Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Forge: Project Namahana by John Teschner

From My Shelf

Remarkable Women

Recently we've seen a number of books about Abigail Adams and contemporaneous women, along with fiction about Union women in the Civil War: I Shall Be Near to You and the upcoming Neverhome. With the Fourth of July imminent, we spoke with Diana Jacobs, author of Dear Abigail: The Intimate Lives and Revolutionary Ideas of Abigail Adams and Her Remarkable Sisters, about the current interest in Revolutionary and other historical women: "For so long women have been excluded from depictions of the 18th and 19th centuries because they didn't play leadership roles or fight battles, or even vote," Jacobs said. "Now, as we look for fresh ways to see the past, we see women as an untapped resource."

Jacobs was interested in Abigail's two sisters, Mary Cranch ("the good girl to Abigail's rebel, who grew up to be an immensely capable and shrewd administrator") and Elizabeth Shaw Peabody ("the most literary of the three sisters and the most competitive with Abigail"). After quite a bit of research, she amassed a "trove of witty, politically savvy, gossipy, incisive, heart-breaking letters" they wrote to each other, their husbands and children throughout the years. "Abigail's sisters were without doubt her intellectual equals. But because they didn't marry John Adams, their correspondence was harder to find."

Women like Abigail Adams educated the children and ran the family farms or businesses in their husbands' absence. In the spring and summer of 1776, "In Philadelphia, John was leading the radical front (against the moderate John Dickinson of Philadelphia) determined to break permanently from Great Britain. In Boston, Abigail and her sisters had made an equally radical decision to inoculate their families against smallpox. Because inoculation could only work by producing a (hopefully mild) form of the lethal virus, they were well aware that they risked death for two generations of patriots as the Declaration of Independence was being conceived. All very dramatic. I loved writing about it," Jacobs said.

Dear Abigail is a captivating biography of three remarkable women--a good bet for celebrating the Fourth and summer reading. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

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The Writer's Life

Joshua Horwitz: 'Whales vs. Navy'

On an otherwise picture-perfect morning in the Bahamas, a whale strands on the beach near marine biologist Ken Balcomb's research station--one of many that washed ashore that day, casualties of a clandestine U.S. Navy submarine detection system that floods ocean basins with high-intensity sound.

In War of the Whales: A True Story (Simon & Schuster, July 1, 2014), Joshua Horwitz offers the gripping account of a decade-long battle pitting activists committed to safeguarding the ocean environment against Navy admirals sworn to uphold national defense. At the heart of the story are attorney Joel Reynolds, who launches a David-and-Goliath legal fight to expose and challenge the Navy program, and Balcomb, who is ultimately forced to choose between his conscience and the oath of secrecy he swore to the Navy.

Equal parts legal drama, natural history and military intrigue, War of the Whales takes readers from the ocean depths to the nation's highest court. This thought-provoking, vividly narrated tale has been called by Bob Woodward as "thrilling and heartbreaking... a landmark book of deep, original reporting which could alter forever how we view our role as stewards of the seas."

Horwitz is the coauthor of two previous nonfiction books, Wrestling with Angels (with Naomi Rosenblatt) and If I Get to Five (with Fred Epstein, M.D.), as well as a young adult novel and several children's books. He is the co-founder and publisher of Living Planet Books, Washington, D.C., which specializes in books by major figures in science, medicine and psychology. Horwitz co-founded AuthorsOnline, a website featuring the homepages of award-winning and bestselling authors.

How did the story you tell in War of the Whales first come to your attention? Did you immediately know you wanted to write a book about it?

What first captured my attention was a short newspaper article--headlined "Whales vs. Navy"-- about a lawsuit filed by an environmental lawyer against the U.S. Navy to protect whales from the lethal effects of Navy sonar.

As I researched the background of the case, the personalities of the characters involved and the Navy's deep roots in whale research and training, I knew I'd stumbled onto an amazing, untold story. That headline, "Whales vs. Navy," brought to mind a divorce proceeding, and the backstory I uncovered had all the elements of a love affair gone sour: obsession, betrayal and abuse.

The "war of the whales" is the conflict between the safety of marine life and the Navy's use of sonar in training exercises, which has been responsible for multiple mass strandings of whales. For those who are unfamiliar with sonar, why is it so catastrophic to whales?

