June 2013 Archives

New Fiction

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Summer is the time for the blockbusters, the big names, the beach reads. You probably already know that we have plenty of those. Here's a list of some lower profile and offbeat new novels that you may have missed.

 

 

Click for availability and more information Autobiography of Us , by Aria Beth Sloss
 
Coming of age 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. Their struggle to define themselves against the backdrop of an American cultural revolution unites them early on, until one sweltering evening the summer before their last year of college, when a single act of betrayal changes 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. The book spans four decades (the 1950s through the 1980s), and gracefully explores the friendship of two women as well as the culture of the times. To get a feel for the novel, the author created and discussed a music playlist on the Largehearted Boy blog that she feels works as a soundtrack for the book. Take a look here.


Click for availability and more information Black Venus, by James MacManus
 
A story based on the romance between Charles Baudelaire and the Haitian cabaret singer who inspired his most famous and controversial poems is set against the art scene of 19th-century Paris and follows their enduring bond, the banning of his master work and their scandalous public trial for obscenity. McManus, who is managing director of the Times of London literary supplement recently wrote in the Huffington Post blog about how Baudelaire changed his life. 


Click for availability and more information Chocolates for Breakfast , by Pamela Moore
 
White Oleander author Janet Fitch has the best take on this recently re-released 1956 novel that I have come across. Here she is in a recent piece in Salon: "Fifteen-year-old Courtney Farrell has been raised by her actress mother to make a good martini and understand how to get around in the adult world of Hollywood's famed Garden of Allah, where her mother lives. She returns from boarding school in the East -- a touchstone of the best girl trash -- takes her first lover (a homosexual actor!), drinks a lot and becomes very jaded and sophisticated. A book to treasure forever."

There is a local angle here as well, it appears that when the novel begins, Courtney is going to boarding school right here in Greenwich. The book gained notoriety for its frank depiction of sexuality at a time when 18 year old girls were not expected to write or even read about such topics. The book also includes discussion of homosexuality, alcoholism, gender roles and sexual exploration that was, for the era, uncommon. Sometimes referred to as an American version of Bonjour Tristesse,  this is a very welcome and inspired title for the folks at Harper's to re-issue. A bit of literary and social  history for people to catch up with.


Click for availability and more information Cinnamon and Gunpowder, by Eli Brown
 
The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail. To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he's making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider. But Mabbot--who exerts a curious draw on the chef--is under siege. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot's madness, he must rely on the bizarre crew members he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.

Watch the book trailer here.


Click for availability and more information Good Kids, by Benjamin Nugent
 
At fifteen, Josh Paquette and Khadijah Silverglate-Dunn catch Josh's father and Khad ijah's mother kissing in a natural foods store. As both of their families fall apart, the teenagers sign a pact never to cheat on anyone, ever. They have no problem keeping the vow--until they meet again at twentyeight, both struggling with career and identity, and both engaged to other people. A reviewer in the Boston Globe calls the book "modest modern-day rebuttal of the fairy tale romance." 


Click for availability and more information In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, by Matt Bell
 
In this debut novel a newlywed couple escapes the busy confusion of their homeland for a distant and almost uninhabited lakeshore. They plan to live there simply, to fish the lake, to trap the nearby woods and build a house upon the dirt between where they can raise a family. But as their every pregnancy fails, the child-obsessed husband begins to rage at this new world: the song-spun objects somehow created by his wife's beautiful singing voice, the giant and sentient bear that rules the beasts of the woods, the second moon weighing down the fabric of their starless sky, and the labyrinth of memory dug into the earth beneath their house. This novel is a powerful exploration of the limits of parenthood and marriage--and of what happens when a marriage's success is measured solely by the children it produces, or else the sorrow that marks their absence. NPR calls it "more a book-length fairy tale than a conventional novel" and "one of the smartest meditations on the subjects of love, family and marriage in recent years." 


Click for availability and more information Last Days, by Adam Nevill
 
Horror fans take note. When guerrilla documentary maker, Kyle Freeman, is asked to shoot a film on the notorious cult known as the Temple of the Last Days, it appears his prayers have been answered. The cult became a worldwide phenomenon in 1975 when there was a massacre including the death of its infamous leader, Sister Katherine. Kyle's brief is to explore the paranormal myths surrounding an organization that became a testament to paranoia, murderous rage, and occult rituals. The shoot's locations take him to the cult's first temple in London, an abandoned farm in France, and a derelict copper mine in the Arizonan desert where The Temple of the Last Days met its bloody end. But when he interviews those involved in the case, those who haven't broken silence in decades, a series of uncanny events plague the shoots. Troubling out-of-body experiences, nocturnal visitations, the sudden demise of their interviewees and the discovery of ghastly artifacts in their room make Kyle question what exactly it is the cult managed to awaken - and what is its interest in him?

