As a young woman struggles to read Paradise Lost, she faces her own temptation. Is she brave enough to choose good over evil?
Mabel Dagmar, a scholarship student at an East Coast college, is mismatched as roommate to the glamorous, privileged Genevra "Ev" Winslow. For months they lead separate lives, until Ev’s mother invites Mabel to Ev’s 18th birthday party—held at the school's museum, where Ev has just donated a Degas. Despite their seemingly insurmountable social differences, Ev and Mabel become friends, and Mabel is invited to spend the summer at the Winslows’ summer estate on Lake Champlain, made up of cabins ranging from rustic to luxurious and a communal dining hall. She’s eager to go, especially given that the alternative is working at her parents’ dry cleaners, silently observing her mother’s bruises and enduring her disapproval. Mabel and Ev keep house together in Bittersweet cottage, while Ev's domineering parents, Birch and Tilde, rule from Trillium House. Ev’s oldest brother, Athol, arrives with his tall, athletic, refined family. Second son Banning is close behind with his more disheveled brood. The third son, Galway, is an enigma. Up only on weekends, he keeps his distance, but his eyes rest on Mabel. After a chance meeting with Ev’s eccentric aunt Indo, Mabel is plunged into mysteries. What does Indo think she can find amid the old Winslow documents? Why did Ev’s cousin Jackson kill himself? Why is Ev hiding her romance with John, who works on the estate? And why are so many doors locked with heavy bolts? As she uncovers evidence of dastardly deeds—some deliciously improbable—Mabel comes face to face with her own secrets.
Beverly-Whittemore (Set Me Free, 2007, etc.) has crafted a page-turner riddled with stubborn clues, a twisty plot and beguiling characters.
In Malerman's chilling debut, an apocalyptic reality befalls a Michigan river community—and who knows how much of the rest of civilization—in the form of creatures that cause people who merely look at them to go mad and kill themselves.
Having lost her sister to this horrific fate, a young woman, Malorie, finds sanctuary with a group of strangers in a small house with covered windows. Like her co-inhabitants, she learns to perform essential outdoor tasks and even travel distances blindfolded. After discovering she's pregnant, she'll do anything to find a safer place to live. The novel (named after a collection of caged birds that coo whenever anything approaches) cuts back and forth between Malorie's life in the strangers' house, where only an analog phone promises contact with the outside world, and her escape four years later with her unnamed Boy and Girl. In both parts, she lives in fear. At any moment, one or both of the kids could remove their blindfolds and perish. And who's to say whether one of the men, upon returning from an expedition for food or supplies, was exposed to a creature or will usher one into the house? Malerman, leader of the appropriately named rock band The High Strung, keeps us tinglingly on edge with his cool, merciless storytelling. Just when you think he's going to disappoint with a Twilight Zone–like twist, he douses his tale in poetic gloom. One especially unsettling scene involves blasts of lightning, a dog barking wildly at the night, footsteps on creaky attic stairs and two women giving birth, unattended.
An unsettling thriller, this earns comparisons to Hitchcock's The Birds, as well as the finer efforts of Stephen King and cult sci-fi fantasist Jonathan Carroll.
Novelist and nonfiction author Dyer (Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room, 2012, etc.) goes to sea for an immersive, sometimes-sobering ride aboard an American aircraft carrier.
What's a fussy eater who's averse to sharing a room, too tall for cramped corridors and who bears an abhorrence for anything to do with engines or oil aboard the USS George H.W. Bush? From the moment he arrived on the flight deck, there was never a dull moment, which also meant there was never a moment’s peace. But the crash and thunder of jets taking off competed with a stultifying muddle of military acronyms, which Dyer tried futilely to comprehend. Of course, this British writer noted for subverting genres is much more interested in the people. He describes a Whitman-esque quality of a “fulfilled and industrious America, each person indispensable to the workings of the larger enterprise,” finding himself happily “surrounded by American voices, American friendliness, American politeness.” Dyer also locates an unexpected poetics of carrier life, the terrible beauty and lyrical maneuvers of a machine of war (and the self-perpetuating requirement of oil to make the machine go). The author rejects the microminutiae beloved of many reporters, instead capturing a broader canvas with painterly precision. Though he explodes a few persistent myths, more than once, Dyer was moved by a promotion ceremony, an act of consideration, honor or devotion to duty. Ultimately, even as mere observer, he felt privileged to be there yet just as eager to resume his normal life back on “the beach.” Though respectful, generally admiring, of those in military service, Dyer remained ambivalent; he fires broadsides against numbing (if necessary) routine, the simplistic thinking of religious conservatism prevalent on board and the inherent contradictions of having a military presence off the coasts of other lands in a way that would never be countenanced near American shores.
