11/22/63by Stephen King. “I kept hearing that this book was about traveling back in time to save President Kennedy - and that definitely was the driving force of the narrative - but I actually enjoyed all the other plot lines so much more! At one point in the middle of the book I just wanted to say ‘Forget Kennedy! The world will be fine. Let's just get back to the high school and Sadie!! Put on another show! Dancing is life!’ I didn't care that Oswald met with other Russian immigrants or even that he beat his wife one minute and charmed her the next. But I realize that all of these little pieces are what make the whole so much more fulfilling. George experiences little harmonies - residue of his time travel that keep raising flags. We really need to experience all of these events with him to understand and appreciate the final outcome. By the end of the book I felt like I knew these people, this town - I wanted them as friends and neighbors. It takes 700+ pages to bring so much to life so clearly and it was worth the investment to read every page.”
Anonymous Sourcesby Mary Louise Kelly. Two contributors mentioned this book, and it’s not even published yet! (Release date June 18.) It looks like a great read, and should be of particular interest to this blog’s readers. “An intriguing thriller from a former NPR correspondent about a young reporter who must match wits with spies, assassins and a terrorist sleeper cell targeting the very heart of American power… Thom Carlyle had it all: the rowing trophies, the Oxbridge education, the glamorous girlfriend. But on a glorious summer evening in Harvard Square, Thom is murdered—pushed from the top of a Harvard bell tower. The sends a beautiful, feisty, but troubled reporter named Alexandra James to investigate. It is the story of a lifetime. But it is not what it seems. Alex’s reporting takes her abroad, from the cobbled courtyards of Cambridge, England...to the inside of a network of nuclear terrorists...to the corridors of the CIA...and finally, to the terrorists’ target itself.”
Black List: A Thrillerby Brad Thor. “This is the eleventh book in Thor’s series about ex-Navy Seal Scot Harvath. It opens with an attempt to kill Harvath and his entire company in what turns out to be part of an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government. The pseudonymous black list is buried in some government basement somewhere, seen only by the president and a handful of advisors. Once your name is on the list, it never comes off, until you are dead. Great thriller.”
Imperfect Blissby Susan Fales-Hill. This frothy, fun and satirical Price and Prejudice send-up features the Harcourts of Chevy Chase, MD. (Chevy Chase finally gets its literary due!) Our heroine, Elizabeth (“Bliss”) has moved back home with her daughter after a nasty divorce, and is working on her PhD. Things get complicated when her sister Diana (all the Harcourt daughters are named after royalty) stars in a reality TV show called The Virgin. Mayhem and romance ensue.
John Saturnall's Feastby Lawrence Norfolk. “This is one of the two books I bought in hardcover this year because the review I read noted that the paper and quality of the book was remarkable (it is) and that every chapter begins with a recipe (it does). Knowing that recipes and Kindle do not mix well, I bought the book and once it was in hand I was glad I had. It’s a rich and sumptuous book set in England in the Middle Ages. John Saturnall is an orphan whose mother taught him the ancient religious ways of living and of cooking. He rises to head cook for a lord, and falls in love with the lord’s daughter – mostly by cooking for her. It’s about time men realized the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach, too!” (H/T Michelle Woodward’s best books list).
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. From Amazon: "After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them."
By Nightfallby Michael Cunningham. "Peter and Rebecca Harris: mid-forties denizens of Manhattan’s SoHo, nearing the apogee of committed careers in the arts—he a dealer, she an editor. With a spacious loft, a college-age daughter in Boston, and lively friends, they are admirable, enviable contemporary urbanites with every reason, it seems, to be happy. Then Rebecca’s much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (known in the family as Mizzy, “the mistake”), shows up for a visit. A beautiful, beguiling twenty-three-year-old with a history of drug problems, Mizzy is wayward, at loose ends, looking for direction. And in his presence, Peter finds himself questioning his artists, their work, his career—the entire world he has so carefully constructed. Like his legendary, Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Hours, Michael Cunningham’s masterly new novel is a heartbreaking look at the way we live now. Full of shocks and aftershocks, it makes us think and feel deeply about the uses and meaning of beauty and the place of love in our lives." (Barnard Book Club)
Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmakerby Jennier Chiaverini. "A historical novel based on the true relationship of Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker, Lizzie Keckley, a former slave. Lizzie was privy to many inside conversations in the White House during the Civil War. The real Lizzie Keckley published her memoirs, which resulted in her being completely ostracized by Mrs. Lincoln, but those notes and letters were used for this novel. An interesting read, but not addictive."
Reconstructing Ameliaby Kimberly McCreight, From Amazon: Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter—now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate."
Skiosby Michael Frayn. “It's not easy to write a good farce. Too often it becomes too silly, too coincidental, too over the top unbelievable and the spell is broken. For me, Skios achieves just the right balance of mistaken identity, accidental bedmates, chance meetings and "what are you doing here?" moments to make for a really funny, engaging farce. I wouldn't even want to try to recap the plot - it would be like unfolding an origami crane - just let yourself enjoy the twisted shape that has emerged.”
The Various Haunts of Men (Simon Serrailler Mystery)by Susan Hill. “This is the first in the Simon Serrailler detective series. Interestingly, he is hardly in this book at all which I thought was a clever idea. Instead, Hill gives us Freya Graffham - a new young policewoman in town who has a crush on Simon and sees him as an almost mythical figure. We learn a lot about him through her eyes but he always stays a little removed, intriguing, and seductive - the desire to know more means the second book in the series is already in my TBR pile ready to go. Hill isn't writing your usual mystery. She focuses mostly on character, developing even the minor players with personalities, motivations, and back stories. Everyone has a little something going on - some of it is linked to the plot and but some of it just adds richness to the people we are starting to care about. The mystery is here but it feels secondary and doesn't kick in for quite some time. That was ok with me but I could understand if a reader was frustrated with the pace. I actually thought the mystery is the weakest part of the book with an interesting premise but an underdeveloped conclusion. Even so, this was a book that I raced through and really enjoyed.”
(That's the end of our newer fiction list, but there's more - go to the "blog archive" navigation bar for our 2013 non-fiction and older fiction lists)