I love a good read, which can mean beautifully penned literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, exciting thrillers or science fiction, memoirs, or just any kind of excellent storytelling. I never know what kind of book I'll be reading next until I pick it up.
Loo and her father have been on the run for her entire life, but they are trying to make a life in Massachusetts that is as normal as possible. Her father has twelve bullet wounds, each of which tells a story of a time and place in his life, and each tale is recounted as the sins of the past threaten to destroy their future. Tinti (The Good Thief) creates a vibrant world full of romance, danger, and familial love. This brilliant literary thriller is equal parts Donna Tartt, Richard Russo, and Quentin Tarantino. I could not put it down, but I was incredibly sorry when I finished it!
This is a shocking, frequently disturbing, but always compelling tale about the lies we tell ourselves to survive our unconscionable past actions. When a man's foster brother is released from prison after new DNA evidence proves his innocence, the past comes rushing back to Dustin Tillman, forcing him to question his own decisions made when he was a boy. While balancing a dying wife, rebellious sons, and a patient who is leading him on a chase after a serial killer, Dustin confronts what he thinks he knows. Chaon ratchets the tension tighter and tighter, forcing the reader to flip pages -- all the while dreading the final outcome.
This is a love letter to family, a tale of familial redemption, and a lovely character study of a struggling mother and her iconoclastic son. Victor Lodato utilizes familiar tropes to tell his story of a fractured family and their difficult journey to healing and love (a wise child, a grieving mother, a strong ethnic background), but he surprises the reader at nearly every turn. The result is the delightful, sad, funny, and heart-warming tale of one family split apart -- the mother by grief over the loss of her husband, the son by the loss of his beloved grandmother -- and their inability to connect with each other through their grief.
A brilliant examination of griedf and understanding told wiih typical George Saunders flair and wit. Not always an easy read, but certainly worth every minute. The audiobook is terrific as well!
Harper's first novel is a mystery set in Australia during a terrible drought, and does everything exactly right. From the stifling atmosphere to the race to discover the truth behind a murder/suicide, this thriller doesn't pull any punches. The plot jumps back and forth between two stories, interconnected tales of a young girl's death and her friend, now a grown man on the police force, who investigates the death of another person in their childhood circle of friends. If you like Tana French or Louise Penny, you should enjoy this thriller with a stark, unique setting.
Burning Bright solidifies Petrie's place among the best thriller writers working today. His hero, Peter Ash, wanders from town to town, living outdoors because his PTSD will not allow him to remain inside walls for very long. When he discovers a woman on the run from shadowy killers, Ash knows he must help her in spite of his near-crippling claustrophobia. Petrie gives us characters we love, warts and all, and there is a true sense of forward propulsion to his action-packed tale. If you love Lee Child or Robert Ludlum, you really should try Petrie!
Chabon has penned a fictional biography of his grandfather, featuring three different times in his life -- his WW2 years when he discovered a love of rocketry, his marriage to an emotionally unstable woman, and his budding romance with a woman in a retirement community. Through these splintered tales, Chabon, and the reader, discover how love can always exist "in the cracks" of any life. Somewhere between fact and fiction, the reader (and, I assume, Chabon himself) discovers how rich and unknowable love can be. This is a beautiful story on every level.
Ever have one of those days? In Maria Semple's hilarious follow-up to her best-selling Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Eleanor wakes up and decides that today she will accomplish everything she wants to accomplish . . . and then life gets in the way. Whether she is tracking down her missing husband, helping her son (who has a fondness for make-up), or surviving a concussion (there's an app for that!), she remains stalwart and determined to have a good day. Semple's funny prose suits the material very well, and her characters are much more realistic than necessary, making this a wonderful romp!
When a boat becomes lost in a dense fog and frozen in the ice overnight, the crew members succumb to a mysterious illness. As they grow sicker by the day and their captain gets crazier by the hour, a desperate group sets off into the fog to find help. This thriller, reminiscent of The Twilight Zone's best episodes, is both scary and thought-provoking, leading to an existential finale that will hold you breathless. The icy setting lends verisimilitude to the thrills; you will feel the cold like a chill in the air. Perfect reading for October!
