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

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #381

Julia Strachey's slim novella Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (with a new preface by Frances Partridge) has recently been adopted into a feature film, starring no less than Elizabeth McGovern of Downton Abbey fame, for which the period drama has inevitably been compared.

With sharp eye and playful language, Strachey's slim novella, first published in 1932 depicts the upstairs-downstairs activities on Dolly Thatcham's wedding day as her oblivious mother bustles about getting her ready to marry the wrong man. Waylaid by the sulking admirer who lost his chance with her and her own sinking dread, the bride-to-be struggles to reach the altar.

A brilliant, bittersweet comedy which Virginia Woolf observed as being "an eccentric mixture of Katherine Mansfield and E.M. Forster".

Julia Strachey (1901-1979) was born in India to a Civil Servant. Educated in England, she later worked as a model/photographer and in publishing. Her two novels appeared in 1932 and 1951.

Readers might also enjoy other women novelists such as Elizabeth Bowen; Penelope Fitzgerald; and Alice Thomas Ellis, in particular, The Summer House: a trilogy.

Click here for the New York Times review and the official trailer of the movie.

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

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.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #378

Bipolar disorder affects more than 2% of the population, among them some of the most successful and creative individuals - Buzz Aldrin, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Vincent Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, and Robin Williams. It is a lifelong condition with no clinically proven cure, but the symptoms of which could be managed by a combination of education, medication, and psychotherapy. Some however, choose more extreme measures.

In Ashley Ream's Losing Clementine, no longer willing to live the bipolar life, renowned LA artist Clementine Pritchard plans to take her own life in 30 days (nothing messy, of course). She begins the countdown by disposing of her impressive pharmacy and worldly goods, the personal assistant and the shrink/lover. Between manically working on a series of new paintings and eating her way through her favorite ethnic take-outs, she meticulously sets her affairs in order. Foremost on her mind is finding a loving home for her cat and tracking down the father who abandoned the family years ago. As she comes face-to-face with the reasons why she can't go on, she unexpectedly finds a new connection to the world she desperately wants to leave.

"...(R)ich with detail, fully illustrating Clementine's world from her artwork to her love affair with food... the story is told with an unexpectedly fresh and humorous voice".

"This novel, spiked with dark humor is an entertaining and moody whirlwind".

Called a "tour-de-force first novel" Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See * by Juliann Garey takes us inside the restless mind, ravaged heart, and anguished soul of Greyson Todd, a successful Hollywood studio executive who leaves his wife and young daughter and for a decade travels the world giving free reign to the bipolar disorder he's been forced to keep hidden for almost 20 years.

The novel intricately weaves together three timelines: the story of Greyson's travels (Rome, Israel, Santiago, Thailand, Uganda); the progressive unraveling of his own father seen through Greyson's eyes as a child; and the intimacies and estrangements of his marriage. The entire narrative unfolds in the time it takes him to undergo twelve 30-second electroshock treatments in a New York psychiatric ward.

"A brilliant inside look at mental illness".

"A compelling read".

For fans of Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette * *, Toni Jordan's Addition, and Leaving Van Gogh, a novel by Carol Wallace.

* = starred review
* * = starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #377

The word is out about German author Nele Neuhaus' American debut Snow White Must Die * (translated by Steven T. Murray). This opener of a new contemporary police procedural series is already a huge international bestseller. (Available in the original German editions in our World Language Collections)

After serving a 10-year sentence for murdering two young girls (convicted solely on circumstantial evidence) , 30-year-old Tobias Sartorius returns home to Altenhain, a village near Frankfurt to find his parents divorced, and their lives in shambles. On a rainy November day police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to a mysterious traffic accident: A woman has fallen from a pedestrian bridge onto on-coming traffic, and witnesses are definite that she was pushed. It soon becomes clear to the detectives that the two cases might be connected.

When another young girl disappears, the investigation turns into a race against time as the villagers are determined to take matters into their own hands. "Again and again, Neuhaus inserts the old Grimm's fairy tale refrain : "White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony" that describes Snow White, the role of one of the original missing girls in a high school play 10 years earlier, to underscore the grimmest of human emotions: white for icily plotted revenge, red for raging jealousy, black for homicidal madness.

"An atmospheric, character-driven and suspenseful mystery set in a small town that could be anywhere, dealing with issues of gossip, power, and keeping up appearances".

This emotional page turner, fueled by unexpected plot twists will please fans of Tana French, Laura Lippman, Kate Atkinson, and Chevy Stevens.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #376

Picked by the publisher to relaunch Mysterious Press is Michael Kardos's The Three-Day Affair * *. For Jeffrey, Nolan, Evan, and Will who met 13 years ago at Princeton as undergrads, what was supposed to be their annual gathering of golf, booze and guy-talk turned harrowing in a split second, when Jeff, the dot.com millionaire kidnapped the teenage cashier at a spur-of-the moment stop at a convenient store.

