Ages 18+.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #536

One of the most anticipated debut this season is The Sunlit Night * by Rebecca Dinerstein, and it does not disappoint. In the beautiful, barren landscape of the Far North, under the ever-present midnight sun, two New Yorkers unexpectedly find love and courage to take destiny into their own hands.

A year in Japan after college graduation is no longer an option for Frances when her boyfriend calls it quits and unceremoniously drops her off at a bus stop. At the postage-sized Manhattan apartment she shares with her parents and sister Sarah, there is more bad news. The painting apprenticeship at a Norwegian artist colony which she turns down earlier now seems like a godsend, never mind that there is only one artist living there - Nils, enigmatic and middle-aged, who paints only with the color yellow.

17 year-old Yasha, raised in the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach, sees his mother for the first time in a decade outside the family bakery's window, only to recognize a selfish and unreliable parent. The real heartache is losing his beloved father to heart failure on a home-coming trip to Moscow, but he is determined to carry out his father's last wish to be buried "at the top of the world".

And so Frances and Yasha meet at the Viking Museum in Lofoten, a string of islands ninety-five miles above the Arctic Circle. Their unlikely connection and growing romance fortifies them, and teaches them that to be alone is not always to be lonely, and that love and independence are not mutually exclusive.

"Funny, dark, warm, and as knowing of place as any travel book or memoir." ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

"...(a) luminous story about love, family, and the bewilderment of being young. Enchanting in every way." ~ Maggie Shipstead

* = starred review

Graphic novels that are great for young and old.

Crossover books are great, they offer something for the young, old and everyone in between and in graphic novels there seems to be a lot of these texts. I'm going to highlight just a couple of wonderful crossover graphic novels.

For teens and adults Neil Gaiman's Sandman is a great crossover graphic novel. Sandman follows a being named Morpheus or Dream who is one of the seven endless, entities who fulfill certain roles in reality. The 10 volume series (and subsequent prequels) deals with lots of great issues and the reader is invited to question preconceptions about the world within the graphic novel.

For children, teens and adults My Little Pony Friendship is Magic has really captured the imagination of people of all ages, the subculture that has grown up around it encompasses all genders, ages and nationalities. It follows a group of six ponies who are best friends and the adventures that they have. One of the reasons that it has become so wildly popular is because of how it deals with everyday life issues, plus it helps that they throw in lots of references to other pop-culture icons (such as Dr. Who or should I say Dr. Hooves).

The third crossover graphic novel(s) is great for teens and adults alike. Scott Chantler creates a fantasy world that is both fast and interesting in theThree Thieves series. If you are a fan of the fantasy graphic novel genre these books are worth reading!

Still waiting for The Girl on the Train? Try these readalikes!

If you’ve been on the waiting list for The Girl on the Train for what seems like months, you’re not alone! As you patiently wait, why not try out one (or more!) of these readalikes, which will certainly begin to satisfy your craving for psychological suspense:

The Secret Place, by Tana French, introduces us to eager Detective Stephen Moran, who is presented with the opportunity to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old boarding school student Holly Mackey comes to him with new evidence about the year-old murder of a fellow student. Stephen’s investigation delves him deeply into the secrets of Holly’s close-knit group of friends, and their rival clique, revealing that the private underworld of teenage girls is much more mysterious and dangerous than he could possibly have imagined.

Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll, has been described as “Prep meets Gone Girl,” and introduces readers to Ani FaNelli who seems to have it all: an amazing job, a perfect body, a wonderful fiancé, and a beautiful New York City apartment. But, she has spent years hiding a violent, public trauma from her past that is constantly threatening to resurface while she continually reinvents herself in attempts to escape it. When a documentary producer approaches Ani and asks if she would be willing to tell her side of the story, she hopes that this is her opportunity for public vindication. But as the filming continues, Ani’s façade begins to crack until a new revelation offers her a final chance at redemption… at the cost of her picture-perfect world.

Dare Me, by Megan Abbott, kicks off with the suspicious suicide of one of the members of a high school cheerleading team. The rest of the team, along with their new, cool coach, who’s created a “golden circle” of favorite team members, are drawn into the investigation. One girl, Addy Hanlon, takes matters into her own hands and tries desperately herself to uncover the truth behind the death and discovers that, between teenagers, the bonds of love and loyalty can create danger.

The Weight of Blood, by Laura McHugh, is set in the tiny, poor Ozark Mountain town of Henbane. When one of Lucy Dane’s friends is murdered, Lucy feels a connection between this disappearance and the vanishing of her mother years ago. As Lucy begins to do some sleuthing, she discovers evidence that makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion that has been cast on her own family. As Lucy gets closer to solving the mystery herself, she must decide where her loyalties lie.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #535 - “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” ~ C.S. Lewis

The Royal We * * by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, (co-creators of one of the wittiest celebrity fashion blog, Go Fug Yourself and 2 teen novels - Spoiled and Messy), are charming readers with this modern-day Cinderella tale for adults.

