Fiction, September 14, 2018 | Xpress Reviews

The range of authors, styles, and settings in these tales ensures every reader will find something to remember; Guillory’s sophomore effort cements her place as a favorite in contemporary romance; intriguing, revelatory, and unexpected; smartly conceived and fluidly written, a wise and entertaining debut; this energized, lusciously written work is train-wreck absorbing

Week ending September 14, 2018

The Best American Mystery Stories 2018. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2018. 432p. ed. by Louise Penny. ISBN 9780544949096. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780544949225. MYS
In the 22nd volume of this evergreen series, guest editor Penny (“Chief Inspector Gamache” novels) features 20 selections that travel as far back as the Old West and as far abroad as the Serengeti. Andrew Bourelle sets the tone early with the suitably nasty slice of modern noir “Y Is for Yangchuan Lizard”; Michael Bracken’s “Smoked” has a reformed motorcycle gang member’s anonymity threatened by the sudden popularity of his barbecue restaurant. In “Phantomwise: 1972,” the longest and most haunting story, Joyce Carol Oates recasts Lewis Carroll’s Alice as a college girl in her own tormented Wonderland, torn between the young professor who has impregnated her and an old visiting poet. Other highlights include Alan Orloff’s super-twisty “Rule Number One,” which packs an impressive number of double-crosses in ten pages, and Michael Connelly’s solid-as-expected “The Third Panel.” Memorable entries from literary stalwarts Louis Bayard, T.C. Boyle, James Lee Burke, and Lee Child round out the collection.
VERDICT The range of authors, styles, and settings in these tales ensures every reader will find something to remember. A worthy supplement to all mystery collections.—Michael Pucci, South Orange P.L., NJ

redstarGuillory, Jasmine. The Proposal. Berkley Jove. Oct. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780399587689. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780399587696. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
After Nikole Paterson turns down a very public marriage proposal, a stadium full of people decide she is the bad guy. A camera crew starts circling, and Carlos Ibarra and his sister help her to escape. After such a disastrous breakup, Nik is not ready for a relationship but can’t deny her attraction to the supportive and caring Carlos. Between his job directing a teen health clinic and taking care of his family, Carlos doesn’t have time for a relationship and is more than happy being Nik’s rebound. As they spend more time together, they start to let down their emotional walls and move closer to the one thing they really don’t want—love. A fantastic supporting cast of family and friends, including Carlos’s best friend Drew from Guillory’s debut, The Wedding Date, abound on both sides. Nik and Carlos are successful, emotionally mature, and capable adults with a refreshingly low tolerance for invented drama. Their charming and satisfying journey is full of fantastic food, cute banter, great sex, and no-nonsense advice. Fans will want many more books in this universe.
VERDICT Guillory’s sophomore effort cements her place as a favorite in contemporary romance and is sure to add to her legion of fans. [No. 1 October LibraryReads Pick.]—Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington P.L., VA

