Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Featured Author: Margaret Maron

Mystery author Margaret Maron burst onto the scene with the first novel of her Sigrid Harald series in 1981; her Deborah Knott series (for which she is beloved by us) did not begin until 1992. In the intervening years, Maron has won Edgar, Agatha, Anthony & Macavity Awards; been the President of Sisters in Crime; received the Grand Master Award from Mystery Writers of America; and many other accolades.

As of this writing, Margaret Maron has called time on both of her long-running series. She has not ruled out writing stories -which is how her career began 40 years ago -  she is "ready to be done with contracts and deadlines" though she has "learned to never say never." (!) Ohio public radio station WYSO 91.3's Book Nook program has applauded Maron's choice: "Don't you love it when somebody has the good grace to go out at the top of their game?" We'll miss Sigrid and Deborah, but we certainly applaud Margaret Maron's future plans, which include wading into her TBR pile.

If you haven't yet read any of Maron's award-winning mysteries, we encourage you to check them out! She created Sigrid Harald, a homicide detective with the NYPD, based on her experiences living in New York with her husband during the early years of their marriage. Deborah Knott is a North Carolina district judge - the change of setting reflects the author's upbringing "where the Piedmont meets the Sandhills" of that state, though she emphatically declares the character is not based on her own family life. Maron says she chose these professions for her detectives because "Other, more inventive writers can make it seem perfectly logical that a schoolteacher or real estate agent or cookie-baking mom would keep stumbling over murders that they could solve with their civilian skills, but I needed a sturdier reed on which to lean."

Sigrid Harald series
9 titles, with 2 available in the library catalog currently, Fugitive Colors and Take Out (the last 2 books of the series) 

Deborah Knott series
20 titles, beginning with Bootlegger's Daughter and ending with 2015's Long Upon the Land

These two characters of have a ying-yang relationship in Maron's mind - she created Deborah to be the opposite of Sigrid in many ways. Interestingly, Sigrid and Deborah are distantly related, and you can view Deborah's family tree - she's the youngest of a family of twelve - on Maron's website. The two detectives meet in Three Day Town, the 17th book in the Deborah Knott series.

Ms. Maron has also written a few non-series titles - try Last Lessons of Summer, for which she won North Carolina's Sir Walter Raleigh Award.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Christian Fiction: Recommended Authors

Stories of Christian allegory have been rife throughout European literary history. What is catalogued as Christian fiction at your local library "does not have to involve an actual event or character in Bible history. A novel can be Christian in this sense merely because one of its characters either comes to a Christian understanding of God and of man's need for salvation from sin, or faces a crisis of his or her faith." What the genre and its most renowned publishers, such as Tyndal House, Zondervan, WaterBrook, Love Inspired, and Howard Books, have in common is a strict standard for content - as one publisher proclaims on its website, to it seeks to "minister to the spiritual needs of people, primarily through literature consistent with biblical principles" or, as another says, it publishes "...books that seek to intensify and satisfy a reader’s elemental thirst for a deeper relationship with God." As Deborah Bryan put it at the 2009 Mountain Plains Library Association/Kansas Library Association conference, in the handout for her presentation "Books For the Soul," authors writing for these publishers must "accept the infallible authority of the Bible; address life’s dilemmas through faith in Jesus; and believe that Jesus is divine, died, and rose again for the sins of humankind and that he will return again as a judge and a warrior. There are often certain 'taboos' or offensive content that [the authors] are not allowed to write about." There is a stereotype that Christian fiction is "popular with a certain readership, mostly white, female, and coming from an evangelical Protestant background," but there are countering claims that readers "love this genre because it quenches their inner thirst for knowledge, spiritual guidance, and, yes, entertainment" and that CF has started to embrace diversity, both in characters and storylines, and there has been significant genre crossover from CF's many subgenres - historical, romance (both contemporary and historical), mystery/suspense, literary fiction, legal thrillers, Amish.

