Friday, August 22, 2014

Diary fiction

Novels written in diary format give the reader an intimate relationship with the narrator, as they reflect on their experiences of an event, a day or a lifetime. By nature one sided and possibly unreliable, diary novels would appeal to readers who are drawn to a book by rich character development. Classic examples would be Dracula and Flowers for Algernon.

Here are some examples of recently published novels written in a diary format:

The Black Stiletto: secrets and lies: the 4th diary -- 1961: a novel by Raymond Benson

"It is 1961 in the fourth book of the Black Stiletto series. Judy, the Stiletto, meets Leo, a charismatic man who convinces her to move to Los Angeles when she is run out of New York by increasingly hazardous police heat. But soon Judy suspects that Leo is not the white knight she first thought. Leo, who has connections with the West Coast mobs, has plenty of skeletons in his closet. His mysterious sister, Christina, who once served time for armed robbery, could also be a threat to the Stiletto's new life in California. Meanwhile, in the present, Alzheimer's-stricken Judy takes a turn for the worse as Martin comes to grips with the imminent end of his mother's life. In a novel bristling with mysteries, secrets, and lies, the Black Stiletto saga takes a dark left turn into even more treacherous territory." publisher

Bridget Jones: mad about the boy by Helen Fielding

"When Helen Fielding first wrote Bridget Jones' Diary, charting the life of a 30-something singleton in London in the 1990s, she introduced readers to one of the most beloved characters in modern literature. With her hotly anticipated third installment, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Fielding introduces us to a whole new enticing phase of Bridget's life set in contemporary London, including the challenges of maintaining sex appeal as the years roll by and the nightmare of drunken texting, the skinny jean, the disastrous e-mail cc, total lack of twitter followers, and TVs that need 90 buttons and three remotes to simply turn on. " publisher

Maya's Notebook: a novel by Isabel Allende

"To escape a life of drugs, crime and prostitution, nineteen-yearold Maya Vidal flees California to a remote island off the coast of Chile. There, in the company of a torture survivor, a lame dog and other unforgettable characters, Maya writes her story, which includes pursuit by a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI and Interpol. In the process, she unveils a terrible family secret, comes to understand the meaning of love and loyalty and initiates the greatest adventure of her life: the journey into her own soul." publisher

Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French

"Silvia Shute has always done exactly what she wants. But after a fall from a balcony, her life has suddenly, shockingly stopped. Now she's unconscious in a hospital bed, at the mercy of the mad friends and crazy relatives who have come to visit. Her beleaguered ex-husband, her newly independent daughter, her West Indian nurse, her bohemian sister, her best friend, her enthusiastic housekeeper, and others all share a piece of their collective mind with the complex woman—the bad mother, the cherished sister, the selfish wife, the matchless lover, the egotist, the martyr—they think they know. And Silvia can't talk back. As she lies there, captive to the beloveds, the babblers, and the stark-raving bonkers who alternate at her bedside, the dark and terrible secret she has been hiding for years begins to emerge. " publisher

Against the Wind by Madeleine Gagnon

"From the moment he takes drastic action to defend his adoptive mother from violent sexual assault, Joseph finds himself retreating into an increasingly abstract world where he must confront what he calls his "visions." In reaction to his indistinct trauma, Joseph sets out to reconcile the contradictory themes in his life, including abandonment, madness, love, and death, as the reader experiences, through letters and journal entries, the creation and development of anartist "in his own words." publisher

Cabbagetown diary: a documentary by Juan Butler

"The novel’s rowdy concoction of grit and violence and rooming-house sleaze had a strongly polarizing effect on its readers. Many admired the frankness of Butler’s depiction of a sordid environment, and others deplored the obscenity of the language and the dangerous and careless ways in which his characters behave, bent as they are on downward self-transcendence. But Cabbagetown Diary was undeniably a promising debut by a young writer whose brash tone and pungent subject matter were unique in Canadian writing at that time. The novel takes the form of a diary written by a disaffected young Toronto bartender, Michael, over the course of his four-month liaison with Terry, a naive teenager who is new to the city. "publisher

