Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, September 28, 2012

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

Seattle Arts & Lectures at 25

Earlier this week I attended a reading at Seattle Arts & Lectures for T.C. Boyle, whose latest novel, San Miguel, was just reviewed in Shelf Awareness. Boyle lived up to his reputation as a witty raconteur, and delighted the crowd by reading his short story "The Lie," dedicated to everyone who has a job they don't like very much. During the q&a, he got the usual questions ("How does one become a writer?") plus a few new ones. A reader, commenting on Boyle's extensive vocabulary, said that she enjoyed looking unfamiliar words up on her e-reader as she read. He responded that looking up words while reading, at least for fiction, pulls you out of the narrative and is to be discouraged. Boyle was a popular addition to the pantheon of SAL authors.

Seattle Arts & Lectures is celebrating 25 years of programs with acclaimed writers that "foster diverse ideas, the imagination, and a love of reading and writing." SAL was founded in 1987; in 1994 it brought to Seattle the nationally recognized Writers in the Schools program--an educational initiative that places local professional writers in public school classrooms to develop skills and spark student interest in reading and writing. SAL debuted the Poetry series in 2000, along with an adult continuing-education program on arts and culture. Over the next 12 months, SAL will be celebrating 52 of the more than 300 authors who have appeared at SAL with weekly postings. So far:

• Michael Ondaatje, who appeared in the 1999/2000 Literary Arts Series
• Rita Dove (2009-10 Poetry Series)
• Jan Morris (1993) and Pico Iyer (2008 and 2011)
• Czeslaw Milosz, who appeared in the Literary Arts Series' sixth season, on December 1, 1993
• Wendell Berry (the 23rd season) on the occasion of his August 5 birthday
• Nora Ephron, who appeared in November 2010, and Nathan Englander (1999/2000) with a remembrance of Ephron
• Playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner
• Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe (1997/1980)

Check the Seattle Arts & Lectures website for further installments. --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Ursula K. Le Guin: Northwestern Poet

Ursula K. Le Guin has published more than 21 novels, 11 volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, 12 books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received numerous awards: the Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. This fall brings her seventh volume of poetry: Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), reviewed below.

How would you describe your poetry for readers who haven't had a chance to read it?

Well, given my druthers, I wouldn't. I'd just say "Take a look at it, skip around some in the book, see if you like something." That's usually the best thing to do with a book of poetry.

Finding My Elegy is half old poems (starting way back when I first began publishing poems, long before I got any fiction published), and half new work from the last few years. It offers quite a range of time and topic and mood.

You once said that poetry "speaks the language of the night." Are you referring to a kind of poetic dream-language?

Didn't I say that fantasy speaks the language of the night? Meaning, roughly, that fantasy draws on some of the same deep parts of the mind as dreams do.

Poetry speaks a thousand languages and is always finding new ones.

Quoting Boris Pasternak, you said that poetry makes itself from the relationship between the sounds and the meanings of words. As you write a poem do you write "aloud," trying to match sound and meaning?

Absolutely. Poetry makes sound into meaning and meaning into sound--in a very intense, and often a highly patterned way.

But that's just as true of prose in a larger, looser way. If the sound of the sentences--their gait and rhythm and variety--doesn't match their meaning, the story will be dull and hard to read.

How has living in the Pacific Northwest influenced your poetry?

Well, Northern California and Oregon, between them, are pretty much the landscape of my life. There's a good deal of weather, rocks, trees, deserts, forests and specific western landscapes in my poetry.

Why are all the new poems in the book collected in five sections under the heading "Life Sciences"?

It was a useful way to arrange a lot of disparate material, and I thought it was entertaining. Maybe it also points, not very seriously, to the element in my mental make-up that has given me a lifelong love for the kind of knowledge offered by certain sciences, such as geology, and the particular quality of a scientific mind, such as Darwin's.

None of your translations are reprinted in the collection. Do you enjoying translating poetry; how does it differ from writing your own poems?

I omitted translations because, in order to keep the book a decent size, I had to omit a whole lot of stuff. (Including all the poems from Out Here and other books.)

I love translating--poetry or prose--if I love the text I'm translating. It's like having a terrifically intimate conversation with the writer.

Who are some of your favorite poets?

Keats, Shelley, Housman, Yeats, Hardy, Frost, Bronte, Szymborska, Anonymous, etc., etc....

For the many fans of your fiction, young and old, are there any more novels forthcoming?

