Fabulous Fiction Firsts #219

U.S. born, Cornell grad Andrew Xia Fukuda's Crossing* was the 2009 semifinalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest.

Inspired by the Manhattan Chinatown young immigrants that he works with, Fukuda allows his young protagonist to tell his story - one of loneliness, frustration and alienation.

Xing (Kris to his classmates) - pronounced Shing, meaning "star" , is a freshman at Slackenkill High School. As one of two Asian students in an all-white school, he has a hard time fitting in. When other fellow students start showing up dead, the police are baffled. It is Kris' ability to blend into the background that allows him to come close to the core of the grisly crimes, leading to a chilling climax that will resonate long after the last page is turned.

"Sad, elegant, and creepy" this deft debut will appeal to psychological thriller fans. The earnest depiction of disaffected youth will appeal to teens.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #218

When a critic remarks that "Michael Crichton might have produced this had he had a literary sensibility. Thoroughly well-written, grounded in science and a sorrowful sense of human nature, this book is utterly memorable", you pay attention.

Science writer and journalist Laurence Gonzales' debut novel Lucy** is "explosive and daring".

Scientist Jenny Lowe rescued Lucy, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a primatologist from the jungles of the Congo during a civil war uprising and brought her to live in the suburbs of Chicago. It turns out that Lucy's incredible physical and intellectual powers are due to her unique heritage: she is half human and half bonobo. Forced to go public, Lucy becomes an instant and endangered celebrity, accruing marriage proposals and death threats.

"Lucy is irresistible, her predicament wrenching, and Gonzales' imaginative, sweet-natured, hard-charging, and deeply inquisitive thriller will be a catalyst for serious thought and debate", raising profound questions about identity and family, the moral, ethical, and philosophical issues of genetic engineering.

As part of his research, Gonzales observed the largest colony of bonobos in the world at the Milwaukee Zoo, an hour from his home. Bonobo extinction is a real threat, hear and watch the many faceted discussion on the Diane Rehm Show.

For a first person account of working with bonobos in the wild, read Vanessa Woods' Bonobo Handshake : a memoir of love and adventure in the Congo (2010).

Readers interested in relationships between primates and humans will not want to miss Sarah Gruen's Ape House coming out in September. This is her new novel after the blockbuster of a debut Water for Elephants.

** = Starred Reviews (In the interest of full disclosure, reviews are mixed. You be the judge but I LOVED it).

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #215

The Ice Princess** is economist-turned-novelist Camilla Lackberg's #1 bestseller in Sweden (pub. 2003) and the winner of 2008 Grand Prix de Littérature Policière for Best International Crime Novel . Ice Princess is the first of her novels to reach the US market.

Set in winter in the coastal town of Fjallbacka, Erica, a thirtysomething biographer returns to her hometown to deal with her parents' untimely death. On a whim, she visits her childhood friend Alex only to find her dead in the bathtub, in an apparent suicide. Alex's grieving parents and Erica's curiosity compel her to delve deep into Alex's past as well as her relationships. Working with a local police officer, Patrik, they uncover secrets and sordidness that the town folks would have preferred to stay buried under their glossy lifestyle and pristine landscape.

This will appeal to fans of Nordic crime fiction and psychological thrillers who prefer a strong female presence, especially those of Asa Larsson and other notable female writers such as Karin Alvtegen Karin Fossum, Mari Jungsted, and Helene Tursten.

** = starred reviews

Performance Network: "It's gonna be one hell of a night"

If you like stories about the sea, Ireland, male friendship, or myth, here's a play you won't want to miss: The Seafarer by Conor McPherson. The chilling story opens on Christmas Eve when Sharky is back in Dublin. Two old drinking buddies want to play cards, and Sharky's soul may be in grave danger. Performance Network is staging the play through July 25.

Happy birthday, Lois Duncan!

Today marks the birthday of American novelist Lois Duncan.

Perhaps best known for her teen suspense and mystery fiction, Duncan has also held a more lighthearted pen in such works as the children's book Hotel for Dogs (perhaps better known for the screen adaptation) and a picture book called Songs of the Circus.

However, her teen novels were her biggest hit, and they are quite entrancing. My favorites include few of the ones not adapted for the screen--Gallows Hill and Down a Dark Hall. Gallows Hill features Sarah, a girl who is suspected by her peers of being a witch, which leads her into an investigation of the Salem Witch Trials. Down a Dark Hall tells the story of a young girl named Kit and her eerie encounters at a new boarding school.

One story of Duncan's that might sound more familiar would be Killing Mr. Griffin, the tale of high school students who kidnap their English teacher, which was made into a TV movie in 1997.

The most well-known may also be the least best example of her work. I Know What You Did Last Summer was turned into a movie, but Duncan had no part in the creation of the film, and actually did not like the final product.

Perhaps most representative is the true story of Lois Duncan's search for her own daughter's killer, Who Killed My Daughter?.

Crime and Mystery TV From Across The Pond

When you watch British television, it's easy to imagine the English countryside, dotted with small villages, where mysteries and random acts of crime are constantly happening. If you are a fan of this genre, head to the library and check out our wide selection of TV DVDs. Visit a county where grisly murders seem to be a norm in the Midsomer Murders series. Watch the adventures of a housewife turned detective in Hetty Wainthropp Investigates. For a British detective drama series, try Chief Christopher Foyle in Foyle's War, Jaguar driving Inspector Morse, the popular Wire In the Blood series, or Inspector Jack Frost in A Touch of Frost. For a mix of english gardening and detective investigation, check out the ladies in Rosemary & Thyme. Fans of mystery novels adapted into TV can look for the Campion series or our selection of Agatha Christie DVDs.
All of these shows and many many more can be browsed here.

