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From the Editor
You Only Debut Once
If our list of high-demand reviews is full of names you know—Michael Connelly, Pat Conroy, Dave Eggers, Helen Fielding, Fannie Flagg, Sue Monk Kidd—our Spotlight on First Novels is full of names you don't. But that's exactly what makes this annual issue so much fun: reading reviews of fine new fiction and wondering which of the first-time authors will be returning as well-known and in-demand. Will it be Kristin Elizabeth Clark? Barbara Mutch? Charlie Quimby? Jordi Punti? April Genevieve Tucholke? Or all of the above? Read on for our considered assessments of some very promising new talents.
Spotlight on First Novels
By Jordi Punti
Called in by police officers investigating his almost-forgotten father's abandoned flat, Christòfol discovers files revealing that he has half brothers in London, Paris, and Frankfurt.
Top 10 First Novels: 2013
First novels often tell coming-of-age tales, but the 10 best debut novels reviewed in Booklist between October 15, 2012, and October 1, 2013, take unusual and uniquely arresting approaches to that classic theme as teens and twentysomethings seek solid ground in the wake of catastrophes and upheavals both personal and societal.
The Housemaid's Daughter
By Barbara Mutch
Irish émigré Cathleen Harrington settles in the small town of Craddock in South Africa in 1919, where she marries the reticent Edward. Feeling lonely and isolated, she forges a unique bond with black housemaid Ada, whom she teaches to read and write and play the piano.
Another Look At: Peter Taylor's A Woman of Means
By Brad Hooper
The esteemed literary critic Jonathan Yardley, influentially headquartered at the Washington Post, wrote this about Peter Taylor: "Quite simply, there is not a better writer of fiction now at work in the United States."
By Charlie Quimby
Leonard Self, an aging Colorado rancher, sets out to fulfill the promise he made to his dying wife, Inetta, to release her ashes over the highest overlook on Monument Road one year after her passing. Having made preparations, he plans to fling himself over the edge, as well.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
By April Genevieve Tucholke
Violet and her twin brother, Luke, live in a crumbling mansion by the sea. There's not much of a town, and nothing much happens. Then River West rents their guest house, and all hell breaks loose.
Top 10 First Novels for Youth: 2013
These first novels cover a lot of territory, from Iran to Russia, 1960s Spanish Harlem to the upper echelons of a Kabbalistic world. And yes, there are also zombies.
Carte Blanche: The End
By Michael Cart
Two years ago, I devoted my Spotlight on First Novels column to the initial lines of some famous first fictions, both past and present. It seems only fair, then, to shine the spotlight this time on the last lines of those same novels.
By Kristin Elizabeth Clark
When Brendan Chase types "Want to be a girl" into his Mac's search engine, one word pops up: transsexual. In Clark's raw, honest debut novel, told in verse, three voices capture a few experiences of teens on the transgender spectrum.
Read-alikes: Calling All Gender Identities
By Ann Kelley
In Michael Cart's column "What Annie Wrought," which appeared in the September 15, 2013, issue of Booklist, he discusses great GLBTQ love stories in YA literature. Here, we take a look at YA novels featuring characters who identify as either transgender or genderqueer or who are gender ambiguous—both in their identity struggles and their own romances.
The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion
By Fannie Flagg
Aging daughter of the South Sookie Simmons Poole has trudged along cheerfully through life under the shadow of her overbearing mother, Lenore.
Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy
By Helen Fielding
It's been 15 years since readers first met the charmingly insecure Bridget Jones, and 13 since her last adventure in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2000). Bridget is now 51, and, most readers will be chagrined to learn, a widow.
By Dave Eggers
Most of us imagine totalitarianism as something imposed upon us—but what if we're complicit in our own oppression? That's the scenario in Eggers' ambitious, terrifying, and eerily plausible new novel.
