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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in October

A Brief History of Seven Killings
by Marlon James
Jamaican-born James, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for The Book of Night Women (2009), has a new novel that revolves around the 1976 attempted assassination of Bob Marley (referred to only as “The Singer”) and a web of rival politicians, gang members and hit men, CIA agents, a journalist from Rolling Stone, and Nina, one of Marley’s ex-girlfriends who changes her identity multiple times through the course of the story and who is “undoubtedly one of this year's great characters” in this “indispensable and essential history of Jamaica's troubled years” (Publishers Weekly).  A Brief History of Seven Killings is “epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It’s also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting — a testament to Mr. James’s vaulting ambition and prodigious talent” (New York Times).

by Marilynne Robinson
Robinson returns to the small Iowa town that was the setting of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead (2004), and its follow-up Home (2008). This third volume focuses on Lila, the younger second wife of Reverend John Ames who made appearances in Gilead. Lila reveals her painful past as a young orphan who led a tough itinerant life, looked after by a surrogate mother named Doll. Lila finds her way to Gilead, where she falls in love with the Reverend and reflects on her profound personal and spiritual journey. Publishers Weekly calls Lila “a masterpiece of prose in the service of the moral seriousness that distinguishes Robinson's work” and Booklist calls it “a tour de force, an unforgettably dramatic odyssey, a passionate and learned moral and spiritual inquiry, a paean to the earth, and a witty and transcendent love story.” Lila is on the recently announced longlist of nominees for the National Book Award.

Some Luck
by Jane Smiley
Like Lila, Jane Smiley’s latest novel (her fourteenth) is also set in Iowa and also on the National Book Award longlist. Some Luck is the story of a farming family and their fortunes and struggles spanning three decades beginning in 1920. “Told in beautiful, you-are-there language, the narrative lets ordinary events accumulate to give us a significant feel of life at the time, with the importance and dangers of farming particularly well portrayed” (Library Journal). “The saga of an Iowa farm family might not seem like an exciting premise, but Smiley makes it just that, conjuring a world—time, place, people—and an engaging story that makes readers eager to know what happens next” (Publishers Weekly). Readers that embraced her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Thousand Acres (1991) will love this book.

The Lives of Others
by Neel Mukherjee
The Lives of Others is an intricately layered story focused on the well-off Ghosh family household in Kolkata in the 60s and 70s. Three generations and their servants share one residence with their various rivalries and misunderstandings; bonds are ruptured when the youngest grandson becomes obsessed with the plight of the poor and the working class and leaves home to join the Communist party. “In startling imagery that sears itself into the mind, The Lives of Others excellently exposes the gulf between rich and poor, young and old, tradition and modernity, us and them, showing how acts of empathy are urgently needed to bridge the divides” (The Guardian). The Lives of Others is currently on the short list of contenders for the Booker Prize.

Hiding in Plain Sight
by Nuruddin Farah
Farah is a distinguished and award-winning Somali author, perhaps best known for his “Blood in the Sun" trilogy: Maps (1986), Gifts (1993), and Secrets (1998). He returns with Hiding in Plain Sight, featuring Bella, an internationally known photographer leading a glamorous and carefree life in Rome.  Bella’s world is flipped upside down when her half-brother in Mogadishu, with whom she shared her Somali mother, is murdered. She travels to Nairobi to see her niece and nephew, trying to decide if she should assume their care when their long-missing mother appears. Library Journal praises this “study of blended political, social, and personal responsibilities, extending Farah's reach.”

Tehran at Twilight
by Salar Abdoh
Reza and Sina, two Iranian-American young men, meet and become best friends at Berkeley. After graduation, they travel to Iraq and Afghanistan with jobs as interpreters for embedded journalists. Then their paths take different directions: Reza pursues a cushy academic life in the U.S., and Sina returns to Iran and joins up with a dangerous anti-Western political organization. Reza is faced with a double dilemma that draws him back to Tehran when both Sina and his long estranged mother seek out his help. Author Abdoh “gives readers a visceral sense of life in a country where repression is the norm, someone is always watching, and your past is never really past” (Library Journal).

Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles
by Anne Rice
Bloodthirsty Anne Rice fans rejoice: the latest in her Vampire Chronicles is here, the first in eleven years. A mysterious voice is compelling all vampires to wage war against each other, and Lestat must step in to stop it. In the midst of all of the bloodshed (and blood consumption), Rice catches up on all of the series characters as well as peering further into their pasts. “Series fans should not miss this latest foray into Rice's magical world built around the undead, but anyone with an interest in the supernatural and aficionados of richly detailed and lush backdrops will enjoy this epic tale” (Library Journal).

The Disappearance Boy
by Neil Bartlett
Reggie Rainbow, the hero of this novel set in 1950s England, is a penniless and lonely 23-year-old orphan with polio and “a delightfully quirky, eccentric, and lovable character” (Publishers Weekly). Despite his hardships, he finds work as a “disappearance boy” in a vaudevillian magic show, and finds true friendship with the female assistant Pamela while becoming increasingly aware that he’s gay. Booklist calls The Disappearance Boy “haunting in its evocation of a long-gone time” and praises the author’s “unusual gift for showing that ordinary lives are, in their way, extraordinary. You might almost say it's magic.”

Ready to Burst
by Frankétienne, translated by Kaiama L. Glover
The New York Times identifies Frankétienne as “Haiti’s most important writer” with “star status in French- and Creole-speaking countries.” Translated into English for the first time, this novel follows heartbroken Raynand, who finds comfort in a friendship with Paulin. Both men find themselves caught up in art and political activism, taking them into unsafe territory during the dictatorship of François Duvalier. “Frankétienne writes with a savage beauty about politics, art, and the roles of men and women in a turbulent world” (Kirkus Reviews).

Truth Be Told
by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Truth Be Told is the third book in a mystery series that began with The Other Woman(2012), featuring Boston reporter Jane Ryland and police detective Jake Brogan. In this installment, Ryland and Brogan are juggling a string of murders discovered in foreclosed properties and a 20-year-old cold case with a doubtful confession—in addition to their covert love affair. Ryan’s latest “packs a powerful punch, and offers a clever mix of mystery, corruption, and romance,” says Library Journal, adding, “Mystery enthusiasts will want to drop everything and binge-read until the mind-boggling conclusion.” Ryan has won a staggering 32 Emmys as a television investigative reporter and her mystery novels have won three Agatha Awards, the Anthony, Daphne, Macavity, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Meet the author in person at the Main Library on October 12!