Below surface, the ocean is a very dark place. Whales and dolphins have learned to survive in the depths--to navigate, hunt for food and communicate with other members of their pods--by manipulating sound to "see" in the dark. Their so-called "biosonar" developed through tens of millions of years of evolution.

The Navy also uses sound to make the dark ocean visible. Beginning in World War I and continuing through the Cold War and the War on Terror, the Navy has used active sonar to locate and track enemy submarines. This is called echolocation, which is the same biotechnology whales have developed over millions of years.

The intense sound waves of naval sonar can create an acoustic storm inside whale habitats, driving the animals away from their feeding grounds and migration paths, disrupting their communication and, among certain species of whales, causing them to mass strand on beaches.

Whales have two staunch advocates: savvy lawyer Joel Reynolds with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Ken Balcomb, a Navy veteran and unassuming field researcher a world away from urban life. How much time did you spend with these two men? Tell us about them and what they have in common.

When you research and write this kind of book, you get very intimately involved in your protagonists' lives. One trait Reynolds and Balcomb share is their string of failed marriages--which is partly attributable to their zealous commitment to protecting whales. I've interviewed all their ex-wives and siblings, as well as girlfriends, colleagues and childhood friends. What's interesting is that the 360-degree perspective this gives you on a character often conflicts with their self-image.

These two men have totally different personalities, with almost no overlapping areas of expertise. Reynolds is cerebral and strategic, and a classic extrovert who can talk with scientists, policy wonks and celebrities with equal ease. Balcomb is a maverick who's quite personable one-on-one but who's incapable of working inside groups or organizations. At heart, he prefers whales to people. And he never seems to plan ahead what he's going to do. Which can be charming in small doses but tended to undermine his working and personal relationships over time.

But Reynolds and Balcomb share one crucial character trait, which is the quality that makes them both such effective change agents: tenacity. In their separate way, they each committed to hold the Navy accountable for the lethal effects of sonar and to compel them to change how they operate in whale habitats--even in the aftermath of 9/11, when fighting the military in court and in the court of public opinion was a steep uphill slog. They didn't care how long it took or what it cost them personally or professionally. And they never caved in to the cynicism or discouragement that overtakes so many social activists when confronting a large corporation or a powerful federal agency.

"As Balcomb knew from his two tours, the Navy was the most secretive of all the armed services, and never more so than when things went wrong," you write in War of the Whales. Was it difficult to gain access to information pertaining to the Navy, from studies and other documents to what took place in closed-door meetings?

Submarine warfare is known as "the Silent Service," and for good reasons. Submarines survive through their ability to operate silently in the ocean. Tracking enemy submarines requires equal stealth. It's an endless--and very high stakes--game of blind man's bluff.

Navy operations are almost all classified, and most of my first interviews with active-duty officers took place with a "public affairs" officer in the room or on the phone--which was a real conversation-killer and quite frustrating. When I listen to recordings of those interviews, I can almost hear my teeth gnashing. 

But retired officers--and particularly retired admirals--have a lot more leeway in what they can discuss and disclose. These commanders were leaders who wanted their voices heard--and were usually willing to refer me to other retired "flag buddies." Eventually, everyone I wanted to speak with agreed to be interviewed. Some were hostile and tight-lipped, others were quite open and candid.

Working on War of the Whales turned into "a seven-year odyssey" that took you "around the world and, at times, around the bend." What kept compelling you forward to complete the book despite the challenges and the length of time it took?

Honestly, it was the power of the story that kept me going. "The untold story" is an overused trope of journalism and book publishing. But the more I learned, the more I realized how secret most of the story elements had remained for decades. Even the characters most deeply involved in the narrative had only a partial view of the story. The scientists knew the science, the admirals were focused on the enemy threat and the lawyers understood the law. No one had ever pieced the story together--and trust me, it's a doozy.

In particular, I discovered that the Navy almost single-handedly created the discipline of marine mammal science. The great irony of the story is that most of what we know about whales and dolphins today derives from Navy-funded research beginning in the 1950s. Ever since the Navy figured out that dolphins echolocate, it's been unstinting in its efforts to decode and reverse-engineer whale biosonar, as well as other aspects of their amazing acoustic mastery.

How many miles did you log while working on the book? Along with your visit to Laguna San Ignacio, a haven for gray whales in Mexico, what were some other memorable moments during your odyssey?

