Fabulous Fiction Firsts #277

NPR's Three Critics Pick The Best Books For Summer (listen to the podcast) has some fabulous titles. And no one was surprised that The Hypnotist * * featured prominently on it. Now NPR just unmasked the identity of the author(s), known until now, as Lars Kepler.

Stockholm. A gruesome triple murder. 15 year-old, the only witness/survivor, sustained 100 knife-wounds and is in shock. Detective Inspector Joona Linna's only option - to enlist the help of Dr. Erik Maria Bark, the hypnotist.

The battle-worn Linna and the reluctant and scarred Bark unwittingly set off a chain of violent events that climax at a remote cabin north of the Arctic Circle.

An international bestseller and already being adapted for film, The Hypnotist is an adrenaline- and action-packed thriller, "smart and unpredictable", atmospheric as it is cinematic. A nordic crime mystery debut to rival some of the best in the genre.

* * = Starred reviews

Forever: Final Book of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series

For those of us who have read Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, and Linger, we can look forward to the final book in the Mercy Falls Wolves trilogy. Forever, the third and final book, starts where we last left off, where Cole has come to the conclusion that Grace must shift into a wolf in the hope that will help her survive. Romance stirs between Cole and Isabel, Sam anticipates moments Grace is human enough to remember him, Cole looks for a cure for Grace, and Isabel's father is determined to rid the woods of all the wolves. Book 3 promises to be an exciting finale to the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.

Other books by Maggie Steifvater include: Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception and it’s sequel or companion book; Ballad: A Gathering Of Faerie.

You can read my reviews of all four books on their main item pages or by clicking here: Shiver, Linger, Lament, Ballad.

To earn 50 points for the Summer Reading Game, unscramble the word out of the bold letters above.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #276

Graveminder * (also available in audio ) is the first adult title by popular YA author Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely series).

Her grandmother Maylene's death brings Bek (Rebekkah) Barrow back to Claysville, a sleepy little town with strict rules how the dead are to be buried. Without a thought, Bek slips into performing the strange rituals at the gravesite that she has watched Maylene performed over the years: she takes three sips from a silver flask and speaks the words "Sleep well, and stay where I put you."

Bek never suspects that with Maylene's passing, she is the new "graveminder", the next Barrow female to uphold the century-old contract between the worlds of the living and the dead. Worse yet, no one will tell her that Maylene was actually murdered, and danger is lurking in Claysville. The dead are hungry.

Byron Montgomery, the young Undertaker seems to be the only one who could help her set things right once the dead begin to walk, but he is also the last person Bek would want to involve considering their complicated past and the itchy spark between them that Bek is trying desperately to ignore.

"Haunting, captivating, brilliant!" Check out the author's website and Maylene's Scrapbook for the backstory of the graveminders. A nice cross-over for YA readers.

Want more creepy/chilling read this summer?

Try So Cold the River by Michael Koryta (in audio); Coffin County by Gary Braunbeck; and The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman. Perfect to read around the campfire. Don't wander off though, and make sure someone's got your back.

* = Starred review

Author Birthdays: Stone, Garfield, Howatch

July 14th marks the birthday of authors Irving Stone, Leon Garfield, and Susan Howatch.

Irving Stone was an American historical fiction author. His most well known novel may be The Agony and the Ecstasy, a book about the Renaissance artist Michelangelo. The book was also made into a movie starring Charlton Heston.

Stone's main works are all fictionalized biographies. In addition to Michelangelo, he also wrote books on artists Vincent Van Gogh and Camille Pissarro. The novel of Van Gogh was also made into a movie.

Leon Garfield was a British children's historical fiction writer. He also adapted many Shakespearean tales for children, which we have in both written and audio formats, as well as the television show Shakespeare: The Animated Tales.

Garfield's original works include Smith, which is about a 18th century London pickpocket, and The Empty Sleeve, a ghost story featuring protagonist twins.

