Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, July 5, 2013


Clarkson Potter Publishers: Eat a Peach: A Memoir by David Chang and Gabe Ulla

From My Shelf

Sourcebooks: Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad

Algonquin Books: Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Daughter of Smoke & Bone: The Complete Gift Set by Laini Taylor

More Summer Reading

Last week we wrote about some good summer reads and reviewed 12 books perfect for lazing and reading on sand, in a hammock, on a plane, or at home on a day off. Now we have more.

Summer is a great time to indulge your secret desire for gossip. What could be better than Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations (Simon & Schuster)? Peter Evans recorded his conversations with Gardner, most conducted late at night--she had insomnia and drank, a perfect combination for candidness; so much so that she backed out of the book deal. Now, 23 years after her death, these racy, honest memoirs have been published. Gardener was quite the raconteur.

Less racy but still scandalous is The Woman Before Wallis: Prince Edward, the Parisian Courtesan, and the Perfect Murder by Andrew Rose (Picador). Prince Edward, socializing in Paris during World War I, met tough, avaricious Marguerite Alibert and began a love affair. Several years after it ended, she murdered her husband in London and stood trial. The royal family was afraid of having Edward's behavior during the war and his affair made public, so it suppressed the story. And got Marguerite acquitted.

A bribery scandal sets the stage for a nice, fat novel: Love's Attraction by David A. Cleveland (Winstead Press). Michael Collins, a political operative, is in hiding in Concord, Mass., posing as a Thoreau scholar, when he decides to investigate the suicide of the love of his life, Sandra. Mixing artists, family connections and Venice, Cleveland has crafted a classic summer read.

No scandal, just pure joy: The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore (Knopf). Our reviewer called it "A funny, tenderhearted debut novel about the enduring friendship of three women through life's great challenges." Suffice it to say, a group of my friends has passed this around between them, each one in turn saying "You MUST read this!" --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers


Seal Press: Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo


Book Candy

50 Great Books That Moved Authors; SF Bars and Restaurants

To come up with "50 great books that will change your life," Real Simple magazine just "asked renowned authors from every genre in the bookstore to name the title that moved them most."

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The Mary Sue was just one of many blogs and news outlets (including CBC News) to help spread the word about "photoshopped covers of book titles with a letter missing," opening the Twitterverse floodgates to an infinite number of variations on a theme of #bookswithalettermissing.  
 
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Cheers in space. The "greatest science fiction-themed bars and restaurants on earth" were showcased by i09.

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For fans of the TV show Parks & Recreation, Flavorwire imagined a few "classic children's books starring Parks and Rec characters."

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Dwell magazine offered a "look at reading nooks."

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Colossal showcased the intriguing book paintings by Ekaterina Panikanova, who "creates densely layered paintings across large spreads of old books and other documents, resulting in artwork that blurs the lines between painting, installation and collage."


Travelers' Tales Guides: French Like Moi: A Midwesterner in Paris by Scott Dominic Carpenter


The Writer's Life

Mike Lawson: Washington, D.C.--A Wealth of Targets

photo: Tara Gimmer

Mike Lawson is the author of eight Joe DeMarco novels; the latest, House Odds, was just published by Atlantic Monthly Press. Joe DeMarco is a lawyer who doesn't actually practice law, but works for Speaker of the House John Mahoney. DeMarco does Mahoney's dirty work, getting involved in things the Speaker would rather not be a part of the public record. House Odds is about Mahoney's daughter, Molly, who's under investigation for insider trading and fraud; a mob-connected casino manager with his hand in the till; and three old college buddies who seem involved in some way.

How do you keep things fresh in this series? How do you not run out of ideas in this genre and these characters?

Well, so far, I haven't. When I decided to start writing--maybe this wasn't the best decision--I decided I wanted to write a series. I like John Sanford's books a lot, and I like Robert Crais's books. I like book series, so I decided to do one.

