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  • Sarah Skilton 2:00 pm on 2018/09/07 Permalink
    Tags: back in the saddle, , , ,   

    6 Reasons Andrew Shaffer’s Hope Never Dies Is the Perfect Buddy Comedy 

    If you’ve ever chuckled at an Obama/Biden meme, in which Joe plays a prank and Barack rolls his eyes affectionately, Andrew Shaffer’s Hope Never Dies—one part mystery, one part fanfic—is for you. When his favorite Amtrak conductor dies and all evidence points to murder, the former Veep can’t resist launching his own investigation. After all, life has gotten a bit dull since vacating his post in D.C., and he’s eager to be useful again, especially if that means teaming up with his partner-in-service and BFF, the 44th President of the United States. A perfect buddy comedy ensues. Here are six reasons why we love it.

    1. It’s fast-paced with a concise narrative voice
    Shaffer knew to keep things short and sweet. Chapters range from one to five pages, and the yarn is narrated by Biden himself, using semi-hardboiled prose: “I glanced over my shoulder, but no one was there. Barack had disappeared into the inky darkness, same as he’d come, leaving nothing behind but the stale smell of smoke.” (Don’t worry: with one exception, Obama sticks to Nicorette gum.) 

    2. The dialogue is gold
    Biden, re: the machinations of an apparent femme fatale: “Son of a buttermilk biscuit, we got bamboozled!” Obama, in response to whether he’ll run for any type of office again: “Michelle would kill me in my sleep. She said she’d smother me with a pillow. Even showed me which one she’d use.” 

    3. Its characters’ behavior is very on brand.
    Obama is “cool as cucumber lotion” in tense situations, but always willing to step into the fray when needed, as when Joe’s being held at gunpoint by a biker gang. Joe, who swaps his bomber jacket and aviator sunglasses for a KISS MY BASS hat as a “disguise,” is impulsive and hotheaded, eager to go with his gut, as when he storms the hideout of the aforementioned biker gang. Together they’re unstoppable. 

    4. A genuine relationship shines through
    The former Veep and ex-President are best friends and it shows, even if they’re going through a rough patch right now. There’s nothing either wouldn’t do for the other, even if they bicker like brothers. Obama schools Biden on the flowers he chose for Jill (“The lily is a funeral flower. If you were going for romantic, you should have gone for roses”) and Biden accuses Obama of ditching their true-blue friendship to go windsurfing with celebrities (cough, Richard Branson). Their initial meetup sets the tone: “I offered a handshake. Barack turned it into a fist bump. It was a greeting I’d never been able to master, but I gave it my best shot. Barack smirked. Just like old times.”

    5. Funny situations abound
    When a fast-food clerk makes a casual remark about global warming, Barack can’t resist explaining the finer points of it to her, and his passion for the topic wins her over. He and his secret service agent, healthy eaters both, are horrified by what Joe orders at a diner (a “hot and bothered” plate of hash browns, covered with “cheese, onion, diced ham, and jalapeno.”) To pass the time inside a particularly rancid no-tell motel, Biden and Obama launch into a game of “POTUS, SCOTUS, or FLOTUS,” in which one of them names three women, and the other responds with the role he’d prefer for her. (Prior to participating, Obama acknowledges it’s a little demeaning to women, and wonders if Strom Thurmond came up with it.)

    6. It’s absurd but brilliant
    While picturing the events of the story, you may occasionally think, “This is CRAZY.” But is it? I mean, who could have predicted what would happen once this duo left office? Is this any crazier than what has actually occurred since 2016? My advice is to embrace the setup, because if you’re willing to suspend disbelief, it’s sort of plausible. I like to think so, anyway.

    The post 6 Reasons Andrew Shaffer’s <i>Hope Never Dies</i> Is the Perfect Buddy Comedy appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sarah Skilton 1:30 pm on 2018/08/28 Permalink
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    Meet Your Next Book Club Picks 

    The best book club books invite discussion, reflection, and arguments—er, I mean, spirited debate. Whether you enjoy family dramas and beach reads, or sweeping historical fiction and fantasy, these books will keep you chatting way past the end of the meeting.

