Fiction – Clean Reads

 

A list of fiction titles for readers who want little to no sex in their books.

General Fiction

A Man Called Ove Frederick  Backman FIC Backman, PB FIC B

Books by Maeve Binchy

Caleb’s Crossing Geraldine Brooks Historical FIC Brooks

At the Edge of the Orchard Tracy Chevalier FIC Chevalier

The Alchemist Paulo Coelho PB FIC C

The Magic of Ordinary Days Ann Howard Creel Historical FIC Creel

The Invention of Wings Sue Monk Kidd Historical FIC Kidd, PB FIC K

Commonwealth Ann Patchett FIC Patchett

Miller’s Valley Anna Quindlen FIC Quindlen

Still Life With Bread Crumbs Anna Quindlen FIC Quindlen

The Summer Before the War Helen Simonson FIC Simonson

My Name is Lucy Barton Elizabeth Strout FIC Strout

Books by Anne Tyler

We are All Welcome Here Elizabeth Berg Fic Berg

 

Mystery

Flavia DeLuce series Alan Bradley MYS Bradley

First: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Ian Rutledge series Charles Todd                                   MYS Todd

First: A Test of Wills (Historical/mystery)

Bess Crawford series Charles Todd                                   MYS Todd

First: A Duty to the Dead (Historical/mystery)

Books by Agatha Christie

Leaphorn & Chee series Tony Hillerman MYS Hillerman

First: The Blessing Way

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Alexander McCall Smith MYS McCall Smith

            First: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Charles Lennox Mysteries Charles Finch MYS Finch

First: A Beautiful Blue Death (Historical/ mystery)

 

 

List created 3/20/17 – Marie Drucker

Mystery – Nordic Noir

Remember a few years ago, when the entire world was reading Steig Larsson’s Millennium trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc.)? Right about the same time, “Nordic noir” became a thing for many of us, especially as more and more Scandinavian mysteries, particularly my favorite sub-genre of police procedurals, were translated into English. Maybe we were late to discover some of these writers, but it isn’t too late to bask in their chill.

Key to the genre is the character of the police detective. He or she is often bitter and tired of the police life. And make no mistake, these stories are character-driven. You don’t read a police procedural to learn more about solving crimes. You read them for the simple, stark prose and the worn-down hero who is usually battling demons of his own. Here are some of my favorite Nordic noir authors (in alphabetical order):

It just so happens that my favorite author comes first: Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series is thrilling and funny. Carl Morck, our Danish protagonist, has been pushed into the cold case unit because like so many other detectives, he doesn’t always follow the rules. He’s surrounded by an eclectic mix of characters including a mysterious Muslim assistant, a secretary who may be suffering from multiple personality disorder, and a former partner who is barely alive. There are six books in the series so far; start with the first: The Keeper of Lost Causes. (Denmark)

I’ve only read one of Ake Edwardson’s Inspector Erik Winter books — Room No. 10. Detective Erik Winter is not as hard-boiled as most detectives and is very likeable. It’s often difficult to read Scandinavian mysteries in the proper order because they’re not always translated into English in the proper order. More have been translated from Swedish recently, though, so you can start with the very first: Death Angels. (Sweden)

I’m slowly working my way through Karin Fossum’s Inspector Konrad Sejer’s novels. He’s a brilliant man who solves cases not just with police skills but also a keen awareness of how humans work. Sejer is a lonely man after the death of his wife, but he’s slowly starting to get out more, as we would say. Start with Eva’s Eye. (Norway)

Similarly, Anne Holt’s older books are a bit hard to get a hold of – but Hewlett-Woodmere has many of them! I hope to read all of the Hanne Wilhelmsen novels someday. Until then, I’m enjoying the series she has starring Police Commissioner Adam Stubo and his wife Johanne Vik (a profiler). Adam is a jolly old soul and Johanne is neurotic, so they make a nice pair. Stubo worked with Wilhelmsen, so this new series picks up once Wilhelmsen retires. By the way, Wilhelmsen breaks many of the detective stereotypes simply by being a lesbian. Start Hanne’s series with Blind Goddess. Start Adam and Joanne’s series with What Is Mine. (Norway)

I would be remiss to leave Iceland and Arnaldur Indridason out of this list (especially since he’s also a favorite). At time, Indridason makes Iceland seem very uninviting – just the atmosphere you’d expect from a police procedural. But I’ve taken a liking to Inspector Erlendur (his first name due to Iceland’s patronymic naming system, which makes last names harder to distinguish). I’ve read eight out of 10 of his novels – unfortunately, the first two in the series haven’t been translated into English. So start with Jar City. (Iceland). Also from Iceland is a series by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, but her novels aren’t strictly police procedurals, as the crime solver is laywer Thóra Gudmundsdottir.