Inspector MorseInspector Morse

Teen Stuff: Reality Check, by Peter Abrahams

Reality Check is the latest book by Peter Abrahams, the Edgar nominated, best-selling author of the Echo Falls mystery series. Abrahams is a master story teller, excellent at creating engaging page-turners. Reality Check is no exception.

16 year old Cory is not a great student, but he’s a star football player, and is dating the prettiest, smartest girl in school. Unlike him, Clea’s family has money, and after a squabble she is sent to live in Hong Kong, and is eventually sent to a boarding school in Vermont. After an injury sidelines Cody, he drops out of school, starts working, and eventually ventures off to Vermont to find out what happened to his now ex-girlfriend, with the only clue being a letter she sent him on the day she disappeared. Once there Cody digs up the town’s secrets, and Clea’s words of “you never know who to trust” prove more than true. It’s a suspenseful tale, and a worthy read. Abrahams has you sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting to see how it all ends. (For grades 9 and up.)

March Books to Film (and Fabulous Fiction Firsts #202)

The latest adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is based on the perennial classic by Lewis Carroll.
This time, 17 year old Alice returns to the whimsical world she first encountered as a young girl, reuniting with her childhood friends, and embarking on a fantastical journey to find her true destiny and end the Red Queen’s reign of terror.

For a intimate perspective of the real Alice, try debut novelist Melanie Benjamin’s fictional biography in Alice I Have Been, as Alice Liddell looks back on a remarkable life, from a pampered childhood in Oxford to difficult years as a widowed mother, and how she became immortalized through a problematic relationship with the author.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is based on the first of Stieg Larsson's international bestselling Millennium trilogy, in which a disgraced journalist and a troubled young female computer hacker investigate the mysterious disappearance of an industrialist’s niece.

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her beloved uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family.
AliceAlice

The Ghost Writer is based on The Ghost by Robert Harris. It stars Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan with Roman Polanski directing.

When a successful British ghost writer agrees to complete the memoirs of former British Prime Minister, his agent assures him it's the opportunity of a lifetime. But the project seems doomed from the start. Before long he begins to uncover clues suggesting a dark secret linking the PM to the CIA. (See The New York Times review).

The novel The Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran is adapted for the motion picture starring Matt Damon as Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, a rogue U.S. Army officer assigned to hunt down Saddam’s WMD, who must wade through faulty intelligence and high level Washington cover-ups before war escalates in an unstable region.

The Last Song is based on the bestselling novelist Nicholas Sparks’s latest novel.

This tearjerker is set in a small Southern beach town where an estranged father gets a chance to spend the summer with his reluctant teenaged daughter. He tries to reconnect with her through the only thing they have in common --- music, in a story of family, friendship, secrets and salvation, along with first loves and second chances.

Forest Whitaker and Jude Law star in Repo Men, a sc-fi thriller adapted from a novel by Eric Garcia (originally published as The Repossession Mambo).

Human lives have been extended and improved through highly sophisticated and expensive mechanical organs created by a company called The Union. But if you don't pay your bill, The Union sends its highly skilled repo men to take back its property. Remy is one of the best organ repo men in the business, until he too, find himself fitted with the company's top-of-the-line heart-replacement...as well as a hefty debt.

The Man From Beijing, by Henning Mankell

A stand alone suspense thriller from the Swedish author that brought us the best-selling Kurt Wallander detective series. Book reviews (both good and bad) are popping up all over the place.

Henning Mankell’s latest epic, The Man From Beijing, begins in Sweden with a mass murder in a remote village. After local officials begin looking into it, Judge Birgitta Roslin learns she is connected to one of the victims and yearns to solve the mystery, which involves delving into her own past. The book cuts to 1863 where three Chinese brothers are kidnapped and forced into work. The connection between one of the brothers, the murder in Sweden years later, and the man from Beijing is quite interesting, and as Birgitta to tries to unravel the historical mess that is before her, she is unaware of the connection. Sweden, China, Africa, Colonialism, Mao, the Communist Party, and secret family diaries all help bridge gap.

Mankell weaves the stories in an enjoyable fashion. The reader gets lost in each era and works along with Birgitta to learn where that lone red ribbon that was found at the crime scene came from. It’s a great thriller, as far as thrillers go, but it’s no Kurt Wallander book. Mankell, we love you anyway, we don’t mind if you stick with more Wallander and less ground-breaking.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #200

In Danielle Trussoni's contemporary epic fantasy Angelology**, Sister Evangeline, a 23 year-old nun at the convent of the Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York is drawn into the 1000-year old conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the beautiful, powerful, and cruel, half-human-half-angel Nephilim when she comes across letters between philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller and the late mother superior, referring to "an ancient artifact" - an article the Nephilim are desperate to claim.

The imaginative multilayer plot; the circuitous unfolding of Evangeline's personal connections to the Angelologists; captivating characters real and imagined; scholarly blending of biblical and mythical lore; rich historical references; seductive imagery; treachery, mystery and adventure make for an engrossing and entertaining read.

Film rights to Sony Pictures with Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment producing. Rumor has it that Trussoni is at work on a sequel. Can't get here soon enough for me. (I won't spoil it for you though).

Comparison to The Da Vinci Code is inevitable but more appropriately would be Katherine Neville's The Eight; and Kate Mosse's Labyrinth.

Coincidentally, Trussoni, a graduate of University of Wisconsin and the Iowa Writers' Workshop now resides in the Languedoc region (France) where Labyrinth is set. Her memoir Falling Through the Earth was named one of the Ten Best Books of 2006 by The New York Times.

** = Starred reviews

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