Reading Recommendations · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (January 2014)
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.
Originally lured by the money and the equally enticing thought of outsmarting the enemy, architect Lucien Bernard designs secret shelters for Jews in German-occupied Paris. The tension on the streets is palpable, and the hardships of life in Paris in 1942 are not romanticized. The danger of being found out becomes personal when one hideout is discovered. What began as an ego boost for Lucien becomes a fully developed heroic cause by the end of the novel. This World War II thriller offers a different perspective from the usual spy and military tales.
Loosely based on the sensational tabloid story of Amanda Knox, duBois’ tale of two American students abroad emphasizes the ultimate loss of two young lives. Although Lily Hayes is still alive, her conduct and ultimate trial for the murder of her roommate, Katy Kellers, is surely a tragedy in itself. DuBois is especially good at writing inner monologues and puts the reader inside the heads of Lily, her parents, and the strange boyfriend/next-door neighbor. Clearly the casual carefree attitude of Sebastien and Lily will help seal Lily’s fate.
Four interconnected stories from the author of House of Sand and Fog explore the human hunger for fulfillment and the more-often-than-not disappointment that comes in not finding it. Most of his characters are equating love and physical desire, which turns out not to be the same. In the first story, it’s a cheating wife; in the second a couple who think they have finally found the right partners. The title story is about a teenage girl, haunted by a dirty video circulating through social media, who hopes to turn her life around while working for the bartender in the third story.
Duro Kolak has lived his entire life in the small Croatian village of Gost, as have most of the residents there. The complexity of the villagers’ relationships is gradually revealed as Duro works to restore the house next door, now occupied by a British family intending to use it as a summer home. Although the newcomers see beauty and potential, the long-time residents have lived through war and past hardships which filter their feelings and reflect in the state of the condition of their buildings and personal interactions. The writing and story are low-key but pack a powerful message about local history.
Brown Dog is a quintessential American character. Part Native American, he holes up (mostly) in the backwoods of Upper Michigan, works (generally legally) at odd jobs, and is motivated by booze and women. This collection of six stories consists of five previously published and a sixth new one, which rounds out B.D.’s story and might find him settling down. His escapades are wild and wilder, ranging from an illegal gig that turns up a preserved body, a trip to LA to retrieve a stolen bearskin, his many amorous encounters, and his parental role as a sperm donor.
This is the third book of the fantasy series which began with The Lies of Locke Lamora. It may have been 6 years since the previous installment, but the action starts right where Red Seas Under Red Skies ended. To get an antidote from the Bondsmaji, poisoned con artist Locke Lamora takes on a political job which pits him against his long-lost love Sabetha. He must keep his wits about him and not let his romantic thoughts lead him astray because Sabetha is a clever and ruthless opponent, battling for her own cause. To win or to win her back is Locke’s dilemma.
McDermott has won the National Book Award and been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize three times, so there is no doubt that she can write. What she does best is make the ordinary seem extraordinary. In Someone, we are treated to an intimate character study of Marie, an Irish-American girl living in Brooklyn, whose life will span the better part of the twentieth century. Reading tales of her childhood, her first job, her loves and losses feels like having coffee in a neighbor’s kitchen and hearing stories that are only shared among family.
Widow Ruth starts to hear noises in the night, shaking her confidence in living alone on a fairly isolated stretch of Australian beach front property. Then along comes Frida Young, a free caregiver sent by the government to help out--or so she claims. A godsend for sure, as Ruth’s memory seems to be slipping. But wouldn’t she remember Frida moving into her son’s room? And what about the tiger noises in the living room at night? If you have elderly parents, you’ll be checking on them more often after finishing this unsettling and riveting debut novel.
Having been ‥rusticated”--a quaint Victorian term for expelled--from university, Richard Shenstone goes to live with his mother and sister in a shambles of a house in the moors outside the village where his father had been the rector. While Richard was at school, his father died and the family has fallen onto hard times and created gossip. The story is presented as Richard’s journal, although his viewpoint and credibility becomes suspect when Richard’s dependence on opium comes to light. Heavy gothic details and lurid family secrets abound.
It has been one year to the day that Inetta Self died of cancer. As promised, her husband Leonard is taking her ashes up to Artists Point to scatter them over the canyon edge. But Leonard also plans to end his life there, feeling empty and alone now that Inetta is gone. As he drives from his Colorado ranch and up the winding roads to the overlook, we learn about the people touched by these two lives. The writing is exquisitely simple and tender, making the reader care more about the taciturn widower with every passing mile.
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