Lars Kepler is the pen name of a Swedish husband and wife (Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril) writing team. I didn’t love the first book – The Hypnotist. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what I was reading. But I liked it enough to want to read the next two, and the stories have gotten better. The third was quite good. The lead detective in the books is a tough Finn who likes to break all the rules. The Ahndorils may be saying something about Swedes and Finns in between the lines, but I’ve yet to discover what. (Sweden)

On my list of books to read are those by Camilla Lackberg, so it would be wrong of me to say she’s a favorite. Let’s just say instead that I’m looking forward to starting her Patrik Hedström’s series soon, which begins with The Ice Princess. (Sweden)

Everyone knows Henning Mankell’s Swedish Kurt Wallander series. Someday I will read all 11 books in the series (I’ve read a few but I want to re-read them and start at the beginning). Just keep reminding yourself that Kurt isn’t really Kenneth Brannagh (who played him for the BBC). Start with Faceless Killers. (Sweden)

Another favorite is Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, set primarily in Oslo. In truth, I recommend this series to everyone in the universe (or at least to those who come into the library). It’s also fun to tell parents that Nesbo writes a series of books for children – I’ll might show them Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder, then say he writes dark and sometimes brutal mysteries for adults. I had to start in the middle with The Devil’s Star (first one translated and published in the States, I believe), but you now read them in the correct order. Start with The Bat and find out how anti-hero Harry developed his reputation. Note that Nesbo also has several non-series novels. (Norway)

There’s a whole world of Scandinavian mysteries out there to discover. Dress warmly and read accordingly. And if you’re ever confused about the order of a series, ask a librarian or try out this terrific website: Stop You’re Killing Me. http://www.stopyourekillingme.com

List created 8/3/16 – Marie Drucker

Romance – Ink & Tattoos

Ink
Rule: A Marked Men Novel
by Jay Crownover

New Adult Romance. Shaw is a high-achieving pre-med student too focused on her future career to worry about relationships. Rule is a hard-partying, tattooed rebel who bounces from one hookup to the next. There’s no reason they should ever be together, and every reason why they shouldn’t. However, reason has nothing to do with their undeniable mutual attraction. Rule kicks off the Marked Men novels. Desperately seeking more brooding loner heroes, preferably with lots of ink? Check out Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive novels or A.L. Jackson’s Closer to You series.

Drawn Together
by Lauren Dane

Erotic Romance. When attorney Jonah Warner approaches tattoo artist Raven Smith about inking a wolf across his back, she can’t resist the opportunity to see such a sexy guy with his shirt off. Jonah, for his part, is intrigued by Raven’s tough-girl attitude and commitment to her craft. A super-hot fling is practically a necessity, but both fight the desire to let their relationship become anything more than physical release. Raven’s rough upbringing has made her prickly and defensive, while Jonah’s disastrous marriage has left him gun-shy when it comes to matters of the heart. Can these well-matched lovers work out their issues and find happiness together? While Drawn Together is book 6 in the Brown Family novels, it stands on its own. Readers interested in reading the whole series will want to start with Laid Bare.

Hard As It Gets
by Laura Kaye

Erotic Romance. After Becca Merritt’s brother Charlie goes missing, she turns to Nick Rixey, a former soldier who served under her deceased father. Nick, now a part-time employee of his brother’s tattoo parlor, Hard Ink, still blames Colonel Merritt for the disastrous situation that got most of their unit killed and Nick dishonorably discharged. Although he wants nothing to do with the Merritt family, there’s something about Becca that he just can’t resist. As Nick and Becca search for Charlie, they make a discovery that could clear the reputations of Nick and his surviving comrades. This steamy series opener, which combines sizzling sensual encounters with an emotionally charged story, may interest fans of Lauren Dane’s Drawn Together, also set in a tattoo parlor.

