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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #749

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 8:05am by muffy

eighth_detectiveFans of Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz and Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson would not want to miss The Eighth Detective, * (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by mathematician and first-time novelist Alex Pavesi

London book editor Julia Hart arrives on a remote Mediterranean island to work on reissuing The White Murders,  a series of detective stories self-published in the early 1940s, that were based on a 1937 paper by mathematics professor Grant McAllister, entitled “The Permutations of Detective Fiction,”  - on the mathematical structure of murder mysteries and the specific criteria that must be met.

Grant, now a recluse explains the "rules" of whodunits - there must be a victim or victims, one or more suspects, one or more detectives, etc. The seven stories in the book, variations of the "locked-room mystery ",  illustrate permutations made possible by changing the mix of these character types. As sharp-eyed Julia goes through the stories with Grant, she notices inconsistencies; and the collection's title echoes an unsolved crime at the time the book was first published.  She begins to suspect these might be clues to another bigger mystery  - Grant himself. 

“Pavesi clearly knows his classic murder mysteries, as shown by a story that evokes Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, and all his plot tricks will please readers with a similar passion. “ (Publishers Weekly) 

“Enclosing all the stories like a Russian doll is the question of why the editor visits the author at all. But both hold back secret motivations that drive the grand plot... A satisfying mystery for the casual reader, even more so for the careful one.”(Kirkus Reviews)

* = Starred review

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Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 10:48am by samanthar

Prairie Lotus cover“If she were white, she wouldn’t have to wear a bonnet. 

If she were white, she wouldn’t have to ask about attending school.

If she were white…”

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #748, On Body Image

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 7:33am by muffy

“Step Away from the Mean Girls…and say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks. Are you ready to stop colluding with a culture that makes so many of us feel physically inadequate? Say goodbye to your inner critic, and take this pledge to be kinder to yourself and others.” ~ Oprah Winfrey 

one_to_watch

In Kate Stayman-London’s debut One to Watch, (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook),  30-year-old Bea(trice) Schumacher is a plus-size fashion and lifestyle blogger with a devoted following and a growing number of commercial sponsors. When her drunken late-night blog post raging against the lack of body diversity representation on Main Squeeze, a reality TV show (think The Bachelor) goes viral, she finds herself tapped to be the next star of the show, where 25 contestants compete for her hand. Still smarting from a hurtful break-up and hopeful the exposure will advance her brand, Bea signs on. 

For 8 weeks, Bea is styled, pampered, polished and whisked off to exotic locales to be dazzled by her 25 suitors. While many are good, smart, and kind, not all of the men are there for the right reason. And a lifetime of body shaming has left her skeptical - whether she could truly find romance; and how the complex standards of female beauty affect the way we define ourselves, and who deserves to be seen...and loved. 

“Peppered with chatlogs, text messages, social media reactions, and splashy People articles, Stayman-London's debut is chatty and fun, brilliantly capturing the highs, lows, and drama of reality TV.” (Publishers Weekly) 

“A long and entertaining if overstuffed novel about reality TV, romance, fat-shaming, and self-esteem that will appeal to rom-com fans…” (Library Journal)

thin_girls

Thin Girls *  by New Zealand native Diana Clarke (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is a brutally honest examination of toxic diet culture and the tyranny of body image, but also the bond of twinhood; and the redemptive power of love and friendship. 

Lily and Rose Winters have the special bond that twins share - they feel each other's emotions, and taste what the other is feeling, until high school. Peer pressure, teenage angst and family dynamics drive them towards the opposite spectrum of the eating disorder  - Rose stops eating and Lily consumes everything Rose won't. 

Now in their 20s, Rose, the narrator is about to mark her one-year anniversary in a rehabilitation facility when she notices Lily, her sole visitor, is also struggling. A kindergarten teacher, Lily is involved with the abusive, married father of one of her students. To please him, Lily joins a cult diet group. Rose realizes she is the only one who could save Lily. To do that, she must start eating. When Rose and Lily seem to be at their breaking point, support and kindness come from the most unlikely sources, at once cathartic and life-affirming. 

“This page-turner makes for an illuminating, ultimately hopeful look at the constant struggle women face regarding their body image.” (Publishers Weekly) 

“The story (Rose) tells is as gripping as a thriller, but it’s Clarke’s language that truly makes this novel special. She writes with a lyricism that not only encompasses the grotesque and the transcendent, but also sometimes commingles the two… Incisive social commentary rendered in artful, original, and powerfully affecting prose.” (Kirkus Reviews)  For fans of Dietland by Sarai Walker.