Susan Howatch is a British fiction writer known for her family sagas and religious themes. Her most popular series is probably the Starbridge Series of six books about a fictional Anglican diocese called Starbridge. The first book in the series is Glittering Images.

Howatch also wrote many stand-alone books. These include The Waiting Sands, which Library Journal described as "three tales of romantic suspense," and Penmarric, a novel set in medieval Cornwall.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #275

Daisy Goodwin's The American Heiress * * is the story of Cora Cash - beautiful, vivacious, spoiled and very wealthy (Gilded Age - Newport). The only thing missing in her life is a title, so her domineering mother thinks.

So off they go, to the playground of the aristocracy, and sure enough, they land the most eligible bachelor in England. Cora suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, and madly in love. Ivo Maltravers, (beleaguered by death duties and a crumbling country estate), Cora comes to find, could be withdrawn, secretive, and increasingly duplicitous (no surprise to the knowing reader). Though her fortune is eagerly anticipated, it does not smooth her way with her powerful mother-in-law, snobby servants, or the insular English society. Cora soon learns that wealth cannot buy everything, and she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

"Witty, moving, and brilliantly entertaining".

"A shrewd, spirited historical romance with flavors of Edith Wharton, Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, Upstairs, Downstairs and a dash of People magazine that charts a bumpy marriage of New World money and Old World tradition."

"...Goodwin, borrowing elements from a variety of beloved romance classics, keeps you guessing until the very last pages of this fun and finely tuned historical".

Daisy Goodwin attended film school (Columbia) after earning a degree in history (Cambridge). She is a British television producer, a poet 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life , and chaired the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. This is her debut novel.

* * = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #274

The hype for Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind * * * * is building to a fever pitch with its publication this week. It is the leading title for the publisher this season. We saw early review copies back in January and knew this was going to be BIG, and now all the reviews just confirmed that it is the "must read" of the season.

The narrator is Dr. Jennifer White, a widowed retired orthopedic surgeon with rapidly advancing dementia. She is the prime suspect in the murder of her best friend and neighbor Amanda O'Toole. As proud and forceful women, their relationship has been complex and rocky at times. The killer has surgically removed four of Amanda's fingers, and worse yet, Jennifer does not know whether she did it or not. As the investigation into the murder deepens and White’s relationships with her live-in caretaker and two grown children intensify, a chilling question lingers: is White’s shattered memory preventing her from revealing the truth or helping her to hide it?

"A startling portrait of a disintegrating mind clinging to bits of reality through anger, frustration, shame, and unspeakable loss, Turn of Mind is a remarkable debut that examines the deception and frailty of memory and how it defines our very existence."

"An extraordinarily crafted debut novel... the author is able to do it so convincingly through the eyes and voice of the central character is an amazing achievement. Heartbreaking and stunning, this is both compelling and painful to read."

Good companion read to this year's bumper crop of FFFs dealing with neuroscience and the strange and wondrous workings of the human mind. See blogs on Left Neglected and Before I Go to Sleep. Turn of Mind also joins a growing list of titles dealing with Alzheimer's, and does it brilliantly.

Alice LaPlante was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University. She teaches creative writing at both Stanford and San Francisco State University.

* * * * = Starred Reviews

Author Birthdays: Heinlein, Eddings, McCullough

July 7th marks the birthday of authors Robert A. Heinlein, David Eddings, and David McCullough.

Robert A. Heinlein was an American author of science fiction and first winner of the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement. He still holds the record for winning the most Hugo Awards for Best Novel, awarded for Double Star, Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and the Retro winner Farmer in the Sky.

Heinlein also had a few Hugo Best Novel short-listed books: Have Space Suit--Will Travel, Glory Road, Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long, Friday, and Job: A Comedy of Justice.

David Eddings was an American writer mostly known for his fantasy series. Many of these series, including The Dreamers, were co-written with his wife, Leigh.

