Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

We Need to Talk About Money... & Fiction

Contemporary fiction "often seems to have a positive aversion to the depiction of work in general, and financial work in particular," John Lanchester (whose latest novel, Capital, is about, well, money) observed in a Globe and Mail essay. He suggested three possible reasons for this word-spending deficit in literary fiction:

The definition of "literary"
Speed of change

After blaming the current reticence on Henry James, who "had a sense of what was and was not appropriate as the domain of Art," Lanchester noted that thriller authors haven't been nearly as squeamish about handling the topic of filthy lucre in high places, citing the examples of Arthur Hailey (The Moneychangers), Paul Erdman (The Set-Up, etc.) and Robert Harris (The Fear Index).

I've become hooked on Norb Vonnegut's big money novels: Top Producer, The Gods of Greenwich and, most recently, The Trust. Drawing upon his Wall Street background, he crafts tales of wealth management skullduggery that do not require a copy of the Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms to follow, thus successfully handling the "complexity" issue.

"Speed of change," however, will continue to be a primary challenge for authors, as "top producers" and their "products" adapt to market and legal fluctuations. In Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis, a character says that money has "lost its narrative quality the way painting did once upon a time. Money is talking to itself." Vonnegut deftly handles this challenge by engaging directly in the conversation. As he notes on his website, "When the money talks... I listen. And I write."

The connection between fiction and money is deep-rooted. As appalled as I am by each Wall Street scandal, I'm equally fascinated with the primal depths of human greed (see Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce in Charles Dickens's Bleak House for a historical literary precedent). When money talks, I read. Even if it is talking to itself, I still can't resist eavesdropping. --Robert Gray, contributing editor, Shelf Awareness

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Rachel Joyce: Sitting Inside Harold's Head

Rachel Joyce, writer of more than 20 plays for BBC Radio 4, took a moment to speak with us about her debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Joyce lives in Gloucestershire, England, where she is at work on her second novel.

What inspired you to write The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry?

It began as a radio play that I wrote for my father seven years ago when he was dying of cancer. I knew he would never hear my play--and he didn't--but I wanted to do something for him. I wanted to write something with my heart in it that would also make him laugh. I loved making my dad laugh. I also believe that stories, poems, myths and phrases are part of who we are. Sometimes it is hard to know where exactly they have come from. They are simply in the air.

Tell us about the process of changing that radio play into a novel.

A radio play is about 7,500 words and my book is over 85,000--so you have more words at your disposal! And that means you can go to places you can't with a radio play--into the land, the sky, people's heads, and the past, too. Only the bare bones of the story are the same (and the radio budget only ran to three actors, so it was a much slimmer tale.) Even the ending is different. I think stories evolve, though. The longer you sit with them, the bigger they grow. One of the main things I have learnt from radio drama is about story. Every scene has to advance the plot. If it doesn't--no matter how beautiful you think it is--it has to go. I felt the same way about writing the book. The reader has to be gripped by the story from start to finish.

Was it difficult to get into the mindset of an elderly gentleman?

It didn't feel difficult at all to get into Harold's head. In fact Harold's head became a very pleasurable place to sit, and I still miss that. People have asked if Harold is my dad. My answer to that is that Harold is a little bit of my dad, and a little bit of me, and maybe (I hope) a little bit of us all.

How did you research Harold's 600-mile route? 

Harold's route begins and passes through places I know, love or have passed myself. That is the way with this book--it has a lot of what I know or have seen. (This is true, too, of the people Harold meets.) But when I didn't know a place, I researched it very thoroughly. I studied maps, guidebooks, the Internet and photos. As I wrote the book, I had endless notes about Harold's journey. I knew which road he was on every day, as well as how many miles he had walked and where he slept. I knew the reader didn't always need to know these things but I also knew that I did. In the end I cut out the pages of our road map and stuck them in a long chain up two walls of our house. My husband rang one day--lost on the A46--and said, "The road map has jumped from page 5 to 38. Is this anything to do with you?"

Harold's pilgrimage requires great faith. What sustains you through great effort, such as your writing?

I think it is a combination of things, and some of them are very ordinary. There is the fact that you sit with the story every day and you chip away at a bit more of it--even if the writing is not good. Sometimes you have to make mistakes in order to see that they are mistakes.

