Fabulous Fiction Firsts #466

"A suspenseful, gloriously atmospheric first novel, and a feast of gothic storytelling that is impossible to resist.” ~ Kate Atkinson.

"Ambitious, elegant, atmospheric, and often deeply poignant, The Quick is a seamless blend of Victorian London and rich imagination. This is a book to savor.” ~ Tana French.

"A sly and glittering addition to the literature of the macabre . . ." ~ Hilary Mantel.

The Quick * by Lauren Owen has been named Top 10 Literary Fiction Books of the Season by Publishers Weekly. An early draft of the novel won the Curtis Brown Prize for the best fiction dissertation. Fans of Anne Rice; Elizabeth Kostova; and Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus) would not want to miss this.

1892: New Oxford grad. James Norbury finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat in London. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Alarmed, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling Yorkshire home determined to find him. After navigating alone in sinister, labyrinthine London, Charlotte discovers that her brother's disappearance can be traced to a secret organization of gentlemen - the terrifying and powerful inner circle of The Aegolius Club that include the most ambitious, and most bloodthirsty, men in England.

"(C)reepy . . . thrilling... This book will give you chills even on a hot day". **Spoiler Alert** Skip this one if you have issues with vampires.

Readalikes : "Owen's debut is an intriguing blend of historical, gothic, and supernatural fiction, this will appeal to devotees of the macabre and gothic set in the Victorian period, especially those who enjoy Charles Palliser's Rustication, and David Morrell's Murder as a Fine Art."

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #464 - The Best Crime Fiction Debuts (2014 Sizzling Summer Reads #1)

You knew about The Abomination and The Curiosity already. The following join Booklist's Best Mystery/Thriller Debuts of the year. Great chillers for the summer heat. Don't forget Summer Game 2104 starts today.

Decoded * by Jia Mai
This riveting tale of cryptographic warfare and a bestseller in China, takes us deep into the world of code breaking, and the mysterious world of Unit 701, a top-secret Chinese intelligence agency. Rong Jinzhen, an autistic math genius discovers that the mastermind behind the maddeningly difficult Purple Code is his former teacher and best friend, who is now working for China's enemy. The author's experience working in the Chinese intelligence service may have contributed to the story's realism.

The Deliverance of Evil * by Roberto Costantini
Haunted by a 24-years unsolved murder case from his early career, brash Commissario Michele Balistreri is overcome with remorse and renewed determination when the victim's mother commits suicide, in a first installment in a best-selling trilogy from Italy.

North of Boston * * by Elizabeth Elo
Surviving a fishing boat collision that ends her friend's life, Boston girl Pirio Kasparov, convinced that the incident was not an accident, is tapped to participate in a research project at the side of a journalist who helps her unravel a plot involving the frigid whaling grounds off Baffin Island.

Precious Thing * by Colette McBeth
Astonished to discover that a police press conference assignment is about her best friend from high school, television journalist Rachel endeavors to learn the fate of her missing friend before making a discovery that brings everything they once shared into question.

Shovel Ready * * by Adam Sternbergh (One of Booklist's Top 10 Crime Fiction as well as Best Crime Fiction Debuts of the year)
In this futuristic hard-boiled noir, working as a hit man on the ravaged streets of New York City after a dirty bomb is unleashed on Times Square, Spademan takes an assignment to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist only to discover that his mark holds a shocking secret and that his client hides a more sinister agenda.

The Word Exchange * * by Alena Graedon
A dystopian novel for the digital age, when the "death of print" has become a near reality, Anana Johnson, an employee at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), searches for her missing father and stumbles upon the spiritual home of the written world and a pandemic "word flu."

BTW...a personal favorite and a cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller and a meditation on the high cultural costs of digital technology.

* = starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #460

Being released the latter part of June is Everything I Never Told You * *, the deeply-affecting debut novel by Celeste Ng, a UM grad (MFA, Helen Zell Writers' Program) and recipient of the Pushcart Prize and Hopwood Award. I expect a fair amount of buzz, not just locally. (Check out Vogue's Summer's Buzziest Beach Reads).

