Fabulous Fiction Firsts #539

Exquisite Corpse *, marks the first US release for Paris-born bestselling graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu. This is the English translation of her Cadavre Exquis, originally published in French, and a prize-winner at the 2010 Angoulême International Comics Festival, the second largest comics festival in Europe.

Down-trodden twenty-something Zoe is a "booth babe", hawking the luxury item at trade shows by day and dreads the evenings with the unemployed Neanderthal of a boyfriend at home. On a lunch break, she meets Thomas Rocher, a recluse who happens to be a world-famous author, and soon becomes his girlfriend/muse. Everything is fabulous until Thomas' wife shows up, and that's just the first secrets that put into play an expected yet satisfying ending.

"(An) absorbing, fast-paced erotic literary drama... (this) funny and fresh exploration of authorship and a writer's relationship to fame is utterly charming."

An immensely fun and quick read.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #538 -“Are you ready to stop colluding with a culture that makes so many of us feel physically inadequate? Say goodbye to your inner critic, and take this pledge to be kinder to yourself and others." ~ Oprah Winfrey

Dietland * *, Sarai Walker's debut - is "part Fight Club, part feminist manifesto, an offbeat and genre-bending novel that aims high, and delivers."

Alicia "Plum" Kettle, tipping the scale at 300 lbs. is counting the days when she will become her true, thin self... "she won't be alone all the time... she'll dress in pretty clothes, she'll travel, she'll have a job that she likes", instead of being the closeted advice columnist for a glamor teen magazine, working out of the corner café. After every diet plan imaginable has failed her, Plum is contemplating bariatric surgery. While used to humiliated stares and taunts, she is uneasy when she finds herself being stalked by a odd-looking young woman who leaves her strange little "gifts" that ultimately leads her to a secret society of women responsible for a series of gruesome kidnappings and killings worldwide.

"Hilarious, surreal, and bracingly original, Walker's ambitious debut avoids moralistic traps to achieve something rarer: a genuinely subversive novel that's also serious fun." If I have failed to convince you that this is one debut not to be missed, here is what two of my favorite authors have to say...

"Dietland is a book I have been waiting for someone to write all my life, and it hit me hard right where I live, right where so many of us have wasted too much time living. It's courageous, compassionate, intelligent, pissed off and much more fun than it has any right to be." ~ Pam Houston

"Sarai Walker is an immensely talented writer and her debut novel, Dietland—filled with wit, wisdom and wonder—is a pleasure." ~ Jill McCorkle

For readers who enjoyed The Middlesteins; Where'd You Go, Bernadette; and The Next Best Thing. Ideal for book groups seeking something more socially aware and gender-conscious in their women's fiction.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #537 - “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Our Endless Numbered Days * * by Claire Fuller is a dark and captivating debut that you are not likely to forget for a very long time, and one that you would be tempted to re-read, immediately.

Concert pianist Ute Bischoff scandalized the music world when she married James Hillcoat, a handsome and cocky teenager eight years her junior, who stood in one night as the page-turner of her music score. They settled into a comfortable family life until their daughter Peggy was eight years old. While Ute was away on a concert tour, James, an increasingly obsessed survivalist, took her to a remote hut in the woods, telling her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. For the next nine year, they lived rough in the wilderness, marking their days by the sun and the seasons, and making a life for themselves. Then Peggy saw an unfamiliar pair of boots in the forest and began to search for their owner...

"Fuller alternates Peggy's time in the forest with chapters that take place in 1985 after she reunites with her mother, building an ever-present sense of foreboding and allowing readers to piece together well-placed clues... (her) careful pacing gradually reveals the mystery of a life that is as sympathetic as it is haunting."

A fabulous crossover for mature teens, especially those who enjoyed The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean (a 2008 Printz Award Winner); Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson; Room by Emma Donoghue; and Stolen by Lucy Christopher, (a 2011 Printz Award Honor Book).

* * = 2 starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #536

One of the most anticipated debut this season is The Sunlit Night * by Rebecca Dinerstein, and it does not disappoint. In the beautiful, barren landscape of the Far North, under the ever-present midnight sun, two New Yorkers unexpectedly find love and courage to take destiny into their own hands.

A year in Japan after college graduation is no longer an option for Frances when her boyfriend calls it quits and unceremoniously drops her off at a bus stop. At the postage-sized Manhattan apartment she shares with her parents and sister Sarah, there is more bad news. The painting apprenticeship at a Norwegian artist colony which she turns down earlier now seems like a godsend, never mind that there is only one artist living there - Nils, enigmatic and middle-aged, who paints only with the color yellow.

17 year-old Yasha, raised in the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach, sees his mother for the first time in a decade outside the family bakery's window, only to recognize a selfish and unreliable parent. The real heartache is losing his beloved father to heart failure on a home-coming trip to Moscow, but he is determined to carry out his father's last wish to be buried "at the top of the world".

