To put this memoir to paper was brave; to have that then bound, sold and read by the general public is downright heroic. The Other Side will break your heart and shatter your spirit. It will also be the most inspirational book you read this year. Maybe ever. Ms. Johnson recreates the broken bits of her mind and body before our eyes, at once questioning memory and choices made but ultimately owning her situation. Poetic and gut wrenching, devastating and beautiful, The Other Side is one of those rare books that will change you.
Great first lines will always hold a special spot in my book shaped heart, but Howard Norman really upped the ante with the first paragraph in his emotionally trancendent novel The Bird Artist. Having read it over 15 years ago, I can still recall scenes and tone as vividly as if it were yesterday. A quiet, sensational work of art.
One of the best, and creepiest, true crime accounts in recent memory. Not just another headline grabbing piece, but an in-depth look at culture class and it's effect on the eerie disappearance of a young british woman from a notorious bar in the Roppongi district of Japan, where she was employed as a hostess. It's also a fascinating look at the Japanese legal system that struggled in solving the case, due in large part to the severity of the crime.
The whole "judging a book by it's cover" thing doesn't jive here. Yes, suicide is in the title, but it's translated from the french so it's WHIMSICALLY dark. It's the near future, and the Tuvache family have been offering safe and affordable ways to enter into the next life for those who've lost the will to live. Business is robust until the the youngest of the Tuvache clan, Alan, takes an interest in the family legacy. Any father would be happy and proud, except young Alan has an infectious zest for life and that may be bad for business. This is a dark comedy gem. Oh, the french!
If you, or the teen you're shopping for, is looking for a novel that matches the emotional power that Fault In Our Stars brought to the table, then call off the dogs. This structurally brilliant novel of loss, betrayal, art and love is a sure cure for that John Green hangover you've been nursing. One of my top 10 books of 2014 in any category, hands down. UPDATE: Warner Brothers now own the movie rights and have some solid folks working on a script!
Okay, so Gone Girl is a publishing and motion picture phenomenon, more than worthy of a read and repeated viewings. For my money, though, you have to go back to Gillian Flynn's first novel, Sharp Objects, in order to get to the meat of her malevolent genius. Flynn has a real talent for rendering the flawed female anti-hero on the page, all the while setting a slow boil of hearty, tense stew that will have the reader coming back for more, chapter after chapter. I'll tell you this much, you won't look at a dollhouse the same way ever again.
Time travel, the sacrifice (repeatedly) of a young girl by her classmates to appease a mysterious beast in a tunnel to avoid the apocalypse and an ominous horde of butterflies are just a few of the terrifying reasons to pick up this deeply disturbing horror manga. Two word description? David Lynch-ian. Yes, I just made that up. That's how good this is. Beautifully rendered black and white illustrations really pop off the page, especially when left free of dialogue.
As well as penning some memorable Twilight Zone episodes during the 1960's, Richard Matheson also found time to write one of the most influential vampire stories ever written, in novella form called I Am Legend. If you've seen the blockbuster Will Smith adaptation, get your brain scrubbed, then sit down and prepare to be amazed. A few good short stories round out the collection, including the Trilogy of Terror.
-You should not have touched this book with your hands.
-No, don't put it down. It's too late.
-They're watching you.
So goes the warning for this alternately hilarious and frightening novel about two slackers who've been unfairly (in their humble opinion) tapped to save the planet from ya' know, the invasion. The outcome may depend on whether or not their favorite burrito joint is open. Think H.P. Lovecraft meets an informed Beavis and Butthead.
written through the left hand of Dashiell Hammet.
With Bone Clocks, David Mitchell's inventiveness and imagination is nothing short of genius. Dark fantasy, boldly original prose and finely drawn characters combine to keep the reader riveted from Holly Sykes' initial angst-ridden teen thought to the very last, hopeful sentence. Mitchell proves once again that he is a writer of no equal when it comes to the invention of language, place and time, taking the reader to the edge of the real and imagined as if personally guiding you by the hand. Whether you're a Mitchell superfan or were on the fence with regards to Cloud Atlas, Bone Clocks will not disappoint.
When confronted with the "What is your favorite book of all time?" query, most people will often pause, looking over the inquisitors head while thoughtfully scratching his or her chin. I, on the other hand, will not hesitate when I tell you this. Geek Love is my favorite book. Of all time. Period. This oddball masterpiece (a National Book Award Finalist in 1989) shaped me as a reader and more importantly as a bookseller 20+ years ago. It's one of those reading experiences that make you feel like you're in on some life-changing secret. A novel that will chill you, move you and make you laugh, often at the same time. Help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the publication of Geek Love, quite possibly the best novel you've never read.
After reading The Silence of the Lambs prequel Red Dragon for a second time (if you haven't read it, grab a copy and beat a path to the register), I mourned the idea of having read the only book of its kind. Until Mo Hayder came along. Hayder, as well as Thomas Harris, combine elements of the procedural and thriller, with a little dose of psychological horror to make things interesting. Birdman is the first in the Jack Caffery series, which gets better as the series progresses. Certainly not for the faint of heart.
Have you and your 9-12 year old read through the fantastic three book Timmy Failure series? If you have, read on. If you haven't, on the other hand, make your way over to Stephan Pastis on our book shelf and get set to laugh yourself silly. So you've laughed yourself silly and want more, correct? The Tapper Twins Go To War will certainly fill that gap. When Reese Tapper unforgivably embarasses twin Claudia at school, all bets are off. What follows is Claudia's hi-larious "true historical record" behind the conflict, complete with photos, texts, screen shots and interviews with those involved. There's even a clever nod to Minecraft and it's legions of young followers. Perfect for those looking to step up from Wimpy Kid and the like.
When supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart unwillingly takes on Nimona as his young sidekick, he gets way more than he bargained for. You see, Nimona is a shapeshifter with secrets who likes to destroy things and The Institute of Law Enforcement and Heroics is taking notice. Ballister Blackheart's former bestie and the Institute's go-to hero, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, has been ordered to eliminate our young anti-heroine with little success. Meanwhile, The Institute has some secrets of it's own that may come to light the longer Nimona stays alive. What follows is a funny, endearing and sometimes vengeful tale where the line between hero and villain isn't always as clear as it may seem.