Sins & Needles
by Karina Halle

Romantic Suspense. Ellie Watt is a grifter trying valiantly to reform. That’s why she has retreated to her uncle’s farm in bucolic Palm Valley, California, where temptation is hard to come by. Or so she thinks until she meets master tattoo artist Camden McQueen, who’s both seriously sexy and an easy mark if ever there was one. As her involvement with Cameron tests Ellie’s resolve to stay on the straight and narrow, her past catches up with her, placing them both in danger. Gritty and explicit, Sins & Needles is the 1st novel in the high-drama Artists trilogy. Readers who hate cliffhangers should be aware that Ellie and Cameron’s complicated relationship unfolds over course of the entire series, which continues with Shooting Scars and Bold Tricks.

Afterlight: The Dark Ink Chronicles
by Elle Jasper

Paranormal Romance. Riley Poe, a tattoo artist in Savannah, Georgia, is an adoptive member of the family that serves as a living blood bank for the Dupré family vampires, who provide protection from the city’s villainous strigoi in exchange for fresh plasma. When Riley’s brother Seth is kidnapped by the strigoi, she seeks out vampire EliDupré, who’s as intrigued by her rare blood type as he is by Riley herself. Although paranormal romance fans should enjoy this steamy vampire-themed love story, Afterlight — the 1st book in the Dark Ink Chronicles — skews heavily towards urban fantasy and may also appeal to fans of Kristen Painter’s Crescent City novels.

The Tattooed Duke
by Maya Rodale

Regency Historical. As one of the London Weekly’s notorious “Writing Girls,” investigative reporter Eliza Fielding will go to any lengths for a story. Her latest assignment? Posing as a maid in the household of Sebastian Digby, the tattooed Duke of Wycliff, whose adventurous lifestyle has long shocked and titillated polite society. As Eliza sets to work chronicling Wyclif’s scandalous exploits, she discovers that he’s a far better man than he pretends to be. Soon, she’s having reservations about exposing his secrets — and his exotic body art — to the world. Love and success: can a Regency-era female journalist have it all? Find out in this 3rd installment of the Writing Girls series, after A Groom of One’s Own and A Tale of Two Lovers.

List created 8/3/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.

Food – Food and Eating

Focus on: Food and Eating
My Beef With Meat: The Healthiest Argument for Eating a Plant-Strong Diet…
by Rip Esselstyn

If you’ve been thinking about eliminating meat and milk from your diet, take a look at Rip Esselstyn’s impassioned discussion in My Beef with Meat. The triathlete and former firefighter from Austin, Texas explains how a plant-based diet can provide plenty of nutrients while reducing the risks (such as heart disease and stroke) that come from consuming animal products. To help you get started, Esselstyn includes a substantial section of recipes organized by categories such as breakfast, sandwiches, varieties of snack foods, and desserts. Here’s an informative and accessible guide to vegetarian eating.

Eating Animals
by Jonathan Safran Foer

Celebrated novelist Jonathan Safran Foer dives into nonfiction in Eating Animals, which carefully explores the history of meat-eating, the philosophical implications of choosing to eat certain animals but not others, and the meat production industry. Factory farms, the remarkable depletion of sea life, and unpleasant details of meat processing raise ethical and environmental questions that have led Foer to choose vegetarianism. Though his thoroughly-researched (he visited farms and slaughterhouses himself) and thought-provoking argument doesn’t answer all possible questions about the subject, as he acknowledges, he offers a “highly entertaining take on an increasingly visible” (Publishers Weekly) issue for those who are concerned about where our food comes from.

Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat
by John McQuaid

The tongue has one crucial job: “to distinguish food from everything else.” However, the unconscious physical process though which we determine what’s edible is complicated: understanding it involves several biological disciplines, including microbiology, genetics, and neuroscience. It also requires cleansing one’s mental palate by, for example, discarding that scientifically baseless diagram of the tongue depicting four distinct regions dedicated to sweet, salty, sour, and bitter flavors. If you’ve ever wondered why and how we eat what we eat, check out the engaging, accessible, and scholarly Tasty.

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
by Michael Moss

Acclaimed investigative journalist Michael Moss reveals how corporate food engineers manipulate our seemingly insatiable addictions to salt, sugar, and fat — feeding America’s current health crises, from obesity to diabetes. Moss breaks down the chemistry of junk foods’ appeal, as well as the social trends and advertising strategies that lure us to buy despite the known risks. In particular, he targets the marketing of “healthier options”: foods touted as low in one of the unholy trinity (for example, sodium) but dangerously high in the other two (sugar, fat). Salt Sugar Fat offers a sobering view of “the food we hate to love” (Publishers Weekly).

