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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #731

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 8:22am by muffy

lost_book_of_adana_moreau

The Lost Book of Adana Moreau * * *   by Michael Zapata (in downloadable OverDrive eBook and audiobook) is the unlikely story of how two strangers are connected by a manuscript destroyed decades ago. This “an enchanting blend of history, science, and fairy tale” (Booklist) is also about the preservation of memory, the resilience of the human spirit, the bind of family, and the power of friendship. 

New Orleans, 1929.  A Dominican immigrant, identified only as Dominicana, married to a pirate, wrote The Lost City, a science fiction masterpiece about alternate realities, but she fell gravely ill before the sequel A Model Earth, could be published. The author instructed her son, 10-year old Maxwell, to burn the only copy of the manuscript upon her death. 

Chicago, 2005. Saul Drower just lost his grandfather Ben, who adopted him after his parents were killed in a terrorist attack when he was just 5. Among Ben’s effects was a package addressed to theoretical physicist Dr. Maxwell Moreau at a university in Chile. When the package returned undeliverable, Saul saw that it was a manuscript to A Model Earth. With the help of his investigative journalist friend Javier Silva, they tracked down Maxwell to New Orleans. Hoping to fulfill his grandfather’s last wish and to unearth Ben’s link to the manuscript, Saul and Javier drove right into a city laid waste by Hurricane Katrina.

“A heady literary and genre-bending novel for fans of Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Fuentes, and Adolfo Bioy Caseres.” (Library Journal) Check out the reviews in the The New York Times and NPR.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #730

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 8:18am by muffy

oona_out_of_order

Oona Out of Order * by Margarita Montimore (in downloadable OverDrive eBook and audiobook) opens on New Year's Eve 1982, when Oona Lockhart is looking forward to turning 19 and the amazing year ahead - whether she chooses to tour with her boyfriend Dale and their rock band, or a year abroad at the London School of Economics. 

But at the stroke of midnight, Oona awakes (she blames it on too much champagne) to find herself in her 51-year-old self in 2015, a bit lumpy, but immensely wealthy. Thanks to her faithful personal assistant Kenzie, a letter left from her earlier self, and her mother Madeleine, Oona learns that she will be bouncing around in time through all the years of her life, hitting each only once.

And so begins Oona Out of Order - from clubbing with a fringe group, traveling the world, being married to a man she does not remember, to losing the love of her life. While she mourns missed opportunities and unfulfilled relationships, Oona is determined to truly live in the moment, and to fully appreciate the love of family. 

“In the end, we must give credit to Oona for finding joy and even humor in her situation and to Montimore for developing a complex narrative held together by simple truths. Read this to get a bit lost, to root for a character with a strong love for herself, and to connect on a deeply human level with the fear of leading an incomplete life… A heartfelt novel that celebrates its implausibility with a unique joie de vivre. “ (Kirkus Reviews)

For fans of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (in eBook and audiobook).  Readers might also enjoy Overseas by Beatriz Williams (in eBook) (2012),  and Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald (in eBook and audiobook) (2019).

* =Starred review

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #729, “Baseball is the most perfect of games, solid, true, pure and precious as diamonds. If only life were so simple.” ~ W.P. Kinsella

Fri, 03/20/2020 - 8:15am by muffy

cactus_league

The Cactus League (in downloadable OverDrive eBook) by the editor of the Paris Review, Emily Nemens opens with the 2011 spring training of the Los Angeles Lions at their new state-of-the-art facility in Scottsdale, Ariz. At the center of the novel is their “movie-star handsome, paparazzi famous and spectacularly talented” outfielder Jason Goodyear. This recently divorced Golden Glove winner and American League MVP runner-up seems to be coming apart at the seams. 

In a series of interconnected stories, we come to know the individuals who orbit around Jason: a sportswriter going after a sensational story; a batting coach dealing with a domestic crisis; a fortysomething cleat chaser eager to test her charm; with a big Nike deal on the table, an agent hopes to keep his client out of the tabloids; an owner who allows his personal agenda to shape the season; an ill-paid stadium organist; a young boy at the mercy of his mother’s addiction; and Jason’s fellow players who are willing to do what it takes, just to play. 

Nemens has... written a novel about baseball and how it shapes the lives of athletes as much as the town that supports it - and a beautiful one at that. Like the best sportswriting, this bighearted, finely observed novel is about far more than the game.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Emily Nemens grew up a Seattle Mariners fan. Her family’s trips to spring training in Arizona informed the setting. In a recent interview with Kirkus, she shared the three baseball books that inspired The Cactus League.

resisters

Another baseball book this spring that is definitely not JUST about the game is Gish Jen’s The Resisters. The author needs no introduction.  Her latest is the story, set in a near-future dystopian America, of one family’s struggle to maintain its humanity and normalcy in circumstances that threaten their every value--as well as their very existence.

