Spot-Lit for April 2014

Spot-Lit

Lots of good fiction is headed your way this month. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction    

American Romantic    Frog Music    Storied Life    Lovers at the Chameleon Club    Plover

American Romantic  by Ward Just
Frog Music  by Emma Donoghue
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  by Gabrielle Zevin
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932  by Francine Prose
The Plover  by Brian Doyle

First Novels / Fiction

Whiskey Barons    Past the Shalllows    Sedition    Steal the Summer    Skookum

The Whiskey Baron  by Jon Sealy
Past the Shallows  by Favel Parrett
Sedition  by Katharine Grant
Steal the North  by Heather Bergstrom
Skookum Summer  by Jack Hart

Crime Fiction /Suspense

Until You're Mine    Destroyer Angel    Waiting for Wednesday    Cold Nowhere    By Its Cover

Until You’re Mine  by Samantha Hayes
Destroyer Angel  by Nevada Barr
Waiting for Wednesday  by Nicci French
The Cold Nowhere  by Brian Freeman
By Its Cover  by Donna Leon

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Goblin Emperor    Bird Eater    Days of the Deer    Afterparty    Battle Royale

The Goblin Emperor  by Katherine Addison
The Bird Eater  by Ania Ahlborn
The Days of the Deer  by Liliana Bodoc
Afterparty  by Daryl Gregory
Battle Royale – Remastered  by Koushun Takami  

Romance

                            Bet    Hotelles    Far Gone

The Bet  by Rachel Van Dyken
Hotelles  by Emma Mars
Far Gone  by Laura Griffin

To see all on-order fiction, click here.

Spot-Lit for March 2014

Spot-Lit

Here’s our hand-picked list of fiction titles coming out in March. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place holds.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction  

Bark    Orchard of Lost Souls    Curse on Dost    Blazing World    Boy, Snow, Bird

Bark: stories  by Lorrie Moore
The Orchard of Lost Souls  by Nadifa Mohamed
A Curse on Dostoevsky  by Atiq Rahimi
The Blazing World  by Siri Hustvedt
Boy, Snow, Bird  by Helen Oyeyemi

First Fiction

Redeployment    Burnable Book    Wives of Los Alamos    Precious Thing    Weight of Blood

Redeployment  by Phil Klay
A Burnable Book  by Bruce Holsinger
The Wives of Los Alamos  by Tarashea Nesbit
Precious Thing  by Colette McBeth
The Weight of Blood  by Laura McHugh

Crime Fiction /Suspense

Accident    Disappeared    Why Kings Confess    Black-Eyed Blonde    Watching You

The Accident  by Chris Pavone
The Disappeared  by Kristina Ohlsson
Why Kings Confess  by C.S. Harris
The Black-Eyed Blonde  by Benjamin Black
Watching You  by Michael Robotham

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Man Came Out    Undead Pool    Murder of Crows    Trpoic of Serpents    Code Zero

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain  by Adrianne Harun
The Undead Pool  by Kim Harrison
A Murder of Crows  by Anne Bishop
The Tropic of Serpents  by Marie Brennan
Code Zero  by Jonathan Maberry

Romance

                    Evening Stars          Replacement Wife          Love Comes Calling

Evening Stars  by Susan Mallery
The Replacement Wife  by Tiffany Warren
Love Comes Calling  by Siri Mitchell

To see all on-order fiction, click here.

Books to Read before the Movie Premieres

I’d like to augment Alan’s series on books which have been made into movies with this list of 2014 movies which are based on books. This is going to be an awesome year at the movies and you’ll enjoy the them even more if you check out these books from the library and read them before viewing the films. Here they are in order of release date.

index (34)1. The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel and Bret Witter. The book: The true story of art historians who joined the armed forces during World War II to try to track down and save as much fine art as possible before and after Hitler got his hands on it. The movie: Will be released February 7th and stars a fantastic cast including: George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray.