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan, author of the award-winning Omnivore’s Dilemma, thoughtfully and wittily approaches contemporary first-world food production and consumption from a naturalist’s point of view. Eating provides our most frequent and intimate connection with the natural world, though we don’t often think of our microwaved meals and fast food sandwiches so profoundly. Our eating habits are problematic, he asserts, and not just because our diets are overloaded with fat and sugar. However, without deeper knowledge of the food industry, it’s hard to know which items to buy and consume. In Defense of Food offers a useful guideline: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

List created 8/3/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.

Business and Personal Finance – Negotiating

Negotiating
The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See
by Max H. Bazerman

You can’t make decisions properly if you don’t make use of the information available to you — and sometimes that means widening your focus. In The Power of Noticing, author Max H. Bazerman uses his own experience in failing to notice important information to illustrate the benefits of questioning assumptions, biases, and conventional wisdom. The tools and strategies he shares — which are as relevant to negotiating as they are to strategic decision-making and leadership skills — are also illustrated with cases from the business world.

Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World
by Stuart Diamond

Turning his popular Wharton Business School course on negotiating into a book, former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Stuart Diamond shares negotiating skills that can be applied to everything from asking for a raise to getting a discount to getting your kids into bed at a decent hour. He advises readers to remain calm, find the decision-maker, and focus on your goals (rather than on who is “right”), and provides ample examples of how his students have achieved successful negotiations. “Superb,” says Kirkus Reviews, but if this one’s checked out, go to an accepted standard on negotiating in the business world, Robert Fisher and William Ury’s Getting to Yes.

10 Make-or-Break Career Moments: Navigate, Negotiate, and Communicate for Success
by Casey Hawley

Ever find yourself facing a manager or some other higher-up in a semi-social occasion (like a staff holiday party) and at a loss for words? Have you ever wondered how to react during a performance review? According to leadership coach Casey Hawley, these are the most opportune times to take control of your career by putting your best foot forward. If you’re not quite sure how, or feel more tongue-tied than eloquent, Hawley offers advice on how to identify and anticipate ten crucial communications moments and provides strategies for responding in ways that will leave positive impressions. Office politics — explained!

Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally…
by Daniel Shapiro

Walking into a difficult situation? Whether you’re dreading a meeting with a difficult coworker or discussing a touchy subject with loved ones, this guide presents strategies for dealing with and removing your emotions, reconciling difficult relationships, and moving forward in a productive, healthy way. Using anecdotes that range from the author’s negotiations with his three children to global politics, Negotiating the Nonnegotiable explains the emotional aspects that lead to conflict as well as how to handle them.

The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World
by Michael Wheeler

Providing more than just practical advice on improving your negotiating skills — though you’ll find that here, too — The Art of Negotiationexplains the complex nature of negotiation and the importance of flexibility, improvisation, and adaptability. Case studies from those who are really good at it (diplomats, producers, wheelers-and-dealers) explore how best practices can be applied to everyday transactions, while an appendix provides a handy summary of important points. If you’re heading into a negotiation, you might want to try this “fresh approach” (Kirkus Reviews) to closing the deal.

List created 8/3/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.

Science Fiction – Communication

Focus on: Communication
The Word Exchange: A Novel
by Alena Graedon

Dystopian Fiction. Anana Johnson and her father, Doug, are lexicographers at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), a publication rendered obsolete by Memes, the technological implants that have largely replaced memory and spoken language. Though less of a Luddite than her conspiracy theorist dad, Anana begins to reconsider her position when Doug goes missing and a cybernetic “word flu” causes widespread aphasia among the population. If you enjoyed Max Barry’s Lexicon, check out The Word Exchange, which features a similarly compelling linguistic thriller with philosophical overtones.

Speak: A Novel
by Louisa Hall

Social SF. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. When children become too attached to their AI dolls, the “baby bots” are banned and their creator imprisoned. How did such a promising invention become a menace to society? Spanning some four centuries and unfolding from the perspectives of a large cast of characters, this sweeping science fiction saga employs letters, transcripts, and other primary source documents to explore the relationships between humans and machines.

The Silent History
by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby, and Kevin Moffett

Social SF. At the center of this thought-provoking experimental novel (which originated as a smartphone app) is a generation of children born without language, nor, it seems, the ability or desire to acquire it. While their existence is recorded, debated, and analyzed in the testimonies of non-affected individuals, “the silents” themselves form clandestine communities that threaten to undermine the structure of human society. If you like suspenseful speculative tales about the power of language, such as Ben Marcus’ The Flame Alphabet, you’ll want to check out The Silent History.