The second decision I made was that I wanted these books to be set in Washington, D.C. I've always told people that for a writer, D.C. is a target-rich environment, because there's always something going on there that's stupid, awful, corrupt and sometimes heroic. I wanted that setting, so I had to come up with a character that I could place there. I didn't want to do another cop or another private detective or a lawyer or something like that. I wanted something with kind of a political link. That's how I came up with Joe DeMarco. So far, I've been able to find story ideas.

Almost all the books except one of them actually came out of some true-life thing I read. House Odds, for example, was somewhat inspired by the Martha Stewart insider trading case. In an earlier draft of the book, I had Molly involved in the pharmaceutical industry. But then I wrote House Blood, which was connected to the pharmaceutical industry. I didn't want to use that again, so I changed the industry she was in to stock trading.

Do you do a lot of research on these areas?  

I tend to research as necessary. One thing you do learn, though, is that you have to get the facts as straight as possible. I mean, it's fiction, but if you get the facts all goofed up, somebody will e-mail you and say, "You dummy, you messed this up." In my first book, I made a gun mistake. The last thing you want to do is make a gun mistake! You hear it from everybody! In fact, just this morning I sent an e-mail to my gun consultant, if you will. I had a couple questions about guns. For one of the books, I actually went over to his house and fired a couple of guns. I'm not a big gun guy.

You have a gun guy. You have a D.C. guy. Do you have a mob guy as well?

I am almost hesitant to mention this. My mother's name was Pecoraro. Her father--my grandfather--came straight off the boat from Sicily, landed at Ellis Island, and he ends up in Pueblo, Colo., where I was raised. Back in those days, around the Depression, the stories I heard between my grandmother and him and my aunts sounded like he might have been sort of a minor collector for the mob. One story was that there was money kept in the house and a policeman would come by to collect his money.  

And the other story, which I've never forgotten, I heard during a ride up to Denver. This was like 30 years ago. My mother and her sister were sitting in the back seat, and they were talking: "Remember the time when so-and-so got married to this girl and he wasn't supposed to marry her and then the guy just disappeared?"

And there's actually a book about the Colorado Italian mafia in Denver and places around there. And my grandfather was a bricklayer in a steel mill--had all these minor connections to the mob.

Was he a mob guy? I don't think so, but that's as close as I ever came to the mob. I always regret that I didn't spend a lot more time talking to my grandfather and my grandmother about it.

How much of Joe DeMarco is you?

Oh, most things of DeMarco are me. His thought processes and his reactions to events and about most things is kind of the way I would react to them.

I intentionally didn't make him an expert on anything. I didn't want him to be a special forces guy where I'd have to know a million different kinds of military weapons. He's a lawyer who doesn't practice law--I don't know anything about the law.

So that does give me an advantage in one respect, in that nobody expects DeMarco to know all this stuff. And so in the books, when I come across something I have to know, it usually involves one of the other characters, and I have to contact experts or look something up or do the research. I think it's easier for the reader to identify with somebody who isn't an expert in all these things.  

What was the most challenging part of writing this particular book?

I think the struggle with DeMarco is finding the motivation for him to do bad things. I find I have to really work on that because he's not really a bad guy. In a lot of ways, he's almost too laid back. He's got a job that for him is just a job. He wants to wait until he can retire and go play golf. So I guess I'm always struggling a bit with what's going to motivate the guy. What's going to cause him to do this bad thing? It may not be super bad, but it's something out of character.  

In House Odds, he's crossing a big line helping Mahoney cover up a case where his daughter is into something illegal. He can justify it, because the people that got her into it were these bad mobster guys and these bad politicians, but still. I do struggle to make it clear enough as to what motivates him.  

What's the easiest part?  

I like to show the bad guy perspectives. Because bad guys, in my mind, aren't Terminator-types that just aimlessly walk around killing people. Most bad guys probably think they're good guys. I enjoy taking it from whatever the character's perspective is, because that allows me to see how he's thinking.  

