Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, August 5, 2016

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

Chilly Scenes of Winter

It's been a steamy summer in most of the U.S. While you're hiding indoors with the air-conditioning cranked to high, here are a few titles to chill you even more.

Alaskan author Eowyn Ivey reintroduces the fictional Wolverine River Valley of her debut, The Snow Child, in To the Bright Edge of the World. Instead of isolated homesteaders of the 1920s, this novel follows the adventure of an 1885 expedition into uncharted Alaskan Territory. What the novels share are vivid depictions of the natural elements' harsh brutality and a mystical, folkloric component.

The Sunlight Pilgrims, the second novel by Jenni Fagan (The Panopticon), opens in November 2020, as temperatures around the world are plummeting to record lows. Dylan's mother has just died, and the family business is being reclaimed by the bank. Left with nothing but his grief, Dylan heads north to settle into a small trailer he's inherited in Scotland and try to make sense of his life. There, he meets Stella, the 12-year-old transgender girl next door, and Constance, her mother. Their warmth and humanity stand out in stark contrast to the barren, cold landscape of the Scottish Highlands and the impending winter.

In The Lighthouse Road, novelist Peter Geye introduced the Norwegian immigrant Eide family living in Minnesota's Lake Superior town of Gunflint. Wintering continues the saga of the Eides' next generation, beginning as the elder, dementia-stricken Harry Eide wanders off into the wilderness. Prompted by Harry's disappearance, his middle-aged son, Gus, thinks back to the winter when he was 18 and joined his father on a long canoe trek to the same Canada/Minnesota borderlands of the Laurentian Divide. Wintering neatly balances a father-and-son story of wilderness survival with that of a small town's historical secrets and intrigue.

Stay cool!    --Robin Lenz, managing editor, Shelf Awareness

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Terry McDonell: Editing and Befriending Great Writers

photo: Jessica Dean

In a career spanning more than four decades at many high-profile magazines, Terry McDonell edited and befriended an array of literary giants, including Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, George Plimpton, Jim Harrison, Richard Price and Kurt Vonnegut. McDonell's beautifully written memoir, The Accidental Life: An Editor's Notes on Writing and Writers (Knopf), offers insights on creating and sustaining an editing career while offering sharply observed portraits of the literary lions with whom he worked and partied. Our review is below.

Why do you call the book The Accidental Life?

It's from my first editor, Bob Sherrill, who explained himself as the itinerant editor he was by talking about "the accidental life," which he defined as "letting life happen to you, regardless of the pain and so on but with its soaring joy." This was the opposite of the careers of most editors, who followed straighter paths "as lost to history as any hamster on a wheel." I didn't want that, but I was far from imagining I would ever become what I thought of as a real editor, like Sherrill, let alone edit his hallowed Esquire, where he had worked in the 1960s. But that's what happened, and I met new writers and worked with them and kept moving. My life seemed normal except that it was very different every day, which I knew was what Sherrill loved most about his editing life. His "accidental life." Sometimes ideas got broken, jobs didn't work out, friends faded, but the thing was, no matter how rocky it got, there was always redemption in the work. That was not accidental. Editing and writing filled my days and nights. It was a way to live. That's what I wanted to write about.

Why was editing P.J. O'Rourke "joyous?"

Our joke was that all we really did was not work, but maybe we were working from the inside out, like happy anthropologists comparing field notes. We had another joke about deadlines being our friends, and P.J. always met his with clean copy. He was a tight grammarian; the structural rules governing composition reflected his improbable love of logic. Copy editors loved him. And everything we tried somehow worked.

What's your favorite O'Rourke quote?

Before the Internet, I kept a file of his quotes. I used short ones to spice my letters and sent long ones to writers who seemed blocked, as unsubtle suggestions to take some chances. As P.J. liked to put it, "Safety has no place anywhere." As an editor, that was my favorite, but as a reader I was always tickled by one from 1994: "Some people say a front-engine car handles best. Some people say a rear-engine car handles best. I say a rented car handles best." I include a run of P.J. quotes in the book.

You edited four magazines under Jann Wenner; in your book you capture his many sides--the best and the worst.

I never knew anyone to bring out as much bad feeling and envy as quickly as Jann. People said they hated him because he was a bully and wouldn't listen. But they loved him, too, and if you worked with him on ideas, you knew how smart he was, and that went a long way. His passion, too, was obvious and moving, and made him vulnerable.

