Audio Fabulous Fiction First #141

BBC Audiobooks production of Catherine O'Flynn's "heartbreaking, hilarious, immensely rewarding" debut novel What Was Lost* is not to be missed.

Nominated for the Man Booker Prize, the story begins with 10 year-old Kate Meaney, amateur sleuth/loner, except for the unlikely Adrian, adult son of a local shopkeeper, and Teresa, a girl who sets new standards for naughtiness. Then, one day, Kate disappears.

20 years later, two employees of the Green Oak Shopping Center where Kate doggedly set up surveillance of her bank robber "suspect" begin seeing Kate's ghost on the security camera. All at once, the many lives that were affected by her disappearance converge and collide.

As clever and engaging as Kate Atkinson's Case Histories (2004), and the latest in the Jackson Brodie series, When Will There be Good News? (2008), guaranteeing you many hours of deligthful listening.

*= Starred Review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #140

P.J. Brooke is the pen name of the husband & wife writing team of Philip O'Brien and Jane Brooke. Both active in the Scottish government, they live part of the year in the old Moorish district, the Albayzin in Granada, where Blood Wedding* is set.

First in the Sub Inspector Max Romero series, the story begins with the death of lovely Leila, a Muslim postgraduate student, found near Max's own family estate, and the prime suspect's link to a shadowy terrorist group. The mystery surrounding the death of poet Federico Garcia Lorca during the Spanish Civil War adds depth and complexity to the plot.

Compelling characters, exotic and atmospheric setting, and the smooth weaving of historical and cultural details make this a strong addition to the Euro-crime genre.

Highly recommended as a readalike for Carlos Ruiz Zafón's (author's website) The Shadow of the Wind (2004), set in Barcelona, and the Inspector Alvarez series set in Mallorca.

* = Starred Review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #139

Debut novelist Tiffany Baker's The Little Giant of Aberdeen County* is a MUST!!! on your new year reading list. (I was lucky enough to score a publisher's preview copy).

With the feel of a "New England Gothic folklore", Little Giant is the story of Truly Plaice of rural Aberdeen (New York) - a giantess from birth, orphaned at 12 and sister to beautiful Serena Jane, and an unconventional heroine with a hugh heart to match her size. Haunting the margins of Truly's story is that of Tabitha Dyerson, a rumored witch whose secrets might hold great promise for Truly.

Little Giant has "all the earmarks of a hit — infectious and lovable narrator, a dash of magic, an impressive sweep and a heartrending but not treacly family drama." This brilliant debut is a great readalike for Elizabeth McCracken's The Giant's House : a romance (1996).

* = Starred Reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #138

Noted historians and university professors of American History Jane Kamensky (Brandeis) and Jill Lepore (Harvard) met as graduate students at Yale and have been friends for 20 years. Blindspot: by a Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in Disguise is their first novel.

Set in 1760s Boston, originally conceived by the two authors as "a playful spoof of two genres: the picaresque, with its rogue hero exposing the hypocrisy around him, and the sentimental epistolary narrative—in this instance, a series of letters from a young 'fallen' woman to a friend," it was meant as a gift to their mentor at Yale, John Demos.

The result (accomplished mostly through email) - is an astonishingly, wildly entertaining, clever, surprising, funny, sexy, historical romance with a strong sense of time and place.

* = Starred Reviews

Traction Man is Here!

Traction Man is a "generic action figure with dazzle-painted battle pants!" It even says so on the box in which he's packaged. He also happens to be the best friend of one young boy who guides his hero through an imaginative series of perilous journeys and daring escapes. That is, until the boy's well-meaning grandmother knits a green yarn jumpsuit for Traction Man, thus sapping the moveable man of his mighty action powers. Can Traction Man and his intrepid sidekick Scrubbing Brush ever regain their status as avengers of nefarious house scum? Check out Mini Grey's picture book Traction Man is Here! and the sequel, Traction Man Meets Turbodog, to find out.

