New Books

Top Ten Tuesday: What Looks Good in 2015?

Today’s Top Ten (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)—Top Ten 2015 releases we anticipate most—was a tough one, because I am still thinking about all the great books I never got around to in 2014. Last year I probably read fewer books for leisure than since graduate school, when Eighteenth century British epistolary novels and literary criticism took up all.my.reading.time. The good thing is that even though I only completed 32 books last year, over half of them were favorites (even though I only listed ten), and that’s remarkable for any reading year.

So even though I’m struggling to catch up with last year’s releases, I decided to look ahead and see what’s coming in the new year. Some new releases, such as books from Kazuo Ishiguro, Toni Morrison, and Kate Atkinson, probably excite most readers of literary fiction, so I’m not going to include those here. Instead, I’ve picked some less obvious choices that look intriguing. I give you books I am anticipating in 2015 (but will probably read in in 2016):

The Girl on the Train CoverThe Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins.  Okay, so this one is getting talked about all over the place, but it is a debut and the description is so compelling (to me, at least). I can already confirm I’ll be buying this one as soon as my self-imposed book buying ban is lifted, probably as one of my (2016) summer reads:

“Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. Its only a minute until the train moves on, but its enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?”

Watch Me Go CoverWatch Me Go, Mark Wisniewski. Deesh is asked to move some barrels. He needs money. He doesn’t know or care what they contain, until he realizes just exactly what he’s moving, and who will take the blame. I’ve seen this compared to A Simple Plan, one of my favorite books of 2014. I tend to enjoy these “ordinary man pulled into a life of crime” stories:

“Jan, a young female jockey aspiring to win at horse racing and love, breaks her silence about organized crime to try to save the life of Deesh, an imprisoned black man she doesn’t know, whos been falsely accused of three murders. As Deesh and Jan recount the events that sent their lives spiraling out of control, they piece together the whole story and understand how they each fit into it. Suspenseful yet compassionate, Watch Me Go is a heart-stopping tour de force that examines how we love, leave, lose, redeem, and strive once more for love—and, ultimately, how regardless of how fast or how far we run, there is no escaping the daring impulses and human vulnerability in all of us.”

The Devil You Know: A NovelThe Devil You Know, Elizabeth de Mariaffi. This sounds like another fun read in the vein of Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, or Megan Abbott. I suspect this will be another summer fun book:

“The year is 1993. Rookie crime beat reporter Evie Jones is haunted by the unsolved murder of her best friend Lianne Gagnon who was killed in 1982, back when both girls were eleven. The suspected killer, a repeat offender named Robert Cameron, was never arrested, leaving Lianne’s case cold.

Now twenty-one and living alone for the first time, Evie is obsessively drawn to finding out what really happened to Lianne. She leans on another childhood friend, David Patton, for help—but every clue they uncover seems to lead to an unimaginable conclusion. As she gets closer and closer to the truth, Evie becomes convinced that the killer is still at large—and that he’s coming back for her.”

Find Me CoverFind Me, Laura van den Berg. Is it just me, or are dystopia/epidemic novels the new black? Many of the new releases seem to fit those descriptions. (Or else, Gone Girl—I’m waiting for the description that says, “This novel is Station Eleven meets Gone Girl.” It’s coming soon, I promise you.) Still, something about this description drew me, and I expect it might be a knockout:

“Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy’s immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. There she submits to peculiar treatments and follows seemingly arbitrary rules, forming cautious bonds with other patients;including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.

As winter descends, the hospitals fragile order breaks down and Joy breaks free, embarking on a journey from Kansas to Florida, where she believes she can find her birth mother, the woman who abandoned her as a child. On the road in a devastated America, she encounters mysterious companions, cities turned strange, and one very eerie house. As Joy closes in on Florida, she must confront her own damaged memory and the secrets she has been keeping from herself.”

Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas (Margellos World Republic of Letters) CoverSuspended Sentences, Patrick Modiano. Modiano won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2014. Do I need more of a reason than that?