You worked at 13 magazines over the years. What are your best memories of working at Rolling Stone?

It was New York in the early 1980s, a wild time and I had access to everything. I got to publish writers--like Richard Price, Scott Spencer, and Jayne Ann Philips--who were important before we knew they were. There's a lot about all that in the book. Newsweek?

I learned that you can turn on the proverbial dime. "Scrambling the jets" is what Maynard Parker, Newsweek's editor, called it, reveling in the cliché, and it was thrilling and important at the same time. In the beginning this required nerve. Later on it became second nature. I had only three rules: Force nothing. Be clear. You can always go deeper. Esquire?

I loved all the work and every editing job I ever had, but when I was editor-in-chief of Esquire, it felt like the best job I was ever going to have. Maybe it was. That's where I first got to publish many of the writers I came to admire most, like Richard Ben Cramer and Richard Ford, to name only two. Sports Illustrated?

I was there 10 years, longer than anywhere else. At first I loved the high-end narrative journalism--classic SI "Bonus" pieces designed to push writers by giving them time to report and space to run long. They didn't just cover the event, or even distill it with analysis; they blew it through as many filters as they could find, using sport as a prism to view a much wider experience--courage, loyalty and sacrifice within the context of race, gender and basic fairness. Some of those pieces owned an almost mystical ventriloquism when it came to defining sports as a reflection of American values.

Later, all the digital development was thrilling to me in a different way, which I write about in several chapters.

Which of the writers you worked with required the least editing?

Tom McGuane's uncanny language, his surprising specifics, made me a better editor just by reading his sentences. He was also immaculate, and so too was every sentence I ever got from Gay Talese. It was always that way with the best writers. If you could match them up with the right idea, all you had to do was hook paragraphs; and I tried for a hands-off policy and wrote thank-you notes suggesting that I was there only to get thorns out of paws.

George Plimpton could be irascible as both a writer and an editor, a tough edit on either side of the desk. As an editor, he was unbending. But he also liked to warn fellow writers of the "tin-eared butchery" they might suffer at the hands of magazine editors other than himself. It was a reflection of how much he cared about every word. His great friend Peter Matthiessen was like that, too, although he seldom edited anyone but himself.

Jim Salter's great confidence had a rightness about it that left him seemingly without vanity. And he was open to suggestions once he trusted you. Hunter Thompson had a similar confidence, but devoured editing suggestions until he was satisfied--with sometimes many revisions. "Let the big dog eat," he'd say.

Jim Harrison did little revising and was proud of it, insisting that he always thought things through before he wrote anything down, and why should he let editors fool with his choices? Editors were not, as he had explained to me when we first met, writers. I learned to tread lightly or risk being told, as I once was by him, "You lynched my baby."

Why do you think so many writers and editors end their lives in suicide?

I have only known one well and that was Hunter Thompson, and I don't have a satisfactory answer. Hunter always said he never expected to live to 50, but he was 67 and reports said he'd been depressed by advancing age, chronic medical problems and the end of football season--the banality of the latter still rings in my head. All I know for sure is that missing him is no consolation.

Ernest Hemingway accepted less money to write nonfiction for Esquire but you say that as an editor, you usually paid twice as much for nonfiction pieces. Why?

The economics of writing have never been stable, and I was editing in a different market. Journalism as Hemingway was referring to it was greatly undervalued compared to fiction. The New Journalism changed that and from the '60s to the late '90s, it wasn't crazy to think you could make a sustainable living as a freelancer. But that changed with the rise of the Internet and the crash of traditional print economics, when word rates dropped at established magazines like rocks in draining ponds. Paying $3 and $4 a word used to be no problem. Now, a dollar a word makes most writers very happy. When Condé Nast mounted the last of the extravagant magazine launches with the $120 million Portfolio start-up in 2007, Mark Golin, a colleague of mine at Time Inc., explained the writer economics as "like when dogs find a tipped-over dumpster behind the Whole Foods." --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Book Candy

Falling in Love with Books All Over Again

Bustle shared "12 Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore quotes that will make you fall in love with books all over again."


Need a pick-me-up? The Atlantic highlighted "the 200 happiest words in literature."