The Flame Alphabet
by Ben Marcus

Social SF. Never again will parents instruct children to “use their words.” When 14-year-old Esther becomes a vector for language toxicity, a virulent disease that gives her speech lethal power over listeners, it’s only a matter of time before other children become carriers. The plague spreads rapidly as children discover that their parents have no immunity. But what will happen to the human race when the infected children grow up? Fans of Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby may enjoy this disturbing work of speculative fiction in which words not only hurt — they kill.

The Affinities
by Robert Charles Wilson

Social SF. In the not-so-distant future, researcher Meir Klein creates an algorithm with an unprecedented success rate when it comes to grouping compatible people. Building upon this research, a corporation called InterAlia develops a test enabling individuals to determine their inclusion in one of 22 groups, or “Affinities.” When Adam Fisk qualifies for Tau, the largest Affinity, he feels — for the first time in his life — a sense of belonging. But complications quickly arise. Klein intends, with the help of Tau, to release the now-proprietary testing code to the rest of humanity, the vast majority of which is unaffiliated with any Affinity. Meanwhile, Tau’s main rival, Het, will do anything to stop the algorithm’s distribution. Don’t miss this suspenseful near-future SF story of social media on steroids.

List created 8/3/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.

Historical Fiction – Focus on: Native American and First Nations People

Focus on: Native American and First Nations People
The Redemption of Oscar Wolf
by James Bartleman

When impulsive actions fueled by rage lead to family tragedy, 13-year-old Oscar Wolf of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation in Ontario, flees to the United States. There, his attempts to atone bring him considerable worldly success, yet leave him culturally and spiritually adrift. He embarks on a series of transformations — from Depression-era prizefighter to decorated World War II veteran to university scholar-athlete to diplomat — only to come to the realization that he must come to terms with the past before he can fully live in the present.

The Orenda
by Joseph Boyden

Set in 17th-century Ontario during the French conquest of Canada, this sweeping, richly detailed historical epic unfolds through the eyes of three individuals: Huron (Wyandot) warrior Bird, his Iroquois captive Snow Falls, and Jesuit Missionary Père Christophe. As the French exploit long-standing conflicts between the Huron and the Iroquois to gain control of their respective territories, shifting alliances between all three groups irrevocably alter the landscape of North America and the lives of its indigenous people. For those interested in Canadian history, Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, though more focused on the experiences of European colonizers, also explores this period and setting.

The Plague of Doves
by Louise Erdrich

In 1911, the murder of a white farming family in Pluto, North Dakota leads to the lynching of three Ojibwe men, an event that casts a long shadow over the descendants of both the (wrongly accused) men and the lynch mob. Evelina Harp, a part-Ojibwe, part-white girl growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, learns the story from her Mooshum (grandfather), widely known as a repository of family and tribal history whose personal connection to the tragedy has made him who he is. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 2008, The Plague of Doves is part of a loose trilogy along with The Round House and the recently published LaRose.

People of the Longhouse
by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

When Yellowtail Village is raided by the enemy warriors, 11-year-old Odion and his sister Tutelo are taken captive and delivered to Gannajero the Trader, a woman rumored to use children’s bodies in the practice of witchcraft. As the siblings endure slavery, their parents, War Chief Koracoo and Deputy Gonda, search for them. Set among the Northern Iroquois tribes of 15th-century North America, People of the Longhouse is the 1st book in a four-volume series that focuses on the lives of Iroquois Confederacy founders Dekanawida, Hiyawento (Hiawatha), and Jigonsaseh; it continues with The Dawn Children, followed by The Broken Land and People of the Black Sun.

House of Purple Cedar
by Tim Tingle

For 11-year-old Rose Goode, growing up in Skullyville’s Choctaw community in pre-statehood Oklahoma, 1896 is a bad year: first, an arsonist burns down her school, killing 20 of her classmates; later, Amafo, her beloved grandfather, is severely beaten by the town Marshal, an event with far-reaching consequences. As conflict between Skullyville residents and land-grabbing nahullos (white men) escalates, Rose and her family fear for their survival, while clinging to the hope that better times will come. For another novel featuring Native American communities in what is now Oklahoma, check out Margaret Verble’sMaud’s Line, about a 1930s Cherokee woman who longs to escape her hardscrabble life on a government allotment.