Please go buy this book. Buy it for your library, your classroom, your kids, your friends' kids, your neighbors, yourself. Maybe, just to be safe, buy like 10 copies, so you have plenty to give out as gifts. This book would make a great graduation present, birthday present for kids of all ages and a great gift for your adult friends as well. Rad American Women A-Z chronicles 26 American women who made an impact. Short biographies detail their major contributions while giving just enough background information to understand the women and their work in some context. The conversational tone makes the bios accessible for readers of all ages. This is a fantastic introduction to a wide range of important women. You NEED this book!
December is fast approaching and you know what that means! That's right, Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi will appear from a movie studio far, far away on screens all over the multi-verse. This is not news to most of you, I know, but this fantastic three book series, referred to as the Thrawn Trilogy, may well be. Book 1, Heir to the Empire, takes place 5 years after Return of the Jedi (roughly 25 years before Force Awakens) and finds Han and Leia having tied the knot and expecting twins while Luke is finding his way as a Jedi Knight. Of course along the way an evil presence in the form of Admiral Thrawn is searching for a Dark Jedi to help restore the Evil Empire. Published way back in 1991, this series brought new life to the Star Wars franchise while staying true to the source material. Enjoy them, you will.
I'm a suspicious reader when it comes to historical fiction, so what Paula McLain does with Circling the Sun, her new novel on the fascinating life of Beryl Markham, made for a compelling and convincing read. As I made my way through it, I could not help but layer Circling over West with the Night, Markham's brave, bold autobiography. Both really do complement each other, illuminating the inspiring and extraordinary life of a remarkable woman. McLain chooses to focus on Markham's early upbringing as a colonial child on the plains of Africa, moving through early adulthood and her successful stint as a gifted horse trainer, which was unprecedented at the time. Where McLain shines, though, is when writing about Markham's personal life which was tempestuous and challenging, to say the least. Circling is one of my favorites this year and should be read along with West with the Night in order to get the full Beryl Markham experience.
In this highly inventive, humorous and clever take on the political and personal life of one Richard Milhous Nixon, Crooked paints our 37th Commander in Chief as a reluctant hero, not a presidential joke. What if, in sacrificing his political aspirations and reputation, Tricky Dick saved the world from Henry Kissinger led paranormal forces? Could it be that Nixon, the last of the sorcerer presidents, attempted to retain his sanity and save the world while fighting dark forces alongside KGB?
One of the best series that I've read for the YA age group, or any age group for that matter, in a very long time. Moving at breakneck speed from page one, this planned trilogy is a raucous (with a touch of dry humor) adventure that will keep even the most ardent non-reader glued to every word. As the first novel opens in 1934, young Vango is about to enter the priesthood on a cobbled street in Paris, but the ceremony is soon interrupted by local authorities. Vango is being sought, but for what? So begins a quest to learn about his cloudy past and murdered parents, which takes him hurtling across Europe as he encounters pirates, arms dealers, Soviet assassins, Stalin (yes, Josef Stalin!), Nazi agents and a whole host of other intriguing characters. Plus, the covers are gorgeous. Translated from the French. Ooh la la!
VOTED THE BEST BOOK OF 2015 BY THE STAFF OF THE BOOK TABLE! You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is the most fun you'll ever have reading about the alienation of contemporary culture. Set in a much weirder version of our world of aggressive marketing, chemically created food, talk show freak shows, and reality TV, you'll go back and forth between thinking, "this is so weird!" and thinking, "but is it really any weirder than the way we live now?" Simultaneously creepy, hilarious, and mindblowingly brilliant, this book is the weirdest, wildest, best thing you'll read this year.
The perfect Halloween coffee table book if there ever was one. Other than a short foreword by David Lynch, this book is filled with nothing but haunting old black and white images of Halloween costumes past, when the holiday had some meaning. The photo album layout and absence of text gives the book an extra layer of unease and creepiness, as if one of the costumed kids from the collection is peering over your shoulder....
I've devoured my fair share of horror fare over the years and am amazed at how Song of Kali still haunts me. The crux of the story revolves around a journalist, Richard Luzcak, who travels with his family to Calcutta to track down revered indian poet M. Das and a manuscript Das had allegedly composed before his disappearance. Luzcak's obsession with Das comes at a terrible price and the conclusion will leave you speechless. You will have no speech! Simmons is very precise and spare here, which helps amp up the terror in a slow, calculating fashion. Calcutta in the 1970's with its unrelenting heat and overcrowded, filthy envirionment feels like a shady character lurking in the shadows. Honestly, this falls in my top 5 as far as horror novels go.
Bats of the Republic is a book connoisseur's dream. It is a propulsive novel-often a novel within a novel-that shatters the restraints of genre with briliance matched only by its complexity and originality. Dodson weaves a story from a past filled with hope and regret with a future rife with promise and dire consequences to keep the reader engaged throughout. Complete with maps and ephemera that make this a singular reading experience. Bats of the Republic is gorgeous, unputdownable, and above all in this day and age, necessary.
Sure, Girl on the Train was our bestselling thriller of 2015. I read and enjoyed it, as many of our loyal readers did. But anytime someone picked up or asked about it I was sure to give them a choice; read a crackerjack page-turner, the aforementioned Girl on the Train, or The Descent, a lyrically profound edge of your seat psychological stunner. 99.9% of those that chose the latter came back extremely happy. Now in paperback, this riveting novel will resonate with you long after its thrilling conclusion.
Full disclosure before you purchase this collection of short stories, which you most certainly should. And will. I am a HUGE Kelly Link fan. I'd read a rough draft of her shopping list and marvel at her use of "kale" after a crossed out "laundry detergent". But these are much more than the ramblings of a superfan. No sir. Ms. Link is the real deal, blurring the lines between the real and fantastic like a word wielding magician, creating multi-verses in which the likes of pop band fave Oh Hell, Kitty! and superhero Thomas Mann Man roam freely. Better than the best dream you've (n)ever had, Get in Trouble is a collection worthy of the heady praise that has preceded it.