    And for just one week, you can get them all for 50% off as part of Barnes & Noble’s first ever book haul blowout! Today through September 3, shop in stores and online to get half off of 150 select titles, across genres, for all ages, and including bestsellers, new releases, and more. And when you shop in stores, you’ll get a free tote with purchase of three books, while supplies last.

    Circe, by Madeline Miller
    Miller’s much buzzed-about follow-up to 2011’s The Song of Achilles is narrated by the dazzling, captivating, vengeful Circe, daughter of Helios, who is banished by Zeus after turning her ex’s new love into a sea monster. Dismissed as useless when she was a girl (when your dad is the sun god, there’s a lot to live up to), Circe’s true skills are her penchant for herbs and spellcasting. Circe’s infatuation with mortals is her biggest strength and greatest weakness, and you’ll breathlessly follow her witchy, thousands-of-years-in-the-making adventures.
    Book clubs will love: the immersive mythology, and how relatable Circe is, even as a goddess.

     The High Tide Club, by Mary Kay Andrews
    New York Times bestseller Andrews delivers a tale of Southern romance and suspense that kicks off when Josephine, an eccentric, almost century-old heiress living in a Grey Gardens-esque crumbling mansion by the sea, hires lawyer Brooke to complete a mysterious task. Brooke must gather the descendants of Josephine’s best friends for a reunion that may prove either profitable or deadly.
    Book clubs will love: the island locale and juicy family secrets.

    By Invitation Only, by Dorothea Benton Frank
    Meet the Stiftels, peach farmers in South Carolina. They’re in for some serious culture shock when their beloved only son, Fred, becomes engaged to Shelby Cambria, the wealthy daughter of a Chicago-based private equity master of the universe. When the two families are thrown together, first in Lowcountry and then in the Windy City, their disparate backgrounds clash, and multiple secrets come tumbling out.
    Book clubs will love: the humor and surprises from the queen of Lowcountry beach reads.

    Love and Ruin, by Paula McLain
    After depicting the life of Hadley Richardson in her bestselling The Paris Wife, McLain sets her sights on Hemingway’s third wife, acclaimed war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. Her connection to Hemingway begins in Key West, Florida, in the late 1930s and ramps up against the invigorating, terrible backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Two stars are on the rise—journalist and novelist, equal in skill—but one must eclipse the other.
    Book clubs will love: the wartime atmosphere and complex characters.

    Varina, by Charlies Frazier
    As was his stunning, National Book Award–winning Cold Mountain (also a film starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law), Varina is set during the Civil War. The novel is narrated as an oral memoir by its titular heroine, Jefferson Davis’s much-younger wife, whose views of the conflict did not necessarily match those of the Confederate President. Little has been written about the First Lady of the Confederacy, and the story depicted here is full of rich and often unexpected details about the antebellum south as well as Varina’s post–Civil War life in New York.
    Book clubs will love: the underrated heroine and her take on the biggest issues of her era, some of which reverberate to this day.

    Before and Again, by Barbara Delinsky
    Having survived the car crash death of her young daughter, for which she was accidentally responsible, Mackenzie Cooper changes her name and starts a new life in a new town. As Maggie Reid, she works as a makeup artist beautifying others while never losing sight of the literal and metaphorical scars she’s hiding. When a friend’s teenage son finds himself in trouble with the law, Maggie knows she should back away—her probation prohibits fraternizing with criminals—but helping out another troubled soul may provide her with a modicum of peace in her own life.
    Book clubs will love: contemplating what they’d do in Maggie’s situation, and the rich relationships Maggie finds post-tragedy.

