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December 2005

Librarians’ Choice 2005 · Fiction

cover of The Diezmo The Diezmo
Rick Bass
In 1842, five hundred vigilantes from the Republic of Texas entered Mexico. Bent on reprisal, they attacked a small village. The force was captured by the Mexican army, and ten-percent of the Texans were executed following an escape attempt. Rick Bass offers a lean and leathery first-person account of a forgotten incident in Texas and U.S. history.

cover of The Third Translation The Third Translation
Matt Bondurant
Fans of The Da Vinci Code will relish this thriller set in the British Museum involving an ancient Egyptian puzzle. While trying to discover the elusive secret of the Stela of Paser, Walter Rothschild is seduced by a young woman who vanishes with an important artifact—an artifact that he must retrieve or face the ruin of his career, and his life.

cover of The Unthinkable Thoughts Of Jacob Green The Unthinkable Thoughts Of Jacob Green
Joshua Braff
Trying to please his stern father and impress his rebellious older brother is a no-win situation for thirteen-year-old Jacob Green. Making matters worse, his parents are splitting up, and he has a big crush on the family babysitter. Jacob manages finally to find himself in this wonderful story of coming-of-age in an Orthodox Jewish family.

cover of Tilting at Windmills:  A Novel of Cervantes and the Errant Knight Tilting at Windmills: A Novel of Cervantes and the Errant Knight
Julian Branston
Cer tes discovers that he has inadvertently based the character of Don Quixote on a real person in this delightfully clever literary satire. While a rival poet schemes to cause Cervantes’ ruin, the mad, gentle knight pursues a holy quest that will bring him face to face with his “creator” and reward both authors as they deserve. A rare spoof that will please the fans of the original.

cover of Confessions of a Teen Sleuth: A Parody Confessions of a Teen Sleuth: A Parody
Chelsea Cain
This witty mock memoir pays affectionate homage to the popular Nancy Drew mystery series. Nancy recalls her most exciting adventures and relates how she coped with the changing times by juggling the responsibilities of motherhood, sleuthing, and a lackluster marriage. Complete with stock characters and illustrations, this pastiche will delight Nancy’s many fans.

cover of Acts of Faith Acts of Faith
Philip Caputo
American pilot Douglas Braithwaite founded Knight Air to transport medical supplies and humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Sudan. In Caputo’s atmospheric and literary novel, the best intentions of relief workers are abased through professional rivalry and the rampant corruption and profiteering that accompany civil war in an impoverished land.

cover of The Final Solution:  A Story of Detection The Final Solution: A Story of Detection
Michael Chabon
Though Sherlock Holmes fans will want to read this as an addition to the canon, it’s infinitely more. In 1944, the aging detective is drawn out of retirement to solve a crime‒the case of a missing parrot belonging to a mute refugee boy‒but it’s a crime against humanity that is the real story in this elegantly poignant short novel.

cover of Lord Byron’s Novel:  The Evening Land Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land
John Crowley
A lost novel by Byron, preserved in code by his famously mathematical daughter, Ada, Countess of Lovelace? That’s the premise of this superb literary experiment. Alternate chapters give the text of the lost work and tell the tale of its discovery in a work of fiction that is sure to please both readers of literature and fans of historical puzzle novels.

cover of Specimen Days:  A Novel Specimen Days: A Novel
Michael Cunningham
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman’s ecstatic celebration of life and nature, runs as counterpoint through this novel exploring humanity’s increasing alienation in the age of the machine. Three stories—set in Industrial Era Manhattan, post-9/11 New York, and a distant future—follow three recurring characters in a complex and beautiful novel from the author of The Hours.

cover of The Inheritance The Inheritance
Annabel Dilke
At a high society wedding in 1965, favorite daughter Alice is given away to Edward, the rather dull, titled neighbor next door. But the sword used to cut the wedding cake proves too heavy, and the ensuing ritual mishap augurs illicit affairs, a botched abortion, failed marriage, and financial ruin. Scandal and conflict visit families of the aristocracy in this absorbing read.

cover of The March The March
In his masterful novel of the Civil War, Doctorow assembles a varied group of characters caught in the wake of the 36th Army, commanded by William Tecumseh Sherman, during its punitive march through Georgia and the Carolinas in 1864-65. Large in scope, well researched, and psychologically acute, The March is an impressive literary achievement.

cover of Speak Now Speak Now
Margaret Dumas
Charley Van Leeuwen knows she will face a lot of questions when she arrives home in San Francisco in the company of Jack Fairfax, the man she’s just married following a whirlwind courtship. But it’s Charley who has questions after she and Jack find a corpse in their hotel suite. Humor and romance add light touches to an intriguing mystery.

