Lists

Coming Soon // Spring 2019 Edition.

Coming soon to a library/bookstore/ereader near you! These are some of the books that have caught my eye. The hardest part is choosing which ones to read. Even admitting I won’t get to them all is a difficult step for me.

Clayton Burroughs is a small-town Georgia sheriff, a new father, and, improbably, the heir apparent of Bull Mountain’s most notorious criminal family.

Like Lions // Brian Panowich. April 30. “Brian Panowich burst onto the crime fiction scene in 2015, winning awards and accolades from readers and critics alike for his smoldering debut, Bull Mountain. Now with Like Lions, he cements his place as one of the outstanding new voices in crime fiction.

As he tries to juggle fatherhood, his job and his recovery from being shot in the confrontation that killed his two criminally-inclined brothers last year, he’s doing all he can just to survive. Yet after years of carefully toeing the line between his life in law enforcement and his family, he finally has to make a choice.

When a rival organization makes a first foray into Burroughs territory, leaving a trail of bodies and a whiff of fear in its wake, Clayton is pulled back into the life he so desperately wants to leave behind. Revenge is a powerful force, and the vacuum left by his brothers’ deaths has left them all vulnerable. With his wife and child in danger, and the way of life in Bull Mountain under siege for everyone, Clayton will need to find a way to bury the bloody legacy of his past once and for all.”

The Van Apfel Girls are Gone // Felicity McLean. June 25. So begins Tikka Molloy’s recounting of the summer of 1992 – the summer the Van Apfel sisters, Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth – disappear.

Eleven and one-sixth years old, Tikka is the precocious narrator of this fabulously endearing coming-of-age story, set in an eerie Australian river valley suburb with an unexplained stench. The Van Apfel girls vanish from the valley during the school’s ‘Showstopper’ concert, held at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river. While the search for the sisters unites the small community on Sydney’s urban fringe, the mystery of their disappearance remains unsolved forever.

Brilliantly observed, sharp, lively, funny and entirely endearing, this novel is part mystery, part coming-of-age story – and quintessentially Australian. Think The Virgin Suicides meets Jasper Jones meets Picnic at Hanging Rock

Into the Jungle // Erica Ferencik. May 28. Lily Bushwold thought she’d found the antidote to endless foster care and group homes: a teaching job in Cochabamba, Bolivia. As soon as she could steal enough cash for the plane, she was on it.

When the gig falls through and Lily stays in Bolivia, she finds bonding with other broke, rudderless girls at the local hostel isn’t the life she wants either. Tired of hustling and already world-weary, crazy love finds her in the form she least expected: Omar, a savvy, handsome local man who’d abandoned his life as a hunter in Ayachero—a remote jungle village—to try his hand at city life.

When Omar learns that a jaguar has killed his four-year-old nephew in Ayachero, he gives Lily a choice: Stay alone in the unforgiving city, or travel to the last in a string of ever-more-isolated river towns in the jungles of Bolivia. Thirty-foot anaconda? Puppy-sized spiders? Vengeful shamans with unspeakable powers? Love-struck Lily is oblivious. She follows Omar to this ruthless new world of lawless poachers, bullheaded missionaries, and desperate indigenous tribes driven to the brink of extinction. To survive, Lily must navigate the jungle–its wonders as well as its terrors—using only her wits and resilience.

Primal, gripping, and terrifying, Into the Jungle features Erica Ferencik’s signature “visceral, white-knuckle” (Entertainment Weekly) prose that will sink its fangs into you and not let go.

The Farm // Joanne Ramos. May 7. Nestled in New York’s Hudson Valley is a luxury retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, personal fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. In fact, you’re paid big money to stay here—more than you’ve ever dreamed of. The catch? For nine months, you cannot leave the grounds, your movements are monitored, and you are cut off from your former life while you dedicate yourself to the task of producing the perfect baby. For someone else.

Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines, is in desperate search of a better future when she commits to being a “Host” at Golden Oaks—or the Farm, as residents call it. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her family, Jane is determined to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she’ll receive on the delivery of her child.

Gripping, provocative, heartbreaking, The Farm pushes to the extremes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.

A Wonderful Stroke of Luck // Ann Beattie

Biloxi // Mary Miller. May 21. Mary Miller seizes the mantle of southern literature with this wry tale of middle age and the unexpected turns a life can take.

Like her predecessors Ann Beattie and Raymond Carver, Mary Miller brings an essential voice to her generation. Building on her critically acclaimed novel, The Last Days of California, and her biting collection, Always Happy Hour, Miller slyly transports readers to her unapologetic corner of the South—this time, Biloxi, Mississippi, home to sixty-three-year-old Louis McDonald Jr. His wife of thirty-seven years left him, his father has passed—and he has impulsively retired from his job in anticipation of an inheritance check that may not come. In the meantime, he watches reality television, sips beer, and avoids his ex-wife and daughter. One day, he stops at a house advertising free dogs and meets overweight mixed-breed Layla. Unexpectedly, Louis takes her, and, newly invigorated, begins investigating local dog parks and buying extra bologna. Mining the absurdities of life with her signature “droll minimalist’s-eye view of America” (Joyce Carol Oates), Mary Miller’s Biloxiaffirms her place in contemporary literature.

The Invited // Jennifer McMahon. April 30. A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house–they build one . . .

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate have abandoned the comforts of suburbia to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this beautiful property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the local legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. With her passion for artifacts, Helen finds special materials to incorporate into the house–a beam from an old schoolroom, bricks from a mill, a mantel from a farmhouse–objects that draw her deeper into the story of Hattie and her descendants, three generations of Breckenridge women, each of whom died suspiciously. As the building project progresses, the house will become a place of menace and unfinished business: a new home, now haunted, that beckons its owners and their neighbors toward unimaginable danger.

The Ash Family // Molly Dektar. April 9. When a young woman leaves her family—and the civilized world—to join an off-the-grid community headed by an enigmatic leader, she discovers that belonging comes with a deadly cost, in this lush and searing debut novel.

At nineteen, Berie encounters a seductive and mysterious man at a bus station near her home in North Carolina. Shut off from the people around her, she finds herself compelled by his promise of a new life. He ferries her into a place of order and chaos: the Ash Family farm. There, she joins an intentional community living off the fertile land of the mountains, bound together by high ideals and through relationships she can’t untangle. Berie—now renamed Harmony—renounces her old life and settles into her new one on the farm. She begins to make friends. And then they start to disappear.

Thrilling and profound, The Ash Family explores what we will sacrifice in the search for happiness, and the beautiful and grotesque power of the human spirit as it seeks its ultimate place of belonging.

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs // Katherine Howe. June 25. Connie Goodwin is an expert on America’s fractured past with witchcraft. A young, tenure-track professor in Boston, she’s earned career success by studying the history of magic in colonial America—especially women’s home recipes and medicines—and by exposing society’s threats against women fluent in those skills. But beyond her studies, Connie harbors a secret: She is the direct descendant of a woman tried as a witch in Salem, an ancestor whose abilities were far more magical than the historical record shows.

When a hint from her mother and clues from her research lead Connie to the shocking realization that her partner’s life is in danger, she must race to solve the mystery behind a hundreds’-years-long deadly curse.

Flashing back through American history to the lives of certain supernaturally gifted women, The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs affectingly reveals not only the special bond that unites one particular matriarchal line, but also explores the many challenges to women’s survival across the decades—and the risks some women are forced to take to protect what they love most.