This two-fisted mystery is one of the best in recent memory. Taking place during the integration of the Atlanta police force in 1948, Darktown details two African-American cops who witness a black woman run away from a white man only to turn up later as a corpse. It also involves a new recruit who is white and having problems with his conscience. Featuring muscular writing that is as sleek and piercing as a bullet, this book is comparable to the works of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
Audacious and experimental, this epic novel tells the seemingly simple story of a young man searching for the truth about his mother, who abandoned him as a child and is arrested twenty-odd years later after throwing rocks at a right-wing politician. This is not just the story of a grown man seeking the truth about a woman half-forgotten, it's the story of a country evolving into something pretty terrifying -- a world where lies and deceit can bring you riches and the truth will only break your heart. This is an assured first novel filled with surprises and miraculous feats of literary stuntwork (a ten-page sentence! Holy cow!).
The railroad, in this phantasmagorical look at race in America, is literal - a train roaring through tunnels which were constructed like a subway, and the train leads our heroine, Cora, to several unlikely destinations. Cora is our Gulliver (Gulliver's Travels is easily spotted as the inspiration). Each state, each stop on the railroad, is a different version of America, displaying one way in which our country views race and manifest destiny. Utilizing exquisite prose, Whitehead digs deeply into the troubled heart of America, exposing prejudice, tolerance, hatred, violence, and love as we stop at the distinct stations.
The Gentleman by Forrest LeoPart P.G. Wodehouse, part Monty Python, and part Master And Margarita, this hilarious novel details the story of a bored British gentleman (what what) who may have accidentally sold his wife to the devil. Joining him is his stalwart butler, a jungle adventurer, an inventor of flying machines, and his sister, who has just been sent home from boarding school for having a 'dalliance.' Hilarious dialogue and a refreshing wit make this little book laugh-out-loud funny. Don't miss the disparaging footnotes by a disapproving cousin!
Spanning five decades and three generations of a family who live in the infamous building in the East Village, this is also the story of New York and America - in all its tarnished glory. The cast of characters includes AIDS activists, artists, drug users, health workers, and even people who flee to (gasp) Los Angeles, but the family remains the core of the novel. The secret to this great book is the all-abiding love Murphy has for his characters and the redemption they more than earn. The last fifty pages are among the most vibrant and touching finales I've ever read.
Winner of the Costa Prize for first novel, this chilling ghost story unfolds subtly, creating a slowly churning atmosphere of dread. When a child's body is uncovered near a shrine, a man recalls when he was a boy and his Catholic mother took his mentally challenged brother to a holy shrine in the countryside. Nothing is quite as it seems, and the trip ends in tragedy and terror. The Loney is as eerie as it can be without gore and violence, but it will sneak up on you in a way reminiscent of a classic M.R. James or Algernon Blackwood story.
Winters (The Last Policeman) creates a spellbinding mystery set in an alternative United States where there was no Civil War. Four states still allow slavery, and a young black man strikes a bargain with part of the US government, becoming a marshal who rounds up renegade slaves. Only this new assignment brings doubts to the surface about his own memories of his childhood. Can you be a good man yet perform an evil occupation? This is a stunning piece of politically-charged fiction, but it is also a crackling good mystery, perfect for summer reading.
When a young boy goes missing, his mother and sister discover pages from his diary revealing secrets they had never suspected. Where did he go, and why won't his friends tell anyone the truth? Tremblay peels back the layers of a quaint New England town to expose the ugly underbelly of family life in the U.S. This novel is a shocking, scary, and disturbing read, the result of a powerful storyteller at work, and it solidifies Tremblay's reputation as a master of psychological suspense.
What would happen if everyone could see your sins as smoke emanating from your body? And what if the wealthiest among us found a way to hide their smoke from view, thus, becoming 'morally superior' to others? Set in an alternative (but instantly recognizable) Victorian England, this brilliant new novel is an intelligent, philosophical allegory as well as a rip-roaring adventure. Fans of Philip Pullman and Sarah Waters will love it!
After one of the most gripping opening scenes ever (a little girl falls through a sinkhole into a giant metal hand), Neuvel's first novel becomes a series of government debriefings as huge robotic artifacts are uncovered all over the world. Why are they here? Who can control them? This is an intelligent and suspenseful book, which asks a lot of difficult, morally grey questions about weapons technology and the ownership of ideas. Fans of The Martian, World War Z, and Station Eleven will devour this fascinating, twisty adult novel.
A great, epic combination of sci-fi, Mary Poppins, and horror. Joe Hill is Stephen King's son, but he has his own distinctive style. What a great summer read!
