NEW ARRIVALS DECEMBER 2012

ADULT FICTION

“Dance with Dragons (A Song of Fire and Ice, Book 5) by George R. R. Martin – “… the much- anticipated companion to the 2005 A Feast for Crows, covering different characters and locations within the same time frame. Tyrion Lannister, the fugitive kinslayer, travels from Pentos to Meereen on the fringes of others’ quests to rule Westeros, his astonishing adaptability evident as he goes from captive to conspirator to slave to mercenary without losing his tactical influence. Jon Snow, commander of the Night’s Watch, courts betrayal in his attempts to balance his duties to the Wall, to Stannis Baratheon, and to the wildlings. Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons, is faced with a difficult quandary: return to Westeros to pursue her claim to the throne or stabilize conquered Meereen before it buckles under insurrection. Integral appearances by Bran Stark, Theon Greyjoy, Quentyn Martell, and numerous others show Martin gathering and tightening the myriad threads connecting his characters. This volume doesn’t tie up many loose ends, but it delivers the tension, political intrigue, emotional impact, and moral ambiguousness that fans expect, and the sinister conclusion foretells a bloody return.” — Krista Hutley. 1,040pg. Booklist Online. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2011.

“The Forgotten” by David Baldacci – ” Army Special Agent John Puller is the best there is. A combat veteran, Puller is the man the U.S. Army relies on to investigate the toughest crimes facing the nation. Now he has a new case-but this time, the crime is personal: His aunt has been found dead in Paradise, Florida.

A picture-perfect town on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Paradise thrives on the wealthy tourists and retirees drawn to its gorgeous weather and beaches. The local police have ruled his aunt’s death an unfortunate, tragic accident. But just before she died, she mailed a letter to Puller’s father, telling him that beneath its beautiful veneer, Paradise is not all it seems to be.

What Puller finds convinces him that his aunt’s death was no accident . . . and that the palm trees and sandy beaches of Paradise may hide a conspiracy so shocking that some will go to unthinkable lengths to make sure the truth is never revealed.” — Amazon.com

“The Invisible Bridge” by Julie Orringer – “In September 1937, Andras Levi leaves Budapest for Paris, where he will study at the Ecole Speciale on a scholarship. Before he leaves, he encounters Elza Hasz, who asks him to carry a letter to Paris addressed to C. Morgenstern. Andras posts the letter and begins his studies, getting help from a Hungarian professor, a desperately needed job from a theater director he met on the train, and an introduction to some friends from an actress at the theater. The daughter is sullen and disinterested, but the mother turns out to be Claire Morgenstern, recipient of the mysterious letter, and it is with Claire that Andras launches a tumultuous affair. Soon, a painful secret about Claire’s past emerges–and then war comes to sweep everything aside. VERDICT With historic detail, a complex cast of characters, and much coincidental crossing, this book has a big, sagalike feel. Unfortunately, it also has a paint-by-the-numbers feel, as if the author were working too hard to get through every point of the story she’s envisioned. The result is some plain writing, not the luminous moments we remember from her story collection, How To Breathe Underwater. Nevertheless, this should appeal to those who like big reads with historic significance.” –Barbara Hoffert,  LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2010.

“The Last Man: A Novel” by Vince Flynn – “An invaluable CIA asset has gone missing, and with him, secrets that in the wrong hands could prove disastrous. The only question is: Can Mitch Rapp find him first?

Joe Rickman, head of CIA clandestine operations in Afghanistan, has been kidnapped and his four bodyguards executed in cold blood. But Mitch Rapp’s experience and nose for the truth make him wonder if something even more sinister isn’t afoot. Irene Kennedy, director of the CIA, has dispatched him to Afghanistan to find Rickman at all costs.

Rapp, however, isn’t the only one looking for Rickman. The FBI is too, and it quickly becomes apparent that they’re less concerned with finding Rickman than placing the blame on Rapp.
With CIA operations in crisis, Rapp must be as ruthless and deceitful as his enemies if he has any hope of finding Rickman and completing his mission. But with elements within his own government working against both him and American interests, will Rapp be stopped dead before he can succeed?” — Amazon.com

“NYPD Red” by James Patterson – “It’s the start of Hollywood on Hudson, and New York City is swept up in the glamour. Every night, the red carpet rolls out for movie stars arriving at premieres in limos; the most exclusive restaurants close for private parties for wealthy producers and preeminent directors; and thousands of fans gather with the paparazzi, hoping to catch a glimpse of the most famous and beautiful faces in the world. With this many celebrities in town, special task force NYPD Red is on high alert-and they can’t afford to make a single mistake.