Some of the mechanics--like dialogue and how you convey thoughts versus dialogue--is easier than it was for me in the first couple of books. I think once I know where the story is going, it's not usually too much of a struggle. You figure out the characters, and you figure out the story, and the characters obviously help you write the story because you're writing from their perspective. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor


Running Press: Stir it up with cocktail and cooking gifts!


Book Review

Fiction

Fin & Lady

by Cathleen Schine


Cathleen Schine (The Three Weissmanns of Westport) is at her writerly best in Fin & Lady, an irresistible story of half-siblings who share a father. When Fin is five, 18-year-old Lady leaves her groom at the altar and runs away to Italy. Her father and his second wife and Fin leave for Italy to search for the runaway bride. Lady and her father are constantly at odds, but he manages to bring her home to rural Connecticut--for a while.

Fin and Lady meet again six years later when Fin's mother dies and Lady is his only kin. She takes him straight from the funeral to Manhattan, where she lavishes him with attention and affection--and he falls instantly in love with this vivid, lovely young woman.

Lady tells Fin that she has to find a husband in a year--and then proceeds to take on three suitors, none of whom she views seriously as potential partners for life. One is Tyler, the man she left at the altar. Another is Jack, a dumb jock slightly younger than Lady, without much to recommend him; the third is Biffi, a Hungarian who befriends Fin. After entertaining these gentlemen serially, Lady disappears one day. It develops that she has gone to Capri--again. Shortly, she sends for Fin, and he finds her madly in love with an Italian photographer, and expecting his child.

What happens next is joyous, sad, poignant and a sheer, unalloyed delight to read. Fin and Lady are fully realized characters--people we would like to meet, talk to and be friends with. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

Discover: A nearly adolescent boy and his adult half-sister make their way through Manhattan and Capri, but who is taking care of whom is frequently in flux in Schine's captivating novel.

Sarah Crichton/FSG, $26, hardcover, 9780374154905

Incorgnito Publishing Press: All the Good Little Girls Keep Quiet by K Kibbee


Five Star Billionaire

by Tash Aw


Tash Aw's Five-Star Billionaire takes readers inside the hopes, dreams and failures of five lost souls struggling to rise to the top amid the glitter of modern Shanghai.

Phoebe arrives to find her promised employer already out of business. Armed with self-help books and an indomitable spirit, she works to reinvent herself into someone attractive and sophisticated enough to compete with the thousands of other girls trying to land a career and a husband. Yinghui already has a fabulous career, despite her youth as a philosophical left-wing activist--but has she let her need for success turn her heart cold? Her ex-fiancé's brother, Justin, has yearned for Yinghui for years, but the pressure of saving his family's bankrupt property empire has left him cut off from his own life and desires. Pop star Gary is the object of every young girl's fantasies--including Phoebe's--but his meteoric rise from poverty to fame has shown him his own emptiness and sparked a downward spiral of dangerous behavior.

Walter Chao, the five-star billionaire, has links to all these characters. As time passes, fortunes soar and crumble as five lives collide, sometimes with disastrous results, sometimes with a near-miss reach for true intimacy in a society that packs people together physically but encourages emotional isolation.

Readers who prefer tidy endings may balk at the final fadeout, but it fits the story's theme of possibility and uncertainty. Not only does Aw provide Westerners a peek into Shanghai, he gives us a cross-section of a society all too similar to our own rat races and forces us to examine why we run in them at all. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, Latah County Library District; blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Tash Aw (Map of the Invisible World) tells the story of five lonely people--from a provincial girl to a shadowy billionaire--struggling to achieve their dreams in modern Shanghai.

Spiegel & Grau, $26, hardcover, 9780812994346

Seal Press: Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy by Leslie Brody


Chocolates for Breakfast

by Pamela Moore


Long before Gossip Girl and its gaggles of precocious alcoholic teenagers, there was Pamela Moore's Chocolates for Breakfast. First published in 1956, the novel centers on 15-year-old Courtney Farrell, just pulling out of a failed crush on a teacher at her boarding school in New York. She then moves to Los Angeles to live with her movie-actress mother, where she spends her days with her mother's adult friends who pour her vodka drinks at 11 a.m. "To Courtney," they toast, "May she always rise late to find a drink awaiting her... and amusing men around her." This toast becomes something of a prediction for the rest of Courtney's high school years, as she bounces between Los Angeles and New York City, drinking highballs and smoking cigarettes and starting and ending love affairs and friendships.