"Never say never." But you know, sometimes I wonder if I need to, or do I just need to point out to people that I already wrote Lavinia.... And have they read the "Annals of the Western Shore"? And did they know that the so-called Earthsea trilogy has six books in it? So, I'm really happy that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Simon & Schuster got together to reissue all the books of Earthsea in one uniform edition, this fall. At last! --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

author photo: Marion Wood Kolisch

Book Candy

TV Hits as YAs; Title Translations; Cubby Book Shelving

"Ever imagine hits like Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad and Fringe getting the young adult/children's book treatment?" asked Entertainment Weekly before answering its own question with a selection of covers for "TV faves as kid fiction."


Pop quiz: Mental Floss challenged our foreign language skills with its "Book Title Translations" test, noting "some books receive less straightforward title translations for their international debuts."


You can sit, read and shelve your books all in one place with Once Upon a Time wooden book box shelving by Fabio Vinella. Design Milk noted "the cubby-like slots were designed to resemble books themselves."


What discriminating readers are having for dinner is less important than what they are having their dinner on when book-themed tableware is involved.


Books & Cocktails; Book Crib Sheet; Dropout Authors

Let's toast another fine read. Flavorwire paired "10 great novels and the cocktails you should pair them with."


Faking lit. The Huffington Post offered a helpful list of "book summaries: 7 things to say about books you've never read."


We don't need no education. Flavorwire showcased "10 famous authors who dropped out of school."


Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds, suggested "five books on war and conflict you should read" for the Huffington Post.

The Triumph of Serendipity

Douglas Foster wrote After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa (Liveright), reviewed here.

In describing work just completed, most of us do what amounts to reverse engineering: we find a way to present the logical trajectory that explains the resulting book, as if real life, or the work of a writer, ever unfolds quite so neatly. The role of serendipity and wonder gets short shrift, and so does an appreciation of the actual, messy process of discovery. As I prepare for trips next month around the country to talk about After Mandela, an account of the challenges young South Africans face 18 years after Nelson Mandela's election, I'm striving to remember how it actually happened.

When I set off for South Africa in 2004, there was no hint that I would devote much of the next eight years to a project on the post-apartheid story. Instead, I intended to drop off the 10 students I was accompanying from the university where I teach at the newsrooms where they would be working as journalists. I thought I would head to Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo once they had settled in as reporters in South African newsrooms.

Whenever I tried to slip away, though, something extraordinary happened--inside the newsroom, on the street, on the floor of Parliament. During editorial meetings at the newspapers and broadcast outlets, it began to dawn on me that there was no place on the globe where democracy had arrived, more or less, on the same day as rapid globalization and the HIV epidemic. Nowhere were the limits of journalism--my own profession--so apparent in describing an evolving country to itself. This was a puzzle worth trying to unravel.

Sticking around meant facing up to the fact that much of what I thought I knew was laughably wrong. It was a necessary exercise in humbling myself, perhaps the first important first step in taking on work that navigates across lines of nation, class, race, ethnicity, language and culture. As teachers of writing, we often rather blithely recommend to our students that they thoroughly immerse in someone else's world in order to chronicle things "from the inside out." In this case, before I had really noticed it or had a chance to protect myself, the voices of young South Africans had worked their way, quickly and deeply, under my skin. The only remedy, it seemed to me, was to listen to those voices closely and then to amplify and juxtapose them in unexpected way. In this case, serendipity triumphed.

author photo: Tommy Giglio

Book Review


My Brilliant Friend

by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein

One of Italy's most acclaimed authors, Elena Ferrante is not well-known in the U.S. My Brilliant Friend, the first in a trilogy, may change that. The setting is the outskirts of Naples in the 1950s, although the story begins in the present day, when 66-year-old Lenù receives a phone call from the son of her lifelong friend, Lila. Lenù casts her memory back half a century; their friendship begins when they confront Don Achille about stealing their dolls.

Their neighborhood, isolated from the rest of the world, has become ingrown, hostile, jealous and vengeful. Both girls are excellent students but Lila is prevented from attending school. Instead, she helps her father in his shoe shop and her mother at home. Lenù is fostered by one of her teachers and continues to attend school; she even travels to Ischia to visit the teacher's cousin, where she discovers a different world--one that provides her first sexual awakening.

Life for both girls does not go exactly as planned. Lenù, who has put all her eggs in the intellectual basket, discovers that no appropriate suitor wants her. Lila chooses a husband considered wealthy by neighborhood standards, thereby ensuring financial support for her father and brother's entrepreneurial desires. She preens and struts, now well-dressed and a homeowner--so why does she disappear?

