Fabulous Fiction Firsts #421 - "I see your face in every flower, your eyes in stars above ..."

Sarah Butler's Ten Things I've Learnt about Love * is the interwoven story of Alice and Daniel. It is a story about finding love in unexpected places, about rootlessness and homecoming, and the power of the ties that bind.

Alice, the youngest of three daughters, rushes from Mongolia to her father's London home just in time to say goodbye. Never close to any of her family, she is drawn to solitary travel and an unconventional career. Daniel is homeless, wandering the streets of London, making sculptures out of found objects. As his health is failing, he is kept alive by the knowledge that he has a daughter somewhere in the world from a long ago affair with a married woman.

The narrative alternates between Alice's and Daniel's perspectives as both struggle with self-forgiveness—. Unbeknownst to each other, they are both fond of creating "Top 10 Lists".

"Spare language and an atmosphere of foreboding will keep readers on tenterhooks. Whimsy and pathos, artfully melded."

Longlisted for the Orange Prize, Anna Stothard's (Oxford) "gritty but elegant U.S. debut" The Pink Hotel is also a New York Times Review Editors' Choice.

An unnamed seventeen-year-old girl pieces together the mystery of her mother Lily's life and death among the seedy bars and bedrooms half a world away from her father's London home. At the raucous and drug-fueled wake, held at a boutique hotel on Venice Beach (CA), she walks off with an old suitcase stuffed with Lily's clothes, letters, and photographs, as she begins an emotional scavenger hunt, trying to piece together the woman who abandoned her years ago, and finds unexpected love along the way.

"Told with high style and noirish flare, The Pink Hotel is a powerfully evocative debut novel about wish fulfillment, reckless impulse, and how we discover ourselves.

Award-winning British YA and children's author Sophie McKenzie makes her US debut with her first psychological thriller for adults Close My Eyes.

Geniver Loxley has never gotten over losing her daughter, a stillborn eight years ago while rounds of fertility treatment have failed. One day, a woman knocks on her door and claims that her daughter is alive, having been taken away as a healthy infant, and worse yet, her husband Art, successful and powerful, is in on the scheme. Reeling from the shocking news she turns to free-spirited Lorcan, an old colleague of Art's. As the two investigate, they discover some shocking secrets that put their lives in jeopardy.

However, nothing will prepare the reader for the chilling epilogue, a dark and twisted scenario that is the definite high point of the novel. So consider yourself warned.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #420 - Sugar 'n spice and everything nice?

Well, I'll let you be the judge. But seriously, 2 phenomenal debuts from across the pond, with unforgettable young protagonists, not to be missed.

A published poet, and one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists Jenni Fagan knocked it out of the park with her dazzling The Panopticon * *, which has been named one of the best books of the year by the Times Literary Supplement and The Scotsman.

Anais Hendricks, 15 is headed for the Panopticon, the much dreaded last-resort for chronic young offenders after she is found covered with the blood of a police officer. Violent, "permanently whacked on...drug(s)", and the product of foster homes (23 before she turned 7), she is a survivor and a counter-culture outlaw. Though experience taught her to only rely on herself, she finds a sense of belonging among the residents of the Panopticon, and soon forms strong bonds with the other troubled teens. Their struggle is with their keepers, especially when Anais is convinced she is part of a sinister experiment.

"Dark and disturbing but also exciting and moving thanks to a memorable heroine and vividly atmospheric prose."

"Anais's story is one of abandonment, loss, and redemption."

2013 Thriller Award nominee for Best Paperback Original Novel, Alex Marwood's (the pseudonym of a successful journalist) debut The Wicked Girls * * * is "(a) gritty, psychological thriller that asks the question: How well can you know anyone?"

On a fateful summer morning in 1986, 11 year-olds Jade Walker and Annabel (Bel) Oldacre meet for the first time. By the end of the day, they will both be charged with murder. Journalist Kirsty Lindsay, while following leads on a series of attacks on young female tourists in a seaside vacation town comes face to face with Amber Gordon, now a janitor for a carnival where the most recent crime is committed. This is their first meeting in 25 years after spending years in two separate British correctional facilities.

Kirsty and Amber, with new, vastly different lives, and unknowing families to protect, are desperate to keep their wicked secret hidden, and to uphold their probationary condition never to have contact with each other.

Marwood intersperses the contemporary serial-killer story line and hour-by-hour accounts of what happened the day the girls met 25 years ago. "This chilling debut is chock-full of surprises. If Tana French and Gillian Flynn stayed up all night telling stories at an abandoned amusement park, this is awfully close to what they might come up with."