Then a world-renowned producer fatally collapses at his power breakfast, and top NYPD Red Detective Zach Jordan is the first one on the scene. Zach works with his beautiful new partner, Detective Kylie MacDonald-who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend-to discover who the murderer might be. But this is only the beginning: the most brutal, public, and horrifyingly spectacular crimes they’ve ever encountered are about to send all of New York into chaos, putting NYPD Red on the ropes.

Zach and Kylie know there’s no way of telling what a killer this deranged will do next. With the whole world watching, they have to find a way to stop a psychopath who has scripted his finale down to the last explosive detail. With larger-than-life action, relentless speed, and white-knuckle twists, NYPD Red is the next mega-blockbuster from “The Man Who Can’t Miss.” (TIME)” — Amazon.com

“Panther” by Nelson DeMille – “Former NYPD detective John Corey brought down Libyan terrorist Asad Khalil, aka The Lion, in 2010’s The Lion, and now he’s hunting another big cat: Yemeni-American Bulus ibn al-Darwish al Numair, aka The Panther, one of the Al Qaeda masterminds behind the attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in 2000. After being baited by their boss, Special Agent in Charge Tom Walsh, Corey and his FBI agent wife, Kate Mayfield, volunteer for the dangerous mission in Yemen, and they soon find themselves at the top of Al Qaeda’s assassination list. A corrupt and ineffective government barely controls the cities, tribal chiefs rule the hinterlands, and U.S. operatives fear that Al Qaeda is growing stronger. Plus, Corey doesn’t even trust other members of the U.S. team. Essentially chosen to serve as panther bait, Corey and Mayfield are equally dangerous predators and DeMille puts them through the wringer as attacks come from all sides when they head into the Badlands with a daring plot to trap their target. Tricks and twists abound in this fast moving thriller where everyone has their own agenda and survival is the ultimate goal.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2012.

“Poseidon’s Arrow” by Clive Cussler – “The fifth Dirk Pitt novel from bestseller Cussler and son Dirk (after 2010’s Crescent Dawn) features expanded roles for Pitt’s two grown kids. Both Summer and Dirk Jr. help their dad try to corral ruthless Austrian entrepreneur Edward Bolcke, who runs a slavery compound in Central America where kidnapped sailors are forced into servitude to assist in his many criminal enterprises. In particular, Bolcke has managed to steal a crucial component of the U.S. Navy’s latest submarine technology–and he has found a way to hijack the world’s supply of rare earth minerals. The three Pitts, along with longstanding sidekick Al Giordino, use their usual mix of brains and brawn to see that justice is served. While some readers may have a problem with sluggish action sequences and a surfeit of story lines, ardent followers of the Pitt clan and their nautical escapades will appreciate the family dynamics and camaraderie.” Agent: Peter Lampack, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2012.

“The Sins of the Mother” by Danielle Steel –  ” As a way of making up to them for time lost, Olivia spends months every year planning a lavish holiday that everyone in her family will enjoy. This summer she has arranged a dream trip in the Mediterranean on a luxurious yacht, which she hopes will be the most memorable vacation of all. Her lavish gesture every year expresses her love for them, and regret at all the important times she missed during her children’s younger years. Her younger daughter, Cassie, a hip London music producer, refuses the invitation altogether, as she does every year. Her older daughter, Liz, lives in her mother’s shadow, with a terror of failure as she tries to recapture her dream of being a writer. And her sons, John and Phillip, work for Olivia, for better or worse, with wives who wish they didn’t. In the splendor of the Riviera, this should be a summer to remember, with Olivia’s children, grandchildren, and daughters-in-law on board. But as with any family gathering, there are always surprises, and no matter how glamorous the setting things don’t always turn out as ones hopes.

Family dynamics are complicated, old disappointments die hard, and as forgiveness and surprising revelations enter into it, new bonds are formed, and the future takes on a brighter hue. And one by one, with life’s irony, Olivia’s children find themselves committing the same “sins” for which they blamed their mother for so many years. It is a summer of compassion, important lessons, and truth.