Tell us about your next project.

I am working on a very different story, about a young boy who has everything ahead, and an older man who has lost it all. The boy believes his mother has done something terrible from which he must save her; the man can't form relationships.

What I can't get away from, I suppose, is my "voice," my way of seeing the world. Having written a whole novel about being outside, about a relationship with the land, I also have to keep shoving my new characters inside houses. That bit I find hard. They seem to want to keep rushing outside. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger, Infinite Reads

Book Candy

Archery Hits the Bull's Eye; Bathing Suits & Book Covers

An Olympic moment for The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen's bow-and-arrow skills have made archery cool, the Guardian reported. "Last year there was a survey of 12-18 year olds who were asked what Olympic sport they would like to try and archery came out top," said Peter Jones of Archery GB.


Laughing Squid highlighted Kate Imbach's Tumblr blog Matchbook, where she has taken the concept of beach reading to a new level with "bathing suits matched with their book cover counterpart."


Thomas Jefferson's revolving bookcase allowed him "to quickly and easily view five books with the spin of the wrist," the Bookshelf noted.


After collecting a few choice recipes, Flavorwire offered tips on "how to eat like your favorite authors."


Greatest Lit Lists; Books Honoring Papa; Best Closing Lines

"Fifteen of the greatest lists in literature" were featured by Flavorwire, which noted that lists "are no rare thing in literature, and have many uses, from adding quirk to showing off knowledge."


Manly tomes. In recommending "10 books to put hair on your chest" to honor Ernest Hemingway's recent birthday, Flavorwire noted the choices "might help you live up to the Hemingway memory by putting a little hair on your chest--totally metaphoric hair, that is (well, probably)."


"The knife came down, missing him by inches, and he took off." Joseph Heller's last sentence in Catch-22 was one of the Observer's "10 best... closing lines of books."


Noting that "cold wet summers do nothing to dampen people's enthusiasm for ice cream," the Guardian offered a little "sundae worship: the best ice-cream recipe books."

That First Tremor

John Verdon is the author of the Dave Gurney thrillers: Think of a Number, Shut Your Eyes Tight and Let the Devil Sleep (just out from Crown).

Ask me what sort of fiction I like, and my answer will cover the same broad ground as the answers of a million other readers with traditional liberal arts educations.

But if you were to ask me what sort of fiction I love, my answer would cover a much narrower segment of literary geography. In fact, the kind story I love has three rather exclusive characteristics: its structure lies at the intersection of mysteries and thrillers. Its protagonist is a detective (or a detective-surrogate). And, most important, its narrative arc begins with a distinct and disturbing tremor.

What do I mean by "tremor"? I mean the initial anomaly--the story's first odd event or strange fact--the splinter of bone in the rose garden.

That first unsettling discovery has always electrified me. It might be as ambiguous as an unexplained footprint in the snow or as bizarre as a severed ear by a path in the woods. Subtle or strident, the note is discordant. It is the moment when I realize that something in the world of the story is amiss. Something is wrong, maybe horribly wrong.

This suggestion of inchoate evil lurking somewhere out of sight, still nameless and shapeless, has always had the power to thrill and unnerve me. Simultaneously, it has the power to engage the curiosity of the detective. His or her role--the role of rational inquiry, of objectivity--is to identify the evil, to bring its boundaries and vulnerabilities into the light, thus defeating it and banishing my fear. Clarity and balance are restored.

At least for the moment. At least until I open the next mystery-thriller and repeat the whole delicious experience. --John Verdon

Book Review


Where We Belong

by Emily Giffin

You never forget where you were when you read your first Emily Giffin novel. She has reenergized the chick lit genre, infusing her stories with a freshness and glamour that has proved irresistible to scores of women. In her sixth novel, Where We Belong, Giffin's writing has matured like a fine wine, and she takes her readers to a much deeper and richer place.

In this poignant tale, mega-successful television producer Miriam has it all until a surprise visitor appears on the doorstep of her lavish Park Avenue apartment--the daughter she secretly gave up 17 years ago. Kirby was adopted by a loving family, but the underachieving teen with a penchant for drumming and hoodies has always felt like a misfit. Giffin traces the (birth) mother and daughter's awkward dance toward (and away) from one another. The details of Miriam giving up baby Kirby are slowly, heartbreakingly revealed through flashbacks as the pair assess what kind of a relationship, if any, they can have in the present.

