Richard Powers has written an exquisite jewel of a novel with BEWILDERMENT, the story of Theo a widowed astrobiologist raising his autistic son in a world fraught with danger. The children of our world are much more cognizent of their own mortality as well as that of our fragile ecosystem, affected by war, climate change, and disease. How do our children cope with the existential doom that surrounds them? Theo involves his son in a neurofeedback ecperiment that manages to calm his rages and help control his emotional outbursts... but at what cost? Channeling FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON, Powers brings us an epic in miniature, focusing on the intimate, very personal story of these two fragile people while the entire world falls apart around them -- a world very close to our own (science is doubted, tweets become policy, and the animals are dying at an alarming rate). It's a beautiful and challenging book, multi-faceted and dazzling and every page rings with truth. . Fans of THE ROAD will love it, and I believe it is every bit as good as THE OVERSTORY.
In MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW, Stephen Graham Jones introduces his most fascinating character yet -- Jade, a suicidal young woman obsessed with slasher films (and to prepare for this book, watch as many old slasher films as possible as the references are innumerable). Jade has studied these horror films so intently that she is certain all signs are pointing toward a real slasher event happening in her town -- rich developments pushing out poor people, a ruined summer camp where a child died years ago, the 4th of July (eek, a holiday!) is approaching, and the most perfect 'final girl' of all time just arrived in town. Is there going to be a massacre or is Jade following a delusion down a gory rabbit hole? The answers are heart-crushingly touching, morbidly funny, and utterly gross and terrifying. Jones has a way with characters as well as huge action sequences (watch out for that final 100 pages which you will definitely read in one night) This book also contains the best final three paragraphs I may have ever read, and they change the entire story. It's haunting and beautiful, and I loved every bloody page of it!
Anuk Arudpragasam's sophomore novel, A PASSAGE NORTH is a stunning literary feat, utilizing Proustian, labyrinthine, elegant sentences, drawing you into the mind of a young man, Krishan in Sri Lanka. In one day, Krishen receives an email from a past lover hoping to reconnect and a phone call informing him that his grandmother's caregiver has died. As he travels north to witness the caregiver's funeral pyre, memories and stories float through his mind as he revisits the past of both himself and his war-torn country. The structure of Proust certainly comes to mind, but the writing is unique; it's own beast. This is not a plot-driven novel, but it's a beautifully-written examination of a soul, as if we were given a few minutes with someone's life and memories and we need to construct their personality through this brief moment. A view from a window on a passing train or the flicker of sparks from a funeral pyre. It's utterly beautiful, and quite challenging and I would recommend it to fans of Virginia Woolf, Milan Kundera, and Jose Saramago.
ONCE THERE WERE WOLVES by Charlotte McConaghy is a brilliant follow-up to her best-selling book MIGRATIONS, a mystery veiled in a world on the brink of environmental disaster. Inti has issues in her past that haunt her to the day, hardening her intoi a person she barely recognizes, when she is set to reintroduce wolves into the forests of Scotland. After a man is mauled, she sets out to protect her animals and her twin sister (also scarred by past relationships) while attempting to discover if a wolf is actually the culprit. The writing is sublime, and the mystery is shocking and intense, but this is more than a mere mystery. It's an examination of how we all attempt to reconcile the wildness within us wit the passivity of domestication. in the end, are we truly that different from a beast? And is that a bad thing? This is one terrific book!
Megan Abbott has always been expert at diving into the darkest parts of women's' souls, but THE TURNOUT, her newest novel, is on a whole new level. While preparing for the season's performances of The Nutcracker, two sisters who run a ballet school run afoul of a dangerous contractor hired to fix their studio after a small fire. One falls for the contractor's dark sexual spell while the other sister succumbs to suspicions and doubts about her own marriage. Mirroring the shadowy underbelly of the ballet The Nutcracker (as well as the dark, sensual world of fairy tales), THE TURNOUT is soon twisting and turning in unexpected ways as family secrets and lies come to light. Full of gasp-inducing plot twists and simmering with an uncomfortable sexuality, THE TURNOUT is easily Megan Abbott's best book, a work of fiction on par with the best of Patricia Highsmith or Shirley Jackson. I can't wait to recommend this one to customers!