Grant manages to pull a fast one on his readers with positively positive results. His previous novel, Run, was a techno-thriller of sorts that I devoured in just about two sittings. In False Positive, he manages to go in an entirely different direction with the same page-turning results. After the eye opening, gasp inducing final twist, you'll be chompin' at the bit for the next Cooper Devereaux novel.
When it comes to good vs. evil, post-apocalyptic, 1,000+ page epic masterpieces most folks will generally think The Stand by a guy named King. Don't feel bad if you're one of those people. It's a common mistake. What you really meant to read is Swan Song by Robert McCammon.
Beautifully, and painfully, captures middle school anxiety and the navigating of friendships at that age, especially when grief becomes a part of it. My favorite novel of 2015 for the 8-12 year range. You'll also learn a lot about jellyfish and Diana Nyad as well!
For the teen reader who's tired of dystopian love triangles and vampire/werewolf romances. Set in the near future, MARTians finds young Zoe Zindleman having to take a job at the local ALLMART after her high school unexpectedly closes in the "interest of efficiency", where branding and brainwashing become the fashionable norm. A thought provoking and smart novel about the ever changing age of consumerism with subtle references to Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, which Zoe passes the time reading throughout the length of this surprisingly entertaining novel.
The legend of the O.K. Corral has long been a fascination for me, and I am a huge Mary Doria Russell fan. So when I had a chance at an early read of Epitaph, you can be sure that I snatched that opportunity up pretty quickly. Russell is a master storyteller, and what she does with what basically comes down to a 30 second confrontation between 9 men on a dusty street in Tombstone AZ will make a fan of you as well. Think of Epitaph as a commentary to the hugely entertaining movie Tombstone.
The search is over for those of you suffering from P.H.P.S*. Contemporary fantasy (it takes place in Chicago!) that's got plenty to keep you entertained, including folklore, magical archives and artifacts that do cool stuff. The author of this series, Ted Sanders, really loved Harry Potter but didn't understand why J.K. Rowling didn't explain the science behind the magic. He does so here in a fashion that makes learning fun! Keepers is the first in a planned multi-book series.*Post Harry Potter Syndrome
If you love finding new voices in the sci-fi/fantasy arena as much as I do, you won't mind reading the first page of this wildly imaginative first novel. You might not be able to stop. Fans of American Gods will feel right at home here (personally I think Scott Hawkins out-Gaimans Neil Gaiman) with the contemporary gods-among-us theme and a cliffhanger ending that just screams sequel. Full of world altering magic, love, revenge and ass kicking librarians that hold the fate of the world in their hands.
I love a good, fast paced apocalyptic summer read that isn't zombie related. Throw in an ancient species of long dormant man-eating spiders and you've got me hooked. A fair mix of science and horror that'll keep readers frantically turning pages while simultaneously losing sleep, The Hatching will scratch that Michael Crichton itch you've been having.
If you loved The Wire, only the best show ever written for television, you'll want to pick up these early crime fiction gems by George Pelecanos. Brought on to pen a single episode of The Wire, Pelecanos wound up staying on as a full-time writer over the ensuing 5 season run. Firing Offense, featuring Derek Strange and Terry Quinn or Right as Rain with Nick Stefanos as the protagonist are good places to start, but the opening line from Down by the River, Where the Dead Men Go puts me in the mind of good ol' Jimmy McNulty.
When attempting to handsell this book I get so into it that I can't help but vomit words that make no cohesive sense, so rather than make a wordy mess all over the floor, I'm going to ask that you trust me as a bookseller and follow at least two out of three steps below:
1. Read the short two page prologue. It'll make you cry.
2. Turn to page 31 and read to page 40, at the very least (you may feel the urge to finish the chapter, which is natural). It'll make you cry. From laughing so damn hard.
3. To reiterate, trust me. I am a professional. I will probably read 20 more new titles in 2016. I can confidently say that The Nix is my favorite this year.
This dazzling debut novel is about Chicago, political upheaval, Norwegian mythology, online gaming and family. But at its core it's about a mother and son, and how we hurt the things we love most.
Above all that, this book is pretty frickin' funny. Nathan Hill, as talented a writer as he is, barely flexes his formidable literary muscles here. Like a 70's era Muhammad Ali, Hill is rope-a-doping readers, promising a knockout of a writing career to come.
An excellent fantasy trilogy for those that have had their fill of GoT and are tired of waiting for Patrick Rothfuss to finish The Kingkiller Chronicles. Even if what I've just said sounds like Dungeons and Dragons gobbledygook, this series is for you. Erika Johansen shows she can hang with the best of them in her debut, blending fantasy and contemporary themes almost without effort, especially when she explores the idea of alternate timelines in the second book. I for one am excited to read the final installment, Fate of the Tearling, due out November 29th 2016. And for all you nerds out there, Hermione (aka Emma Watson) is producing and starring in the film version.
When I first read Jennifer Government way back in 2003, globalization and privatization were the stuff of C-SPAN and Business Week, ideas I knew were tangentially connected to my future self. Looking back I should have been paying better attention, because Max Barry was certainly onto something. His depressingly satiric (and timely!) look at what the "future" held for us should most certainly be considered a dystopian classic. If Noam Chomsky and George Saunders had a book baby, her name would lovingly be Jennifer Government.
Way back in 1997 a friend had me listen to the title track on Sleater-Kinney's third studio album (and the first with Janet Weiss on the skins), Dig Me Out. Those initial riffs opened my musical third eye and made me a disciple for life. Now I can go on about how important S-K is to rock and roll, how they are that rare band that evolves with each album or how Weiss is the fiercest drummer you will ever see or hear. True, all of those things, but there's gotta be a beginning. Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl chronicles the origin story of S-K with Carrie Brownstein narrating, starting with her first live concert (Madonna, with young upstarts The Beastie Boys opening) and closing out with the the release of their 8th collaboration, No Cities To Love. In between is one of the most eloquent and readable memoirs, rock or otherwise, that you'll ever find yourself getting caught up in. Brownstein shows a side of herself and Sleater-Kinney not captured in the numerous articles and interviews previous to Hunger, and this fan is forever grateful to be given the opportunity to read first hand the evolution of one of the greatest rock and roll groups of all time.