At the heart is young Gwen, born with a golden arm, she plays in secret in an underground league all of her young life. When her talent is discovered, and is recruited by the university for the privileged, her moral and personal resolve will be severely tested.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #728

Sat, 03/14/2020 - 10:26am by muffy

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Saint X * by Alexis Schaitkin (in downloadable eBook and audiobook)  On the last night of their family vacation on the Caribbean island of Saint X, college-aged Alison Thomas disappeared, and her body was later discovered in a remote cay. Two local men, employees of the resort, Clive Richardson and Edwin Hastie last seen at a watering hole with Alison were arrested but were released for lack of evidence. 

Eighteen years later, Alison’s younger sister Claire who was only seven at the time of the incident, is now working in Manhattan. One night, she finds herself in Clive Richardson’s cab. Obsessed with learning what happened to Alison, she stalks Clive and embeds herself in his life. As she waits for the slip that will reveal the truth, an unlikely attachment develops between them. 

“As the novel gradually shifts to Clive's point of view, Schaitkin subverts the other characters' assumptions about the lives and intentions of strangers.” (Publishers Weekly)  Most striking of all is Alison’s diary, astonishing in its raw depiction of a beautiful, changeable, provocative girl of eighteen at a turbulent moment of identity formation.

“This killer debut is both a thriller with a vivid setting and an insightful study of race, class, and obsession.” (Kirkus Reviews)  

Check out the EW interview with the author, and the The Washington Post book review

For readers of Emma Cline’s The Girls and Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. You might also enjoy Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato and Sister by Rosamund Lupton.

* = Starred review

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #727

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 8:31am by muffy

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NPR Book Reviewer Michael Schaub called The Regrets * * by Amy Bonnaffons, “(a) dazzling debut novel… Wildly inventive and daring, a reflection on the limits of love that's both hilarious and heartbreaking.” 

Due to an institutional error at the Office of the afterlife, 26-year old Thomas Barrett is unable to "cross over"(motorcycle accident that killed his best friend), and must complete a 3-month stint on earth so as to allow the Office to process his eventual arrival. Apart from the detailed report he must submit weekly, there are rules he is encouraged to follow so as not to incur regrets. Chief among them: not to attempt any new relationships, and especially no sexual contact. 

Rachel Starr, a young librarian has rotten luck with men, but she is certain the handsome, golden-haired,  melancholy young man sitting at her Brooklyn bus stop day after day is different. When she finally approaches him, the chemistry between them is undeniable, and their affair, intense and all-consuming. But as Thomas approaches the end of his time on earth, he begins to fade, body part by body part, until he is invisible. Distraught and confused, Rachel turns to Mark, her newly-single college boyfriend for solace. 

“It is a plot that could be - that should be - unbearably twee, oppressively quirky, in love with its own melancholy. Instead, Bonnaffons’ (The Wrong Heaven, 2018) first full-length novel is a rare pleasure: a philosophical rom-com too weird, too bodily, too precise, too fun to get bogged down in trembling sentiment. Deep and deeply funny.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Perfect for fans of Melissa Broder's The Pisces. (Booklist)    

* * = 2 starred reviews

daisy_coopersJust released is another rom-com based on a clerical error at the Afterlife Administration: Daisy Cooper's Rules for Living by Tamsin Keily. In this 'Bridget Jones meets "The Good Place" ', a woman whose untimely death sparks the journey of a lifetime.

Daisy Cooper is flying high, just about to move in with her boyfriend.  A slip on an icy patch lands her in the Afterlife - except she is a bit early - by 50 years. Stuck in limbo, prevented from fully passing on while Death sorts out the mistake, she becomes his assistant. Working together, Daisy finds that Death isn't the Grim Reaper she believed him to be.  And as she learns how to survive this strange reality, friendship, hope and love begin to come alive in the most unexpected ways.

"Keily's debut is a witty and clever look at life, love, and grief..." (Booklist)

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #726

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 4:20pm by muffy

authenticity_project

The Authenticity Project (in downloadable OverDrive eBook and audiobook) by popular British blogger Clare Pooley, is inspired by her personal story. She discovered that “telling the truth about your life really can work magic and change the lives of many other people for the better.” 

79-year old Julian Jessop was once the darling of the London art world, hobnobbing (and dressed) by the likes of Vivienne Westwood.  Now alone and reclusive, he looks back at a life filled with lies and deceit, and realizes that “everyone lies about their lives”. In a green notebook entitled “The Authenticity Project” which he leaves at his neighborhood cafe, he recounts his story and challenges whoever picks up the notebook to share the truth. 

From a cozy cafe, to a swanky wine bar, to the beaches off the South China Sea and back,  the notebook brings together cafe owner Monica - a former city lawyer who longs for romance and family; Hazard, a high-flying financial trader and an equal-opportunity addict; Riley, a happy-go-lucky Aussie gardener with commitment issues; and Alice, who trades in her glamorous PR job for messy motherhood, but clings to her staged Instagram persona for validation. 

“This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free….Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world.” (Kirkus Reviews)

For fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (2012) by Rachel Joyce.  Readers might also enjoy How Not to Die Alone (2019) by Richard Roper.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #725

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 9:17am by muffy

followers

Followers, * * * *  Megan Angelo’s “spectacular debut...masterfully explores the dark side of social media.” (Publishers Weekly). Told in the alternating voices of Orla Cadden in 2015--2016, and Marlow Clipp in 2051, Followers traces the paths they take through time towards each other. 