And so Frances and Yasha meet at the Viking Museum in Lofoten, a string of islands ninety-five miles above the Arctic Circle. Their unlikely connection and growing romance fortifies them, and teaches them that to be alone is not always to be lonely, and that love and independence are not mutually exclusive.

"Funny, dark, warm, and as knowing of place as any travel book or memoir." ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

"...(a) luminous story about love, family, and the bewilderment of being young. Enchanting in every way." ~ Maggie Shipstead

* = starred review

Still waiting for The Girl on the Train? Try these readalikes!

If you’ve been on the waiting list for The Girl on the Train for what seems like months, you’re not alone! As you patiently wait, why not try out one (or more!) of these readalikes, which will certainly begin to satisfy your craving for psychological suspense:

The Secret Place, by Tana French, introduces us to eager Detective Stephen Moran, who is presented with the opportunity to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old boarding school student Holly Mackey comes to him with new evidence about the year-old murder of a fellow student. Stephen’s investigation delves him deeply into the secrets of Holly’s close-knit group of friends, and their rival clique, revealing that the private underworld of teenage girls is much more mysterious and dangerous than he could possibly have imagined.

Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll, has been described as “Prep meets Gone Girl,” and introduces readers to Ani FaNelli who seems to have it all: an amazing job, a perfect body, a wonderful fiancé, and a beautiful New York City apartment. But, she has spent years hiding a violent, public trauma from her past that is constantly threatening to resurface while she continually reinvents herself in attempts to escape it. When a documentary producer approaches Ani and asks if she would be willing to tell her side of the story, she hopes that this is her opportunity for public vindication. But as the filming continues, Ani’s façade begins to crack until a new revelation offers her a final chance at redemption… at the cost of her picture-perfect world.

Dare Me, by Megan Abbott, kicks off with the suspicious suicide of one of the members of a high school cheerleading team. The rest of the team, along with their new, cool coach, who’s created a “golden circle” of favorite team members, are drawn into the investigation. One girl, Addy Hanlon, takes matters into her own hands and tries desperately herself to uncover the truth behind the death and discovers that, between teenagers, the bonds of love and loyalty can create danger.

The Weight of Blood, by Laura McHugh, is set in the tiny, poor Ozark Mountain town of Henbane. When one of Lucy Dane’s friends is murdered, Lucy feels a connection between this disappearance and the vanishing of her mother years ago. As Lucy begins to do some sleuthing, she discovers evidence that makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion that has been cast on her own family. As Lucy gets closer to solving the mystery herself, she must decide where her loyalties lie.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #535 - “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” ~ C.S. Lewis

The Royal We * * by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, (co-creators of one of the wittiest celebrity fashion blog, Go Fug Yourself and 2 teen novels - Spoiled and Messy), are charming readers with this modern-day Cinderella tale for adults.

Des Moines native Rebecca "Bex" Porter (Cornell) unlike her twin Lacey, is never one for fairy tales. As an exchange student at Oxford, she looks forward to "art, antiquities and history" and thus pays no attention to the "sandy-haired guy" who answers the porter's bell and who happens to be the heir to the British throne, Prince Nicholas. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

The novel opens on the eve of the most talked-about wedding of the century, Bex reflects on what she's sacrificed for love -- and exactly whose heart she may yet have to break.

"Parallels to the love story of Prince William and Kate Middleton are obvious, but the authors create their own unique and endearing characters with Bex and Nick along with an entertaining cast of characters including lovable rogue Prince Freddie, Nick's younger brother; Bex's twin, Lacey; and a bunch of colorful school chums. Royal watchers and chick-lit fans alike will delight in this sparkling tale. Pure fun." If you enjoy this debut, I bet you won't be disappointed with (the latest in the Princess Diaries series) Meg Cabot's Royal Wedding.

Minnow * *, the 2014 South Carolina First Novel Prize winner, by James McTeer II is "a memorable coming-of-age story brimming with unexpected encounters with man, beast, and nature, and some magic thrown in for good measure."

Young Minnow's father is dying of a mysterious illness. The local pharmacist points him to a local hoodoo healer Dr. Crow, thus launching him on an increasingly strange and dangerous quest that will take him deep into the South Carolina Sea Islands. There Minnow is to take soil from the grave of Sorry George, an infamous practitioner of black magic, as payment for a cure.

This compellingly dark debut full of Southern mystery and lore is inspired by the author's (a school librarian) grandfather - a sheriff of the Low Country for decades as well as a local witch doctor. A captivating crossover for teens and especially for fans of Karen Russell's beloved Ava Bigtree in Swamplandia!