index2. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. The book: Takes readers on a journey to New York of the Belle Époque, where Peter Lake attempts to rob a Manhattan mansion only to find the daughter of the house at home. Thus begins the love between the middle-aged Irishman and Beverly Penn, a young girl who is dying. The movie: This romantic fantasy comes out February 14th and stars Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe and Jessica Brown Findlay.

index (1)3. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. The book: Try to read at least the first book in this series. There are way too many sexy vampire books out there, but with a mythology different from your typical vampire story, a novel this dark is definitely worth your time. The movie: Will also be released February 14th and stars Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, and Sarah Hyland.  It was made by the directors of Mean Girls.

index (2)4. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. The book: Tells the story of four people who encounter one another on the roof of Topper’s House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives. It is told in four distinct voices and manages to be humorous and somber at the same time. The movie: Stars Aaron Paul, Rosamund Pike, Imogen Poots and Pierce Brosnan and will be released March 7th.

index (3)5. Divergent by Veronica Roth. The book: Set in a world where you’re placed in neat little categories called factions, it’s dangerous to be someone like Tris — someone who is Divergent. Being Divergent means you don’t just belong in one category, and it also means you can’t be controlled. This is a frightening world, but a must-read book. The movie: Stars Kate Winslet, Shailene Woodley and Theo James and will be in theaters March 21st.  Scary!

index (4)6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The book: Will have you laughing and crying and then crying some more since it is a beautifully written romance between two terminally ill young people. It is a beautiful story about life and death. The movie: Also stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort and will be out June 6th. Remove your mascara and take tissue with you to this emotional movie based on the book.

index (5)7. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais. The book: The story starts with a tragedy in Mumbai, India and follows the family around the world until they land in Lumiere, France where they open an Indian restaurant one hundred feet from a fancy french restaurant. The movie: Helen Mirren will play Madame Mallory who is initially infuriated when the new restaurant is such a success, but then softens and takes the young man under her wing. Release date is August 8th.

index (6)8. The Giver by Lois Lowry. The book: The Giver,  the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, follows the story of a boy who is given the responsibility of remembering the history of the world that existed before the establishment of the Utopian society in which he now lives. Profound and full of important messages, this is definitely a novel that should be on your ‘To Be Read’ list. The movie: Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep make this a highly anticipated movie and Taylor Swift tries acting. The release date is August 15th.

index (7)9. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. The book: This is a dark twisted tale with despicable characters and a sometimes harrowing, but well developed, plot which some readers may find just too uncomfortable to read. It’s not a happy story or a feel good book. On the other hand, if you like a little of the above, then Dark Places will keep you turning the pages and have you sitting up and reading long into the night. The movie: To be released September 1st with Charlize Theron.

index (8)10. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. The book: Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the end of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family. The book is hilarious. The movie: With Jason Bateman and Tina Fey. Enough said. To be released September 12th.

index (9)11. The Maze Runner by James Dashner. The book: The Maze Runner is the first book in the trilogy of the same name by James Dashner. It is the story of Thomas, who wakes up in a strange place and can remember nothing more than his name. Set in a mysterious place surrounded by a maze that changes every night and contains hideous monsters within its walls, this is a sci-fi thriller that’s a little bit Lord of the Flies and a little bit The Hunger Games.The movie: With the release date of September 19th, features Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario.

index (10)12. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The book: Amy mysteriously disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary and it’s looking more and more like her husband Nick was involved. This thrilling book will translate into a great suspenseful movie. The movie: With Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, it will be out on October 3rd just in time for the Halloween season.

index (11)13. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. The book: the true story of Louis Zamperini, a track star from the 1930′s who participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and then became an airman in WWII.  His plane went down in the Pacific Ocean and the story is fascinating. The movie: To be released on Christmas day, directed by Angelina Jolie, and starring Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney, and Domhnall Gleeson.

index (12)14. Wild by Cheryl Strand. The book: Chreyl lost both her mother and her marriage in quick succession, so with nothing left to lose, she decided to hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.  It is a story of wilderness salvation and survival, both internally and externally. The movie: Will be released sometime in 2014 and will star Reese Witherspoon.  

index (13)15. Serena by Ron Rash. The book: The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena learns that she will never bear a child, and sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. The movie: A must-see since it stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. To be released sometime this year.