Read an interview from Rue Morgue.com with Nevill on his inspirations for the book.


Click for availability and more information Malavita, by Tonino Benacquista ; translated by Emily Read
 
The Blakes are newcomers to a small town in Normandy. Fred is a historian researching the Allied landings, Maggie enjoys charity work, and their kids are looking forward to meeting other teenagers at the local lycée. Or so it seems. In fact, Fred is really Giovanni Manzoni, an ex-goodfella turned stool pigeon who's been relocated from New Jersey to France by the FBI's witness protection program. He's got a two-million-dollar bounty on his head, but he and his family can't help attracting attention (imagine the Sopranos in Normandy). And when imprisoned mobster Don Mimino gets wind of their location, it's like The Godfather as if written by Carl Hiaasen. Because while you can take the man out of the Mafia, you can't take the Mafia out of the man. Soon to be the motion picture The Family starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Tommy Lee Jones, and produced by Martin Scorsese

 

Click for availability and more information The Story of My Purity, by Francesco Pacifico ; translated from the Italian by Stephen Twilley

 
Thirty years old, growing flabby in a sexless marriage, Piero Rosini has decided to dedicate his life to Jesus. He's renounced the novels and American music that were filling his head with nonsense; he's moved out of his fancy bourgeois neighborhood, which was keeping him from finding spiritual purity and the Lord's truth. Now that he and his wife have settled into an un?nished housing development on the far outskirts of Rome, he'll be able to really concentrate on his job at an ultraconservative Catholic publishing house, editing books that highlight the decadence and degradation of modern society. With a charismatic narrator as familiar with the finer points of Christian theology as with the floor layout of IKEA and the schedules of European budget airlines, Francesco Pacifico's exuberant novel brings us Europe old and new and the inner workings of a conflicted but always compelling mind. The Paris Review calls Piero Rosini "the funniest Catholic narrator in contemporary literature" in the introduction to this interview with the author.


Click for availability and more information The Tin Horse, by Janice Steinberg
 
It has been more than sixty years since Elaine Greenstein's twin sister, Barbara, ran away, cutting off contact with her family forever. Elaine has made peace with that loss. But while sifting through old papers as she prepares to move to Rancho Mañana--or the "Ranch of No Tomorrow" as she refers to the retirement community--she is stunned to find a possible hint to Barbara's whereabouts all these years later. And it pushes her to confront the fierce love and bitter rivalry of their youth during the 1920s and '30s, in the Los Angeles Jewish neighborhood of Boyle Heights. In a recent Los Angeles Times interview the author discusses Boyle Heights, the neighborhood the she evokes so poignantly in the novel.

New Young Adult Books

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Now that school is almost out it's time to do some serious reading for fun. Here's a few suggestions to get you started.


Click for availability and more information Arclight, by Josin L. McQuein
 
The Arclight is the last refuge in a post-apocalyptic world consumed by terrifying monsters called the Fade. No one crosses the wall of light that keeps the last human survivors safe. There's nothing else left and nowhere to go. Or so they thought, until Marina, a lone teenage girl, stumbles out of the Dark. Marina doesn't remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. And the Fade want her back. When one of them infiltrates the compound and recognizes Marina, she begins to unlock secrets she didn't even know she had. Marina knows she's an outsider in the Arclight, but she'll do anything to protect those who saved her. Whether they want her help or not. A harrowing sci-fi thriller for fans of Veronica Roth, Stephen King, and Justin Cronin. The first in a new series.


Click for availability and more information Criminal, by Terra Elan McVoy
 
Nikki's life is far from perfect, but at least she has Dee. Her friends tell her that Dee is no good, but Nikki can't imagine herself without him. He's hot, he's dangerous, he has her initials tattooed over his heart, and she loves him more than anything. There's nothing Nikki wouldn't do for Dee. Absolutely nothing. So when Dee pulls Nikki into a crime--a crime that ends in murder--Nikki tells herself that it's all for true love. Nothing can break them apart. Not the police. Not the arrest that lands Nikki in jail. Not even the investigators who want her to testify against him. But what if Dee had motives that Nikki knew nothing about? Nikki's love for Dee is supposed to be unconditional...but even true love has a limit. And Nikki just might have reached hers. The Bookalicious blog calls this "a challenging, wrenching, stunningly done book." 


