When Stars Align: Nothing New in the Sky

Slate's Culture Blog
July 8 2009 11:50 AM

When Stars Align: Nothing New in the Sky

Four trade magazines, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal, offer short reviews of many thousands of books. Of particular interest to editors are those that receive a "star" for unusual merit. This regular feature highlights new titles with stars from at least three of the four publications.

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Our second When Stars Align includes two mysteries, a children's book, a short story collection, a love story, and a nonfiction chronicle of life in Montana. None of these authors is new to the book world: Not only have they all published books before, but almost all of them have previously garnered starred reviews.

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The only book to receive four stars this time around is Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me , a science-fiction book aimed at 'tweens. When 12-year-old Miranda receives a cryptic postcard that says "I'm coming to save your friend's life, and my own," she doesn't know what to think—until she realizes the note is from the future. Booklist warns that "if this book makes your head hurt, you're not alone" but Kirkus promises that "teen readers will circle back to the beginning and say, 'Wow ... cool.'" Booklist, Kirkus, Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly.

2008 Man Booker Prize Winner Adiga Aravind's collection of short stories, Between the Assassinations , received great press when it was released in mid-June (just after our first roundup ). The stories are set in Kittur, India between the assassinations of Indira Gandhi in 1984 and Rajiv Ghandi in 1991. Publisher's Weekly says that "the small epiphanies" in the stories "hit like bricks from heaven." Kirkus , Library Journal , Publisher's Weekly.

In Reggie Nadelson's Londongrad: An Artie Cohen Mystery , a New York City police detective attempts to avenge the gruesome murder of his love, Valentina Sverdloff. Kirkus says this is the story that Nadelson was "born to tell." Kirkus , Library Journal , Publisher's Weekly.

The recently deceased Donald E. Westlake's 15th and final book, Get Real , takes its title from a reality-show production company that tries to stage a televised robbery. Publisher's Weekly promises that the book will "rouse chuckles from even jaded readers" and Booklist toasts "Here's to crime: how sweet it is!" Booklist, Library Journal , Publisher's Weekly.

Dai Sijie's Once on a Moonless Night , received rave reviews from Britain and France, where it has already been released. An unnamed Western student in China falls in love with a greengrocer, Tumchooq, who tells her the story of a lost Buddhist sutra written in a forgotten language. The novel, according to Booklist , proves "that language is transcendent; books are precious; translation is a noble art; stories are the key to freedom; and truth prevails." Booklist , Library Journal , Publisher's Weekly.

Rich Bass' The Wild Marsh: Four Seasons at Home in Montana records his seasonal observations of nature in a remote corner of Montana. Library Journal calls it "a walk through the author's soul." Kirkus, Library Journal , Publisher's Weekly.

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