The Independent showcased "the working titles of famous novels from Pride and Prejudice to 1984."


"We love Orange Is the New Black, and the ladies of Litchfield love reading just as much as we do" Quirk Books noted in highlighting "all the books they're reading" in a two-part series.


Death by poetry: My Poetic Side crunched the numbers before "putting our CSI hats on and investigating the sometimes-disturbing cause of deaths of some of our favorite poets."


Buzzfeed displayed "21 book pins for bookworms."

Great Reads

Rediscover: Jaws

It's the high tide of beach reading season, and there's no better way to appreciate terra firma between your toes than by sinking your teeth into Jaws, Peter Benchley's classic scary shark story and the basis for Steven Spielberg's 1975 blockbuster film. Benchley's book was inspired by a lifelong fascination with sharks. He was first drawn to them during childhood fishing trips with his father off Nantucket, and again as an adult after reading the story of fisherman Frank Mundus, who caught a 4,550-pound Great White off Long Island in 1964.

In 1971, Benchley was struggling as a freelance writer when he pitched the idea for a shark attack thriller to a Doubleday editor. Jaws was an immediate hit upon its release in 1974, thanks in part to advance buzz from the Book-of-the-Month Club and Reader's Digest. It has since sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, though its commercial success was somewhat diluted by lukewarm critical praise. Even Spielberg found aspects of Benchley's characters unappealing, and some subplots, like the mayor's Mafia connection and Ellen Brody's adultery, were removed entirely from the movie version. Still, it's really the shark that matters, and that's what makes Jaws a hair-raising beach read. It was last published in 2013 by Ballantine ($16, 9780345544148). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Invitation

by Lucy Foley

Lucy Foley crafts a subtle, dramatic story of guilt, desire and long-held secrets in her second novel, The Invitation. Professionally and personally adrift after World War II, Hal Jacobs escapes to Rome to build a new life as a journalist. He spends his free time wandering the streets of the Eternal City, mostly content in his anonymity. When he meets an enigmatic woman, Stella, at a glamorous party, Hal expects their chance encounter to remain just that. But a year later, Hal and Stella both end up on a yacht making its way down the Italian Riviera, sailing toward Cannes for the premiere of a new film. 

Foley (The Book of Lost and Found) narrates her story through both Hal's and Stella's voices, occasionally shifting between them mid-chapter. Hal suspects there is much more to Stella than her marriage to a wealthy American. Readers learn about Stella's childhood, and the guilt and grief she carries, long before he does. Foley also moves between 1950s Italy and 1930s Spain, when Stella's homeland and her family both fell apart. However, Stella and Hal aren't the only ones keeping secrets, and by the end of the voyage, several characters are facing a sea change. (Foley's minor characters, especially a regal contessa and an elderly film director, are also well drawn.) Lushly described settings and Foley's keen but compassionate eye for her characters combine to make The Invitation a beautiful, bittersweet journey of loss and redemption. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: An atmospheric novel of guilt, desire and long-held secrets, set aboard a yacht on the Italian Riviera.

Little, Brown, $26, hardcover, 432p., 9780316273473

Don't Tell Me You're Afraid

by Giuseppe Catozzella

Translated from Italian by Anne Milano Appel, Giuseppe Catozzella's Don't Tell Me You're Afraid is based on the true story of Samia, a Somali girl whose passion is running. Set primarily in Mogadishu during the civil war, the eight-year-old begins to train with the help of her neighbor and best friend, Ali, who is also eight. Over the course of several years, they run through the streets of Mogadishu, or in the bullet-ridden stadium, always wary of the militant soldiers who lurk everywhere, always mindful that what they are doing is frowned upon by the militant Al-Shabaab. But nothing will stop Samia's determination to represent her country in the Olympics. Despite the lack of proper equipment, food and training, but with the support of her parents, Samia's dedication to becoming a world-class runner is rewarded when she runs the 200-meter race at the 2008 Beijing games. What transpires after her race only enhances her resolve to succeed regardless of the costs.

Catozella has carefully blended Samia's thoughts and actions with descriptions of her family members as they struggle to live a normal life in a war-torn country, sharing the plight of the thousands of refugees who have fled Somalia because of the conflict. He has taken a little-known story and turned it into a powerful message that portrays life, for women in particular, under the strict rules of an extreme Islamist regime, and also what ordeals people will go through in order to fulfill their dreams. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: An Italian novelist fictionalizes the true story of a Somali girl who only ever wanted to run in the Olympic Games.

