THE REFORMATORY is a new supernatural historical novel from Tananarive Due is a nail-biting suspense story set in Jim Crow Florida (at the same real-life school as Colson Whitehead's THE NICKEL BOYS -- only Due had a relative killed there!). A young boy is rail-roaded into a boy's reformatory where he can see ghosts. While his sister tries to get him released through legal channels, the warden, a despicable man, sees the boy as an instrument to get rid of the phantoms haunting the school. Allegorical shivers ensue! The final hundred and fifty pages detailing a thrilling prison break will have you climbing the walls! This is an excellent book for readers of horror fiction, literary, or historical fiction, and I think it will please everyone!
THE BERRY PICKERS by Amanda Peters packs a true, honestly-earned emotional wallop! While a family of Mi'kmaq migrate to Maine to pick blueberries, the four year old daughter goes missing, never to be found, and her older brother is devastated by her loss. Wracked with guilt, he goes through life on the edge of fury while she grows up in an overprotective household with an unstable mother, dreaming of a past she doesn't understand. There's no mystery to if she is the kidnapped child, but the novel beautifully focuses on how childhood trauma can follow us through our lives and how we react in different manners to it. Every note rings true in this terrific book, and I can't wait to sell it to people!
NORTH WOODS, the new novel by Daniel Mason, is an amazing achievement in literature. Two pilgrim lovers run away from their settlement and build a house in Western Massachusetts. We then follow the house through the centuries as each chapter details different owners, each written in an entirely different style, from a doctor's notes, to pulp detective fiction, to songs, poetry, and literary fiction. There are ghosts, murders, mental health issues, and, always, the effect of the surrounding nature and wilderness. This book does a beautiful job relating exposure to nature and its psychological benefits, but it is so much more than its many bits. The finale, which stretches from modern times and into the future, is a lovely epilogue on this stunning read. The photographs and maps are the icing o the cake, making this one of the best novels of the year.
THE SQUARE OF SEVENS by Laura Shepherd-Robinson is the kind of epic, dreamy novel you get lost in, the kind that envelopes you so you forget everything around you. . . and then the author starts the twists and turns and the reader is left with their jaw dropped to floor in astonishment, wanting to read the whole thing again to see what clues they missed! It's an elegant historical mystery set in the mid 1700s in England, in which a young female fortune teller insinuates herself into a wealthy family in order to discover who her mother was and why she was abandoned. Thus begins a rollicking story of intrigue, sexual liaisons, family disputes, lies, and cartomancy. This is the most fun I have had reading a book this year (and maybe last year as well), and I cannot wait to sell it to customers. Please, S & S, bring more Laura She[herd-Robinson to American shores! I need to read them all now.
WHALEFALL is THE MARTIAN meets JAWS, and it's a full-throttle E-Ticket thrill ride from start to finish. A young scuba diver, searching for the remains of his father a year after his suicide, is swallowed accidentally by a sperm whale. He has one hour of oxygen left, and the whale could dive to terminal depths at any time. This is exciting and ultimately moving story of sons and fathers...and one amazing whale. This could be the sleeper hit of the summer!
Ann Patchett brings us another lovely look at family life with TOM LAKE. A mother on a farm relates the story of her summer playing Emily in OUR TOWN in a summer stock theater and the man she loved who would later become a film star. It's a beautiful tale about regret and the theater, as well as a reminder that we never know our parents as well as we should. They have so many stories to tell! Patchett loves her characters with a passion and it shows on every page. Just perfection!
KALA by Colin Walsh is a smart and psychologically deep debut about the past and how it refuses to let go of us as we attempt to proceed into the future. History will out. A group of friends in an Irish village disperse after one of them goes missing and they graduate high school. When they return to their hometown, the body of the missing girl is discovered, all of them are suspects, and secrets long-buried are uncovered. It will affect them all in different manners, and Walsh is extremely talented at discovering what's under the veneer of his characters -- the characters are the strongest part of this literary thriller. It's not as much a roller coaster as a slow spook-house ride, where every friend's face may hide a terrible visage beneath. It's like if Donna Tartt and Roddy Doyle wrote a book together! Warning: the scenes involving dog-fighting are intentionally upsetting.
THE MILITIA HOUSE by John Milas reads like a combination of THE THINGS THEY CARRIED and HOUSE OF LEAVES, in a truly eerie horror tale. A small group of soldiers in the middle of Afghanistan, 2010, discover a bunker used by the Russians when they occupied the country. . . and it appears to be haunted. Soon, the haunting is leaking into their daily lives outside the bunker. Creepy in the extreme, this book also shines a light on the boredom of occupation as well as PTSD in our soldiers.
