The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins; Houghton Mifflin, ($16.99). Ages 4 to 8.
With his clever concepts and gorgeous paper-cut artwork, Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator is one of the premiere creators of science picture books for young children. Here he explores the wondrous world of the beetle, highlighting several dozen out of the more than 350,000 known species. Jenkins offers interesting groupings by topic (size, motion, camouflage, "chemical warfare") and his illustrations are beautifully rendered on the page. There is the forest fire beetle that can detect a fire from more than 20 miles away (good news, as they then fly to the site and lay eggs in charred wood that is free of predators). The bombardier beetle that squirts blinding, boiling hot liquid into the face of an attacker. The leaf beetle secretes a sticky substance that can glue the jaws of an ant together. The mighty titan beetle, found in the Amazon rain forest, has jaws powerful enough to snap a pencil in half, while the giant diving beetle can catch and eat small fish and frogs. We look forward to what Jenkins will come up with next. (Other past gems include "Just a Second" and "How to Clean a Hippopotamus.")?– Jean Westmoore
SecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson; Thomas Dunne Books ?352 pages ($25.99)
The popcorn novel of the summer has arrived, and Jeremy Robinson delivers an action fest that rivals the best of James Rollins, Clive Cussler and Matthew Reilly.
NCIS agent and former Navy SEAL Lincoln Miller is on vacation in the Florida Keys, hanging out under the water in a submersible. Chaos ensues when dead fish start to slam into his vehicle. Forced to the surface, Miller finds himself surrounded by red flakes falling from the sky. He quickly discovers he cannot breathe, but with the help of oxygen tanks and a respirator, he makes it to land.
As Miller wanders around trying to uncover the truth behind the disaster he was lucky to miss, he finds nothing but dead bodies. His quest for more oxygen tanks leads him to Miami, where he finds more devastation. What are the red flakes, and how are they responsible for eliminating the oxygen from the atmosphere? Has Miller become Adam in this new world?
The quest for answers and more oxygen tanks leads Miller to a vast conspiracy with tentacles rooted in the final days of a country supposedly conquered at the end of World War II. The combination of "Mad Max," "I Am Legend" and "Where Eagles Dare" provides a fresh take on the end of the world that is riveting from the first page.
"SecondWorld" is a guaranteed one-sitting read that would make a terrific summer movie.
– Associated Press
Cliff Walk by Bruce DeSilva, Forge Books, 320 pages ($24.99).
In his Edgar Award-winning first novel, "Rogue Island," published in 2010, retired AP writing coach Bruce DeSilva introduced readers to the affable Liam Mulligan, a crime-solving Rhode Island metro reporter for the fictional Providence Dispatch.
Mulligan, an old-school newspaperman with a taste for whiskey, cigars and irreverent humor, returns in the chilling murder mystery "Cliff Walk," whose sometimes violent plot is tempered by the hero's wry observations on print journalism's seemingly inexorable decline.
Recent staff consolidation and cutbacks have forced Mulligan to churn out light stories on topics such as high-society parties. But a charity gala in posh Newport turns into real news when a guest is murdered atop the rocky Cliff Walk separating the area's Gilded Age mansions from the sea. Police believe the victim to be Sal Maniella, a millionaire pornographer and strip-club owner, but mysteries abound as none of Maniella's friends or family will consent to identify the body.
Mulligan teams up with Maniella's beautiful, brainy female attorney to unravel the case, whose scope widens to include prostitution, child abuse, multiple homicides and an enduring vendetta.
Along the way, he receives help from a colorful cast of supporting characters, including a no-nonsense state attorney general nicknamed "Attila the Nun," loosely modeled on real-life Rhode Island politician Arlene Violet, who left the Sisters of Mercy religious order to pursue public office. Despite the book's sexually charged situations and graphic crime-scene descriptions, DeSilva's masterful narrative style ensures that any shocking details remain firmly in service of the plot, and the tone never turns exploitative.