The unreliable narrator is my favorite plot device that in the wrong hands can become overly obvious and strained, stretching the limits of belief and patience. Not so in Pamela Erens haunting second novel, The Virgins. Readers may think John Irving as they feverishly turn pages, and as much as those comparisons are legit and complimentary, Erens brings her own unmistakable style to the traditional 1970's elite east coast boarding school novel. Skillfully crafted and often brutal, The Virgins is one of those novels I'll be recommending five, ten, fifteen years from now.
In Still Life with Tornado A.S. King captures the human condition we refer to as "being a teenager" with so little effort I found myself utterly floored. Exploring the way that memory affects grief and vice versa was second in genius only to how King manifests said memory/grief in the mind of 16 year old Sarah. King weaves family history, art and what our past, present and the future can tell us about ourselves into a perfect storm of a book.
Set in an Arab ghetto with a little French Quarter feel, this is one of those timeless sci-fi/noir novels that would have made Raymond Chandler blush. Mostly with pride. Cyberpunk at its grittiest, full of body and brain mods, shady characters and double crosses. First book in a trilogy (honestly, it can be read as a stand-alone), When Gravity Fails deserves a spot right next to any William Gibson I'm hoping you have on your bookshelf.
One of my all-time favorite sci-fi novels that, truth be told, I fake read for a long while. Boy, what a mistake. Published in 1974, Forever War was immediately recognized as an anti-war classic. Haldeman cleverly utilizes time travel and it's usage during an interstellar conflict and its after-effects (mirroring how U.S. troops were treated upon their return to the states) as metaphor for the Vietnam war with a deft hand. Honestly, this could apply to our military involvement on foreign soil any time over the last 60 years and how we treat our veterans post-war.
Yay! A.M. Homes finally received her due in 2013, winning the Woman's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) for May We Be Forgiven. She beat out some talented young women you may have heard of, including Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith and Chicago's own Gillian Flynn. May We Be Forgiven is one of my favorite novels of the last decade, but in order to truly appreciate the genius of Ms. Homes you must pick up The End of Alice (1996), a stunning and visceral ticking time bomb of a novel. This portion of a quote from Homes sums up why I will continue to read anything she publishes until the day I die:
"the gap between who people are publicly and privately...What I'm doing, which makes people uncomfortable, is saying the things we don't want to say out loud."
A superhero/zombie mashup that actually comes through with the goods. Although it borrows liberally from both the DC and Marvel universe, you get so caught up in backstories and cinematic pacing that it becomes less of a liability and more of a blessing. Tons of fun and a great series to pick up!
I am here to tell you that the edge of your seat bank heist thriller is still alive, and it sits between the pages of Ghostman by Mr. Roger Hobbs. The title refers to one that comes in and cleans up messes when major, supposedly well planned heists go wrong. He fixes, than becomes a ghost. But what happens when the Ghostman's past interferes with said cleanup? Hobbs' attention to detail is astounding, from the "wheelman" identifying the make of a tire from a phone photo and a quick internet search to what happens to bundles of stolen cash when it's been gone for 48 hours. An un-put-downable debut.
Always trust your bartender. Sage advice from my grandmother that I hope to pass along to my grandchild some day and reinforced after buzzing through this engaging and informative memoir, much of which is still relevant some 15 years after its publication. Cecchini writes with such eloquence and passion concerning the craft of tending bar that you may end up with a cocktail in front of you, across from your favorite bartender without knowing exactly how you got there.
I can't think of a collection of stories that better emphasizes the giddy highs and intolerable lows of falling in love. Each one finds Viskovitz on the trail of his one and only true love, Ljuba, whose elusiveness propels him from tale to tale. It's a little like the movie Groundhog Day, as Visko is reincarnated as a snail, shark, praying mantis and dung beetle, among other beings. Each entry is often sweet, a little informative and above all hi-larious. As an added bonus, Roz Chast illustrates!
Family secrets pile on one another like Russian nesting dolls in the Canary family, secrets that serve to ultimately protect them from one another. At the center of it all is little Joan, who doesn't grow or speak, lives in the closet and plays piano like Mozart. Through the lost art of listening and the power of music Joan will attempt to bring some happiness back to the Canary clan. Strange, wonderful and darkly hilarious, Mister Sandman is solid proof that "literary" fiction can be flat out fun as well as brilliantly crafted.
In Swimming Lessons Claire Fuller explores the all too familiar pull of duty, expectation and guilt between a family in turmoil with an unsentimental eye, recalling some of the best work of the late, great and under-read Richard Yates. This is a bibliophile's dream, for reasons I will not divulge for fear of giving away a key element of the story. Trust me, it'll make your book shaped heart glow. Our Endless Numbered Days, Fuller's debut, was nothing short of brilliant and I can honestly say that you will see no sophomore slump with this gem of a novel.
After his mother tragically passes away, 16-year old Joey Crouch didn't
think life could get any worse. Until he has to move to a small town in Iowa and live
with a father he never knew. Things start to get interesting after he finds that father
has been practicing the age-old art of grave robbing and wants young Joey to
keep the family practice alive. What follows is the most interesting and morbid
coming of age novel you'll ever read.
If you're like me and have had fantasies that involve Buffy all growed up,
listening to punk rock, giving in to her dark side and meting out vamp justice on a global level then you happen to be in the right place. These recent
re-issues (yay!) of the first two installments of The Sonja Blue trilogy have
made me a very happy bookseller.