Giffin works her magic in such a way that you'll call in sick in order to keep devouring the book. The characters, as usual, are so superbly written that they feel like cherished friends. You're invested. And Giffin seems to be making a point about adoption: it's a choice that provides as much anguish as it does joy. As the story artfully reveals itself, you will adore Giffin's latest bittersweet escape into what is, what was, and what could have been. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: The unsinkable Emily Giffin's sixth must-read novel shows her voice maturing like a fine wine, perfect for serving at book clubs.

St. Martin's Press, $27.99, hardcover, 9780312554194

The Light Between Oceans

by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman's debut novel, explores the gray area of human morality against the backdrop of life in an isolated lighthouse. Ready to leave his years on the Western front of the Great War behind him, Tom Sherbourne returns to his native Australia and takes a post as lighthouse keeper at Janus Rock. He surprises himself by falling in love with pretty, spirited Isabel, whom he marries and takes to live in the lighthouse. Eager for children, Isabel is heartbroken when she repeatedly miscarries--until a boat bearing a baby girl and a dead man washes ashore at the island. Torn between duty and his wife's happiness, Tom agrees not to report the boat and to allow Isabel to pass the baby off as their own. After all, Isabel argues, the child is almost certainly an orphan.

When the couple returns to the mainland with "daughter" Lucy in tow, they learn that her real mother is alive. Tom must choose between preserving his family and following his conscience. Isabel is torn between Tom and the child, the two loves of her life. Their choices will forever change the fate of the innocent toddler caught in their well-intentioned lie.

Stedman examines the contrast between the moral compasses of individuals and society. The elegant plot explores how many rights can make a wrong and how our choices define who we are. This account of an honorable man's disastrous brush with deceit is sure to both captivate readers and haunt them. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger, Infinite Reads

Discover: A lighthouse keeper and his wife pass a baby off as their own with disastrous results in this debut Australian novel.

Scribner, $25, hardcover, 9781451681734

The Wild Princess: A Novel of Queen Victoria's Defiant Daughter

by Mary Hart Perry

Princess Louise of England was the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Like her siblings, Louise married well, wedding the Duke of Argyll in 1871. Unlike her siblings, Louise had no children. Was her husband homosexual? Was Louise left sterile by a rumored abortion in her "wild" youth? In The Wild Princess, Mary Hart Perry melds fiction with history to explore one possible, if imagined, answer to these questions.

Perry portrays Louise as married to a man she barely knows, whose sexual preferences leave him utterly unwilling to have children with her. Mourning the loss of the children that will never be, Louise throws herself into her art, charity work and the women's suffrage movement. She assumes she'll learn to live without romance or adventure, but she does not count on two things--the machinations of the Fenian movement for Irish independence and the protection of a dashing U.S. Civil War veteran named Stephen Byrne.

The Wild Princess is a wild ride, artfully told and overflowing with lavish Victorian detail. Perry's Louise is equal parts fearless and vulnerable, admirable but also approachable. Perry walks the line between fact and invention with ease, weaving a fictional tale that nevertheless feels real. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: Romance and adventure in Victorian England, in a historical novel comparable with the works of Philippa Gregory.

Morrow, $14.99, paperback, 9780062123466

How to Get into the Twin Palms

by Karolina Waclawiak

The women outside the Twin Palms, an exclusive Russian nightclub in Anya's Los Angeles neighborhood, go in wearing "silk and pearls and amber, their hair in root vegetable colors," crushing slim cigarettes underneath towering heels. The men have silk shirts and unbuttoned leather jackets and "Eastern bloc homemade haircuts." When Anya walks by, the women curse at her in Russian and the men stare. "I know what they want to ask," Anya says. "Polska? Ruska?... Or maybe just Amerykanska. They can't tell with me."

