Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dutton: The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet by John Green

From My Shelf

Thoughts of Travel

The days are gray and cold and one's thoughts turn to travel. We asked Michael Clinton, author of The Globetrotter Diaries: Tales, Tips and Tactics for Traveling the 7 Continents (Glitterati Incorporated, $30) for advice.

What if one is a travel beginner? Clinton says that even after he asks novices about their desires, he usually ends up with the same answer: England. "London is a city that is rich in history, museums and culture. It's got great parks and great shopping areas. You can head to the West End for the latest play or head to Buckingham Palace with the hope of getting a glimpse of a royal."

On the other hand, if he had to recommend one place to go in a lifetime, it would be Italy. "Let's start with magnificent cities from Rome to Florence to Venice. I can't think of anyone who hasn't dreamed of walking the streets of any of them, enjoying history, beautiful architecture, and delicious food. Try beaches along the Mediterranean or the Adriatic, the countryside of Tuscany with some of the best wines in the world, Alpine skiing, luxurious shopping. I've been fortunate enough to travel to 122 countries around the world, and I always name Italy as one of my favorite spots that I will return to again and again."

How about his bucket list? It still has a lot of countries on it, from Mongolia to New Guinea to Lebanon. "I'm always plotting and planning as to when and where I'll go next, as I count up my countries and experiences."

Clinton emphasizes: "There is a big world out there to explore. Travel makes you realize that and, once you start, it will be hard to stop. So my best advice? Get a passport. Book a flight and become a fellow Globetrotter. The world is yours to own." Grand advice. We're Googling warm climes right now. --Marilyn Dahl

Sleeping Bear Press: City Beet by Tziporah Cohen, illustrated by Udayana Lugo

The Writer's Life

Deborah Crombie: Teamwork

Deborah Crombie published her first Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid/ Sergeant Gemma James novel, A Share in Death, in 1993; the 15th book in the series, The Sound of Broken Glass (reviewed below), was just released by Morrow. Previous books in the series have earned Edgar Award nominations as well as Agatha and Macavity Awards. Although she travels to England several times a year, Crombie lives in McKinney, Tex., with her husband, Rick Wilson, two German shepherds and three cats.

Your books star Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James. In your latest, The Sound of Broken Glass, Duncan is home on family leave and Gemma's investigating a murder. How do you decide which of them will lead a book's investigation?

I always wanted Duncan and Gemma to work as a team and didn't intend either of them to be "sidekicks." But now that they are no longer professional partners, it's become more difficult--although also more fun--to juggle which of the two has the primary role.

I wrote two books back-to-back that were primarily Gemma's stories [Where Memories Lie and Necessary as Blood] and in doing so found I had been too long separated from Duncan. I loved being more in his point of view in No Mark Upon Her. But the circumstances in The Sound of Broken Glass dictated that Gemma would have a stronger lead in this book.

I think it will be quite obvious at the end of Broken Glass who gets the lead in the next book!

Your books have been set all over England (in Scotland, in Cambridge; and in London locations including Greenwich and Notting Hill). Do you pick the location to fit the crime or does the story develop to fit the locale? Any sneak peeks as to where your next book may be set?

Location or story first? It varies from book to book. In No Mark Upon Her, I wanted to write about competitive rowing, and there was no setting more appropriate than Henley-on-Thames. In Broken Glass, I wanted to write about the Crystal Palace area of London, and I had a story to tell about a particular character, so I meshed the two things together.

As for the next book, I know where it will take place, but it would be a big spoiler to say more. I think I can say that the book is set in London, and in a really rich and wonderful part of the city.

(It also gets harder to move Duncan and Gemma realistically out of their "patches," without doing "busman's holiday" story lines.)

Speaking of England, are people usually surprised to find that you're from Texas? Do you spend a lot of time in England?

People are very often surprised to know that I'm from Texas--until they hear me talk....

But I do spend a lot of time in England. I usually go a couple of times a year for three- to four-week stays. It's a long time to be away from home, but absolutely essential for the research, and for what I think of as my Brit "topping up." 

Fans of your work often recognize minor characters reappearing in different books. For example, Andy, a musician who first appeared briefly in Where Memories Lie, plays a big role in The Sound of Broken Glass. Do you intentionally add minor characters to use later, or do they evolve more organically?

