Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, May 10, 2013

W. W. Norton & Company: The Iliad by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

From My Shelf

James Patterson: Saving Lives

James Patterson needs no introduction as an author--he's an institution. But many may not know about his efforts to promote reading. We recently asked him about his literacy activities.

"The most touching moments at events have been when people come up to me, often close to tears, saying, You got my son reading, my husband reading, or my wife reading for the first time. I've been putting programs in motion to re-create a nation of people who love to read.

"Scholarships for college-bound kids to use towards books, for one. My website recommends the best kids' books, to make it easy for parents and educators to find them. I have teacher scholarships set up at various universities to ensure we're investing in people to teach our kids how to love books. Many schools don't have the money for books at all--kids who are at a critical age aren't getting hooked on reading when they should be. So I've been donating large quantities of books to public school systems across the country. We have to become a country that loves books again, or we're going to lose a crucial part of our culture."

What can readers and parents do? "Let's make reading cool, let's make it universal. Be louder. Say, we read in our house--don't you? People who aren't going out of their way to enjoy a book will realize, hey, I'm missing out here. People have got to realize how grave this problem is now, or we're in trouble. Putting a book into kids' hands, books those kids will actually like, will turn them from non-readers to readers. That's saving lives. 

"Start the discussion. Pose this question to a friend at your kids' soccer game: What if we woke up tomorrow and there were no printed books--how would that change our lives? Then tell that parent to get their kids a copy of The Book Thief. If they haven't read it yet, they've been missing out." --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

Tommy Nelson: Buster Gets Back on Track (Buster the Race Car) by Dale Earnhardt Jr., illustrated by Ela Smietanka

The Writer's Life

Jonathan Schuppe: From Crime Reporting to an Admirable Story

photo: Kolin Smith

Jonathan Schuppe built his journalism career at the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger, investigating politics, government and crime. He was part of a team of reporters that received a 2005 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Gov. James E. McGreevey's resignation. At the end of 2008, Schuppe took a buy-out from the Star-Ledger and began working on his debut book, A Chance to Win, just published by Holt (see our review below), which grew out of a story he covered for the newspaper about a former drug dealer trying to turn his life around as a Little League coach. His passion for the story is evident in the pages of his book and in his dedication to see it through. These days, in addition to publishing his book, Schuppe is a senior correspondent for NBCUniversal's local news websites and serves on the board of directors of Criminal Justice Journalists.

You wrote many articles during your career. Why did this one, about a former drug dealer and Little League in Newark, turn into your first book?

There were very few stories I wrote as a crime reporter that focused on the admirable aspects of life in Newark. Rodney and the Eagles touched me in a way that none of my prior subjects had. I grew to care deeply for them, and wanted to know how things turned out. The huge public response to the article persuaded me that readers did, too. I began to see that the characters were in many ways representative of Newark's story. And the timing was right: the summer the article was published, the owners of the Star-Ledger needed a bunch of people to take buyouts or the paper would close. I took it as an opportunity to pursue a book deal.

You mention that developing friendships with people you write articles about is frowned upon, yet you and Rodney developed a close relationship. What made this a different situation?

It's fairly simple to write a newspaper article, even one that involves months of reporting, and maintain the classic hard-news reporter's detachment. But the type of book I wanted to write required gaining deep access to Rodney's personal life. That could come only by spending immense amounts of time with him. The more I hung out, the closer we became. I considered taking the traditional route by refusing to insert myself in the daily events of his life. But that felt less honest than the alternative, which was to throw myself into Rodney's journey.

I shared much of my life with him. He got to know my wife and daughter and parents. We spoke a lot about each other's hopes and worries. Several times he talked me down from bouts of extreme anxiety about the book.

There are many adults and children who were involved in the Little League program, in Rodney's life, etc. How did you narrow them down to the four that you focus on in the book?

That was a tough decision, and one I had to make fairly quickly. I agonized and fretted over the many things that could go wrong once I'd committed: people changing their minds, people moving away, people unable to open up, people having unfair expectations of what their involvement would mean for them.