As usual for Dyer, eccentrically intriguing, occasionally dipping into boyish wonder and spasms of sentiment.
Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson.
Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty.
Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.
Dawson’s second novel (The Stuff That Never Happened, 2010) is a delightfully witty story of a 44-year-old first-time mother-to-be.
Rosie and Jonathan are beloved by their friends, although they dance to their own awkward beat. They’ve stayed unmarried for 15 years, have escaped the stickiness of children and remind themselves they like things just the way they are—until Jonathan gets an offer to help open a museum dedicated to teacups. Jonathan, whose favorite word is “no,” is now saying yes to San Diego and to something that sounds like an adventure. But Rosie likes Connecticut, her friends and teaching ESL; furthermore, she can’t imagine building a life around the star power of porcelain. And then there’s Soapie, Rosie’s 88-year-old grandmother, who raised her and has recently been forgetting things. However, Soapie insists she doesn’t need a nurse since, surprise, she has Tony and George to help. Tony is a nice young man who has moved in to mix cocktails, garden and pick Soapie up off the floor, and George is Soapie’s geriatric lover. Rosie plans for the move to San Diego (Jonathan is going with or without her) but at the last minute decides not to go: She’s had enough of Jonathan’s myopic selfishness. He drops her off at Soapie’s on his way out, and two weeks later, Rosie discovers she is pregnant. Everything seems impossible to handle (including Jonathan, who insists on an abortion), and Rosie would implode if not for Tony, who is kind, goofy and the most sweetly optimistic person Rosie has ever met. Tony has his own problems—his wife left him for her best friend, and now the two mommies won’t let him have shared custody of his son, Milo—but he is still by Rosie’s side. Tony may be just the guy for her. Then Jonathan calls from San Diego, begging her to join him so they can be a real family.
A messy, funny, surprising story of second chances.
A defector of Kim Jong-il’s rarefied inner circle reveals the desperate, despicable machinations of North Korea’s police state.
“North Korea’s opacity is its greatest strength,” writes New Focus International editor in chief Jin-sung in this powerful, heart-rending tale of one young man’s ability to infiltrate the locus of power, then escape. At age 28, in 1999, upon the publication of his ingratiating epic poem “Spring Rests on the Gun Barrel of the Lord,” written for Kim Jong-il, Jin-sung earned a personal endorsement of the Great Leader and the privilege of immunity as one of the few “Admitted” in the upper cadre of the Organization and Guidance Department of the Workers’ Party, which wielded the real power behind the leader. As one of the revered “court poets” and an employee of the United Front Department, which comprised the party’s intelligence and propaganda hub, the author had access to all kinds of South Korean literature in his work of “localization,” which attempted to influence South Korea by imitating its “ways of thought.” His elevation also proved his downfall, however, as he began questioning the party line fed to him. A trip home to the provincial town of Sariwon, vastly changed in the 10 years since he had last been there and reeling from the collapse of the economy, opened his eyes. The people were dropping dead from famine, so poor that they were selling water to wash one’s face and cotton comforters made painstakingly from the filters of cigarette butts, while Jin-sung, the party elite, habitually received foreign rations when they had none. Against the rules, the author loaned a South Korean biography of Kim Jong-il to his trusted friend, the composer Hwang Young-min, but the book got lost, forcing the two to go on the lam to China.
An exciting escape closes this urgent, well-rendered attempt to penetrate North Korea’s cynical, criminal power strategy.
A chance meeting in the Marks and Spencer food hall puts a deeply troubled young woman in a dangerous position.
