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Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood (2014)

mrshemingwayThe incredible talent, the struggles with mental health, the madcap adventures around the globe, the drinking, the recklessness, and the many loves of the original party animal – Ernest Hemingway told through the eyes of his four wives is a revealing piece of historical fiction. Fans of The Paris Wife may be disappointed at first when the Hadley they have grown to love is pushed into the background and each new wife in turn takes over the narration of the literary genius' life story.

Naomi Wood endears the reader to the many qualities that made Hemingway fall for the other three women over the years. In Mrs. Hemingway, Wood drives the point home that all the great loves of his life could not quench his inherent loneliness.

The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Dobyns (1997)

churchofdeadgirlsA series of disappearances of young adolescent girls in a small upstate New York town creates suspicion and violence amongst the town’s other inhabitants. From its truly creepy beginning to its end, Stephen DobynsThe Church of Dead Girls is one suspenseful story.

China Dolls by Lisa See (2014)

chinadollsThree young Asian American women meet at the Golden Gate International Exhibit in 1938. They forge immediate friendships and end up entertaining in the San Francisco nightclub scene. Each woman holds dark secrets that are slowly revealed as they struggle to survive during the war years. Friendship, family, love, and betrayal are examined from their diverse points of view in Lisa See’s China Dolls.

Join our Novel Idea discussion group on Wednesday, May 13 at 7pm to talk about China Dolls. Get your copy of the book at the front checkout desk.

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin (2014)

norawebsterIt took me a while to get into the story of the recently widowed Nora Webster in Colm Toibin’s latest novel, but I ended up enjoying this patient exploration of a woman’s life. After her beloved husband passes away, Nora struggles to take care of her four children while living on a meager widower’s pension.

Narrator Fiona Shaw's authentic Irish accent enriches the story that takes place in small town of Wexford, Ireland, where Nora raises her two young boys. Nora's sisters, aunts, and friends all offer assistance and advice as she navigates the unfamiliar terrain of her new life. In Nora Webster, the transition of Nora from grieving widow to resilient independent woman is a wonderful journey for the reader.
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The Murder Man by Tony Parsons (2014)

murdermanAfter a transfer from the anti-terrorism unit to homicide, DC Max Wolfe is immediately involved in the investigation into the grisly murder of investment banker Hugo Buck. When a homeless man is killed soon after in the same way, it seems there's a serial killer on the loose who specifically targeted both men. What is the connection between the victims and will there be more deaths before Max and his colleague, DCI Mallory, discover the identity of the killer?

In this first book in the Max Wolfe series, author Tony Parsons creates an interesting main character who struggles to raise his five-year-old daughter, Scout, on his own, while mourning the loss of his wife. He is also able to craft a puzzle that keeps you guessing until the end. The Murder Man is a good read-alike for those who enjoy the Mark Tartaglia series by Elena Forbes.

Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

neuromancerWilliam Gibson’s critically acclaimed Neuromancer tells the story of Henry Dorsett Case, a master computer hacker forced into a life of petty street crime after crossing an employer who wrecked his nervous system as payback. As Case spirals down a self-destructive path on the streets of near-future Chiba, Japan, a mysterious benefactor offers to repair his nervous system – allowing Case to once again explore the myriad gleaming pathways of Cyberspace – in exchange for a highly dangerous, confidential job. Case accepts, and is plunged into a tangled web of conspiracies with dire implications.

Neuromancer is fascinatingly paced: the first half or so reads like a series of connected short stories, while the latter half begs to be read in one sitting. The plot is a gripping tale of intrigue, and the characters are compellingly written, but where the novel really shines is in its prediction. Gibson’s deeply atmospheric prose envisages a world dramatically changed by incredible advances in computer science and biotechnology combined with growing corporate influence on political and legal matters.

Neuromancer’s frankly portrayed adult subject matter and occasionally unsettling themes definitely aren't for everyone. But for everyone else, it comes highly recommended to those looking for an engaging sci-fi thriller.

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain (2014)

silentsisterIt's usually pretty easy to get quickly drawn in by Diane Chamberlain's novels, and this one does not disappoint. In fact, The Silent Sister is a great page-turner.

Riley MacPherson is the protagonist in this story. She is a young woman in her mid-twenties who has the unpleasant and depressing job of clearing out her childhood home after her father passes away. She discovers that her family kept many secrets during the time she was growing up, including a really huge one concerning her older sister. Very enjoyable!

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai (2014)

hundredyearhouseThis is the quirky and charming story of Laurelfield, a grand estate north of Chicago. Rebecca Makkai unfolds the history of the century old house in reverse order starting with Zee and Doug, a young couple struggling to find their place in the world of academia. At Laurefield, they encounter locked attics, Y2K fears, jealousy and plenty of ghosts. As the past is revealed in the subsequent chapters, you begin to understand that everything is connected in a mysterious way. I loved this unconventional story and you will want to read The Hundred-Year House again as soon as you finish.