Young Loo Hawley is trying desperately to find her true self as she enters young-adulthood. It's tough going, having never known her mother and trailing her father Samuel from city to city, outrunning ghosts from another lifetime. A lifetime mapped out in a constellation of bad decisions, evidenced by 12 bullet hole scars Samuel has collected over the years whose origins appear cleverly as vignettes interwoven between chapters. Making peace with his past will allow Loo to leave those ghosts behind, but lingering questions about the death of her mother keep Loo digging for answers. Equal parts coming of age, pulse-pounding thriller and family saga. A potpourri of page turning goodness.
As an aspiring writer in the 1930's, Eric Ambler was literally at the forefront of the spy novel genre before it even had a chance to get recognized as such. Where the greats like LeCarre, Greene, Deighton
and Kerr wrote amazing novels based on dogged research, Ambler just had to
look at what was happening around him and transcribe. Coffin for Dimitrios swiftly sets the bar and is a
great place to jump off into his dozen or so other titles.
Don't judge this book on it's oddly squarish dimensions. Sure, it looks like a
cute little ditty, maybe about a wonderful horse dream. Pick it up, though, and take a
closer look. Something askew in the horse's eye, right? And do you feel that? The
texture of the cover is a little off. Now read the first page. Goosebumps. The
urge to sit down right here, keep reading and find out what that creepy,
niggling feeling is at the base of your neck. Welcome to the most unnerving
reading experience you may ever have.
You won't find a more clever sci-fi/thriller mash-up out there, full of paranoid
double dealings, secret government agencies and shady unreliable narrators
that'd make Fox Mulder lose sleep.
Twenty-five years in print and Simple Plan is still my go-to recommend,
whether I'm selling to a mystery/thriller connoisseur or a reader new to the
genre. No nefarious villain at work here, no mystery to be solved. Just a
story about ordinary folks who hatch a simple plan after finding 4 million
seemingly untraceable dollars. Murder, mayhem and bad decisions follow. Smith
greets every plot twist with a cool hand, amping up the thrill quotient while
making the reader an unwilling accomplice as things spiral out of control. Even
the impressive screenplay adapted for film by Smith and Sam Raimi can't
replicate the feel of this twisty tale of distrust and violence.
Sheldon Horowitz is not adapting well to his new life in Norway. Widowed,
retired and wrestling with ghosts from the Korean and Vietnam wars, Sheldon just
wants to live out his days with his only remaining offspring and her Norwegian
husband. But when the senseless murder of an immigrant woman in his daughter's
building forces him to take her surviving son and traverse across Norway to get
him out of harm's way, Sheldon must deal with the aforementioned ghosts if he and
his charge are to survive the night. A compelling, wholly unconventional and
dare I say sweet thriller.
The most amazing thing about Jac Jemc's chilling new novel is how effortlessly
her exquisite prose lends itself to the terrifying world she creates for
newlyweds Julie and James. No sleight of hand here. Where others tend to
rely on shocking the reader into a state of terror, Jemc (pronounced Gems) has
the ability to unnerve without breaking a sweat, seamless as a dream. Or a harrowing
So you love listening to classic hip-hop and enjoy reading finely illustrated
panels from left to right/top to bottom and were wondering how to satisfy both
those cravings at the same time? Call off the dogs and check out these
awesomely over-sized graphic novels that chronicle one of the most important
periods in music and social history.
It's 1969 and Scotty Ocean has vowed that year seven is going to be his year,
but when his mother decides to leave the family and never return Scotty tries
desperately to replace her. When that doesn't work, he hatches a dramatic plan
to stay seven forever and what transpires is a tender reminder of how big the world
becomes when real life sets in sooner than expected.
Izzy doesn't feel very special. Eleven years old and youngest of six in a
small french town, he just does not measure up to his siblings, two of which
are on track for doctorates by the age of twenty-four. But when tragedy strikes, Izzy
manages to keep the family together with his wit and tenderhearted ways.
Those of you who enjoy the works of Wes Anderson, The Royal Tenenbaums in
particular, will relish this gem of a novel. After publishing two novels
in French, Camille Bordas has made quite a splash with her first book in
If magical realism is your game, Mikhail Bulgakov's Faustian tale of the Devil arriving in Moscow circa 1930 and wreaking hilarious havoc is for you. Suppressed by the Stalin regime for a spell, this complete, uncensored translation presented by Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor is by far the best English edition available. Unfortunately, Bulgakov passed away before his masterpiece was published. Fast forward to the late 1960's as Mick Jagger receives a copy of Master and Margarita from then-girlfriend Marianne Faithfull. Inspired, Jagger proceeds to pen a little ditty called "Sympathy for the Devil".
Jonathan Eig has done the impossible here by penning a bio as enigmatic, colorful and engaging as the man formerly known as Cassius Clay. Eig's considerable talents as a sportswriter really shine through, making this a must read for fans of Ali and his many incarnations, from pugilist to protester, actor and activist and everything wonderful and controversial in between.
A ground-breaking history of the Gulf, illuminating the complex forces ravaging our environment. The Gulf emerges as a power in itself, in Jack E. Davis's enthralling narrative, animated by deft, vivid portraits of men and women who saw in the Gulf a source of sustenance, inspiration, and, not least, wealth. Fishermen, artists, writers, indigenous and migrant communities, adventurers and greedy businessmen leap from the page as Davis chronicles the fierce, wild, and fragile ecology of the American sea. A timeless cautionary tale, as rich and capacious as the region itself.
Like all the best heartbreaks, Maryse Meijer's audacious collection of short stories will leave you devastated, a little forlorn, and against all your friends wishes, wanting more. After finishing each story, I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity in understanding how the sweaty, bruised participants of David Fincher's Fight Club felt after each bout; invigorated, bloodied and sated. Then itching for more.
Family memoir and culinary history inform this rich, fresh and illuminating narrative, remarkable for its depth of research and delectable prose. A captivating story-teller, Michael W. Twitty offers an unsparing chronicle of African-American history, from slave ship to the auction block, tobacco field to the gardens, stew pots and recipes that nurtured bodies and spirits. With passion and uncommon warmth, Twitty reveals the centrality of food to culture, community and identity.