Rodney was an obvious choice; he'd been the center of the story from the start. So was Derek; he had lost a parent during the 2008 season, and I wanted to know how that would affect him. He turned out to be polite and thoughtful, and his grandmother and aunt were willing to let me hang out.

I tried to follow another boy, Mubarrak, who'd also lost a parent during the season, but his family wasn't as open to sharing the experience with me. I started to focus on a third boy, Delonte, but just as I was really getting to know him, he and his mother abruptly moved away.

Fortunately, I also found DeWan. He was so charismatic and poised, and so talented, that I knew fairly early that it would be a mistake not to try to tell his story. I'm indebted to his mother, an English teacher, who understood what I was trying to do, and welcomed me into their home.

I decided on Thaiquan much later. I knew him from my earliest days reporting on the Eagles, but I didn't consider making him a major character until I learned more about his story and recognized how it could enrich the book.

Tell us how you gather information.

It started with a lot of hanging out. I let everyone get to know me and ask me questions. I had the advantage of having already published an article about the Eagles' first season, so they knew on a basic level what I was about.

Eventually I reached a point where I knew there was a certain level of comfort. At one point, after I'd asked her for the umpteenth time for permission to talk to DeWan again, DeWan's mother said something to the effect of, "Stop bugging me, I trust you."

I took notes from the start. I tried to keep a notepad or laptop or digital recorder handy, but sometimes I relied on my memory.

Then there was the secondary reporting: researching the history of the neighborhood, piecing together people's backstories, interviewing teachers, doctors, clergy, friends, relatives. I got kind of obsessive and ended up spending weeks on tangents that never made it into the book.

This went on for a couple years, until I realized that my deadline was approaching and I needed to extract myself and start writing. I waited too long to do this.

It took about a year to complete a first draft. I wrote a lot of drafts, too many to count. I blew a couple deadlines. My editor was very understanding. But she finally told me: enough, hand it in.

What was most challenging in shifting from news articles to a book?

Maintaining focus. I'd never had to work so long on a single subject. When I originally decided to pursue a book deal, I did it on the naïve assumption that I could take a buyout from my newspaper and spend a year finishing my reporting. That was in the fall of 2008, and boy, was I wrong. Today, when someone asks me advice about book writing, I tell them to make sure they are passionate enough about their subject to sustain years of immersive, grinding work.

Was there anything you learned or discovered in this process that surprised you?

I was often shaken by the spurts of brutal violence, some of which directly impacted the people I was writing about, some of which occurred in the background but were still traumatizing. The death of Darnell. The fatal drive-by outside Carmel Towers. The gunfire that injured the young boy riding his bike. The October night of gang-related shootings that had many kids afraid to go outside.

I'm also surprised at the strength of the relationships I developed. I began my reporting while learning how to be a father myself. I believe that I'm a better man, and a better dad, for knowing Rodney, the boys and their families. I did not expect that to happen.

What was the most rewarding experience related to the book?

I took great pleasure in watching Rodney overcome near-debilitating bouts of self-doubt to achieve what may seem to be very modest victories. There were many such moments, but one that comes immediately to mind was in the fall of 2008, when Rodney was introduced at a charity fund-raiser with an ABC World News piece on the Eagles. When the lights went up, the audience gave him a standing ovation. He never expected to do anything worthy of such praise. I can still feel the goosebumps on my arms.

The most disappointing?

Earlier, I mentioned my inability to detach myself emotionally from the people whose lives I was documenting. A consequence of that was having overly optimistic expectations of what Rodney could achieve beyond the Little League field. Rodney spoke openly about his hopes of finding a job, expanding his mentoring work, coaching at a higher level. I underestimated how difficult it was for him to accomplish such things. %o people like me, who have lived less complicated lives, these things seem routine. I learned that they are not.

In the book's prologue you write that this story doesn't have a tidy ending and that for the young boys this is just the beginning. Will you follow up on the lives of these individuals or are their stories told now?

