Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

The V Word

We at Shelf Awareness like to be on the cutting edge; sometimes we're downright edgy. But we sometimes come up against a roadblock: e-mail spam filters. We've been using variations with ***, which is silly because really, who doesn't know what a** means? A few months ago, spam filters rejected an issue with the phrase "mommy p***" in reference to the popularity of Fifty Shades. Now we have a review that could be a problem. What to do? Bowdlerize it. Herewith, and apologies to our reviewer Nancy Powell. --Marilyn Dahl

Va****: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf (Ecco, $27.99 hardcover, 9780061989162, September 2012)

In many ancient cultures, women reigned as deities whom men would ply with boundless gifts, but female reverence turned into patrilineal-dominated hierarchy, and the va****--and all that was the very definition of femininity--became taboo, turning nature's gift into cardinal sin. Va**** is Naomi Wolf's attempt to turn the puritanical back to the natural and mystical, connecting the va**** to neurobiological functioning and sexual identity. Fear of the "innate female" has led many men to subjugate women throughout history, leading Wolf to conclude that how a culture views the va**** ties intimately to the respect accorded to females.

Wolf's insights arose from a medical issue that robbed her of the creative energy that va***al org***s brought, and she cites emerging scientific evidence about neurochemicals triggered by va***al org***s that contribute to the emotional and physical well-being of women. She describes the transformative aspects of the "Goddess Array," a set of f***play techniques that can mold female identity, foster creativity and expand awareness, and how they have been forsaken in favor of p***ographic desensitization.

Wolf weaves together experience, myth, science, history and semantics to arrive at the true meaning of the va**** and its implications for the female sex. Her words will provoke and anger, but men would do well to heed Wolf's recommendations to crank up the romance and revere women, for a happy woman makes a happier man. --Nancy Powell

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Jeremy Jackson: Layers of the Story

The cover of Jeremy Jackson's memoir, I Will Not Leave You Comfortless (Milkweed Editions, October 2012), depicts a boy running through what looks to be a field of wheat without end, the boy about to leave the frame of the picture. What we can see of him is blurred, maybe by motion, maybe perspective. As covers go, this pretty closely describes the words within--Jackson reflects on that period in a boy's life when everything seems to pick up speed, while at the same time never moving as fast as one would like. It's a thoughtful reflection on one year of Jackson's childhood in small-town Missouri, focusing on both the common vicissitudes of growing up and Jackson's own experience.

Jeremy Jackson has written two novels, three cookbooks and YA novels under the pseudonym Alex Bradley.

You've written a richly evocative look at this period of your life. There's a narrative arc to this book that reveals itself over the course of reading it. Was that a natural structure for the book, or did you have to wrestle with "what happened" versus "what I remember happened?"

I had a wealth of family documents from the period I was writing about. I had our family's calendars--with every softball game and Cub Scout meeting and dentist appointment listed. I had photographs that were scrupulously catalogued by date. I had letters, cancelled checks, my school papers and drawings, notes girls had written to me, my fifth grade class's "newspapers," detailed lists of what presents my parents gave me and my sisters for Christmas, hand-drawn maps of our garden for each year....

So these sources allowed me to reconstruct my family's doings in 1983 and 1984 accurately, and also brought to mind events that I had forgotten.

But I also had family materials that went far beyond the boundaries of my 10- and 11-year-old life. I had family journals. I had tape recordings made by my grandparents of me and my sisters. I had the notepad that my grandmother kept at her bedside for the months she was in the hospital. I had tax returns, medical bills, notes my father had made about conversations, written memories by my grandmother, written memories of my father's boyhood (30,000 words!).

So these kinds of documents gave me a much broader view of the family's story than I had as a boy or would have been able to reconstruct on my own. They inspired me to imagine scenes. For example, my grandfather wrote on my grandmother's bedside notepad that he'd taken her from the nursing home to the hospital to get a treatment; it was the first time she'd ridden in his new car and he wrote something like, "Mildred says this car sure rides nice." It was one of the last times they were alone in a car together. It was in the town where they had come on their first date 50 years before. It was a beautiful spring day. My grandmother would be dead within two months. So I wrote that scene.