* = Starred review

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HELLZAPOPPIN'

Mon, 08/03/2020 - 11:25am by fredbeldin

 

Hellzapoppin DVD coverModern viewers accustomed to comic surreality through exposure to Mr. Show, Monty Python's Flying Circus or any number of Adult Swim entertainments will be taken aback by the rampant absurdity on hand in this 1941 musical meta-comedy. Based on the hit Broadway variety show of the same name, Hellzapoppin’ spoofs its own plotlessness from the start, as stars Ole Olson and Chic Johnson argue on screen with their director over the need for a story at all, eventually relenting to wisecrack their way through a cardboard love yarn meant only to frame the slapstick set pieces and musical numbers.

From there, Hellzapoppin’ bursts with outrageous images: an opening number in Hell that crosses Bosch with Busby Berkeley, reckless archery, talking dogs, projection booth mishaps, sneezing ballerinas and the most athletic, death-defying exhibition of Lindy Hopping ever captured on camera. The songs range from good to great, all in the easy-swinging jazz style of the day, paired with inventive dance and synchronized swim routines that extend the film’s fourth wall-busting approach. Those with a taste for Golden Age Hollywood will recognize Shemp Howard, Martha Raye and Elisha Cook Jr. among the principals, but the unbridled anarchy of Hellzapoppin’ remains fresh enough after eight decades for it to rise above being a mere nostalgia piece. Put it on hold today!

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #747

Fri, 07/31/2020 - 12:28pm by muffy

lions_den

In need of escapism? Look no further than The Lion's Den by Katherine St. John, named one of Library Journal’s Debuts to Watch, “(a) diverting poolside-ready page-turner.” (Publishers’ Weekly)

When Summer Sanderson, her best friend since high school, invited her on an all-expense paid week in the Mediterranean aboard her billionaire boyfriend's yacht, struggling-actress/cocktail-waitress Belle Carter just could not turn the offer down. But the minute she stepped aboard the Lion’s Den, she began to have second thoughts. Her passport, cell phone were taken away and she found herself locked in her cabin at night. Then she saw mysterious visitors boarding the yacht in the dead of night, and every move she and her fellow passengers made were scheduled and monitored by their host, John Lyon. 

When her cabin-mate, a young brassy sexpot went overboard after a vicious argument with Summer,  Belle knew she must keep her wits about her - and her own big secret closely hidden - if she were to make it off the yacht alive. 

“St. John’s sizzling debut sparkles with yacht and fashion porn, and smart, decent Belle is easy to root for as the panic reaches its peak. Blingy, swingy fun plus a well-crafted, socially conscious suspense plot: Anchors aweigh! “ (Kirkus Reviews)

"Fans of Liane Moriarty and Jessica Knoll will devour this story of beautiful people with horrible secrets.” (Booklist)

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #746, “What a difference a day made, 24 little hours…” ~ Stanley Adams, American lyricist and songwriter

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 6:09pm by muffy

party_upstairs

Lee Conell’s The Party Upstairs : A Novel * is set in an Upper West Side co-op building over the course of a single day. An early morning argument between the building’s super, Martin and his grown-up daughter, Ruby sparks a crisis that will, by day’s end, change the course of many lives. 

24 year-old Ruby is back living in the basement apartment with her parents, after 4 years at a prestigious small liberal arts college failed to land her a job, and her trust-fund boyfriend broke up with her.  The novel opens on the day Ruby is scheduled for a job interview at the American Museum of Natural History, courtesy of her “oldest best friend” Caroline, while her father fields calls from demanding and demeaning tenants with their innocuous and embarrassing requests, constantly fearing for his job. Caroline’s family occupies the penthouse but despite their economic disparity, the girls are able to keep up a close friendship since childhood. Now Caroline is a successful artist and is throwing a party at her father’s penthouse, a party Ruby looks forward to and dreads in equal measure.

Conell’s debut perfectly captures the co-op’s ecosystem and the ways class informs every interaction, reaction, and relationship inside it...A slow-burning debut that keenly dissects privilege, power, and the devastation of unfulfilled expectations.“(Kirkus Reviews) 

On July 29th, the author will be in conversation with author Margot Livesey at At Home with Literati series of Virtual Events.

