Reading Recommendations · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (August 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.
The storyline may not be new--student on scholarship paired with moneyed roommate, spends summer at the tony cottage getting used to the lifestyle until tragedy strikes--but Beverly-Whittemore breathes new life into this gothic tale, written with more suspense than the usual version. Mabel truly is torn between exposing what she uncovers and her loyalty to the people she’s come to consider family. It’s always fun to see the wealthy get their comeuppance, especially when the Winslows’ flawless façade covers a multitude of sins.
Brookes, a former BBC correspondent stationed in China, moves the Cold War spy story to the Far East where exiled intellectuals are adapting to the current political climate. Escaping prison after 20 years, Peanut tries to cash in on the military secrets he has kept. Assuming British journalist Philip Mangan to also be a spy, Peanut tries to rouse some interest in the services he can provide. But cyberspace has changed espionage methods, and Peanut must update his tactics to stay in the game. Not all foreigners are spies any more, but then again they could be persuaded...
Sometimes when questioned for an opinion about something, people respond with “interesting,” which usually is not a compliment. But Galchen’s 10 short stories are interesting in a way both complimentary and perplexing, often inviting a second read. There is a certain distancing of the absurd – furniture doesn’t just up and walk out of an apartment, a woman doesn’t suddenly grow a breast on her back – but it all appears perfectly normal in the life of her characters who, while seemingly successful enough, are fairly clueless about relationships and life around them.
One thing Maud knows for sure is that her friend Elizabeth is missing. There’s not a lot else she knows for sure since dementia blurs her reality to the point where even the coping skills she has developed are not enough. But memories are crystal clear, and the empty space Elizabeth once filled conjures up a past loss that is also unsolved. While Maud makes an unreliable narrator, the choice to have her tell the story gives a haunting and empathetic significance to the events. The patient plotting echoes the progress of the disease with tenderness and realism.
Jim Stegner is a successful painter with a short-fuse temper. He battles with the basic concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, as his desire to rescue a horse that’s being beaten ends in murder. If it only ended there he could justify it, but Dell’s relatives are a vengeful lot. As Jim travels the roads of Colorado and New Mexico, engrossed in the wonders of nature and painting along the way, he tries to outrun the law and the bad guys. But maybe he’s the bad guy. “The story is at times suspenseful, at times melancholy, at times spiritual, but always engrossing.”
Eccentricity and personal ambition may motivate the residents of Laurelfield, but for them there’s no escaping the house and its history. Makkai’s charming tale begins with the current occupants, one of whom is researching the estate’s sojourn as an artist colony. It moves backward in chunks of time and three generations to 1900, and Violet’s suicide which is alluded to in the first paragraph. It’s a quirky sort of quasi-ghost story/atmospheric mystery which “unfolds as a kind of bookish scavenger hunt” with long kept family secrets being revealed.
Everyone has heard of her – the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl from the Diner, the Hitchhiker who borrows a coat which is found on the passenger seat at the site of the accident. Her name is Rose Marshall, and this is her story. She’s been traveling the ghostroads and asphalt highways of America for almost 60 years, pursued by the man who ran her off the road back in 1956. Her adventures even include some ghostbusting students from OSU. Are you going her way? She might be waiting by the side of the road just for you.
Reviewers have called this debut novel The Handmaid’s Tale from an insect perspective. The authoritarian society is found in a beehive where ugly, oversized Flora 717 is a member of the lowest order, the sanitation workers. But her special abilities – she can speak and reason – are recognized by a priestess who grants her access to exclusive areas of the hive, even to meeting the Queen. Her greatest talent, unknown even to herself, is the most forbidden for only the Queen is allowed to be fertile. Flora’s eggs will change tradition in this sheltered world.
If you were a high school band/orchestra nerd or theater geek, you will appreciate the chance to see these characters take center stage at the New York statewide music festival in the Catskills. On the 15th anniversary of the murder/suicide that is the Bellweather Hotel’s claim to fame, a snowstorm is barreling down on the area. The first chair flautist has disappeared. Although her roommate claims to have seen the body hanging from the ceiling by an extension cord, no corpse can be found. With everyone snowed in, two unlikely partners team up to solve the mystery.
"For Chicago sociology professor Amelia Emmet, violence was a research topic--until a student she'd never met shot her. He also shot himself. Now he's dead and she's back on campus, trying to keep up with her class schedule, a growing problem with painkillers, and a question she can't let go: Why?” There is a graduate student eager, for reasons of his own, to be her assistant. She doesn’t know he’d like to make her shooting his dissertation topic, but he can ferret out information she can’t. Not all the skeletons are in the biology department at Rothbert University.
Need more suggestions? Contact your local branch and our staff will be happy to assist you!