Reading Recommendations · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (March 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.
At any given time only one person is trained to archive and retrieve information from the Vaults. So when Arthur Puskis finds something heï¿½s never in his seventeen years on the job seen beforeï¿½ a duplicate file containing different pictures ï¿½ he knows somethingï¿½s up. But the government of the City is so corrupt and so far-reaching, it will be hard to prove. A 1930s Gotham-like setting, bad-to-the-bone villains, and two intriguing characters that join in Arthurï¿½s quest for the truth combine for an impressive first novel.
This anthology could easily be called the ï¿½Best of Charles Baxterï¿½. Every tale is a gem, highlighting the quirkiness of his chosen observations. Baxter is the undisputed king of the midwestern short story, and his keenly perceptive take on ordinary people is on par with the best of modern American authors. Whether telling the story in a narrative or a unique character voice in first person, every opening line draws the reader in while the intrigue carries through until the final word.
Although PI Charlotte ï¿½Charlieï¿½ Swift prefers working alone, she finds herself saddled with her silent partnerï¿½s ex-wife who needs an income and thinks learning to be a detective would be great fun. Charlie keeps Gigi busy with inane assignments, ostensibly to master sleuthing skills, while on a more serious note she pursues the case of an abandoned baby that turns into a murder of the babyï¿½s mother. The wonderful combination of zaniness and respect for the mystery make this new series a real winner.
Evans is an emerging young voice of African-American literature. Although she has chosen to use teenagers as her protagonists in the stories collected in this anthology, the idea of being oneï¿½s own worst enemy is universal. Everyone worries about his or her status in the circle of friends, who grandma likes best, and how unfair life is. Her perceptive, emotionally honest, school-smart characters are a fresh breath of air from the usual urban fiction depicting Black adolescents.
Port Bonita, Washington in the 1890s is full of promise, people with high hopes for a fresh start and unlimited wilderness to tame. Fast-forward to 2006, when descendants of those same settlers are facing economic crisis due to decisions made by their forefathers, and a shake-up is necessary though somewhat disrespectful. This highly praised novel has been described as a kaleidoscope, shifting characters and time to set small personal pieces side by side to construct a truly American story.
Rose never kept her impoverished and sordid background as an exotic dancer in one of Bangkokï¿½s gentlemenï¿½s clubs from her husband Poke, but heï¿½s never had to face it until a man Rose thought she had killed resurfaces in her life. This fourth entry in an already superior mystery series accentuates the flavor of Thailand and the cruel fate of country girls who live there. It is one of six nominees for the Edgar Award for best mystery, with the winner announced on April 28th.
The Kitchen God takes on the challenge of understanding ï¿½the workings of the human heartï¿½ by studying the unlikely pairing of impoverished Jinyu and bourgeois Yuying from their early arranged marriage through the good times and bad, sickness and health, times together and times torn apart. Meekings also covers highlights of Chinese history using the couple for a focal point as they adapt to daily living changes through the political power transitions from Japanese occupation to Communism and Maoï¿½s Revolution.
Itï¿½s impossible to read this book without expecting the pages to smell of curry, the open-air markets, and deep red wine. In fact, food stains would seem perfectly appropriate. In a small Alpine village only a narrow street separates two restaurants, the Haji familyï¿½s Maison Mumbai and Madame Malloryï¿½s two-star La Saule Pleureur , but it might as well be halfway around the world. It is all-out war ï¿½ for groceries, for customers, for the very odors in the air ï¿½until a compromise is found in the rare culinary talent of Hassan Haji.
Set in the seedy side of the tourist industry, Russellï¿½s first novel was surely one of the most anticipated titles of early 2011. NPR calls it ï¿½a haunted, alluring phantasmagoriaï¿½, replete with Southern Gothic overtones. With her brother going to the mainland for a job at the new theme park and her sister engaged to a ghost, thirteen-year-old Ava is left to hold the family home and gator park business together after her mother ï¿½ their star alligator wrestler ï¿½ dies of cancer. She goes to Hell and back for what matters most.
Marylou Ahearn, aka Nancy Archer, plots the many possible ways she could kill Wilson Spriggs every day as she walks her dog past the house he shares with his daughterï¿½s family. But when she realizes that the doctor who gave her a radioactive cocktail fifty years ago is suffering from dementia, she decides to punish his family instead. Little did she know that they are already tormenting each other so much that her presence is actually a much-needed pleasure. Delightfully snarky and addictively fun!
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