Documents also allowed me to see layers of the story. In the chapter "In the Dark," I write about the events of one night from the points of view of me, my sister, my mother and my grandmother. I used my grandmother's journal, letters and my sister's journal, to construct this narrative. I was at a friend's house that night, and I remembered that we stayed up very late, three a.m. or later. And then in my grandmother's journal she writes how that same night she was in so much pain that she couldn't sleep and finally just got out of bed really early. So we probably overlapped--me up late, she up early. That kind of intersection of my story and my grandmother's story makes for magical storytelling, and it's thanks to the documentation that I uncovered it.

On the other hand, I had so many documents, so many niggling facts, that they were nearly overwhelming. For a time, I felt such a strong obligation to the facts at my disposal that I was somewhat paralyzed. The facts didn't leave much room for creativity. But I eventually pushed back and allowed myself to balance the facts with non-facts. The facts, after all, only told a surface-level kind of story, and I needed to go below the surface. That's where the story was.

You capture some American boyhood aspects perfectly, as least compared to my experiences. Did any books inspire how to present these boyhood memories from the vantage point of adulthood?

I started the book quite casually, just exploring my memories, and I was puzzled by what I'd written, but also excited because it was such a meaningful story for me. So I took the first three chapters to Frank Conroy, then the director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He had been an important teacher for me, and he'd written a memoir, Stop-Time, that I fiercely admired, so I figured he might give me some insight into what I'd written. He said he didn't know where it was going, but it was good, and I had to finish it. I took that as a commandment.

Unfortunately, Frank died before the book was done, but by giving me permission to muck around with a genre I hadn't written in before, by believing in me, and by pioneering the use of novelistic techniques in writing memoir, he helped me create this most beautiful and unusual book. 

You've written novels, cookbooks, and now a memoir. What's next?

This is my eighth book and was by far the most difficult to write, partly because it was a new genre for me, partly because it was painful territory for me to explore, and partly because I couldn't just "make stuff up" like you can in fiction. So I'm back to writing fiction at the moment, sporadically working on a comic novel that is either horrible or wonderful, I can't tell which. Maybe it's both. Maybe I should haven chosen an easier genre, because it seems that writing a great comic novel is almost impossible--they're outnumbered by great sad novels about 40 to one.

I'd like to write another cookbook someday, if I get the right idea. And I'd like to return to young adult fiction, too. I'm the kind of writer who doesn't want to write the same book over and over, because that's just boring to me. New challenges seem to bring out the best in me. --Matthew Tiffany, counselor, writer for Condalmo

Book Candy

Children's Book Mashups; Authors' Photos; Pirate Quiz

"If Dr. Seuss wrote Star Wars..." Buzzfeed showcased Jason Peltz's interstellar children's book mashups.


"Fascinating photographs of famous literary characters in real life" were highlighted by Flavorwire, which noted that although "they exist in our minds in many forms--the way we conjured them up at first reading, the way they were illustrated or the way they were portrayed on screen--many of our most famous literary characters are in fact based on real people, and have 'true' faces beyond any adaptation."


Turn that old pallet into a rustic bookshelf. Art & Design's Facebook page showed us how.


"Who runs the galley in Treasure Island?" The Guardian offered a "Can you read like a pirate?" quiz.


Movies Based on Dog Books; Horse Books; Quantum Theory

Banned Books Week is an appropriate time to check out the Huffington Post's list of "9 books you should have read in high school."


Books-to-movies that have gone to the dogs. Word & Film chose "8 best dog-centric adaptations."


Belinda Rapley, author of the Pony Detectives series, chose her "top 10 horse books" for the Guardian.


David Kaiser, author of How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival, chose his "top 10 books about quantum theory" for the Guardian.

