Wow! Just try to stop reading ASCENSION by Nicholas Binge after the first 30 pages! Just try! A mountain has suddenly appeared in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and a troubled physicist is recruited to explore it and explain its anomalies. Time doesn't behave in a linear manner, the physicist's estranged ex-wife is there, and strange creatures attack them in the snow. When the secrets of the mountain begin to be explained, the physicist must face his own demons and protect the love of his life. This is THE EIGER SANCTION by way of HP Lovecraft and Michael Crichton! It's exciting, scary, thought-provoking, and eventually romantic. Quite good!
SMALL MERCIES is, to put it simply, Dennis Lehane's best novel to date. It transcends everything he's done before it, and it's destined to be a best-seller. Mary Pat is a Southie resident, Irish, a mother, and a racist. When her daughter disappears on the same night a young black man is found dead on the Columbia Station train tracks, she launches an investigation and leaves a trail of vengeance as she discovers her life -- and her child's life -- has been built on a web of lies. At the same time, a young cop investigating the death of the man on the tracks, crosses path with the force of nature that is Mary Pat. This is a tale of racism and hatred, of family and parental love, of violence and the blind eye we turn towards the evil men can do if they are 'one of our own.' And you cannot put it down! I read through my New Year's Eve to finish it, and the final half simply took my breath away with its action and its lucid, clear-eyed view of our clouded world. The writing is the kind you stop people and read passages aloud to them, but this never slows down this perfectly paced novel. All I can say is, "What a book to start this new year!"
HE WAGER is a new narrative history from David Grann, and it's a gripping read! Detailing the story of a shipwreck, a mutiny, and murder, this book reads like fiction, like a terrific Hollywood blockbuster (move-makers, are you listening?) A raft of survivors sweep onto the shore of Brazil in 1742, claiming to be the last 30 men left alive after a shipwreck and being marooned on an island. They are declared heroes and return to England...until another raft washes ashore in Chile. These survivors claim there was a mutiny, and the heroes are actually the villains! It's a fantastic forgotten bit of history full of colorful characters right out of a Patrickl O'Brien book! This one is great for anyone who enjoys history or sea stories...or even true crime!
What starts as a slow burn horror thriller slowly morphs into a truly terrifying action set-piece rollercoaster ride! THE INSATIABLE VOLT SISTERS reads like a character-driven gothic horror until all hell breaks loose in the final 100 pages and I had a hard time putting it down. The prose is deliciously decadent, sensual, and often quite funny. But terror and horror reign in this dark novel in which two sisters, separated for many years, go back to the island where A VERY BAD THING HAPPENED, an island seeped in their family's blood for generations. And the devil wants his due! Plus...water monsters!
.Victor LaValle brings us another brilliant genre mash-up with LONE WOMEN, an historical noel/horror novel/dark fantasy/ feminist Western! When a woman burns down her parents' farm along with her dead parents inside it, she takes only a large trunk as she becomes a homesteader in Montana. What's in the trunk and why do people tend to disappear wherever she goes? My lips are sealed, but noy is it a surprise! Lavalle introduces so many vividly drawn characters that it's hard to pick a favorite, and the story is exciting and violent, yet still sensitive and respectful. i loved every page!
ON THE SAVAGE SIDE by Tiffany McDaniel (BETTY) is a tough book -- violent and brutal and gritty and yet filled with the same poetic bestial savagery as the best of Cormac McCarthy. Based on a true crime case (less than fifteen miles from where I grew up!), it tells the horrifying story of twin sisters, born into poverty, mental illness, rape, and drug addiction. Growing up nearly feral, they drift into prostitution and addiction themselves. One or both of them are going to end up victims of a serial killer called the River Man if they don't die from the needle, neglect, or sheer depressive entropy first. The writing is poetic with Greek chorus sounding dialogue, and a dream-like quality sets over it all; the hyper-theatric as realism. It reads like the angry love child of Gillian Flynn and Joyce Carole Oates, and it isn't for the squeamish or easily disturbed, but it is hypnotic and breath-takingly original.
OUR SHARE OF NIGHT is Mariana Enriquez's first novel -- and it's a whopper of a horror tale out of Argentina. If Roberto Bolano and Peter Straub teamed up to write an epic saga about warlocks and cults, this would be close! A man tries to protect his son from an ever-present and powerful cult. They want to take Dad's soul (he is a powerful medium and their connection to their god in the other world) and place it in his boy, thereby killing his son. Their journey echoes the violent history of Argentina.