It has been suggested that there has been a decline in the market for Christian fiction in the past few years - some companies have stopped publishing it altogether, or slimmed down their output - but mass market production for the genre continues to be strong. So show your support for CF by checking out some of these authors, available in the library catalog:

Terri Blackstock

Wanda E. Brunstetter

Colleen Coble

Dee Henderson 

Karen Kingsbury

Beverly Lewis

Ruth Reid

Francine Rivers

Joel C. Rosenberg

Randy Singer

Susan Sleeman

Lauraine Snelling

Michelle Stimpson 

William Young

If you'd like more suggestions, consider checking out the Christy Awards! This annual award, program of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), is given to "honor Christian novels of excellence, imagination, and creativity." The award takes its name from Catherine Marshall's 1967 classic of the genre, due to be re-released this year. An alternative is the Carol Awards, awarded annually by the American Christian Fiction Writers to recognize "the best Christian fiction published in the previous calendar year." Also try the ACFW's Fiction Finder site.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Unusual Detectives

Revelations of a Lady Detective. Revelations of a Lady Detective. Image taken from Revelations of a Lady Detective. Originally published/produced in George Vickers: London, 1864. George Vickers: London, 1864. . Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/163_2964167/1/163_2964167/cite. Accessed 4 Aug 2017.
It seems like from the beginning of detective fiction, authors tried to give their detectives a hook - making them unusual, and therefore memorable. Generally regarded as the first detective in fiction, Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin is a gentleman detective who solves cases to amuse himself. Sherlock Holmes plays the violin and boxes; he is a master of disguise and a habitual user of cocaine. Agatha Christie seems to use her fictional author character, Ariadne Oliver, to bemoan the folly of creating a detective that is too unusual - Oliver's detective, Sven Hjerson, is Finnish and a vegetarian, and Oliver is often at her wit's end plotting her novels with those traits, which she knows little about, in mind.

Authors still like to put their detectives in unusual milieus. For every gritty police procedural out there, you can find many titles and series (particularly cozies) featuring detectives and detecting teams from every walk of life - coffeehouses managers, tea shop owners, herbalists, crossword creators, knitters, and beyond.

Here's a handful of unusual detectives to pique your interest:

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie
1950s vicar

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley
11-year-old sleuth and aspiring chemist

The Hearse You Came In On by Tim Cockey
Maryland morticians

Deception on All Accounts by Sara Sue Hoklotubbe
Cherokee banker

Celine by Peter Heller
elegant, aristocratic private eye

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
Chet the dog, companion of an Arizona private investigator

Wine of Violence by Priscilla Royal
11th century prioress

Top o' the Mournin' by Maddy Hunter
tour guide

Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara
Japanese-American Hiroshima survivor and gardener in Los Angeles

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
private eye and Sixties music fan 

Gun With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem
hard-boiled detective in the near future - mystery has elements of sci fi

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
detective who investigates based on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Jewish refugee and detective in the Alaska panhandle

The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov
science fiction detective

Whiskey on the Rocks by Nina Wright
real estate broker

My Heart May Be Broken, But My Hair Still Looks Great by Dixie Cash
The Domestic Equalizers, hairdressers

Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts
customer relations representative in mega-casino

Eight of Swords by David Skibbins
tarot card reader and former activist

The Disciple of Las Vegas by Ian Hamilton
forensic accountant

Want more unusual detective choices? Check out the Job of Series Character list on the website Stop, You're Killing Me, "a resource for lovers of mystery, crime, thriller, spy, and suspense books...listing over 4,900 authors, with chronological lists of their books (over 57,000 titles), both series (5,800+) and non-series. Use the alphabetical author and character links or the special indexes." It's a favorite resource of ours! You can also search our Books & Literature guide, which provides you with links to booklists on various topics and our own literary research eResource NoveList (free with your valid library card!).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Unreliable Narrators

Used with permission of Powell's Books, Inc.
If you follow Powell's Books, a Portland, OR independent bookseller since 1971 (their flagship store is called Powell's City of Books), on Facebook, you will often find them posting pictures of in-house displays and asking you what you're reading this weekend. We were particularly intrigued by their "Unreliable Narrator" display.