The Sins of the Mother captures the many sides of family love: complex, challenging, funny, passionate, and hopefully enduring. Along the way, we are enthralled by an unforgettable heroine, a mother strong enough to take more than her fair share of the blame, wise enough to respect her children for who they really are, and forgiving enough to love them unconditionally.” — Amazon.com

“Sweet Tooth” by Ian McEwan –  “How easily we are fooled, and how easily we fool ourselves. That’s the sense we get when reading this latest from Booker Prize winner McEwan (Solar), set in the Cold War 1970s. Rather gorgeous Serena Frome (“rhymes with plume”) attends Cambridge to study mathematics, though she’d rather be reading, because she’s persuaded that women must prove themselves adept with numbers. She scrapes by with a third, meanwhile having an affair with a married history professor who secretly grooms her for the intelligence service and then dumps her. Drafted by MI5, she’s on the lowest rung when she’s asked to participate in a mission, codenamed Sweet Tooth, aimed at secretly funding writers whose views align with the government. Serena’s target is Tom Haley, with whom she foolishly falls in love. Then he writes the grimmest, darkest postapocalyptic novel imaginable. VERDICT The writing is creamy smooth, the ultimate trap-within-a-trap pure gold, and the whole absolutely engrossing, but poor Serena. She’s such a doof, and she’s a bit condensed too (by both characters and author), which leaves a bitter taste no matter how good the novel. [See Prepub Alert, 5/4/12.]”–Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal. 304p. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2012.
 

MYSTERY

“Bent Road” by Lori Roy – ” After a self-imposed exile, Arthur Scott moves his wife and children from the tumult of 1960s Detroit to the wind-swept plains of his hometown in Kansas. A secret is lurking in this small village, and it has something to do with the Scott family. Years ago, Arthur’s beautiful older sister died mysteriously. Now, another young girl disappears without a trace. There are also rumors of an escaped convict on the loose. Meanwhile, Arthur’s only living sister is beaten by her abusive husband and must seek refuge. Celia, Arthur’s wife, watches as events unfold around her, all the time questioning whether they are somehow related. In her debut mystery, Roy excels at creating the kind of ominous mood that is unique to the novel’s small-town setting, in which the church holds sway, and family secrets are locked-up tight. Terrifying and touching, the novel is captivating from beginning to end.”– Heather Paulson. 368pg. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2011.

“Black Box: A Novel” by Michael Connelly – “At his core, Harry Bosch is a cop with a mission–to tip the scales of justice toward the side of murder victims and their survivors….As usual, Bosch faces not only the seeming impossibility of reconstructing a crime that has been cold for two decades but also the roadblocks imposed by the bureaucrats at the top of the LAPD. But Bosch has never met a roadblock he wasn’t compelled to either barge through or cannily avoid. Harry is such a compelling character largely due to his fundamentally antiestablishment personality, which leads to chaos as often as to triumph, but also because his unswerving work ethic reflects not simply duty but also respect for the task before him. Harry does it right, even–or especially–when his bosses want something else entirely. That’s the case this time–How would it look if a white cop made headlines by solving the riot-related murder of a white woman? Better to let it slide. In real life, we all let things slide, but in life according to Bosch, nothing slides. We like Harry, as we like many other fictional crime solvers, because he never stops, but we love him because he has the scars to prove that never sliding is no easy thing.” — Ott, Bill. 416p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2012.

“Delusion in Death” by J.D. Robb – “Happy hour in a Manhattan bar becomes a scene of carnage when a potent hallucinogenic-drug mixture, released into the air, causes everyone inside to attack everyone else. While members of the NYPD unit headed by Lieutenant Eve Dallas soon identify the drugs, they can’t stop another incident days later at a nearby cafe. With a total of 127 dead and the looming threat of another incident, Dallas and her colleagues (with Dallas’ billionaire husband, Roarke, who owns the bar, serving as a consultant) race to check out victims, including the few who survived the attack, as they search for connections and motives, with an unexpected assist from the historical knowledge of Roarke’s live-in butler. Although sleepless for days, Dallas remains at the top of her game in this thirty-fifth entry in this suspense series by the prolific Robb (aka Nora Roberts); and even with the help of modern technology, it’s still dogged police work and keen intuition that solve crimes. With its final twist, this is a compelling addition to a best-selling series.” — Leber, Michele. 400p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2012.

“The Marseille Caper” by Peter Mayle – “Mayle …sends readers on a breezy excursion to southern France’s least appreciated city in this entertaining crime novel filled with amiable digressions into the history, cuisine, and local culture of Marseille. Los Angelino sleuth Sam Levitt returns for his second foray into the dark side of finance and real estate development in Provence’s scruffy metropolis, offering breezy opinions on bouillabaisse, the countryside, and the region’s centuries-old distrust of Parisians, amid talk of fine wines and underhanded deals. Sam and his girlfriend, Elena, insinuate themselves into a scheme to give their billionaire client, Francois Reboul, familiar to fans of Mayle’s The Vintage Caper, a leg up in the proposed waterfront development, sidestepping the decades-long enmity of Jerome Patrimonio, head of the selection committee and Reboul’s bitter rival. It’s a genial, lighthearted piece of skullduggery that wends its way forward with appealing, authentic local color, until the main competitor for the development, the brutish, one-dimensional British tycoon, Lord Wapping, ups the stakes with a bit of heavy-handed kidnapping. Mayle’s cast of fondly crafted characters mobilize the capering elements of the title as the adventure comes to a satisfactory conclusion. 100,000 announced first printing.”– Agent: Ernest Chapman. 224p. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2012.