Chocolates for Breakfast proves to be a coming-of-age novel of the most interesting variety. Courtney faces the adult world as little more than a child, but as she fakes her way to sophistication, confronting sexuality and alcohol and high society and depression and suicide, she starts to grow into the adult she is pretending to be. Though the writing can feel forced at times, Moore ultimately captures the essence of the teenage struggle to be recognized as an adult. Perhaps this is what makes the novel feel as relevant today as it did when published nearly 60 years ago, proving as shocking and important to today's world as it did in the 1950s. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A new edition of an unusual but compelling coming-of-age novel, published when its author was 18.

Harper Perennial, $14.99, paperback, 9780062246912

Book Industry Charitable Foundation: Double your donation!


Happy Talk

by Richard Melo


If the late, great William Gaddis decided to haunt a guy who was possessed by Joseph Heller, that guy would be Richard Melo. How else can one explain Happy Talk? There has to be some dark, supernatural force behind this dialogue-based satire saturated in humor and wit.

It's 1955, and the United States has sent a wild assortment of New York filmmakers to Haiti to produce a film about the island featuring the new sport of surfing--in order to create a new tourist mecca. There are actually no waves; however, the bureaucratic overlords are so obsessed with their plan, they push the filmmakers to absurd lengths, which garners the attention of locals and some strange voodoo competition.

The film crew's ringleader, with the Pynchonesque name of Culprit Clutch, is madly in love with a nursing student named Josie. Sent to a special nursing school to learn how to handle nuclear Armageddon, Josie and her fellow students have been forgotten by their Washington contacts and have turned to a farcical Lord of Flies way of life. These heavily armed anarchist health-care providers, the Nightingales (as they are called), find kindred spirits in the oddball filmmakers, and we get M*A*S*H-like pranks, Catch-22 exchanges and some divine comedy. But the love between Josie and Culprit, as well as the merrymaking of the group, are put to the test by voodoo and a power-hungry evil doctor.

Unabashedly hilarious and thoughtful in the way post-modernism used to be, Melo writes imaginative action sequences, delivers wonderwork prose and captures the voices of his characters like a fine tuned medium. Happy Talk is a rare feat--experimental and a joy to read. --Christopher Priest, marketing manager, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this imaginative satire, Richard Melo delivers a clever Cold War tale set on the voodoo-infused island of Haiti.

Red Lemonade, $16.95, paperback, 9781935869177

Little Brown and Company: Enter for a chance to win a James Patterson Prize Pack


Mystery & Thriller

Shadow of the Corps

by James M. DuPont


Told in alternating past and present tense, James Dupont's Shadow of the Corps is an exciting debut legal thriller. Former JAG attorney Dale Riley is down on his luck--unemployed, living back at home with his parents while trying to keep his marriage together and raise his infant son. Then, one morning, he reads in the newspaper that a fellow JAG officer was shot dead while eating dinner at home with his family. The officer was the opposing counsel in the case that ended Riley's military career--and it isn't long before the hit man who killed him comes after Riley.

Meanwhile, Riley's old friend from the Marines, FBI agent Eric Scholl, investigates a serial murder case with victims across the country. As the two cases move toward a head-on collision with no survivors, Dupont ramps up the suspense with flashbacks to the military murder trial that connects them. Shadow of the Corps maintains a heart-pounding adrenaline level, propelling the reader through the story while blocking out everything else. The action and intrigue are top-notch; the plot twists are well constructed. Dupont plays fair with his readers, with no pulled-out-of-a-hat solutions. Though there are some aspects to the prose that could have used another round of editing, this is still a stellar start to the former Marine's fiction writing career. Oorah! --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: A former military aviator debuts with a whirlwind thriller that will leave readers breathless and demanding more.

