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So new! So fresh! …Why they must be Debut Novels! April 30, 2014

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Debut Author, Genre Book Discussion.
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You may not know this but -librarians like to search for stuff! Sometimes we like to search for facts that could be useful in a school report, sometimes we search for information to help a consumer find the right option for their lifestyle, and sometimes we like to search out a completely new author to share with our fellow readers! Some of these books have been published within the last few months and some are a little older but they’re all books that were an author’s very first, published work. Maybe you’ll find a new author to love in this list:

Maureen: The Kept by James Scott. This first novel by an up-and-coming author tells the story of 12-year-old Caleb, who is the lone survivor of a horrible incident on the family farm that occurs while his mother Elspeth has been away serving as a midwife in upstate New York in 1897. The events that follow Elspeth’s return pave the way for a tale of sorrow, regret, and mostly, revenge. The bleak setting of winter in upstate New York is well depicted in the novel and the characters, although flawed and dysfunctional, prove the driving force of the story. This author will be one to watch!

Megan: The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence is the story of an unlikely friendship between an epileptic teen and a reclusive American expat and Vietnam veteran. When he was ten Alex made headlines after being struck by a meteorite. This event left him scarred and seizure prone and made him the perfect target for the village bullies. It was these bullies who actually led him to Mr. Peterson. It is the story of this friendship that Alex tells the police after he is stopped at customs with an urn of ashes and 113 grams of marijuana. Be sure to have a tissue handy while reading this thought-provoking and memorable debut!

Donna: The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel: The Women Behind Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America is the first novel by Allison Pateki. She was inspired to write this story after coming across a historical marker in the woods near her New York family home that showed the path Benedict Arnold used to escape from George Washington’s troops. Through our history books, everyone knows that Benedict Arnold was a traitor during the Revolutionary War but the why and the other major players in his traitorous plot are not usually as well known. Through Clara, a fictional maid, the author gives readers an inside look into the life of Peggy Shippen Arnold, Benedict Arnold’s much younger second wife and her role in Arnold’s plan to surrender West Point to the British. Although fictionalized, the author has been able to make this historical time period come to life. The Discussion Guide at the end of the book along with the author’s information on her research just makes this novel so much more interesting. Fans of Jennifer Chiaverini’s historical fiction should enjoy this title too.

Carol: The Rosie Project is a wonderful, memorable and funny debut novel by Graeme Simsion. Don Tillman, an assistant professor of genetics, is very dedicated to his daily routines and has problems socializing. At the age of thirty-nine, he decides it’s time to find a wife, and so he begins the “Wife Project.” In the interest of quickly eliminating the women who are unsuitable matches, Don puts together a (rather ridiculous) questionnaire. When Gene, one of Don’s only friends, sends barmaid Rosie Jarman to Don’s office, Don thinks she is there as a candidate, but as she’s not prompt, she smokes, and drinks too much, he doesn’t even bother to have her fill out his questionnaire. Don does think that Rosie is very beautiful though, and he decides to help her when he realizes that Rosie needs a geneticist’s assistance in order to find her biological father. As the two spend time together searching for Rosie’s dad, an unlikely bond is formed. Should Don dare consider Rosie a possible match? She’s certainly most unsuitable…right Don? The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel. Run out and find a copy to read immediately.

Dori: Shane Kuhn’s first novel, The Intern’s Handbook: a Thriller, is a manual written by John Lago, an employee of Human Resources, Inc., a firm of assassins. Their technique: they go undercover as interns to murder corporate criminals. From making the perfect cup of coffee, to disappearing in colorless clothing, John is able to get close to his targets as an insignificant intern. Recruited as a teenager, having survived the murder of his mother, the disappearance of his father, and a series of foster homes, John’s latest job is also his last; he’s decided to retire and of course, the job will not let him go easily. Kuhn, a writer for films and advertising, creates a fun comic thriller, with bloody fight scenes and weapons of every kind, plot twists and identity mix-ups.

