SHE COME BY IT NATURAL is a feminist overview of Dolly Parton's career, written by the magnificent Sarah Smarsh, Using events from her own life and her grandmother's life, Smarsh details the emerging feminist in Parton -- her liberation from Porter Wagner, her star-making role in 9 to 5, and her endless philanthropism, all while exploring how her music changed yet stayed true to her roots. I always loved Dolly, and now I love her even more.
PLAIN BAD HEROINES is a literary roar from queer author Emily M. Danforth...and a crackling great read that practically dares you to put it aside! A cursed boarding school in Rhode Island causes death and suicide amongst the young women boarding there in 1902. In modern day times, a queer horror novel based on the events is being filmed and events become eerily reminiscent of the creepy doings a century earlier. Featuring barbed satire on the film industry, queer politics, social media, romantic longing, and a skewering/reverence for gothic tropes that will blow your mind. this is more fun than any novel should be, and I can't wait to recommend it to customers who enjoy something smart, scary, and savage!
The Thursday Murder Club thrillingly begins a new series of cozy British mysteries. Featuring wonderfully vibrant characters and realistic police proceedings, this novel falls fairly close to a cleaner Louise Penny novel—a definite focus on character and a distinct sense of place. When four pensioners in an assisted living facility form a club to re-examine cold cases from the police files, they didn’t realize they would end up smack dab in the middle of a twisty-turny real life set of murders. The pacing is great, and the writing sings. I want the TV series produced on BBC now! Pamela Dorman
Imagine Marvel Universe Avengers movie, only seen from the eyes of one of the many temporary henchmen / henchwomen. In HENCH by Natalie Zina Walschots, we are introduced to Anna, who temps for supervillains -- mostly data entry -- and struggles to survive, pay her rent, and get an occasional date. When she becomes collateral damage after a superhero attacks her boss, she is left injured, jobless, and flooded with medical bills as she has no insurence. Revenge becomes the word of the day and she finds herself becoming her own supervillain. If this sounds silly, it's not! It's as much a commentary on the working poor as a science fiction action story, and the characters are fascinating. It's so compelling, I finished it in two nights, and I wanted even more. This is a blockbuster waiting to happen, and I loved it!
One man lives in a massive labyrinth filled with decaying statues and a tidal sea. Another man observes, searching for the meaning of life itself. What secrets does the past hold? This puzzle box of a literary fantasy novel is so good, I read it slowly to enjoy every word. It will sweep you off your feet like some mad amalgamation of Umberto Eco, John Fowles, and Neal gaiman!
This is the thriller of the year! From the creator of the Scandinavian mini-series THE KILLING, THE CHESTNUT MAN is an unbelievably fast-paced and exciting page-turner. I literally had trouble putting it down to sleep! A serial killer is loose, a cold case kidnapping is brought back to life, and a politician is attacked from all sides. This is the kind of book Thomas Harris used to write and one of the best plotted mysteries in a long time. What a wonderful group of vivid characters and what a ride! Whew!
THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING by Alexa Henderson is like THE HANDMAID'S TALE as viewed through the dark fairy-tale lens of Angela Carter. haunting and extremely atmospheric, this horror fantasy hybrid is feminist, political, and very, very spooky!
Utterly charming, hilarious, sweet, and ultimately touching -- this book is for anyone who loves the books of Sarah Dessen or Jenny Han. I want to be friends with all the characters!
Kevin Wilson's new novel, NOTHING TO SEE HERE, is a deceptively light and humorous story, but there is so much more to it than the delight the reader experiences. When a senator from Tennessee is about to be vetted for Secretary of State, he suddenly inherits his two children from his estranged first wife when she dies. And the kids are wild. And they spontaneously combust every once in a while, setting everything aflame. An old friend / somebody-to-be-taken-advantage-of the family is asked to care for them, and she embarks on a journey of self discovery while tending these dangerous kids. It is hilarious, wicked, barbed, heart-breaking, and fabulous . I've never read anything quite like it, and it moved me to tears while making me laugh in surprised staccato bursts! What a terrific book!
Jacqueline Woodson's new novel RED AT THE BONE is one of the year's best, evocative, provocative, and stunningly well-written. Don't let the slim size fool you; this one is packed to the brim with emotion. This lyrical, poetic novel unfolds in various time periods, all centered around a single family event and how that affects each member of the family. It brilliantly evokes that feeling when we are young and indestructible as well as the disappointments of life as well as unexpected delights that unfold when we least expect them. The characters are wonderfully alive, and the world they inhabit is one I'd love to live in -- a place full of love and family. It is a lovely gem of a novel!
TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM is a deeply moving and thoughtful book, a triumph of a seconf novel! I cannot stop thinking about Gifty and how the behaviors of her brother and mother affect her work as a scientist and as a devout christian. Faith vs. Science has rarely been handled so deftly. Superb in every way!
Kiera is seventeen, a black student at a nearly all-white school, and the creator of the people-of-color-only RPG virtual reality game, Slay in this suspenseful and thought-provoking novel. When a young gamer is killed by another, Slay comes under fire and becomes a world-wide controversy -- is it racist or exclusionary? -- and Kiera must fight to defend everything she has built. This would be an excellent book club pick as there is so much to discuss after reading it, Just as good for young aduslts as teens, but I believe it will speak to young people who feel like they need a safe place sometimes but cannot say why or how!
THE LIVING DEAD by George Romero and Daniel Kraus is, yes let's say it right off the bat, a zombie novel. Actually, I would say it is THE zombie novel. THE literary zombie novel. Begun by the great cult filmmaker (and creator of zombies as we know them today) George Romero and finished after his death by Daniel Kraus, this epic story unfolds so beautifully that the pages fly. A medical examiner and his partner discover the dead are returning to life; a solitary woman decides to archive every event after the apocalypse; a gay navy officer on an aircraft carrier faces a takeover by religious zealots; a young woman and a Syrian refugee must fight their way out of a trailer park and then her past; a musician decides to defeat the ruin of the world through art. All these tales eventually intertwine, all while carefully peeling back the layers of our society to reveal the xenophobia, misogynies, homophobia, transphobia, and what happens when humans allow base men to assume roles of power. The sociological parts are nicely woven into the narrative, which is action-packed and studded with gory set pieces, and the characters are incredibly well-drawn and treated humanely. You really hope these people make it out alive -- that our world can recover and be different, despite our worst natures. It's scary, moving, literary, emotionally-draining, breath-taking, gorgeously and quotably written, and the best novel I have read this year. I'm completely gob-smacked by this. Just terrific!
This magnificent, incredibly moving novel deals beautifully with the extinctions occurring now in our climate-changing world. One woman, for reasons unknown, decides to follow the migration of the arctic terns -- the longest migration of any animal and possibly the last one for these dying birds. Through flashbacks, we begin to understand why she is attempting this suicidal journey and discover all the monsters hiding in her past. Her own migration of the mind reflects like a funhouse mirror the physical journey she is attempting. the ending is just beautifully rendered, a perfect climax to a gorgeously written novel, offering hope for hopeless times. I was moved nearly to tears.
When is the last time a horror novel was both scary and charming? A COSMOLOGY of monsters is THAT book! Riffing on themes from HP Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury, Hamill weaves a complex tale of lost cities, Halloween haunted attractions, and doorways to other worlds. I really enjoyed this literary horror story, which starts out as a love story (don't ALL good horror tales?) and grows progressively creepier. The book posits the questions -- who are the real monsters and why do we love to be scared. Truly a delightful, yet uber-creepy homage. I loved it.
THE BOOK OF ATLANTIS BLACK by Betsy Bonner is part memoir and part investigative crime reporting...but all engrossing! When Bonner's sister is found dead of a heroin overdose in Mexico, she goes on a journey to discover what happened, which turns into an inward-gazing spiral of conspiracies, suspicion, and obsessive paranoia. Through emails, facebook messages, and letters and interviews, she uncovers bits and pieces of her sister's life, including a mysterious figure only known as Gretchen, who seems to be a criminal. dark, fascinating, and very suspenseful, Bonner's narrative non-fiction is a brilliant look at how we never know anyone as well as we should and how one obsession can take over your life and how there are no easy answers...even when we want there to be. I would compare it to THE FACT OF A BODY.
LUSTER introduces us to a shockingly wonderful new voice -- Raven Leilani writes with a pen dipped in venom. When a young African-American woman enters into an open-marriage relationship with a white man only to find herself rediscovering her passion for art, her attraction to abuse, and her sudden feelings of protectiveness toward the adopted black child of the couple. Full of wicked humor, sexy and shocking situations, and gorgeous language, I found myself laughing and wincing...often on the same page. This is an important book by a great new writer. Tom Wolfe meets Brit Bennett. I devoured this book.
