Stunning Debut Fiction: Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper, is described as “a gorgeous literary debut about an elderly woman’s last great adventure walking across Canada. A beautiful novel of pilgrimage, of fulfilling lifelong promises, of a talking coyote called James, of unlikely heroes and hundreds of papier-mâché animals….”

Elderly Otto wakes up one morning to find his eighty-two-year-old wife gone from their bed. Upon walking into the kitchen of their home, he finds a carefully penned note from her saying that she has set off on a walk to fulfill her lifelong dream of seeing the ocean, and that she’ll try to remember to come back home. The only problem: the ocean is 2008 miles away from the couple’s home in Saskatchewan.

Otto surprisingly doesn’t pursue his beloved wife, but instead keeps himself busy and his worries at bay by carefully crafting hundreds of papier-mâché animals and writing Etta long letters that he does not know where to send. Otto’s close friend Russell, who has loved Etta from afar for decades, insists on finding Etta, however. He leaves his farm for the first time in his life determined to pursue her and bring her home safely.

Etta, meanwhile, steadfastly continues her journey to the ocean accompanied by a friendly coyote named James, and as her trip goes on the lines between memory, illusion and reality become increasingly blurry. The book itself is a mixture of memory and reality, too; it’s not told in chronological order, but rather blends emotions and experiences in the present with those from the past.

The stunning descriptions of Canada are a wonderful backdrop to this novel that “reminds us that it’s never too late to see the things you’ve longed to see, or say the things you’ve longed to say.”

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #495 - “It's the questions we can't answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think." ~ Patrick Rothfuss

The Question of the Missing Head: An Asperger's mystery by E.J. Coopperman (as Jeff Cohen when he writes nonfiction) introduces a new series featuring Samuel Hoenig, a man with Asperger's Syndrome - "an increasingly popular diagnosis given to people displaying a constellation of behaviors often associated with autism—inflexible thinking, reduced ability to read social cues, constricted range of interest." But Samuel's observational skills and heightened cognitive and linguistic functioning make him an ideal owner (and sole employee) of his New Jersey-based business called Questions Answered.

When Marshall Ackerman, chief administrator of the Garden State Cryonics Institute insists on him solving the mystery of a missing preserved head in their high-tech laboratory, Samuel, being a non-driver, conscripts his current client, a Miss Washburn to accompany him to the scene of the crime. Upon arrival, the urgency of finding the missing head is overshadowed when Dr. Rebecca Springer, one of the facility's scientists, is found murdered, in a locked room.

"In this well-crafted story, the Asperger's element, rather than becoming a distraction, provides a unique point of view on crime-solving, as well as offering a sensitive look at a too-often-misunderstood condition. "

"(A) delightful and clever mystery".

Vanessa and Her Sister: new fiction on the life of Virginia Woolf

Vanessa and Her Sister, by Priya Parmar, is a brand new book that offers a look at a fascinating time and place in world history. The year is 1905 and pre-war London is bustling with young artists and intellectuals. The four orphaned Stephens siblings—Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby and Adrian—decide to take a house together in fashionable Bloomsbury. All young, gifted and unmarried, they bring together a glittering circle of talented and outrageous friends that will eventually become known as the Bloomsbury Group. At the center of the circle are the sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. When the book opens, Vanessa, the painter, has never sold a piece of her work and Virginia, the writer, has just had her book review turned down. But as time passes, the sisters and the others in the circle begin to meet with success. When Vanessa falls in love, her complicated and possessive sister feels dangerously abandoned and begins a tailspin of self-destruction. With the threat of tragedy looming over the family, Vanessa must decide how to save herself and her loved ones while also protecting her own happiness.

This book is has been recommended for fans of Loving Frank, The Chaperone, and The Paris Wife and offers a fascinating and intimate viewpoint of the life of Virginia Woolf and her struggles with mental illness.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #494 - “Magic: it was what happened when the mind met the world, and the mind won for a change.” ~ Lev Grossman

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg is "an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight (readers) of all ages."

19 year-old Ceony Twill, graduated (at the top of her class) from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Despite her dreams of being a smelter, she has been assigned as a "Folder," (paper magic) - the lowest in the hierarchy in the pantheon of magicians.

Things get off to a rocky start when she is greeted at the door by a paper skeleton, but under the tutelage of the amiable Emery Thane, Ceony learns to bring the most amazing paper creatures to life. That is until Emery's past comes back to haunt him. To save her teacher's life, Ceony must face an Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic and embark on an unbelievable adventure.

Just released is The Glass Magician, the sequel.