"Gripping and fast-paced", it will appeal to fans of the Academy Award-nominated film Heavenly Creatures and the novels of Rosamund Lupton and Chevy Stevens."

"A suspenseful, buzz-worthy novel offering a sure-footed depiction of two women who lost their childhoods."

* * * = starred reviews
* * = starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #418 - You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss...

In Kiss Me First *, Lottie Moggach's chilling and intense debut, sheltered and isolated, twentysomething Leila is deeply drawn into Red Pill, an online community where she finally finds people who understand her, and is thrilled when the website's brilliant and elusive founder Adrian Dervish asks to meet.

When Adrian proposes that she join the "Project Tess", Leila becomes totally immersed in the world of the beautiful, urbane, and witty Tess through constant e-mail, chat, and Skype in order for Leila to assume Tess's identity online, thus allowing Tess to make the desperate move to end her life. As Leila basks in the pleasures of creating a new fictional life for Tess, Tess's old boyfriend, Connor, makes contact, and Leila finds herself in way over her head.

London journalist/writer (Financial Times, Time Out, Elle, and GQ) crafted a taut psychological thriller that is ingeniously plotted, brilliantly frightening, and a compulsively readable, complex character study about identity, lies we tell ourselves and others.

Don't Kiss Me : stories is an explosive story collection from a bold, blistering new voice - Lindsay Hunter.

We meet Peggy Paula who envies the popular girls whom she waits on at Perkins. Sidelined during a high-school dance, a group of girls recalls exploring each other's bodies in the locker room. A grown woman studies relationship magazines to help decode her complicated nine-year-old boyfriend. A retired Richard Nixon, lamenting his wife's aging body, flirts with an admirer while sipping Scotch on the beach and dreaming of Jackie Kennedy. A lonely spinster nurtures stray cats until she receives a visit not from her Indonesian crush but from Animal Control. A band of misfits living in a roaming RV survives on road kill and stolen goods.

"By turns crass and tender, heartbreaking and devastatingly funny, her stories expose a world full of characters seemingly driven by desperation, but in the end, they're the ones who get the last laugh".

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #417

May 11, 2011, 9 days after the Osama bin Laden raid, Sara, a single mother living quietly in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, is thrown under media spotlight when Jason, her Navy SEAL son, has gone missing in action on a top-secret mission.

In Lea Carpenter's Eleven Days *, "a powerful and lean, astonishing first novel", a series of flashbacks and letters from Jason, we learn about a young and care-free Sara's love affair with Jason's father - an older career diplomat who was killed; Sara's dream for the Ivy-bound Jason with a career on the Hill in his father's footstep.

The events of 9/11 changed all that. Jason enlisted.

Through his letters home, we sense a strong, compassionate leader who is wise beyond his years and modest about his abilities., and it is these extraordinary qualities that made him a perfect match for the most dangerous assignments.

"(W)ith equal measures of intellect and heartbreak... Lea Carpenter, a dazzling new talent with the kind of strong and distinctive voice that comes along all too rarely, has given us a thrilling and unforgettable story."

"A powerful first novel and inside look into the making of a Navy SEAL and a portrait of the strength and courage of both mother and son."

"Among the smartest of the batch of recent American war novels".

For a insider's look at the making of a SEAL, try Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown by Eric Blehm.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #410

Out of Range * by the creator, writer, and producer of the award-winning hit TV series Without a Trace Hank Steinberg is an action-packed, international espionage thriller that brings to mind Rules of Deception (2008) by Christopher Reich, and last year's sensation The Expats,

Photojournalist Charlie Davis traded dangerous assignments in the world's most volatile areas for a sedentary job at the LA Times and suburban comfort. Six year after a near-fatal attack that almost killed his activist wife Julie and their unborn child, he is certain that he had made the right decision.

Then on a trip to Disneyland with their 2 young children, Julie vanishes. As Charlie soon discovers, this isn't a random abduction. The further he goes to find her, the more it becomes clear that Julie isn't quite the person she seems to be, harboring dark secrets that have come back to terrorize them all.

"Hank Steinberg has crafted a scintillating tale of betrayal and revenge, mystery and marriage, a complex puzzle full of twisting misdirection that will enthrall until its final, electrifying pages". Recommend this to fans of Harlan Coben and Lisa Unger.

"Good backstory, original characterization, and a cinematic prose style add up to an exciting read".

