Fresh Ink: July 30, 2013
Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig (Amazon Children’s Publishing)
Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it. It’s the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow, and the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it. As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety ship over the corn day after day, scavenging for valuables, trying to earn much-needed ace notes for their families. But Cael’s tired of surviving life on the ground while the Empyrean elite drift by above in their extravagant sky flotillas. He’s sick of the mayor’s son besting Cael’s crew in the scavenging game. And he’s worried about losing Gwennie, his first mate and the love of his life, forever when their government-chosen spouses are revealed. But most of all, Cael is angry-angry that their lot in life will never get better and that his father doesn’t seem upset about any of it. Cael’s ready to make his own luck . . . even if it means bringing down the wrath of the Empyrean elite and changing life in the Heartland forever.
The Skull and the Nightingale by Michael Irwin (William Morrow)
When Richard Fenwick, a young man without family or means, returns to London from the Grand Tour, his wealthy godfather, James Gilbert, has an unexpected proposition. Gilbert has led a sedate life in Worcestershire, but now in his advancing years, he feels the urge to experience, even vicariously, the extremes of human feeling-love and passion, in particular-along with something much more sinister. He asks Richard to serve as his proxy, and his ward, desiring the life of a leisurely gentleman, believes he has no option but to accept. It soon becomes apparent that Gilbert desires correspondence of a more titillating nature-news filled with tales of carousing, flirtation, and excess-and so Richard begins to write of London’s more salacious side. For here is an appealing invitation to hedonism and Richard, eager to discover his true character, rises to the challenge. But Gilbert’s elaborate and manipulative “experiments” into the workings of human behavior soon drag Richard into a vortex of betrayal and danger where lives are ruined and tragedy is a step away. And when Richard does the unthinkable and falls in love with one of Gilbert’s pawns, the stakes are raised even higher. But is it too late for him to escape the Faustian pact?
A Marker to Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik (Knopf)
On a remote island in the Aegean, Jacqueline is living alone in a cave accessible only at low tide. With nothing to protect her from the elements, and with the fabric between herself and the world around her increasingly frayed, she is permeated by sensory experiences of remarkable intensity: the need for shade in the relentless heat of the sun-baked island; hunger and the occasional bliss of release from it; the exquisite pleasure of diving into the sea. The pressing physical realities of the moment provide a deeper relief: the euphoric obliteration of memory and, with it, the unspeakable violence she has seen and from which she has miraculously escaped. Slowly, irrepressibly, images from a life before this violence begin to resurface: the view across lush gardens to a different sea; a gold Rolex glinting on her father’s wrist; a glass of gin in her mother’s best crystal; an adoring younger sister; a family, in the moment before their fortunes were irrevocably changed. Jacqueline must find the strength to contend with what she has survived or tip forward into full-blown madness.
Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel (Harper)
When Georgia returns to her hometown of Miami, her toddler son and husband in tow, she is hoping for a fresh start. They have left Illinois trailing scandal and disappointment in their wake: Graham’s sleep disorder has cost him his tenure at Northwestern; Georgia’s college advising business has gone belly up; and three-year old Frankie is no longer speaking. Miami feels emptier without Georgia’s mother, who died five years earlier, but her father and stepmother offer a warm welcome-as well as a slip for the dilapidated houseboat Georgia and Graham have chosen to call home. And a position studying extreme weather patterns at a prestigious marine research facility offers Graham a professional second chance. When Georgia takes a job as an errand runner for an artist who lives alone in the middle of Biscayne Bay, she’s surprised to find her life changes dramatically. Time spent with the intense hermit at his isolated home might help Frankie gain the courage to speak, it seems. And it might help Georgia reconcile the woman she was with the woman she has become. But when Graham leaves to work on a ship in Hurricane Alley and the truth behind Frankie’s mutism is uncovered, the family’s challenges return, more complicated than before. Late that summer, as a hurricane bears down on South Florida, Georgia must face the fact that her choices have put her only child in grave danger.
The Night of the Comet by George Bishop (Ballantine Books)
It’s the summer of 1973 and 14-year-old Alan Broussard is navigating the chaotic and disillusioning course of adolescence: awakening to the joys of first love, learning the meaning of disappointment, and getting accustomed to the perpetual embarrassment caused by his parents. And this is especially the case when Alan’s father-his high school’s geekiest science teacher-becomes obsessed over what he predicts will be the astronomical event of the century: the sighting of comet Kohoutek. As the sleepy town of Terrebonne, Louisiana, gets caught up in the comet craze, Alan is preoccupied by his telescope’s ability to grant him access into the world of the beautiful girl who moved into the house across the river. But what he comes to see most clearly is a reality that’s been hidden from him his entire life-his father’s inadequacies, his mother’s growing unhappiness, his sister’s struggle to find autonomy and his own loss of innocence amidst it all. Bishop pens a delicate story about growing up-both its pains and pleasures-and the idea that hope and love can be found in the stars.
Bubble World by Carol Snow (Henry Holt and Co. BYR)
Freesia’s life is perfect. She lives on the beautiful tropical island of Agalinas, surrounded by idyllic weather, fancy dress shops, and peacocks who sing her favorite song to wake her up in the morning. She has so many outfits she could wear a different one every day for a year and not run out.
Lately things on the island may have been a bit flippy: sudden blackouts, students disappearing, even Freesia’s reflection looking slightly . . . off. But in Freesia’s experience, it’s better not to think about things like that too much.
Unfortunately for her, these signs are more than random blips in the universe. Freesia’s perfect bubble is about to pop.