Well, there you have it. Read the book first so the movie will be all the better. Enjoy! Go Seahawks!

Spot-Lit for September 2013

Spot-Lit

To read reviews or place holds, click the titles below then click the Full Display button.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction 

Dissident Gardens    Enon    Lowland    Woman Who Lost Her Soul    Maids Version

Dissident Gardens  by Jonathan Lethem

Enon  by Paul Harding

The Lowland  Jhumpa Lahiri

The Woman Who Lost Her Soul  by Bob Shacochis

The Maid’s Version  by Daniel Woodrell

First Novels

Edge of Normal       Burial Rites       Just What Kind of Mother Are You       Alex

The Edge of Normal  by Carla Norton

Burial Rites  by Hannah Kent

Just What Kind of Mother Are You?  by Paula Daly

Alex  by Pierre Lemaitre

Crime Fiction / Suspense

Execution       Strangled in Paris       Then We Take Berlin

Execution  by Adrian Magson

Strangled in Paris  by Claude Izner

Then We Take Berlin  by John Lawton

SF and Fantasy

Maddaddam       Mage's Blood       Gideon Smith       Vicious

MaddAddam  by Margaret Atwood

Mage’s Blood  by David Hair

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl  by David Barnett

Vicious  by V.E. Schwab

Romance and Western

Tear You Apart        Blackmoore       Rebellious Heart       Wreaths of Glory

Tear You Apart  by Megan Hart

Blackmoore  by Julie Donaldson

Rebellious Heart  by Jody Hedlund

Wreaths of Glory  by Johnny Boggs

To see all the on-order fiction, click here.

Looking for Love (In All the Right Places)

I have exciting news—August is Read a Romance Month! As a confessed romance reader, I am thrilled to discover that there’s a whole month dedicated to the genre that has been my favorite for more than two decades.

Fawkes and Codex from The Guild demonstrate the traditional romance cover technique

Fawkes and Codex from The Guild demonstrate the traditional romance cover technique

Why read romance? As with any genre, each reader has his or her own reasons for choosing to read a romantic novel:

  • It’s fun!
  • Pure escapism at its best.
  • Happy endings abound.
  • Drama: either in love triangles, star-crossed lovers, or fighting the forces of evil side-by-side.
  • Rom-coms: they’re not just for movies, who doesn’t want to laugh?

For me, it’s always the promise of a happy ending that draws me in. I’m especially fond of characters who start out, for whatever reason, disliking each other and eventually make it to a happy life together. It always warms my heart when two unhappy people can find someone who understands them and together they find a way to make life happy once again.

I’m sure I already know what you’re picturing: a total bodice-ripper, maybe even complete with a shirtless Fabio in a torrid—or even sordid—embrace with a scantily-clad woman with long, flowing hair and ecstasy between them. If you’re like me and enjoy romances with the couple rounding third base on the cover but don’t want to announce it to the world, you can always download the eBook and read it in privacy on your e-reading device. While there are still many of these types of book scattered throughout publishing, today’s romance novels aren’t always so obvious.

MaddyFor example, I just finished reading The Haunting of Maddy Clare, by Simone St. James, which won RITA awards this summer for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements & Best First Book. It doesn’t look like a romance novel, does it? While the core of the book is a creepy ghost story, there are definitely romantic overtones throughout.

Sarah Piper is employed by a temp agency in 1920s London. Times are tough, and her existence is bleak. She can’t say no when the agency assigns her to assist author and ghost hunter Alistair Gellis. Alistair has always searched for evidence of ghosts: not just do they exist, he insists they do, but trying to answer questions like are they sentient or just bursts of energy. When he learns of the ghost of Maddy Clare (who is haunting the barn where she hanged herself one year ago) he can’t pass up the opportunity to gather potential evidence that could prove once and for all the existence of ghosts. His regular assistant is away, so he hires Sarah to accompany him to the English countryside.