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in September


The Bone Clocks
by David Mitchell
Mitchell’s latest novel, already nominated for Britain’s Booker Prize, revolves around the life of Holly Sykes, from her teenage years as a runaway to six decades later, when Holly is struggling to survive on an island in a post-apocalyptic world.  In between, the story jumps through time, recounted by various narrators who all connect back to Holly. Characters from Mitchell’s other novels such as Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet make appearances, as do recurring themes such as reincarnation and the supernatural. “Rich in detail and incident, funny, rueful and terrifying by turns, ‘The Bone Clocks’ is a tour de force, deeply enjoyable as both a literary puzzle and the story of one remarkable woman across nearly six tempestuous decades. It’s an easy book to get lost in, the plot dense but not difficult to track” (The San Francisco Chronicle). You can read a preview here.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors
by Nayomi Munaweera
Island of a Thousand Mirrors tells the story of people who find themselves on opposite sides of Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil war while their lives unexpectedly intertwine amidst the chaos. This debut won the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize for the Asian Region and was longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize and the Dublin IMPAC Prize. It arrives in the U.S. this month to great fanfare, including recognition as a Good Housekeeping pick and as an Indie Next List pick for September. “Munaweera's first novel is a breathtaking work of lyrical prose and vivid, transporting imagery” (Booklist). You can meet the author at OPL’s Main Library on October 11! 

The Paying Guests
by Sarah Waters
Struggling with their bills in post-World War I England, Frances Wray and her widowed mother have made the less-than-ideal decision to rent half of their house to lower-class Leonard and Lilian Barber. In spite of the awkwardness of the arrangement, Frances and Lilian fall for each other and begin a passionate affair that has fatal consequences. “Tension is high from the first paragraph,” says Kirkus; Library Journal recommends it “for fans of complex historical crime fiction with a strong sense of dread.” Waters is best known for her novel Tipping the Velvet and is a three-time Booker Prize finalist, two-time Orange Prize finalist, and one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists.

The Moor's Account
by Laila Lalami
Lalami imagines the tale of the forgotten first Black explorer of the West, a Moroccan slave who was one of only four survivors of a doomed expedition from Spain to Florida in 1527. Mustafa al-Zamori, called Estebanico, is on a journey of survival with the three others in “a totally engrossing and captivating novel that reconsiders the overlooked roles of Africans in New World exploration” (Booklist) that is “meticulously researched yet extraordinarily readable” (Library Journal). The Moroccan-born author is also the author of the novel Secret Son.

Rose Gold: An Easy Rawlins Mystery
by Walter Mosley
In 1960s Los Angeles, Private Investigator Easy Rawlins has no trust for the LAPD, but takes an offer he can’t refuse—good pay for finding the missing daughter of a weapons dealer who may have been kidnapped by Uhuru Nolica, a political revolutionary and former boxer.  “Mosley has few peers when it comes to crafting sentences, and he's woven some beauties into this swift-moving yet philosophical story” (Booklist). If you’ve never read this beloved and iconic series, start with Devil in a Blue Dress (1990).

The Children Act
by Ian McEwan
As Family Court Judge Fiona Maye approaches 60, she must grapple with her crumbling marriage while faced with a complicated legal case, in which a hospital wants her to compel a young boy to receive medical treatment that he and his family are refusing on religious grounds. Her decisions result in surprising consequences. “In spare prose, he examines cases, people, and situations, to reveal anger, sorrow, shame, impulse, and yearning… few will deny McEwan his place among the best of Britain's living novelists” (Publishers Weekly). McEwan is perhaps best known for his novels Atonement and Amsterdam, and has won multiple awards including the Booker Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

The Wonder of All Things
by Jason Mott
Mott’s 2013 novel The Returned received numerous rave reviews and inspired the TV Show Resurrection starring Omar Epps. His new novel, arriving at the end of the month, tells the story of 13-year-old Ava. Ava has the power to heal others’ physical wounds and illnesses, but at her own physical expense. When her secret power is exposed and her fame as a “miracle child” spreads, people begin seeking her out from all over the globe. The book has already been optioned for film adaptation by a major studio; no wonder Mott was named by Entertainment Weekly as one of their 10 “New Hollywood: Next Wave” people to watch—besides being nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2009. “Lyrically written, thought-provoking and emotionally searing, the book asks some unsettling questions about love, death, responsibility and sacrifice” (Kirkus Reviews).

Into the Go-Slow
by Bridgett Davis
In the mid-1980s, Angie has just graduated from Wayne State University with no clear plans. When she crosses paths with a Nigerian man who knew her late sister Ella, an activist and journalist who died an untimely death in her adopted home of Nigeria, Angie is inspired to make her own voyage to the African country. “The difficult intellectual questions Davis raises about personal identity and an African-American's relation to contemporary Africa are particularly resonant” (Kirkus Reviews). Davis’s debut novel, Shifting through Neutral, was a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist.

How to Build a Girl
by Caitlin Moran
British humorist and critic Moran had a breakout hit with her bestselling memoir/feminist manifesto How to Be a Woman. She’s back with a semi-autobiographical novel that tells the story of 14-year-old Johanna Morrigan, who is reeling from a mortifying appearance on a local TV show. She decides to cope by drastically reinventing herself with an edgy new persona, complete with a new name, new appearance, a new job writing scathing reviews for a rock magazine, and a fast new lifestyle. Kirkus calls it “hilarious” and Booklist says the “characters are huggable and aggressively real” and the “depiction of growing up well worth reading”.

Five Days Left
by Julie Lawson Timmer
Mara Nichols is planning her suicide as an alternative to a slow demise from Huntington’s disease. Scott Coffman is dreading the loss of his eight-year-old foster child Curtis, who will return to his mother when she is released from jail. Get your tissues ready for this heart-wrenching debut novel which binds the grief of two people who have met through an online support group. Kirkus Reviews gushes: “The characters are so affecting it's tough to make it to Day 5. An authentic and powerful story.”

If that’s not enough, how about a few short stories?
New collections out this month from back-to-back Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel, Margaret Atwood, who also counts a Booker among her prizes, the insanely prolific Joyce Carol Oates, celebrated novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux, New Yorker contributor and MacArthur Award winner Donald Antrim and notable Oakland author Kim Addonizio.

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in August

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel
As a young man, Tsukuru Tazaki was mysteriously shunned by his four best friends. Two decades later, this rejection haunts him still and sends him on a journey through Japan and Europe to make sense of the past. “The result is a vintage Murakami struggle of coming to terms with buried emotions and missed opportunities, in which intentions and pent up desires can seemingly transcend time and space to bring both solace and desolation” (Publishers Weekly); “Another tour de force from Japan’s greatest living novelist” (Kirkus Reviews).

Three Bargains
by Tania Malik
This debut novel tells the rags-to-riches story of Madan, a young boy growing up in Northern India, who learns a vast number of life lessons from Avtaar Singh, a mentor and surrogate father who eventually becomes Madan’s adversary. Publishers Weekly calls this novel “stunning”, saying “Malik's novel boasts masterful storytelling, with mesmerizing prose, heart-stopping action, and startling turns of events that feel both honest and astounding.”