"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." - every parent's worst nightmare. All her family knows is that the 15 year-old is missing from her home. The local police treats it as a runaway while her mother refuses to accept anything other than stranger abduction of her middle and favorite child - a motivated and exceptional student, pretty, popular and well-behaved. The rest of the family is less certain and in turn, as they each reflects on the Lydia that they know and love (including Lydia herself), a fractured image emerges, casting shadows, laying bare secrets each is desperate to keep.

The narrative flashed back to 1957 in Cambridge when a premed Radcliffe freshman Marilyn Walker met James Lee, a first-generation Chinese-American who was her graduate teaching instructor. They married over her mother's objection, trading in her dreams of becoming a doctor for the anonymity of a faculty wife at a small college in nowhere Ohio where James was able to find a teaching position. Their background (his - immigrant laborers and scholarship student), (hers- single mother from the South), aspirations (his - to belong) (hers - to stand-out), and dashed dreams became means by which their children were defined and measured, but never truly understood.

"As the police try to decipher the mystery of Lydia's death, her family realize that they didn't know her at all. Lydia is remarkably imagined, her unhappy teenage life crafted without an ounce of cliché. Ng's prose is precise and sensitive, her characters richly drawn." Highly recommended as a YA crossover and book group choice.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Celeste Ng will be in Ann Arbor, July 18, 2014 @ Literati Bookstore, 124 E. Washington. Don't miss this chance to meet her. I am hoping she might touch on her take on ethnic fiction, and why she does not want to be the next Amy Tan.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #459 - Paris, far more than setting

Novelists' endless fascination with the city and we readers can't seem to get enough of it.

A Paris Apartment * - cramp, decrepit, shuttered for 70 years but it is Paris, and it is in the 9th arrondissement. Sotheby's European furniture specialist April Vogt is glad for the assignment, and for putting a little distance between her and a troubled marriage. Under the dust sheets, she finds a treasure trove of priceless furniture and works of art - one being a stunning portrait of Marthe de Florian, owner of the apartment and one of Belle Epoque's most renowned actresses/courtesans.

In Michelle Gable's debut, once April begins to read over letters and journals written by Marthe, suddenly it is no longer about the materiality and provenance of the objects, but more about an extraordinary life lived and the secrets buried in the apartment. In the process, April is force to take a deeper look into herself.

"Gable's debut is strongest when Paris is the focus...". "With its well-developed, memorable characters and the author's skillful transitioning between story lines, finding similarities in the lives of two women decades apart, this stunning and fascinating debut will capture the interest of a wide audience but particularly those interested in stories about women behind famous men..."

I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You * is a sardonic dig at Richard Haddon's predicament. In Courtney Maum's debut, as the novel opens in 2002, English artist Richard Haddon is on top of the world. His first solo show in a trendy gallery sold out. His beautiful French wife Anne, is a successful attorney with pedigree, and wealthy in-laws had bestowed on the young couple a palatial apartment at an enviable Paris address. Then Anne finds the letters from Richard's mistress, a brash and sexy American journalist who has since moved on. Well, sort of.

In an effort to win back Anne's respect and affection, Richard intends to create the next masterpiece, proposing a controversial installation that would be a sly critique on Iraq's role in the global conflict around the issues of Weapon of Mass Destruction.

"Equally funny and touching, the novel strikes deep, presenting a sincere exploration of love and monogamy. These characters are complex, and their story reflects their confusion and desire... (a)n impressive, smart novel". (This debut is one of Library Reads picks for June).

Now, most appropriate for the City of Love, Emma Mars' (a pseudonym) Hotelles * - "Rife with sexual tension and mystery" this first tale in a trilogy is about a young Paris escort; the Hotel des Charmes where each room is dedicated to one of French history's greatest seductresses; and a silver notebook.

"Funny, sensual, candid, and revealing". It has been compared to The Story of O by Pauline Réage, originally published in 1954 and quickly became the talk of the Paris salons and cafes. While the identity of the author remains shrouded for 40 years, the novel went on to win the prestigious Prix des Deux Magots in 1955, and is still one of the most "curious and mysterious novels of recent times".

While I have your attention...just one more. Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 * *, an electrifying union of fact and fiction by Francine Prose, built around a famous photograph entitled Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1932 by Brassai. Prose originally intends to write a biography of Violette Morris, a decorated athlete, race-car driver, and Nazi collaborator (she is the one NOT in a dress).