I don't expect to continue writing about them. But I still want to know how things turn out. I still care deeply about all of them, and I hope to remain in their lives. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Parallax Press: Unshakeable: Trauma-Informed Mindfulness and Collective Awakening by Jo-ann Rosen

Book Candy

Gatsby Comparisons, Tattoos and More; 'Different' Books

In honor of Baz Lurrmann's much-ballyhooed adaptation of The Great Gatsby, which opens today, offered a graphic comparison of Gatsby's world with "how the other half lives now." The New York Times explored the real estate angle, noting that "the novel and its author have long been popular among developers as well." And, just for a change of taste, Flavorwire found "15 awesome Great Gatsby tattoos."


Flavorwire showcased "10 essential neo-noir authors."


Gillian Cross, author of After Tomorrow, chose her "top 10 books about being different" for the Guardian, describing them as the books "that have made me think about what it would be like to live in a different place, or a different time, or a different body. Happy exploring!"


Lonely readers take note: The Huffington Post can match you with "10 book characters who will be your BFF from page one."


No objections here, your honor. Mental Floss featured "One for the Books: 8 Literary Lawsuits."


A bench made of books was found in Berlin by deviantArt.

Book Review


A Delicate Truth

by John le Carré

John le Carré (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold; Our Kind of Traitor) is fed up and cranky in A Delicate Truth. His stock in trade has been an investigation of the moral swamp that is diplomacy; his characters and their stories have always been about ambiguity, that place where almost true or almost right isn't good enough--but sometimes it's all a man has.

In 2008, a plot to capture an arms dealer in Gibraltar under the guise of counterterrorism goes wrong in a big way. Everyone involved knows what really happened, but no one is talking. Three years later, one of the soldiers involved ends up dead. It's time to tell the truth, but doing so is very dangerous--nearly everyone involved is still actively engaged, and nobody wants the boat rocked. A man of good conscience tries to make things right. Le Carré makes us believe in this man's integrity, a contrast to the venality of others.

In le Carre's previous novels, sometimes everyone is questionable, or else the bad guys are fairly easy to spot while the good guys jump off the page waving their white hats. Not so in A Delicate Truth: Here, le Carré doles out equal portions of contempt for both the diplomats and the crooks (some of whom are also diplomats). No one is spared his sword in this tale of an operation gone wrong--the two good guys, sadly, spared least of all. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: John le Carré, once again, takes the reader into the labyrinthine ways of the diplomat, with cloaks, daggers and lies all in evidence.

Viking, $28.95, hardcover, 9780670014897

The Whispering Muse

by Sjon, trans. by Victoria Cribb

Former Sugarcubes member Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson uses the pen name Sjón--the Icelandic word for "light"--for his novels and poetry. The original Icelandic title of The Whispering Muse, an oddly thrilling mash-up of Ovid, Apollodorus and Joseph Conrad, is The Splinter from the Argo--and that would also have been a perfect English title for this delightful amalgamation of different time periods and tales-within-tales.

The stuffy but good-natured narrator, Valdimar Haraldsson, has spent decades studying "fish consumption and the superiority of the Nordic race." In 1949, he receives a letter inviting him on the maiden voyage of a merchant ship departing in April from Denmark to Norway, then on to Turkey and Soviet Georgia.

Sjón's voyage is rife with suspicions, clues, curious omissions and suggestive slips leading the reader down many blind alleys. Like everyone else on board, Haraldsson falls under the spell of second mate Caeneus, a muscular titan who claims to have once been a princess, transformed by the god Poseidon and carries a rotten chip of driftwood from the prow of the mythological Argo. Caeneus's story is a version of the legend of Jason and the Argonauts that soon opens up into a Nordic version of the myth of Jason and Medea. Haraldsson interrupts this narrative tangle halfway through with his own edifying lecture on how "seafood is the healthiest diet available to man," but it's the storyteller inside the story who comically personalizes this time-warped retelling of ancient legends--a long-winded seaman whose eyes have a feminine twinkle. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: A fish-obsessed narrator climbs aboard a vessel where a mysterious sailor spins a new version of a classic myth, entertaining readers even as it leads them astray.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22, hardcover, 9780374289072

Someday, Someday, Maybe

by Lauren Graham

The struggles of a young actress trying to make a living are at the center of television star Lauren Graham's charming debut novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe. Franny Banks moved to New York City with a goal of becoming a working actress within three years. If she doesn't meet this deadline, she vows to give up on her acting career to pursue a different line of work and, possibly, a life with her long-distance beau, Clark. It's now January 1995, and Franny has just six months to reach her goal. Unfortunately, most of her acting jobs are sporadic work in local commercials, and she can barely pay her share of the rent with her waitressing income.

