Fabulous Fiction Firsts #391

If you are a fan of Alice Hoffman, Kaye Gibbons, and Sarah Addison Allen, you would want to get to know Rita Leganski. Set in the 1950s New Orleands, her debut novel The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow * is a magical story about the lost art of listening and a wondrous little boy who brings healing to all who love him.

Mute since birth, Bonaventure Arrow is born with the extraordinary gift of hearing. At five, he can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops. He also hears the voice of his dead father, William Arrow, mysteriously murdered by a man known only as the Wanderer.

With the help of Trinidad Prefontaine, a Creole housekeeper endowed with her own special gifts, Bonaventure will find the key to long-buried mysteries and soothe a chorus of family secrets clamoring to be healed.

"A fine novel about love, loss, revenge and forgiveness that also touches on themes of race and class discrimination"

"Suffused with the mystical charm of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou, Leganski's lyrical debut novel conjures dreams of voodoo, the power of healing, and the distinction between hearing and listening... Simply enchanting."

*= starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #390

Swedish TV screenwriter Alexander Söderberg's debut The Andalucian Friend ** is the first of a projected trilogy, an international suspense/thriller you won't want to miss.

Breaking her personal code never to date a patient, widowed nurse Sophie Brinkmann discovers that Hector Guzman, of quiet charm and easy smile, is in fact, the head of a powerful international crime organization. Regrettably, her previously uneventful and quiet life is but history, being drawn into Guzman's sinister world of drugs, arm dealing, turf wars, hit men and rogue cops. This single mother must summon everything within her to navigate this intricate web of moral ambiguity, deadly obsession, and craven gamesmanship.

Set largely in Stockholm, The Andalucian Friend is a powerhouse of a novel - ”turbo-charged, action-packed, highly sophisticated, and epic in scope". Little wonder that it was the smash hit of the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair. Film rights sold to Indian Paintbrush Productions.

A strong resemblance to one of my favorite FFF- The Expats (2012) by Chris Pavone, and reminds me also of The Boy in the Suitcase by Danish author Lene Kaaberbol.

* * = starred reviews (Initial print run: 100K)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #389

Child of Vengeance *, the debut novel by David Kirk is part military history, part family saga, part action/adventure, based on the real-life exploits of Japan's greatest samurai - the legendary Musashi Miyamoto.

17th-century Japan was a land in turmoil where lords of the great clans schemed against each other, served by samurai bound to them by a rigid code of honor. Abandoned at an early age by his samurai father, young Bennosuke is raised by his uncle Dorinbo, a Shinto monk in their ancestral village. Though urged by Dorinbo to renounce Bushido, the "Way of the Warrior", Bennosuke worships his absent father. When Munisai returns, gravely injured, Bennosuke is forced to confront truths about his family's history and his own place in it, leading eventually onto a path "awash with blood, bravery, and vengeance", and culminating in the epochal Battle of Sekigahara in which Bennosuke will first proclaim his name as Mushashi Miyamoto.

Legendary director Hiroshi Inagaki first captured the saga of Musashi Miyamoto on film in The Samurai Trilogy, adaptations of the novels by Eiji Yoshikawa. Readers might also enjoy samurai character-driven novels, especially the historical mystery series by Laura Joh Rowland which depicts the precarious fortunes of Lord Ichiro Sano.

British David Kirk first became interested in Japan when his father gave him a copy of James Clavell's Shōgun : a novel of Japan. He has written his dissertation on samurai cinema, and now lives and teaches English in Japan.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #388

In Aria Beth Sloss's Autobiography of Us, the ending is never in doubt, being spelled out right in the first sentence. And it draws you in, hook, line, and sinker - into a story of friendship, loss and love, between two women.

In the patrician neighborhood of Pasadena, California during the 1960s, Rebecca Madden and her beautiful, reckless friend Alex dream of lives beyond their mothers' narrow expectations. Since that day when Alex Carrington first walked into the classroom and picked quiet Rebecca as her friend, they have been everything to each other - that is until one sweltering evening the summer before their last year of college, when a single act of betrayal changed everything. Decades later, Rebecca's haunting meditation on the past reveals the truth about that night, the years that followed, and the friendship that shaped her.