redstarReed, Elliot. A Key to Treehouse Living. Tin House. Sept. 2018. 170p. ISBN 9781947793040. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781947793101. F
[DEBUT] With his mother dead and his father vanished, young William Tyce lives with his uncle, a simple summary that doesn’t begin to encompass the grace and inventiveness of this coming-of-age story. The narrative unfolds through alphabetized headings ranging from “Black Ash” to “Lilies and Snapping Turtles” to “Sleeping on the Floor” in a way that’s elegant and wholly natural. Lyrical, meditative disquisitions reveal William as observant, earnest, charming, a little nerdy, and obviously hurting deeply. “Absence” speaks touchingly of a mother bird leaving her nest, while “Homicide” considers justifiable killings, then posits a hypothetical situation about a boy who’s left his tree fort beset by young bullies. William’s life story emerges clearly through shards of narrative, with “Life of Gambling” (“the authority on high-stakes gambling is my uncle”) followed by “Lawbreakers,” which suggests that “if you burn down your own house and the authorities find out about it, you go to federal prison”; the heading “Locomotory Options Used by Teens Who Are Wards of the State” shows what William has in store, though there’s also a dramatic sail down a river. Throughout, William evinces a tremendous interest in scientific fact, which with his organizational scheme reveals how much he desires his life ordered.
VERDICT Intriguing, revelatory, and unexpected, this debut novel is highly recommended for smart readers.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Riker, Martin. Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return. Coffee House. Oct. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781566895286. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781566895361. F
[DEBUT] Born and raised in a religious community in rural Pennsylvania by zealous parents who sought to escape a forsaken, materialist world, Samuel Johnson ends up traveling the globe after a shocking incident as a young man. Widowed and raising a young son to whom he is passionately devoted, he’s indulging in the guilty pleasure of watching television when he hears his son outside screaming and rushes to rescue him from an intruder. Samuel is killed, but his soul leaps immediately into the body of the killer, then into that of a young man named Christopher traveling on a plane when the killer crashes his car. All Samuel wants to do is get back to the child he adores and watch over him, but as Christopher hops a ship, Samuel knows his journey is just starting. A fortune teller Christopher consults on Antigua helps put Samuel back on the path to Samuel Jr., but it will take years for this picaresque story to unfold as Samuel moves from body to body, man or woman, young or old, and once even a bull. In the end, he learns to appreciate life from many perspectives as something visceral and immediate, requiring both attention and kindness, and (along with the reader) comes to understand the nature of love.
VERDICT Smartly conceived and fluidly written, this wise and entertaining debut is for all readers.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Teo, Sharlene. Ponti. S. & S. Sept. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781501173110. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501173134. F
[DEBUT] Among the many novels examining intense female friendship, Teo’s debut stands out for the ferocity of its young combatant friends, the deft handling of an equally fraught cruel mother–damaged daughter standoff, and a Singapore setting that highlights both a grubby, pollution-ridden city and an ancient culture in which the supernatural can seem natural. Isolated teenager Ng Szu Min struggles with her looks, her unsociability (“maths and other people were a foreign language”), and the tainted aura that surrounds her because her mother once starred in a series of cult films about a deformed young woman who becomes beautiful at a price: she’s a Pontianak, a monster hungry for male blood. As a mother, Amisa also seems to want blood, conducting séances with her sister in a filthy house on the city’s outskirts while tormenting hapless Szu. Szu is marginalized at her snooty girl’s school until the appearance of the emotionally careless Circe Low, another outcast with whom she bonds tightly until it all implodes. As the narrative moves among Amisa’s past, Szu and Circe’s pained present, and a future in which Circe counts her losses, we experience the rawness of disappointed dreams.
VERDICT Winner of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writers’ Award, this energized, lusciously written work is train-wreck absorbing. [See Prepub Alert, 3/12/18.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Vincenzi, Penny. A Question of Trust. Overlook. Jul. 2018. 608p. ISBN 9781468316148. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781468316155. F
In the usual Vincenzi style, the author’s latest and last novel (after A Perfect Heritage) before her death in early 2018 is a lengthy saga jam-packed with characters in turmoil, glamorous riches, and clandestine affairs, all taking place in the 1940s–50s. The main characters are handsome, smart Tom Knelston, from a working-class background, and model Diana Southcott, who’s rather wealthy, spoiled, and shallow. Their lives briefly overlap in the years prior to World War II, and they meet again after having married and had children with other people. Even though Diana doesn’t share married Tom’s ideals, they fall into a steamy, secret affair. Unfortunately, neither protagonist grabs readers’ interest, so it’s hard to care about them.
VERDICT Filled with compelling secondary characters and life-changing decisions that cause major consequences, this is a mildly enjoyable read, but it’s not up to par with the author’s usual fare. Purchase where Danielle Steel is popular and for fans of Vincenzi.—Marianne Fitzgerald, Severna Park H.S., MD

LJ Reviews

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.




Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.