What’s New …in Debut Fiction!

There’s nothing more satisfying than being the first reader to discover a fabulous new author or series, right?! (If this sounds strange to you? You may be free of one of the most vexing book nerd problems -lucky you!) These are the titles, authors, and/or series we discovered -and- shared at our last genre discussion:

Maureen: In her debut novel What She Knew, Gilly Macmillan’s character Rachel makes the snap judgement to allow her beloved 8-year-old son Ben to run ahead on a late day walk in the English woods. What happens next, she could never imagine…Ben goes missing and she becomes the prime suspect and therefore, the most hated woman in her village. A twisted tale of relationships, how they go wrong, and how people cope with what life has thrown at them. Tons of suspense, a few red herrings and a great detective character make this a gripping read.

Carol: In Angela Flournoy’s debut novel The Turner House, an aging Viola Turner moves into her eldest son Cha-Cha’s house, and her thirteen children must consider selling the family’s practically worthless Detroit, Michigan home. In alternating chapters and flashbacks, readers glimpse into the lives of the Turners, focusing primarily on the struggles of normally level-headed Cha-Cha’s ghostly visions, and the youngest Turner daughter Lelah’s gambling addiction. This powerful novel about family and love kept me up late reading. I’ll be looking forward to Flournoy’s next offering.

Chris: Gilded Age by Claire McMillan tells the story of Eleanor Hart who after living, working, marrying and divorcing in New York returns to her hometown, Cleveland, Ohio. She gets in touch with all of her old friends and tries to make a new life for herself. But keeping her independence and finding love isn’t as easy as she expected. McMillan presents a modern day Edith Wharton heroine, much like Lily Bart in House of Mirth. Enjoyed that, too, and look forward to McMillan’s next one.

Steve: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline finds teen Wade Watts in the not too distant, but very bleak future, in the year 2044. Wade, like most teens, spends almost all of his time in the virtual world known as the OASIS. Wade is on the hunt to find and solve the puzzles hidden within the OASIS by the deceased billionaire creator, who has left instructions in his will to give his massive fortune to whoever can solve the riddles. Readers will love the 80’s pop culture references that run throughout the book.

Beth: In R. J. Palacio’s debut novel, Wonder, she explores the challenges of middle school from a new perspective. August Pullman was born with a facial abnormality and his parents have decided that after years of homeschooling him, it’s time for him to go to a real middle school. Wonder explores what it feels like to be different from others, as well as what it takes to accept those who are different from ourselves. This compelling story is an excellent resource for fostering empathy to people of all ages.

Lauren: Ausma Zehanat Khan’s The Unquiet Dead introduces the detective team of Rachel Getty and her boss Esa Khattak of Canada’s Community Policing Section, designated to handle minority-sensitive cases. A Muslim himself, Khattak is called to investigate the suspicious death of a man who was possibly tied to war crimes during the Bosnian War, specifically the massacre of 8,000 Muslim Bosnians at Srebrenica in 1995. Told partially through flashback, Khan weaves a complex story and cast of characters, each haunted by their past.

Dori: In Julia Claiborne Johnson’s Be Frank with Me, reclusive literary legend “Mimi” Banning is writing a new book for the first time in decades. Alice, her assistant, becomes a companion to Mimi’s 9-year-old son Frank, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders. Johnson’s debut is both funny and poignant – and you’ll be rooting for her characters, especially charming, precocious Frank.

Emma: Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Swedish author Katerina Bivald, is a heartwarming story for book lovers. Sara Lindqvist from Hannige, Sweden travels to Broken Wheel, Iowa to visit her book loving American pen pal Amy Harris. Unfortunately the ladies never meet. Sara arrives on the day of Amy’s funeral. The townspeople adopt Sara and insist that she stay in Amy’s house. Sara wants to give back to the community, so she opens a free bookstore using Amy’s vast collection of books. With Sara’s tourist visa about to expire, the townspeople conspire to allow her to stay.

Stacey: Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly was one of those rare books that combines actual, laugh-out-loud moments with characters you care about from the moment the first page is turned. Zoe and her Mom moved to a upstate New York suburb after the divorce; the first person she meets is Digby or, as Zoe soon realizes, aka Trouble. Digby drags a semi-reluctant Zoe into the mystery he’s determined to solve and the two find themselves in every kind of wacky situation possible, but mostly with positive results. A great choice for anyone wanting a humorous book full of pop culture references.

Next time? We’ll be feeling all the feels with -Romance! If you want to keep reading with us, you’ll want to find a book that appeals to the emotions and offers at least one misunderstanding that must be overcome in order to reach the Happily Ever After ending.


New to Us!