Pegasus, $24.95, hardcover, 9781605984629

Good Harbor Press: The Taste of Snow by Stephen V Masse


Green-Eyed Lady

by Chuck Greaves


Former Los Angeles Mayor Warren Burkett is in the middle of a Senate race when he unwittingly helps a woman steal a high-priced painting. Burkett hires Jack MacTaggart, the defense attorney Chuck Greaves introduced to readers in 2012's Hush Money, to help him in court--and find the titular woman who set him up and vanished with the art. The case gets sticky when she's found dead--an apparent suicide--and the painting is seen hanging in the home of Burkett's opponent.

As clues are delivered to MacTaggart on Etch-A-Sketches, he enlists the help of his partner Marta Suarez, his office secretary Bernie Catalano and Officer Regan Fife of the Sierra Madre Police Department. They race the clock, and the L.A. County District Attorney, in an effort to solve the mystery before a possible murderer is elected to the U.S. Senate.

Green-Eyed Lady is a lighthearted, funny legal mystery that integrates legal process without weighing down the plot. Greaves channels his inner Hitchcock with a quirky and convincing cast of characters, from the tax-evading accountant to the candidate's brother-in-law, "whose position at Archer Properties seemed to be vice president of Union Affairs and Cement Footwear." Whether readers are familiar with Hush Money or not, Green-Eyed Lady promises an engaging reading experience. It is a riotous campaign in the all-too-real world of political antics. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: From the Los Angeles courtrooms to the famous Hollywood sign, Jack MacTaggart and team race the clock to solve the murder of the "Green-Eyed Lady."

Minotaur, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250005243

Biography & Memoir

Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others

by Stacy Horn


Though she has a so-so voice and she's not particularly religious, Stacy Horn has sung with the choir of Grace Church in New York City for more than 30 years. Through the lens of a dozen beloved pieces of music, Horn's memoir, Imperfect Harmony, explores the deep pleasure she and thousands of others derive from the practice of communal singing.

Horn joined the Grace Church choir after her marriage ended, desperate for a reliable source of joy in a life that was proving less stable than she'd hoped. Over the ensuing decades, she has sung many choral masterpieces, including Handel's joyous Messiah and Bernstein's famously difficult Chichester Psalms. She blends biographical sketches of these and other composers with information about the history of singing societies in Europe and the United States. She also shares recent research about the physiological benefits of singing--as most singers know, making music can calm and strengthen the body as it soothes the soul.

Horn's best scenes are those describing the experience of singing at Grace Church, sharing vivid memories of rehearsals and performances. Though her historical research is thorough, it sometimes veers into the tangential. And she hits the dissonant note of her agnosticism repeatedly, making the reader doubt her early assertion that she has made her peace with not believing many of the words she sings.

But both Horn's storytelling and her experience bear out a simple truth: people from all walks of life--Welsh miners, American frontier settlers, today's urban dwellers--draw hope and strength from singing together. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A musical, personal and historical exploration of the joy found in communal singing.

Algonquin, $15.95, paperback, 9781616200411

Psychology & Self-Help

America's Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy That Built a Nation

by Joshua Kendall


Anyone interested in the footnotes and fanciful tales of American history will be in for a treat with Joshua Kendall's compulsively readable American Obsessives. Kendall is a bit of an obsessive himself, having written about the creation of Roget's thesaurus (The Man Who Made Lists) and a biography of dictionary creator Noah Webster (The Forgotten Founding Father). Here, he writes about men and women whose obsessive-compulsive tendencies, he argues, helped shape the nation, from Thomas Jefferson to Estee Lauder--exploring the connection between eccentricity and achievement.