My first research trip took me to an international whale science conference in Cape Town, South Africa, which is also a great whale-watching locale. I first met Balcomb in Maui, Hawaii, when the Pacific humpbacks were in residence. Later I spent time with him at his research station on San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest, where he's been tracking the Puget Sound orcas for three decades. When I was visiting the Bahamas, a whale stranded and I watched a local marine mammal response team conduct a forensic autopsy on the beach--so I know exactly what a dead whale smells like.

Just as fascinating were my visits to Navy labs and facilities in Washington, D.C., and San Diego, tours of modern destroyers and submarines and interviewing leading scientists at Woods Hole and Scripps research institutes and the Smithsonian. All the researchers I interviewed were brilliant and passionate investigators, whether they were Navy acousticians, field biologists or whale pathologists.

What would you say is the outlook for whales and other ocean dwellers? Where would you direct readers who would like to know more about protecting marine life?

In terms of Navy sonar, the outlook for whales is much improved, thanks to the efforts of Reynolds and Balcomb and their allies. After decades of operating in the shadows of classified operations and dark ops, the Navy is now much more transparent and accountable for how it conducts sonar and explosives exercises in its U.S. coastal training ranges. The Navy now spends a lot of time and energy complying with federal marine mammal protection laws, though whales are still stranding. Just this spring, during joint exercises involving U.S., Greek and Israeli warships near Crete, five beaked whales stranded and died.

The greater threat to marine life comes from other sources of noise pollution in the ocean--primarily commercial shipping and underwater oil and gas exploration. I hope my book raises awareness about this issue because all marine life, from fish to whales--even coral--is threatened by ocean noise, which is growing every decade.

Anyone looking for more information on this topic can go to the Natural Resources Defense Council's website, or to my book webpage at --Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Tundra Books (NY): Professor Goose Debunks Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Paulette Bourgeois, illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths

Book Candy

Game of Thrones; Where We'd Like to Read Right Now

Variations on a Game of Thrones theme: Indiewire revealed "5 major differences from HBO's Game of Thrones & George R.R. Martin's books," while io9 offered "the entire history of Westeros told through more than a dozen maps," as well as the sporting and timely "great Game of Thrones soccer uniforms prove we need a Westeros World Cup."


Buzzfeed showcased "31 places bookworms would rather be right now."


Funny or Die considered the possibilities "if guest writers took over the Sunday comics."


"Love Twilight? Gothic romances have got your name written all over them!" the Guardian reported in recommending "brilliant classics for young adult readers."


"Fiction makes your mind flabby" was one of "four bad side effects of reading fiction according to the 19th century," the Huffington Post reported.


Country Living's "9 ways to transform ordinary objects" included instructions for turning an old cable spool to new library table.

Tyndale House Publishers: Long Way Home by Lynn Austin

Book Review


Waiting for the Electricity

by Christina Nichol

Resourceful and optimistic, Slims Achmed Makashvili is everything a man in the Republic of Georgia is supposed to be. And everyone knows that Georgia is the finest country in the world. So why has it been months since Slims received a paycheck at his job? Why did he let the woman he was supposed to marry get away? Why won't the lights turn on when he flips the switch? Fearless and undaunted, Slims does the only reasonable thing he can think of to help his country: he writes to Hillary Clinton. Winning sponsorship from her small business internship program would allow Slims to import the American dream to Georgia. He could start a Black Sea Spiny Dogfish packaging plant, or maybe a Georgian sheep cheese business. Then again, if Hillary can't help him, he could always just kidnap a British oil pipeline specialist.

Christina Nichol reins in her deliciously wild debut novel by creating unusual and fleshed-out characters who carry the weight of the fraught reality they inhabit. She balances the dry wit of preposterous folk wisdom ("Show me a man with his feet planted firmly on the ground, and I will show you a man who can't put on his trousers") with sensitive insight into the political realities of post-Soviet Georgia. In Nichol's able hands, Slims is a wise, philosophical hero attuned to the ambiguous nature of progress--for nations as well as individuals. "The problem is the word love," he tells us, "which sometimes means something stupid, and sometimes means the purpose of life." --Casey O'Neil, bookseller, Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: Surprising successes spring out of a country proudly poised on the brink of chaos.

