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In the Garden of Iden
In the dystopian future, biodiversity and cultural treasures have been lost through human folly... or would be, if a shadowy entity called "The Company" was not working behind the scenes, sending immortal misfits through time to live in the past, collecting rare species and valuable artifacts for "discovery" later on. This is book one in a series that blends science fiction with historical fact, delicious language and a healthy dose of epic romance.
This title is from Banks' Culture series. There is no order to the series, so read the books in any order you like. Matter takes place in the far-off future on a planet known as a Shellworld. The plot revolves around the ruling family. While one son, thought dead, goes to space for help, his brother tries to avoid assassination. War, explosions and much more!
A chilling tale of a trucker who kidnaps, rapes and murders, abetted by a policeman. Two young female travelers are nabbed, and the wife of a suspecting police officer puts all the pieces together to partially solve the crime. The real bandit gets away and abducts again. Box is a compelling writer who keeps our attention; we never want to put the book down and eagerly await its sequel.
Running with the Demon
In this story, Nest Freemark is a teenage girl with power she doesn’t fully understand, in a small town that is rapidly becoming more than ordinary. If you think you want to try an urban fantasy novel, this story is a great start. This book is first in a series.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home
This debut novel features a fresh, unforgettable voice in June Elbus, who navigates life after her beloved uncle dies of AIDS. While the set-up sounds sad, this novel is an utterly charming coming-of-age story with one of the strongest, most believable young voices I have encountered in years. I can’t stop thinking about June and her daydreams and discoveries.
In a post-apocalyptic world where life has evolved in unexpected ways, Leaf and his two-dimensional friend Skate find their lives permanently altered by the arrival of Scallop and his father. This is the kind of book you’ll want to reread over and over, and annoy all of your friends by forcing them to read it. It’s lovely, disturbing, heartbreaking and so wonderfully original you’ll wish for more stories in this bewitching world.
The Ipcress File
For my recent Spy Fiction display, I realized I'd never read Deighton’s 1962 debut. A sheer delight! Anyone who has had to cope with the exasperating vicissitudes of bureaucracy will love Deighton, the funniest of the great Cold War writers. The plot is convoluted, but it doesn't really matter. Turn up your collar and smirk at the follies of mankind like the jaded secret agent you know deep down you really are.
-David W., Central
The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B
Probably one of the best coming-of-age stories out there, this novel is about a young man named Balthazar, his love affair with his governess and his boarding school misadventures with a boy called Beefy. Hilarious, bittersweet and with its own uniquely poetic narrative style, "Balthazar" will forever remain in my top five favorite novels. For those who enjoyed "The Catcher in the Rye" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."
Dick Francis’s Refusal
Francis takes one of his father’s best characters and sets him against a man who is determined to undermine British horse racing. Sid Halley is able to turn the tables on his adversary and come out the winner. Francis writes a fast-paced novel in his dad’s footsteps and leads us on an exciting horse race to the conclusion. Keep ’em coming, Felix!!!
Flashman; Flash for Freedom!; Flashman in the Great Game
Sir Harry Flashman, self-described scoundrel and coward, is good at only two things: horses and women. Despite his constant attempts to flee from danger, he manages to blunder his way into most of the major military events of the 19th century across four continents. Join this hilarious anti-hero in this compendium of three of his best escapades, which span the British Commonwealth to antebellum America.
-Emily, Beacon Hill
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead
This mystery transports you to a gritty, post-Katrina New Orleans where the edges of reality are not quite as clean as we'd like them to be. Claire is a wonderful anti-hero who you can't help loving, fraught with foibles and a strange past with hints of supernatural undertones. It's the first in a series that promises to keep you coming back.
The Monsters of Templeton
Pregnant Willie searches for her family history. Her ex-hippie mother doesn’t help, and Willie is forced to speculate on her father’s identity. A monster is found dead in the town’s lake, and as the story of the creature comes to light, so does the sordid background of Willie’s family. A fascinating read, especially for anyone who has been to Cooperstown, New York, or who has a fondness for good writing.