When she makes a serendipitous mistake during a performance at her acting coach's showcase, Franny finds herself courted by two agencies for representation. Suddenly, her once bare Filofax is full of auditions, her love life starts to get interesting and Franny begins to believe that she might meet her deadline after all.

Graham has fashioned a lively and engaging read with warmth, reflective wisdom, originality and wit. Franny's authentic and relatable tale is gratifying and, at times, even laugh-out-loud funny. Fans of Ann Brashares and Lauren Weisberger are sure to enjoy both Graham's delightful writing and her protagonist's cheerily feisty outlook. --Sarah Borders, librarian at Houston Public Library

Discover: The smart, dazzling debut novel from Lauren Graham, the star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood.

Ballantine, $26, hardcover, 9780345532749

The Woman Upstairs

by Claire Messud

Claire Messud (The Emperor's Children) is a master at portraying the intersection of one's expectations for oneself and what one has actually achieved. Nora Eldridge, a 37-year-old schoolteacher in Cambridge, Mass., long ago abandoned her ambition to make her living as an artist and has become the titular "woman upstairs." As Messud writes, "You don't make a mess and you don't make mistakes and you don't call people weeping at four in the morning. You don't reveal secrets it would be unseemly for you to have. You turn forty and you laugh about it...."

Then, one day, a beautiful little eight-year-old boy, Reza Shadid, walks into her classroom and her life is forever changed. He and his parents are so exotic, so "other" from Nora's tidy, predictable life that she is transformed by their presence. Reza's father, Skandar, is a dashing Lebanese scholar in Boston on a Harvard fellowship; his mother, Sirena, is a glamorous Italian artist.

After Reza is attacked by a bully who calls him a terrorist, Nora is drawn, inexorably, into the Shadids' complex lives. She falls in love with all of them, as individuals and as a family. Seeing in Sirena all that she might have been, she renews her interest in art, and she and Sirena rent a studio together.

In the end, there is a betrayal of such magnitude that it is hard to imagine. Messud's prose is flawless, her portrayal of each character spot on. Nora's intensity, both in her love for the Shadids and in her rage at the end, are absolutely believable and leave the reader hoping that she will succeed on her own terms. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: The transformation of a woman through friendship, art and betrayal.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 9780307596901

Mystery & Thriller


by Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer--creator of the Artemis Fowl series--shows he can entertain adults as easily as he did younger readers with Screwed, the second installment (following Plugged) in the cynically funny misadventures of Dan McEvoy.

Dan always knew small-time kingpin Irish Mike would come after him to settle an old score, so he took out an insurance policy of sorts--asking a former army buddy to camp out with a sniper rifle trained on Irish Mike's mother. Then she loses her life in an unrelated accident, and Dan finds his chit called in. If he does Mike a dangerous, illegal favor, Mike will consider the score partially settled. Between crooked cops, surprise betrayals and a 20-something mob boss with messy eating habits, however, a simple drop-off becomes a fool's errand, and even his wisecracks and army skills--combined with his therapist's tweets--might not be enough to save Dan and his friends from a messy ending.

Colfer's second crime novel is reminiscent of Carl Hiaasen: It moves at breakneck speed, filled with clever banter and hair's breadth escapes. But while Dan's misadventures make for diverting reading, life on the wrong side of the law is not all hijinks. Dan falls prey to indignity after indignity and carries a heavy load of guilt for the sins of his past. The rock-and-a-hard-place dilemmas Colfer constantly throws at Dan will have readers chuckling while wincing in sympathy. Once again, Colfer pulls out the stops to show readers a rollicking good time. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Latah County Library District and blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Eoin Colfer’s second crime novel for adults returns to the darkly comic misadventures of Dan McEvoy, an Irish ex-soldier chronically unable to catch a break.