We're not going to tell you in what way each of these narrators are unreliable, but don't read this post if you don't like spoilers, because all of these narrators are misleading you in one way or another - they may be the guilty party; they may be insane; they may just have personal bias. But none of these books will end up exactly where you thought they might.

Why are we writing about them, you might add, if it's  a possible spoiler situation? Well, as the web site TV Tropes attests, "As an author, this is a difficult trick to pull off. It is a lot easier to tell a straight story than it is to deliberately mislead the audience." They also list a couple of techniques - "Framing Device, ""Literary Agent Hypothesis," and "Rashomon-style," to give you specific examples. Let's give the authors credit for coming up with such inventive plots that turned their stories upside-down!

We don't really think about it normally, but when you pick up a book, "there's an element of trust that the person telling you the story is telling the truth, at least as far as they know it." That's why Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, one of our favorite unreliable narrator titles, was so startling and mystery-convention-breaking back in 1926. The reader expects to have to figure out whodunnit, but also expects to be given the facts, the truth, to work with.

So, here's our list of some unreliable narrators you might not have heard of (we're going to assume you all know about Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train) or may have forgotten about (we hope you haven't forgotten Rebecca, another of our favorites). But, if you're interested in twisting your brain around more titles like these, Goodreads has a pretty comprehensive list. Just know, someone in the book is probably lying to you... ūüė≤

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal by Zo√ę Heller

Fall by Colin McAdam

Atonement by Ian McEwan

How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

John Dies at the End by David Wong

Where the Moon Isn't by Nathan Filer

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

New & Novel: Audiobooks

Portrait of Middle Eastern woman wearing headphones. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/154_2879588/1/154_2879588/cite. Accessed 7 Jul 2017.
Audiobooks continue their meteoric rise. The Audio Publishers Association’s (APA) annual survey reports that audiobook sales in 2015 totaled more than $1.77 billion, an increase of more than 20 percent over 2014. It was the second consecutive year that audiobook sales have expanded by 20 percent, growth the APA chalks up to increasing awareness of the format and the popularity of digital downloads. The number of available titles expanded as well, from 25,944 in 2014 to 35,574 in 2015, an increase of 9,630, and the industry shows no sign of slowing down. So it’s no surprise that the tail end of 2016 and the first part of 2017 offer a dizzying array of options for audiobook fans. Some dearly departed authors will still have their voices heard in the coming months, and there’s a healthy mix of new talent and established masters in the audiobook arena.  
~Jason Puckett, "Listen & Yearn"

Whether you are looking for non-fiction crime or self-help, true stories of the famous and not-so-famous, fiction ranging from sci-fi to horror to young adult,the library system has a wide range of audiobook titles in a variety of formats! Don't limit yourself to a book on CD - you can also try a Playaway, or download an audiobook from Overdrive, hoopla, or RBDigital. Check out some of the library's more recent acquisitions, as recommended by Library Journal and BookPage (pick up a free copy of BookPage at your local library every month, while supplies last!).


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden [eAudio]

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle [eAudio]

The Final Day by William Forstchen [eAudio]

Caraval by Stephanie Garber [YA - Playaway, eAudio]

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey [eAudio]

The Night Ocean by Paul Lafarge [eAudio]

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai [eAudio]

Recluce Tales by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. [eAudio]

The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner by Terry Pratchett [eAudio]

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth [eAudio]

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran [eAudio]

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers [eAudio]

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz [J]

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne [eAudio]

Wolf on a String by Benjamin Black [eAudio]

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce [eAudio]

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore [YA - eAudio]

Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin [Playaway]

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney [eAudio]


Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman [eAudio]

My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King [Playaway]

Own It: The Power of Women at Work by Sallie Krawcheck [eAudio]

How To Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh [eAudio]

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson [eAudio]

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Midlife On Life's Terms

Fork In The Road , . Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.  
- Max Ehrman The Desiderata

At some point in our lives, if we are lucky, we will make it to forty years old....and beyond. There are unmistakable mild aches and pains and our metabolism goes out for cigarettes and never comes back. You find yourself saying insufferable things like, "What a nice young man" regarding someone in his thirties. Worst of all, the day comes when you're standing in the supermarket and the 1990s grunge music that defined the prime of your youth plays over the loud speakers as muzak while you contemplate a selection of calcium chews. The positive moments comes with deciding to take adult ballet classes, enroll in graduate school, and hearing yourself say assertive things like "no" that your people-pleasing younger self would have been unable to utter.