Literary, gory, beautiful, political, and spooky as hell, this novel is incredibly difficult to put down once you start it.
NOCTURNE (by Alyssa Wees) is a darkly romantic gothic novel; imagine PHANTOM OF THE OPERA or BEAUTY AND THE BEAST set in the world of classical ballet in 1930s gangster-ridden Chicago! Yes, it's that book, only more. this goes darker than expected and morphs into a feminist fairy tale not quite like any other. Fans of Leigh Bardugo and Holly Black's adult novels will really like this one, but so will fans of Angela Carter or early Isabel Allende.
RIVER SING ME HOME tells the gripping story of a freed slave in Barbados in the 19th Century, who is determined to find her surviving children, each of them sold to other owners and plantations. Following her on her journey through the Caribbean, the book digs into the disparate, and mostly sad, options for black people of the time. Although episodic, the novel is grounded in the psychological evolution of the mother, Rachel, who must come to terms with being a freed black woman in a time when that's the hardest thing you could be.
Suspense, thy name is C.J. Tudor! With her newest novel, THE DRIFT, she ratchets up the tension to eleven featuring three interconnected stories -- a group of survivors are trapped in a bus and buried in a snowdrift as wolves circle; a compound with secrets in the basement is under siege, and a group of people awaken in a cable car stalled high above snowy mountains. each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, so hold on to your hats and keep your arms inside the vehicle, because this is a roller coaster ride of a book. Super fun!
In Aleksandar Hemon's masterpiece of a novel, THE WORLD AND ALL THAT IT HOLDS, a young Jewish man and a young Muslim man fall in love while fighting in the trenches of WW1. They escape from war to the world, where they become Russian prisoners, spies, and refugees across deserts and into Shanghai. Separated, one of them becomes addicted to opium while protecting the daughter of the other. All the while, there is so much love. Love suffuses the pages of this book like ink, and the experiences of the lovers, while epic in scope, remain rooted in the relationship and the love that never can end. Gorgeously written, this literary novel is an ode to every kind of love in the world, grippingly showing how it is ever-present, even when we cannot be near the impetus of that love. Look for this one to be nominated for lots of awards!
LIAR, DREAMER, THIEF is a terrific new literary mystery, in which a young woman has created an elaborate fantasy world that often takes over her real world (there's no diagnosis here, but she is certainly O.C.D. and perhaps mildly schizophrenic). When strange events start happening around her and her stalkee either jumps from a bridge or is thrown to his death, she has to separate the fantasy from reality, and it's not going to be easy. Fans of Mita Prose's THE MAID will enjoy this mystery that never went exactly where I thought it would. There was even one point where I gasped aloud at a plot twist!
The best thriller of 2023 has arrived only ten days into the year! EVERYBODY KNOWS by Jordan Harper sings with blistering violence and energy and you will stay up all night until its breath-taking conclusion. I've never read anything quite like it, some love child of James Ellroy, Andrew Vachss, Michael Connolly, and Joe Lansdale...and yet entirely new. We meet Mae, a black-ops PR Rep who takes crae of Hollywood's dirty work. If someone O.D.s in your house; if you are discovered with underaged lovers; if you have a kid who likes to burn things...Mae and her team will cover it all up, bury it in lies and viral social media half-truths. Only, Mae is growing a conscience and she can't do it anymore when a young girl becomes the focus of her bosses. It's a brilliant, twisty plot and nothing goes as expected. the writing is as sharp as a blade and the dialogue is advanced Noir-speak. It will take your beath away!
BETTER THE BLOOD brings us a terrific new series of thrillers featuring Maori detective Hana, who desperately wants to atone for mistakes in her past. She's on the trail of a serial killer, out to correct a wrong when a Maori tribal leader was lynched horribly by the colonizing English. This thriller really thrills, and the pacing is like lightning. I can't wait for Hana's next adventure and an even deeper look into Maori culture!
THE DREAM BUILDERS tells the story of a few months in a single city in India as a new Trump Towers is being built. Told from a chorus of ten fascinating characters, we see the vibrant and often unfair world they inhabit. It's a lovely book, and it speeds toward a fiery climax that brings most of the ten characters together. Very well done.