* = starred review

(Celebrity) Fabulous Fiction Firsts #409

Lauren Graham (BA, Barnard and MFA, SMU) is better known for her roles on the hit TV series The Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. Her debut novel Someday, Someday, Maybe is a witty, charming, and hilariously relatable chronicle about a struggling young actress trying to get ahead and keep it together in New York City.

Franny Banks is coming up against the three-year deadline she set for herself when she came to New York, dreaming of Broadway. Other than some bit parts and commercials, waiting tables at a comedy club is all she has to show for. With a dwindling bank account and pressure from her father to move home, everything is riding on the upcoming showcase for her acting class, where she'll finally have a chance to perform for people who could actually hire her. That is if she won't be distracted by James Franklin, a notorious flirt and the most successful actor in her class.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is "a story about hopes and dreams, being young in a city, and wanting something deeply, madly, desperately. It's about finding love, finding yourself, and perhaps most difficult of all in New York City, finding an acting job".

In Montaro Caine, Sidney Poitier's debut, a baby is born with a coin in her hand. An orphan crafts a mysterious wooden object. Montaro Caine, the CEO of Fitzer Corporation finds himself under extraordinary pressure at work and at home. And on a remote hilltop on a Caribbean island, a medicine man seems to understand the meaning of all these events and to hold the key to the future.

When a man and woman appear at his office with a coin of unknown provenance, composed of a metal unknown on Earth. Montaro immediately recognizes it as the companion of a coin he analyzed as a graduate student working in a lab at MIT. Drawing attention from scientists, collectors, financiers, and thieves while Montaro himself hopes that the discovery of the coin will save his company.

"Sidney Poitier (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) takes us on a wild and unexpected adventure from New York to Europe to the Caribbean and beyond, and offers a heartfelt message about the potential each of us has within ourselves, and about being open to the possibility that there are mysteries in the universe. An enthralling journey into the magic of existence, Montaro Caine is a radiant debut from an American legend".

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #407

"Take a dollop of Alfred Hitchcock, a dollop of Patricia Highsmith, throw in some Great Gatsby flourishes, and the result is Suzanne Rinde's debut - The Other Typist, a pitch-black comedy about a police stenographer accused of murder in 1920s Manhattan.... A deliciously addictive, cinematically influenced page-turner, both comic and provocative." Now, who could resist that?

1924 Manhattan. Rose Baker, the recorder of confessions and transgressions of all sorts, is a typist in a Lower East Side precinct of the Police Department, and considers herself to be an astute judge of character. Raised by nun and seemingly destined for the solitary life of a boardinghouse, she comes under the spell of glamorous Odalie Lazare, the new girl in the typing pool who represents the epitome of the new era of relaxed mores and life on the fast lane. Soon Rose is drawn into the sparkling underworld of speakeasies, bootleggers, and elegant house parties.

It is at one such house parties that a young man turns up dead after approaching Odalie, and Rose no longer could ignore the mystery that is her friend.

"With hints toward The Great Gatsby, Rindell's novel aspires to re-create Prohibition-era New York City, both its opulence and its squalid underbelly. She captures it quite well, while at the same time spinning a delicate and suspenseful narrative about false friendship, obsession, and life for single women in New York during Prohibition."

A notable addition to the pantheon of unreliable narrators, joining the likes of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Equally sensational and tantalizing, and set in the same era is Ron Hansen's A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion, based on a true story of the affair between Ruth Brown Snyder and undergarment salesman Judd Gray, whose plot to kill Ruth's husband triggers an explosive police investigation.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #406 - The Revisionist

Having spent 10 years in Muncy, Pennsylvania's death row for women, Noa P. Singleton is resigned to the approaching "X" day - her execution for the first-degree double-murder of Sarah Dixon and her unborn child. She will be the first to acknowledge her guilt which also explains why she slept through the trial and blew off any attempt for appeals on her behalf. What she does not expect is a visit from Marlene Dixon, the high-powered Philadelphia attorney who is also the heartbroken mother of Noa's victim. It appears that Marlene has a change to heart about the death penalty and offers to help Noa petition for clemency.

Elizabeth L. Silver's (JD, Temple University) debut The Execution of Noa P. Singleton * is a "darkly witty, acerbic jigsaw puzzle about legal versus moral culpability". Neither Noa nor Marlene would win any popularity contest. Noa is a smart (she turned down Princeton), complicated and manipulative underachiever, while Marlene is a dominating, judgmental bully with a personal agenda. Long before that fateful day, Noa and Marlene are already inextricably linked through their families and circumstances, and ultimately both play a hand in the tragic outcome.