In THE LIBRARIANIST by Patrick DeWitt, we meet Bob Comet, a man who loves to read, preferring the comfort of adventures in books to those in real life. When he begins helping out at a senior center, he makes discoveries about his own life, and the reader is graced with two adventures Bob experienced but never really understood -- when he ran away from home and joined a theater group and when his marriage collapsed when his wife ran away with his best friend. Poignant, sweet, and filled with gorgeous and quotable writing, this novel embraces the joys of a life lived on the sidelines, libraries and librarians, and the pleasures of experience vs. the pleasures of reading about those experiences. It's a delicious book, and I'm certain it will be discussed many years from now as a classic of its kind. It doesn't get much better than this.
THE ART THIEF is a fascinating look into the mind of one of the most successful art thieves in history, a young man with a backpack and a girlfriend who enables and helps him. It's a terrific psychological study of the mind of someone who loves art and beauty more than anything, a true aesthete. but it is also a look into how he was found and how laws changed because of him. A fascinating true crime/art history tale that is all the more compelling becuse it is true!
LUCKY RED by Claudia Cravens is a sensual novel in the best way, a feast for all the senses as she draws a meticulously created vision of the Wild West. This time, the viewpoint is of a woman, a prostitute, who falls in love with a female gunfighter. All the Western tropes are here, but they are skewed in such a way as to seem very new. And there are a couple of twists near the end that are bone-rattlingly good. You'll fall in love with Spartan Lee, just as Bridget does!
FLATLKANDS by Sue Hubbard is a very different kind of WWII novel, something closer to Ian McEwan or Maryanne Robinson, quiet, lovely, with a simmering darkness beneath the surface. The writing is lyrical, especially in its depiction of the nature of the English Fens. It follows the paths of a child sent to the countryside from London before the Blitz and a conscientious objector who's had a nervous breakdown and now lives in poverty in a lighthouse. It's a character driven piece, and Hubbard writes beautifully about these people and their surroundings. Don't expect much action; this is a mood piece, poetical and lovely.
ALL THE SINNERS BLEED is S.A. Cosby's best thriller yet. . . and that's saying a lot coming from someone who loved RAZORBLADE TEARS as much as I did! This story of a Black sheriff in a town in Virginia -- a town ripped apart by a horrific crime -- is an edge-of-your-seat thrill fest and also a great character study and examination upon what it means to be Black in the American South. A shooter kills the most-beloved teacher in school before being shot by the police, but there are layers of secrets determining the young man's path to violence, and a lot of people don't want the sheriff to get too close to the truth. I was screaming at the book as I furiously turned the pages. This is absolutely incredible, and tied for first place for best mystery/thriller of the year for me.
Claire Fuller never writes the same book twice, and she also never disappoints! THE MEMORY OF ANIMALS follows a disgraced marine biologist, Neffy, who signs up for the human testing of a vaccine to stop a terrible pandemic. When she awakens from the test, she discovers a world where the virus mutated into something so virulent it kills most of the people in the world, leaving her and a few other people in the testing site building. With no future to look forward to, she escapes into the past via a prototype machine that triggers memories. With increasing tension and riveting suspense, Fuller ratchets up the plot as we dive into Neffy's psyche. This is a brilliant novel about what we sacrifice for others, why we sacrifice for others, and how our memories can change depending on circumstance. there are also octopi! Incredibly moving and one of the year's best.
The next time someone asks for something different, I will tell them all about OPEN THROAT by Henry Hoke. This novel tells the story of a mountain lion living beneath the Hollywood sign, protecting a tent community, who is forced down into the Valley of "ellay" to interact with humans and become domesticated. But can you ever really want to eliminate the bestial, animalistic side of an animal? Would you want to? The novel takes place over short thoughts of the mountain lion and bits of human dialogue overheard as it stays hidden, and this animal is one vividly drawn character! It's a precarious balancing act as Henry Hoke juggles humor, horror, and philosophical all in the air, never dropping a ball. This little book could be a huge cult novel!
THE CELEBRANTS is every bit as big and emotionally-fulfilling as Stephen Rowley's past novels (THE EDITOR, THE GUNCLE), and he brilliantly takes us by the hand into another rumination on grief and loss -- that's also hilariously funny! A group of friends in college go to the funeral of their sixth roommate, who has killed himself, and they make a pact that they will each have a funeral while they are still alive so as to hear everything people will say about them. As the years go by, they each take up a spot, and they have a party, until eventually, one of the group is actually dying and only has a few months to live. How each character handles their own funerals and those of the others in the group provides the pathos and the fun, but those final pages are so beautifully written, the reader feels as if this was their own group of friends. Don't wait to tell those you love that you love them! This is a big hug of a novel; The Big Chill for Gen Xers!