“Although originally published separately, Patrick Modiano’s three novellas form a single, compelling whole, haunted by the same gauzy sense of place and characters. Modiano draws on his own experiences, blended with the real or invented stories of others, to present a dreamlike autobiography that is also the biography of a place. Orphaned children, mysterious parents, forgotten friends, enigmatic strangers — each appears in this three-part love song to a Paris that no longer exists. In this superb English-language translation of Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin, Mark Polizzotti captures not only Modiano’s distinctive narrative voice but also the matchless grace and spare beauty of his prose.
Shadowed by the dark period of the Nazi Occupation, these novellas reveal Modiano’s fascination with the lost, obscure, or mysterious: a young person’s confusion over adult behavior; the repercussions of a chance encounter; the search for a missing father; the aftershock of a fatal affair. To read Modiano’s trilogy is to enter his world of uncertainties and the almost accidental way in which people find their fates.”

The Half Brother CoverThe Half Brother, Holly LeCraw. It’s a campus novel. Enough said.

“When Charlie Garrett arrives as a young teacher at the Abbott School, he finds a world steeped in privilege and tradition. The school’s green quads are lined by gothic stone halls, students dart across campus in blazers and bright plaid skirts. Fresh out of college and barely older than the students he teaches, Charlie longs to find his place in the rarefied world of Abbottsford. He is particularly drawn to the school chaplain, Preston Bankhead, and Preston’s beautiful daughter, May. Then, Charlie’s younger half brother, Nick, arrives on campus. Nick is, quite literally, the golden child, with sandy blond hair and a dazzling smile. Teachers welcome him warmly, students stay late to talk after class, and May Bankhead proves susceptible to his magnetic draw. As Charlie sees the unmistakable connection between his first love and his half brother, he struggles with emotions far more complicated than mere jealousy. A terrible secret threatens to surface, and Charlie’s peaceful campus life is shattered.”

The World Before Us CoverThe World Before Us, Aislinn Hunter. This just sounds like all kinds of dark, twisted fun. (Yes, I just described the idea of reading about Victorian asylums and museum archivists as “fun.”)

“Deep in the woods of northern England, somewhere between a dilapidated estate and an abandoned Victorian asylum, fifteen-year-old Jane Standen lived through a nightmare. She was babysitting a sweet young girl named Lily, and in one fleeting moment during their outdoor adventure, she lost her. The little girl was never found, leaving her family and Jane devastated.

Twenty years later, Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As a final research project—an endeavor inspired in part by her painful past—Jane surveys the archives for information related to another missing person: a woman who disappeared some 125 years ago in the same woods where Lily was lost. As Jane pieces moments in history together, a compelling portrait of a fascinating group of people starts to unfurl. Inexplicably tied to the mysterious disappearance of long ago, Jane finds tender details of their lives at the country estate and in the asylum that are linked to her own presently heartbroken world, and their story from all those years ago may now help Jane find a way to move on.”

A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me: Stories and a novellaA Hand Reached Down to Guide Me, David Gates. Because David Gates. You don’t need to wait for this book to read his work. Check out his short story collection The Wonders of the Invisible World or his novel Preston Falls. If you like Richard Russo or Richard Ford (“The Richards”), then you’ll like David Gates.

“Gates’s characters, young or old or neither, are well educated, broadly knowledgeable, often creative and variously accomplished, whether as a doctor or a composer, an academic or a journalist. And every one of them carries a full supply of the human condition: parents in assisted-living–or assisted-dying–facilities, too many or too few people in their families and marriages, the ties that bind a sometimes messy knot, age an implacable foe, impulses pulling them away from comfort into distraction or catastrophe. Terrifyingly self-aware, they refuse to go gently–even when they’re going nowhere fast, in settings that range across the metropolitan and suburban Northeast to the countryside upstate and in New England.”

There's Something I Want You to Do: Stories CoverThere’s Something I Want You to Do, Charles Baxter. I have a soft spot for Charles Baxter because his collection A Relative Stranger was an early favorite of mine. If you like Tobias Wolff (or again, The Richards—or David Gates!), then put Charles Baxter on your list as well. Read the story collections first, because that’s where he really shines.

“These interrelated stories are arranged in two sections, one devoted to virtues and the other to vices. They are cast with characters who appear and reappear throughout the collection, their actions equally divided between the praiseworthy and the loathsome. They take place in settings as various as Tuscany, San Francisco, Ethiopia, and New York, but their central stage is the North Loop of Minneapolis, alongside the Mississippi River, which flows through most of the tales. Each story has at its center a request or a demand, but each one plays out differently: in a hit-and-run, an assault or murder, a rescue, a startling love affair, or, of all things, a gesture of kindness and charity. Altogether incomparably crafted, consistently surprising, remarkably beautiful stories.”