The Magician's Land
by Lev Grossman
The Magician's Land is the concluding volume of Grossman’s outstanding fantasy trilogy, in which Quentin Coldwater returns to teach at Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. Kirkus Reviews calls it a “deeply satisfying finale” and Booklist promises “an absolutely brilliant fantasy filled with memorable character—old and new—and prodigious feats of imagination.” Fans of Narnia and Harry Potter who haven’t already devoured this series will want to start with The Magicians.

The Story Hour
by Thrity Umrigar
Despite their vast differences, an unusual bond grows between Indian immigrant Lakshmi and her African American therapist, Maggie. Their friendship is threatened when they discover each other’s most shocking secrets. Kirkus Reviews calls it “a forceful examination of identity, cultural isolation and the power of storytelling” and a “smart, compulsively readable work.”

The Miniaturist
by Jessie Burton
In 17th century Amsterdam, 18-year-old Nella Oortman is puzzled by her new life as a married woman—especially the detachment of her merchant husband and the wedding gift he gives her: an intricate dollhouse that is a perfect replica of their house. When she commissions furniture for the dollhouse from a miniaturist, she receives tiny furniture and dolls accompanied with cryptic notes that chillingly reveal more about her household than they should. Readers who love historical fiction with strong women characters will also find fine writing and a unique premise here. “With its oblique storytelling, crescendo of female empowerment and wrenching ending, this novel establishes Burton as a fresh and impressive voice” (Kirkus Reviews).

The Kills: Sutler, the Massive, the Kill, and the Hit
by Richard House
In post-war Iraq, a Halliburton-style contractor is told to take the fall for embezzlement in an epic story of crime and espionage with metafictional twists. This thousand-page tome was originally published in the UK as four novels and was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2013. Reviewers are comparing The Kills to the works of Bolaño and DeLillo fused with le Carré and Olen Steinhauer. “The Kills is a work of intense artistic conviction and demands a serious commitment from its readers. They'll be rewarded, even if the center of this dazzlingly large picture is elusive” (Booklist).

The Narrow Road to the Deep North
by Richard Flanagan
Renowned Australian author Flanagan has won awards for fiction and nonfiction writing, and this newest novel is on the just-announced 2014 Booker Prize Longlist. Dorrigo Evans, a septuagenarian surgeon raised in Tasmania, looks back on two major events that shaped his life: a forbidden affair and his experience in a Japanese POW camp. “A supple meditation on memory, trauma, and empathy that is also a sublime war novel” (Publishers Weekly).

Fives and Twenty-Fives
by Michael Pitre
Pitre, a marine who served two tours in Iraq, has written a debut novel that Booklist calls “a thrilling, defining novel of the Iraq War.” Fives and Twenty-Fives is about soldiers with the deadly task of searching for hidden IEDs and their return to civilian life, including an asylum-seeking Iraqi interpreter who is obsessed with American pop culture. Kirkus Reviews promises: “A war novel with a voice all its own, this will stand as one of the definitive renderings of the Iraq experience.”

The Lotus and the Storm
by Lan Cao
The Lotus and the Storm tells a story of the Vietnam War from the perspective of a Vietnamese family. In 2006, Minh and his youngest daughter Mai are living in Virginia, looking back on the previous decades and the conflict in Vietnam which they barely escaped. “Cao succeeds in making the story both epic and intimate, offering an important and necessary contribution to the literature of the war” (Library Journal). Cao is also the author of Monkey Bridge.

by Kanae Minato, translated by Stephen Snyder
Confessions is a debut thriller that won awards in Japan and was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film. Yuko Moriguchi is a middle school teacher and single mom to four-year-old daughter Manami. When Manami is murdered by two of Yuko’s students and the justice system rules the death accidental, Yuko seeks her own twisted revenge. “A creepy and mesmerizing psychological thriller… There are no happy endings here, but Minato has pieced together an intriguing puzzle that will keep readers glued to their seats” (Library Journal).

What is on your hold list right now?


10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in July

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Lucky Us
by Amy Bloom
Teenage Eva accompanies her talented and glamorous half-sister Iris on a quest to find fame in World War II era Hollywood. Iris’s star is rising until she is outed as a lesbian and blacklisted, sending Eva and Iris back on the road with a zany cast of characters from all walks of life. “Full of intriguing characters and lots of surprises… readers of literary fiction and 20th-century historicals, as well as fans of wacky humor, will find it an excellent choice” (Library Journal). Bloom, the author of three story collections and two novels including Away (2007), has been a nominee for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

Land of Love and Drowning
by Tiphanie Yanique
Land of Love and Drowning is a family epic reflecting the folklore and history of the Virgin Islands through the stories of the descendants of Owen Arthur Bradshaw, troubled captain of West African heritage whose bad fortune reverberates for generations. Yanique, a native of St. Thomas, was recognized by the National Book Foundation as a “5 Under 35” author for her short story collection How to Escape from a Leper Colony (2010). “Bubbling with talent and ambition, this novel is a head-spinning Caribbean cocktail” (Kirkus Reviews).

The Hundred-Year House
by Rebecca Makkai
Zee and her husband are living in the carriage house of her parents’ Chicago estate, a former artists’ colony when her mother’s current husband invites his children to move into the carriage house as well. Meanwhile, workplace schemes are going awry and family secrets are being discovered and again concealed. Booklist gushes over “a dazzling plot spiked with secrets and betrayals hilarious and dire” and praises author Makkai “as she stealthily investigates the complexities of ambition, sexism, violence, creativity, and love in this diverting yet richly dimensional novel.” Makkai is also the author of the highly praised debut The Borrower (2011).

Angels Make Their Hope Here
by Breena Clarke
Set in 1860s, Clarke’s third novel tells the coming-of-age story of Dossie, who escapes slavery via the Underground Railroad and settles in the mixed-race New Jersey community of Russell's Knob. Clarke is best known for her popular novel River, Cross My Heart (1999), which was an Oprah Book Club Selection.

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
by Mira Jacob
30-year-old photographer Amina traces the history of her Indian American family over three decades, two continents, and two major tragedies. First-time novelist Jacob balances grief and tension with humor and romance. Publishers Weekly calls it an “emotionally bountiful debut” that “through its lovingly created and keenly observed characters, makes something new of the Indian immigrant experience in America.”

Last Stories and Other Stories
by William T. Vollmann
The raves are rolling in for Vollmann’s Last Stories, his first fiction offering since he won the National Book Award in 2005 for Europe CentralKirkus declares this collection “Exquisite: beautifully, perfectly imagined and written. Weird, too.” and Library Journal calls it “an excellent introduction to Vollmann that should appeal not only to literary types but also to readers either unfamiliar with his work or intimidated by his reputation.”

by Jean Love Cush
Malik Williams, 15, has been charged with the murder of his friend Troy Barnes in this courtroom drama. His mother Janae cannot afford representation but nationally renowned attorneys from The Center for the Protection of Human Rights take the case, and defending Malik on the argument that  "African-American boys ought to be deemed legally endangered." Kirkus calls it “a frightening and realistic story about the realities of racism, poverty and injustice in the Obama era” and Publishers Weekly adds “Cush has crafted a compassionate story that commands the reader's attention.”