Overlook Press, $25.95, hardcover, 9781468301700

Point & Shoot

by Duane Swierczynski

At the end of Duane Swierczynski's Hell & Gone, the second book in the Charlie Hardie trilogy, it seemed as if things couldn't get any wilder. Luckily, Swierczynski's imagination is as fertile as ever in Point & Shoot, as Hardie gets to settle some scores with the previously named Accident People--now called the Cabal--who have brought him nothing but grief.

The story opens with Hardie stuck in a satellite 500 miles above the earth. In exchange for his wife and son's continued safety, the Cabal is making him guard something--they won't tell him what--with orders to shoot anything or anyone who tries to get inside. One day someone does try to break in; from there, things get more outrageous, with the satellite crashing into the Pacific Ocean and Hardie racing against time and across the country to save his family.

Like the previous books, Point & Shoot crosses the boundaries of plausibility, but it doesn't matter because the adventure is so inventive and fun. It keeps spinning in crazy, funny, violent directions, without any brakes or GPS to inform readers where it's going. Swierczynski also switches to second-person voice for some chapters, and it works on two levels--delineating between two characters' POVs, and putting "you" right in the heart of the action. Strap in tight, and get ready for the jump into hyperspace. --Elyse Dinh-McCrilllis, freelance writer/editor, blogging at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: The outrageously fun conclusion to Swierczynski's Charlie Hardie trilogy is worth the unexpected extra year of waiting.

Mulholland Books, $14.99, paperback, 9780316133302

The Stranger

by Camilla Lackberg, trans. by Steven T. Murray

Camilla Läckberg (The Ice Princess, The Stonecutter) is back with another suspenseful case for Detective Patrik Hedstrom in The Stranger. Patrik and his partner, Erica, are trying to plan their wedding, but they're so busy that they've barely arranged anything, even though it's only six weeks away. Then a woman turns up dead, the apparent victim of a drunk-driving incident. But Marit was known as a teetotaler, and Patrik feels uneasy because her death reminds him of something.

Meanwhile, a Big Brother-esque reality show starts filming in and around Fjällbacka, further complicating the lives of the local police. Patrik's team ends up having to break up fights and keep reporters away, while Marit's accident remains unsolved. Things escalate when one of the reality show contestants turns up dead in a rubbish bin.

Patrik must lead his team--one brand-new officer and two older men who aren't good for much--to try to figure out who killed the television star and if, as he suspects, Marit's case is part of a bigger killing spree.

As usual, Läckberg skillfully weaves the personal life of Patrik and Erica into the case, making the reader fully sympathize with the exhausted, stressed-out detective. She brings small-town Swedish attitudes vividly to life, creating nuanced characters that are often surprisingly likable in spite of their irritating personal traits. Fans of Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum or Jo Nesbø will love The Stranger. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: The tension mounts in small-town Sweden as Detective Patrik Hedstrom tracks a serial killer.

Pegasus, $25.95, hardcover, 9781605984254


Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household

by Kate Hubbard

Queen Victoria reigned over the British Empire for 63 years. In Kate Hubbard's Serving Victoria, her servants provide an intimate glimpse of the real, vibrant--perhaps a little bourgeois--queen behind the historic icon, revealing the origins of the modern royal court.

Hubbard's history opens in 1838 with a letter from Lady Sarah Lyttelton to her daughter, talking about her time as lady of the bedchamber for the new Queen Victoria. Over the decades, Victoria is seen through many different eyes, including ladies in waiting, her secretary and her personal physician. Victoria commanded respect among her servants; even when frustrated with her whims and quirks (including keeping most royal apartments at 50 degrees or lower, since she thought "bracing" temperatures were healthy), they still felt love and fondness for her and shared her grief over her beloved husband Albert's death.