“Notorious Nineteen” by Janet Evanovich – “After a slow summer of chasing low-level skips for her cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds agency, Stephanie Plum finally lands an assignment that could put her checkbook back in the black. Geoffrey Cubbin, facing trial for embezzling millions from Trenton’s premier assisted-living facility, has mysteriously vanished from the hospital after an emergency appendectomy. Now it’s on Stephanie to track down the con man. The problem is, Cubbin has disappeared without a trace, a witness, or his money-hungry wife. Rumorsare stirring that he must have had help with the daring escape, or that maybe he never made it out of his room alive. Since the hospital staff’s lips seem to be tighter than the security, and it is hard for Stephanie to blend in to assisted living, Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur goes in undercover. But when a second felon goes missing from the same hospital, Plum is forced into working side by side with Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, in order to crack the case. Solving the case is harder than she imagined and to make sure the rent is paid she takes on a second job, protecting her mentor Ranger from a deadly special forces adversary.” — Baker & Taylor

“A Simple Murder” by Eleanor Kuhns – “Set in 1795, Kuhns’s quiet, well-crafted debut, the winner of the MWA/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel competition, poignantly captures the Shaker ethos of the period. When widowed weaver Will Rees returns home to Maine from a long trip, he learns that his 13-year-old son, David, whom he left in the care of relatives, has run away. Hearing that a local Shaker community has taken David in, Rees goes there in search of his son. In order to stay near David and work on their strained relationship, Rees, who gained a reputation for crime solving while serving in the Continental Army, agrees to look into the murder of an attractive young woman, Sister Chastity, and later the disappearance of two male Shakers years before. Rees forms an appealing bond with sleuthing sidekick Lydia Jane Farrell, a former Shaker living near the settlement. Their unresolved relationship will fuel reader hopes for a sequel. Only some anachronistic language jars.” — (May). 336p. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2012.

ADULT NON-FICTION

“The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom” by Marcus Redicker – “Historian Rediker (The Slave Ship) focuses on the individual captives in this ambitious retelling of the famous 1839 Amistad uprising. He relies on numerous articles about and interviews with rebellion leader Cinque and his fellow captives to detail their abduction, voyage, and stateside imprisonment. Their trial brings out prominent legislators, including Roger S. Baldwin and former president John Quincy Adams, as well as political activists like Lewis Tappan, turning the already sensational upheaval aboard the slave ship Amistad into a national spectacle of antebellum America. Rediker renders the struggle of progressive newspapers to portray, in both word and image, the refugees as romantic heroes, while proslavery outlets labeled them “beastly” pirates. He also describes the Africans’ and Americans’ mutual attempts to understand one another’s language and customs, in order to better communicate throughout the hearings. As the Supreme Court solidified its position on the captives’ fate, the reader feels America further split in its own attitudes on slavery. Following the verdict, Rediker trails the freed captives as they tour the country and return to their native homelands, while the effects of the court’s landmark ruling reverberate throughout the nation. Spectacularly researched and fluidly composed, this latest study offers some much needed perspective on a critical yet oft-overlooked event in America’s history.”– Agent: Sandra Dijkstra. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2012.

“The Price of Politics” by Bob Woodward –  “A reconstruction of how Republican brinkmanship threatened to bring down the global economy by forcing a U.S. debt default. …Woodward chronicles how Republicans used a previously routine vote on increasing the debt ceiling to blackmail President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Emboldened by their midterm victory in 2010, the Republicans aimed to force the president to accept major cuts to the budget and entitlements while holding the line on taxes. In explaining this display of brinkmanship, Woodward explains that for the U.S. president, default was not an option and could in fact bring down the entire global economy. The action takes place in the summer of 2011, beginning with a failed attempt by the White House to craft a workable deal in negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner. When these negotiations collapsed, the entire political leadership of both parties was brought in, leading to recriminations on all sides. The debt ceiling was raised but at the cost of a January fiscal cliffhanger. Although the author faults both Boehner and the president for their “fixed partisan convictions and dogmas,” his main purpose appears to be to discredit Obama. He compares him unfavorably to former Presidents Reagan and Clinton, both of whom handled similar crises. Although admitting that “Obama was handed a miserable, faltering economy and faced a recalcitrant Republican opposition,” Woodward faults him for being both arrogant and inept at building political consensus. An occasionally intriguing look into political grappling at the highest level but mostly an exercise in excruciating detail, most of which boils down to trivial political gossip.”– KIRKUS MEDIA LLC, c2012.