Sarah soon learns her real role: Alistair wants her to commune with Maddy’s ghost. Sarah discovers that in life Maddy hated men and will not allow any to come near her inside the barn. Sarah isn’t brave—she’s desperate to make ends meet. So she enters the barn, knowing nothing will ever be the same.

Are you thinking she and Alistair will hook up? That would be a little obvious. And while I’m not opposed to obvious, there’s something to be said for patience. After Sarah makes contact with Maddy, Alistair’s original assistant arrives to reprise his role. Matthew Ryder served with Alistair in the Great War, and they are as close as brothers. Matthew is at first angry that Alistair wouldn’t wait for him to return before setting out to investigate Maddy. But soon they discover just how much influence Maddy has over them all. It’s going to take a lot of fortitude, and some good old-fashioned detective work, to fully understand Maddy’s story.

Author Anne Stuart, who herself writes romances, described this book as, “Compelling…a wonderful blend of romance, mystery, and pure creepiness.” With a description like that, how can you pass it up?

page 45This is just one of millions of tales where romance plays a key part in the story—even if it’s not the entire story. So what if there isn’t an embracing couple on the cover? Have no doubt you may indeed find love—and a happy ending—even in a grim and, yes, creepy book like this one.

Still not convinced? Recently I put it to our Facebook fans to play along with a little game. It’s a quick, easy, and fun way to participate in Read a Romance Month:

Take a chance. Read a romance. You just might fall in love with reading all over again.

Carol

Spot-Lit for August 2013

Spot-Lit

Lots of good fiction is headed your way this month. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction  

Infatuations    Girl You Left Behind    Amor and Psycho    Claire    Tumbledown

The Infatuations  by Javier Marias

The Girl You Left Behind  by Jojo Moyes

Amor and Psycho  by Carolyn Cooke

Claire of the Sea Light  by Edwidge Danticat

Tumbledown  by Robert Boswell

First Novels

Returned    Wicked Girls    People in the Trees    Queens Gambit    Bone Season

The Returned  by Jason Mott

The Wicked Girls  by Alex Marwood

The People in the Trees  by Hanya Yanagihara

Queen’s Gambit  by Elizabeth Fremantle

The Bone Season  by Samantha Shannon

Crime Fiction / Suspense

 Let Me Go   Sandrine's Case   Good Thief   How the Lighht Gets In   Bad Blood   Place of confinement

Let Me Go  by Chelsea Cain

Sandrine’s Case  by Thomas Cook

Good Thief’s Guide to Berlin  by Chris Ewan

How the Light Gets In  by Louise Penny

Bad Blood  by Arne Dahl

A Place of Confinement  by Anna Dean

SF / Fantasy

Thinking Woman          Kill City Blues          Children of Fire

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic  by Emily Barker

Kill City Blues  by Richard Kadrey

Children of Fire  by Drew Karpyshyn

Romance

Passion of the Purple          Serving of Scandal          Storm Warrior

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria  by Lauren Willig

A Serving of Scandal  by Prue Leith

Storm Warrior  by Dani Harper

To see all the on-order fiction, click here.

I’d Love for You to Read This

Love is in the air—and on the page. It’s time once again to announce the winners of the summer’s hottest awards: the Romance Writers of America’s RITAs. The RITAs are named after RWA’s very first president, Rita Clay Estrada, and have been awarded every year since 1982. It’s not simply an honorary but an actual award—a golden statuette of a woman, whom I assume to be none other than Rita herself, reading a book. According to RWA’s website, it “has become the symbol for excellence in published romance fiction.”

I’ll say!

Past recipients include Nora Roberts, LaVyrle Spencer, Francine Rivers, Diana Gabaldon, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Robin Lee Hatcher, Tess Gerritsen, Debbie Macomber, Julia Quinn, Jill Shalvis, Tessa Dare, and my new favorite author, Darynda Jones.

