Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, January 6, 2017

Poisoned Pen Press: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

From My Shelf

JJ Smith: Five Tips for Weight Loss

Dieting is the premier New Year's resolution; gym memberships rise, along with hope. Often this is a prelude to failure. But JJ Smith (10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse)--author, nutritionist and certified weight-loss expert--has some advice for everyone who wants to slim down (and not fail).

The new year is a great time to get a fresh start and re-commit to weight loss goals. However, we say we want to lose weight, but not how much or how--we just have a general goal of "losing weight." So I have some very specific tips that will ensure success if you truly want to lose weight.

Don't drink your calories: reduce sugary juices and sodas and focus on drinking more water or green tea, which helps boost your metabolism and your energy levels. Green tea is simply awesome for weight loss.

Avoid stress and drama: get some rest and relaxation. You may even need to "detox" from family and friends who cause unnecessary stress and drama in your life. People who belittle you and make you feel unworthy should get very little of your time.

Let fast food be good food: you're going to be busy and may find yourself at a fast food restaurant. But get the healthier options, such as oatmeal for breakfast or salads for lunch/dinner. Weight loss happens one meal at a time.

Go green: eat lots of green leafy veggies for rapid weight loss. You can even drink them: In my new book, Green Smoothies for Life (Atria, $19.99), I share many delicious recipes that will help you reduce cravings, lose weight, cleanse your body and energize you!

Get your mind right: you have to fill your mind with KNOWLEDGE about losing weight. You have to educate yourself on how to help your body lose weight so you go into the new year fully equipped to shed pounds and get healthy once and for all!

The Writer's Life

Daisy Goodwin: The Passion of Victoria

photo: Francesco Guidicini

Daisy Goodwin is a writer and a television producer, who studied history at Cambridge, then went to Columbia Film School as a Harkness Fellow. After 10 years making arts documentaries at the BBC, she became an independent producer, with credit for several programs, including Grand Designs, which is now in its 18th year.

Goodwin is also the author of two novels, The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter. She is most recently the author of the screenplay for Victoria, an eight-part series about the life of the young Queen Victoria for PBS's Masterpiece (airing this month), and the companion novel, Victoria (St. Martin's Press).

What inspired you to write about the young Victoria?

I'm a history graduate and I spent a lot of time studying her at college. I was a teenager when I read the diaries that she wrote as a teenager. I expected they would be boring. But they're all about parties and men, basically. She writes that she's coming in from a ride with Albert and he's wearing his white cashmere breeches but there's nothing on underneath. When I read that I thought, "Wow! There's a girl with an eye for detail."

We think of her as she was in later life, as a grumpy old crone. Actually, she was young and passionate and full of excitement. That's what I try to convey in the book.

Was there anything about Victoria that surprised you?

What really amazed me was her incredible sense of who she was and what she wanted to be. She had this very oppressive upbringing where everything had been decided for her. She couldn't do anything. She couldn't even walk down the stairs without assistance. Some people would have come out of that enfeebled. They would have found it hard to adjust--like prisoners coming out of the end of their sentence. Not Victoria! She springs right out of the gate. The first thing she does is change her name [from Alexandrina, or Drina]. She says she wants to be called Victoria. It's a kind of name that no one was called.

And also she's very clear that she doesn't want her mother---the first thing she does when she comes to power is say, "I want to be alone." She pushes her mother and [her mother's favorite] Sir John Conroy out of the way. I find that very interesting in a teenager girl. To be so confident in herself at that age. I have huge admiration for that. She could very easily have been someone who was manipulated by those around her, but she really never was.

It's sometimes overlooked because we think, "Oh, well, she just inherited that." It's more than that. The monarchs before her had been very unpopular. She was coming into a failing institution. The monarchy didn't have the same respect that it does now. And so she had a lot of work to do.

You have a great track record for writing historical fiction with strong central female characters. But Victoria is different because the main character is an actual historical figure. Where do you draw the line between history and fiction?

I spent a lot of time reading her diaries and I feel very connected to her voice. There are bits that I've fictionalized or novelized or whatever you want to call it, but I've only done it when it feels in sympathy with her voice. I wouldn't take her in directions that she wouldn't have gone.