Forty Acres
by Dwayne Alexander Smith
In this debut thriller, Martin Grey is a promising young attorney who makes a fortuitous connection with a group of some of the most influential and wealthy black men in America. When he is invited to a weekend retreat at a former plantation, he is welcomed into their secret society—one in which the descendants of slave masters are now enslaved. Martin then realizes that his life is in danger unless he pretends to participate in their deadly vengeance. Booklist calls it “top-grade suspense” and a “disturbingly powerful, well-wrought story.”

All I Love and Know
by Judith Frank
Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen may be an odd couple, but they’ve enjoyed a quiet life together for years. When Daniel’s twin brother and sister-in-law are killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, he has to grapple with his grief in addition to the discovery that he will become the guardian of his niece and nephew—and Matthew has to face his role as an instant parent as well. Booklist calls it “a tender love story between two flawed, good-hearted people” and “a compassionate, utterly compelling story of how family members, torn apart by tragedy, must reach deep within themselves to meet their greatest challenge.” Judith Frank is also the author of Crybaby Butch (2004).

Back Channel
by Stephen L. Carter
Margo Jensen, a 19-year old African American undergraduate at Cornell becomes an unlikely intermediary between Kennedy and Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis. Publishers Weekly calls it an “intriguing what-if thriller” and says Carter “makes this audacious premise convincing and manages to build suspense around a historical event with a known outcome.” Carter is a professor of law at Yale and the author of several best-selling thrillers.

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June

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The Book of Unknown Americans
by Cristina Henríquez
The Riveras exchange their happy life in Mexico for a new life in Delaware so that their teenage daughter, a victim of a traumatic brain injury, can attend a special school. Their new apartment building is a haven for immigrants from all over Central America and the setting for dramas that unfold and intersect.  “Each scene, voice, misunderstanding, and alliance is beautifully realized and brimming with feeling in the acclaimed Henríquez's compassionately imagined, gently comedic, and profoundly wrenching novel of big dreams and crushing reality, courageous love and unfathomable heartbreak” (Booklist). Henríquez is the author of The World in Half and Come Together, Fall Apart.

Song of the Shank
by Jeffery Renard Allen
Allen’s new historical novel imagines the true story of Thomas Wiggins, a boy born into slavery in Georgia in the Civil War era who was blind, autistic, and an internationally acclaimed and gifted young pianist popularly known as “Blind Tom”. Kirkus Reviews claims “If there’s any justice, Allen’s visionary work, as startlingly inventive as one of his subject’s performances, should propel him to the front rank of American novelists.” Allen was the winner of the 2000 PEN Discovery Prize for the novel Rails Under My Back.

Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng
Everything I Never Told You is a debut novel from a Pushcart Prizewinner about the drowning death of teenage Lydia Lee and the devastation that follows for her loved ones. Library Journal draws comparisons with the debuts of Ha Jin, Chang-rae Lee, and Chimamanda Adichie, saying “Ng constructs a mesmerizing narrative that shrinks enormous issues of race, prejudice, identity, and gender into the miniaturist dynamics of a single family.”

The Antiquarian
by Gustavo Faveron Patriau, translated by Joseph Mulligan
Gustavo gets a call from his old friend Daniel, who has been in a mental institution for years following the confessed murder of his girlfriend and subsequent suicide attempt. Daniel regales him with a confusing series of mysterious stories, fables and bits of history, sending psycholinguist Gustavo on a quest to interpret these clues and determine the truth behind his friend’s crimes. This debut novel from a Peruvian literary critic and scholar is getting unanimous raves.  Publishers Weekly calls it a “perfect blend of page-turning narrative and knockout prose” and “the best literary puzzle of the summer.”

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers
by Tom Rachman
Tooly Zylberberg spent her childhood being whisked around the world, first with her father, then her mother, and then with a loosely formed crew that included a sly con artist. Now in her early 30s and settled as a bookseller in a small village in Wales, she looks back on it all and tries to make sense of who her family truly is. Kirkus calls The Rise & Fall of Great Powers “brilliantly structured, beautifully written and profoundly sad.” Rachman is also the author of the fantastically charming, funny and heartfelt debut The Imperfectionists (2010), about a staff of journalists working at an English-language newspaper in Rome in the times of the demise of print journalism.

Time of the Locust
by Morowa Yejide
Brenda Thompson struggles to connect with her autistic son, 7-year-old Sephiri, who prefers to escape to an imaginary underwater world in his imagination. But Sephiri’s incarcerated father Horus, serving 25 years to life for the revenge killing of the cop that murdered his own father, believes he can telepathically communicate with his son in dreams. “At times almost mystical in its intensity, Yejidé’s prose brings lyricism to her dark subject matter and unhappy characters, eventually introducing a kind of magical restoration to her shattered fictional family” (Kirkus Reviews).

Elizabeth Is Missing
by Emma Healey
Maud’s friend is missing, but no one will believe her since she’s falling under the grip of dementia. Now she must investigate her friend’s disappearance—or has she disappeared at all?—and perhaps solve another mystery from half a century earlier. Library Journal delivers this praise: “Suspenseful and emotional in equal parts, the author's debut hits all the right notes.”

A Replacement Life
by Boris Fishman
Minsk-born Slava Gelman is struggling to make his way as a literary journalist in New York when his grandfather asks him for help with an application for reparations from Germany for death camp survivors—requiring some serious creativity with the truth. Soon Slava gets a reputation for this crooked expertise and is overwhelmed with similar requests from all over Brooklyn.  A Replacement Life is a “darkly comic, world-wise debut” (Kirkus) that “shines with a love for language and craft” (Publishers Weekly).

by Lily King
Inspired by the life of Margaret Mead, Euphoria tells the story of three anthropologists in 1930s New Guinea, and how professional competitiveness and sexual tensions disrupt their work and lives. Publishers Weekly calls Euphoria a “thrilling read” and Kirkus Reviews calls it “a small gem, disturbing and haunting.”

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
by Courtney Maum
British artist Richard Haddon is reeling from two infidelities: he has cheated on his wife, and he has sold out as an artist. Now he realizes how much these both mean to him and he's struggling to get both his wife and his artistic integrity back. "Equally funny and touching, the novel strikes deep, presenting a sincere exploration of love and monogamy" (Publishers Weekly). 

