Category Archives: Bookish Chatter

Spring Book Preview: April 2014, Part II

Yesterday, I shared the first half of the April releases I’m most excited about. Who knew April was such a big book month!? Following is the second half of that list, including publisher’s summary and links to preorder. Get your wallets ready!

Robot Uprisings (April 8): As real robots creep into our lives, so does a sense of fear-we have all wondered what horrifying scenarious might unfold if our technology were to go awry. This anthology brings to life the half-formed questions and fears we all have about the machines we live with. With contributions by Alan Dean Foster, Charles Yu, Hugh Howey, Daniel H. Wilson, Corey Doctorow, Ian McDonald, Ernie Cline, Jeff Abbott, Robin Wasserman, and Anna North,Robot Uprisings contains meticulously described, exhilarating trips to futures in which humans can only survive by being more clever and tenacious than the rebellious machines they have unwittingly created.

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes (April 15): Two women share one fate. A suspected murder at an English Farm. A reported suicide at a local quarry.
Can DCI Louisa Smith and her team gather the evidence and discover a link between them, a link which sealed their fate one cold night, Under a Silent Moon? A tense, compelling and unsettling novel mystery brimming with source material and evidence set over just six days, Under a Silent Moon will keep you gripped until the very last page and asks: Can you connect the clues and name the Killer?


Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman (April 22): When Liz wakes up one morning in her hotel room to discover her two children Ally and Reid aren’t in their beds, her mind races, imagining a million worst-case scenarios, playing out her every nightmare. When she discovers that the kids were taken, not by some anonymous monster in a ski mask but by her own husband, Paul, her frantic worries turn into desperate questions. Unable to comprehend why the man who had been her trusted partner would willingly take from her all she loves most, Liz throws herself into the search for her kids. Her investigation uncovers a disturbing incident from her husband’s past and she begins receiving ominous threats, warning her to stay away. No more able to abandon her search than stop breathing, Liz digs deeper into her husband’s secrets-only to discover that Paul’s plans are far more extreme than she ever could have imagined.

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory (April 22):  It begins in Toronto, in the years after the smart drug revolution. Any high school student with a chemjet and internet connection can download recipes and print drugs, or invent them. A seventeen-year-old street girl finds God through a new brain-altering drug called Numinous, used as a sacrament by a new Church that preys on the underclass. But she is arrested and put into detention, and without the drug, commits suicide.

Lyda Rose, another patient in that detention facility, has a dark secret: she was one of the original scientists who developed the drug. With the help of an ex-government agent and an imaginary, drug-induced doctor, Lyda sets out to find the other three survivors of the five who made the Numinous in a quest to set things right.

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore (April 22): Venice, a long time ago. Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy of Britain and France, and widower of the murdered Queen Cordelia: the rascal-Fool Pocket.

This trio of cunning plotters—the merchant, Antonio; the senator, Montressor Brabantio; and the naval officer, Iago—have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising an evening of sprits and debauchery with a rare Amontillado sherry and Brabantio’s beautiful daughter, Portia. 

But their invitation is, of course, bogus. The wine is drugged. The girl isn’t even in the city limits. Desperate to rid themselves once and for all of the man who has consistently foiled their grand quest for power and wealth, they have lured him to his death. (How can such a small man, be such a huge obstacle?). But this Fool is no fool . . . and he’s got more than a few tricks (and hand gestures) up his sleeve.

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (April 29): Growing up in the rural Southern hamlet of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned everything he knows about honor and duty from his father, Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor and pillar of the community is accused of murdering Viola Turner, the beautiful nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the early 1960s. A fighter who has always stood for justice, Penn is determined to save his father, even though Tom, stubbornly evoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses to speak up in his own defense. 

The quest for answers sends Penn deep into the past—into the heart of a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the Double Eagles, a vicious KKK crew headed by one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. With the aid of a local friend and reporter privy to some of Natchez’s deadliest secrets, Penn follows a bloody trail that stretches back forty years, to a shocking truth that will forever alter his perception of both his father and himself. 

With everything on the line, including his own life, Penn must decide how far he will go to protect those he loves . . . and judge whether justice is worth the cost. 

Rich in Southern atmosphere and electrifying plot turns, Natchez Burning marks the brilliant return of a genuine American master of suspense. Tense and disturbing, it is the most explosive, exciting, sexy, and ambitious story Greg Iles has ever written.

Whew! Well, that completes it! My most anticipated books of April. What did I miss? Any of the books that I’ve mentioned in particular catch your eye!?

If you do decide to read any of these, I’d love to hear about your experience. I’ll keep the comments open on this post so please come back and share!

Spring Book Preview: April 2014

Spring is just around the corner…make that meteorological Spring!  I don’t know about you, but I’m growing quite tired of the drastic changes in weather. One day it’s sunny the next day the ground is covered in snow.  The one plus to the cold weather is having more time to examine upcoming books!

Following are the first half of the April releases I’m really excited about!  I’ve included the publisher summary. If you’d like to preorder, simply click on the book image or title link:

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (April 1):  A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died; his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history; and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island–from Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, he can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, though large in weight–an unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world. Or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (April 1): Somewhere over the rainbow…something has gone terribly wrong.  A twister has hit Kansas again, and this time it whisks away a girl named Amy Gumm. At first, Amy is thrilled to have left her trailer park life behind. But instead of the magical land where troubles melt like lemon drops that she knows from the books and the movies, she discovers the place has been destroyed. And it’s all Dorothy’s fault. Amy soon joins up with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked—a group of deposed witches and warlocks who are determined to end Dorothy’s oppressive reign, and who need Amy’s help. They teach her the secrets of witchcraft and combat and then they give her an impossible mission: steal back the Tin Woodman’s heart, the Scarecrow’s brain, and the Lion’s courage. And when she’s done, Dorothy must die.

The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor (April 1):  Ireland, 1912. Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the lucky few passengers in steerage who survives. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that terrible night ever again.

Chicago, 1982. Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her Great Nana Maggie shares the painful secret she harbored for almost a lifetime about the Titanic, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.



Frog Music by Emma Donoghue (April 1): Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman named Jenny Bonnet is shot dead.

The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny’s murderer to justice–if he doesn’t track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers, and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women, and damaged children. It’s the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.

In thrilling, cinematic style, FROG MUSIC digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue’s lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boomtown like no other.

Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman (April 1): Lauren Clay has just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq in time to spend Christmas with her family. As she reconnects with her old friends, it’s clear to everyone in their rural New York town that something is wrong with Lauren. But her father is so happy to have her home that he ignores the warning signs—her odd behavior and the repeated phone calls from an Army psychologist. Things seem better when Lauren offers to take her younger brother Danny on a trip to visit their mother upstate. Instead, she guides Danny into the glacial woods of Canada on a quest to visit the Jeanne d’Arc basin, the site of an oil field that has become her strange obsession. As they set up camp in an abandoned hunting village, Lauren believes she’s teaching Danny survival skills for the day when she’s no longer able to take care of him. But where does she think she’s going, and what happened to her in Iraq that set her on this path?

With all the boldness and intelligence she brought to So Much Pretty, Cara Hoffman ignites the dark truth about war and homecoming in this literary page-turner that is sure to linger long after its surprising secrets are revealed.

The Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborne (April 1): Set in the lushly dangerous world of Macau’s casinos, THE BALLAD OF A SMALL PLAYER is a riveting tale of risk and passion by Lawrence Osborne, author of the critically acclaimed novel The Forgiven. Doyle is a corrupt English lawyer who has escaped prosecution by fleeing to Macau and Hong Kong, spending his nights drinking and gambling and his days sleeping off his excesses. Taking refuge in a series of luxury hotels, he watches his fortune rise and fall by the moment, as the baccarat tables decide his fate. Dissolute and increasingly apathetic, he wonders whether destitution-or even death-would prove more satisfying than his current existence.At a moment of crisis, he encounters Dao-Ming, a beautiful and enigmatic native Chinese woman who seems to offer salvation, in the form of both money and love. But as his past threatens to catch up with Doyle, it may be too late. With echoes of Paul Bowles and Ian McEwan, this gorgeously vivid novel will enthrall critics and readers alike.