cover of Tuscany For Beginners Tuscany For Beginners
Imogen Edwards-Jones
Belinda Smith is the rather negligent British proprietor of the sole bed & breakfast in a sunny valley in Tuscany. The sudden arrival of a sophisticated American woman, who is remodeling her villa as an upscale B&B, means Belinda faces competition. The fierce rivalry between the innkeepers reaches extremes in a very amusing satire from England.

cover of The Shroud of the Thwacker The Shroud of the Thwacker
Chris Elliott
The crowed field of historical suspense is ripe for a satire, and comedian Chris Elliott obliges. Assisted by New York City mayor Teddy Roosevelt and gossip columnist Liz Smith, Elliott blithely time trips between the 1880s and the present on the trail of a killer, or rather, on the trail of a huge advance on a deal for a book about a killer.

cover of The Geographer’s Library The Geographer’s Library
Jon Fasman
A cub reporter in a small Connecticut town tries to write an obituary for an Estonian professor, but finds the man’s past is more mysterious with each fact he uncovers. Fasman’s debut seems like standard whodunit fare, but a fascinating search for a legendary library assembled by a twelfth-century geographer adds arcanal suspense.

cover of Puff Puff
Bob Flaherty
During a blizzard in Boston, the slacker Gullivan brothers set out to score some pot, dressed as Red Cross vounteers in a van that looks like an ambulance. The guys are soon pressed into reluctant service by elderly neighbors and a parish priest. But the sad circumstance of their mother’s cancer tempers the farcical mood in this absurdly entertaining and touching romp.

cover of Metropolis Metropolis
Patricia Gaffney
Gaffney’s fabulously sprawling debut chronicles the growth of New York City in following the progress of a young German immigrant. Frank Harris becomes a citizen, but only after being framed for arson, forced to join Brooklyn’s notorious Wyho gang, and falling for a clever, pretty Irish pickpocket. A roiling urban historical rendered fittingly on a big canvas.

cover of The Journal Of Mortifying Moments The Journal Of Mortifying Moments
Robyn Harding
Kerry Spence gets more satisfaction consuming a can of cream cheese frosting, than she does dating Sam, her inattentive boyfriend. To analyze what’s gone wrong, she begins a journal to record the history of her bad relationships. Even after Sam proposes, Kerry maintains her journal and wonders if marrying him is really the way she wants her story to end.

cover of An Ex to Grind An Ex to Grind
Jane Heller
Jane Heller offers another sharp, funny, and sufficiently sensitive novel to be a welcome entry in the much-malinged genre of Chick Lit. Melanie Banks is trying to marry off her loathesome ex-husband, so she can stop paying him alimony. But the effort seems to backfire when Melanie starts remembering why she fell for him the first place.

cover of Swing Swing
Rupert Holmes
While at the 1940 Golden Gate International Exposition, arranging a piece to be performed by a Japanese orchestra, Big Band musician Ray Sherwood sees a girl fall to her death. Ray finds clues to the motive for the girl’s murder, as well as hints of the approaching perils of World War II in this entertaining period mystery.

cover of Until I Find You Until I Find You
John Irving
The life of film actor Jack Burns is shaped by his contact with older women. His unmarried, tattoo-artist mother drags young Jack across Europe. Prepubescent Jack learns about sex from an older girl. In Irving’s longest work, a boy denied paternal love becomes a man loved by many women, but to find serenity he must embark on a journey of primal discovery.

cover of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax The Ninth Life of Louis Drax
Liz Jensen
Nine-year-old Louis lies in a coma after falling off a cliff, the latest in a series of mysterious accidents that have occurred each year of his life. Dr. Pascal, his physician, is torn between his attraction to Louis’ distraught mother and his suspicions regarding the fall. Comatose Louis narrates a darkly funny psychological mystery that considers the nature of love and protection.

cover of The Untelling The Untelling
Tayari Jones
A deadly automobile accident a decade ago still haunts the women of the Jackson family. Now 25, Aria Jackson wants to marry and begin a family. But when a medical crisis arises, Aria conceals the truth for fear of jeopardizing her happiness. Here is a moving story of African-American women and the secrets and lies that torment a family.

cover of Wolves in Chic Clothing Wolves in Chic Clothing
Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman
Bright young thing Julia Pearce is flattered by her promotion to special consultant for jewelry store heiress Lell Pelham. But Julia doesn’t spot the conspiracy among Lell and her catty friends, when they arrange a makeover for her in their Uptown image. When Lell’s husband casts his straying eye Julia’s way, she is unprepared for the catfight that follows.

cover of Empire Rising Empire Rising
Thomas Kelly
Centering on construction of the Empire State Building, Kelly limns the political corruption in Depression-era New York City through the lives of three major characters. Michael Briody, is an ironworker and IRA gunman; Johnny Farrell is a Tammany Hall bagman; and Grace Masterson is the beautiful painter who loves both men. A brawny novel of machine politics in Gotham.

