Sunday, August 30, 2015

Oliver Sacks Dead at 82

SacksOliver Sacks died in New York today at the age of 82. The cause was melanoma that had spread to his liver.

A physician, professor, and best-selling writer, Sacks was a prolific writer with a gift for making science compelling and readable. As he said in a 2012 interview with Amazon's Mia Lipman, "a physician should have something of a novelist in him, although it will be a nonfiction novel."

Sacks announced his cancer in February through a memorable op-ed in the New York Times.  Amidst the broad, passionate outpouring for the man, the author J.K. Rowling cited a portion of the Times op-ed:

"I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."


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Friday, August 28, 2015

Graphic Novel Friday: Fairy Tale's End

Beautiful.darkness_coverThis is a fairy tale that is not bedtime reading; this is a fable without a cute moral tacked onto its ending; this is what happens when storybook characters escape from death only to find mortality is very real and ready to pounce. The graphic novel Beautiful Darkness (Drawn & Quarterly), by writer Fabien Vehlmann, illustration team Kerascoet—Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset—and translator Helge Dascher, is as unsettling and haunting as it is fascinating—its title providing readers with perfect expectations.

Beautiful Darkness was celebrated throughout 2014 and named one of our Best of the Year picks, and when I read it recently during my summer vacation in the wilderness, it quickly passed around to those nearby, each of us with a “favorite scene,” and different “did you notice that?” moments and interpretations. What happens in the woods to Princess Aurora and her fellow companions is depicted with sometimes quiet malice and sometimes brutal punchlines. The grand mystery is one that is best left discovered by the reader—except to say that those looking for a clean resolution had best stick to Aesop. Beautiful Darkness remains just that—dark and full of murk despite its bright-eyed characters.

Beautiful.darkness_p41What can be revealed is that Aurora’s story starts with a courtship, gender roles all too familiar and clear—until everything decays with alarming speed. Aurora and an assortment of pixies stumble into an unfamiliar forest, their scale far below creature comfort—where ants are real threats [Click image at left to enlarge] and human footprints are massive. This is a story of social mores run amok and fates, where characters begin and end within a page, sometimes several pages—shocking vignettes that creep until it’s too late. As Aurora attempts to keep her fellowship safe, her numbers drop, and readers are treated to painted horror, like the bird’s that in any story would be a sweet example of inter-species harmony—but here is an unforgiving lesson in anatomical compatibility.

Even with all these read-and-then-re-read moments, there is that larger mystery to Beautiful Darkness—hints in a dream, red herrings, and a giant. And Aurora. Call it anti-fairy tale, post-fairy tale, or one of the best comics published in 2014, Beautiful Darkness is the wolf inside Grandmother’s nightgown.


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Best Books of the Month in Literary Fiction

Throughout this month, we have featured some of our favorite fiction in pieces about Kathleen Alcott's Best of the Month Infinite Home, Ivan Doig's Last Bus to Wisdom, Stephanie Clifford's Everybody Rise, J. Ryan Stradal's Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and more. But, it's a lengthy list! And, we couldn't bid adieu to August without also giving a nod to these Best Of reads:

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The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
A forbidden love story set on a tropical island that results in the birth of famous painter... What more do you want from a summer read?

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Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami
The two novels, penned at a kitchen table in 1978, that gave birth to this beloved author's career.

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Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh
The dramatic conclusion to Ghosh's much lauded Ibis Trilogy, set against the backdrop of the first Opium War.

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The State We're In by Ann Beattie
A collection of linked stories that explores why we live in the places we have chosen.

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The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips
Ursula K. Le Guin called this debut novel "funny, sad, scary, beautiful." We concur. 

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Barbara the Slut by Lauren Holmes
A frank and darkly funny debut collection about family, friends, and lovers, and the flaws that make us most human.

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How to Be a Grown-Up by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
A timely novel about a forty-something wife and mother thrust back into the workforce, where she finds herself at the mercy of a boss half her age.