Penguin Press, $25, hardcover, 256p., 9781594206412

The House Between Tides

by Sarah Maine

When Hetty Deveraux's last living relative dies, she becomes the newest owner of Muirlan, her family's aging estate in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. Fed up with her life in London and eager for a fresh start, she leaps at the opportunity to visit the old manse, dreaming of changing the historic building into a luxury hotel. But the realities of her inheritance--a crumbling edifice that can be accessed only when the tides are just so--leave her uncertain how to proceed. The discovery of human remains buried in the foundations further complicates matters, and sends Hetty on a quest to understand what really happened in her family's checkered past.

As Hetty digs deeper into Muirlan's history, Sarah Maine moves The House Between Tides smoothly from past to present and back again. The constant throughout both time periods is the harsh and beautiful landscape of the Outer Hebrides, "where the skies were wide and open, and the island recognized only rules of its own devising." Maine brings the region to life on the page: birds swoop and soar on ocean breezes, waves crash on rocky shores, and sunlight slants through darkened clouds as Hetty and her ancestors attempt to lay claim to this untamed corner of the world. The stark setting proves to be the perfect backdrop for Maine's well-plotted debut. The novel weaves secrets from both past and present with a bit of a romance and the feel of the Outer Hebrides to build a mystery that is as eerie and complex as the house of Muirlan itself. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Debut novelist Sarah Maine delivers a well-plotted mystery that blends the past with the present of an old mansion in Scotland's Outer Hebrides.

Atria, $16, paperback, 400p., 9781501126918

Mystery & Thriller

Miss Dimple and the Slightly Bewildered Angel

by Mignon F. Ballard

Mignon F. Ballard's cozy mysteries are set in the World War II era and are infused with the charm of life in small Southern towns. Ballard has written four mysteries that feature Miss Dimple Kilpatrick, a veteran first-grade teacher, and seven with earthbound guardian angel Augusta Goodnight. In Miss Dimple and the Slightly Bewildered Angel, both heroines work together to solve a mystery.

In 1944, a strange newcomer--nervous, 30-something Dora Westbrook--arrives in Miss Dimple's hometown of Elderberry, Ga. She is warmly greeted at Phoebe Chadwick's rooming house, only to turn up dead at the Presbyterian church the next morning. It appears Dora fell from a ladder leading to the church steeple. Why was she climbing the steeple, and what was she doing in Elderberry in the first place?

Dora's mysterious death rocks the town and the lives of the rooming house boarders, who are also suffering the departure of their reliable, beloved cook, on leave to tend to an aging aunt. Then tart-tongued Augusta Goodnight shows up on their doorstep; the guardian angel offers domestic help and doles out practical wisdom and guidance in assisting Miss Dimple to solve what turns out to be a very puzzling crime that might be murder.

As the war rages on, misadventures abound, and Miss Dimple and her friends travel to Dora's hometown to learn more. Ballard (Miss Dimple Picks a Peck of Trouble) adds another enjoyable installment to her nostalgic cozy series. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: A veteran schoolteacher--enlightened by an earthbound guardian angel--sets out to learn more about a mysterious death in her small town.

Minotaur, $25.99, hardcover, 272p., 9781250083630

The Language of Dying

by Sarah Pinborough

A young woman, recently returned home to care for her dying father, tells a story of family, loss and supernatural visions. She's the middle of five siblings: Penny the anxiously beautiful, Paul the overly successful, Davey and Simon the two sides of the same substance abuse coin. Dad lies in a hospice bed in their old home, struggling with death. The father keeps trying to get out of bed; "terminal agitation," the nurses call it. His movements bring the entire family's mourning to a devastating head, causing the siblings to leave the narrator alone with him.

The Language of Dying is addressed to this foundering patriarch. The narrator has plenty to say to him, to her brothers and sister, and--perhaps most of all--to herself. She's never been sure of her tenuous connection to reality, having seen visions of an impossible beast both in her past and now again as she sits at night in her father's room. It's not a beautiful creature, but something dark, violent and angry. Is this monstrous presence real or imagined? Does it matter? What does it portend?

