Fabulous Fiction Firsts #249

High body count, fast-paced action, murder, conspiracy, secret society - if that's right up your alley, then you would like Scott Mariani's The Mozart Conspiracy : a thriller (due out early next week).

A centuries-old mystery. An “accidental” death. A conspiracy that may end in murder. Former British Special Air Service officer Ben Hope is running for his life. Enlisted by Leigh Llewellyn—the beautiful, world-famous opera star and Ben’s first love—to investigate her brother, Oliver’s, mysterious death, Ben finds himself caught up in a puzzle dating back to the 1700s and might somehow be connected to mysterious death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

British author Miriani makes his U.S. debut with the second in his series featuring ex-SAS warrior Ben Hope. For fans of Dan Brown, James Rollins, and Robert Ludlum.

March's Classics & FairyTale-Remakes plus a Family-Friendly Book to Film

BeastlyBeastly

Beastly is an edgy romance based on teen author Alex Finn's novel - ultra-modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

Seventeen-year-old Kyle is the spoiled, shallow and incredibly popular prince of his high school kingdom. Kyle foolishly chooses Kendra, a witch masquerading as a high school student, as his latest target for humiliation. Unfazed by his cruel behavior, Kendra decides to teach him a lesson --- she transforms him into someone as unattractive on the outside as he is on the inside. Now he has one year to find someone who can see past the surface and love him, or he will remain "Beastly" forever.

Red Riding Hood is based on the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, made famous by The Brothers Grimm.

In this modern version, Valerie is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding outsider, Peter, but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry. Unwilling to lose each other, Valerie and Peter are planning to run away together when they learn that Valerie's older sister has been killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village.

Hungry for revenge, the people call on famed werewolf hunter Father Solomon to help them kill the wolf. But Solomon's arrival brings unintended consequences as he warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them. As panic grips the town, Valerie discovers that she has a unique connection to the beast --- one that inexorably draws them together, making her both suspect and bait.

We have, yet another Hollywood remake of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. While the plot is well known, let's hope Mia Wasikowska, and Michael Fassbende bring something exciting to this period drama of Jane and her Mr. Rochester.

Now finally something for the whole family.... ( Rating: PG)

Mars Needs Moms! is based on the picture book by Berkeley Breathed.

Take out the trash, eat your broccoli --- who needs moms anyway? Nine-year-old Milo finds out just how much he needs his mom when she's nabbed by Martians who plan to steal her mom-ness for their own young. We go along on Milo's quest to save his mom - a wild adventure that involves stowing away on a spaceship, navigating an elaborate, multi-level planet, and taking on the alien nation and their leader

Author Birthdays: Rossen, Fleischman, Weis

March 16th marks the birthday of authors Robert Rossen, Sid Fleischman, and Margaret Weis.

Robert Rossen was an American screenwriter and director. He wrote both Academy Award-winners The Hustler (starring Paul Newman) and All the King's Men, which was based upon a Robert Penn Warren book.

Rossen also co-wrote The Roaring Twenties, a noir film starring greats likes James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. The story focuses upon bootlegging and gangsters, and was based on the experiences of fellow writer Mark Hellinger.

Sid Fleischman was an American children's author and Newbery Award winner for his book The Whipping Boy. In his autobiography, Fleischman gave a few tips to aspiring writers, which can also be found on his official website.

According to Fleischman himself, he tended to "find story ideas in odd folk beliefs." This plays out in works like The 13th Floor: A Ghost Story for the triskaidekaphobiacs and The Ghost in the Noonday Sun. Fleischman passed away last year, the day after his birthday.

Margaret Weis is an American fantasy writer and co-creator (along with fellow author Tracy Hickman) of the game world DragonLance. While she has many, many series, I will only mention one other, which she also co-wrote with Hickman: The Death Gate Cycle, which is set in a sort of post-apocalyptic fantasy world.

Weis also owns Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd., a company that "publishes a wealth of original and licensed game and book products", with a strong focus on fantasy TV series.