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May

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The Snow Queen
by Michael Cunningham
Highly acclaimed and popular novelist Cunningham has a new novel, which the New York Times calls his “most original and emotionally piercing book to date.” Snow Queen examines the relationships between thirty-something, gay, and freshly dumped Barrett Meeks, Barrett’s secretly drug-addicted musician brother and his brother’s cancer-stricken fiancée, all roommates in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Booklist calls Snow Queen “tender, funny, and sorrowful” and the reviewer at Library Journal loves how “in concise yet descriptive language, Cunningham weaves the secret of transcendence through the mundane occurrences of everyday life.” Cunningham is best known for his 1998 novel The Hours, which won a Pulitzer Prize, a PEN/Faulkner Award and a Stonewall Award.

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
Reviewers are raving about this tale of intertwined lives in Occupied France during World War II. Marie-Laure is a blind teenager living in the fortressed city of Saint-Malo during the German Occupation. Her path will ultimately cross with Werner, the orphaned son of a German coal miner, whose unique aptitude for fixing radio equipment leads to an elite Nazi education and then to France, where he intercepts broadcast transmissions for the Wehrmacht. The New York Times calls this book “hauntingly beautiful” and Publishers Weekly says, “If a book's success can be measured by its ability to move readers and the number of memorable characters it has, Story Prize-winner Doerr's novel triumphs on both counts.” Doerr is the author of short story collections Memory Wall and The Shell Collector and the novel About Grace.

The Orenda
by Joseph Boyden
A story of clashing cultures, spiritual life and warfare in 17th century Canada features Bird, a Huron warrior, and his two captives: Snow Falls, the Iroquois daughter he adopts after killing her family in vengeance for his own, and Père Christophe, a French Jesuit who has been abandoned by his guides in the wilderness. Booklist calls The Orenda a “noteworthy literary achievement” and “mesmerizing.” Boyden is the recipient of Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize and the author of Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce.

The Possibilities
by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Hemmings follows up her popular debut The Descendants (which became an Oscar-nominated film) with another story about family and grief. In The Possibilities, Breckenridge, Colorado resident Sarah St. John has just lost her 21-year old son in an avalanche. As she copes with her grief, she discovers things about her son she never knew—some of them unpleasant—and gathers an extended clan of family and friends around her to commemorate his life on a road trip to Colorado Springs. “Hemmings writes a piercing, empathetic story about parenthood and unfathomable heartbreak and manages to bring humor and hope to her characters. Emotionally complex and relatable to all, it will be particularly understandable to those who've experienced the inexplicable, devastating loss of a loved one.” (Kirkus).

The Year She Left Us
by Kathryn Ma
A visit to her home orphanage in China opens up old wounds for 18-year old Ari Kong and launches the women in the Kong family into crisis. Booklist calls The Year She Left Us a “sweeping success” and adds, “this is a family saga of insight, regret, and pathos, and it is not to be missed.” Ma is a resident of San Francisco and author the story collection All That Work and Still No Boys, which won the 2009 Iowa Short Fiction Prize.

The Bees
by Laline Paull
The Bees is a wildly unique dystopian novel featuring insect protagonists. In the bee community, hierarchy, obedience and uniformity are the rule, but when Flora 717 realizes that she has skills and talents above her caste, she takes great risks that threaten the order of the hive.  Library Journal calls The Bees “a powerful story reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, in which one original and independent thinker can change the course of a whole society.”

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell
by Nadia Hashimi
Three Afghan sisters are devastated when they can no longer attend school due to their lack of a male chaperone.  Inspired by the example of her great-aunt Shekiba, Rahima invokes the tradition of bacha posh—which enables her to dress and live as a boy, knowing that eventually she will be forced to return to her traditional, oppressed role as a woman. “A lyrical, heartbreaking account of silenced lives” (Kirkus Reviews).

The Painter
by Peter Heller
Heller follows up his acclaimed and best-selling post-apocalyptic debut The Dog Stars with a novel about a haunted artist with a violent streak. Jim Stegner is a successful painter with a criminal past who retreats to the woods to cope with painful losses—his teenage daughter has been murdered and his wife has left him. Just as he is experiencing a period of personal and creative fulfillment, Jim witnesses an act of cruelty and he responds in an eruption of rage. Library Journal calls The Painter “at times suspenseful, at times melancholy, at times spiritual, but always engrossing… this novel embraces themes of personal loss and growth, drama and suspense, while also including plenty for those who enjoy art or nature fiction. Highly recommended.”

by Ruth Reichl
Foodies will drool over this first novel from Reichl, former Gourmet magazine editor, New York Times restaurant critic, and author of the fantastic culinary memoirs Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me With Apples. Delicious! is a food magazine where college dropout Billie Breslin lands a job due to her impeccable palate, despite the fact that she does not cook. The book’s recipe includes a little romance, a little mystery, and some insider perspective on the culinary publishing world. “Reichl fills her plump novel with plenty—rich characterization, a bright New York setting, transcendent discussions of taste and food” (Booklist).

The Girl in the Road
by Monica Byrne
Two determined young women pursue impossible journeys that ultimately collide in this near-future tale. Meena is illicitly and perilously crossing the Arabian Sea via a vast power-generating structure that connects India to Djibouti. Miriama is fleeing slavery in Mauritania by crossing the Sahara. “Byrne's debut novel may be the most inventive tale to come along in years,” raves Kirkus Reviews, “Strong, appealing protagonists and an unusual plot make Byrne's literary invention well worth the reader's while.”


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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April

Cover of The Storied Life of A J FikryCover of RubyCover of Lovers at the Chameleon ClubCover of Frog MusicCover of Family LifeCover of CasebookCover of In the Light of What We KnowCover of The Word ExchangeCover of Team SevenCover of Astonish Me

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is very well suited to libraries and bibliophiles since it “perfectly captures the joy of connecting people and books” (Booklist).  The eponymous hero is a curmudgeonly independent bookseller and heartbroken widower who finds his life flipped upside down when he discovers an abandoned toddler in his store, and then experiences another shift as a romance unfolds in super-slow motion. Publishers Weekly calls Zevin “a deft writer, clever and witty, and her affection for the book business is obvious” and Kirkus calls The Storied Life “a likable literary love story about selling books and finding love.” Hear more about the book in an interview with the author here.

by Cynthia Bond
Ruby Bell spends her days wandering the streets of Liberty, a small, African American town in Texas. She is beautiful, but she has lost her mind and is now an outcast in the community. Ephram Jennings doesn’t care, he has loved her for years, and tries to reconnect with her, causing a scandal and prompting the local church to intervene. More than one review compares Bond’s writing to the work of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, and Booklist raves: “Bond immerses readers in a fully realized world, one scarred by virulent racism and perverted rituals but also redeemed by love.”