THE WISHING GAME by Meg Shaffer is utterly delightful and completely charming in its tale of a reclusive childrens book writer inviting four contestants to his island to compete in riddles and games for exclusive rights to the final book in the series. All of the ingrediants are here for a good time:
1. Reclusive childrens book author
2. hot illustrator looking for meaning
3. a kindergarten teachers' aid trying to adopt a troubled child
4. A setting filled with humor, mystery, and tough mental competitions.
5. A beautiful Maine island
The story moves at a swift pace and the characters are immensely likable. For anyone who loved books by Matt Haig, TJ Klune, or Gabrielle Zevin, or Erin Morgenstern -- I have discovered your next obsession. this is the fun book of the summer!
BIG GAY WEDDING by Byron Lane feels like a big hug in the middle of a terrible time. It's the story of a gay wedding taking place on a farm for retired, elderly animals where the mother of one groom is a Louisiana farmer who wants to support her son but has issues with his being gay and the other Mom is a Manhattan socialite alcoholic. Will the mothers reconcile their differences in time for the wedding? Will protesters and vandals put a stop to the nuptials? Will that elderly goat named after a Seinfeld character stay alive until after the wedding happens? The novel is smart, fast-paced, sweet, funny as heck, and understanding of differences in viewpoints across the country. I really rooted for these people who seemed like family by the bittersweet and lovely ending
YELLOWFACE is a scathing look at race, cultural appropriation, and, especially, the publishing industry. The twists and turns are many, and the reader ends up desperately wanting to talk to others about what they just experienced while reading the book. A great book club pick!
Anne Berest's mother received a postcard in the mail with four names written upon it -- the names of her maternal grandparents and her cousins who all died at Auschwitz. In her novelization of the true events that followed, Berest details the investigation she undertook to discover who sent the card and why, and it is gripping reading. It's not just the story of two women discovering their Jewish heritage and following clues to discover how one family member survived WW2, but it's also the story of a people and the horrors perpetuated upon them. It also reads as a forewarning to our current anti-Semitic climate. It can be a harrowing read, but there is also hope and, as the tale opens up and the focus shifts, a beautiful sense of familial love and tradition. This is, simply, a great and important novel.
Abraham Verghese returns with his new novel, THE COVENANT OF WATER, and it is a magnificent book, both personal and epic, but always enthralling. Following one family that is cursed to lose someone to drowning within each generation, the novel sweeps you up in the history of India as well as the evolving science of medicine that may cure the families of their 'condition.' Characters are vividly brought to life and their world --both sad and joyous -- is brought to life with exquisite prose. This one knocks it out of the ballpark!
A lot of people don't know it, but I began my post-collegiate career as a lowly production assistant in the film industry. Tom Hanks' first novel, THE MAKING OF ANOTHER MAJOR MOTION PICTURE MASTERPIECE took me right back to those days! Hanks tells the story of the creation of a big-budget super-hero film as seen through the eyes of everyone from a beginner PA., a seasoned director, a headstrong leading man, the producer and her mentor, and even the person who wrote the comic book in the wild late 160s and his inspiration from the 1940s! The cast is colorful and diverse, and you see this production come to life through many different viewpoints, which makes for a rollicking read, full of details that create a feeling of verisimilitude. It's delightful and even includes sections written as comic books so you can see the influence and how a character comes to life. This is a special book, full of Hollywood magic. Can Hanks fail at anything? LOL!
THE FERRYMAN by Justin Cronin further cements the author's sterling reputation for literary genre fiction. In a world where everyone lives on an island and the poor tend to the needs of the rich, everyone is removed to a nursery when they become old or sick and surgically altered into sixteen-year-olds with the minds of children. Some f these "newborns" begin to remember past lives as dreams and the poor are growing resentful toward the wealthy...and soon, rebellion breaks out. It's extremely weird and odd at first, but once the reader begins to understand what is really happening, it becomes one of the smartest, most exciting sci-fi novels in ages. It's really that good! Fans of the film INCEPTION or the series ALTERED CARBON are going to love this new, literary event novel!
GONE TO THE WOLVES reminds me a lot of TOMORROW AND TOMORROW AND TOMORROW if you took the small group of friends obsessed with video games and replaced their interest with heavy metal music. And went way more hardcore with it! We follow three young people from broken and or abusive homes as they discover their shared love of heavy metal and attempt to live within that subculture. The characters are beautifully drawn, there is humor amongst the despair, and the author has a real knack for bringing the reader into that world. I could feel the bass in my chest at moments! The third act may veer into thriller territory, but it's still a wonderful read that will surprise many people with its depth.
IN THE LIVES OF THE PUPPETS could easily be called the queer sci-fi PINOCCHIO, but it's a lot more than that. It's also a take on THE WIZARD OF OZ, THE IRON GIANT, and other stories dealing with the meaning of home and family! It's also a delightfully comic look at serious matters, and it makes you care deeply about a Roomba, for goodness's sake! The story of a human son who gives a heart to a mechanical man who was built to be a weapon is riveting and a lot of fun. Klune continues his streak of charming, lovely tales that take a gentler approach to science fiction and fantasy tropes. People are going to love this one.