This short novel is dark and candid, full of conflicting emotions: love, fear, anger, joy. The prose is evocative and moody, making The Language of Dying a perfect novel for those nighttime hours at home when everyone else is fast asleep. The darkness of the storyteller's inner world echoes on every page. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: In this elegiac story, the middle child and her family cope with their father's lingering death in their private, fragile ways.

Jo Fletcher Books, $15.99, hardcover, 144p., 9781681444369

Biography & Memoir

The Accidental Life: An Editor's Notes on Writing and Writers

by Terry McDonell

During Terry McDonell's four-decade career working at Esquire, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and a half-dozen other magazines, he edited an impressive number of literary lions, including Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson. In his perceptive and intoxicating memoir, The Accidental Life, McDonell proves his writing skills are equal to his legendary editing prowess.

McDonell forged friendships with most of the writers he edited, and The Accidental Life is filled with revealing anecdotes about their writing processes, their willingness to be edited and their private lives. Whether he is playing golf (after dropping acid) with Hunter S. Thompson and George Plimpton, taking Jann Wenner to court for not honoring his contract, or pitching a TV series to Aaron Spelling with Richard Price, McDonell is a captivating raconteur. McDonell also has a knack for astute and funny pegs for people: P.J. O'Rourke is "a pants-down Republican"; Helen Gurley Brown was "a feminist in fishnet stockings and a minidress"; and Jim Harrison "could look a bit weathered, but he was still handsome in the manner of a mahogany stump." 

McDonell offers clear-eyed advice for those who want a career as a writer or editor. One salient bit possibly explains his successful friendships with those he edited: "Good editors, like doctors, develop a bedside manner." The Accidental Life is a supremely entertaining memoir that succeeds as both an instructional guide to writing and an insider's confessional about the outstanding writers he has known and edited. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Terry McDonell's sharply observant portraits of friends and writing heroes makes The Accidental Life a treat for fans of literary biographies.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 384p., 9781101946718

Navigating Life: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me

by Margaux Bergen

Aptly subtitled, Navigating Life: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me is a collection of life advice written by a mother to her eldest daughter, who is just leaving home for university. "The natural order of things is for you to teach yourself now how to be a complete human being and lead a life of meaning," Margaux Bergen explains to her daughter. "And for me to keep reflecting back to you some of my experience, without preventing you from accumulating your own."

That's exactly what Navigating Life sets out to do, as Bergen offers advice concerning work, family, learning, friendship, money and passion. Obvious but ever-important lessons (you can't change anyone but yourself; your morals are your own to keep; be kind to others) sit beside more specific suggestions (when to leave a terrible job; how to build a friendship; the importance of reading the newspaper). These sage ideas are then embedded in the context of her own experiences.

The candor with which Bergen explains to her daughter the struggles she has had with depression, the loss of an alcoholic father and the difficulties of being a single parent are ultimately what make Navigating Life as relevant for the author's daughter as it is for a wider audience. By cataloguing her own hardships and recognizing the places where she was unable to follow her own advice, Bergen offers readers not a strict how-to but an invitation. Come with me, she seems to say, and together we can figure out how to do this thing called life. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Margaux Bergen offers her daughter--and her readers--a collection of heartfelt life advice based on her own experiences.

Penguin Press, $26, hardcover, 256p., 9781594206290

I'm Supposed to Protect You from All This: A Memoir

by Nadja Spiegelman

Bonds between mothers and daughters are often full of complicated twists and turns. Add in the mother's great achievements and a famous father, and the relationship can turn from complicated to downright ugly, especially when family history is subject to the shifting sands of time and memory. Unearthing those memories is what Eisner-nominated graphic novelist Nadja Spiegelman (Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework) sets out to do in I'm Supposed to Protect You from All This.

Young Nadja knew little about her mother, New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly, except the peripherals: that she left Paris at 18 to live in a squalid SoHo loft, and eventually married Maus creator Art Spiegelman. The mother known for smothering her children with affection in their childhood and indulging in antics like swimming during lightning storms eventually abandoned her daughter emotionally in adolescence, leaving a void that Nadja could neither understand nor reconcile. It wasn't until her daughter reached adulthood that Françoise finally unleashed her past: the neglected middle daughter in post-World War II Paris, whose high-society parents waged household skirmishes, pitting one child against the other until only emotional pain remained. As Nadja discovers by unraveling and reconstructing the hidden layers of memory and misunderstandings, that family pattern repeated itself across three successive generations: "The past reshaped the present, but the present also reshaped the past."

