Laurel Shelton is a lonely young woman. Living alone save for her brother Hank in an isolated, deeply shadowed cove in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, she is shunned by the townspeople of nearby Mars Hill and feared as a witch because of a large purple birthmark on her shoulders. Hank has only recently returned from WWI missing one hand and he is fixing up the farm with the help of a neighbor, intending, Laurel believes, to propose to a local girl and bring her to live with them. Living in darkness and shadow and loneliness as she does, Laurel still dreams of sunlight and beauty, having had ambitions to become a teacher and move away from the cove—ambitions thwarted by her mother’s death and father’s long depression and illness. But when she finds a strange man in the cove, sick and feverish with hornet stings, and nurses him back to health, Laurel begins to dream once more—of love, and a life outside the cove. The man, Walter, plays flute like an angel but is otherwise mute, a note in his pocket claiming childhood illness. He falls into step with the siblings, helping Hank about the farm and playing his flute and falling in love with Laurel as she has fallen for him. However, Walter is not all he seems and harbors secrets of his own—secrets that could prove explosively dangerous to his new friends. Meanwhile, a cowardly and bombastic recruiter in town, Chauncey Feith, tries to prove his true worth by exposing supposed “Hun” spies in their midst. When the fires of xenophobia he has stoked collide with cursed Laurel, disabled Hank, and silent Walter, tragedy can be the only result.
Atmospheric, taut, and expertly realized, The Cove is a tale of passion, fear, and superstition with clear parallels to the overheated political rhetoric of today.
Retiree Mr. Ali is at loose ends, knocking about the house aimlessly and annoying his wife. She is happy, then, when he decides to start up a marriage bureau to assist families looking to set up arranged marriages for their children. Contemporary India has modernized in many ways, but it is still considered inappropriate for people to make their own matches, or love marriages, and after a slow start, Mr. Ali’s Marriage Bureau for Rich People begins to do a lively business—so much so that he takes on an assistant, young Aruna. Aruna herself has marriage woes; her family is suffering financially and her father refuses to entertain any matches because he will not be able to pay for a large wedding and a good dowry. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Ali are fighting to keep their son, a young man now and a political activist, safe—but he defies their wishes and leads demonstrations against the government on behalf of India’s poor farmers.
Often mentioned as a readalike for Alexander McCall Smith’s Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the comparison is a fair one. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People shares the interconnected-vignette style, charmingly wise and understated tone, and emphasis on culture and community seen in McCall Smith’s series. Though the characters have their problems, nothing very terrible happens to anyone, and the reader is swept quietly along as the characters go about their daily lives in modern India.
In a graphic novel series billing itself as “a new vampire for a new century,” Western outlaw Skinner Sweet is accidentally transformed into a vampire when the blood of an old European-style vampire splashes across his mortally wounded body. No one realizes that Sweet is undead in his grave—until years later when graverobbers dig him up and get a terrifying surprise. Sweet is a different breed of vampire than his creators; he is stronger and faster, powered by the sun and thus able to walk and hunt by day, able to transform horribly with a distended jaw and huge talon-like fingers, and with a different set of weaknesses. He proceeds to set about feuding with the old breed European vamps, mostly rich old men who seek to keep American industry under their thumbs as they did European, as well. Not until decades later does Sweet create another of his kind, and he inexplicably chooses a spunky young wanna-be actress in 1920s Hollywood, Pearl Jones, who has been abused horribly by the European vamps in charge of the studios. As the series progresses, Pearl becomes one of the focus characters, as do the descendants of the sheriff who originally sought to put Skinner Sweet behind bars—and later, in his grave.
Vibrant, colorful, and dynamic illustrations contribute effectively to this compelling new spin on the vampire story. Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones make a perfect odd-couple of protagonists as each deals with becoming a monster in a very different way, drawn to one another despite themselves. A lot of fun!
Former seminary student Travis O’Hearn inadvertantly unleashed a demon straight from Hell when he stumbled across an ancient invocation hidden instead a set of candlesticks. He’s not actually a fan of being in control of an extremely powerful demon, and has spent most of the last 70 years trying to get Catch to stop eating people—or at least to only eat criminals and other nasties. But now Travis—who still looks 20-something thanks to the demon Catch’s graces—is closing in on a solution to his problem in the small town of Pine Cove, California. He lost the candlesticks all those decades previously and has come to believe that the second candlestick contained the invocation to send Catch back to Hell. And he's finally located the woman who took the candlesticks from him, now a grandmother in her 90s, living in Pine Cove. Now Travis, along with a motley crew of Pine Cove’s losers, eccentrics, and petty criminals—along with one aeons-old King of the Djinn—have one last chance to get rid of the demon once and for all, before Catch can break free of Travis’s control and destroy the world.
Funny, irreverant, clever, and fast-paced, Moore’s first novel already displays his trademark wit. Those who enjoy Practical Demonkeeping won’t want to miss the other Pine Cove novels, The Stupidest Angel and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove.
You may have noticed last week that the Readers Advisors desk was missing two of its regular librarians. We headed off to New York City to meet with hundreds of other librarians, along with booksellers, publishers, authors, and bibliophiles of all stripes at this year’s Book Expo America conference. Held every year in June, BEA is a great way to keep up with what’s happening in the world of books, from forthcoming hot titles to book club reading suggestions to those pesky eBooks and how libraries and publishers can work together to make them available to patrons. A highlight is always getting to meet the authors themselves, of course, and get books signed! We came back with piles and piles of great forthcoming books that we think you’re just going to love. Here are just a few of the great titles you have to look forward to!
