The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake
by Aimee Bender
When nine year-old Rose Edelstein's mother bakes her a lemon cake with fudge icing, Rose recognizes a strange new emotional flavor — the moroseness behind her mother's cheerful mask. Meanwhile, her scientific genius brother Joseph is becoming increasingly withdrawn. Aimee Bender's rich, empathetic and exquisitely paced portrait of Rose's coming of age as a "magic food psychic" also reveals the complicated negotiations within a Los Angeles family where missed connections are the norm. They could be modern-day descendants of Salinger's Glass family — certainly, Salinger fans will find familiar Rose's alertness to hypocrisy, her haunting vulnerability and her yearning love for her brother. The fabulist elements of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake are stunning, but what makes this novel a keeper is the sheer beauty of the language Bender uses to describe love.
304 pages, $15, Anchor Books
by Adam Ross
Don't be fooled by the cute title — this is a dark tale of love, hate, murder and marriage: a cleverly written, structurally complex narrative with characters whose lives interlock. The beginning of Mr. Peanut was inspired by author Adam Ross's second cousin, a "morbidly obese" woman who also "suffered terribly from depression" and "lethal nut allergies." She "apparently committed suicide" by eating a peanut at the height of an argument with her husband — although, conveniently, he was the only person to witness her suicide. As readers learn about the relationship between alleged murderer David Pepin and his late wife in the novel, they also find out about the relationships between the detectives on David's case and their own wives. The marriages all share certain similarities, interlocking just "like M.C. Escher's designs," Ross explains.
464 pages, $15, Vintage Books
Captive Queen: A Novel Of Eleanor Of Aquitaine
by Alison Weir
British historian Alison Weir conducted exhaustive academic research into the lives of some of the most significant and salacious monarchs in history, producing nonfiction and novels about Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, among others — and now Eleanor of Aquitaine. At the center of the medieval queen's story is her marriage to the vile-tempered Henry II — founded first on lust and then on love — and which created both a dynasty and an empire. For Eleanor, it also meant years in prison for abetting rebellion by two of her sons, Henry the Younger and Richard, who grew up to be Lionheart. "I feel very strongly that where the facts exist, a historical novelist should use them if they're writing about a person who really lived, because a lot of people come to history through historical novels," Weir tells Neal Conan.
544 pages, $15, Ballantine
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
by Seth Grahame-Smith
Imagine if, among the tired, poor and huddled masses of 19th century America, there was another group of immigrants who yearned to be free: vampires. Then suppose that they were among those battling for the soul of the new republic in the Civil War. Author Seth Grahame-Smith explores that premise in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, his follow-up to the surprise bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. After a vampire kills Lincoln's mother when he is 9, the young man swears vengeance against the blood-sucking immortals, and partners with Edgar Allan Poe in fighting them. In the novel, vampires consider themselves the superiors of humans — an attitude that Grahame-Smith considers a perfect pairing with slavery. "I see them as sort of one and the same," he says. "Both creatures, basically slaveholders and vampires, steal lives — take the blood of others — to enrich themselves."
352 pages, $13.99, Grand Central Publishing
by David Goodwillie
A blogger for a Gawker-like empire in New York, Aidan socializes with his frenemies in the media demi-world, trying to crack the case of a terrorist bombing in Midtown. Meanwhile, Paige, an earnest young woman in Vermont scans the Internet, searching for the next corporate target whose destruction will, she believes, enable her radical-left terrorist cell to shock a complacent nation out of its stupor. When Aidan gets an anonymous tip about the bombing, complete with an alluring photo of Paige, he sets out to break a real news story for a change. David Goodwillie's debut novel, American Subversive, alternates chapters between these two very different people, in a structure that sometimes slows the action. But as the blogger and the bomber come to face with each other and their very different value systems, the tension tightens, with a thoughtful and reasonably satisfying ending.
336 pages, $15, Scribner
How To Cool The Planet: Geoengineering And The Audacious Quest To Fix Earth's Climate
by Jeff Goodell
One approach to slowing down the effects of global warming that has recently gained popularity is geoengineering — the idea that Earth can be cooled with technology, by capturing carbon dioxide emissions, changing the reflectivity of the sun or even redirecting sunlight away from the Earth. Though the idea is fraught with scientific uncertainties and ethical issues, journalist Jeff Goodell's new book, How to Cool the Planet, weighs the reasons to be reluctant to tinker with the Earth's climate — and to take the idea seriously. Among geopolitical questions he raises are, who controls the Earth's thermostat? Would countries act unilaterally or collectively? And what kind of climate do we actually want to live in? Geoengineering is often compared with nuclear arms, says Goodell. "One nation could undertake this, one billionaire could fund this and do this, and so how do you restrain that person?"
276 pages, $14.95, Mariner Books
Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5 p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag .
Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.