From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World by James Rumford; Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press ($17.99)
“what was made of rags and bones, soot and seeds? What took a mountain to make?” The tactile experience of a book and the magnificence of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press are beautifully explored in this interesting book, presented as a series of riddles and illustrated in the style of medieval manuscripts. The author, a papermaker, letterpress printer and binder, lives in Honolulu where he runs Manoa Press, which makes handmade books. He spent more than two years completing the text and illustrations, and the result is an eloquent and haunting tribute to a disappearing craft. For children raised in a digital age, there is true wonder in the earthy details of pages made from rags and glue, the binding made of goatskin leather, the gold leaf (“from the rivers of Africa ... carried on the backs of camels”), the ink from flaxseed oil and burned pine pitch, the process of producing the lead and wood for the press. The riddle answers, in a refrain, repeat “it was ink, (or paper or leather etc.) and it was ready” to dramatic effect.
– Jean Westmoore
The Twelve by Justin Cronin; Ballantine, 592 pages ($28)
The middle book in a trilogy must match the interest and appeal created by the first book while advancing the story with enough surprises that readers will believe their investment of time will pay off in the final installment.
“The Twelve” walks a fine line in meeting that challenge. It returns to a horrible, fascinating future dominated by vampirelike creatures called “virals,” created by a military experiment gone wrong. As in “The Passage,” published in 2010, Cronin presents multiple storylines, one as the virus takes hold and civilization falls apart and others a few generations later as the world tries to redefine what’s normal.
At first, a been-there, done-that quality tempers “The Twelve.” As in the first book, a familiar if exciting opening section follows a group of survivors as they try to cope with the first wave of the virus. Then, some eight decades later, battle-hardened veterans take on the core virals and their minions in an effort to end their reign over what had been the Midwest — an echo of the climax of the first book.
Yet “Passage” fans shouldn’t be dismayed. At one point the story takes a turn that leaves such familiarities far behind. What remains in the forefront is the fine storytelling, particularly in its attention to character, that turned Cronin’s first book into one of the year’s best.
– Associated Press
Footprints in the Sand by Mary Jane Clark; William Morrow, 384 pages ($25.99)
Piper Donovan, heroine of Mary Jane Clark’s mystery series, isn’t a professional sleuth. A struggling actress, Piper designs wedding cakes part time in her mother’s New Jersey bakery. And every time she bakes a cake, she somehow ends up having a close encounter with a murderer.
The latest episode unfolds on the idyllic barrier island of Siesta Key, Fla., where Piper’s cousin Kathy is looking forward to her wedding.
Then a bridesmaid, Shelley, disappears, and her blood-stained car is found. More disturbing events follow as the perpetrator behind Shelley’s disappearance struggles to silence any witnesses.
Who is this evil character? Is it the groom, Shelley’s one-time boyfriend? Or is it the best man, a former drug dealer? It could be anyone, including the boyfriend of the bride’s widowed mother, Kathy’s wedding planner and a local doctor.
Like other Clark novels, it also packs the heart-pounding suspense usually found in top-notch thrillers.
– Associated Press