I know I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: as one of the few admitted romance readers on staff, I feel it’s my duty, right, and pleasure to present this list to you, dear reader. And I’m not even vying for a nomination for Librarian of the Year. Mainly because I’m not a librarian, but also because I’m ever-so-humble. Wink wink.

I’m including links to the catalog so you can easily find a copy now, because you know these holds queues are going to blow up as word starts to gets out.

Best Contemporary Single Title Romance:
The Way Back Home by Barbara Freethy

Best Historical Romance:
A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

Best Romantic Suspense:
Scorched by Laura Griffin

Best Inspirational Romance:
Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

Best Short Contemporary Series Romance:
A Night of No Return by Sarah Morgan

Best Long Contemporary Series Romance:
A Gift for All Seasons by Karen Templeton

Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements & Best First Book:
The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

Best Paranormal Romance:
Shadow’s Claim by Kresley Cole

Best Young Adult Romance:
The Farm by Emily McKay

Best Romance Novella:
Seduced by a Pirate by Eloisa James

You’ll notice I didn’t include a link for every title. That’s because the library hasn’t yet purchased all of them. If you’re interested, feel free to talk to a librarian. Let them know it’s now an award winner and that Carol sent ya.

At the same time they announced the RITA winners, RWA also announced the Golden Heart Winners. What’s a Golden Heart? The short version: it’s an award given to outstanding unpublished manuscripts. The final round of the contest is judged by romance editors. Many winners go on to enjoy a career as a published romance novelist. Recipients are awarded an actual golden heart pendant. Gotta love literal literary prizes!

Perhaps you’d like to submit your own manuscript for next year’s Golden Heart competition. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of putting pen to paper (or keys to screen) and want to begin writing, but you don’t know where to start. We’ve got some excellent writing resources sitting in the stacks waiting to help guide you through the process of writing a romantic novel–including how to write those steamy love scenes.

Another valuable resource is Romantic Times. Each issue is packed with well-written reviews for everything from contemporary to paranormal, inspirational to erotica. I used to subscribe at home but I’ve since let my subscription lapse, since I can get each issue for free from the library. It’s also a great way to get a feel for what’s popular in romance publishing right now. You may notice themes or topics not currently trending–maybe this is the direction in which you’re meant to go.

Imagine your future as a literary trendsetter. It’s a good future, yes? Now go grab a RITA winner and get to work “researching.”

Carol

Spot-Lit for July 2013

Spot-Lit

Lots of good fiction is headed your way this July. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction 

              My Education         Impossible Lives of Greta Wells         Light in the Ruins

My Education  by Susan Choi

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells  by Andrew Sean Greer

The Light in the Ruins  by Chris Bohjalian

First Fiction

Curiosity Ten Things Loteria Gamal Byzantium Daedalus Incident

The Curiosity  by Stephen Kiernan

Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love  by Sarah Butler

Lotería  by Mario Alberto Zambrano

The Gamal  by Ciaran Collins

Byzantium  by Ben Stroud

The Daedalus Incident  by Michael Martinez

Crime Fiction / Suspense

Skinner Visitation Street Summertime All the Cats Are Bored Last Word Crocodile Eye for an Eye

Skinner  by Charlie Huston

Visitation Street  by Ivy Pochoda

Summertime, All the Cats are Bored  by Philippe Georget

The Last Word  by Lisa Lutz

The Crocodile  by Maurizio de Giovanni

Eye for an Eye  by Ben Coes

SF / Fantasy / Romance / Western

The Humans      Fifth Grave Past the Light      If the Shoe Fits      Winter Kill

The Humans  by Matt Haig

Fifth Grave Past the Light  by Darynda Jones

If the Shoe Fits  by Megan Mulry

Winter Kill  by Bill Brooks 

To see all the on-order fiction, click here.

Spot-Lit for June 2013

Spot-Lit

This month marks the one-year anniversary of Spot-Lit, so we thought we’d take a look back.