cover of Hitler’s Peace Hitler’s Peace
Philip Kerr
It’s clear by the autumn of 1943 that Hitler will lose the war. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin meet in Tehran to begin the subtle negotiations that will determine who will win the peace. Willard Mayer, a philosophy professor turned OSS analyst, finds himself at the center of this high-stakes moment in history. Superb wartime intrigue.

cover of The Historian The Historian
Elizabeth Kostova
In Amsterdam in 1972, an American teenager finds a small medieval tome relating to “Drakuyla” in her father’s library. Twenty years earlier, her father learned from his mentor at Oxford, just before the scholar disappeared, that Dracula lives! As she researches the vampire legend, the girl discovers the little book’s deadly power in Kostov’s gripping and superior historical thriller.

cover of The History of Love The History of Love
Nicole Krauss
Leo Gursky, a polish refugee from WW II, still mourns for his beloved, Alma, whom he memorialized in a small book lost many years ago. Elsewhere in New York City, teenager Alma has her own purpose in seeking the woman she was named after. Leo and Alma meet in an encounter tinged with sorrow and hope in Krauss’ memorable debut.

cover of Small Island Small Island
Andrea Levy
A Jamaican couple relocates to London following World War II, amid the simmering racial tensions that beset a crumbling British Empire. Hortense and Gilbert take a room in the home of Queenie, whose husband has not returned from service in India, initiating conflicts of race and class that ultimately bring the two families closer together.

cover of Banishing Verona Banishing Verona
Margot Livesey
Livesey offers a refreshingly different and indescribably involving take on the classic love story. Two unlikely characters meet in unlikely circumstances: London house painter Zeke has Asperger’s Syndrome, which affects his ability to process normal social clues. But when pregnant Verona knocks on the door, they both sense an immediate connection.

cover of The Bad Mother’s Handbook The Bad Mother’s Handbook
Kate Long
Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Cooper is pregnant when she’s dumped by her boyfriend. Her divorced mom, Karen, is thirty-three and sees Charlotte’s prospects fading, as hers faded when she was a pregnant teen. Grandma Nan is suddenly, seriously forgetful. British author Long proffers three spirited women negotiating the stages of motherhood.

cover of Singing Bird Singing Bird
Roisin McAuley
Twenty-seven years after adopting a baby girl in Ireland, Lena Malloy is surprised by a call from the nun who made the arrangements. Mary, Lena’s daughter, is now a noted opera singer. Lena travels to Ireland to trace Mary’s birth parents and discover lineage of her marvelous vocal gift, but she uncovers a troubling secret that could tear apart her family.

cover of No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men
Cormac McCarthy
In the desert of southwest Texas in the 1980s, hunter Llewelyn Moss happens upon a drug deal gone wrong. Everyone is dead. Moss takes a satchel containing two million dollars, but merciless killers pursue him. McCarthy’s terse, arid prose and laconic dialogue etch deeply the violent episodes in one of this year’s memorable novels.

cover of Saturday Saturday
Ian McEwan
A huge political protest in London impedes neurosurgeon Henry Pernowe on his Saturday morning drive. When a minor traffic accident involves Pernowe with a twitchy local hoodlum, the confrontation portends more disturbing events in a compulsively readable novel about the interior life of a surgeon and the moral choices that confront him.

cover of Son of a Witch Son of a Witch
Gregory Maguire
Ten years after Wicked, Maguire returns to Oz with the tale of Liir. Raised in Elphaba Thropp’s castle, Liir may or may not be her son, but when that girl from Kansas melted the witch, Liir knew he had to find out. Setting off on a journey full of adventure and danger, Liir comes at last to some real knowledge of just who he is in this wonderful fantasy.

cover of Freshwater Road Freshwater Road
Denise Nicholas
A naïve young woman from a modestly successful Detroit family goes to Mississippi in 1964 to help prepare other blacks for the state’s policy of voter testing. Actress Denise Nichols’ draws upon her own Freedom Summer experiences for a poignant debut about a girl thrust into adulthood where her strength of belief and purpose are tested to the limit.

cover of Appaloosa Appaloosa
Robert B. Parker
In the American West of the 1880s, lawmen Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch arrive in Appaloosa to wrest control of the town from the corrupt rancher who grips the community in a chokehold. Robert B. Parker—s second novel of the Old West offers the grand themes of the genre-honor, loyalty, and courage…along with plenty of action and gunplay.

cover of Captain Alatriste Captain Alatriste
Arturo Perez-Reverte
A soldier in the Army of Flanders, Captain Alatriste is in Madrid recovering from a wound. The honorable but impoverished captain accepts a commission as a hired swordsman that results in a diplomatic incident that brings Alatriste to the attention of the Inquisition. This is the first adventure in a promising series set in 17th-century Spain.