If you read the diaries as a writer rather than as a historian, you can read between the lines. For instance, her relationship with Lord Melbourne is clearly there--I've dramatized it, but if you read the diaries it's clear she was besotted with him. It was her first adult relationship with anyone.

Were there other sources that you depended on in addition to Victoria's diaries?

I've been working up to this pretty much all my life. I've been a Victoria-phile since I was a teenager. I know the period very well. I've read the biographies. I try to read a lot of contemporary diaries and newspapers in order to get a feel for what people at that time thought rather than what we think in hindsight.

At one point you describe Victoria as the most un-Victorian of heroines.

Yes! Yes! We think of Victorian heroines as rather passive and creeping around in the shadows. But Victoria is very much at the center of things. She's passionate. She's very physically aware. She loves men. She loves sex. She's aware of things you just don't find in Victorian novels. It's not the conventional idea of Victorian women.

Unlike conventional marriage plots, she's the one who does the proposing at the end. It's not Albert. She's the one who has to decide whether she will propose to Albert. It puts our expectations about the Victorian ways of doing things on their head.

Albert is much more Victorian than she is. Throughout her life she's very frank about the physical stuff. When you read the diaries, it's very clear what she thinks about all that. I find it refreshing that she's very uninhibited in that way. And she had nine children.

What's charming is that she and Albert really loved each other. They were very into each other physically. That was a new thing. For royals to dig each other in that way. It really was a love match.

I know you've already done a lot of interviews, is there anything you wish someone would ask you?

I got a question I was embarrassed by. Someone said to me, "Is this a feminist take on Victoria?" It was a man, obviously.

I said, "What do you mean?"

He answered, "Well, you've got a young woman taking control."

Does that mean it's feminist? A true story about a queen?

But now it's come out in England. And when I look at the reaction, I think it does feel feminist because it's written by a woman. I've been asked if it would be different if it were written by a man. And I think it would have been.

I'm very interested in how women deal with power. She is the first--or at least the most famous--woman in a sense to have it all. She's wife, mother and queen. I'm looking at her from that angle. Not just what she does as queen, but how she deals with the rest of her life as well. She didn't compartmentalize stuff. The personal was always political for Victoria. What I love about her is that she never refuses to use her femininity. She never goes, "Oh, I've got to be like a man." She was always herself. I find that very endearing. And I think it's very encouraging that you can have women in power who don't try to be anything other than themselves

I think she's a good role model for young girls. She makes mistakes, but she does so with great courage. She's never passive. She never allows herself to be manipulated. I like that about her.

So it sounds like it is a feminist book at some level.

She's a woman in power. That is a feminist thing.

I'm very interested in how women adjust to positions of power. Unlike a series like The Crown, which is more about an institution that has a woman in it, I'm coming from the character rather than the institution. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Book Candy

Weirdly Spelled Words, Scrabble Score Boosters

Mental Floss featured "11 weirdly spelled words--and how they got that way," as well as "22 two-letter words to boost your Scrabble score."


Author Sarah Pinborough picked her "top 10 unreliable narrators" for the Guardian.


"Yoga for book lovers" is now in session at Quirk Books.


Signature imagined "4 things every writer thinks while working on a book."


Brightly suggested "5 great places to donate your old books."


Soo Yeon Shim's Square is a lounge chair combined with a bookshelf, Bookshelf noted.

Great Reads

Rediscover: Doctor Zhivago

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Doctor Zhivago's first publication. The story of how this Russian epic's initial printing came to be in Italian casts as critical a light on the Soviet Union as Boris Pasternak's actual novel. His manuscript was rejected by Soviet censors for placing the welfare of individuals above the welfare of society (in defiance of socialist realism), and for his unflattering depictions of Soviet history. Publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli smuggled the manuscript out of Russia and published it in his native Italian. Much to the chagrin of Soviet authorities, and to the detriment of Pasternak's personal safety, Doctor Zhivago became an international sensation. Pasternak received the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature, which he was forced to renounce. He died of lung cancer in 1960 at age 70. David Lean's 1965 film adaptation starring Omar Sharif was filmed mostly in Spain, since Pasternak's work remained censored until the 1980s.