The Identity Problem

Character actor Stephen Tobolowsky has appeared in more than 100 movies and more than 200 TV shows. (USA Today recently noted that he was the ninth most frequently seen actor in film today.) Despite a lifetime of devotion to the craft of acting that also includes a Tony nomination for his work on Broadway, you probably wouldn't recognize him if you saw him on the street. He currently performs his stories on "The Tobolowsky Files" at, and has collected many of these tales in The Dangerous Animals Club (just out from Simon & Schuster).

Identity is a big problem for all of us. I was pulled over for a patdown by the TSA on a flight from Little Rock. I asked why I was suspicious. He told me "I looked bulky." That was far more depressing than being detained for terrorism.

Being a character actor most of my adult life, people recognize me all the time, but not as a performer. They think I used to work at Starbucks or taught science. Once I was on location in the Bahamas and a man got on the elevator. He stared at me and laughed that he was "going to call Dave and tell him I was playing hooky." I didn't want that kind of blood on my hands so I asked who he thought I was. He took a second look and said, "You sell insurance at our office in Omaha, right?"

I enjoy writing much more than acting. It's not so public. You can do it at home eating oatmeal. There is far less chance of identity confusion.

The biggest problem with writing is that it is very up and down. Sometimes the writer is "in." Then, you work all day and night. Sometimes the writer vanishes and you are stuck. When I get stuck, I walk. I walk up and down our neighborhood for hours working out story or dialogue in my head.

The other evening, a woman came up to me at a party. She had that dangerous, "I know who you are" look in her eyes that I have come to fear. She said, "You're Stephen Tobolowsky aren't you?" I was relieved and said, "Yes." She continued, "You're the crazy guy who is always walking around Studio City talking to himself." I smiled with a bit of writer's pride and said, "Yep. That's me." At least she didn't think I was bulky.

author photo: Jim Britt

Book Review



by J.R. Moehringer

Famous for answering the question of why he robbed banks by saying, "That's where the money is," Willie Sutton (1901-1980) and his gangs knocked over more than 100 banks. He spent time in many prisons--and escaped from nearly all of them. In Sutton, a captivating and compelling biographical novel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist J.R. Moehringer, author of the bestselling memoir The Tender Bar, has "captured" the life and career of the celebrated bank robber with style, insight and panache.

The story, told in Sutton's voice, which gives the book its tone--gently brusque and sarcastic, witty and laconic--begins Christmas Eve 1969, outside the Attica Correctional facility. Gov. Nelson Rockefeller has commuted the sentence of Sutton, now 68. Before he starts his new life, he agrees to spend Christmas Day with a Newsday reporter and photographer. After taking a flight (his first ever) into Manhattan, he gives them a tour around New York, stopping at places that were important in his life and career, culminating at the spot where, in 1952, the story goes, he killed Arnold Schuster, who had turned him in. (Willie didn't kill him. A Mafia boss had him taken down.) Moehringer's tale unfolds in a back-and-forth manner, as each location or question from the reporters triggers Willie's memory.

Sutton is a terrific book. Don't be put off by the subject matter. Saying Sutton is a novel about bank robbing is like saying The World According to Garp is a novel about wrestling. They are, of course, but they're also about so much more. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A stylish, insightful novel about Willie Sutton, the most famous bank robber in U.S. history.

Hyperion, $27.99, hardcover, 9781401323141

May We Be Forgiven

by A.M. Homes

A horrific murder marks the start of May We Be Forgiven, A.M. Homes's novel of family life in post-9/11 New York suburbia. Yet, despite this jarring beginning and assorted subsequent traumas, including pedophilia and medical emergencies, this novel is strangely upbeat. Narrated by history professor Harold Silver, May We Be Forgiven never seems to take itself too seriously.

Living in a sleepy Westchester suburb and teaching apathetic college students, Harold is plagued with fantasies he can barely admit to himself. Harold's one decisive act in an otherwise aimless existence--to allow his brother George's wife, Jane, to seduce him--leads to gruesome tragedy and the dramatic reconfiguring of his life. George ends up behind bars for murder, Harold's wife divorces him, and Harold finds himself the guardian of George's two preteen children.

