Fabulous Fiction Firsts #254

There are FFFs that you are determined to hand-sell every chance you get, and then there are some you want to shout "You don't want to miss this!". Guilt by Association : a novel * * * is just such a debut (out mid April).

First, there is the author. A former L.A. Deputy District Attorney, the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder case, Marcia Clark is the author of Without a Doubt (1997) her memoir of the trial.

Next, there is the story. Los Angeles D.A. Rachel Knight is a tenacious, wise-cracking, and fiercely intelligent prosecutor. When her colleague, Jake Pahlmeyer is found shot to death in a sleazy motel along with a 17-year-old boy, she must take over his toughest case: the rape of the teenage daughter from a prominent family. Though having been warned-off by the top brass against delving into Jake's death, Rachel teams up with LAPD Detective Bailey Keller to pursue both cases, risking not only her career but also her life.

And then, there is the writing. "Marcia Clark combines intimate detail, riotous humor, and visceral action" in a real twisty, top-notched legal thriller.

For fans of Linda Fairstein and Meg Gardiner. Maximum girl power.

* * * = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #253

Some called it "rich and evocative"; some thought it "odd, dark and often creepy", but all the reviewers seemed to agree that Lori Roy's Bent Road * * ( * * * * ) is an exceptionally well-written debut, and a captivating, and suspenseful tale of a dysfunctional family and community.

Young Arthur Scott fled a small Kansas town, moved to Detroit and raised a family. Unnerved by the 1967 riots, he packs up his family and moves back home where the mysterious death of his older sister Eve still haunts him after 20 years.

While Arthur and the oldest daughter slip easily into rural life, others in the family struggle with loneliness and displacement, especially his only son, Daniel. Then a battered red truck is seen cruising ominously along on Bent Road and a young girl disappears without a trace.

Family secrets, small town dynamics, coerced silence, and ruined lives drive the plot towards its shattering revelation and conclusion, "reminding us that simplicity of landscape does not necessarily mean simplicity of life".

Lori Roy was born and raised in Manhattan, Kansas where she worked for years as a tax accountant before turning her focus to writing. Her work has appeared in the Chattahoochee Review, and she is the recipient of the Ed Hirschberg Award for Excellence in Florida Writing.

A readalike for Nancy Pickard's The Scent of Rain and Lightning; No Mercy by Lori Armstrong; and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin.

* * = starred reviews. (Read the NPR review).

* * * * = 4-star review in an upcoming issue of People Magazine.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #252 - Fathers Found and Lost

Former Joffrey II ballet dancer Meg Howrey impresses reviewers with her debut Blind Sight.

Earnestly nice and innocent 17 year-old Luke Prescott grew up in a bohemian household surrounded by women. Then the father (a TV star) he never knew invites him to spend a summer in L.A. The two share some adventures but Luke finds out just a little more than he wants to know about this stranger, which in turn forces his mother to revealing some shattering secrets of her own.

Meg Howrey gives us "a smart, funny, and deeply moving story about truth versus belief, and what makes, and might break, a family".

Cate Kennedy won the 2010 New South Wales Premier's People's Choice (Literary) Award with her debut novel The World Beneath * *.

15-year-old Sophie accompanies her father on a backpacking trip through Tasmania in the hopes of establishing a bond with the father she’s never known. 25 years ago, her now estranged parents were part of the successful protest movement to save Tasmania's Franklin River. Sophie - sullen and stubborn, and Rich - hopelessly overconfident, soon find themselves severely unprepared for the arduous terrain and punishing weather.

"In elegant, fluidly written prose, Kennedy not only delivers scathing portraits of the ineffectual adults and the times that shaped them but also makes the epic wilderness another vividly rendered character in the story. A gripping debut."

* * = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #251

Taylor Stevens' s "blazingly brilliant debut" The Informationist * * is perhaps the best thriller I've read in a long while, introducing at the same time a new action heroine, who is a worthy successor to Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander.

Androgynous and beautiful, possessing an encyclopedic and logical mind, Vanessa Michael Munroe deals in information - very expensive information that corporations and the CIA are more than willing to pay for. Now a Texas oil billionaire has hired her to find his daughter who vanished in Africa four years ago. Born to missionary parents in lawless central Africa, Munroe took up with an infamous gunrunner when she was just fourteen. After almost a decade building a new life and lucrative career, Munroe finds herself back in the lands of her childhood, betrayed, cut off from civilization, and left for dead.

"Gripping, ingenious, and impeccably paced" . You don't get any better than this.

The author herself is as unusual as her protagonist. Born into the Children of God, raised in communes across the globe, denied an education beyond the sixth grade, Taylor Stevens broke free of the cult in her late 20s. With no marketable skills and a family to support, she began writing in earnest after reading a Robert Ludlum. Here is an interview with Stevens in the latest Vogue Magazine. She is at work on the 3rd title in the series.

* * = starred reviews

Author Birthdays: Giono, Cullen, Sharpe

March 30th marks the birthday of authors Jean Giono, Countee Cullen, and Tom Sharpe.

Jean Giono was a French writer and veteran of WWI. One of his later novels, Le hussard sur le toit, was made into a French film, The Horseman On The Roof, starring Juliette Binoche (whom you may recognize from Chocolat or The English Patient).