The Island of Doves by Kelly O’Connor McNees (April 1): Susannah Fraser lives in one of Buffalo’s finest mansions, but her husband has made it a monstrous prison. When a mysterious woman offers to help her escape, Susannah boards a steamboat for Mackinac Island. But after being a dutiful daughter and obedient wife, it is only as she flees that she realizes how unprepared she is for freedom.

An exceptional woman of early America, Magdelaine Fonteneau has overcome convention to live a bold and adventurous life, achieving great wealth and power as a fur trader. But Magdelaine has also seen great tragedy and lost all that was dear to her, and she is no longer sure her hardened heart is capable of love.

Now, Magdelaine seeks redemption by offering safe harbor to Susannah. But as their friendship grows into something miraculous, it changes each woman in unexpected ways. Each needs to learn to love again, and only together can they realize a future bright with the promise of new life…

No Book But the World by Leah Hager Cohen (April 3): At the edge of a woods, on the grounds of a defunct “free school,” Ava and her brother, Fred, shared a dreamy and seemingly idyllic childhood—a world defined largely by their imaginations and each other’s presence. Everyone is aware of Fred’s oddness or vague impairment, but his parents’ fierce disapproval of labels keeps him free of evaluation or intervention, and constantly at Ava’s side.

Decades later, then, when Ava learns that her brother is being held in a county jail for a shocking crime, she is frantic to piece together what actually happened. A boy is dead. But could Fred really have done what he is accused of? As she is drawn deeper into the details of the crime, Ava becomes obsessed with learning the truth, convinced that she and she alone will be able to reach her brother and explain him—and his innocence—to the world.

Leah Hager Cohen brings her trademark intelligence to a psychologically gripping, richly ambiguous story that suggests we may ultimately understand one another best not with facts alone, but through our imaginations.

The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz (April 3): In 1875, tuberculosis was the deadliest disease in the world, accountable for a third of all deaths. A diagnosis of TB—often called consumption—was a death sentence. Then, in a triumph of medical science, a German doctor named Robert Koch deployed an unprecedented scientific rigor to discover the bacteria that caused TB and soon embarked on a remedy—a remedy that would be his undoing.

When Koch announced he’d found a cure, Arthur Conan Doyle, then a small-town doctor in England and sometime writer, went to Berlin to cover the event. Touring the ward of reportedly cured patients, he was horrified. Koch’s “remedy” was either sloppy science or outright fraud.

But to those desperate for relief, Koch’s cure was worth the risk. As Europe’s consumptives descended upon Berlin, Conan Doyle returned to England to become a writer, not a scientist. But he brought Koch’s scientific methods to the masses through the character of Sherlock Holmes.

Capturing the moment when mystery and magic began to yield to science, The Remedy chronicles the stunning story of how the germ theory of disease became fact, how two men of ambition were emboldened to reach for something more, and how scientific discoveries evolve into social truths.

 

This post is just the first HALF of the April releases I’m excited about! Title releasing in mid-to-late April will post tomorrow!

What books did I miss? Which books are you excited about?

TSS: Anniversary Special: Pros & Cons of Blogging

  Yesterday, Jenn’s Bookshelves turned six years old! I must say, it’s been a wonderful six years. As I was contemplating how (or if) I was going to celebrate this year, I reflected back on some of the more interesting things I’ve experienced as a blogger.  A few years ago, I shared some advice that I’ve learned and discovered over the years, a post called Things I Wish I Knew as a New Blogger.

This post has certainly gone through several revisions. First I focused on the more negative experiences I’ve had as a blogger. Then I tried to soften it up a bit and found myself reminiscing on the fun things I’ve experienced since I started this blog.  The end result: I’ve combined the best of both worlds in this Pros & Cons of Blogging post!  I tend to ramble so I’m going to do my very best to keep this short! Cons:

  • Entitlement. It’s such an ugly word, in my opinion. We, as people, as bloggers, are entitled to nothing. Truly. As I say over and over again, having your name on an area of the interwebz entitles you to nothing. I don’t care if you have 5 or 50 or 500 or 5,000 followers. Making a scene because you didn’t receive a particular ARC or access to a particular author doesn’t make you look important, it makes you look like an idiot.  I’ve seen it online and in person and it’s embarrassing and insulting to see bloggers behave this way.
  • Hoarding/bragging:  I always say you aren’t obligated to review every ARC you receive. True statement. That said,  you should probably review at least some of the copies you receive. After any major book conference, dozens of posts or videos will pop up, bragging about the books they snagged. How many of those are actually reviewed? The books are there they can get promo prior to publication. Not to serve as a bragging point. Not sell them on ebay. Or, you know, if you’re not actually a blogger anymore, maybe you should stop asking for review titles entirely?
  • Bullying: Bullying is not accepted from children, so why do people find this acceptable as adults!? Don’t gang up on someone because they didn’t like a book you loved.  Or conversely, if you didn’t like a book, fine. State your opinion, but not brutally. Book bashing is simply an attention-getter. There are more professional means of displaying your opinion.

And now, the lighter side of blogging, the perks of blogging!

  • Friendships-some of the friendships I’ve formed over the past six years are some of the strongest I’ve had my entire life. We all have a connection, a love of books. A need to tell others about them.
  • Community- Side-by-side with friendships, the community of book reviewers and bloggers is an amazing one. We’re supportive of one another, providing advice and support when needed.
  • Opportunity: the connections formed during this six years of blogging have provided me with endless opportunities, including opportunities to provide books to the less fortunate, introduce children to some really phenomenal books and authors, as well as opportunities to write for various publications.

Notice I didn’t mention access to review copies at all? While this is a benefit of blogging, it is most certainly outweighed by the benefits I have mentioned above.

So there you have it. My pros/cons of blogging, based on my six years of experience. What are yours?  Are there benefits I didn’t mention, or pet-peeves I’ve overlooked?

Spring Book Preview: March 2014, Part II

Earlier this week, I shared the first half of the March book releases I’m really excited about. As if you need any more recommendations, below please find the remaining titles on my most anticipated list of March book releases! As usual, I’ve included the publisher summary. Click on the book to preorder or to learn more!

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths (March 11): Ruth Galloway uncovers the bones of what might be a notorious Victorian child murdress and a baby snatcher known as “The Childminder” threatens modern-day Norfolk in the latest irresistible mystery from Elly Griffiths. Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway uncovers the bones of a Victorian murderess while a baby snatcher threatens modern-day Norfolk in this exciting new entry in a beloved series. Every year a ceremony is held at Norwich Castle for the bodies in the paupers’ graves: the Service for the Outcast Dead. Ruth has a particular interest in this year’s proceedings. Her recent dig at Norwich Castle turned up the body of the notorious Mother Hook, who was hanged in 1867 for the murder of five children. Now Ruth is the reluctant star of the TV series Women Who Kill, working alongside the program’s alluring history expert, Professor Frank Barker. DCI Harry Nelson is immersed in the case of three children found dead in their home. He is sure that the mother is responsible. Then another child is abducted and a kidnapper dubbed the Childminder claims responsibility. Are there two murderers afoot, or is the Childminder behind all the deaths? The team must race to find out-and the stakes couldn’t be any higher when another child goes missing.

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh (March 11): The Dane family’s roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn’t keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy’s few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri’s necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri’s death could be linked to her mother’s disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.

Hyde by Daniel Levine (March 18): A reimagining of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the monster’s perspective, Hyde makes a hero of a villain. As a bonus, Stevenson’s original novel is included at the back. What happens when a villain becomes a hero? Mr. Hyde is trapped, locked in Dr. Jekyll’s surgical cabinet, counting the hours until his inevitable capture. As four days pass, he has the chance, finally, to tell his story-the story of his brief, marvelous life. Summoned to life by strange potions, Hyde knows not when or how long he will have control of “the body.” When dormant, he watches Dr. Jekyll from a remove, conscious of this other, high-class life but without influence. As the experiment continues, their mutual existence is threatened, not only by the uncertainties of untested science, but also by a mysterious stalker. Hyde is being taunted-possibly framed. Girls have gone missing; someone has been killed. Who stands, watching, from the shadows? In the blur of this shared consciousness, can Hyde ever be confident these crimes were not committed by his hand?