Ferrante, a fierce writer and herself a Neapolitan, is well versed in region's class divides and unchecked passions. Even in Naples, however, things are changing, as the sequels to My Brilliant Friend are sure to reveal. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: A story of coming-of-age and complicated friendship set in mid-20th-century Naples.

Europa, $17, paperback, 9781609450786

Dancing Dogs: Stories

by Jon Katz

Jon Katz is best known for charming readers with autobiographical observations of the assorted animals who live with him at Bedlam Farm in upstate New York, particularly his dogs. In Dancing Dogs, his first collection of short stories, Katz captures the multifaceted spirit of dogs and the ease with which we humans come to love them.

In "Away to Me," a dog grows depressed when the farmer gives her herding job to a slick new border collie, only to have her life changed by a surprising revelation. At "The Surrender Bay," an animal control worker comforts surrendered animals and their distraught owners during the first throes of the Great Recession. A woman with an out-of-control border collie wants desperately to train her dog but finds she must first retrain herself in "Instinct Test," while the protagonist of "The Dog Who Kept Men Away" teaches her single-and-looking owner that sometimes "must love dogs" can become "dog must love you." These are just a few of the treasures in Katz's sometimes imaginative, sometimes true to life inventory of stories.

Although dogs and their owners predominate the collection, a loyal barn cat with a surprising best friend also makes her way into a starring role, and Katz pulls a fast one more than once on readers who make assumptions about a character's species. Katz's unornamented style makes his short fiction accessible to a younger audience, although occasional thematic elements are more appropriate to an adult audience. These moving tales will make readers smile, chuckle and occasionally wipe away a stray tear. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger, Infinite Reads

Discover: Jon Katz's first story collection is sure to win dog-lovers' hearts with its warm, insightful glimpses of life at both ends of the leash.

Ballantine, $24, hardcover, 9780345502681

Something Red

by Douglas Nicholas

In his first novel, Something Red, Douglas Nicholas channels a fiercer beast than his usual poetic muse, producing a remarkable variation on the perennial werewolf tale. Set in 13th-century England, the novel chronicles the journey of a boy named Hob, his wise and fey mistress Molly, her spirited granddaughter Nemain and the indestructible Jack. As they move through cold and hushed winter forests, they become gradually aware of something terrifying out among the trees, a creature that is not simply trailing them, but herding them. Hoping to elude both the monster and a ferocious blizzard, the small band settles into the castle of a minor northern lord, but it soon becomes obvious that the creature hides amongst them. As their refuge becomes a trap, Molly unleashes a powerful force of her own, revealing to Hob some shattering truths about the nature of good and evil and about his own place in the world.

Nicholas handles characterization, setting and atmosphere deftly and expertly. And then there's the language. Nicholas writes with an authentic historical prose that both anchors the story and conveys the fascinating movement of a language in flux. There are moments that are simple in terms of plot but written with such startling beauty that they imbue the larger story with a kind of perverse joy, making Hob's coming-of-age not simply a matter of fear and necessity, but of strength and love. Something Red is an excellent debut from a gifted author. --Judie Evans, librarian

Discover: An award-winning poet shifts to prose with a subtle and haunting coming-of-age story set in the midst of myth and magic.

Atria, $25, hardcover, 9781451660074

Mystery & Thriller

Murder in the Rue Dumas

by M.L. Longworth

Antoine Verlaque is a powerful magistrate and a cigar connoisseur with a knack for saying just the wrong thing to his girlfriend, the lovely law professor Marine Bonnet. They're enjoying a weekend away when he gets a phone call from Commissioner Bruno Paulik. The head of the local university's theology department, Dr. Georges Moutte, has been found with his head bashed in. Antoine and Marine must head back to Aix-en-Provence in order to catch the killer. Could it be a colleague who wanted Moutte's prestigious post? Could it have been a student angling for the elite Dumas fellowship, which Moutte was about to grant to one lucky applicant? Or could the doyen's murder be related to his extensive collection of rare Gallé vases?

The list of suspects seems endless as Antoine and Bruno uncover an ever-growing array of people who might have wanted to kill Moutte. Meanwhile, Marine has made a few discoveries of her own through her mother's contacts in the theology department. Will they be able to put all the pieces together before someone else dies?