Kings County by David Goodwillie, is just superb, the most Brooklyn novel I have read in forever. Two people with pasts meet in New York and venture out on a life together. She is an A & R rep at a small recording company and he acquires film rights to novels. When their pasts resurface, their relationship is tested -- all while surviving on the tough streets, the loud clubs, the hallowed hallways of commerce of New York City. The language and characters are as vibrant as the city itself, and the writing is just gorgeous, especially in the first two thirds of the novel. What a treat!
A STAR IS BORED by Byron Lane is a very funny novel, the kind that whisks you away from the daily grind and into a world where people are witty, glamorous, and, well, suffering addiction -- to drugs or to fame. Based loosely (HA!) on Lane's experiences as Carrie Fisher's assistant, the book features a likable hero striving to make a difference in a movie star's world. Raunchy, hilarious, and surprisingly very tender and sweet, this is a wonderful novel to take to the beach or divert your attention away from the awfulness of the world today. So much fun! I think Carrie would even approve! Fans of POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE and THE EDITOR are going to love it!
In Malorie, Josh Malerman continues the story he began in Birdbox. Malorie and her children have survived for years on their own, and now the teenagers have entered a rebellious stage. they want to see the world, want to have experiences, want to meet people, but Malorie keeps them on a short leash, understanding the dangers out there in the real world. the dread in this book is almost palpable, with a first paragraph that hits the ground running and never pauses for a breath. The middle section detailing a long, precarious blind train ride is exceptional and makes up for the finale, which just misses the mark (unless there is a third book in the works to make a trilogy!) I enjoyed Malorie very much, as much a parable about overprotective parents as a horror novel, and I rushed through it like the locomotive at its heart. Really good!
Alaya Dawn Johnson has written her first adult novel, TROUBLE THE SAINTS, and it is a doozie! Complete entertainment from beginning to end, I'd call it an historical urban fantasy crime novel. When a supernaturally-gifted assassin who is passing for white in 1940s Harlem (she's especially talented with knives) finds herself no longer trusting her mob boss, her entire past is thrown into doubt. Her on again off again boyfriend and she go on the lam, seeking refuge with a card-reading torch singer, but to reveal anything else would be criminal! As the story unfolds through three different viewpoints, we live and breath these characters and their supernatural talents, and Johnson unveils only a little at a time until we finally understand this entire familiar, yet not familiar, world. If N. K. Jemison and Chester Himes had a bastard child, it would be TROUBLE THE SAINTS!
Maggie O'Farrell's new novel Hamnet details the last days of William Shakespeare's son as he is dying along with flashbacks to the courtship of the famous playwright and his eccentric wife, Agnes and their early years of marriage. With delicate language and an eye for detail, O'Farrell brings us a historical drama that feels as fresh as yesterday, and the details of life during the late Sixteenth Century are carefully chosen and parsed out like breadcrumbs. How parents survive the death of a child is always a delicate subject and the author avoids many of the sentimental traps as she details how a marriage is stressed; how an author is inspired; how a sister is lost in the shuffle. It is a lovely book, beautifully crafted.
Buckle up your safety belt, because BLACKTOP WASTELAND by S.S. Cosby is one fast and furious ride! When a wheelman - gone - straight is forced to drive the car for one more burglary, he and his cohorts are in over their heads before the dust even clears. Everything that can go wrong does, and the men are trapped in a cage of doubt over who, if anyone, they can trust. This is a race car of a novel, and the reader will be speeding through the pages. Exciting and brutal, BLACKTOP WASTELAND brings us a reimagined noir, southern in texture, but reveling in everything the genre represents. People often forget how much ambiguous gray exists in noir, focusing on the black and white nature of the books and especially the noir films. But this novel is filled with moral ambiguity and terrific writing that really brings these desperate characters to life. You understand exactly why they do what they do, even when you yell at the book to stop them from bad choices (and aren't bad choices all a part of noir?). This is a keeper, one of the best thrillers in years and one of the best paced. Fans of Chester Himes, Elmore Leonard, and Brian Panovich are going to love it.