Patricia Lockwood's shrewd, poetic and spirited narrative is both a captivating memoir of her idiosyncratic family and a meditation on faith, love community and, in the most intimate sense, salvation. Remarkable for its lyrical, radiant prose, Priestdaddy deepens and transcends the genre of memoir.
Edward Dolnick gives us a witty and enthralling narrative about the centuries-long quest to understand conception and the intellectual and religious convictions that kept brilliant scientists from believing their own eyes. This spirited tale of dogged, frustrating research foregrounds the cultural forces that shape scientists' perceptions and assumptions. Clear-eyed and authoritative, Dolnick presents science history at its liveliest.
A tender, disquieting and revelatory narrative about the plight of undocumented children from Central America, caught in the labyrinth of the U.S. immigration system. Valeria Luiselli, who volunteered to translate for the young asylum seekers, exposes the racism underlying immigration policy, and she makes extraordinarily palpable the vulnerable victims of our nation's cynicism and fear.
Alex Blum, a bright young man from a good family, always wanted to be a U.S. Army Ranger, and after successfully completing a rigorous program he was well on his way. Hours before his final leave, however, Alex did the unthinkable. He, two fellow soldiers and a couple of strangers committed armed robbery at a local bank in Tacoma. After they were apprehended Alex claimed that he was under the impression that it was a final, staged army exercise before being deployed to Iraq. Cousin Ben Blum decided to write a book about the incident in an attempt to help exonerate Alex. What he did was unlock a family mystery whose drama and twists rival the best that any Netflix original television show has to offer.
A wonderful novel about friendships and all the complications that come with the ones we hold closest. It's about music and family, and how despite what we may think we know about our loved ones there's always an air of mystery that surrounds them. And that is ok. And exciting. The bold portion of this line from Sun in Your Eyes sums up how I felt while reading this fantastic, magical book: "It startled me how at home she felt on those roads, like being in a dream, a place your mind conjured so you know the landscape and what comes next."
Set in Buenos Aires during the 1966 Argentine Revolution, Who Is Vera Kelly? follows an intrepid young CIA operative put in charge of infiltrating a group of Marxist college students, armed with only a recording device and her instinctive wits about her. Rosalie Knecht paints a tense Buenos Aires vividly, while presenting Vera's origin story in vignettes throughout the novel, from teenage rebellion in Maryland to sexual self discovery in underground Brooklyn jazz clubs as a closeted lesbian. The end result is a cold war novel worthy of a spot next to Le Carre, Furst and Ambler on any bookshelf and will have you wondering what's next for Vera Kelly.
Romance-y cover notwithstanding, Rose is one of the best stand-alone mysteries you will ever lay your discerning eyes upon. Best known for the Arkady Renko series which began with Gorky Park, Cruz Smith really outdid himself with this highly ambitious historical thriller.
If you’ve ever doubted the synchronicity of life and how one moment or action can define the next in the most wonderful and unexpected ways, A Key to Treehouse Living will set you right. The structure of the novel, told in glossary form, is refreshing and illuminating and necessary in these troubled times, one that you’ll find yourself coming back to if only to feel grounded and human again.
Bitter Orange is a lovely slow burn, each fevered turn of the page making the reader implicit in the drama being played out in a decaying English country mansion the summer of 1969. Francis Jellico has been summoned to Lynton to research the architecture and gardens, but when she meets her downstairs neighbors Cara and Peter, a friendship blossoms that is not all that it seems on the surface. Tension mounts as the history of both parties unravel, culminating in an ending that will blindside even the most discerning reader. Claire Fuller is that rare writer that seems to reinvent herself with each novel, yet maintaining a clever style all her own.
It all started with a brutal, senseless murder of a young woman in an alley off of Pleasant Street here in Oak Park. That's when Michelle McNamara, a teen herself and whose family lived blocks from the crime, found her calling. She would go on to champion victims that could no longer speak for themselves, specifically those of the East Area Rapist, who during the 1970's and 80's terrorized Northern and Southern California, raping over
50 women and committing at least 10 murders. What you are looking at is her life's work and passion which she did not live to see published, having passed suddenly at the age of 46. I've read a fair amount of true crime, but none have been as compassionate to the families left behind and the law enforcement officials that put in tireless hours and lost portions of their lives in the pursuit of the man Michelle McNamara dubbed Golden State Killer.
Not since Ember in the Ashes have I been this excited about a new YA fantasy series. Shoot, you adults out there would be remiss in not picking this epic debut up. Imagine everything that keeps you turning pages in a fantasy novel and amp that up tenfold. It'll have you shaking your fist ruefully and gasping over betrayal while simultaneously marvelling at elements of magic that seem to pop off of the page. As an aside, the book design makes me feel as if I'm holding an ancient, secret and very important text. Just gorgeous.
Fans of spy fiction from any era will appreciate this post-cold war thriller
whose origins evolve from the murky U.S.-Cuban spy wars with a fresh
perspective, that of veteran Cuban operative Carlos Manuel. Arnoldo Correa
should be considered among the likes of LeCarre, Kerr and Ambler as masters of
Grist Mill Road threw me in the deep end the first few pages, giving this
unsuspecting reader nary a minute to catch a breath. Yet Yates wasn't done by a
long shot, either. The surprises kept coming from multiple points of view,
giving each chapter a fresh and often unreliable perspective. Be
forewarned...sleep will become scarce for approximately 339 pages.
Bacigalupi's follow up to Windup Girl is sleeker and more accessible without
sacrificing story or style, written with the same urgency and eco-awareness as
it's predecessor. The one deviation, and it's a good one, gives a noir/thriller
edge to the story which takes place in the near future where water has become
more valuable than gold (timely, I know). Governments will do anything to attain
water rights, going so far to send Water Knives, basically water bounty hunters,
to secure them at any cost. As timely as it is terrifying.
When her identical twin sister dies falling from their bedroom window in the
middle of the night, Jess has a feeling that the accident isn't quite what it seems.