Tales of the City

An incredibly colorful cast of characters and a funny, witty, irreverent style has made the Tales of the City series a modern classic. First published in serial form in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1972, Armistead Maupin’s outrageous stories of love and lust in the City by the Bay have been charming readers for more than 30 years.

In Mary Ann in Autumn, the eighth book of the series, Mary Ann Singleton returns to San Francisco, the site of all her youthful indiscretions. She moves in with her old friend Michael and his husband, and begins to confront the consequences of her past. Fans of the series will be happy to see most of the old favorites from 28 Barbary Lane, like Mrs. Madrigal and Mouse. Added to the mix are Shawna, a sex blogger, and her boyfriend Otto, a professional clown. Maupin is back to his sassy best with this novel. I just hope we don’t have to wait another decade for the next one.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #248

In the smart and insightful Enough About Love, debut novelist Hervé Le Tellier warns in the prologue that "Any man - or woman - who wants to hear nothing - or no more - about love should put this book down". How fabulously inviting.

And where else would we set such a novel but in Paris?

Successful, elegant Dr. Anna Stein is about to turn 40 and finds herself unsuspectingly struck by an "erotic thunderbolt " when she meets Yves, a writer. Thomas Le Gall, Anna's middle-aged psychoanalyst is equally unprepared when he too, was struck by a similar thunderbolt when meeting Louise Blum, a beguiling married woman at a party.

For the next three months, these two affairs paralleling one another - Louise and Thomas, Anna and Yves as they weather the turmoil and passion of clandestine trysts, deception and guilt that threatens the stability of their families.

"Le Tellier examines the possibilities of love after 40, and he deals with this issue with patience, understanding and bemusement". "Middle-aged romance has rarely seemed so intriguing".

Francophiles, and anyone eager for a Paris fix without the price of a cross-Atlantic flight, could try A Garden in Paris by Stephanie Grace Whitson , and Foreign Tongue:: A Novel of Life and Love in Paris by Vanina Marsot.

Reading Enough makes me long to revisit my favorite romantic French cinema classics such as The Lovers: Les Amants (1958), and A Man and a Woman: Un homme et une femme - the 1966 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film, and immediately brings to mind that lovely soundtrack.

Author Birthdays: Sackville-West, Spillane, Tharoor

March 9th marks the birthday of authors Vita Sackville-West, Mickey Spillane, and Shashi Tharoor.

Vita Sackville-West was an English writer and aristocrat who won the British Hawthornden Prize twice. Born to a Baron, she had lived in the famous Sissinghurst Castle during her lifetime. Among her most well-known books are The Edwardians, which is about two aristocratic siblings in the early 20th century, and All Passion Spent, about an octogenarian woman who spurns the Victorian ideals.

Sackville-West, a bisexual, was lovers with fellow authors Violet Trefusis and Virginia Woolf; some of her letters to Woolf have been compiled into a book, and a book on Trefusis also contains correspondence between lovers.

Mickey Spillane was an American crime novelist, best known for his detective character Mike Hammer. Spillane was also into film; his novel Kiss Me Deadly was made into a movie, and the author himself actually played a detective in Ring of Fear.

Spillane's work in the hardboiled fiction genre is a bit different than many others. A writer for the Washington Post said in 2001 that "Spillane never really wrote sex scenes; he wrote about sexuality in a way that was unapologetically sensual and often seemed more provocative than the act itself". A good example is his first novel, I, the Jury.

Shashi Tharoor is an Indian writer and advocate, as well as a member of Indian Parliament and former Under-Secretary General of the UN. He has written both fiction and non-fiction, and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in 1991. His novels include the award-winning The Great Indian Novel, and Show Business, called by Booklist "an animated and deliciously satirical critique of the Bombay film industry".

Among Tharoor's non-fiction works are The Elephant, The Tiger, And The Cell Phone: Reflections On India, The Emerging 21st-century Power, which discusses India's highs and lows, and Bookless In Baghdad: Reflections On Writing And Writers, a collection of essays which Library Journal described as resonating "with readers of any nationality, helping them understand the global purpose of literature, feel the inherent responsibility, and hear a call to action".