Stereotypes abound over the specter of aging hipsters growing older gracelessly. However, midlife can also give us an opportunity to hit a reset button on our creativity, ambitions, and relationships. The new responsibilities we are entrusted with provide growth and foster deep connections with our family and friends. We are held in the center of no longer being young, but old enough to see how we need to fearlessly prepare for old age and accept our mortality. It becomes possible to mellow out, forgive ourselves and others, and prepare for the next chapter of life, equipped with abundant knowledge about the creative, emotional, and spiritual possibilities for living midlife abundantly .

Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Pilgrimage by Jean Shinoda Bolen 

Crossroads At Midlife: Your Aging Parents, Your Emotions, and Your Self  by Frances Cohen Praver

It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond by Julia Cameron

Life Reimagined : The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning by Claire Dederer

Menopause Confidential: A Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Thriving Through Midlife by Tara Allmen, MD

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What's Your Cleaning Personality?

Cleaning. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/132_1255602/1/132_1255602/cite. Accessed 29 Jul 2017.
Not to suggest that there are only three ways to clean, but we happened to be reading 3 housekeeping books recently (you can imagine what prompted our excursion through this subject) and were intrigued by their different takes on orderliness.

Do you just need to get organized?
If your house is clean but cluttered, try Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of  Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

KonMari (as the author is nicknamed in her native Japan) put this out as a follow-up to her bestselling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We almost feel she's mellowed - we don't remember any talk of a "gray zone" in the first book, or suggestions that you can save items for indoor cosplay, and a statement like "the act of discarding things on its own will never bring joy to your life" smacks faintly of blasphemy. Helpful, though, is her definition of  tidying up - "tidying up means confronting yourself" - as opposed to cleaning, which is "confronting nature." Spark Joy is definitely about tidying. How to place things, hang things, fold items (there's a lot of folding methods, who knew?) and pack drawers, suggestions for parting with and discarding items. KonMari does touch on different areas of the house, but it's all about how to store all the items you've kept because they spark joy.

Maybe you want to be more organized about cleaning.
Your house needs cleaning. You don't have time and you feel overwhelmed. How do you start? Maybe you'd like charts to help you stay on track. Perhaps you'd like to deep clean using less toxic cleaners that you can make yourself. You need Simply Clean: The Proven Method for Keeping Your Home Organized, Clean, and Beautiful in Just 10 Minutes a Day by Becky Rapinchuk.

We had heard of Becky Rapinchuk before, because people had shared some of her Clean Mama charts on Facebook. Simply Clean wants to be your cleaning bible. Rapinchuk offers a down-and-dirty take on establishing your cleanliness goals ("Just Start Somewhere: Every Day a Little Something") and puts you immediately on  a weekly cleaning schedule -Wednesday is vacuuming day, Thursday is floor washing day, etc. She recommends putting together "a cute cleaning caddy that makes you actually want to clean," suggests a 7-day kick start and a 28-day challenge for those who need a boost, and then moves into monthly and yearly cleaning schedules. There are checklists of tasks for you to fill in, recipes for cleaning products, and a section called "how to clean anything." She touches on organizing and decluttering, but her focus is cleaning, so expect to use elbow grease. Rapinchuk remains upbeat and down-to-earth in her presentation - you've got this! She did it, and so can you, in just 10 minutes a day.

You are a slob. You live with a slob. You need emergency action.
My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag...And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha by Jolie Kerr begins, "If you're here it means that you've got a cleaning disaster on your hands." You're not thinking about organizing - you have a mess on your hands. Maybe you don't even know how much of a mess!

