In case you missed our book talk…fiction we recommend

Did you miss Linda and Jenny’s “Stuff We’ve Been Reading” book talk on May 11? Catch up here with our fiction picks. (Here are the nonfiction books we recommend.) Click on the title of the book to request it from the library catalog. Enjoy!

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

written in the starsThis recently-published novel stars a Pakistani-American teenage girl named Naila. Her parents are so incredibly strict that not only is she forbidden from dating, she’s not even allowed to attend dances or parties where boys might possibly be. But she does have a boyfriend, Saif, and when her parents catch her at a dance with him, they whisk her away to Pakistan to visit family. As their vacation extends longer and longer, Naila becomes worried about getting back to the US in time to start college. Then she learns the real reason for the trip: her parents are looking for a man to marry her. This novel not only fills a diversity gap by telling a story we don’t often hear, it does so through a story that is a pleasure to read. It’s filled with details of a culture that I was not very familiar with, and I was captivated by the sights and sounds and tastes of Pakistan : the markets, houses, clothes, food, climate, everything. This book was written for teens, but would appeal to anyone who is interested in different cultures or the issue of forced marriage. (Linda recommends)

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Cover image of LandlineLandline is realistic fiction with a twist: a telephone that calls into the past. TV writer Georgie is on the verge of achieving her professional dream, writing her own show with her longtime writing partner, Seth. But their pilot script is due just after Christmas, and Georgie is supposed to travel to her in-laws’ with her husband, Neal, and their daughters. Neal takes the girls and goes without her, and Georgie’s mother and half-sister treat Georgie as though he has left her for good – but that’s not what happened, is it? Georgie calls Neal, but only seems to be able to reach him from the landline in her childhood bedroom in her mother’s house – but weirdly, she seems to reach past Neal this way, not present-day Neal. Landline is infused with a great sense of humor even as it deals with the serious realistic issues of marriage, working motherhood, and stay-at-home dads. The excellent Rebecca Lowman narrates the audiobook. (Jenny recommends)

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Cover image of Instructions for a HeatwaveIn the middle of the heatwave of 1973, Robert Riordan disappears. His wife Gretta is frantic, and their grown children – Michael, Monica, and Aoife – return to the family home to support their mother and help figure out where their father has gone. All five family members have secrets, all of which emerge by the end of the book, but O’Farrell has such a genius for character that the reader will sympathize instead of judging; she writes so that the reader understands each character very well, even though the characters don’t always understand each other. John Rafter Lee narrates the audiobook. (Jenny recommends)

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

mysunshineThis debut novel takes place in an idyllic neighborhood in Louisiana in the 1980s. It’s the sort of place where everyone knows each other and kids ride their bikes everywhere and wander around freely all afternoon with minimal supervision. But then a teenage girl named Lindy Simpson is raped and everything changes. Suddenly everyone is uncertain and suspicious and nobody knows who to trust. The narrator of the story is a teenage boy who has long admired Lindy from afar. Some might even say he is obsessed with her. And he is one of the suspects.  This is a great story full of nuanced characters, but the real strength is that it’s so atmospheric and evocative of that time and place. I’ve never even been to Louisiana, yet it made me kind of nostalgic for my childhood. (Linda recommends)

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Cover image of The Miniaturist…takes place in 17th century Amsterdam. Petronella Oortman has just married an older merchant and arrives at his house, which is full of strange and sometimes mysterious people. Her new husband is rarely around, but tries to keep her busy by buying her a replica of the house for her to decorate. She orders pieces from a miniaturist, who then begins sending objects she didn’t order, objects that express secrets going on in the house. But I was more interested in the the people Nella now has to live with, such as her new husband who is completely uninterested in her and her unfriendly sister-in-law. Burton brings the setting to life in the very best way, so that you can just easily imagine yourself in Amsterdam… (Linda recommends)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Cover image of The Night CircusCelia and Marco have been trained since they were young to battle each other with magic, but instead they create something beautiful. From the first sentence – “The circus arrives without warning” – the reader is under their spell, as each magician adds new tents to the mysterious traveling circus. Despite its air of mystery, the circus attracts dedicated followers as it criss-crosses the U.S. and Europe from 1873-1903. A fantasy, a romance, utterly imaginative and magical, The Night Circus is a unique story not to be missed. Jim Dale, the narrator of Harry Potter, reads the audiobook. (Jenny recommends)

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Cover image of Trigger WarningLongtime fans and those new to Gaiman’s writing alike can enjoy this collection of stories and a few poems. Highlights include the introduction (“Little Triggers”), in which Gaiman explores the idea of trigger warnings and whether fiction should be “safe”; “Nothing O’Clock,” a Doctor Who story featuring the Doctor and Amy Pond; “Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains,” a story set on the Isle of Skye; and “Black Dog,” featuring the character Shadow from Gaiman’s novel American Gods (but you don’t need to have read that novel to enjoy the story). The stories are myth-like, dark and twisty but with a certain logic to them, and often a sense of humor despite the darkness. Gaiman narrates the audiobook himself. (Jenny recommends)