What an amazing book! David Mitchell brings us the story of UTOPIA AVENUE, a semi-psychedelic band in London in the late 1960s. it's all here -- drugs, sex, and rock and roll -- but there's a beautiful edge to these characters. they have personal demons that haunt them and each gets their chance to escape. This novel really feels like music -- sometimes ethereal, sometimes hard and pounding, and often gloriously uplifting. One of the great novels about a band written -- right up there with THE COMMITMENTS and THE FIVE!
Rarely does a book hold me in its grip for over 800 pages, but Karl Marlantes' follow-up to his novel MATTERHORN did just that! DEEP RIVER i\s the story of the Koski family, Finns who escaped to the American Northwest from Russian aggression in the early 20th century. through the decades, they become loggers and engineers, midwives and mothers, healers and labor activists. Seen mostly through the eyes of Aino, the sister of the three siblings and a vocal opponent to the lumber barons, this epic novel draws you into its world, expertly creating an historical atmosphere, and offering characters of such depth that it is sometimes astonishing. This is an immersive novel like PACHINKO or WAR AND PEACE or THE FAR PAVILIONS that surrounds you for weeks as you inhabit this world. Kudos to Mr. Marlantes!
The Son Of Good Fortune by Lysley Tenorio refers to Excel, a young man, an illegal alien from the Philippines, who resides with his con-woman mother in Colma, California. His mother scams older men out of money by flirting with them on the internet, and Excel, fed up with the deception as well as with his mother's behaviors, runs away with his girlfriend to a ramshackle artist's community in the desert. There, disaster strikes, and he must learn to grow and atone for what he's done. This novel is exceptional in every way, from its well-drawn characters to its glimpse into the terrifying life of an illegal alien, from its jabs at humor within every situation (even the most dire) to its clever dialogue to its beautifully constructed and taut ending. I loved every page of this book and cannot recommend it more. Fans of Imbolo Mbue and Junot Diaz will particularly enjoy this book, but I just thought it was brilliant. I'm still grinning!
What do you get when you cross the sexualized horror of Clive Barker (or Peter Straub) with Friday Night Lights? John Fram's new novel, The Bright Lands, is one suspenseful and scary mystery! When a gay man revisits his Texas hometown for the first time since he was bullied into leaving, he returns just in time for his younger brother, the local football team's star player, murdered. Through multiple viewpoints, we discover the insidious evil lurking within the town -- both human and supernatural, leading to an eventual explosive finale! This is suspense writing at its best, and the pages flew beneath my fingers. Well written and with a queer slant, this is a terrific book. Delving not only into cosmic horror but also into the horror of prejudice and the deification of those on sports teams. I loved it and would recommend it for adventurous readers!
If you are familiar with Charlie Kaufman's films (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation< Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), you may have some idea of what to expect from his first novel, a sprawling epic 700 page tome entitled ANTKIND. Then again, trust me, you really aren't prepared -- who could be? -- for the sheer amount of chutzpa, humor, love, and anarchy he sets loose in these pages. Starting with a social justice warrior of a film critic accidentally discovering a movie that lasts for 3 months and took 90 years to produce. Then, things get weird. There are comedy duos that become assassins, doppelgangers, a president who sleeps with a robot version of himself, people shrinking, alternate realities, and the weirdest hypnotherapy ever. The book is long, funny, enthralling, frustrating, exhausting, surreal, challenging, and exhilarating. I laughed out loud quite often and winced more than a few times. It's an amazing trip (in both senses of the word), and people who love A Confederacy Of Dunces or David Foster Wallace will enjoy it.
HOLLOW KINGDOM by Kira Jane Burton is that rare anomaly in books -- a completely original idea that works! After the zombie apocalypse, a domesticated crow (the foul-mouthed, snack food obsessed S.T.) and his dim-witted bloodhound friend decide they must set free all the pets that are dying inside of locked houses abandoned by human. The adventure is brilliant, full of terrifying battles against mutant and beast, and S.T. is a hero for the ages -- Snake Plisskin from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK in avian form. The comedy is actually laugh out loud funny, the horror is gory and scary, and the animal behavior is spot-on. It is also heart-breakingly, achingly sad in spots, and I wept for two chapters straight (if you've read it, you know exactly which ones!). Never has the bond between human and pet, nature and man been explored in such a vibrant and entertaining (if sobering) manner. The reviews that are stating this is The Walking Dead meets the Secret Life of Pets are only partway correct in their analysis. This is Watership Down for a new millennium. I was moved through the final breath-taking pages, and I loved every moment of it. Bravo!