May we also suggest Apartment by Whiting Award-winner Teddy Wayne. It is a New York Times Editors' Choice, longlisted for the 2020 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize, and one of Vogue’s Best Books of 2020 So Far, “a careful meditation on class and power."

paris_hours

Alex George’s The Paris Hours (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), is his first historical novel set in Paris where he once practiced law. Paris between the wars teems with artists, writers, and musicians (Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Marcel Proust, and Maurice Ravel), a glittering crucible of genius. On one summer day in 1927, amidst the dazzling creativity of the city’s most famous citizens, four regular persons are searching for something they've lost, or on a quest to right a past wrong.

When Marcel Proust instructed his maid Camille to burn all of his notebooks, she saved one for herself, but is now desperate to find it before shameful secrets are revealed.  Souren, an Armenian refugee, performs puppet shows for children that are nothing like the fairy tales they expect. Lovesick artist Guillaume, down on his luck, is running from a debt he cannot repay.  And Jean-Paul, a journalist dreaming of America, interviews expats, because his own story is too painful to tell.

George expertly crosscuts between various plots, coaxing them closer and closer as evening draws on. The tinder has been set and the fire is lit as the action converges on a raucous cabaret in Montmartre. “It’s not just objects that warp and disappear in the flames’ embrace,” it’s the characters’ notions of what they’re capable of doing, of what sort of people they’ve become in this combustible present.”(The New York Times Review)

Here is a list of other novels that take place in a single day: Saturday by Ian McEwan; Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf; The Hours by Michael CunninghamLillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney; and Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. 

* = Starred review

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I tried a daily drawing challenge through Creativebug!

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 11:42am by Lucy S

Drawings

A little over a month ago, I started Lisa Congdon’s Inktober Daily Challenge through AADL’s online service, Creativebug. I chose this series because each of the daily videos is short (under 6 minutes), I like the artist’s style, and I didn’t need to get too many new supplies. I had paint brushes, and micron pens so I only needed to procure a few bottles of India Ink and the correct paper, 5” x 7” Shizen watercolor paper. I try to be creative daily, but mostly by dabbling in fiber arts. Here’s what happened when I put pen to paper.

What I loved: 

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #745

Thu, 07/16/2020 - 7:52pm by muffy

line_of_sight

Award-winning crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times, James Queally has covered hundreds of homicides, as well as national use-of-force controversies and the Black Lives Matter Movement.  Line of Sight * * is his debut novel.

Former Newark crime reporter Russell Avery now works as a private investigator, mostly running interference for cops facing disciplinary reviews, or in crosshairs of the  Internal Affairs Department. He is indebted to his contacts on the Newark PD for fast-tracking his PI license when he was furloughed and grateful for the work. That is until his friend Keyonna Jackson, a social justice activist, introduced him to Austin Mathis whose son Kevin, a low-level drug dealer was killed by the police. What piqued Russell’s interest was a troubling cell-phone video Kevin took that showed snippets of questionable use-of-force of another young black man. 

“Avery plunges into a miasma of police corruption and reconnects with former girlfriend Dina, a reporter bent on unmasking crooked cops. The deeper he investigates, the more Avery becomes convinced that he's been looking for heroes and villains in a city that breeds only survivors--and where protecting and serving are too often reduced to doing evil so that good may result. This scalding exposé of human failures, in which friendships go tragically sour, powerfully updates Raymond Chandler's mean streets. Queally is definitely a writer to watch.” (Publishers Weekly) 

For fans of Michael Connelly’s Jack McEvoy series (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook).

* * = 2 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #744

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 1:50pm by muffy

margot_affair

The Margot Affair (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by Paris-born Sanae Lemoine (MFA, Columbia) which the New York Times reviewer called “a gorgeous debut novel."  It brings to mind Ian McEwan’s Atonement, in which one impulsive decision of a 17 year-old shatters the lives of those around her in ways she could never have imagined. The plot is also foreshadowed by references to Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse, a bittersweet tale of another 17 year-old whose meddling in her father's love life leads to tragic consequences.

17 year-old Margot Louve is the secret child of Bertrand Lapierre, the French Minister of Culture and stage actress Anouck. While loving and kind, Bertrand is married and has another family with a woman from a prominent family, leaving Margot to be raised by a self-absorbed, uninvolved Anouck in a small apartment on the Left Bank. 

