Saturday, June 20, 2015

Hot New Releases!

If you are wondering what to read next or simply want a great summer read, why not try one of the debut novels released this summer.  You are sure to find a great book and may even discover a new favorite author.

Bradstreet Gate: A Novel by Robin Kirman
This is a relentless and provocative debut novel about promise, disappointment and the tenuous bonds of friendship.

Pretty is: A Novel by Maggie Mitchell
A fiercely imagined debut novel that seems ripped from today's headlines. Two young girls are abducted by a stranger and held for two months. Everyone thought they were dead. When a movie is released that seems like their story they must face their past to survive.

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont
This is a dazzling first novel, a portrait of an American family on the cusp of irrevocable change, and a startling story of love and time lost. 

The Ambassador's Wife by Jennifer Steil
A harrowing debut novel about the kidnapping of an American woman in the Middle East and the heartbreaking choices she and her husband must make in the hope of being reunited. 

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
If you are a foodie this book is for you. This is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life and missed opportunities. Eva Thorvald is a renowned chef. This is the story of her journey from home cook to chef extraordinaire.

Here are a few great debut novelists who have their second book being released this month.

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
This was a fantastic debut novel filled with mysteries, betrayals and treacherous battles. If you enjoy the Game of Thrones you are sure to love this series. I personally can't wait to read the next book in the series, The Invasion of the Tearling.  

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson 
This is a great suspenseful thriller that will give you an ending you don't see coming. Second Life, Watson's second novel  is a tense unrelenting novel that explores the secret lives people lead and the dark places they can find themselves. Julia Wilding is distraught when her sister is murdered. She sets out to investigate and begins leading a double life risking everything and everyone she loves.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

Debut fiction can be a bear. Many first time novelists pour so much into their first novel that readers have a hard time finding the plot. However, every once in a while a novel emerges with the voice of a writer well beyond his or her first novel.

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth is coming-of-age, sense of place, environmentalism, social commentary, and murder mystery all rolled into one well-written package. Based on the events that shaped his life, Christopher Scotton developed a novel that introduces the reader to unforgettable characters and a place that feels like home even to outsiders. The thing that struck me the most about the book is the careful consideration of each character’s upbringing and perspective. Arthur “Pops” Peebles, one of the main characters, is careful to not allow his grandson Kevin to condemn certain actions without understanding that upbringing plays a significant part in what people believe is right or wrong. Not everyone is given the same opportunities in life, which can impact the way people interact in society. You can't just label someone a hillbilly and assume they are willingly choosing to negate community norms.  
Scotton handles environmental issues with the same delicate hand. He is careful to demonstrate both sides of the debate concerning mining in Appalachia. The human and environmental devastation is immense, but the mines also provide work to economically depressed areas. It is a double-edged sword for the people of Medgar, Kentucky, and Scotton is careful to show both sides.

Christopher Scotton is not an author by trade. He knew he had a story to tell that would tie his childhood memories together, but it took him until almost forty to get it down on paper. The result is a finely crafted novel that will only make you eagerly await his next.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Australia's Leading Ladies of Literature

June 1st was the birthday of writer and neuroscientist Colleen McCullough, born in Wellington. She studied neurophysiology, and worked in Sydney and London before becoming a research associate at Yale. She spent ten years there but when she discovered that her male colleagues were making twice as much money, she decided that she needed a backup plan.  She began writing in the evenings after work, and her first novel Tim (1974) was a moderate success.  Her second novel was a long romantic novel about a love affair between a beautiful young woman and a Catholic priest, set in the Australian outback.  The Thorn Birds (1977) became an international hit, selling more than 30 million copies. She quit her job and moved back to Norfolk Island, Australia. She wrote more than 20 books and died January 29th this year at the age of 77.

Help us celebrate her legacy by reading some books written by the best and brightest female novelists from Australia.

Geraldine Brooks--(March, People of the Book)--this Pulitzer-Prize winning Australian-American journalist and author won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize's Life Achievement Award in 2010.  She was born in Sydney.

Isobelle Carmody--(Obernewtyn)--this award-winning fantasy author began working on her Obernewtyn Chronicles when she was just 14-years-old.  She is a Victorian from Wangaratta.

Kate Forsyth--(Bitter Greens)--this re-telling of Rapunzel won the American Library Association's Best Historical Award of 2015.  She is a Sydneysider.

Kerry Greenwood--(Death by Misadventure)--she writes the Phryne Fisher mystery series about an aristocratic P.I. in 1928 Melbourne.  The TV series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries are based on her books.  The author is a Melburnian from Footscray.