I write horror fiction for a second job, and nothing much gets to me, but Paul Tremblay . . . he scares me! These stories are weird and creepy and disturbing and fun, sometimes all within twenty pages. These stories are like peanuts, where it's hard to read just one. you'll want to devour the whole book!
Whitehead does it again! In THE NICKLE BOYS, he brings us the story (based on factual events) of a reform school where several young black men are disappearing. This is a damning indictment of the Jim Crow laws and how different laws were set for people of color in the South. Powerful, beautiful, shocking, and disturbing...this one was a book I had to read in a single sitting. Absolutely wonderful!
Steven Rowley's new novel, The Editor, is exactly the kind of balm I needed in today's climate. Focusing on a young writer who discovers his editor is none other than Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the book actually explores several kinds of relationships ... romantic, familial ... in a humorous and touching manner. Although the writing is wickedly barbed and the zingers fly at the speed of a 1940s rom-com, The Editor is so much more. There is real heart in the writing as well as real love between the characters. And nobody, I mean nobody, is infallible. It's a true delight and the kind of book people who loved Eleanor Olyphant Is Completely Fine and/ or Less will truly enjoy. Just be prepared with a box of tissues and your favorite cocktail (Jackie would suggest daiquiris.)
JANE EYRE goes Jamacain! An ex-slave is discovered in bed with her boss and the husband is dead in the baement, but did she kill them? This very well-written debut novel is suspenseful and full of twists while still functioning as a condemnation of racism. Fun, sexy, and exciting -- everything you want in a summer read!
THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North is a little bit SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and a little bit Stephen King while remaining its own stream-lined suspenseful beast! True, it's the story of a copycat serial killer murdering young boys in a small English town and the investigation into the crimes, but it is also an acute examination of father and son relationships. This extra dose of characterization proffers characters the reader truly cares about, and, thus, becomes terrified over their fate. This was a truly suspenseful novel that announces a great new talent on the mystery scene!
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is, quite simply, one of my favorite books this year. I am so happy to report Bennett didn't suffer 'the sophomore slump', and this book is just as good as The Mothers. When light-skinned African American twins go their own ways, they didn’t' have a clue as to where their respective lives would take them...or their children! This non-linear novel plays with ideas about race, gender identity, and sex without ever compromising its story. And what a beautiful story it is! I loved every page and believed in every move these characters made -- even when I wanted to scream at them for their actions! Superb in every way.
A BURNING by Megha Majumdar is one compelling read! Disturbing in the extreme, it focuses upon three characters -- a young woman falsely accused of a terrorist act, a trans woman who would do anything to become a Bollywood star, and a gym teacher on a trajectory to become a rich, corrupt politician. The title is metaphorical, because everyone is out for themselves, even if it involves burning a scapegoat (witch?) . It also beautifully exhibits what happens when things go viral on social media and how that platform can be used to destroy someone's life. This isn't a pleasant read, but it is a very good one, and a terrific first novel.
I will admit that I was wary at first -- oh no, another misery memoir of a traumatic childhood -- but HOLLYWOOD PARK by Mikel Jollett is so much more than that. He was kidnapped from the church of Synanon by his narcissistic mother only to find life outside of the cult even more confusing and damaging than life inside. It was a youth of extremes, and Jollett does not shy away from any of the brutality or emotional abuse, but he gains your trust through exquisite writing. At first, he writes much as a child would, using made-up phrases and linguistic tricks to truly take you inside the head of himself as a five year old exposed to things far beyond his wisdom. Later, the prose alters, grows older along with the boy. As Jollett found his way through a maze of abuse, addiction, and psychological damage, he maintains a sense of humor along with the heart-stopping scenes of loss. This is a memoir on ar with EDUCATED, bringing forth a life many of us didn't experience, leading us to a place of light, knowledge, and grace. Added bonus: I have now discovered Jollett's rock group, Airborne Toxic Event, and I am revelling in their songs...songs that seem to speak just to me. I can't recommend this memoir highly enough.
Michael Connelly does it again in his new thriller Fair Warning. This is Connelly without an ounce of fat on him. Sleek, fast-paced, and utterly compelling, Fair Warning tells the story of a journalist (Jack McEvoy from The Poet), accused of a murder who decides to track down the real culprit. He discovers something truly disturbing -- but I'm not going to say any more! This was classic Connelly, only it really, really moved.
