Reading Recommendations · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (May 2010)
Only a few books reach the top of the fiction bestseller charts, but there are many more terrific new titles available at the Library. Here are some recent favorites.
Singled out numerous times by the Pushcart Prize committee as an author of special merit, Robin Black debuts her first short story collection. These nine stories capture people in a transitional period of life, coping with changing relationships in the continuum of daily challenges. Incisive, perceptive writing brings these characters to life as they reassess what life was and will be like from this point on. Blackï¿½s carefully chosen words will linger in the readerï¿½s mind.
When Clara Purdy hits the Gage family car, she finds that she has destroyed their home as well as their transportation. While mother Lorraine is in the hospital being examined, the doctors discover cancer. The three children and their grandmother, out on the street, come to live with guilt-ridden Clara, who suddenly finds her lonely, dull life has purpose and more commotion than she bargained for. Compared to the serene but emotionally charged writing of Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg, this novel is short-listed for almost every Canadian literary prize this year.
Although billed as a mystery/thriller, this authentically detailed novel could be listed as ï¿½out of todayï¿½s headlinesï¿½. A fatal flood in an Eastern Kentucky coal mine is inspected inside and out. Is it just a tragic accident, something the community of Hazard knows all too well, or was it deliberate? The author, now a public health reporter for the New York Times, was a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal where his writing influenced coal-mining legislation.
In a blend of legend and traditional mystery, Malgwynï¿½s second adventure (following The Killing Ways) finds him accompanying Arthur ï¿½the High King of all Britanniaï¿½ to Glastonbury to investigate a monk. But a murder in the abbey sidetracks the original purpose of the visit. Whisperings of political intrigue and theological debate have brought a future saint, Patrick, to the same abbey to do his own assessment when the two inquiries collide, resulting in a second death. Rich intrigue brings these historic figures to life in a complex and spellbinding look at medieval times and conspiracies.
Recently stateside from Iraq, Neal Maven has a difficult time matching a position to his particular talents, those of a Special Forces Green Beret. But the job that Brad Royce offers seems like a perfect fit ï¿½ taking down drug dealers. This puts the bad guys off the street, destroys the drugs, and if they pocket any cash thatï¿½s found, -- well, thatï¿½s just like Robin Hood! But Maven knows that everything isnï¿½t square with the deal, and ultimately he will have to right his wrongs. Fast-paced, intense action with an anti-hero still stuck on his high school crush.
New York City in 1857 was a boiling pot of political vice, social upheaval, and greed. The murder of a well-to-do dentist captured the headlines, especially as his young widowed housekeeper and possibly secret wife was the main suspect. This novel records the trial of Emma Cunningham as well as the sensational mood of the journalists and judicial procedures of the time. A great find for historical novel lovers, 31 Bond Street has been described as ï¿½Caleb Carr meets Scott Turow.ï¿½
British information officer Max Chadwick is ordered to keep up morale and make sure the Maltese press keeps a favorable view of the troops stationed there. When a Navy man looks to be the serial killer preying on local girls, Chadwick heads a quick and quiet investigation, knowing the outcome could be exactly what he is working to prevent. The uncommon setting of World War II Malta, more heavily bombed than London, and Millsï¿½ seductive storytelling talents make for a heady tale of suspense.
If steampunk is the fiction flavor of the moment, then this slightly disturbing debut novel by Palmer is indeed a highlight of the new genre. Alone except for mad Miranda and the frozen body of her inventor father, Harold Wilson floats in perpetuity in a zeppelin above the alternate universe of the early twentieth century, recording his life story. The narration, falling somewhere between a B-grade science fiction movie and deep surrealism, is carried out in phantasmagoric sequences, cities filled with marauding tin men, and the quest for the ultimate creation ï¿½ the perpetual time machine.
Like Peaceï¿½s first post-war Tokyo novel, Tokyo Year Zero, this second one is based on a true crime. In 1948, a man posing as a doctor gets 16 bank employees to swallow a liquid to prevent dysentery. Twelve die, four survive, and the man walks out much wealthier than when he came in. In steady repetitious rhythm, the tale is told twelve times over, taking various forms -- newspaper articles, the bank log, survivorsï¿½ testimonies, detectivesï¿½ notebooks, the dead wailing. Definitely not for everyone, but ï¿½highly recommended for readers who enjoy complicated and layered writing.ï¿½
Shep Knacker, Merrill Lynch Account Number 934-23F917, has almost ï¿½ of a million dollars saved up for his ï¿½Afterlifeï¿½ and heï¿½s ready. Problem is his wife isnï¿½t, having just been diagnosed with a rare and fatal form of cancer. This piercing and telling look into the health care system that sends Shep back to work to keep insurance that wonï¿½t even cover his wifeï¿½s medical bills is the sort of dilemma facing many middle-class Americans today. Readers will find much to identify with and cheer Shep on as he tries to support his wife before the funds run dry, all the while seeing his dream slip away.
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