Each chapter highlights an American luminary, touching on their odd behaviors, weaknesses and triumphs. Henry Heinz, of ketchup fame, became the country's foremost marketer, all the while lashing out at his family for not working hard enough. "An embittered Heinz would no longer consider giving upper management positions to anyone outside the family," Kendall writes; "even so, he wouldn't make peace with either of his titular bosses, his brother John and cousin Frederick." Controlling, passionate and hardworking to the point of breaking, the people Kendall focuses on have their eyes on the prize with no thought for the collateral damage--like Charles Lindbergh, who made his wife account for all household expenditures in detailed ledgers, or baseball great Ted Williams, who practiced on his swing and not his social skills.

As a whole, America's Obsessives falls short on the psychological discussion that would that prove that Kendall's subjects' behaviors (many negative) genuinely contributed to their nation-building legacies. All in all, however, this is a highly entertaining romp through our history. --Jonathan Shipley, freelance writer

Discover: A compulsive read about famous Americans who obsessively strove for greatness in their own ways.

Grand Central, $27, hardcover, 9781455502387

Sports

Golf Science: Optimum Performance from Tee to Green

by Mark F. Smith, editor


"All swing thoughts decay, like radium," golfing enthusiast John Updike once wrote. The number of instructional books for the game is legion, but sports performance researcher Mark Smith has come up with what he thinks is a new approach. "Without a doubt," he writes in Golf Science, "your potential to [play better] can be boosted by your knowledge of the science at play."

First of all, no book, video or instructor will automatically make you play better. Only good fundamentals and practice can do that. However, Golf Science definitely has good advice woven into its question-and-answer structure. Every chapter asks a question--on topics ranging from the mind and body to the equipment, from the technology to the practice process--and answers it in two pages of text, photos and graphs.

The physics of the longer driver, we learn, explain why it's always better to play with a shorter one. Balls do fly longer in humid and warmer climates, and a brief, exercise warm-up before playing is definitely a plus. Aides and mechanical devices won't enhance your performance; tight pelvis rotation, good shoulder turn and weight shift are crucial to a good, consistent golf swing. Short shots are best hit using clubs with very little bounce (think a sharp, leading edge).

Some of the topics Smith covers are common sense and rather simplistic, but there's plenty good thoughts here to learn from, and then watch decay. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: An informative, scientific approach to golf, in a series of common questions with some surprising and helpful answers.

University of Chicago Press, $30, hardcover, 9780226001135

Reference & Writing

Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling

by David Crystal


Werd, err, word nerds rejoice! David Crystal's Spell It Out is an accessible, engaging romp through the labyrinthine world of spelling. Why do we spell words certain ways? Why is there a there, a their and a they're? Why are there so many rules to spelling if so many rules are oftentimes broken? Crystal (The Story of English in 100 Words) answers these questions, and many more, in 37 bite-sized chapters that are a logophile's delight.

Running through Latin to French to Greek to Semitic in tracing the history of the English language, Crystal puts forth an interesting history of the delicate intricacies of letters and words. He even looks at the future, considering how Tweets and the Internet as a whole might affect our spelling. "Prophets of doom have suggested that, because the Internet motivates so much spelling variation," he writes, "a standard English spelling system has no future. They are wrong.... The Internet is the best guarantor we have of maintaining a standard spelling system, in all languages, because it relies for its efficacy on the accurate orthographic representation of words."

From the future of spelling on the World Wide Web to the world of the Etruscans who helped develop the rudiments of letters we now use, Crystal's Spell It Out is a delight. Shedding light on everything from Latin prefixes to Geoffrey Chaucer wishing disease upon a scribe for not copying his words correctly, Crystal's book will undoubtedly cast a spell on readers who love the English language. --Jonathan Shipley, freelance writer

Discover: David Crystal returns with another entertaining tour through the quirky history of the English language.

St. Martin's Press, $22.99, hardcover, 9781250003478

Children's & Young Adult

Tarnish

by Katherine Longshore


Anne Boleyn, who would become the ill-fated second wife of Henry VIII, is the fascinating center of Katherine Longshore's (Gilt) latest novel.