The second in the Verlaque and Bonnet mystery series by M.L. Longworth, Murder in the Rue Dumas is a fun escape to southern France. Antoine, Marine and Bruno are all likable, nuanced characters, even if sometimes their dialogue is a little overcomplicated. But the mystery is intriguing, the characters are well-drawn and the sense of place is irresistible. Murder in the Rue Dumas is meant to be read with a cup of coffee and a croissant in hand. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A dead scholar in Aix-en-Provence will test Verlaque and Bonnet's relationship as well as their crime-solving skills.

Penguin, $14, paperback, 9780143121541

Biography & Memoir

I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen

by Sylvie Simmons

British music journalist Sylvie Simmons (Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes) decodes the peculiar enigma of songwriter/poet/Buddhist monk Leonard Cohen in I'm Your Man, a hefty but spirited biography. Displaying the fruits of comprehensive research, Simmons reports the fascinating details of Cohen's life as well as the way those life events combined with the mechanics of artistry to create a body of work that has inspired fans as diverse as Lou Reed, Philip Glass and Jeff Buckley. This is a revelatory biography that investigates not just an artist's life, but the life of his art.

Simmons traces Cohen's path from a wealthy Jewish enclave in Montreal through his early successes as a bohemian poet in Canada, his time on an idyllic Greek island, his residence in Manhattan's famous Chelsea Hotel and all the concert halls, spiritual retreats, park benches and Spartan domiciles where his oft-tormented life has played out. She balances a deserved reverence for the power of Cohen's words, music--and that incredible voice--with a gimlet eye to the rather frail, fallible human who created them. It's been said you either "get" Leonard Cohen or you don't. After reading I'm Your Man, both those who hear the voice of an ironic god in Cohen's sonorous drawl and those who consider it "music to slit your wrists to" will understand where the music and poetry come from. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: A definitive, revelatory portrait of the iconic Canadian songwriter and poet.

Ecco, $27.99, hardcover, 9780061994982

The Good Pope: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church--the Story of John XXIII and Vatican II

by Greg Tobin

There was nothing glamorous about Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, yet as Pope John XXIII he became a "spiritual celebrity," a popular, charismatic figure in the Roman Catholic Church. Greg Tobin explores Roncalli's life and legacy in The Good Pope, starting by focusing on this pious peasant priest's humble northern Italian roots. A long shot for pope, Roncalli emerged from outside the powers-that-be in Rome and was elected to the office in 1958. During the next four and a half years, until his death, Pope John was admired for his social teachings on peace and tolerance. He convened the Second Vatican Council, which sought to reform the church, committed to preserving core traditions while opening the faith to the secular, modern world. Tobin illustrates how "Il Buono Papa" advocated to update and unify the relationship between the institutional church and non-Catholics/non-Christians and how he effectively imparted a new focus on the vernacular mass, the liturgy and the role of the clergy, hierarchy and laity.

Tobin's well-rounded, comprehensive biography offers an authoritative portrait of an inspiring, courageous man who radiated "an aura of humility, humor and sanctity" even in the face of opposition. Intimate passages from Roncalli's journal reveal how he aimed to stay on course in living out his faith, suffering serious bouts of anxiety while serving as God's messenger. Tobin reinforces how, five decades later, Pope John's legacy continues to influence and embolden the contemporary Catholic Church. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A comprehensive biography of Pope John XXIII, a pious peasant priest who updated the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1960s.

HarperOne, $26.99, hardcover, 9780062089434


The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park

by Sinclair McKay

A major component of the Allied effort in World War II took place far from the front lines, on an isolated country estate in Buckinghamshire called Bletchley Park, where a team of codebreakers and support staff labored to crack Enigma and other codes used by the German military. The information they decrypted saved thousands of lives and helped the Allies win a war that otherwise might have lasted much longer.

Sinclair McKay reveals the inner workings of this elite group of men and women in The Secret Lives of Codebreakers, beginning with their recruitment, when national security necessitated they be told little about the work except that "it was very important, very interesting, and that the pay was lousy." The codebreakers resided in improvised huts on the Bletchley grounds and made do on rations like the rest of the country. Through firsthand interviews with Bletchley Park veterans, McKay also details the pastimes and romances that kept the codebreakers sane as they dealt with the pressure of decoding messages that, while valuable to military commanders, made little sense to them.

McKay describes debutantes gamely forgoing more comfortable circumstances to serve their country and flamboyant characters such as the erratic Angus Wilson, who once threw himself into a pond in a fit of temper (and would become an acclaimed novelist after the war). Ian Fleming, then a naval intelligence officer, also puts in an appearance.