Wicked Saints // Emily A. Duncan. April 2. A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself. A prince in danger must decide who to trust. A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war. In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

Orange World and Other Stories // Karen Russell. May 14. Karen Russell’s comedic genius and mesmerizing talent for creating outlandish predicaments that uncannily mirror our inner in lives is on full display in these eight exuberant, arrestingly vivid, unforgettable stories.  In“Bog Girl”, a revelatory story about first love, a young man falls in love with a two thousand year old girl that he’s extracted from a mass of peat in a Northern European bog.  In “The Prospectors,” two opportunistic young women fleeing the depression strike out for new territory, and find themselves fighting for their lives.  In the brilliant, hilarious title story, a new mother desperate to ensure her infant’s safety strikes a diabolical deal, agreeing to breastfeed the devil in exchange for his protection. The landscape in which these stories unfold is a feral, slippery, purgatorial space, bracketed by the void—yet within it Russell captures the exquisite beauty and tenderness of ordinary life. Orange World is a miracle of storytelling from a true modern master.

Boat on the beach of Cape May, New Jersey.

Cape May // Chip Cheek. April 30. Late September 1957. “Henry and Effie, very young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon only to find the town is deserted. Feeling shy of each other and isolated, they decide to cut the trip short. But before they leave, they meet a glamorous set of people who sweep them up into their drama. Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn. The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences.”

What do you want to read this spring? See what everyone else is reading here.

Reviews

Come West and See // Maxim Loskutoff

Short story collections are my jam. They’re typically readable, I can sit down, read a story, and get back up without worrying about losing my place in the larger narrative arc. You can encounter a fantastically weird story alongside a quiet family drama, sci-fi mixed in with historical fiction. A good collection can have all (or some, or none) of these things.

I’ve mentioned I love quirky. And fantastical. Bizarre. Unique. Come West and See has a little bit of everything good, including lust, politics, and the American West. Most of the stories are linked, set in the American West (Montana, Idaho, and Oregon), and perfectly capture the aggressive individualism found more often in these rural outposts. An armed occupation of a wildlife refuge – think the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff – is the primary link between the stories, but loneliness, frustration, and rage also run throughout.

“Ways to Kill a Tree”, “Stay Here”, and “We’re in this Together You Know, God” are highlights, but the collection is solid and worth your time, especially if your interested in the (fictional) exploration of the chasm that divides the nation, especially regarding land politics, in the American West. 

P.S. How amazing is that cover?

Reviews

Here, There, and Everywhere

This is a tough list for me. I LOVE to travel, and I’m happy to visit most places. So when I sat down to make an actual list, my mind drew a blank.

Bodleian Library (and Oxford) in A Discovery of Witches // Deborah Harkness. As I librarian, I’d love to visit this library. Serious bonus points if there’s a handsome altruistic vampire lurking in the stacks.

The Epic Road Trip in American Gods // Neil Gaiman. Sure it didn’t pan out in all locations, but you have to admit it would be an experience.

Pacific Crest Trail in Wild // Cheryl Strayed. I’m a serious planner, so I suspect my hike wouldn’t be as dramatic or emotional, but it sure would be beautiful.

The Maine wilderness in The River at Night // Erica Ferencik. Sure their trip was plagued my murder and mayhem, but Maine is so beautiful. I can’t help but pine for a peaceful rafting trip down the river.

Alaska in Alaska Wild // K. A. Turner. Alaska has always been high on my list, but this just solidified it. The landscape sounds amazing.

Scotland in Outlander // Diana Gabaldon. I’m *real* original with this one, I know.

Prince Edward Island in Anne of Green Gables // L. M. Montgomery.

Big Sur in Big Sur // Jack Kerouac. I actually made this one happen in the summer of 2016. It was stunning.

I’m sure I’ll think of a million more options as soon as I post this. For more places to visit inspired by books, go here.

Image found here.





Lists

I Wear My Heart on My (Book Jacket) Sleeve

This post is embarrassingly late. My family and I were sidelined by a long, drawn out case of the flu. But we made it, and who wants to read about hearts on Valentine’s Day anyway! The following five books are ones that I would heartily recommend if you have not had the pleasure of reading them yet.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies // John Boyne. “If there is one thing I’ve learned in more than seven decades of life, it’s that the world is a completely fucked-up place. You never know what’s around the corner and it’s often something unpleasant.”