Anya, the 25-year-old narrator of Karolina Waclawiak's How to Get into the Twin Palms, is not exactly any of those things. Born in Poland but living in the States since childhood, she has spent years mimicking "American" while never quite becoming one. So Anya decides she will pass as Russian instead. She dyes her hair from California blonde to dark maroon and takes up smoking. She gives herself a Russian name. And she pursues Lev, a Russian gangster who comes knocking only in the early morning hours. Meanwhile, her unemployment checks stop coming, and fires are burning in the hills. "LA was trapped and I was trapped within it," Anya narrates. "And neither of us should have been here in the first place."

Displacement and profound loneliness pervade the novel's short, fragmented chapters like smoke from the encroaching fires and Anya's cigarettes. A young Polish immigrant herself, Waclawiak writes of Anya's struggle to belong with wit and sensitive insight. Anya may eventually make it to the Twin Palms, but she won't find herself inside. --Hannah Calkins

Discover: In Karolina Waclawiak's fantastic debut, a lonely young Polish-American woman in Los Angeles tries to reinvent herself as a Russian immigrant.

Two Dollar Radio, $16, paperback, 9780983247180

Mystery & Thriller

The Thing About Thugs

by Tabish Khair

Tabish Khair, an award-winning poet, has woven stories inside of stories in The Thing About Thugs, a crime novel about a series of gruesome murders in Victorian London.

Starting in a small Bihari village, Khair introduces readers to Amir Ali, who, in an effort to exact revenge on his family's murderer, falsely professes to an English officer named William T. Meadows that he is a member of the Thugee cult. Meadows, who is writing a book about criminality, sees Amir as a perfect study specimen and takes him back to London to record his (fictitious) life story. So when members of London's underclass begin showing up dead and headless, Amir's charade turns into a deadly one--he is the prime suspect in the grisly murders.

This is not a mystery in the sense that the reader is trying to solve the crime; we know who is guilty from the onset. Instead, Kahir looks at the mystery of man, his relationship with others and with the world around him, as well as his actions and reactions to the events that affect him. The story's suspense is driven by the unpredictability of man.

London's underclass makes for a resplendent array of multi-faceted characters who stand in sharp contrast to the dark corners and tunnels and alleyways they inhabit. Kahir's poetic language makes this world he has created explode for the reader's senses: sights, sounds and even smells emanate from the pages, wrapping readers in a web of stories. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A good man who only wants justice but learns that "stories, true or false, are difficult to escape from.... In some ways, all of us become what we pretend to be."

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, hardcover, 9780547731605

Heron's Cove

by Carla Neggers

In 2011, readers of Carla Neggers's Saint's Gate met ex-nun Emma Sharpe, now an FBI agent specializing in art crimes. While investigating a murder at her former convent, she met Colin Donovan, a handsome deep-cover agent working on the same case. As Heron's Cove begins, Emma and Colin are back in Maine, ostensibly to get some rest and figure out whether their new romance can survive the pressures of their jobs. But Emma's past (she comes from a family of art detectives) and Colin's instinct for trouble ensure they won't be at peace for long.

As Colin extricates himself from a situation involving Russian thugs and illegal arms dealings, Emma meets Tatiana, a Russian jewelry designer who wants Emma's help in preventing the imminent theft of an exquisite jewelry collection. But Tatiana's visit to Heron's Cove, just before the arrival of a yacht bearing a Russian millionaire with connections to the jewels, along with appearances by Emma's family and the men who are pursuing Colin, is no coincidence.

The plot of Heron's Cove is intriguing, if a bit predictable, but the real fun lies in Emma and Colin's encounters with the novel's supporting characters, from Father Finian Bracken, the whiskey-distilling Irish priest, to Colin's three tough-guy brothers, who aren't quite ready to accept Emma yet. Though Neggers's characters occasionally veer into stereotypes, she knows how to keep things moving and hold readers' attention, making Heron's Cove perfect escapist reading for a long weekend. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Suspense, romance between FBI agents and stolen Russian jewelry, all on the coast of southern Maine.

Harlequin Mira, $24.95, hardcover, 9780778313755

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Sorry Please Thank You: Stories

by Charles Yu

The many fans of Charles Yu's first novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, can now enjoy more of the Yu "speculative experience" in his second collection of stories (after 2006's Third Class Superhero). "Standard Loneliness Package" is the best, envisioning a world where, thanks to an implant chip that allows one's consciousness to be transferred, people can pay an "emotional engineering firm" to offload their pain, emotional and physical, onto another person. Our narrator works at one of these companies; his day is filled with "something like a huge boot," an "infinite foot," stepping on his chest. In "First Person Shooter," a couple who work the graveyard shift at WorldMart encounter a "sort of pretty in a melancholy way" zombie woman who has misplaced a finger and becomes mesmerized by House of the Dead Two, showing in the television department.