Doctor Zhivago is, at its core, a love story between physician/poet Yuri Zhivago and his mistress Lara set in the waning days of Imperial Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution and the ensuing Russian Civil War. It was last published in 2011 by Vintage International, with translations by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky ($16.95, 9780307390950). On January 24, Ecco will publish Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago by Anna Pasternak, Boris's grand-niece, about the influence of mistress Olga Ivinskaya on Boris Pasternak's work. --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


Gods & Angels

by David Park

The 10th book by Irish writer David Park (The Light of Amsterdam) offers profound and observational slice-of-life vignettes with a wryness that speaks to the deep psychological issues that men often face--isolation, alienation, regret, suffering--in modern relationships. The 13 stories display a literary complexity that has become a hallmark of Park's writing.
In "Boxing Day," 17-year-old Robbie visits his manic-depressive mother the day after Christmas and is confronted by painful memories of the circumstances that have led to her despondency. Some of Park's stories have surreal elements of escapism, as in "The Strong Silent Type," which describes a date between a girl and a dummy. "I want to apply words to her hurt," the dummy muses, "like a salve as all things I need to say course uncontrollably though my being, rising and falling on a whelming tide of love, but no matter how hard I try, none can breach the sewn seam of my mouth." A War of the Roses game in "The Bloggers" exhibits to humorous effect how a lack of gender empathy negatively affects modern marriages. Park explores the grief and loneliness of an empty nester in "Skype." It is "Crossing the River," however, that stands as Park's most personal and affective. Dedicated to his mother, it is narrated by the Keeper, who ferries the souls of the newly dead across the river, and of the heartrending conversation he has with his Alzheimer's-suffering mother in their final journey together. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: David Park's short stories explore grief, heartache and loss among men wrestling with their masculinity.

Bloomsbury, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9781408866078

Of Stillness and Storm

by Michèle Phoenix

When a woman uproots her family and moves to the other side of the globe to appease her husband's passion for his work, it's difficult. But when the impetus is God, even as a deeply spiritual believer, she's in an untenable predicament. In Of Stillness and Storm, Michèle Phoenix's fourth novel, Lauren Coventry doesn't share Sam's conviction that God has given them a sign to leave Indiana and minister to impoverished children in Nepal. His fervor, however, and her wedding vow of "if God calls us, we'll follow" overshadow her reluctance, even though their young son is devastated at the plan.

Phoenix effectively juxtaposes chapters in Kathmandu and ones from the couples' past--how their love blossomed at a college retreat, their joy in parenting Ryan and the struggle to fund and establish their mission. The primitive conditions and 13-year-old Ryan's increasing withdrawal absorb Lauren's energy during Sam's lengthy trips to remote Nepalese villages. Stoically responsible, she finds solace in sporadic Internet access, eventually connecting with a high school friend and long-ago romantic interest, Aidan. Their rekindled friendship is innocent and validates Lauren's individuality. Trouble simmers, though, and Lauren must draw on her faith and strength to face Sam's radical zeal, Aidan's tragic illness and Ryan's furious, climactic acting out.

Lauren doesn't compromise her lifelong service to others when confronting Sam and demanding what she and Ryan need to survive. Phoenix draws a sympathetic character bolstered by her faith who ultimately uses her given talents to forge her own path. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A missionary's wife balances her faith in God and love for her husband with her son's needs and her longing for fulfillment.

Thomas Nelson, $15.99, paperback, 336p., 9780718086428

The Gardens of Consolation

by Parisa Reza, trans. by Adriana Hunter

The Gardens of Consolation heralds the arrival of yet another prodigiously talented French-Iranian author, Parisa Reza, whose outstanding debut novel, like the works of Marjane Satrapi and Fariba Hachtroudi, voices a side of Iran rarely glimpsed in Western media. Reza's novel tells a sweeping generational saga in less than 300 pages--beginning in the 1920s, in an Iran starting to feel the effects of Reza Shah's modernization campaign, and ending in 1953, with the Western-backed coup that ousted Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.

Reza relates history like a folk tale, an epic backdrop for the lives and loves of her richly developed characters. The changes occurring in Iran at the time are simultaneously epochal and virtually meaningless to Persians, who are part of an ancient culture. Protagonists Talla and Sardar fall in love, marry, have a son and live an uncomplicated life steeped in quiet dignity: "[Sardar] needed his horizon to be clear so he could see only the essence of life, as it was at the outset, before words existed; having people around, their chatter and bustle, interrupted the view."