Missing You by Harlan Coben (March 18): It’s a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart—and who she hasn’t seen in 18 years. Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her.  But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable. As the body count mounts and Kat’s hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved—her former fiancé, her mother, and even her father, whose cruel murder so long ago has never been fully explained. With lives on the line, including her own, Kat must venture deeper into the darkness than she ever has before, and discover if she has the strength to survive what she finds there.

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz (March 18): Grace Reinhart Sachs is living the only life she ever wanted for herself. Devoted to her husband, a pediatric oncologist at a major cancer hospital, their young son Henry, and the patients she sees in her therapy practice, her days are full of familiar things: she lives in the very New York apartment in which she was raised, and sends Henry to the school she herself once attended. Dismayed by the ways in which women delude themselves, Grace is also the author of a book You Should Have Known, in which she cautions women to really hear what men are trying to tell them. But weeks before the book is published a chasm opens in her own life: a violent death, a missing husband, and, in the place of a man Grace thought she knew, only an ongoing chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster, and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself.

I Remember You: A Ghost Story by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (March 25): In an isolated village in the Icelandic Westfjords, three friends set to work renovating a rundown house. But soon, they realize they are not as alone as they thought. Something wants them to leave, and it’s making its presence felt. Meanwhile, in a town across the fjord, a young doctor investigating the suicide of an elderly woman discovers that she was obsessed with his vanished son. When the two stories collide, the terrifying truth is uncovered. In the vein of John Ajvide Lindqvist, this horrifying thriller, partly based on a true story, is the scariest novel yet from Yrsa Sigurdardottir, who has captivated the attention of readers around the world with her mystery series featuring attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir. Now, Yrsa will stun readers once again with this out-of-this-world ghost story that will leave you shivering.

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke (March 25): On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens, the fragments of a nightmare-something she must write down-floating on the edge of her consciousness.
Something followed them from Russia. On another Christmas morning thirteen years ago, she and her husband Eric were in Siberia to meet the sweet, dark-haired Rapunzel they desperately wanted. How they laughed at the nurses of Pokrovka Orphanage #2 with their garlic and their superstitions, and ignored their gentle warnings. After all, their fairy princess Tatiana-baby Tatty-was perfect.
As the snow falls, enveloping the world in its white silence, Holly senses that something is not right, has not been right in the years since they brought their daughter-now a dangerously beautiful, petulant, sometimes erratic teenager-home. There is something evil inside this house. Inside themselves. How else to explain the accidents, the seemingly random and banal misfortunes. Trixie, the cat. The growth on Eric’s hand. Sally the hen, their favorite, how the other chickens turned on her. The housekeeper, that ice, a bad fall. The CDs scratched, every one. But Holly must not think of these things. She and Tatiana are all alone. Eric is stuck on the roads and none of their guests will be able to make it through the snow. With each passing hour, the blizzard rages and Tatiana’s mood darkens, her behavior becoming increasingly disturbing and frightening. Until, in every mother’s worst nightmare, Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter.

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Yaughn Entwistle (March 25): Arthur Conan Doyle is enlisted by a mysterious aristocrat to investigate a future death, one that her prophetic dream has foretold—her own. Arthur Conan Doyle has just killed off Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem,” and he immediately becomes one of the most hated men in London. So when he is contacted by a medium “of some renown” and asked to investigate a murder, he jumps at the chance to get out of the city. The only thing is that the murder hasn’t happened yet—the medium, one Hope Thraxton, has foreseen that her death will occur at the third séance of a meeting of the Society for Psychical Research at her manor house in the English countryside. Along for the ride is Conan Doyle’s good friend Oscar Wilde, and together they work to narrow down the list of suspects, which includes a mysterious foreign Count, a levitating magician, and an irritable old woman with a “familiar.” Meanwhile, Conan Doyle is enchanted by the plight of the capricious Hope Thraxton, who may or may not have a more complicated back-story than it first appears. As Conan Doyle and Wilde participate in séances and consider the possible motives of the assembled group, the clock ticks ever closer to Hope’s murder.

 

 

So there you have it! The March books I am anticipating most! What books did I miss? Which books are you looking forward to most?

Spring Book Preview: March 2014, Part I

I know it’s hard to believe based on the current weather conditions, but spring is right around the corner.  With it comes some fresh new faces  and the reappearance of old favorites. I seem to say this each month, but March is a big month for books, especially considering so many outstanding books are publishing on the same date! It is for this reason that this post is broken into two, one for the books published early in the month (all on the same day) and the second post will cover books published later in the month.

Like previous book previews, I have included the publisher’s summary, devoid of any commentary of my own. While these are titles I’m particularly looking forward to, I want to leave it up to each reader to decide whether or not to read a given title.  You may click on the book cover to read more or to preorder. Without further ado…

Above by Isla Morely (March 4): In the bestselling vein of Room and The Lovely Bones, a stunning and harrowing novel about a Kansas teenager who is abducted and locked away in an abandoned missile silo by a survivalist who believes he is saving her from the impending destruction of the world. Blythe focuses on finding a way to escape until she discovers that she also has to deal with crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of her captor, and the persistent temptation to give up. Nothing, however, prepares her for the burden of having to raising a child in confinement. Out of fear, she pushes aside the truth about a world her son may never see for a myth that just might give meaning to his life underground. But when fate intervenes, Blythe and her son manage to re-emerge, only to find themselves in a world even more terrifying than the one they left behind.

The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh (March 4):
A beautiful coming-of-age novel about two sisters on a journey to forgive their troubled mother, with a sheen of almost magical realism that overlays a story about the love of a family, and especially between sisters. Therese Walsh’s poignant and mesmerizing novel is a moving tale of family, love, and the power of stories. After their mother’s probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz are figuring out how to move on with their lives. Jazz, logical and forward-thinking, decides to get a new job, but spirited, strong-willed Olivia, who can see sounds, taste words, and smell sights, is determined to travel to the remote setting of their mother’s unfinished novel to say her final goodbyes and lay their mother’s spirit to rest. Though they see things very differently, Jazz is forced by her sense of duty to help Olivia reach her goal. Bitter and frustrated by the attention heaped on her sunny sister whose world is so unique, Jazz is even more upset when they run into trouble along the way and Olivia latches to a worldly train-hopper. Though Hobbs warns Olivia that he’s a thief who shouldn’t be trusted, he agrees to help with their journey. As they near their destination, the tension builds between the two sisters, each hiding something from the other, and they are finally forced to face everything between them and decide what is really important.

Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun (March 4):
Somehow-slowly, unnoticeably-the world has stopped sleeping. Words are slurred, eyes are red-rimmed, and people are starting to lose their grip. Matt Biggs, however, is one of the few who can still sleep. His marriage, already tested by his wife’s inability to have a child, is now at a crossroads: Carolyn has succumbed to the sleeplessness, gone mad, and run away. Desperate to find his wife, save his marriage, and preserve his sanity, he ventures out into the bizarre new world in which he lives. He finds mass confusion and desperation. But he perseveres. Weaving Biggs’s story with that of a somnologist and a sleeping-pill dealer who are seeking to make their love work, as well as a young girl who is forced to leave the comfort of her parents’ house, Kenneth Calhoun has written a literary love story that is devastatingly vivid, hypnotically strange, and profoundly moving.



