Fabulous Fiction Firsts #380

In Dana Bate's The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs *, 26 yr.-old Hannah Sugarman (Cornell, Economics) could hardly keep up as a research assistant in a DC think tank while secretly dreaming of opening up an underground supper club, a recent phenomenon in the foodie world.

When yet another ill-fated dinner with the patrician Prescotts (her live-in boyfriend Adam's parents) goes hopelessly sour, she is unceremoniously dumped and evicted. With mounting pressure from her academically distinguished parents to jump start her lackluster career, and eager to move on, she seizes the chance to do what she loves, and lands at the doorstep of Blake Fischer, a bachelor landlord with a basement apartment for rent.

"Journalist and debut novelist Bate deftly conjures up a witty, resilient heroine, surrounds her with delightful friends and frenemies, and sends them all on a rollicking quest for love and delicious food".

Cheeky, smart, and up-beat (with an implausibly happy ending), it is like sunshine and birdsong on a frigid February day - sure to bring a spring in your step and smile to your face.

Readalikes: Cupid and Diana (finding Mr. Right in DC); The Lost Art of Mixing - a sequel to The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (where 8 lives mingle and intertwine at a cooking school); and Brian O'Reilly's Angelina's Bachelors : a novel, with food (young Philadelphia widow feeds the neighborhood loners and builds a village); Girl Cook by Hannah McCouch (delicious modern Cinderella story of love, sex, chefs, and the city).

* = Starred review

Happy Birthday, Mr. Darcy!

It was 200 years ago this month that Jane Austen published her second, and perhaps most beloved, novel: "Pride & Prejudice." The official publication date was January 28, 1813.

Austen wrote it between October 1796 and August 1797, but publishers at first declined to look at it. After she went back and revised her manuscript, originally titled "First Impressions," nearly fifteen years later between 1811 and 1812, it was finally accepted for publication. Although she never married, Jane Austen loved her books like they were her family and was so excited when "Pride & Prejudice" arrived, she wrote to her sister Cassandra, "I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London."

The first edition sold out quickly and has been popular the world over ever since. It has been translated into dozens of languages and adapted for both television and the big screen. It's been given modern twists in Hollywood movies and Bollywood, too. It even has its own popular web series and been adapted into graphic novels and zombie apocalypse stories.

And of course, there are the books. From the original to all the adaptations and continuations, it's clear something about that story of misunderstandings and seemingly impossible happy endings still has a grip on us. It's easy to wonder what Miss Austen would have thought of the stages her "child" has gone through and how the world still holds such love for its characters even now, 200 years later.

Looking for more ways to celebrate Jane Austen? The library has a large collection of her other books or other movie adaptations of her work!

The Reading List 2013 (ALA RUSA)

Established in 2007 by the CODES section of Reference and User Services Association (RUSA, a division of the American Library Association), The Reading List seeks to highlight outstanding genre fiction that merit special attention by general adult readers and the librarians who work with them.

The 2013 List in 8 categories. What sets this list apart from all the other awards is the short listed honor titles, and the thoughtful readalikes.

Adrenaline
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
It’s her fifth wedding anniversary: where’s Amy? Assumptions are dangerous in this chilling psychological thriller. The dark and twisty plot, unbearable levels of tension, and merciless pacing will rivet readers.

Fantasy
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
When Myfanwy wakes up with no memory, surrounded by corpses, she must immediately impersonate herself in order to unravel the conspiracy at the heart of a secret supernatural intelligence agency. This offbeat debut combines the fast pacing and suspense of a thriller with the gritty, detailed world-building of urban fantasy.

Historical Fiction
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Ambitious royal advisor Thomas Cromwell is at the pinnacle of his power and uses it to subtly engineer the downfall of his enemies, including the Queen, Anne Boleyn, and her inner circle. This intricately plotted character study presents a fresh perspective on the ever popular Tudor Court.

Horror
The Ritual by Adam Nevill
In the remote forests of Sweden, the friendship between four men disintegrates when they wander off the hiking trail and find themselves stalked by an unseen and increasingly violent menace. “Blair Witch” meets black metal in this dark and suspenseful horror novel.

Mystery
The Gods of Gotham
by Lyndsay Faye
The discovery of a mass grave of child prostitutes spurs “copper star” Timothy Wilde to hunt a killer through the seamy underbelly of 1840s New York City. Colorful period slang enlivens this carefully researched story about the dawn of modern policing.

Romance
Firelight by Kristen Callihan
Bartered as a bride to the masked nobleman Benjamin Archer, Miranda Ellis – a woman with a supernatural secret – becomes his only defender when he is accused of a series of murders. This is a dark and smoldering Victorian paranormal where love redeems two complex and damaged characters.

Science Fiction
Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey
One wants control; one wants vindication; one wants his daughter back; and one wants revenge (and maybe a new suit). The shifting points of view of these four distinctive characters, an electrifying pace, and the threat of an evolving alien protomolecule propel readers through this grand space adventure.

Women’s Fiction
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway
Galilee Garner’s carefully managed routine of teaching, rose breeding, and kidney dialysis is disrupted when her teenage niece moves in. Readers will root for the growth of this prickly character as she discovers the importance of cultivating human connections.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #379

If you loved Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers then you are likely to be pleased with Y: a novel by Marjorie Celona..