Their son, Bahram, on the other hand, is enamored with words. He is as fascinated by political tracts as love poetry and participates in the intellectual ferment of the era. While Reza does not trivialize his efforts, The Gardens of Consolation takes a bittersweet view of Iranian history. As one character puts it: "What would be the point of freedom when enslavement is so tragic, tragedy is so poetic and poetry is so Persian!" --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: This gorgeous, lyrical family saga takes place over the first half of Iran's tumultuous 20th century.

Europa Editions, $16, paperback, 208p., 9781609453503

Ema, the Captive

by César Aira, trans. by Chris Andrews

Ema, the Captive, Cesar Aira's second novel (published in Argentina in 1981), defies traditional genre categories. But, then again, so do most of Aira's novels. His The Literary Conference detailed the attempts of a mad scientist to clone novelist Carlos Fuentes in hopes of achieving world domination, while An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter served as an exegesis on Alexander von Humboldt's scientific theories.

Ema, the Captive concerns the journey of a woman of indeterminate origins in 19th-century southern Argentina. The story is episodic, told through a series of vignettes: Ema travels with a military caravan to a fort in the wilderness; Ema becomes the concubine of an Indian chieftain; and Ema, at the end, transforms into an unlikely entrepreneur. These moments in Ema's life provide the structure by which Aira explores his themes of time, perception and mystery.

Like fellow Argentine Jorge Luis Borges's writing, Aira's continually shifts and unwinds itself. The literal and the metaphorical blend, and philosophical digressions turn out to be a narrative thrust themselves. If all this seems a bit much--and at times it can be--Aira redeems himself with prose that can stun. On the cry of a pheasant, Aira writes: "Inevitably, it brings to mind the solidity of gold. One wonders how it is possible for the pheasant to remain afloat on the flimsy surface of the grass and not sink into the planet like a stone in water." And this is Aira describing the daily rhythm of the Indian tribe Ema lives with: "They seemed to be living solely to prove that fixed moments do not exist. Nature closed its valves for them and presented a single continuous edge, firm and smooth."

Ema, the Captive challenges the reader on every page. And rewards the reader just as often. --David Martin, freelance writer

Discover: An early novel from Argentine master César Aira, Ema, the Captive is a beguiling and enigmatic read.

New Directions, $14.95, paperback, 128p., 9780811219105

Mystery & Thriller

Kill the Next One

by Federico Axat, trans. by David Frye

Argentinian author Federico Axat (Benjamin) followed a complex recipe for his first work translated into English: create a compelling mystery, but wrap it in layers of uncertainty. Throw in some violence, a dash of a secret suicide club, a pinch of adultery, a mental hospital and enough repressed memories to ice the whole shebang. Don't forget the side order of demonic opossum. Write some scenes twice, changing them just a hair. Cut into pieces and mix, leaving your protagonist and readers to question their sanity for more than 400 riveting and agonizing pages. The result is a spectacular mind-meld of a psychological thriller, Kill the Next One.

Poor Ted McKay is trying to commit suicide when he's interrupted by an insistent knock at the door. His visitor is a stranger who makes Ted an offer he can't refuse: kill a murderer who went free and another man who is suicidal. In return, someone will kill Ted so he can die a heroic victim rather than by his own hand.

As Ted tries to carry out his mission, the world tilts on its axis. It's unclear what is real, who is telling the truth and how Ted was chosen. As his mind fractures, memories start to leak through, bringing frightening clarity with them. Axat brilliantly creates an environment permeated by doubt and the anxiety it perpetuates. The story is chilling, but Axat has the skill to infuse it with humanity while maintaining the nightmarish atmosphere. Kill the Next One is a recipe baked to perfection. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: A suicidal man frantically searches for the truth after accepting an offer that plunges him into seeming insanity.

Mulholland Books, $26, hardcover, 416p., 9780316354219

Biography & Memoir

George Lucas: A Life

by Brian Jay Jones

As a cinematography student at the University of Southern California in the 1970s, George Lucas aspired to make documentaries or serious independent films along the lines of Fellini, Godard, Kurosawa and William Wyler, a cinematographer famous for his inability to relate to actors--a charge that would later be leveled against Lucas. His first student film established him as a wunderkind in this vein: Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138-4EB won the National Student Film Festival and brought him into contact with other avant-garde filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola. Lucas's dogged pursuit of independence resulted in two of pop culture's most iconic franchises--Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Yet the rebel who shunned the Hollywood studio system became a victim of his own filmic excesses, growing so enamored with "his way" that he emerged as his own brand of studio mogul.