"This devastating read stands less as a polemic against the death penalty than as a heartbreaking brief for the preciousness of life". Entertainment Weekly gave it an "A-".

Read-alike: Defending Jacob by William Landay, and The Dinner by Herman Koch.

* = Starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #404

Peggy Blair, a Canadian attorney-turn-novelist opens what we anticipate to be a superb series with The Beggar's Opera *, winner of the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers' Choice award.

On Christmas morning Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Havana Major Crimes Unit was called when fishermen found the body of a young boy last seen begging on the Malecon, and the sore subject of a heated argument between visiting Canadian policeman Mike Ellis and his estranged wife. With his wallet in the pocket of the dead boy, Ellis became the prime suspect. But Ramirez only have 72 hours to prove his case while dealing with a form of dementia, when the ghosts of the victims of his unsolved cases haunt his every step.

"The Beggar's Opera exposes the bureaucracy, corruption, and beauty of Hemingway's Havana".

The Caretaker * * by A.X. Ahmad opens Christmas week on Martha's Vineyard. With most of the summer folks gone, Ranjit Singh, a landscaper is lucky to get work as caretaker for Senator Neal's home, and saves him from crawling back to Boston to work as a grocery clerk. A broken furnace forces him to move his family into the Senator's house until 2 armed men break in, searching for something hidden among the Senator's antiqued doll collection. Forced to flee, Ranjit is pursued and hunted by unknown forces, and becomes drawn into the Senator's shadowy world. As the past and present collide, Ranjit must finally confront the hidden event that destroyed his Army career and forced him to leave India.

"Tightly plotted, action-packed, smart and surprisingly moving, The Caretaker takes us from the desperate world of migrant workers to the elite African-American community of Martha's Vineyard, and a secret high-altitude war between India and Pakistan".

"Beyond the masterfully crafted, high-adrenaline story, readers will be fascinated by Ranjit's strong Sikh faith, rarely seen in American fiction".

"Top-notch effort in the first of a promising trilogy".

* = starred review
* * = starred reviews

Dan Brown's latest novel, Inferno

Last week, Dan Brown's new novel, Inferno was released and is in hot demand. In this 476 page blockbuster, Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor whose specialty in symbology takes him to Italy to unravel the secrets of Dante's Inferno, races against time to save the world.

Dan Brown came to the public's attention in 2003 when his intriguing, provocative, controversial The Da Vinci Code broke all sorts of publishing records and is, to this day, one of the bestselling novels of all time. Ever since, he has had one #1 bestseller after another. Just two years after The Da Vinci Code was released, Brown was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most influential People in the World.

Are you on the wait list for Inferno? Never fear, we have a list of great titles that share Brown's powerful formula of mixing history, religion, and/or literature and cryptography to tell a compelling story. Try some of these to tide you over until your number comes up.

Umberto Eco's very first novel, published in English 30 years ago, is considered a classic. In The Name of the Rose, Brother William of Baskerville, a 14th century monk, is sent to Italy to investigate seven deeply disturbing murders. Three years later, Sean Connery starred in the award-winning film version.

In The Eight (1988), Katherine Neville, tells the story of Catherine Velis, a computer pro for one of the Big Eight accounting firms. Velis is fascinated by the relationship between chess and mathematics and sets out on a dangerous quest to gather the pieces of an antique chess set, scattered across the globe. If found, the complete set will reveal a world-changing secret, which began in 1790.

Jonathan Rabb, in his popular 2001 The Book of Q, moves back and forth between sixth century Asia Minor and 20th century Croatia. Father Ian Pearse is a researcher at the Vatican Library who cannot forget his passionate affair eight years earlier with Petra. When he comes across the translation of an ancient scroll that reveals a shocking code, he returns to Bosnia (and, oh yes, Petra) to save the world from the secrets buried in the scroll.

Scrolls and diaries that beg to be decoded to reveal earth-shattering religious secrets, are at the center of The 13th Apostle (2007), by Richard and Rachael Heller. This time, the sleuths are Sabbie Karaim, a biblical scholar and ex-Israeli commando and Gil Pearson, an American cybersleuth who discover there are those who are willing to kill for this possible link to one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

If you are too impatient for your hold for the print version of Inferno, why not try Paul Michael's dramatic narrative performance in the audiobook version?

Syndicate content