"In an intricately patterned, ever-morphing, lavishly well-informed plot..., it is Paris in the 1920s (that) shimmers with excitement, dissipation, and freedom. It is a place of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves." "A dark and glorious tour de force".

* = starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #456

The darling of the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair that inspired frenzied bidding, already a bestseller in Europe, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair * will soon be released in the US (translated from the French by Sam Taylor), and destined to be one of this year's hottest summer read. (Also available in the original in the World Language Collection).

Joël Dicker, the 28 year-old Geneva-based author sets this charming whodunit in an idyllic seaside village in New Hampshire, having spent his childhood summers in New England.

On August 30, 1975, Nola Kellergan 15, was reported by a neighbor fleeing through the Somerset (NH) woods never to be seen again. The narrative picks up in 2008, when Marcus Goldman, a successful young novelist suffering from extreme writer's block, seeks advice from Harry Quebert, his good friend and mentor, and one of the country's most respected writers. Snooping around in Harry's home office in Somerset, Marcus comes across material links between Harry and the missing Nola. Just days after, a landscaper finds Nola's remains in Harry's yard.

As the national media convicts Harry, Marcus launches his own investigation, following a trail of clues literary and tangible, teasing out sordid small-town secrets in an attempt to save Harry, his own writing career, and eventually maybe himself.

The winner of three French literary prizes, including the Grand Prix du Roman from the Académie Française, and was a finalist for the Prix Goncourt, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is a "fast-paced, tightly plotted, cinematic literary thriller".

Film rights sold to Warner Bros. Variety reports that Ron Howard will direct.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #454 - “those of us who read because we love it more than anything, who feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewelers...” ~ Anna Quindlen

Leaving home for the first time armed with a prestigious scholarship (Art History) at Columbia, 23 yr.-old Brit Esme Garland is dazzled by Manhattan and smitten with the attention of Mitchell van Leuven, a gorgeous, wealthy, blue-blooded New Yorker with an appetite for all things erotic. He abruptly ends their short fling before Esme could tell him she is pregnant.

Determined to get through this on her own, Esme takes a job in a secondhand bookstore on Broadway, a gathering place for the eccentric, who watch over her through her pregnancy - from the laconic owner to the taciturn, guitar-playing night manager. Together they must struggle for the survival of the store in the challenging retail slum.

The Bookstore * by first time novelist Deborah Meyler is a "sharply observed and evocative tale of learning to face reality without giv­ing up on your dreams... sheer enchantment from start to finish."

"Above all, it's about the love of books. A deeply satisfying novel you will keep close to your heart, written in a style by turns witty and poetic."

Award-winning author Gabrielle Zevin gives us "(a) likable literary love story about selling books and finding love" in The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry * (More in a recent NPR interview).

A.J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books on Alice Island (think Martha's Vineyard) off the coast of MA, is going through a tough spot: he lost his wife in a car accident, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and his prized possession--a rare edition of Poe poems--has been stolen. Over time, he has given up on people, and even the books in his store, until an unlocked door brings the most astonishing gift, and a young publisher's rep. offers him the chance to make his life over.

The Storied Life is about "a life of books, redemption, and second chances. Funny, tender, and moving.” It also tops the April LibraryReads list of the Top Ten Books that Librarians Across the Country Love.

Sarah Jio's Goodnight, June imagines the inspiration behind Goodnight Moon, a beloved classic among generations of young readers.

June Anderson, a successful NY financier is lonely and unhappy in her personal life. She is unexpectedly called home to Seattle, to settle her great-aunt Ruby's estate and to dispose of Bluebird Books - the children's bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store's papers, June stumbles upon letters between Ruby and the late Margaret Wise Brown, and that Brown not only visited the bookstore, but Ruby had in fact, inspired Goodnight Moon.

When June receives notice the shop is within days of foreclosure, she has a change of heart. In her rally to save the bookstore, June learns an important lesson about acceptance and forgiveness.