While she works part-time in a charity shop, Jessie Constable must deal every day with her disabling phobia—a fear of feathers. Shopping in the food court, she spots a big red-haired man she’d seen before. In fact, she’d once even offered to buy a cake for Ruby, his little girl. Sitting with his head in his hands while Ruby looks on, sculptor Gus King suddenly tells Jessie that his wife, Becky, has left him. Since he’s obviously in shock, Jessie drives him home, making the long trip from Dumfries out to a country cottage on the water. Soon afterward, the police arrive to tell Gus that Becky has died in what looks like a suicidal car crash. Somehow Jessie gets roped into staying to help care for Ruby and her baby brother, Dillon. As she does her best to learn the household’s routine, she notices that not everything she learns about the family makes sense. Even though Becky’s best friend Ros had apparently left for Poland, a young Pole Jessie meets hanging around the caravan site next door tries to tell her in his very limited English that Ros would never have done that. Jessie and Gus quickly become lovers, and he gradually draws the story of her feather phobia out of her. Each telling, she acknowledges, is different, and years of therapy have allowed her to lead only a semi-normal life. For his part, Gus maintains that Becky would never have killed herself. All the pieces of the puzzle add up to more confusion for Jessie, who no longer knows whom to believe.
McPherson’s second stand-alone (As She Left It, 2013, etc.) is a tour de force, a creepy psychological thriller that will leave you breathless.
A lifetime of memories from classic rock’s heyday by one of the finest rock journalists of her generation.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Cameron Crowe’s misty-eyed classic Almost Famous comes to readers’ minds as they troll through this book by longtime New York Post and Vanity Fair journalist Robinson. The author covers her career from joining the Rolling Stones on tour in 1969 to more recent profiles of megastars like Eminem, Kanye West and Lady Gaga. It’s a fantastic collection of stories, partially due to the fact that Robinson is a top-notch writer and partly since she enjoyed completely unfettered access and the genuine friendship of figures ranging from John Lennon to Phil Spector. Most of the chapters cover major figures—David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and an elegiac remembrance of Michael Jackson, to name just a few—but Robinson also seems to have a foot in two worlds. While she jetted around the world with champagne in hand, she was also deeply embedded in the origins of the legendary New York City club CBGB. In its orbit, she bonded with gutter rats like the Ramones and introduced David Bowie to Lou Reed for the first time. There’s also a bittersweet melancholy that underpins much of the book. On the recent Zeppelin reunion, she writes, “I didn’t go. I prefer to remember them the way they were. It’s been a long time. The song couldn’t possibly be the same.” On learning there’s a “Joey Ramone Place” in the Bowery now, she recalls some lyrics by Bob Dylan: “They’re selling postcards of the hanging.” On punk rock: “Scenes aren’t meant to last. The best of them sneak or burst into the consciousness of a few. They blow up into something they weren’t to begin with. And then, they eventually burn out.” All of these movements have been written about before, but the scope of Robinson’s memoir lends it an extraordinary spirit.
A backstage pass to the greatest circus of the 20th century.
Andrews (Christmas Bliss, 2013, etc.) produces another happily-ever-after with the usual complications; her heroine this time is a Savannah florist trying to gain a foothold in the bridal industry.
Bloom owner Cara Kryzik is barely keeping her business afloat creating innovative flower arrangements for weddings, and the last distraction she anticipates is historic-building restorer Jack Finnerty. The two met when Cara accused him of stealing her runaway goldendoodle puppy, and now Jack seems to show up at every wedding she designs. Cara isn't immune to Jack’s charms, but she initially attempts to ignore their developing attraction. Her experience growing up with an emotionally distant and sometimes physically absent military father and her recent divorce from a philandering husband have left her feeling jaded when it comes to love. But Jack’s sincerity and persistence win her over, and soon they’re sharing a bed. Cara’s career also is looking up. She wins a lucrative contract to design and direct a society wedding, and the money she’s slated to receive upon completion will enable her to pay off a loan, solidify her reputation as a floral designer and plan some much-needed improvements for her business. However, troubles multiply, and it’s not long before Cara is juggling her time between the unhappy bride and the bride's micromanaging stepmother. In addition, Bert, her assistant and friend, becomes increasingly distant and unreliable; a competitor tries to undermine her business; and a client’s family heirloom goes missing. As Cara tries to sort out problems and repair damage, she’s ultimately forced to face her own beliefs and make some tough decisions. But, in trademark Andrews style, things end on a high note in another light, predictable and pleasant diversion.
A deft mixture of romance and humor in a story featuring a likable protagonist and cute critters: It’s a date Andrews fans won’t want to miss.