HEATWAVE by Victor Jestin was a publishing phenomena in France, and it's easy to see why. This existential story begins with 17 year old Leo witnessing another young man hanging himself -- and he does nothing to stop it, allowing the other boy to die. Then, he instinctively buries the body in the sand dunes near a resort where his family is vacationing. Over the next 24 hours, Leo will be wracked with guilt, meet the girl of his dreams, finally understand his friend Louis, and get into his first fight. In Camus-esque fashion, Jestin really gets into the mind of Leo, and the reader is the audience for his confused adolescent thoughts. This novella, barely a hundred pages in length, packs a wallop when Leo must confront his own desires and his own guilt. It's a tiny marvel!
THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides is another thrilling treat from the author of the terrific THE SILENT PATIENT (and there's a fun Easter egg to that book contained in this one). When a friend of the niece of Mariana, a group psychotherapist, is killed at Oxford, the newly widowed woman rushes to her niece's side to help her emotionally. What she discovers is a cult-like group of classics-oriented intellectual, privileged young women in the thrall of a suspicious professor, several more murders, and more red herrings than you can shake a copy of Euripides at! The pacing is breath-taking, the final reveal is fair and surprising, and the mystery unfurls like lightning. This is a book that, like its predecessor, is very hard to put down! The plot is dark and cerebral, and the writing is elegant. Michaelides may be our next great thriller writer! Just wonderful!
RABBITS is a surreal adventure from Terry Miles that reads like Umberto Eco and Stephen King had a baby with the Wachowskis while under the influence of some pretty great drugs! Have you ever had a memory that proved to be untrue (think the Berenstain Bears for instance)? RABBITS, a game played in the real world, tries to explain these anomalies. A game played in real life as players track down clues in patterns that unnaturally occur, RABBITS draws in the reader along with unlikely player K. (A nod to Kafka) as K. discovers clues and shortcuts even as other players around him are disappearing and dying. Is it a conspiracy or a hallucination? This paranoia sci-fi thriller ticks off every button, providing a truly fun roller coaster ride that barely lets you breathe as you read...far into the night. It's funny, twisted, surreal, and exciting, and I had a blast reading it!
THE DISAPPEARING ACT by Catherine Steadman is both a juicy look at pilot season in Hollywood, when actors fly in from everywhere to attempt to snag that great role, and a fast-paced, thoroughly engaging mystery! And it works on both levels! When an emerging actress arrives in Hollywood, she meets another woman at an audition, quickly striking up a friendship. then, the other woman disappears. Is she dead, murdered, or is this all a sick and twisted game? You'll have to read (probably long into the wee hours) to find out! I really enjoyed this mystery, and Steadman's experience as an actress lent credibility and verisimilitude to this twisting and turning tale! This is a lot of fun, a mixture of Judith Krentz and Ruth Ware and I cannot wait to sell it to customers!
ONE TWO THREE by Laurie Frankel is the kind of novel that immediately grabs your attention and never lets go. In a marvelously constructed narrative, told in the three distinctly different voices of the Mitchell triplets, the reader learns how the town of Bourne had its water poisoned 16 years ago by a chemical company, resulting in many deaths and even more birth defects. Now, that dreaded company has returned to re-open their factory, and it's up to the Mitchell triplets -- Mab (who yearns to escape and is the least affected by the chemical spill), Mirabel (the smartest one who has social issues and is located somewhere on the spectrum) and Monday (the town's purveyor of books, confined to a wheelchair) -- to find proof that the company is up to something. Using three instantly-recognizable voices, Frankel draws us into the world of Bourne, and we become so enamored with the characters and the fate of the town that it's nearly impossible to stop reading once you begin! Suspenseful, funny, heart-wrenching and ultimately hopeful . . . this is a novel book clubs will adore. For lovers of Barbara Kingsolver, Jodi Picoult, and Richard Russo, but this will be a book I try to handsell to everyone. It's that good!