* = starred review

Hugo Awards


Hugo award finalists have been announced. The awards will be officially given at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention called Loncon 3 since it is the third time to be held in London, England. If you love scifi or fantasy, this is one of the largest and oldest annually held convention for fans (the first one was held in 1939 in NYC, and it has been held continuously since 1946). This year marks the 75th anniversary of the convention so in addition to the Hugo Awards, there are Retro-Hugo Awards honoring the best of scifi/fantasy from 1938. The following are this year's best novel nominees:

Ancillary justice by Ann Leckie: story focuses on the AI soldier, Breq, previously a starship now in a fragile human body; a space opera that will make you think what it is to be human vs AI; 1st part of the Imperial Radch series

Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross: multiple award winner Stross continues delving into the Freyaverse and our post-human descendants started in Saturn’s Children, followed by a short story called ‘Bit Rot’

Parasite by Mira Grant: a genetically engineered parasite that lives inside all humans delivering meds, protecting us from illness, and boosting our immune system? Sounds good until they start thinking on their own…1st in the Parasitology series. Mira Grant also writes award winning urban fantasy under the name Seanan McGuire , and has been nominated for Hugo awards for Feed and Deadline

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia: the series is available, and you can read a short prequel to it for free online called the Grimnoir Chronicles: Detroit Christmas

Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: anyone who knows scifi/fantasy has heard of this epic series that spans some 14 volumes with prequels; some J R R Tolkien influence, some Asian mythology…there was a computer game and a roleplaying game, even a soundtrack album Jordan died in 2007 and Sanderson picked up his notes for the final book and turned it into 3 books. Fans launched an online campaign to get the entire series nominated so it should be interesting to see if it wins!

Audiobook for Broadway Lovers: Better Nate Than Ever

Read by the author (who happens to have been on Broadway himself), Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle offers an insider’s look into the world of Broadway auditions from a kid’s point of view. Thirteen-year-old Nate Foster is tired of being bullied and misunderstood in his hometown so, with the help of his best friend Libby, this Broadway-musical lover concocts a plan to run away to New York City and audition for E.T the Musical (inspired by Steven Spielberg’s E.T., of course). The adventure that follows is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and the narration is spot on through every emotional twist and turn.

The audiobook was a 2014 Odyssey Award Honor, an award given to the best audiobooks for children and teens.

Its sequel Five, Six, Seven, Nate! is also available in print.

Oscar Winners on DVD & Blu-ray

Last night was the 86th Academy Awards and Hollywood put on a big show as usual. Ellen DeGeneres hosted and ordered pizza while Brad Pitt passed out plates, Benedict Cumberbatch photobomed U2, Jennifer Lawrence tripped again, and Lupita Nyong'o was simply adorable as she danced to Pharrell William’s song Happy.

Top honor went to Twelve Years a Slave for Best Picture, which was one of three awards for the film, including best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay. Gravity won seven awards, the most of any film, including a Best Director win for Alfonso Cuarón.

Frozen won for Animated Feature, Twenty Feet From Stardom won Documentary Feature, The Great Beauty won Foreign Language Film.

Here’s a list of Best Picture Winners from over the years, as well as a list of 2014 nominees for Animated Feature Film, Documentary Feature, and Foreign Language Film that AADL has in the catalog.

Get on the hold lists and prepare for happy watching!

2104 Notable Books - The Fiction List

Here are the winning titles for the 2014 Notable Books List — The American Library Association's annual literary award that identifies 25 outstanding, very readable, and at times very important fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books for the adult reader. Again, we are pleased to see a number of first novelists getting the recognition.

Fiction Winners

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The nuances and challenges of race, emigration and cultural identification are explored through the lives of two Nigerian lovers.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. What would happen if death were just a new beginning?

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat. A bittersweet fable of modern Haiti told in luminous prose.

Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See by Juliann Garey. The fragmented and unsettling perspective of a man grappling with mental illness. (A FFF - blog)

Enon by Paul Harding. A father struggles with the accidental death of his 15 year-old daughter. Grief on paper.

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma. Around the world with a charmingly unreliable narrator in this coming-of-age tale. (A FFF - blog)

The Dinner by Herman Koch, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett. If they sat next to us in a restaurant, we would do well to simply study our forks.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. An affirmation of life amidst the chaos of war-torn Chechnya. (A FFF - blog)

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. A taut psychological drama of slow-burning anger.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Tokyo meets Sunnyvale and British Columbia through a purple gel pen, a tsunami and a Hello Kitty lunchbox with a side of quantum physics.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. A terrorist bomb blows apart a 13-year-old boy’s world.

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