Oh, I love this question. It's much more an organic process. I think Erika Rosenthal was the first to appear as a very minor character--someone Gemma talks to about a case--in A Finer End. But Erika kept appearing in subsequent books, and the more I saw of her, the more I found I wanted to know about her. And so I wrote her story, Where Memories Lie.

Andy, now, was more a case of love at first sight. He walked onto the page in that same book, Where Memories Lie, strictly as a witness to a murder who provides Duncan with a valuable piece of information. And I was instantly smitten with this young man who cared so much about his music. Who was he, really? What was his back story?

While I was writing the next two books, Andy made small appearances, setting the stage for the story I had begun to develop for him in Broken Glass

There are other characters, lurking in the background, that may someday get their own book, but it has to feel right, and to mesh with Duncan and Gemma's continuing story arc.

Animals are important to Gemma and Duncan and to you. Do you foresee any new dogs in their lives or yours?

I think Duncan and Gemma's lives are a bit full up with the two dogs, the cat and the three kids! Well, maybe there is room for another cat.... And they do get to visit Jagger and Ginger, German shepherds belonging to their friends Tam and Michael. (Do you see the rock-and-roll theme here? And a German shepherd theme?)

As for us, we lost our 14-year-old German shepherd, Hallie, in early October. (Our younger shepherd, Neela, is seven.) In November, Dax joined our family. She's a red-and-black German shepherd, now four-and-half months old. I call her "Intergalactic Puppy Dax"--she has her loyal following on Facebook.

Do you have a typical writing schedule? Are your dogs a help or a hindrance?

I've spent 20 years trying to develop a regular writing schedule! On an ideal day, I would write two to three hours in the morning, take a midday break, then write from midafternoon until dinnertime. But the closer I get to the end of the book, the more hours I write, and there are crazy days with 12 or 13 hours spent at the computer. Ouch.

As for the dogs, the puppy has certainly been a hindrance the last few months. (Like babies, everything revolves around the puppy's schedule.) But they grow up so fast, and every day is easier. She is happy to be in the room with me now, sleeping or chewing on a toy, as I write. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Margaret K. McElderry Books: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

Book Candy

Top Animal Stories; House Hunting in the Gilded Age

Sarah Lean, author of A Dog Called Homeless and A Horse for Angel, chose her "top 10 animal stories" for the Guardian.


The "30 best places to be if you love books" were showcased by Buzzfeed.


For wordsmiths, Mental Floss defined "7 words that came about from people getting them wrong."


For NPR's Three Books series, Janet Wallach, author of The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age, recommended a trio of titles "about house hunting in the Gilded Age."


Flavorwire shared the thoughts of "10 famous authors on the importance of keeping a journal."


TrendHunter featured "12 minimalist book stands" that are "both practical and aesthetically pleasing."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

Book Review


If a Stranger Approaches You

by Laura Kasischke

In novels like In a Perfect World and The Life Before Her Eyes, the poet Laura Kasischke explores how scenes of idyllic, quiet suburban life can disintegrate in a blink of the eye because of unforeseen circumstances. If a Stranger Approaches You, Kasischke's first collection of short fiction, works in much the same vein. Kasischke offers vignettes of lives unfinished and secrets that turn friends into foes: the snooping discovery of a child's deep, dark secret ("Mona"); a husband coming to terms with impending divorce and the estrangement of his perceived soul mate ("Melody"); the sweetness and joy in taking one's wheelchair-bound grandmother out for a final hurrah ("Joyride"). In "Somebody's Mistress, Somebody's Wife," a mistress and her lover face a jealous wife's rage, and the final outcome is so bizarre and unfathomable it feels ripped from the headlines of reality TV.

Kasischke's characters are so absorbed in their own thoughts and lives that when the twists to their stories finally come, they have the potency of a slap in the face or a cold stab to the heart. These stories stir up a subtle discomfort that continues to fester, until all one is left with are semblances of the familiar bleeding into dread and the strange. Therein lies this award-winning poet's power--to jolt her readers from the contentment of blissful mediocrity into the here and now. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: A collection of stories with potent plot twists that plunge us into the dread of the here and now.