Des Moines native Rebecca "Bex" Porter unlike her twin Lacey, is never one for fairy tales. As an exchange (Cornell) student at Oxford, she looks forward to "art, antiquities and history" and thus pays no attention to the "sandy-haired guy" who answers the porter's bell and who happens to be the heir to the British throne, Prince Nicholas. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

The novel opens on the eve of the most talked-about wedding of the century, Bex reflects on what she's sacrificed for love -- and exactly whose heart she may yet have to break.

"Parallels to the love story of Prince William and Kate Middleton are obvious, but the authors create their own unique and endearing characters with Bex and Nick along with an entertaining cast of characters including lovable rogue Prince Freddie, Nick's younger brother; Bex's twin, Lacey; and a bunch of colorful school chums. Royal watchers and chick-lit fans alike will delight in this sparkling tale. Pure fun." If you enjoy this debut, I bet you won't be disappointed with (the latest in the Princess Diaries series) Meg Cabot's Royal Wedding.

Minnow * *, the 2014 South Carolina First Novel Prize winner, by James McTeer II is "a memorable coming-of-age story brimming with unexpected encounters with man, beast, and nature, and some magic thrown in for good measure."

Young Minnow's father is dying of a mysterious illness. The local pharmacist points him to a local hoodoo healer Dr. Crow, thus launching him on an increasingly strange and dangerous quest that will take him deep into the South Carolina Sea Islands. There Minnow is to take soil from the grave of Sorry George, an infamous practitioner of black magic, as payment for a cure.

This compellingly dark debut full of Southern mystery and lore is inspired by the author's (a school librarian) grandfather - a sheriff of the Low Country for decades as well as a local witch doctor. A captivating crossover for teens and especially for fans of Karen Russell's beloved Ava Bigtree in Swamplandia!

* * = 2 starred reviews

She Blinded Me With Science

A few new fact books in the same series have hit the shelves in the youth department that immediately caught my eye. With bright, colorful photographs and diagrams, along with easy to read small blurbs of factual information, it’s a winner for the curious of all ages.

Extraordinary: Facts from the everyday to the exceptional answers questions about the biggest, smallest, slowest, coldest, etc., on a variety of topics such as space, human body, history, plants, and places. Why don’t haircuts hurt? How do mushrooms grow so fast? What game do 250 million people play? Can a car run on chocolate?

Weird Or What: A cornucopia of curious questions and answers delves into topics such as earth, history, nature, transportation, and society and culture. How big is a swarm? Why is an octopus spineless? Who decides what’s fashion? Which animals lived in the ice age?

If you’re into books such as the Guiness Book of World Records these are right up your alley.

2015 Summer Reading Lists

Let's start with The New York Times Cool Books for Hot Summer Days.

Female Literati Pick Summer's Best Books, 11 top women novelists share their favorite warm-weather reading choices, among them : Nell Freudenberger, Meg Wolitzer, Lily King, Miranda July, Adelle Waldman, and Maggie Shipstead. If you recognize these names, you like Women's Fiction. Well, here is The Huffington Post's recommendations to get you started for the summer.

And for the Romance reader: Romance for the Real Girl.

Speaking of style... Vogue's Megan O'Grady shares This Summer's Best Beach Reads.

Want to know what I'll be packing in my beach bag? 17 Of The Best Books Of Summer 2015.. Don't want to miss out? Hurry and put reserves on these early summer releases.

And finally, the 2015 edition of the UC Berkeley Summer Reading List for New Students. It offers a potluck of great suggestions from the faculty. "Is this required reading? Absolutely not. Do we hope you'll find something on this list that appeals to you? Absolutely yes."

And you know Summer Game 2015 is HERE, don't you?

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #534

London playwright and actor Jason Hewitt's debut The Dynamite Room * has been called "(a)ccomplished, resonant and surprising." ~ The Guardian.

In July 1940, 11-year-old Lydia, an evacuee in Wales tracks home to the seaside town of Grayfriar, gas mask in tow, only to find it eerily deserted. With her father and brother in active service, Lydia settles into their shuttered home to wait her mother's return. Her first night there, Lydia is awaken from her troubled sleep by an intruder - a gun-wielding, wounded German soldier in British uniform, who won't hurt Lydia as long as she does not leave the house.

Over the course of six sweltering summer days, the two warily coexist in their claustrophobic confines, becoming dependent on each other for survival. Lydia soon realizes that Heiden, a Berlin cellist before the war, knows more than he should about her family; and suspects that he is plotting and preparing them for something far beyond his orders.