If you have been floundering for something magical to read since The Night Circus, your wait is over. Fans of Karen Russell and Lev Grossman might want to check these out too.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #493 - “I think cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. The very earliest people who made film were magicians.” ~ Francis Ford Coppola

Named 2008 Film Blogger of the Year by GQ (check out Self-Styled Siren), and freelance movie reviewer for the New York Post Farren Smith Nehme entertains and intrigues readers and film buffs alike with Missing Reels * - a "totally cinematic debut novel of young love, old movies, and an epic search for a long-lost silent film."

New York in the late 1980s. Ceinwen Reilly has just arrived from Yazoo City, Mississippi. Her min. wage job at a vintage store stretches barely to cover a shared shabby walkup on Avenue C; cigarettes; and her passion - classic movies. One day, Ceinwen, wearing one of her retro finds elicits a comment from their elderly neighbor Miriam. A glimpse of a photograph convinces Ceinwen of Miriam's starring role in the silent films.

When a charming British mathematician Matthew Hill breezes into Ceinwen's life, bringing wit, conversations, romance, and an introduction to Matthew's mentor who is a silent film history aficionado, Ceinwen (with Matthew trailing along) begins earnestly researching and tracking down the reels of Miriam's long-lost film masterpiece.

"The amateur gumshoes quickly find themselves immersed in a subculture of quirky film enthusiasts housing aging reels in basements, university archives, and private clubs across the city."

"A novel as winning and energetic as the grand Hollywood films that inspired it, Missing Reels is an irresistible, alchemical mix of Nora Ephron and David Nicholls that will charm and delight."

Feeling a little star-struck? You might enjoy:
The Age of Dreaming by Nina Revoyr; Not Without You by Harriet Evans; The Actress by Amy Sohn; Fame by Tilly Bagshawe; and Sunnyside by Glen David Gold.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #492 - “I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong... I believe that tomorrow is another day, and I believe in miracles.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

Miracle in a Dry Season * by Sarah Loudin Thomas is set in the small town of Wise, WV. (First in the Appalachian Blessings series)

Rumors and speculations swirl around single mother Perla Long and her 5 yr.old daughter Sadie when she comes to live with her uncle and aunt. Casewell Phillips, a church elder and a confirmed bachelor is charmed when he meets beautiful Perla, and before long, he is crafting doll furniture for Sadie. But like the townfolks, he is cautious of her past that hints of sordidness, and suspicious of her singular talent of producing literally an endless feast out of meager rations.

When a severe drought hits Wise, folks are torn between gratitude for Perla's gift, small-town gossip, and a minister bent on judgment. Perla and Casewell must look deep into their hearts and faith for guidance if they are to have a future.

"Thomas's fiction debut offers sympathetic, wholesome protagonists seeking to live faithful, prayerful lives and engaging supporting characters in subplots that explore the overarching themes of forgiveness, redemption, and the wideness of God's love."

Fans of Ann Tatlock, Karen Kingsbury, and Lisa Wingate now have a new author to watch.

* = starred review

New Fiction by Anita Diamant: The Boston Girl

Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent, Day After Night and The Last Days of Dogtown, has written a new novel to be published in 2015. Titled The Boston Girl, the book tells the story of Addie, a young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century. Addie’s parents are suspicious of the changing world around them and want nothing more than to keep her and her two sisters close to home until they can marry suitably and begin families of their own. Addie’s curiosity and intelligence draw her outward, however, and she dreams of going to college and marrying for love, not convenience. As she ventures out into the world of short skirts, movie theaters, dancing, and opportunity, she experiences more than she would have ever dreamed possible. The premise of this lovely book is the question, “What made you the woman you are today?” asked of eighty-five-year-old Addie by her young granddaughter, which leads Addie to share her remarkable memories and experiences. “The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America,” reads the book jacket, “and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.”

Diamant’s books are notable for their focus on women in often-forgotten places and times in history. The Red Tent tells the story of the Biblical figure Dinah, a woman who’s life is only hinted at in the book of Genesis as the daughter of Jacob. Day After Night is a fascinating portrait of four female World War II concentration camp survivors who have escaped to Israel but are still trying to determine where they will fit in. Check these books and Diamant’s other works out at the AADL!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #491 - “I've always wanted to play a spy, because it is the ultimate acting exercise. You are never what you seem.” ~ Benedict Cumberbatch

Called "one of the best and most compulsively readable spy-fiction debuts in years", one-time China correspondent for the BBC, Adam Brookes' debut Night Heron * * relocates the traditional Cold War thriller to modern China.

The novel opens with an edge-of-your-seat escape from a remote high-security Chinese labor camp. Prisoner 5995 was once a promising engineer, imprisoned for impulsively attacking a soldier during the Tiananmen Square protests. Back in Beijing, he (code name Peanut) is desperate to renew the deal with UK intelligence in passing along technology secrets, and mistakes British journalist Philip Mangan for an undercover operative who reluctantly, is drafted into the world of espionage. Navigating not only between their two governments, but also round the opaque American intelligence agenda, Mangan and Peanut find themselves running for their lives.