    The post Meet Your Next Book Club Picks appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sarah Skilton 2:00 pm on 2018/08/01 Permalink
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    August’s Best New Fiction 

    This month’s best new work includes the second book of the Half-Drowned King Viking fantasy trilogy, a portrait of a Midwest town in decline, a debut roman à clef by an Iraq veteran currently imprisoned for bank robbery, and a historical about the Black Plague. And for lighter, contemporary reads, enjoy a sorority-set drama, a romance in Paris gone wrong, and an octogenarian-led cozy mystery. 

    The Masterpiece, by Fiona Davis
    In 1928, Clara Darden struggles against the restraints of the era as the lone female teacher at New York City’s Grand Central School of Art, housed in the majestic terminal of the same name. After the Great Depression hits, her career in illustration disappears, as does Clara. Fast-forward to the 1970s, when divorcée Virginia Clay takes a job at Grand Central, intrigued by the abandoned art studio there, as well as a painting she discovers—a painting that may shed light on Clara’s mysterious fate fifty years prior.

    Rush, by Lisa Patton
    Yankee Doodle Dixie author Patton has written another entertaining, Southern-set contemporary, this time pulling back the curtain on the secret lives of sorority sisters at Ole Miss. Cali Watkins hopes to earn a place with the elite Alpha Delta girls, but lacks the right pedigree and fears a long-buried family secret will tank her chances. The Advisory Board members have more power than sense, but the girls rise up against them when a beloved house staff member at Alpha Delta Beta is denied a promotion.

    Ohio, by Stephen Markley
    A searing debut about one evening in the summer of 2013, in which four ex-classmates who came of age during 9/11 reunite in New Canaan, Ohio, a town marked and marred by decline. From the opioid crises to the Great Recession to the never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these Midwesterners have been affected by it all, and each seek closure from their painful pasts in this beautiful, sad, contemplative study of a rust belt town that has been hollowed out.

    The Sea Queen, by Linnea Hartsuyker
    Last summer kicked off the Half-Drowned King trilogy, a 9th-century Viking fantasy based on historical events and overflowing with political machinations and violent battles. In the new installment, six years have passed for minor king Ragnvald and his sister Svanhild, the titular Sea Queen. Their separation has evolved into opposition: While Ragnvald dedicates his life to the unification of Norway under Harald’s command, Svanhild marries the leader of the resistance and displays remarkable strength as a maritime warrior in her own right. 

    The Last Hours, by Minette Walters
    While her husband is away, a woman educated by nuns in 1348 England uses her smarts and intuition to hold the line against the Black Death when it arrives in the town of Develish. Having quarantined herself, her cruel teenage daughter, and her serfs in her moat-surrounded house, Lady Anne denies her own husband entry, correctly fearing he has brought the plague home with him. Her decision does not go over well with her progeny, Lady Eleanor, who harbors a sadistic streak.

    Three Things About Elsie, by Joanna Cannon
    A lifelong friendship between two women forms the heart of this mystery set in an assisted living facility. Our firmly independent octogenarian narrator, Florence, provides sharp commentary but finds it difficult to communicate with others, fearful her memory is failing. With a new arrival, who strongly resembles a frightening figure from Florence’s past, Florence dedicates herself to uncovering the hows and whys of the man’s reappearance. Shifting perceptions provide a bittersweet, suspenseful, and emotionally cathartic reading experience. 

    If You Leave Me, by Crystal Hana Kim
    Against the backdrop of the Korean War and its aftermath, a young woman desperate to provide for her invalid younger brother and widowed mother must choose between two cousins who love her. One is her childhood sweetheart, while the other has the financial stability necessary to save her family. A memorable, heartwrenching debut with multiple POVs that will appeal to fans of Samuel Park’s This Burns My Heart.