McKay offers a rare and fascinating look at a group of heroes who played an invaluable role in hastening the end of World War II. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger, Infinite Reads

Discover: This reconstruction of life at Bletchley Park details the romances, personality conflicts and daily routines of the British decryption team who cracked the Enigma code.

Plume, $16, paperback, 9780452298712

Current Events & Issues

The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court

by Jeffrey Toobin

In The Oath, journalist and attorney Jeffrey Toobin takes up where his 2007 book, The Nine, leaves off, painting a portrait of an activist Supreme Court, headed since 2005 by Chief Justice John Roberts, whose treatment of judicial precedent has been anything but conservative.

The foundation of Toobin's reportage is his interviews with the justices and more than 40 of their law clerks. The insights he gleans from these conversations, including the light they shed on the personal relationships among the justices (highlighted by the unlikely friendships between Antonin Scalia and his "Democratic" colleagues Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan) and their sharply divergent judicial philosophies, make for lively reading.

But the liberal-leaning Toobin offers much more than an inside-the-robing room tell-all; his research points him to a disturbing conclusion about where the law is headed as long as the Roberts/Scalia/Kennedy/Thomas/Alito bloc remains intact. Toobin points out how, time and again, in the name of trying to divine the original meaning of the Constitution's text, the Court's conservative wing (led by an increasingly partisan Scalia) has overturned interpretations of the document that have been settled for decades.

With four of the nine justices aged 74 or older, the odds are high that the president elected in 2012 will have a chance to fill at least one or two vacancies. After reading Toobin's clear-eyed book, it should be apparent why those choices could be fateful ones. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Discover: Jeffrey Toobin takes a look at the early years of the Roberts Court and finds its activist bent at odds with conservative rhetoric.

Doubleday, $28.95, hardcover, 9780385527200


The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas: How a Cat Brought a Family the Gift of Love

by Julia Romp

"Christmas miracle: cat saves humans from despair" isn't a new theme. In The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas, however, Julia Romp gives a well-known story new life by including it in a larger and more honest account of her life raising an autistic son. Romp was jobless and living in public housing when she had her son, George, who grew up struggling with communication and daily living. One day, when George is nine years old, a starving, mangy stray cat turns up in the garden shed. George dubs him "Ben," and the boy's first-ever genuine friendship is born.

As the story unfolds, Ben opens up George's world. By caring for Ben with his mother's help, George learns to practice compassion; by telling inventive stories about Ben's exploits, George and Julia talk to one another. So when Ben goes missing one summer day, he's more than just a cat on a ramble--he's the missing foundation of a functional family. Without him, George regresses, and Julia despairs--until Christmas morning, when a phone call from more than 70 miles away reunites a cat and the family he loves.

It's hard not to love Ben after reading Romp's intimate descriptions of the cat, and it's even harder not to care about George and Romp herself. The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas offers a fresh take on a classic tale, one perfect for a holiday read. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: A cat's love unites a young mother and her autistic son--just in time for Christmas.

Plume, $15, paperback, 9780452298781


Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is best-known as the Hugo- and Nebula-winning author of science fiction and fantasy novels like The Left Hand of Darkness, The Lathe of Heaven and the Earthsea series. She has also been writing and publishing poetry--11 books and chapbooks since the 1960s, which she draws upon for the retrospective Finding My Elegy. The wistful, pensive title is taken from one of several new poems that also appear in the collection, in which she tells us "my search" for an elegy "must be a watch,/ patiently sitting, looking out the open door."

The titles of many poems invoke the Pacific Northwest landscape Le Guin has grown to love: the Columbia River, Mount Rainier, the Coast Range Highway, Cannon Beach and more.

There are a number of gems in this collection, including "The Queen of Spain, Grown Old and Mad, Writes to the Daughter She Imagines She Had by Christopher Columbus," "The Elders at the Falls," "For the New House" and the just about perfect short poem, "Pelicans," with its wistful echo of Hopkins:

They're awkward, angular, abstruse,
the great beak on a head so narrow,
a kind of weird Jurassic goose
lurching into the modern era.
But the blue arc of sky lets loose--
look, now!--the brown, unerring arrow!
And see how beautiful, how grave,
the steady wings along the wave.

Le Guin has written, "It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end." The poems in Finding My Elegy help chart her journey. --Tom Lavoie

Discover: Ursula K. Le Guin looks back on her substantial poetic career, while offering a burst of many new poems.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22, hardcover, 9780547858203

Children's & Young Adult

The Raven Boys

by Maggie Stiefvater

In Maggie Stiefvater's (Shiver; The Scorpio Races) spellbinding novel, the first in a planned quartet, she once again carves out new territory. Sixteen-year-old Blue has been raised by Maura, her mother, and her chosen tribe of fellow psychics. They have all made the same prediction: "If Blue was to kiss her true love, he would die."