A high-flying, psychopathic TV executive, George bullied Harold throughout their childhood and manages to continue terrorizing him even from jail. Confronting the wreckage of his life, Harold comes to realize that just as understanding the history of America--in the form of Richard Nixon, one of its most provocative figures--is critical to understanding the contemporary nation, Harold's own personal history is integral to who he has become. But Harold also dares to hope that history does not have to be destiny, that there is still a chance for him to somehow emerge from George's shadow.

Despite its serious subject matter, the dialogue in May We Be Forgiven consists of snappy comebacks reminiscent of Seinfeld and Woody Allen movies. In the Westchester of A.M. Homes, irony is the pervasive flavor--but ultimately even this is overridden by the importance of family and relationships in a time of anxiety. --Ilana Teitelbaum, book reviewer at the Huffington Post

Discover: A novel of suburban life in post-9/11 New York that combines deep melancholy with crackling, satirical dialogue.

Viking, $27.95, hardcover, 9780670025480

Kind One

by Laird Hunt

Laird Hunt's writing consistently consigns existential dread into the service of narratives that read the way blindfolded roller-coaster rides might feel. Memory, in this metaphor, would be the tracks of the coaster; its fallibility, its power over us, weaves in and out of all of Hunt's novels. Kind One takes the ride into Southern gothic territory--1800s Kentucky, to be precise--and the "gothic" here finds romance and horror occupying the same space.

A teenage girl agrees to marry her mother's second cousin, a man named Linus Lancaster, who charms her with promises of prosperity that fall far short. To call Lancaster "troubled" would be charitable; his transgressions against his wife and against two young slave girls expose the raw tensions that come from combining poverty, racism and emotional suppression. The death of one of these players changes the dynamic, as one would expect, but in ways that tunnel beneath the expectations of the reader. When the story comes out on the other side, the emotions held in check for so long rip a chasm clear through the American South. Unlike many novels concerned with this place and time, Kind One never feels shoehorned into a good ol' boy yokelspeak. Hunt has an ear for dialect, and the story itself reads like Faulkner mixed with Raymond Carver, while remaining recognizably Hunt's own. The reckonings that Hunt's characters face, as they do in so many of his novels, will reverberate in the reader's memory long after Kind One is finished. --Matthew Tiffany, counselor, writer for Condalmo

Discover: A dark tale of the South with a potent mix of slavery and adultery building up to a starkly profound reckoning as destructive as it is redemptive.

Coffee House Press, $14.95, paperback, 9781566893114

Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone

by Stefan Kiesbye

Stefan Kiesbye was born on the German coast of the Baltic Sea, and though he now lives and works in Los Angeles, he has set his second work of fiction, Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone, in rural Germany. It is within the fearful, superstitious and timeless village of Hemmersmoor that several children come of age and return many years later as distant adults after the death of one of their group.

Moving beyond the friends' troubled reunion at the funeral, Kiesbye's novel consists of individual but linked stories told in flashback narration by each of the main characters. Almost immediately, it becomes clear there are wicked and horrifying secrets haunting Hemmersmoor and its inhabitants. With perfectly chilling subtlety, Kiesbye's characters tell of terrible things, both witnessed and experienced: murder, deals with the devil, child abuse and incest, accidents and injuries, infanticide and rape.

The eerily dispassionate prose of Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone keeps the reader engaged with this literary horror novel; the connection among the four adolescents moves the story forward as they each reveal unsettling secrets that affect their families, their friends and their village. Kiesbye's work has evoked comparisons to Stephen King, the Brothers Grimm and Shirley Jackson, but readers will find that this perfectly creepy but utterly compelling novel deserves to stand on its own. --Roni K. Devlin, owner, Literary Life Bookstore

Discover: A subtle, creepy horror novel consisting of linked stories narrated by four characters coming of age amidst unsettling events in a rural German village.