As she starts to piece together clues from the night in question, it becomes apparent
that Anna hid secrets from Jess that shed new light on their close sibling kinship. As
Jess delves deeper into what happened that fateful night, dark secrets rise to
the surface that will alter lives in the small town of Birdton, Montana.
Private investigator Bernard Gunther is trying to sort through the corruption,
greed and atrocity permeating the streets of Berlin in the wake of WWII, seeking
justice where he can but finding very little in this meticulously researched
historical fiction series. Berlin Noir includes the first three of the Bernie Gunther
It should be noted that author Philip Kerr recently passed away. The literary
world lost a giant on March 23, 2018.
While Devil in The White City is certainly an entertaining and worthwhile read, for my money the hugely underrated and under-read City of Scoundrels is a better representation of how the oft maligned history of Chicago is still affecting the city socially and economically to this day. A perfect storm of events that took place over a tense 12 day period in early 1919 culminated in the discovery of the body of a six-year-old girl that nearly brought this burgeoning city to it's knees. Gary Krist is the real deal, having also published a book on the history of New Orleans, Empire of Sin and a book on Los Angeles called The Mirage Factory that is due to come out May 15th, 2018.
Blending memory, love, and loss with nary a touch of sentimentality, Sarah Winman's new novel Tin Man is the perfect book to start your summer reading off right. You'll fall effortlessly into the lives of Ellis, Annie, and Michael, three friends brought together by chance and eventually separated by fate. Winman's prose is so delicate and spare you'll want to find someone with a beautiful voice to match and have them read it to you on a nice sunny day.
A chilling prologue, unreliable narrator and clever use of multiple red herrings all contribute to one of the most chilling and memorable novels I have ever read. Think Our Town inspired by Rod Serling.
In his auspicious debut, Son of King modernizes the ghost story in razor-sharp, punk rock fashion, having left this reader in a state of near frozen fear longer than was comfortable.
I could easily recommend this first in a trilogy based solely on the fact that it revolves around kick-butt Lady Pirates, but that would only be half the story. Feminist themes, pulse-pounding fight scenes, an evil warlord creating an army of drug dependent soldiers, future-not-future tech, sisterhood and diversity not for diversities sake are only a few of the reasons you should pick up this bookish breath of fresh air. Oh yeah, did I mention LADY PIRATES!!!
Ingeniously constructed story of the mysterious murder of an Oxford don in 1663 England, in which nothing is as it seems. Giving this brilliant, heady novel a big leg up on 90% of what’s out there is the recounting of said crime by four different witnesses, playing out as a clever game of Clue designed by Umberto Eco.
If you’re looking for reprieve from the current Girl/Woman on/in the Train/Window phase of crime fiction, take a gander at this riveting catch-the-serial-killer novel from way back in 2007. Heartsick introduces one of my favorite antagonists in recent memory, Gretchen Lowell, who’s as smart and cunning as rattlesnake and the nod to the Green River Killer will satisfy you true crime aficionados out there.
Scribe is one of those novels that is so rich with description and moving, lovely passages that you feel like you're reading a 600 page epic (it clocks in at a cool 157), and I mean that in a great way. After a civil war and ensuing sickness have ravaged the countryside, our nameless anti-heroine has carved a life for herself on the farm she grew up on and where she witnessed her sisters demise. She has earned a reputation as a woman of letters, a skill highly sought after, and when a mysterious stranger arrives at her doorstep with a curious request it sets a chain of events in motion that will bring her past bearing down on her. Hagy creates a world that is timeless, where bartering for the bare essentials becomes a way of life and a skill can determine how or if you survive to the next day. Scribe will haunt you every time you put it down and enchant you every time you pick it up.
This is one of those books that will ruin the fate of whatever's next on your to-be-read pile. The structure, well drawn characters, style and writing (oh the writing!) combine to make this a singular reading experience you'll want to hold onto long after the you've turned the last page. Telling the story through the eyes of multiple narrators creates a pastiche of voices that give it a fevered momentum, holding the reader like grim death throughout. Good luck attempting not to read this in one sitting.
Set in a utopian society where higher education is prized above all else,
Genesis takes an intriguing philosophical look at what makes us human, and
more importantly whether it makes us superior to other forms of intelligence.
Speculative sci-fi at its best, one Rod Serling would be proud of.
Ballingrud takes tired old horror tropes and re-imagines them to reflect the
monstrous that we encounter every day in this incredibly well-rounded nine story
collection. Although all are worthy of your time, Sunbleached is an absolute
"Before she became the Girl from Nowhere-the One Who Walked In, the First and
Last and Only, who lived a thousand years-she was just a little girl in Iowa named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte."
As far as first lines go you could do a lot worse, though you'd be hard pressed to do any better. What follows is 274 pages of government-experiment-gone-wrong-super-human-vampire(virals)-decimate-the-earth perfection. Though Cronin doesn't let up there, dear reader. Jumping 100 years in the future, he
fuses both narratives over the next 492 pages to open a trilogy of rich, sweeping,epic goodness.
Butcher's Crossing is such an incredible reading experience in a myriad of ways that I just do not know where to start. It's an 1870's western, as dirty and true as any, but also about identity, self
discovery and nature in all of its eloquent beauty. I'd love to discuss with anyone that has or will
read this John Williams classic.
If '70's post-Vietnam noir out west that reads like beautiful, angry poetry is your thing, look no further. This first in the C.W. Sughrue trilogy sets itself apart from your standard private investigator fare, with plenty of tongue in cheek humor and double crosses to have you hungering for the next in the series
halfway through. Go ahead, read the first paragraph and see if you don't find yourself beating a
path to the register.
As 2015 winds down, so does the life of Virginia, who at the age of 86 has decided to let a sign from her mysterious past give her reason to walk out into the treacherous marsh of Salt Winds that claimed her foster father when she was a child. As Virginia ponders her fate, a young woman appears on her doorstep and complicates her plan, bringing a tidal wave of memories that cause her to see her last day in an altogether darker light. Told in alternating timelines that follow Virginia as a child in the early stages of WWII and as she plots out her last day alive in 2015, Elizabeth Brooks’ novel of memories past and present plays out as a locked-room mystery Agatha Christie would be envious of.