The author brings to life the English court in all its intrigue. Much of Boleyn's early years are unknown, but Longshore's speculations are historically based and intriguing. A teenage Anne returns to English court as an outsider after seven years abroad serving in the French court, known mainly for her strangely foreign manners and outspoken nature. Anne's former neighbor, the poet Thomas Wyatt, has a place at court as well as a reputation for bedding many of its women. Wyatt offers Anne a wager: if he can make her the most noticed woman in the court, his prize will be taking Anne into his bed. Anne must carefully navigate games and emotions--in this court, everyone watches, and the revelation of the best-kept secrets could destroy lives.

Tarnish is a daring exploration into what Anne's early court years may have been like prior to her involvement with Henry VIII. Longshore brings Anne and the other characters to life. Though some poetic license is taken, much of the novel is historically accurate. Longshore includes an author's note explaining many of the slight deviations. History buffs will love finding hints and bits of foreshadowing, while those less familiar with Anne's story may be inspired to read more about her. Great for readers of romance, royal fiction and history, or those looking for a summer read that makes them think a bit, too. --Kyla Paterno, trade book buyer and blogger, Garfield Book Company at PLU

Discover: The early court years of Anne Boleyn, the girl who would be queen.

Viking, $17.99, hardcover, 448p., ages 12-up, 9780670014002

What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World

by Henry Clark


The comical far-out adventures begin for narrator River, his friend Freak and their bus mate Fiona when they discover a sofa just down the road from the bus stop.

First-time author Henry Clark sets the surreal tone from the outset: "The sofa wasn't there on Monday but it was there on Tuesday." When the trio examines its contents, they discover, among other things, a dark green crayon labeled "zucchini." Fiona, the most enterprising of the three, discovers that the zucchini crayon could be valuable (only 500 were made for a special World War II limited edition called "Victory Garden"). As bids on eBay grow into the thousands of dollars, River becomes uneasy: "Technically, the crayon isn't ours to sell," he says. Their attempts to track down the crayon's owner leads to a mad scientist–type named Alf and the discovery that the sofa is sentient. Alf suggests that the thing has links to the nearby Hellsboro fires that have been burning for 12 years, and that the frequent singing flash mobs are actually mind-control experiments. That's just the beginning.

In a tale that's part detective story and part environmental tale with sci-fi overlays, Alf enlists the young protagonists to thwart a plot by an evil dictator to take over the Earth. Clark's Mad magazine background makes this hybrid between moral dilemmas and absurd plot twists mesh in unexpected and original ways. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A tale that's part detective story, part environmental tale with sci-fi overlays.

Little, Brown, $17, hardcover, 356p., ages 8-12, 9780316206662

A Puppy for Kevin

by Liesbet Slegers


Liesbet Slegers (The Child in the Manger) creates a puppy manual for preschoolers with this lighthearted, durable addition to the Kevin & Katie series. Rounded corners and laminated pages makes this just right for first-time pet owners.

Kevin holds up a picture of a puppy next to a calendar with the date circled for his puppy pick-up ("when he'll be old enough to come live with us"). He ticks off the items that he and his mother have purchased in preparation (food and water bowls, a collar and leash and lots of toys). "Finally it's puppy day!" says Kevin, who names his dog Ruff. Slegers lets youngsters know what to expect through Kevin's running commentary. Ruff sniffs his new surroundings ("Ruff is curious and wants to get to know everything"), and heads to the vet with Kevin and his mother. The boy also models patience when the pup has an accident ("Ruff doesn't know exactly how it's done yet, but we're going to teach him").

Slegers shows boy and dog in thick black outline and popsicle-bright illustrations. The two appear together in every picture--except for the one in which Ruff eats from his bowl, which emphasizes the safety precaution, "the vet said dogs don't like it when you pet them while they're eating." The author-artist balances out images of responsibility (giving Ruff a bath) with the joys of ownership (playing fetch). A great way to prepare for a new (furry) addition. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: An accessible, brightly illustrated first guide to pet ownership for preschoolers.

Clavis, $13.95, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-5, 9781605371443

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