Penguin, $15, paperback, 9780143121466

Becoming Clementine

by Jennifer Niven

Velva Jean Hart has come a long way since Velva Jean Learns to Drive, Jennifer Niven's first novel about her mid-century Appalachian heroine, but it's still a surprise that her commitment to her mama's advice to "live out there" would take her to the front lines of the Second World War as a pilot and, in Becoming Clementine, to a new identity.

After mastering the automobile at 17 and leaving Fair Mountain, N.C., to sing at the Grand Ole Opry, Velva Jean joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots, and as Becoming Clementine opens, she's just become the second woman to fly a B-17 over the Atlantic. Determined to be a "weapon of war," Velva Jean also has a second motive: to find her brother who went missing after D-Day. Fearless in her search for Johnny Clay, she argues her way into a co-pilot's seat of a B-24 mission to drop agents into France. Crash landing in the German-controlled French countryside, the survivors make their way to Paris, sheltered by the Resistance, where she is disguised as "Clementine Roux" and falls in love with the mysterious Emile.

Niven includes plenty of historical details about secret agent action and military operations in the European theater. The throat-clutching close calls and heartbreaking losses of the brave young "weapons of war" propel this novel forward as fast as a B-24. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller

Discover: Velva Jean Hart falls behind enemy lines in the third novel about a feisty Appalachian who lives her life to the fullest.

Plume, $15, paperback, 9780452298101

Panorama City

by Antoine Wilson

Antoine Wilson's delightful Panorama City is a transcript of 10 tapes recorded over one long night in the hospital by Oppen Porter, a 28-year-old, 6'5" "slow absorber" who fears he won't live until morning, laying out for his unborn son an account of the last 40 days of his life.

When his father dies, Oppen buries him as he wished: in the yard, with his two hunting dogs. This provokes concern among the neighbors and the police. Rather than let Oppen live alone, his disciplinarian Aunt Liz summons him to her home in Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley, lining him up a job at a fast-food restaurant and sending him to the Lighthouse Christian Fellowship. But, as early as the bus ride to his new home, Oppen falls under the spell of Paul Renfro, an old philosopher who engages him in various unsuccessful schemes and ultimately moves into the crawl space above Aunt Liz's ceiling--without her knowing.

Wilson assembles a hugely likable cast in this oddball coming-of-age tale, starting with Oppen: a special but sheltered kid who's lived most of his life as the town joke. With very dry wit, a cockeyed tolerance for human foibles and a goofy idealism, Oppen painstakingly records his journey, helped along the way by bus drivers, a pretty police officer, a collector of abandoned shopping carts and Carmen, the Mexican prostitute who's carrying his child. Long before the last tape begins, readers will have grown to love Wilson's earnest, well-meaning protagonist, who just wants to learn what it means to be a man of the world. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle

Discover: Wilson's warmhearted, delightful first novel is an oddball coming-of-age tale with a truly special hero.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, hardcover, 9780547875125

Food & Wine

Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker: 200 Ultra-Convenient, Super-Tasty, Completely Animal-Free One-Dish Dinners

by Robin Robertson

To the uninitiated, the word "vegan" often brings to mind time-consuming recipes with unfamiliar ingredients. Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker, however, is full of healthy, recipes that can be made using the time-saving kitchen standby for all meals from breakfast to dessert.

Slow cooking was first made popular by busy working parents who could throw a handful of ingredients in the pot in the morning and return after work to a warm dinner. Robertson--the author of 19 vegan and vegetarian cookbooks--recommends several other reasons to use the slow cooker, from saving energy and keeping the kitchen cool in the summer to creating complex combinations of flavor by cooking with low heat for a long period of time. (It's also easier to make large quantities of food that can be spread out over many meals.)

"There is something almost primal about slow cooking that warms the soul," Robertson proclaims in the opening chapter. From there, she provides helpful tips for chefs new to slow-cooking, such as which size and style to buy and how to compensate for cooking time variables. Beyond the expected favorites--chilis, stews and soups--Robertson includes lovely surprises like applesauce-walnut cake, three-way pumpkin bread pudding and piña colada cake. One section focuses entirely on creating condiments like butternut butter, stone fruit jam and barbecue sauce "from the crock."