Lovers at the Chameleon Club: Paris, 1932
by Francine Prose
Set in the 1920s and '30s in Paris, much of the book takes place at the Chameleon Club, a bohemian hangout for lesbians, gays and cross-dressers. The action revolves around racecar driver, Nazi collaborator and tuxedo-wearing lesbian Lou Villars and her coterie of artists, writers and socialites. Many of the characters are based on historical figures—Prose intended to write a nonfiction book and ended up writing a novel instead. Kirkus calls it “a tour de force of character, point of view and especially atmosphere” and Booklist praises the “intricately patterned, ever-morphing, lavishly well-informed plot.” Prose is the author of many books, including National Book Award finalist Blue Angel (2000).

Frog Music
by Emma Donoghue
There’s already a hold list* for Frog Music, Donoghue's first novel since her blockbuster Room (2010). It’s based on a true crime that took place in Gold Rush and smallpox era San Francisco. A hail of bullets through a window strikes and kills pants-wearing, bicycle riding, professional frog catcher Jenny Bonnet, but leaves burlesque dancer Blanche Beunon unharmed but bent on seeking justice for her friend. The real life crime was never solved but Donoghue imagines a new ending. “Readers won't quickly forget this rollicking, fast-paced novel, which is based on a true story and displays fine bits of humor with underlying themes of female autonomy and the right to own one's sexual identity” (Library Journal). Read an excerpt of Frog Music here.

Family Life
by Akhil Sharma
In 1978, Ajay Mishra, his mother, and his brother Birju leave India to join their father in New York. Their experience as they adapt to their new lives encompasses excitement, confusion and struggle—until a devastating accident plunges them all into despair. The New York Times calls Family Life “deeply unnerving and gorgeously tender at its core” and “devastating as it reveals how love becomes warped and jagged and even seemingly vanishes in the midst of huge grief. But it also gives us beautiful, heart-stopping scenes where love in the Mishra family finds air and ease.”  Check out “A Mistake,” which Sharma adapted from parts of the novel and which appeared in the New Yorker in January.

by Mona Simpson
Miles is curious, precocious and protective of his mom, and what starts out as eavesdropping on her ultimately leads to all-out surveillance and hiring a PI as she navigates her divorce and new relationships. Booklist calls Casebook an “exceptionally incisive, fine-tuned, and charming novel” and admires Simpson’s ability to bring “fresh understanding and keen humor to the complexities intrinsic to each stage of life and love.” Library Journal recommends it for parents and teens to read together!

In the Light of What We Know
by Zia Haider Rahman
In the Light of What We Know is about the reunion of former Oxford classmates, one from a wealthy and educated Pakistani family, and one from rural Bangladesh and modest means. As they reconnect, their stories crisscross the globe and a number of themes such as high finance, war, metaphysics, and issues of class and privilege.  “The complex narrative weaves together the strands of worldwide interconnectedness” (Booklist).  Kirkus gives it a starred review, calling it an “ambitious, elegiac debut novel.”

The Word Exchange
by Alena Graedon
Graedon’s debut imagines a near-future dystopia in which people have become way too dependent on their smart devices and the written word is finally dead. While the final version of the archaic “North American Dictionary of the English Language” is prepared for print publication, “memes” are the ultimate in technology, having done away with the need for remembering anything, including vocabulary—words can be easily bought and sold on the Word Exchange—and an outbreak of “word flu” begins striking some people silent. Publishers Weekly raves: The Word Exchange “is rife with literary allusions and philosophical wormholes that aren't only decorative but integral to characters' abilities and limitations in communicating, and it succeeds precisely because it's as full of humanity as it is of mystery and intellectual prowess” and Kirkus adds it’s “a wildly ambitious, darkly intellectual and inventive thriller about the intersection of language, technology and meaning.”

Team Seven
by Marcus Burke
Team Seven is a semi-autobiographical debut novel from Marcus Burke, a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, MacArthur fellow and former college basketball player (until a knee injury ended his athletic career and steered him toward writing fiction). The novel follows the young life of Andre Battel and his Jamaican family in Milton, Massachusetts. Andre loves basketball and seems headed for athletic success but drug dealing takes him down the wrong path. Kirkus gives Team Seven a starred review, calling it “a street-smart tale of the possibilities and temptations of growing up” and declaring “there is power in his words, and the tale moves like a locomotive right to the end.”

Astonish Me
by Maggie Shipstead
Shipstead’s 2012 debut Seating Arrangements was a bestseller and winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction, not to mention a hit with Oakland readers. Her new novel is about Joan Joyce, a former professional ballerina turned suburban mom and her former lover, Arslan Ruskov, the Soviet dance star she helped defect to the United States. When Joan’s son Harry becomes a rising star in the world of ballet, his path crosses with Arslan and long-buried secrets are exposed. Booklist promises that readers “will rejoice in the emotionally nuanced tale of barre-crossed lovers and the magnetic, mysterious world of professional dance. A supple, daring, and vivid portrait of desire and betrayal.”


*Don’t hesitate to sign up for a long hold list—it nudges us to order more copies!

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in February

Cover of Kinder Than SolitudeCover of BarkCover of Good LuckCover of Saint MonkeyCover of MartianCover of Queen SugarCover of One More ThingCover of Long ManCover of Unnecessary WomanCover of Pioneer Girl

Place your holds now for these great books coming out in February!

Kinder Than Solitude
by Yiyun Li
Kinder Than Solitude is the new novel by Oakland resident, MacArthur Fellow, and award winning author Yiyun Li. Her story begins when four children in Beijing are caught up in a mysterious event in which one child is poisoned. 20 years later, when the victim finally succumbs to illness, the three others, still haunted by the incident, are reconnected in a tale that spans China and the United States. “Li's effortless ability to move fluidly in time and place— between minutes or decades and across continents—always with exacting details, gives this novel a shattering immediacy” (Library Journal). Li is the author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, The Vagrants and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl.

by Lorrie Moore
Popular and acclaimed writer Lorrie Moore has a new story collection, Bark, her latest release since her much lauded 2009 novel A Gate at the Stairs. Bark has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist. “One of the best short story writers in America resumes her remarkable balancing act with a collection that is both hilarious and heartbreaking, sometimes in the same paragraph” (Kirkus).

The Good Luck of Right Now
by Matthew Quick
What does a 38-year-old man who lives with his mother do when she dies? Write letters to Richard Gere (his mom’s favorite actor), and go on a road trip to Canada with his crush, her brother and a recently self-defrocked priest. The Good Luck of Right Now is “a whimsical, clever narrative” (Kirkus) written “with an engaging intimacy, capturing his narrator's innocence and off-kilter philosophy” (Publishers Weekly). Quick is the author of the sleeper hit novel The Silver Linings Playbook, which became a megahit movie.