Our Souls at Night: A novelOur Souls at Night, Kent Haruf. Favorite author, final book. RIP, Mr. Haruf.

 

 

 

 

*Images, links, and synopses from Powell’s and Goodreads. All links are unaffiliated; I receive no compensation.

New Year, New Books (Part 2)

Please pardon my really super fabulous photography skills. Thank goodness I don’t have a food blog. I actually have thought about sharing some recipes here from time to time, but every picture I take of food…well, something happens, and let’s just say the photo never looks like anything anyone would want to eat. Ever.

As promised, in New Year, New Books (Part 1), I am sharing the “real” books I bought for Christmas. Even with the funky flash action I think you can kinda see all the titles. I am not ashamed to admit that Downton Abbey is completely responsible for my renewed interest in World War I, so I bought The Guns of August and The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 by Barbara Tuchman, as well as Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis. The Guns of August won a Pulitzer, so it must be brilliant. I expect good things.

Sort of by accident I ended up with two Civil War era reads. I have had Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln on my wishlist since President Obama was elected the first time around. America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation by David Goldfield was a very recent addition to my wishlist after I heard Nancy Pearl talk about it on NPR back in November 2012. (For the record, she also talked about Liz Moore’s Heft, which I also purchased.) Here in the South, the Civil War never dies, and after many states started petitions to secede after President Obama’s recent election (and to be fair, not just states here in the South), I was curious to read about this concept of “nation” at a time when people seem more divided than ever.

I guess you can see that lately I am going through some kind of history craze (oh lord don’t let it leave me now that I spent all my Christmas money). I bought Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created after hearing this interview on NPR’s Fresh Air.  Trust me: he’s so engaging, if you listen to the interview, you’ll want to buy the books, too!

Of course, I had to buy some more fiction (although who knows when I’ll get to it, with all those other huge tomes and the fact that I read about 30 words a day). Because I feel like practically the only person who has not read The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, I decided it was high time I got around to it. I know I added The Report by Jessica Francis Kane to my wishlist back in 2010 not long after I read Sarah Waters’s The Night Watch because I was interested in reading more novels about World War II. The two Charles Portis novels, Norwood and The Dog of the South I bought because I love True Grit so much, I am determined to read all his books. I bought only one short story collection, American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and has been on my list since it was published in 2009. And then, finally, I bought Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity, because I’ll never stop dreaming…although with all this reading to do, who has time to write?

*Just a little note: All these links are from Amazon, but I am in no way affiliated with them and I do not make any money should you choose to purchase one of these books because you know how cool I am and you probably want to read all the same books I read. I feel so much better for having said that.

New Year, New Books (Part 1)

Happy New Year to you all! For the first time in several years I decided to spend my Christmas money primarily on books. I received an Amazon gift card from my sister-in-law, some cash from my in-laws, and had a credit with Amazon. Today I’m going to share what I bought to read on my Kindle.

11/22/6311/22/63 by Stephen King. This is actually the February pick for my book club, so I was happy to see it on so many “Best of 2012” lists. I actually checked the hard copy out of the library, but I have to return it before I’ve even had a chance to open it. Maybe not a bad thing that I won’t have to hold that tome on my chest when I read at night!

ArcadiaArcadia by Lauren Groff. I loved Groff’s short story collection Delicate Edible Birds when I read it back in 2009. This was another novel that made many “Best of” lists, so I am expecting good things.

DivergentDivergent by Veronica Roth. This was a favorite all over the book blogs a few years ago when I added it to my wishlist. I was a little wary about buying this one because I never seem to get to the second book in any series, but I was too curious to pass it up.

The Girl Who Fell from the SkyThe Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow. This was another one I added several years ago and decided it was time to give it a go. I think at the time I added it I was interested in juxtaposing it with The Help.

Heft: A NovelHeft by Liz Moore. I added this one to my wishlist a while ago after reading a review on someone’s blog. (Note to self: Makes notes to self about these things.) It also made a lot of “Best of” lists this year. If you are spotting a trend, it’s no accident. I purposely focused much of my Kindle purchases on the latest fiction.