    Bad Man, by Dathan Auerbach
    Auerbach got his start terrifying Redditors on their NoSleep short story forum, and it’s easy to see why he proved so popular there. His second full-length novel tells the harrowing story of a young man from North Florida drowning in guilt over the role he played in his three-year-old brother’s disappearance. Five years later, now twenty, Ben decides to take a job stocking groceries at the very store where little Eric vanished. Will he find answers in this oddly creepy, disconcerting milieu, even when the local authorities could not? 

    Cherry, by Nico Walker
    PTSD, heroin addiction, bank robbing, and young-love-turned-bleak-survival are the themes of this breakneck debut by an author well-versed in all four topics. As a medic in Iraq, and a veteran of 250 combat missions, Walker returned home to find his memories incapacitating him; in a parallel to combat, the adrenaline rush he got while committing crimes was the only time he felt calm. A blisteringly authentic and timely work is the result.

    Goodbye Paris, by Anstey Harris
    When her relationship with David (who has a wife and family) comes to a difficult and public end in Paris, thirtysomething Grace Atherton is left to pick up the pieces back home in Kent, where she runs a shop making violins and cellos. Her own burgeoning career in music was derailed decades ago, and truly moving on from her broken relationship may require a hard look at the painful secrets she has been keeping from that time. Luckily, she’ll have help from people in her community, including a young shop clerk and a wise, older customer.

    The post August’s Best New Fiction appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sarah Skilton 2:00 pm on 2018/07/01 Permalink
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    July’s Best New Fiction 

    Anglophiles, take note: this month is all about historical fiction, several of which take place in Merry Old England. Travel to London during World Wars I and II, or to the early 1800s for a Pride & Prejudice retelling that ushers Mary Bennet into the spotlight. Then cross the Atlantic for a Virginia-set Southern Gothic and a New York-to-LA road trip, or board a fast boat to China for a Shanghai family drama. 

    Dear Mrs. Bird, by AJ Pearce
    Taking the London Blitz as its backdrop, this historical debut focuses on female friendships as well as the possibility of finding comfort in the empathy of strangers. When upbeat, 20something Emmeline Lake answers an ad for a job at Women’s Friend magazine, she’s hoping it will launch her career as a journalist. Instead, she finds herself assisting Mrs. Bird, the magazine’s judgmental advice columnist. Mrs. Bird won’t even consider answering letters about “unpleasant” topics (doesn’t she notice there’s a war on?). Emmy decides to write back for her, offering kindness and compassion to those whose struggles have been consigned to the rubbish heap.

    The Dying of the Light, by Robert Goolrick
    Fans of Southern Gothic will lose their minds for this dramatically rich story about Diana Cooke, the most beautiful teen debutante of the 1919 season, who marries a cruel man in order to save her family’s derelict Virginia mansion. Known as Saratoga, the estate has been in the Cooke family for a century and represents much more than the lavish parties it once hosted. However, the real trouble starts when the widowed Diana’s cherished son returns home from college with his roommate in tow.

    Saving Beck, by Courtney Cole
    Though known for her psychologically gripping, bestselling romance books, Cole’s new novel takes her writing in a new direction, one informed by her own life. Using dual perspectives, Saving Beck tells the story of widowed Natalie and her eldest child, grieving, guilt-ridden Beck, who blames himself for the car crash that killed his father. When Beck’s family life falls apart, burdening him with new responsibilities, he turns to heroin for relief. This appears to be a thoughtful, extraordinarily honest look at addiction.

    The Lido, by Libby Page
    Octogenarian Rosemary has resided in Brixton, London, since birth. Twentysomething Kate is a nervous newcomer to town who’s accepted an unglamorous reporting job at the local paper. The two form an unexpected bond of friendship while attempting to save the lido, the beloved public swimming pool that’s been a constant to Rosemary her entire life, from her WWII childhood to her years of marriage. Will Rosemary’s memories of what makes the pool so important be enough to keep it open? Can Kate cast off her anxiety and self-doubt and lead the charge on Rosemary’s behalf?