Claire Fuller's UNSETTLED GROUND is a novel that immerses you in its world through rich language, vibrant imagery, and characters so realistic they become friends to the reader. Jeanie and Julius are twins living with their mother and their dog in a cottage in rural England. When their mother dies suddenly, they find themselves homeless and questioning everything they have ever been told about themselves. Secrets emerge from the past like spring tulips from April snow, and I couldn't go to sleep until I discovered their fate. this is the kind of book I want to shove into readers' hands and scream, "Read this one! You'll love it!" I certainly did! Perfect for fans of THE DUTCH HOUSE and RED AT THE BONE. I cannot recommend it enough!
CAUL BABY by Morgan Jerkins is an epic tale of two families in Harlem over three generations -- one family in which infants are born with a caul that gives them healing powers and one family who was refused help and suffered because they didn't get a piece of the caul. With touches of magical realism and straight-forward prose, Jerkins intertwines the fates of these two families until the lovely finale. It's a good story told well, and I think anyone who loves a good 'family story', whether by Emma Straub or Terry McMillon, will enjoy this suspenseful tale!
THE WHISPERING HOUSE by Elizabeth Brooks is a standout gothic literary mystery that features art, sisterhood, forgiveness, murder, and revenge in a simmering brew certain to please almost anyone who desires a good read well-written! After her older sister's death (murder?), Freya becomes obsessed with the struggling artist and his dying mother inhabiting a run-down mansion by the seashore where her sister's body was discovered. After she moves in and becomes the artist's lover, secrets are revealed until the shocking climax. Brooks writes with a deft hand, keeping the story moving full speed ahead and injecting bits of humor and satire amidst the atmospheric gothic-ness of it all (there's more than one nod to NORTHANGER ABBY!) This was suspenseful and tragic and just a darn good read for a windy wintry evening.
This is a delightful mystery, sort of Golden-Age tinged, about someone killing mystery writers and the two concurrent investigations (one police and one amateur) to capture the killer. It has charming characters and a great sense of place, and it barrels along swiftly. Just the kind of book I need during trying times to take my mind off of things.
Ishiguro does it again, creating a multi-genre novel that defies description but entertains and pulls at every heartstring while doing so. Klara is an advanced android purchased by a sick girl and her mother to be an artificial friend. With a keen sense of character and an eye for detail, Kazuo Ishiguro brings Klara to life, posing barvbed questions about what it means to be human and what are we doing to ourselves in this modern, machine-driven age. Beautiful, haunting, and sweet, this is a book to beat for the best of the year -- and it is only January!
THE LOST APOTHECARY is a fun historical novel that parallels a modern story as well, all with a hint of mystery. Who is the woman selling poisons in 1791 and why did she suddenly stop? This is a fast and fun read, sure to please lovers of MJ Rose or Pam Jenoff.
Sarah Langen continues her winning streak with her newest domestic psychological thriller, a sort of CRUCIBLE (or, more likely, The Twilight Zone episode THE MONSTERS ARE DUE ON MAPLE STREET) for modern times. At the beginning, we know an entire family is murdered in a Long Island suburb, but we do not know which one. After a sinkhole opens up and a child dies, accusations of neglect and sexual misconduct pits neighbors against neighbors until threats become violence. How it all turns out is disturbing and all to real in this incendiary climate in which truth is not believed but wild accusations are. This is gripping, scary stuff and it is difficult to stop reading until you get to the horrifying and believable finale.
LOLA ON FIRE is one high-octane thriller, a dark and violent epic cat and mouse game that takes place over 27 years. It feels as though Quentin Tarentino and Lee Child wrote a book together. A young man is blackmailed into stealing something, but it's all a frame-up, and he is left with a corpse on his hands. Why? The answer lies in a bloodbath when one lone female assassin named Lola took out nearly the entire mob in one day. On the run, the man and his handicapped sister cross the country to seek out answers, closely followed by a killer so terrifying and cold, you'll never forget her. Vengeance and thrills follow! What separates this book from so many action novels, is the attention to character -- you truly want these people to make it out alive. Will they? You need to read the book to find out!
A fascinating bildungsroman about a girl on the cusp of becoming a woman in San Francisco, whose best friend/worst enemy disappears. It's a novel about illusion vs truth and self-doubt, but it's also about 'that girl', the one all the other girls wanted to be and all the boys wanted to love. The lead character is entrancing and felt very real to me.