THE DELUGE by Stephen Markley is controversial, compelling, terrifying, sweet, kind, political, funny -- in short, a remarkable novel. An epic look at climate change and its horrifying results is shown in political meetings in rooms full of dark and disturbing discussions as well as Hollywood style action set pieces, seen through the eyes of scientists, eco-terrorists, politicians, drug addicts, preachers, and marketing gurus. Each of them will be connected in some way to the powerful and charismatic Kate Morris, a woman on a mission to save the world. Often, this book is tough to read and its honesty and intent can be overwhelming, but Markley keeps all the balls in the air, juggling multiple plotlines and characters with an adeptness seldom seen in literary fiction of this sort. This is an extremely powerful book, and it will make you view our world (and our reckless capitalist systems) in a whole new way, offering some hope in the midst of all the terror and chaos.
Prepare to fall in love with Sam, the eponymous lead character of Allegra Goodman's new coming of age novel, SAM. She's smart, strong, and she shoulders many burdens as she navigates her young life -- her mostly-absent, drug-addicted father, her younger brother she must care for, and her mother who is trying to hold a family together. When she discovers rock climbing, Sam thinks she may be able to climb out of this life, but does she actually want to leave this life or embrace it? This is easily one of the best coming-of-age novels I have read in years!
THE LAST PARTY reads like a modern day Agatha Christie mystery -- a big house, a cast of colorful characters, two detectives fighting their feelings for each other, and a body in the lake following the big New Year's Eve party. What's fun is that while the investigation part with the detectives solving the case moves forward, alternating chapters move backward in time from the party until the summer, giving us a better look at the pasts of the diverse group of party attendees! It's a fun hook that works well with springing surprise after surprise on the reader. This one is a wonderful mystery full of Scottish character and filled to the brim with colorful suspects.
BLACKWATER FALLS is one of the best mysteries of the year and it features a new police investigator protagonist I instantly fell in love with -- a Muslim trying to work with the community to solve the case of a Muslim girl crucified to the side of a mosque. It's terrifyingly relevant to the world of today, but it's also just a terrific mystery/thriller. Khan joins the rank of Michael Connolly and Patricia Cornwell with their very first book!
Truly a beautiful book and one necessary in our world today. After a lone gunman kills 19 people in a theater, the husband of one of the dead and the little brother of the shooter team up to make a movie starring all the survivors. It's really all about how art can heal us. Gentle, sweet, and life-affirming.
FOSTER is a new very short novella from author Claire Keegan, and it really sneaks up on you! It's the simple tale of a young Irish girl who is sent to live with an elderly couple on a farm while her mother gives birth to yet another baby. The writing is eloquent, and the characters are warm, and, oh that ending! Simply lovely and sublime.
This delightful mystery is like THE MALTESE FALCON or KNIVES OUT set in queer 1950s San Fransisco. With a cast of outrageous and cool characters, deadly dames, and a cop forced off the force when he is discovered to be gay, this is a ton of fun and a great look back at a time when even being perceived as queer could be deadly. Highest recommendation for mystery lovers.
THE CONFESSIONS OF MATTHEW STRONG is a racially-driven literary thriller about a brilliant black professor kidnapped by a white supremacist. We know at the beginning that she has been kidnapped, and then we flash back to the experiences leading up to the crime and the odd relationship she attains with her kidnapper. The story moves swiftly, and it is certainly exciting, but there's a lot under the surface dealing with the way America hides its dirty secrets and how we need to move forward on racial equality. This all seems far too close to truth in many ways than as fiction. This would be a good book club pick.
It's not often that a thriller works equally as well as a social critique/literary novel, but REPRIEVE embodies both beautifully. When somebody dies during a full contact haunted house escape room, we flash back to what brought these people together in one place -- a gay Thai college student, a young horror-obsessed African American woman, an angry, misogynistic white man, and a wealthy businessman as well as several others. Their back stories provide critical looks at America in our greatest time of greed and anger. Plus, it is a crackling great thriller, easing out clues until the reader knows the full story. This is a fantastic book, and it will not only leave you breathlessly turning pages but it will leave you thinking about it for weeks. Excellent!