Blue cannot detect what the psychics can, but her presence makes their gifts stronger. Their hometown of Henrietta, Va., is situated on a ley line (a "supernatural energy path that connect[s] spiritual places"), also known as a "corpse road." Each year on April 25, St. Mark's Eve, Blue records the names of the "future dead" who travel the corpse road as her mother announces them. But this year, Maura's half-sister, Neeve, goes in Maura's place. For the first time, Blue can see one of the travelers: a "raven boy," a student at the ritzy all-boy Aglionby Academy. He tells Blue his name: "Gansey." When Blue asks Neeve why she can see him, Neeve answers, "Either you're his true love... or you killed him."

Stiefvater explores American striations of class and privilege in a psychologically complex novel. Gansey leads three other raven boys on a quest to find the Raven King, believed to be buried on the ley lines. Stiefvater mines the questions that will determine the adults they'll become. Her exquisite writing captures what it's like to believe in something greater than oneself, and she leaves enough questions to ensure readers' return. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The author of Shiver gives us an original legend about a Welsh king buried in America and the raven boys obsessed with finding him.

Scholastic, $18.99, hardcover, 416p., ages 13-up, 9780545424929

The City's Son: The Skyscraper Throne, Book One

by Tom Pollock

A darker side of London comes to life in debut author Tom Pollock's thrilling urban fantasy, where train-like demons jump their tracks, flames dance right out of their street lamps, and graveyard statues house the mortal bodies of the undead. All will be called upon to fight for control of the city.

Graffiti artist Beth Bradley's latest masterpiece gets her thrown out of school. Betrayed by her best friend and abandoned emotionally by her father, Beth runs away, only to be picked up by a Railwraith and plunged into a world she never knew existed. Filius Viae, aka "Son of the Streets," must somehow keep the increasingly powerful Reach, the Crane King and the face of urban sickness, from killing the City and enslaving its occupants. Beth manages to save Filius's life, and finds that she thrives on the danger. She joins him in his crusade to stop the Crane King from taking over before Filius's mother, the goddess Mater Viae, can return. To complicate matters, Beth's best friend becomes a pawn in Reach's army, and her father also gets caught up in this bizarre war for the heart of London.

Filius shows Beth a world at once gritty and beautiful, full of power and destruction. As Beth herself points out, long before she fully realizes the depth of truth in her statement, "The city's a dangerous place if you don't pay attention." Pollock crafts a highly imaginative tale, the first in a planned trilogy, with a superb cast of human and magical creatures. --Lynn Becker, host of Book Talk, the monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI

Discover: A gritty urban fantasy, where the Son of the Streets battles the Crane King for control of the Skyscraper Throne.

Flux, $16.99, hardcover, 480p., ages 12-up, 9780738734309

Because It Is My Blood: Birthright, Book Two

by Gabrielle Zevin

Gabrielle Zevin revisits 2083 New York and the world of 17-year-old Anya Balanchine in her strong sequel to All These Things I've Done. In Anya's world, chocolate is an illegal substance, and she has the misfortune to be a Russian mafia chocolate princess struggling to find her place in the world.

Anya's challenges continue: to balance guardianship of her siblings, school, her impossible love for the district attorney's son, Win, and a criminal record. Then there's her extended criminal family who may want her dead. Anya is fed up with the challenges posed by her heritage, exclaiming, "I can't honestly understand why anyone bothers with the stuff. If I woke up tomorrow and the world had no chocolate in it, I would be a happier person." Death threats drive Anya to take refuge in Mexico on a cacao plantation, where she learns the truth about this mysterious substance, and here she decides what its influence on her future will be.

Zevin's literary touches will resonate with fans of classic authors. She litters the text with asides to the "Reader" à la Charlotte Bronte, which creates the intimacy of a confessional diary, and each chapter head doubles as a Dickensian epigraph, e.g., "I Have Doubts." Zevin's writing will have broad appeal, and although some graphic violence may be too intense for younger teens (car bombings, shootings and a hand cut off with a machete), many will be fighting to be the first to read this one. --Jessica Bushore, former public librarian and freelance writer

Discover: Anya's further adventures, in which she confronts whether or not to embrace her chocolate inheritance and grow stronger--or be destroyed.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 12-up, 9780374380748

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