William and Neaera, two socially isolated Londoners, meet accidentally at the London Zoo and bond over their fierce desire to free the sea turtles housed there in this 1975 novel by Hoban, author of the beloved “Frances the Badger” picture books. A funny, bittersweet and ultimately redemptive meditation on middle-aged loneliness, "Turtle Diary" won my heart from the beginning. If you have ever felt bitter toward humanity, read this book. You won't regret it.
Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer
In some stories, a man sells his soul to the devil. In this one, he's trying to win it back. The Devil gives Cabal one year to bring him 100 souls and throws in a carnival to provide a steady stream of customers. Will Cabal beat the devil at his own game? Fans of Jasper Fforde and Terry Pratchett will enjoy dark humor and literary references alongside reflection on the grayish bits of human ethics.
When She Woke
Hannah Payne awakes alone in a prison cell to find to her horror that she has been dyed completely red. In this terrifying revision of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic "The Scarlet Letter," the punishment for crime is genetic treatment that alters skin color. Hannah must now live a life of public humiliation that causes her to attempt a daring escape when she realizes her family, church and secret lover cannot and will not help her.
-Molly, Lake City
River of Stars
I am breathless. This book works on many levels, from literary fiction (character interaction and growth) to historical period gestalt (thinly disguised Song Empire China) to exciting historical fiction. The fantasy element is small, but pleasing. The political intrigues are quite intricate and far-sighted. Traditional political enemies sometimes respect each other more than their "allies." The best poets are revered and have political clout. Immerse yourself in this fascinating world that Kay has created.
Shades of Milk and Honey
Magical realism mixes with Jane Austen in this alternate-history romance. Husband-hunting and sibling rivalry are set against elaborate illusions and glamour in the parlors, ballrooms and tableaus of the gentry. The text is limited to Regency-specific words, evoking 19th-century mannerisms and customs on every page. Fans of the epistolary fantasy "Sorcery and Cecelia, Or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot" by Patricia C. Wrede will be delighted to find this read-alike. First in a series.
Leaving the Atocha Station
"the Atocha Station" is the story of Adam Gordon, a young American with a poetry fellowship bumming around Spain, making friends and sort of trying to understand Spanish. Adam drifts through days of anxiety and boredom, wondering about art, authenticity and Americanism. Lerner’s prose is funny, loose and especially enjoyable when read outside of your home country.
-Allison, Madrona-Sally Goldmark
The Ballad of Tom Dooley
This novel is based on a true story of a woman murdered in North Carolina shortly after the Civil War, an event made famous by the Kingston Trio’s recording of the folk song “Tom Dooley.” The story centers on the lives of three women of the Foster family—cousins Anne, Laura and Pauline—and Laura’s lover, Tom Dula. McCrumb expertly researched the event, and the result is a new twist on the old tale.
Song of Achilles
Do you remember your Greek mythology? Debut novelist Miller puts a new twist on some well-known characters—following Achilles, demigod and warrior, and Patroclus, exiled prince, from their first meeting as boys up until the tragic events of the Trojan War. Their close, loving relationship, told from the point of view of Patroclus, is beautifully written. This book is one of my all-time favorites, and also the Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction.
Black Swan Green
Not another coming-of-age story! But this beautifully written novel is Mitchell’s semi-autobiographical story of a boy with a stammer growing up in Thatcher-era England. If you found his "Cloud Atlas" a bit daunting, this book is much more accessible and fun. Here's a fun bit: "Teachers're always using 'in your own words'. I hate that. Authors knit their sentences tight. It's their job. Why make us unpick them, just to put it back together more shonkily."
-Monique, Queen Anne
How rare to have an author really open their heart and life and share it with you. Shantaram is a raw account of one man's journey and the people he meets and comes to love along the way. It provides a unique look at India and life there for a foreigner. A must-read for those interested in life's journey, relationships, personal discovery and India.
Alif the Unseen
At first, this novel seems to be “just” a smart and gripping political thriller, featuring a 23-year-old hacker on the run from government security forces in an unnamed Middle Eastern country. Soon, however, the story verges into fantasy in the style of J. K. Rowling or Cornelia Funke but with a unique twist, drawing in magical elements from Persian and Arabic fables. An enchanting page-turner!