DINOSAURS is the newest novel by Lydia Millet, and easily one of the best books of the year. Filled with gorgeous prose that sometimes demands to be read aloud, this is the story of a very wealthy man, emotionally stunted by the past, who buys a house. his neighbors own a place with an entire wall of glass, exposing them like fish in a bowl. Will our protagonist graduate from watching this family's life from afar to becoming a part of it? So much happens in a short novel, and the characters are vividly drawn as Millet parses out their backgrounds bit by bit. It is an astonishing feat and a breath-takingly great novel.
What a wonderful piece of speculative fiction this is! A mash up of Neal Stephenson and Jeff VanDerMeer, it tells the parallel stories of a scientist attempting to communicate with a deadly and intelligent form of octopus, a slave on a factory-run fishing vessel, and an assassin attempting to find his way into the brain of an AI. It all comes together beautifully and it's whip-smart, offering plenty of high concept theories to chew on. Not just a weird octopus book, this is sci-fi at a brilliantly executed level.
This is a fabulous feminist light-horror novel about an independent woman who is bitten by a werewolf and her pregnant sister. Female body autonomy issues are explored as are familial bonds and results of trauma...but seriously, this is a fun romp of a werewolf novel perfect for the season! I love the fact that the bite-victim understands quickly that she was bitten by a werewolf and that these creatures exist instead of the usual..."Whatever was I bitten by and why are weird things happening during the full moon" stuff. Our protagonist is fierce, independent, and funny which makes for a wonderful spooky read.
THE WHALEBONE THEATRE by Joanna Quinn is the kind of novel you get lost in for several dream-like days, only to emerge afterwards, blinking at reality, and wanting to go back to that world again. The story of three children who create a theater out of the skeleton of a beached whale on their English estate and how their theatricals made them into spies for the French Underground in WW2 is fantastically detailed, full of little imaginings that make this world so real. The writing is utterly gorgeous, with many quotable lines, but it never gets in the way of the story or the emotion...and get ready for a very emotional final 50 pages. It is utterly lovely and a near-perfect work of literature. Fans of THE NIGHTINGALE, THE GREAT CIRCLE, or ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE will adore this treasure. I cannot wait to recommend this book to everyone entering the store!
Really great, sweat inducing thriller that deals with race and class in a small town setting. Young girls have been going missing for years in Johnstown, Pa, and now another disappears fom a wedding. Legends of half human creatures abound, and the entire town has secrets in its past, many related to either racism or the flood. Those last 50 pages -- whew!
In only 55 pages, Helen DeWitt brings us one of the best stories of the year. With remarkably stylish aplomb, she tells the tale of a young woman brought up by Mamon, a woman who stressed style and pose above all else -- what tow war, what wine to order, what music to learn --- helping many less fortunate along the way. Then, she learns it is all a lie. At 17 years of age, she is set loose among the publishing house sharks of NYC. Brilliant, bitingly satirical, and stunningly staged, this is among the top three books of the year....even though you can read it in an hour! Wow!
PEAKY BLINDERS meets DOWNTON ABBEY in this deliciously entertaining novel set in the Bohemian London of the 1920s. Criminals, nightclub dancers, prostitutes, writers, and the police intermingle with one of the biggest criminal families of the time period. I wish it had gone on longer.
When a female police chief is accused of quid pro quo sexual harassment by several male colleagues, P.I. Clarice is on the case. She is a real character, and I loved reading about her life. This is a gripping legal thriller ripped from the headloes!
Quite simply -- a masterpiece. THE RABBIT HATCH deserves every accolade it is collecting. The novel examines Middle America through the lens of a group of people who live (exist) in a low-rent apartment building -- a young genius, a group of teen boys obsessed with a woman's love to the extent that they sacrifice animals to her, a woman who writes obituaries, the son of a deceased old-time TV star, and several others. Funny, terrifying, disturbing, and lovely -- sometimes all on the same page. An American classic!
THE HOUSE IN THE ORCHARD is a twisting, turning tale that reads as if Ruth Rendell had written ATONEMENT instead of Ian McEwan. When a WWII widow inherits a house from a distant relative, her father-in-law warns her not to stay there, but she doesn't heed his advice. She discovers a diary penned by his sister, which relays the dark secrets of the house. The novel is suffused in melancholy and unease, and the climax is sudden and shattering. This is a very, very good novel, perfect for lovers of historical fiction and psychological suspense.