At one of Anouck’s opening night receptions, Margot meets well-regarded journalist David Perrin. Tired of subterfuge and lack of recognition, Margot leaks her parents' affair, hoping to force her father’s public acknowledgement. The fallout couldn’t have been more devastating. 

“As Margot struggles with the consequences of her decision, she turns to David and his wife, Brigitte, and forms a secret life of her own....The eclectic cast and rich Parisian backdrop deepen this dramatic exploration of family and the trials of early adulthood. Francophiles and anyone who appreciates an emotionally rewarding story will enjoy Lemoine's lush, well-crafted tale.” (Publishers Weekly) 

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #743, More LGBTQ Debuts

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 1:22pm by muffy

exciting_times

Another one of Harper's Bazaar’s 14 LGBTQ+ Books to Look For This Year and already optioned for TV series, Exciting Times : A Novel * by Naoise Dolan (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is “(d)roll, shrewd and unafraid - a winning debut.” ~ Hilary Mantel

Trinity College (Dublin) grad Ava moves to Hong Kong, teaching English to wealthy kids. To avoid petulant roommates in a cramped apartment, she moves in with Julian, a British banker. When Julian’s job takes him back to London temporarily, Ava stays, and finds herself increasing taken with Edith, a cambridge-educated unambiguilous-gay Hong Kong lawyer, from a conservative Chinese family. While they are able to keep their affair secret, Julian’s return will likely force Ava to make a decision. 

“Already drawing comparisons to Sally Rooney’s work, Exciting Times,”...has many of the familiar tropes of the “millennial novel” covered: Jealousy and obsession, love and late capitalism, sex and the internet all come whirling together in a wry and bracing tale of class and privilege.” (New York Times Book Review)

 

broken_peopleTime West Coast editor Sam Lansky follows his addiction memoir The Gilded Razor with a riveting novel, Broken People: A Novel (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook

Narrator (also named) Sam, a recent LA transplant, leaves behind a life littered with failed relationships and failed dreams. But the challenges of sobriety and the bone-deep hurt of failed relationships have left him broken. At a dinner party, he learns of a shaman in Portland, Ore. that "could fix everything wrong with you in three days". After some contrary resistance, and with the blessing of his AA sponsor, Sam agreed to try it. 

“Set within the vividly realized framework of addiction recovery and gay life in America, this remains the story of one man's deep personal struggles while at the same time speaking to and for all the broken people in this world.”  Readers might also want to check out Entertainment Weekly’s interview with Sam Lansky.

 

 

Forthcoming titles to watch:

boys_of_alabama

Boys of Alabama : A Novel, (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) a haunting debut from Lambda Award finalist Genevieve Hudson ,is a bewitching tale of young love.

16-year-old Max, a German immigrant thrives in his new home in America - he makes the football team, goes to church for the first time, and even makes friends. When Max meets Pan in Chemistry class, they embark on a quixotic, strange, and consuming relationship, and share secrets.

Max tells Pan about his witchy powers, Pan tells Max about the snake poison initiations of a local church. But the boys aren't sure whose secrets are darker, or what is more frightening - their true selves, or staying true in an intolerant Alabama.

 

 

 

this_town_sleeps

This Town Sleeps : A Novel (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by Dennis E. Staples.

On an Ojibwe reservation called Languille Lake (Northern MN), two men enter into a secret romance. Marion Lafournier, a midtwenties gay Ojibwe man, begins a relationship with his former classmate Shannon, a heavily closeted white man.

Then Marion unknowingly brings to life the spirit of a dog from the elementary school playground that leads him to the grave of Kayden Kelliher, a young Ojibwe basketball star who was murdered. While investigating the fallen hero's death, Marion discovers family connections and an old Ojibwe legend that may be the secret to unraveling the mystery he has found himself in. 

 

 

 

 

boyfriend_material

Boyfriend Material, (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), first Rom-Com by Alexis Hall, is sure to please fans of Red, White & Royal Blue

With his rock star Dad making a comeback, Luc O'Donnell fears he is back in the public eye. To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship, and Oliver Blackwood is definitely the perfect boyfriend material - a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he's never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. Unfortunately apart from being gay & single, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common, so they strike a deal!!  But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating.

* = Starred review