of a series, easily functions as a stand-alone novel. There are some minor references to previous books, but they aren't so extensive new readers will feel disadvantaged. House Blood is the perfect introduction to (or revisit of) the dangerous world of Joe DeMarco. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A murder investigation shows just how far people can sink in the drive for fortune and glory.

Atlantic Monthly Press, $25, hardcover, 9780802119940

The Kings of Cool

by Don Winslow

Don Winslow's Savages became a breakout hit, spawning a film adaptation by Oliver Stone. The Kings of Cool is a "prequel" that reveals more about Winslow's renegade pot growers, Ben and Chon, and their friend O--including how they met and how Chon got his nickname. Winslow also delves into his characters' parents, giving dimensions to O's mom (previously known only as Paqu--Passive Aggressive Queen of the Universe) and showing how the boys were almost fated to do what they ended up doing.

The Kings of Cool is about choosing your family, but this is no warm and fuzzy (drug) trip into the past. Bullets fly and people die, as Ben and Chon discover that they "make up a collective pacifist." Of sorts, that is: "Ben is the paci," Winslow writes. "Chon is the fist."

As with Savages, this novel begins with a profane two-word first chapter and barrels ahead in a combination of prose, free verse and screenplay format. This might have resulted in a disjointed mess, but Winslow has already proven that he's a master storyteller who knows how to use whatever style best serves each scene. He keeps his dialogue hip and his prose lean, landing each word like one of Chon's roundhouse kicks. Throw in Winslow's trademark wit, blistering violence, razor-sharp social commentary and cameos from characters from his other novels, and The Kings of Cool is one summer read that's as scorching hot as it is cool. --Elyse Dinh-McCrilllis, chief nerd and blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: The cool--and scorching hot--origins of Don Winslow's renegade pot growers, Ben and Chon.

Simon & Schuster, $25, hardcover, 9781451665321

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Long Earth

by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter

The device looks like a science fair project: a box filled with wires, a switch and a potato. Kids worldwide rush to assemble this curiosity... then start to disappear. So begins Step Day, the watershed moment in human history where our earth becomes many--and the premise underpinning The Long Earth, an expansive collaboration between speculative fiction stars Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.

These boxes, called Steppers, allow people to "step" into the earth of a parallel dimension. Such alternate worlds extend in perpetuity, becoming more alien with every step away from the original earth. Joshua Valienté, the methodical orphan protagonist, is a stepping prodigy; he can step without a Stepper and is immune to the temporary nausea usually induced by trans-world travel. He is hired to survey the Long Earth via an airship controlled by Lobsang, a supercomputer (supposedly) containing the reincarnated soul of a Tibetan repairman. Lobsang behaves like the archetypal sentient supercomputer by continuously acquiring knowledge on the world(s) around him and mastering the subtleties of human social interaction. His relationship with Joshua evolves during their journey via power struggles, mentor-versus-protégé role reversals and humorous bickering.

Pratchett and Baxter explore the scientific possibilities behind interdimensional earths with enough detail to fascinate science fiction aficionados but won't alienate readers unversed in quantum physics. The book's fantastical subject matter is presented seriously, though Pratchett's absurd humor pokes through: a British World War I soldier mistakes hairy aliens for Russians and a nun rides a Harley-Davidson, among a sprinkling of other funny moments (most of which occur between Joshua and Lobsang). The Long Earth is the solid start of a series with infinite potential. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: Infinite worlds suddenly opened to humanity, those who explore them, and how ours will never be the same.

Harper, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062067753


City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age

by P.D. Smith

Cultural historian P.D. Smith (Doomsday Men) argues that the city is humanity's greatest creation. After reading City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age, it's easy to believe it's true.

City is not a simple chronological history of urban areas from their first appearance in ancient Mesopotamia to modern mega-cities. Instead, Smith organizes his work around elements of city life that "have become part of our urban genetic code," such as cemeteries, street protests, slums, suburbs, markets, street food or graffiti--drawing illuminating parallels and unexpected connections along the way. The chapter titled "Where to Stay," for example, begins with the growth, death and rebirth of downtown, looks at immigrant neighborhoods in 19th-century America in the context of Jewish ghettos in Europe, makes a sharp turn to slum cities in the developing world, considers the allure of garden suburbs beginning in ancient Babylon, and ends with a brief history of the hotel.