A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante (March 4):
When Dr. John Taylor is found dead in a hotel room in his hometown, the local police find enough incriminating evidence to suspect foul play. Detective Samantha Adams, whose Palo Alto beat usually covers small-town crimes, is innocently thrown into a high-profile murder case that is more intricately intertwined than she could ever imagine. A renowned plastic surgeon, a respected family man, and an active community spokesman, Dr. Taylor was loved and admired. But, hidden from the public eye, he led a secret life-in fact, multiple lives. A closeted polygamist, Dr. Taylor was married to three very different women in three separate cities. And when these three unsuspecting women show up at his funeral, suspicions run high. Adams soon finds herself tracking down a murderer through a web of lies and marital discord. With a rare combination of gripping storytelling, vivid prose, and remarkable insight into character, Alice LaPlante brings to life a story of passion and obsession that will haunt readers long after they turn the final page. A charged and provocative psychological thriller, A Circle of Wives dissects the dynamics of love and marriage, trust and jealousy, posing the terrifying question: How well do you really know your spouse?

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyemi (March 6): In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman. A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold. Dazzlingly inventive and powerfully moving, Boy, Snow, Bird is an astonishing and enchanting novel. With breathtaking feats of imagination, Helen Oyeyemi confirms her place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of our time.

The Seeker by R. B. Chesterton (March 6):
A young graduate student travels to Walden Pond expecting to find inspiration in the quiet solitude but finds something eerie and malevolent living deliberately in Thoreau’s woods. When graduate student Aine Cahill uncovers a journal proving that her aunt Bonnie was an intimate companion of Henry David Thoreau’s during his supposedly solitary sojourn at Walden Pond, she knows that she has found the perfect subject for her dissertation. She decides to travel to Walden Pond herself to hunker down and work on her writing, but it quickly becomes clear that all is not as it seems in Thoreau’s woodland retreat. The further Aine delves into Bonnie’s diary the more she finds herself wondering about her family’s sinister legacy and even her own sanity-is there really a young girl lurking in the woods? As tragedy strikes a nearby town and suspicion falls on Aine, she scrambles to find the truth behind Thoreau’s paradise.

There you have it! Stay tuned for a post later this week with the second half of the most anticipated books of March 2014!

 

Winter Book Preview: February 2014, Part II

Yesterday, I shared the first half of the books I’m most anticipating in February. Following is the second, slightly longer, list of books I’m looking forward to! Once again, I’ve included the publisher’s summary. Click on the image to preorder the book!

The Bear by Claire Cameron (Feb. 11): A powerful suspense story narrated by a young girl who must fend for herself and her little brother after a brutal bear attack. While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A rogue black bear, three hundred pounds of fury, is attacking the family’s campsite — and pouncing on her parents as prey. At her dying mother’s faint urging, Anna manages to get her brother into the family’s canoe and paddle away. But when the canoe runs aground on the edge of the woods, the sister and brother must battle hunger, the elements, and a wilderness alive with danger. Lost and completely alone, they find that their only hope resides in Anna’s heartbreaking love for her family, and her struggle to be brave when nothing in her world seems safe anymore.This is a story with a small narrator and a big heart. Cameron gracefully plumbs Anna’s young perspective on family, responsibility, and hope, charting both a tragically premature loss of innocence and a startling evolution as Anna reasons through the impossible situations that confront her. Lean and confident, and told in the innocent and honest voice of a five-year-old, THE BEAR is a transporting tale of loss — but also a poignant and surprisingly funny adventure about love and the raw instincts that enable us to survive.

Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke (Feb. 11): An international bestseller—A brutal murder in Norway, a murder in Virginia—both connected to sixteenth century palimpsest of a serial murderer’s confession. A murder at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, bears a close resemblance to one in Trondheim, Norway. The corpse of the museum curator in Virginia is found flayed in his office by the cleaning staff; the corpse of an archivist at the library in Norway, is found inside a locked vault used to store delicate and rare books. Richmond homicide detective Felicia Stone and Trondheim police inspector Odd Singsaker find themselves working on similar murder cases, committed the same way, but half a world away. And both murders are somehow connected to a sixteenth century palimpsest book—The Book of John—which appears to be a journal of a serial murderer back in 1529 Norway, a book bound in human skin. A runaway bestseller in Norway, Where Monsters Dwell has since sold to over fourteen countries. Where Monsters Dwell is the most awaited English language crime fiction debut in years.

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick (Feb. 11): From the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook comes a funny and tender story about family, friendship, grief, acceptance, and Richard Gere-an entertaining and inspiring tale that will leave you pondering the rhythms of the universe and marveling at the power of kindness and love. For thirty-eight years, Bartholomew Neil has lived with his mother. When she gets sick and dies, he has no idea how to be on his own. His redheaded grief counselor, Wendy, says he needs to find his flock and leave the nest. But how does a man whose whole life has been grounded in his mom, Saturday mass, and the library learn how to fly? Bartholomew thinks he’s found a clue when he discovers a “Free Tibet” letter from Richard Gere hidden in his mother’s underwear drawer. In her final days, mom called him Richard-there must be a cosmic connection. Believing that the actor is meant to help him, Bartholomew awkwardly starts his new life, writing Richard Gere a series of highly intimate letters. Jung and the Dalai Lama, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy, the Catholic Church and the mystery of women are all explored in his soul-baring epistles. But mostly the letters reveal one man’s heartbreakingly earnest attempt to assemble a family of his own. A struggling priest, a “Girlbrarian,” her feline-loving, foul-mouthed brother, and the spirit of Richard Gere join the quest to help Bartholomew find where he belongs. In a rented Ford Focus, they travel to Canada to see the cat Parliament and find Bartholomew’s biological father . . . and discover so much more.

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell (Feb. 20): I am not the sort of person about whom stories are told. And so begins Elise Dalriss’s story. When she hears her great-granddaughter recount a minstrel’s tale about a beautiful princess asleep in a tower, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has long kept locked. For Elise was the companion to the real princess who slumbered—and she is the only one left who knows what actually happened so many years ago. Her story unveils a labyrinth where secrets connect to an inconceivable evil. As only Elise understands all too well, the truth is no fairy tale.

Deep Winter by Samuel W. Gailey (Feb. 20): In this spellbindingly compelling rural noir, a devastating murder in an isolated small town sets off an unstoppable chain of events made more complicated—and more dangerous—by the town’s dark secrets.
Danny, a simpleminded gentle giant, doesn’t know what to make of the body he discovers one cold winter evening. It’s Mindy, his only friend in the small town of Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, where most people avoid Danny, even though a childhood tragedy left him parentless and with limited mental capabilities. Wary of the damage he could cause with his unchecked strength, the town has labeled him as dangerous, whether he intends to be or not. So when the local bully-turned-deputy finds Danny with Mindy’s body, it seems obvious to everyone that the normally kindhearted man has finally hurt someone. But Mindy’s gruesome murder and Danny’s arrest gravely upset the delicate balance of the town order, and the violence threatens to spin out of control as the deputy, the sheriff, and a state trooper investigate. Richly atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, Samuel W. Gailey’s debut novel chillingly depicts a small town where not everything is as it seems, and something sinister lurks just below the surface.

 

The Stolen Ones by Richard Montanari (Feb. 25): In Richard Montanari’s chilling new suspense novel, a sealed-off network of secret passages connects all of Philadelphia to the killer hidden within. Luther Wade grew up in Cold River, a warehouse for the criminally insane. Two decades ago the hospital closed it doors forever, but Luther never left. He wanders the catacombs beneath the city, channeling the violent dreams of Eduard Kross, Europe’s most prolific serial killer of the 20th century. A two-year-old girl is found wandering the streets of Philadelphia in the middle of the night by detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano. She does not speak, but she may hold the key to solving a string of murders committed in and around Priory Park. As the detectives investigate, more bodies are found at Priory Park, and they’re drawn closer and closer to the doors of Luther’s devious maze and the dark secrets of Cold River.

The Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene (Feb. 25): Beautifully written and compulsively readable, The Headmaster’s Wife is a haunting and deeply affecting portrait of one couple at their best and worst—”a truly remarkable novel” (Richard Russo). An immensely talented writer whose work has been described as “incandescent” (Kirkus Reviews) and “poetic” (Booklist), Thomas Christopher Greene turns in a more literary direction with The Headmaster’s Wife, his most ambitious work to date. As the founder and president of Vermont College of Fine Arts, a graduate school in Montpelier, VT with a top-ranked MFA program, Tom is a well-known figure in the literary world, and is uniquely positioned to promote this book to a wide audience of literary and commercial readers. Inspired by a personal loss, Greene explores the way that tragedy and time assail one man’s memories of his life and loves. Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the Headmaster of Vermont’s elite Lancaster School. Found wandering naked in Central Park, he begins to tell his story to the police, but his memories collide into one another, and the true nature of things, a narrative of of love, of marriage, of family and of a tragedy Arthur does not know how to address emerges. The Headmaster’s Wife explores the nature of family, of the hidden world of boarding schools, and how a love can both deepen and change over time. A beautifully written, profoundly emotional book, it is perfect for fans of Anita Shreve and Richard Russo, and stands as a moving elegy to the power of love as an antidote to grief.

The Troop by Nick Cutter (Feb.25): “The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best.”—Stephen King

Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfre. Te boys are a tight-knit crew. Tere’s Kent, one of the most popular kids in school; Ephraim and Max, also well-liked and easygoing; then there’s Newt the nerd and Shelley the odd duck. For the most part, they all get along and are happy to be there—which makes Scoutmaster Tim’s job a little easier. But for some reason, he can’t shake the feeling that something strange is in the air this year. Something waiting in the darkness. Something wicked . . .It comes to them in the night. An unexpected intruder, stumbling upon their campsite like a wild animal. He is shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—a man in unspeakable torment who exposes Tim and the boys to something far more frightening than any ghost story. Within his body is a bioengineered nightmare, a horror that spreads faster than fear. One by one, the boys will do things no person could ever imagine. And so it begins. An agonizing weekend in the wilderness. A harrowing struggle for survival. No possible escape from the elements, the infected . . . or one another. Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later—and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness, where fear feeds on sanity . . . and terror hungers for more.

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun (Feb. 25): The seductive and chilling debut novel from the critically acclaimed author of The King of Limbo. In isolated British Columbia, girls, mostly native, are vanishing from the sides of a notorious highway. Leo Kreutzer and his four friends are barely touched by these disappearances—until a series of mysterious and troublesome outsiders come to town. Then it seems as if the devil himself has appeared among them. In this intoxicatingly lush debut novel, Adrianne Harun weaves together folklore, mythology, and elements of magical realism to create a compelling and unsettling portrait of life in a dead-end town. A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is atmospheric and evocative of place and a group of people, much in the way that Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones conjures the South, or Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children provides a glimpse of the Las Vegas underworld: kids left to fend for themselves in a broken world—rendered with grit and poetry in equal measure.

The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie (Feb. 25): In the past . . . On a blisteringly hot August afternoon in Crystal Palace, once home to the tragically destroyed Great Exhibition, a solitary thirteen-year-old boy meets his next-door neighbor, a recently widowed young teacher hoping to make a new start in the tight-knit South London community. Drawn together by loneliness, the unlikely pair forms a deep connection that ends in a shattering act of betrayal.

In the present . . . 
On a cold January morning in London, Detective Inspector Gemma James is back on the job now that her husband, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, is at home to care for their three-year-old foster daughter. Assigned to lead a Murder Investigation Team in South London, she’s assisted by her trusted colleague, newly promoted Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot. Their first case: a crime scene at a seedy hotel in Crystal Palace. The victim: a well-respected barrister, found naked, trussed, and apparently strangled. Is it an unsavory accident or murder? In either case, he was not alone, and Gemma’s team must find his companion-a search that takes them into unexpected corners and forces them to contemplate unsettling truths about the weaknesses and passions that lead to murder. Ultimately, they will begin to question everything they think they know about their world and those they trust most.

 

Island 731 by Jeremy Robinson (Feb. 25): Mark Hawkins is out of his element, working on board a research vessel studying the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But his work is interrupted when the ship is plagued by strange malfunctions and battered by a raging storm.When the sun rises, the crew awakens to find themselves anchored at a tropical island. They quickly discover evidence of a brutal history left behind by former occupants: Unit 731, Japan’s ruthless World War II human experimentation program. As crew members start to disappear, Hawkins realizes that they are not alone. In fact, they were brought to this strange island. While Hawkins fights to save his friends, he learns the horrible truth: Island 731 was never decommissioned and the person taking his crewmates may not be a person at all—not anymore.

 

So there you have it! The February books I’m anticipating the most! Which books are you looking forward to most? Which books did I miss?

 

TSS: Winter Book Preview: February 2014, Part I

I know I said that January was an awesome month for books, but February is looking pretty outstanding as well!  So outstanding that, once again, I must break it up into two lists!

Following is Part 1 of February books I am highly anticipating! Once again, I’ve included the publisher’s summary:

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (Feb. 4):  There’s something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England. Grand and cavernous with hidden passages and buried secrets, it’s been home to four generations of Silver women—Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who has lived in the house with her twin brother, Eliot, ever since their father converted it to a bed-and-breakfast. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space, and when Lily, Miranda’s mother, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover’s hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed. At once an unforgettable mystery and a meditation on race, nationality, and family legacies, White is for Witching is a boldly original, terrifying, and elegant novel by a prodigious talent.

Under Your Skin by Sabine Durrant (Feb.  4): In this page-turning debut from talented crime writer Sabine Durrant, a woman makes a chilling discovery in the woods that changes her life forever. When clever, pretty, successful Gaby Mortimer discovers the dead body of a young woman near her house, she has no idea that her apparently happy, secure, charmed life is about to go into sickening freefall—and that soon she will be living by the mantra of the police detective investigating the murder case: ABC: Assume Nothing, Believe No One, Check Everything…

By Blood We Live by Glen Duncan (Feb. 4): First Glen Duncan gave us his monstrously thrilling, genre-reinventing The Last Werewolf: the tale of Jake, a werewolf with a profoundly human heart, considering bringing to an end the timeless legend of his kind…ThenTalulla Rising: Jake’s werewolf lover, mother to newborn twins, on the run from those who want her destroyed…And now By Blood We Live: a stunningly erotic love story that gives us the final battle for survival between werewolves and vampires, and one last searing-and brilliantly ironic-look at what it means to be, or not to be, human. The story opens: Talulla has settled into an uneasy equilibrium. With her twins safely at her side, and the devotion of her lover, Walker, she has what appears to be a normal family life-except for their monthly transformation into werewolves hungry for human flesh. But even this hard-won, tenuous peace is undermined for Talulla by nagging thoughts of Remshi, the twenty-thousand-year-old vampire who haunts her dreams. For his part, Remshi can’t escape the feeling that he knows Talulla from many (many, many) years before. Still, they have their distractions: Talulla is being pursued by a fanatical, Vatican-based Christian cult, and Remshi is following a trail of reckless feedings by a newly turned vampire bent on revenge. But, as the novel unfolds, Talulla and Remshi are inexorably drawn to each other-and toward the moment when an ancient prophecy may finally come to pass.

Doing Harm by Kelly Parsons (Feb. 4): From a stunning new talent comes a novel about medicine and moral dilemmas in which a surgeon must confront, outwit, and overcome deadly threats to his patients and himself. Steve Mitchell, happily married with a wife and two kids, is in line for a coveted position at Boston’s University Hospital when his world goes awry. His over-reaching ambition causes him to botch a major surgery, and another of his patients mysteriously dies. Steve’s nightmare goes from bad to worse when he learns that the mysterious death was no accident but the act of a sociopath.  A sociopath he knows and who has information that could destroy Steve’s career and marriage.  A sociopath for whom killing is more than a means to an end: it’s a game.  Because he is under a cloud of suspicion and has no evidence, he knows that any accusations he makes won’t be believed. So he must struggle to turn the tables, even as the killer skillfully blocks his every move. Detailing the politics of hospitals, the hierarchy among doctors and the life and death decisions that are made by flawed human beings, Doing Harm marks the debut of a major fiction career.