Sarabande Books, $15.95, paperback, 9781936747498

Spiegel & Grau: Go as a River by Shelley Read


by Melissa Harrison

Clay is not the first novel to warn of the consequences of an increasing disconnect from nature, but Melissa Harrison brings an unusual perspective. Instead of seeing nature's grandeur in canyons and oceans or other magnificent vistas, she focuses on the plants growing up through sidewalks and the animals in city parks. This kind-hearted but troubling character study of urban dwellers struggling to encounter the natural world has its share of squalor, along with violence and tragic misunderstandings, but it also has a hopeful sense that even the most paved-over earth can provide spiritual sustenance for those who seek it.

Harrison's disparate and dislocated characters live along the border of an inner-city park in England. Jozef, a thoughtful Polish immigrant, takes a paternal interest in TC, a neglected child who finds solace exploring the park. TC makes friends with Daisy, a more privileged child whose mother would be aghast to learn she has been running free in the park when she visits her grandmother. And Daisy's grandmother, Sophia, is a widow who notices every thrush and vole as modern life rushes by, obliviously, on the crest of an electronic wave.

Though Jozef, TC, Daisy and Sophia interact with each other and nature with an openhearted warmth, the menace of the surrounding city--dog fights, hunger, technology-tethered humans and the unspoken knowledge that Jozef's concern for TC could easily be misconstrued--is never far off. Even as her characters' relationships approach a possibly tragic fruition, though, Harrison softens the poignancy with an intriguing vision of nature's omnipresence. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: In her debut novel, Melissa Harrison describes the changing seasons in an inner city park--and the people who draw comfort from it--with poetic reverie.

Bloomsbury, $25, hardcover, 9781608199785

Mystery & Thriller

The Sound of Broken Glass

by Deborah Crombie

In The Sound of Broken Glass, the 15th novel in Deborah Crombie's mystery series starring the husband-and-wife team of Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Inspector Gemma James, Kincaid is on family leave, caring for their two boys and helping their foster daughter, Charlotte, adapt to life with them, while James is busy investigating a gruesome murder.

The victim is a respected London barrister, found naked, bound and strangled in a very seedy Crystal Palace hotel. Gemma and her sergeant, Melody Talbot, quickly trace the victim back to his usual pub, where they learn that he was involved in a fight, then left with a mysterious woman. Is she the killer?

The investigation is juxtaposed with flashbacks to 15 years earlier, as a young boy tries to care for his alcoholic mother. A beautiful woman moves in next door and they become unlikely friends--until something terrible happens.

Crombie crafts an elaborate crime with roots extending many years into the past, as well as a fair number of apparently coincidental connections that turn out to be not quite coincidental. Minor characters from earlier books in the James-Kincaid series play a larger role here, and Duncan and Gemma’s own relationship is developing and changing, as they adapt to their different parenting and working roles.

The Sound of Broken Glass is an excellent mystery on its own, but even better as the latest entry in a great series. Fans of Deborah Crombie won't be disappointed, and The Sound of Broken Glass is bound to create new Crombie enthusiasts. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A Scotland Yard detective investigates a gruesome murder while her husband attempts to navigate the world of preschool enrollment.

Morrow, $25.99, hardcover, 9780061990632

The Woman Who Wouldn't Die

by Colin Cotterill

The Woman Who Wouldn't Die is a fascinating mystery in its own right, but the insights into Lao history and culture in the ninth installment of Colin Cotterill's series about Dr. Siri Paiboun, the ostensibly retired coroner, make it even more irresistible, for new readers as well as established fans.

A woman was shot and killed, her body burned on a funeral pyre. Then she woke up in her bed again--now able to speak to the dead. Known as Madame Keui (Madame Used-to-Be), the medium attracts visitors from across Laos, including the wife of a general. This general's brother has been missing since the revolution, and Madame Keui claims to know where his body is.

Dr. Siri is called in to accompany the general and Madame Keui to the location. He brings along his wife, Daeng, who is jealous of the beautiful Madame Keui and Siri's intense interest in her. Siri, who has seen spirits himself, hopes that Madame Keui can help him unlock the secrets of the dead. Daeng suspects that Madame Keui is up to no good--and that the "visions" are a sham. Is she right, or is it jealousy talking?