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta is a beautiful coming of age story told in stylized verse. In it, we follow a young man -- black, British, gay, a poet, and pretty fabulous -- as he navigates through the discovery of his identity, especially through the discovery of drag. What separates this book from the multitudes of its kind is the beautiful language used to describe this boy's journey. Sometimes it is just jaw-droppingly stunning.
LEADING MEN by Christopher Castellani is, simply put, a magnificent piece of historical fiction. While examining the time when Tennessee Williams went to Italy with his long-time lover Frank Merlo to write sequences for Vuisconti's film SENSO, Castellani introduces us to a world forgotten and fabulous. From parties at Truman Capote's villa to the dizzying extravagant film sets, Frank and Tennessee meet a young actress and another writer, one long-since forgotten, John Horne Burns and his lover, which leads to an examination of 'the sidekick/the other'. What does it mean to be a muse, and can a muse ever hope to mean as much to an artist as his actual art? Castellani, through luscious prose and delicate plotting, delves into the heart of what it means to be loved as well as what it means to have BEEN loved -- two very different things. This is the best book I have read in ages, and I cannot wait to tell my customers all about it. It's the kind of popular literary novel that catches fire in your brain and just refuses to let go. I loved every p
Scott Turow's THE LAST TRIAL documents Sandy Sterns' final trial before retirement due to health issues. It's a fascinating case dealing with a pharmaceutical company fudging its figures and selling stock when they knew people were dying. As in most of Turow's books, this is a meticulously crafted trial, and his attention to detail and how the law works makes the novel fascinating on a whole other level. It's more than a mystery; it's a look into everything that is wrong in corporate America and the dangerous path we are traversing. I enjoyed it very much, and I'm happy to see Sandy off in such a grand novel.
Perfect summer escapist entertainment! Mystery, murder, love, sex, and jealousy! Plus, fashion! It's a lot of fun and a great way to not think about current world situations (and there are plenty of great books to make you more aware -- this never sets out to be that kind of book). I enjoyed it immensely.
This remarkable novel intertwines four stories that all take place on the same day in 1927 in Paris, France, all centered around a stolen notebook of Marcel Proust. Each story deals with a fascinating character -- a puppeteer who holds ultra-realistic shows about WW1, a maid whose husband has sold a journal that exposes a secret from her past, an artist running from a loan shark, and a writer imagining fleeing to America. Their paths will cross with each other along with the luminaries of the time like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Josephine Baker, but it's the stories of the unknown characters that draw in the reader. And that ending! Wow! Proustians will enjoy this, but so will anyone who loved ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE.
In The One and Only Bob, Katherine Applegate's sequel to her Newbery Award winning The One and Only Ivan, our scruffy little dog finally gets a chance to make up for when he didn't track down and save his sister, the only other puppy to survive his litter being tossed out of a car. During a tornado, his friends are threatened, he confronts grief and guilt, and he discovers a sense of belonging. In tiny chapters, Applegate allows kids to process some pretty big ideas in a wonderful story full of humor and grace. I adored it, and the audiobook, narrated by Danny DeVito, is utterly charming.
I was immediately drawn into the story of ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth Keane, and it only got better from there! This is the story of two families living side by side who share one terrible event that transforms all of their lives. Following their trajectory for over forty years, Keane delves into family crisis, the persistence of memory, atonement, mental health, and ultimately the path to possible forgiveness. Can one ever forgive a heinous act, something that traumatizes two entire families? There are no easy answers, but I would follow these characters anywhere on their journey! they were so real to me! I adored this book, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys the fiction of John Irving, Celeste Ng, or Michael Chabon. utterly engrossing and believable!
I found Sarah Blake's new book, THE GUEST HOUSE, a thought-provoking delight. As she examines the lives of three different generations of a wealthy American dynasty, she also examines how history can be linked to instances...how we each have one or two moments that determine so much of our future history. It made me stop and wonder what my moments were. From pre-war Berlin to Greenwich Village in the 50s to New England today, each generation clings to ideas, just as they cling to their summer home on an island in Maine. They few who dare to attempt to break loose from history's yoke are destined for loss, heartbreak, and death. This seems like a heavy novel -- and it is, as it contains a multitude of ideas -- it is also a great read, and I was turning pages until the wee hours of the morning to reach the stunning conclusion. I think this will be a great book club pick!
