Reading Recommendations · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (November 2012)
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.
Carmen Garrett isn’t glad her husband died, but she certainly is relieved. While she wonders how their three children, especially her Down’s syndrome son, will handle life without their father, she has long anticipated the freedom from his need for constant care and a chance to expand her relationship with her lover. Within weeks she is on the receiving end of a cancer diagnosis herself, and the world shifts beneath her once again. A sensitive character study that will appeal to Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg fans.
A solitary man, Talmadge is tied to the land that he and his mother have nurtured for the last 50 years. When two young pregnant girls appear in his orchard, he tends to them much as he does his trees – providing quiet unrequested sustenance, shaping them to trust him, and caring for their yield. A visitor from the girls’ past brings tragic results, and eventually Talmadge is left alone again but with a child to raise. A heart-wrenching tale of roots that never can be left behind and the wilderness of the still untamed West Coast from a young new novelist.
For Jimm Juree, helping run her family's resort on a rather desolate stretch of beach in Thailand is fairly uninteresting compared to her former career as a crime reporter. But when a head washes up on the beach in front of the resort, she's back on the job whether the local authorities want her help or not. Longlisted for the Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger Award, this second Jimm Juree mystery follows Killed at the Whim of a Hat, whose plot involved a VW van with skeleton passengers.
Set in the framework of the historic political intrigue of Renaissance Italy, Ennis has written a dense and absorbing whodunit in the spirit of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. In order to solve Florence's serial killings, Leonardo da Vinci, who is skilled with visual clues and codes, pairs up with Niccolo Machiavelli, whose psychological insights into the struggle for power will later be recorded in his writing of The Prince. A beautiful courtesan joins the duo in order to rescue her kidnapped son from his grandfather, the Pope.
Like the Japanese garden in the title of this book, the writing is quiet and evocative, carefully planned with every stroke serving a purpose. It is the story of a Chinese-Malaysian judge who, nearing the end of her life, returns to the garden created in memory of her sister. Years ago she had hoped to hire the Japanese emperor's exiled gardener Aritomo to build it, but he would only cooperate if Yun Ling Teoh agreed to be his apprentice in turn. The creation of the garden is entwined with a modern plotline in which a historian is researching the garden and Aritomo.
This family drama takes place over the Fourth of July weekend in Marilyn and David's Berkshire summer home where everyone has come together to commemorate the one year anniversary of their son's death. For Leo's three sisters, his widow and his parents, it is the first full family gathering since the funeral. As the children come to find out, since David and Marilyn are separating, it may be the last time. Uneasy and short on time, they all try to settle in, but as one reviewer put it, “the baggage they bring with them isn't in their suitcases.”
Following her highly successful debut novel, Black Water Rising, Locke writes more atmospheric suspense, this time set on a Louisiana plantation which almost acts like a character in the story. Belle Vie has been turned into a tourist attraction and Caren Gray, whose mother cooked at the estate, now manages it. When a young woman is found murdered in the sugarcane fields and rumors of a sale of the plantation arise, Caren looks closer into the history of Belle Vie, in particular the slave quarters, and finds a connection with her own background.
Grateful to have landed a dream job and be able to pay back his debts accumulated during Harvard Law School, Mike Ford doesn't question the work too much. But as the son of a con man, he recognizes a power play when he sees one, and this one involves the most influential people in DC. This fast-paced thriller combines the “who knows what” suspense of The Firm with the political and intellectual muscle-flexing of those in power in government. A very satisfying debut with movie rights sold and a sequel already in the works.
A bit of nostalgia takes center stage in the story of how a little girl from Door County, Wisconsin becomes a Hollywood star. Blonde Elsa Emerson grew up helping with her family's summer stock theater and knew at an early age that she wanted to be an actress. Making the trek to Hollywood as the wife of an actor, Elsa is discovered by a studio executive who dyes her hair brown, gets her a divorce, and oversees her transformation to Laura Lamont, Academy Award winner. But success on the Hollywood backlot doesn't always equal that in real life.
Honestly, can you pass up this title? As irreverent and “horrortactular” as its predecessor, this sequel to John Dies at the End is coming out just as the movie of the earlier title is coming to video on demand. John and David are once again the clueless slacker dudes who have the only inkling that the world is in need of saving. It seems all this pop culture zombie obsession has actually set off a zombie invasion with spiders that enter people's bodies and take over their brains. A global apocalypse has to be gory, and sacrifice is necessary. Consider yourself warned.
Need more suggestions? Contact your local branch and our staff will be happy to assist you!