RedDevil 4 by Eric C. Leuthardt (Feb. 4): A spine-tingling techno-thriller based on cutting edge research from a renowned surgeon and inventor. Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Hagan Maerici is on the verge of a breakthrough in artificial intelligence that could change the way we think about human consciousness. Obsessed with his job and struggling to save his marriage, Dr. Maerici is forced to put his life’s work on the line when a rash of brutal murders strikes St. Louis. Edwin Krantz, an aging, technophobic detective, and his partner, Tara Dezner, are tasked with investigating the horrifying killings. Shockingly, the murders have all been committed by prominent citizens who have no obvious motives or history of violence. Seeking an explanation for the suspects’ strange behavior, Krantz and Denzer turn to Dr. Maerici, who believes that the answer lies within the killers’ brains themselves. Someone is introducing a glitch into the in-brain computer systems of the suspects—a virus that turns ordinary citizens into murderers. With time running out, this trio of unlikely allies must face a gauntlet of obstacles, both human and A.I., as they attempt to avert disaster.

The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price (Feb. 4): A thrilling genre-bending saga about six extraordinary people whose fates become intertwined on an Earth far different from their own. Without warning, the world comes to an end for Hannah and Amanda Given. The sky looms frigid white, and every airplane crashes to the ground. But the sisters are saved by three eerily beautiful strangers, who force mysterious silver bracelets onto their wrists. Within minutes, the sky comes down in a crushing sheet of light and everything around them is gone. Shielded from the devastation by their silver adornments, they suddenly find themselves elsewhere—on a bizarre alternate Earth, where restaurants move through the air like flying saucers and time is manipulated by common household appliances. Soon Hannah and Amanda are joined by four other survivors from their world. At risk from enemies they never knew they had and afflicted with extraordinary abilities they never wanted, the sisters and their new companions band together on an epic journey to track down the one man who can help them—before time runs out.

The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley (Feb. 4): A riveting, poignant family drama perfect for readers of Defending Jacob and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, which explores the power of the secrets people keep-the darker, hidden facets of our lives, and what happens when they come to light. Diagnosed with XP, a rare medical condition which makes him lethally sensitive to light, Tyler is a thirteen-year-old who desperately wants just one thing: to be normal. His mother Eve also wants just one thing: to protect her son. As Tyler begins roaming their cul-de-sac at night, cloaked in the safety of the darkness, he peers into the lives of the other families on the street-looking in on the things they most want hidden. Then, the young daughter of a neighbor suddenly vanishes, and Tyler may be the only one who can make sense of her disappearance…but what will happen when everyone’s secrets are exposed to the light?

 

Archetype by M.D. Waters (Feb. 6): Introducing a breathtakingly inventive futuristic suspense novel about one woman who rebels against everything she is told to believe. Emma wakes in a hospital, with no memory of what came before. Her husband, Declan, a powerful, seductive man, provides her with new memories, but her dreams contradict his stories, showing her a past life she can’t believe possible: memories of war, of a camp where girls are trained to be wives, of love for another man. Something inside her tells her not to speak of this, but she does not know why. She only knows she is at war with herself. Suppressing those dreams during daylight hours, Emma lets Declan mold her into a happily married woman and begins to fall in love with him. But the day Noah stands before her, the line between her reality and dreams shatters. In a future where women are a rare commodity, Emma fights for freedom but is held captive by the love of two men—one her husband, the other her worst enemy. If only she could remember which is which. . . .The first novel in a two-part series, Archetype heralds the arrival of a truly memorable character—and the talented author who created her.

The Swan Gondola by Tim Schaffert (Feb. 6): A lush and thrilling romantic fable about two lovers set against the scandalous burlesques, midnight séances, and aerial ballets of the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair. On the eve of the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair, Ferret Skerritt, ventriloquist by trade, con man by birth, isn’t quite sure how it will change him or his city. Omaha still has the marks of a filthy Wild West town, even as it attempts to achieve the grandeur and respectability of nearby Chicago. But when he crosses paths with the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, his whole purpose shifts and the fair becomes the backdrop to their love affair. One of a traveling troupe of actors that has descended on the city, Cecily works in the Midway’s Chamber of Horrors, where she loses her head hourly on a guillotine playing Marie Antoinette. And after closing, she rushes off, clinging protectively to a mysterious carpetbag, never giving Ferret a second glance. But a moonlit ride on the swan gondola, a boat on the lagoon of the New White City, changes everything, and the fair’s magic begins to take its effect. From the critically acclaimed author of The Coffins of Little Hope, The Swan Gondola is a transporting read, reminiscent of Water for Elephants or The Night Circus.

Martian by Andy Weir (Feb. 11): Apollo 13 meets Castaway in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious man-vs-nature survival thriller-set on the surface of Mars. Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there. It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him-and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive-and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills-and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit-he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo (Feb. 11): The second installment in Jo Nesbo’s phenomenally popular Harry Hole series, published for the first time in the U.S. When the Norwegian ambassador to Thailand is found dead in a Bangkok brothel, Inspector Harry Hole is dispatched from Oslo to help hush up the case. But once he arrives Harry discovers that this case is about much more than one random murder. There is something else, something more pervasive, scrabbling around behind the scenes. Or, put another way, for every cockroach you see in your hotel room, there are hundreds behind the walls. Surrounded by round-the-clock traffic noise, Harry wanders the streets of Bangkok lined with go-go bars, temples, opium dens, and tourist traps, trying to piece together the story of the ambassador’s death even though no one asked him to, and no one wants him to-not even Harry himself.

Wake by Anna Hope (Feb. 11): A brilliant debut for readers of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, in which three women must deal with the aftershocks of WWI and its impact on the men in their lives-a son, a brother and a lover. Their tragic connection is slowly revealed as the book unfolds.

Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep 2) Ritual for the dead 3) Consequence or aftermath.

Hettie, a dance instructress at the Palais, lives at home with her mother and her brother, mute and lost after his return from the war. One night, at work, she meets a wealthy, educated man and has reason to think he is as smitten with her as she is with him. Still there is something distracted about him, something she cannot reach…Evelyn works at the Pensions Exchange through which thousands of men have claimed benefits from wounds or debilitating distress. Embittered by her own loss, more and more estranged from her posh parents, she looks for solace in her adored brother who has not been the same since he returned from the front…Ada is beset by visions of her son on every street, convinced he is still alive. Helpless, her loving husband of 25 years has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out of work veterans. But when he shows signs of being seriously disturbed-she recognizes the symptoms of “shell shock”-and utters the name of her son she is jolted to the core… The lives of these three women are braided together, their stories gathering tremendous power as the ties that bind them become clear, and the body of the unknown soldier moves closer and closer to its final resting place.

Whew!! And this is just the first half of my highly anticipated February books list! Stay tuned! Tomorrow I will post the second half of this list!

A Year in Review: 2013

JennsBookshelvesSmallYearIt seems cliche to say it, but wow, did this year go by quickly!  It feels like I was just writing this post for 2012!  As with years past, I like to wrap up the year by focusing on my favorite books of the year.  I’m not going to dare state that these are the best of 2013, but the ones I particularly enjoyed! I don’t make failed attempts to narrow it down to 10 or less (HA!), instead showing all the books I voted “best of” the month of their release.  Without further ado…

General/Literary Fiction:

Suspense/Thriller:

Historical Fiction:

Horror:

Genre-Bending: 

Miscellaneous Bookish Posts

Bookish Ramblings: How Setting Influences Your Reading Experience
Bookish Ramblings: Rights as a Reader/Reviewer

Bookish Resolutions: 

I don’t make promises I can’t keep, or set goals I can’t attain. That said, in 2014 I hope to continue my blogging mantra: Be Me. I’m going to continue to read and review books that I want, books that I enjoy so much that I want to shout about them from the rooftops!

That said, I would like to focus more on graphic novels and non-fiction. These are two types of books I’ve grown to enjoy and need to make an attempt to give them a little more attention!

Well, that’s it for me!  What were your favorite books of 2013? Do you have any bookish resolutions?