Nobel prize winning playwright Harold Pinter dies

Harold PinterHarold Pinter

Playwright, poet, essayist, actor, political activist, and Nobel prize in literature winner (2005), Harold Pinter passed away on Dec 25, 2008 at age 78 after struggling with esophageal cancer. Before passing he wrote a poem about his diagnosis,

I need to see my tumor dead
A tumor which forgets to die
But plans to murder me instead.

But I remember how to die
Though all my witnesses are dead.
But I remember what they said
Of tumors which would render them
As blind and dumb as they had been
Before the birth of that disease
Which brought the tumor into play.
The black cells will dry up and die
Or sing with joy and have their way.

They breed so quietly night and day,
You never know, they never say.

For further information about the prolific Pinter click here.

As Simple As Snow

A young man becomes entranced with the spooky new girl at his small town high school, Anna Cayne. As Anna and the unnamed narrator’s relationship progresses, he finds himself entirely absorbed in her strange world full of ghosts, puzzles and codes – not to mention the obituaries that she’s been writing for everyone in the whole town. When Anna disappears on Valentine’s Day, the narrator struggles to decipher the clues left behind to find her – and meanwhile, everyone in town seems to have plenty of secrets of their own. As Simple as Snow by Gregory Galloway is a dramatic, but often funny, coming-of-age story that is so steeped in clues and mystery it has developed somewhat of a cult following. It is not a ‘typical’ novel or mystery by any means – and some who prefer a neatly wrapped package may find the story a source of frustration. However, As Simple as Snow may haunt you, long after the novel is over…and you may find yourself reading again, wondering…are the answers all here?

Terrifically terrifying

Ready for a scary book for those cold winter nights? Get your hot chocolate and jammies on, you will need them since this book will NOT make you any warmer! International Horror award winner, the Terror by multiple award winning author, Dan Simmons, brings the reader up close to the trials of the 1840s Franklin Expedition to the Canadian Arctic. The expedition, while searching for the famed Northwest Passage, was besot by foul weather and eventually became lodged in the ice, never to be seen again. Simmons takes these true events and adds some horror and a touch of the supernatural. It is a very suspenseful book and extremely well-written. You won't have to go outside to get the feeling of the freezing Arctic temperatures, Simmons does it all for you!

(Audio) Fabulous Fiction Firsts #137

In Rivka Galchen's Atmospheric Disturbances, convinced that his wife has disappeared and left behind a duplicate of herself who fools everyone else, Dr. Leo Liebenstein embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love, an effort during which he is aided by a deluded psychiatric patient and an enigmatic meteorologist.

Critics liked this intriguing and sophisticated first novel for its startling premise and unique characters and Reader Malcolm Hillgartner's rich baritone is "perfect for the obsessed Liebenstein".

In the The Lace Reader*, Brunonia Barry's debut (first in a proposed trilogy) novel Psychic Towner Whitney reluctantly returns to her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts when her 85 year-old great-aunt suddenly disappears, and joins local cop John Rafferty in his investigation into the mystery. (Read by the prolific Alyssa Bresnahan).

Barry "combines her focus on the history of this particular community, including its witchcraft trials, religious cults, and quotidian seaport life, with her study of a fractured family seeking truth to bring us a most unusual and bewitching novel. Highly recommended. ~Library Journal.

* = Starred Review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #136

A 2007 Hopwood Awards winner, Nami Mun's debut novel Miles from Nowhere* has garnered enthusiastic praise from many critics.

Set in the 1980s, it is the coming-of-age story of Joon, a Korean-American teenage runaway. Survival means homeless shelters, jail, hunger, drugs, prostitution, and terror on the mean streets of New York, - gritty and unflinching.

“There is nothing simplistic or sensationalized here as Mun, a writer of gravitas, portrays the dispossessed and the cast-out…”. However, it is her portrayal of Joon who remains “inviolable, kind and determined”, with “a fierce survival instincts, adaptability and radiance” that carries the reader towards a hopeful ending.

*= Starred Reviews. The editors of Booklist have picked Miles as one of the First Novel Stars on their annual list.

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