The book is punctuated by sidebars that go off at right angles to the main text. A section on commuting might branch off into a brief history of the parking meter. The range of material is breathtaking, but Smith wears his erudition lightly. The prose of City is smart and fast-paced, with a nice balance between big picture history and close-up details. The book is full of "aha" moments and occasional humor. This one's a must read for history geeks. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: An erudite but lively exploration and celebration of humanity's greatest creation--the city.

Bloomsbury, $40, hardcover, 9781608196760

A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa

by Steve Kemper

In the Victorian era, European explorers made their way through Africa in the name of "Christianity, Commerce and Civilization." The adventures of Burton, Stanley and Livingston are well known, but those of German scientist, historian and linguist Heinrich Barth are almost forgotten. In A Labyrinth of Kingdoms, Steve Kemper recounts the story of Barth's five-year, 10,000-mile journey through northern and central Africa.

The British Foreign Office hired Barth in 1849 as the lead scientist for an expedition through the central Sudan. When the other members of the expedition died, Barth traveled on alone. Beset by failed supply trains, bandits, avaricious rulers, anti-Christian violence, desert storms, floods and fever, Barth nonetheless wrote detailed accounts of everything he saw. Unlike other African explorers, he showed a deep respect for the peoples and cultures he encountered.

A Labyrinth of Kingdoms is a fascinating account both of one man's journey and of African cultures on the eve of European expansion. Like Barth himself, Kemper turns his attention beyond the narrow concerns of European imperialism and looks at the broader context of Islamic Africa. He gives the reader brief histories of the kingdoms Barth traveled through, including the fabled city of Timbuktu. He compares Barth's adventures and observations not only to those of the British explorers who were his contemporaries, but to the great Islamic travelers of the past who wrote about their experiences in the same regions.

Barth's story is equal parts adventure and scholarship. Kemper treats both with a sure hand. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: A forgotten story of survival, adventure, and scientific discovery in 19th-century Africa.

Norton, $28.95, hardcover, 9780393079661

Business & Economics

Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture

by Rob Salkowitz

Rob Salkowitz is a professed comic nerd as well as a business writer, and he draws on both sides of his personality in Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, a tour of the San Diego Comic-Con, the largest and most enduring comic book convention in the world. The book succeeds at telling the story of the comic book industry--past, present and possible futures--mainly due to Salkowitz's obvious passion. His love for comics and their creators, both independent and corporate, shines through every chapter.

Each chapter is organized around a day of the convention during his 2011 visit; smaller essays within each section address topics from the spread of comic book characters into other forms of entertainment media to the evolution of Comic-Con from a small gathering of the faithful to a media circus spanning an entire long weekend. Salkowitz also manages to discuss the business of comics itself, from indie artists who create for the love of the medium to brash young creators who write comics with an eye (or two) toward getting movie or television deals.

The final chapter discusses four possible future paths the comics industry might take based on current trends. Salkowitz brings the educated insight of a longtime fan into a compelling analysis that suggests comics might not always be at the top of the media game--and explains why that might not be a cause for grief, even within the industry. --Rob Le Febvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Both the business reader and the comic book enthusiast will find new insights into the industry behind the past century's most enduring art and storytelling form.

McGraw-Hill, $27, hardcover, 9780071797023

Nature & Environment

Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death

by Bernd Heinrich

Death is usually considered the end of life, but in Life Everlasting, naturalist Bernd Heinrich (The Nesting Season) explains in fascinating detail that it's just a continuation of the life cycle, as the death of one animal provides life for other species--from Nicrophorus beetles that bury dead mice as a food source for their larva to the larger scavengers such as ravens, vultures and coyotes that "open" carcasses for smaller animals and insects.

Heinrich meticulously discusses how the death of a tree provides sustenance for insects and fungi and how dung beetles in Africa can live on the wasted nutrients they find in elephant dung. He dives into the ocean with an intriguing look at dead whales, whose carcasses can feed hundreds of other creatures as they take years to completely decompose. Life Everlasting also raises moral and philosophical concerns about the role humans have played in the death cycle considering that "one of the most damaging practices affecting the undertakers' [animal scavengers] livelihood may be our deliberate removal of carcasses that have, throughout evolutionary history, been left to return to the earth." It's an intriguing perspective on the practice of burying our dead in concrete tombs--a process which disrupts the natural return of the nutrients in the human corpse to the soil. Dense and compelling, Life Everlasting scrutinizes a subject that many might find taboo and questions whether modern burial practices are for the best. --Lee E. Cart

Discover: A thorough study of death in the natural world, and the ways humans have disrupted the circle of life.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, hardcover, 9780547752662

Children's & Young Adult

Boat Works

by Tom Slaughter

This interactive board book with sturdy foldout pages makes the ideal companion for boat-spotting on oceanside vacations.