It’s always nice to find something new to get excited about, right? And what’s better than finding a new author that you enjoy?! So that’s part of why this last genre book discussion was a good time and the other part was that we celebrated the department wide achievements in adding lots and lots of titles to our very own book database: The Reading Room! (There were deliciously edible treats too- good stuff!) The only sad moment may have been at the end, when we chose the next genre to read. (You’ll see.) In the meantime, why not take a look at these titles:

Chris: The Grammarian by Annapurna Potluri tells the story of French philologist Alexandre Lautens who leaves his family behind to go to live in India to study the Telugu language. He stays with the Adivis family and ends up having an incident with one of the daughters, Anjali. It consisted of a trip to the ocean to let the daughter experience what it was like to go into the water, something she was always denied because of her lame leg. It was an innocent outing, even in 1911, but because of this, both are banished from the house. Alexandre ultimately returns to Paris and his family; Anjali becomes a political activist and spends time in and out of jail as a result. There’s a lot of good descriptive writing, especially wonderful are the portraits she paints of India.

Carol: Someday, Someday Maybe is a first novel by actress Lauren Graham. This quick read is the story of aspiring actress Franny Banks. She’d given herself three years to make it in New York, and as the novel opens in 1995, her deadline is quickly approaching. Currently she’s waiting tables, has made one commercial, and is taking an acting class alongside the famous actor James Franklin, who seems suddenly smitten with Franny. Will Franny make it in a dog-eat-dog city and even tougher industry? Will she find love along the way to finding representation? This novel is funny and sweet and it is easy to root for the likeable Franny. This reader will be looking forward to the next time Graham puts pen to paper.

Ann: A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie is the author’s debut of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mystery series. Superintendent Duncan Kincaid is finally going on holiday. His cousin can’t use his Yorkshire timeshare in the stately manor house converted to vacation suites so he’s given his week there to Duncan. Kincaid has been working hard lately and is looking forward to some relaxing R&R in the Yorkshire Dales. But on his first morning there he hears children shrieking- only to find the dead body of the assistant manager in the swimming pool. So much for R&R! Kincaid becomes involved investigating the death and butts heads with the local constable. Then when another guest is murdered, Kincaid calls his sergeant, Gemma James in London for some backup assistance. If you enjoy this variation of a “locked room” mystery, there are fourteen more books in the series.

Emma: Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh is the quiet story of 80-year-old bachelor Albert Honig, a 3rd generation beekeeper in California. Albert checks in on his neighbors and finds Claire and Hilda Straussman (the Bee Ladies) dead. As Detective Grayson investigates the murders, the stories of Albert and Claire and Hilda are told. Albert has had a 70-year-old friendship with his neighbors. Young Claire visits Albert’s family and helps with the hives eventually having a few hives of her own. Claire and Albert become good friends but drift apart, and time marches on. A touching story filled with bee lore and wisdom on tending bees.

Megan: What Happens Next is the captivating debut novel by local author Colleen Clayton. Sid Murphy has a lot going for her. She’s a straight-A student, a cheerleader, one of a tight trio of best friends and she has pretty great family. Meeting the handsome and charming Dax on a ski trip changes all of that. Accepting his invitation to a party sets in motion a devastating chain of events and the worst part is Sid doesn’t remember any of it. Back at home nothing is the same as Sid struggles to cope with her trauma. Her attempts to escape her old life lead her to the last person she ever dreamed could help her, Corey, the schools loner and outcast. What Happens Next is both heartbreaking and uplifting. Colleen Clayton will be at Rocky River Public Library on September 30th to discuss her novel.

Dori: Adelle Waldman’s debut novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. takes place in hipster Brooklyn where everyone is writing a book or trying to, and the dating scene is flirtatious and frenzied. Protagonist Nate Piven is about to travel in these circles after years of hard work, as his first book is about to be published, yet he doesn’t quite feel that he belongs. One of the benefits of hanging with the ‘in’ crowd is that, after years of desiring women that were ‘out of his league’, these same smart, beautiful women are now pursuing him. Considering himself a modern, feminist man, he nevertheless finds it difficult to sustain any kind of relationship. When he meets Hannah, a woman who is as well read as he, he thinks that this time it may get serious. Will Nate grow up enough to make it work? Waldman has fun skewering the Brooklyn literati in this sharply written book that makes me glad my dating days are behind me.

Stacey: From the Kitchen of Half Truth by Maria Goodin is a complex mix of the sweet and fanciful, used to cover over less happy times. Meg May’s mother loved to tell crazy, funny stories about Meg’s childhood and Meg loved to repeat these stories until the other kids start to make fun of her. Now she’s a scientist with no interest in participating in her mother’s silly tale anymore. But what harsh truths were these stories being used to hide?

For the next genre we’ll be looking for a book that fits into the horror category! (Eek!) Horror fiction can be written to frighten the reader with strange and or supernatural elements. In fact, the natural world may be twisted and no longer recognizable. If you’d like to further the challenge? Feel free to push the boundaries and find something funny or with a happy ending!

— Stacey

Have we Met Before?