BIOGRAPHY

“The Last Lion: Winston Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965” by William Manchester & Paul Reid –  “.. Opening with a character sketch of Churchill in his multifaceted guises of sentimentality, egotistical insensitivity, and brilliance, Reid dives into Churchill’s war leadership in 1940 that is the cynosure of his place in history. Reid’s got the research right, down to the day, down to the minute. He shows Churchill defying Hitler and appeasers–the French leadership and figures in the British government–who even in 1940 thought peace could be arranged with the triumphant Nazis. As Reid chronicles Churchill’s public speeches, communications, and strategy sessions, he affords regular glimpses at Churchill’s private aspects–his wittiness, sybaritic consumption of scotch and cigars, and moods bordering on depression. If reading Churchill’s life after 1945 entails an unavoidably anticlimactic quality, Reid nevertheless ably chronicles its main events of writing his WWII memoirs and assuming his second premiership of 1951-55. Manchester was one of the best Churchill biographers, and this capstone to his magnum opus ought not be missed.” Taylor, Gilbert. 1,232p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2012.

“Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power” by Jon Meacham – “Pulitzer Prize-winner Meacham claims that previous Jefferson scholars have not grasped the authentic Jefferson. Meacham unmasks a power-hungry, masterful, pragmatic leader who was not above being manipulative to achieve his goal: an enduring, democratic republic defined by him. A brilliant philosopher whose lofty principles were sometimes sidelined for more realistic goals, Meacham’s Jefferson, neither idol nor rogue, is a complex mortal with serious flaws and contradictions. Despite his dedication to human liberty, he would not impose practical measures to end slavery. Here, Jefferson’s political instincts trumped his moral and philosophical beliefs, and he lived uncomfortably with that contradiction, believing that slavery would eventually end but unable to create a balance between human freedom and political unity. Meacham believes that what some recent writers have viewed as hypocrisy was actually genius. Failing to solve the conundrum of slavery, Jefferson creatively and successfully applied power, flexibility, and compromise in an imperfect world. VERDICT General and academic readers will find a balanced, engaging, and realistic treatment of the forces motivating the third President, the subject of unending fascination and debate.” –Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY. 800pg. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2012.

“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail” by Cheryl Strayed – “In the mid-1990s as her world collapsed, both from within and without, Strayed (Torch) decided that walking the Pacific Crest Trail would be a way forward. Devastated by the death of her mother and the subsequent undoing of her family and marriage, Strayed saw the 2,663-mile route through desert, mountains, and raw wilderness as something of an ideal-offering promise, salvation, a path toward the way (though she had no idea what any of those things would look like, if they could be found). The decision to walk an 1100-mile segment of the trail was as impulsive and self-isolating a choice as any she had made during her free fall following her mother’s death. Detailing everything from the landscape, to the toll hiking took on her body, to the exquisite joy to be found in Snapple after a long day, to the bevy of people washing in and out of her life on the trail, she tells her story in an intimate voice, as if to a wise and accepting friend-one smart enough to stay silent and just nod encouragingly as her story spills out. Strayed’s tale of self-destruction and self-reconciliation is an addictive one-an insightful, literary, and powerful combination of the inwardness of memoir and the fast pace of adventure quest.” — LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2012.

DVD’s

“Arthur’s Perfect Christmas”
“Brave”
“The Dark Knight Rises”
“Homeland: The Complete First Season”
“Lawless”
“ParaNorman”
“Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season”

JUVENILE FICTION

 
“Close to Famous” by Joan Bauer – “Gr. 5-8. Twelve-year-old Foster McFee and her mother leave Memphis in the middle of the night, fleeing the mother’s abusive boyfriend. Foster has a severe learning disability, a pillowcase full of mementos of her dead father, and a real gift for baking. When she and her singer mother relocate to a tiny, rural West Virginia town, they discover a friendly and welcoming population of delightfully quirky characters. Foster finally learns to read from a reclusive, retired movie star; markets her baked goods at Angry Wayne’s Bar and Grill; helps tiny but determined Macon with his documentary; and encourages her mother to become a headliner rather than a backup singer, all the while perfecting her baking technique for the time when she gets her own cooking show like her TV idol, Sonny Kroll. Bauer gently and effortlessly incorporates race (Foster’s mother is black; her father was white), religion, social justice, and class issues into a guaranteed feel-good story that dodges sentimentality with humor. Readers who want contemporary fiction with a happy ending will find it here.” — Debbie Carton. 240pg. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2011. 