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

winterseaIf you haven’t heard of Susanna Kearsley, she writes novels that blend genres like historical fiction, romance, and fantasy. The Winter Sea is not her newest book, but it’s the most recent one that I’ve read and I’ve heard it recommended as a good starting point with this author. The story open with novelist Carrie McClelland arriving in Cruden Bay, Scotland near the site of Slains Castle, which features strongly in the novel she is working on. Her novel is about the 1708 attempt to return the exiled king to Scotland, and centers around a young woman named Sophia who is named after one of Carrie’s ancestors. As she’s writing, the story comes very easily and powerfully and Carrie feels rather transported to the time she’s writing about. When she later does research about parts she has already written, she finds that parts of her story are true. The Winter Sea tells both stories: Carrie’s story about settling into Cruden Bay and starting a relationship with her landlord’s son, and Sophia’s story which has its own romance but also a great deal of political intrigue. This is the second novel by Kearsley that I’ve read and enjoyed. Her style is very otherworldly and romantic and easy to read. Although this book was over 500 pages, it was so immersive it didn’t feel long at all.  (Linda recommends)

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

doomsdaybookAnother older book that I just finally read recently, Doomsday Book is set at Oxford University in a future time when historians are able to actually travel back to the time periods that they are studying. Kivran is traveling to the Middle Ages, but when she leaves something goes wrong. The technician tries to alert the faculty, but collapses before he can explain – it turns out he has some sort of awful illness that soon becomes an epidemic and Oxford is put under strict quarantine. Meanwhile, Kivrin has gone back in time and is also sick. She was found and taken to a village, which means she can’t find the location where she must go to return home. Part science fiction, part historical novel, the story moves back and forth between time periods, each of which is a totally different kind of story, but both are full of great characters and tension, and are completely captivating. (Linda recommends)

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Cover image of Life After LifeUrsula Todd is born at a house called Fox Corner in England in 1910, and dies before a doctor arrives to save her. Ursula Todd is born at Fox Corner in 1910, but is smothered by a cat in her cradle as a baby. Ursula Todd is born in 1910…again, and again, and again. Each time she lives a little longer, changing courses, eventually living through World War I, World War II and the London Blitz. Life After Life is a perfect blend of historical fiction and a kind of looping, individual time travel; a companion novel, A God in Ruins, has just been published [May 5], and takes Ursula’s brother Teddy as its main character. (Jenny recommends)

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Cover image of The Bone ClocksIn five sections – starting in the 1984 and ending in 2043 – The Bone Clocks follows Holly Sykes from her teenage years into old age, as she becomes wrapped up in the war between the Horologists and the Anchorites. The Horologists are reincarnated souls, determined to stop the Anchorites, who “decant” victims’ souls in order to prolong their own lives indefinitely. Literary fiction shades into fantasy with a healthy dose of philosophy that leaves you thinking. This book stands alone, though longtime Mitchell readers will recognize characters from his other books: Luisa Rey from Cloud Atlas, Hugo Lamb from Black Swan Green, and Marinus from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. (Jenny recommends)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Cover image of Station ElevenA deadly pandemic, the Georgia Flu, kills off most of the world’s population; twenty years after the collapse, civilization is beginning to re-emerge, complete with music and Shakespeare. Unlike many dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels, Station Eleven includes the before, during, and after through five loosely related main characters: actor Arthur Leander, his first wife Miranda, young actress Kirsten Raymonde, paparazzo-turned-paramedic Jeevan, and Arthur’s old friend, Clark. (Jenny recommends)

The Martian by Andy Weir

martian…is a great science fiction book for people who don’t generally read science fiction. Astronaut Mark Watney has been left behind for dead on Mars. By the time his team realizes that he’s alive circumstances are such that it will be impossible for him to be rescued in less than four years. Watney does not have supplies to last that long, but he has no choice other than try everything he can think of to survive. He narrates in a very conversational tone that conveys his great sense of humor, but what is truly amazing about this character is his resourcefulness and ingenuity. Not only is the character remarkable for how he goes about trying to save his own life, but the author is clearly brilliant for coming up with so many clever solutions to what seem like insurmountable problems. Everyone in my book group loved this book. (Linda recommends)

The Bees by Laline Paull

beesAs the title and cover suggest, this novel is about a hive of bees. In particular, it’s the story of one bee, Flora 717. Born a sanitation worker, she soon shows an aptitude for other jobs, like foraging and helping to raise young, but she also has secrets that she absolutely must hide if she wants to survive. The world-building is just amazing: the bees have their own mythology, their own way of communicating, and their own moral code. They don’t have the emotional depth that we do, and killing another bee isn’t nearly as big a deal as breeding, because only the queen may breed, and that is their strongest rule of law. It’s incredibly imaginative and well-executed. Audiobook listeners take note: this is read by one of my favorite narrators, Orlagh Cassidy, who gives a stellar performance. (Linda recommends)

What great fiction have you read recently? Let us know in the comments, or friend or follow the Robbins Library on Goodreads.


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1 Response to In case you missed our book talk…fiction we recommend

  1. Pingback: Blog posts elsewhere: privacy tools and summer reading lists | Jenny Arch

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