Tim Johnston's brand of storytelling is a curious hybrid of conventional crime
fiction and observation of human nature that is demanding to be paid attention
to. In The Current Johnston goes beyond the sensational and asks relevant
questions when tragedy strikes, addressing real topics that come with the loss
of a loved one and the aftermath in the wake of a horrific crime. As with Descent, Johnston's previous novel, The Current concludes with a wallop you will not see coming.
Take a break from blockbuster movie season to enjoy some blockbuster reading! Black Star Renegades is a fast paced, hilarious and addictive hyperspace jump full of space opera goodness. Oak Park resident Mike Moreci is a writer you should keep an eye one.
I couldn't think of a more apt title to describe the writing career of one of
the absolute hidden gems in modern horror. The Great and Secret Show
will take you places you've never dreamt while simultaneously reminding you of
nightmares you'd thought long forgotten. Those of you on the prowl for
an epic fantasy/gothic horror mashup, welcome to your destiny.
Sweet story describing the joy of being a kid celebrating the four seasons and cajoling with nature, incredibly enhanced by the evocative and breathtaking illustrations of local phenom Diana Sudyka, whose work you may recognize if you've been to any rock & roll show of note in the last two decades or so. Diana's leap from makingscreen-printed show posters for the likes of Andrew Bird, St. Vincent, The Black Keys and Iron & Wine to creating covers for the middle grade classic The Mysterious Benedict Societyand now beautifully illustrating children's picture books seems the most natural thing.
If you’re looking for a quick fix until GoT #7 comes out, call of the dogs. Your search is over for a spell. The Shattered Sea Trilogy is the perfect in-between snack, featuring all the things you love about GoT, but with a humorous edge. You will fall in love with Thorn Bathu, one of the most well-rounded, kickass heroines I’ve read in a while. Plenty of action, sorcery, and intrigue throughout
When mutilated bodies start to show up in the small town of Four Paths in rural upstate New York, the townsfolk know it can mean only one thing: The Gray is back. Existing on an alternate plane, The Gray (not unlike the Demogorgon/Upside Down from Stranger Things) has been terrorizing the town since its inception but the founding families of Four Paths have always been able to keep it from crossing over. This time, dark familial secrets could allow The Gray to break through, and it’s up to four teen descendants of the founders to set aside their differences and keep the terror at bay. Gripping and terrifying, The Devouring Gray will have you sleeping with one open, if at all.
Putting her own spin on the age-old story of star-crossed love, Shannon Dunlap’s incredible first novel is a solid reminder as to why I continue to read and sell books on a daily basis. I challenge anyone out there to read the prologue of Izzy + Tristan and not fall head over heels for this lovely debut.
Four foot eleven. It’s all Will Daughtry has known since age 11. And he’s had it up to here. On the morning of his 16th birthday, however, he sets in motion a plan that will alter his life forever, in ways that nobody will see coming, especially you, dear reader. Saying any more would spoil all the fun. Full of witty and observant humor and incredibly well-drawn characters, XL is easily the most compulsively readable novel I’ve laid my eyes on in the recent past.
Judge a book by its cover? In this case, a resounding heck yeah! Beautifully rendered, it serves as a sort of map to all the incredibly strange, dark and often terrifying things that await you upon cracking open this treasure trove of a book. Bibliophiles will rejoice at the nerdy nods to classic fairy tales and marvel at how easily Melissa Albert traverses that hollowed and sacred ground. An imaginative and compulsive read.
I am a big fan of Nick Butler’s work but was totally blindsided by this incredibly quiet yet emotionally powerful novel of love, faith and family. This’ll make a great book club selection and the perfect spring to summer transitional read.
The coming of age story has been told countless times, but Sally Rooney’s spare, stripped down prose give it a sharp, focused intensity you didn’t realize you craved. This book will crush you in the most wonderful of ways, causing a good cry or ten spread throughout its 273 pages and is hands down one of the best novels I’ve read in a decade.
How I have lived this long and not read Robert Charles Wilson is a mystery. In Chronoliths Wilson creates a clever time loop tale that puts a spin on the can you change and should you change the future scenario. Fans of the film Arrival (and the title story it was based on from Ted Chiang’s exemplary Story of Your Life and Others) will find some enjoyable parallels to Wilson’s compulsively readable novel. Also take into account it was written nearly 20 years ago.
With House of Small Shadows, Adam Nevill made it clear that his brand of gothic horror is something to be reckoned with. In Last Days he explored the world of creepy cults with a sharp eye that kept me up many a dark night. Then he nailed the hat trick with The Ritual, which combines a buddy road trip, the disappointment of middle age and ancient Scandinavian folklore to create a perfect storm of Blair Witchey goodness sure to make you a lifelong Nevill fan.
The New Me is that cool book that smokes cigarettes behind the gym. Other books give a wide berth to The New Me when it’s walking down the hall between classes, which The New Me almost never attends. The New Me will sneer and blow smoke rings in your face, and you'll like it . It's 191 pages of plot-free snarky wonderfulness and satire of the highest order. Honestly, it's the book you should be reading, like right now.
In this ambitious what-if following the fall of civilization as we know it, Reed King gives us the oral history of one Truckee Wallace, unlikely hero who may just be the key to saving an already crumbling world from itself, often in the most hilarious of ways. Combining the best elements of William Gibson, Douglas Adams and Cory Doctorow, Reed has accomplished something that will be read by generations to come. If Studs Terkel were alive when it all fell apart, this would be his The Good War and the post-apocalyptic grand novel you didn't know you were pining for. And did I mention the messianic, wisecracking talking goat?
Claire Lombardo's impressive debut novel is a love letter to Oak Park, the sort of love letter that makes you laugh and cry at the same time. It's much more than that, though. It's a sprawling, multi-generational family saga. It's warm, funny and lovely, with a little bit of heartache thrown in for good measure. I've not been this over the moon over a debut since Nathan Hill's The Nix.