The Art of Joy by Goliarda Sapienza (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Art of Joy centers on Modesta, a Sicilian woman born on January 1, 1900, whose strength and character are an affront to conventional morality. Impoverished as a child, Modesta believes she is destined for a better life. She is able, through grace and intelligence, to secure marriage to an aristocrat—without compromising her own deeply felt values. Friend, mother, lover—Modesta revels in upsetting the rules of her fascist, patriarchal society.
This is the history of the twentieth century, transfigured by the perspective of one extraordinary woman. Sapienza, an intriguing figure in her own right—her father homeschooled her so she wouldn’t be exposed to fascist influences—was a respected actress and writer who drew on her own struggles to craft this powerful epic. A fictionalized memoir, a book of romance and adventure, a feminist text, a bildungsroman—this novel is ultimately undefinable but deeply necessary; its genius will leave readers breathless.
Brother, Brother by Clay Carmichael (Roaring Brook Press)
The day his grandmother dies, seventeen-year-old Billy “Brother” Grace discovers that he has a twin who has recently made headlines by nearly overdosing on drugs. His twin also happens to be the son of a powerful senator. His newly discovered family may not be all that interested in a cheery reunion, but Brother is determined to get answers. When he arrives on the secluded island off the coast of North Carolina where the senator and his family live, sparks will fly, old resentments will be released, and secrets revealed. Part coming-of-age story, part love story, this is a book about finding out that who you are and where you come from aren’t necessarily the same thing.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Penguin Books)
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
The Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey (Harlequin MIRA)
Betty Jewel Hughes was once the hottest black jazz singer in Memphis. But when she finds herself pregnant and alone, she gives up her dream of being a star to raise her beautiful daughter, Billie, in Shakerag, Mississippi. Now, ten years later, in 1955, Betty Jewel is dying of cancer and looking for someone to care for Billie when she’s gone. With no one she can count on, Betty Jewel does the unthinkable: she takes out a want ad seeking a loving mother for her daughter. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, recently widowed Cassie Malone is an outspoken housewife insulated by her wealth and privileged white society. Working part-time at a newspaper, she is drawn to Betty Jewel through her mysterious ad. With racial tension in the South brewing, the women forge a bond as deep as it is forbidden. But neither woman could have imagined the gifts they would find in each other, and in the sweet young girl they both love with all their hearts. Deeply moving and richly evocative, The Sweetest Hallelujah is a remarkable tale about finding hope in a time of turmoil, and about the transcendent and transformative power of friendship.
Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro (Vintage)
With her peerless short stories that hold the complexity and richness of novels, Alice Munro once again reveals the quiet depth and mystery of our lives. These stories, set in the first half of the twentieth century, take place in Munro’s home territory-the small Canadian towns around Lake Huron. Suffused with Munro’s unflinching psychological insight, the stories are populated with luminous, tenderly flawed characters who capture the essence of what it means to be human. Capping this masterful collection is an astonishing suite of four autobiographical tales-an unprecedented glimpse into Munro’s own life.
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (Penguin Books)
On a fateful summer morning in 1986, two eleven-year-old girls meet for the first time. By the end of the day, they will both be charged with murder. Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside vacation town when her investigation leads her to interview carnival cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it’s the first time they’ve seen each other since that dark day so many years ago. Now with new, vastly different lives—and unknowing families to protect—will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden?
All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Set against the lush, magical backdrop of the Pacific Northwest, two inseparable best friends who have grown up like sisters—the charismatic, mercurial, and beautiful Aurora and the devoted, soulful, watchful narrator—find their bond challenged for the first time ever when a mysterious and gifted musician named Jack comes between them. Suddenly, each girl must decide what matters most: friendship, or love. What both girls don’t know is that the stakes are even higher than either of them could have imagined. They’re not the only ones who have noticed Jack’s gift; his music has awakened an ancient evil—and a world both above and below which may not be mythical at all. The real and the mystical; the romantic and the heartbreaking all begin to swirl together, carrying the two on journey that is both enthralling and terrifying. And it’s up to the narrator to protect the people she loves—if she can.
A Pimp’s Notes by Giorgio Faletti (Picador)
It’s 1978. Italy has just been shocked by the kidnapping of the politician Aldo Moro by the left-leaning terrorist group the Red Brigades. In Milan, the upper class continues to amuse itself in luxury restaurants, underground clubs, and cabarets, the sexual appetites of whom are catered to by the enigmatic and cynical pimp, Bravo. Bravo makes his living fulfilling the fantasies, and fetishes of the wealthy and depraved. When the mysterious Carla enters his life, what begins as a clandestine romance quickly becomes a nightmare that will transform Bravo into a man wanted by the police, organized crime, and even the Red Brigades. As the web around him tightens, Bravo will be forced to confront the violence of the times in which he lives as well as his own connections to the political and criminal networks that control contemporary Italy.
The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalla (Forge Books)
November 9, 1938—Kristallnacht—the Nazis unleash a night of terror for Jews all across Germany. Meanwhile, the Japanese Imperial Army rampages through China and tightens its stranglehold on Shanghai, a city that becomes the last haven for thousands of desperate European Jews. Dr. Franz Adler, a renowned surgeon, flees to Shanghai with his daughter. At a refugee hospital, Franz meets an enigmatic nurse, Soon Yi “Sunny” Mah. The chemistry between them is intense, but Sunny’s life is shattered when a drunken Japanese sailor murders her father. The danger escalates for Shanghai’s Jews as the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Facing starvation and disease, Franz struggles to keep the refugee hospital open and protect his family from a terrible fate.
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