This book is absolutely hilarious! Full of bad puns (which means GREAT puns), silly situations, and hilarious action scenes, this is one of the best kids books in ages. Monty Python meets The Wolfman!
This wonderful multi-generational novel explores family and the immigration experience as a young woman attempts to understand the rift between her grandmother and great-aunt. What happened in the old country, and how did Stella Fortuna escape death seven (or perhaps eight) times. Funny, wrenching, and touching in equel measures, this is a wonderful book for Mother's Day!
How long can you tolerate pure evil if it happens to benefit you and those like you? Grady Hendrix explores this theme and many others in his delightfully twisted tale THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO VAMPIRE SLAYING with one hand holding a sweet tea and another holding a Bible. Four women who hate their current cliquish book club create an off-shoot, one that reads true crime books and thrillers. When a predator steals into their neighborhood, promising wealth and connections -- not to mention being a vampire -- and they have to decide what is more important...their banal safe existence in South Carolina or what's good for their entire community, even if it may harm their standing. It's a moral quandary reminiscent of Joan Sampson's classic THE AUCTIONEER, but with vampires, child psychology, and horrific scenes of violence thrown into the mix. It's funny, sweet, scary, and utterly gripping. I read the final 250 pages in a single page-fluttering night! Grady Hendrix just keeps getting better and better and this novel -- reeking of wine and southern charm -- is his best yet!
BOY SWALLOWS UNIVERSE is a novel that hits every button -- it's funny, exciting, harrowing, sad, and uplifting. In other words, it's a wild Australian ride that never lets up until the gorgeous, well-thought-out ending. Part coming of age story, part farce, part memoir (much of this novel is thinly-veiled memoir of the author), the novel becomes better and better as it goes, and I found myself laughing out loud as well as catching my breath. Dalton's voice rings true with nary a misstep. Need the perfect summer read? Look no further!
N.K. Jemison does it again! Turning Lovecraftian and Gaiman-esque tropes on their heads, she brings us the story of New York's birth. only something has gone terribly wrong and each of the five boroughs possesses a different person instead of one person becoming the city. These diverse humans must find each other before an immortal enemy sneaks into our world and makes New York its own. Sounds crazy, right? But it all makes sense, even amongst the chaos. Jemison's sure hand at characterization and dialogue keep you invested in the characters and the entire conceit is wholly original. I loved it and can't wait for the second volume! For fans of Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman.
This novel is similar to the works of Joshua Ferris or Jonathan Tropper, but it lives entirely in its own weird little universe. When a closeted gay right-wing Republican receives a stuffed aardvark via fed ex from his dead lover, things quickly spiral out of control. Hilarity ensues! I loved this book so much!
In THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA, TJ Klune brings us an adult Harry Potter, a magical fairy tale of a story firmly lodged in our current political state of disarray! When a case worker from the Department of Magical Children is forced to inspect a group home for 'special children' (one is the anti-Christ!), he has to re-evaluate everything he ever believed about love, children, and the world of hope that can be ours if we let it. This is a lovely book I cannot recommend enough. It's a balm to the soul, and I audibly sighed when I turned the last page. Charming, witty, sweet-natured, and yet compellingly realistic on its own terms, , this is my pick for fantasy novel of the year! It is rare a book makes me so giddy!
In Que Mai Phan Nguyen's The Mountains Sing we are introduced to three generations of a Vietnamese family, focusing mostly on the women. As mothers, wives, daughters, and revolutionaries, they are the heart of this sprawling kaleidoscopic novel, a book filled with love, heart, and warmth, even when their country is torn asunder by revolution and war. Whether during the Land Reform or the Vietnamese War, this family struggles and we eventually come to see this story not just of a single family, but as the story of the Vietnamese people. It's a lovely book, harsh when necessary, and the language is quite beautiful (no surprise as Nguyen is a poet). For fans of PACHINKO.
James McBride's newest novel, DEACON KING KONG, is a panoply of wonders. In 1969, in the housing projects of Brooklyn, an alcoholic deacon steps outside, speaking to his dead wife, and shoots a drug dealer in the head! Thus begins one of the most entertaining, funny, and poignant novels of the year! It's as if Toni Morrison and Chester Himes teamed up for a family drama/crime novel. Exquisite prose!
