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Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

Archive for the tag “general fiction”

Thomas Murphy by Roger Rosenblatt

Thomas MurphyMost of us are well acquainted with Roger Rosenblatt’s non-fiction charmers such as The Boy Detective and Making Toast. His latest fiction offering, Thomas Murphy, is another cause for celebration. In this delightful story, we are fortunate to read the philosophical and random musings of the titular poet.

Rosenblatt’s familiar and comfortable writing style makes Murph (as he’s known by his friends) feel like an old friend, father, or beloved uncle. Now getting on in age and facing his sunset years, Murph ponders his recent widowhood and his relationship with his daughter, grandson, and other beloved lifelong friends.

Just when he seems happily resigned to the fact that his best days may already be behind him, a chance meeting at a bar with a stranger suddenly turns his life around. The stranger, Jack, finds out that Murph is a poet and asks him if he would do an extraordinary favor. At first Murph is reluctant to get involved in Jack’s business but is soon charmed by Jack’s wife Sarah and agrees to help out.

As the story progresses with Murph and Sarah discovering a mutual attraction, you’ll be tempted to hurry to the end to find out what happens. But to do so would mean missing out on each heartbreaking nuance that Rosenblatt brings to the table. As his fans already know, what this wordsmith puts on paper is meant to be slowly savored and pondered…much the same way Murph approaches his own life in the final days.

– Susan

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Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a FistMany of us may recall watching television coverage of the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle.  Perhaps we watched with confusion about how peaceful protests could have escalated so quickly.  Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is a story that takes place in the thick of the riots, featuring protestors, police, and a boy whose story will bridge the gap between these groups at odds with one another.

Victor ran away from home at the age of 16 and has been traveling the world for the past three years before returning to Seattle.  His father, the chief of police, has been distraught over his son’s disappearance, wishing he could undo the events leading up to Victor’s decision to leave.

King and her boyfriend, John Henry, are protestors seeking change from world leaders who use their power and influence without thought of the third-world countries or people that are negatively impacted by their decisions.

Park and Ju, two beat cops with their own marked histories, are just trying to do their jobs.  Whether or not they agree with the protestors is beside the point, but making the right decisions in the heat of the moment will put them to the ultimate test.

Dr. Charles Wickramsinghe is a diplomat intent on seeing his home country of Sri Lanka join the WTO.  Everything changes when he gets caught up in the riots and sent to jail, where he encounters protestors who make him question all he’s worked for over the past five years.

These storylines converge as the events of the day build into an explosive, heart-pounding, must-read tale.  Yapa’s debut novel will be one that everyone is talking about and for good reason.  It’s not just a story; it’s who we are as a human race.

– Amy

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American Housewife by Helen Ellis

American Housewife.jpgWhen you hear the term “American Housewife”, maybe you think of Donna Reed or some other famous domestic icon. Author Helen Ellis turns this common perception on its head with a searing and snarky collection of short stories.

Like some kind of warped combination of Tales from the Darkside meets Married with Children, you’ll find yourself gasping “Oh no she didn’t!” time and again as you dive into these delightfully twisted tales. You can’t help but enjoy the very un-PC stories as you soon discover how The Housewife exacts her revenge in a most unladylike way.

To add a little levity, Ellis also throws in some tried-and-true tidbits of advice, as touted in chapters such as “How to be a grown-ass lady” and “How to be a patron of the arts.”

This collection certainly won’t be for everyone, but if you enjoy the sharp wit of writers like Amy Sedaris and Mindy Kaling, then you are in for a treat. Grab your bon-bons and enjoy!

– Susan

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Serendipity’s Footsteps by Suzanne Nelson

Serendipitys FootstepsSometimes a necklace, or blanket, or even a pair of shoes can tell a story — a story of love, family, dreams, and heartbreak. In “Serendipity’s Footsteps”, you travel through time and learn about a single pair of shoes and their meaning.

This story features three special young women — Dalya, Ray and Pinny. Dalya’s world is torn apart as a young Jewish girl who is sent to a concentration camp. She leaves behind the things that she thinks matter the most to her.  Ray and Pinny are both orphans on the run, both seeking more. Ray dreams of making it to New York City to attend Juilliard, and Pinny dreams of finding her mother again.