"Fans of the international espionage genre will inhale this fast tale in a few suspenseful breaths. Brookes uses multiple narrators - the spy, the engineer, the journalist, the agent, the boss, whose conflicting alliances tell the real story."

The Madness of July by James Naughtie is an "explosive, brilliantly written spy novel".

Set over the course of 6 sweltering days in 1976, an American spy is found dead, stuffed into a cupboard in the House of Commons. In his pocket is Will Flemyng's phone number. A former MI6 operative who is now a rising star in the Foreign Office, and tapped for the U.S. ambassadorship, Will is forced to return to his old craft in order to safeguard some of the most sensitive secrets of his government. In the meantime, Will and his 2 brothers with hearts set on vacation in the Scottish Highlands, are confronted with interlocking mysteries that involves family secrets and a cold crime case. Clever readers will sense early on that these threads are part of a single web.

"Unlike thrillers that focus on spycraft, this debut novel from a British political affairs journalist (The Washington Post and The Guardian) digs into the psychology of secrets hidden in the crevices between diplomacy and espionage."

"For mood and atmosphere, Alan Furst's novels come to mind and for tension and pace, think of the British TV series MI-5."

* * = 2 starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #490

Librarian (Louisiana) Ashley Weaver's stylish and charming debut Murder at the Brightwell features "a spunky heroine, a tense romance and red herrings galore" that would bring to mind Agatha Christie who created some of the most endearing and enduring amateur sleuths.

1932 England. Young Amory Ames, on impulse, accepts an invitation from her former fiance Gil Trent to vacation at the Brightwell, a luxurious seaside resort catering to the society set. The express purpose is for Amory to intervene in the forthcoming marriage of Gil's sister Emmeline to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies' man. No one sees the sharp prick of the irony more then Amory whose floundering marriage to the notoriously charming playboy Milo is a constant source of sorrow.

But when Rupert is found murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime, Amory must set aside their marital ennui, and reluctantly enlists Milo's help in finding the killer and clearing Trent's name. Soon, the pair's sleuthing puts them at the scene of a second murder, and in harm's way.

"A pleasant debut novel, nicely evoking the 1930s with strong atmosphere and the beginnings of some intriguing characters."

Readers eagerly anticipating a follow-up might want to get cozy with Dashiell Hammett's Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man series (and the 1934 film adaptation that is now a classic); the Australian Miss Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood (adapted into an exquisitely-costumed period television series); and the Dandy Gilver series by Catriona McPherson, set in Scotland.

New Teen Fiction at the AADL!

Wow! A fresh crop of exciting new teen books is on order at the AADL. Here’s a preview of just a few of the upcoming new arrivals:

Anatomy of a Misfit is Andrea Portes’ very first novel. It’s already gaining notoriety for being “hilarious, devastating, and ultimately triumphant” and is based loosely on real events from the author’s life. Anika is the third most popular girl in school and works hard to maintain her social position even though on the inside her thoughts are dark and diabolical AND she has a crush on the nerdiest guy in school (although, in her defense, he has come back from summer vacation way better looking than he was last spring). Readers will love Anika’s witty commentary and the high school setting is portrayed poignantly. The book rockets towards its final, wrenching tragedy, but readers should stick it out to the ultimate, victorious ending.

The Jewel, by Amy Ewing, is the first book in the new Lone City series. Violet is purchased at auction by the Duchess of the Lake to serve as a surrogate mother for future royal children. As Violet fights to stay alive through the struggles of her daily existence it begins to seem as though her fate might be a hopeless one. Then, she meets the gentleman hired to be a companion to the Duchesses’ niece and everything changes. Suddenly, her life seems worth living again as the two begin an illicit romance. The consequences of this romance, however, are more than either of them had bargained for.

Split Second, by Kasie West, is the sequel to the popular Pivot Point, which was published in early 2013. In Pivot Point, readers were introduced to Addie, who has the remarkable ability of being able to see the future of both potential outcomes when she is faced with a choice. Split Second continues with the story of Addie, who has recently realized that she also has the ability to manipulate time… but not without a price. In order to mitigate the effects of her time manipulation, Addie must enlist the help of her best friend Laila as well as that of a handsome new boy at school who seems immune to her charms.

Other teen books recently added to the collection include Deliverance, the third book in the Defiance series, Sway, the story of a boy who woos a girl for his best friend… but then develops feelings for her himself, and Magnolia, the story of two Southern teenagers who realize that their hatred for one another might actually be love after a devastating storm sweeps through their town.

If you’re browsing for these or any other teen titles, don’t forget that our teen collection at the Downtown library is now located on the third floor!

Syndicate content