Seeing a queen from behind the scenes allows the reader to revisit Victorian history in a new way. We discover Victoria's nervous tics in the face of big decisions, and learn how choices like which governesses to hire, and what "system" should be used for her children's education, ended up affecting the next few generations of royalty.

Serving Victoria is a fascinating compilation of letters and documents that share the story of Victoria's reign in the words of her most trusted servants. Students of English history and newcomers to the world of Victoria alike will be enchanted. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Kate Hubbard's first book to be published in the U.S. presents Queen Victoria's life as seen through the eyes of her most loyal servants.

Harper, $29.99, hardcover, 9780062269911

Nature & Environment

Yellowstone, Land of Wonders: Promenade in North American's National Park

by Jules Leclercq, translated and edited by Janet Chapple and Suzanne Cane

In 1883, a well-traveled French lawyer, writer and judge named Jules Leclercq explored the newly designated Yellowstone National Park on horseback. Three years later, he published a book praising the area's strange and wondrous marvels--but the book is not simply a lovely appreciation of natural scenery. Leclercq also researched the history of the region and its people in order to write a scholarly study, a snapshot of a place in time. And yet there has never been a complete English-language translation of his original text until Janet Chapple and Suzanne Cane's Yellowstone, Land of Wonders.

Leclercq is most fascinated by Yellowstone's geysers: "The mind is so occupied with the extraordinary geological phenomena bursting upon one at every step," he writes, "that one views the scenery only abstractedly." He does, however, turn his pen to Yellowstone Lake and Falls; he considers the latter far superior to Niagara. He also includes a chapter on the park's wildlife, and warns that whole species will be exterminated if hunting continues unchecked.

Leclercq's narrative is imperfect. He sometimes quotes without attribution from contemporary sources and gets geological details wrong. But Chapple and Cane meticulously keep readers informed on such points. Their translation and editing--with copious notes--is thorough in confirming and expanding Leclercq's points, offering commentary not just on Yellowstone but on the author and his era. The result has more than just historical value; as Leclercq concludes (and as is still true today), "All this grandeur inspires grave and religious thoughts." --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: An unprecedented English translation of a travel narrative from the early years of Yellowstone National Park.

University of Nebraska Press, $29.95, hardcover, 9780803244771


A Chance to Win: Boyhood, Baseball and the Struggle for Redemption in the Inner City

by Jonathan Schuppe

A standout on his high school baseball team in Newark, N.J., Rodney Mason aspired to play for the pros, but drug dealing got in the way--and then a fight over a woman ended with Rodney shot and paralyzed.

Despite his best efforts, no miracle returned Rodney's legs to him. The miracle came in a different form, as he took the reins of a local Little League team in an effort to help the young boys of his neighborhood and make a difference in their lives.

A Chance to Win is not exclusively Rodney's story. Jonathan Schuppe, a former Newark Star-Ledger reporter, also probes the lives of two boys from Rodney's inaugural team and the father of two other teammates. Through their perspectives, Schuppe throws a spotlight on a heartwrenching element of American society.

Schuppe says there is no "tidy ending" for A Chance to Win. He quotes Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Salvation isn't reaching the destination of absolute morality, but it's being in the process and on the right road." Rodney's flame of hope reignites in the young boys he coaches, trying to ensure their flames never go out. Rodney is in the process and on the right road. Schuppe's reporting is both uplifting and uncomfortably revealing; perhaps it can strike a match that lights a greater flame of hope. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: The real-life story of a former drug dealer and his love of baseball provides a fresh perspective on the American dream.

Holt, $26, hardcover, 9780805092875

Children's & Young Adult

Doll Bones

by Holly Black, illus. by Eliza Wheeler

Holly Black (the Curse Workers series) breaks new ground with this tale of a haunted doll that acts as a catalyst in a friendship among three 12-year-olds.