MR. WILDER AND ME by Jonathan Coe is a brilliant tribute to one of the greatest film directors who ever lived -- Billy Wilder (DOUBLE INDEMNITY, SOME LIKE IT HOT, WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, STALAG 17, THE LOST WEEKEND, THE APARTMENT etc etc). When a young Greek woman becomes Iz Diamond (Wilder's co-writer) translator and assistant on one of his last movies, she witnesses Wilder's return to Germany after he left before WW2. This is a portrait of a man haunted by his past, a woman working through memories, and the importance of art in our lives. It's brilliantly constructed (one flashback is written as a screenplay) and Wilder is a fully-fleshed, flawed character. It's utterly wonderful in every way, and it's easily one of my favorite books of the year. Film fans will be enthralled, but new readers will read in delight and, hopefully, seek out the classic films of Billy Wilder.
I loved LESS, a modern take on PG Wodehouse, and this sequel (coming in A few months) is possibly even better! As our hero Arthur Less finds he is about to lose his home from back taxes, he sets off on a journey that will take him across America. He will come across a crazed theater group staging a musical version of his life story, a hippie commune and some dubious blueberries, a companionable Pug, a science fiction writer that may be America's Charles Dickens...and a plethora of delightful characters from the Midland. This is an affirmation of goodness in novel form, and it is hilarious, sweet, affectionate, and a balm to our country's more anger inducing state right now. The ending is absolutely perfect. I want more of Less!
THE BOOK OF GOOSE is a perfect novel, with each gem-like word selected with laser-like precision. It's a gorgeous examination of becoming an adult/ what it means to grow up, full of insights and humor and grace. Literally, a perfect novel. Fans of Anna Quindlen, Sue Monk Kidd, or A.S. Byatt will love this.
f you're looking for a terrific, very scary, and smart horror novel for Halloween this year, DAPHNE by Josh Malerman is a real doozy! Can a collective consciousness create a supernatural killer? Can our myths become reality through simply bringing them to the forefront of our minds? These are themes Wes Craven tackled, so it's not anything too new, but Malerman makes them fresh and scary. . . and Daphne is one hell of a scary villain!
What can I say? Another pitch perfect mystery novels from the Thursday Murder Club and Richard Osman. In this new novel, THE BULLET THAT MISSED, the whole gang is together to solve the possible murder of a TV news reporter, but there is so much more afoot than this one simple crime. The characters are delightful, and we get several new charming (and deadly) characters in this book. I was grinning the whole way through it! i am ready for number four, please.
This is a fun mystery set amidst the filming of a sequel to a huge horror movie hit--and a nasty hurricane. The pacing is swift and the plotting is assured, and I had a great time with this one. this could be a terrific recommendation for a Halloween read for mystery lovers.
THE GUEST HOUSE by Robin Morgan-Bentley features such an original plot idea and so many twists it is difficult to discuss without spoilers; just know I said "Oh my God!" aloud three different times while reading it. A couple wake up at a B & B with their cell phones and keys gone, and they've been locked inside the house, and the owners have disappeared, and the wife goes into labor, giving birth to their first child. I am zipping my lips about anything else. just know that, despite a few plot holes, this is a rollicking read that will have you flipping pages until the sun comes up in the morning. A real discovery, this is!
LESSONS is a spectacular, moving new novel from master Ian McEwan. Following in Marcel Proust's footsteps, he examines one man's life -- always affected by the trauma of sexual abuse as a child -- and how time and events define our place in the world. This is utterly beautiful as our protagonist lives through the fall of the Berlin Wall, marriage, children, art, music, and eventually Covid-19 and possible death. Nothing is simple or cut in black and white cloth; this is exceptional fiction and McEwan's best since ATONEMENT.
Andrea Barrett continues her examinations of humanity/family within the natural environment in her new collection of short stories, NATURAL HISTORY. I was blown away by the first story, and each continued to build upon the prior, with characters flitting in and out of the tales and themes dodged and picked up on. The final story ties the others together so beautifully and subtly that I had to immediately re-read it. This is a gorgeous collection and should be up for some prizes come the new year!
