February 2011

Reading Recommendations · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (February 2011)

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.

Go Mutants!

Larry Doyle
Combine the B science fiction movies of the 1950s with the teen flicks of the same time period and you�ve got this irreverent, retro, yet futuristic story. J!m is a high school loner, set apart by his large blue brain and a father who tried to destroy planet Earth. While he and the other social rejects � a radioactive ape and a gooey shapeshifter � could be the ones to save life as we know it, the real question is: Will J!m get a date to the hop? Quirky and very fun.

Moscow Sting

Alex Dryden
Dryden continues the espionage story he began in his wonderful debut novel, Red to Black. Now that MI6 agent Finn is dead, everyone realizes that he was right and assumes, correctly this time, that Anna, his wife and an ex-KGB officer, is the key to the information they need. Anna has gone underground to protect her son, but soon finds herself pursued by multiple intelligence and international organizations. Who she can trust and who can trust her brings the Cold War and good, old-fashioned spy stories up to date.

You Know When the Men Are Gone

Siobhan Fallon
In her debut novel, Army wife Fallon gives the civilian world a look inside the secluded life at Fort Hood, the premier training station for armored troops. Each short chapter looks at a single family of the First Cavalry Division as husbands are deployed to Iraq. The families who stay behind on the base form a new community. Some wives thrive and fervently support their spouse, but others buckle under loneliness or the close scrutiny of their fishbowl existence. Fallon�s writing style is fresh, personal, and timely.

The Blindness of the Heart

Julia Franck
This dark psychological study won the German Book Award when it was published in 2007. In the early pages, a mother leaves her son waiting in the Berlin train station, never to return. The novel then flashes back to Helene�s childhood, tracing her life between the two World Wars, attempting to show how the emotional growth of a woman trained as a nurse could be so stunted. Highly evocative of the German population of the time, there is much to ponder and discuss in this work.

Life Times: Stories, 1952-2007

Nadine Gordimer
With selections from each of Gordimer�s previous short story collections, this anthology covers the entire career of the South African Nobel Prize winner. Short stories are her personal favorite writing form, with the restriction of length necessitating word choice for the fullest impact. Paired with a previous collection of essays (Telling Times: Writing and Living, 1954-2008), readers have a chance to spend time with one of the most heralded writers of our generation.

The Box: Tales from the Darkroom

Whenever a Nobel Laureate writes a new book, it�s cause for excitement. Declared by many German critics to be Grass' best work yet, The Boxcontinues a biography begun in Peeling the Onion, this time fictionalized through the memories of his eight children. A shadowy, background figure, Grass prompts their recollections with family photos taken with an Agfa box camera that had the ability to capture past, present, and future in one snap. A postmodern masterpiece.

The Pirate Devlin

Mark Keating
Following a Royal Navy defeat, the education that manservant Patrick Devlin has received from his Captain comes in handy as he quickly aligns himself with the winning pirate crew. His fluency in French translates to his learning the location of a buried treasure, just as his swashbuckling and navigational skills promote him to command of his own ship. This motley crew and their dashing captain won�t be satisfied with just one cache of gold, so look forward to further adventures steeped in 18th-century lore.

Salvation City

Sigrid Nunez
A catastrophic flu pandemic orphans 13-year-old Cole Vining. Adopted by Pastor Wyatt and his wife, Cole moves to insular Salvation City, Indiana where the townspeople are awaiting the Rapture. His upbringing with liberal, academically inclined parents clashes with the religious home schooling and values of his new family. The psychological struggle Cole endures when faced with opposing viewpoints, paired with the usual adolescent growing pains, make for a compelling tale.

The Weekend

Bernard Schlink
Christiane has arranged the weekend at a country cottage to celebrate her brother�s release. J�rg has spent the last 24 years in prison, convicted of murder and terrorism. Among the guests are his university friends, each carrying a selectively edited memory of that time. The author of The Reader guardedly explores the tenuous relationships as people uneasily reconnect with each other and the past, drawing the circle tighter and tighter while J�rg is tempted by someone to rejoin the cause.

The Blind Contessa�s New Machine

Corey Wallace
There is a fairy tale-like quality to this little gem of a historical novel, loosely based on the invention of a prototype of the modern typewriter. In 19th century Italy, the conventions of society must be upheld, even if Carolina Fantoni can�t enjoy the view. Despite her insistence that her eyesight is failing, her wedding plans go forward and only her eccentric neighbor, Turri, seems to understand and care. An illicit romance follows as Turri invents a way for Carolina to escape her fantasy world.
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