"Autobiography of Us is an achingly beautiful portrait of a decades-long bond. A rare and powerful glimpse into the lives of two women caught between repression and revolution, it casts new light on the sacrifices, struggles, victories and defeats of a generation".

Aria Beth Sloss is a graduate of Yale University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Iowa Arts Foundation. This is her debut novel.

Readers might also enjoy the forthcoming by Meg Wolitzer - The Interestings (2013), "a dazzling, panoramic novel about what becomes of early talent, and the roles that art, money, and even envy can play in close friendships".

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #387

When Kirkus Reviews called a novel "an outstanding debut", you take notice.

Truth in Advertising* * * by John Kenney is "wickedly funny, honest, at times sardonic, and ultimately moving story about the absurdity of corporate life, the complications of love, and the meaning of family".

Christmas is just around the corner. Madison Avenue ad-man Finbar Dolan is forced to cancel a much anticipated vacation in order to write/produce a commercial for his diaper account in time for the Super Bowl. Closing in on 40 and having recently called off a wedding, he is a bit of a mess and doesn't quite know it.

Unfortunately (or fortunately as it turns out...) things get worse. His long-estranged and once-abusive father is dying and reluctantly, Fin returns to his Boston root and comes face to face with a traumatized childhood he tries hard to forget.

"With wry wit, excellent pacing, and pitch-perfect, often hilarious dialog, New Yorker humorist and former advertising copywrite Kenney (website) has created something remarkable: a surprisingly funny novel about an adult American male finally becoming a man.

"(A) comic tour de force; for fans of Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper" and those who enjoyed the Mad Men series.

* * *= starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #386

Just about this time each year, with the first hint of spring, I've found myself humming April in Paris, and thoughts tend to drift to the City of Light. Now debut novelist Hilary Reyl will take us there, through the painterly eyes of a young American artist, in Lessons in French.

1989, a time of social and political upheaval. Her fluent French got new Yale grad Kate hired by famous American photojournalist Lydia Schell as her assistant. Kate is thrilled with the chance to pursue her dreams as a painter, but also to return to France where, as a child she was sent to live with cousins while her father was dying.

Immediately she is dazzled by the Schell's fashionable Sixth Arrondissement home, frequented by their famous friends, and falls into the orbit of a band of independently wealthy young men with royal lineage. Impressionable and wanting badly to fit in, Kate deliberately engages in a forbidden romance, becoming deeply enmeshed in the drama of this volatile household, and the ever-more questionable requests they make of her. In the meantime, Kate struggles with her own art.

"In compelling and sympathetic prose, Hilary Reyl perfectly captures this portrait of a precocious, ambitious young woman struggling to define herself in a vibrant world that spirals out of her control. Lessons in French is at once a love letter to Paris and the story of a young woman finding herself, her moral compass, and, finally, her true family".

French literature scholar (Ph.D. NYU) Reyl's first novel is rich and magnetic. Will appeal to readers who enjoy novels of Americans in Paris and other coming-of-age stories.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #385

Professional cellist Edward Kelsey Moore, whose short story "Grandma and the Elusive Fifth Crucifix" was selected as an audience favorite on NPR's Stories on Stage series just published his first novel. He lives in Chicago (website).

I sincerely hope you are not expecting The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat * being Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, and Diana Ross, - the sensation from Detroit's Brewster-Douglass public housing project that helped put Motown Records on the map in the 1960s. But seriously, you won't be too disappointed once you've met Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean.

Dubbed "The Supremes" since their high school days, these Plainsview (IN) mavens have weathered life's storms together arm-in-arm. Dutiful, proud, and talented Clarice must struggle to keep up appearances as she deals with her husband's infidelities. Beautiful, fragile Barbara Jean must try to live with a youthful mistake that continues to haunt her. Fearless Odette engages in the most terrifying battle of her life while entertaining visitations from her (dead) pot-smoking mother and an inebriated Eleanor Roosevelt. For four decades, what sustain these strong, funny women through marriages, children, happiness, and disappointments, is their Sunday table at Earl's Diner, the first black-own business in this racially divided town, where they can count on good food, gossip, occasional tears, uproarious banter and each other.