Heartbreaker // Claudia Dey. “The women sat on the padded leatherette chairs in our kitchen. The chairs were beige and brown with a rose patter sewn onto the backs. We had bought them together at Furniture City. I tried to direct you toward more sophisticated options, but you wanted to fit in, go unnoticed. You knew you were being talked about, and you hated being talked about. You knew that it took 170 milliseconds to identify whether another person was in their group. You knew that when ants gathered, they did two things: first, they formed a colony, and then they formed a graveyard.”

The Lonely Hearts Hotel // Heather O’Neill. “Being a woman was a trap. Something would bring you down before you turned twenty-three. The only time the world shows you any favor, or cuts you any slack, is during that very brief period of courtship where the world is trying to fuck you for the first time.”

Barbed Wire Heart // Tess Sharpe. “There’s nothing stronger than a woman who’s risen from the ashes of some fire a man set.”

The Hearts of Men // Nickolas Butler. “I’ve known cowards and I’ve known heroes,” he says. “The heroes were always ruled by their hearts; the cowards by their brains. Don’t forget that. Heroes don’t calculate or calibrate. They do what is right.”

Clearly, just because a book has “heart” in the title doesn’t mean it’s a love story (the Heartbreaker quote is my favorite, for what it’s worth). A late, but sincere Happy Valentine’s to you.

Reviews

Honor Roll // Vol. 2

I’m certainly not one to declare the book review dead, but I do think it’s the type of post that’s less engaging, less likely to be clicked on, less likely to be read… You get the idea. And, dear readers, I’m secure enough in my insecurity to admit I do want people to read what I write, if only to continue to share my love of whatever wonderful/quirky/clever/delightful/daunting/terrible book I just read. These are a few that made my honor roll, and here are the ones I don’t think you should miss**.

Sleeping Giants // Sylvain Neuvel. I love, love, LOVE this sci-fi novel. I am hit or miss with science fiction, but the interesting premise and the intriguing characters pulled me right in. When a little girl finds a giant hand near Deadwood, South Dakota, it changes the course of her life.

Waking Gods // Sylvain Neuvel. This action packed follow-up to Sleeping Giants keeps up the relentless pace. It’s a worthy sequel to Sleeping Giants begins ten years later and introduces new characters and old. The interview and journal entries continue to tell the story and serve as an excellent way to slowly reveal new developments. And that ending!

Hanna Who Fell From the Sky* // Christopher Meades. Do you ever read a book just based on the blurb? I do, and this one by Laline Paull is an excellent one: “A strange and beautiful fable with shades of Deliverance, Room, and Winter’s Bone.” Perhaps I went in expecting too much with hype like that? I’ll never know, but what I do know if I have a thing for books about cults, and this is one I enjoyed, but didn’t quite love. Hanna is about to be married off to a significantly older man who already has multiple wives. She lives in an isolated community, where her friends and family blindly follow Brother Paul, but as she learns more about herself, and more about the outside world, Hanna begins to want more for herself. It’s an interesting coming of age tale, recommended for other readers who enjoy fiction about polygamous cults with a tiny dash of magical realism.

Goodnight, Beautiful Women // Anna Noyes*. I love a good book set in Maine, and this interconnected set of short stories is a solid edition to that category.  This is a dark, uncomfortable set of stories that examines the choices women have made, and their consequences.

The Haunting of Hill House // Shirley Jackson. “Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

Fire Season // Philip Connors. A beautifully written testament to solitude and wilderness. A must read for those who dream of escaping it all.

*I received review copies of these books in exchange for my honest opinion.
**Although it’s quite possible I am the only one who missed them in the first place, as I wouldn’t exactly label these as under the radar.

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