When Jeff yelled "Drive!", their lives would never be the same again. As Will narrates what happen in the next three days, their friendship and long-hidden animosities further complicate their nightmarish situation, making the final twist of an ending, a "vicious closing sting".

Award-winning short story writer Kardos' debut novel features "finely drawn characters, clever plotting, a fine surprise ending, and graceful and economical storytelling". He lives in Starkville, Mississippi, where he co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University and edits the literary journal Jabberwock Review.

"A wonderful piece of literary suspense craftsmanship" ( ~Michael Koryta), sure to please fans of Scott Smith's A Simple Plan (adopted into a feature film), and Deliverance (in video format) by James Dickey. Readers might also enjoy Owen Laukkanen's The Professionals (2012).

* * = starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #375

If the name Dick Wolf sounds familiar, it is likely you are a Law & Order fan and have seen the credits at the end of each episode for the show's Creator/Executive Producer. The Intercept * just released, is his debut novel, and the first in a projected series.

When 5 passengers and a flight attendant of a commercial jetliner thwarted a hijacking attempt over the Atlantic Ocean, New York Intelligence Division Police detective Jeremy Fisk (a rule-breaker with a sharp mind and flawless instincts) suspects that this might only be a diversion; that another potentially more devastating terrorist attack is imminent, and soon.

Krina Gersten, a 4th-generation NYPD and tough-as-nails has been assigned as Fisk's partner. Together they match wits with opponents who are smarter and more agile than any they have ever faced.

"Wolf's espionage and police-procedural hybrid combines the brainy suspense and unfiltered social commentary found in the best Law & Order episodes with perfectly calibrated action".

"A pulsating plotline. Clever characters. Dramatic dialog. Surprising twists. All make for an edge-of-your-seat read that will have thriller fans eagerly awaiting the next series installment", a good thing if you are an adrenaline-junkie.

For fans for Nelson DeMille, Vince Flynn, and Christopher Reich.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #374

Being released just in time to coincide with the much anticipated 3rd season of Downton Abbey, Elizabeth Wilhide's debut novel Ashenden is sure to find eager readers. It is a story about an English country house and the people who inhabit it - upstairs and downstairs, births and deaths, comings and goings, over the course of 240 years.

When siblings Charlie and Ros discover that they have inherited Ashenden Park, their aunt's much-loved house, they must decide if they should sell it. In an interwoven narrative spanning two and a half centuries, we meet the original architect who gave it shape, the families who called it home, the soldiers it billeted during the Great War, the housekeeping staff that ran it, to the young couple who lovingly restored it to shades of its former glory.

Wilhide, author (website) of more than 20 books on interior design, decoration, and architecture gives us "an evocative portrait of a house that becomes a character as compelling as the people who inhabit it."

More on the English country house and its inhabitants, try Secrets of the Manor House : inside British country homes in the early 1900's (2012), a PBS video.

For a closer look at the interiors, how about Henrietta Spencer-Churchill's gorgeously photographed Classic English Interiors? Or come along on the The English Country House : a grand tour by Gervase Jackson-Stops and James Pipkin.

For those of you who could not wait until Sunday, do you know you can watch the first 10 minutes of Season 3 right now?

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #373

A runaway bestseller in its native Germany since its publication in 2011, Alex Capus's Leon & Louise has just been longlisted for the German Book Prize. This story of enduring love that survives the tribulations of two world wars is inspired by the author's French paternal grandfather, a police chemist at the Quai des Orfèvres.

Leon Le Gall and Louise Janvier met as teenagers in the summer of 1918 in the village of Saint-Luc-sur-Marne. Their tentative romance was cut short when both were severely wounded by German artillery fire. When they met up in Paris a decade later, circumstances and their strong conviction about family and responsibility kept them apart. The Occupation of Paris during WWII sent Louise into the wilds of Africa and Leon under the watchful eye of the SS. Their love, however remain constant.

"On its surface, this is a story about enduring love. But it is also about the way that power can be abused, particularly in times of war, and the daily sacrifices people make to preserve what they hold most dear."

Capus was born to a French father and a Swiss mother. He spent his formative years in his grandfather's house in Normandy and may account for the lovely depiction of the locale (map) as the haven for Parisian holidaymakers at the turn of the 20th century. As a student of history and a former journalist, Capus was able to recreate, in great details and stoic realism the Nazi occupation of Paris and the hardships on its citizens.

A captivating read for a cold dreary day. Will appeal to fans of Tatiana de Rosnay. Readers might also like The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman, and Anita Shreve's Resistance.

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