Emma: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler is the story of five friends born and raised in Little Wing, Wisconsin. Henry and Beth are married raising their family on a farm close by. Ronny, a recovering alcoholic, is an injured rodeo star. Kip, who made his fortune trading commodities in Chicago, moves back home to restore the local mill to its former glory. Popular musician Lee is home after recording his first album, Shotgun Lovesongs. Even though their lives have taken different paths, the friends are there for each other and are drawn back to Little Wing. Each character in alternating chapters tells this story of friendship which survives the good times and the bad times.

Steve: The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, by Peter Swanson, finds George Foss, a late 30’s Bostonian living a dull life with his so-so job and on-and-off girlfriend, mixed up in a deadly web of lies. George is thrilled and shocked when a college-ex, Liana Dector, walks into his life after disappearing 20 years earlier. She asks if they can meet to discuss some trouble she is in, and although he knows better, he agrees. When George meets at the appointed location, he is greeted by a thug who punches him in the kidneys, drawing him into a world of deceit. The fast paced story alternates between the present and the past, and is truly one that will be hard for you to put down.

Lauren: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra, spans roughly a decade from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s and follows a small group of individuals struggling during the hardships and turmoil of the Chechen Wars. We come to know sisters, fathers, sons, and at the center of the novel, an eight-year-old girl, Havaa, all whose existence becomes a fight between trying to hold onto any shred of a “normal life” and literally trying to survive. Marra slowly reveals the story of each character all while masterfully weaving their lives together. The subject matter can be difficult to deal with; this book is not easy to read. Still, throughout it there were single sentences that took my breath away, and the last 100 pages or so make for incredible reading. One of the best books I’ve read in a while.

Chris: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides tells the story of five teenage sisters who commit suicide. The first one to do so is Cecilia, and within the year the rest follow her; all four in one night, all told in one paragraph. Narrated by the boys in the neighborhood, who have been totally smitten by the beautiful and mysterious sisters for years, you’ll hear some actual facts and lots of imagined happenings. After Cecilia commits suicide, the family, who always was a little weird (especially the parents), becomes more so after the tragedy. And that’s a large part of the telling—about this family, the relationships between the sisters, and the almost non-existent relationships with everyone else.Not only is this book remarkably impressive as a debut novel, it’s been heralded as a masterpiece and a classic. Prior to reading Virgin Suicides, I enjoyed Eugenides’ third book, The Marriage Plot, but it pales by comparison.

Ann: The Martian by Andy Weir has gone from being a free online book available on the author’s website to a six figure publishing event from Crown Publishing. His novel tells the story of the third manned mission to Mars on the ship Ares 3. The main character, Mark Watney, tells the tale in log format after he is left behind on Mars and is presumed dead by the rest of the world. While he realizes he is probably not going to survive, he is a scientist, and he uses all of his knowledge and resourcefulness to stay alive. This is a fun and exciting first novel filled with a lot of science and humor. It is well researched by the author, who says he wanted the book to be as realistic as possible based on existing technology.

Stacey: Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun is quite the unusual book. The story begins some time after a large portion of the population has stopped sleeping, with no clear explanation of why, and all the social structures we count on are starting to crumble. But there are few people left who can still sleep. Can they save the rest of society or will they too become sleepless? It’s hard to know what to highlight from this book: the mystery and suspense, the science, the relationships, or maybe to alert readers there are some disturbing and violent moments, all found in this one debut novel. Definitely consider reading this -just maybe not right before bedtime.

Our next genre is one that we’ve added to our expanding list of possibilities and it’s… Classics! The hard part of this genre is (and will be) the definition of what makes a book A Classic. There doesn’t seem to be one, universally accepted set of criteria so I decided to cobble together my own parameters… So, if you’d like to read along with us with a classic of your own choosing? Please look for a book that you consider to have long-lasting value, a timelessness, or offer rare insight, and was published at least thirty years ago. Yes, this might be a little vague but you could approach it as opening up a wide range of reading options! Enjoy!

— Stacey

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