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!
HANNAH'S WAR by Jan Eliasberg is a fast-paced, cinematic slice of historical fiction set in Los Alamos with flashbacks to pre-WW2 Berlin. It is also a portrait of an intriguing woman scientist who lived in both worlds, all wrapped up in a tight espionage story. Fans of Kate Quinn and Heather Morris should eat it up! Despite the cover, the book will appeal to men as well as women, and it offers alternating viewpoints from the woman scientist to a Jewish detective trying to search out a mole who may be feeding information to the Germans. This could be a surprise hit!
This was a fascinating book about grief, loss, and obsession. How does one get around that single defining moment in one's life; the moment when everything changed? With multiple viewpoints, we experience the death of an older sister/daughter and how that death affects the sister and other people who were nearby at the time for over 20 years. It's quite interesting that I found this less effective as a whodunit but much more effective as a character study and a study in how people handle grief and trauma. Very well done.
One of the most important and devastating books of our times, AMERICAN DIRT tells the story of a woman whose family had been mass-murdered by the head of a Mexican cartel with the exception of her 8 year old son. Knowing she cannot rely on police, she grabs her boy and runs across the desert toward America. Her journey is scary, and the landscape is created in fantastic brushstrokes by the author. Brutal, beautiful, and moving -- this is going to be THE book club pick of 2020.
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!
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!
Elizabeth Strout takes us back to Crosby, Maine and her most popular character, Olive Kitteredge, who has grown older and wiser within widowhood. Second chances in love appear, children revolt against parents, and neighbors sometimes help and sometimes ignore their surroundings. Full of heart and warm humanity in spite of the problems in Crosby (the death of small town life, the opioid crisis, cancer), the reader, along with Olive, is mystified and amazed by life in all its forms. In our mystification, we can find each other, as Olive finds several like-minded souls. It's a lovely book, full of the author's love for humanity in all its guises. This one is as good as the original, like revisiting a friend.
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!
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.
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!
This novel starts like Jane Eyre or Rebecca only set in Iceland in the 17th Century. then, it takes quite a turn as the mystery comes into play and our heroine proves her mettle when her husband's first wife comes back after being thought dead. Wonderful gothic mystery!
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!
Salman Rushdie is writing at his playful best with his new novel, Quichotte. His delightful modern take on Cervantes classic Don Quixote has an elderly salesman obsessed with a beautiful talk show host, who he believes he knows through her personality on television. As he begins to stalk her (woo her), he creates a black and white fictional son, Sancho, who is a rebellious teenager. All of this is taking place in a writer's mind as he completes a manuscript about Don Quixote (the new version) and attempts to reconcile with his sister. All of this plays out in our Post Brexit/Trump landscape of truth vs lies, fiction vs fact, and reality TV vs the true real world. If this sounds heavy, it is anything but! Rushdie is at his most dazzling, weaving quotable sentence after quotable sentence into a quilt of love, humor, and the best of humanity...even if we are all a bit frazzled and befuddled by this new world of ours!
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!
COLD STORAGE by David Koepp is both a scary, apocalyptic fungus-among-us techno-thriller and a very funny character driven rom-com. How is this possible? Koepp concentrates as much on character development (and let me tell you, these are some wild characters!) as on the gory action sequences. It reads like a Michael Crichton novel with a whacked out sense of humor -- THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN as directed by Spike Lee. This is one fast, fun read, and I zipped right through it!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
THE SNAKES is a harrowing, disturbing ride through the world we've found ourselves inhabiting, a world where greed is rewarded and love and goodwill are diminished to a point of ridicule. A young married couple take a vacation, and they find themselves wrapped up in her family's drama; worse, the husband begins respecting the world of her 1% parents without questioning where that money comes from. His intentions are good, but you know what they say about good intentions...and THE SNAKES plunges the couple and the reader into a psychological drama that encroaches upon Shirley Jackson-esque horror (Think WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE or THE SUNDIAL). The novel propels the reader through a series of events, ratcheting up the tension until it is nearly unbearable. Jones peels back the layers of our post-Brexit/Trump world, and the muscle beneath that thin skin is alarming. This literary suspense novel is required reading for anyone who enjoys that dark night of our souls -- and, really, who doesn't? My favorite novel I have read this year!
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!
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!
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 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!
CORRESPONENTS by Tim Murphy is a hugely ambitious story of a Lebanese-Irish war correspondent embedded in Iraq and her young, gay translator. But it's also much more. Murphy aims to explore American's indifference to violence that occurs "elsewhere", the feeling that it doesn't affect us unless it happens to our own family or neighborhood. And he is mostly successful in his attempts. I loved his main characters, the brash and ballsy Rita and the young, trapped Nabil. Their flaws made them human, and what more can we ask for in good literature? I loved it.
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!
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.)
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!
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!
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!
THE LIGHT YEARS by Chris Rush is a brilliantly-written memoir about one young man's coming of age during the turbulent years of the late 1960s and early 1970s. After partaking of illegal drugs at an early age, Chris escaped from his violent and neglectful home life by running drugs -- first for his sister and then through more and more dangerous dealers. As the danger grew, so did his introspection and love of nature. It's a miracle that Rush survived his childhood, but his life was a psychedelic dream/nightmare of eccentric characters, budding sexuality, and a desire to find the self within. The author writes beautifully, evoking the era and the tenuous bonds that hold 'family' together with wit and grace. At times funny and at times alarming, this memoir is one to discover!
THE GIRLS AT 17 SWANN STREET is a very special book, the kind you want to thrust into your friends' hands and shout "Read this!" In lyrical, dream-like language, Yara Zgheib introduces a young woman with anorexia and her battle against the disease...and against herself. When she joins other women with eating disorders at the titular house, she escapes into memory as a defense mechanism, only realizing later that she must find something to live for in order to actually live. Her journey is harrowing, but also full of hope and love and featuring a terrific love story in how she met her husband. this is a book about anorexia in the same way that BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is a book about gay cowboys. The subject is there, but the handling is so beautiful, it transcends description. All I can do is thrust it in your hands and say, "Read this!" What a remarkable book!
This is, simply put, one of the best thrillers in years and certain to be a best-seller. It's also the first mystery in years that made me gasp aloud at the twist...or at least at one twist, as there are many throughout the book. Obsession, murder, and compulsion lie at the heart of what makes a psychotherapist become enamored with his new patient, a woman who never speaks after she murdered her husband, but when all is revealed, the reader becomes an accessory to the crime(s). I loved every page of this one! The best thriller in ages!
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
If Patricia Highsmith had written the film REPULSION, it would resemble this dark, disturbing psychological novel of obsession and madness. If you liked THE PERFECT NANNY, you will enjoy this one, too.
This delightful book deals with the loss of small-town Main Street and how it is affecting our small towns as well as the eccentric characters who live there. Funny, sweet, and full of people I want to know, this is a great new novel.
This little book packs a real emotional punch! Van Gogh's sunflowers, a mother's love for her son, and an enduring friendship all come together to make this one of the best novels of 2018.
The incredibly moving novel is about a young girl who discovers her beloved uncle had someone in his life, and she wants to know him. This book beautifully navigates the rebellious years of a teenage girl as well as the crippling effects of the AIDS crisis.