THE MARRIAGE PORTRAIT is another triumph in historical fiction by Maggie O"Farrell. Telling the tale of a young member of the de Medici family, Lucrezia, who married Alfonso. As she awaits her own murder on a stormy night, she recalls her brief life. the historical detail is wonderful, but more than that, this is a highly-readable, suspenseful novel that gives us a peek into the Renaissance. People will fall in love with Lucrezia, and they will hold their breath in the final pages. fans of Lauren Groff will love this as well!
In THE DECEPTIONS, Jill Bialosky wrestles with huge ideas and concepts -- the place of myth in modern day life; the usurpation of women's ideas by male appropriation; poetry and the importance of words; the evolving family life in a world where it's no longer as treasured; and even the role of art in our daily lives -- and the author pulls them into a highly original, compulsively readable book. A nameless poet has something terrible happen to her. Amidst her failing marriage, her son moving out to go to college, and the forthcoming publication of her new and very personal book of poetry, she navigates life while visiting the statues of the Roman and Greek gods in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The world of art and reality intermingle, and the actual statues are illustrated in the book with photographs. It's an intellectual and yet accessible work of literature, and it is one of the most original novels I have read in years.
Another delightful book from Taylor Jenkins Reid. I couldn't stop turning the pages until I finished, so this could possibly be her best book yet! It's like ROCKY meets KING RICHARD.
THE ART OF PROPHECY by Wesley Chu is, quite simply, my favorite fantasy novel this year, a clever mixture of wuxia and historical with wonderful bits of magic. It's enthralling and surprisingly funny. What happens when the prophesied chosen one who is to save the world from the Eternal Khan is an idiot and spoiled rotten? With well-drawn characters and exciting action sequences, this also features brilliant world-building. It is so entertaining, I found myself unable to leave the book aside. Perfection!
BABEL is a remarkable fantasy of the intellect; an epic fantasy that is more concerned with what happens within the minds of the characters than with the battles and fight scenes. In an imaginary Oxford, four young people are groomed for the translation department, learning about the politicization of translation. He who translates can control the wealth and minds of many, an intoxicating power. But when they learn how this harms the cultures from which they borrow the texts, they know they must stop the ruthless colonialization by Britain of the world. Fascinating and heady stuff, and it all works swimmingly. Thought-provoking and very well-written, this will surely appeal to readers of Susannah Clark and V.S. Schwab.
THE WILD HUNT is a spooky ghost story, speculative fiction, a beautiful love story, and an historical novel about the effects of WW2 on the survivors -- and it all works perfectly. This is a lovely book, sort of THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES meets THE BIRDS! It's entirely unique, and I didn't want it to end (although that ending is truly hopeful and heart-warming in all the best ways.) I adore this book.
Anthony Marra's new novel, MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS is a fascinating emotional roller coaster. Set in the late 1030s and early 1940s, he follows several characters -- many refugees from war-town Europe-- who work at or around the fictional Mercury Pictures in Hollywood. Through their eyes, we witness the end of an era. An Italian woman navigates the halls of censorship under the Breen Commission. A Chinese American is frustrated playing evil yellow peril characters; A brilliant German miniaturist finds herself recreating her home streets in Berlin only to destroy them; and the brilliant studeo head attempts to save his company from the clutches of a twin brother and a board that doesn't understand how Hollywood works. This is a brilliantly plotted novel which takes you from back rooms in Hollywood to Germany and Italy, paced perfectly and written with gorgeous prose. It is also highly prescient of our current times. What a lovely, wonderful, and often very funny book!
THE DEVIL TAKES YOU HOME is a new crime/horror hybrid with a distinctly Mexican flair. It's violent, disturbing, and scary, yet it has its tender moments as a man who has lost his daughter to cancer and his wife to the world turns bad guy and takes a job stealing from a cartel. This one will get under your skin.
This brilliant book of essays can be read in order to form a memoir. Funny, chilling, disturbing, and sobering -- these essays range from poverty, the sins of the Boston Catholic Church, the pornography industry, toxic masculinity, and a youth filled with violence, drugs, and alcohol. The writing is gritty and fresh, and this deserves all of the awards it will surely win. What an amazing read!