The Overlook Press, $26.95, hardcover, 9781468306866

What Is Visible

by Kimberly Elkins

What Is Visible is the fictionalized story of Laura Bridgman, a real-life deaf and blind woman whose successful education inspired Helen Keller's parents to seek the same for their daughter. Laura's limitations are severe but her immediate world includes some of the most celebrated figures her era--a tension debut novelist Kimberly Elkins maintains perfectly, lifting this book above documentary fiction into a fully realized work of the imagination.

Robbed by scarlet fever of sight, hearing, taste and smell at age two, seven-year-old Laura is sent to Boston's Perkins School for the Blind--the first deaf-blind child ever to receive an education. She communicates with letters fingered into others' palms. She becomes intensely attached to the school's founder, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, until his marriage to Julia Ward forces them apart. Laura is willful and precocious; as the school's star student, she's paraded in front of Dickens and Twain, endlessly on display as an example of the school's accomplishments.

Laura's heroes are flawed: Dr. Howe is charismatic but has his era's limited ideas about women and forbids his young wife from writing poetry. Despite her progressive views, Julia Ward Howe is repulsed by the school's blind girls. Laura herself--lacking most of her senses, lonely despite her fame, keenly interested in the world--touches the girls around her with an intensity that frightens them. She is willful and jealous, demanding endless affection and affirmation. In What Is Visible, where a vibrant world is filtered through Laura's singular mind, Elkins has created a complex, lively, engaging guide, brimming with a universal longing for connection and love. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: A debut novel about the life and loves of the deaf-mute woman who inspired Helen Keller's parents to educate their daughter.

Twelve, $25, hardcover, 9781455528967

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?

by Dave Eggers

Publisher, author, philanthropist--unstoppable and ubiquitous--Dave Eggers is a kind of one-man literary conglomerate. His debut, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, dissolved the line between autobiography and fiction. His novels have earned wide acclaim. Zeitoun, a nonfiction chronicle of a post-Katrina humanitarian survivor, has been optioned for an animated feature film. Eggers's publishing company, McSweeney's, not only brings innovative books to market, but arguably presents them in the best of book design. His magazine, The Believer, reviews and recommends books. His nonprofit 826 National builds an audience of future readers by providing disadvantaged kids with tutoring in reading and writing. Eggers is indeed something of a genius--or at least a whirlwind of literary excess.

Indulging his penchant for odd titles (which grow on you), Eggers plants a doozy on the cover of his new novel. Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? is almost a short digression for the usually prolific Eggers. Told entirely in dialogue, it is the story of slightly off-plumb, 34-year-old Thomas, who kidnaps a half-dozen admirable professionals (teacher, astronaut, congressman, policeman... even his mother) and interrogates them on an abandoned Pacific Coast military base in search of some understanding as to why his life has no purpose and why theirs are so disappointing. At times like Waiting for Godot in its Vladimir-and-Estragon q&a style and at others like Woody Allen bantering with his psychoanalyst, Your Fathers is one more audacious example of Eggers's groundbreaking literary prowess. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: An all-dialogue novel from literary megastar Dave Eggers that asks tough questions about why the world is the way it is.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 9781101874196

The Stories We Tell

by Patti Callahan Henry

On the surface, Savannah socialite Eve Morrison has the perfect life: a handsome, successful husband, a teenage daughter she adores, a thriving letterpress business. But when Eve's husband and sister are injured in a car accident, the cracks in that glossy surface begin to show.

Eve's sister, Willa, has made her share of mistakes, but since moving into the cottage behind Eve's home, she has worked to rebuild her life. Cooper, Eve's husband, took a professional gamble when he launched an e-magazine for men; though Eve's letterpress company is gaining popularity and clients, Cooper's venture is floundering. And Gwen, Eve's daughter, is acting out in response to the escalating tension in her parents' marriage. As Cooper and Willa recover from their injuries, they tell wildly differing stories about the night of the accident, and Eve must decide whom to believe.

Patti Callahan Henry (And Then I Found You) deftly explores the tangled web of Eve's closest relationships: her conflicting loyalties toward Cooper and Willa, her mixture of fierce love and worry for Gwen and the persistent attraction she feels for her co-worker Max. Savannah's old-fashioned charm provides a rich backdrop for the story, the humid nights simmering with summer heat and untold secrets. Eve's line of Ten Good Ideas greeting cards, inspired by a childhood memory Eve and Willa share, interweaves beautifully with the sisters' journey toward truth, forgiveness and love.