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Looking for New Romance - 4 new series

Love on the Run  (Morgan man series)
by Zuri Day"Day hits her stride with the enchanting Morgan Men series kickoff. The chemistry is instantaneous between "forever-grooving-always-moving female magnet" sports manager Michael Morgan and his new client, phenomenal sprinter Shayna Washington. However, the sworn bachelor is uncomfortable dating clients, and Shayna's self-confidence has been damaged by her stalking ex-fiance, Jarrell Powell, and her manipulative, selfish mother. When Jarrell beats Shayna and she turns to Michael for help, he realizes his feelings go beyond the professional. Readers will cheer for the hero and heroine to find a happy ending, especially given Shayna's heartbreaking past. Day's characters reach out to the reader from the first page to the last. The story brims with tension, charm, and the power of love. Contemporary romance fans will savor this book while awaiting the next Morgan story" Publishers Weekly

An Affair to Dismember (Matchcmaker series)
By Elsie Sax"A madcap plot and zany characters propel Sax's debut, which launches her Matchmaker series. Gladie Burger, fresh from Los Angeles, is apprenticing for her grandmother Zelda's matchmaking business in tiny Cannes, California, when the man across the street dies. After meeting his abused wife and sleazy children, Gladie is convinced he was murdered, but handsome police chief Spencer Bolton disagrees since the coroner pronounced natural causes.... Fans of laugh-out-loud romantic suspense will enjoy this new author as she joins the ranks of Janet Evanovich," - Booklist

Searching for Someday (Searching For series)
by Jennifer Probst"Kate Seymour runs a successful matchmaking business, Kinnections, using "science and skill" as well as her inherited ability to find a soul mate with a magic, electric touch. Cynical divorce lawyer Slade Montgomery thinks love is a by-product of oxytocin and that Kate's agency is a fraud that preys on the desperate and lonely. When he becomes a Kinnections client to prove his point, his list of traits desired in a woman makes it clear that Slade and Kate are beyond incompatible, and she dutifully tries to find him a partner. But the literal crackle of electricity when they touch tells Kate that Slade is her destined love. Bestseller Probst (the Marriage to a Billionaire series) creates a likable cast, refreshing female friendships, and a slight paranormal element that enliven this otherwise predictable opposites-bicker-their-way-into-bed story, and Kate's paraplegic pit bull, Robert, steals the show." - Publisher Weekly

Perfect Fit  (Serendipity's Finest series)
by Carly Phillips"When Michael Marsden returns to Serendipity to take over his adopted father's job as police chief, he finds his desire to move on waning after he reconnects with Cara Hartley, a policewoman with whom he had a one night stand."

“[A] sexy, thought-provoking contemporary romance.” -Publishers Weekly

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Staff Picks - Winter Vault by Anne Michaels!2121957~!3100001~!3100043&aspect=subtab431&menu=search&ri=1&source=~!horizon&term=The+winter+vault+%2F&index=ALLTITL In Winter Vault by Anne Michaels, engineer Avery Escher and his young wife Jean begin the story on a houseboat on the Nile in the 1960's. Avery is involved in the building of the Aswan Dam. His project is the relocation of the Great Temple of Abu Simbel. Jean is a botanist who collects and preserves seeds and flowers. Tragically, Jean delivers a stillborn daughter. This once intimate couple are unable to comfort one another and part ways. Both return to Canada where Avery takes up architecture. Jean continues her botanical studies and meets Lucjean, an artist and a Warsaw ghetto survivor.

This is an intensely profound story of loss, sadness and consolation. The losses are personal, a parent, a child; the losses are on a larger scale, a community, genocide. Michaels, with the care of a poet, chooses words to make this sadness palpable; the words are never maudlin or sentimental. From this despair we also see growth and rebuilding. Jean rescues seeds from dismantled gardens and uses them to reawaken scents and memories. Avery, once concerned with the mathematics of dismantling an ancient temple, turns to architecture and rebuilding.