TOMORROW AND TOMORROW AND TOMORROW is Gabrielle Zevin's (THE STORIED LIFE OG AJ FICKREY, YOUNG JANE YOUNG) absorbing new novel, a love story between two friends, unlike anything you've ever read. Beautifully written, this tale of two gamers who meet as children in a hospital and eventually become friends and partners in a video game company, is a real page turner as well as an examination upon why people love games and rules. Don't be worried if you don't know much about videogames; I certainly don't. In Zevin's assured hands, you go along for the ride and before you know it, you are moved to tears. This is easily one of the best books of the year.
"HAWK MOUNTAIN by Conner Habib is at once one of the most disturbing and damning novels ever written about the results of toxic masculinity in our society. Fifteen years after graduation, our protagonist, Todd, comes face to face with his bully, Jack, from high school. What follows is a -- literal -- deconstruction of the thriller novel and a deep, hard look into the soul of two men so full of hate and rage and regret that violence doesn't just shimmer to the surface; it explodes like a breaching whale. This novel never went where I expected it to go, full of twist, turns, and gasp-inducing moments that totally shifted the narrative. It was horrifying, suspenseful, tragic, sad, and, in places, quite beautiful. This is the work of a great writer, and I cannot believe it is Conner's first novel. Be warned, reader, that this is a book for strong stomachs. There are graphic moments of violence that are difficult to read, but there is a lot more here than the violence and gore. This is a book with its eye and heart firmly set upon where our world is now. Brave readers will find much to love."
Remember that first time you sped through Scott Turow's PRESUMED INNOCENT or John Grisham's THE FIRM? Now, we have Joey Hartstone, and his legal thriller THE LOCAL is a legal thriller that really thrills. From its elegiac opening describing the small town of Marshall, Texas where most patent cases are tried (who knew?) to the twists and turns that don't stop until the final pages, Hartstone holds us enthralled. A young patent lawyer ends up embroiled in a homicide case in which his mentor, the local presiding judge, is murdered -- allegedly by a young, hot-blooded tech genius after a confrontation during a hearing. Even though criminal law isn't his thing, James Euchre cannot disentangle himself from the case . . . and the real killer may be closer to him than he knows. Full of suspense, vividly wrought characters, and dazzling courtroom shenanigans, this is the best legal thriller since Graham Moore razzle dazzled us! The beautiful use of language brings this one up close to a Scott Turow level. Yes, it's THAT good!
This absolutely delightful novel was written by the man behind HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, but it reads more like a modern-day version of FRIENDS. A group of young people in New York City all live two lives (like most of us): one IRL and one on their devices and phones. Romantic foibles, changed life goals, farcical scandals are all seen through this lens of the duality of modern life, and the results are sweet and very funny. I fell in love with the characters and rooted for them to find balance, grinning all the time I read.
Geraldine Brooks (MARCH, CALEB'S CROSSING) brings us a beautiful novel in HORSE. Several stories in different time periods intertwine -- a slave boy trains a racehorse but dreams of freedom; a maid tries to sell a painting inherited from her grandfather; a skeleton discovered in the Smithsonian's attic proves to be extremely important. All of it revolves around a famous racehorse, LEXINGTON, and it is nearly impossible to stop reading!
ORDINARY MONSTERS by J.M. Miro is a beautiful fever dream of a dark historical fantasy novel -- and, good news, it's the first in a trilogy! Equal parts Clive Barker, Susanna Clarke, and Philip Pullman, ORDINARY MONSTERS brings us a group of young people with extraordinary powers -- in Victorian London, the Old West, exotic Asia -- who are brought together for a nefarious reason at a castle in Scotland. There are terrifying monsters, thrilling chases, and wonderfully drawn characters to keep anyone reading late into the night. This truly is a Harry Potter-esque journey into growing up (albeit without any terf references and MUCH better written) for adults. It's violent, exciting...there aren't enough superlatives! This is a great one!
Sloane Crosley's delightful new novel, CULT CLASSIC, is an oddball mixture of SCOTT PILGRIM, SEX AND THE CITY, and THE TWILIGHT ZONE! A woman sneaks out for a smoke in Manhattan, only to discover one of her exes there. The following night, she bumps into another ex. the next night, the same, etc etc. Why is this happening? Is it some sort of karmic closure device or is someone manipulating her reality? It's very funny and full of twists and turns and just full of beautiful, exquisite writing that is so evocative it pulls you right along with its weirdness. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and readers searching for something witty and different will enjoy it, too.
