Starred Reviews: August 2011

Sarah Dinowitz & Anne Horowitz

August 2011 brings 67 starred reviews from our solo print issue and recent Xpress Reviews (online only). Among several notable biographical works are Erica Heller’s memoir of life with her dad, Yossarian Slept Here, and Tim Riley’s Lennon, a comprehensive new look at the magnetic songwriter. Fiction lovers are offered a range of delectable options, including the new Jeffrey Eugenides title, The Marriage Plot, Ha Jin’s latest, Nanjing Requiem, and The Wandering Falcon, Jamil Ahmad’s gorgeous literary debut. Daniel Yergin’s The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World stands out among the current crop of science and technology books.




Arts & Humanities

Bellamy, David. David Bellamy’s Complete Guide to Watercolour Painting. Search, dist. by IPG. Sept. 2011. 128p. illus. index. ISBN 9781844487349. pap. $19.95. ART INSTRUCTION
Readers will discover this medium’s many creative possibilities, albeit within a traditional figurative framework.Hall, Donald.

The Back Chamber. Houghton Harcourt. Sept. 2011. c.96p. ISBN 9780547645858. $22. POETRY
Featuring moving, amusing, musical poems about love, aging, and baseball, this work will have broad appeal and is recommended for all collections.

Heller, Erica. Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home, and Life Was a Catch-22. S. & S. Aug. 2011. c.256p. photogs. ISBN 9781439197684. $25. LIT
A rare combination of candor, humor, and compassion, this book by Joseph Heller’s daughter is for all readers, especially of literary and family memoirs, and all fans of Heller.

Hendrickson, Paul. Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934‚ 1961. Knopf. Sept. 2011. c.560p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781400041626. $30. LIT
Featuring spry writing and clever insight but thankfully little critical analysis of Hemmingway’s work (that’s been done to death).

Meyers, Jeffrey. John Huston: Courage and Art. Crown Archetype. Sept. 2011. c.496p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307590671. $30. FILM
This may be the most definitive biography of Huston to date and should appeal to a large general readership.

Nadler, Steven. A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age. Princeton Univ. Nov. 2011. c.304p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780691139890. $29.95. PHIL
Nadler’s account of Spinoza’s revolutionary treatise is engaging and extremely rewarding.

Orlean, Susan. Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend. S. & S. Oct. 2011. c.288p. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 9781439190135. $26.99. FILM
This is a thoroughly researched and masterfully written work that will please a wide audience, especially those who remember this noble canine hero.

Parkes, Clara. The Knitter’s Book of Socks: The Yarn Lover’s Ultimate Guide To Creating Socks That Fit Well, Feel Great, and Last a Lifetime. Potter Craft: Crown Pub. Group. Oct. 2011. c.208p. illus. index. ISBN 9780307586803. $30. FIBER CRAFTS
Though the instructions are clear, the majority of the patterns are best suited for those with sock-knitting experience.

Reed, Henry Hope & Francis Morrone (text) & Anne Day (photogs.). The New York Public Library: The Architecture and Decoration of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. anniversary ed. Norton. 2011. 320p. illus. index. ISBN 9780393078107. $75. ARCHITECTURE
Few books or buildings meet the standard of this publication and its subject; it is one of the finest books this reviewer has seen on the classical style in the Beaux Arts period in America (roughly 1890‚ 1940).

Riley, Tim. Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music‚ the Definitive Life. Hyperion. Sept. 2011. c.784p. discog. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781401324520. $35. MUSIC
Based on conversations with Lennon associates as well as published source material, memoirs, and interviews, Riley’s book is a balanced biography as well as a fascinating critical assessment of Lennon’s music and his place in the culture.

Roe, Richard Paul. The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels. HarperPerennial: HarperCollins. Nov. 2011. c.320p. illus. maps. bibliog. ISBN 9780062074263. pap. $19.99. LIT
A fascinating look at a largely untouched aspect of Shakespeare’s identity and influences.