The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son
By Pat Conroy
Conroy has long used his family to great success. The Great Santini (1976) was the portrait of his marine-obsessed fighter-pilot father and Conroy's long-suffering mother and siblings, who had to endure the violence, numerous moves, and great uncertainty created by his father.
The Gods of Guilt
By Michael Connelly
When we last saw Mickey Haller (The Fifth Witness, 2011), the hot-shot maverick attorney who works out of his Lincoln Town Car was fed up with defending bad guys and had decided to run for district attorney. Well, that didn't work out.
The Invention of Wings
By Sue Monk Kidd
Inspired by the true story of early-nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimké, Kidd paints a moving portrait of two women inextricably linked by the horrors of slavery.
Books for Youth
By Melissa Marr
Ever since Rika was removed as a Winter Girl, she has lived in the Mojave Desert, trying to forget the bitter cold life she was forced to endure when she gave up her mortality to be the Summer Queen.
The Forbidden Stone
By Tony Abbott
Right before Wade's uncle Henry, an astronomy professor in Berlin, meets a suspicious and untimely demise, he sends Wade's dad a coded e-mail.
The Best American Comics, 2013
Edited by Jeff Smith
As Smith (Bone, 2004) notes in his introduction, we're living in a new golden age of comics, when there is more available "in terms of art, imagination, format, and opportunities" than ever before, and there isn't a better example of this than the Best American Comics series.
The Great War: July 1, 1916, the First Day of the Battle of the Somme
By Joe Sacco and Adam Hochschild
What photos exist of WWI tend to be claustrophobic and grainy, which makes Sacco's epic panorama feel all the more revelatory.
The Great American Dust Bowl
By Don Brown
Concise and clear in imagery, text, and layout, Brown's (Henry and the Cannons, 2013) nonfiction examination of the Dust Bowl contextualizes its genesis in geological and cultural history, the dynamics of its climatological presentation, and the affects on both the landscape and Depression-era High Plains farmers.
From Our Blogs
Friday, October 11, 2013 1:00 pm
Title Trends: Pretty Word, Ugly Word
Posted by: Daniel Kraus
Oh, internationally beloved and best-selling Beautiful Creatures series, what have ye wrought? Imitation is, of course, the most lucrative form of flattery, and marketing managers across this great land perked up their ears at the simple yet brilliant title construction. >>read more
Monday, October 7, 2013 12:27 pm
Lift-alikes: Books That Work Your Biceps
Posted by: Sarah Hunter
Sure, e-books are convenient, you can fit hundreds on a device that fits in your pocket, and no one will catch you reading 50 Shades of Grey on the train. But there's one place where print books will never, ever be beaten: their ability to Pump. You. Up. >>read more
Tuesday, October 8, 2013 12:49 pm
Posted by: Gary Niebuhr
Would you be surprised if the best work of science fiction in 2012, according to the Hugo and Locus Award voters and the reviewers at Romantic Times, was a comedy? >>read more
Friday, October 11, 2013 7:33 am
Turn Left at the Cow, by Lisa Bullard
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: Here's a title that grabbed my attention the moment I opened the box: Turn Left at the Cow (2013). Happily, this middle-school mystery turned out to be just as much fun as the title. >>read more
Monday, October 7, 2013 7:32 pm
Sound of Star Wars
Posted by: Mary Burkey
How does Marc Thompson keep tons of Star Wars voices straight narrating a 700+ page book? Watch this video to see how. >>read more
Friday, October 11, 2013 7:00 am
Web Crush of the Week: The Reader's Advisor Online
Posted by: Rebecca Vnuk
This week's Web Crush is The Reader's Advisor Online blog— the free blog portion of Libraries Unlimited/ABC-Clio's database The Readers Advisor (which is based on Libraries Unlimited's Genreflecting print series—full disclosure: Rebecca is one of LU's authors, and has contributed a chapter to the 7th edition of Genreflecting. But we'd still crush on this blog even if that wasn't the case!). >>read more