Cotterill re-creates Laos in the late 1970s, bringing to life characters ranging from suspicious Communist officers to superstitious peasants. Most vivid are Siri and Daeng, a clever elderly couple whose witty banter and passion for each other make them immensely likable. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: An apparent reincarnation puzzles Dr. Siri Paiboun and his wife, Daeng, in the ninth installment of Cotterill's popular mystery series.

Soho Crime, $25.95, hardcover, 9781616952068

Birthdays for the Dead

by Stuart MacBride

Best known for his Logan McRae series, Stuart MacBride has written a deliciously dark standalone thriller in Birthdays for the Dead. Detective Constable Ash Henderson is investigating the deaths of several girls, abducted just before their 13th birthdays. The murderer finds his victims, tortures them to death on their birthdays, then sends a homemade "birthday card" to their parents each subsequent year. The cards contain pictures of his tortures, progressively worse with each passing year.

Henderson has a secret he keeps to himself, though: his own daughter, Rebecca, is one of the Birthday Boy's victims, and he is determined to exact his revenge on the monster. As such, he straddles the line of good and evil, taking on all shades of gray. Neither easily likable nor detestable, Henderson's complexity challenges readers to empathize with him. A loner by nature--living in a squalid housing development, heavily in debt to a loan shark--he's forced to work with Alice McDonald, a young psychologist, as she compiles a profile of the killer. Her presence softens Henderson's rough edges and adds an element of humor to the otherwise sinister tone of the novel.

Birthdays for the Dead is highly suspenseful, chock full of plot twists. As if watching a scary movie, readers will likely find themselves desperate to look away, but the yearning to see what happens will hold them captive to the very end. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: Detective Constable Ash Henderson will do anything to keep his daughter's murder a secret so he can exact his own revenge on the killer.

Harper, $14.99, paperback, 9780007344208

Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Office of Mercy

by Ariel Djanikian

Ariel Djanikian's debut novel, The Office of Mercy, takes place in a dystopian future ruled by high-tech settlements dotting a wilderness of tribal groups. The lucky few born inside these hermetically sealed bastions lead tailored lives reminiscent of Brave New World. Natasha Wiley, resident of settlement America-Five, wants for neither sustenance nor purpose: she works in her settlement's Office of Mercy, tracking Tribes with a sea of sensors as they migrate through the reforested ruins of the old world, then dealing with them through mass murders euphemistically referred to as "sweeps."

The settlement's founding Ethical Code, which places the elimination of suffering above all else, is the core of Djanikian's tale. Human life under the specter of death, even of natural causes and old age, is considered a form of suffering; tribes in the wild face violence and inevitable death, thus the Ethical Code necessitates their mercy killing. This meticulous slaughter of men, women and children requires a mental Wall to suppress empathy, a sort of Nineteen Eighty-Four–style doublethink. Natasha's Wall is sorely tested when her supervisor (and love interest), Jeffrey, conscripts her for a mission to the Outside.

Djanikian's philosophical concepts are intriguing, though at times overbearing. She truly shines by plunging her characters into existential crises as they question and finally confront the foundations on which their lives are built. Fans of sci-fi and speculative fiction will enjoy this adventurous exploration of human nature. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

Discover: A young woman faces existential crisis in a dystopian future divided into wild tribes and technologically advanced settlements.

Viking, $26.95, hardcover, 9780670025862

Graphic Books

Sharaz-De: Tales from the Arabian Nights

by Sergio Toppi, illus. by Sergio Toppi

Before his death in 2012, the great Italian illustrator Sergio Toppi completed Sharaz-De, a ravishing, eye-popping retelling of the tale of Scheherazade and her execution-delaying tales of 1,001 nights. It is a mature artist's masterpiece and the culmination of a career that has inspired imitation worldwide.

Toppi's delicate, intricate black-and-white line work breaks free of comic-book panels with a perpetually changing layout. In the electrifying use of white space and his lavish painterly style--which for two glorious sequences explodes sensuously into color--Toppi has at his command an inexhaustible arsenal of graphic stunts and lush visual moments, a bag of tricks that appears to be bottomless, as one eye-catching surprise follows another.