Spot-Lit’s objective is to help you easily discover worthwhile new fiction from both established and emerging authors, while giving the edge to deserving authors who might be overlooked. The main reason for this slant is because we know you can always click the On Order or Most Popular links in the catalog to easily find the most highly anticipated and in-demand titles. But we’re open to featuring any good book – and we did choose Gone Girl before it went on to dominate the bestseller lists for the past year.

We got some validation for our efforts from a recent round-up of The Year’s Best Crime Novels by Booklist magazine – almost half of their picks were also featured in Spot-Lit (see the titles we agreed on here). Of course, the advance reviews published by Booklist and other trade sources help us select materials for the library and aid us in making our Spot-Lit picks.

Additionally, we featured a number of titles as they came out that ended up winning some major awards. In addition to Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies (Man Booker Prize), we highlighted these crime fiction award-winners:

We’re just sayin’ – you could do worse when looking for new book recommendations.

With the self-aggrandizement out of the way – on to this month’s selections! As always, simply click on the titles below to read more or to place holds.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction 

TransAtlanticTransAtlantic  by Colum McCann
In a tale that spans 150 years, McCann beautifully weaves together multiple narratives that include the first nonstop transatlantic flight, Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, four generations of women from an Irish family, and more. From the National Book Award winner of Let the Great World Spin.

We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves  by Karen Joy Fowler
As Publishers Weekly notes: “It’s worth the trouble to avoid spoilers, including the ones on the back cover.” So we’ll only say that this story of a middle class American family has it all – plus a twist. It’s one you really don’t want to miss.

Last Summer of the CamperdownsThe Last Summer of the Camperdowns  by Elizabeth Kelly
A 12-year-old girl witnesses a violent crime but says nothing to her eccentric parents who are enmeshed in running a political campaign in Massachusetts in 1972. Tense, witty and mordantly funny.

First Novels

Good Kings Bad KingsGood Kings Bad Kings  by Susan Nussbaum
Nussbsaum’s debut takes us inside a privately run Chicago facility for learning-disabled students, where profit-driven decisions only add to the hardship of the students’ courageous, resilient, disadvantaged lives. Winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.

Lullaby of Polish GirlsThe Lullaby of Polish Girls  by Dagmara Dominczyk
When a young Polish-American girl returns to Poland to visit her grandmother, she makes strong friendships with two other girls. They stay in touch over the years though their lives have taken them in very different directions, and then a murder brings them back to the city where their friendship began.

Square of RevengeThe Square of Revenge  by Pieter Aspe
International bestselling author Aspe’s U.S. debut includes a mysterious crime at a jewelry store where gems are dissolved in acid rather than stolen, a series of notes whose Latin words take the shape of a square, and a kidnapper who demands a priceless collection of art as ransom.

Blood of HeavenThe Blood of Heaven  by Kent Wascom
Wascom’s red hot debut is set in the violent frontier of West Florida in the nation’s early years, where a young man falls in with renegade founding father Aaron Burr’s secessionist movement. If you liked Blood Meridian, you’ll want to get your hands on this.

Courting GretaCourting Greta  by Ramsey Hootman
An unlikely romance between a nerdy computer programmer, who leaves his well-paid job to teach high school computer classes, and a tough-talking high school gym coach.

Crime Fiction / Suspense

Crime of PrivilegeCrime of Privilege  by Walter Walker
When Assistant DA George Becket decides to take on a powerful family and reopens the investigation of a young woman’s murder, he has to confront his own hesitant complicity in an abuse case from many years before. Strong characterization, plotting and puzzle-solving.

Her Last BreathHer Last Breath  by Linda Castillo
A hit-and-run “accident” kills an Amish buggy driver along with two of his children. As ex-Amish congregant and current police chief Kate Burkholder sets out to investigate the death of her friend, human remains with a connection to her past are found in an abandoned grain elevator.

Last Kind WordThe Last Kind Word  by David Housewright
Millionaire and unlicensed investigator Rushmore McKenzie is in over his head when he agrees to help the ATF infiltrate a gun-running operation near the Canadian border.