Any foodie looking to save time (and calories) would love Robertson's venture into vegan slow cooking. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics 

Discover: A chef and food columnist's accessible celebration of the world of vegan-friendly slow-cooking.

Harvard Common Press, $16.95, paperback, 9781558327900

Edible DIY: Simple, Giftable Recipes to Savor and Share

by Lucy Baker

Lucy Baker wants us to have fun with kitchen crafts, and promises (1) her recipes can be made in an afternoon and (2) they don't require "fancy kitchen equipment" or rare ingredients. But those lucky recipients of yummy treats from Edible DIY will never guess how easy they were to create.

The user-friendly appeal starts with a calendar of occasions and suggested recipes for each. (Even Rosh Hashanah gets a list, with four apple and honey recipes.) Most can be made year 'round, but, as Baker notes, "just because you can make Chocolate Barbecue Sauce in February doesn't mean you should." The culinary categories include Crunchy, Boozy, Sweet, Spicy and Preserves, with snappy variations on some familiar themes: nut brittle becomes "Spicy Pumpkin Seed and Pecan Brittle," while bacon gives a boost to the classic caramel turtle.

Baker doesn't skimp on quality ingredients, but most of these goodies are economical. She includes mixing directions for a few drinks that deserve their own party, like Cucumber-Jalapeno Vodka and Crema di Limoncello, but stresses that "bottom-shelf" booze works just fine.

Full-page color photos and a short background story accompany each recipe, and tips on simple and tasteful packaging are sprinkled throughout. As rewarding as cooking from this delightful book may be, it might be smart to buy one for a friend and wait for the "share" part to come back your way. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller

Discover: A cookbook with easy recipes for unusual and delicious goodies to serve or give.

Running Press, $19, paperback, 9780762444885

Biography & Memoir

All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia, with Refreshments

by Alex Witchel

Is there any contract tighter than a family recipe? Alex Witchel poses this question early in All Gone, a memoir of her mother's dementia and her efforts to stem the sorrow of watching her slip away. Witchel, the former author of the "Feed Me" column for the New York Times food section, turned to her mother's recipes for solace, and as she shares her heartbreak and her mother's suffering, she comforts the reader with a cherished recipe at each chapter's end.

Witchel doesn't romanticize her mother or her childhood, describing her cooking efforts as an obligation, not a joy, with Accent seasoning a favorite ingredient and "Del Monte her farmer's market." She was a teacher for 52 years and earned a doctorate after marriage and children, a smart, strong woman whose regular request to her daughter to "tell me everything" inspired Witchel's journalism career.

Witchel examines her role during her mother's illness like the reporter she is, with plentiful "should haves" and "could haves." She includes medical details, family reactions and a generous collection of history, humor and reminiscences to round out our understanding of the family. But it's the meatloaf, the cheese blintzes, the latkes and the three-day chicken soup that cement the memories and the mother-daughter bond.

After the last chapter, Witchel shares a chicken recipe that means to her family what her mother's meat loaf represents to her, and we know her mother's spirit lives on. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller

Discover: A daughter bears witness to her mother's advancing dementia while taking comfort in cherished family recipes.

Riverhead, $26.95, hardcover, 9781594487910

Nature & Environment

Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth

by Craig Childs

World traveler and NPR commentator Craig Childs explores our shifting, unstable world in Apocalyptic Planet--from the star-shaped sand dunes of the Sonoran desert of Mexico to deep glacial crevasses in Chile to the lava fields of Hawaii. In all, he travels to nine locations, "each an apocalyptic landscape in its own right, an analogue for a likely ending to life even remotely as we know it," introducing us to Earth's major geological upheavals along the way. The world has experienced five major near-extinction periods over the course of 4.5 billion years, he tells us, where "up to 90 percent of life in oceans and 75 percent of life on land have been suddenly eliminated."