What happens to children and young people after they return from visiting a magical realm (such as Narnia and Wonderland)? Most of them cannot adapt to the 'real world' again and are psychologically damaged, so they end up at Eleanor West's School For Wayward Children. Now, someone is murdering the students. This brilliant little book explores the idea of narrative as a survival tool with humor, terror, and a distinctly skewed sensibility. This is a wonderful tale for fantasy-loving adults and older teens, and it maintains a refreshing sense of wonder.
In this beautifully-written Irish novel, the town pariah adopts a one-eyed dog. Both of them are survivors, running from tragic pasts, and the man begins to tell his life story to the dog. As he yammers on and on, he reveals more and more of his life, and the bond between the two outsiders grows through the year. With lovely, poetic writing, Baume tells a familiar story in a new manner, and the reader truly feels for these lost souls. This is easily one of the best and most original novels this year.
When the local pariah returns to her hometown to make amends after joining A.A., she ends up managing her estranged mother's bar, playing on the all-women's softball team, and befriending a teenage boy who worships Jackie Collins and Madonna. Ultimately, the hilarity turns to bittersweet melodrama, but Fifield never loses his love for the people of Quinn, Montana (population 956). Full of vivid characters and hilarious situations, this raucous, raunchy novel reads like the film A League Of Their Own as directed by John Waters.
In Moscow, 1953, Joseph Stalin is preparing for a final pogrom to rid the USSR of the Jewish population. An actor from the Yiddish theater, an African-American engineer, and a beautiful young woman with secret skills bond together to assassinate the Stalin. What follows is funny, touching, and ultimately thrilling as the ragtag group fumbles toward their attempted coup. Full of eccentric characters, terrifying history, and Quinten Tarentino-esque dialogue, The Yid is an exciting two-fisted adventure as well as an engrossing alternative history.
Ostensibly the story of M.F.K. Fisher and the years when she honed her skills as America's first food essayist, The Arrangement is actually a story about the fragility of relationships. As Fisher grows in reknown, her marriage crumbles, and she boldly takes a lover who represents everything antithetical to her husband - his best friend. This is a sensual novel in every sense of the word, and the reader experiences all the excitement of both food and sexuality as Fisher becomes a more independent woman and discovers her writing abilities.
Each chapter is a short story that can be read and enjoyed on its own, but when you put them together, you get a lovely tale of a young woman who becomes a famous chef. While she is the main character of the novel, she is never the main character of the various chapters. The writing in this first novel is so good, I kept reading just one more chapter before bed. Then, one more after that. Then, another. Utterly charming and a triumph of structure.
First time novelist Parnaz Foroutan tells the compelling, epic story of a prosperous Jewish family living in Iran. Especially detailed are the tales of the women, who are valued for their fertility. Fans of Khaled Hosseini will love this novel and it's dream-like, gauzy memory experience.
An astonishing literary thriller which has more on its mind than scaring you (although it will certainly inspire shivers!) A young girl displays the symptoms of demonic possession - or is it schizophrenia? Shirley Jackson meets Donna Tartt!
This is a beautifully written, multi-generational crime novel, which takes place in the mountains of Georgia. Three generations of gangsters learn that you will have to pay the piper one day...even if that day is far in the future. Bull Mountain reads like a cross between The Godfather and Winter's Bone. Don't start this one late at night, as you'll stay up very late to finish it!
This rollicking novel brims with vivid characters and takes the position that Charles Dickens didn't create his first, and arguably greatest, novel on his own. He had help from a young man who clashed with Dickens until a war began between artist and author. Full of sardonic wit and humor, but with true emotion at its heart, DEATH & MR PICKWICK is a great, epic summer read.
In this stunning, literary science fiction novel, Stephenson examines what the human race would look like after surviving a cataclysmic event. After five thousand years in space, will we lose our humanity or regain it? The answers are stunning and quite beautiful.
A rousing historical adventure novel, which can also be read as an allegory for British occupation, The Strangler Vine is a fascinating work of fiction. A naive officer in the East India Company must face his own Heart of Darkness when he is sent to recover a scandalous poet who has gone missing while infiltrating the Thuggee Cults. Could he have discovered something amiss among Britain's politics in India, 1837? Full of actual historical figures, this fast-paced novel will sweep you away to another time and place with vivid writing and a terrific mystery.