Winter Book Preview: January 2014 Part II

Yesterday, I shared with you the first half of the books I’m really looking forward to in January.  January is such a big month in books I had to split the list in two!  Like with yesterday’s post, these are listed by date of publication and include the publisher’s summary.  Enjoy!

Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse (January 21): Hannah, independent, headstrong, and determined not to follow in the footsteps of her bitterly divorced mother, has always avoided commitment. But one hot New York summer she meets Mark Reilly, a fellow Brit, and is swept up in a love affair that changes all her ideas about what marriage might mean. Now, living in their elegant, expensive London townhouse and adored by her fantastically successful husband, she knows she was right to let down her guard. But when Mark does not return from a business trip to the U.S. and when the hours of waiting for him stretch into days, the foundations of Hannah’s certainty begin to crack. Why do Mark’s colleagues believe he has gone to Paris not America? Why is there no record of him at his hotel? And who is the mysterious woman who has been telephoning him over the last few weeks? Hannah begins to dig into her husband’s life, uncovering revelations that throw into doubt everything she has ever believed about him. As her investigation leads her away from their fairytale romance into a place of violence and fear she must decide whether the secrets Mark has been keeping are designed to protect him or protect her . . .
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (January 21): Suley, Georgia, is home to Lost Lake Cottages and not much else.  Which is why it’s the perfect place for newly-widowed Kate and her eccentric eight-year-old daughter Devin to heal.  Kate spent one memorable childhood summer at Lost Lake, had her first almost-kiss at Lost Lake, and met a boy named Wes at Lost Lake.  It was a place for dreaming.  But Kate doesn’t believe in dreams anymore, and her Aunt Eby, Lost Lake’s owner, wants to sell the place and move on.  Lost Lake’s magic is gone.  As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake can she bring the cottages—and her heart—back to life?  Because sometimes the things you love have a funny way of turning up again.  And sometimes you never even know they were lost . . . until they are found. 

Snowblind by Christopher Golden (January 21): “It will bring a blizzard to your bones (and your heart) even in the middle of July.  Throw away all those old ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ novels; this one is the real deal.” —Stephen King. SNOWBLIND is a thrilling contemporary ghost story with both horror and heart.  The small New England town of Coventry is haunted by its memories of a deadly winter… in which loved ones were lost, families torn apart, and a town buried in a terrible blizzard.  Now, twelve years later, the people plagued by their memories of that storm are haunted once again as a new storm approaches, promising to wreak new havoc. Old ghosts trickle back, and this storm will prove even more terrifying and deadly than the last.  With richly textured characters, scarred and haunted by the ghosts of those they loved most, Snowblind reinvents the ghost story for today’s world.  Spellbinding in scope and rooted deeply in classic storytelling, Christopher Golden has written a chilling masterpiece that is the best work of his career and a standout supernatural thriller. 

 
 

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness (January 23): George Duncan is an American living and working in London. At forty-eight, he owns a small print shop, is divorced, and is lonelier than he realizes. All of the women with whom he has relationships eventually leave him for being too nice. But one night he is waked by an astonishing sound—a terrific keening, which is coming from somewhere in his garden. When he investigates he finds a great white crane, a bird taller than himself. It has been shot through the wing with an arrow. Moved more than he can say, George struggles to take out the arrow from the bird’s wing, saving its life before it flies away into the night sky. The next morning, a shaken George tries to go about his daily life, retreating to the back of his store and making cuttings from discarded books—a harmless personal hobby—when a woman walks through the front door of the shop. Her name is Kumiko, and she asks George to help her with her own artwork. George is dumbstruck by her beauty and her enigmatic nature and begins to fall desperately in love with her. She seems to hold the potential to change his entire life, if he could only get her to reveal the secret of who she is and why she has brought her artwork to him. Witty, magical, and romantic, The Crane Wife is a story of passion and sacrifice that resonates on the level of dream and myth. It is a novel that celebrates the creative imagination and the disruptive power of love

 


North of Boston by Elizabeth Elo (January 23): Elisabeth Elo’s debut novel introduces Pirio Kasparov, a Boston-bred tough-talking girl with an acerbic wit and a moral compass that points due north. When the fishing boat Pirio is on is rammed by a freighter, she finds herself abandoned in the North Atlantic. Somehow, she survives nearly four hours in the water before being rescued by the Coast Guard. But the boat’s owner and her professional fisherman friend, Ned, is not so lucky. Compelled to look after Noah, the son of the late Ned and her alcoholic prep school friend, Thomasina, Pirio can’t shake the lurking suspicion that the boat’s sinking—and Ned’s death—was no accident. It’s a suspicion seconded by her deeply cynical, autocratic Russian father, who tells her that nothing is ever what it seems. Then the navy reaches out to her to participate in research on human survival in dangerously cold temperatures. With the help of a curious journalist named Russell Parnell, Pirio begins unraveling a lethal plot involving the glacial whaling grounds off Baffin Island. In a narrow inlet in the arctic tundra, Pirio confronts her ultimate challenge: to trust herself.  A gripping literary thriller, North of Boston combines the atmospheric chills of Jussi Adler-Olsen with the gritty mystery of Laura Lippman. And Pirio Kasparov is a gutsy, compellingly damaged heroine with many adventures ahead.

The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah (January 28): Louise Beeston is haunted. Louise has no reason left to stay in the city. She can’t see her son, Joseph, who is away at boarding school where he performs in a prestigious boys’ choir. Her troublesome neighbor has begun blasting choral music at all hours of the night—and to make matters worse, she’s the only one who can hear it. Hoping to find some peace, Louise convinces her husband, Stuart, to buy them a country house in an idyllic, sun-dappled community called Swallowfield. But it seems that the haunting melodies of the choir have followed her there. Against the pleas and growing disquiet of her husband, Louise starts to suspect that this sinister choir is not only real, but a warning. But of what? And how can it be, when no one else can hear it? In The Orphan Choir, Sophie Hannah brings us along on a darkly suspenseful investigation of obsession, loss, and the malevolent forces that threaten to break apart a loving family.

Ripper by Isabel Allende (January 28): The Jackson women, Indiana and Amanda, have always had each other. Yet, while their bond is strong, mother and daughter are as different as night and day. Indiana, a beautiful holistic healer, is a free-spirited bohemian. Long divorced from Amanda’s father, she’s reluctant to settle down with either of the men who want her-Alan, the wealthy scion of one of San Francisco’s elite families, and Ryan, an enigmatic, scarred former Navy SEAL. While her mom looks for the good in people, Amanda is fascinated by the dark side of human nature, like her father, the SFPD’s Deputy Chief of Homicide. Brilliant and introverted, the MIT-bound high school senior is a natural-born sleuth addicted to crime novels and Ripper, the online mystery game she plays with her beloved grandfather and friends around the world. When a string of strange murders occurs across the city, Amanda plunges into her own investigation, discovering, before the police do, that the deaths may be connected. But the case becomes all too personal when Indiana suddenly vanishes. Could her mother’s disappearance be linked to the serial killer? Now, with her mother’s life on the line, the young detective must solve the most complex mystery she’s ever faced before it’s too late.

 

This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash (January 28): When their mother dies unexpectedly, twelve-year-old Easter and her six-year-old sister Ruby are shuffled into the foster care system in Gastonia, North Carolina, a town not far from the Appalachian mountains. But just as they settle into their new life, their errant father, Wade, an ex-minor league baseball player whom they haven’t seen in years, suddenly appears and wants to spend more time with them. Unfortunately, Wade has signed away legal rights to his daughters, and the only way he can get Easter and Ruby back is to steal them away in the middle of the night. Brady Weller, the girls’ court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and he quickly turns up unsettling information linking Wade to a recent armored car heist, one with a whopping $14.5 million missing. But Brady Weller isn’t the only one hunting the desperate father. Robert Pruitt, a shady and mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, is also determined to find Wade and claim his due. Narrated by Easter, Weller, and Pruitt in alternating voices that are at once captivating and heartbreaking, This Dark Road to Mercy is a story about the emotional pull of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.