    Ghosted, by Rosie Walsh
    A brief, intense, and life-changing romance between middle-aged Sarah and Eddie ends in heartache and confusion when Eddie’s promised phone call after some time apart never comes. Sarah’s friends try to convince her she’s been ghosted, but Sarah can’t bear the idea of never seeing or hearing from Eddie again. She’s convinced something has gone terribly wrong, and her instincts are correct—leading her to uncover secrets she never saw coming.

    America For Beginners, by Leah Franqui
    Pival Sengupta, a recently widowed Indian woman, travels to the U.S. for the first time via a madcap touring company, in hopes of locating her estranged son, Rahi. The road trip from New York to LA allows Pival to learn about Rahi through his adoptive homeland. Her companions include a tour guide who’s only been in America for a year, and a would-be actress. The team members find solace in each other’s journeys and viewpoints. 

    Mary B: An untold story of Pride and Prejudice, by Katherine J. Chen
    Middle child Mary Bennet, an avid reader and writer, is voted least likely to marry by her family, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to sit on the sidelines of life. In fact, in this novel of behind the scenes and offscreen moments surrounding the events of P&P, Mary reveals herself to be observant and charming, with a quiet wit. Pair it with Curtis Sittenfeld’s 2017 novel, Eligible, for the best in old school and contemporary Austen retellings.

    What We Were Promised, by Lucy Tan
    Desperate housewife and mother Lina Zhen has trouble acclimating to her new life of leisure in modern-day Shanghai, but her husband Wei’s job provides everything the family could want. Still, Lina is restless and distracted, particularly when a reunion with her true love—Wei’s brother, Qiang—looms on the horizon after a twenty-year absence. The only person who senses the hidden tumult about to erupt is Sunny, the Zhens’ long-term housekeeper, who is privy to more than a few secrets.

    Fruit of the Drunken Tree, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
    A historical coming of age novel set in Bogotá, Colombia, during the worst years of Pablo Escobar’s narcoterrorism, Fruit’s narration comes from the POV of two girls: seven-year-old Chula and thirteen-year-old Petrona, the family maid whose own family is being destroyed by the drug war. Petrona is determined to turn things around for her loved ones, but when she puts her trust in the wrong boy, she’s not the only one who’ll pay the price.

    Eagle Crane, by Suzanne Rindell
    Harry (who is Japanese American) and Louis (who is white) were neighbors and best pals during the Depression and their barnstorming days as stunt pilots in California, but the rivalry between their respective families, as well as a romantic interest in the same woman, caused problems for the two men. Jumping ahead a few years, it appears Harry and his father have been murdered in a plane crash after escaping from an internment camp, but the FBI is convinced the case is not as cut-and-dry as it appears.

    The post July’s Best New Fiction appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sarah Skilton 4:00 pm on 2018/05/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , ,   

    June’s Best New Fiction 

    Weddings (and murder!) take center stage this monthalong with intriguing family dramas starring modern Muslim Americans and Native Americans. Fates and Furies author Lauren Groff is back with a collection of short stories, and sequels to I Don’t Know How She Does ItBeartown, and The Devil Wears Prada bridge the gap between Lowcountry beach reads and juicy, heart-clenching tales of starting over. 

    The Perfect Couple, by Elin Hilderbrand
    Hilderbrand’s latest combines her signature Nantucket beach fun with a page-turning mystery. When the maid of honor’s body is found (by the bride, no less) hours before a lavish wedding ceremony is set to begin, the festivities grind to a halt while the remaining members of the wedding party are interrogated. The island-set whodunit includes much-loved characters from Hilderbrand’s previous novels, but newcomers needn’t be familiar with them to enjoy this summer brainteaser. 

    All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin
    Two families in Nashville—one wealthy and privileged, and one struggling financially and emotionally—collide when their teenage children become entangled in a scandal. Well-to-do Nina is forced to question the true natures of her husband and son when a troubling photo featuring a high school sophomore surfaces, throwing a private school into chaos. Who took the picture? And who’s trying to use their money and influence to make the controversy go away? Wanted appears to be a relevant, thoughtful, and complex drama that supplies no easy answers.

    Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman
    In the critically acclaimed Beartown, Backman introduced readers to a small forest town in Sweden convinced that a junior ice hockey team held the key to “fixing” their troubled community. In this follow-up story, the denizens of Beartown face off against those of nearby Hed, where many of the Beartown hockey players have defected. Adding tension to the rivalry is the fact that Beartown’s entire league may soon be disbanded. Hope arrives in the form of a new coach, but when the anger between the teams escalates to the point of murder, can their once-pure love of the sport ever return? 

    How Hard Can it Be?, by Allison Pearson
    In this sequel to Pearson’s bestselling 2003 novel, I Don’t Know How She Does It, we drop back into supermom Kate Reddy’s life a decade and a half later, as she rounds the corner toward fifty. Having spent seven of the intervening years as a stay-at-home mom (quite a change from her frenetic former job running a hedge fund), Londoner Kate prepares to reenter the workforce after her husband is laid off. Expect a lot of humor in this menopause-while-raising-teenage-hellions dramedy.

    There There, by Tommy Orange
    A powerhouse debut likely to earn a spot on countless best of the year lists, There There chronicles the coming together of twelve modern-day, urban Native American people at the inaugural Oakland, California, Powwow. Disparate in their ages, goals, hopes, and dreams, some of the twelve hope to connect with their history and/or long-lost family members; some desire to perform traditional dance; and others plan to take advantage of the event for their own purposes. Set aside some time to delve deep into this must-read novel.

    A Place for Us, by Fatima Farheen Mirza
    An Indian American Muslim family of five living in California come together for the eldest daughter’s wedding, an event that forces them to reevaluate their lives together and apart over the past few decades. In particular, youngest son Amar, who has become estranged from his parents and siblings, is reluctant to make peace with his past. Tension between the traditional Muslim culture practiced by parents Rafiq and Layla and the contemporary attitudes of their adult children infuses this highly anticipated debut with plenty of emotion and heart.

    Florida, Lauren Groff
    Not every story in this collection of shorts—Groff’s first since Delicate Edible Birds—takes place in Florida, but they all depict a darkly comedic Floridian state of mind, filled with “dread and heat.” Of the eleven narratives, a handful depict the same tough-as-nails mom, a novelist drowning in booze as well as love for her children.

    Before and Again, by Barbara Delinsky
    Having survived the car crash death of her young daughter, for which she was accidentally responsible, Mackenzie Cooper changes her name and starts a new life in a new town. As Maggie Reid, she works as a makeup artist beautifying others while never losing sight of the literal and metaphorical scars she’s hiding. When a friend’s teenage son finds himself in trouble with the law, Maggie knows she should back away—her probation prohibits fraternizing with criminals—but helping out another troubled soul may provide Maggie a modicum of peace in her own life.

    When Life Gives You Lululemons, by Lauren Weisberger
    In this fabulous follow-up to The Devil Wears Prada and Revenge Wears Prada, first assistant-turned-image consultant Emily Charlton, who stole scenes left and right in book and movie form (where she was portrayed by Emily Blunt), is thrown to the yummy mummy wolves of suburban Connecticut. Tasked with fixing the public’s view of a politician’s DUI-ruined wife, she joins forces with some old friends—including one Miranda Priestly. Pour the cocktails and start the party!

    Dreams of Falling, by Karen White
    The best beach reads of 2018 take place in Lowcountry, South Carolina, and Dreams will show you why. When Larkin’s mother, Ivy, is badly injured under mysterious circumstances, Ivy is compelled to leave New York and return to her hometown after a nine-year absence. As she tentatively reaches out to old friends and studies the past to better understand her mother’s predicament, secrets dating back decades will be revealed in this multigenerational drama featuring female friendships and a hint of romance.

    The post June’s Best New Fiction appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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