2012 has seen a lot of wonderful novels, many of them by well-established authors. But there have also been quite a few break-through successes for brand-new authors. Many of the most popular and well-reviewed books of the year have been debut novels from first-time authors or authors who had only published short stories or memoirs previous to their novelistic success. Here’s hoping the years to come bring more great novels from these rising stars!
Torres, Justin. We the Animals
Klaussmann, Liza. Tigers in Red Weather
Ivey, Eowyn. The Snow Child
Coplin, Amanda. The Orchardist
Harbach, Chad. The Art of Fielding
Rogan, Charlotte. The Lifeboat
Pavone, Chris. The Expats
Stedman, M. L. The Light Between Oceans
Powers, Kevin. The Yellow Birds
Jonathan Safran Foer, the award-winning, bestselling author of Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and the nonfiction work Eating Animals, is speaking at Spertus on Sunday, January 13, 2013.
Oh, the holidays. That wonderful time of year filled with both joy and, let’s be honest, neuroses. Families get together and old rivalries and grudges come to the fore. Turkeys are burned. Trees fall over. Strings of lights burn out for no readily apparent reason. And everyone gives gifts and smiles and enjoys good food and good cheer. All in all, the holidays make perfect fodder for novels both heart-warming and hilarious. Here are a few titles to tickle your festive funny-bone this season:
Alexander, Carly. The Secret Life of Mrs. Claus
Davidson, MaryJanice. Undead and Unfinished
Evanovich, Janet. Visions of Sugar Plums
Friedman, Kinky. The Christmas Pig
Hornby, Nick. A Long Way Down
Moore, Christopher. The Stupidest Angel
Mortimer, John. A Rumpole Christmas
Sedaris, David. Holidays on Ice
Shepherd, Jean. In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash
Willig, Lauren. The Mischief of the Mistletoe
Psychological thrillers are fast-paced books that focus on the unstable emotional states of characters. The suspense in psychological thrillers often comes from two or more characters preying upon one another's minds, either by playing deceptive games with the other or by merely trying to demolish the other's mental state.
Some examples of psychological thrillers are:
Asylum by Patrick McGrath
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
The Collector by John Fowles
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
If you like this genre, a Readers' Advisor can help you find more books like these. If this genre is new to you, you might want to give it a try. Some of the best literature can be catergorized as psychological thrillers; Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is an example.
This graphic novel adaptation is a must-read for any fan of Kafka's Metamorphosis. Kuper's scratchboard illustrations brilliantly express Kafka's sense of nightmarish unreality. While the text is spare, Kuper's graphic novel is nonetheless a faithful rendition rather than an illustrated abridgment, and the visuals are eloquent and impactful.
Jazz Dent is everything anyone would want in a teenage boy. He’s charming, he’s likeable, and he’s smart. There’s just one thing. His father, Billy Dent, murdered 123 (124 by Jazz’ count) people and is currently serving out over thirty life sentences. Jazz knows more than even the cops about his father’s kills – for Jazz, every day was Take Your Son to Work Day. Despite all this, however, Jazz has a beautiful girlfriend, a hilarious best friend, and fantastic grades. Then suddenly bodies start piling up in his small town – nearly perfectly imitating his father’s first few murders. Jazz offers his services to the police, hoping to clear his name, but the deeper he gets into the murders, the more Jazz grapples with the possibility that he is more like his father than he thinks.
The kind of gripping mystery that makes you want to wipe your memory and re-read, I Hunt Killers will leave you chilled and pawing for the sequel.
In these eight loosely connected stories, Otto portrays the lives and struggles of eight women photographers through the 20th century. Six of the eight are based on real photographers, including Ruth Orkin; Imogene Cunningham; and Lee Miller, and astute readers will recognize their lives and works in these fictionalized tales. All eight women are interesting and bohemian, ahead of their time in many ways; they take lovers of both genders, travel the world, get caught up in wars and revolutions. But at the same time, all struggle to balance their creative impulses and careers as artists with their domestic roles as wives and mothers.
As the stories continue, some may feel that the eight women are insufficiently differentiated, their lives and inner thoughts so similar, their struggles much the same despite differing time periods and differing countries. But in this similarity perhaps lies Otto’s underlying point in portraying these eight women…the more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite decades of social change and the groundbreaking women who have come before, the later women still face the same struggles as their predecessors.
After his mother is struck by a bus and killed, 16 year old straight-A student Joey Crouch boards a bus to Bloughton, Iowa, to live with his estranged father Ken Harnett. Known in town as the Garbageman, Harnett is neither an idea father nor roommate. His small house is unkempt, full of newspaper stacks and a strong odor; Harnett himself disappears for days at a time, leaving Joey with no food or money.
After discovering a safe full of putrid jewels in his father’s closet, Joey follows Harnett one night, stowing away in the bed of his pickup with a disposable camera. Forgetting about the consequence of a flash late at night, Joey snaps a photo: “Everything was illuminated in one instant of motionless clarity: individual blades of tall grass, bugs caught in the air like thrown pebbles, the mirrored surface of the truck, my father, his stunned expression, the handheld wire cutter, the sparkle of multiple jeweled rings, and, clenched in my father’s fist, wearing these rings, a severed human hand. … My father is a grave robber.”
Unlike most teens who catch a parent red-handed robbing a grave, Joey wants nothing more than to join his father. Though initially hesitant and refusing, Harnett begins to train Joey in the art of digging – burying Joey’s homework assignments or shoes deep beneath the earth hours before the start of school, lecturing on the art and history of grave robbing as Joey digs.
Obviously not a hot topic in contemporary literature for any age, Kraus writes about grave robbing a little too realistically for comfort – all the while providing mystery, intrigue, and the intricate exploration of a powerful connection between father and son. At times, this subterranean novel is graphic, horrific, and downright gooey, but Kraus’ unforgettable writing strengthens the allure of this dark, multilayered world of bullies young and old, live and dead, and of fathers and sons, in a way that keeps the pages turning.
The roaring twenties meet the occult in this latest hit from accomplished teen author Libba Bray. When aspiring flapper, Evie, gets herself in trouble in her small Ohio town, she is sent to live with her uncle who runs the rundown Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult in New York. But Evie is more than just your run-of-the-mill trouble maker, she has a gift: she is able to see your secrets just from holding an object belonging to you. Little does she know that she is not alone in the city and that soon, she and others will have to face and defeat a frightening enemy, Naughty John, a religious zealot who has been reincarnated and is now carrying out series of gruesome murders to complete his transformation.
Bray is a masterful storyteller and she “pos-i-tute-ly” brings Evie to life, along with a sprawling cast of characters. Wonderfully descriptive with a fast-moving plot, teens and adults alike will enjoy this period fantasy/thriller/mystery/romance; believe me, it really has it all.
For her next book after bestselling hit,Room, Donoghue draws inspiration from a handful of historical newspaper articles and stories, creating a collection of short narratives that are remarkably engrossing, despite their length. Using lushly drawn backdrops, she dramatically explores the themes of loss, struggle, love, grace and determination, all which accompany the strikingly rich characters who are adrift in time and place, detached from their roots; gone astray. In “Onward”, a Victorian Londoner decides prostitution is the only way to keep her family afloat while in “The Widow’s Curse” that empathy is upturned when readers encounter a beautiful woman who cons a young lawyer in order to obtain her living husband’s fortune in 18th-century New York. It is amazing how Donoghue brings these long-forgotten figures back to life in order to tell their stories with such heart. Although a departure from her last thriller, Donoghue returns to her other specialty as a historical storyteller in Astray.