If you also enjoyed, or are waiting for The Winter Vault, you might also consider The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. To commemorate the loss of 22 friends and neighbours, a cellist plays at the site of a mortar attack, one day for each death. Much of Avery's and Jean's story in The Winter Vault is told through memories. February by Lisa Moore also relies on the memories of Helen O'Mara as she reflects on the loss of her husband in the Ocean Ranger Disaster. In Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen by Kate Taylor, literature and cooking are the remedy for heartbreak and profound loss.  Vintage post 8/14/09!1920602~!3100001~!3100043&aspect=subtab431&menu=search&ri=13&source=~!horizon&term=Mme.+Proust+and+the+kosher+kitchen+%2F&index=ALLTITL!2138840~!3100001~!3100043&aspect=subtab431&menu=search&ri=11&source=~!horizon&term=February+%2F&index=ALLTITL!2062629~!3100001~!3100043&aspect=subtab431&menu=search&ri=9&source=~!horizon&term=The+cellist+of+Sarajevo+%2F&index=ALLTITL

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Staff Pick The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis

The Orphans of Race Point may seem small in its paperback form, but it packs a punch with just over 500 pages of excellent writing. Upon first glance one may think this could be a good story and should not take too long to read. You may be wrong!

It is a complex, intertwined plot that follows three young characters throughout their childhood and into adults. We meet Hallie and Gus, two motherless children, who become friends through a terrible ordeal. Helping to keep the strings attached is Neil, a quiet though emotional child that grows into an amazing actor, both in the theater world and in real life. It’s a love story; a tragedy; a narrative of how childhood creates a person.

‘When a horrific act of violence shatters the peaceful October night in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the fates of nine-year-old Gus Silva and Hallie Costa become inextricably entwined. Told in alternating voices, The Orphans of Race Point traces their relationship over the next three decades as they try to come to terms with the past. What begins as a childhood friendship evolves into something stronger, but when a terrible tragedy exhumes the ghosts they thought they'd put to rest, their dreams are abruptly destroyed.

Hallie and Gus move forward to build separate lives, but Gus's hard-won peace is threatened when he meets a troubled woman who awakens memories of the childhood he has worked so hard to forget. Although helping her offers him a chance at the redemption he desperately desires, it will come at a devastating price. Turning around an unthinkable betrayal, this epic, all-consuming novel explores how far we will go for love, even if it means sacrificing everything—and in doing so, celebrates our capacity for faith, forgiveness, and hope" publisher 

This book made me re-think my childhood and the experiences created. It made me go back and see the paths that made me the person I am today; childhood friends, family members, feelings and emotions. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a great story with strong characters and to feel every word Francis wrote.

Read alikes:

All that is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon.

What I had before I had you: a novel by Sarah Cornwell.

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky ; translated by Sandra Smith.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Staff Picks - Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

I was thinking about this book again this week: thinking of putting it on my to-read-again list for over the summer. It’s a first novel from a couple of years ago that I absolutely loved when I originally read it and I’m dying to see if it holds up on second reading.

Here’s the story (from a review I wrote back shortly after I read it):

“It’s senior year and Blue Van Meer - bookish, witty and self-aware - finds herself settling into a single school to finish off her high school career. Having spent a rootless youth devoid of friendships (thanks to her father’s string of visiting professorships at colleges across America), Blue is surprised to find herself quickly adopted into an elite social circle of intellectuals and uber-cool misfits at the prestigious St. Gallway School. Led by Hannah Schneider, the sort of charismatic and unconventional teacher who is a student’s dream and a parent’s nightmare, Special Topics in Calamity Physics starts as a darkly humourous coming of age story, but as the plot shifts after two mysterious deaths, becomes much more. Part who-dunnit, part teen drama, part tour through the literary cannon, this first novel is smart, sardonic and suspenseful. The high school drama is spot on, the mystery and characters are compelling. It’s well worth checking out - maybe even twice.”

