2011 Best in Genre Fiction - American Library Association Reading List Council Awards

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The Reading List annually recognizes the best books in eight genres: adrenaline (including suspense, thriller and adventure), fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and women’s fiction. This year’s list includes novels that will please die-hard fans, as well as introduce new readers to the pleasures of genre fiction - and what pleases me most is to see many debut novels among the winners and on the shortlists.

Adrenaline
The Nearest Exit by Olen Steinhauer

Fantasy
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Historical Fiction
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

Horror
The Dead Path by Stephen M. Irwin

Mystery
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Romance
A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

Science Fiction
The Dervish House by IIan McDonald

Women’s Fiction
Solomon’s Oak by Jo-Ann Mapson

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #231

If you enjoyed historical mysteries by Louis Bayard (Black Tower), and Ariana Franklin (The Mistress of the Art of Death) then I am confident you will find The Rhetoric of Death* * * by Judith Rock just your cup of tea.

This "amazing"* debut is set in 17th century Paris where young Charles du Luc, a former soldier has been sent by The Bishop of Marseilles to assist in teaching rhetoric and directing dance at the prestigious college of Louis le Grand. On his first day, the school's star dancer disappears from rehearsal, and the next day another student is run down in the street. When the dancer's body is found under the worst possible circumstances, suspicion falls on him as a newcomer, and finding the actual killer becomes both a personal mission and a source of deadly danger.

Against the backdrop of a Paris swollen with intrigue and religious strife, first-novelist Rock (a dancer, choreographer, seminarian, and former auxiliary NYPD police office) brings first-hand knowledge of dance, choreography, acting, police investigation, and teaching to a new series rich with historical details and well-drawn characters.

Reader might also like S.J. Parris' Heresy which dramatizes religious strife in an earlier era.

* * * = Starred Reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #229

The fact that Gentleman Captain is the first in a projected series is "jolly good news" for fans of Patrick O'Brian, C. S. Forester, and Dewey Lambdin.

1662: Restoration England. Cromwell is dead, and King Charles II has reclaimed the throne after years of civil war. It is a time of divided allegiances, intrigue, and outright treachery. With rebellion stirring in the Scottish Isles, the king asks Matthew Quinton to take command of a new vessel and sets sail for Scotland to defuse this new threat.

Matthew Quinton is loyal, if inexperienced, having sunk the first man-of-war under his command. Upon taking command of the Jupiter, he faces a resentful crew, a suspicion that the previous captain was murdered, and the growing conviction that betrayal lies closer to home than he had thought.

With cannon fire by sea and swordplay by land (and a hint of romance) Gentleman Captain is a "rousing high-seas adventure in the finest nautical tradition" from a talented storyteller.

Author J.D. Davies is one of the foremost authorities on the 17th century British navy and has won the 2009 Samuel Pepys Award for his Pepys's Navy: Ships, Men and Warfare, 1649-1689.

* * = Starred reviews

November's Books to Film

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As the holiday season approaches, November promises big movie hits inspired by even bigger bestsellers.

A suspenseful and star-studded adaptation of an ex-undercover agent’s autobiography entitled Fair Game: How a Top CIA Agent Was Betrayed by Her Own Government. This riveting action-thriller is based on real-life undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson whose career was destroyed when her covert identity was illegally exposed.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is based on the last and final installment in Stieg Larsson's mega-bestseller, the Millennium trilogy.

Lisbeth Salander lies in critical condition, fighting for her life. If and when she recovers, she’ll be stand trial for three murders, unless she can prove her innocence, and will plot revenge - against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.

Love & Other Drugs is a comedic exposé of the highly competitive and cutthroat world of pharmaceuticals. It is based on the real-life experiences of one-time Pfizer rep Jamie Reidy, who as an ambitious college grad schmoozes doctors, nurses, hospitals and begins a relationship with a woman suffering from Parkinson's, all while competing against other salesmen who try to push their brand of drugs. Loosely based on Jamie Reidy's Hard Sell : The evolution of a Viagra salesman.

No shortage of eye-candy with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway starring.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #225 (What's New in Paranormal Romance)

So you think you don't read romance. Well, you might want to think again. If you had dismissed Romance as a genre for its characteristic lack of character development, these two titles might change your mind.

Christine Feehan, spins-off on her Drake Sisters series with Water Bound*, - the first in her Sisters of the Heart series.

Again, set on the shores of Sea Haven (inspired by lovely Mendocino), sea urchin diver Rikki Sitmore rescues a man from drowning, a man with no memory yet he possess the violent instincts of a trained killer.

"Feehan takes readers into turbulent, uncharted waters as a courageous, high-functioning autistic heroine with the power of a water mage is paired with a tormented hero with numerous psychic gifts and major issues of his own, delivering an edgy, compelling, character-rich (contemporary) romance".

One Touch of Scandal** by Liz Carlyle is a supernatural Victorian trilogy opener.

Accused of murdering her employer, governess Grace Gauthier begs the mysterious--and possibly dangerous--Lord Ruthveyn to help her unmask the real killer and clear her name.

A dark-eyed Lucifer, Ruthveyn guards his secrets and his shadowed past carefully. Grace’s plight and her quiet beauty moves him. He is determined to save Grace. But his growing passion places his own heart at risk and threatens to expose his dark gifts to the world.

"Grace's tenacity, wit, and compassion make her a very believable, multidimensional character and the perfect match for Ruthveyn's brooding and dark secrets. The romance sizzles, its unpredictability propelling this complex story far beyond its contemporaries."