List created 7/25/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.

Mystery – Death and Politics

Death and Politics
Deadly Election
by Lindsey Davis

Historical Mystery. In July 89 A.D., 29-year-old Flavia Albia returns to Rome on business; since her father retired, she’s in charge of the family auction house and his detective work. When her workmen find a body in a chest slated to be sold at auction, she tries to sort out who the victim was; at the same time, her would-be suitor, Faustus, asks for help with a friend’s political campaign, which could prove deadly. Already read this 3rd outing? Look for The Graveyard of the Hesperides, which was just released (and if you haven’t already, be sure to check out the Marcus Didius Falco mysteries starring Flavia’s father). Interested in more mysteries populated with ancient Romans? Try books by Stephen Saylor and Ruth Downie.

Death of a Red Heroine
by Qiu Xiaolong

Police Procedural. While poetry-loving up-and-coming Chief Inspector Chen Cao hosts a small housewarming party in his highly coveted (though small) new apartment in overcrowded Shanghai, a corpse is discovered in a canal 20 miles away. Cao investigates and learns that the murdered young woman was a National Model Worker, and thus a symbol of China and a tool of propaganda for the Communist party; he also finds his case hampered by people scared to talk and the tense political climate. This 1st in a series that now numbers nine won the Anthony Award for best first novel in 2001. For another look at policing in contemporary China, read Peter May’s China novels, starting with The Firemaker.

Paw and Order: A Chet and Bernie Mystery
by Spencer Quinn

Humorous Mystery. Chet the dog hilariously narrates his adventure-filled days with his human, PI Bernie Little. Though the duo normally reside out west (Chet’s not 100% sure about the state), man and dog are currently on the East Coast after finishing up a job. Since they’re so close to Washington, D.C., they head north to visit reporter Suzie Sanchez, Bernie’s sometime girlfriend, but when they get to her house, a handsome Brit is leaving. After the man ends up dead, Chet and Bernie find themselves in the path of a powerful operative with links to an international conspiracy — and a strange “bird” and a guinea pig named Barnum are involved, too. Animal lovers will wolf down this delightful 7th in a series; newcomers can start here or pick up the 1st book, Dog On It.

The Other Woman
by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Mystery. Formerly a popular Boston TV news reporter, Jane Ryland wouldn’t reveal her source when the station was sued and now she’s working for a local newspaper. Things get worse before they get better when Jane’s secret source is killed and she investigates a candidate’s secret mistress days before a pivotal Senate election. Meanwhile, there might be links between all of this and a possible serial killer investigation by handsome police detective Jake Brogan. Library Journal says “readers who crave mystery and political intrigue will be mesmerized” by this suspenseful 1st Jane Ryland novel.

List created 7/25/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.

Fantasy – Epic Fantasy

Epic!
The Mirror Empire
by Kameron Hurley

Epic Fantasy. When raiders overrun her village and slaughter her blood-witch mother, young Lilia escapes through a rift into another dimension, a mirror universe in which the stars directly control one’s destiny. Now a “drudge,” a temple scullery maid with neither kin nor prospects, Lilia soon finds herself (or, more accurately, her rare magical abilities) in demand when the dark star Oma, absent for 2,000 years, returns. Boasting a large cast of characters and extensive world-building, The Mirror Empire kicks off the Worldbreaker Saga, which continues with Empire Ascendant.

The Falcon Throne
by Karen Miller

Epic Fantasy. Although the duchies of Clemen and Harcia have been embroiled in a power struggle for years, it’s unclear that either realm will have anything left to offer by the time the conflict ends — if, indeed, it ever ends. In Clemen, Duke Harold has been deposed by Roric, while Harcia’s heir, Balfre, hopes to wrest control of Clemen by pitting the inhabitants of the borderlands against Roric. However,unbeknownst to both parties, Harold’s son plots his own return to power. With bloody battles, political intrigue, and supernatural overtones, this opening volume of the Tarnished Throne series should interest fans of Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King.

The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss

Epic Fantasy. As proprietor of the remote Waystone Inn, Kote leads a quiet life until the itinerant Chronicler recognizes him as the legendary hero Kvothe and urges him to recount his life story, beginning with his birth as one of the Edema Ruh, a nomadic troop of performers. After being orphaned by demons at a young age, Kvothe becomes in turn a wizard, a bard, a thief, an assassin, and a hero who seeks to avenge his family’s murder. The Name of the Wind is the 1st installment of the Kingkiller Chronicles, which continues with The Wise Man’s Fear; there’s also a companion novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, which focuses on popular supporting character Auri.