Ann Leary''s new novel, THE FOUNDLING, is based upon true stories she discovered about her grandmother, and it makes for a crackling good read, perfect for book clubs. When naive Mary Engle takes a secretarial job at the Nettleton State Village for Feeble-Minded Women of Childbearing Age (whew!), she soon discovers it's actually a sort of workhouse/prison /eugenics experiment where women are committed and cannot leave until they can no longer have children. Then, she discovers a childhood friend -- a brilliant young woman -- is an inmate, and she is definitely not "feeble-minded." A rescue plan is hatched, but will she be able to help so many young women? THE FOUNDLING brings a tragic and shocking part of America's past to life, exposing a country where women have gained the right to vote but where their husbands can have them charged with being morally reprehensible and admitted to places like this. It's a fast-paced story that's sure to please fans of Martha Hall Kelly and Tracy Chevalier.
If you think you know where this ghostly thriller is going -- you have several surprises coming to you! Rekulak uses familiar ghost story tropes -- haunted child, babysitter/governess with issues, unreliable narratives -- and he adds pictures drawn by the child as they are haunted by the malevolent spirit of a woman long dead and buried. A perfect summer thrill ride!
BREATHLESS by Amy McCulloch is the kind of novel that you start reading and you are suddenly transported to a beautiful, exotic, and dangerous place. I found myself completely forgetting about all the work I had to do until I finished this thrilling book. It's as though an Agatha Christie whodunit was mashed up with a slasher thriller set atop one of the world's tallest mountains during a mountaineering expedition. Someone is bumping off the climbers one by one, or are they really just accidents? This puts the thrill back into thriller and is easily one of the most exciting books I have read in ages! I can't wait to put it into customers' hands!
Don Winslow just keeps one-upping himself, and his new thriller, CITY ON FIRE, is the best gangster saga I've read since THE GODFATHER -- and it may even be better than that classic! Winslow re-works the plot of Homer's Iliad, transposing that epic poem's siege of Troy to 1980s Providence Rhode Island in the midst of a gang war. The balancing act is precarious, but Winslow beautifully navigates the plot twists, and his characters are robust and beautifully drawn with just a few broad strokes. The dialogue is funny, realistic, and profane (those triggered by the racist and homophobic ways bad men talked in this time period are warned), and the story barrels along like a powder keg on fire. And did I mention it is the first in a trilogy? This is fantastic storytelling and a gangster drama for the ages! Read it now!
Jennifer McMahon takes on the classic tropes of Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN in her new thriller THE CHILDREN ON THE HILL. It's a roller coaster ride through memories of a woman, a cryptozoological monster hunter, through her past as the grandchild of a controversial psychologist and sister to the mysterious Iris, who is scarred and has amnesia. Who are the real monsters and who are the victims? This is a wonderfully gothic novel full of monster-ey goodness and richly developed characters. I couldn't put it down!
TAKE MY HAND by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a remarkable, gripping fictional take on a real case where two girls (11 and 14) were sterilized with the government's consent in 1973! With compassion and care, Perkins-Valdez tells the story through the eyes of a helpful, guilt-ridden nurse. An excellent book!
Amy Bloom's beuatiful new memoir, IN LOVE, details her husband's diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's Disease and their subsequent search for a way for him to die on his own terms. A book about assisted suicide seems terribly depressing, but Bloom brings wit, humor, and a gorgeous love story to the book. It's a serious subject matter -- one which America doesn't even want to discuss -- and it is a true blessing. For fans of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
Simply put, SUNDIAL by Catriona Ward, is the scariest, most terrifying book in ages. Do NOT start this one late at night. When her daughter begins to show signs that she is killing animals and may be preparing to harm her little sister, a mother takes her back to her childhood home, where her parents used to perform horrific experiments on dogs (trigger warning; lots of dog trauma here). As the mother relates the story of her own childhood to her daughter, secrets are exposed and dark truths are brought to life. It's a psychological horror novel with a dash of science fiction and a load of horror -- Gillian Flynn (especially SHARP OBJECTS) meets Shirley jackson (it's not a coincidence that Jackson also had a novel called THE SUNDIAL). This one had me horrified from the first pages and held me in its spell for the other 300! Don't miss it if you like dark novels!