Fabulous Fiction Firsts #341 "A sister is a gift to the heart..."

3 debut novels - from the wilds of British Columbia to the idyllic Swedish countryside, from WWII Paris to contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, - the stories of sisters.

In Frances Greenslade's Shelter *, living almost off-the-grid with their hippie parents in the Pacific mountains, Maggie and Jenny experience their first blow when their father is killed in a logging accidents. Then their mother disappears, leaving them with almost strangers. It is up to them to build the shelter, both physical and emotional— to sustain themselves as they move into adulthood.

"Heartbreaking and lushly imagined,Shelter celebrates the love between two sisters and the complicated bonds of family. It is an exquisitely written ode to sisters, mothers, daughters, and to a woman's responsibility to herself and those she loves."

I am Forbidden * brings to life four generations of one Satmar family. 1944 Transylvania, little Mila was rescued from certain death and raised with Atara, the daughter of Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community. As the two girls mature, Mila's faith intensifies, while her beloved Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore, and continues to question fundamentalist doctrine. The different choices the two sisters make force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they've ever known.

"A beautifully crafted, emotionally gripping story of what happens when unwavering love, unyielding law, and centuries of tradition collide". Anouk Markovits was raised in France in a Satmar home, breaking from the fold when she was nineteen to avoid an arranged marriage. She went on to receive a Bachelor of Science from Columbia University, a Master of Architecture from Harvard, and a PhD in Romance Studies from Cornell. I Am Forbidden is her English-language debut.

Drowned *, set in the idyllic countryside during a short-lived Swedish summer, Marina, a burnt-out college student visits her older sister Stella who is living with Gabriel, a famous writer as charismatic as he is violent. As Marian gradually comes under Gabriel's spell, she also senses unease in Stella and the many secrets she keeps. With recurrent references to Ophelia, savvy readers could already anticipate the plot that mixes "hothouse sensuality with ice-cold fear". A compelling psychological thriller not to be missed.

Debut novelist Therese Bohman is a magazine editor and a columnist writing about literature, art, culture, and fashion. She lives in Sweden. Translator Marlaine Delargy serves on the editorial board of the Swedish Book Review. She lives in England.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #337

For the adrenaline junkies, here's one for you. Matthew Quirk, DC reporter for The Atlantic, no stranger to crimes and the seedier side of politics and corruption, brings to you a gripping debut thriller.

Mike Ford (Harvard Law) lands a dream job at the Davies Group, Washington's most powerful consulting firm, thus rubbing shoulders daily with "The 500 * " , the elite men and women who really run Washington -- and the world. Thinking that he has put enough distance from the small-time con man father and his blue-collar roots, he is unprepared for the demands of his new job - to cheat, steal, and this time, maybe even kill, as he finds himself staring down the barrel of a gun, pursued by two of the world's most dangerous men, one of them a trained killer, and the other, closest to his heart.

"Combining the best elements of political intrigue and heart-stopping action" this debut calls to mind classic thrillers by John Grisham, David Baldacci and Brad Meltzer. Film rights sold to 20th Century Fox.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #335

STOP!!! If you are an adrenaline junkie, go no further. This WWII espionage by Laurent Binet will leave you wanting. But if you are a patient reader of literary fiction and a student of history, then you would find HHhH * * * quite a little gem. (Also available in the original French in our World Language Collection).

HHhH = Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich ("Himmler's brain is called Heydrich" ) - the most dangerous man in Hitler's cabinet, Reinhard Heydrich : "The Blonde Beast", "The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia", "The Butcher of Prague", "The Man with the Iron Heart" - implacable cruel and seemingly indestructible, until two men, a Slovak and a Czech recruited by the British secret service, tried to kill him in broad daylight on a bustling street in Prague, in a most daring assassination plot, codenamed Operation Anthropoid.

In this debut novel, winner of the 2010 Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman, though we know the outcome of this historic event, we willingly agreed to be led, by the seasoned hand of a master storyteller to follow Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis from their dramatic escape of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to England; from their recruitment to their harrowing parachute drop into a war zone, from their stealth attack on Heydrich's car to their own brutal death in the basement of a Prague church. A parallel storyline is the narrator/author's effort to capture this heroic act on paper. A "zealous amateur historian", disarmingly honest with his mistakes, but relentless and dogged with his subject and materials, attempts to lay the whole affair in geopolitical context.