cover of Rules for Old Men Waiting Rules for Old Men Waiting
Peter Pouncey
Elderly Historian Robert MacIver recently lost his wife to cancer and now awaits his own death. After neglecting to properly care for himself, MacIver realizes that establishing a set of rules offers the best hope for a dignified end. This debut novel by the retired president of Amherst College is a sensitive portrait of an ordinary man’s life and death.

cover of A Changed Man A Changed Man
Francine Prose
The appearance of a skinhead in the offices of the World Brotherhood Watch Foundation is a disturbing sight to its founder, Holocaust survivor Meyer Maslow. But the change of heart in Vincent the skinhead seems sincere. Prose explores the notion of a person suddenly reversing long-held beliefs in this funny, delightful, and powerful novel.

cover of The Patriots Club The Patriots Club
Christopher Reich
Wall Street investment banker Thomas Bolden, who was raised on Chicago’s tough streets, is abducted by a secret, centuries-old organization consisting of politicians, police, and power brokers. They’ll stop at nothing to protect the club. After escaping, Bolden relies on his street smarts to stay alive in an edge-of-your-seat thriller.

cover of In the Shadow of the Law In the Shadow of the Law
Kermit Roosevelt
At the powerful law firm of Morgan Siler in Washington, D.C., attorneys work on two high profile cases: a pro bono death penalty case pending in Virginia, and a class action lawsuit brought against a Texas company following a deadly explosion. Roosevelt’s debut offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes view of the way law is practiced in the U.S.

cover of Air, or, Have Not Have Air, or, Have Not Have
Geoff Ryman
The cyberfuture comes to a tiny Central Asian village in this dazzlingly original science fiction novel. An experimental broadcast of Air, a global internet that links directly into people’s minds, has devastating effects on one village woman, who must struggle to prepare her friends for the irrevocable changes this invasion will bring to their traditional life.

cover of The Every Boy The Every Boy
Dana Adam Shapiro
Fifteen-year-old Henry Every drowns mysteriously, leaving behind a father who is obsessed with jellyfish and boxing, and a 2,600 page journal (“a catalog of life’s wee tics and pangs”) that Henry began when he was ten. This quirky coming-of-age novel captures Henry’s unique voice and records his brief but strangely happy life.

cover of Prep Prep
Curtis Sittenfeld
A straight-A student, fourteen-year-old Lee Fiora of South Bend, Indiana, wins a scholarship to a prestigious private school in Massachusetts, where she soon discovers nothing is as she’d expected. A graduate of Groton, Cincinnati native Sittenfeld writes an utterly convincing, very enlightening novel about life in an exclusive boarding school.

cover of Third Girl from the Left Third Girl from the Left
Martha Southgate
In 1970, Angela Edwards leaves sleepy Tulsa for the bright lights of Los Angeles, where Blaxploitation is the hot trend and breaking into the business demands compromises. Years later, it is Angela’s passion for film that provides a connection to the women of her family in this stylish, multigenerational story of black women revealing secret pasts.

cover of Blinding Light Blinding Light
Paul Theroux
Twenty-five years ago, Slade Steadman wrote the cultic travel memoir, Trespassing, but as a novelist he is blocked. In a rainforest in Ecuador, Steadman ingests a hallucinogen that transforms his consciousness and frees his muse, but bestows temporary blindness. This dark, provocative literary novel concerns celebrity, memory, sex, and the creative process.

cover of The Double Eagle The Double Eagle
James Twining
A rare 1933 $20 Double Eagle gold coin is found in Rome in the stomach of a dead ex-priest. The lost coin, along with the rest of the run, was believed destroyed years before. FBI agent Jennifer Browne joins rogue CIA agent-tuned-thief Tom Kilpatrick in a European hunt to locate the five missing Double Eagles stolen from Fort Knox.

cover of Outside Valentine Outside Valentine
Liza Ward
Ward debuts with an astonishing novel about the aftereffects of violence on survivors and their families through generations. In three intertwining narratives, she retells the story of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate during their bloody killing spree across Nebraska in 1958. The riveting tale was suggested by her own family history.

cover of The Illuminator The Illuminator
Brenda Rickman Vantrease
Secretly involved in a heretical plot, master illuminator Finn lodges at the estate of a noble-born widow desperate to retain her property in this thoroughly absorbing historical set in 14th-century England. Lady Katherine comes to love the kind, intelligent Finn, but their passionate affair brings danger after a scandalous priest is found murdered on the manor grounds.

cover of The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure
Adam Williams
During China’s Boxer Rebellion in 1900, Helen Frances, a proper English girl, falls madly in love with Henry Manner, a flamboyant adventurer. As the Boxers prepare to drive out all foreigners, Manners secludes Helen and a group of Scottish missionaries in the infamous local brothel of the title. A sweeping and rewarding historical drama.