The next extinction cycle has already begun, he continues, precipitated by human interaction with the planet on multiple levels. Global warming is one of the biggest hazards, with unprecedented glacial melting initiating a series of chain reactions. As ice weight is removed, the earth shifts, triggering earthquakes and tsunamis. The water from melting ice floods narrow river valleys, destroying homes and crops, and the influx of cold water run-off shifts ocean temperatures and changes the direction of ocean currents, affecting weather conditions worldwide. Scientific, yet personal and passionate, Apocalyptic Planet will excite readers as they ponder the question Child poses: "What would it mean to be the last ones standing on an ultimately sere and ruined planet?" --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: An illuminating look at several possible scenarios for the end of the world as we know it.

Pantheon, $27.95, hardcover, 9780307379092

Children's & Young Adult

The Spindlers

by Lauren Oliver, illus. by Iacopo Bruno

Lauren Oliver (Delirium; Liesl & Po) will again sweep up younger readers with her dark and illuminating tale about a girl's odyssey into an eerie underworld to rescue her brother. The novel pulses with great adventure and plenty of heart and features elusive enemies such as those of Maurice Sendak's Outside Over There.

Liza instinctively knows the evil spindlers (strange spider-like beings) have stolen her sweet brother Patrick's soul overnight and left a changeling in his place. Even though not-Patrick appears to know everything Patrick does, his eyes are empty of sparkle, his table manners have improved, and he spells I H-A-T-E Y-O-U with his cereal. Courageous Liza falls down a hole in her basement wall and into the world Below where she lands on the eccentric rat Mirabella. Mirabella offers to guide Liza to the spindlers' nest when Liza promises, "I'll do anything!" Liza must succeed in the spindler queen's test of wills in order to save not only Patrick's soul, but her own.

The six-legged, soul-stealing spindlers with human hands at the ends of their legs are one of the many strange creations Below, where "impossible" is an ugly human word. Some creatures prove to be formidable obstacles, such as the ravenous snakelike scawgs. Others are beautiful, such as the shadowy nocturni that sip dreams from the River of Knowledge and fly out to deliver them to the souls to whom they're wedded. Readers will root for this immeasurably hopeful, dauntless heroine to return home with a brother whose eyes sparkle. --Adam Silvera, reviewer and former bookseller

Discover: A brave girl who ventures into the world Below to save her brother's soul, from the author of Liesl & Po.

HarperCollins, $16.99, hardcover, 256p., ages 8-12, 9780061978081

If I Lie

by Corrine Jackson

Debut author Corrinne Jackson expertly conveys the vulnerability of a character determined to tell the truth with If I Lie.

Quinn's life changed forever when her boyfriend, Carey, enlisted in the army. It was enough to deal with the emotions surrounding his deployment; it was another thing altogether secretly to break up with him days before he left. And when a picture surfaces on the Internet of Quinn with another boy, everyone in Sweethaven, N.C., labels her a traitor. The book opens as Casey is declared MIA. Shunned by her friends and Carey's family, and even the boy she was caught with, Quinn must decide whether to tell the truth about their breakup (which would reveal even more than anyone else knows) or to protect Carey: "[H]e's not here. And I won't break another promise. So I will pretend we were still together when he deployed, lying to our best friend and everyone who hates me for cheating on him."

Readers will instantly connect with Quinn, a hometown sweetheart condemned by most everyone. Through her authentic thoughts and actions, readers see her shift between her options but stay steadfast to her values. Her involvement in other aspects of her life give Quinn a well-rounded, realistic feel, as she battles with an absent mother and a friendship with a veteran that means more than Quinn realizes. Jackson's ability accurately to convey a wide range of emotions will keep readers invested until the final page. --Shanyn Day, blogger at Chick Loves Lit

Discover: Quinn, a teen who values a promise over her own reputation and protects the town war hero while her own life collapses.

Simon Pulse, $16.99, hardcover, 288p., ages 14-up, 9781442454132

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