"A seemingly effortlessly blend of historical truth, personal memory, and remarkable imagination... a work at once thrilling and intellectually engrossing", Paris born Laurent Binet, is the author of La Vie professionnelle de Laurent B., a memoir of his experience teaching in secondary schools in Paris. He is a professor of French Literature at the University of Paris III. The fluid translation by Sam Taylor is a superb choice for lovers of historical literary works and WWII fiction, especially The Girl in the Blue Beret.

Watch-alike: Valkyrie, and Army of Crime.

* * * = starred reviews

Checkout the Thrilling Tale, "God's Spy"

If you are looking for a new adventure and don't shy away from murder, intrigue and graphic violence, God’s Spy could be the next book for you! Originally published in Spain, Juan Gomez-Jurado's God’s Spy is a thrilling story about a serial killer loose in Vatican City just after the death of the last pope, Pope John Paul II. The tale alternates between past events leading to the killer's arrival in Vatican City and the present circumstances, where a new Pope must be elected and potential candidates for the honor are being murdered.

Our serial murderer is revealed from page one, a former priest forced into a rehabilitation home for wayward clergy members with substance abuse problems or sexual repressions that manifest as physical abuse. Led by Paola Dicanti, head of the Laboratory for Behavioral Analysis, investigators must find the killer before another victim can be taken. Using her incredible talents, Paola must get inside of the mind of the disturbed priest and create a profile that will enable investigators to track him down. Definitely not for the faint of heart, this book is a great read if you have an interest in psychological profiling and general intrigue.

Luther, on DVD

BBC’s Luther is a psychological crime drama starring Idris Elba (The Wire) as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther. Elba does a smashing job of portraying Luther, a brilliant yet troubled detective with a dark side. While battling crime in London he’s dealing with a prior case that haunts his existence, as well as coping with the fact that his wife has left him. Luther is an impulsive, emotionally-charged man, on the brink of violence, and often unable to control his emotions at times when he should.

The show focuses on Luther and the detectives he works with. As a twist, former murder suspect Alice decides to make Luther a new pet project and the two are locked in a battle of wits. That keeps things interesting, as they realize they have more in common than Luther would like. It’s a definite must-see for fans of British crime dramas or police procedurals. Thus far, Season 1 and Season 2 have been released on DVD, and a third season is in the works. After such cliff hanger endings, I can't wait!

Fabulous Fiction "Firsts" #328

Gillespie and I is British author Jane Harris' second novel (first in our collection), and a follow-up to her award-winning The Observations (2006).

Writing her memoirs in her Bloomsbury flat in 1933, Ms. Harriet Baxter recounts the summer of 1888 when she traveled to Glasgow as a well-heeled, youngish spinster, eager to embrace the excitement of the International Exhibition.

Untethered, self-assured but nevertheless adrift and grieving from the recent death of her kindly aunt, Harriet was immediately drawn to Ned Gillespie, a young, immensely talented painter and his large, eccentric family. "The initially playful narrative tone darkens decidedly as the double mystery of Ned's eventual suicide and Harriet's reliability as a memoirist steadily unpeels."

This "elegant novel of love, loss and redemption among the Victorians and Caledonians", is "irresistible and unforgettable". Already long listed for the Orange Prize, and shortlisted for the Galaxy National Book Awards, it "places (Harris) alongside Michel Faber, D.J. Taylor, and Sarah Waters as a gifted 21st-century conjuror of new 19th-century novels incorporating our own era's sensibilities while deeply honoring the milieu of the characters she creates."

"A rewarding, gripping, and disconcerting novel".

April's Books to Film

Based on Nicholas Sparks' novel The Lucky One (PG-13), it follows U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault as he returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq, with the one thing he credits with keeping him alive --- a photograph he found of a woman he doesn’t even know. Learning her name and where she lives, he shows up at her door.

In Think Like a Man (PG-13) - the film adaptation of Steve Harvey's bestseller Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man : what men really think about love, relationships, intimacy, and commitment, 4 interconnected and diverse men whose love lives are shaken up after the ladies they are pursuing buy Harvey's book and start taking his advice to heart. When the band of brothers realize they have been betrayed by one of their own, they conspire using the book's insider information to turn the tables and teach the women a lesson of their own.