HHhH: A Novel HHhH by Laurent Binet. From all the reviews I’ve read, I not only expect this to be captivating but something I will want to read more than once. It was also Jackie’s best book of 2012.

Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate (Discovering America)Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate by Ginger Strand. I actually bought this as research for a writing project, but it sounds fascinating (and a bit terrifying) in its own right.

Legend of a Suicide: Stories (P.S.)Legend of a Suicide by David Vann. I admit that I will snap up books from my wishlist when they are on super sale. I added this ages ago when dovegreyreader featured it on her blog.

The Middlesteins: A NovelThe Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg. This book is all over everywhere, but I have a feeling it’s for very good reasons. The premise is interesting, and the characters sound so very compelling.

The Street SweeperThe Street Sweeper by Eliot Perlman. I put this on my wishlist when I read Jackie’s original review of it, and then when I saw it made her list for top books of 2012 I knew I had to read it.

Tune in later this week, in which I reveal what “real” books I bought to read in 2013 (or 2014, or 2015…you get it). Have you read/are you planning to read any of these? What are your first picks for 2013?

Summer Books Preview 2010

As though I had any room at all on my TBR list, I went through Amazon’s Summer Books Preview 2010 list this morning (full disclosure: I am not affiliated with Amazon). I must confess: I have already pre-ordered Tana French’s Faithful Place, which will not even be released until July 13. I was so impressed with In the Woods and The Likeness, I wanted to be sure I got to the party early this time.

Here are a few that look intriguing to me. If I am lucky, I’ll get to one or two of them by 2013!

The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall (Releases May 3). This looks like some Big Love style fun, while I wait for season four of that show to be released on DVD. From Publisher’s Weekly:

“Starred Review. A family drama with stinging turns of dark comedy, the latest from Udall (The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint) is a superb performance and as comic as it is sublimely catastrophic. Golden Richards is a polygamist Mormon with four wives, 28 children, a struggling construction business, and a few secrets. He tells his wives that the brothel he’s building in Nevada is actually a senior center, and, more importantly, keeps hidden his burning infatuation with a woman he sees near the job site. Golden, perpetually on edge, has become increasingly isolated from his massive family—given the size of his brood, his solitude is heartbreaking—since the death of one of his children. Meanwhile, his newest and youngest wife, Trish, is wondering if there is more to life than the polygamist lifestyle, and one of his sons, Rusty, after getting the shaft on his birthday, hatches a revenge plot that will have dire consequences.”

Private Life, by Jane Smiley (Available now). I read A Thousand Acres and Moo and enjoyed them both a great deal. I haven’t read anything by her in well over a decade, but I think this looks good. From Booklist:

“By the time she reaches the age of 27, Margaret Mayfield has known a lot of tragedy in her life. She has lost two brothers, one to an accident, the other to illness, as well as her father, who committed suicide. Her strong-minded mother, Lavinia, knows that her daughter’s prospects for marriage are dim and takes every opportunity to encourage Margaret’s friendship with eccentric scientist Andrew Early. When the two marry and move to a naval base in San Francisco, Margaret becomes more than Andrew’s helpmeet—she is also his cook, driver, and typist as well as the captive audience for his rants against Einstein and his own quirky theories about the universe. As Smiley covers in absorbing detail both private and world events—a lovely Missouri wedding, the chaos of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the wrenching death of a baby—she keeps at the center of the narrative Margaret’s growing realization that she has married a madman and her subsequent attempts to deal with her marriage by becoming adept at “the neutral smile, the moment of patient silence,” before giving in to bitterness.”

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell (Releases June 29). I haven’t even read Cloud Atlas yet, but I have heard such wonderful things about it that I assume this will be good too. Let’s hope that’s a correct assumption, because from the product description this looks like a great read:

“The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland.

But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings.  As one cynical colleague asks, ‘Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?'”

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender (Releases June 1). Aimee Bender is an acquired taste, but I loved both her short story collection, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and her last (only) novel, An Invisible Sign of My Own. She makes magic practical, makes eccentricity normal in the best possible way. From the product description:

“On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose. The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.”

The list has even more, including books from China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Jennifer Egan, Julie Orringer, Bret Easton Ellis, Jonathan Franzen, Andrea Levy, and Rick Moody. Looks like quite the summer. What new books are you looking forward to?