He retells the ancient, well-known Arabian Nights story as though it had never been told before, with powerful, commanding images and authentically stylized language. But don't look for Aladdin or Ali Baba here. Toppi wisely selects some of the less prominent tales, rippling with deceptions and deadly intrigues, leaving their primal violence and terror intact. The storytelling is intoxicating, with a passionate Italian sympathy for the exotic, and suspense behind every turn of the page.

Toppi's respect for these time-defying tales, as well as the endless diversity of the human face in all ages and races, make this extraordinary book a feast of soul-stirring beauty and an essential experience for any lover of the graphic novel. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: A new Arabian Nights, unsanitized for children, is the final masterpiece from an acclaimed Italian illustrator.

Archaia Entertainment, $29.95, hardcover, 9781936393480

Food & Wine

4 Ingredients One Pot, One Bowl

by Kim McCosker

In a world strapped for time, 4 Ingredients One Pot, One Bowl is the perfect inspiration to get high-quality, home-cooked meals on the family table. The latest installment in Kim McCosker's series of "4 Ingedients" cookbooks is a comprehensive collection of recipes for breakfasts, snacks, brunches/lunches and dinners, showcasing casseroles, quiches, roasts, soups, stews, pizza, pasta, pies and sweet treats.

Delicious-looking photographs accompany simple recipes for dishes like bacon and egg pie, yummy tuna bake and Bolognese sauce that result in surprisingly complex flavors. McCosker's shortcuts are the best part--like using store-bought rotisserie chicken, cream of chicken soup, frozen puff pastry and vegetables in a roasting pan version of chicken pot pie. A French lamb casserole gains depth by simmering lamb chops, onion soup mix, a can of diced tomatoes and carrots in a slow cooker, while culinary minimalism elevates to elegance in Thai squash soup and gnocchi with sage and blue cheese.

Sweets, too, are incredibly straightforward. Scones are prepared with self-rising flour, heavy cream and lemon-lime soda--that's it. The simple, concise instructions for apple crumble, Key lime pie and peach slice cake make these easy to assemble desserts tasty and tempting.

Whether the recipe is savory or sweet, McCosker succeeds in redefining fast, flavorful and fabulous. Optional tips are a bonus that add to the overall appeal and presentation. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: Flavorful home-cooked meals that use four or fewer ingredients and require just one bowl or pot to prepare.

Atria, $15, paperback, 9781451678031

Biography & Memoir

Where the Peacocks Sing: A Palace, a Prince, and the Search for Home

by Alison Singh Gee

By the time Alison Gee established herself as a Hong Kong-based entertainment journalist, she'd traveled more than halfway around the world from her Los Angeles roots and her big, chaotic Chinese-American family, but her glamorous expatriate life seemed to be missing something. She'd have to travel a bit more before she found it in a decaying family estate in northern India.

Where the Peacocks Sing is Alison Singh Gee's memoir of her unexpected romance with fellow journalist Ajay Singh--a relationship that began over e-mail, flourished when he moved from Delhi to Hong Kong to be with her and was challenged almost from the beginning by cultural and socioeconomic differences. As a child, Alison had read about and dreamed of Indian palaces and royalty; she was stunned to learn that Ajay actually was Indian royalty. When he took her to visit his family's beloved, decrepit hundred-room palace at Mokimpur, however, she may have been even more stunned to discover both how much the lives of modern Indian royalty have changed from those books she read as a girl and how slowly some things about Indian life change at all.

While its settings are exotic, Singh Gee's experiences of finding one's place within the family and the world at large are near-universal. Where the Peacocks Sing is a charming memoir with cross-genre appeal to fans of multicultural literature and women's fiction. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Random

Discover: The true story of a woman who finds her prince and discovers that his palace is in need of a lot of upkeep.

St. Martin's Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9780312378783

After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story

by Michael Hainey

Michael Hainey's life was forever changed the morning of April 24, 1970. As he and his older brother came down for breakfast, they found their family gathered in the kitchen--except for their father. "Your dad is dead," their mother tells them.