The author, Suzanne Nelson, does a superb job of bringing history alive. You feel as if you are transported back to Dayla’s era.  I think there will be a great number of teens captivated by the special pair of shoes and the young women whose stories are woven into their legacy.

– Becky

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A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier

A Year After HenryGrief is a horrible but unavoidable part of life.  We grieve lose in our lives, but especially those we love.

Set in Maine, Cathie weaves a great story about a flawed man and those who loved him.  Henry Munroe passed away a year ago and his family is trying to move on.  That’s easier said than done.

His widow, Jeanie, realized he was cheating shortly before he died.  His mistress, Evie Cooper, whose complicated personal history of being able to see dead people and working at the local bar, paints some interesting scenes.  His brother, Larry, whose wife has left him, taken his son, and has lost his job, is now a mailman as Henry was and is having a definite breakdown.  Henry’s rebellious son, Chad, is trying to find his way without his larger than life father.

As they approach a memorial service being held a year after Henry’s death, will they ever be able to get over him?

While this book should seem sad, this menagerie of characters makes for a great and surprisingly funny in spots, read.

– Becky

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Home Leave by Brittani Sonnenberg

Home LeaveChris and his wife, Elise, are living in Germany. Chris works for a company that has him traveling a lot and Elise is pregnant. They move to Philadelphia with their daughter, Leah, and find out that they are pregnant again. They eventually complete their family with another daughter named Sophie and move to England.

After so many moves, it is decided that the women in the family will spend their summer vacations back in the U.S.  The girls are extremely close and realize that they can only count on one thing – each other.

With these frequent oversea moves, home is definitely hard to define. Tragedy strikes the family and they are forced to go on despite their loss.

By the time the book ends we see life has gone almost a complete circle.   The novel is written in continuously shifting perspectives but this helps convey the disorientation of the Kriegsteins’ lives

– Ellen

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Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro

Cutting TeethLate in the summer, a group of “mommies’’ and a couple of the dads decide to take a trip to the beach together with their children. Each of them has issues, either in their personal lives or in their marriages, but they all put on a front.

Nicole suffers from severe anxiety. Her husband is not happy about her phobias (which are many!) and is constantly asking her if she needs to go back to the doctor or if she is taking her meds. She lies to him; she quit her medicine weeks ago, but struggles to keep it together for the sake of her son.

Susanna and Allie are the only two-mommy couple along on the trip. They have twin boys, are about to have a daughter, and should be extremely happy with their lives, but there are major issues brewing between them that are not being addressed.

Rip is the stay at home dad in the group. All the women love him and treat him just like another mommy. Rip is desperate to have another baby, but cannot get his cold as ice wife to agree.

Tiffany is the sanctimommy of the group, but is also the wildest and most outrageous of them all. After a few too many drinks, nobody knows what is going to come out of Tiffany’s mouth.

Leigh is the calm one of the group and Tiffany’s best friend. But, when they start fighting over Leigh’s nanny, things take a turn for the worst and the weekend is anything but pleasant.

The dynamics between the group will explode over their vacation weekend. Will they be able to push past the things that are said and done and stay friends or will their friendships end forever?

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and the characters. It’s a step away from the suspense thrillers I usually read, but I would recommend it to anyone.

– Tina

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Communion Town by Sam Thompson

communion townInitially, Communion Town feels like a puzzle that can never be put together. There are an array of pieces that will eventually fit together, but getting to that point is a long and perilous process.

As you read deeper, you find little bits of everyday life. These bits could pertain to anyone’s life. For example, the life of a child living with his grandmother who has a tendency to steal, or a new couple moving to the city as refugees.

Through the story of their  lives, these people tell the story of the city. As with any city, you have places where it’s best not to stray into along with many perfectly safe and beautiful places. The varying components of the city provide an interesting parallel to the lives of its inhabitants.

For me this was an unusual perspective for a book, but it works. In the end, all the pieces do fit together to make a complete story.

– Ellen

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