The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon(January 28): They say behind every great man, there’s a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge’s wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge’s bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband’s recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city’s most notorious gangster, Owney “The Killer” Madden. On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge’s involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he? After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge’s favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on. With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

Whew!! See what I meant when I said January was a great month for books!?

So tell me! What did I miss! What books are releasing in January are you looking forward to most?

Winter Book Preview: January 2014, Part I

I started this preview series in early Fall in the hopes to make it a regular thing.  December is/was a crazy month so apologies in advance for leaving that month out. Traditionally, December is a quiet month for publishing so let’s use that as an excuse.

January is a BIG month in books.  Whether you’re spending gift cards you received for the holidays or kicking off your reading resolutions with a bang, I have a nice long list of books I’m really looking forward to this January. So to not overwhelm you with a long post, I’ve broke this list up into two.

Listed below are my highly anticipated books releasing in January. I’ve included the publisher’s summary to give you an idea of what the book is about. Click on the cover for more information (and to preorder!!)

The Descent by Alma Katsu (January 7): Of all the forces of the universe, the most mysterious, confounding, and humbling is the power of love. The epic story of love and loss, magic and destiny that began with The Taker and sparked a chase around the world inThe Reckoning comes to a surprising conclusion with The Descent.

 

Return to Tradd Street by Karen White (January 7): Facing her future as a single mother, psychic Realtor Melanie Middleton is determined to be strong and leave her past with writer Jack Trenholm behind her. But history has a tendency of catching up with Melanie, whether she likes it or not.…Melanie is only going through the motions of living since refusing Jack’s marriage proposal. She misses him desperately, but her broken heart is the least of her problems. Despite an insistence that she can raise their child alone, Melanie is completely unprepared for motherhood, and she struggles to complete renovations on her house on Tradd Street before the baby arrives. When Melanie is roused one night by the sound of a ghostly infant crying, she chooses to ignore it. She simply does not have the energy to deal with one more crisis. That is, until the remains of a newborn buried in an old christening gown are found hidden in the foundation of her house. As the hauntings on Tradd Street slowly become more violent, Melanie decides to find out what caused the baby’s untimely death, uncovering the love, loss, and betrayal that color the house’s history—and threaten her claim of ownership. But can she seek Jack’s help without risking her heart? For in revealing the secrets of the past, Melanie also awakens the malevolent presence that has tried to keep the truth hidden for decades.…

 

Phoenix Island by John Dixon (January 7): The story that inspired CBS TV’s Intelligence. Phoenix Island was supposed to be a boot camp for troubled children. But as one boy learns, the secrets of this jungle are as vast as they are deadly. When sixteen-year-old boxing champ Carl Freeman jumps in to defend a helpless stranger, he winds up in real trouble—a two-year sentence at an isolated boot camp for orphans. Carl is determined to tough it out, earn a clean record, and get on with his life. Then kids start to die. Realizing Phoenix Island is actually a Spartan-style mercenary organization turning “throwaway kids” into super-soldier killers, Carl risks everything to save his friends and stop a madman bent on global destruction.

What I Had Before I Had You (January 7): Olivia was only fifteen the summer she left her hometown of Ocean Vista on the Jersey Shore. Two decades later, she has returned to visit with her adolescent daughter, Carrie, and nine-year-old son, Daniel, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Distracted by thoughts of the past, Olivia does not notice when Daniel disappears from her side. Searching for him sparks memories of that fateful summer when she met new friends, partied late, tasted love, and saw the ghosts of her twin sisters for the first time-a birthright inherited from her mother Myla, a beautiful and erratic psychic. When Myla dismisses the vision, Olivia sets out to find her sisters, a journey that takes her far from her fiercely loving, secretive mother and close to shattering truths about herself and her family. Told in radiant prose, What I Had Before I Had You is a haunting story of parents and children, guilt and forgiveness, memory and magical thinking that captures the joys and sorrow of growing up and learning to let go.

The Unremarried Widow: A Memoir by Artis Henderson (January 7): A world traveler, Artis Henderson dreamed of living abroad after college and one day becoming a writer. Marrying a conservative Texan soldier and being an Army wife was never in her plan. Nor was the devastating helicopter crash that took his life soon after their marriage. On November 6, 2006, the Apache helicopter carrying Artis’s husband Miles crashed in Iraq, leaving her—in official military terms—an “unremarried widow.” She was twenty-six years old.
In Unremarried Widow, Artis gracefully and fearlessly traces the arduous process of rebuilding her life after this loss, from the dark hours following the military notification to the first fumbling attempts at new love. She recounts the bond that led her and Miles to start a life together, even in the face of unexpected challenges, and offers a compassionate critique of the difficulties of military life. In one of the book’s most unexpected elements, Artis reveals how Miles’s death mirrored her own father’s—in a plane crash that she survived when she was five. In her journey through devastation and heartbreak, Artis is able to reach a new understanding with her widowed mother and together they find solace in their shared loss. But for all its raw emotion and devastatingly honest reflections, this is more than a grief memoir. Delivered in breathtaking prose, Unremarried Widow is a celebration of the unlikely love between two very different people and the universality of both grief and hope.

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker (January 14): In the tiny town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire, the paper mill dictates a quiet, steady rhythm of life. But one day a tragic bus accident sets two families on a course toward destruction, irrevocably altering the lives of everyone in their wake. June McAllister is the wife of the local mill owner and undisputed first lady in town. But the Snow family, a group of itinerant ne’er-do-wells who live on a decrepit and cursed property, have brought her–and the town–nothing but grief. June will do anything to cover up a dark secret she discovers after the crash, one that threatens to upend her picture-perfect life, even if it means driving the Snow family out of town. But she has never gone up against a force as fierce as the young Mercy Snow. Mercy is determined to protect her rebellious brother, whom the town blames for the accident, despite his innocence. And she has a secret of her own. When an old skeleton is discovered not far from the crash, it beckons Mercy to solve a mystery buried deep within the town’s past.

 The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart (January 14): An enthralling debut novel about a teenage girl who finds refuge–but perhaps not–in an 1840s Shaker community. In this exquisite, transporting debut, 15-year-old Polly Kimball sets fire to the family farm, killing her abusive father. She and her young brother find shelter in a Massachusetts Shaker community called The City of Hope. It is the Era of Manifestations, when young girls in Shaker enclaves all across the Northeast are experiencing extraordinary mystical visions, earning them the honorific of “Visionist” and bringing renown to their settlements. The City of Hope has not yet been blessed with a Visionist, but that changes when Polly arrives and is unexpectedly exalted. As she struggles to keep her dark secrets concealed in the face of increasing scrutiny, Polly finds herself in a life-changing friendship with a young Shaker sister named Charity, a girl who will stake everything–including her faith–on Polly’s honesty and purity.

Pandemic by Scott Sigler (January 21) : The explosive conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with Infected andContagious. The alien intelligence that unleashed two horrific assaults on humanity has been destroyed. But before it was brought down in flames, it launched one last payload-a tiny soda-can-sized canister filled with germs engineered to wreak new forms of havoc on the human race. That harmless-looking canister has languished under thousands of feet of water for years, undisturbed and impotent…until now. Days after the new disease is unleashed, a quarter of the human race is infected. Entire countries have fallen. And our planet’s fate now rests on a small group of unlikely heroes, racing to find a cure before the enemies surrounding them can close in.

The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson (January 21): In 1946, a young female attorney from New York City attempts the impossible: attaining justice for a black man in the Deep South. Regina Robichard works for Thurgood Marshall, who receives an unusual letter asking the NAACP to investigate the murder of a returning black war hero. It is signed by M. P. Calhoun, the most reclusive author in the country. As a child, Regina was captivated by Calhoun’s The Secret of Magic, a novel in which white and black children played together in a magical forest. Once down in Mississippi, Regina finds that nothing in the South is as it seems. She must navigate the muddy waters of racism, relationships, and her own tragic past. The Secret of Magic brilliantly explores the power of stories and those who tell them.

Whew!! That’s a lot of books! Come back tomorrow as I share the second half of the list!

What books in January are you looking forward to most?