Here is the fabulous opener... "Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over. Why? . . . My life begins at the Y." As a new-born, Shannon was abandoned on the doorstep of the Vancouver Island YMCA, wrapped in a dirty gray sweatshirt, with a Swiss Army knife tucked between her feet. Abuse and neglect were routine in a series of foster homes that followed until Miranda, a no-nonsense single mother with a free-spirited daughter of her own, where Shannon found a sense of stability. However, the stubborn question of why her mother would abandon her was never far from her mind.

Interwoven with Shannon's story is that of her mother, Yula's. As past and present converge,Y tells an unforgettable story of identity, inheritance, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

"...(this) ravishingly beautiful novel offers a deeply affecting look at the choices we make and what it means to be a family". Enlivened by Shannon's self-deprecating humor, readers will embrace this " moving coming-of-age story full of fresh starts.. and of hope."

Debut novelist Majorie Celona (website) is a graduate of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Colgate University, and was recently writer-in-residence at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, she now lives in Cincinnati.

Readalikes: Kaye Gibbon's Ellen Foster; White Oleander by Janet Fitch; and Night Road by Kristin Hannah.

Vote for your favorite Michigan author

Nominate your favorite Michigan Author so the Michigan Library Association can reward them! Any author who lives in Michigan or writes about Michigan can win, regardless of the genre they write, as long as they have published at least 3 titles. See the list of authors who have won over the years and access the nomination form here. This year's winner was Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River and several other Michigan based books.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #357

Brooklyn bookseller and author of a short-story collection (Other People We Married, 2011) Emma Straub gives us an enchanting story of a Midwestern girl who escapes a family tragedy and is remade as a movie star during Hollywood's golden age in Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures * *, her debut novel.

At 17, Elsa Emerson, born to an amateur theatrical family in Door County, Wisconsin hops gamely on the bus that carries her and her young actor husband to Hollywood after a family tragedy. Two quick successive babies and a dissolving marriage later, she is discovered by one of the most powerful studio executives in Hollywood, who refashions her as a serious, exotic brunette and renames her Laura Lamont. Along with all the glamor and extravagance of stardom, Laura finds herself trying to balance career, family, friendship, personal happiness, while remaining true to herself.

"Straub offers a charming tale spanning 50 years. Her strength is an ability to foster originality by turning her back on the stereotyped assumptions of the lives of movie stars whose backstories feed the magic."

"Written in a removed prose, Straub brings Elsa to life with the detached analysis of an actor examining a character, exemplifying Elsa's own remote relationship to her identity. Through marriages, births, deaths, and career upheavals, Elsa and Laura coexist, sometimes uneasily—until Elsa learns to reconcile her two selves. An engaging epic of a life that captures the bittersweetness of growing up, leaving home, and finding it again."

For novels about the entertainment industry and lives and loves of the glitterati, you might enjoy Third Girl From the Left by Martha Southgate (2005); Tilly Bagshawe's Adored (2005); Glen David Gold's Sunnyside (2009) about Charlie Chaplin; and The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (2012).

* *= Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #355

In Courtney Miller Santo's debut novel The Roots of the Olive Tree, five generations of the firstborn Keller women live together in the same house on a secluded olive grove in the Sacramento Valley. Headed by Anna, the 112-year-old matriarch, still sturdy in body and sharp of mind, they have an unique ability to live long, healthy lives.

It is this ability that draws the interest of a geneticist who plans to interview them. But his visit, and the unexpected arrival of the youngest member of the clan sparks tension. Old grudges reignite as new revelations and shocking secrets come to light.

"Santo paints a moving portrait of an extraordinary, yet flawed, family". For fans Kaye Gibbon's Charms for the Easy Life; Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas; and the Elm Creek Quilts series by Jennifer Chiaverini.

Minding Frankie

Minding Frankie might take a bit of effort as far as realism is concerned, but Irish novelist Binchy creates a heartwarming story of family ties (both traditional and not so traditional) that bring a community together.

In Binchy’s 2011 novel, we meet Noel, an alcoholic stuck in a dead end job, who learns that not only is one of his exes on her deathbed, but she is pregnant with his child and desperate to find a family to care for her. Noel pulls his life together with much needed support from family and friends. His greatest supporter is his American cousin Emily, who is on an extended visit to Dublin. Emily not only rescues Noel, but she manages to quietly bring order to the lives of nearly everyone in this little circle of friends and even helps a few outsiders.

Minding Frankie is another touching story from Binchy, a writer and storyteller who will be sorely missed by her fans. The bestselling writer died on July 30 at the age of 72. Some other favorite titles from Binchy are Heart and Soul, Scarlet Feather, “The Glass Lake,” and “Firefly Summer.” Two of her novels, Circle of Friends and Tara Road (also an Oprah Book Club pick), were made into films.

Maeve Binchy, Irish family saga novelist, has died

Maeve Binchy, whose very first novel became a bestseller, died yesterday in Dublin.

Ms. Binch's love of Irish small town living and family sagas, was a teacher and a journalist before her first work of fiction, Light a Penny Candle (1982, on order) was rejected by five publishers before Century (England) and Viking (U.S.) picked it up. It quickly became a bestseller.

She wrote several collections of short stories and 15 more novels, several of which became movies, including Tara Road (1999) which hit the silver screen as a film in 2005 starring Andie MacDowell and Stephen Rea.

Ms Binchy's fascination with human interaction and family relationships which were often fueled by secrets served her well as she penned rich multi-generational tales.

When Ms. Binchy was hospitalized four years ago with a heart ailment, she turned that experience into a novel she called Heart and Soul.

Ms. Binchy's last novel, A Week in Winter will be published posthumously later this year.

Maeve Binchy had turned 72 in May.

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

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