The library has copies of Special Topics in Calamity Physics in both print and audio format.

It was reported last year that Pessl is now working on a second novel, tentatively titled Night Film and to be published by Random House (but not until 2010). I for one will be keeping my eyes peeled.

In the meantime, if you find that Special Topics In Calamity Physics interests you, you may also want to check out The Secret History by Donna Tartt which has similar threads in terms of the academic elements, the mystery and the plot device of the teacher/student relationship (although without the dark-humour) or Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld which hits the right tone for a comparison; also featuring a young, intelligent female main who is enrolled at an exclusive school and makes shrewd commentaries on the social structure around her (although without a mystery).

vintage post 4/20/09

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Vampires ... light on the romance

I was asked recently for suggestions of vampire themed fiction by someone who was not overly keen on the romance angle. Of course she had read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and, naturally, Dracula and wanted more ideas. Here is what we came up with.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

"In this riveting debut of breathtaking scope, a young girl discovers her father's darkest secret and embarks on a harrowing journey across Europe to complete the quest he never could -- to find history's most legendary fiend: Dracula. When a motherless American girl living in Europe finds a medieval book and a package of letters, all addressed ominously to "My dear and unfortunate successor..." she begins to unravel a thread that leads back to her father's past, his mentor's career, and an evil hidden in the depths of history. In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright: a hunt that nearly brought her father to ruin and may have claimed the life of his adviser and dear friend, history professor Bartholomew Rossi." publisher

The soon to be published Prince Lestat by Anne Rice

"A stunning departure, a surprising and compelling return…From Anne Rice, perennial best seller, single-handed reinventor of the vampire cosmology-a new, exhilarating novel, a deepening of her vampire mythology, and a chillingly hypnotic mystery-thriller. "What can we do but reach for the embrace that must now contain both heaven and hell: our doom again and again and again…" -from The Vampire Lestat. Rice once again summons up the irresistible spirit-world of the oldest and most powerful forces of the night, invisible beings unleashed on an unsuspecting world able to take blood from humans, in a long-awaited return to the extraordinary world of the Vampire Chronicles and the uniquely seductive Queen of the Damned("mesmerizing" -SF Chronicle), a long-awaited novel that picks up where The Vampire Lestat ("brilliant…its undead characters are utterly alive" -New York Times) left off more than a quarter of a century ago to create an extraordinary new world of spirits and forces-the characters, legend, and lore of all the Vampire Chronicles." publisher

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton which begins the Anita Blake series.

"Anita Blake may be small and young, but vampires call her the Executioner. Anita is a necromancer and vampire hunter in a time when vampires are protected by law--as long as they don't get too nasty. Now someone's killing innocent vampires and Anita agrees--with a bit of vampiric arm-twisting--to help figure out who and why. Trust is a luxury Anita can't afford when her allies aren't human. The city's most powerful vampire, Nikolaos, is 1,000 years old and looks like a 10-year-old girl. The second most powerful vampire, Jean-Claude, is interested in more than just Anita's professional talents, but the feisty necromancer isn't playing along--yet." publisher

You Suck by Christopher Moore

Being undead sucks. Literally. Just ask C. Thomas Flood. Waking up after a fantastic night unlike anything he's ever experienced, he discovers that his girlfriend, Jody, is a vampire. And surprise! Now he's one, too. For some couples, the whole biting-and-blood thing would have been a deal breaker. But Tommy and Jody are in love, and they vow to work through their issues. But word has it that the vampire who initially nibbled on Jody wasn't supposed to be recruiting. Even worse, Tommy's erstwhile turkey-bowling pals are out to get him, at the urging of a blue-dyed Las Vegas call girl named (duh) Blue. And that really sucks." publisher 