Saint Monkey
by Jacinda Townsend
African American teens Caroline and Audrey are best friends living in a segregated small town in Kentucky in the 1950s. Although Caroline aspires to run away to Hollywood, it is Audrey who escapes and finds work as a jazz musician in Harlem. In a starred review, Booklist calls this debut “a breathtakingly insightful, suspenseful, and gorgeously realized novel of cruelty and sorrow, anger and forgiveness, improvisation and survival, and the transcendent beauty of nature and art.”

The Martian
by Andy Weir
The Martian is a survival story about an astronaut who gets left behind on the red planet when his crew believes him to be dead. Armed with few resources (and a surprising sense of humor) he must figure out how to survive until the next mission comes to Mars. Reviewers recommend it to general audiences as well as sci fi readers; The Martian is “sharp, funny and thrilling, with just the right amount of geekery” (Kirkus).

Queen Sugar
by Natalie Baszile
This San Francisco writer’s debut is about a woman who receives an unusual inheritance. A widow with an 11-year-old daughter, Charley must grapple with her father’s death and the fact that he has left her a sugarcane farm in his home town in rural Louisiana, with the stipulation that she must cultivate the land or give it away to charity. She decides to become a cane farmer, facing a steep learning curve, long neglected fields, and the added challenge of being an African American woman in a field dominated by wealthy white men.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
by B. J. Novak
Novak is known for his comedy stylings, notably his contributions as a writer, actor, director and producer to the U.S. television show The Office. Now he has a collection of stories which is being called “high-concept, hilarious, and disarmingly commiserative” (Booklist, starred review). You can find a preview from a recent New Yorker here.

Long Man
by Amy Greene
It is 1936, and there is one day left before the Tennessee Valley Authority dams the Long River, flooding the small blue-collar town of Yuneetah. Almost all residents have left, except for a few stubborn few who refuse to surrender their family land in the name of modernization. “Greene’s enormous talent animates the voices and landscape of East Tennessee so vividly, and creates such exquisite tension, that the reader is left as exhausted and devastated as the characters in this unforgettable story” (Publishers Weekly). Greene also received a great deal of praise for her 2010 debut Bloodroot.

An Unnecessary Woman
by Rabih Alameddine
Aaliya Sobhi, a 72-year-old native of Beirut, has endured war, a neglectful family, divorce and the loss of her father and friends. Her favorite pastime and source of joy is translating the novels she loves into Arabic. If this sounds dreary, Library Journal promises that “her humor and passion for literature bring tremendous richness to her day-to-day life—and to the reader's.” In a starred review, Kirkus calls it “rich with a bookish humor that's accessible without being condescending” and “a gemlike and surprisingly lively study of an interior life.” Alameddine is the author of The Hakawati.

Pioneer Girl
by Bich Minh Nguyen
Lee Lien is a Ph.D. graduate in literature, but she can't find a job, so she returns to Chicago to help her Vietnamese immigrant family with their restaurant. As a child, Lee loved Little House on the Prairie, and she always fantasized that a golden brooch, a family heirloom found forgotten in a Saigon café, originally belonged to Laura Ingalls Wilder. Now the provenance of the brooch becomes an obsession. “Nguyen has a perceptive understanding of the tension between mothers and daughters and the troubling insights to be gained from digging into the past. An unexpected pleasure, with a well-drawn and compelling narrator” (Kirkus). Nguyen is a resident of San Francisco and the author of the novel Short Girls and the memoir Stealing Buddha’s Dinner.

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Posted on Monday, 2/3/2014 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May

And the Mountains Echoed book coverAmericanah book coverA Constellation of Vital Phenomena book coverDead Ever After book coverA Delicate Truth book coverMontaro Caine book coverLittle Green book coverGood Kings Bad Kings book coverNorwegian by Night book coverKing of Cuba book cover

And the Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini
Readers around the world who loved The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns will be thrilled to get their hands on the newest book by best-selling novelist Khaled Hosseini. And the Mountains Echoed traces the intertwined stories of Afghanis in their home country and around the world in what Library Journal calls “a gorgeous tapestry of disparate characters joined by threads of blood and fate.” Booklist calls it a “vital, profound, and spellbinding saga.”

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning novels Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Half of a Yellow Sun. Her newest novel tells the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who leaves her home country and her sweetheart to study in the United States, where she faces immense difficulties. When she starts blogging her rants about the racism she observes and experiences in the U.S., she wins admiration and financial rewards, all the while struggling with the separation from her love. Library Journal calls Americanah “witty, wry, and observant” saying “Adichie is a marvelous storyteller who writes passionately about the difficulty of assimilation and the love that binds a man, a woman, and their homeland.”

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
by Anthony Marra
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena follows the lives of a child, a failed doctor and a surgeon struggling to survive in war-torn Chechnya. It received starred reviews from BooklistLibrary Journal and Publishers Weekly and is the number one book on the Indie Next List, a monthly list of recommendations from independent booksellers from across the country. Kirkus Reviews calls it a “somber, sensitive portrait of how lives fray and bind again in chaotic circumstances.” You can read or listen to a preview here.

Dead Ever After
by Charlaine Harris
Fans of the Sookie Stackhouse fantasy/mystery books (and their TV adaptation True Blood) take note: this is the final novel in Harris’ immensely popular series.

A Delicate Truth
by John Le Carré
Le Carré has been writing acclaimed espionage novels for almost five decades. His newest follows the cover-up of a counterterrorism effort gone wrong in Gibraltar. Reviewers have been noting the lack of moral ambiguity that characterized so many of his earlier works; Booklist describes this change as a “new, shockingly realistic kind of noir in which right-thinking individuals who challenge the institutional order of things always lose.”

Montaro Caine
by Sidney Poitier
Beloved Academy Award-winning actor Poitier is the author of this month’s most unexpected debut, a mystery and science fiction mash-up in which the CEO of a multinational mining corporation seeks the origin of a mysterious coin.  Kirkus Reviews calls Montaro Caine “a pleasant surprise, elegantly written and keenly observed.”

Little Green: An Easy Rawlins Mystery
by Walter Mosley
Fans of Easy Rawlins will be overjoyed to learn that he’s back. In Blonde Faith (2007), Easy’s life (and the series) appeared to come to an end when he drove off a cliff, but in Little Green he awakens from a coma, it is still 1967, and Easy gets back into the P.I. game. His mission is to find a missing young man last seen in a Sunset Strip Club, which immerses Easy in the unfamiliar world of L.A.’s hippie culture. Library Journal calls it a “taut tale that rises above other mysteries through its strong African American protagonist.”

Good Kings Bad Kings
by Susan Nussbaum
This year’s recipient of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Good Kings Bad Kings takes us on a scathing and tender tour behind the scenes at the Illinois Learning and Life Skills Center, a nursing home for teenagers with disabilities. As Kirkus Reviews puts it, “Nussbaum's vivid portraits of a wide variety of ILLC residents, some of whom are mentally ill as well as physically challenged, reveal the three-dimensional humanity of people the rest of society is all too willing to neglect and ignore. Well-meaning, well-written and well-plotted, with qualified justice for some of the bad guys and hope for a few of the oppressed.” Debut novelist Nussbaum is a playwright and disability rights activist.