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends since they were small. Zach is the first to show outward signs of maturing. He shoots up physically and feels torn between continuing the role-playing games he enjoys with Poppy and Alice, and the ridicule he'd receive from his basketball teammates if they ever found out. Poppy, as ringleader, often sets the story lines. One doll, the Queen ("a bone china doll of a child with straw-gold curls and paper-white skin"), scares them. When Zach's father throws out the toys he used in their game, Zach cuts off ties with Alice and Poppy rather than tell them the truth--that the game is over. Then the Queen starts talking to Poppy, saying she's a girl whose ashes are trapped inside the doll and who longs to be buried in a cemetery a bus ride away. The three embark on a quest to fulfill the ghost girl's wish, and are forever changed.

This is realistic contemporary fiction for middle graders with gothic overtones. It's as psychologically haunting as the ghost girl's physical haunting. Holly Black demonstrates how the children growing up also plays into the fears of the adults in their lives. She begins with an ordinary experience of childhood and gives it a wicked twist. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A contemporary story with gothic overtones starring a haunted doll that acts as a catalyst in a friendship among three 12-year-olds.

McElderry, $16.99, hardcover, 256p., ages 10-14, 9781416963981

The Blackwell Pages: Loki's Wolves

by K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr

Descendants of the Norse gods are alive and well in Blackwell, S.Dak. The children of Thor tend to be large, blond football players who end up with careers in law enforcement and local government. Children of the trickster god Loki are more inclined to get into trouble. In Loki's Wolves, Armstrong and Marr set the stage for a modern-day confrontation between the Champion of Thor and the Midgard Serpent--over nothing less than Ragnarök, the end of the world.

Matt, descendant of Thor, has mostly been a disappointment to his family. He's smaller than his brothers, and just not good at the kinds of things at which Thorsens excel. But somehow Matt gets chosen as Champion, the one called to stand in for Thor in the final battle. Classmates Fen and Laurie, descendants of Loki, enter the fray when they join forces with Matt, and begin searching for children of the other Norse gods: Frey and Freya, Balder and Odin. Along the way, they discover powers they never knew they possessed. Together, they fight against wolves, trolls, serpents and all the evil monsters who want to see civilization end in another ice age.

This first installment of a planned trilogy takes some patience as the authors set up the world and get things going. But once the plot takes off, readers will be thoroughly engaged with the well-drawn characters and nonstop action. Left with a cliffhanger, they will certainly be clamoring for the sequel. --Lynn Becker, host of Book Talk, the monthly online discussion of children's books for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

Discover: A modern-day battle to save the world, fought by kids descended from Norse gods.

Little, Brown, $17, hardcover, 368p., ages 8-12, 9780316204965


by Emma Trevayne

Coda is a dystopian hacker novel sure to hypnotize many readers.

To care for his younger siblings, 18-year-old narrator Anthem is "conduit scum"--he channels his energy to power the city's Grid, located in the Corp's headquarters, and citizens are arrested by encoded, mind-altering music as a result. When Anthem's energy is sucked out, his life shortens by the amount of time spent as a conduit, which, for Anthem, has been five years. This draining ultimately killed his mother and has left his father an invalid. When Anthem's friend plays a track from one of the Corp's consoles and drops dead, Anthem realizes he may meet the same fate unless he allies with an underground band of rebels who play music that's not encoded, to fight back against President Z and the Corp.

Debut author Emma Trevayne renders a nearly unrecognizable dystopian future with her imaginative world of technological advancements and cyber addictions. It's the rebel teenage heroes who ground the story with their familiarity, especially Haven, a "gorgeous hacker chick" who believes in fate. In an inventive twist, Trevayne uses songs as weapons. Some songs are used for murder; others have effects that seem worse, but they're all believable, thanks to music enthusiast Trevayne's execution. She skillfully orchestrates the action scenes, and ramps up the stakes of this rebellion--including a heartbreaking betrayal--until the very end.

A sequel, Chorus, will pick up eight years later, narrated by Anthem's younger sister. --Adam Silvera, Paper Lantern Lit intern and former bookseller

Discover: A dystopian future where music is used as a mind-altering drug--and even a fatal weapon.

Running Press, $9.95, paperback, 320p., ages 13-up, 9780762447282

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