"In this fine balance of taut suspense and tragedy, Hewitt has created an emotionally charged character study in which he explores the loneliness, fear, hope, and shame that war visits on ordinary people."

An obvious readalike to Bette Greene's Summer of My German Soldier, but will likely appeal to those who enjoyed William Trevor's The Story of Lucy Gault; Ian McEwan's Atonement; and Pat Barker's Toby's Room.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #533

The Silver Swan by Elena Delbanco is an intimate, passionate, triumphant story of love and betrayal, centered around a Stradivarius cello and the cast of characters who lust after it.

Mariana Feldmann, only child of world-renowned cellist Alexander Feldmann, emerges as a rising star herself at nineteen and is seen as the inheritor of her father's genius. It comes to reason that Mariana expects that the Silver Swan, Feldmann's a one-of-a-kind Stradivarius will one day be hers. Upon Alexander's death, Mariana is devastated to learn that Claude Roselle, one of his students and a rising European talent about to make his New York debut, will inherit the Silver Swan. As Mariana try to understand her father's decision by getting to know Claude, their relationship quickly evolves into a passionate, if contentious, affair.

Elena Delbanco, recently retired from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy has long been engaged in the world of classical music. Her father was the renowned cellist Bernard Greenhouse (of the Beaux Arts Trio), who owned the Countess of Stainlein ex-Paganini Stradivarius violoncello of 1707. The imagined fate of that instrument inspired this debut novel.

The author will be reading and signing at Nicola's Books on June 9th, at 7 pm.

Judy Blume's final novel for adults: In the Unlikely Event

Beloved author Judy Blume, who is best known for her wonderful books for teens, including such favorites as Are You There God?, It’s Me, Margaret and Deenie, has written her first book for adults in 17 years. Reviewers have called this newest book—titled In the Unlikely Event—a “slice of life”… Blume’s own life, that is. When she was a teenager, in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, three commercial airliners crashed over a period of a few months in the early 1950s, killing over one hundred people. Her father, a dentist, was called to help identify some of the bodies. Blume has said that she had kept most of her memories of these frightening and scarring events to herself over the years, but felt compelled to share them after hearing writer Rachel Kushner talk about stories her mother told of her own life in the 1950s.

The heroine of In the Unlikely Event, Miri, is plucky and lovable, and Blume does a fascinating job describing life in the Fifties, from fashions and foods of the era, to larger belief systems that were prevalent at the time. Blume has created characters that were more directly affected by the plane crashes than she herself was, and uses them to imagine how their lives unfolded in the aftermath. Blume spent five years working on this novel, and it is as lovely as the rest of her works. She claims too, that it will be her final novel for adults: “Of course I said the same thing after Summer Sisters. I meant it then. But I think I mean it more now," she said. "I feel good about that. I feel elated about that. And at 77 I think that’s O.K.”

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #532 - “It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Hugo & Rose * by Bridget Foley would be the Calgon for any beleaguered housewife - the ultimate escape. For Rose though, it is a bit more complicated.

For thirty years, since a traumatic accident in childhood, Rose has the same dream every night - stranded on a deserted island with a brave boy named Hugo, having incredible adventures. These exciting dreams overshadow her waking life - that of being a suburban mother of three, married to an overworked and often absent surgeon.

When Rose stumbles across Hugo in real life, both her real and dream worlds are changed forever. This chance encounter begins a cascade of questions, lies, and a dangerous obsession that threatens to topple everything she knows.

"Debut-novelist Foley, a screenwriter, brings a cinematic sensibility to both fantastical descriptions of the dream island and depictions of the mundane real world... (this) imaginative and insightful novel will hold readers spellbound as it builds to a stunning conclusion." Would appeal to fans of Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon.

The Bookseller * by Cynthia Swanson has been called "a stunner of a debut novel, astonishingly tight and fast paced."

Denver, 1962. Cat-loving spinsterly Kitty Miller, part-owner of the floundering Sisters Bookstore leads a simple if solitary life. That is, until she starts waking up in 1963 as Katharyn Andersson, wife of architect Lars, mother of triplets, in a sleek, suburban life filled with maids and nannies, Cadillacs and cocktail parties.

As Kitty investigates her parallel worlds, she starts to doubt the choices she's made in her daytime life but she also discovers that her dream life is not as perfect as it appears. "Dexterously traversing past and present, fact and fiction, Swanson's clever first novel ingeniously explores the inventive ways the human spirit copes with trauma."

"The 1960s tone is elegant and even, and Kitty/Katharyn's journey is intriguing, redolent with issues of family, independence, friendship, and free will. This will especially resonate with fans of the movie Sliding Doors and works by Anna Quindlen and Anita Shreve."

* = starred review

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