In a sweeping and engaging biography that should delight Lucas fans and film history buffs alike, Brian Jay Jones (Jim Henson: The Biography) reveals exhaustive details behind the filming of the Star Wars franchise--how the project appeared destined for disaster, with never-ending prop malfunctions, budget overruns and intense script and concept battles with studio executives. He covers Lucas's early influences, his friendship with Steven Spielberg, his love/hate relationship with Coppola and the Modesto roots that shaped his filmography--to which he paid homage in American Graffiti. George Lucas: A Life is the fascinating portrait of a onetime Hollywood outsider and obstinate control freak whose identity is linked deeply to his art, and whose sheer force of will rewrote film history. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: How one visionary filmmaker's successes changed the way film would be experienced and marketed.

Little, Brown, $32, hardcover, 560p., 9780316257442

The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family

by William J. Mann

Edgar Award-winning biographer and novelist William J. Mann (Tinseltown) acknowledges at the start of this captivating, ambitious and hefty biography that the feuding branches of the Roosevelt dynasty have become well-trod territory for historians. But Mann is a superb historian and researcher, rarely parroting previous tales without investigating their validity. This often leads him to revisionist perspectives on familiar subjects, and The Wars of the Roosevelts certainly gives fans of historical biographies a fresh look at Theodore Roosevelt's relationship with his alcoholic brother, Elliott (father of Eleanor, who later married her cousin Franklin Roosevelt), his three legitimate children (Alice, Ted Jr. and Kermit) and one illegitimate son (Elliott Roosevelt Mann--no relation to the author).

As expected in any biography covering the lives of two United States presidents, there is plenty of political intrigue, backstabbing and jockeying for power. But what makes Mann's nearly 650-page biography so mesmerizing is the personal drama of an expansive political family at war for nearly a century. Mann's fresh revelations come from new interviews with a number of the Roosevelt family descendants (including Elliott Mann's daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter). While Mann casts no one as a villain, this family portrait leaves no one unscathed or blameless.

The Wars of the Roosevelts is as meticulously researched as it is beautifully written and authoritatively intimate. It's also as juicy as a beach novel, with revelations of mistresses, gay affairs, numerous suicides, neglect, dysfunction and family grudges held until the grave. In short, it's the kind of history book that encourages new generations to become historians. -- Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: William Mann's meticulously researched portrait of the supremely dysfunctional Roosevelt family dynasty reads like a juicy novel.

Harper, $35, hardcover, 624p., 9780062383334


The French Revolution: From Enlightenment to Tyranny

by Ian Davidson

In The French Revolution: From Enlightenment to Tyranny, journalist Ian Davidson (Voltaire in Exile) uses the skills he developed as a foreign affairs correspondent for the Financial Times to consider one of the most complicated and influential events of the 18th century. The result is an even-handed, step-by-step account of key moments of the French Revolution, from August 2, 1788, when Louis XVI called a meeting of the États généraux in the hopes of getting financial help, through the execution of Maximilien Robespierre on July 28, 1794.

Davidson assumes that his reader is familiar with the catchwords and names associated with the French Revolution, but not with the details of its development. He begins with a careful description of the economic and social conditions in France in the years before the war. He identifies possible points of confusion for a modern reader--the Parlement, for example, was a law court--and gives brief biographies for each of the players, bringing even the most familiar names into clearer focus. Most importantly, he makes it clear that the Revolution began as a peaceful attempt at social change, with leaders who were dedicated to the rule of law, and that it remained largely peaceful for three years.

Davidson's The French Revolution is not a scholar's account of the French Revolution, and makes no claim to be. It is instead a serious work of popular history, challenging enough to intrigue those already familiar with the revolution and accessible enough to engage those who are not. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: A seasoned journalist explores the French Revolution.