The "happy" ending that Nadja finds is acceptance, where the main players don't forgive and forget but meet on middle ground. It's this honesty in human emotion--what Nadja comes to term "the violent act" of interpreting memories--that ultimately gives her memoir its strength. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Graphic novelist Nadja Spiegelman has written a heartbreaking memoir that attempts to explain how those who love us can also hurt us the most.

Riverhead, $27, hardcover, 384p., 9781594631924

Land of Enchantment

by Leigh Stein

Enchantment, with its connotation of magical interference, is the perfect descriptor for love, and Leigh Stein's Land of Enchantment is a meditation on her experience in loving and losing the volatile and charismatic man she follows to New Mexico. In this memoir, love is a haunting, a bewitchment that never stops, even in death.

Prone to grand pronouncements and flights of fancy, Jason entangles Stein from their first meeting at a theater audition. Following a whirlwind courtship (replete with infidelity and the first signs of abuse), the pair embarks on a six-month stint in New Mexico. While the magical Sandia Mountains in the distance cast everything in their rosy glow, matters at home aren't so idyllic. Stein depicts Jason's verbal and physical violence with the foggy half-vision of one reaching for an old memory, occluded by pain, and her grappling is as moving as it is painful. Through levelheaded prose, Stein is a winsome, unflinching Virgil guiding readers through this labyrinth of remembrances.

Jason resurfaces continually after their failed attempt at southwestern bliss, only to die suddenly years later. This memoir is a testament to love's untidiness, its habit of fouling our best intentions and forcing us to ask ourselves, "How did I get here?" Stein, an alumna of the New Yorker's editorial staff and the founder of BinderCon, retraces her steps thoughtfully, in a book whose dark magic is as alluring as an O'Keeffe canvas. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer

Discover: Land of Enchantment traces an abusive relationship from Chicago to New Mexico, and the memoirist's growth afterward.

Plume, $22, hardcover, 224p., 9781101982679

Essays & Criticism

Peacock & Vine: On William Morris and Mariano Fortuny

by A.S. Byatt

Acclaimed British novelist, poet and essayist A.S. Byatt (The Children's Book) loves color. She also loves William Morris designs, and has filled her house with them on curtains, wallpapers, tea towels and kitchen tiles. She first encountered the work of Mariano Fortuny at the Palazzo Fortuny museum in Venice; back in England, she found his work intertwining with Morris's in her mind. Peacock & Vine is the result, a meditation on two "polymaths in the arts." Their houses were not only marvelous aesthetic creations, but the active studios of hardworking artists, integrating their domestic lives, philosophies and work. "They created their own surroundings, changed the visual world around them, studied the forms of the past and made them parts of new forms."

Fortuny was a Spanish aristocrat with a peaceful domestic life; he was most inspired by women and is best known for his multicolored, finely pleated couture silk and velvet garments, though he also worked in painting, architecture and lighting technology. Morris was an unhappily married, upper-middle-class Englishman and socialist--an artist, designer and writer who was most inspired by nature; he struggled between his desire for everyone to live with beautiful handmade things and the expense of creating them. Byatt meanders through their biographies, considering their similarities and differences, their homes and furnishings, tools and inventions, their approaches to textile design and her favorite texts and museums about them. Peacock & Vine will appeal to Byatt's fans, and to anyone interested in a light introduction to two brilliant and influential artists. --Sara Catterall

Discover: A.S. Byatt compares and reflects on the lives and work of two brilliant polymath artists.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 192p., 9781101947470

Children's & Young Adult

Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? Tales from Deckawoo Drive (Book 3)

by Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Chris Van Dusen

One of the wonderful things about two-time Newbery winner Kate DiCamillo (Flora & Ulysses; The Tale of Despereaux) is that she sometimes makes grown-ups the heroes of her children's books, as opposed to killing them off on page one or making them as nasty as a Roald Dahl aunt. In this charming third volume in her Tales from Deckawoo Drive series of stand-alone early-reader chapter books (Leroy Ninker Saddles Up; Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon), the heroine is an elderly woman named Baby Lincoln. (No, Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? isn't a book about President Lincoln's childhood.)