Instead of writing her novel, Orla is a reporter at Lady-ish, a celeb blog, churning out puff pieces to pay the rent on her Manhattan apartment. Her new roommate Florence (Floss) Natuzzi, a scheming, A-lister wannabe, persuades Orla that the way for them both to get ahead is for Orla to craft stories, any story (“forget about doing the right thing”) that would put Floss before the public eye, with Orla catching the afterglow.

2051. Constellation, California, is a closed community where government-appointed and corporation-sponsored celebrities like Marlow and her husband Ellis live 24/7 on camera, closely watched by their 11.6 million loyal followers, their every thought and action monitored by an implant called “The Device”. No longer enjoying her popularity and prescribed lifestyle, Marlow dreams of fleeing. When she learns that her whole family history is based on a lie, she summons the courage to run in search of the truth, leading her to that fateful day in 2016 when the world as we knew it, was forever changed. 

“Angelo masterfully intertwines the lives of Orla, Floss, and Marlow while reflecting a painfully accurate picture of our current fame-driven, tech-obsessed society and its possible destruction.... Angelo also weaves in a perspective on contemporary political decisions (The Wall, immigration/deportation) and the effect they could have on us all in the not-so-distant future. This is an intricate and brave story of friendship, ambition, and love and the lengths people will go to protect it all.“ (Booklist)

* * * * = 4 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #724

Mon, 02/10/2020 - 7:21pm by muffy

spitfire

Spitfire * by M. L. Huie launches the Livy Nash historical mystery series, perfect for fans of Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope series and Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network.

London, 1946. 2 years after liberation, former British spy Olivia “Livy” Nash worked as a proofreader for a third- rate newspaper by day and devoted her evenings to the company of black-market Polish vodka. When she was sacked and about to be turned out by her landlord, she was approached by the infamous Ian Fleming, offering her the opportunity to return to Paris, posing as a journalist to track down a list of former Nazi spies and collaborators, who could be useful in fighting “the next war”.

But what really sent Livy back to the City of Light, was the chance to confront the traitor among their WWII Resistant unit, who delivered Livy, nicknamed “Spitfire”  and her lover/Commander Peter Scobee into the hands of the Gestapo, thus drawing her back into the dangerous world of spies and counterspies.

“Huie does an excellent job dramatizing events in the early days of the cold war. Vibrant characters, international intrigue, gritty action, and a wittily acerbic Ian Fleming, too—who could ask for more?” (Publishers Weekly)

“Nash is a welcome new protagonist who will be welcomed by fans of Kate Atkinson's Transcription (2018) and Simon Mawer's Tightrope (2015).” (Booklist)

 * = Starred review

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #723

Wed, 01/08/2020 - 2:57pm by muffy

such_a_fun_age

January brings the highly anticipated debut Such a Fun Age* by Kiley Reid. (Check out the New York Times Review and the NPR interview with the author.)  It’s the latest HELLO SUNSHINE (Reese Witherspoon's Book Club) pick. Film rights sold to Lena Waithe.  

25 year-old Temple grad Emira Tucker knows she is good at her job - nannying for Philadelphia newcomer Alix Chamberlain and her 2 young daughters, never mind she is aimless, broke, and a disappointment to her ambitious parents. As a favor to her employer, Emira leaves a party early to babysit the Chamberlains’ toddler Briar. A late-night visit to the local high-end supermarket proves problematic when the store security, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping. A bystander captures the whole incident on video, and it goes viral. 

While Emira is humiliated, Alix resolves to make things right, unwittingly bringing into their midst Kelley, someone from Alix’s past, with “unintended--as well as willfully unseen--consequences.” (Publishers Weekly).

“Reid illuminates difficult truths about race, society, and power with a fresh, light hand. We're all familiar with the phrases white privilege and race relations, but rarely has a book vivified these terms in such a lucid, absorbing, graceful, forceful, but unforced way.” (Library Journal)

* = Starred review

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #722

Mon, 01/06/2020 - 9:00pm by muffy

just_watch_me

Jeffry P. Lindsay of the wildly successful Dexter fame introduces an antihero in a new series that opens with Just Watch Me. * 

In this brashly retro escapist caper“ (Kirkus Reviews), master thief Riley Wolfe has just stolen a 12-ton statue in broad daylight during its installation ceremony in Downtown Chicago, and dropped the sponsor, a big pharma CEO into the freezing waters of Lake Michigan from a combat helicopter. Next, he sets his sights on stealing the Iranian Crown Jewels, on loan to a small Manhattan private museum. Valued at billions, and protected by a state-of-the-art high tech security system, not to mention the legendary heavily-armed Revolutionary Guards, the true attraction for Riley is one simple fact:  they are absolutely unstealable. And Riley has never shied away from a challenge. 

As Riley’s intricate, audacious (and often ruthless) plan unfolds, he is pursued by a brilliant and relentless Chicago FBI agent Frank Delgado, setting in motion a nail-biting game of cat and mouse. 

For fans of the Ocean's Eleven ,and brings to mind Topkapi, the 1964 film based on Eric Ambler's novel The Light of Day.

* = Starred review