Giono's other novels include The Man Who Planted Trees (which is about, oddly enough, a man who plants trees), and The Solitude of Compassion, which Library Journal called "a throwback to a simpler place and time, when through communion with nature Giono sought to evade the harsh realities of his time".

Countee Cullen was an American poet and a part of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the husband to the only child of W. E. B. Du Bois. He won more literary prizes than any other African-American writer of the 1920s.

Cullen's poetry is collected in a few volumes here at AADL. One, Caroling Dusk, includes works by other Harlem Renaissance writers, like Cullen's father-in-law. Another collection (of only his poetry) is My Soul's High Song, which Booklist has described as "as concerned with beauty as it was with commenting on racial problems; and his espousal of the loveliness of the poetic line and the prose sentence with social critique results in a beguiling iron-fist-sheathed-in-velvet-glove effect".

Tom Sharpe is an English satirist. His novel Porterhouse Blue was made into a short TV series. Set in an all-male college, it makes fun of Cambridge and many of the people who might go there.

Sharpe's works have been criticized by many, including Publishers Weekly, which deems his novels to be unappealing to an American audience because of their harsh and biting contents. One novel, The Midden, while laughing at aristocrats and the well-to-do, contains "exuberant slapstick comedy, a ridiculously high body count, and a no-nonsense British matron to sort through the whole mess", according to Booklist.

Triangle Waist Factory Fire of 1911

triangletriangle

Today (March 25) marks the 100-year anniversary of the deadly Triangle Waist Factory Fire in New York City which claimed 146 lives, mostly of young immigrant workers; and to this day, ranks as one of the worst disasters in labor history.

Located in the Asch Building, at northern corner of Washington Square,The Triangle Waist Company was in many ways a typical sweatshop - low wages, excessively long hours, and unsanitary and dangerous working conditions. Check out the story at the Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations archival and research resources that include eyewitness accounts, victim list, and photo images.

Over the years, the fire has been the subject for documentary filmmakers, historians and novelists. Best among them is award-winning author Katharine Weber's Triangle* * (2007).

Esther Gottesfeld is the last living survivor of the fire where 150 workers died in the sweatshop inferno. Even though she has told her story countless time, her death at the age of 106 leaves unanswered many questions about what happened that fateful day - the day she lost her sister and her fiance, the day her life changed forever.

Esther's granddaughter, Rebecca, and George, her partner, a prizewinning composer, seek to unravel the facts of the matter, while at the same time Ruth Zion, a zealous Triangle fire historian, bores in on them with her own mole-like agenda.

"As in a symphony, the true story of what happened at the Triangle factory is declared in the first notes - yet it is fully revealed only when we've heard it all the way through to its find chords."

* * = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #250

Writing "with the spirit of Barbara Kingsolver and the flinty wit of Richard Russo", Bathsheba Monk gives us a nuanced, thoughtful and timely love story in Nude Walker, her debut novel.

Kat Warren-Bineki didn't join the National Guard to see the world. She joined to escape the rusty tentacles of Warrenside (PA) , a depressed steel town, and to avoid her mother. As the daughter of old-guard industrialists, Kat has no business falling for Max Asad, the son of nouveau riche Lebanese immigrants who is buying up Downtown Warrenside at lightning speed. Afterall, she has a perfectly acceptable boyfriend in Duck Wolinsky.

Not only is Kat forfeiting her social standing by declaring love for a bitterly resented foreigner, Max is jeopardizing his father’s dreams. "As the families feud (sometimes comically, sometimes ferociously), Warrenside braces for an epic flood, and the city’s citizens try to keep busy—with love, lust, insurance fraud, hallucinations . . . any means of outrunning the past."

"Nude Walker has everything: war and conflict, sex and betrayal, old-money people and fresh-dollar newcomers, and always, men and women looking for the purest kind of love, even if it burns too hot.” ~ Susan Straight.

Author Birthdays: Trelease, Robinson, Cullin

March 23rd marks the birthday of authors Jim Trelease, Kim Stanley Robinson, Mitch Cullin.

Jim Trelease is an American artist, writer and educator. His The Read-Aloud Handbook, according to his website, "was the inspiration for PBS's 'Storytime' series". It emphasizes the importance of reading aloud to children, and has been used by both parents and educators.

Trelease also published a collection of stories which he thinks are perfect to read aloud. It includes many classics, as well as some inspirational stories, like "I have a dream: the story of Martin Luther King, Jr" by Margaret Davidson.

Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science fiction writer. His Mars Trilogy has won Hugo and Nebula Awards. The trilogy focuses on a world in which Mars is a colony (by 2027, no less).

In 2009, Robinson published Galileo's Dream, in which Galileo travels to the future and finds himself caught up in political struggles on one of Jupiter's moons.

Mitch Cullin is an American writer of both novels and short stories. His collection of short stories is called From The Place In The Valley Deep In The Forest, and, as explained in a Booklist review, while the stories' topics are not fictional, "Cullin completely avoids making essays of his stories by focusing on vividly realized characters caught in the middle of those circumstances".

Cullin's A Slight Trick Of The Mind is a story of Sherlock Holmes in his old age, his memory failing. The cover is a tribute to Holmes' love of beekeeping in the novel.

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

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