Pegasus Books, $28.95, hardcover, 336p., 9781681772509

Psychology & Self-Help

Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

More is not always more. Though many people view regular sleep, meals and leisure time as wimpy stuff, working long hours every day, checking e-mail at 2 a.m. and charging hard every moment you can stay conscious makes you much less likely to produce good work. Rest combines current neuroscience and psychology with examples from the lives of great scientists and artists to argue that rest is not a luxury, nor is it the opposite of work. "Restorative daytime naps, insight-generating long walks, vigorous exercise, and lengthy vacations aren't unproductive interruptions; they help creative people do their work."

Writer, scholar and business consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (The Distraction Addiction) offers an enjoyable, well-organized and persuasive consideration of the relationship of work and rest. He approaches this through four main insights: that work and rest are partners, not opposites; that rest is active; that it is a skill; and that it stimulates and sustains creativity. These insights are developed in chapters focused on various forms of rest--such as walks, naps, vacations, deep play and vigorous exercise--and on schedule structuring through routines, limited hours and deliberate stops. He describes the philosophical ideas and history behind current ideas about creative work, and argues that a focus on long hours and constant attention to jobs leads people to resolve superficial problems quickly, rather than develop more difficult and worthwhile projects. This book has something to offer anyone looking for new ways to structure their daily lives. --Sara Catterall

Discover: Rest is shown to be the partner of creative work, not its opposite, in this enjoyable and persuasive guide to a more productive working life.

Basic Books, $27.50, hardcover, 320p., 9780465074877

Reference & Writing

Metaphors Be with You: An A to Z Dictionary of History's Greatest Metaphorical Quotations

by Mardy Grothe

As up-to-date as the pun of the title, Mardy Grothe's collection of quotations is a handy reference as well as an entertaining diversion. Metaphors Be with You is tidily organized into 10 metaphors in 250 categories--pick a topic!--and includes QR codes to integrate the book digitally with the author's online database of more than 100,000 metaphorical quotations, which he launched in 2014.

Grothe's enthusiasm for metaphors is infectious. A retired psychologist and author of six language books (including Oxymoronica), his collection began 50 years ago, when he was moved by Thoreau's "different drummer" passage in Walden. In a concise introductory section, he notes that metaphors demonstrate the evolution of language: "Time is money" (Ben Franklin) morphed into "He spent a ton of time." He defines the metaphor's cousins--simile ("less assertive") and analogy ("more cerebral")--and shares his history as a metaphor collector turned curator, as well as the span of his collection's origins: from ancient Greece and Rome to Downton Abbey.

In each of the categories, Ability through Zeal, Grothe has narrowed the metaphors to the 10 best. If readers don't find their nominee for a stellar quote, he suggests they refer to his website and the hundreds of entries on each topic, comparing the website and book with having oceanfront property with a swimming pool in the back.

Dip into these 2,500 nuggets from Mark Twain, Bill Gates, Delia Ephron and many more to bolster a speech or just to savor the pithy prose. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: This thoughtfully compiled collection of metaphors is a rich resource for writers and a pleasant diversion for lovers of language.

Harper, $19.99, hardcover, 528p., 9780062445339

Children's & Young Adult

A Greyhound, a Groundhog

by Emily Jenkins, illus. by Chris Appelhans

"A groundhog, a greyhound,/ a grey little/ round hound./ A greyhound, a groundhog,/ a found little roundhog."

Tongue-twisting wordplay abounds in this charming read-aloud romp by Emily Jenkins (Toys Go Out; Toy Dance Party; Toys Come Home; Toys Meet Snow) and Chris Appelhans (illustrator of Jenny Offill's Sparky!; Flight series). Here, Jenkins pays tribute to a 1954 Caldecott Honor book illustrated by Maurice Sendak. She writes in her dedication: "A Greyhound, a Groundhog owes a debt of inspiration and rhythm to A Very Special House, by legendary children's author Ruth Krauss."

After the cheerful dog enthusiastically greets the initially leery "roundhog," the dynamic duo circles around each other playfully: "Around, round hound./ Around, groundhog!" As the new friends whirl and twirl, the artwork does too, dizzyingly. The type curves to heighten the whirlpool effect: "Around and/ around and around/ and around./ The ground and a hog/ and some grey and a dog." As the kinetic illustrations of groundhog and greyhound blur, the words start to blend as well: "grey dog," "greyhog," "a hog little hound dog." The mad revelry stops only when they are both distracted by butterflies, then a bog, then, naturally, a log. In the end, the boisterous buddies collapse, panting and exhausted.