Soto, Jock. Every Step You Take: A Memoir. Harper: HarperCollins. Oct. 2011. c.240p. photogs. ISBN 9780061732386. $24.99. DANCE
There are many dancers’ memoirs around; Soto’s is lovely for its graceful inward and outward gaze and its narrative flow.

Wills, Garry. Verdi’s Shakespeare: Men of the Theater. Viking. Oct. 2011. c.240p. index. ISBN 9780670023042. $25.95. MUSIC
Compared to Gary Schmidgall’s excellent Shakespeare and Opera, Wills’s survey is necessarily less broad but equally interdisciplinary and thought-provoking.

Christian Fiction

Allan, Christa. The Edge of Grace. Abingdon. Aug. 2011. c.336p. ISBN 9781426713118. pap. $14.99. CF
This sophomore effort deals sensitively and gracefully with a difficult subject for many Christians, exploring a woman’s response to her brother’s disclosure of his sexual orientation honestly while never shirking from the issue of justice and forgiveness.

Byrd, Sandra. To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. Howard: S. & S. (Ladies in Waiting, Bk. 1). Aug. 2011. c.352p. ISBN 9781439183113. pap. $14.99. CF
Byrd adds a depth to the character of Anne Boleyn that is often missing in other novels, and she brings the history to life in exquisite detail.

Gunn, Robin Jones. Canary Island Song. Howard: S. & S. 2011. c.304p. ISBN 9781416583417. pap. $14.99. CF
Tender and heartfelt, this should appeal to readers who like stories about older characters receiving second chances.

James, Steven. The Queen. Revell. (Bowers Files, Bk. 5). Sept. 2011. c.528p. ISBN 9780800733032. pap. $14.99. CF
This fifth book in James’s “Bowers Files” (after The Bishop) exhibits all of the page-turning, tightly woven plotting and whiplash pacing of the others in the series.






Abu-Jaber, Diana. Birds of Paradise. Norton. Sept. 2011. c.368p. ISBN 9780393064612. $25.95. F
Whether it’s the creation of evanescent confections or the drug-ridden life of the streets, award-winning writer Abu-Jaber (Origin) impressively describes vastly different worlds with equal expertise.

Ahmad, Jamil. The Wandering Falcon. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2011. c.256p. ISBN 9781594488276. $25.95. F
A fascinating journey through a remote corner of the Middle East; this debut is essential reading.

Archer, Jeffrey. Only Time Will Tell. St. Martin’s. (Clifton Chronicles, Vol. 1). Sept. 2011. c.400p. ISBN 9780312539559. $27.99. F
General readers as well as Archer fans will enjoy this unforgettable tale, which abounds with cliff-hangers that propel its intriguing and intricate plot forward.

Barclay, Linwood. The Accident. Bantam. Aug. 2011. c.400p. ISBN 9780553807189. $25. F
A master of domestic suspense (No Time for Goodbye), Barclay has written an emotionally gripping page-turner that is scarily believable.

Benaron, Naomi. Running the Rift. Algonquin. Jan. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9781616200428. $24.95. F
Readers who do not shy away from depictions of violence will find this tale of social justice, set in Rwanda, a memorable read, and those interested in coming-of-age stories set in wartime will want it as well.

Brown, Jeremy. Suckerpunch. Medallion. Aug. 2011. c.234p. ISBN 9781605422251. pap. $14.95. F
This superb thriller set in the world of professional martial arts stands a bloody head above other titles in this genre.

Browner, Jesse. Everything Happens Today. Europa, dist. by Penguin. Oct. 2011. c.224p. ISBN 9781609450519. pap. $15. F
Browner (The Uncertain Hour) has crafted a stupendous, thought-provoking, devilishly delicious coming-of-age novel.