From the sailboat on its cover to an ocean liner that commands the harbor, Tom Slaughter's bold saturated colors and geometric shapes introduce the water vessels that transport a busy urban population.

"What am I?" asks the text in the picture on the left, with a hint of a ripple in the blue background and the stern of a red hull. "I have two oars," says the right-hand page, with two yellow criss-crossed oars. As the right-hand side unfolds vertically, a knot of rope appears ("I have a rope that ties me to the dock"), and a bit of a dock shows through beneath it. The full fold-out spread says, "I am a rowboat," and pictures Nelly with her full red hull, the yellow oars neatly laid atop her seats, and a pelican, fish in mouth, standing above the post where a rope secures the boat to the dock. Each riddle begins the same way, with "What am I?," two clues and the solution. The ferry will especially delight young readers. As they lift the page with the clue "I transport cars," they see the hull with the cars tucked neatly inside; "I transport people" opens to reveal the passengers on the ferry's deck. Slaughter also includes classic boat accoutrements, such as an anchor, porthole and buoy.

The finale brings together the floating cast of characters in a spectacular view of the harbor. All aboard! --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An interactive guide to boats of all sizes and uses for youngest skippers.

Blue Apple Books, $13.99, hardcover, 20p., ages 3-5, 9781609052157

Zoe Letting Go

by Nora Price

Nora Price's debut young adult novel presents a startling premise: What do you do when you find yourself in treatment for a condition you don't have?

Zoe is ready to enjoy the summer with her best friend, Elise, when she finds herself whisked away one morning to Twin Birch by her strangely silent mother. Zoe discovers that Twin Birch is a highly exclusive treatment facility for girls coping with eating disorders. As Zoe contemplates her situation, she struggles to fit in with the other girls at Twin Birch, particularly when they begin to question her presence there. Between therapy sessions and cooking and gardening classes, Zoe notices another strange phenomenon: no matter how many letters she writes, Elise never writes back.

Readers may at first assume that Zoe is simply in denial about her disorder, but when the other girls begin to question Zoe's past as well, it becomes clear that Zoe's problem may be much larger and even more dangerous. Price keeps the narration entirely in Zoe's head, which at times may leave readers wishing for more information. But she deals with a sensitive subject in a way that is gripping and realistic without falling into the pitfalls of melodrama. Zoe's first-person narration helps support her feelings of madness and abandonment, as readers share her confusion and cluelessness.

Ultimately, the power of the book comes from Zoe's discoveries about herself and her friendship with Elise, and the realization that friendship can both save and destroy. --Kyla Paterno, trade book buyer and blogger, Garfield Book Company at PLU

Discover: Troubled teen Zoe finds herself forced into treatment for an eating disorder that she may not actually have.

Razorbill/Penguin, $17.99, hardcover, 280p., ages 12-up, 9781595144669


by Elizabeth Scott

Elizabeth Scott (Living Dead Girl) probes the psychological complexities that accompany surviving a traumatic experience by taking readers into the mind of Megan Hathaway.

"Miracle"--that's what everyone calls her. Just for surviving a plane crash she can't even remember--a crash in which everyone else died. Megan, high school senior and soccer star, walks away from the crash site with only a few scratches and bruises. But inside, she is far from unscathed. She is plagued by flashbacks, hallucinations, a fear of trees, insomnia, amnesia regarding the accident and the oppressive worry that she'll let everyone down by not being the perfect "miracle" girl. Megan constantly turns over in her mind the event and how she should feel. She grows increasingly withdrawn until two unlikely people--trauma survivors in their own right--reach out to her, helping Megan begin the difficult climb back to "normal."

Miracle is a quiet, reflective story with many dark corners into which Scott pushes her characters and readers alike. Yet she takes care to arm them with flashlights so that they are sure to find their way home and encourages the use of a buddy system. --Julia Smith, blogger and children's bookseller emerita

Discover: A plane crash survivor who isn't so sure she's the miracle everyone thinks she is.

Simon Pulse, $16.99, hardcover, 224p., ages 14-up, 9781442417069

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