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!
Fantastic historical fiction about a fire that destroyed a theater in Virginia, how some survived, and how the city of Richmond dealt with the after-effects. It's a fascinating story about the moral obligations we all have in life, and how, if those obligations are broken, the world casts about to discover who to blame. Often, this is the wrong person. Written in multiple viewpoints, THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE brings a relatively unknown historical event into crystal clear focus.
HOUSE OF COTTON is something new, something bright and shiny, and you've probably never read anything quite like it. Mostly orphaned, broke, and possibly pregnant, young Magnolia doesn't see much of a future in Knoxville. When a strange white man asks her to be a highly unusual type of model, she begins to make money, but she also finds herself lost in a world out of her control. With the help of the ghost of her mother and a certain pluckiness, she must navigate this world of evil landlords, saintly homeless men, the allure of Tinder, and this place of wealth and lies. Monica Brashears brings a fresh new voice to literary magical realism, and it thrums with urgency and a sort of delight. Even when things become dark and disturbing. HOUSE OF COTTON is a true page-turner, but it's also a look at how far we HAVEN'T come in the world of Black women and their "place" in the South. Full of sensuality, ghosts, and some truly unsavory characters, this is a daring novel for daring readers, and I read it slowly to savor it.
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!
his is a super fast-paced rollercoaster ride that is both creepy and scary as well as morbidly funny. It feels like a whole new kind of haunted house novel, and it's incredibly cinematic. When a young woman comes home to visit her mother only to find a vulture perched on the mailbox and others circling above, she knows this doesn't bode well! Ladybug attacks, underground children, haunted gardens, and a hunky gardener all make her life a turmoil. Very funny in spots but still scary. You'll have a lot of fun with this book!
.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!
A wickedly entertaining debut novel about three generations of women in a family, all of whom may be witches. There's a strong current of female empowerment that runs through the parallel stories, and the characters are vividly drawn.
I just finished reading Eleanor Catton's second novel (after her Booker prize winning THE LUMINARIES), BIRNAM WOOD, and I may not sleep tonight, as my breath has just been whooshed right out of me. This is the story of an anarchist group of activist gardeners who make a deal with a billionaire green capitalist...and one of the most vile and despicable people who ever lived. Catton really gets into the heads of her characters, slowly allowing the reader into their thoughts and hopes and aspirations. She also somehow, despite the philosophical manner of her writing, tells a truly gripping story as the plans all start to unravel and people start dying. I dare you to stop reading during the final 100 pages! It's also laced with morbid humor and barbed jabs at both capitalist society and the young people who want to bring it down. This one is thoughtful, suspenseful, scary, funny...a world of emotions in one book. I thought I was reading a great novel as I proceeded, but then, when I reached the startling, horrifying climax of the novel, I knew I was reading a future classic. You can't miss his one, folks. It will have you talking for weeks.
The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi: A new fantasy series set a thousand years before The City of Brass (Hardcover)
If Sinbad the Sailor from the Arabian Nights was a female pirate of a certain age, you would have the brilliant protagonist of this epic fantasy novel. Filled to the brim with sea monsters, Lovecraftian creatures, sea battles, snarky demons, double crosses,sword fights, and that wonderful protagonist. I haven't had so much fun with a fantasy novel in ages, and the narrator on the audiobook is brilliant!
SCORCHED EARTH is the first Sister Holiday mystery from Margot Douaihy, and I truly hope there are many more to come. This murder mystery set in a New Orleans convent and catholic School features many of the familiar tropes of the ecclesiastical cozy, but it also inverts many of them in fun (and queer) ways. Our sleuth is a seriously flawed nun with tragedy in her past; queer, tattooed, an ex-punk band guitarist, and a bit of a potty mouth -- and I adored her. As she tries to solve the mystery of who is setting fires in the school, she has flashbacks that reveal her to be the flawed, human character she is. this was a charming book that may have a lot of profanity, but it also has a deep abiding love for God. A total original!
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.
BIG SWISS, the new novel by Jen Beagin, is an R-rated, raunchy, funny, and ultimately very moving psychological novel about a transcriptionist to a sex therapist who knows all the dirty secrets of everyone in town, and she uses this knowledge to seduce the wonderful Big Swiss, a woman who's never experienced good sex. It is funny and sometimes sweet, filled with bees, dogs, psychotic ex-lovers, twists and turns, and delightfully naughty characters. I was charmed by this racy book and I wish it had been twice as long.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution (Hardcover)
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."
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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!
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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.