Hey 20-30somethings -- GenLit will be discussing this novel on Wednesday, March 25 at 6:30pm at Phillies Pizza in Willowbrook. Join the conversation on Facebook.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014)

allthelightThe horrors of Nazi-occupied Europe are told through the eyes of Marie-Louise and Werner. They are on opposing sides, yet they are both just innocent teenagers caught up in a no-win situation. In another time and place, they could have been soulmates. Their intelligent and gentle natures bleed through some of the travesty.

Marie-Louise escapes war-torn Paris as her father tries to hide her away in a family home in St. Malo, but the war catches up with them. Her father, as an employee of the National History Museum, is hiding a special stone with legendary stories attached to it. The stone and its legends add a touch of mysterious appeal to All the Light We Cannot See.

Werner is an electronic genius and an orphan who gets caught up into the Nazi plan at a much younger age than necessary. Superiors lie about his age to take advantage of his radio expertise on the front lines. Werner's sister is part of the underground German resistance movement and adds an interesting element to the story.

Anthony Doerr alternates between Werner and Marie-Louise's voices and magically creates a haunting story readers will not soon forget.

For more novels of WWII, check out our list.

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver (2014)

murderatbrightwellIf you’re a fan of traditional mysteries, you’ll enjoy this one. Set at a fashionable hotel on England’s southern coast in 1932 with a cast of characters right out of an Agatha Christie mystery, Murder at the Brightwell is a witty and energetic who-done-it.

Amory Ames, wealthy and dissatisfied with her life, takes a holiday at the seaside and turns detective after a fellow hotel guest turns up dead and another is suspected of foul play. The plot takes on a new dimension when her husband Milo arrives unexpectedly. Amory and Milo Ames’ off and on again marriage seems to be laying the foundation for a lively and clever new series of mystery novels by Ashley Weaver. At least I hope so.

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris (2014)

officerspyThis is a fictional re-telling of the infamous Dreyfus Affair which tore France apart in the late 1890s, and revealed a deep-seated anti-Semitism in French society. The novel is told from the point of view of Georges Picquart, an intelligence officer who came to believe in Dreyfus’s innocence and was himself persecuted for his refusal to let an innocent man die in prison without a fight.  Many historical novels based so closely on real events can be stiffly told with flat characters, but Robert Harris manages to fill An Officer and a Spy with real people in an era that he brings to life on the page.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)

stationelevenOne night during a stage production of King Lear in Toronto, the movie star Arthur Leander collapses. At the same time, the deadly Georgia flu is spreading rapidly across the world decimating the population. This haunting and intriguing dystopia imagines life after collapse of civilization. Jumping back and forth through time, Emily St. John Mandel reveals the details Arthur’s life along with the child actor Kirsten, his former wives, his best friend, and the man who attempted to save his life on stage. A compelling look at the connections that bind us to one another, Station Eleven proves that humanity can survive against the odds.
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Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones (2014)

nightshanghaiA five star read! Night in Shanghai tells the story of a young jazz musician who left the U.S. to pursue his career in China. Nicole Mones thoroughly researched her topic to present the history, language, and culture of pre-WWII China. The ending of the book will stir emotion in the reader because you know where those ships are going.

Listen to an interview with the author (or just read the highlights) here on NPR. Visit her website to discover more about her research and browse galleries. Join us on February 11 when the Novel Idea group will discuss the book at 7pm at the library.

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand (2012)

summerlandOn the island of Nantucket, an entire community must learn how to come to grips, and attempt to deal with their sorrow, after a tragic car accident claims the life of a 17-year-old girl and seriously injures her twin brother.

Summerland is the first Elin Hilderbrand novel I have read, and it sure won’t be the last. She has a definite knack for delving into the lives of the major characters. By the end of the story, you really care and feel as though you actually know them. This was a very enjoyable novel – now I see why Hilderbrand is such a popular author!

That Summer by Lauren Willig (2014)

thatsummerThe story is set in London and goes back and forth between 2009 and 1849. In the modern thread, Julia inherits a house and travels from New York to London to clean out the house before selling it. The story switches to 1849, where Imogen lives in the house with her dispassionate husband. Imogen has an affair with the artist painting her portrait – a painting that still hangs in the house in 2009. Modern day Julia pieces together Imogen’s life and finds love in Nicholas, an antiques dealer who helps her with the research.

I really enjoyed That Summer and loved the switching of the characters and the years. Very entertaining – I hope that a movie is made from Lauren Willig’s novel.