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Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb
For fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time comes a novel about autism, memory, and, ultimately, redemption.

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Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson
In six stories, Johnson delves deep into love and loss, natural disasters, the influence of technology, and how the political shapes the personal.

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No. 4 Imperial Lane by Jonathan Weisman
From post-punk Brighton to revolutionary Angola, an incredible coming-of-age story that stretches across nations and decades, reminding us what it really means to come home.

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Interview with Kim Harrison on Her New Book, “The Drafter”

The DrafterKim Harrison is best known for her Hollows books starring onetime paranormal bounty hunter Rachel Morgan. But when all good things come to an end, as the Hollow series has, that often opens up opportunities for more good things to be written.

With the publication of her brand-new book, The Drafter, Harrison embarks on a new urban fantasy thriller series centered on Peri Reed, a government operative who can move through time and is known as a drafter. When Peri is set up to take the fall for something she didn't do, she must go on the run from her former lover and the organization that trained her as a weapon.  No one can predict when or where Peri will be as she digs into why she now has a target on her back—but everyone is trying.

The Amazon editors interviewed Kim Harrison at BookExpo, where she talked frankly about the Peri Reed chronicles, the end of the Hollows series, and more: 


If you can't wait until September 1 for the release of The Drafter, check out Harrison's Kindle Single, Sideswiped, the first look into the elite world of Peri Reed.


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Can't Get Enough: Favorite Romance Binge-Reads

35380566_sThere’s nothing better than finding a wonderful, new-to-you author and then (hooray!) discovering he or she has written lots and lots o’ books for you to read. So stock up on cheese and crackers, find a comfy chair, and get reading!


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Romantic Suspense: Catherine Coulter's FBI Series
Coulter just released her 19th FBI Thriller in July, and Nemesis is a doozy, with nonstop action and a twisty plot. You can jump into this series at any point, but if you want to start at the beginning, go back to The Cove.  (My mom, a voracious and yet discerning romance reader, loves The Cove, and if that isn’t an endorsement you should listen to, I don’t know what is.)

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Contemporary Romance: Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor series
If you like relatable characters and a story slathered with humor, look no further than Jill Shalvis. The queen/diva/arch-empress of small-town romance, Shalvis will make you want to lock yourself away as you gobble up her Lucky Harbor stories. If you’re an animal lover, take a quick breath after finishing the Lucky Harbor books and then dive into her Animal Magnetism series. Start your addiction with Simply Irresistible.

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Paranormal Romance: Lynsay Sands' Argeneau novels
If you’re a paranormal romance reader whose love for vampire books is as undying as the vamps themselves, you should already be reading Lynsay Sands’ Argeneau series. But if you aren’t, then you should block out time on your calendar, warn your family that they’re on their own for, oh, a month or so, and then sink your teeth into these sexy and funny tales of a family of hot vampires seeking their life mates. First course: A Quick Bite.

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Historical Romance: Christina Dodd's Governess Brides
Do you like sassy, strong women and the men who are entranced by them, witty banter, and sizzling lovemaking—at least in your romance novels? (Actually, in your real life as well, I hope.) Bestselling author Christina Dodd delivers all three in her Governess Brides historical romance series. Start anywhere you like in the series, or begin with book one, That Scandalous Evening.

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Erotic Romance: Meredith Wild's Hacker series
Warning: Hotness level = off the charts. Meredith Wild’s Hacker series makes the tech world sexy as recent college grad and start-up founder Erica Hathaway battles for control with billionaire hacker and potential investor Blake Landon. Unlike the other series I’ve highlighted above, you should really start with book one, Hardwired, as the characters’ arc continues through the series instead of resolving in a single book. If you start now, you’ll have plenty of time to catch up in time for the release of book five, Hard Love, on September 15.


If you have already read any or all of these books, try our previous binge-read recommendations: Unstoppable Love.