Kate Grenville--(The Secret River, Sarah Thornhill)--this multiple award-winning Sydneysider based this novel on her great-great-great-grandfather who was a convict shipped to Australia in 1806.

Hannah Kent--(Burial Rites)--this debut novel is about Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be executed in Iceland in 1830.  Kent is a Adelaidean from South Australia.

Margo Lanagan--(The Brides of Rollrock Island)--this short-story and young adult author has won many awards including The World Fantasy Award.  She is a New South Welshman from Waratah.

Fiona McFarlane--(The Night Guest)--this debut novel was shortlisted for Australia's most prestigious literary award and is a deeply personal story about dementia.  She is a Sydneysider from New South Wales.

Kate Morton--(The House at Riverton)--this novel was a bestseller in the U.S. and the U.K. and the author has been published in 38 countries and sold over 3 million books.  This South Australian is from Berri.

Favel Parrett--(When the Night Comes)--she won the Australian Newcomer of the Year in 2012.  She is a Victorian and was a Tasmanian for several years.

M. L. Stedman--(The Light Between Oceans)--this London-based lawyer's first novel is about an Australian lighthouse keeper's family after WWI.  She was born and raised in Western Australia.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

June's In the Queue

Start the summer off right with a few great titles from this month's In the Queue.  

Under Fire by Grant Blackwood
Jack Ryan, Jr. clashes with Russian agents in a race to find a missing agent who holds secrets that are vital to both sides.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
A story inspired by three fatal plane crashes in the 1950's, which is filled with memorable characters who cope with loss even as they remember the good times.

The Santangelos by Jackie Collins
An epic family saga filled with love, lust, revenge and passion.

Ever After: A Nantucket Brides Novel by Jude Deveraux
A thoroughly enjoyable conclusion to the Nantucket Brides Trilogy. An aura of romance is enhanced by a pair of matchmaking ghosts and great supporting characters.

Summer Secrets by Jane Green
When a shocking family secret is revealed to Cat Coombs she finds herself falling into a dark spiral.

The Silenced by Heather Graham
There are plenty of chills and thrills in this FBI thriller! Agent Meg Murray learns her friend Lara Mayhew had disappeared and women who look like her are turning up dead. As Meg and her partner pursue the possibility of a serial killer, they find themselves in the middle of a political conspiracy.

Cash Landing by James Grippando
A wild, suspenseful story inspired by actual events in which a band of amateur thieves pulls off one of the biggest airport heists in history with deadly consequences.

Bradstreet Gate: A Novel by Robin Kirman
This relentless and provocative debut novel is about promise, disappointment and the tenuous bonds of friendship. A senior is murdered at Harvard University. The murder suspect is a beloved professor, which forces three friends to face their own shortcomings as they seek the truth.

New Books by Best Selling Authors

One Way or Another by Elizabeth Adler
Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay
Badlands by C J Box
After the Storm: A Kate Burkholder Novel by Linda Castillo
Nemesis by Catherine Coulter
The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen
Perfect Touch by Elizabeth Lowell
The Novel Habits of Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith
Brush Back by Sara Paretsky
Code of Conduct: A Thriller by Brad Thor
Naked Greed by Stuart Woods


Sick In the Head: A Life in Conversations by Judd Apatow
A Collection of intimate hilarious conversations with the biggest names in comedy.

Pirate Hunters: The Search for the Golden Fleece by Robert Kurson
Kurson takes readers on a wild ride alongside pirate hunters as they navigate the red tape of maritime code, dead ends, and dwindling resources.

Let God Fight Your Battles:  Being Peaceful In the Storm by Joyce Meyers
Joyce Meyer delivers practical advice and Biblical wisdom to help you triumph over any obstacle you face.

Friday, June 12, 2015

No One Gets Out Alive

For the past six months, nineteen-year-old Stephanie Booth’s just been scraping by, bouncing from one demeaning and low-paying temp job to another and just shy of being homeless altogether. But going home to her psycho stepmother is not an option, nor is running back to her ex-boyfriend, Ryan, which would just be awkward considering she dumped him. So it’s a stroke of badly needed luck when she finds a cheap room for rent in an old Victorian at 82 Edgehill Road in North Birmingham, England. Sure, the landlord, Mr. “Knacker” McGuire, with his age-inappropriate attire and odd manner of speech, seems harmless enough, eccentric even. Evasive though, that Knacker, regarding his stewardship of his “muvver’s house.” But this is only temporary, Stephanie tells herself, pushing aside the bad vibes scratching at the back of her mind. The minute she makes enough money to move herself into a better situation, she’s gone. 