Richly layered and deeply accessible, The Stories We Tell is a moving exploration of love, family and finding the courage to move on. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A Savannah woman must decide whose story to believe after a car accident injures her husband and sister.

St. Martin's Press, $25.99, hardcover, 9781250040312

Mystery & Thriller

Strange Gods

by Annamaria Alfieri

Annamaria Alfieri (Blood Tango) trades her standard South American setting for early-20th-century colonial Africa in Strange Gods, a passionate mystery.

Even though her teenage brother, Otis, is allowed to hunt with the men, 20-year-old Vera McIntosh can't get permission to do anything that smacks of adventure. Raised in Africa by Scottish missionary parents, Vera is too in love with the wild beauty of British East Africa (she lives in the part that is now Kenya) to want to be the proper, housebound lady her mother wishes her to be. Vera longs for excitement and romance, particularly with handsome policeman Justin Tolliver.

Unfortunately, the officer is pulled into her family's orbit not by love, but murder. When Vera's reprobate uncle Josiah is found stabbed with a Masai spear, authorities are quick to blame the crime on a native "witch doctor," but Tolliver and his African partner Kwai Libazo think the killer is someone within the British community. Josiah's outward respectability as a doctor covered a dissolute and sexually rapacious nature. Was his death the result of a medicine man's jealousy, a business deal gone awry, or a love affair that soured? If Tolliver and Libazo can't find the answer, the accused native man will hang; their only aid comes from the forthright and bewitching Vera.

While Alfieri doesn't paper over the colonial presumption of superiority, her heroes remain honorable and dynamic enough to earn readers' respect. Both a taut whodunit and a subtle commentary on sexual and racial double standards, Alfieri's latest will have readers dreaming of Africa. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Mystery and romance among the colonial population in British East Africa.

Minotaur, $27.99, hardcover, 9781250039712

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Thorn Jack

by Katherine Harbour

Katherine Harbour's debut novel, Thorn Jack, offers readers a modern retelling of the ancient Scottish ballad of Tam Lin. The original tale centers on a young man's rescue by his true love from the dangerous Queen of the Faeries; Harbour's update is set in the small town of Fair Hollow in upstate New York, where Serafina "Finn" Sullivan and her father have just relocated to escape the memories of Finn's sister, Lily Rose, who recently died.

Finn starts her first year of college in Fair Hollow like any other freshman--and then she meets Jack Fata. What starts as a harmless dance at a party blossoms into something like a full-blown romance, and as Finn is drawn further and further into Jack's strange life, a world of secrets and tricks and haunted mansions emerges. When she begins to realize that this world could be somehow related to Lily Rose's death, Finn is determined to uncover the truth--even if the truth may kill her, too.

Unfortunately, the characters in Thorn Jack are sometimes uneven and clichéd, which can detract from the otherwise haunting, otherworldly feel of the story. But the beauty of Fair Hollow and Harbour's slow reveal of the dark, gothic nature of the town make up for it: old movie theaters become a backdrop for drama and history; college parties boast Shakespearean themes and laced drinks; abandoned Victorian mansions transform into decadent palaces decked in candles. As this is the first in a planned trilogy, readers can look forward to more from Harbour, as subsequent volumes may further crystallize the characters introduced here. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A modern retelling of the classic Scottish ballad of Tam Lin, set in an eerie, otherwordly town in upstate New York.

Harper Voyager, $25.99, hardcover, 9780062286727


For Once in My Life

by Marianne Kavanagh

Meet Tess and George, two soul mates who haven't yet met one another. Marianne Kavanagh's debut novel, set in London, spans 10 years of near misses between two winning protagonists. Shades of David Nicholls's One Day with a dash of Maeve Binchy, it will leave you crossing your fingers that these two star-crossed lovers will finally get their stars aligned.