We were first introduced to Jolie Kerr by her online column, "Ask a Clean Person." Kerr tackles the nitty-gritty of cleaning your kitchen, your bathroom, your laundry, your wedding regalia and gifts, your car, and "the things you really can't ask Martha (or Mom, for that matter)" - there really is advice for cleaning barf out of a purse, goo out of your pocket, and more intimate messes. You will learn how to clean your hairbrush, your hot rollers, your forced heat radiators, your greasy vent hood, your washer and dryer. You will learn how to tackle an assortment of stains using different methods (although the author admits she is obsessed with OxiClean). And throughout, Jolie Kerr will not mollycoddle you. The world is a a disgusting place, and there is mess everywhere. She is plain-spoken and reassuring ("Now, then, that wasn't too bad, was it? I bet you thought our discussion of bathroom cleaning would be far more scarring!") and not afraid to touch on the rude details - a mushroom could grow in your house, your laundry could mildew, you have to clean your pumice stone because you are rubbing it on your "gross feet," and that pee smell in your bathroom might be the floor or the walls around the toilet, particularly if you have men and children in the house. Less of the natural solutions to your cleaning dilemma, but touches on cleaning issues you've never heard of or might be embarrassed to discuss, many of them taken from real-life scenarios that she received letters about.

Which is closer to your cleaning personality? We got the information we were looking for (about carpet-cleaning) from Simply Clean, but now that we read My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag we will be cleaning our radiators. We're still working on tidying up.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Vast Energy-Broth: Reading Lincoln in the Bardo

Everything was real; inconceivably real, infinitely dear. These and all things started as nothing, latent within a vast energy-broth, but then we named them, and loved them, and, in this way, brought them forth. And now we must lose them.
~George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

We just finished listening to the audiobook of George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo. Seven hours and 166 voices! The magazine Wired says the audiobook "feels like a movie," and we really can't argue with that assessment, particularly as the readers include Susan Sarandon, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Nick Offerman, and Megan Mullally. Author Colson Whitehead called the book "a luminous feat of generosity and humanism."

For those of you who haven't heard of George Saunders' first foray into novel-writing (he was previously known for short stories and essays, particularly the collection Tenth of December), Lincoln in the Bardo is the story of the one night during Abraham Lincoln's presidency, in the first year of the war and after the death of his son Willie, "his parents’ darling" - the Lincolns had four sons, but only one survived to adulthood - but the story is told primarily as an oral history by the residents of the graveyard in which Willie was temporarily interred, Georgetown's Oak Hill Cemetery. The term "bardo" refers to "the transitional state between life and death defined by Tibetan Buddhism." As Saunders was writing the book, he could see a statue of Lincoln from his office at Syracuse University - as he told GQ magazine, "He's in a meditative posture. He's sitting with his legs spread wide and looking down. I would wander out there to kind of remind myself that, you know, he was a real person and that he was a little inclined to depression. Almost like a gut check: ‘Okay, man, I'm still trying to do you justice.’ ”

The book dances between the stories told by residents of the afterworld and historical sources. Saunders cites over 39 sources just in the first 50 pages of the book - in fact, the term op. cit. is employed so many times in the audiobook, we were confused at first, being unfamiliar with that citation. However, not every source is the real deal, though all the quotes go a long way towards evoking Lincoln's era. In NPR's generally favorable review, author Maureen Corrigan takes him to task for his "postmodern" mix of real historical sources and imagined ones - "Throughout Lincoln in the Bardo, Saunders intersperses chapters packed with quotes from historical sources. He gives citations for these historical sources and some are legit — like Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on Lincoln, for instance. But other sources are made up. All the historical passages are tossed together indiscriminately" - while Colson Whitehead argues "Are the nonfiction excerpts — from presidential historians, Lincoln biographers, Civil War chroniclers — real or fake? Who cares? Keep going, read the novel, Google later." What's your take on the issue?