 SF / Fantasy

Ocean at the End of the LanejpgThe Ocean at the End of the Lane  by Neil Gaiman
Speculative fiction master Gaiman’s first novel for adults since 2005’s Anansi Boys. The publisher calls it a “whimsical, imaginative, bittersweet, and at times, deeply scary modern fantasy about fear, love, magic, sacrifice, and the power of stories to reveal and to protect us from the darkness inside.”

Abaddon's GateAbaddon’s Gate  by James S.A. Corey
In this top-notch space opera, the alien artifact that has been troubling Earth and Mars inhabitants has now built a massive gate that reaches out of the solar system. A flotilla of ships, including Jim Holden’s Rocinante, head out to investigate, but Holden is implicated in the gate’s appearance and is targeted in an act of political revenge.

*                    *                   *                    *

Good writing remains good writing long after a book is first published, so if nothing in this month’s post exactly suits your mood, why not browse the Spot-Lit archive? There must be something there you’ll like.

Warm Bodies

warmbodiesMy skin is always cold. I don’t like people to touch me, to try to hold my hand or touch the back of my neck because the skin there is always cold. Even in the middle of a scorching August day parts of my body are cold. Passing mirrors or shop windows I’m startled into remembering I’m inside this body. I feel like I just fell into it, that I was somewhere else a few minutes ago and then boom! I’m human again. Being inside this skin is almost ridiculous. I think that’s how zombies would feel if they were real. Or had thoughts beyond “That brain looks tasty.”

Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies is a beauty of a book. It’s an atypical zombie read with surprisingly beautiful writing. There’s R, a zombie who lives at an abandoned airport along with hundreds of other zombies. There are out-posts of survivors who go on foraging missions for supplies and weapons. Some make it back in one piece. Some are lost to the world of the dead. There’s no explanation for the zombies or how they came to be. We seem to be the cause or the wrong we’ve done to the planet and to each other:

We released it. We poked through the seabed and the oil erupted, painted us black, pulled our inner sickness out for everyone to see. Now here we are in this dry corpse of a world, rotting on our feet ‘til there’s nothing left but bones and the buzz of flies.

From the very beginning R is a different kind of zombie. He loves Sinatra and lives alone in one of the grounded airplanes while all the other zombies group together. He can’t remember his name or who he was before becoming a zombie. He dreams. “Normal” zombies don’t sleep much let alone dream. R gathers bits of memories when he eats people. He sees their lives spread out before him. He savors their lives the way a zombie savors….well, human meat.

One day R and a few other zombies go out on a hunting mission and run up against human survivors. There’s a battle (the humans lose, of course) and R meets Julie. He’s chomping away at her boyfriend’s brain and quickly falls in love with her. He feels an overwhelming need to protect her and this freaks him out. He’s a zombie. He’s not supposed to feel protective of anyone or anything except maybe what bit of flesh belongs to him.

Surprisingly, the feelings are mutual for Julie. The only problem standing in their way, besides the whole he’s a corpse and she’s alive thing, is Julie’s father who’s a big muckety-muck in the service. He runs the small city Julie and other survivors live in. There’s always a psychotic father/general/sheriff in the zombie world, huh?

R tries to get across the message that the zombies are changing, evolving into something different. Julie sees this and tries to explain it to her father but Crazy General Dad can’t and won’t see the changes. All he sees is death and destruction and his own place eradicating the zombies from this world.

The one thing both zombies and humans have in common is their fear of the Boneys. These are zombies so ancient that they have only the slightest of skin stretched tight over their bones. They’re walking skeletons. They do not evolve. In fact, they seem mighty ticked off at R for becoming something and someone new and try to put a halt to it.

Part love story, part survival story, Warm Bodies is a novel about change and acceptance and loving someone even if they eat your boyfriend’s brain. I was once told that there’s a lid for every jar when it comes to being loved, that there’s someone for everyone. If you can love the zombie who ate most of your boyfriend then you, my friend, have found the best kind of love.

Just make sure your zombie boyfriend brushes his teeth before he leans in for that kiss.

Jennifer