Tess, a romantic young woman who dreams of opening a vintage clothing shop, languishes in a boring job while she tries to convince herself that her equally tedious (but model-handsome) boyfriend fulfills her needs. He never says more than 10 words to her, and he's obsessed with his bank balance, but self-delusion is a marvel. Kind George is stuck under the thumb of his hideously cold and ambitious lawyer girlfriend, Stephanie. She's dismissive of his immense talent for playing jazz piano. Although Tess and George have plenty of friends in common, for the better part of a decade, forces conspire so that they cross paths but don't meet. When they ultimately collide (in a glorious revelation of fireworks and prayers answered), the moment is clouded by a complication involving Stephanie.

Kavanagh has crafted a lovely valentine of unrequited love that will tug at anyone's heartstrings. Her writing is beautifully descriptive and her supporting characters as richly drawn as her two leads. The sprinklings of humor and resonant discussions of love and relationships will leave even the most jaded cynic feeling a little dreamy. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

Discover: A thoughtful exploration of love and romance featuring two soul mates who take a while to finally find one another.

Emily Bestler/Atria, $16, paperback, 9781476755274


Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling and Cracking Up

by Mary Beard

In Laughter in Ancient Rome, classicist and social commentator Mary Beard (The Fires of Vesuvius) addresses not only the questions of when, how and why ancient Romans laughed, but what their "laugh culture" tells us about their society--and ours.

After a brief introduction in which Beard considers two examples of laughter from Roman history, the book is divided into two parts. The first looks at theories of laughter (ancient and modern), the methodological difficulties of writing a history of laughter, the differences between Roman laughter in Latin and Greek texts, and the question of what we mean by "that superficially unproblematic adjective Roman." The second part focuses on four aspects of Roman laughter: the famous orator Cicero's discussion of the proper (and improper) ways to evoke laughter in an audience, the relationship between laughter and power in ancient Rome, the importance of mimicry in Roman humor, and the Roman joke book known as the "laughter lover." Along the way, Beard debunks the popular image of Saturnalia as the precursor to Carnival, argues that smiling is a social construct, looks at the Roman roots of "monkey business" and stops just short of claiming that the joke as we know it was a Roman invention.

Written in Beard's trademark combination of erudition and effortless prose, Laughter in Ancient Rome is a fascinating combination of history, psychology, linguistic exploration and humor. This is scholarly writing at its best: using a seemingly narrow topic to illuminate larger cultural issues. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: Why we still find some Roman jokes funny 2,000 years later.

University of California Press, $29.95, hardcover, 9780520277168

Political Science

This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible

by Charles E. Cobb, Jr.

Nonviolence is generally lauded as the cornerstone of the civil rights movement. Through peaceful civil disobedience, protestors drew attention to systemic injustices in the Jim Crow South and launched a movement for national change, symbolized by the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. But behind the nonviolence movement stood the threat of an armed response--a rear guard rarely mentioned and often controversial.

In This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed, civil rights scholar Charles E. Cobb, Jr. (On the Road to Freedom) explores the relationship between the nonviolent civil rights movement and the willingness of some activists (like Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee field secretary Cynthia Washington) and their allies (like the Deacons of Defense) to carry and use firearms. Cobb, a field secretary for the SNCC in the 1960s, relies on his own experiences, as well as the memories of his fellow activists and a wealth of historical sources, to draw a distinct connection between the work of nonviolent activists and the armed response of their allies. He argues that without the protection of guns and of armed militias, the nonviolent movement's members would have found themselves much easier targets for violence and terrorism, from anonymous night-riders to state-sponsored suppression. In so doing, Cobb ties together two American traditions: the right to individual equality and the right to bear arms against a tyrannical government.

Cobb's account offers fascinating historical details couched in entirely accessible terms. Although he makes his case carefully and thoroughly, he never burdens the reader with academic prose or convoluted reasoning. Rather, Cobb's long-essay format brings the Freedom Movement to life in an unexpected way, shaking up conventional historical views and changing the conversation about individual freedom and personal protection that continues today. --Dani Alexis Ryskamp, blogger at The Book Cricket

Discover: A nuanced exploration of the complex relationship between nonviolent civil disobedience and the threat of armed retaliation.

Basic Books, $27.99, hardcover, 9780465033102

Nature & Environment

The Fish in the Forest: Salmon and the Web of Life

by Dale Stokes, Doc White, photographer

Seven species of salmon inhabit the Pacific in strikingly diverse ecosystems--ocean, river and stream, forest--in California, Alaska, the Bering Sea, Japan, Korea and Russia. Research oceanographer Dale Stokes calls these territories the "Salmon Forest" in The Fish in the Forest, a loving study of the salmon's place in our world.