The title After Visiting Friends refers to the public explanation for 35-year-old Robert Hainey's death in the middle of the night, in a neighborhood miles from his office at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he worked the late shift as assistant copy desk chief. "He died and we never spoke again about him," Hainey writes; any time he tried to ask his mother about what happened, he was rebuffed. When he was 18, researching a school project, he discovered that three different newspapers had three different accounts of how and where his father died. But he sat on his questions until he himself turned 35. "I cracked," he says. "My doctor called it a functioning breakdown." To come out the other side, he needed to find the truth.

Hainey's journalistic zeal in nailing down the story is only part of the story, though. It's also a tale about repairing his relationship with his older brother, trying to get his mother to open up finally and coping with the decline of his 95-year-old grandmother. Then there's the question of what he should do with the knowledge he's worked so hard to uncover.

Hainey's candor, especially about the self-doubt and frustration that accompany his quest, makes it easy for us to root for him--not just in the search for truth but in the emotional transformation that comes with it. --Ron Hogan, founder of

Discover: A son’s search for the truth about his father’s death, through differing accounts and his mother’s silence.

Scribner, $26, hardcover, 9781451676563

Children's & Young Adult

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

by Stephan Pastis

Timmy Failure is an unreliable narrator to stand alongside such antiheroes as Charlie Brown and Greg Heffley.

Timmy and his sidekick, a 1,500-pound polar bear named Total, tackle such mysteries as classmate Gunnar's missing Halloween candy and the death of Max Hodges's hamster. As Timmy overlooks vital clues, readers will find the humor in his miscues. Timmy rides his mother's off-limits Segway (which he calls the "Failuremobile"), and when it goes missing, he suspects the girl he refers to as "the One Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered," Timmy's classmate and successful rival detective.

Stephan Pastis, the creator of Pearls Before Swine, here makes his children's book debut, liberally illustrating the novel with images of a wide-eyed hero and his supporting cast. Along with the humor, he captures touching moments between Timmy and his mother, who's raising her son solo, and between Timmy and Total ("Two against the world," Timmy calls them, alongside a poignant picture of them walking into the sunset). The comical dynamic between Timmy and high-achieving Rollo Tookus, whose anxiety turns him into a bobblehead whenever Timmy brings their group test score to zero, camouflages the fact that Rollo comes through when Timmy really needs him. Eventually Timmy does solve all his mysteries, to his own satisfaction, while also leaving readers with the understanding that he still has some growing up to do.

Readers will be eager to welcome Timmy back in his next adventure, and cheer on the success of Total Failure, Inc. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A boy detective and his polar bear sidekick in a funny, liberally illustrated tale, from the creator of Pearls Before Swine.

Candlewick, $14.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 8-12, 9780763660505

Mind Games

by Kiersten White

Kiersten White, known for her quirky Paranormalcy series, kicks off another strong one with Mind Games.

The book begins with a solemn statement from 17-year-old Fia at the funeral of her parents: "I reach out and take Annie's hand in mine. I squeeze it and squeeze it because she is my responsibility now, and no one else's." This immediately makes clear the bond between Annie and Fia, two sisters with unusual powers. Gaining scholarship to a special school because of these powers, Annie, who is a blind seer, convinces her sister to attend with her. Fia immediately has a bad feeling about the school, but stays in order to protect Annie. White alternates the narrative from the siblings' points of view, and also from past to present, to unfold her gripping story.

White gives both characters a distinct voice, so it's not difficult to discern who's narrating, and imparts enough information in each chapter to keep readers involved and the mystery continuing. The bond between the sisters is strong, and Fia as a narrator is especially intriguing because readers don't know right away what special power she possesses. We quickly learn that someone or something threatens Annie's safety if Fia does not do what they wish--including stealing bank account information, blackmailing a judge and, now, an assignment as an assassin. Readers will find themselves flipping pages faster and faster until the action-packed final scene leaves them eager to find out what's coming in book two. --Shanyn Day, blogger at Chick Loves Lit

Discover: Sisters with unusual powers who attempt to protect each other in a world filled with questionable motives.

Harper Teen, $17.99, hardcover, 256p., ages 13-up, 9780062135315

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