This novel revels in its magical realism while relating its tale of a native Hawaiian family as their lives parallel several legends and myths of the islands. The writing is unbelievable, truly placing you within the minds of these characters who each narrate their portion of the story. The ending is absolutely perfect. Highest recommendation!
Lily King's newest novel, Writers & Lovers, delves into the world of Casey Kasem, an aspiring writer, a daughter grieving for her mother, full time waitstaff, and in debt to the tune of tens of thousand of dollars due to student loans. She also finds herself caught between two men -- a well-known writer and a young man of dubious means. This novel displays such insight into the writer's mind that I found myself closing my eyes and thinking about whole passages and what they might mean to me as a writer. The characters are realistic and fun, and I so wanted to hang out with these people! It all reads like a lovely, more haunting version of Crossing Delancey, and I fell under its charms immediately. Team Casey!
Hold on to your jurisprudence! This exciting and cinematic courtroom thriller really keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat! Graham Moore (author of the great LAST DAYS OF NIGHT and Oscar winner for the screenplay to THE IMITATION GAME) alternates the story of a jury deciding the fate of a man who may have murdered his student with the same jury reuniting ten years later -- only to have this reunion end in murder! The jurists each get their own flashback and motive, but the focus on a defense attorney propels the mystery, giving a human face to the drama. This is a terrific book and will be a great sell to people who usually read John Grisham or Scott Turow, although it's better than anything those two have written in years!
Oh, what joy is THE STATIONERY SHOP by Marjan Kamali! Detailing a tragic love story between two young people who meet clandestinely in a local stationery shop in Tehran, 1953, this novel spring-boards to romantic life as revolution and history intrude into the lives of Roya and Nahman. This beautifully written novel draws you into its web in the first chapter and never lets go as years pass and Roya immigrates to America. More than a love story, THE STATIONERY SHOP is a story of what happens when huge events steamroll into the lives of regular people, disrupting lives that are suddenly set on very different paths. The writing is never cloying, but the story is lovely, and I had to brush away a few tears by the end. This is a perfect novel for people who loved THE KITE RUNNER, THE NOTEBOOK, or CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN. Wow, what a book!
The second in the Ben Walker series (after he found Noah's Ark in ARARAT), this fast-paced thriller finds a group of archeologists who may have found Pandora's Box in a subterranean honeycomb of caves. With jihadists trapping them inside and infiltrating the caves and a disease causing hallucinations loose within the caverns, the group must find a way out before they all perish. Exciting, spooky, and I really hope you aren't claustrophobic!
Lydia Fitzpatrick's novel LIGHTS ALL NIGHT LONG works beautifully on multiple levels -- as a coming of age story, as an examination of America through a foreignor's eyes, and as a crackling good mystery -- all wrapped together like a set of Russian nesting dolls. Ilya has arrived in Louisiana, an exchange student from Russia, just after his brother is accused of the murders of three young women in their home village. Ilya and the oldest daughter of his host family, search for answers amidst the confusing world into which he is tossed. As answers become viable, his world starts to crumble. This is a gorgeously written story that works as a literary novel and as a mystery, and I read well past my bedtime as I uncovered the solution alongside Ilya. I love the way Fitzpatrick treats her characters, with such love and detail. Even the ultra-religious host family is not reduced to stereotype, and they have delightfully sharp edges and motivations. This is the best novel I have read in a long time.
After a young woman's mopther dies, she heads back to India then begins a search for the male friend (and maybe more) of her mother to tell him she has died. He disappeared into Kashmir years ago, and her journey exposes family secrets. A perfect blend of political historical novel and coming of age novel, The Far Field is absolutely wonderful and perfect for fans of The Kite Runner!
Patchett's best book since Bel Canto! This story of a family and the house that ultimatelt splits them is downright Dickensian -- like Bleak House but fast and funny! I truly can't believe how much I loved this book!
Stories and history are the only things that can take us out of the darkness of ignorance and into a new place and future; at least, that's what Ta-Nehisi Coates postulates in his new book THE WATER DANCER. Telling the story of a slave who becomes ensnared in helping the Underground Railroad with their plans for his family using special teleportation powers, Coates really brings home the feeling of despair and helplessness when families are separated. This is a heart-breaking, hopeful, beautifully-written novel that makes its point using magical realism, but it never softens the edge of the whip. It still stings like hell. If you imagine Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Marques writing a tale of the Underground Railroad together -- you would be close to the awesome power of this amazing book!