Eddings also wrote some non-fantasy novels. Regina's Song, also written with his wife, is a fictional work about twins and their relationships. Booklist called it "a story of murder and revenge sporting supernatural overtones."

David McCullough is an American author and historian, and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has also won the Pulitzer twice for his biographies of Harry S. Truman and John Adams. The HBO television series John Adams and the film Truman were both based on his books.

McCullough has also written non-biographies. His The Path Between The Seas : The Creation Of The Panama Canal, 1870-1914 won four awards in 1978. Library Journal noted that in it "McCullough's careful research and genius for narrative come brilliantly through."

2011 RITA Awards Winners

The purpose of the RITA® awards is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding published romance novels and novellas. Up to 1,200 romance novels are entered in the RITA competition each year. The awards are sponsored by The Romance Writers of America (RWA).

The 2011 RITA Winners in the following categories are:

- Regency Historical Romance : The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

- Historical Romance : His at Night by Sherry Thomas

- Inspirational Romance : In Harm's Way by Irene Hannon

- Young Adult Romance : The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

- Novel with Strong Romantic Elements (think gentle read) : Welcome to Harmony by Jodi Thomas

- Romantic Suspense : Silent Scream by Karen Rose

- Contemporary Single Title Romance : Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #273

If you enjoy a leisurely afternoon browsing in antique shops, or find yourself searching out flea markets in your travels, then I think you will find a little treasure here. 13, rue Thérèse came out earlier this year but I waited for the audio book, and I was not disappointed. Jefferson Mays and Mia Barron did an amazing job bringing drama and breathing life into this recording of Elena Mauli Shapiro's debut novel.

Trevor Stratton, an American academic working in Paris is fascinated with a box of personal artifacts found in a filing cabinet in his new office. Sorting through the photographs, postcards, handkerchief, letters, and other vintage keepsakes that once belonged to a woman named Louise Brunet, Trevor begins to imagine and invent a life for her at 13, rue Therese, Paris, - from losing a young lover on the WWI battlefield, a marriage to someone of her father's choosing, to a daring and passionate affair with a married neighbor.

As Louise's life takes shape in Trevor's mind, he begins to notice Josianne, one of the young secretaries, and her eerie connection to the box. Trevor is intrigued and must find out why.

Elena Mauli Shapiro was born and raised in Paris, France, in an apartment below the real-life Louise Brunet’s. Shapiro found herself in possession of a box of Louise’s keepsakes after her neighbor died. They became the inspiration for the novel. See the real artifacts online at the book's website.

Joyce Saricks, Readers Advisory guru, focused her attention recently on the Unexpected Pleasures of audiobooks. I especially enjoy listening to translated works or works set in exotic locales. I often find them impromptu language lessons, with a bit of serendipitous armchair-traveling thrown in. 13 rue Therese was a real find.

Author Birthdays: de Saint-Exupéry, Toland, Fallaci

June 29th marks the birthday of authors Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, John Toland, and Oriana Fallaci.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French author most known for his children's fairy tale The Little Prince. The story has also been turned into a graphic novel and opera.

de Saint-Exupéry also wrote some things for adults, including the memoir Wind, Sand and Stars and the posthumous The Wisdom of the Sands, printed four years after his disappearance in 1944.

John Toland was an American historian, known for his works on WWII, especially the Pulitzer-winning The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945. He also wrote a book on the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese. In regards to the Japanese people, he was known to have said, "You don't have to take sides. All you have to do is get people's motivations."

Toland also wrote a biography of Adolf Hitler; in order to write the book, he actually interviewed people who had known Hitler. The biography is thought to be something of a "myth-buster."

Oriana Fallaci was an Italian writer and journalist, and opponent of the fascist regime during WWII. Interviews with History and Conversations with Power was compiled after her death and includes interviews with powerful leaders.

Fallaci also wrote some fictional works. These include A Man, which is a historical novel based upon the would-be assassin of a Greek leader, and Inshallah, a novel about Italian soldiers stationed in Beirut.

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