In The Pirates! Band of Misfits (PG), Hugh Grant stars in his first animated role as the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain --- a boundlessly enthusiastic, if somewhat less-than-successful, terror of the High Seas. With a rag-tag crew at his side, and seemingly blind to the impossible odds stacked against him, the Captain has one dream: to beat his bitter rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz to the much coveted Pirate Of The Year Award. We have Author Gideon Defoe to thank for his two adventurous tales in The Pirates! Band of Misfits : an adventure with scientists & an adventure with Ahab

In the film The Raven (R) when a serial killer who bases his methods of killing on Edgar Allan Poe’s stories (beginning with The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Pit and the Pendulum and working his way through other stories), Poe joins forces with a young Baltimore detective to solve the crime. The script is based on biographies of Edgar Allan Poe

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #322

The Professionals * *, they are not. But it did not stop Pender, Sawyer, Mouse and Marie, 4 recent college graduates with little career prospect, from taking up a life of crime. For 2 years, they have been lucky. Quick, efficient, well-planned, low-ransom kidnapping has worked like a charm as they zigzagged the country. With "retirement" within grasp, they picked the wrong victim.

Now, they got the attention of the true professionals - veteran investigator Kirk Stevens, FBI agent Carla Windermere, and an organized-crime outfit looking for payback.

The "finger-burning page-turner, filled with twists, surprises, and memorably complex characters" is a debut novel for Canadian author Owen Laukkanen who will be at Nicola's Books, this evening to read and sign this first of a projected series.

An alumnus of the University of British Columbia's Creative Writing BFA program, Laukkanen spent three years in the world of professional poker, traveling to high-stakes tournaments across the globe as a writer for PokerListings.com. A commercial fisherman when he's not writing, Laukkanen divides his time between Vancouver and Prince Edward Island, Canada. (More Info.)

* * = Starred Reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #321

A.J. Kazinski, is a pseudonym for Danish director/screenwriter Anders RØnnow Klarlund and novelist Jacob Weinreich. Their first collaboration The Last Good Man * (translated from the Danish by Tiina Nunnally) was an instant bestseller when published in Denmark.

According to Jewish scripture: there are thirty-six righteous people on earth, without them, humanity would perish. Across the globe, from Beijing to Mumbai, from Chicago to Moscow, there is a rash of horrendous deaths that look, to a beleaguered Italian cop named Tommaso, like murders. The telltale sign being the strange markings on their backs. By his count, there have been 34. Only 2 are left.

In Copenhagen, veteran detective and hostage negotiator Niels Bentzon also begins to piece together the puzzle of these far-flung deaths. With the help of brilliant astrophysicis Hannah Lund, they parse out that the last 2 deaths will occur in Venice and Copenhagen where President Obama is to attend a world climate conference, and a terrorist is on a deadly mission.

With cleverly inter-weaving plotlines, this gripping, cinematic, and character-driven, top-notched thriller will appeal to fans of Jo Nesbo, Jussi Adler-Olsen, and Peter Hoeg.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #317

Savvy, in-the-know readers are already queuing up for Chris Pavone's The Expats * *, coming out in March.

When her husband Dexter tells her they are relocating to Luxembourg for his new job as security consultant for an international bank, Kate is happy to hand in her notice, pack up her DC house, her young sons, and looks forward to living the expat life with weekends in Paris and skiing in the Alps. Once they are settled, things begin to unravel as Dexter's secrecy (not even the name of his employer), his frequent trips abroad (destinations unknown), and the suspiciously curious American couple who is determined to befriend them, trigger a trained response in Kate that uncovers layers of deceit and threatens to expose her own well-guarded secret.

In this "intricate, riveting and surprising" debut thriller, no one is who they seem to be, and no one is to be trusted, especially the guys in white hats. Twisty, suspenseful and downright tricky, with 50-million euros (not to mention lives and limbs) at stake, watch your steps!

"Standing on the shoulders of such giants as Robert Littell, Gayle Lynds, Eric Ambler, Helen MacInnes, and Daniel Silva, first-time novelist Pavone displays the best characteristics of the form and will earn a faithful and yearning readership."

* * = starred reviews

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