* (*) = starred review(s)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #224

First-time novelist John Verdon created an extraordinary fiction debut in Think of a Number**.

This suspense thriller begins in the idyllic Catskills (NY) where Dave Gurney, one of the most celebrated NYPD homicide detectives retires from a life dominated by violent crimes and attempts to repair a strained marriage rocked by personal tragedies. Then a college friend showed him a series of taunting letters that end with “Think of any number…picture it…now see how well I know your secrets.” Amazingly, those who comply find that the letter writer has predicted their random choice exactly. What begins as a diverting puzzle quickly ignites into a massive serial murder investigation.

Think of a Number is an exquisitely plotted novel that grows relentlessly darker and more frightening as its pace accelerates. An absolutely fresh brain-twister and a compulsive page-turner.

** = starred reviews

TV on DVD: The Cop Files

Police dramas have been around forever it seems, and they end up being my favorite shows a lot of the time. Is it the suspense? The drama? Our attachment to the lead detectives? I think it’s a combination. There are oodles of cop shows that have had us on the edge of our couches over the years with their grit, drama, action, and lovable characters.

A variety of detective styles and settings are featured in shows like Hill Street Blues, Murder, She Wrote, Columbo, 21 Jump Street, Magnum P.I., Matlock, and Twin Peaks.

Let’s not forget about The Wire, Monk, The Shield, Homicide, Life on the Street, Law & Order: SVU, NCIS, Wire in the Blood, X-Files, Dexter, and Veronica Mars. Speaking of the variety of detectives... some of these feature a detective with OCD, a detective who is a serial killer, a teenage detective, and a detective who believes in aliens. Egads, how fun!

In addition to these titles, AADL owns many more police dramas on DVD. Check out our list of detective shows to see what your DVD player is itching for. I’m having fun getting caught up on some episodes, and rewatching others. What are your favorites?

More October's Books to Film

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The Social Nework, considered by people in-the-know as perhaps, the best film of the year, is based on Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires : the founding of Facebook, a tale of sex, money, genius and betrayal - a fast-paced, inside look at a story of fortune gained and innocence lost, and how a company that was created to bring people together ultimately tore two friends apart.

In 2003, Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg were Harvard undergrads and best friends looking for a way to stand out among the university’s elite and competitive student body. Then one lonely night, Zuckerberg hacked into the campus computer system to pull off a prank that crashed Harvard’s network. This stunt almost got him expelled, but it also inspired Zuckerberg to create Facebook, the social networking site, and their small start-up quickly went from college dorm room to Silicon Valley. But different ideas about Facebook’s future tested their relationship that eventually spiraled into out-and-out warfare.

Opening this weekend is Red, a star-studded espionage-thriller, based on the graphic novel by Warren Ellis (writer) and artist Cully Hammer.

Paul Moses (Bruce Willis) retired -- until the CIA, his former employer decided he was too dangerous to live. When a kill team interrupts his solitude, he changes his status from green to red. As the bodies pile up, the men who set this ruthless killer back into action feel safe in their Langley offices without realizing that Moses has a different plan.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #222

One critic calls it "the smart modern woman's The Da Vinci Code", while I am not quite sure of the comparison, Anne Fortier's Juliet* does offer readers "a sweeping, beautifully written novel of intrigue and identity, of love and legacy, as a young woman discovers that her own fate is irrevocably tied—for better or worse—to literature’s greatest star-crossed lovers".

25-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that while her twin Janice inherits Aunt Rose's estate, Julie is left with a key to a safety deposit box in Siena, promising her a legendary treasure left to her by her mother, and the knowledge that she's actually a Tolomei, and a direct descendant of Giulietta - the historical Juliet immortalized by Shakespeare.

As Julie tries to unravel the clues to the treasure left in her mother's notebook, she fears others have an interest in her progress and she might indeed be in danger, and that the 600-year-old curse of "A plague on both your houses" might still be at work. She really needs her Romeo. Now, could he be the dark, handsome and prickly policeman Sandro Santini?

Anne Fortier grew up in Denmark and emigrated to the United States in 2002 to work in films. The story of Juliet was inspired by her mother. The rights to this, her debut novel, have been sold to 29 countries.

For fans of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, and The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, romantic thrillers steeped in history and gorgeous settings.

* = starred review

September Books to Film, Part 2

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The highly acclaimed novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro has been adapted into film, to be released September 15.

Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) live in a world and a time that feel familiar to us, but are not quite like anything we know. They spend their childhood at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. When they leave the shelter of the school and the terrible truth of their fate is revealed to them, they must also confront the deep feelings of love, jealousy and betrayal that threaten to pull them apart.

Kazuo Ishiguro created a remarkable story of love, loss and hidden truths. In it he posed the fundamental question: What makes us human?

The Town is based on Chuck Hogan's Prince of Thieves.

Doug MacRay is an unrepentant criminal, leader of a group of ruthless bank robbers who pride themselves in stealing what they want. With no real attachments, Doug never has to fear losing anyone close to him. But that all changed on the gang’s latest job, when they briefly took a hostage --- bank manager Claire Keesey. Then Claire meets an unassuming and rather charming man named Doug, not realizing that he is the same man who only days earlier had terrorized her. The instant attraction between them gradually turns into a passionate romance that threatens to take them both down a dangerous, and potentially deadly, path.

Cast includes: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, and Blake Lively. In select theaters September 17.

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