The Quick by Lauren Owen

"London, 1893: James Norbury is a shy would-be poet who takes up lodgings with a young man from the upper echelons of society and soon finds love where he least expected it. Just when it seems he is on the cusp of true happiness, James disappears. His sister Charlotte, who lives quietly near the crumbling country estate where they grew up, is determined to find out what happened. Charlotte is horrified at what she discovers, but love spurs on her efforts to save her brother from an unthinkable fate. Her quest leads both to the mysterious, centuries-old Aegolius Club, and to a crowded, chaotic neighbourhood where she encounters unforgettable characters, including a female rope-walker turned vigilante and a former slum priest who share a heartbreaking secret, and a young American who chooses decency, or perhaps something more tender, over his own safety. With them, readers are caught up in the breathtaking climax to an ancient battle being fought within a secret world hiding in plain sight, in the middle of the great city of London itself. As emotionally gripping as it is suspenseful, The Quick heralds Lauren Owen as a dazzling new literary talent." publisher

Stoker's Manuscript by Royce Prouty

"Joseph Barkeley has a gift. Without the aid of chemical testing, he can accurately determine the authenticity and age of any document, seeing details within the fibers the way a composer picks out the individual notes of a symphony. But rarely does Joseph get a job this delicate and well-paying. A mystery buyer has hired him to authenticate the original draft of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. When he travels to Transylvania to personally deliver the manuscript to the legendary Bran Castle, Barkeley, a Romanian orphan himself, soon realizes that his employer is the son of the infamous Vlad Dracula. Imprisoned in the castle and forced to serve “the Master,” Barkeley must quickly decipher cryptic messages hidden within Stoker’s masterpiece to find the Master’s long-lost bride—or risk wearing out his welcome. But as he delves into the history of Dracula and his own lineage, Barkeley discovers that his selection for this job was based on more than his talent with rare books. Now, he has a perilous decision to make—save his life with a coward’s flight, or wage a deadly battle with an ancient foe."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Detective By Night - amateur detectives and their day jobs

Doc Ford novels by Randy Wayne White

Doc Ford is a marine biologist and an ex-CIA agent who lives on the west coast of Florida. He was initially drawn back into a life of adventure when a friend is murdered and Ford must find his missing son and figure out just what this friend was up to in Sanibel Flats. Twenty one adventures later and Ford, in Bone Deep, is immersed in the world of black market traders with a particular interest in fossils and Indian relics.

Nina Quinn mysteries by Heather Webber

Nina Quinn is a landscape architect with a passion for plants as well as for justice. In Weeding Out Trouble Nina's right hand assistant, Kit, goes missing. In the course of her investigation, she learns that Kit's girlfriend has been murdered and now Kit is suspect number one. In her first adventure A Hoe of a Lot of Trouble Nina introduces her business Taken by Surprise - a surprise garden makeover service.

Minnie Hamilton in Bookmobile Cat mysteries by Laurie Cass

In Lending a Paw, librarian Minnie Hamilton is lively and passionate about bringing reading and library service to the people. When she and the bookmobile cat find the body of a library donor in a ditch she is compelled to investigate. In another adventure, Hamilton uses her bookmobile to bring an ailing artist to the hospital, only to learn that he is a suspect in a murder investigation.

Samantha Owens novels by J.T. Ellison

Pathologist Samantha Owens (When Shadows Fall) receives a letter from a dead man asking her to solve his murder. Initially she ignores this request but becomes curious when she learns that she is a beneficiary in his will and it stipulates that she must perform his autopsy. The autopsy reveals that he was indeed murdered and Owens must next find out how he knew he was going to be murdered.

Cleopatra Jones mysteries by Maggie Toussaint

Accountant Cleopatra Jones uses "her trusty spreadsheets and logical accountant's brain" to solve all manner of murder. In her first adventure, In For a Penny, Jones is drawn into a murder investigation when fingers are pointed at her friend who is in a dispute with the murder victim.