A Washington Post review enthuses, "The quotations gathered from scores of different voices begin to cohere into a hypnotic conversation that moves with the mysterious undulations of a flock of birds."  Passages describing young Willie Lincoln are extremely specific and moving, describing his traits and habits (including blinking from under his bangs, baggy suit, and ceremonial salutes to his father's cabinet), convincing us at first that all the quotes were from real sources. Personally, we have to confess to a little sadness that some of the titles quoted do not exist - we wouldn't mind reading an anthology called White House Soirees, or even the somewhat maudlinly-titled The President's Little Men and Lincoln's Lost Angel, not to mention A Season of War and Loss and Long Road to Glory. But some of the titles quoted do exist, and Lincoln enthusiasts can find several of the books cited by Saunders or related books by the same authors in the library catalog:

Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House by Elizabeth Keckly

Lincoln, An Illustrated Biography by Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Philip B. Kunhardt III, Peter W. Kunhardt; Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr. also co-authored Twenty Days with Dorothy Meserve Kundhardt 

Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington by Daniel Mark Epstein, author of The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage 

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Not cited by Saunders, but another fictional take on the era that may perhaps be of interest: The Murder of Willie Lincoln by Burt Solomon.

The following titles are not in the library catalog, but might be borrowed using Interlibrary Loan. Interlibrary Loan is a cooperative service among libraries for obtaining materials not available in our catalog. Items requested are located, ordered, and, if available for loan, shipped by mail to the branch library of your choice. Interlibrary Loan service is available to New Mexico residents with full accounts in good standing - simply submit a signed  Interlibrary Loan application form in person at any branch of the the Public Library Albuquerque/Bernalillo County.

Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America's Most Perilous Year by David Von Drehle

Mr. Lincoln's Washington by Stanley Kimmel  

With Lincoln in the White House by John G. Nicolay, edited by Michael Burlingame 

Lincoln's Sons by Ruth Painter Randall 

"Tad Lincoln's Father" by Julia Taft Bayne [article] 

Reveille in Washington, 1860-1865 by Margaret Leech

Witness to the Young Republic: A Yankee's Journal, 1828-1870 by Benjamin Brown French, et al. 
If you don't want to visit any extra sources, you can still further immerse yourself in the world of Lincoln in the Bardo via virtual reality - experience the graveyard and its inhabitants with the New York Times VR app. But perhaps the novel on its own is enough, as it tussles over "great matters...freedom and slavery, the spirit and the body" while making Abraham Lincoln come alive, tender and tragic, amidst the boisterous shades.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New & Novel: Debut Fiction

Shelves full of books in a cosy library corner with two empty chairs and a lamp at night University of Toronto Canada Fiction section in Hart house library. Photo. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/167_3988032/1/167_3988032/cite. Accessed 7 Jul 2017.
For a reader, there’s something magical about picking up a first novel — that promise of discovery, the possibility of finding a new writer whose work you can love for years to come, the likelihood of semi-autobiography for you to mull over. The debut is even more important for the writer — after all, you only get one first impression. Luckily, there are a lot of fantastic first impressions to be had. 
~Emily Temple, "50 of the Greatest Debut Novels Since 1950

Whether you are one of the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 (or even famous before you were 23), Monica Ali (her book Brick Lane was shortlisted for a literary prize while still a manuscript), one-book-wonders like Margaret Mitchell and Emily Bront√ę, whether you were inspired to write by a writing group (Toni Morrison) or got your start as a translator (Isabel Allende), were first self-published (Virginia Woolf), didn't get your start until you were over 40 (James Michener & Raymond Chandler), or almost became a chaplain instead of a writer (John Green), or if it took you 15 years to write a book (Patrick Rothfuss), it's a big deal to get your first novel published, and especially if you make a big splash. Any of the books on this list (descriptions are taken from the library catalog) could be the next big thing, and many of these authors may have a distinguished career in letters ahead of them! Why not try out some debut fiction today? You might find your new favorite author!

The Windfall by Diksha Basu
"A heartfelt comedy of manners, Diksha Basu's debut novel unfolds the story of a family discovering what it means to make it in modern India."

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
"When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer."

Chemistry by Weike Wang
"A novel about a young Chinese woman whose graduate studies in chemistry go off track and lead her to discover the truths about her goals and desires."

Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais
"...interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum if You Don't Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family."

Sour Heart: Stories by Jenny Zhang
"A debut collection of stories that plunge readers into the tender and chaotic hearts of adolescent girls growing up in New York City, from celebrated poet and National Magazine Award nominee Jenny Zhang."

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love
"An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman who combines the genius and ferocity of Lisbeth Salander with the ruthless ambition of Walter White." 

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
"An elegiac distillation, at once intellectual and visceral, of a young woman's understanding of absence and identity that spans continents and decades, What We Lose heralds the arrival of a virtuosic new voice in fiction."

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell
"A bleakly comic tour de force that’s by turns poignant, uproariously funny, and viscerally unsettling, this debut novel has shades of Bernhard, Beckett and Bowles—and it announces the singular voice of Patty Yumi Cottrell."

Talon of God by Wesley Snipes
"The acclaimed actor makes his fiction debut with this enthralling urban fantasy in which a holy warrior must convince a doctor with no faith to help stop a powerful demon and his minions from succeeding in creating hell on earth - a thrilling adventure of science and faith, good and evil, damnation and salvation." 

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
"How a whip-smart young girl handles the loss of her mother and the reorientation of her family; charming and beautifully written."

Eggshells by Catriona Lally 
"Vivian doesn't feel like she fits in - and never has. As a child, she was so whimsical that her parents told her she was 'left by fairies.' Now, living alone in Dublin, the neighbors treat her like she's crazy, her older sister condescends to her, social workers seem to have registered her as troubled, and she hasn't a friend in the world. So, she decides it's time to change her life."

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor 
"Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature--desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope--as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town."

No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts 
"No One Is Coming to Save Us is a revelatory debut from an insightful voice; with echoes of The Great Gatsby, it is an arresting and powerful novel about an extended African American family and their colliding visions of the American Dream. In evocative prose, Stephanie Powell Watts has crafted a full and stunning portrait that combines a universally resonant story with an intimate glimpse into the hearts of one family."

Taduno's Song by Odafe Atogun
"A stunning debut from a fresh Nigerian literary voice: a mesmerizing, deceptively simple, Kafkaesque narrative, resonant of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and lightly informed by the life of Nigerian musical superstar Fela Kuti--a powerful story of love, sacrifice, and courage. " 

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood
"In the vein of Fiona Barton's The Widow and Renée Knight's Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother's death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door but is what she's seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?"

The Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi [eBook]
"In the spirit of Khaled Hosseini, Nadia Hashimi and Shilpi Somaya Gowda comes this powerful debut from a talented new voice—a sweeping, emotional journey of two childhood friends in Mumbai, India, whose lives converge only to change forever one fateful night."

The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh 
"A page-turning tale of murder, subversion and vice in which a female medical student in Victorian Edinburgh is drawn into a murder investigation when she recognizes one of the corpses in her anatomy lecture."

Sonora by Hannah Lillith Assadi 
"This debut novel by Assadi, a recent MFA grad, is a hypnotic coming-of-age story set in the Southwestern Sonoran Desert and New York City. Like Assadi herself, Ahlam is the daughter of a Palestinian refugee father and an Israeli mother, and her intimate narration carries the reader effortlessly between the past and the present, through a kaleidoscope of memories, as she sits at her father's side in the hospital."

Blue Light Yokohama by Nicolás Obregón
"Nicolás Obregón balances the key components of modern detective fiction seamlessly: a damaged hero, the requisite layer of urban grittiness, a possible love interest, a taunting serial killer and a series of frustrating, misleading clues."

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser
"Jessica Strawser's Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother's love, a husband's betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn't have been kept, and spaces between what's meant to be and what might have been." 

The Girl from Rawblood by Catriona Ward
"Ward's layered and skillfully crafted novel weaves elements of classic gothic and horror into a remarkable story populated by unforgettable characters, palpable atmosphere, and rich lyricism. Imagine the darkest and goriest undertones of Edgar Allan Poe, the Bront√ęs, Charles Dickens, and Shirley Jackson, and you'll have an idea of what Ward offers here."