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever” by Jeff Kinney – “The timing of the release of the sixth book in Kinney’s bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is pretty much perfect, given that it’s set in the weeks leading up to Christmas. (Diehard fans, though, will have burned through it long before Thanksgiving dinner is served.) Kinney keeps to the formula that has worked so well for him, as Greg Heffley recounts, in diary entries and cartoons, his episodic misadventures at home and at school, mixing the timely (bullying, energy drink addiction, a creepy Elf on the Shelf-style doll called ‘Santa’s Scout’) with the timeless (school fundraisers, get-rich moneymaking schemes, sibling rivalry). Readers expecting an overarching focus on a snowed-in Heffley clan, based on the book’s concept, will have to wait a bit: the big storm doesn’t hit until pretty late in the game. But it’s unlikely that anyone will mind–Greg is as entertainingly self-serving as ever, and Kinney continues to excel at finding the innate humor in broadly relatable situations, from the futility of junk-food crackdowns to a toddler’s ability to exert control over an entire family.”– (Nov.). 224pg. Web-Exclusive Review. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2011.

“The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman” by Meg Wolitzer – “Gr. 5-8. Duncan Dorfman is adjusting to life in a new Michigan town with his struggling single mom, who lands a job at a local big-box store run by a rarely-seen millionaire. After moving, Duncan finds that he can discern letters with the fingertips of his left hand, which helps him choose needed tiles after he joins the school Scrabble club. Eventually, Duncan’s skills bring him to the national Scrabble tournament in Florida, where he meets two other young Scrabble players: a boy from New York City, who has a fraught relationship with his father, and a girl who tries to prove her worth in a family of athletes. As the kids get to know each other, they take a side trip to a crumbling, sinister amusement park, which launches them into an unexpected adventure. At the novel’s end, the focus returns back to Duncan, who discovers a surprise about a family secret. The overpacked plot drags a bit, but readers who stick with it will be rewarded with portraits of winning, well-drawn kids struggling to succeed in a complicated world.” — Todd Morning. 256pg. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2011.

“Revenge of the Witch” by Joseph Delaney – “Gr 5-8. When 12-year-old Thomas, seventh son of a seventh son, is apprenticed to the local Spook, whose job is to fight evil spirits and witches, he expects a life of danger. However, the boy doesn’t realize just how soon he’ll face a powerful enemy alone, as Mother Malkin escapes her confinement while the Spook is away. Thomas is forced to use his wits, and the help of his enigmatic new friend, Alice, to fight the evil witch. And defeating her is only the start of the boy’s problems. Delaney’s characters are clearly presented and have realistic depth, and Thomas’s mother and Alice stand out for their strong words and actions. The protagonist’s voice is clear, and his conflicts over his actions ring true. This first entry in a proposed series is an excellent choice for readers who are looking for a more sophisticated alternative to R. L. Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ books (Scholastic), and the pacing and edgy illustrations at the start of each chapter will appeal to reluctant readers. Delaney’s rural, quasi-medieval world is populated by a variety of magic creatures, and readers will look forward to discovering more of them, along with Thomas, as the series continues. A solid choice, particularly for middle school boys.” –Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI. 343pg. CAHNERS PUBLISHING, c2005.

“The Man Who Lived Alone” by Donald Hall & Mary Azarian –  “This is a story about a man who lives alone because he chooses to. In his cabin in the New England woods, he lives with his collection of old newspapers and carefully saved nails, his mule and his owl. His much loved cousin, Nan, is just close enough to him to visit now and then. The man who lives alone leads a solitary life: quiet and content.

In simple, lyrical prose, Donald Hall creates a moving and believable portrait of this affectionate, eccentric man, from childhood to old age. We understand why he is the way he is, the names and pictures of his days, and, finally, how those days will end. It’s a story about self-sufficiency and about solitude, about the difference between loneliness and being alone, about living and about dying.” — Amazon.com

“Third Wheel” by Jeff Kinney – “Ages 8-12. Seven books into the bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Kinney isn’t messing with a good thing, and he continues to mine middle-school life for comedic gold. He doesn’t appear to be in danger of running out of material, either, covering everything from school elections and chocolate bar fundraisers (” lot of families like mine had to write a check to the school just to cover the cost of the candy bars their children ate,” Greg says. “It’s possible that nobody sold a single candy bar”) to the traumas of “family-style” restaurants and Bring Your Child to Work Day. Greg even gives readers a glimpse of his (much) younger years, including his memories of life in the womb (“fter being hit by the cold air the blinding lights of the delivery room, I wish I’d just stayed put”). Fans will continue to enjoy Greg’s ongoing efforts to come out on top, whether trying to secure a private bathroom stall at school or a date for the Valentine’s Day dance.” Agent: Sylvie Rabineau, RWSG Agency. (Nov.). 224p. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2012.