Click for availability and more information Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets, by Evan Roskos
 
A teenager's attempt to save himself by writing poems, hugging trees, and figuring out what it takes to be a good brother. James experiences the highs and lows of teenage depression while he tries to figure out how it's possible to survive, even when parents and teachers do everything they can to make a kid feel crazy. If you're curious, here the author talks about the novel in an interview published in a recent issue of School Library Journal. 


Click for availability and more information Fox Forever : a Jenna Fox chronicles novel , by Mary E. Pearson
 
Locke Jenkins has some catching up to do. After spending 260 years as a disembodied mind in a little black box, he has a perfect new body. But before he can move on with his unexpected new life, he'll have to return the Favor he accepted from the shadowy resistance group known as the Network. Watch the book trailer here.

Locke must infiltrate the home of a government official by gaining the trust of his daughter, seventeen-year-old Raine, and he soon finds himself pulled deep into the world of the resistance--and into Raine's life. Mary E. Pearson brings the story she began in The Adoration of Jenna Fox and continued in The Fox Inheritance to a breathtaking conclusion as Locke discovers that being truly human requires much more than flesh and blood. 


Click for availability and more information In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters
 
In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she's forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love, a boy who died in battle, returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her? This received a starred review in Publisher's Weekly. 


Click for availability and more information Linked, by Imogen Howson
 
Elissa used to have it all: looks, popularity, and a bright future. Now, all she has is nightmarish visions and unexplained bruises. Finally, she's promised a cure, and a surgery is scheduled. But on the eve of the procedure, she discovers the truth behind her visions: She's seeing the world through another girl's eyes. A world filled with pain and wires and weird machines. Elissa follows her visions, only to find a battered, broken girl on the run. A girl--Lin--who looks exactly like Elissa, down to the matching bruises. A twin she never knew existed. Elissa helps Lin evade the government agents who are ruthlessly tracking her down, but they're struggling to avoid capture, and soon Elissa is forced to turn to the only person who can help: Cadan, her brother's infuriating, arrogant best friend, and new graduate of the SFI space flight academy. Cadan is their one chance at safety. But Lin is too valuable to let go, and Elissa has knowledge that is too dangerous. The government will stop at nothing to get them back. Here's a short interview with the author from the Lucky13s blog.


Click for availability and more information One + One = Blue, by MJ Auch
 
Twelve year-old Basil knows he's special--he's been associating numbers with colors since he was a kid. His gift (or curse) has turned him into somewhat of a loner, but his world begins to change when he meets Tenzie, the new girl in school who has similar freakisms. She, too, has synesthesia (a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another). At first, Basil is somewhat annoyed with Tenzie's pushiness, but after Basil's estranged mother returns, his life is turned upside down... and Tenzie may be the only person to help him put it back together again. 


Click for availability and more information The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door, by Karen Finneyfrock
 
Celia Door enters her freshman year of high school with giant boots, dark eyeliner, and a thirst for revenge against Sandy Firestone, the girl who did something unspeakable to Celia last year. But then Celia meets Drake, the cool new kid from New York City who entrusts her with his deepest, darkest secret. When Celia's quest for justice threatens her relationship with Drake, she's forced to decide which is sweeter: revenge or friendship. Recommended perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Will Grayson, Will Grayson


Click for availability and more information This is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E. Smith
 
Perfect strangers Graham Larkin and Ellie O'Neill meet online when Graham accidentally sends Ellie an e-mail about his pet pig, Wilbur. The two 17-year-olds strike up an e-mail relationship from opposite sides of the country and don't even know each other's first names. What's more, Ellie doesn't know Graham is a famous actor, and Graham doesn't know about the big secret in Ellie's family tree. When the relationship goes from online to in-person, they find out whether their relationship can be the real thing. 


Click for availability and more information The Whole Stupid Way We Are , by N. Griffin
 
Another starred review from Publisher's Weekly. Here's what they have to say: "When readers meet 14-year-old Dinah, she's plotting to get her best friend Skint out of detention, which is Dinah all over: she's a loving worrier, loyal even to the people and things she's ambivalent about, like the Girls' Friendly Society, a service group whose members have dwindled to three older women, Dinah, and the technically ineligible Skint. The Girls' Friendly tries to help people in its small Maine town, but never in the way Dinah and Skint wish. And the truth is, Skint, whose father has early-onset dementia, could use some help himself, not that he'd take it. First-time author Griffin is good at depicting a small town where the many interconnections make it hard to know what to overlook and when to intervene, and she is equally tuned into the different ways people, adults and teens both, fail each other. It's impossible not to like clumsy, warm-hearted Dinah, even as her best intentions turn Skint's family upside down; Griffin's portrayal of Dinah and Skint's sense of injustice, frustration, and rage is wrenching and difficult to forget."

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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