Charlton, Blake. Spellbound. Tor. Sept. 2011. c.416p. ISBN 9780765317285. $24.95. FANTASY
A well-written and cleverly presented fantasy with strong characters and surprising plot twists, Charlton’s (Spellwright) book should appeal to fans of Terry Brooks and L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Dickens, Charles & Sherri Browning Erwin. Grave Expectations. Gallery: S. & S. Aug. 2011. c.400p. ISBN 9781451617245. pap. $15. FANTASY
The original Dickens is eerie and unsettling, and Erwin rises to the challenge, creating another masterpiece by making the strange even stranger.

Eugenides, Jeffrey. The Marriage Plot. Farrar. Oct. 2011. c.416p. ISBN 9780374203054. $28. F
This extraordinary, liquidly written evocation of love’s mad rush and inevitable failures will feed your mind as you rapidly turn the pages.

Farah, Nuruddin. Crossbones. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2011. c.400p. ISBN 9781594488160. $27.95. F
Internationally acclaimed author Farah has written a heartbreaking yet clear-eyed novel of the Somalian diaspora.

Frohock, Teresa. Miserere: An Autumn Tale. Night Shade. 2011. c.256p. ISBN 9781597802895. pap. $14.99. FANTASY
This exceptional, dark historical fantasy debut should particularly appeal to fans of medieval fiction, tales of holy warriors, and fantasies that feature strong women characters.

Gross, Andrew. Eyes Wide Open. Morrow. Jul. 2011. c.338p. ISBN 9780061655968. $25.99. F
Gross offers no fancy stylistic tics, no overwrought prose, no melodrama‚ just a menacing tale with effective twists, perfect pacing, intriguing characters, and heart-gripping suspense.

Hamilton, Denise. Damage Control. Scribner. Sept. 2011. c.384p. ISBN 9780743296748. $27. F
This is another highly suspenseful and enjoyable read from Hamilton, whose acclaimed Eve Diamond series established her as a master of L.A. noir.

Jacobson, Alan. Inmate 1577: A Karen Vail Novel. Norwood Pr. Jul. 2011. c.536p. ISBN 9780983626008. $29.99. F
The storyline seems straightforward at first, but when the twists come, even the most hardcore thriller fans will not be able to predict the outcome.

Jin, Ha. Nanjing Requiem. Pantheon. Oct. 2011. c.320p. ISBN 9780307379764. $26.95. F
Jin’s loyal readers will notice a bluntness‚ jarringly effective here‚ different from his previous works, as if Jin, too, must guard himself against the horror, the horror.

Jordan, Hillary. When She Woke. Algonquin. Oct. 2011. c.352p. ISBN 9781565126299. $24.95. F
Jordan offers no middle ground in this dystopian novel: she insists that readers question their own assumptions regarding freedom, religion, and risk.

Loehfelm, Bill. The Devil She Knows. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9780374136529. $26. F
A gutsy heroine who rings true, a corrupt politician, and the seedy underbelly of New York nightlife combine for a pleasurable read.

Martin, George R.R. A Dance with Dragons. Bantam. (Song of Ice & Fire, Bk. 5). Jul. 2011. c.1040p. ISBN 9780553801477. $35. FANTASY
Nearly six years after A Feast for Crows was released, this new volume has a huge and hungry audience.

Otsuka, Julie. The Buddha in the Attic. Knopf. Sept. 2011. c.144p. ISBN 9780307700001. $22. F
Otsuka’s (When the Emperor Was Divine) tale of a group of young Japanese “picture brides” coming to the Unisted States at the turn of the 20th century is unforgettable and essential both for readers and writers.

Painter, Kristen. Blood Rights. Orbit: Hachette. Oct. 2011. c.352p. ISBN 9780316084772. pap. $7.99. FANTASY
Prophecy, curses, and devilish machination combine for a spellbinding debut of dark romance and pulse-pounding adventure.

Rawn, Melanie. The Diviner. DAW, dist. by Penguin. Aug. 2011. c.384p. ISBN 9780756406813. $25.95. FANTASY
The desert setting and Arabian-Bedouin cultural trappings lend an exotic touch to a tale of loyalty, treachery, and love.