* * = 2 starred reviews

2015 Summer Reading Lists

Let's start with The New York Times Cool Books for Hot Summer Days.

Female Literati Pick Summer's Best Books, 11 top women novelists share their favorite warm-weather reading choices, among them : Nell Freudenberger, Meg Wolitzer, Lily King, Miranda July, Adelle Waldman, and Maggie Shipstead. If you recognize these names, you like Women's Fiction. Well, here is The Huffington Post's recommendations to get you started for the summer.

And for the Romance reader: Romance for the Real Girl.

Speaking of style... Vogue's Megan O'Grady shares This Summer's Best Beach Reads.

Want to know what I'll be packing in my beach bag? 17 Of The Best Books Of Summer 2015.. Don't want to miss out? Hurry and put reserves on these early summer releases.

And finally, the 2015 edition of the UC Berkeley Summer Reading List for New Students. It offers a potluck of great suggestions from the faculty. "Is this required reading? Absolutely not. Do we hope you'll find something on this list that appeals to you? Absolutely yes."

And you know Summer Game 2015 is HERE, don't you?

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #534

London playwright and actor Jason Hewitt's debut The Dynamite Room * has been called "(a)ccomplished, resonant and surprising." ~ The Guardian.

In July 1940, 11-year-old Lydia, an evacuee in Wales tracks home to the seaside town of Grayfriar, gas mask in tow, only to find it eerily deserted. With her father and brother in active service, Lydia settles into their shuttered home to wait her mother's return. Her first night there, Lydia is awaken from her troubled sleep by an intruder - a gun-wielding, wounded German soldier in British uniform, who won't hurt Lydia as long as she does not leave the house.

Over the course of six sweltering summer days, the two warily coexist in their claustrophobic confines, becoming dependent on each other for survival. Lydia soon realizes that Heiden, a Berlin cellist before the war, knows more than he should about her family; and suspects that he is plotting and preparing them for something far beyond his orders.

"In this fine balance of taut suspense and tragedy, Hewitt has created an emotionally charged character study in which he explores the loneliness, fear, hope, and shame that war visits on ordinary people."

An obvious readalike to Bette Greene's Summer of My German Soldier, but will likely appeal to those who enjoyed William Trevor's The Story of Lucy Gault; Ian McEwan's Atonement; and Pat Barker's Toby's Room.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #533

The Silver Swan by Elena Delbanco is an intimate, passionate, triumphant story of love and betrayal, centered around a Stradivarius cello and the cast of characters who lust after it.

Mariana Feldmann, only child of world-renowned cellist Alexander Feldmann, emerges as a rising star herself at nineteen and is seen as the inheritor of her father's genius. It comes to reason that Mariana expects that the Silver Swan, Feldmann's a one-of-a-kind Stradivarius will one day be hers. Upon Alexander's death, Mariana is devastated to learn that Claude Roselle, one of his students and a rising European talent about to make his New York debut, will inherit the Silver Swan. As Mariana try to understand her father's decision by getting to know Claude, their relationship quickly evolves into a passionate, if contentious, affair.

Elena Delbanco, recently retired from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy has long been engaged in the world of classical music. Her father was the renowned cellist Bernard Greenhouse (of the Beaux Arts Trio), who owned the Countess of Stainlein ex-Paganini Stradivarius violoncello of 1707. The imagined fate of that instrument inspired this debut novel.

The author will be reading and signing at Nicola's Books on June 9th, at 7 pm.

Judy Blume's final novel for adults: In the Unlikely Event

Beloved author Judy Blume, who is best known for her wonderful books for teens, including such favorites as Are You There God?, It’s Me, Margaret and Deenie, has written her first book for adults in 17 years. Reviewers have called this newest book—titled In the Unlikely Event—a “slice of life”… Blume’s own life, that is. When she was a teenager, in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, three commercial airliners crashed over a period of a few months in the early 1950s, killing over one hundred people. Her father, a dentist, was called to help identify some of the bodies. Blume has said that she had kept most of her memories of these frightening and scarring events to herself over the years, but felt compelled to share them after hearing writer Rachel Kushner talk about stories her mother told of her own life in the 1950s.

The heroine of In the Unlikely Event, Miri, is plucky and lovable, and Blume does a fascinating job describing life in the Fifties, from fashions and foods of the era, to larger belief systems that were prevalent at the time. Blume has created characters that were more directly affected by the plane crashes than she herself was, and uses them to imagine how their lives unfolded in the aftermath. Blume spent five years working on this novel, and it is as lovely as the rest of her works. She claims too, that it will be her final novel for adults: “Of course I said the same thing after Summer Sisters. I meant it then. But I think I mean it more now," she said. "I feel good about that. I feel elated about that. And at 77 I think that’s O.K.”

Syndicate content