Other stories introduce us to a couple encountering "door" (the word) in their living room, a man who wants to buy a room and a lifestyle from a company that sells such things and the suicide note of a person who has just left the room: "You're reading this, so it's too late. For me, I mean."

It's a mixed bag: some inventive stories surprise and amuse, others seem slight and forced. At its best, though, Sorry Please Thank You is a mix of science fiction, absurdist humor and Beckettian monologue, with storytelling techniques that twist narrative into a computer-esque objectivism; think Donald Barthleme's strangest pyrotechnics in a Philip K. Dick or Haruki Murakami world. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: The speculative and sf stories of a promising young writer, the computer century's heir to Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury.

Pantheon, $24.95, hardcover, 9780307907172


Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies

by Ben Macintyre

British intelligence nearly sabotaged the most important battle of the Second World War by misplacing--or possibly murdering--a lap dog named Babs. Lily Sergeyev, a Frenchwoman of Russian descent, agreed to come to London as a double agent as long as she could bring her precious terrier-poodle mix, Babs. But MI5 apparently found safeguarding a dog too frivolous in a time of war, and Babs disappeared suspiciously. Sergeyev, seething, secretly plotted to reveal her duplicity to the Germans.

Meanwhile, a randy Yugoslav with fierce anti-Nazi convictions was so deeply embedded in German intelligence that MI5 should have been thrilled. But his nonstop party lifestyle presented his handlers with staggering financial headaches.

With all the breezy outrageousness of a good spy novel, Ben Macintyre's Double Cross unspools all the now-declassified details of the small, ragtag band of displaced Continentals who, along with their British handlers, somehow managed to piece together a campaign of misinformation that threw the Nazis off the scent of the Normandy invasion, thereby keeping Hitler from preparing a formidable defense. Macintyre (Operation Zigzag) never loses track of the gravity of what was at stake for the Double Cross operation. But, through his astonishing, entertaining chronicle, he also lets readers revel in the absurd exploits of these unlikely heroes whose lies, somehow, tipped the balance of fate for millions. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: A rollicking history of the spy network that helped make D-Day a success.

Crown, $26, hardcover, 9780307888754

Current Events & Issues

Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity

by David Kirby

David Kirby strives for objectivity in Death at SeaWorld, even though, as he reports, he could not convince a single advocate of the "display industry" to comment on the subject of killer whale captivity. The industry perspective is thus represented by public record, including press releases and legal testimony, with far from flattering results. SeaWorld is depicted as a litigious, public relations-savvy powerhouse, able to dictate federal marine mammal regulations and even bury government investigations.

Killer whales are powerful, intelligent, curious and deeply social beings, but in captivity their average life span shrinks dramatically, the whales become neurotic and a combination of boredom and aggression can lead to trainer injuries and deaths as the whales lash out. (The widely reported death of SeaWorld's Dawn Brancheau in 2010 is just one of three killings attributed to Tilikum, one of the park's bull males and an essential part of its breeding program.)

Kirby dedicates much of his comprehensive investigation to those who fight against killer whale captivity, especially Naomi Rose, a scientist with the Humane Society. He effectively combines intimately biographical and broad historical information as he recounts both Dr. Rose's evolution into a marine mammal activist and SeaWorld's emergence as an entertainment park superpower.

Readers who value the natural world and the other intelligent species we share it with will find Death at SeaWorld fascinating, shocking, even infuriating, but ultimately rewarding. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: The majesty of killer whales, the inherent cruelty of their captivity and the passion of those who fight for their freedom.

St. Martin's Press, $26.99, hardcover, 9781250002020

The Invisible Wounds of War: Coming Home from Iraq and Afghanistan

by Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard

In many ways, the plight of returning combat veterans has evolved since the end of the Vietnam War; since 9/11, Americans have been almost wholeheartedly supportive of the men and women who put their lives on the line. But there's a disconnect between that rosy public rhetoric and the reality of how the United States treats veterans once they've come home, and Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard's The Invisible Wounds of War is a searing indictment of this situation.