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Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Best Mysteries & Thrillers of August

It's nearly the end of summer-- take a look at the Editors' picks for the best Mysteries, Thrillers & Suspense novels of August and try to make your summer reading last just a little longer. You can go here to see all of our Best of the Month picks.



Friction by Sandra Brown

Texas Ranger Crawford Hunt's search for a killer may jeopardize his efforts to get back custody of his daughter.






In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

A cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller.





Badlands by C.J. Box

Detective Cassie Dewell has been assigned as the new deputy sheriff of Grimstad--now the oil capital of North Dakota. With oil comes money, with money comes drugs, and with drugs come the dirtiest criminals hustling to corner the market.




Eileen by Ottessa Mosheegh

A lonely young woman working in a boys’ prison outside Boston in the early 60s is pulled into a very strange crime, in a mordant, harrowing story of obsession and suspense.





Devil's Bridge by Linda Fairstein

The Manhattan waterfront offers the most magnificent vistas, boasting both the Statue of Liberty and the George Washington Bridge, the world’s busiest span for motor vehicles. It is here that Detective Mike Chapman will take on his most personal case yet: the disappearance of Alex Cooper.




Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes a new novel of psychological suspense.






Last Words by Michael Koryta

Ten years ago, a teenaged girl disappeared inside an elaborate cave system. Days later, Ridley Barnes emerged carrying Sarah Martin's lifeless body. Barnes has claimed all along that he has no memory of exactly where -- or how -- he found Sarah. Tired of living under a cloud of suspicion, he says he wants answers -- even if they mean he'll end up in the electric chair.



In the Dark Places by Peter Robinson

It's a double mystery: Two young men have vanished. As Banks and his team scramble for answers, the inquiry takes an even darker turn when a truck careens off an icy road in a freak hailstorm. In the wreckage, rescuers find the driver, who was killed on impact, as well as another body—a body that was dead well before the crash.




The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as The Database. As the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.



Woman with a Secret by Sophie Hannah

Nicki Clements has secrets, just like anybody else—secrets she keeps from her children, from her husband, from everyone who knows her. Secrets she shares with only one person: A stranger she's never seen. A person whose voice she's never heard.




Trust No One by Paul Cleave

Recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of forty-nine, Jerry’s crime writing days are coming to an end. His twelve books tell stories of brutal murders committed by bad men, of a world out of balance, of victims finding the darkest forms of justice. As his dementia begins to break down the wall between his life and the lives of the characters he has created, Jerry confesses his worst secret: The stories are real.




The Blue by Lucy Clarke

Lana and her best friend Kitty leave home looking for freedom—and that’s exactly what they find when they are invited onto The Blue, a fifty-foot yacht making its way from the Philippines to New Zealand. This is exactly the escape they are looking for and the two quickly fall under its spell, but they begin to discover that they aren’t the only ones with secrets they’d rather run from than reveal.




The Eternal World by Christopher Farnsworth

The Fountain of Youth is real, guarded by the Spanish conquistadors who discovered it hundreds of years ago. When the source of the fountain is destroyed in our own time, the loss threatens its discoverers and the powerful, shadowy empire of wealth and influence they have built. For help, they turn to David Robinton, a scientific prodigy who believes he is on the verge of the greatest medical breakthrough of all time.




Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

“The dead can’t speak to us,” Professor Madoc had said. But that is a lie. The body Patrick Fort is examining in anatomy class is trying to tell him all kinds of things. Life is already strange enough for Patrick—being a medical student with Asperger’s Syndrome doesn't come without its challenges. And that’s before he is faced with solving a possible murder, especially when no one believes a crime has even taken place.




Darkness the Color of Snow by Thomas Cobb

Like No Country for Old Men and Snow Falling on Cedars, a haunting, suspenseful, and dazzlingly written novel of secrets, corruption, tragedy, and vengeance from the author of Crazy Heart—the basis of the 2009 Academy Award-winning film—an electrifying crime drama and psychological thriller in which a young cop becomes the focal point for a community’s grief and rage in the aftermath of a tragic accident.

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