In A THOUSAND SHIPS, Natalie Haynes's intricate deconstruction of THE ILIAD, we finally hear the stories of the women of the Trojan War. From Helen to Cassandra, goddesses and muses, queens and Amazons -- all finally get a voice to share their own experiences during this tragic ten-year war and its aftermath. Haynes weaves a tapestry of first person accounts, grounded by the experiences of the Trojan Women, and the writing is beautiful, the connections seamless. Fans of Madeline Miller and Mary Renault are going to adore this new book, as I did!
Ever wanted to take a Master Class in writing and reading short fiction? George Saunders leads just such a class in A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN. Concentrating on 7 classic Russian tales by the likes of Tolstoy, Checkov, and Turganev (included here), he guides you through becoming a better reader as well as a better writer. Entertaining, erudite, and, most of all, fun...this is a wonderful book for any literature lover!
Paraic O'Connell's THE HOUSE ON VESPER SANDS is a Victorian gothic supernatural mystery...similar in many ways to Dan Vyleta's SMOKE. After a seamstress commits suicide with a cryptic message stitched into her skin, a detective, a seminary student, and a journalist all search for answers as more and more young women go missing in London. The characters are a delight and the writing is often quite funny, despite the morbid trappings. I enjoyed it immensely,
This delightful story of a handsome cowboy on a dude ranch for divorced women in Reno and the two wild women who change him is funny, sweet, tender, and sad. I had all the feels, and it reminded me of Fannie Flagg in her prime. It was charming and heartfelt, and the surprises somehow actually surpised me.
THE LIAR'S DICTIONARY by Eley Williams is the book I didn't know I needed, but oh boy, did I! In 1899, a young clerk who works at a publishing house compiling an encyclopedic dictionary (think Oxford English Dictionary) slips in mountweazels -- fake words he has made up. In current times, this dictionary is being digitized, and one young woman is charged with hunting down and removing all the false words. In doing so, she begins to see patterns, and she begins to learn all about the creator of the mountweazels. Hilarious, sweet, romantic, and compelling, this wonderful novel is full of enough puns and wordplay to put a smile on any literature-lover's face. I was compelled to read late into the night, until I discovered the mystery at the heart of the LIAR'S DICTIONARY. What a wonderful read!
THE ARREST is Jonathan Lethem at his stylish best, a literary pulp novel! Featuring characters that were completely fascinating, realistic relationships and drama, and a vivid setting -- when Lethem throws in the science fiction aspects, it all seems plausible. Some of Lethem's best writing in years. I enjoyed it and thought he elevated the apocalyptic tale.
This novel is both heart-warming and funny and gut-wrenchingly sad; it's a glimpse into multiculturalism and queer lifestyles as well as a story of family and when to say good-bye. I fell in love with the prose almost immediately, but the characters were so real and the situation between the lovers so intensely true that I couldn't help but fall under its spell until the lovely ending. I wish there had been even more. yan Washington is a writer to watch. There were moments when I felt as if a hipper, more understanding John Updike had written this beautiful book, but the writing is so crisp and the structure of the novel is so unique, that I want Washington to have all the glory. This is one of the best of the year.
THE BUTCHER'S BLESSING by Ruth Gilligan is one amazing work of dark fiction! It begins with a terrifying photograph of a butcher, dead, hanged by his feet on a meathook, but it soon flashes back to Ireland, 1996 during the Mad Cow crisis. Following various characters -- a gay student, a thief, a disturbed young girl, an abandoned mother having a fling, the photographer who took the snapshot, and a group of butcher's who follow an ancient Celtic tradition, the novel explores issues of change in society and in singular human beings as old traditions die and new ones spring forth. The pacing is pitch perfect and each character has a solid storyline to follow, each one wrapping around that initial mystery of who is hanging by the meathook like a delicate cocoon. It is a stunning, propulsive piece of fiction that dares you to stop reading. For fans of Colum McCann and Tana french, this is a book not to be missed!.
THE COLD MILLIONS is another beautifully written novel by Jess Walter. The story of two brothers and their involvement with the IWW and anarchists, this story somersaults between points of view, offering snippets of history mixed with alternating points of view, but always remaining grounded within the purview of the younger brother, an innocent looking for purpose in his work and his life. I loved this young man so much, I would follow him anywhere.
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!