Norwegian by Night
by Derek B. Miller
Advanced age and the beginnings of dementia force Sheldon Horowitz to leave Manhattan and move in with his granddaughter and her husband in Oslo in a novel that Kirkus Reviews describes as “part memory novel, part police procedural, part sociopolitical tract and part existential meditation.” A hate crime prompts Horowitz to protect a young boy while he battles his fading sanity and grapples with his emotional wounds as a Korean War veteran and the loss of his son in Vietnam. Booklist asserts “no brief plot outline can do justice to a book that deserves to find a place on a few best-of-the-year lists” and compares Norwegian by Night to the works of popular Scandinavian authors Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, and Jo Nesbø.

King of Cuba
by Cristina García
In her latest novel, García imagines the life of Cuba’s aging dictator, interspersed with the rants of Goyo, an octogenarian Cuban exile in Miami who stews with hatred for the leader while he plots his assassination. Booklist calls King of Cuba “spectacularly agile, strategically surreal, wryly tender, and devilishly funny” and Publishers Weekly describes García’s writing as “laced with candor and wit as she portrays the lives of two men united by the past.” García is the author of six novels, including Dreaming in Cuban (1992) which was nominated for the National Book Award.

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April

Maya’s Notebook
by Isabel Allende 
In Allende’s latest, 19-year-old Berkeley native Maya moves to the Chilean island of Chiloé, sent by her grandmother to escape a recent descent into drugs and crime. Although Allende sets this novel in the present day, she manages to weave Chile’s dark political history into the story. Booklist raves, Maya’s Notebook “is a boldly plotted, sharply funny, and purposefully bone-shaking novel of sexual violence, political terror, "collective shame," and dark family secrets, all transcended by courage and love.”

Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
Popular mystery writer Atkinson takes a break from her Jackson Brodie series for a historical and speculative novel with an unusual premise that Booklist calls “wildly inventive.” Life After Life follows Ursula Todd from her birth in 1910 England through World War II as she relives her life in numerous ways, experiencing death and rebirth multiple times, while world history is rewritten over and over. Atkinson plays with the idea that life could take any direction in a novel that is “provocative, entertaining and beautifully written” (Kirkus Reviews).

Life After Life
by Jill McCorkle
Coincidentally, author Jill McCorkle has a new novel with the exact same name that is also receiving early praise. Her Life After Life follows the people who cross paths at a retirement center in small-town North Carolina. Kirkus says “McCorkle's masterful microcosm invokes profound sadness, harsh insight and guffaws, often on the same page.”

Last Friends
by Gardam, Jane 
Last Friends concludes the trilogy British author Gardam began with Old Filth (2006) and The Man in the Wooden Hat (2011), known for its “witty style, insatiable readability, and cast of strange and amazing characters” (Booklist). While the two earlier books concentrated on Sir Edward "Old Filth" Feathers and his wife, Betty, this new volume turns to Sir Edward’s longtime rival, Sir Terence Veneering, and his rise from poverty in an era when class meant everything. In a starred review, Kirkus calls it “exquisitely expressive” and “impeccably written.”

Harvard Square 
by Andre Aciman
Harvard Square takes place in 1970’s Boston, where an Egyptian Jewish Harvard student befriends a Tunisian Muslim cab driver. United by a common language (French) and shared immigrant experiences, they spend the summer chasing women until circumstances create a wedge between them. Publishers Weekly gives Harvard Square a starred review, and Booklist says it “provides an interesting look at the dilemmas of identity, the concept of home, and our enduring need to belong.” Egyptian-born Aciman is the author of an acclaimed memoir and several novels, including Call Me By Your Name (2007), a New York Times Notable Book and Lambda Literary Award winner.

The Hope Factory
by Lavanya Sankaran
The Hope Factory is “a vivid exposé of modern India's growing pains” (Kirkus), in which the owner of an auto parts manufacturer tries to expand his business without the help of his father-in-law. Meanwhile, his family’s household help are struggling, like the maid who is trying to provide for her family while fighting eviction from a rental that has been targeted by developers. Publishers Weekly offers high praise to Sankaran, saying The Hope Factory “firmly establishes her talent through the nuances of her characters and a striking exploration of culture.”

by Brian Kimberling
Nathan Lochmueller is an aimless college graduate whose talent for tracking birds lands him a job as a researcher despite his usual poor luck. As he wanders through the forests of southern Indiana, he encounters a number of curious folks. At home he struggles with his complicated romantic relationship and doomed capers with his immature friends. Kirkus calls Snapper “a well-turned debut that airdrops its characters into an appealingly offbeat milieu” told with a “wry, self-deprecating wit.”

The Morels
by Christopher Hacker
In this metafictional drama, Arthur Morel has just finished a loosely autobiographical novel called The Morels, in which he has described a shocking and criminal family secret. He claims it is fiction, but his family no longer believes him, causing an avalanche of personal and legal troubles. Morel runs into the novel’s narrator, a filmmaker, who decides to make a documentary that will separate the family’s truth from fiction. Library Journal calls it “entertaining,” “audacious,” “thought-provoking” and “one of the top first novels of the year.”

The Carrion Birds
by Urban Waite
The hero of this dark thriller is a widower, father of a son with a disability, Vietnam veteran, and a drug smuggler. He’s ready to retire from the cartel and start a new life with his son, but he has one last score to settle. Kirkus Reviews calls The Carrion Birds “fierce and lyrical”, saying “Waite's narrative rages as a perfect torrent of violence flooding toward its inevitable conclusion.” Library Journal recommends it for fans of Cormac McCarthy and “readers who like their crime fiction on the dark side.”

The Humanity Project
by Jean Thompson
The Humanity Project is a compassionate look at people struggling with bad circumstances and bad choices. Sean is a handyman, low on work and about to lose his house, while his teenage son, Conner, makes a series of disastrous decisions. Art is a pot-smoking divorcee who is suddenly a father again when his estranged 15-year-old daughter is sent to live with him after a tragedy and a string of dangerous behavior. The lives of these characters intersect when a wealthy widow decides to establish a nonprofit with a vague mission: The Humanity Project. Booklist calls The Humanity Project “instantly addictive,” saying “Thompson is at her tender and scathing best in this tale of yearning, paradox, and hope.” Thompson’s books have earned high praise; her novel The Year We Left Home was selected by Kirkus as one of the best books of the year in 2011, her 2009 story collection Do Not Deny Me was a New York Times Notable Book, and Who Do You Love: Stories was a 1999 National Book Award finalist for fiction.

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