Guzmán Bouvard reports on the gamut of the returning vet experience, from the huge burdens put on individual families to the grassroots organizations that have risen up in response to institutional failure. Some terrible tragedies are being played out as veterans and their families seek appropriate levels of mental health care, with some cases ending in suicide as soldiers are left with limited help in coping with the guilt and grief they feel. Guzmán Bouvard's account of female combat survivors who were raped by fellow soldiers while serving abroad is especially noteworthy; the indifference of the military bureaucracy and the psychological double wallop encompassed by survival and then rape by their supposed "brothers in arms" is almost beyond imagining.

The Invisible Wounds of War is a sobering document, but it also amply displays the bravery of returning vets and their. While the problems they face are daunting, there is a thread of hope--concrete, prescriptive hope--that points to a better future if those most able to help step up and do so. --Donald Powell, freelance writer

Discover: A harrowing yet hopeful account of American veterans' tough road home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Prometheus Books, $18, paperback, 9781616145538

Children's & Young Adult

The Happy Little Yellow Box: A Pop-Up Book of Opposites

by David A. Carter

David A. Carter (One Red Dot) once again uses his outstanding skills as a writer, artist and paper engineer to teach opposites to the very young.

Carter introduces the star of this show tied with a neat ribbon: "Outside and inside/ the/ Happy Little Yellow Box." Tucked "inside" (as flaps to turn) are three nested boxes (red, blue and white), plus a little critter tucked into the smallest one. The text on each double-page spread begins with the pair of opposites, and ends with "Happy Little Yellow Box" (or "Boxes"). The hero stars as a helicopter for "High and low/ with the/ Happy Little Yellow Box." It lifts off as the child opens the page, and lands as the child moves onto the next page.

The author-artist makes abstract concepts such as "near and far" understandable, too. Children meet the yellow fellow in the window of a house that's up close, and the pull of a tab moves the Box farther down the road, to a seemingly smaller window. A mare and her colt move "in and out" of a yellow box on the back of a truck; youngsters "open and close" a golden door to a fire station. Carter's use of repetition reinforces the pairings in different contexts. His final "Large and small/ Happy Little Yellow Boxes" brings the book full circle, when a 3-D smiling yellow cube houses a smaller version inside. The genius of the book is how Carter pares down the opposites to their essentials. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Opposites beautifully illustrated as sculptures along with pull-tabs so deceptively simple that children will want to engineer their own.

Little Simon/S&S, $12.99, hardcover, 16p., ages 3-up, 9781416940968

On the Day I Died

by Candace Fleming

"The best ghost stories... should always include a kernel of truth," says Candace Fleming in her endnotes to On the Day I Died. That basis in truth makes these 10 tales as spine-tingling as any a child will hear around the campfire this summer.

The ghosts' eras, from the 1850s to the present, and the variety of voices and moods means there's something here for everyone. The full-cast recording fully exploits the possibilities--great for a family car trip. Fleming ties together the ghosts' tales through high school junior Mike Kowalski, who stops to pick up a soaking-wet girl by Hawthorn Lake on a cold October night. Readers may guess before Mike does that young Carol Anne is a ghost, but that does not make her story any less harrowing. Mike winds up at White Cemetery (an actual cemetery outside Chicago), where Carol Anne is buried in "a special plot for young folks."

The ghosts take turns explaining to Mike how they got there and, in between, they comment as a group. Gina cries wolf one time too many, and is undone by a boy who's taken lying to a high art form. There's also a Faustian bargain, a riff on the classic Monkey's Paw lore, two tales tied to Al Capone and the memorable and aptly named "Edgar." MacLeod Andrews, who reads "Edgar," makes boy's Edgar Allan Poe–like "ponderings" seem entirely rational, except that he believes his wallpaper has come alive. On the Day I Died is perfect for graduates of Goosebumps and Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories. [Also available in hardcover from Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $16.99, 9780375867811.] --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Listen to 10 spine-tingling ghost stories told in a real cemetery outside Chicago by teens who died too young.

Listening Library, $30, unabridged, 5 CDs, ages 11-up, 9780307991010

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