Reading Recommendations · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (June 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.
Calhoun’s debut novel is set in the near future where an insomnia epidemic is turning the entire population into disoriented malevolent zombie-like creatures. Those who still have the ability to sleep, like Briggs and Lila, are no longer safe, not even from their loved ones. As sleep and dreams become the most precious commodities, a wilding of epic proportions ensues. It is a struggle for survival where the key may lie in a sleep center’s research. The portrayal is just realistic enough to rev up the creep factor. No sweet dreams in store for this one.
Klay’s attempt to write war stories that engage both veterans and civilians has received nothing but rave reviews. The 12 stories about the Iraqi War present many different viewpoints of military involvement. Most common is the soldier’s return home, as in the title piece, but non-combat roles are well represented as chaplains, contractors, and foreign service officers are given unique voices. As raw and brutal as the battle scenes are, Klay’s success at showing other perspectives provides a fuller picture of the tedium, anxiety, and conditions of wartime.
Alternating chapters in this dual narrative are connected through a character named Isaac. Masquerading as a student in both cases, the story opens in Isaac’s native Uganda, early 1970s, where revolution is starting to take hold on the university campus as protests ramp up to hateful violence. In the second part of the story, Isaac has come to America posing as an exchange student but forms a personal relationship with a social worker. Both halves of the story beg the question of who Isaac really is, besides an obviously charismatic man who reveals little of himself.
This treat for baseball and mystery fans alike begins a series featuring Johnny Adcock, a MLB closing pitcher who at 35 faces retirement with every pain, injury, and given-up run. So he’s developed a little career to fall back on – private investigation. A teammate who is trying to cover up some nastiness involving a pornography ring and a Mexican cartel is his client in this opener. The writing style and Southern California setting are reminiscent of Chandler and Hammett, but the real gem for many Cincinnatians will be the baseball lingo and inside scoop on the sport.
Emma Donoghue’s Room meets dystopian survival story in Morley’s novel about a 16-year-old girl held captive in an abandoned missile silo. Creepy survivalist Dobbs Hordin thinks Blythe should thank him for saving her from the imminent end of the world. For almost twenty years Blythe lives underground, finally escaping with her son. What they find is a world Blythe doesn’t recognize; Dobbs’ predictions have come true while she remained isolated. She sets out to rediscover her hometown and family as well as teach her son about the world above.
Poissant is now a faculty member at the University of Central Florida, but he recently spent some time in the area earning his PhD at UC. While this is a first anthology for him, his name is not unfamiliar in literary circles since most of these 15 stories have appeared in prestigious publications like The Atlantic, The Southern Review, and Best New American Voices. His crisp superior writing style has a luring quality that makes his plots and characters palpable. Reviewers say he’s the real deal and an up-and-comer so expect to be impressed.
Sharma’s sophomore effort delivers a powerful punch, made even more emotional when you know it was based on the author’s experience and family situation. The story is told by Ajay, the younger son in an Indian family, who is excited to receive tickets to fly to America and reunite the family with his father. The American dream looms large, and the boys are encouraged to study hard and succeed. But it all comes crashing down when Ajay’s older brother, who just passed exams to enter a prestigious high school, is injured in a swimming pool accident.
For this stand-alone effort, Steinhauer sets aside his Milo Weaver series for an elaborately finessed espionage tale. A lesser American diplomat is murdered at a restaurant in Budapest, and his widow follows her instincts back to their previous assignment in Cairo. Could her husband have betrayed his country, or is it all part of an abandoned CIA plan to topple hostile governments? Unreliable characters attempt to outmaneuver each other in equal efforts to get information and keep their own secrets. Steinhauer sets a new updated standard for old-school spy stories.
Looted treasure from World War II is once again the subject of a novel, this time based on the “Hungarian Gold Train” incident. Jack Wiseman gives his granddaughter a peacock necklace from the train he guarded almost 70 years earlier and asks her to return it to the rightful owner. The necklace connects three time periods – the present with the search for its owner, Jack’s military duty during World War II, and the life of the mysterious Frau E who wears the necklace in a portrait. If you like this one, try both fiction and nonfiction works about the Amber Room.
Lucky Buckeye fans will be able to take a walk down memory lane in the first of a mystery series set in Columbus. Andy Hayes was a fan favorite at OSU until an incident his senior year made him one of the most hated football players in the university’s history. Now he’s earning a living as a private investigator. There’s lots of local atmosphere as Andy travels around Columbus working on what started as an extortion case but has turned into something big enough to garner attention from the FBI. There’s a lot to like in this entertaining kickoff.
Need more suggestions? Contact your local branch and our staff will be happy to assist you!