Blood Song: A Raven’s Shadow Novel
by Anthony Ryan

Epic Fantasy. Following the death of his mother, ten-year-old Vaelin Al Sorna is delivered by his father, the king’s Battle Lord, to the House of the Sixth Order to train as a warrior. Informed that he’ll have “no family now save the Order,” Vaelin bonds with his fellow novices as they endure years of training in preparation for their sacred task of defending the Unified Realm and its ruler, King Janus, against the Deniers, heretics purported to be servants of the Dark. But the more Vaelin learns about his sovereign, his Order, and his own family history, the more he begins to question everything he’s been taught. This trilogy opener continues with Tower Lord and Queen of Fire.

The Black Prism
by Brent Weeks

Epic Fantasy. In the Seven Satrapies, colored light (luxin) is magic and magic is power. Fifteen years ago, twin mages Gavin and Daven Guile fought against each other in the Great Prism Wars before Gavin triumphed over his brother to become the High Lord Prism and the leader of the Chromerium, which governs the realm’s use of magic. Now Gavin learns that he has a son, or so he’s told. Gavin is certain that teenage orphan Kip is not his child; Kip doesn’t know what to believe, but it hardly matters: both of their lives (not to mention the fate of the Seven Satrapies) are about to change forever in this opening volume of the Lightbringer Saga. Fascinated by this novel’s political intrigue and complex chromatic magic system? Try Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker.

List created 7/18/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.

Fiction – Focus on: The 1970s

Focus on: The 1970s
A Brief History of Seven Killings
by Marlon James

Inspired by the attempted assassination of musician Bob Marley on December 3, 1976, this Man Booker Prize-winning novel explores Jamaica’s turbulent history through multiple intersecting narratives that introduce more than a dozen characters. Framed as an oral history, A Brief History of Seven Killings features a diverse cast, an evocative and richly detailed setting, and a sprawling story told by a chorus of distinct voices in pitch-perfect dialogue.

The Flamethrowers: A Novel
by Rachel Kushner

This complex tale, which weaves together themes of art, oppression, politics, and creativity, follows Reno, a young woman who loves making art and racing her motorcycle — usually at the same time. More naive than she at first appears, Reno moves from Nevada to New York in 1975 to join the thriving avant garde art scene, where she gets involved with a successful older artist, Sandro Valera. The Valera family is responsible for the Moto Valera, a popular motorcycle, and Reno wins the chance to race with the company in Italy. It is there, with a reluctant Sandro, that Reno falls in with the radical movement. For a realistic depiction of the turbulent ’70s, you won’t go wrong with The Flamethrowers.

Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng

It is easy enough to identify the biggest problem the Chinese-American Lee family has in this moving tale of tragedies big and small — their lack of communication is evident even in the title. Though there is more than enough love, their expectations for each other and for themselves stifle their relationships. And the fallout — especially after the death of favorite daughter Lydia — is shattering. Their complex dynamic (incorporating an interracial marriage, which sticks out in their 1970s Ohio town, and dreams long deferred) is told in a devastating, and mesmerizing, manner.

Man at the Helm: A Novel
by Nina Stibbe

Her charmed life thrown into chaos when her father abandons their family, Lizzie takes it upon herself to find a new man for her mother when their new home — a tiny, gossipy English village — shuns them for not having a “man at the helm.” Charismatic nine-year-old Lizzie makes this a good read for fans of the admittedly all-American, modern-day Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, while the dry English wit and eccentric characters (along with Lizzie herself) will engage fans of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries. (Also, look for Lizzie’s on-going adventures in Paradise Lodge, newly published this month!)

The Silver Star: A Novel
by Jeannette Walls

In 1970, when their mother abandons them (and not for the first time), 12-year-old Bean and her older sister, Liz, flee the threat of California’s foster system and make their way across the country to relatives they’ve never met. In Virginia they find a home with a reluctant uncle, as well as a community struggling with desegregation and the effects of the Vietnam War. Their haphazard childhood has made them both resilient and remarkably naive, and while Bean assimilates relatively easily, it’s not quite the same for smart, quirky Liz. Their story, narrated by Bean, is a “captivating, read-in-one-sitting, coming-of-age adventure” (Booklist).

List created 7/18/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.