Slonczewski, Joan. The Highest Frontier. Tor. Sept. 2011. c.416p. ISBN 9780765329561. $26.99. SF
Sf fans of all ages should enjoy this glimpse into a possible future at once disturbing and exciting by a graceful storyteller.

Unger, Lisa. Darkness, My Old Friend. Crown. Aug. 2011. c.368p. ISBN 9780307464996. $24. F
Excellent characterization makes this one of Unger’s best thrillers yet.

Verdon, John. Shut Your Eyes Tight. Crown. Jul. 2011. c.528p. ISBN 9780307717894. $24. F
Absorbing complications, perfect pacing, a conflicted protagonist, and the author’s insight, which imbues the story with tremendous humanity, make this a must-read for thriller fans who enjoy tales that are not only gripping but believable.

Vinge, Vernor. The Children of the Sky. Tor. Oct. 2011. c.448p. ISBN 9780312875626. $25.99. SF
One of the genre’s most accomplished writers and storytellers, Vinge has crafted a tale that should captivate his fans and win him a larger and well-deserved audience.

Ward, Jesmyn. Salvage the Bones. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Sept. 2011. c.272p. ISBN 9781608195220. $24. F
Highly recommended; you owe it to yourself to read this vivid tale about family and poverty set on the Gulf Coast.

Whitehead, Colson. Zone One. Doubleday. Oct. 2011. c.272p. ISBN 9780385528078. $25.95. F
Both gruesome and intelligent, this satiric take on the postapocalyptic horror genre offers the most literary nod to zombie-ism since Mary Shelley.

Wingfield, Jenny. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake. Random. Jul. 2011. c.328p. ISBN 9780385344081. $25. F
A beautiful look into the recent past, this novel is hard to categorize, as it touches on many genres‚ family life, Christian fiction, coming-of-age, and suspense‚ but readers will love it.

Graphic Novels

Thompson, Craig (text) & (illus.). Habibi. Pantheon. Sept. 2011. c.672p. ISBN 9780375424144. $35. F
More mature and psychologically nuanced than Blankets, it’s a sure bet for as many awards.


Benn, James R. A Mortal Terror: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery. Soho Crime. Sept. 2011. c.354p. ISBN 9781569479940. $25. M
Benn does a superb job of simultaneously capturing the personal anguish of war and creating a splendid adventure novel.

Gavin, Rick. Ranchero. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2011. c.258p. ISBN 9780312583187. $24.99. M
Reminiscent of Tim Dorsey’s “Serge Storms” series but with a more likable protagonist, this will appeal to down-home good old boys and their armchair counterparts.

Malliet, G.M. Wicked Autumn: A Max Tudor Novel. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2011. c.256p. ISBN 9780312646974. $23.99. M
You’ll marvel at the author’s low-key humor and crystal-clear depictions of small-town life.

Stanley, Kelli. City of Secrets. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2011. c.304p. ISBN 9780312603618. $24.99. M
This is neonoir in a classical five-act structure, starring one of crime’s most arresting heroines: angry, big-hearted, and fearless Miranda Corbie.

Stanley, Michael. Death of the Mantis: A Detective Kubu Mystery. Harper: HarperCollins. Sept. 2011. c.448p. ISBN 9780062000378. pap. $14.99. M
Impossible to put down, this immensely readable third entry from the duo of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip delivers the goods.


Cooper, Isabel. No Proper Lady. Sourcebooks Casablanca. Sept. 2011. c.352p. ISBN 9781402259524. pap. $6.99. PARANORMAL
Sexy, edgy, and stunningly inventive, this high-speed debut novel brilliantly contrasts dark, demon-laced magic with bright, delicious humor, adds an undercurrent of danger, and results in a winner that will have readers begging for more.

Dreyer, Eileen. Always a Temptress. Forever: Grand Central. (Drake’s Rakes, Bk. 3). Oct. 2011. c.432p. ISBN 9780446542050. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL
This increasingly complex tale of treachery is another exquisitely written winner from a writer who just gets better and better.