Preschoolers will delight in the sound of the words that rhyme and repeat and mirror and mix, qualities sure to render it a bedtime favorite. Appelhans's watercolor illustrations are both adorable and artful, and the fluid style beautifully complements Jenkins's story of unlikely friendship, joyful rambunctiousness and wordplay. A round, a mound, the sound of applause! --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A greyhound and groundhog rumble and tumble in this splendid adventure in wordplay by Emily Jenkins and Chris Appelhans.

Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 1-5, 9780553498059

Life in a Fishbowl

by Len Vlahos

Jared Stone, a 45-year-old father diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, is worried about leaving his family penniless, so he decides to auction off "not his things, but his actual life" on eBay. His auction listing reads: "You may do with him as you please--slavery, murder, torture, or just pleasant conversation." The reserve price is set at a cool million, and he has some takers.

Len Vlahos's (The Scar Boys; Scar Girl) third-person narrative has a deadpan, reportorial style, reflecting the perspectives of multiple characters (including the giddy, memory-eating brain tumor itself) with a curiously absorbing detachment. The eBay bidders interested in the "Human Life for Sale" are Hazel Huck, a sympathetic gamer; Ethan Overbee, "utterly devoid of empathy," who smells a hot reality TV series; Sister Benedict Joan, who disapproves of Jared's public views on euthanasia and sees an opportunity; and the predatory Sherman Kingsborough, a "stinking rich" young man who follows every dark indulgence with a "noble gesture."

It's Ethan who eventually "wins" by getting his reality TV show, and soon the Family Stone--including Jared's wife and two teenage daughters--is living in "a cruel kind of fishbowl, and all they could do was pucker and swim." While centering on the emotional struggles and remarkable fortitude of introverted 15-year-old daughter Jackie, Life in a Fishbowl is a riveting, witty, skillfully crafted exploration of terminal illness, euthanasia, memory, love, grief, greed, obsession, the exploitative, deceptive nature of "reality" TV and the power of an engaged global community to right wrongs. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this quirky and dark YA novel, a father with a terminal brain tumor puts his life up for auction on eBay to support his family.

Bloomsbury, $17.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 14-up, 9781681190358

The Bad Guys

by Aaron Blabey

Perhaps "bad guys"--be they wolf, snake, piranha or shark--are not all that bad. Maybe they're just misunderstood? In The Bad Guys, Mr. Wolf tries to get his much-maligned buddies to be good guys... with mixed results.

Mr. Wolf is a natural at motivational speaking: "Aren't you tired of being the VILLAIN?" he asks his fanged friends. "Aren't you tired of the SCREAMS?" Mr. Piranha says, "Not particularly," and Mr. Snake says, "Not in the slightest." Mr. Wolf is undeterred by their apathy and, determined to prove their capacity as heroes, takes them on an educational field trip in his car (correction: "a fuel-injected, 200-HORSEPOWER, rock 'n' rollin' chariot of flaming COOLNESS" that runs on "undiluted panther pee.") They come upon a cat up a tree. "So what are we going to do?" Mr. Wolf asks professorially. "Rescue the cat," says his peanut gallery in unison, resignedly. "And what are we NOT going to do?" asks Mr. Wolf. "Eat the cat," they answer lifelessly. The understandably freaked-out cat is unharmed during their absurd and ineffective rescue attempts, but Mr. Snake eats Mr. Piranha. Mr. Wolf spins Mr. Snake around by the tail until Mr. Piranha is launched from Mr. Snake's body and, conveniently, knocks the cat out of the tree. ("I should have stayed in Bolivia," quips Mr. Piranha.)

Australian author-illustrator Aaron Blabey's (Pig the Pug) short, snappy story is a full-on hoot for the Captain Underpants crowd, told in cartoon panels, funny black-and-white illustrations and very few words. (Next up in the Bad Guys series: Mission Unpluckable.) --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this entertaining series debut for early readers, Mr. Wolf tries to get his bad-guy buddies--Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha and Mr. Shark--to turn their reputations around.

Scholastic, $5.99, paperback, 32p., ages 7-10, 9780545912402

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