There’s nothing more exciting than finding a new author to enjoy. For this month’s genre book discussion everyone selected authors who’d recently (somewhere in 2009) been published for the first time. I think this is something we try to do on a regular basis, find new authors to embrace, but it was nice to hear about so many new voices all at one time. So here’s what everyone read:

Ann: A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn has recently been nominated for the Edgar Award in the Best Novel category. Set in South Africa in 1952 just as the Apartheid laws are being placed in effect, this debut novel features Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper, who’s called to a remote village of Jacob’s Rest to investigate a dead body. The body turns out to be that of the local policeman and member of the powerful Pretorius family. As Detective Cooper investigates, he finds that Captain Pretorius led two lives, and unearths a lot of dirty secrets throughout the town. The book brings to the forefront racist Afrikaners, Zulu customs, and the low status of women. It’s definitely not comparable to the No. 1 Ladies Detective series, but more in line with the dark works of Arnaldur Indriðason and also reminds me of Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44.

Carol: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick was my debut novel pick. Sure I was drawn in by its bestseller status, but once I started reading, I couldn’t put this one down. Goolrick has delivered an original, very sensual, and gripping read. This book has it all–love, passion, hate, revenge, poison and plenty of twists, turns, and suspense. Readers meet the lonely Ralph Truitt in 1907, as he waits for a train. Turns out Ralph is awaiting a very special delivery, the arrival of a reliable wife. Catherine Land has come to remote Wisconsin in answer to his advertisement. Although Ralph immediately realizes that Catherine is not who or what he expected, he is charmed by her beauty, and he asks her to go to St. Louis to bring home his son who hates him. Catherine, however, has secrets and dark plans of her own, but nothing will turn out as either of them plans.

Chris: The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larson. Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet, a 12-year-old genius, is a dedicated cartographer. So dedicated that he makes maps for all of the places he sees, the people he meets, and most everything he witnesses or even reads about. Why? He wants “to figure out how the whole thing fits together.” When the Smithsonian becomes aware of his work, they think it’s the work of a grown man and want to honor him with the prestigious Baird Award. When T.S. shows up to accept the award as the 12-year-old that he is, the President of the Smithsonian is taken aback. But he quickly decides that this youngster is the best thing that can happen to the Smithsonian and to science and to the future of science, so they roll with it. And if you want more quirkiness, meet T.S’s family. This is an engaging story, further enhanced by side bars of maps, illustrations, etc. throughout.

Emma: The Cradle: A Novel by Patrick Somerville. It’s 1987 and young pregnant Melissa sends her husband on a mission to retrieve an antique cradle taken by her mother Caroline when she abandoned her husband and daughter years ago. The search isn’t simple since Caroline has remarried twice and is out of the country. 10+ years later a second story revolves around a middle-aged couple, Renee and Bill, whose son is voluntarily joining the army and heading to Iraq. Renee is particularly unhappy with his decision fearing that she will lose another son. Eventually the two stories connect.

Evelyn: Veracity by Laura Bynum. In 2045 in a world where uttering a “red-listed” word could result in your death, Harper Adams is a monitor for the government. Because of her psychic abilities, Harper can “see” people’s auras and emotions that they may be trying to hide. When her daughter Veracity’s name becomes red-listed, Harper chooses to work with an underground resistance to fight for freedom. The book has been described as a blend of Orwell’s 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale. When I first read the jacket of this book, I knew instantly that I had to read it. I knew it had potential to be great, I wasn’t let down. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. This one will stay with you. Highly recommend.

Dori: Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley. Nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel, this dark story begins when Detroit Times reporter Gus Carpenter returns to work for his small hometown newspaper in Michigan after being let go from the Times. Gus’s youth was dominated by his years as goalie for the local hockey team, whose infamous coach had supposedly drowned in a snowmobile accident years earlier. When his snowmobile suddenly reappears, Gus and the local police reopen the case, uncovering secrets that shake up the town and Gus’ perception of his past.

Rosemary: The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama is a sparkling and heartwarming debut novel, which also explores the more serious issues of modern life in India. Mr. Ali has too much energy to spend the day with the other retired men at his mosque, and he is definitely getting on his wife’s nerves at home. He cooks up the brilliant idea to start a marriage bureau for the wealthy of his city. The bureau quickly becomes a success, and soon he must hire an assistant. With Mrs. Ali’s help, he hires the quiet and smart Aruna, a young Brahmin woman whose family is experiencing financial troubles. The lives of Mr. and Mrs. Ali and Aruna become entwined with their clients as they face the challenges of arranging the perfect match.

Stacey: Descent into Dust: the extraordinary adventures of Emma Andrews, Victorian lady and vampire hunter by Jacqueline Lepore. While visiting her cousin Roger and his family, young widow Emma Andrews finds herself and another houseguest Valerian Fox become engaged in a fight against a powerful, evil vampire. This book is the first in a trilogy and, if the next two books are the similar, readers will find engaging characters who are as good with their clever minds as they are with their deadly weapons.

Did you find someone new to embrace? A book or an author who intrigues you now? Me too! But leave a little room on your book pile so you can be ready to read literary fiction, the next genre, with us! Literary fiction can be described as often prize-winning, character driven, uniquely stylized, and technically complex. Go on now, get busy and read!