“True Colors” by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock – “Grades 4-6. Left as a tiny baby outside 63-year-old Hannah’s farmhouse door for her to name, love, and raise as her own, Blue has never known the identity of her parents, but it never seemed to matter until her tenth summer. Her best friend, having family troubles, seems like a stranger. Her familiar, loosely knit community is suddenly full of surprises. And her new project with the local newspaper leads her in unexpected directions. Meanwhile, Blue learns that every family has secrets, and hers is no exception. Set in 1952, this well-constructed novel features a number of distinctive, believable characters moving in their own circles, which occasionally and sometimes unexpectedly intersect those of others. Meanwhile, the words and deeds of even minor players resonate through the story, as Blue sets out to solve the mystery of her parentage and, in the end, discovers where her heart lies.” — Phelan, Carolyn. 256p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2012.

JUVENILE NON-FICTION

“Boston Tea Party” by Russell Freedman –  “Freedman tackles the Boston Tea Party with his characteristic energy and rigor and provides a gripping account of the nation-defining episode. He starts with a lucid, two-page introduction offering historical context–not stopping to get bogged down in the details of the Stamp Tax and its ilk–before he vaults into his story with a promising opening that mixes fact and suspense. From that page forward, he weaves together meticulously sourced quotations and information with engaging personal details to effectively enliven the tense, silent act of rebellion. Along with the usual heroes of the Revolution–Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, etc.–Freedman presents the actions of young men such as a rope-maker’s apprentice who snuck out a window to join the mob and the mason-in-training who detoured to the protest on his way to a date. These charming and enlightening particulars, including many direct quotes, lend immediacy and emotional weight to the account, told in an effective but surprisingly casual tone. Freedman’s absorbing and informative story is somewhat underserved by Malone’s illustrations. A rich, earthy palette and period details, even with an occasional spark of humor, can’t quite overcome the static feeling of the pictures, which resemble watercolor renditions of an American history diorama with their stiff-armed figures and blank faces. Fortunately, Freedman’s text proves lively enough for both. Back matter includes a note on the importance of tea in colonial American life.” –Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY. 40p. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2012.

“Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brothers Baseball Team” by Audrey Vernick – “In a 1930s New Jersey town, one family liked baseball so much that they made their own team. It wasn’t that difficult. The Acerras had 16 children—12 of them boys. For 22 years straight, an Acerra played baseball in the local high school. In 1938, the oldest nine formed their own semipro team. With an age range of more than 20 years among the boys, there was always another Acerra coming up. Vernick, who interviewed the surviving members of the family, incorporates their remembrances into this very special exhibition of family loyalty and love of sports. The narrative takes them through their time on the field, the dissolution of the team when six of the guys went off to WWII (and all came home safely), and a team resurgence after the war. With plenty of highs (winning seasons) and a couple of lows (one brother lost an eye when a bunt went bad), the story rolls along easily. Best of all, though, is Salerno’s fantastic art. Using a retro style that combines the look of 1950s TV advertising (think Speedy Alka Seltzer) and the exuberance of comic-book art, Salerno’s pictures brim with vitality. The author’s and illustrator’s endnotes provide interesting context for this story of brotherly—and baseball—love.” — Cooper, Ilene. 40pg. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2012.

“Forget-Me-Not: Poems to Learn By Heart” by Mary Ann Hoberman – “For those who lament that young people are no longer taught to memorize poetry, here’s a handsome compendium of verse well suited to that purpose and chosen with children in mind. The Children’s Poet Laureate from 2008 to 2010, Hoberman chose 123 poems that are memorable in both senses of the word. They’re “easy to remember” (though she concedes that the longer ones will take more time) and “worth remembering.” In an appended section, she discusses an approach to learning poems by heart, making the process a game with a specific prize: owning the chosen poem and keeping it for a lifetime. The selection of verse is broad, representing 57 poets, including Alarcon, Belloc, de la Mare, Esbensen, Frost, Greenfield, Grimes, Hoberman, Lear, McCord, Milne, Sandburg, Silverstein, Stevenson, Tolkien, and Worth. Created using pencil, watercolors, and pastels, Emberley’s appealing illustrations brighten every page of this large-format book. A handsome anthology of poems that children can learn by heart.” Phelan, Carolyn. 144pg. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2012.

“Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World” by Laurie Lawlor – “This book’s bold title is hard to dispute: Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) did, in fact, change the world, awakening people globally to the environmental threats posed by industrial chemicals. Lawlor attributes Carson’s interest in nature to a childhood spent largely alone, during which her mother introduced her to “the haunting melody of a wood thrush.” A rare chance at college followed, where Carson made up with academic curiosity what she lacked in social popularity. After WWII, her writing broke through, and much of Silent Spring was written while she battled breast cancer. Lawlor’s prose is nonrhyming but possessed with a noble rhythm (“she lost her heart to a world of restless water and sky”). Beingessner’s soft tempera paintings are pleasingly two-dimensional and alternate pastels and earth tones to bring home the highs and lows of Carson’s too-short life. Though Carson never got to see the changes brought on by her work, readers can use this fine book, as well as the informative back matter, to learn all that happened next.” Kraus, Daniel. 32pg. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2012.

BOARD BOOKS

“Feelings Book” by Todd Parr
“Llama, Llama Zippety Zoom” by Anna Dewdney

PICTURE BOOKS

“Apples A to Z” by Margaret McNamara
“The Bear in the Book” by Kate Banks
“Big Bad Bunny” by Franny Billingsley
“Black Dog” by Levi Pinfold
“The Case of the Incapacitated Capitals” by Roben Pulver
“Charley’s First Night” by Amy Hest
“Curious George Takes a Job” by H.A. Rey
“The Day Louis Got Eaten” by John Fardell
“Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl” by Ted Arnold
“Good Night Owl” by Pat Hutchins
“Horsefly and Honeybee” by Randy Cecil
“I’m Bored” by Michael Ian Black
“King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson” by Kenneth Kraegel
“Moo Who?” by Margie Palatini
“Mousetronaut” by Mark Kelly
“Poodle and Hound” by Kathryn Lasky
“Shadow” by Suzy Lee
“Wicked Big Toddlah” by Kevin Hawkes

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

 “Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour” by Morgan Matson – “After Amy’s father dies in a car crash, everything that this California girl took for granted changes overnight. Her twin brother Charlie is shipped off to rehab in North Carolina. Her mother accepts a teaching position in Connecticut, leaving Amy home alone to finish her junior year of high school. Then her mom arranges to get Amy to Connecticut via a cross-country drive with a family friend, 19-year-old Roger. The pair quickly ditches the pre-planned itinerary in favor of more spontaneous detours to Yosemite, Colorado, and Graceland. Amy’s mother is predictably furious and cuts off her credit card, leaving the teens on a shoestring budget. Along the way Amy gradually opens up to Roger about her father’s accident and her repressed feelings about it. During a stop in Louisville, Roger finds closure with the girl who recently dumped him, leaving him available for a relationship with Amy. The theme of her emotional journey meshes well with the realistically rendered physical journey across the U.S. Playlists, pages from a travel scrapbook, well-drawn supporting characters, and unique regional details enhance the narrative. Flashback chapters shed light on Amy’s life before her father’s death, without breaking the steady pacing. One sexual situation is discreetly described. Overall, this is an emotionally rewarding road novel with a satisfying, if not totally surprising, conclusion. It’s similar in theme and tone to Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever (Viking, 2004).” –Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA. 343pg. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2010
“Divergent” by Veronica Roth – “In the future, you are born into one of five factions, each of which has its strength and focus: Abnegation (service), Candor (truth), Erudite (intellect), Amity (friendship), or Dauntless (fearlessness). But on your sixteenth birthday, you can choose a new faction if you are so compelled, and that’s what happens to Tris, who shocks everyone by exchanging the drab gray robes of Abnegation for the piercing and tattoo stylings of Dauntless. What follows is a contest, where only the top 10 initiates are accepted into the final group. This framework of elimination provides the book with a built-in tension, as Tris and her new friends–and new enemies–go through a series of emotional and physical challenges akin to joining the marines. Roth is wisely merciless with her characters, though her larger world building is left fuzzy. (Is there a world beyond this dystopian version of Chicago?) The simplistic, color-coded world stretches credibility on occasion, but there is no doubt readers will respond to the gutsy action and romance of this umpteenth spin on Brave New World.” — Daniel Kraus. 496pg. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2011.

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