"With wit and love, style and sublime talent, Edward Kelsey Moore brings together four intertwined love stories, three devoted allies, and two sprightly earthbound spirits in a big-hearted debut novel that embraces the lives of people you will never forget."

Poised to give Waiting to Exhale, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Steel Magnolias a run for their money. Readers might also enjoy works by Pearl Cleage, and April Sinclair, or other novels on women's friendship.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #384

26 yr.-old Claire is immediately drawn to Harry and Madelein Winslow during a summer visit to the Hamptons. The charmed couple is sophisticated, beautiful and talented (Harry is a National Book Award-winning author), and Maddy is sweet and old-moneyed. They in turn are drawn to Claire's youth, naivety and easy manners. Over the course of the summer, reverence transforms into dangerous desire.

The affair between Harry and Claire and the devastation unleashed on their circle of family and friends, especially on Maddy, is narrated by Walter, her childhood friend who also harbors his own secrets.

Charles Dubow in his first novel Indiscretion*, "proves himself to be an elegant writer... Glamorous settings, old money, and steamy sex all combine to make this one a totally addictive read". Rules of Civility meets Fatal Attraction .

"Dubow crafts an epic novel of friendship, betrayal and undying love".

* = Starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #383 - Not Your Grandmother's Harlequin

Kate Cross opens her Clockwork Agents series with Heart of Brass (2012), and quickly follows with Touch of Steel * (2013).

In Heart, set in 1898 London, Lady Arden Grey is an undercover agent for one of the most powerful organizations of this steam powered world - the Wardens of the Realm, a group with extraordinary abilities, dedicated to protecting England against evil.

Her husband and fellow agent Lucas Grey, Earl Huntley disappeared during a secret mission. Now, Arden is being stalked by an assassin working for their rival - The Company who is none other than Luke.

"Cross has imagined a fascinating world of science in Victorian England. Her characters are three-dimensional and sympathetic; the devices (including the first vibrator) add punch to an already rich love story. Inventive and extremely clever dialog and situations make this series debut an enthralling read".

In Touch, reeling from her brother's death, American spy Claire Brooks has vowed revenge on the member of The Company who she believes to be responsible: Stanton Howard. But when she chases the man to London, Claire is captured by the Wardens of the Realm and placed in the custody of the Earl of Wolfred, the dashing Alistair Payne.

Seeing the prospect of retribution slipping away, Claire convinces Alistair that she has defected and will help him take down The Company. As they travel via steam liner, Claire and Alistair must pretend to be engaged, neither could deny the growing attraction between them.

Kate Cross also writes as Kathryn Smith. Writing steampunk allows her to combine her love of fashion, history and science fiction.

For fans of The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook (A Novel of the Iron Seas).

*= starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #382

~The sensation of the Frankfurt Book Fair
~150k initial print run, film rights to Warner Bros.
~ Endorsements by Lee Child and Robert Crais

Roger Hobbs's debut Ghostman * * , "a propulsive thriller... with more twists and turns than a 10-yard-long corkscrew", is a must read for adrenaline junkies.

Only 2 knew his name and only one is alive. Now he calls and Jack Delton had to answer. Five years ago, a mega heist in Kuala Lumpur went bad and Marcus now looks to even the score. Jack is the ghostman who specializes in disappearing, and it is up to him to make a botched armored-car robbery in Atlantic City disappear—. The trouble is the $1.2 million in freshly minted bills set to explode in 48 hours if not found. Hot on Jack's trail is a female FBI agent who may be more interested in Jack than the crime, and half of the criminal world is ready to pounce for a piece of the action.

"Straight out of the gate, Hobbs has mastered the essentials of a contemporary thriller: a noirlike tone, no-nonsense prose and a hero with just enough personality to ensure he doesn't come off as an amoral death machine ... A smart entry into the modern thriller pantheon, at once slick and gritty".

Roger Hobbs (website) graduated from Reed College in Portland, Oregon in 2011, where he majored in English. Ghostman was written during the summer between his junior and senior years.

* * = starred reviews

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