Hunger Games + Carolyn McCormick = Good Listening

If you're looking for an excuse to listen to the BOCD of The Hunger Games, consider this: The narrator is Carolyn McCormick who played Dr. Elizabeth Olivet on NBC's Law & Order. Not impressed? Well, McCormick also is the narrator on BOCDs of mysteries by James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell. Who can resist?

(My) Fabulous Fiction Firsts #247

For someone who is eternally looking for the next Chick Lit. read, I have no idea how Jill Mansell gets by me. Mind you, not once, but 3 times. But I will be making up for lost time.

Charming and cheery, Staying at Daisy's (originally published in the UK, 2002) was just the thing to ward off the lingering winter chill and the incessant sleet and snow.

In this "screwball romantic comedy" set at a posh hotel in picturesque Bristol, Daisy MacLean handily juggles the hospitality business, misbehaving guests, an odd assortment of staff and the embarrassing excuse for an owner who happens to her father; but is leery and tentative with rich, successful (and very hot) former rugby player Dev Tyzack who might just be pursuing her romantically.

Daisy's personal history, small town secrets, serendipity and surprises enrich the plot, add to the humor, and heighten the suspense, making it a "clever, absorbing, and very enjoyable read".

For fans of British Katie Fforde; Madeleine Wickham; and Isabel Wolff who enjoy lighthearted, contemporary women's fiction.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #246

Keigo Higashino won Japan's Naoki Prize for Best Novel with The Devotion of Suspect X* * *, a stunning thriller about miscarried human devotion.

This is the first major English publication of Japan's best-loved and bestselling crime novelist, translated from the Japanese by Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander.

Young Yasuko is caught red-handed over the dead body of her abusive ex-husband, luckily by her neighbor, a middle-aged high school mathematics teacher named Shigami who quickly offers to help, not only to dispose of the body but to construct an elaborate alibi for her.

When Detective Kusanagi draws the case, he suspects Yasuko though he is unable to find any obvious holes in her alibi. So Kusanagi enlists the help of Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a brilliant physicist, who also happens to be a former classmates of Ishigami. What ensues is a high level battle of wits, as Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko by outmaneuvering and outthinking Yukawa, who faces his most clever and determined opponent yet.

Readers of atmospheric and psychological thriller should also like David Peace's WWII-era Tokyo Year Zero (2007), a darkly lyrical and original crime novel featuring Detective Minami of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. Or noir mysteries by Natsuo Kirino, at the fringe of contemporary Tokyo society.

Readers interested in character-driven mysteries set in Asia should try James Church's Inspector O series, set in a politically-charged modern Korea.

* * * = Starred Reviews

Author Birthdays: Aleichem, Seuss, Goodis

March 2nd marks the birthday of authors Sholem Aleichem, Dr. Seuss, and David Goodis.

Sholem Aleichem was a Yiddish writer from the Ukraine, and while you may not immediately recognize his work Tevye the Dairyman, you probably recognize its musical counterpart The Fiddler on the Roof.

Aleichem also wrote the novel Wandering Stars, a tale of the Yiddish theater, and his autobiography From the Fair, which CHOICE said "told in the third person, reveals a very rich picture of Jewish shtetl existence".

I feel no need to introduce such a person as Dr. Seuss. His real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, and his Oh, The Places You'll Go! has probably been quoted at 2/3 of graduations since its publication. Though, my personal favorite has always been Hop on Pop.

Seuss's works have been translated into many languages; here at AADL we have his books in five aside from English--Spanish, Chinese, French, Russian, and Hebrew.

David Goodis was an American writer of noir, a sub-genre of hardboiled crime fiction. Many of his novels were made into noir movies as well, like Dark Passage and Shoot The Piano Player.

Goodis was not necessarily well liked. In one book, Geoffrey O'Brien called him "a poet of the losers. ... If Jack Kerouac had written crime novels, they might have sounded a bit like this".

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