Goodman, Jo. Kissing Comfort. Berkley Sensation. Sept. 2011. c.416p. ISBN 9780425243909. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL
Deadly secrets that threaten the status quo, an enigma that is not easily resolved, and a well-matched pair of totally likable protagonists make this a romance to savor.

Lin, Jeannie. The Dragon and the Pearl. Harlequin Historical. Sept. 2011. c.288p. ISBN 9780373296620. pap. $6.25. HISTORICAL
Beautifully written, deliciously sensual, and rich with Tang Dynasty historical and political detail.

Moore, Kate. To Seduce an Angel. Berkley Sensation. (Sons of Sin, Bk. 3). Sept. 2011. c.304p. ISBN 9780425243695. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL
Moore has hit her stride with this marvelously rewarding conclusion to her “Sons of Sin” trilogy.

Silver, Eve. Body of Sin. HQN: Harlequin. (Otherkin, Bk. 4). Sept. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9780373775927. pap. $7.99. PARANORMAL
Dark, intense, passionate, and, in the end, rewarding, this tale of pain and redemption brilliantly resolves a seemingly unsolvable dilemma and adds another gleaming link to Silver’s “Otherkin” chain.

Science & Technology

DeWitt, Dave. The Southwest Table: Traditional Cuisine from Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Lyons: Globe Pequot. 2011. 288p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780762763924. $29.95. COOKING
Selections from the best Southwestern restaurants by region will inspire travel, and a glossary of cooking terms and a pepper primer complete the book.


Kiros, Tessa. Food from Many Greek Kitchens. Andrews McMeel. 2011. 336p. illus. index. ISBN 9781449406523. $35. Greek cookbooks written for the beginner are rare, so this book is a gem.

Norton, Trevor. Smoking Ears and Screaming Teeth: A Celebration of Scientific Eccentricity and Self-Experimentation. Pegasus. Oct. 2011. c.400p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781605982540. $24.95. SCI
Entertaining and informative, this book is highly recommended for anyone interested in medicine and science.

Yergin, Daniel. The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2011. c.816p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594202834. $37.95. SCI
This work immediately distinguishes itself as the leader in a somewhat crowded field of recent energy books.

Social Sciences

Adler, William M. The Man Who Never Died: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Joe Hill, American Labor Icon. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Sept. 2011. c.448p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781596916968. $30. BIOG
Appropriate for students and lay readers, this biography is an easy read, provides necessary historical context, and may successfully revive Hill in American popular consciousness.

Berns, Nancy. Closure: The Rush To End Grief and What It Costs Us. Temple Univ. Aug. 2011. c.224p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781439905760. $75.50; pap. ISBN 9781439905777. $24.95. SOC SCI
Berns wisely counsels us to find other language and perspectives for living with grief, and this lucid debunking of the current use of the word “closure” is a breath of fresh air, recommended for both general readers and specialists.

Dudden, Faye E. Fighting Chance: The Struggle over Woman Suffrage and Black Suffrage in Reconstruction America. Oxford Univ. Aug. 2011. c.336p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199772636. $34.95. HIST
A closer examination and a more nuanced interpretation than other studies have given us of the shifting alliance between women’s suffrage and black suffrage advocates, this book explains, though does not apologize for, the troubling arguments made by otherwise well-regarded feminists.

Margolick, David. Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock. Yale Univ. Sept. 2011. c.320p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780300141931. $26. HIST
Very thoughtfully and sincerely written, this portrait of two women originally on the opposite sides of the issue of desegregation in Arkansas is simply a must-read.

Tortorella, Neil. Starting Your Career as a Freelance Web Designer. Allworth. Oct. 2011. c.256p. bibliog. ISBN 9781581158595. pap. $19.95. CAREERS
Tortorella’s nuts-and-bolts handbook for success in the field of freelance web design will find a ready audience with fledgling right-brain designers or college students considering web design as a career.


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