Baby Lincoln is dreaming of a train, shooting stars and a "necessary journey," when her domineering sister Eugenia shouts "Baby!" with her hands on her hips. "It is late, Baby... Goals must be set. Lists must be made." Before either of them knows exactly what's happening, Baby hears a faraway train whistle, packs a suitcase and embarks on the "necessary journey" of her dreams. As she takes a right onto Deckawoo Drive, "The sun was shining, and Baby's heart felt like a hummingbird in her chest." She buys a train ticket to Fluxom.

Baby revels in her new freedom. On the train she reads a nice man's comics, remembers her real name is Lucille, tries a green jelly bean that tastes like leaves, consoles a very small boy who smells like "peanut butter and construction paper"... and misses her sister Eugenia. Chris Van Dusen's (Mercy Watson series) expressive illustrations add humor to this heartwarming story of both necessary journeys and the joys of coming back home. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In Kate DiCamillo's winning third volume of the Tales of Deckawoo Drive series, Baby Lincoln discovers that the journey really is more important than the destination.

Candlewick, $14.99, hardcover, 112p., ages 6-9, 9780763673116

The Sound of Silence

by Katrina Goldsaito, illus. by Julia Kuo

Yoshio, equipped with his yellow umbrella, is making his way to school through the busy streets of Tokyo when he stumbles upon a sound he's never heard before, "high and then low, squeaky and vibrating--amazing! It was a koto player carefully tuning her instrument." When he asks the gray-haired street musician if she has a favorite sound, she says the most beautiful is "the sound of ma, of silence."

This throws the boy for a loop: "Where can I find silence? Yoshio wondered as he listened to the thwack of his boots on the pavement." For the rest of the school day he listens for silence, but it eludes him. Even the stalks of the playground's bamboo grove make a "takeh-takeh-takeh" sound in the wind. After school the bullet trains whoosh. At dinner, he notices "What a noisy family!" and even bath time isn't silent because "little droplets of water kept dripping off his nose." He falls asleep to a distant radio before he can hear the quiet of the night. It's not until he goes to school the next day and opens up a beloved storybook that the world around him seems to disappear. At last, silence: "It was between and underneath every sound. And it had been there all along."

Julia Kuo (Go, Little Green Truck) captures the sights of bustling Tokyo with clean, precise lines, fascinating details and a rich autumnal color palette. The Sound of Silence calls attention to the "symphony hall" of sounds that surround us every day, and the silent spaces in between them. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A Japanese boy can't find silence anywhere in busy Tokyo, until he opens a book and gets caught up in its story.

Little, Brown, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780316203371

Enter Title Here

by Rahul Kanakia

Reshma Kapoor is an Indian-American senior at a prestigious Silicon Valley high school where, as she says, "...I'm its number one student. Not its smartest student. Not its most beloved student. But, by the numbers, the best." To say she is not beloved is an understatement. "Once people meet me, they start to hate me." Reshma is aware but mostly unconcerned about how her drive to succeed has trumped any kind of meaningful relationships. She will stop at nothing--including lawsuits--to get where she wants: namely, Stanford University, then medical school, then a lucrative career. Seeking a hook that will lift her above the country's 31,000 other valedictorians, Reshma decides to acquire a literary agent and a book deal for a novel using her own manufactured life as material. To be able to write such a book, she needs to check some typical American girl things off her list: make a friend, go to a party, get a boyfriend and have sex. After blackmailing her drug dealer (she compulsively pops amphetamines to study) to be her friend and choosing a nice Indian guy who has a crush on her to be her boyfriend, not surprisingly, the trouble begins.

Many high school readers will recognize the intense pressure this ruthless anti-hero feels, if not her over-the-top manipulations. Moments of poignancy when one almost feels pity for Reshma will alternate with horrified awe at her cold-blooded grit. Rahul Kanakia's inventive, radically original debut Enter Title Here is not for everyone, but it will be fiercely loved by many. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Eighteen-year-old Reshma Kapoor relishes destroying anyone who gets in her way as she fights to keep the valedictorian slot at her prestigious high school.

Hyperion, $17.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 14-up, 9781484723876

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