Salmon may strike some readers as a potentially dull subject, but in Stokes's knowledgeable hands, the singular story of this fish is utterly riveting. Pacific salmon are anadromous and semelparous (born in fresh water, they mature in the salty ocean before swimming back up rivers and streams to breed just once and then die shortly thereafter); they possess an internal compass and map, enabling them to navigate over thousands of kilometers to the waterways of their birth; they are temporally aware, following a timetable for their reproduction and death.

Stokes presents a good deal of hard science (such as the complex cellular interchange of ions that allows them to survive in both salt and fresh water), but all of it is easily understandable. He explains why salmon are a keystone species; their feat of bringing rich marine nutrients well inland and at every point on a complex food web; and the interconnectedness of every resident in the Salmon Forest. Doc White's 70 color photographs are stunning, focusing not only on fish and forest, but also the species of wolf, bear and eagle that interact with the salmon.

Fans of the Pacific Northwest, trees, water and nature, and readers concerned with ecology or science, will find much to enjoy in this gorgeous and illuminating fish tale. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: The thoroughly engrossing story of the salmon and its science.

University of California Press, $29.95, hardcover, 9780520269200

Children's & Young Adult

Out of the Blue

by Alison Jay

Alison Jay (Picture This; ABC: A Child's First Counting Book) invites readers to join her boy hero at the shore, making friends and rescuing a beached octopus.

Some key clues to this wordless escapade appear on the cover: a boy and girl intent on capturing a small orange octopus in a blue bucket stand on the edge of a tidepool near a candy-stripe lighthouse on a windy day. Next comes a panoramic view of the ocean with the lighthouse, seagulls circling and a whale exhaling. In side-by-side views, children see the lighthouse from the outside, where a boy in striped pajamas looks through the window with his spotted dog, then the perspective switches to the view the boy sees from inside. The artist gives youngsters much to take in on the busy shore: a scuba diver, a woman in pink walking her poodle, the boy's spotted dog cavorting with a Dachshund, a girl in a sailor dress carrying a net. Four vertical panels chronicle the boy and girl joining up to search for seashells, as the waves grow rougher and clouds move in. Everyone takes cover, and Jay depicts the boy and his father, snug inside the lighthouse.

The next day, the boy and girl join forces to free a beached giant orange octopus, tangled in a fishing net. The details about each person and animal on the shore give youngsters an abundance of subplots to follow upon repeated readings. Jay's subtle message--that with nature's bounty one need never be bored--permeates every page. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A wordless summer adventure in which a boy makes a friend, a storm hits, and they save a beached octopus.

Barefoot Books, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781782850427


by Maggie Stiefvater

In this strong new offering from Maggie Stiefvater, the author returns to the werewolves and the world she created for her Shiver trilogy.

Cole St. Clair leaves a frigid Minnesota behind for the sunnier, harder-driving world of Los Angeles. Cole himself is harder-driving than Grace and Sam, the friends and pack members whose story dominated the Shiver trilogy. He's a famous musician, trying to stay clean after face-planting onstage from a drug overdose and spending time in Minnesota as a werewolf. In L.A., Cole searches for Isabel, the woman he loves. But Isabel, "cool and elegant as a handgun," with issues of her own, clings fiercely to an icy persona because she doesn't believe in happy endings. Cole swears to Isabel that he has come to L.A. for her. Never mind that he's also managed to land himself a six-week stint on a reality show, where he will be recording his new album in front of the world. So what's Isabel to believe? Did he really come for her? Is he sober? Is he still a wolf? Relentlessly restless, and always a player, Cole may well find a home in this sun-soaked city, but only if he can convince Isabel that their love is real.

Sinner makes a worthy followup to the Shiver trilogy, but it can also stand on its own for readers willing to believe that a bad-boy rocker in L.A. can become a werewolf. Once again, Steifvater does not disappoint. --Lynn Becker, host of Book Talk, the monthly online discussion of children's books for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

Discover: In this followup to Maggie Stiefvater's werewolf series, hard-rocking Cole St. Clair takes on Los Angeles.

Scholastic, $18.99, hardcover, 368p., ages 12-up, 9780545654579

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