Oh, how quickly things go wrong.

First, the voices. Strange voices coming from strange places—behind the fireplace, beneath the shower, across the hall—saying nonsensical things. Are these the voices of other tenants? Stephanie has yet to see any. Then, the noises: the scratching on the floorboards beneath her bed, the crinkling of polythene, the clomping of clumsy feet up the stairs and down the hall. What on earth is going on here? And what of the cryptic advice Knacker’s “cousin” and business partner, a six-foot-seven brute named Fergal, gives Stephanie? “Don’t worry about them. They can’t hurt you.” Mm, okay. It’s only after the arrival of two new tenants, Svetlana and Margaret, that Stephanie realizes too late why Knacker only “rents” rooms to women, and now she’s expected to perform. But if you think things are bad for Stephanie now, they’re about to get a whole lot worse.

Let me just get this out of the way: author Adam Nevill can write. Seriously. This guy’s like the literary lovechild of Stephen King and Peter Straub, and he just seems to get better and better with each book he writes (The Ritual, The House of Small Shadows). No One Gets Out Alive is no exception. Yes, it’s got the heft of a classic King novel, but you won’t be skipping past any pages. Warning: this is not a book for the squeamish. It’s dark. It’s violent. It may make you flinch as you read it. It may even give you bad dreams. But it is good, and if you’re a horror-lover, this one needs to be at the top of your reading list. Truthfully, I think Adam Nevill has just become my favorite horror writer.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Multiple/parallel universes are one of the bread and butter staples of science fiction. So much so that it can commonly be treated in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. However, correctly done, it can make for a very compelling tale.

V.E. Schwab’s tale spans 4 Londons. Each city is named London, and each has an tavern at the same spot. But there the differences end as each is part of its own county and world, with different laws, customs, languages, and, most importantly, magic. Grey London is the one we are familiar with under the rule of King George III. Red London is filled with magic, so much s that the Thames pulses scarlet with it. White London magic is the source of power and it is jealously coveted and hoarded. Black London was consumed by an evil and was long shut off from the other three. At one point, anyone could travel freely between the London’s, but after Black London was closed off, only the powerful and rare few can and act as messengers between each city’s ruler. Kell, one such messenger collects artifacts from the three Londons he travels to. But he stumbles upon a fragment from Black London and becomes involved in a power struggle that could end his own Red London and unleash the magic from black London on the other three. With Lila, the contrary thief from Grey London, Kell must find out where the fragment came from, return it, and save the Londons from following the fate of Black London.

Schwab does an excellent job of introducing cities and setting up the conventions of magic without overburdening the reader with too many rules. Similarly, she does an excellent job of building complexity in her characters as the story unfolds. Even for those that are not fans of the fantasy genre can appreciate the careful construction and development in this interesting story.  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Love and Other Unknown Variables

Sometimes a book just grabs you. Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Alexander is one of those books.  Its message is more than a love story. It is a story of growth, loss and the power to change.  This debut novel will hold you hostage and not let you go until you reach the final conclusion.

Charlie Hanson is a geek, plain and simple. He loves numbers and is focused on where his life is headed, which he hopes is MIT. Then he meets Charlotte Finch and his life changes. This steady as a rock guy is suddenly daydreaming about her beautiful eyes, which leads him to drive through Mrs. Dunwitty's prized flower bed. Then the cranky and formidable Mrs. Dunwitty yells at him for destroying her beautiful yard, and suddenly his life is not his own. Not only must he restore the yard to its former glory, but his new English teacher is determined to make an English lover out of her math and science loving students. The students are having none of it and the pranks begin. When Charlie learns the girl of his dreams, Charlotte, is his teacher's sister, he wonders why Charlotte wants them to distract her sister with pranks. Charlie begins to understand after he learns Charlotte has cancer. Now Charlie has to decide if love is worth the risk.

I fell in love with all the incredible characters in this book. Shannon has a way of telling a story so that you can see how each character feels even though she is speaking from Charlie's point of view. You may determine what will happen next, but oddly enough, what happens won't be what you expect.  

This is a truly beautiful, well-written story, that will make you laugh, cry, and even laugh out loud--yes I found myself laughing so hard, I hoped no one would see me, because they'd think I lost my mind.  

This is a young adult fiction novel, but DO NOT let that stop you from reading it. If you enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars by John Green or If I Stay by Gayle Forman you will love this book!  This is a story I encourage everyone to read. Once you start it you won't want to put it down.