My Pick
Abu-Jaber, Diana. Birds of Paradise. Norton. Sept. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9780393064612. $25.95.
Felice abandoned home when she was 13 to skateboard and live in a squat on the beach. Now almost 18, she dwells on the sad secret that drove her away from her parents and older brother, just as they anguish over her disappearance. Since Abu-Jaber has proved particularly adept at relaying the complex push-and-pull of human relationships in sharp, finely tuned language (see Origin and Arabian Jazz), I expect her rendering of a too-common family tragedy to be especially smart and affecting. (For a touching real-life account, see Debra Gwartney’s Live Through This: A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love.) Really looking forward to this one; with a five-city tour to Miami (the book’s setting), San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and New York.

Barrie, J.M. The Annotated Peter Pan. Centennial Ed. Norton. Sept. 2011. 416p. ISBN 9780393066005. $35.95.
Having just seen the New York Theatre Workshop production of Peter and the Starcatcher, an adaptation of the Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson children’s novel that prefigures the events in Peter Pan, I’m delighted to see that Barrie’s classic is the latest in Norton’s annotated fairytale series. The redoubtable Maria Tatar, who chairs Harvard’s Program in Folklore and Mythology and has edited several volumes in the series, does her magic again‚ just in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Peter Pan‘s publication. Buy even if you don’t believe in magic.

Brown, Sandra. Lethal. Grand Central. Sept. 2011. 300p. ISBN 9781455501472. $27.99.
Informed by her four-year-old that there’s a man in the yard who needs help, Honor rushes out to find Lee Coburn, who stands accused of murdering seven people the night before. He also says that Honor’s late husband has something that he wants‚ something so dangerous that she’ll be glad to dump it. Brown has not slowed down; buy multiples.

Chaucer, Geoffrey, adapted by Seymour Chwast. The Canterbury Tales. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Sept. 2011. 144p. ISBN 9781608194872. $20.
Remember Dante’s Divine Comedy, illustrator Chwast’s wicked-delicious take on everyone’s favorite 14th-century Italian epic? Chwast is back at it, adapting Chaucer’s great ramble to his own purposes‚ beware, purists, these pilgrims ride motorcycles. A fun introduction for anyone terrified of Middle English and of interest to graphic novels fans as well.

Kagen, Lesley. Good Graces. Dutton. Sept. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780525952381. $25.95.
Kagen here picks up where Whistling in the Dark, her New York Times best-selling debut, left off. Sally O’Malley has a lot on her plate: she’s still recalling her near-escape from a murderer, as featured in Whistling; her father has just died; and some unsettling neighborhood events‚ burglaries and an orphan’s disappearance‚ might involve her beloved but acting-out sister, Troo. And the 1959 Milwaukee summer is burning hot. It can be hard to judge how second novels will go, but look out for this one, especially where the first book was popular. With a reading group guide.

Khoury, Raymond. The Devil’s Elixir. Dutton. Sept. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9780525952435. $26.95. CD: Penguin
Stars of Khoury’s Templar thrillers, FBI agent Sean Reilly and girlfriend Tess Chaykin are now chasing after‚Ķan herb? But this isn’t just salad seasoning, it’s a plant now lost in the jungles of Central America that’s capable of inducing an experience so mind-blowing it could unsettle the world. So our protagonists are following old clues and fighting off new enemies‚ drug dealers and DEA agents among them‚ to locate it. Give me coriander any day, but Khoury’s books are big-time fun.

Sapphire. The Kid. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Jul. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9781594203046. $25.95. CD: Penguin Audio.
This just in: Sapphire’s latest, a sequel to Push coming 15 years after its publication and one year after Precious, the film based on Push, got Academy Award attention, will be appearing this summer. It’s the story of Precious’s son, Abdul, starting on the day of his mother’s funeral and moving back and forth in time to tell a generations-long saga of Abdul’s family. Serious readers will want it for Sapphire; others will be curious because of the film. Don’t miss. With a national tour.

Shane, Trevor. Children of Paranoia. Dutton. Sept. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9780525952374. $25.95. CD: Penguin Audio.
The War has been going on forever, with the killings disguised as accidents; assassins just follow orders, doing what they do without knowing why. Joseph, an assassin since age 18, has just blown an assignment and for punishment is sent off to fulfill a loathsome task. But then he meets Maria, and suddenly he doesn’t want just to kill. Intriguing premise for this dystopian thriller; let’s see what debut author Shane, former counsel for a major international financial corporation, can do with it. Reasonably big publisher expectations.

Smith, Ali. There but for The. Pantheon. Sept. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9780375424090. $25.
No, that’s not a typo; it’s the sort of title you’d expect from brilliantly quirky Whitbread Award winner Smith. Her premise will call you up short, too: a friend of a friend brings a stranger to a dinner party as his guest. Halfway through the meal, the guest ups and locks himself in a room and won’t leave. Ever. Just imagine the sense of despair and fatedness that runs through this book. Ambitious readers will definitely want to try.

Thompson, Craig. Habibi. Pantheon. Sept. 2011. 672p. ISBN 9780375424144. $35.
This is not just an epic that sprawls from desert to harem to modern urban waste. And it’s not just the story of two refugee child slaves named Dodola and Zam. Crafted by graphic novelist Thompson, who gave us the great Blankets and has won four Harvey, two Eisner, and two Ignatz awards, it’s a look at how the first and third worlds are divided, Islam and Christianity united, and humanity too separated from the natural world. Ambitious.

My Pick
Ward, Jesmyn. Salvage the Bones. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Sept. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781608195220. $24.
As Ward’s novel opens, a pregnant 14-year-old in Bois Sauvage, MS, watches the family’s pit bull give birth while recalling her mother’s childbed death and her own early sexual experiences. That charged, vivid overlapping continues throughout (on a quick look), as Ward deploys language at once lyric and punch-sharp to portray the struggle, despair, and tenderness of one poor African American family‚ day by day for 12 days, up until Katrina storms forth and takes away everything. Stegner fellow Ward’s first novel, Where the Line Bleeds, won several prizes, including the ALA Black Caucus Honor Award. This looks both beautiful and heartbreaking and would be excellent for book clubs.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.