Diaz, Junot. This is How You Lose Her, September 2012.
Evison, Jonathan. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, August 2012.
Jacobson, Howard. Zoo Time, October 2012.
Jakobsen, Mette. The Vanishing Act, September 2012.
Millet, Lydia. Magnificence, November 2012.
Powers, Kevin. The Yellow Birds, September 2012.
Roorbach, Bill. Life Among Giants, November 2012.
Shapiro, B.A. The Art Forger, October 2012.
When we visited the Book Expo America conference last week, one thing we heard over and over is that publishers think that “Scotland is the new Sweden.” Anyone who’s been paying attention to trends in mystery novel publishing probably knows what that means, but in case you don’t, mysteries set in Sweden have been hot properties ever since the break-out success of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That trend may finally be waning slightly, and publishers have turned their eyes toward another cold, bleak country as the setting for mystery stories…Scotland! If you’d like to get ahead of the trend, here are some authors who’ve been publishing mysteries set in Scotland already.
Bolton, S. J. Sacrifice.
Jardine, Quintin. Skinner’s Rules.
MacBride, Stuart. Cold Granite.
McClean, Russel. The Good Son.
McDermid, Val. The Distant Echo.
Mina, Denise. Garnethill.
Rankin, Ian. Knots and Crosses.
When Gabriella Mondini recieves a letter from her physician father saying that he has decided not to come home from his travels, Gabriella, a rare female doctor in 16th century Venice, decides to venture across Europe to retrieve him. Not only does Gabriella rely on him to support her professional membership in the physicians' guild, but she suspects that something must be terribly wrong for her father to abandon her family in such a way. Accompanied by her servants, Olmina and Lorenzo, she follows the geographic clues of her father's correspondance from the past ten years from village to village.
The journey places Gabrielle in dangerous situations and the fact that she is a woman and a doctor only complicates things further. She also discovers more and more about her father, strange information that might explain why he has vansihed. This lyrical debut novel from O'Melveny presents a unique female character historical fiction and mystery fans are sure to appreciate.
De Robertis’s second novel (after The Invisible Mountain, 2009) tackles head-on the lingering traumas left behind by Argentina’s state-sponsored regime of terror during the 1970s and ‘80s. In the opening pages, 22-year-old college student Perla, left home alone by vacationing parents, finds a naked man in her living room. He is dripping wet, smelling of rotting fish and seawater, and she can find no possible way he could have entered the home. Oddly, she is unafraid, though she knows perhaps she should be. As the rest of the novel unfolds, Perla and the naked man both reflect on their lives up to this point. Perla’s father, a man she loves with all the loyalty an only daughter can muster, is also a Naval officer and thus, one of the men responsible for the kidnappings and torture Argentina’s government perpetrated against its own citizens. She knows she should hate him, but cannot quite bring herself to do so. Her lover, an investigative journalist, has recently broached to her the idea that she herself was stolen as an infant from one of los desaparecidos—the disappeared. Rejecting the idea, she fled his arms and retreated home—only to be confronted by the naked wet man. That man, meanwhile, is finding his own memories returned to him slowly. In life, he was himself one of los desaparecidos, taken from his pregnant young wife and tortured mercilessly before being thrown from a plane into the ocean along with countless others. Why he has returned from the waters now, and why he has arrived in this home with this young woman, is something they must discover together.
With Perla, De Robertis has fully embraced the tradition of magical realism so representative of Central and South American literature. Lyrical even when describing the most horrific of torments endured by los desaparecidos, De Robertis’s novel is powerful and affecting in its clear-eyed examination of the lasting impacts of the dictatorship upon both the victims and also the perpetrators of its many horrors.
Jenny Lawson, best known for her side-splittingly funny, irreverent blog at thebloggess.com, delivers more of the same here, in her (mostly true) memoir. Jenny grew up poor in rural Texas, the daughter of a taxidermist father whose idea of a good joke was making puppets out of roadkill. An outsider who later struggled with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and now rheumatoid arthritis, she recounts the trials and tribulations of her life in a no-holds-barred, double-barreled, profanity-laden manner.
Readers of her popular blog will already be familiar with the way in which, in Jenny’s hands, the simplest of stories become extended digressions into the labyrinthine twistings of her often bizarre thinking process . Anyone looking for a straight-forward memoir should look elsewhere, but those who share Jenny’s twisted sense of humor and irreverent outlook on life will find themselves belly laughing out loud and garnering strange looks from those around them.
If you're looking for a 2012 well-written literary read that is a) not depressing b) easy to read and c) thoroughly enjoyable, look no further. If you have never picked up a book by Penelope Lively before, this is a good place to start. And if you have--well, you won't be disappointed. This book is about how people's lives influence one another...the changes that occur after a woman is mugged of her purse and injured. Imagine a rippling effect, if you will. It's a good book for anyone who thinks that his or her actions don't matter--because this book proves that they do! Actually, it's a great book for everyone. Penelope Lively is a spectacular British writer who has many years of writing under her belt, and she just keeps getting better.